Monday, May 30, 2011

Muppet Mondays! - Unstrung

Hey all.

Life has been rough on me this month and it doesn't look to be letting up anytime soon.

To make ends meet I've been taking all available work, which pretty much means I've been working between six and seven days a week, sometimes for 8-10 hours. While that may not seem like a lot to some, I spend most of it either walking or otherwise on my feet. It's not so much mentally exhausting as physically exhausting, which in the end can be mentally exhausting.

So I'm feeling a bit unstrung.

In an attempt to 're-string', I checked out this

It made me smile.

And than I find out I've been approved to run 'The Muppet Show' at NerdNYC's RECESS.

Things are looking up.

Now rest...

Barking Alien

Friday, May 27, 2011

The New Champions - Who's Who Part I

Here's a look at what we have for the 'Official Handbook of Champions Earth Alpha Delta-1' (such as it is) so far. I haven't included actual write-ups yet as I want to rework the numbers and for display purposes I am looking toward getting the much recommended Hero Designer, if only to double check my math and because the print out is clean and clear.

Let's start with our...
More specifically the Player Characters...

Night Knight

The most polished and experienced hero among the PC's has been active for a few months now. The initial character concept was, "What if the Batman character DID have superpowers." This eventually evolved into a super-soldier hero with gadgets, detective skills, low level super strength, speed, endurance, agility and heightened senses (sight and hearing). Since his hearing is especially acute, he is especially vulnerable to sound based attacks.

Here's the twist...
In his secret identity, Night Knight is a cop and an army reserve member. Apparently PRIMUS (the underhanded SHIELD of our game) gave his unit a super soldier serum disguised as standard shots, vitamins and rations. The formula remains dormant however until an 'activator' serum is injected into the individual.

Through a higher ranking fellow cop and reservist who has a few ex-PRIMUS friends (this guy is both a Contact and a DNPC for you Champions fans), Night Knight learns about the project and that he has the super soldier serum in him. He proceeds to bust a bunch of hoods trafficking a street drug version of the serum, called Cyberline. Modified a bit, this activates his heightened abilities but causes him to crash something awful after twenty-four hours.

Now Night Knight has, try to synthesize or otherwise obtain (often illegally) the activator or Cyberline in order to stay super and fight crime. It's quite the moral quandary but the player is eager to hook up with the established NPC heroes in hopes that they have easier access to the super juice.

In addition to physical abilities, martial arts (Aikido), detective skills, etc., Night Knight uses knock out gas and smoke screen grenades, a tricked out motorcycle, grapnel gun and line and body armor. His armor and his bike both have the ability to cloak with a camouflage field (think Predator) and become completely silent. He loves to drop sleep gas and swing or drive away going, "Night niigghht..."

Since his own morality is a bit gray, Night Knight doesn't take the hard line approach of a Batman. He will sometimes try to negotiate or even work with a villain who doesn't appear to be straight up crazy or evil. He has his limits but so far he's a bit more flexible in his thinking than I anticipated.

Night Knight is an African American male in his early thirties, about 6 ft., 240 lbs. His outfit looks light a cross between Marvel's Night Thrasher (especially this redesign by artist Corey Walker) and Snake Eyes from G.I. Joe.


Without a code name or costume of any kind, 'J' is by far the least typical of the supers in attitude and style. He comes off as just batshit crazy to be honest. The player is one of my best and his idea is that a lot of what 'J' does is for show but he's also a character with the mindset of, "I have superpowers. I can do whatever I want. I just happen to want to fight crime." Lucky us.

'J' has the power to absorb any form of energy and convert it into any other form of energy and then release it. For example he can absorb a sonic blast and release electricity or suck the heat from a fireplace and shoot kinetic force.

Most often he releases energy blasts but he has various effects he can pull off that do other things like create a force field, manipulate the energy, recover/recharge, etc. To supplement this power (since he needs to absorb before he can do anything at all), 'J' has taken to...'indefinitely borrowing' weapons and equipment from crooks and cops alike (in the latter case a bunch of cops got blasted fighting a villain and 'J' helped himself to some of the gear in their cars after moving them to safety).

He overdoes this last bit a tad. After taking a riot shotgun, a rifle, ammo, a bullet proof vest and a few other items, the third hero in our group remarked, "You think you got enough?" Many of the NPC authorities, including other heroes, are not sure what to make of 'J' and whose side he's really on.

'J' is a 6' 4", 260 lbs. light skinned Jamaican male in his late twenties or early thirties. He mostly wears black hooded sweatshirts, black cargo pants and a motorcycle helmet he obtained to try and hide his identity.


Like 'J', Marcus hasn't been doing this superhero thing long. We considered establishing his first outing in our second issue/session was his first public appearance.

Undecided as to a superhero name, Marcus does have a costume, albeit as homebrewed one. According to the player, his character's sister designs costumes for TV shows and movies and so designed his outfit. It was his grandmother (whom he lives with) who sewed it for him. It was a reoccurring gag on how homespun the costume looked and how his grandma would yell, "Didn't I tell you not to get plasma burns on your costume boy? You know how hard it is to get those out!"

Marcus' powers are fun. He has telekinesis with no real range. That is, he needs to touch things to lift them telekinetically. The resulting tactile telekinesis (similar to Conner Kent/Superboy in modern DC Comics) gives people the impression he's a Superman like powerhouse when in truth it's all psychic powers. He can lift and hurl himself telekinetically (Superspeed and Superleap), create a skin tight TK Shield (Invulnerability) and with a larger than normal expenditure of Endurance, lift himself into the air with his TK (Flight).

