Thursday, May 21, 2009

Balance of Terror!

Bat in the Attic has been talking quite a bit about the FASA Star Trek RPG, The Combat Simulator and his experiences with it. Check out his blog!

Hmm...should that read 'Tiberian Bat in the Attic'?

Barking Alien

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Star Trek XI is...Out

I suppose it is inevitable that I would post a review of the new Star Trek film. The film is out, I am a Star Trek fan and I do have this blog. With great power comes great responsibility but mediocre exposure comes with the right to mouth off about things. Such is life.

First, I'd like to say that I was really excited when they announced this film and the prequel/reboot concept intrigued me. I was ready for something new, something different, even if it was applied to the Star Trek I call my own.

I love all the incarnations of Star Trek (to varying degrees of course) but the Original Series is what made me a Star Trek fan in the first place. To me, Star Trek is many things but regardless of everything else, the legend begins with Capt. Kirk, Mr. Spock, Dr. McCoy and the crew of the USS Enterprise in 1966. That said, I went in ready to weep, laugh and jump for joy at this revised incarnation. I...didn't.

Red Alert...Spoilers Ahead

The first few minutes, the scenes with the USS Kelvin leading up to the first appearance of the 'Star Trek' title across the screen, were awesome. I almost cried it was so good. The movie went on from there as a fast paced, action packed adventure film with awesome characters and dazzling special effects. Pine was a very good Kirk, Quinto a great Spock and Karl Urban a Super-Freakin' Awesome McCoy. Pegg, as expected, was also excellent as Scotty though I'd hoped he would be there for more scenes. Everybody was good actually.

Then it went on to become...a movie. A typical, sloppy, Hollywood blockbuster. I kept trying to love it, kept trying to see and feel the magic, but as the film went on it did everything it could to drive the magic away.

There was just too much 'huh?' in the movie. Too much convenience that made no sense. Everything happened in a way that it needed to regardless of logic or believability. The visual design of the sets and locales ranged from fair to downright terrible.

Why did the starship bridges look like they were from the future and the engine rooms look like the boiler room in my old high school. Note to the film makers; in order to achieve a suspension of disbelief in a SciFi film, things have to look sort of, ya'know, SciFi-ish.

Where the heck is Delta Vega? If its a planet like the computer identified it, how is it you can see Vulcan (another planet) from the surface. We can't see Mars or Venus except as a tiny point of light in the night sky. Is it a moon of Vulcan? Then why wasn't it screwed up when Vulcan was destroyed?

So, Chekov can use the Transporter to save Kirk and Sulu moving through the air at ridiculous speeds but can't save Spock's Mom when she slips on a crumbling rock. Is she somehow moving faster then the guys who leaped off a platform hundreds of feet in the air?

Why is it that the Federation never has any ships anywhere they're needed? Between Vulcan and Earth there are only the half dozen vessels parked around Earth's spacedock? All the other ships in the fleet are in another system? No ship is defending the founding worlds? No planet has its own weapons or defenses to shoot down the laser drill rig?

Kirk gets through the Academy and receives command of the flagship in three years? If Chekov is 17 does that mean he entered Starfleet at 14?

So Kirk cheated to win the Kobayashi Maru. Did he have to act like he cheated? What a putz.

The science surrounding the plot was preposterous. A supernova is going to destroy the galaxy? Funny, hasn't happened so far. And a black hole maker made of magic red goo is going to save us? Oh wait, it can also destroy us. It can also send you through time. Wha?

I have more but its not necessary. While watching this film I felt like I had a tall glass of cool and the movie kept bumping into me every few scenes causing it to spill. By the end of the film there wasn't much cool left in the glass.

Oh, one more thing. The new version of the Enterprise is just so ugly. The shuttle were great, the Kelvin rocked and many of the ships around the spacedock were nifty (as was the spacedock itself). The Enterprise though...just so unattractive. Odd curves, uninspired dish (it looked great on the TMP era ship - this is a new design. Make a new look for the dish), bizarrely shortened secondary hull and those engines...ugh. Just a bad design and from an artist I worship too. Yuck.

Anyway...the sequel should be just around the corner. Maybe next time they will pay as much attention to the art and story as they did the characterizations.

Peace and Long Life,

Barking Alien


Side Trek - Appendix N

I thought I would take a moment and share my Appendix N with you all. I think it's especially interesting to do since after 30+ years in the hobby I'm constently intrigued by how different my playstyle can be from other gamers in my age group (40 - *shudder*).

