Thursday, December 31, 2009

New Year Revolutions

As 2009 draws to an end (and some, including myself, would say "Thank goodness"), we look toward 2010 and consider our resolutions for the new year. I think for 2010 I'm going to try something different. Instead of resolving to do things within my grasp but rarely achieving the vast majority of it, I'm going to go for the gold star and resolve to do the unlikely if not impossible.

Resolution #1: Purchase the New Star Trek RPG

Yes, I know, there is no new Star Trek tabletop RPG. My thinking is that my resolution to buy one will make someone out there take notice and make one. There is going to be an MMO for Roddenberry's sake! C'mon!

Resolution #2: Run an ongoing Star Trek RPG campaign with my Dream Team group

This one is virtually impossible as my Dream Team consists of people whose schedules rarely coincide twice a year at best. Of all the resolutions here, this has the best chance of happening if only for a few months.

Resolution #3: Return to my High School Weight
My thinking here is that if I fail and make it only half way, I'll still be in the best shape I've been in since I was in my twenties.

Resolution #4: Meet the Perfect Woman

Seriously. I'm getting sick and tired of all the sex I'm having with imperfect women. Ha! Just wanted to make sure you were paying attention.

Resolution # 5: Be a Better Me

Perhaps the hardest of all and yet the most necessary. I've let myself get down in the dumps a bit this year to the point where its reduced the power of my forward momentum. Not stopped it mind you but I can tell I'm not going full-speed-ahead as it were. I need to shake out the cobwebs.

Ok, #4 and #5 I'm going to actually do.

2010 is looking better already.

Barking Alien

Saturday, December 26, 2009

A Very Merry Blorthog to You!

Unfamiliar with the Tamaranean Festival of Friendship? Well, perhaps you would enjoy a peaceful and solemn Kal Rekk. No? Surely you follow the happy traditions of Life Day?

Well whatever your beliefs, know that Adam and I, the one and only Ambassador Barkley, wish you and yours a time of love, peace and goodwill toward little, blue, furry things from Antares IV.

Y'know, I've even heard of some primitive species who celebrate this

Barking Alien

Saturday, December 19, 2009

The Art of Maps Vol. 1

Or perhaps maps as art? Hmmm...

Anyway, with maps always being a commodity in need in the gaming hobby I thought I'd post of few of mine. These are relatively recent, thought by no means brand new. I have removed the words (locations names and the like) so you guys and gals can add your own if you'd like to use the maps in your own games.

This first one is actually not a map but an image inspired by a Mutant Future post by Jeff Rients...

Up next, this is an island mini-continent I designed for a one shot D&am

p;D adventure. Its really just a photoshoped out the wazoo variation of someone else's map I found on the web (though barely recognizable now)...

This is a barren wasteland planet we crash landed on quite by accident in an old Traveller game. I modified it sometime later for Star Trek I believe. Its originally a texture map of Mars with World Machine  and photoshop effects added...

Last but not least, this is a map of my primary D&D campaign world. I used photoshop to alter a google earth map and combined it with another map of the Earth I found elsewhere on the net. My world is supposed to be an alternate Earth so it works perfectly...


Well, that's all the time I have today gang. Hope you like these and good gaming to you all!

Barking Alien

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

And Why?

Continuing my ponderings from the other day, I am drawn to the conclusion that for many, the idea of using or running only one game is very appealing.

Jeff Rients was kind enough to comment on the subject and indeed says he sometimes wishes it were all about Encounter Critical, that awesome retro-hoax game created by none other than the extremely talented S. John Ross (whom I might add is also a fellow Star Trek fan and someone I once had the pleasure of working with).

In my mind its not just that playing one game and one game alone is difficult for me to envision, its also virtually impossible for the same reasons it appeals to others.

I am a bit of a genre junkie and snob and I don't really believe in the one size fits all game world. If I'm running Ars Magica for example, there are no Warforged in my game because in my opinion, they don't fit or belong there. Ars Magica is historical, folklore based fantasy and arcane robots just don't appear that regularly in such a setting. Likewise I don't have magic in my hard Sci-Fi Traveller or publically known superheroes in my 'World of Darkness'-type campaigns. These elements break the parameters of the described milieus and shake the feel in a fashion similar to breaking ones 'suspension of disbelief'.

I don't like throwing everything possible into one game. More accurately, I like throwing everything appropriate in. Appropriate to me I suppose.

