Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Old War Stories - The Alternative Vulcan

There is no feeling in the world like someone remembering a game you ran or a character you played 10, 20, even 30 years later. It is the surest way of knowing deep down in your heart of hearts that you don't suck at this hobby after all. 

What do we have when the campaign concludes, the dice are put away, and at some point, sadly but inevitably, the notes are lost or fade. We have our memories. If there is any real prize or reward in RPGs, a way of 'winning' as it were, this is it. If people cherish a memory of gaming with you, you did good. 

In honor of Barking Alien's 10th Anniversary, some of my dearest friends and oldest gaming buddies have decided to grace us with some memories from the good ol' days.

This first one is from my friend William Corpening. Will is one of the greatest Gamemasters I have ever had the pleasure of knowing and playing under. In fact, he may very well be the best of the best. 

His tour de force was a 10+ year long Champions campaign that talk about all the time and was lucky enough to be a part of for about 3 1/2 years from 1986 to part of 1989. My current Champions campaign and a number of previous ones are based on his setting. 

He also GMed short campaigns of Call of Cthulhu, co-GMed West End Games' Ghostbusters with me and two others, and participated as a player once in a blue moon in my own campaigns, most notably Mecha Anime games such as Macross-Blue Dragons and Paradise Fleet.

Apparently, I also ran a FASA Star Trek game he was in according to this story I received from him a few days ago...

"Here’s an old war story to add to your blog for the 10th Anniversary...

So… I stopped by the Compleat Strategist one day (NYC's premiere FLGS) and ran into Adam and a gaggle of players getting ready for a game in the back room.

I joined in obviously. Adam was GMing and that's always a treat. I quickly generated a Vulcan First Officer who was also the Security Chief/Tactical Officer.

Adam thought I was playing more of a Tuvok than a Spock, a Vulcan saw physical combat and tactical solutions as logical in the right context [though this was long before we first met Tuvok]. The [NPC] Captain asks, “Are you from the Vulcanis Lunar Colony, then?” The Commander responds, “Perhaps…”

It gets crazier from there, but of course it does.

We find ourselves in a face-to-face with what seems to be a highly advanced Romulan Warbird. Some of the PCs theorize it may be a prototype of some kind. Adam drops a few clues as to the vessel's superior nature; it's not just superior to our own PC vessel, a 'Wrath of Khan' era Miranda Class, but a ship with cutting edge technology and systems that are only theoretical to Starfleet at that time.

My character seemed to know a lot about Romulan ships and their capabilities, leading some to wonder if I wasn't a militant Vulcan but a Romulan defector or worse, a spy. 

At some point I instructed the crew to fire "Photon Torpedoes, maximum yield!"

“Don’t you think that’s a bit much?” the Captain asked, surprised at a Vulcan being so aggressive.

“No,” the Commander replied flatly and calmly.

When we realized the barrage only did minimal damage to the ship (barely any damage at all actually), the Captain said, “Hmmm...Good call.”

We were hailed by the Romulan ship, which demanded to know why we had fired upon them, especially since we were allies. "Allies?", the PCs said bewildered. 

"Of course", said my Vulcan First Officer, "this ship is from the Future". (Nailed it.) 

So many adventures left unfinished… and so many great times had.


Thanks William! 

More Memories To Come...

Barking Alien

Oh, today is my 50th Birthday. Wow. Feeling good. 

Monday, February 11, 2019

Barking Alien's Top 10 Favorite RPGs

As we get older our tastes change. 

Maybe we get tired of the same old routine time after time after time. Maybe it's because we get exposed to new things and new ways of looking at old things. Something we never even tried as kids becomes our go to after giving it a look-see as an adult. Factors such as brain and body chemistry even come into play, making flavors we once loved into ones that no longer agree with us. 

Wait. Sorry, scrap everything I just said.

That's for normal Humans. We're gamers. 

I know people today who are still playing the same Traveller campaign they started in 1977. 

My personal experience goes like this...

I tried Dungeons & Dragons in 1977 and absolutely loved it. Then, sometime later, I played other games. With every other game I played I loved Role Playing Games in general even more and D&D less and less. 

I love trying new games and probably always will, but there are definitely RPGs that I repeatedly return to time and again. Some more often than others, either because it's harder to find an audience for them or I don't feel the inspiration as often as I do for my favorite-favorites. 

Here now are Barking Alien's Top 10 Favorite RPGs (as of this post!):

Oops! I almost forgot to mention...

These are in no particular order though I suppose they are roughly listed from my least-most favorite to most-most favorite. My number one choice below is indeed my number one game. 

Also, these are the ones I enjoy and have the most fun with. They are not necessarily the best RPGs every written. My number two choice is certainly a contender for that spot and a game I think is mechanically superior to my number one choice. 

