Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Anniversary's End and Renewed Celebration

August ends and with in my 34th gaming anniversary. I am joyous however, as I begin my journey toward 35 years.

It would seem Blogger is in one of its moods. If my stats were right yesterday and for part of today (they seem to be completely missing now), people were pretty intrigued by this whole Smurf thing. Cool. Oh, I'm sorry...I mean, "Smurfy!"

For my next trick (nothing up my sleeves), I am going with my buddy Lord Blacksteel's suggestion and making September "Messing with Games You Shouldn't" month. Although in all honesty there is no such game in my book. I'd mess with 'Go Fish' if I thought I could spruce the ol' girl up a bit.

Expect to see...wait for it...D&D By The Guy Who Doesn't Like D&D! A whole month of what I did to make my bowl of plain vanilla ice cream less boring while still making sure it remained vanilla ice cream.

Also, follow my (possibly incredibly foolish) attempt to get a Superhero RPG campaign going over skype. One of my very best bad ideas.

I would love to do reviews of the New DC Universe 52 titles but that would mean I'd have to read them and I really can't drum up the enthusiam for such an endeavour after reading JLA #1.

Let's just say it was...well...plain vanilla is an example of something I use to represent blandness. This issue (the first of a new series meant to hook you into buying the next issues) isn't quite exciting and interesting enough to reach for the lofty goal of plain vanilla.

Now, I am off to continue my smurftastic smurfiness...smurf you soon,

Barking Alien

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Beyond The Blue Horizon

I have a few more posts to complete before I am done with the basics of my Smurfs RPG and as such I am looking toward the future and my next project.

I don't think I am going to do another new pop culture RPG just yet, preferring to do those only when inspiration strikes me. I do want to have a theme or focus for September however.

Among the idea perculating in my noggin' are:

A more deeply dedicated and devoted divulengce on how I dare depict Superheroes. Now I know I'm spoken about Supers gaming before quite a bit but I don't think I really said all I want to say on the matter, especially in regards to how I pull it off.

Related to this is the fact that I would like to find the time to run a Skype game, most likely using M&M 3E. I think it would be fun to develop a campaign, blog about it here and run it online at the same time. We'll see.

My D&D

I have recently been reading a number of posts on various sites that make me long to run my D&D-But-Not game again. Take that any way you like as no matter what you're thinking you're probably right.

I've never really concentrated a good deal of effort or time in talking about my D&D on this blog and I think it might be high time I got into the fray as it were. Of course, I may be committing blog suicide by doing so. Those in the blogosphere interested in D&D (a) probably don't come hear a lot and (b) probably wouldn't accept or utilize many of my approaches. Likewise, those who do come here regularly (yes, you five, I see you there. Timmy take off your hat it's disrespectful) do so because I am a little off beat from the OSR.

I can see it now...

"I went to Barking Alien's blog and he's talking about D&D this month."

"D&D! The heck you say!"

"No it's true! What will we do now? Who's going to suggest ideas for Victorian Era Steampunk Sentai or give us a Sid & Marty Kroft RPG?*"

Well it's just an idea gang, I haven't decided what I'm going to do yet.

Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated (that means comment!)

Anyway, you haven't seen the last of the Smurfs (or the Muppets for that matter). I still intend to run the Smurfs RPG as an ongoing, 1 session a month campaign at the Compleat Strategist in NY on third Saturdays.

I will be running a session of the Smurfs RPG and the Muppets RPG at the next NerdNYC RECESS event on October 8th.

I now return you my regularly scheduled Smurfs post. You may also opt to check out any one of a hundred OSR blogs who are most likely talking about initiative, character classes, weapon damage and hit points or some rule no one uses.


Barking Alien

*Yes, a Sid & Marty Kroft RPG. Sigmund and The Sea Monsters, H.R. PufnStuf, Lost Saucer, Far Out Space Nuts, The Bugaloos, the ridiculously hot Electra Woman and Dyna Girl...don't think I haven't thought about it.

**Once again I know my site is doing well since comments are way down. Checking my blog stats to test my hypothesis...yep, high page views. Awesome.

***A playful jab. All in good fun

Forever Blue - Part 3

Real life concerns have once more slowed my ability to make anything more than casual posts, pushing back the type of blogging that requires more detailed thought and attention. Ya'know, like Smurfs.

Let's talk about Boons...

