Friday, December 27, 2019

Playing With Action Figures

I wasn't going to post again until next year but...

Much of my love of the Star Wars universe was conveyed through playing with the old Kenner Action Figures.






My friend Joe and I would spend hours upon hour on complicated stories and involved scenarios, often involving other toys or playsets and occasionally bumping up some minor character to the level where they could join in the adventures of Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, Han, Chewie, Lando, and of course the droids, C-3PO and R2-D2.

I remember we even had our own rules of a sort for figuring out if the heroes or villains hit each other with their blasters. It was the pre-cursor to Star Wars RPG gaming and evolved from playing with earlier action figures like G.I. Joes or Mego Superheroes and Star Trek figures. 

Since we didn't have a lot of money back then, other toys would sometimes be added to our Star Wars playtime if we thought they fit.





Marx Toys' Comanche Pass (also known as 'Ambush at Falling Rock) made a great Tatooine. The MB Electronics Star Bird Avenger served as a Rebel or Bounty Hunter spacecraft, while Milton Bradley's programmable Big Trak become the evil Empire's latest secret weapon against Rebellion forces on the ground. 




Sometimes, you'd find a toy, an action figure or vehicle or something, and it just wouldn't fit in with the rest of the game. It might be cool but even as kids we would through the kitchen sink in only so far. No Cowboy figures, Knights, or other such playing pieces were allowed on the field when Jedi, Biker Scouts, and Sand People roamed it. No modern car, boat, or even airplane toy had earned the right to travel across the snow covered hills of Hoth or burning gray ash of my original planet of Gardine. 

There is something about The Mandalorian that really feels like Jon Favreau and Dave Filoni are two kids in a playground having an absolute blast playing with their Star Wars figures. And that, my dear viewers, is the feeling of fun, wonder, and excitement I want in a Star Wars campaign. 

Grab your character, figure out what is going on, then do something about it. Not after you've discussed all the options or after you consider a complicated plan to...NO. Stop. Just play. Just be in that moment in Star Wars. 

Think of what you or your character would do now. Plan only long enough to get you out of a mess or into one. Now make a new plan. Whatever you decide to do, DO IT! You could consider all the possible outcomes that might result from your ideas but in Star Wars, Now is Not The Time! It's always now by the way, so it's never the time. It's Do or Do Not. There is no try.

The Sequel Trilogy lacks this feeling. It feels padded, stretched out, and never 'now'. It always feels way back when, soon, or eventually. Never now. That suddenness is not there. The drive to do a thing and make a difference seems lost in the shuffle of over-the-top special effects and waaay too meta humor. 

Personally, I don't want anyone playing with multi-million dollar sets, vehicles, and action figures if they've never played with real ones or don't feel a passion for what that was like. I want people to make Star Wars to do so for the same reason I love to run the RPG, that is because I simply Love Star Wars.

I want to live, work, and play in that universe because I always have.

And I always will. 

AD
Barking Alien






Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Taking One Last Look At My Friends

I suppose it's time to give my opinions and impressions of the final film in the Star Wars Sequel Trilogy, Star Wars - Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker

I have been thinking about this for some time, a few days in fact, and I am still not entirely sure how to begin. The issue I have is that I know what my bottom line feeling is, making my feelings about individual characters, story beats, or even action scenes largely irrelevant. 

You see, I enjoyed watching the film. I had a fun time hearing the sounds given to the CGI and practical effect starships and alien creatures. I liked watching the cool designs of speeders and the bright colors of the lightsabers and the blaster bolts as they sped past my eyes.

In the end however it felt like some much cotton candy. It was all fluff and no substance. It added nothing new to the Star Wars mythos, did not really advance the story of 'The Skywalker Saga' in a meaningful way, and to have seen this trilogy or not seen it made no really difference to me whatsoever. 

Ya'know what would have been nice?

A trilogy of films with the original actors, playing their original characters, exploring their kids or proteges in a brand new story, featuring a brand new threat, and then ending with some heroic legacy with which to carry the franchise into the future.

A few years later we meet Rey, a young, female scavenger on a junk covered planet who discovers she has the Force. She meets up with Poe, a Starfighter Pilot and Finn, a former indoctrinated soldier of some empire on the fringe of space who has shaken off his programming to help Poe escape. Finn also has the Force and the three new characters go on a harrowing adventure to try and reach the New Republic and join the re-established Jedi Order. 

Basically, a Skywalker Saga Trilogy, Episodes VII, VIII, and IX, actually continuing the tale from I to VI, and then a single film or unrelated trilogy about new characters and events in the Star Wars universe. 

