Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Bring on The Bad Guys!

A new 'Gaming Epiphany' came to me the other day true believers and it looks like I know what I'm going to run with my New Jersey group.

I felt really bummed that for various reasons we're not able to continue our Ghostbusters game. I really liked that game. It was a comedy with very serious moments and deep stories (NJ Unique Feel#1). The characters were mechanically simple, as in made using simple rules, yet I know more about them after 4 or 5 sessions than Star Trek: Voyager's characters after 4 or 5 seasons (NJ Unique Feel#2). It had everything, often in one session - Action, Adventure, Mystery, Humor and even Romance (or the potential for it) (NJ Unique Feel #3).

So I thought, how do I keep all that in a game we've never really played together before and that will appeal to everyone involved. Is there a way to incorporate all of this into something I've always wanted to run but haven't...


OMG! I got it! Eureka! Gaming Epiphany!

Imagine the universe is a cross between The Incredibles, Megamind, Despicable Me and the Venture Brothers. An exaggerated cold war, 1960's-1970's Silver Age Superhero comic book world.

And you? You're a goon. A henchman. A minion to a C-List Supervillian.

Largely based on the free 24 hour RPG called Witless Minion, I've sort of Adam-ized the game into an unholy mess of homebrew craziness. It's what I do.

Perhaps you have to steal the Helm of Osiris from a dig site in Egypt or learn All Man'sTM secret identity. Perhaps another villain is after the boss's Molecular Annihilation Zega Beam Cannon. Maybe its a simple snatch and grab of that nosy reporter Missy Montauk. Of course, she's All Man's girlfriend. He can lift tanks. You have a dart gun. This might not be pretty.

For once, these guys are the bad guys! Well, maybe that's just their day jobs. What will happen in the future is anyone's guess. Will they make their way up the ranks to Supervillain? Become Heroes? Find better jobs where you don't get baked by heat rays?

The mechanics of the game are pretty simple but quirky. You are basically a normal person with nifty gear based on the motif of the Evil Mastermind you work for. I have a bunch of villains and the players, as a group, will pick one to work for at the start of the game. The key is to help the team complete their assignments to gain the villain's favor and get promoted. Also, you want to stay on the bad guy's good side so he doesn't feed you to his mutant, hybrid Gorilla-Sharks.

As the game goes on you'll get better gear, more skills and possibly snag some of the scratch or high tech items for yourself (I mean, if you're gonna strike out on your own some day you'll need weird science devices of your own). Maybe get exposed to something and gain superpowers? Hey we can't all get rocketed from a doomed alien world y'know.

This could be the most awesomely, awesome piece of awesomeness I've ever tried to make awesome.

Time will tell.

Barking Alien

Sunday, November 28, 2010

This Should Be A Piece of Pie

I've kind of commited to running a few games in the new year and I just can't seem to drum up any enthusiasm for them. I'm drawing a creative blank. Actually, that's not completely true. I just can't seem to get excited about these particular ideas right now.

Part of it is that I'm a little down in the dumps in general, funds are short, bills are high and my insomnia is kicking into overdrive lately. Given those factors, I might be more focused on having fun if I could clear some of that stuff up.

At the same token, a new year always makes me think of games I've never run before, haven't run in a long time or that I think I can run better than the last time I did it. A new year means new possibilities, right? I hope so. 2010 sucked eggs. Someone get Clarke on the phone. He promised a lot of crap he didn't deliver. It wasn't full of stars, it was full of sh...

Moving right along...so what is on my mind?

Meikyuu Kingdom
Damn but I can't stop thinking about how freaking cool this game would be if only I really understood how to play to the point where I could run it. Some day...

Retro-Superhero Concept
I can see this idea fairly clearly but its hard to articulate. Imagine combining G-Men and Supermen and Witless Minions with the worlds of Megamind and The Incredibles. Period piece set in the late 60's into early 70's.

Star Trek
Yep. Got Star Trek on the brain again. Happens every year around this time. I'm as predictable as Vulcan Mating Season.

Those are my main ones. If I can just finalize some concepts so I could start working on a campaign it'd be awesome.

Anyway, gonna try to sleep. Wish me luck.