The way I see Boons they are, I hope, a rather neat idea but as with most of my ideas the concept is easier for me to understand than the mechanics are to create. I know what I want and I know how I would run it but conveying it to all of you in the form of a rule you can duplicate is rather tricky. Let's see what happens...

Boons are a representation of a favor owed, a deed done, a connection to another character and a barter/exchange of goods and/or services. A Boon is all of these things or more precisely, it can be any or all of these things.

When starting a Smurfs RPG campaign, each player determines: 

A Boon your PC owes someone.
A Boon someone owes your PC.
A Set up for a Boon in the future. Possibly one mutually beneficial to you and another character.

To use Spacey Smurf as an example...

Spacey promised to help Handy with a project since Handy helped fix his Rocket Pack.
Brainy is going to give Spacey an Astronomy book since Spacey saved Brainy from Azrael.
Papa and Spacey are both eager to help each other check out a fallen star in the woods.

Now, Spacey (and Spacey's Player) is obligated to help Handy with whatever project Handy decides he needs help with. If Handy is being used as PC, the Player of Handy decides what the project is. It must be listed as a boon on his Character Sheet. If Handy is an NPC, it is recommended that the GM make this a catalyst for an adventure or at least a subplot.

Brainy is obligated to give Spacey an Astronomy book in his possession. Be he a PC or NPC, it is highly recommended that this transaction be completed in all honesty (Note to traditional GMs - not the typical need to pull a fast one on the player and jip him out of the item). However, the circumstances that lead to Spacey saving Brainy from Azrael could create a story, adventure or obstacle. Maybe Spacey zapped Azrael with his Ray Gun and Gargamel, seeing the resulting burnt fur, seeks to find this amazing device. Perhaps Azrael is still lurking about bent on revenge. Maybe Brainy tries to build a Ray Gun of his own after giving Spacey the book so he won't need saving next time.

As for the mutually benefical potential Boon idea, the key word is potential. There is nothing definite about this one. Papa Smurf saw a shooting star and thinks it landed in the forest. Spacey, always watching the night sky, saw the same thing. The two of them either contact each other or accidentally run into each other and make plans to join up and investigate.

In both of the first two Boon instances, something has already happened (Handy fixed Spacey's Rocket Pack. Spacey saved Brainy from Azrael.). In the third instance, while the star has already fallen, it is key that Papa Smurf and Spacey have not yet helped each other and do not yet know what the fallen star is all about.

Now, once the PC involved in a Boon situation completes his or her required part in the exchange, they should receive a SMURF! Boons are an obligation, so if any Smurf refuses to honor a Boon they lose two - That's 2! - SMURF!s.

*One could argue that Grouchy should only lose 1 since, after all, he "Hates Boons!"

Now here is what I think is fun...In the case of you owe them, giving them what you owe gives you a SMURF! and them the item or service. Vice versa if they owe you. In the case of the potential Boon, who knows? Perhaps you both get something cool and a SMURF!

Papa and Spacey find out the fallen star is a Magic Meteor Rock. Spacey uses his Ray Gun to blast a few pieces off so Papa can study their magic but not before Papa uses a balm on Spacey's suit to protect him from the Rock's dangerous magic glow. Papa used the Rocks in potions that make things glow in the dark. He gives some to Spacey so he can make parts of his outfit glow (enabling the other Smurfs to find him when he spaces out watching the stars and falls into a deep hole).

Papa helped Spacey get close to the Meteor. Papa gets a SMURF!
Spacey got the Meteor fragments for Papa. Spacey gets a SMURF!
Papa gets a new ingredient for his potions.
Spacey gets glow in the dark stripes on his spacesuit.


Once a Boon situation is completed, erase it from your Character Sheet. You may then add a new one of the same type you completed. You can't owe two or be owed two. You can substitute a potential Boon for one of the others however, since there is a chance of it being useful to more than one Smurf.

What do you think? Does it need anything? Let me know.

Barking Alien

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Monday, August 29, 2011

DC Relaunch Redeemed?

Confirmed at the Fan Expo Canada convention is the fact that DC Comics, my long time favorite comic book universe which recently received my undying scorn for their horrible new relaunch plans, will be publishing a new Justice Society of America comic book set, get this, on Earth 2.

Earth 2 is back! Hallaluyah! With any luck we'll see Power Girl, the Helena Wayne Huntress and the All-Star Squadron too.

Ah, DC, you are starting to restore my faith in you. Keep it up. Of course it was
my idea*.

Barking Alien

*Go to the last comment by me on that post.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Hail to The King!

