Monday, November 12, 2018

Hurts Like Heaven

I promised myself that I would remain positive this November and that all my posts would be about things I like. This is definitely about someone I like and someone who created things I like, so that will have to do. 

For you see, what I am about to tell you makes me sad and I do not like it one bit. 

Today I lost yet another of my heroes. 

On this day, the 12th of November, 2018, the world said farewell to Stanley Martin Lieber, better known as Stan Lee. 

Stan Lee - born in New York City, NY - was a creator, writer, editor, publisher and a character as large and as colorful as any he had a part in inventing. Collaborating with such artistic geniuses as Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko, Stan helped to create Superhero Comic Book characters known the world over - Spiderman, The Hulk, Thor, Doctor Strange, The X-Men, and many, many more.

Thanks to the popularity of feature films produced by Marvel Entertainment/Disney over the past 10 years, his characters are household names from Hastings to Hong Kong and Toledo to Tokyo. 

More so than any other single individual in the history of comic books, Stan Lee was the name and face most closely associated with that medium. He was a master of promotion and branding before either were really a thing in the modern sense. One could say one of the greatest characters he every created was Stan Lee himself.  At the same time he wasn't just interested in his own image and legacy. He was an advocate for the Comic Book and an unequivocally passionate individual in that regard.

He wasn't perfect. He was Human. Yet there are clearly those who could take lessons from him on how to be a Human being. In 1968, Stan used his comics as a forum to fight bigotry and published the following editorial:

I only met Stan in person once. I was a kid. We didn't really exchange words. I just stared in silent awe. There he was, a living legend, within a few feet of normal, teenage me. I wish I had said something, anything, to let him know how he'd inspired me. 

Well Stan, you did. You inspired me enough to go to art school, to make attempts to break into comics, to write and draw and keep the dream of 'With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility' alive. 

Farewell True Believer. 



Barking Alien

That's The Way, Uh-Huh Uh-Huh, I Like It

I like IP based games. 

It's true that this may not be universally the case as I won't play a game just because it's an IP. I have to like the IP to be certain. 

That said, I find that given the choice between DC Adventures or Mutants and Masterminds 3rd Edition - essentially the same game - I'd much rather run a DC Adventures campaign. I'd pick Star Trek or Star Wars over Traveller and I freakin' love Traveller. I miss running Ghostbusters and I've been getting ideas for a Men In Black game lately. 

I really enjoy running games based on entertainment franchises that I like. It might seem lazy to some or less creative than a game set solely in a setting of one's own design but I don't feel that way. Better yet I don't really care what those of that opinion think. 


Well for starters, I've had incredible success with IP based campaigns over the years. Some of the best games I've ever run have been set in someone else's universe. As I have noted in the past, I became sort of famous in my local gaming circles in High School and College as the 'King of Licensed RPGs'.

I always received interest if I said I was thinking of running Villains and Vigilantes, Mekton, or Ars Magica but I'd have scores of players chomping at the bit to be part of my Marvel, Mobile Suit Gundam, or Record of the Lodoss War games. 

I have discussed IP gaming numerous times in the past from both a general standpoint and in relation to specific licenses. What I want to add here is that I really like the freedom they give me. 

"Huh?", I hear you say. "Freedom? But isn't doesn't running a game in a known IP setting tie your hands considerably? You can't go against canon without someone freaking out!"

That is certainly a distinct possibility but let's focus on the freedom part shall we?

When creating a setting from scratch there are several things to consider, among them being what particular elements do and don't exist in your universe, how the people in the universe interact with and feel about those elements, and what is the function of the Player Characters in said setting. 

In IP settings, if the players are at least generally familiar with the IP, those questions are already answered. I don't have to explain what a Droid is to a Star Wars player, nor do I have to get into all the different ways Droids are treated. 

Likewise, I don't have to tell a Star Trek player that there aren't any Droids on their Starfleet Vessel. Star Trek doesn't have Droids. We all know this. 