Marcus is also African American, about 5' 10", roughly 220-240 (hadn't decided) and in his late twenties (youngest character in the group). His costume is, as noted, bargain basement but resembles a variant of the classic paragon look of Superman with Icon, the Superman of Milestone Comics.

So far that's all I have as far as players and information. We've only had two sessions so far. Actually, the session recaps themselves will give you a bit more insight into these guys than straight forward descriptions will I'll wager.

A forth player is coming in for our next session. He describes his character as 'Green Lantern like'. Not sure what that means yet but I look forward to finding out.

Look for NPC heroes and then villains, coming soon to the Barking Alien blog nearest you.

Barking Alien

Thursday, May 26, 2011

The New Champions - This Infinite Earth

So following my last post on the subject of my new Champions campaign, I thought I'd point out a few key points of interest that make the setting stand out.

Mutants, Gods and Aliens

Mutants are no so much hunted and feared as they are in Marvel. Honestly, the whole Anti-Mutant prejudice never made much sense to me. You're telling me you're afraid of some kid from middle America who woke up one day able make things freeze but not the scientist wealthy and intelligent enough to get himself and four friends into space on a homemade rocket and than transformed into superpowered freaks? The kid was an accident of birth. The mad scientist could do it again!

In the real world, if being a Mutant was considered such a terrible afflication, there'd be telethons, government research grants and religious organizations seeking to help though poor, unfortunate superhumans. So that's what we have.

The Scaramangler Foundation, developed by Jonathan Scaramangler and later taken over by his son Christian, helps those flying, shapeshifting, superstrong misfits who can't help themselves.

I mean, look at your average tech hero; Iron Man, Batman, Green Arrow are all rich. How about your government operatives and super-soldiers? Captain Atom, Captain America? Nice to have Uncle Sam and the American tax payer paying the bills on for your activities isn't it? But Mutants?

Sorry jack but if you're a lower income teen in Kentucky and you just sprouted antenna and crab like armored skin...well, sucks to be you! Not so on Champions Earth Alpha Delta-1. The Scaramangler Foundation has your back. College Scholarships, powers training, therapy to cope with living in a world you never made? They got it all.

Unless you're an alien. Disgusting extraterrestrial scum...

Yeah, it's the alien that has the most difficulty fitting in with society and it is they that would generate the most fear and distrust. It didn't help their cause that it was
aliens who killed the senior Scaramangler.

Other than Omni, one of the world's most beloved heroes in spite of his own extrasolar origins, and my character StarGuard, there really weren't any other regular/reoccurring alien characters around (possibly as a result of the anti-alien stigma).

An interesting aside in this section is that Atlantis, normally connected to a mystical background, is part mystical and part science fiction/alien in origin. One of the nations within a nation, Lemuria I believe, is originally descended from a colony ship of aquatic aliens. Another city (Mu? need to look it up) is more in line with traditional views of Atlantis and it's people. The two city-states are often at war.

As for Gods...there really weren't too many of those either with the exception of the occasional visit from one such as Anubis (a villain in this version), a few minor Greek gods who run an international, organized crime family (cool right?) and cosmic entities of the New Gods/Thanos variety. This actually served to make Deities and Kirby characters more ominous and epic when they did show up.

Magic Vs. Science - Science Wins! (Sorta)

There were very few directly magical characters, events or effects in the original campaign and I'd always wondered why. When a magic character did show up, they'd proceed to beat the living crap out of us because, as I just noted, we had no major magic guy.

While never addressed directly in the game (I don't think), Will filled me in on his concept for the lack of magic over lunch once. According to him, everything is magic, magic is everything. The ability to comprehend and utilize Magic is rare but it didn't used to be. We used to have guys walking on water and parting seas. At one time there were wizards and dragons and faeries were up and around well into the Victorian era.

Now though, science and technology have increasingly taken over the role of fantasy and the magic is getting out of our reach. It's still there and ghosts, fae, demons and the like are just around the bend but they're wary to come out and have to deal with the particle beam rifles and giant robots. These things don't feel right to them the same way they no longer feel right to us.

The Earth's Mightest Heroes Are...British

One interesting side note that I loved was that some of the most powerful and important superheroes in the world weren't from the USA. Some were (certainly Omni, Scaramangler and Tachyon come to mind) but England seemed to be, in this reality, the home to Captain America and Superman.

The Crusader was a British Captain America type character who was actually much more a cross between Cap, Hawkeye and the DC Hero Shining Knight. Superman was a British bloke as well. The world's most powerful and most recognized hero drank his tea with milk and his beer room temperature when not stopping supervillains or diverting meteors as The UltraMarine.

Canada had this super cool retired hero called the White Wolf. When a parallel Earth version of Wolverine called Arctic Fox became stuck on our world he travelled to Canada and met the guy and his daughter. Artic Fox and the daughter developed a relationship and Fox changed his name and costume to become the second White Wolf.

Japan is obviously the go to source for Giant Monsters, as well as Giant Robots, including these cool, man-piloted mecha that were basically a cross between Gundam Mobile Suits and the Sentinels from X-Men comics.

Next Up...Who's Who in The New Champions!

Barking Alien

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Cogs & Complexity at Lurking Rhythmically

Following a conversation we had together earlier this evening, the ever lovely Erin Palette has put up a post on rules, options and complexity in RPGs that brings up a neat way to handle such things.

I recommend checking it out and commenting/discussing it. Maybe, just maybe, future game publishers will look at the post and its comments and realize, "Hey, there may be a better way to go about this than we're used to."