Happy Birthday Jack Kirby!

Barking Alien

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Here I Am, Smurf Me Like A Hurricane

Apparently, we, that is, those of us in the New York City area, are due for some rain...

Now to quote Grandpa in the Robot Chicken sketch, "I didn't evacuate when them chipmunks went rabid, and that was bad. I sure as hell ain't evacuating for a little rain..."

'Course if you watch the sketch...well that didn't go so well. Hmmm.

Anyway, Forever Blue - Part 3 will likely continue tomorrow evening or early Monday, weather permitting.

Stay safe and dry my little Smurfs!

Barking Alien

UPDATE: All is A.O.K. here at Barkley's Den. I barely noticed the Hurricane in my part of New York City, though I am aware of considerable damage and difficulties felt in lower Manhattan and the outer borough areas. For my part, it could have easily been little more than a heavy rain storm with some wind.

Looking forward to winter.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Blast from the Past - Forgotten Firsts

I've been so distracted by my Smurfs RPG project that I totally forgot to continue running down my list of the first PCs I ever made for various games over the past 34 years. A good thing too. As I mentioned before, as time goes forward toward the present day I had fewer and fewer PCs and I remember less and less about them (with a few notable exceptions of course).

While I've actually played more in the last two or three years than I have in the 10 years or so prior, I still only recall those characters or elements of characters that, for better or worse, really stood out.


Star Frontiers by TSR - Had a Dralasite. Loved to make his whole body look like one big fist and uppercut people.

Space Opera by Fantasy Games Unlimited - Had a furry alien pilot from a coldish, swamp/marsh/moor type place. Thought of him as vaguely muskrat like.

Middle Earth Role Playing by I.C.E. - Had a Dwarf. Found a magic comb that always made his beard look good.

Rolemaster by I.C.E. - Practically no memory of my PC. Possibly a Dwarf there too.

Marvel Superheroes by TSR - Don't really remember my guy. Possibly the only Supers RPG where I can't remember my character.

DC HEROES by Mayfair - First guy was called Kid Chameleon. Powers similar to Marvel's Absorbing Man.

Ghostbusters by West End Games - Gabriel Zimmerman, the Egon of the group who was actually a specialist in UFO conspiracy and alien abductions.

Star Wars, Role Playing Game by West End Games - Dreg, a Rodian Smuggler whose starship was called the 'Unstoppable Emerald Endeavour' in Huttese but which translates poorly into Corellian as the 'Incurable Illness'.

Mekton by R. Talsorian Games - First guy was...damn I don't exactly remember. He was cool though and had a mecha with numerous redundant systems and weapons. The running gag was that villains would knock the gun out of his hand and he had another gun. If it happens again, he has another gun hidden some where. Disarm him so he drops his laser sword and he whips out another laser sword, etc.

Shadowrun by FASA - Harlan Quinn, aka Harlequin, Elven Street Samurai and twin brother to my friend Pete's character Ozymandias Quinn, an Elven Mage nicknamed Oz. Our driver was a rigger named Mortis Morrisson, aka Rigger Mortis. lol. Ah that was a fun game.

Call of Cthuhlu by Chaosium - Private Detective killed by an unnamed horror in the fifth or sixth session. Managed to hide a key clue in my shoe prompting a crazed scavenger hunt first for my shoe and then the items and places listed on the note in the shoe.

Also created characters for MegaTraveller, Chill, James Bond, Paranoia and a number of others during this time.


Cyberpunk 2020 by R. Talsorian - Netrunner dude. Pretty cool. Very anime inspired.

Torg by West End Games - Don't exactly remember but I played a Sci-Fi/Star Trek like dude. My friend modified the setting slightly so that other realities crossed into the ones from the game. Cool concept and my friend ran a great adventure. Torg sucked however.

World of Darkness by White Wolf - Merged campaign featuring Vampire, Werewolf and Mage. I played a Mummy. Loved that character and that campaign. One of the few truly great games I've been in as a player.

Deadlands by Pinnacle Entertainment - Modified setting by a friend. My character was a Northerner, steampunk style weapon inventor. I was hiding out in the campaign town under orders from the President who wanted to make sure no enemy forces kidnapped me and forced me to make weapons for them. One of the other PCs was my bodyguard. It was like 19th century witness protection. Another great game and a fun PC.

Played a number of other games during this time, mostly as ones shots. These include but are certainly not limited to Amber Diceless, Runequest, Legend of the Five Rings, 7th Sea and a few others.

