Saturday, January 28, 2023

New Game - Press Start

This week I ran the first session of our Pokemon: Rise and Fall campaign based on the world renowned Pokemon franchise and using my fan-made Pokemon AD homebrew TRPG system.

In doing so an amazing and frankly astonishing thing happened.

It worked. It worked really well. 

Additionally, everyone liked it!

Let's discuss...

It is an unofficial tabletop roleplaying game work of fan appreciation. 
This not a real Pokemon game product of any kind.

As noted by my good friend and player Ray, a big part of the reason this endeavor turned out so positively is that we put in the time and effort to make it the best it could be.

This was no slapdash effort, no half-baked idea rushed to the table too quickly. I put thought and feeling into it and I think it showed. Likewise, the Players created characters that fit perfectly into the setting and bought into the premise wholeheartedly resulting in a fun and memorable experience. 

The Player Characters:
A Pokemon Reporter, a Pokemon Pilot, and a Pokemon Arranger

Our story opened, as does every episode of the Pokemon animated series, with a 'voice over' narration:

Narrator (GM): "Meet our heroes...Oh goodness!...two of them appear to be caught in a terrible snowstorm, high in the air, buffeted by wind and with limited visibility! This doesn't look at all safe! Not only that but they're running late..."

We immediately focus in on a dinged up seaplane struggling against blizzard conditions as it tries to find its target destination on the ground below. Young Pokemon Pilot Rina Mare (played by Will) grips the plane's throttle, reassuring her passengers that everything is under control.

Behind her, Curtis 'Curt' Matthiessen (played by Nick), Pokemon Investigative Reporter, and his pal Pyrrel, a Fire Type Pokemon, shake, rattle, and roll but maintain the highest level of optimism. Ice on the wings, temperatures dropping further, and the wind wiping up faster, put that optimism and Rina's determination to the test!

Narrator (GM): ...far below, at Makelit Pokemon Research Outpost 1, the third member of our intrepid group has already arrived. It seems there is something serious going on however and starting her Pokemon Journey may well be delayed."

Little Suzy Jansson (played by Ray), a Makelit Land local Pokemon 'Arranger' of some note, approached the Research Outpost only to find it surrounded by Police Officer, Rescue Workers, and a few Pokemon Rangers. Curious, Suzy looks for the person in charge of whatever this operation was and found Officer Jenny

Officer Jenny recognized Suzy and was willing to fill her in on what was going on. It seemed someone hiking across the Kissed Nature Reserve (in the Nature's Kiss Section of Makelit) fell into a sinkhole created by the dangerous conditions of water logged ground and heavy ice and snow from the current storm. Suzy immediately offered her aid and after conversing with a Pokemon Ranger, Officer Jenny agreed to let her but first she needed to check in at the Outpost and get her first Pokemon.

"Once you have your Pokemon, meet me out here and we'll discuss how you can assist." Eager to help, Suzy ran into the Center as far as she could. 

The Nature's Kiss Section of Makelit Land


Up in the skies overhead, Rina makes a desperate bid to, well, not crash. She takes a deep breath and tries to recall what her father would do or had done in a similar situation. She suddenly killed the engine and leaned on the controls to dive into the wind. Her plan was to glide aggressively, to be carried along until the right moment wherein she kicked the engine back into gear. [Will rolled Rina's Fitness of 5 Dice, modified by her Drive of 2, and lastly added her Trainer Class Skill of Piloting 3 for a total of 3 Normal Dice and 5 Exploding Dice. The result of 6 Successes and I gave her a Story Point for Will's portrayal of the character and reference to her father - a big part of her backstory]. 

As Curt and Pyrrel came really close to questioning their faith in the pilot, the plane roared to life and shot like a thunderbolt (see what I did there?) directly over the Pokemon Research Outpost and much further than intended. Aiming for a snowy clearing, Rina landed the aircraft mostly intact. A quick roll mitigated some of the damage by the plane suffered an overheated engine, a few loose maneuvering fins, and an empty fuel tank. Rina was glad to be alive and happy to have saved her paying client but was now in need of some more cash pronto. 

Curt's investigate instincts drew his gaze back towards the Center and the lights of the various law enforcement and emergency vehicles. Instantly energized, Matthiessen directed Pyrrel and Rina to follow him back to the Center ASAP! Before he could grab his bags, Rina picked them and started walking in the direction he indicated. Curt and Pyrrel exchanged glances, impressed by this athletic and really headstrong pilot. 

