Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Questions From An Askew Point of View - Part 1

I have recently been thinking a lot about the differences and difficulties I encounter when I compare my particular style of GMing to those of other GMs.

Now since the pick-nitty nitpickers live to pick apart any statement made, I will try to clarify. When I say compare I may not be using precisely the right word. I am not comparing as in which one is better than the other. Rather, I am noting how a lot of people use approach A, a smaller group uses approach B and myself and a few others use C for example.

This has lead me to create a series of questions that, hopefully, will enable me to better understand my fellow gamer. These questions will only pop up from time to time so I can get on with other things. Consider them an irregular regular feature.

The first is
A Question of Time...

I noted in another post how many people seem to focus their sessions on one or perhaps two elements. For example, 'this is a combat heavy session' or 'we mostly role played last adventure'.

Now as I understand it, and correct me if I am wrong, most gaming groups today have sessions lasting roughly 4 hours or so. If this is true it goes part of the way toward answering my questions about time and time management but not quite all the way.

OK, so assuming you have a party of 3-6 PCs, a total of 3-5 NPCs and 4 hours in which to participate in an adventure, how many battles can you expect to have? Note that I mean separate battles with separate initiative, a new series of rounds, etc.

Assuming the same criteria, how many rooms of a dungeon would you see explored by PCs on average (regardless of combat encounters and such).

If the session is sort of focused on one thing, as in the aforementioned examples of a combat heavy session, a role play heavy session, an investigative session, etc., is it planned out that way by the GM or does it just end up happening?

In a way, all this boils down to a bigger question of 'How much gets done' or 'How much stuff happens' in a single session. I am very curious about this. I have watched other GMs do their thing, obviously played in a number of adventures and campaigns by different GMs (though granted not many) and read through numerous session recaps. I'm trying to get a better sense of how the hobby uses this most precious resource...time.

I will save my own opinions on the subject for after I have received some responses.

Thanks all,

Barking Alien

Monday, June 27, 2011


Clifford sees Kermit and tells him about what's going on with NAASO and the MIB. Kermit is a little freaked out and asks when NAASO called. Clifford says it was like an hour ago but he didn't want to harsh Kermit's mellow. The show seemed to be going so well.

Rowlf does a quick humorous song interlude (actually I did this. I wanted to lightened the manic pace and have a favorite Rowlf song I figured would work. I'm also working hard to improve my Rowlf impression).

Sam does a lone editorial on the danger proposed by the presence of aliens. It appears he misunderstood Master Chief and thought he was referring to illegal aliens from Mexico, Cambodia and other filthy foreign countries. Like Canada. Master Chief fires Sam from his inner circle.

Pepe tells Master Chief everything is ready. He and Rizzo got armor, weapons and everything else the Chief needs. Master Chief tells them thanks but it seems like he was wrong. The Chief apologizes to Kermit for the huge misunderstanding. He can't wait to let loose, relax and join them in their closing number.

When Kermit confronts Pepe and Rizzo about all the weird armor, laser guns and such that they have, the pair quickly comes up with the story that these are just props. Kermit thinks they're perfect for the closing number then. Pepe and Rizzo nod and 'smile' as Kermit leaves and then look at each other in panic.

The closing number gets set up. The band is in position. Pepe and Rizzo handle the 'props'. Crazy Harry is handling the lighting, sound and special effects (oh yeah). Pigs, Penguins and Chickens put on costumes. Beau and Sweetums use their combined super strength to lift part of the Muppet Theater to get the closing number set on stage.

Kermit introduces the closing number.

I describe a drop ship descending toward the planet below. Serious Traveller style stuff here. The vessel shudders as it goes through the clouds. An interior shot shows most of the Pigs and some Chickens wearing Star Wars Stormtrooper armor (Pepe: "Hey, it was cheap, okay."). The Penguins and some Pigs are still dressed as ancient Spartans. Master Chief is there. Gonzo is wearing Boba Fett/Mandalorian armor with a Gears of War suit over it.

I start to snap my fingers and sing...

Somebody's gonna hurt someone,
before the night is through.
Somebody's gonna come undone.
There's nothin' we can do.
Everybody wants to touch somebody,
(at which point I punch my fist into my palm to emphasize 'touch')if it takes all night.
Everybody wants to take a little chance,
Make it come out right.

There's gonna be a heartache tonight,
a heartache tonight, I know.
There's gonna be a heartache tonight, I know.
Lord, I know.

Backstage, Kermit, Clifford, Scooter and several other Muppets are watching and having a great time. Kermit can't believe how well staged this production is.

Suddenly, two MIB Muppets come up to Kermit and Clifford to ask if they're in charge. Unlike the first two Muppets in Black, these guys look like 'Human' Muppets(think Waldorf or the Newsman). One of the MIB's (Smith - of Smith and Jones - wink, wink) is the guy Clifford originally spoke to on the phone from NAASO. They believe their are aliens impersonating them. This begins one of the funniest exchanges of the game...

MIB: Have you seen anyone strange, odd, unusual?
Clifford: Seriously?
Kermit: Can you be more specific?
MIB: Someone who acts in a bizarre manner.
(Lew Zealand hurries by practicing his Boomerang Fish Act).
Scooter: Bizarre in what sense?
MIB: Someone who looks frightening or speaks in an unintelligible dialect.
(Swedish Chef walks by discussing...something...with Big Mean Carl).
Scooter: I'm just not following you.

Meanwhile, the camera cuts to Crazy Harry who proceeds to light a really, really long fuse. The fuse is connected to a cartoon 'cannonball' bomb which is in turn wired to several clutches of dynamite sticks, which are connected to a mess of C4, that surround a cold war era, rust cover nuclear missile.


There's gonna be a heartache tonight,
A heartache tonight, I know.
There's gonna be a heartache tonight,
A heartache tonight, I know.
Lord I know.