What we go instead was a rushed, cash grabbing, muddled mess of three films not really about anything. Three tales, loosely connected due to no single over-arching narrative being written or put forward, that either aped the original three films or ignored their continuity completely. 

The only emotion I am left with after seeing The Rise of Skywalker and hereing about it for the many months before its release and the several days after is exhaustion. Exhaustion and the relief in knowing it's over. 

Now I can look forward to The Mandalorian and the future of Star Wars unencumbered by this disappointing missed opportunity.

May The Force Be With You...Always,

AD
Barking Alien

Happy Holidays from Barking Alien! I'll see you in the New Year!





From The Journal of The Whills

We are three days away from The Mandalorian's eighth and final episode of Season 1 (which airs in the United States this coming Friday) and it has been five days (or so) since the official wide spread release of the final film in the new Star Wars trilogy, Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker.

For better or worse, what a time to be a Star Wars Fan!






I have seen The Rise of Skywalker and while I had fun watching it, I also found it very disappointing over all. I don't want to discuss it in detail here but what I will say is any  negative feelings I have regarding The Rise of Skywalker are greatly offset by my love for The Mandalorian. 

All this Star Wars - The Light Side, The Dark Side, and The Bendu - has re-ignited my interest in the running a Star Wars RPG campaign. As I've mentioned in the past, nothing inspires my desire to game a particular genre or setting like seeing it done really well or really poorly. Here we have both!

The good in Star Wars - The Original Trilogy, The Clone Wars CGI Animated Series, The Rebels CGI Animated Series, and The Mandalorian - is so good to me, so deeply inspiring and meaningful, that it sparks in my heart and mind the ideas and passion to put my own Star Wars story together. 

The bad in Star Wars - The Prequel Trilogy and The Sequel Trilogy primarily - call out to me with what could have been and therefore beg to be healed, improved upon, or simply replaced with something better. 

My love of the ol' D6 Star Wars RPG by West End Games is well known. My renewed and dare I say emblazoned desire to revisit Star Wars leads me to immediately reach for that game. I have even been considering a project to reorganize all my old Star Wars D6 notes from every one of my previous campaigns into a single, enormous master sourcebook. 

While I will definitely still do that...

My thoughts today are drifting towards revisiting a concept I don't feel I gave enough attention to, namely Star Wars Traveller

Clearly my love for Star Wars D6 has not faded in the least, but I haven't been able to get a dedicated, long term campaign of it going for a while and that may be, in part at least, because the system doesn't quite generate the level of excitement and dedication in my players that it does in me.

Traveller on the other hand, being both simple in its base mechanics and yet detailed in it's extensive secondary rules and support products, makes for a game that my particular band of gamers can really sink their teeth into. 

Much like Star Trek games run using FASA, Last Unicorn's Icon System, and Modiphius' Star Trek Adventures systems feel very different from each other, so too does changing up the D6 system to the classic Traveller system add a level of grit and texture you might now see in the West End rules alone. 

Maybe.

I am not entirely sure I am right about this. That is to say, I am not sure I should switch to different set of mechanics when Star Wars D6 has served me so well through so many great campaigns. Changing the core of what Star Wars gaming has always been might treads into dangerous waters...like the difference between The Mandalorian and the new Sequel Trilogy.





AD
Barking Alien







Tuesday, December 3, 2019

This Is The Way

I followed this Tracking Fob based on the Bounty Puck I picked up from the Guild and it lead me to...




I am in love.

As of this post we're four episodes in and it is already my favorite Star Wars production since the Star Wars: Rebels animated series. I would place it as one of my favorite Star Wars projects of all time. The Original Trilogy, The Clone Wars, Rebels, and then this. In some ways, I could see it overtaking the animated shows but for now, I will stick by this placement. 

As a fan of Star Wars since it first appeared in 1977, I have to say that this series feels more like the Original Trilogy than any other live-action feature so far. This is Star Wars more than the Prequels are Star Wars. This is Star Wars more than the Sequels are Star Wars. Same for Rogue One and Solo.

This. Is. Star Wars.




SPOILERS!
Blogging is a complicated profession...


The GOOD

I was grabbed by the first episode right away; I was impressed by the music, the scenery, the world-building, and of course the characters.

I am absolutely amazed by the acting and directing in the series that enables us to get a show that features a character with no face in the starring role. I mean...WOW. Every Superhero movie and TV series, please take note.

As a fan of the universe it was awesome to see some many of my old favorite elements like landspeeders, Rodians, R2 unit Astromechs, and Jawas. Of course they're Offworld Jawas (which incidentally is the name of my new Alternative Prog Rock Band) and that leads into the next great thing about The Mandalorian - New Stuff! New Jawas, New Weaponry, New Starships, Tracking Fobs, Bounty Pucks, some dangerous Alien Walrus Monster under the ice of a New Planet, and an unknown type of R Unit piloting a speeder dolly/platform. Sooo cool! 