Barking Alien

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

How Do They Do It?

Guys like Jeff Rients, Zak S., James Maliszewski and Taichara amaze me. Not only do they post almost daily (albeit with the occasional brief hiatus) but they consistently deliver quality posts that make me laugh and think (the two most important things you can do in life). I find myself thinking about gaming daily but I often find it hard to come up with a reason to post my thoughts. Generally, I stop myself from generating a new post on the subject I am toying with in my head with five simple words, "Will anyone care but me?"

Anyway, today's post isn't about those creative and prolific masters of the gaming blogsphere I idolize, although it could be. No my misled friends, this post is really about something else...

How do GMs of a given game, keep playing that game and only that game for so long? This primarily applies to my experiences with fellow gamers who play D&D but it could apply to any game. Essentially, I know people who've been gaming for 10, 15 and even 20+ years who only run and/or play D&D.

How is this achieved? What is it about this game that makes that possible? Better yet, I can't even imagine running only Star Trek and that's my favorite. It would be like eating my favorite food three meals a day for years. I would get sick of it after a week.

I do want to run a game more then once a month for a long time but I also want to run a few other games each month that have nothing to do with it. I'd have to in order to keep my sanity. Ideas pop into my head with little rhythm or reason and if I'm running D&D and have an idea better suited for Traveller than I don't want to change it to fit my D&D game, I want to run it in Traveller or perhaps another suitable Sci-Fi game.

For me, gaming works best when you don't dump all your eggs into one creative basket. If I could I'd run one game for my fantasy ideas, one for my superhero ideas and one for my science-fiction ideas. Each would be run once a month, although I could probably run the Sci-Fi one a few times each month as I tend to come up with more concepts for that genre.

Anyone want to share their experiences with this sort of thing or am I alone in my need for multi-flavored madness?

Barking Alien

Monday, December 14, 2009

Once A Month

Each of the games I run are generally being run once a month.

The reason for this is, primarily, that my current group consists of a fair number of Players who GM and/or GMs that Play. We also enjoy many different kinds of games and genres.

That said, I sort of wish I could run one of my campaigns with us doing two or three sessions a month. I miss those days and I realize my currents campaigns do suffer a bit for my not being able to run them that way.

There is a level of depth and intricacy that I feel I've been missing over the last year, largely because I only run one 6-8 hour session of each of my games each month. Now compared to my older campaigns which saw two or three sessions a month (or if you go further back in time, even more then three) that each averaged 8-12 hours, its obvious that I just can't cram as much stuff into the campaign as I used to. Faced with a more limited schedule, I feel like I need to 'get to the point' more often then not and the players get to explore and get to know the universe a bit less.

To me, this is a disservice to my players and to the overall campaign. One of the things I specialize in as a GM is weird voiced NPCs interactions, notes about local cuisine and other seemingly 'unimportant' elements that nonetheless make the game feel alive and complete.

What to do about it is of course the question.

Unfortunately there is really but one solution and honestly, it comes with its own difficulties. If I run the same game multiple times a month, I end up letting down those people you are currently involved in my other campaigns. There are only so many days in a week and all that. I won't be able to run everything.

Anyone else run into a similar problem? How do you or did you deal with it and how often do you run your game?

Barking Alien

Wednesday, December 9, 2009


Mutants & Masterminds has ended and thankfully with a bang, so it's time to get to work on Star Wars: The Clone Wars - Wild Knights.

While sifting through my old Star Wars material, of which I have volumes both official and self-generated, I am amazed by how much there is but how little you need. Star Wars, both as an IP and in the form of the D6 game, is extremely easy to grasp and requires very little in depth knowledge to make it work and work well. If you've seen the movies, even one of them, you can play the game.

Unfortunately, that isn't always enough for some players. There are those players that must read every word ever written on the subject of a given universe, memorize untold minutiae and suck every iota of information in before they are comfortable playing a game set in that universe.

Until this past year I've never really encountered this particular phenomenon. Most of my players want to explore the game universes and learn as they go. They start with their characters as they rolled, chose or otherwise generated them and then build on that basic frame to create some of the most three dimensional characters I've ever seen. I have friends whose PCs started as little more then a name, some numbers and a quote and ended up deeper then the characters of half the professional novels I've read.

Then, recently, I've encountered a very different type of player. Every rule must be read, every obscure background reference checked and the most munchkin advantages explored before the 'creativity' needed to make their characters begins. What's worse is the end result often seems to be a book sized background story that hardly ever plays a part during the games themselves unless it gives them some points or edge over their enemies and allies alike. I'm sorry but "Yawn".