Barking Alien

Ahead of the Game

My favorite comic book store in New York City, Jim Hanley's Universe, is having a really big sale so I popped in just to see what I've been missing thanks to my ultra-tight budget. Found five, count'em 5, issues of FASA's Stardate Magazine. Star Trek RPGaming gold mine baby! Each issue was cover priced $2-$4 dollars each. Snagged the whole thing for $10 thanks to the sale. Happy!

Ran a game that should have been awesome. It was not. I knew going in it wasn't going to be. I was right. Sad.

A friend of mine with connections in Japan is trying to find me a copy of Meikyuu Kingdom. Yay for friends with friends in Japan! Happy!

Saw 'Happy Birthday Robot' at my FLGS the Compleat Strategist (Happy) but couldn't afford it (Sad).

Got a haircut that looks good. Happy!

I count four Happys and two Sads. I am ahead of the game. Wee!

OK. Somebody's tired.

Barking Alien

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Food-Comes-Out-Of-The-Wall-Day!

While researching Earth cultures in an attempt to better understand us (ok, he was doing an internet search for the favorite foods of various countries so he could program the replicator to produce a greater variety of meals), Ambassador Barkley came across the United States of America festival of food known as 'Thanksgivng'.

While he initially believed it to be and I quote, "A celebration of a bird so delicious it is only killed and eaten on special occasions", I tried to explain the true significance of the holiday. See, Thanksgiving is a favorite holiday of my family and I. While we are well aware of its less than stellar origins, we appreciate a single day a year where we can share a tradition of telling each other what we're thankful for and why.

This year, like many before it, I am especially thankful for my family (small group though it is), my friends (who are like family), my dog Delilah (who, let's face it, is my kid) and the health of body and mind to enjoy the presence of these people (and yes, Delilah is included as 'people'). I'm also thankful for gaming as even with its ups and downs, it allows me to release my creativity and keep my sanity.

Barkley looked at me thoughtfully for some length of time until he finally said, "So you cook the food in the box on that wall and than eat it while watching large, male humans chase each other and through a ball on a box on that wall."


"Yes", I said, "that's what we do."

He nodded in understanding and took a huge bite out of a turkey leg.

"Cool. I'm thankful you let me share this ritual with you."

Ya'know. I think he gets it.

Barking Alien

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Putting Genius On Hold

I'm a bit depressed.

It seems I may have to put my pet project of building a simulacrum of the Japanese TRPG Meikyuu Kingdom on hold because, quite frankly, I just can't find enough info on how the original is supposed to work to construct my bizarro clone of it. I realized I would need to make up a much larger percentage of material than I had at first anticipated and while there's nothing wrong with that, its more like me creating my own game and not me running Meikyuu Kingdom. I certainly could do that but honestly I don't really want to. I want to play the 'real' game.

Its funny but I know a lot of guys who run D&D (Big D&D fans as it were!), 1st through 3rd Editions, and modify the hell out of the rules to the point of having a good 10 or more pages of house rules. My thinking is, if I have to add to, eliminate or change more than 50% of the core elements of an RPG to have it play the way I want it to I need to play a different RPG.

Now granted I love to fiddle and modify stuff and I will change the heck of things but what I won't do is pretend I am actually playing that original game. In the case of my personal modified version of D&D, it really isn't all that modified. Well, sort of. Its closest to AD&D 1st and Sword & Wizardry with one major addition in the form of a system of special abilities granted to players based on their species/race, background, class, etc. It is extremely simple, rule-lite for sure and doesn't directly effect the vast majority of the other basic rules. I've been told however, that this one edition makes it very, very different from traditional D&D. I concur. I never claim to be running D&D. I run D&D-for-those-people-who-don't-like-D&D.

Anyway, I really, really want to run Meikyuu Kingdom. What I don't want to do, at least at this time, is make up a game that is a cheap copy of Meikyuu Kingdom. That wouldn't feel right to me and it doesn't do the original justice. If I had more time, money, etc. I might consider such a project but not right now.

It really does make me sad though, hence my 'Sad Ogrekin' image at the top. Someone out there really needs to bring this game to the US. Like yesterday.

Barking Alien

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

50 Sense

A couple quick notes...

First, I have 50 followers! Great Galactic Green Dog that's cool!

Thanks to everyone who has decided that reading my mad attempts at creativity and storytelling are some form of entertainment. Tell a friend.