Back on stage the drop ship lands and all the occupants spill out. In the distance ("Anyone ever notice the Muppet Show stage is kinda like the Holodeck?"), a bright flash beams a dozen or so aliens down of all shapes and sizes. The largest three are full-body Muppets the height of Sweetums. The 'leader' is a furry, blue, turtle like thing. The other two resemble an bug/aardvark hybrid and a fish guy. They fire ray guns into the air and charge at Master Chief and company.

Just then...the escape pod from the Pigs in Space sequence crashes down in the middle of the set. Strangepork is dazed but Link sees his chance to shine. He quickly changes costume to that of King Leonidas (or as Erin Palette suggested, 'Pigonidas'). He takes command of the unit of Spartan Pigs, Chickens, etc. He attacks the aliens! Or...so it seems...

There's gonna be a heartache tonight,
the moon's shinin' bright
so turn out the light, and we'll get it right.
There's gonna be a heartache tonight, a
heartache tonight I know.
Heartache baby,

Penguins battle aliens. Alien defend themselves against Stormtrooper Chickens. Master Chief is blasting away at the opposition. Persian Cats join the fight but since they're Persian they attack the Spartans.

Beau finds the lit fuse and thinks it might be dangerous so he picks up a sink full of water and tries to put it out. Animal, thirsty from playing on stage, drink the water as it's poured.

Somebody's gonna hurt someone, (somebody)
Before the night is through
Somebody's gonna come undone,
There's nothin' we can do
(Everybody) Everybody wants to touch somebody
if it takes all night
Everybody wants to take a little chance
To make it come out right

Link interjects and changes the words to...

There's gonna be a Hogthrob tonight
A Hogthrob tonight, I know
There's gonna be a Hogthrob tonight,
A Hogthrob tonight ,I know
Let's go.

Link storms off stage, heads backstage and demands from Kermit that he be given higher billing based on his performance in this episode (Brilliant move by Link's Player. Didn't see it coming). Link uses his 'Inflated Ego' and spends a Star in an attempt to Upstage Kermit. Kermit (me) responds with 'Eye of the Storm' in order to remain calm. Scooter pops in to aid Kermit, the player working with Kermit using his Shtick 'Right Hand Man'. We roll. Three way tie!!! Who's got the most Star Power...Kermit The Frog baby! But I was so impressed I said (starting in an angry voice and then calming to normal), "LINK!...I'll consider it. As long as you finish the...your closing number."

Link was so happy (hilarious performance by the Player who described Link nodding yes and then skipping back on stage like a happy child).

We can beat around the bushes;
we can get down to the bone
We can leave it in the parkin' lot,
but either way, there's gonna be a
heartache tonight, a heartache tonight I know.
There'll be a heartache tonight
a heartache tonight I know.

Lew Zealand, dashing across the battlefield, tossing Boomerang fish hither and yon, spots the large fish guy alien and decides to communicate with him (Lew can talk to fish). "OK you! Why are attacking us and stuff. Mr. The Frog is not gonna like it."

"Attacking? Who's attacking. We came all the way here from the planet Koozbane to get Master Chief's autograph. We love that guy. HALO rules!"

Hey, do you smell something burn...


Crazy Harry pyrotechnic masterpiece blows the Muppet Theater away. Smoke, flames, debris, props, scenery and Muppets are everywhere. Sweetums tries to catch the smaller Muppets as they fall back to Earth. Big Mean Carl tries to eat the smaller Muppets as they fall back to Earth. Sweetums catches Bean Bunny and throw him over to Carl.

The show closes with Bunsen spraying everyone with his latest invention Anti-Radiationizing Foam (which comes in Orange, Grape, Lemon and standard Vanilla). Kermit thanks Master Chief for being on the show, I thank everyone for participating in the game and we'll see you next time on The Muppet Show.
The actual final lines were a quip delievered by Waldorf and Statler.


Barking Alien


In continuing my recap of the first ever actual running of my Muppets RPG in it's current form, I realize that a lot, no...A LOT...of stuff happened.

The game was scheduled from 12-4 pm and I actually taught the rules to the group and gave out the pre-gens in the 15 minutes or so before we got started. After that I took some time to clarify the rules and answer questions (there really weren't many). Following the Q&A I ran the game from 12:15 to about 3 pm. Even with an hour to BS afterward we used each and every one of the 28 Muppet characters at least once, performed at least four sketches, three or four skits (short sketches), went backstage (or to some other non-stage location of the Muppet Theater) five times, did three or four songs and blew up the whole damn Theater in that time.

Uh-oh...mini-rant coming...I mean, I don't get how people can run a four hour session and recap with, "So we spent this session talking to some Yak Farmers..." or some such non-sense. What?! How much could you possibly say to or hear from Yak Farmers? Get the *#$%ing milk and move on ya git. Sorry. More on that in an upcoming post.

Anyway, it would take me another three entries to tell the tale the way I did in the first to entries so I'll give you the 'PLAYBILL' highlights...

Following the opening sketch (Muppet Labs), we go backstage where Master Chief tries to convince Kermit that the Muppet Theater is going to be invaded by aliens. Kermit assures him he's mistaken and it's just a variety show. First mention of Master Chief looking to form a team to fight off the aliens. Needs to find Spartan Armor to equip allies.

Veterinarian's Hospital goes on. The sketch is in danger of falling flat when both Rowlf's Player and Piggy's Player brainfart and can't think of any good puns. Janice's Player saves the sketch and adds a new rule to the game. If a sketch is dying, one of its participants can call 'Meanwhile...Backstage' (or '...In The Cafeteria', or '...in The Guest's Dressing Room') and the same players on-stage can switch to different characters backstage.

This was used to great effect as Pepe manages to get 'Spartan' armor for Master Chief. Y'know. Like from '300'. A host of Pigs and Penguins come in wearing it. Master Chief tells him he needs something better for his troops. Something like what he's wearing. Pepe and Rizzo team up to get the good stuff. At the same time, Master Chief mistakes Sam the Eagle's pompous patriotism for military experience, assuming him to be a retired soldier of some kind. Master Chief recruits Sam to his team.

