Sunday, January 16, 2011

If These Were The Voyages

Yesterday I had the pleasure of attending NERDNYC's two-day gaming event/convention known as RECESS.

I had a lot of fun, met some very cool people, and played two very good games. I also discovered some surprising things that struck me as quite amazing considering I've lived in New York all of my life.

First, there is only one real FLGS in the five boroughs that really matters and yet there are still gamers close to my age that don't know about it. I find that mind boggling.

Second, apparently there are a significant number of very attractive and intelligent female gamers in the New York City area. I've known and had the pleasure of playing with quite a few over the years but the sheer number here was stunning. I have to assume that they either fall into the category of the above (not knowing about the Compleat Strategist and hence I've not casually run into many of them), only come out of temporal suspension to go to conventions, or are otherwise normally cloaked to hide their identity (possibly using shape-changing abilities, advanced holographic technology, or telepathic-hypnosis).It all makes perfect sense now.

Third, the internet is a terrible depiction of how the old school and new school interact with each other. While diehards exist on both sides of the fence, I found a lot more people who, like myself, tend to blur the line. Most play the same way they've played for a long, long time and would likely be considered 'Old School' but story and character do matter to them. One fellow said, "I don't want to go all 'Forge'-y. No GM, bizarre cards, or things like that but I do want a story. The hack and slash days are over for me. I've grown up. I want more than that."

Now on to the main though not unrelated topic; A fellow by the name of E.T. Smith ran a game of Starships & Spacemenwhich I have to say was absolutely excellent. He brilliantly simplifed and expanded upon the original game, with custom character sheets, starship reference sheets, and a really cool way of depicting Space Combat. Smith made starship operation, not just combat, a real resource management mini-game within the game and it was more fun than I would have imagined. We were limited in what we could do based on power concerns but it made our decisions matter a lot more. Kudos Mr. Smith!

The setting of his 'adventure' (it really wasn't an adventure but more on that in a moment) was Starships & Spacemen's alternate Star Trek-like universe of the Galactic Confederacy; with its logical, green, pointy eared Taurans, blue furred, pacifist Andromedans (which we apparently believed to look like a cross between a Wookiee and Cookie Monster) and the dread Klingon-esque Zangid (who started as swarthy and orange only to be described as giant, angry Oopa Loompa's later on). The session had a feel far more akin to Galaxy Quest than Star Trek but with enough serious adventure and tension to make for fantastic time. If Goblinoid Games is thinking of bringing this classic game back, they could do far worse than to talk to this fellow first before expanding on the game.

One last point, E. T. Smith didn't run an adventure. What he ran was a series of random encounters based on which of several different hexes on a star map we (the PCs) scanned and than went to investigate. As we scanned and more random rolls told him what was in each star system, he started to tie together certain elements of the encounters and soon a plot of sorts made itself known. It was a very Sandbox-y approach that I was incredibly impressed by. I have to say it gave me a new perspective on how to develop stories and adventures for my own Star Trek games. Awesome stuff.

I'm looking forward to going to another of these RECESS events. Sadly I could only go yesterday as I have to work later today.

Until next time, 'Exist For A Extended Period and Do Well'.
Barking Alien



  1. That game you played in sounded very, very cool!

    I think it's great that you found a nice mix of new school and old school players/GMs. I've only had a single instance of meeting an old school blogger in person and it was a goddamn disaster.

    Game on!

  2. Sounds like an awesome game. Definately something I'd be interested in playing!

  3. I've now met a handful of gameblog people in person and so far so good. All around nice bunch.

    It was strange being in a place where no one knows you and than you say, "well I have this blog called Barking Alien..." and several people went, "Oh! You're Barking Alien? I'd read your stuff," or "Barking Alien? I've been reading your blog lately". It feels really good to say the least.

    The game was great and once again reminds me how much I miss Sci-Fi gaming. Can't wait to start my next campaign...

  4. Glad you liked the game, sir. Recall, it was your response to a NerdNYC "what should be run at Recess" survey that got me to dust S&S off and give it a go. I've tinkered with the game off-and-on over the years but not much more, just another curiosity more for the collection than actual play. Impulsively offering to run it forced me to take a hard clinical look at what was cool about the game and give it a good polish. Its really struck a chord, and I think I'll be keeping at it for a while and putting more work into my version of the game.

    Starship management and sensor-ops (all that scanning for info) were largely as they are in the original text, since I always felt they were brilliant little subsystems that create a lot of interesting decisions in an elegant manner. The starship combat system was a cleaned up reorganization and integration of various rules of the original text, to which I added some stronger links to starship management.

    While the random-tables you so enjoyed the results of were based off of the original ones, I expanded and altered them heavily. The originals are slanted towards producing D&D-like man-to-man combat encounters, getting attacked by saber-toothed tigers or gangs of angry cavemen so you could blast away with your laser pistols. I added more descriptive results (what the world looks like, what the weather is on the surface) expanded things more towards terrain hazards, alien civilizations and ship encounters, so it felt more like space exploration than monster-hunting. I cribbed shamelessly from Mike Berkey's "Where No Man has Gone Before 2.0" for ideas, especially the Artifact and Entity generators, which have no equivalent in original S&S. Adding the artifact tables was especially fortuitous, as it created the central feature of the game you played.

    To summarize: my rolls produced one system with a derelict Zangid raider floating in it, another which showed signs of Zangid activity, and a third with a active Zangid raider, no native life and a Artifact present in the form of a gun with the powers of disintegration and transmogrification. Mixing in early player responses to some of this info I decided that a Zangid vessel had been sent into the sector with an experimental hand-weapon to test it out. However, the political officer had lead a mutiny, seized the weapon for himself and fled to a loyal vessel with the intention of pushing deep into the Confederacy to strike a devastating sabotage blow (and keep all the glory for himself), and to this end he was mining radioactives for fuel for the long journey. Naturally, he failed to consider meddling form the brave men and woman of the Space Fleet Service.

    This game went so well I'm eager to try it again, and I think I'll be turning this into an ongoing project.

  5. Awesome stuff E. T. and thanks for coming by.

    I must say I am especially impressed by the random charts and how you used them because, by and large, I am not normally a big fan of random chart use.

    You handled it very creatively and with minimum slow down of the actual game. Great work.

    Let me know how the project progresses. I'd love to give it another go one of these days.