Second, I've been trying to locate an out-of-print game for a while now and have been unable to do so. With 50 of you I'm thinking someone can find it. I'm speaking of course of Hunter Planet (either edition/version). Also, check out my Hunter Planet request and notes on the EN World post,
Hunting for Hunter Planet.

Third, and lastly for now, I'm putting together a Meikyuu Kingdom inspired set of rules for my players and I. Not very accurate to the original by any means I am none the less trying to build something we can use to play a similar game on a regular basis. I am so in love with this idea it borders on my obession with cute, geeky, brunettes with glasses who...and I'm entering TMI space so I'll stop right there.

Barking Alien

Monday, November 22, 2010

Make Your Kingdom


May be the coolest RPG of all time.

I'm talking about the Japanese RPG by Hobby Base and Adventure Planning Service entitled Meikyuu Kingdom, which comes with the English phonetic subtitle 'Make You Kingdom'. The title is one of those multilingual puns the Japanese are so fond of as the word 'meikyuu' translates to 'labyrinth'. So essentially, its Labyrinth Kingdom, a reference to the Endless Labyrinth dungeons that permeate the world in the games setting (though setting may not be the right word).

As one of my players said upon hearing the games background and premise, "This game has one fluffy macguffin." He is so right.

Basically a magical 'genesis effect' called the 'Endless Dungeon Hazard' transformed all the underground places of the world (as well as some of the sea and the sky) into an interconnecting network of trap and monster filled dungeons. Think your megadungeon is big? Try a planet. Yeah baby.

The game plays like one part RPG, one part RTS game and one part crazy parody. The players play the ruler and members of court who venture into these dungeons that way Starfleet allows its command crew to beam down to hostile alien planets. Each character has a 'Class', such as Ruler, Knight, Ninja, Oracle, Servant or Priest (there are others). This gives them one skill at the start from a list of different abilities. The skills are more like special abilities or powers in some cases. They then get a 'job'. This is a more mundane (though not necessarily) occupation that come with only one skill each. Options include but are not limited to Cook, Doctor, Eunuch, Hunter, Thief and several more. Hunters have "Hunting" which enables them to find things your party needs to survive. Cook gives you "Apron", the ability to turn slain monster parts into food. Doctors can heal.

The players also create their home country of origin, determining how many people they have and a number of other elements. One of the most interesting is what they call 'Rooms', which are basically locations in one or more buildings in your Kingdom with special properties that can help (or in some rare cases hinder) the PC party before they venture into the Labyrinths.

Actually play is like a classic dungeon crawl with a resource management element as you bring followers with you into the dungeons. Followers are disposable NPC goons of various types that you can use to help fight monsters, set off traps or otherwise get red-shirted into oblivion. Note however that there are limitations and lots of dead followers means a smaller population for your fictional nation. Finding treasure can not only give your characters nifty new weapons and magic potions but can also make your country richer. Over a campaign the country with grow and get more rooms and people. Feels like Ogre Battle meets Suikoden meets classic D&D.

We had a blast trying it out recently but didn't have enough players to may it really shine. After the game I did some research on the 'net and realized the game has way more potential then I even thought of at first. Spin-offs include tactical card games (Meikyuu Conquest) and supplements designed to expand the role playing elements (Meikyuu Chronicle). Also, the standard approach to the game is to randomly roll everything, including ability and the name of your country. Be prepared to defend the sovereign nation of "The United States of Champion Land" or "St. Banana Kingdom".

I could write volumes more about this rules-lite piece of gaming genius but I'll let you do the research. I'm already thinking of some expanded elements, house rules and wondering why there is no Sci-Fi supplement where you land on alien planets with your crew since many aspects of the premise and rules remind me of Star Trek. Meikyuu Cosmos anyone?

Barking Alien

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Appendix N-nigma

I want to run a campaign which has at the top of its Appendix N...

Diary of Inhuman Species
Oban Star Racers
The Search for WondLa


Time Jam - Valerian and Laureline

I'm feeling really Space Opera-y lately.

Barking Alien

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Damn The Resonance Cannons, Full Speed Ahead!

He's back. And this time, he's not taking no for answer. The question of course is, "Are you full yet?!"

So this weekend we celebrated my friend Rebecca's birthday with the gift that keeps on giving. That's right, role-playing games.