OK, let's do this!

#10 - InSpectres (Memento Mori Theatricks) 

Essentially an improved version of West End Games' old Ghostbusters RPG, InSpectres adds a few new twists and tricks while remaining simple and versatile. I'd love to get back to using this system again for another GB outing. 

#9 - Ars Magica (Lion Rampart/White Wolf)

One of the few Medieval Fantasy Role-Playing Games I've encountered that actually feel both medieval and fantastic, Ars Magica is such a special work of art that it keeps bringing me back to it. Add in the games excellent treatment of folklore from all across Europe and this is definitely my go-to for wizards, knights, and dragons (when I go there of course). 

#8 - Mekton (R. Talsorian Games) 

A game ahead of its time if only in regards to its subject matter, Japanese Giant Robots and Giant Robot Anime and Manga. As a fan of Mecha Anime before most people in the USA had even heard of the term, I absolutely adored Mekton and still do. I felt like, "Hey, this company likes what I like! They made a game for me!" I've been in a Mecha mood again recently. We'll have to see what happens with that. 

#7 - Teenagers from Outer Space (R. Talsorian Games)

You can't mention Mekton or R. Talsorian without mentioning TFOS. As with Mekton and Mecha Anime, Teenagers from Outer Space came along at the perfect time for a teenage age Adam pretty much obsessed with 'Japanimation'. Like I noted above, I was into the subject well before Anime was a household word here in the United States and TFOS was exactly what I wanted at the time. Damn but I've run a lot of this RPG. I love it because it's simple, straightforward, versatile, and easy to modify. I think I've run almost as many non-Anime based campaigns with TFOS as I have Anime themed ones.

#6 - Champions (Iron Crown Enterprises/Hero Games)

There are times, phases I go through I suppose you could say, where I like this game even more than I usually do. I've come to realize that if I feel like I'm in the mood to run Superheroes, what really that means is that I am in the mood to run Champions. Once in a while I like to try other approaches for a different experience but I always go back to the grand-daddy of the genre. It's a little complex, a little clunky, and a lot of work but for some reason I just love it. Likely it's the versatility and the fact that it gives me the tools to build what I want instead of just pages and pages of powers that I would end up needing to modify on my own anyway.

#5 - The Googly Eyed Primetime Puppet Show Role Playing Game (Barking Alien Productions)

Yeah, my own game. Wanna make something of it? Well please do! Make your own off-the-wall puppet show series! I have to say, I am really proud of this game. It's not the slickest, or the most beautifully written, but it is fun and I like to think it really captures the feel of the subject matter. It's easy to learn and easy to play IF you get what it's about. It's niche, very niche, and I totally OK with that. 

#4 - Traveller (Games Design Workshop) 

It's funny to think back to the first time I ever played Traveller and realize how little I appreciated what the game was trying to accomplish. Maybe I should more accurately say, 'what the game could accomplish'. Traveller is one of those great games that is simple at first and more complex as you did deeper into it. Easy to learn, hard to master, eh? I started out disliking it and now it's one of my faves. I guess tastes do change. 

#3 - Star Trek Adventures (Modiphius Entertainment) 

When I first read through the Playtest Rules of the Star Trek Adventures I didn't really get it. Having run Star Trek RPG campaigns for over 30 years prior to the game's release, I had a very clear idea in my head about how Star Trek games should work. Star Trek Adventures didn't function as I envisioned and as such it kind of turned me off. Fast forward to a few month later when I got to play it and I suddenly understood how it functioned. Now, nearly two years later (give or take) I am thoroughly enjoying it. It may honestly be the reason my current Star Trek campaign (converted from the Last Unicorn ICON System and now in its 4th year!) have worked so well and lasted so long. While a tad crunchy in some areas, its basic mechanics are easy to grasp and the addition of Momentum (a type of Hero or Drama Point) make for some really great dramatic moments. 

#2 - Star Wars (West End Games) 

This is just about my favorite rules system ever made and very likely my second favorite game to run. I love Star Wars and the legendary Star Wars D6 System from the West End Games just works for it so well. I have said a lot about this system in the past and it is fairly well known so I won't go into too many details here. Instead I will sum it up like this, 'Imagine there is a meter measuring the level between Narrative Role Playing and Mechanical Crunch. Star Wars D6 is ever so slightly past the midway point at the center. It is on the Crunch side of the middle mark but only just'. IMHO, that's perfect for Star Wars.

and my #1 favorite RPG is...

