Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Whatever Became of Barking Alien?

It's been a while since you've heard from Barking Alien and that's largely because I, it's proprietor, creator, and content generator, haven't been able to drum up the enthusiasm to say anything. 

In my personal life, I am dating an amazing girl, business has been picking up with three new clients added this year, and a lot of gaming has been going on. 


My girl and I can't travel to see each other, everyone is working from home so my business is pretty much non-existent, and gaming is now a no-no unless we play online. That last bit is fine but it has delayed the in-person grand finale for our ALIEN FRONTIER campaign. 

Even before this whole situation, I just haven't been able to manifest the energy and interest needed to post here on the blog.

I started this blog in order to discuss, analyze, postulate, and otherwise put out into the universe my personal ideas and views about Role Playing Games. I would like to think that for the most part I have succeeded in achieving this goal. I have indeed talked about my concept of RPG gaming and had some fantastic interactions with all of you about how my ideas differ, work with, and/or can be adapted to those usually encountered during such discussions. 

Unfortunately, I also feel that one of the reasons I started this blog and these discourses - that being to improve my own games and regain some of the awesomeness I lost following my brief 2 year hiatus from gaming - hasn't fully worked. 

With the exception of a few sessions here and there and our ALIEN FRONTIER campaign (which just rocks), I still feel like my games are less WOW than they could be, then they should be. 

It isn't all me I know; I am playing with different people who've had different experiences. I am playing in different environments and the big games are monthly instead of weekly (though I do still run and play weekly and bi-weekly games).

At the same time, I feel, as I always will, that the buck stops with me. My issues originate and end with me. I had hoped that discussing my feelings and thoughts here on Barking Alien would help me alleviate my shortcomings and get back the magic I had pre-2000s. 

So far, that hasn't been the case.

I've seen some improvements here and there but honestly, it doesn't feel like I've made a lot of progress.

Furthermore, I don't get the impression the blog has had a major impact on those you've visited over the past year or so. Between 2011 and 2017 I think Barking Alien was at the height of not only its viewership but also its effectiveness, spreading the Gospel of Games Besides D&D to a largely D&D and Pathfinder inspired gaming blog-o-sphere. 

Nowadays it turns out there are a lot of blogs and other internet resources for non-D&D gaming. Barking Alien is no longer the lone or at least rare refuge for the Sci-Fi or Superhero gamer. It is barely a novelty. It's just yet another rarely updated blog. 

So what does this mean going forward? 

I remember reading posts by bloggers which announced them shutting down their sites, making a big deal about how their blog would no longer be active. Some removed them from the internet completely. I also found that foolish in the extreme. 

Why make such a fuss about no longer doing something? If you don't want to blog anymore, just say so long and go away. At the same time, it's the damn internet. If you never touch the blog again, at least it's there for people to enjoy and maybe get something out of, no skin off your nose. 

Is there the end of Barking Alien? No. Definitely not. 

That said, I am not going to promise a renewed effort to post, nor a heads up to watch for 'great new content in the future'. All I can say is I am not done. I will still post from time to time and maybe, just maybe, the thrill and enjoyment I had at doing so will come back to me. Maybe I will have an epiphany, some mad insight that I need to share. For the time being though, know that things will be quiet here, just as they've been for a while now. 

Switching to Auxiliary Power. 

All non-essential system on stand by. 

Barking Alien


  1. I've enjoyed your writings. Good luck in the future. I hope to see you back.

  2. As you know, I'm not your biggest fan. And you may want to delete this comment. But let me point out to you that if you want to get better as a DM and as a blogger, you have to forsake some of the beliefs you have. I won't say which; but the choices you make in what to believe has consequences where it comes to changing the way you look at things.

    1. I am so glad you came by and very much appreciate your candor.

      I find it somewhere between deeply sad and utterly hilarious that you say I, or anyone I suppose, should have to forsake some of my/their beliefs to 'get better' anything. That's kind of the antithesis a Human being I would say.

      That said. I would love to know which beliefs you think might help me improve my craft if they were parted with. It would give me a the chance to come at this with a different perspective.

    2. Fair enough; please take this in the kindest spirit possible. It is no surprise that you are not my biggest fan. But frankly, it has been so long since we spent any time recognizing one another on line, I can hardly remember specifics. Yet it is safe to say that you disagree with my stance, that a good campaign demands exhaustive preparation, absolute agency of the players, the minimalization of storytelling as a premise and recognition that the game mechanics and rules are there to force people to take risks. I don't believe that people should be able to roll-play their way past the dice, because after a point, the game becomes a process of avoidance of hard facts ~ like death, loss, failure and the catharsis of recognizing we have to change our precepts.