As per the birthday girl's request, the game of choice was Galaxy Quest, my wacky Teenagers from Outer Space homebrew, back after seven years. Yep, the last time we played it was 2003 and Rebecca confided that she could not actually recall much about the original game except that it was really fun. Hey, that's all I needed to hear. I did my job.

The adventure consisted of the formerly black sheep commander and crew of the NSEA Galient, having successfully made up for past errors, being assigned to a high profile diplomatic event. According to the attending Admiral the Galient will be permanently back in the NSEA's good graces if they can provide security and assistance at this special assembly of the Galactic Peace Treaty participants.

Unfortunately for our heroic crew, a series of sabotages to the space station they are on as well as some of the Ambassadors ships threaten both the peace talks and everyone's lives. As the PCs investigate various angles it seems like one party after another has both motive and alibi, leading the team to think the true enemy is not one of the attendees.

This theory turns out to be correct, for clues lead to a cloaked ship belonging to an alien race of weapons manufacturers and gun-runners. Turns out peace talks among species who always hated each other is bad for business and the weapon makers and their people are falling on hard times. That's what happens when your interstellar government's only major commodity is stuff people can use to beat up other people.

Using a little clever deduction and smooth diplomacy, the PCs take the gun-runners into custody and imply that the peace talk should continue unless the assembled ambassadors want to hold court there on the station (thereby possibly airing the dirty laundry that they had all worked with the warmongers at one time or another). With all out war not being something anyone really wants, the peace talks continue and the baddies brought to Earth, at least temporarily.

While it was very fun and the dialogue was laugh-our-asses-off hysterical, I think the players were hoping for something just a bit more action packed. I had intended there to be more combat scenes and fighting but the players in my NJ group can sometimes be too darn thoughtful and well coordinated for their own good. They don't fight unprovoked and even provoked they try to find more rational solutions. Funny but ultimately rational.

Anyway, I will probably go into more detail another time and try to recall some of the better lines but right now I need to get to bed.

Oh wait, one more thing...we are working on a way to start up a new ongoing campaign in NJ if possible. I hope so. I love these guys.

Happy Birthday Becca,

Barking Alien

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Opening Sequence

After a conversation with a friend in one of my current gaming groups about my post on the sameness of most of the D&D games we've encountered, I starting talking about how you can change things a bit right from the get go. The easiest way, is to begin the game is a different environment from your standard small town somewhere in mock-England. Another way is to create an immediate sense of action and urgency in the first minutes of the session.

I'm a big fan of beginning the very first adventures in my campaigns 'In Media Res' or in the middle of things. The concept is mentioned in some detail in the gamemastering section of the original rulebook for West End Games' D6 Star Wars RPG. It is one of my favorite gamemaster sections of one of my favorite books for one of my favorite systems ever. Essentially the idea is to begin the game as if our story is already in progress.

Here are some fun examples from games I've actually run over the years:

One campaign began with one PC, who had a pirate background and owned a small ship, on the deck of his vessel pursing an enemy ship. Meanwhile, two members of the enemy group where swooping down toward their vessel on the backs of griffon-like beast called Kargas. Now, where were the other two PCs? Why, on the backs of the Kargas as well, trying to either knock the enemy riders into the sea or wrestle control of the flying creatures or both.

In another instance I told a player that it felt like he'd been falling for hours. When he blinked and asked me, quite cleverly, how long had it actually been, I replied, "Probably only ten minutes. Give or take."

A group of PCs and two NPCs awoke on pieces of driftwood, the smell of burning wood and death hanging in the air. As sharks or worse circled the group, one NPC called to the PCs, "No better way to travel than by ship, you said. You'll get your sealegs right off, you said." To which one PC replied, "If we survive this I give you my permission to beat me senseless as long as its done on dry land".

Me: "Amid hurricane force winds of blistering cold, the five of you stare across the vast icy wastes at a fortress on the mountains about fifteen miles north of them. The fortress was vast and its doors and windows not sized for men but for giants. The sun is setting and it will be months before it rises again. What do you do?"

Player 1: "Who thought this was a good idea? The Dwarf? I bet it was the Dwarf."

Player 2 (The Dwarf): "It looked different in the brochure."