One can hope.

Barking Alien

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The New Champions - Issue #0

I successfully ran a second session of Champions 4th Edition with the same Player Characters so I can officially declare my new campaign is a go! In addition, the second session saw a third player enter the fray and a fourth looks to be joining us next time.

I can't tell you how excited I am. Well, I guess I can actually...I'm really freakin' excited. The second session built on the first as the personalities and view points of the characters were explored, superpowered combat and mayhem ensued and loose ends unravelled and got even looser.

I'm going to be doing session recaps soon but first I wanted to give a little background information on the setting so that some of the events make sense based on the context.

A Return to 'The Age of Champions'

As I've mentioned before, my new Champions campaign is set in roughly the same campaign universe as that developed by my friend Will for his long running (1981-1992) Champions campaign entitled 'The Age of Champions'. I say roughly because I am taking some liberties with the setting. First and foremost, my campaign begins about 6 months after the last time I played in Will's game but I am saying those events are in line with the present not my last chronological game session (which would be 1989 I think).

I was only a part of his campaign from 1985 to 1989 and as such, a lot happened after I left (I didn't actually leave. I went to college here in New York but Will and several of the other players all ended up going to different universities and having different work schedules). I feel that the time frame I've chosen is perfect because I remember it well and it was a very dramatic turning point in the campaign. More on that in a moment.

'The Age of Champions' is a catch-all title covering Will's entire campaign, which at various points focused on different eras of social, political and economic history that were reflected in the comic books of the time. So within the universe, characters (PC and NPC alike) will actually say the words 'Golden Age' and 'Silver Age' when referring to particular periods.

The first games he ran were set in a sort of late Silver Age. The Golden Age was referrenced often and seen/played out in flashbacks from what I understand. The Silver Age ends on a very sour note, ushering in the Iron Age, also called 'The Age of Chaos'. This latter era is the timeframe in which I participated.

I haven't decided what to call the new age we are gaming in other than the Modern Age right now but I'm considering New Golden Age or New Heroic Age (a referrence to post-Civil War/Secret Invasion Marvel Comics).

The Setting

Our story is set on Champions Earth Alpha Delta-1. For those unfamiliar with Champions 'canon', alternate Earths in Champions are often referred to by the preeminent super team of the world. Will further defined their designations with the classic numbers familiar to DC Comics (and now Marvel) readers and Greek or other letters for noting the GM's initials or other little codes. For example, Marvel's Earth-616 (the primary setting of most Marvel Comics titles) would be 'Avengers Earth-1'. If I ran a campaign set on that Earth, my campaign would be Avengers Earth Alpha Delta (Adam Dickstein - AD) -1. Will's version of his campaign universe is Champions Earth Wilco Charlie 1.

The Story

Following the heroes' triumph in thwarting an alien invasion, my alien hero StarGuard, having defended the Earth and the lost prince of my people's stellar rival (the hero called Omni), returned to his planet to rejoin his extraterrestrial teammates and oversee the peace talks between Omni's species and his own.
Many heroes (and villains who had lent a hand) were injured, some were killed and some simply retired, having had enough of the superhero lifestyle after losing loved ones in the battle for Terra.

This is essentially how our new campaign begins. Unlike Marvel and DC, the world of Champions Earth Alpha Delta-1 is a bit light on superpeople. There are approximately 150 active Superheroes in the United States as of the beginning of the game and about three times as many villains. The entire world probably has only 500-550 supers...maybe.

The PCs are new heroes who've popped up in the aftermath of the failed invasion. Many have sketchy origins, either unknown to them, being kept secret by them or related to one or more government super-soldier production projects (to swell the ranks of the just who desperately need it). This last bit creates an interesting background of distrust with the government and lends a conspiracy theory feel to things.

The Tone

The tone of the campaign would seem to be a mix of modernized Silver Age ideas and Marvel's Ultimates line or DC's Wildstorm. Villains aren't playing around. They're not (at least not all of them) stupid. Combat is brutal. The generally 4 Color comic atmosphere of most of my Superhero campaigns has gone and found itself one of those new 96 colors crayon boxes. Between the white hats and black hats are a million shades of grey.

I could say more but I'll leave it there for now. Next up I'll tell you about the characters and the sessions themselves. Any questions or comments are, as always, welcome and appreciated.

Barking Alien

Monday, May 23, 2011

Muppet Mondays! - OMG!

As you all know, 'OMG' is internet lingo for Online Muppet Goodness. Today's regular Muppet Monday post is on hold, NOT because I didn't have time to put it together yet again but because of this special announcement...

I'm tearing up over here. Seriously.

Barking Alien

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Rapture Me This

So, today is the day.

The world ends, or begins to end if I am understanding correctly, the faithful go poof and bye-bye and the rest of us wait it out in the ruins, flame and muck. Thing is, there are a lot of 'rest of us' aren't there.

I sent Barkley out to investigate. He just got back.

So Barkley, what's the skinny?

"Well, I went to Asia and checked with the Buddhists. Nice guys. They got nothing on their itinerary. No 'Judgement' plans. All good.

While I was there I hopped over to speak with some Shinto priests. Nada. No Rapture going on.

When to Israel, Russia and other places I knew I could find Jewish worshippers. Likewise. Nothing.

Still awaiting on some calls from the Muslims, the Hindus and a few others but for the most part it looks like we're in the clear. The way I figure it only the believers who don't believe enough will perish or something. The rest of us are A.O.K."

Good to know. What if you don't believe in any of this 

"Then don't sweat it. It's all bunk."