2000s and Beyond

Most of what I've played in the 2000s has been either D&D 3.0-3.5 or related, homebrewed D20 variants or the occaisional game at a convention. I haven't really played anything 'new' as a player in a while. I have run a lot and had this 'Blast from the Past' series been about games I've run I would need to post several times a day for several months to cover everything.

It's been fun remembering past characters but it saddens me somewhat that I don't remember as much as I thought I would have. It also bums me out a bit that there simply isn't all that much to remember. I seriously wish I knew more excellent GMs over the years but sadly I did not. I knew a small few fantastic ones, a fair number of OK ones and a good portion that just didn't do it for me. I also knew a bunch who just sucked the fun out of the games they ran.

If I have one wish or goal in this hobby, it's to not be remembered as one of those guys. I want people to recall having fun in my campaigns even if they can't recollect the details of the campaign itself. Furthermore, I hope they remember their characters because it's a sure sign, to me at least, that they had fun playing them in a campaign I ran.

Barking Alien

Random Dungeon Encounter Table By Barking Alien


Snarky humor is in effect. Those with sensitive or weak constitutions should exit the theatre for this performance. 

I don't mean to be a jerk with this post...but I can't help it. The need has arisen in me and I have to let it out. So, without further ado...
A Random Dungeon Encounter Table By Barking Alien Things you might meet in a given room of a dungeon...

Say it's been around 12-15 sessions or adventures since your PC party has visited a dungeon and either they or you have decided it's about time for one (it could happen). Now, assume that for whatever reason, even though you've decided a dungeon will appear in this next session, you haven't thought about what will be contained in it. That is, you haven't thought about or decided how to stock your dungeon. I don't know, maybe you've been drinking or staying out late with the guys or your special lady and just haven't had time to devote to your game. First, shame on you. Second, we've all been there (well ok...not me...but I'm sure someone has).

This is the chart I would use for myself if I were running a D&D type game and needed to determine what was in any given dungeon room. This chart uses a D20, 1-20, since I would probably have a D20 on me. Not a D30, as that would be completely useless in 100 out of 100 games I generally run.

Here goes...

01- Come up with something.

02- Make up a Monster. I mean jeez Adam, you've been reading monster books for 30+ years. You can't think of a monster? Go collect stamps you numb-nut.

03 - Take a cool trap from a movie and tweak it a bit. How many damn movies have you seen? See 02!

04- Someone is imprisoned here. Name them. Just name them. You know people the players don't know. Take two names and combine them you lazy wad.

05- A classic monster you really like is guarding a magic thing. I don't know, a thing. A spear, an amulet, a bag. Does it matter? It's frickin' random. If you cared you would have made something up before hand and not needed this chart.

06- Two monsters. That'll freak them out.

07- Oh man, remember that neat medieval looking robot from that one Anime your boy Rob showed you? Yeah that. That's in there. And like 100 pieces of gold or something.

08- Door opens, overstuffed closet gag from Hanna Barbera cartoons. Complete with basket ball and skis.

09- Door opens to the tavern scene from last week's adventure. Step through, go back in time and relive that session. What're you bitchin' about? It's not like you spent time coming up with something for this one.

10- A Dragon. A frickin' huge Dragon. He won't attacked. He is wearing glasses, looking at blueprints and trying to figure out how in the hell he got into this room.

11- Door opens to reveal 3 additional, optional random charts. Now the fun begins.

12- Door opens to space. Outer space. Stars. The Void. No Air. PCs are propelled out of the corridor and into space by explosive decompression like someone just opened an airlock. TPK! You the man!
Brag to all your DM buddies.

13- The room is painted green. Green walls, floor, ceiling, etc. There are chairs in it. If the party enters, closes the door and sits in the chairs, the door will reopen after a minute and a man in odd garb will tell the PC closest to the door that he is on in 10 minutes, right after the commerical. The door then closes and doesn't reopen. Nothing further happens.

14- Door opens, room explodes. I love explosions.

15- As 14 but room waits until all PCs have entered.

16- As 14 but room is empty. Hallway the PCs are standing in explodes.

17- Room is circular and contains a fountain in the center filled with water. I don't know. Water weird or elemental I guess. Something watery.

18- Remember the last time you did a cool dungeon room with a different group? Yeah? Good, do that.
They'll never know.