I remember starting one game with a PC paladin locked in a sword fight with a villain, the two trading thrusts and parrys and dancing about like miniature tornados. After a few rolls to attack and defense and each coming up a stalemate, the other PCs asked where they were in relation to the battle. I told them they had finished their fights and had, until that moment been watching in awe. As each said what they were planning to do or asking questions about where they were, one player said, "Well I'm going to go help the paladin." The paladin's player said not to help him and that this was his fight. Out of character, and only 10 minutes into the first session of the first adventure, the other players said to the paladin's player something along the lines of, "What are you taking about? We don't even know why we're here. Or where here is!" The paladin's player said, "It doesn't matter. All I know is my character hates this guy."

Barking Alien

Time Jam - A Space Rock Opera

Ok, I need anyone and everyone who views this post to go watch a few episodes, say, at least three, and than recommend to me a good system to run this type of space adventure craziness. Remember, I prefer rules-lite (or medium/lite), fast paced and if possible cheap or free.

Go, go now! Leave a comment.

Barking Alien

Monday, November 8, 2010

Not For A Lack of Trying

This will be the third or fourth time today I sit here in front of my computer and try to think of something to post that doesn't involve my dislike of Dungeons & Dragons. It is my sixth try in the last three days.

I used to like D&D. There were actually two times in my life when it was the game of choice for me and the fellowship of players I had the pleasure to game with. The first was from the time I first learned it and played it in 1977 until roughly 1983 or 84 when I learned there was a Star Trek RPG. The second time was when I taught the game to my ex-wife, who fell in love with it and wanted me to run it for her pretty much every day.

In the first instance it was Basic and than AD&D 1st Edition and in the second it was 3.0 and 3.5/D20.

I have so many issues with this game but the main one, right now, is this...

If you read the blogosphere and see what people say they are doing with it and its variations (such as Pathfinder, Labyrinth Lord, Sword & Wizardy, etc.), you get the feeling that some amazing stuff is being run. I mean between Jeff Rient, Zak Smith and the other much frequented sites you've got some crazy cool ideas being generated.

Thing is, that's not happening near me. It hasn't happened in any D&D game I have seen in the last 10 years. Its always the same damn town, in the same damn pseudo-Western European area, fighting the same damn monsters, ad nauseum. The DMs are telling the Player's what they can't be, can't have and can't do. Perfectly intelligent and creative people who read comics, play computer and video games and watch anime add NONE of it into their games. There is never a feeling of kinetic energy, no romance, no wow.

What I'm actually doing here is complaining for no good reason other than sour grapes. One of my New York groups is strinking rapidly do to work schedules changing while I notice that others, especially the D&D ones, keep going strong. Unfortunately, I can't play with my old NJ crew more often since time, distance and money still hinder that option.

So, what does a GM who likes story, is indifferent towards rules and likes to play something, anything, other than cookie cutter medieval fantasy do to find new players? If I put up something at my FLGS with the words Dungeons & Dragons on it I'd be bum rushed by inqueries in seconds no doubt. What about Star Trek, Ars Magica, Galaxy Quest, Monsters and Other Childish Things, Adventures in Oz? Can you hear the crickets?

I can. They keep me up at night.

Barking Alien

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Spoiled Visually

A discussion with huth via the comments section of a recent post reminded me once again how lucky I am to have had the players I've encountered over the years. Specifically for the purposes of this post, how lucky I've been from a visuals stand point.

While some gaming groups are thankful to have that one guy or gal in their group that can draw the group's characters, I've had numerous professional artists in my groups for years and years. The end result is that the notebooks that contain our campaign notes are often covered with more concept art and character designs than a "Making of The Movie" style book.

Like most gamers who are 40something now, I played the majority of my games with friends in high school and college. I attended the High School of Art and Design, Pratt Institute and the School of Visual Arts. Therefore, for the better part of my gaming experiences, I've had 90% or more of my group be 'that one guy or gal" who could draw.

A quick shout out and heart felt thanks to some of the artists who have made my games look so damn badass over the years. I wish I could find you all and game with you again.

Aldrin "Buzz" Aw
Aris Iliopoulos 
Chris Batista
Chris Reyes
Keith Conroy
Kenichi Lowe
Lynn Morton
Pete Hernandez
Storn Cook

And some sample work, including my own (please don't boo) .

Barking Alien