"Oh wait, there is one tragic bit I found out about."

There is? What?

RIP Macho Man Randy Savage (1952-2011) - While not a huge wrestling fan, this dude had personality, style, showmanship and did some amazing voices in animation over the years. He'll be missed.

Barking Alien

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Pictures in Lieu of Posts

I feel really bad about not posting much lately.

You can say I shouldn't but I do. I feel like I'm letting you guys (and gals) down out there in blog-o-land. I'm also letting myself down because I do so love to blog.

Thing is, real life has been crazy busy, I've got a lot on my plate and on my mind and sadly most of it isn't gaming, comic book or sci-fi oriented.

At the same time I do have a lot of gaming ideas to discuss as per my new Champions camapign.


When in doubt put up pictures! Hopefully the heroes and villains of past campaigns will hold you over until I can get my candy ass back in gear.

My version of the Champions classic villain
The Green Dragon.
Illustration modified from a John Byrne picture of Sunfire from Marvel.


One of the heroes from our old Junior High Villains & Vigilantes game, the high flying patriot Golden Eagle!

Pose inspired by one of my all time favorite comic artists, the late, great Mike Wieringo.


A key NPC (formerly PC) hero of my current Champions campaign universe, the psionic alien extraordinaire, Omni (created by my friend David Concepcion).


More to come as I make more.


Barking Alien

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The System Gets In The Way

OK, I feel like I'm being a bit of a jerk for posting this and I can't say I agree that Runequest is better than D&D per se but a lot of what this guy says is stuff I have said verbatim.

Also, he does it with a sense of humor and wit that I found quite funny at many points. Not everything he says is completely accurate but it wouldn't be the first time. Which made me think...many people seem to be getting the same incorrect is it possible there is something in the way a game is presented that gives people a particular impression on a cursory glace? Perhaps something in the tone or writing style?

Interesting... So check these out only if you can take a joke. Thanks to my friend Rocco for pointing these out.

My favorite line is, "The system should be the servant of role playing, never its master." Amen.

Barking Alien

Monday, May 16, 2011

Muppet Mondays! - I'm Planning For Randomness

One again I am pushing back discussion of Locations to address some ideas for my upcoming RECESS one-shot RPG session of the Muppet Show in June. Why? Well to be honest I am wondering if Muppet Mondays wasn't the smartest idea. I am wiped out at the end of a Monday and don't have a lot of time to think about and write a long entry. Monday's and Thursdays are really my busiest real life days.

Next week I think I'll write it on Sunday and just post it Monday morning.

In planning for my game, I realize that when preparing to run a Muppets RPG in general but certainly a Muppet Show game specifically, you are going to need think ahead on how best to be wacky and random and still seem to get an idea across. And be funny. And in the case of a convention atmosphere like RECESS, do it all in the span of 3-4 hours.

Let's say for example that you've decided a famous country western singer is your guest star and there is a plot running through the show that she wants Rowlf to be the new piano player for her band. This would mean Rowlf would leave the Muppets at the end of the episode if he agrees.

So sure, you can have Pigs in Space, the Swedish Chef's cooking segment and an infinite number of Muppet Monkeys on an infinite number of typewriters singing the Beatles classic Paperback Writer but that's not needed for the episode. It's awesome stuff but it's all extra. What is needed is to make sure Rowlf is featured a few times in key roles. This allows him to see how much the Muppets love him, how much he needs them, etc. So it's better to make sure you include Veterinarian's Hospital and a few musical sketches accompanied by piano. Also be sure to showcase some country western themed sketches. Maybe the patient in the Veterinarian's Hospital sequence is one of the Jugband Muppets or a Cowboy or...a Horse. The Talking Horse is always funny.

The point is it's the Muppets and anyone sitting down to play in a Muppet RPG is pretty much guaranteed to be capable and even willing to derail things into complete madness. Cool. It is the Director's purpose to give that madness some direction. I learned from Warhammer and Runequest that even chaos has to have a goal.

Barking Alien

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Hard Hitting Supers

One thing interesting about running a Champions game is that combat is pretty brutal. I mean really brutal. Like, almost not quite like a comic book brutal unless your preferred reading of choice is Marvel's Ultimates or Image's Invincible.

I ran the first session for my new Champions campaign and it was both incredibly fun and not exactly what I was hoping for.

The Good

I realize that as much as I don't love the math needed to make characters, Champions makes awesome characters. You can play exactly the kind of hero you want, with exactly the type of powers you want to have and even get rewarded for complicating your character's life with exactly the disadvantages and limitations you want. I am spoiled by this concept I realize. I think it was Champions that killed my interest in rolling random stats, abilities and such. I play to enjoy myself. If I roll up a dumb fighter type and want to play a wise cleric or intelligent magic user why shouldn't I. It's my free time, I paid money for this game and I want to play what I want to play. Champions is all about that.

Once you've made up characters, my players and I were surprised at how fast and easy everything else in the game is. All your info for your abilities, powers, to hit (OCV), defense (DCV), etc. is on your sheet. No real need to look up anything, except the occasional damage adjustment if you throw a car or get knocked back through a wall. Luckily I have the Champions 4th Ed. screen which is full of cool records sheets and quick reference charts should they be required.

The Bad (Sorta)

The adventure itself went a I was hoping for. Not by much and not in a way that we didn't enjoy it but one of my players took his character in a direction that leaned a little toward villainy. I think he was just blowing off the steam of a tough week but I'd be lying if I said it didn't irk me a bit. I've decided not to be so stiff on what constitutes a hero though (for this game at least) and I'm eager to see where this story goes.