We return to the sketch with the stipulation that the situation on stage must have changed dramatically since last we saw it. The idea is to forward the sketch but moreover to give everyone the impression that they missed something while viewing the antics backstage. The sketch still ends a tad weak but Statler and Waldorf zing it to end on a high note.

Gonzo and Johnny Fiama perform 'One-Eyed, One-Horned, Flying, Purple, People Eater' with Sal and Gonzo having convinced Johnny to dress up in the title role. Johnny is not amused. The group was.

In Master Chief dressing room, the Chief meets with his inner circle, Sam, Link and Scooter. Plans are underway.

Clifford gets a phone call from NAASO (Pronounced Nah-So, like "No. So what?"), the National Anti-Alien Security Organization. They warn him about strange lights in the sky over the Muppet Theater and the possibility of a close encounter. They are sending agents over to help. Clifford takes in all in stride like it's no big thing.

The Swedish Chef attempts to make Possum Stew...sorry...Poossem Stoo but the Possum turns the tables on him and it looks like we might be having Chef stuff tonight! Best use of a skill/prop combo...Use Kitchen Utensil with an industrial Sledge Hammer.

Two strange looking Muppets in black suits, coats, hats and sunglasses show up at the backstage door. They meet with Pops (as an NPC) and Clifford. They are MIB...Muppets in Black. They are aware that aliens are indeed on their way and want to speak to Master Chief. Cliff assumes they're from NAASO. They look at each other and nod. "Sure".

Pigs in Spaaace! Link, Julius Strangepork and Piggy see a strange alien vessel approaching and call their newest crewmember, combat specialist Master Chief to the stage. Master Chief thinks they are finally taking his warning seriously and gets all macho, gung-ho scary on them. Link and Strangepork panic and eject from the SwineTrek in the escape pod. Piggy asks if there is a Mrs. Chief somewhere or are we free and clear?

To be concluded...

Barking Alien

Intermission Impossible

My recent lack of posts has been due, largely, to my being pretty damn sick and having a work and personal life schedule that doesn't leave me much time to relax and get well. My motto is 'Keep on Keeping On'. I also like 'Make Love, Not War' and the British 'Keep Calm and Carry On'.

It's nice to see the Barkkers/Barkkies debate rages on and in regards to the Barkettes, sorry gentlemen, you just don't have the legs for it.

Now, about my summer job...

So far it looks like 6-8 kids are signed up ranging from 2nd to 7th grade. The majority are 5th to 7th graders with only one younger lad, the kid brother of our oldest student. The sessions are roughly 3 hours long each, which isn't a lot of time but you'd be surprised. I can get a lot done in three hours.*

I'm going to be running a hackneyed version of D&D with the following elements customized for the task at hand:

Ability Scores: As mentioned in my last post, standard six rated 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 and 0 by Player's choice. The number will standard for how much you add to a D20 roll to do pretty much anything. Skill Use, To Hit, Saving Throws, etc. Need to lift a heavy load? Roll D20 plus Strength. Want to figure out what the runes say? Roll D20 plus Intelligence. Want to hit that Bugbear with your sword? Roll D20 plus Strength plus...ah...over to my D&D-But-Not system.

Combat Types (Fighter, Paladin, Ranger, etc.) Hit at Level Plus 1

Quasi-Combat Types (Cleric, Bard, Rogue) Hit at Level.
Non-Combat Types (Wizard, Druid, Sorcerer) Hit at Level -1.

Which classes qualify as which? Should be easy but I'll make final decisions later.

"But wait! I want to be a BattleMage! Yeah!"

Sure. Quasi. Next?

OK, Hit Points. Everyone has 10 plus Constitution plus/minus 1 based on class just like the To Hit. Why make a new chart? I know, I know. You guys like charts. *shudder*

Ever character gets a free ability based on their class. Wizards get Spells, Clerics can use Miracles (Cleric Spells), Druids Shapeshift (turn into animals), Warriors will get some kind of Mighty Blow/Strike thing, Rogues get Stealth, etc.

Then (and this brilliant little piece of awesome was created by my ex-wife, gaming goddess extraordinaire!), you write on your sheet..

I am Really Good at __________.
I am Really Bad at __________.

Is that awesome or what?! We tested it this past Sunday. The Paladin was incredibly fast (I am Really Good at Speed) but he couldn't read (I am Really Bad at Reading). Hilarity ensued when he began searching a shipwreck for treasure and realized he could read the signs on the doors like 'Captain's Quarters' or 'Cargo Hold'.

OK...and...that's about all the rules I need. Seriously, why the frick-dang-blast are all these books over 10 pages? I mean what the heck is all that writing about? ;)

Anyway, still working on a few details and checking with Selina (my ex-wife) as she may want to include some additional rules and systems to get the kids used to following instructions, following rules, reading rules and comprehending what they've read and that sort of thing.

Still and all, it doesn't really need to have more than that.

Which brings me to...

Once again the world of other peoples game has brushed up against mine and my golden retriever like curiousity has me sniffing about to find out how the other half lives. I plan on making a post that addresses some questions I have about how other people run certain aspects of their games, though mostly this is directed at D&D players and Old Schoolers, anyone and everyone is welcome to pop in and share.

Look forward to our exchange,

Barking Alien

*One of the questions will deal with how much time one session takes and what you get done in a session. After talking about my Muppet Show game with one of the players who participated in it and a recent post on another blog has me really curious about time, content and maximizing both.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Intermission on a Mission

Howdy Barking Alien Fans! (Yes the six of you. Do you prefer 'Barkkies' or 'Barkkers'? I forget which is in at the moment).

I have been sick as a green dog of late and because of this, I am pretty behind on my posting. I will continue my recap of the RECESS Muppet Show RPG Session as soon as I am feeling a bit better but first...