      Perhaps you've never liked me because I've said all that so harshly, and so high-handedly, that it is not my philosophy you deny by my personality. But in ten years I have seen you write exclusively in opposition to the above ~ and now you feel that after all that, you've made little progress.

      I don't say you need to embrace anything I've said. But please consider that maybe, just maybe, in regards to some of these things, you've been wrong. And that there is opportunity in changing your mind here.

    3. Conceptually there are some things we definitely see eye to eye on.

      'A good campaign demands exhaustive preparation.' Agreed.

      'Absolute agency of the players.' Agreed. I actually got the opposite feeling from your blog. Perhaps just a misunderstanding of intent.

      Where we differ...

      'The minimalization of storytelling as a premise.' For me story is key but it may well be that what I see as storytelling and what you do are different and our actually views on how story applies to games are closer than we think.

      'The recognition of the game mechanics and rules are there to force people to take risks.' I tend to find games mechanics do the exact opposite. If it isn't clearly in the rules, clearly written on the character sheet, most players I have encountered in the last 10 years won't even try it. They definitely won't risk doing something that doesn't give them a clear, on paper mechanical advantage. I want characters to take risks because it's in character. Because something threatens something the character cares about.

      As far as people role-playing their way past the dice, well yes, that is an essential element of an Adam Dickstein game. If the player comes up with an idea that makes absolute sense given their character's personality, goals, abilities, the story context, or whathaveyou, but the game rules don't support or allow it, then yeah, screw the rules. That's just how I've always played and always will.

      To be far, that is why I play a lot of games with a looser attitude towards such things. It's why you'll see me playing Star Wars D6, Star Trek Adventures, Teenagers from Outer Space, or Powered By The Apocalypse games instead of Rolemaster, Chivalry & Sorcery, or Frag.

      Sure, it could be that we speak a different language, or have a different attitude and approach to what we do. What we do though, in the end, is try to create the best games we can for the players we have. In that we aren't any different at all.

      Really, I can't thank you enough for dropping by and sharing your outlook. It is definitely worth considering and perhaps there is a more I can learn from you site than I thought.

      Cheers and stay safe!

  3. Hey, BA:

    Blogging also provides an outlet for creative self-expression. Even if you're not getting the discourse you want, at least you have a medium and platform with the blog. And I appreciate your non-D&D gaming content: it's good to have a diverse group of voices shouting into the void of the blog-o-sphere!

    Get to it as and when you can. Congrats on the new girl...sorry about the business issues. Stay safe.
    : )

    1. Thanks JB, always a pleasure to see you here.

      True, the creative outlet part is a big part of why I do this. I guess I haven't needed the outlet so much with all the gaming I've been doing. Basically if it's happening I'm weirdly less inclined to discuss it unless it goes especially well or horribly wrong. lol

      Thanks again and be safe out there. Best wishes to you and yours.

  4. "Whatever Became of Barking Alien?"

    I was thinking something similar that last week, and I'm very happy to see you posting again, even if it is to say you are not posting anymore XD (and I already see that is not entirely true).

    You have discussed the types of games I would love to play (even all that japanese stuff that, for some reason, I don't get - a few days ago I watched "Princess Mononoke" and found it terribly boring). There aren't enough gamers talking about those genres, and it is comforting to read they can be -and are- run with great results. So I hope you recover your enthusiasm at some point.

    Best wishes from Madrid on its second week of lockdown.

    1. Thanks Miguel. Missed your voice here. Happy to see you back.

      Thank you for saying something I think my post and discussion with Alexis may have failed to point out effectively. I have run atypical games in atypical ways, or at the very least with an atypical approach, and the results have been positive. Even awesome. I still get players who gamed with me 20 to 30 years ago or more who remember our old campaigns fondly and with joy.

      This means everything to me. It is the surest, purest, perhaps even the only true sign of success for me as a Gamemaster. Followed of course by people wondering when my next campaign is and can they join in.

      I want to get back to that state. The state I was in when I ran those games. Not that people aren't liking, remembering, and look forward to my stuff now, but it feels different. It isn't at the classic level.

      Not yet.

  5. Hello there!
    We talked before about our concordances and differences of opinion on games.
    I don't always agree with you on this or that, but it doesn't matter, I still understand and respect your point of view.
    I appreciate your talks and ramblings on various subjects, of course mainly games and movies.
    Everyone will agree that you are a very passionate man, an educated scholar, and a gentleman.
    You are interesting. So keep barking.


    1. Well thank you Unknown. This means a lot to me.

      There is something to be said about someone who is respected by his detractors or something to that effect.

      I very much appreciate someone who may not agree with me but who understands it is fine that we don't agree. It's not the end of the world and we are not enemies.

      Differences of opinion and approach expand our collective knowledge.