I never really experienced power gaming, being a 'Monty Haul' GM, rules lawyers or any of the standard ailments the plagued many a campaign over the hobby's early years. I mostly learned about these terms from Dragon Magazine and through speaking with other players and gamemasters. I suppose since my approach and perception may have been slightly unusual from the get-go, my gaming style simply developed down different lines. To illustrate this, I've decided to post my list of major campaign and gaming influences. Please keep in mind that while this list holds true for any game I run, I tend to run Science Fiction and Superheroes more then anything else. These elements are listed in no particular order:

P.T. Barnum
Legion of Super Heroes Comics - Especially those of the Paul Levitz/Keith Giffen Era
Green Lantern - Silver Age and Current
Teen Titans - Especially the Marv Wolfman/George Perez Era
Star Trek - Especially the Original Series and Movies
Japanese Anime and Manga of the Late 1970's to Mid 1990's
Jim Henson & The Muppets - Including Dark Crystal and Labyrinth
Rock & Roll Music of the Late 1960's to Early 1980's
Star Wars - Original Trilogy
Douglas Adams
Terry Pratchett
E. E. "Doc" Smith
Larry Niven - Especially the Draco's Tavern Stories
Monty Python
Naoyuki Katoh - Japanese Painter, Illustrator and the artist for Japan's Classic Traveller
Mel Brooks
Robin Williams
Wayne Barlowe
Ben 10 - Especially the Original Series and the designs of Dave Johnson
L. Frank Baum

We are all the sum of an unimaginable number of influences, exposed as we are to things that previous generations could only dream about. The internet and cable television, just to name but two sources, give us access to virtually any piece of visual art, music or written information in a matter a seconds. That said, some things get stuck on the fly paper of our brains and never escape. It is these things we hold most dear and return to most often to find our inspirations.

It is also interesting to note how many of the people I've named above are personal heroes of mine and that I've had the utter privelage to speak to them at length at one time or another. I feel very lucky for the opportunity.

Barking Alien

Sunday, May 10, 2009

The Genesis Effect

Gaming the Final Frontier Part I - General Order Two - Pre-Production - Making Adjustments

So I've started pooling together some ideas about my Star Trek RPG series premise, setting and ship (the central location for much of the story). After writing these down and looking over them it was time to think about these elements and discuss them with my players a bit more thoroughly.

In doing so I discovered that the series may be better served by setting the story earlier in Star Trek's 'history'. This occurred to me because:

Many of these players are only casual Star Trek fans or, in one case, not fans at all. As such, they won't know all the fine points of treknology and technobabble so I'm better off keeping it simple and focused - Communicators, Phasers, Photon Torpedoes, Shields, Transporters, Tricorders, Warp Drives are all the really matter.No magical god-tech such as replicators means more of a 'live by your wits' feel to the game. I like that.

Also, I can make them the heroes of important first contacts and minor wars that will impact the 'Next Generation' of tales and maybe even carry over to future campaigns (and I obviously mean future in more ways then one).

While new to Star Trek gaming, this is an experienced group of 25-40 year old players who prefer an action/adventure oriented style. The traditional TNG, VOY approach will just bore them and when they get bored, they get distracted and focus on everything but the matter at hand (i.e. the adventure).

So what does this translate into for my campaign? Well, the premise remains unchanged, a Starfleet Vessel Exploring a Particularly Hostile Frontier Region. No need to alter that. Even the reasoning behind it is sound, we make friends with some alien species located fairly close to an enemy power that agrees to allow us to explore their area and support us when needed. Very likely this helpful alien species is looking to join the Federation, possibly with the ulterior motive of getting help against the hostiles.

The setting is going to change however, with the stories taking place in the Original Series Movie Era, with the first adventure set roughly circa 2279. This time period has the perfect cold war political feel and grittiness mixed into the 'boldly going' nature I love about Star Trek. I want the military look of this setting with its maroon jacket uniforms (perfect for bloodied handprints on the inside flap), darker, more dramatically lit sets (the Bridge, seemingly abandoned science outposts, etc.) and my all time favorite Star Trek ship designs ever, the Miranda Class.

Which brings me to the class of ship we'll be using. This one's a toughy. I still need a vessel that has the same general purpose, an exploration vessel with some muscle. Now what I've been considering is a tough little scrapper instead of a bigger explorer. In D&D/Fantasy RPG terms, instead of a Ranger, what I need is a Scout. Hmm...

Enter the Avenger Class Fast Destroyer created by the amazingly talented Masao Okazaki of The Starfleet Museum. Another version of this vessel appears on the website The Journal of Applied Treknology under 23rd Century History. The latter version is designed to fit the TOS Movie Era and appears to have a construction date of 2275, making the ship only 4 years old at the start of our campaign. Maybe not all the bugs have been worked out of the upgrade...heheheh.

OK, so we are a good ways toward final production here and as such, next time I will indeed get to the crew and various other concerns on how to really get the campaign series started. Be advised that the title is now changed to reflect the adjustments, Star Trek: OUTBOUND - Flight of the >Ship's Name Here<. Haven't decided on the new vessel's name yet. Looking into some kind of mythological flying creature perhaps.

I know, I know, "Adam, the new Star Trek movie is out! Aren't you going to review it?" Yes. Eventually. I'm still trying to decide how I feel about it and how to word the review. Check back soon.

Barking Alien