R.I.P. to Gene Colan, a legend in the comic book industry and a professor of mine in college. We didn't always agree but I always had an appreciation and respect for the man, his art and his impact on the medium.

Sadly, another R.I.P. is sent out to Peter Falk, the actor best known for his portrayal of the TV detective Columbo but better known to fandom for his part as the narrator in The Princess Bride.

In two weeks I will begin GMing professionally. That is, I've been hired by a learning center in Brooklyn to run an RPG each Sunday as part of their 'Summer Fun' program. The players range from 3rd to 7th graders and the sessions will be about 3 hours long. It looks like there will be about 6-8 kids in the program at present. I'm really excited. A few of these kids are 'English as a Second Language' students, speaking Chinese at home. A few are simply a little behind on their reading and writing comprehension. In addition to having a great time gaming, some of the game elements will be geared toward teaching cooperation, information retention, improving math skills and the like.

System wise I've been talking to my ex-wife (who runs the center) and she and I have hashed out what I would call an 'Old School Minimalist' set of rules. We're keeping the classic 6 stats but they're rated 0-5. When you do something you check against the appropriate stat to see what bonus if any you add to your die roll.

So if the Wizard has Strength: 4, Intelligence: 5, Wisdom: 3, Dexterity: 2, Constitution: 1 and Charisma: 0, he or she adds nothing to a D20 roll when attempting to befriend of a local guard. On the other hand, the Wizard may add +5 to any roll involving casting a spell or trying to remember a local legend.

I've got some time to work out the additional details. I'll keep you posted.

News of DC's September relaunch continues to depress and befuddle me, though I must say the art for All-Star Western #1 featuring Jonah Hex looks pretty damn good. As does Keith Giffen pulling a Jack Kirby riff on OMAC #1. If nothing else I'll check out those two.

Well, that's all the time and energy I have at the moment. What I wouldn't give to be well enough to drink a cup of coffee. Ugh. I miss my coffee.

Later Days,

Barking Alien

Wednesday, June 22, 2011


No comments on my first ever attempt to run the Muppets RPG live for people who don't already know me? No opinion on our guest, Master Chief? (The moment his name was mentioned most of the players tried to gasp and laugh at the same time. There was much coughing as they caught their breath.) Huh. Well, no matter. The show must go on...

Before we started I gave the players and overview of the mechanics and goal/idea of the game. Complete an episode, make everyone laugh yoohoo through their noses and try to find and then follow the general theme or plot of the session. In this case, the players would come to learn from the cold opening that Master Chief believed an alien invasion by the Covenant was coming to wipe out the Muppet Theater. Er...not exactly. Please read on...

Me (As Kermit): "Hi-ho everyone and welcome once again to the Muppet Show. We have a great show for you tonight and our very special guest star is Master Chief of HALO. Yes! So to get things rolling and keep with the theme of interstellar action and adventure, I present to you Muppet Laboratories... "(I do a sweeping arm gesture toward Wit, the fellow playing Bunsen, as a step away a little to the side of the table.)*

Wit (As an incredibly accurate Bunsen): "Well, hello there! I am Dr. Bunsen Honeydew, here at Muppet Labs where the future is being made today. In honor of our guest, I would like to test my latest invention. What you see here is the Muppetronic Augmented Armor Exoskeleton. Here to help me test it is my assistant Beaker. Now Beaker if you'll just step inside the suit..."

(Beaker's player did a damn fine job of not only sounding like Beaker but sounding like him apprehensive. He uttered by a few low Meeps and you totally knew he was not looking forward to getting in that thing.)

"Now, now Beaky I assure it's perfectly safe."

(Beaker climbs in as the Heads-Up-Display activates. The suit asks if the pilot/wearer wants to go to Automatic Mode or Manual Override. Beaker beeps indecisively at first and then give an 'OK' type sound. The computer asks for a code word, he meeps and I (the Director) say, "Code Word Confirmed" without missing a beat. It was all so funny and cool it was like we rehearsed it).

"Excellent", said Bunsen enthusiastically. "Now we will arm the weaponry and defenses and all systems will be online. Perfect. Now Beaker, if you would simply focus the Digital Targeting Array at, um..."

Player #1 (As Sweetums - and again, an excellent imitation): "Excuse me Dr. Honeydew, where do you want this?" (Sweetums' player incidates that the ogre-like Muppet is carrying a thick, metal door with a crude target painted on it.)

Bunsen: "Oh anywhere over here is fine." (he vaguely motioned to where it should go).

(Beaker decides to get a little revenge on Bunsen for all the experiments that have backfired on Beaker. He aims the suit's weaponry at Bunsen and opens fire. Bunsen counters with Oblivious, certain that it's either a glitch or incompetence on Beaker's part.)

Bunsen: "No, no, no Beaker. You are pointing those things the wrong way."

(Sweetums assumes he put the target in the wrong spot so to help he basically walks in front of Bunsen and attempts to, well, block/catch the attacks with the door. When the smoke clears Bunsen is unharmed, the door is dust and the Muppet Labs set is full of holes. Dave says that Beauregard the Janitor pokes his head through one of the gapping holes.)

Beauregard: "Hey guys...your making a mess."

Bunsen: "As you can see the suit still needs some minor adjustments but otherwise it is the ultimate technology for all your personal, military armor needs. Now I'll just press this button and get Beaker out of there." (Presses button).

(Beaker overrides with a synthetically modulated Meep-Meep!)

(Bunsen presses the button again).

(Beaker walks off stage, smashing through things and saying "Meep Bee Bee Me" like he's some kind of super bad ass. Bunsen chases after him).

(Beauregard walks on stage shaking his head.)

Sweetums: "Don't worry Beau. I'll help you clean up."

Next...Backstage with Master Chief

Barking Alien

*I don't sit down while GMing very often. I'm so known for standing up and walking around the table in fact that when I was sitting at one point during the Muppet Show game, another GM, my friend Doug, saw me and said, "He's sitting. Is...is he all right. Are you feeling OK Adam?"