The Ugly

As I mentioned in the opening of this post, Champions combat is very dangerous. Is it me or is Champions combat remarkably brutal for a Supers game? Damn but my boy J got hurt. You may be able to throw lightning bolts and absorb flame but if a punk with a gun shoots you with a 4D6 Killing Attack you could die son. It was like crazy deadly out there for these two heroes. Not to mention the damage they inflicted on the crooks doing nothing more elaborate then some martial arts moves and a few well placed sonic attacks. Wowzers.

Anyway...all this Superhero gaming talk has put me in the mood for more Superhero gaming talk. I'm going to recap an old game, some old characters and some new art coming up. Be here in thirty! 'Nuff Said!

Barking Alien

The Birth of Inspiration

I wanted to take this opportunity to cheer for two of my major inspirations, both of whom celebrate their birthdays today.

Happy Birthday to L. Frank Baum, creator of Oz and so many other fantastic flights of fantasy fancy and of course, My MOM!

That's right kids, my Mom's birthday is today and she rocks so Happy Birthday Mom!

Barking Alien

Monday, May 9, 2011

Muppet Mondays! - Muppets At RECESS

In between weary moments of trying to catch my breath and relax, I've been thinking about the Muppet Show one-shot that I'm setting up to run at the RECESS Gaming Event in NYC in June.

As I consider my various options on how to go about it a few things came to mind that I thought I'd share and maybe get your opinion on. Let's call these ideas 'Convention Style' Muppets RPGing...

I think I as GM will play two very important roles, aside from those of game referee and Director. Now in a normal game of the Muppets I wouldn't want to do what I am about to suggest but the more I think about it the more it seems the best way to go for a short game (about 3-4 hours I think) with those that are unfamiliar with the game (which, since I created the game, will likely be everybody).

I will play the Guest Star and Kermit.

Why the Guest Star?

First, the theme of this RECESS is Video Games, so in order to prep and match the theme I thought of the top 5 most unlikely or not-quite-appropriate character to have interact with the Muppets. I narrowed it down based on familiarity, visual identification, how much humor I can milk it for, etc. Finally, now that I have my choice, I tried to think of how to get the character into various sketches or situations and realized it would be easiest to do this if I ran the guest.

The second reason is simply one of time management and getting the most bang for your buck if you're a player in this game. I as Director/GM am going to have to explain the rules, help them make up a character (more on that in a bit) and direct where the story and action is heading. If I have to explain or run the mad libbing Guest Star creation sequence it is going to cut into the players' actual play time.

Why Kermit?

I debated this a lot in my head but in the end it only makes sense. In addition to helping me direct the scenario along, if I am Kermit and Kermit is seen as 'head honcho' on the Muppet cast, I can use that maintain order and reinforce the atmosphere of a Muppet style game.

Plus, my Kermit impression is pretty good.

In regards to character creation...I am going to supply the players with a large selection of pre-gens and have everyone choose 3. Then I will have each player generate one original Muppet character (all Customs). If I meet my goal of having 5 players, that will be 20 characters available during the course of the game. That should be more than enough to supply them with an appropriate character regardless of what sketches we come up with.

What do you think? Anything I should alter, add or otherwise adjust?

Also, I almost forgot - Happy Birthday Kermit! Today is the 56th anniversary of the first appearance of Kermit the Frog ladies and gentlemen. I hope I look that good at 56 (though less green I suppose).

Barking Alien

*My Kermit is good but my Gonzo is better.

Strangely I seem to be good at all of Muppet Performer Dave Goelz's characters. My Gonzo is good (especially singing) and my Bunsen Honeydew is right on the money. I find Henson's characters' voices quite difficult actually and while I do some Jerry Nelson ones well (Count Von Count and Floyd Pepper), they're far from perfect.

Frank He is amazing. I can't really get any of his characters right except Yoda and Cookie (and Cookie is only so-so). His voice quality and versitility are much more subtle and flexible than casual fans realize.

I can do Janice and Scooter (originally brought to us curtisy of the late, great Richard Hunt) pretty well also (Janice better than Scooter).


I am tired.

Not your run of the mill worked hard, not enough downtime, could use to catch some extra Zees tired...just...completely drained. It doesn't stop my brain from thinking up all kinds of crazy characters, wild story ideas and gaming scenarios but it does make it hard to get them from my mind to my hands so I can type or write them down.

Sucks too 'cause I've got some doozies.

Right now I am focused primarily on my upcoming gonna-be-cooler-than-cool Champions game but I am also already thinking about my Muppet Show game one-shot in June for nerdnyc's RECESS event.

And speaking of nerdnyc, I got the chance to briefly hang out with a number of the members at a picnic they held in Central Park this Saturday. Aside from seeing my good pal Doug and his son, I spoke with Eric 'E.T.' Smith and Matt from the Starships & Spacemen game Eric ran at the last RECESS.

I also had the most fascinating conversation about the overlap of Old School and New School and how Superheroes are "the key" with a fellow you might know by the name of
Tavis. Very, very interesting notes and observations and I will try to organize it into a post for later this week.

Later today/tonight I will post a new Muppet Mondays entry but otherwise posting in general might be light from a while as I attempt to re-energize. Again, not for lack of things to say but the vitality to stay awake while saying them.

Barking Alien

Friday, May 6, 2011

It's in Our Blood

So my 4 year old nephew has a bicycle helmet that he wears when riding his bike (training wheels still at this point). He chose it himself and it has pictures of the Super Hero Squad on it, Marvel's kid friendly chibi sized version of their comic book characters.