Plus, like any good Star Wars installment, each episode brings in new characters and furthers the overall plot that explores the people involved and their situations. I can't wait to find out what happens next, who it happens to, and why it's happening! 




Every being put your appendages together and welcome...Offworld Jawas!


The BAD

There isn't any! 

Seriously, I can't find anything bad to say about this show so far. While not every episode is as spectacular as every other, nor is every scene and moment Star Wars fandom perfectnon, nothing I've seen makes me feel any part of any episode has been poorly done. In fact, as I said to a friend recently, it's reassuring that the weakest episode of The Mandalorian is still ten times better than the strongest of the Prequel or Sequel films. 

High praise? It is indeed and I stand by it all the way. 


The ADORABLE

No review of the show would be complete without addressing the seven pound, fifty year old, womp rat in the room - BABY YODA! He is super cute, super well handled, and super interesting. Is he another member of Yoda's little known about species? A clone of Yoda himself? Something else? I don't know yet but I would gladly mow down a platoon of Imperial Stormtroopers or wrestle a full grown Mudhorn to keep him safe. Just try me!


***


Needless to say the series has really bitten me with a major Star Wars RPG bug. I am extremely interested in running a Star Wars campaign at some point early new year, regardless of how good or bad The Rise of Skywalker is. 

Needless to say, I am really eager to see more of The Mandalorian. As with other, similar material, I absorb these episodes as much as enjoy them. They are definitely entertainment, but as a fan and a gamer it's also source material. Based on what I've seen so far, all I can say is keep it coming.


I have spoken. 

AD
Barking Alien




Sunday, December 1, 2019

Feeling The Force

A Long Time Ago, In a Galaxy Far, Far, Away...






Actually, the last two months of 2019, right here on Earth! We are about to receive not one, not two, but three new visions of the Star Wars universe, and I for one am extremely excited about that. 

In two weeks [from this posting], Disney+, the Disney Streaming Service, will air the first ever live-action Star Wars TV series, The Mandalorian. Set a few years after Return of the Jedi, the story follows a lone Bounty Hunter trying to survive in the lawless frontier of a post-Galactic Empire region of the Galaxy Far, Far Away. 

I am more excited about this particular series than anything else slated, as it looks awesome, has a neat premise, and is being put together by the talented duo of Jon Favreau (the lead developer, head writer, and showrunner) and Dave Filoni (of Clone Wars, Rebels, and Resistance fame). 

The first episode comes out on Disney+'s launch day of November 12th, with a second episode on November 15th. Do you know what else comes out on the 15? 

Star Wars: Jedi - Fallen Order, a video and PC game I have been looking forward to for some time will release two Fridays from today. In it, you play Jedi Padawan Cal Kestis, a survivor of Order 66 who is on the run from the Galactic Empire. After accidentally revealing his Force abilities in front of an Imperial Probe Droid, the Empire sends a team of specialized Stormtroopers and an Inquisitor (or two) to hunt him down. 

Wow. Such a great premise for a Star Wars tale. I love the designs, the ships, the aliens, and the Imperials. As for gameplay, it resembles and has been described by reviewers as a mix of Uncharted and Dark Souls. Sold. I am there. 

Last, and sadly least, December 20 sees the final film in the new Sequel Trilogy, The Rise of Skywalker. I am truly interested in seeing this movie, but perhaps not as excited for it as I am the other two things I've mentioned here. The recent trailer looked great, and I love me some Star Wars, but after the horror that was The Last Jedi I find I have had to work myself up to the level of cautious optimism. So far it's working! I have my ticket and I'm going to try to enjoy the ride. 

Not included here as it won't appear until next year is another product I am super jazzed about which is The Clone Wars Season 7, coming to Disney+ in February I believe. I will discuss that in greater detail as we get closer. 

What does all of this mean besides the obvious joy I feel in being honestly happy about promising new Star Wars material? Um...what part of The Barking Alien Blog did you not understand? GAMING my friends! It all comes back to Gaming!

Yes, I am Feeling The Force something fierce these days, eager to consume and process all of this entertainment and the new info that comes with it in order to apply the items and ideas to a new campaign of Star Wars, The Role Playing Game (West End Games, D6 version of course) sometime in 2020. 

Anyone else feeling this or did The Last Jedi turn you to the Dark Side? 

AD
Barking Alien

*Originally written and published on November 1st, 2019, I have moved this post to December as I will be largely dedicating this month to Star Wars related entries. I apologize for any confusion but it is easier for me to organize my thoughts this way.