Monday, June 20, 2011


Player 1 (As Scooter): "Master Chief? Master Chief! 15 seconds to curtain Master Chief!"

Director (Me, As Master Chief): "Thanks Skipper."

"Um...That's Scooter sir."

"Sorry. I should remember that. I need to remember that. For when you die."

"*Gulp* Die?"

(Master Chief nods and then turns to a small assembly of various Muppet Custom Characters, Whatnot Pigs, Bunnies, Rats and Chickens.)

"There is an invasion force coming. Very soon, aliens called 'The Covenant' will come down and wipe out this colony. Skitter, what's the name of this colony. My artificial intelligence companion, Cortana, is offline."

"Er...it's Scooter...and this is the Muppet Theater."

"Muppet Theater? Must be running out of good colony names. Cortana's last transmissions were garbled. No matter. We need to prepare for the invasion. Can I count on your help Skimmer?"


"I'm not gonna take the time to remember that. After all, you're just gonna die."

(Animal's Player 'drum rolls' on the table with her hands)

(Me, As Kermit - Doing my best Kermit impression): "Ladies and Gentlemen, it's The Muppet Show with our very special guest star...Master Chief from HALO!"

And with that, my Muppet Show RPG event at NerdNYC's RECESS had begun.

The event, planned for 4 hours but running only 3, featured 7 players, each playing 4 Muppets. The theme for this RECESS was video games and so I decided to choose the most visually interesting, inappropriate character I could think of. From out of a very short list, Master Chief emerged victorious.

For the purposes of the RECESS convention I went with pregens, creating almost 30 of the Muppet characters. All were Customs, with Whatnots being used primarily as NPCs unless someone had some good appropriate dialog for one and wanted to take it over for a moment (which happened a few times).

The players consisted of 5 guys between their late 20's-early 30's and 2 girls around 16-18 years of age (I am assuming). The guys were very gung ho about playing a Muppets RPG and did some amazing impressions of the characters. In addition, they were less self conscious, willing to sing (including the opening theme) and generally act silly or crazy. The gals seemed to be at a disadvantage. It definitely appeared they had never played a game like this before (though they were experienced gamers according to their parent/guardian. They were also not as familiar with the characters. This struck me as odd at first until I realized that it's been some time since a 'Muppet Show' of any kind has been one the air.

I apologize to those who played in this scenario for not remembering all your names. As I said, I'm bad with names until I've heard them or said myself several times.

As such I am going to name those I can and simply indicate a Player # for those I can't.

Steve was the performer for:
Uncle Deadly

Wit was the performer for:
Bunsen Honeydew
Sam The Eagle
Lew Zealand

Sophia was the performer for:
Crazy Harry*
Big Mean Carl*
Julius Strangepork

Dave was the performer for:
Floyd Pepper
Johnny Fiama and Sal Minella**

Player #1 (I want to say Alton but I may be spelling it wrong) was the performer for:
Dr. Teeth
Link Hogthrob
Pepe the Prawn

Player #2 (Again I apologize. This guy was great too and really excited about being in a Muppets game) was the performer for:
Swedish Chef

Player #3 (The other young lady. I. can't. remember! Gah!) was the performer for:
Miss Piggy

Tonight, a recap of how we played the music, lit the lights and raised the curtain on the Muppet game...Alright!

Barking Alien

*Usually a Performer can only perform a single Muppet in a single scene. I waved that a bit in the case of Sal and Johnny as long as they didn't appear in a scene at the same time. In other words, if Johnny Fiama is on stage performing and the camera cuts to Sal off stage giving him the thumbs up or saying something encouraging, I'm not going to ask the Performer to spend any Stars.

**Do you see a theme here? O_0


Sunday, June 19, 2011

Yes, yes, I'm sure Old School Rocks...

...but man was it fun (and comforting in an odd way) being surrounded by people who share my opinion...that old school is one of the things that can rock, right alongside indie and new school and the in the middle mish mash that makes up a good portion of what I run.

NerdNYC is a most curious beast. It is directly associated with the old schoolers of New York Red Box and at it's RECESS gaming event on Saturday (June 18th) I certainly saw my fair share of D&D games being played. Yet upon asking the guys I gamed with what games they run or play normally I got Burning Wheel (at least two or three people), Deathwatch, FATE, Pathfinder, Spirit of the Century and a number of other game, many of which were indie titles.

Sometimes I look out on the great, open fields of gaming blogs and see nothing but old school and, while I have said many times it doesn't bother me in any way, it does make one feel a little lonely. As I mentioned in the comments of another blog recently, I am more than content to shout my love for Star Trek, Mutants & Masterminds, Faery's Tale Deluxe, Ars Magica and other games that get little to no blog love but I never expect anyone to shout back. That analogy is imperfect, as I do get comments and therefore I know I am not completely alone in my interests.

Things like this past RECESS and my Muppet Madness Month bring me a feeling of camaraderie with a larger community that I am sure is one of the great perks about being part of OSR 'fandom'. I mean, there were 400 some odd people there (at RECESS) of all ages, creeds and colors and they were all enjoying all kinds of games. That to me is incredibly exciting.

So yay diversity! Hurray for a choice of what to play and how to play it. Thank goodness for the Old School, the New School, the Indie, the Big Guy and the crazy gamers who have blogs.

We all rock.

Barking Alien

Congratulations! Now don't blow it...

Happy Father's Day to all you Dads out there.

Never forget the honor, the responsibility and the privilege of being who you are and doing what you do. The impact of your words and actions are beyond even what they seem to be.

Don't screw up.

No pressure.

Barking Alien

Saturday, June 18, 2011

The Coming Awesome

At least I think they're awesome. I certainly hope you will too.

I'm totally exhausted from today but I wanted to post a few things I'll be covering in my next few blog entries...