His Mom (my sister) said he needed to talk to his Uncle Adam because there was a guy on the helmet he didn't know. I saw him and he pointed out the character right away. It was Hawkeye. I told him, "That's Hawkeye. He has a bow and arrow. Do you know what that it?"

"Like Green Arrow?" he asked.

I smiled, "Yes. Like Green Arrow."

He nodded. "Oh, OK."

Superheroes. It's in our blood.

Barking Alien

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Quiet Please...I'm Creatifying

Sorry for the relative slow down on my blog. I am in the rather involved process of working on my new Champions campaign and it's taking some unexpected and interesting turns. I need to concentrate a bit on creating some NPC villains, heroes and supporting cast characters who I will than discuss at some point here.

In many instances I am not really creating so much as recreating and than modifying. I'm going to attempt to set this campaign in the same universe as the one my friend Will created all those years ago (like 20 or so actually). I remember a lot of it but by no means all of it. To fill in the gaps I'm looking into older editions of Champions and my own half-baked ideas.

I promise to keep you (and this blog) updated.

Carry on.

Barking Alien

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Pleading The Fourth

Why 4th Edition Champions?

If you're going to run Champions why not the current edition? If not the current edition why 4th? That's two editions ago.

I'm not entirely sure I can answer the question reasonably. It's largely a personal preference. I do think 4th was the last edition the had that special balance between single, honking huge rulebook and still within reason. 5th's book was a hernia causing monster and badly marketed in my opinion. Three books or is it two? And Champions, the Superhero parts of the Hero System, are in another book? Way too expensive and confusing.

Plus, fourth edition had a cover by George Perez. I know I mentioned that in a previous post but seriously now...GEORGE PEREZ. As much as I love M&M it does not have a George Perez cover (though DC Adventures has Alex Ross. Touche' Green Ronin. Well played).

Barking Alien

Time Consuming But Necessary

While Gamma World seems to be the theme for many a game blogger this month, I think I'll be sticking to Champions for the time being. I really want to run this bad boy again but I got to thinking...why did I ever stop?

The answer, somewhat indirectly is Mutants & Masterminds but it goes a bit deeper than that.

First, Champions is a lot of work. While each player must go through the process of character creation one (or in many of our games a few times to create
alts), the GM has to continuously create multiple characters, villains and fellow heroes that populate the campaign's universe. That takes up a lot of time, especially if you're like me and 'numerically challenged'. Punching numbers into a calculator makes it right and easy but it doesn't make it much faster.

Sure, I could use the NPCs and villains provided in Champions products but to be honest, the majority of them are gawd awful. Seriously. I have no idea how the people who created the Hero System, the one game capable of doing virtually anything and everything in any genre, could give us such boring, uninspired villains. It boggles the mind.

I imagine Rembrandt or Michelangelo requesting his patron give him an art studio filled with the best and varied array of paints, sculpting materials, brushes, etc. and than holing themselves up in that studio for a month, only to emerge with a drawing of a stick figure on a book sized canvas.

The Champions themselves, the main superhero team as depicted in 4th edition, are equally tragically uninteresting. They miss all the ques needed to make them visually iconic or part of a history the way M&M's Freedom League are. So disappointing.

Anyway, what it all means is Champions takes time and I don't have tons so I was looking for a game that could basically do what Champions did but was quicker, easy and required less math. Mutants & Masterminds is just that and hence my favorite Supers game. So why look back?

Champions handles certain things better than M&M. Superspeed and what you can do with it is much cooler in Champions. The way Advantages and Disadvantages work with both the character concept and their powers is a bit more in depth. Combat is easier for those who've traditionally played games with random damage determination and hit points to comprehend. And I do have fond memories of that game and that counts for quite a bit (OSR anyone?).

So I need a way to make the character generation process faster.

One idea is to get ahold of Hero Lab. I'm not sure it's still available for 4th Edition but I'll check.

Another, and one I've used many times in many Superhero RPGs, is to find someone on the 'net whose created stats for known Marvel or DC characters and reskin them. Use Blue Beetle's stats, draw a new pic and call him 'Bug Out, The Insect Avenger' or something.

Finally, I'll see if I can find any notes from my old campaigns but unfortunately that is unlikely to happen. I have no idea where my old Champions notes are.

If anyone has any ideas or suggestions for speeding up the Champions character creation process please feel free to comment and let me know. I'm going to need all the help I can get.

Barking Alien

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Zoomorphs! Instant Chimera Maker

Check out this awesome series of interchangeable creatures I discovered at a local toy store - Zoomorphs!

I've seen them up close and they are the perfect size for being considered rather large creatures to your standard gaming mini, about a inch or two tall and two or three inches long (depending upon construction). While not super cheap, they are certainly less expensive then most metal miniatures of monsters of a similar size. They also seem pretty rugged as they are designed to be played with by kids 4 and up.

Now go grab Raggi's Random Esoteric Creature Generator and have a blast!

Done say I never gave you nothing OSR.

Barking Alien

Monday, May 2, 2011

Muppet Mondays! - A Great Muppet Caper

Here's a Muppet News Flash!

We go now to the Muppet Newsroom for a late breaking report. 

"This just in from our New York City affiliate. Adam Dickstein will be running his homebrew Muppets Role Playing Game at NerdNYC's RECESS gaming event on June 18th, 2011. The theme for this RECESS is Video Games and although he has not said which video game character will guest star he did say he has a secret game guest ready for to appear in his Muppet Show episode. More details as they become available."