Inside the Outpost, Suzy sees Professor Grayleaf talking to three boys, one of whom was none other than her own rival, the trouble-making, undisciplined Alvi Linnaeus. Why was he here? Wasn't he on his own Pokemon Journey? As it turned out, Alvi was there for an 'upgrade' to one of his Pokemon. Suzy had no time to bother with Alvi and his foolishness. She spoke to Professor Grayleaf who was kind but clearly frazzled. The Police and Rangers had been using her Outpost as a Command Post and getting her advice about nearby Pokemon.

The Professor directed Suzy to the Starter Pokemon currently resting in their Pokeballs. The three choices were a Pyrrel, an Ugling, and a...huh? A Trolip? "This shouldn't be here", said Grayleaf absentmindedly. "Trolip's are rare! This should be a..."

Before Grayleaf finished, Suzy politely pointed out that she was in a hurry, had promised to help with the rescue effort, and Officer Jenny was waiting for her outside. The Professor placed the Trolip's Pokeball back down on the table and was then distracted by one of her assistants. Without really looking, Suzy grabbed one of the Pokeballs and left. Alvi called after her, "Wait! She chose the...!"

Walking back into the snowy and blistery air, Suzy notices Officer Jenny and the Pokemon Ranger now speaking to the young reporter Curt and the pilot, Rina. The Ranger indicated in passing that there was a reward for helping with the rescue but before he could go into detail Rina volunteered without needing another word. Considering the situation to be both worthwhile and great material for a story, Curt signed up to assist as well.

Realizing she didn't have a Pokemon of her own yet, Rina exclaimed as much as ran for the Outpost, running right past Suzy like a blur. Barreling down the entry hallway Rina notes two handsome fellows walking toward the door too late for her to stop. She recognized one as her business rival, the smoother than smooth Neilsen Piers, and she refused to crash into him. Instead she turned, realizing too late that would send her right into Cyrus Swift, a rival reporter of Curt's currently trying to cover this sinkhole incident. WHAM! [I offered Will a Story Point to have Rina and Cyrus knocked on their keisters, dropping stuff and being embarrassed. Will added that Rina would blush and get mad about running into a good-looking guy her age - a very Anime reaction. I gave her one more. Romantic complication subplot with another PC's Rival? YES PLEASE!].

The PCs' Rivals.
Pokemon Sailor, Pokemon Reporter, and a Pokemon Battle Trainer!

Thoroughly flustered and desperate to get back to Officer Jenny, Rina - like Suzy - ran up to the table and reached for a Pokeball without looking. Professor Grayleaf recognized Rina as the Professor had worked with her father in the past but the young Pilot had no time for pleasantries. As fast and politely as possible, Rina greeted Grayleaf and then returned to the rest of the group outside. 

Nature's Kiss Officer Jenny & Professor Grayleaf

Once all the PCs were together, Officer Jenny let them know the time to move was now! Word from the site was things weren't getting better and indeed were likely to get worse due to the blizzard. Everyone was instructed to pile into Officer Jenny 'Range Rover' style car and they did so. While they were on route, the group introduced themselves and then Officer Jenny gave them the details of the situation...

To be continued,

Barking Alien

Sunday, January 22, 2023

Rabbit, Rabbit, Rabbit

Gong Hei Fat Choy!

Saehae Bok Mani Badeuseyo!

Akemashite Omedetō Gozaimasu!

A Very Happy Lunar New Year Everyone! 

Barking Alien

We Praise Him For His Decency

My apologies for this belated acknowledgement and commemoration of the birthday of Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr.

I give you the words of the one and only Rod Serling...

“In his grave, we praise him for his decency - but when he walked amongst us, we responded with no decency of our own.

When he suggested that all men should have a place in the sun - we put a special sanctity on the right of ownership and the privilege of prejudice by maintaining that to deny homes to Negroes was a democratic right.

Now we acknowledge his compassion - but we exercised no compassion of our own. When he asked us to understand that men take to the streets out of anguish and hopelessness and a vision of that dream dying, we bought guns and speculated about roving agitators and subversive conspiracies and demanded law and order.

We felt anger at the effects, but did little to acknowledge the causes. We extol all the virtues of the man - but we chose not to call them virtues before his death.

And now, belatedly, we talk of this man's worth - but the judgement comes late in the day as part of a eulogy when it should have been made a matter of record while he existed as a living force. If we are to lend credence to our mourning, there are acknowledgements that must be made now, albeit belatedly. We must act on the altogether proper assumption that Martin Luther King asked for nothing but that which was his due... He asked only for equality, and it is that which we denied him."