I spent today doing what I love most, running a role playing game at NerdNYC's RECESS event. What I ran was my Muppets RPG in the form of a Muppet Show episode scenario. I will tell you more about it Monday (for Muppet Monday of course) but suffice to say it went over incredibly well. Much better than I would have hoped. It also revealed a few rules and ideas that could be added or adjusted. Very fun and very helpful.

7 Players, 5 Guys and 2 Gals, Approximately between the ages of mid-teens to late 30's. 3 Hour Session. Blew up the Muppet Theater.

Got to play Deathwatch, the Warhammer 40K space marine RPG and it was great. Sometimes you just want to blast stuff.

I've had this urge to run my D&D-For-Those-You-Don't-Like-D&D game recently. Took something for the stomach ache and dizziness. Still there. The urge I mean.

Need to get back into some Sci-Fi/Space Opera gaming. Going to take another look at Rogue Space but in the end what I really want to run is probably Star Trek.

Really want to return to my Champions game.

Need to get some rest.

Later days,

Barking Alien

Thursday, June 16, 2011

It's Not Easy Being Green

Who's got willpower like my boy Kermit? Who? Faced down Doc Hopper and Snake the Frog Killer, battled for the Baseball Diamond, saved the Muppet Theater countless times...Sector 2814 could not ask for a better protector.

Barking Alien

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Secret Origins - Fabulous First Issue - Part II

When last we left our heroes...

The Terrific Trio had arrived at an office building fire just in time to save an office worker and her child (lousy time for 'Bring your child to work day', no? - Or maybe she just couldn't find a sitter). The next thing they knew, the evil Prof. Pandemonium leaped through the building's roof and into the air. Before rocketing away with his boot jets, the criminal mastermind fired micro-missiles from his gauntlet toward the flame enshrouded edifice. The missiles struck the edge of the roof, sending charred masonry and burning wood tumbling down toward the assembled firefighters, emergency response personnel and civilians below.

Sonar Man was the only one fast enough to pursue Prof. Pandemonium but if he did, the avalanche of brick and flames would fall upon the good people of New York City who were gathered on the street.

The Terrific Trio snapped into action...

Roughhouse began to grow and leaned over the paramedics and firefighters around him. In mere seconds he was two, three, four, FIVE times his normal size. The debris bounced harmlessly off his rocky hide. There was a reason they called him RoughHOUSE.

U.F.O. moved quickly, deliberately and smoothly as he always did. He managed to pull the young woman, her child and several firefighters down around him before activating his Telekinetic Force Field.

Sonar Man did not acknowledge their actions, having faith in his friends and allies to do the best they could. Instead he focused on the largest piece of wreckage and redirecting the cacophony of noise on the city street, from shattering brick and mortar to the frightened gasps of onlookers, into a single, powerful blast of sound. Making an extra effort, Sonar Man combined his massive sonic attack with his vibratory power and blasted the falling facade into tiny pebbles and ash.

He has saved the day. Cheers went up from the assembled citizenry. Sonar Man nodded and waved in an absent minded manner. He saved the people for now but the Professor had escapes. He scanned the skies. Pandemonium was nowhere to be found...

GM (Me): "Experience point bonus! Nice work Sonar Man. What made you blow up the debris instead of chasing after the supervillain?"

Player 1: "I had no idea if a chunk that size, which was on fire, would hurt the rest of the guys. And they had there hands full protecting people. What if this landed where they weren't...on people they couldn't reach."

GM (Me): "Granted. I meant, why does that matter? Aren't they just NPCs?"

Player 1: "No way. They are the people of this city and I am a superhero. I'll always do what I can to protect them first."

This adventure and the dialog below occurred in 1982. We were 13. It was my first time running a session of a Superhero RPG and the RPG in question was Villains & Vigilantes.

If one wonders where I am coming from with my idea of what constitutes a heroic PC, you can easily trace it back to this moment. A player thinking about his buddies' characters and the NPCs well being before thinking about beating up the bad guy.

There has been quite a bit of hullabaloo about heroism, the traditional smash and grab style of dungeon crawling and related ideas and I must say that I applaud the discussion of it if not always the nature of the arguements.

While I won't deems the 'kill the monster/take his stuff' approach to gaming 'wrongbad', I will say it was never really my thing. From as far back as my first D&D adventure as a player to my first Superhero one as a GM, I've preferred a more cinematic approach. This isn't some new school concept or indie gaming thing, this is how I've always done it. This is what I enjoy.

In the end, that's all that matters,

Barking Alien

Monday, June 13, 2011

Muppet Mondays! - Ain't I A Tease

This coming Saturday is the big day! I will actually be running a Muppet Show RPG Adventure at NerdNYC's RECESS event. I thought I'd post up a teaser...here is a blank character sheet for the game...

At present I am planning for up to 6 players, each playing three Custom Muppets each. The end result will be 18 characters, so I am stating out about 25-30 or so in order to give the group a nice range to choose from. So far I am working on having the following playable Muppets...

Miss Piggy
Dr. Teeth
Floyd Pepper
Bunsen Honeydew
Lew Zealand
Crazy Harry
Swedish Chef


Sam the Eagle

Kermit is, as I mentioned previously, not available as a PC so that I can run him and use him to facilitate the game.

More to Come,

Barking Alien

Reality Check

Greetings All.

I thought perhaps my busy schedule and heavy need to focus on personal, real life stuff would slow my posting and while it has to some degree, I find I need to post as it prevents my head from always being full of worry. In short, if I am thinking about Superheroes, Muppets and Plasma Based Life Forms from Another Galaxy, I can't also be thinking of my world of suck.

It's nice to take a break once in a while.

Anyway, as you may or may not have noticed, there is a new button to the right of the posts titled 'Donations'. I despise that it's there but I am in a place in life where it needs to be. At the same time, I have worked since I was 14 and believe nothing in life is free so here's the deal...

If you use it, please leave me a note in the comment box on what kind of character I can draw for you. Be it a superhero, monster, wizard or whathaveyou, I would be happy to recipricate your kindness with an illustration.