19- A group of 1D8 goblins, with 1D6 visual differences from regular goblins, with 1 of 4 (1D4) different weapons. Let's waste as much time on this as possible.

20- Seriously? You need 20 of these things? Dude, COME UP WITH SOMETHING! Lazy jackanape.

I can be a little hard on myself.

My apologies to the blogosphere at large. While I do not personally like or use Random Charts in my games, I have seen a number of GMs use them to excellent effect (though not often in my experience). Now back to some serious smurfing...

Barking Alien

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Forever Blue - Part 2

There are 105 known Smurfs according to Smurf 'canon'. That's 99 Smurfs plus Papa, Grandpa, Nanny, Baby, Smurfette and Sassette. At the same time, there are well over 1000 Smurf figurines. We've seen Cowboy Smurf, Judge Smurf, Supersmurf, Sports Smurfs of all sorts of sports and many, many more. How can this be?

Simple, yet something I only recently realized while researching the Smurf figures as an element of my studies into Smurfology...

This is Jokey Smurf...

but so is this...

This is Brainy Smurf...

but so is this...

Many of the Smurf figurines are not actually separate characters but one of the well known Smurfs (or perhaps one of the general populace Smurfs) temporarily wearing a different outfit.

Inspired by the figurines and my rules for
Costumes in my Muppets RPG, Smurf PCs can adopt 'Outfits' that temporarily give them different Knacks or add a bonus to their current knacks. If you want to start out with an Outfit you begin the game with only half your normal starting SMURF! Spacey Smurf is definitely going to do this as he needs his gear to be effective and not just a 'Space Cadet' so to speak. I choose Rocket Ranger as his starting Outfit, giving him a +1 on his Flying and Ray Gun Knacks. A +1 added to a +1 Knack results in a +2 to the numbers he rolls on his dice (duh). However (not so duh after all!), a +1 added to a +2 already becomes a whole additional die, i.e. +1D. A +1 added to a +1D Knack becomes 1D+1.

While I will give a more detailed and clearer explanation on this under die mechanics in an upcoming post, anyone who has played Star Wars D6 or similar dice pool systems will tell you that if you changed +1 and +2 to a combined +3 it's better than having a additional whole die so the rules of those types of games simply bump you up a die.

To obtain additional Outfits you must after character creation you must either find them, or earn them as part of Boons. That is, if you sent up a Boon where you owe someone something, be it a favor, item or service, you can make an Outfit the reward for the Boon. Consult with the Game Master (Smurf Master? Game Smurfer?) as to what is an appropriate trade for the type of Outfit you're looking for. If the Outfit grants you different Knacks it should be a bit harder to come by (harder task owed, trade item more difficult to obtain, etc.).

Note that when you put on an Outfit that gives you new Knacks, your regular Knacks disappear, although your Trait remains the same. For example, Sporty Smurf's Trait is 'Competitive'. He is wearing his Baseball Player Outfit but no one wants to play Baseball with him so he switches to Soccer. His Trait is still Competitive but his Baseball Knacks (Pitching, Batting and Running) switch to Soccer Knacks (Kicking, Block with My Head and Running). If any of these match his normal Knacks, that is, his Knacks without any Costume, he gets a +1 to that Knack.

Any questions? OK, onward and smurfward...

Barking Alien

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A Day of Celebration

So today is the actual day.

August 25th.

34 Years playing RPGs.

How have I been celebrating? Haven't really. Today was a work day like any other and I'm only just now relaxing at home and reflecting on what those 34 years mean to me.

Gaming is more than my hobby or even my favorite hobby. It's an outlet for all those creative and artistic elements bubbling around inside my head that, if I was unable to channel them in some way, would otherwise drive me quite mad I'm sure.

Celebrating 34 years of being relatively sane is nothing to sneeze at. In addition, gaming has afforded me some rare opportunities over the years. I have worked in various aspects of the industry, met some famous people who played, been on TV twice and made alot of friends who are my friends to this day, all because of RPGs.

So as I open a Yuengling Bock (a good beer if not my all time favorite
*), I say 'cheers' to the all the years that have passed and all the ones to come. On this day I commemorate the best games, the worst games and the games yet to be played.

Barking Alien

*That honor goes to either Dixie Blackened Voodoo or Abita Pecan Harvest Ale. I'm a stalwart Northerner with a Southern palate.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Forever Blue - Part 1

Bursts of inspiration (some would say madness) have changed my approach to the mechanics of my Smurfs RPG. Not massively mind you but significantly enough that it's no longer a Faery's Tale Deluxe variant. Not really anyway. It, like my Muppets RPG before it, is gaining an identity on to itself ("Alive... It's alive!..... IT'S ALIVE!!").