[excerpt from a letter to The Los Angeles Times in response to the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr.; April 8, 1968]

Happy Birthday MLK, Rest in Peace.

May we do better someday. 

Barking Alien

Pokemon Go...Shoppng!

This post was originally meant to focus on Runar Synch Moves, the super secret special abilities I'm instituting into my Pokemon: Rise and Fall RPG campaign. Unfortunately, its taking a little longer than expected to rework and format the information so I figure its as good a time as any to tackle another aspect of the game that needs fleshing out: Inventory.

This is a set of guidelines designed to give the Pokemon AD player a little 'resource management' mixed into their high adventure exploration game of cute monster collecting. The mechanics here - such as they are - are less concerned with tracking encumbrance and that sort of thing and more about deciding what your character can and can't live without when heading into the wilderness on your Pokemon Journey. 

This past week, while giving my players an overview of the Inventory mechanics, one of them asked, "How important is Inventory going to be?". A reasonable question and one relatively simple to answer, though as is often the case, what one person says and another hears can be two very different matters. 

Suffice to say Inventory is not one of the most important or largest elements of our Pokemon campaign. It is an element though and as such, it needs some rules. 

Pokemon Trainers begin with a Basic PokeBag that has 10 Slots of Inventory Space. PokeBags can be upgraded at Pokemon Centers for a fee and new PokeBags with far more Slots can be purchased at Poke Marts (A Pokemon League sanctioned international franchise of convenience stores that sell Pokemon related supplies). 

Most items take up 1 Slot. These items are generally about the size of something that would fit in a small backpack, 'fanny pack', or handbag. That's just a rough estimate of course. A rolled up Tent for 1 person also takes up a single Slot. So would a Medical Kit that would itself contain Bandages, Antiseptic Spray, Aspirin, and other related components. 

If the item is notably larger or effects/is useful to multiple people at once it will likely take up two or even three Slots (though that is rare). If the item is too big, not only will it not fit in your PokeBag, it may possess Inventory Space of its own. In fact, that's a good sign that you're looking at an item that shouldn't go in a backpack, like a Steamer Trunk or a Car.

Note that many special items can have multiples of themselves stored in a single Slot. These items will be listed with a ' # per Slot ' on the table below indicating how many can be stored together.

Here are some standard Pokemon Journey items, how many Slots they take up, their cost, and some descriptions:

Items noted under the Number of Slots column may be listed as # by Type, such as Potions. This means that a single Slot may hold 3 regular Potions or 3 Super Potions or 3 Max Potions but different types of the same item do not stack. The important thing is that if you have 2 regular Potions and 1 Max Potion, the regulars will go in one Slot and the Max in another. Different varieties of Berries may be stacked together and different Evolution Stones may as well. Not so with Potions or items listed the same way. 

If the Cost of an Item is written #+ by Variety, such as Pokeballs at 200+, it means the basic or standard version is the price listed but improved or special versions of the item can go for more. A standard Pokeball is 200 but a Great Ball costs 600, while an Ultra Ball costs 1200! 

Items with an asterisk * are considered Key Items. Key Items are items often available for free under certain conditions. When a player creates their PC, they may choose up to three Key Items to begin the campaign with. It is strongly suggested that at least one of these choices be directly related to your Trainer Class. For example, if you are a Pokemon Rider, you don't have to buy Riding Gear. You can just choose that as one of your starting Key Items and its definitely a good idea to do you

If an item has no Cost, it is generally not available for purchase or is far too expensive to make it viable to a Player Character. Fear not! These items may be given for free as they are intrinsic to the game (like a Pokedex) or they may be obtained on a Scenario by Scenario basis (though in these cases you might not get to keep them). Some are gained as a reward by performing a task for an NPC, as is the case with the Bike Voucher. 

Some items here will likely require further description and explanation but I will save that for another post. This one is already quite long and was much delayed. 

The list above is also no where near complete in that it isn't anything and everything a Pokemon Trainer might want or need so Players and GMs should consult with each other regarding adding new items using the Item Chart about as a reference point. 

It probably doesn't need to be said but you might have some D&D players in your group so: A PokeBag takes up 1 Slot if placed inside another PokeBag, as long as the stored PokeBag is empty. If there is even one item/slot occupied, it counts as 'too big' to place inside the first PokeBag because, as noted above, it is an item with its own Inventory Space. 