When the rules are known and generally agreed upon by all involved, I as the GM don't have to worry about them. I can direct my energies towards creating new material - new stories, characters, locations, and other such components. It's quite liberating actually. You don't need to reinvent the wheel if you and a good size group of friends have the same favorite wheel you can take out whenever you feel like it and go for a spin. 

I could go on and on but I have other subjects I want to get to. I am really interested in running either an old favorite IP game or an IP I haven't touched in a while. Perhaps one I like but haven't yet tackled at all? Time will tell. 

Barking Alien

Friday, November 9, 2018

What I Like About You

I've been feeling a lot of negativity around lately - from social media, the gaming community, and the internet in general.

I don't want to talk about that. That is, I don't want to add to the negativity.

I want to talk about something positive. I want to be positive!

I want to talk about things I like.

So what is it that I like?

I like...well...I like a lot of things.

This month, that's going to be my focus. I am going to talk about things I like and what I like about them. I want to share my likes with the likes of you (heh - see what I did there?) and hear about your likes.

I'm going to try and avoid talking about my dislikes, which is hard. I - like pretty much anyone and everyone who would be reading this right now - am a geek and we geeks are a very opinionated lot. It's because we're passionate about our interests. Isn't that the very definition of the modern geek? We like what we like and we don't like what we don't like - both to the extreme.

I often talk about my dislike of things, from particular games and styles of play to the direction my favorite franchises have taken. It can be therapeutic in a fashion to vent one's frustration or disapproval of things that they deeply connect with.

I tend to (or I try at least) do it with a sense of humor. That humor can be snarky, even biting, but again I feel that getting it off my chest is better than keeping it inside. Besides, if readers agree I feel a sense of camaraderie with my fellow nerds. If someone disagrees, perhaps they will make a point that has me revisit my opinion.

The point is that disliking things is OK, and talking about your dislikes is fine too. I just don't want that to be the focus of November.

I'm inspired by the idea of Thanksgiving - not the holiday itself and what it represents but my own family's take on it. You see, for us it is the most family holiday there is. It's when the small, but very tight Barking Alien tribe gets to together to celebrate surviving the world we live in. It's giving thanks to whomever or whatever you feel like giving thanks to that we're all here, that we love each other, and that we will always rise up from adversity because we always have.

In conclusion, get ready for a month of Likes. Of things I like being liked. Of the word 'Like' being used like there's no tomorrow.

Like it or not.

Barking Alien

Monday, October 22, 2018

Head Space

Hi everybody.

I know it's been a while since I last posted and it's been sparse for a sometime even before that. I just thought I'd stop by and give you all a status report on myself and the blog.

I'm good. No really. I'm doing really good.

My girlfriend and I just celebrated a year together, my business is doing well (though a favorite client just moved out of state. Miss you PJ.), I'm playing in some great games and running some as well. All in all things are better than they've been in a long time.

As for the blog...Barking Alien is far from done but I am just not in the mood to blog lately.

Part of it is that I am struggling creatively with an idea that I am sort of obsessing over and it has me unsure about what to say. That is, I'm so pre-occupied with coming up with a new campaign for 2019, I don't feel I can talk about much else until I do.

I mean, I know I want to run a Space Adventure Science Fiction campaign, probably one a bit more Space Opera oriented (the genre not the FGU game), but I don't know what rules to use, what theme I want, or really anything I can put into words.

So..while I sort through the labyrinth of my own head I am going to take a short vacation from the blog. Don't worry, most of its system run independently thanks to an AI program I purchased second hand from the planet Colu. It was further modified by one Richard Daystrom, who I understand is the top man in his field. Plus, Barkley is here to monitor the whole thing 24/7 (Earth Standard). What could possibly go wrong?

I'll see you all soon.


Barking Alien

Tuesday, September 18, 2018


I'd like to discuss a character flaw of mine. It's one I've found quite beneficial over the years. 