First things first, the updated character sheet: 

We begin with a Smurf, its name and its Trait.

I'm a Sci-Fi fan so, inspired by Dreamy's daydream of becoming AstroSmurf (one of my favorite Smurf stories), I create a similarly inspired fellow named CosmoSmurf. Hmmm, no. Rocket Smurf? No. Spacey Smurf! Yes!

Spacey Smurf's Trait? He's Spacey. He is both fascinated by Outer Space and a guy with his head in the clouds. He's always thinking about the future, what it would be like to explore outer space and what aliens eat for breakfast but rarely paying attention to the here and now. Yeah, it's kind of close to Dreamy but a bit more focused. When performing any action that is related to his Trait, he gets to add two dice to his roll. +2D. Unless of course we decide that being Spacey is sort of a negative thing...

Smurf's with a Negative or Hindering Trait, like Grouchy, Lazy or
Drunky (Heheh) may add +2D to any action or activity not related to their Trait by spending a SMURF!. If they can find a use for their Trait they can get the +2D without spending a SMURF! For example, if a PC Lazy Smurf wanted to sleep through a loud thunderstorm that was keeping everyone else in the village awake, he would get the plus 2 dice since that's an example of just how Lazy he is.

Like all Smurf's, Spacey Smurf starts the game with the stats of 2 in Mind, 2 in Body and 2 in Spirit. His Essence is double his Spirit. His starting SMURF! is Essence + Body

The number indicates a number of 6-Sided Dice rolled when performing an action related to the stat in question. Mind for all mental activities (Knowledge of a subject, figuring out a device, speaking a language, etc.), Body for physical activities (Jumping, running, swimming, lifting, fighting, etc.) and Spirit for magic and more esoteric activities (Using willpower to resist eating your favorite treat, casting a magic spell, etc.).

Now, each character gets a +1D to put on any one of those stats (except Essence or SMURF!). Should the +1D be placed on Body or Spirit it does effect your final Essence and SMURF! numbers. I put the bonus +1D on Spacey's Mind. While often found Spacing Out, he is focused and informed about his chosen fields of interest, such as astronomy and aliens.

Now, I noticed that in many cases, Smurfs can do things outside of their distinctive Trait. Sometimes it's obvious, sometimes subtle. This is where Knacks come in.

In the continuity of the original Peyo comics, Cook/Baker and Greedy were separate characters but in the Hanna Barbera animated series, Greedy is the Baker of the Smurf Village. So while his trait would be Greedy (a Negative Trait) he would have a Knack for Baking. Numerous Smurfs seem to be pictured being able to play musical instruments but that doesn't make them Harmony Smurf, who actually seems to sing and play badly. I'd give him the Hindering Trait 'Tone Deaf' or something but the Knacks 'Musician' and 'Singer'. As noted in an episode where he finds a magic horn/bugle, he knows how to play it but without the magic of the instrument it would sound terrible as he isn't good at it.

You start the game with three Knacks: One at +1, one at +2 and one at +1D. When I go over the die mechanics this will make a bit more sense but essentially, the +1 and +2 are added to the result of your dice roll, while the +1D is adding a full, additional die. Got it? Cool.

Spacey Smurf's Knacks are Flying (with his Rocket Pack), Ray Gun (Shooting a Ray Gun) and Mapmaking (not directly related to his Trait or theme but perfect for mapping alien worlds. At heart, he is an explorer, so it makes sense to him).

Note that I'm using Spacey Smurf as an example of character creation largely because it's pretty easy to define a character like him and because I am in love with how cool the drawing came out.

Personally, I don't know that I would use him in a Smurfs RPG campaign set in 13th century Flanders. On the other hand, the Smurfs are known for their anachronisms (Dreamy dreaming of being Astrosmurf, Brainy as SuperSmurf, some of Handy's devices, etc.).

End of Part 1...

Barking Alien

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Building A Better GM: My Approach

The fellow over at the Hill Cantons gameblog, inspired by another fellow named Beedo at another blog, came up with the following 'question/challenge':

"Active GMs worth their salt are constantly honing up, mulling over, tearing apart, and obsessing around what makes or breaks their home games. Why is the topic so under-represented in our writings? Why the strange disconnect?"