I am something of an information junkie to be sure but then again I am the GM. As a player, I want my GM to obsess over the game's every trivial detail but I don't want or need to know them before I encounter them.

Also, if you read and abosrb and hold as written in stone material that I haven't read and might not be using, you really didn't earn yourself any advantage. I might hear about the material from you and like the idea but logically, if I don't know about it its unlikely its going to be in my game.

The constant questions and need for clarification I get from my new group is exhausting. Also, the more time I spend answering these inqueries means less time I can spend working on generating material for the game.

Some information should remain mysterious and mysteries are meant to be solved. Play the game and solve the mystery. Don't obsess over things out of game that can be obsessed over in game. There is such thing as too much information.

Barking Alien

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Going Somewhere?

As I hopped up on my bloggeyboard and rode the thread wave of recent posts about hexcrawls today, I began thinking of why, initially, I had no idea what they were.

Very early in my experience in the hobby (like, the first time I ever GMed onward) I learned to improvise a great deal. I certainly used modules in the early days but since my players were going to think on the fly to overcome traps and defeat enemies I decided I was going to do the same to challenge them.

The vast majority of my games are about 80-90% ad libbed with the rest being, say, 75% ad libbed. Elements that are not thought up on the spur of the moment (and a good deal of those that are) are based on huge amounts of forethought and research on what would work or be cool in the minds of my players and I and appropriate to the situation they are in. Because of this exhaustive level of pre-game brainstorming, I'm usually ready for anything.

If I have a map of the region and the players decide that they don't want to go to the seek the treasure that they learned about from the ancient Elven runes (the 'adventure' it would seem)...fine. "Where do you want to go?", I'll ask them. If they say north I know that the Celt-like barbarian tribes and faerie creatures lie that way. If they say south I can look forward to whipping up something with the border guard at the edge of the chaotic lands near an old fortress. Go ten miles east, one mile west or just over the water to a group of islands and its the same thing. I know my world and as such I can logically generate what is going to be there where ever they decide to go.

I never thought of hexcrawls as a 'thing' because so many of the games I've run are largely a hexcrawl that leads to something of interest. Even in (or especially in) my Science Fiction games the adventure isn't on Planet A in Building 2, Room X. Its where ever the PCs decide to land and whatever trouble they get into. My worlds and universes are alive and you as a player live in them.

Here's a little story (one of my favorites) from a high school Sci-Fi/Space Opera/Traveller campaign I ran (so we're talking mid-eighties)...

The players were bounty hunters, mercs, smugglers and other neer-do-wells currently shooting it out with their former employers on an industrialized planet. The party performed a task and were double crossed. Now, out maneuvered and outgunned, it looked like the end for our anti-heroes.

Suddenly, one player, my friend Pete, had an idea. Pete was the default team leader and called the group's spaceship on his communicator. He told the pilot to power up the ship and get ready to pick up the rest of the gang. "We're leaving", Pete says. I nod, "You're leaving the planet? Without the money and with these guys labelling you as wanted men?" Pete nods and defiantly says, "Yes! We're obviously not going to get our money and we just won't come back to this system." Now I had no idea Pete would do this...and I couldn't have been happier.

With some quick thinking, wild tactics and teamwork, the players manage to avoid being shot and escape aboard their tricked out freighter. They congratulate each other, high-fiving and laughing about how they essentially 'beat' the adventure. I sat back and smiled. Finally one of them looks at me and says, "So what do we do now?" I looked at him with an inquisitive expression and calmly said, "I don't know. What do you want to do?"

Stunned silence. They left the adventure before it was finished and had no idea what to do next. They began arguing over whose fault it was, what they were supposed to do for money and how they were going to reach another world on the fuel they had. After a bit I stepped in and told them they had enough fuel to reach one of three star systems. One of these system had a gas giant and they could refuel there and then travel further giving them two more destination options.

As they asked questions about the various systems and their worlds and discussed their best course of action, one player said to me, "Hey Adam, what happens if we go here", pointing to a world on the hex grid star map.

"Then you go there and something might happen."

"Well...what if we go here instead", he said in a challenging tone, pointing at a different world.

"Then you go there and something different will happen."

He then looked at the map and then back at me and said, "Wow."

Yes. Wow.

Barking Alien