#1 - Star Trek (Last Unicorn Games)

I would describe the three major Star Trek RPGs, produced by FASA, Last Unicorn Games, and Modiphius respectively, as follows: In the FASA game you create a character who lives in the Star Trek universe. In Modiphius' Star Trek Adventures you create a character who exists on a science fiction television show. In LUG's version, you create a character who lives in the Star Trek universe and then the game gives you the tiniest wink. It's very subtle and you might not even notice it. It beckons you closer and when you get near it gives you a playful jab and whispers, "Lighten up, this is based on a show". With pun fully intended, LUG Star Trek is the best of both worlds, a serious approach to Star Trek that never tries to assert it's own viewpoint but instead does everything in it's power to assert the viewpoint of the various TV series. This is made thoroughly apparent in the changes in tone and atmosphere between each of the core rulebooks. The Next Generation one is quite different from The Original Series one, which is in turn different from Deep Space Nine's. The mechanics are the same but the 'what is this game about' elements are adjusted from series to series. 

Honorable Mention must go to the following RPGs, which had a major impact on me during my time in the hobby, and I do like all or parts of them very much, but they aren't exactly 'favorites':

Cyberpunk 2020 (R. Talsorian Games)
Faery's Tale Deluxe (Green Ronin)
Mutants & Masterminds (Green Ronin)
Paranoia (West End Games)
Pendragon (Chaosium/Green Knight/White Wolf)
Shadowrun (FASA)
Space Opera (FGU)
Toon (Steve Jackson Games)
Villains & Vigilantes (FGU/Monkey House Games)
Wares Blade (Hobby Japan) 

This post took longer to write than I intended. Hopefully now that it's done I can get the ball rolling with my plans for this month.

See you tomorrow,

Barking Alien

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Barking Alien's Top 10 Favorite...

I've decided that throughout the month I'm going to chronicle the elements of my time in the gaming hobby that have mattered to me most. To this end I will be listing my Top 10 Favorite...whatever. 

More than just a series of lists, the entries will be accompanied by a brief explanation of what it is about the people, places, things, events, or ideas in question that make them stand out to me. In addition to what makes each of these elements special in a general sense, it is my hope that I can convey why they are special to me personally. 

Where to start...hmmm...usually it's best to start with the basics.

Barking Alien

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Special Occasions

Merciful Mercer on Moclus! It's already February! How did this happen? 

This month...is a big one.

It can't be!
Are Adam and Barkley the same person?!?

No, of course not. ; )
Barkley Hat knitted by my lovely girlfriend. 

February is always pretty thought provoking and emotional for me for various reasons but this year, well, this one is special. 

On the 12th of this month, I will be 50 years of age. Fifty. Half a damn century. I honestly can't believe I've made it this far. 

In addition, on the 23rd of the month I will be marking off 10 years, that's TEN YEARS!, of the Barking Alien Blog! That's right gang, this month I intend to celebrate a decade of people all across the globe taking time out of their lives to pay attention to my mad, pop-culture fueled RPG ramblings. You're all invited! I'll put out soda, chips and guacamole. Does anyone have any extra folding chairs?

How does one celebrate such milestones? Hmmm. Hopefully with some content, something I've been light on of late. I will definitely try my best to get some new posts up, revisit some of my favorite old ones, and maybe get in some guest material or player spotlights. This really does feel like a momentous occasion so I best do it up right.

Looking forward to partying with you guys...Happy February! 

Woah. That feels weird...

Barking Alien

Before I forget...

Gong Hei Fat Choy!

Happy New Year!
Good fortune and happiness to you all in this Year of the Pig!


February is Black History Month!  This year I would like to direct your attention to Huffington Post's Black History Built This. For the entire month they will be shedding light on figures and events in Black History without having that light wash away the culture the way many modern tellings do. It looks to be a very interesting and enlightening approach to the subject. Take a look won't you? 

Monday, January 21, 2019

Happy Landings

My Apologies to Jim Nichols and Steven Spielberg 

I am now in a position to know exactly what I want to run and how I want to run it. 

It's taken me a good number of years to develop my skill and style as a Gamemaster. It's taken time to recognize what I like and what I don't and how to achieve the former and avoid the latter. I've come to terms with acknowledging my flaws and accepting my strengths, and come full circle from OK to Good to Great to Good to OK and now, hopefully, Great again. 

Now I just need to find the right group and play that game. 

Don't get me wrong, I am really happy with my current groups and the games I'm running and playing with them. I just feel there is this potentially near-perfect game that I could run, would love to run, if I could find the right combination of people for it. 

In the past, this might have gotten me down or made me discouraged. Not now. Now I am somehow comforted by the idea, the knowledge, that I could do it. 

I am sure I will run it at some point. 

What's the game? 

We'll get to that...

Barking Alien


Happy Birthday to Doctor Martin Luther King Jr.!