"something I'd like to see more bloggers discuss is their successful table techniques that translate into good games."

First, I don't know that we don't see this. I am trying to understand exactly what he means by the statement. Surely Jeff Rients, Zak S., Oddysey and many of the other blogs I follow do this regularly.

I have seen several responses to this post, ranging from interesting to helpful to 'great googley moogley! And people game with you??' It's this last one that prompted me to post this response of my own. See, I couldn't believe it when I read one fellow's 'best practices' and my first thought was that it was GM's like him that made me want to GM and not play.

I won't link the blog or name names, as that's not what this post is for. Likewise I will state that I do not believe this person's GM style to be wrong (boo, hiss) and mine to be right (heroic trumpet sound). Rather, it is wrong for me. It is not what I and my players like. At the same time it did get me thinking...

Here it is 2011 and there are those who stand by and promote a style I have found no fun for over 30 years. When asked to describe what you think makes for a better GM, this is the style being recommended. I was a bit bummed by this revelation, so I decided to put in my two cents. Alternate viewpoints come cheap don't they?

Let's see if I can answer the "Building A Better GM" questions without causing the OSR gang to require system shock rolls...

Name three “best practices” you possess as a GM. What techniques do you think you excel at

Three huh? Hmmm. Ok, got it! Improv, improv, improv!

Seriously though, improvisation is probably my strongest suit and it does a lot toward making my games feel fast paced and unique. I almost never look up a rule, never lack an explanation and never don't know what's in the chest/behind the door/causing the Warp Field Manifold to leak plasma.

NPC voices and personalities. My players love talking to my NPCs because they like interacting with characters who each have a unique style, voice, speech pattern or trait that makes them memorable. It helps the NPC feel alive, which in turn makes the world feel alive. You are not talking to stats. You are talking to a person (even if that person is an alien, robot, faerie, etc).

I practice certain voices repeatedly and listen to the voices of various actors and actresses to get different accents and techniques for creating cool sounding people.

Related to my improv in an odd way, I do massive amounts of research and development on my world that the players rarely see or even know about. The reason I can improv so easily is because I know what is happening in any given part of my campaign milieu and any given time. I read and re-read books, websites and other information sources on the genre/subject of my game to make sure what I say 'fits' the setting.

What makes those techniques work? Why do they “pop”?

Honestly, I am not sure how to answer this one. They do 'pop' but why do they 'pop'? Not sure. Because I care? Because, unlike a lot of GMs I have encountered, I am trying to entertain you. I am not only trying to entertain myself. I am also not trying to challenge you above entertaining you. I intend to do both but entertain is my priority.

How do you do it? What are the tricks you use? What replicable, nuts-and-bolts tips can you share?

Aside from what I have already said, I am not sure. A lot of my style comes from the gut and as such there are no nuts and bolts elements to impart. That said, the biggest pieces of advice I can give are...

Run the scenario or idea for the game you're going to run over and over in your head before game day. Do it with what you think the most likely responses from your players will be. Now do it with what the next likely responses would be. Now do it with unlikely responses. Now do it again with virtually random courses of action. Expect nothing. Be ready for anything and everything.

Know and listen to your players. Know and listen to yourself. Include elements in the game that they will enjoy and ones you will enjoy. Try to find things you both enjoy equally. Play those up. Remember it's a team sport. Work together.

Don't move so freaking slow. My gosh, most games I've been in as a player drag like a wounded, three legged mule with weights tied to its legs. Look up a rule, lose several seconds to a minute. Roll on a random chart for something you could come up with your dang self, loose several seconds to a minute. Get an egg timer or take the 5 minute hourglass out of your Boggle game and time how long it takes you to describe a room. Be descriptive but concise. Keep it moving.

I don't know if this really did what I wanted it to do but considering this month celebrates my 34th year playing RPGs, it was fun to post how I do what I do. Did I do myself any justice? Eh, who knows? Will I keep doing it? Yep. As long as my players and I are having fun.

Good Gaming,

Barking Alien

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Am I Blue?

Sorry for the delay in continuing my Smurf RPG. I've been reviewing what I have, adding new ideas and in the end, giving it something of an overhaul.

Since I had to cancel today's game at the Compleat Strategist (schedule conflicts with numerous members of the group), I figured I would take the time to really get this baby working the way I want it to.

Expect to see the heavily updated and improved version on Monday.

What's new? What's different? It's a surprise!