Yessiree ladies, gentlemen, frogs, dogs, pigs, penguins, aliens and vegetables, I will be running a session of 'The Muppet Show' using my very own Muppets RPG at the next RECESS event. If you're going to be in the New York City area on that day, I highly encourage you to attend. I had a blast at my last RECESS and the people who put this thing together are really great. For more information check out the nerdnyc website.
Some additional notes and thoughts on this Muppet Monday...

I really feel bad that the PDF isn't done. Real lifeTM and tough finances have required my attention and focus and so the project is not where I want it to be. What I mean by that is it's not in the state I want it to be in to put it in PDF format. Yet. It will be. I love this thing and I will finish it. Hopefully before RECESS so I can have a copy made into a book to bring to the event. Lulu? Can that be done that way? Probably right? Thoughts on the subject would be appreciated.

Some Muppet Mondays are going to be about whatever I have on my mind as relates to the subject but some will be very, very specific. Case in point, I want to address Locations as a game element next week. Similar to Sesame Street's Playgrounds, these are locales that will have some effects on or advantages for your character(s) and maybe hinder others. I have some interesting twists in mind to be sure.

Running an ongoing game of the Muppets seems unlikely at this juncture because, frankly, it isn't what either of my groups want as their mainstay and I can totally understand that. At the same time, I'd love to run it more than once every RECESS which happens maybe twice a year. Quite the quandry will an intriguing solution. Online? Over Skype so my Muppet impressions can be appreciated to the fullest extent? Not sure if I'm really considering this or simply daydreaming ideas. We'll see.

OK, that wraps it up for now, looking forward to fuller and more expansive Muppet Mondays as my schedules settles. Until then, we'll see you next time on the Muppet Show...

Barking Alien

We Are The Champions - Part II

As I was saying in my previous post earlier today, my friend, fellow GM and Champion Guru Extraordinaire Will had asked me to join in on his Champions campaign to help wrangle in an out of control player. While not yet ruining every one's fun, this player was often a hinder to the Superhero team's endeavours, especially those of their leader, an extraterrestrial psionic hero called Omni. Will didn't want to kill him outright but wanted him to have a nemesis to level the playing field as it were. A hero is only as cool as his villains but if the hero is the villain he needs an arch-enemy who's a hero.

Wow, that's actually right. O.O

I was up for the challenge and eager to help but I confessed to not liking Champions, even though I had yet to play it. The rule complexity combined with my mindset of 'Math = Unholy Evil' prevented me from trying it in the past. Will understood and said he would do all the hard work and make up the character if I gave him a description of one.

We agreed to take Champions out for a 'test drive' and create my favorite Villains & Vigilantes character, my own
Excelsior. Will looked over my V&V sheet and built Excelsior noting that he was not incredibly familiar with V&V but it should be basically the same.

It wasn't. In under 10 minutes I got my butt handed to me by some ninja dude. Excelsior?! A Ninja?! That's like a single
Hand ninja taking out Wildfire from the Legion of Superheroes. For those of you less familiar with the 'Big Two' comic book companies, it's akin to a 5th level Thief taking out a 12th level Fighter/Magic User.

As you can imagine I was not impressed. I didn't understand how all that complexity could result in a character so unable to do the same thing he could do in a simpler game (though as the years went on I would feel that the simpler the game the more it could do over all but that's another discussion).

Will was also disappointed I could tell. He turned to me and said, "Tell me about Excelsior." I was a bit confused as I thought I already had but what will wanted to know was his origin, the way I explained his powers outside of a game and "all the things about him that matter and aren't stats."

After about half an hour or so of him listening to me talk about the various ideas, stories, goals, hopes and dreams I had for Excelsior and Excelsior had as a character, Will asked if we could try it one more time. I agreed to give it one more shot. Will spent two days working on Excelsior and when next we played I not only demolished the ninja, I had to fight a moral quandry when I sort of hurt him really, really bad and Excelsior has a bit of a code against causing that much harm.

"That's a disadvantage," Will explained, "as is Excelsior's inability to pull his punch or directly feel physical contact. He won't know exactly how hard to hit an opponent when he first meets them." Disadvantages to your character give you points in Champions (as many of you know) and these points can be used to up your abilities. Once this was explained to me I looked at the many disadvantages Excelsior had and a light went on. Champions does that to you when you first play it if you've been playing non-point buy games up to that point. To this day I tend to do disads first when making up a Champions character.

Next, Will explained the all important, 'figure out the effect you're going for and then build the power to do that' element of Champions that blew my mind back then. For example, Excelsior's Anti-Matter Streams are Disintergration Ray in V&V and Will initially built them as energy based 'Ranged Killing Attacks'. When he discovered that in my mind they were really based after the Star Trek phaser 'Disintergrate' setting, practically erasing matter, he altered their construction to a ranged Transformation Attack. Basically, a Transformation Attack is one that transforms the target into something else, like a Witch turning someone into a Frog or Firestorm changing a goon's power armor into smoke. What Will did for Excelsior was stipulate, 'Transforms to Ash', enabling me to literally vaporize objects or even people (something Excelsior would never do).

With a little time to ask questions and think on a character I agreed to join the campaign as StarGuard, leader of an alien superhero team inspired by the Legion of Superheroes and the Justice League.
StarGuard greatly resembled Gladiator of Marvel Comics, who he was largely influenced by. His starting story was that he had come to Earth to investigate rumors that the long lost prince of his people's greatest stellar rival was alive and dwelling on this out of the way, backwater planet (Omni, who was believed to have died along with the rest of the royal family decades ago).