Now that that's out of the way...More Secret Origins and Muppet Mondays coming up...

Barking Alien

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Secret Origins - Fabulous First Issue - Part I

I thought it might be fun and interesting to tell you about a Superhero RPG session my friends and I had. I hope you enjoy this rather meaningful* recap...

The Scenario:

A half dozen fire trucks surround a New York City office building in the early morning hours as the flames belching forth from the windows match the dawn sky. The rising Sun and burning offices turn the waking world red, gold and black with smoke.

New York's bravest move in like knights with lances of water, trying with all their might to dowse the scorching fire, hot as dragon's breath, that licks at their faces. Siren's blare, voices cry out and pieces of a store front crack and fall like hushed thunder.

Then they arrive...

The Heroes:

First to arrive is Sonar Man, the master of sound and vibration. He floats down from above, carrying himself on the din in the air around the event. His cool blue and white costume and billowing cape in sharp contrast to the hot reds and yellows of the scene. He descends like a faceless angel, his identity completely hidden under a full face mask.

He listens. Using his power over sound he screens out noises he doesn't need to pay attention to in order to hear the faintest cry for help or the splintering of wood that meant a ceiling or floor was about to collapse. He hears something and he acts. Swooping into an open window, he scans for the source of the sound and finds a young woman and a small child trapped. A burning bookcase is about to fall on top of them. He whispers, "Duck down and cover your ears", and thanks to his powers they hear him perfectly.

Sonar Man than shouts, a simple, single-syllable yell that shatters the bookcase and several windows, blasting the debris away from those trapped. He quickly gets his arms under or around them and flies them to the safety of the street below. Looking up he sees the rest of his team has now arrived.

Roughhouse has already transformed his skin into the concrete-like stone substance that protects him from danger. No flames will be harming him anytime soon. Beside him is U.F.O., the Ultimate Flying Operative. The fiery environment turns his chrome and black armor both a dark and brilliant bronze. His eyes remain the same eerie, glowing, green they always are. It would seem nothing on Earth can alter his unnerving gaze.

Firemen and women near by look at U.F.O. with slightly startled expressions as he speaks, his voice synthesized to sound like a robot from an old Sci-Fi movie.

"My research indicates this building contains a number of business offices, many of which are focused on emerging technologies. Most notable is Robowares Inc., a firm specializing in developing robots for common house hold use."

"Hmph," grunts Roughhouse, who was in the process of asking one of the prettier paramedics for her phone number. "What, like a dishwasher that can think or a talking vacuum cleaner?"

"Something like that yes." Sonar Man smirked beneath his mask, able to glean just a slight tone of exasperation from U.F.O. even though his mechanized voice seemed emotionless. "We could be looking at corporate sabotage. We could be talking about a theft and someone covering their tracks in a most brutal fashion."

Sonar Man, nodded curtly. "Right now that's just speculation. We need to do further investigating. At the moment, let's..."

The Villain:

Before Sonar Man could finish, the roof erupted and a column of flames shot into the rapidly bluing sky like a roman candle. Suddenly, in the air above the building, a man in a purple and black outfit with armored sections and a cloak floated and laughed.

"Well, well. If it isn't the Terrific Trio. I had hoped to avoid running into you this early in the game. Still, I wouldn't be the genius that I am if I wasn't prepared for the possibility."

"We're not playing games here Prof. Pandemonium. What are you up to?" Sonar Man grimaced beneath his mask. It was all he could do to hold himself back from simply blasting Pandemonium with bone crushing sound waves.

"All in due time, Sonar Man, all in due time. For now you have more pressing concerns. This building is about to come down on top of all those heroic firefighters." And with that, Prof. Pandemonium unleashed a series of small missiles, all the size of magic markers, which hurtled toward the building's roof top causing it to explode. Igniting his boot jets, the evil scientist rocketed skyward and west.

As Sonar Man began to lift off and fly into the air in pursuit, he looked at the massive pieces of burning wood and brick about to fall on the men and women below. If he tried to help them Prof. Pandemonium would surely escape. If he went after the Professor...certainly U.F.O. and Roughhouse could protect the firefighters and civillians. There was no guarantee of course.

Sonar Man knew what he had to do...

To be continued...

Barking Alien

*Meaningful to me that is.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Maid Super By Design

It's hard for me to believe this is my first post on the subject of artist Adam Warren 'Sexy Superhero Sitcom' comic book 'Empowered' but I suppose even the coolest things can slip your mind from time to time.

Unfortunately I don't have the time or frame of mind right now to talk about the series in detail but I will say - It is AWESOME! On that note I highly recommend checking it out.

While normally published in a hefty, digest format similar to manga, Empowered Special #2 - 10 Questions for Maidman has released this week in traditional comic book form. In addition, the usually black & white illustrations are interspersed with full color art (though the color sections are really good they aren't actually drawn by Warren).

I've considered running a campaign in this universe but I think it would require the players be familiar with the series. Not because of continuity mind you but to really get a feel for the world that Emp and company live in.


Barking Alien

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

A Super Idea or The Thoughts of A Mad Man?

Would you purchase, hypothetically, a PDF product which had ideas and information for running Superhero RPGs which was really well illustrated and system free? It would contain, among other things, descriptions of heroes, villains, organizations, plots and subplots, random charts with a little twist and really, really good artwork.

If yes, how big?
What would you want to pay (ballpark)?
Color or B&W?

What else would you like to see in it?

Personally I've always wanted such a product to exist but no one has quite done it. My thinking is that a lot of Supers RPG fans play or have played more than one Supers game, so it's best to have character concepts and ideas but no rules. Also, I have a fairly simply way to lay it out - nothing fancy at all - that makes it easy to print out and put into a folder or notebook (as I do the latter).

Also, I could use to make some extra cash doing something I enjoy. No beating around the bush here at Barking Alien.

Let me know your opinions.