I am often inspired to run games not because I have been exposed to some great example of the subject or genre, but a recent encounter with it that was thoroughly awful.

The Star Wars Prequels and The Last Jedi made me want to run Star Wars sooo badly. After seeing the first J. J. Abrams Star Trek film (and I use the term loosely) and Discovery (Blech!) I just knew I had to run 'Trek. 

Unfortunately, the same thing happens when I am exposed to a bad game. If someone runs a poor Sentai game, I become obsessed with running a Sentai game of my own. (No reason I picked that particular genre. Ahem. None at all). 

I can't help it. Seeing something done poorly that I feel I could do better just plants a seed in me that is warmed by the light of my burning hatred for it, watered by my tears of sorrow over what could have been, and nurtured to fruition by my undying disdain for poorly executed ideas. 

Wow. OK. Deep breaths. Sounding a little 'Mirror Adam' over here. 

The thing the case of something like a bad Star Wars movie or a lame actual play podcast, no big whoop. I get inspired, I run a good session with my friends, I get it out of my harm, no foul. No one gets hurt and my friends and I have a great time. 

On the other hand, if my buddy just ran a right rank game of Mekton and now I want to run Mekton, it's hard to avoid looking like a turd-waffle who's trying to outdo him.

The truth of the matter is...and even I know this sounds like bantha-poodoo...I am not trying to upstage the other GM. I'm not. I am trying to show the subject some love where I feel like it was recently shown a disservice.

At the very least I want to try to take a different approach, to find out if it was the other GM, the game (subject or system), or if maybe I can't do any better than they did.

Yet I am aware I am potentially making someone else feel bad by doing this and it kills me. To that end, to that truth, I often don't run my idea with the same group that ran and played the session I didn't like. I am not looking to show anyone up. Again, that is absolutely not the point. I just get frustrated when I think something that could easily be cool just isn't. 

Don't think less of me ahead and think what you want. I know it's a donkey's rear-end thing to do but not only do I try to make sure it doesn't hurt anyone's feelings, I can't help myself. I gotta be me. 

That brings me to Medieval Fantasy...Nothing makes me want to run Medieval Fantasy like bad Medieval Fantasy. Actually, the only thing that makes me want to run Medieval Fantasy is bad Medieval Fantasy.

I definitely don't get jazzed by good Medieval Fantasy. As I have noted many times I am not a big fan of it. Not in the way it's usually presented anyway. I rarely want to run Dungeons and Dragons and it's nieces, nephews, third-cousins, and endless derivatives. My girlfriend has gotten me to finally watch Games of Thrones, which is very well done by the way, yet it doesn't make me want to DM a game of D&D at all.

But then...

I recently watched both Disenchantment and The Dragon Prince, two new animated series released on Netflix. 

I liked Disenchantment, though I was surprised it wasn't as funny as The Simpsons or Futurama considering its DNA. I also thought that the twist (no spoilers) was cool but wondered if those who follow Fantasy literature saw it coming more easily then I. It seemed at one clever and nothing ground-breaking. 

And speaking of nothing ground-breaking...

The Dragon Prince was tepidly excellent. Overwhelmingly OK. It sets the bar of mediocre quite high. I enjoyed it for the most part but also felt that it was a bunch of empty calories. It's own pedigree - Avatar, The Last Airbender and The Legend of Korra - well, it isn't those. 

I also ended up watching and listening to some D&D actual play podcasts, some great animated youtube shows on gaming ( do yourself a favor and check out The Animated Spellbook. Thank me later), and finally, listened to a friend complain about his recent attempt to run D&D 5E. 

This mix of the good, the bad, the ugly, and the thoroughly meh, has resist...can't...can't hold it in...Grrr! 

Crap. I want to run Fantasy. I want this non-Fantasy fan to show'em how it's done. 

It's my own fault. I know it. I did it to myself. 

Barking Alien