The troublesome player was a very fine fellow but his character and mine took an instant dislike to each other. I represented another faction threatening the Earth in his mad alien conspiracy theory while he represented the greatest danger to the lost prince and therefore any chance of peace between Omni's people and mine.

I tried to work with the character and showed no outward signs of being there to be his enemy. Sure, I was a ringer, an inside man but I fully intended to play the character and enjoy someone else GMing for a while. And boy did I. I've said it before and I'll say it again, Will running Champions has no equal. As a matter of fact I'd say he was/is the greatest GM of anything I've ever met. The NPCs were awesome, interesting and in many cases extremely deadly. Plots were thick, detailed and full of twists and turns. The group sometimes included 15 some odd players playing at the same time, splitting the party, using alternate characters and getting involved in crazy battles with dozens and dozens of NPC heroes and villains and Will never missed a turn or skipped a beat.

It wasn't long before the anti-alien hero showed his true colors and on no less then four or five occasions we (his character and StarGuard) came to blows. We battled in the streets of New York and on the Moon. I destroyed him in one battle only to discover it was a robot double. His original body had been refitted and enhanced with cybernetics and it too was destroyed. He consciousness was transferred into a virtually indestructible robot body only to have it destructed by StarGuard and my pal Pete Hernandez's character, Arctic Fox (aka The White Wolf). At one point he created a state of galactic war between the major interstellar powers and I had to travel back in time to undo the mess he'd made. Eventually, after escaping from body to body some many times, we (the entire Super group) finally managed to figure out his transfer system network and after a final brutal battle, Omni used his vast telepathic abilities to prevent the villain/hero's disembodied mind from ever being 'embodied' again.

I fell in love with Champions and I still didn't really know the rules. It wasn't until I had played the game for nearly 2 years that I first saw my character sheet and had any idea what the mechanics of the darn thing was. I continued to play for another year or two but was determined to run it myself someday. Not long after that, Champions came out with its 4th Edition.

George Perez cover. Freakin' George Perez! Massive book (at the time one of the largest single books for an RPG I'd ever seen, if not the largest), very complete and easy to read in my opinion (one of the advantages over previous editions for me was the cleaner and clearer text and layout).

Soon after purchasing 4th Edition I started running a campaign of my own and I will tell you more about that sometime soon. In the meantime, what is all of this pointing toward, eh? A new campaign to be sure, possibly New York based and using Champions 4th Edition. Just once I want my players to experience what I experienced in high school and beyond.

More thoughts to come...

Barking Alien

We Are The Champions - Part I

Welcome to May and my first post A-to-Z Challenge post.

One of the things I discovered during the A-to-Z Challenge (and it was much more of a challenge then I had first thought) was that it's very difficult to make my brain follow a pattern of discussion on a subject I am not completely obsessed with.

What this means is that if I intend to do a month of blogging on the Muppets and a Muppet RPG I can and I will. If I have to come up with something that fits a certain letter each day, that's tough. My mind might be on Magic in Norse folklore but it's X day or something and I can't figure out how to fit it in. No, for me I prefer to either post about whatever is on my mind at the moment or go all OCD and do something like my Muppets RPG project. I'm just happier that way.

That said, my newest obession is one of my oldest obessions...the Superhero RPG. As much as I love Mutants and Masterminds (and I do LOVE Mutants and Masterminds), I'm considering running a Champions campaign utilizing 4th Edition (the last great edition of the game in my opinion - more on that in a moment).

My first Superhero RPG was Villains & Vigilantes (actually I think it was Dungeons & Dragons but that's a discussion for another time) and in the same classic sense of rivalry between Marvel and DC fans, if you liked V&V you had to dislike Champions. It was a rule or something like no 'tag-backs'. Truth is I never even looked at the game for more than a few minutes at a time. Each attempt to decipher it's ridiculously complex (in my 12-13 year old opinion) rule set had me dropping it like a hot potato. Too much math burns my eyes (still does).

It wasn't until high school that I would cross paths with Champions in full force. As one of the three or four mainstay GMs of the
High School of Art and Designs Gaming Club I had the chance to meet with a fellow by the name of Will who was running Champions and had been since it first came out in '81. As a matter of was the same campaign.

Will was having some difficulty with one of his current (at the time) players, a 'hero' PC who was in truth one of the major villains of the game. The PC in question was a religious fanatic best described as a cross between Tony Stark and William Stryker. Imagine if Lex Luthor was Professor X. Skrulls find out he has access to an army of mutant superheroes and is friends with major government and law enforcement personnel as well as Reed Richards and the Avengers. Want to invade the Earth? Kill Luthor/Prof. X first. That was basically the idea behind the PC's dad.

The PC then turned the resources of his father's non-profit foundation for helping superpowered individuals from difficult backgrounds and circumstances into a one man war against extraterrestrials after the alien invaders had killed his father in the aforementioned scenario.

If you're an inner city mutant youth who can't control his flame blasts, this guy and his organization are there to help. If you're Superman, Silver Surfer or the Martian Manhunter you'd best watch your back. His war against those heretic, unclean, blasphemers from the stars included other PCs.

Will had seen me GM Star Wars and Villains & Vigilantes and knew from a mutual friend what a comic book fan I was. He asked if I would play in his game to tip the sides a bit and give 'good' a fighting chance so his campaign wasn't completely wrecked by this one extremely smart, sneaky, well prepared and driven nutcase. How could I say no? At the same time, this was Champions...I had no idea how I was going to accomplish the task he requested of me.


Barking Alien

Tune in tonight for Part II and May's very first Muppet Monday! Woohoo!