Barking Alien

Monday, June 6, 2011

Muppet Mondays! - Things That Go Boom

It's a pretty reasonable assumption, if not a concrete guarantee, that something or someone will blow up in my RECESS Muppet Show game on June 18th.

Among the things the Muppets and I have in common is our mutual love of explosions. Not Michael Bay explosions mind you. Explosions that matter. Explosions with purpose. Explosions of just the right size, with the right amount of flash and smoke, set off at just the right time.

In short, explosions with heart.

Now normally (well, in relation to a Muppets RPG I guess) an explosion is an attack made by a Muppet's Shtick toward another Muppet. If the exploder is successful in blowing up the explodee, the unlucky recipent of the pyrotechnic barrage in question would likely lose some Shtick dice. Conflict of this type is noted in the entry
'Why Don't We Get Things Started - Part 1' during March's Muppet Madness Month.

Now, what if things exploded for some other reason than one caused by a Conflict. What if it were conditional or environmental? What if Beau puts Bunsen's all-new 'Super-Heating Ultra-Flamable Wonder Wood' in the Muppet Theater's furnace. It's a cold night so he puts in two logs. A tropical bird or lizard character complains it's still too cold so Beau put more...oh heck he puts all of it in.

When the theater blows up like an angry supernova, how do you determine damage?

I've considering the following rule...Figure out whose fault it is or which Muppet is most directly related to the incident. Roll their appropriate Shtick dice or their highest if nothing they have is appropriate to the cause of the accident or condition. Everyone (all the Muppets in use in that session as long as they were in the vicinity of the big boom) takes that many dice of damage (reducing Shtick dice) minus their current Star Power. For each Star they have, subtract one dice of damage.

All participants will still end up dazed and covered with dust, soot and debris but the bigger stars may still be able to act.

Just some thoughts. Tell me yours.

Barking Alien

School Daze

I spent part of Sunday running two D&D-ish scenarios for two seperate groups of kids at the learning center my ex-wife runs in Brooklyn as a prelude to possibly including RPGs as part of her regular Sunday and Summer Activity programs.

It was so awesome I am left feeling like I've missed my calling. I hate to admit my Mom might've been right on this one but I think I should've been a teacher. I loved working with these kids and was amazed by their intelligence and humor, even when for some of them English is their second language.

I've loathe to admit it not because of pride (my Mom is usually right and I've excepted that a long time ago) but because I hated school growing up. Now hate is a strong word so I think I'll use it twice. Hate hated school. I never wanted to be a teacher because a) I would need to go to school longer to learn to teach and b) I didn't want a job where people disliked me as I disliked so many of my teachers. Now granted, I liked some. A few I liked a lot. The vast majority were akin to the Legion of Supervillains. They were Eeeevil.

Anyway, I'll do a little recap of each session tonight when I get home from work. Pretty funny stuff. I also want to get to continuing my break downs and recaps of my Champions game. Oh! And I have an idea for a product to sell that may just kick butt. It could also suck. Help me decide!

Seeya later,

Barking Alien

Sunday, June 5, 2011

It's A Beautiful Day

I ran the third session of my Champions campaign the other day and it was 'the awesome'. I needed it. I've been down lately and that was a major pick me up.

Today I'm going to see my ex-wife at the Learning/Afterschool/Activity Center she runs. Some of the kids have shown interest in learning to play RPGs and she asked that I make an appearance and explain a little more about them before she and I grab some dinner. Nice huh? I think so. She may be including RPGs as an activity on weekends during her summer program.

I feel so strange right now as I write this. My world is kind of in chaos and I have some serious personal stuff going on but in these moments I couldn't be happier. Gaming is, for me at least, a point of light in the darkness when I need it most. Sounds sappy and a bit melodramatic I know but I don't know how else to put it.

Game On, Shine On,

Barking Alien

Thursday, June 2, 2011

DC Reboots Its Universe Again...Again

The big news in comic books is that following the current intertitle crossover Flashpoint, DC intends to relaunch/reboot its universe ONE - MORE - TIME, with 52 titles starting over at #1 in September.

The most interesting element of this reboot is that starting in September DC comic books will be available for online download on the same day the physical books are released. This last bit could be great for the fans and company alike but as I see it, probably not great for the Mom and Pop retailer.

See, Graphic Novels are great items for Barnes and Nobles and Amazon and such but it's unlikely they're doing great selling individual issues. The average magazine shop and candy store can barely keep up with all the titles Marvel and DC put out as it is. So if the books are available online, unless you're a dedicated comic book store, why carry individual issues at all?

Now from a DC comic book fan angle, all I can say is...Stop. Plleeeeaaassse just stop. I want to enjoy stories about my favorite characters. Stop making those stories invalid. Stop trying to build a continuity and then erasing it. Either don't make any attempt to have continuity or let it build and let it alone.

I also find some of the reboot elements a little pointless. Not bad mind you, just silly. Case in point - You are altering Superman's costume and Wonder Woman's costume (which should last about 6-12 issues before it looks the old way to make it match how they appear in animation or on a lunchbox or as a figure or whatever) and yet Aquaman remains unchanged. WTF?! This is your chance to give him a cool look and you raise Superman's collar? That is just a wasted opportunity.

I don't really know what to say. I am a diehard DC fan and yet...I'm tired of the reboots. I'll check it out, read anything that's good and then wait for the next one.

Should be about five years before they reboot again.

The Guardians of the Universe don't need Green Lanterns. They need a decent IT guy to check out their server. It seems to randomly reboot the system.

Barking Alien

Wednesday, June 1, 2011


My posts this month will be, at best, sporadic.

I am trying to make some much needed real life changes, which include but are not limited to, possibly finding a new apartment, maybe a job change, maybe more.

I need to both advance my current situation and get back a bit of what I've lost of myself over the last few years. Wish me luck.

I will pop on and post from time to time but it's definitely going to be in a reduced capacity.

Anyway, onward and upward...

Barking Alien