Barking Alien

Tuesday, January 17, 2023

Future Unknown

I have a lot of things to talk about but I haven't had a lot of time to think and write to the level required, so please bare with me as I jump around a bit with the next few posts. 

I have my new mid-week RPG campaign Pokemon: Rise and Fall which I could not be more jazzed about. So looking forward to this one. Rules are largely finished, Character Concepts have been discussed, and I've been working on plots, subplots, NPCs, locations, and much more. Expanded rules on Inventory and of course the Runar Synch Moves are on the way.

I've also come up with my new Sunday campaign idea which I will discuss in more detail in an upcoming post very soon. After a discussion with some of my Sunday night players I have a much clearer idea of what I want to do and it's kind of mid-way between 'haven't really done it before' and 'back to basics' for me. Not unlike what I'll be talking about in this post.

That brings me to an idea that has been repeatedly gnawing at me for some time...

The Orville has become my favorite Science Fiction franchise. It's everything I want out of a Space Adventure/Science Fiction universe where the future is bright and Humanity's better nature wins out not only because of hope but because we put in the effort to make it happen. The promise of the Star Trek of my youth has been realized and reimagined as The Orville. 

Marrying science fiction, high adventure, action, exploration, character studies, interpersonal relationships, and humor in a fashion akin to my favorite blend of coffee*, this series is at once a 'pick me up' that rarely fails to get me going with inspiration and excitement, while simultaneously feeling warm and comfortable, like having a hot cup of joe with an old friend. 

I would very much like to run an Orville universe RPG campaign. 

The funny thing is that one of my goals this year coming off of last year's fourth quarter burn out is to run things I've never run before. I want to flex my personal creative muscles and do the ever elusive 'something different' TM.

Pokemon is a great example. I've always wanted to run a Pokemon RPG campaign but could never figure out exactly how to do so. Some element was always missing until now. My other campaign in the works is similarly something I've only done once or twice, a very long time ago, and never with the system I'll be using. 

The Orville would be quite the opposite of that in a way. It would be returning to do what I arguably do best and quite often - a Star Trek style Sci-Fi Space Opera campaign with a little more 'Slice of Life' atmosphere thrown in. It would be relatively easy, familiar, and not especially 'groundbreaking' or anything of that sort. Yet, at the same time, it would be a challenge to nail the right feel while also doing something that, like the show, evolves into more than just a Star Trek pastiche. 

I definitely want - no, NEED - to run some passion projects like Pokemon, whereas The Orville is more like a tried and true Blockbuster...or is it? I suppose it could be considered a passion project in its own right even if it isn't necessarily breaking new ground. It is just a thing a love and I love running the things I love. Makes sense doesn't it?

As for system, my brain is saying Modiphius' Star Trek Adventures is the smart way to go, though Last Unicorn's Icon System is definitely pulling at my heartstrings. I loved the game and I know it well enough to make the conversion from Star Trek to The Orville fairly easily. I even have the original playtest rules that feature some differences from the final release that I honestly really like. I also enjoy the irony of using a game by a company called Last Unicorn for a show that featured America's 'That's All I've Got To Say', a song associated with the animated classic based on Peter S. Beagle's Fantasy novel. 

Right now the major obstacle is finding a group for it. I would much prefer a large-ish group for The Orville, more like my classic campaigns, and I don't exactly have the players for it at this time I'm interested in. There aren't enough players in any of my current groups by themselves and scheduling prevents me from combining them in any way. Really, the best group for this project would be my amazing High School of Art & Design gang (Ghostbusters: The Home Office, Champions: Age of Chaos, Star Trek: Renown).

Not only are they an incredible band of brothers I've known for over 35 years but they are some of the most creative, pro-active, improvisational gamers I've ever had the fortune and pleasure of sitting down to play with. They get the balance between action and banter, serious and funny, sci-fi and slice of life that a lot of other gamers don't quite understand. 

We have discussed gaming together more...maybe this post can be my pitch.

Of course, we've had three amazing seasons but no confirmation on a fourth at this time, which is both frustrating and dumbfounding. Disney+ and Hulu don't realize the franchise IP potential they've got. Hopefully they will wake up to it soon and give us more Ed, Kelly, Bortus, Isaac, Claire, Talla, John, and the rest of the gang. 

On to the next post - Engage Quantum Drive!

Barking Alien

PS: Wishing a Happy Birthday and Remembrance of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.