Barking Alien

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Thoughts on The Thoughts of Others

I'm taking a (very small) break from my Smurfs RPG project* to link back to the original theme for this month, my 34th Anniversary Playing RPGs...

Over the last week or two I've seen some posts by other bloggers that have got me thinking about various gaming elements that do and don't work for me over the last 34 years so I figured I'd share (because that why we're all here right?)

First there are the following posts by Oddysey: Post and another post.

I've always liked Oddysey's blog and after reading the first of these two posts, I really wanted to be able to help her. Problem is, I can't seem to figure out how to do that exactly. The area she seems to find difficult is the one that comes most naturally to me and as such I have very few tricks up my sleeve on how to ad lib or improve the next course of activity in a game session. I just do it. It comes so easily to me that (as you may have noticed from posts here and comments on other people's blogs) I actually find stopping or pausing to randomly generate an encounter quite annoying. I don't use random encounter or reaction charts at all and I have to sorta bite my tongue when others use them.

It's as old as gaming itself and some people love to roll randomly for everything but I can't shake my gut reaction, often shouted silently in my head, "What's the matter with you? Can't you just come up with something?!" This goes for looking up rulings in books as well but that's a matter for another day.

I'm ranting a bit. What it really boiled down to for her was being able to answer the following questions...

1. Given where the last session ended (or the circumstances devised for the start of the game), what's a situation that will give the characters (and/or their players) an interesting decision to make?

2. Given the range of likely or possible decisions that could be made, what's the next such situation likely after that? (And after that, and after that, and after that.)

Now that latter of these two questions is a bit too defining for me. I'll wing it when it gets to that. My world(s) are pretty detailed, I know my NPCs, I have the general attitudes and goals of everyone important well worked out but I have not clue what they're going to do until they do it.

The first question is, to me, infinitely more curious. Each session beginning, ending (perhaps) and involving the need for the Players and their PCs to make interesting decisions would seems to me at least to be the lynch pin of a good game. This is simply IMHO mind you but if you, the GM are setting up exciting and/or intriguing quandaries on a regular basis, well the rest of the adventure writes itself. Players start (though somewhat indirectly) guiding what happens next based on the decisions they make. This is most assuredly something I do, though I don't think I've ever considered it in this way.


Now, Back to the Dungeon put up a blog post on why it is that some people think dungeons suck. I read the post and had a (thankfully) infinitesimally short and yet infinitely powerful nanosecond of nerd rage. Luckily I resisted posting a comment. Instead I will do so here on my own blog and in a way that I hope Mr. Wolfsbane will realize is not so much aimed at him directly. Oh, Lord Gwydion does a follow up here that, like most of his stuff, is pretty darn cool.

I don't like dungeons. I don't hate them. I just...they don't excite me. They especially don't excite me because it feels like they're all I ever hear about from D&D gamers 24/7/365. A dungeon can be fun. A few can be interesting. After the five billionth one, yeah, I'm a little bored with them.

Also while everyone touts one or the other as special or different, I have rarely seen anything interesting done with them. For ease of mapping it seems they don't even have oddly shaped rooms. The architecure of most cookie cutter, high-rise Manhattan apartments are more interesting than the layout of most chambers in a dungeon.

When Wolfsbane lists ideas for how to liven them up...I guess it's my 34 years here but...seriously...the suggestions are just so basic, so bland. I can only feel that it's not his lack of creativity but the restrictive nature of the dungeon concept that limits what can be done with it. 'Course that doesn't really make sense either. Zak's Gigacrawler idea is pretty wild. As is the Endless Dungeon Hazard from the Japanese TRPG Meikyuu Kingdom. At the same time he lists several suggestions but not examples of them that might make them seem more exciting.

Anyway, this post is already way longer than I intended. My point is, given the choice of running yet another dungeon or say, any other setting, I will likely choose any other setting 9 out of 10 times. The one time I do go with a dungeons it better be freakin' crazy. Or, if I only use them once in a hundred adventures, I guess I could go classic as then the dungeon would seem a change of pace.

Barking Alien

*Seems that the use of Smurf Characters as avatars on the Paizo/Pathfinder forum (and the legality of doing so, jokingly or not) has caused a sudden influx of viewers to my blog as one of the posters linked me. Like quadruple the normal daily amount of views for my last post! I find that hilarious and a bit sad. Why sad? 'Cause the only way you can get people to view a more alternative gameblog seems to be to advertise it on a D&D gameblog. After all, that's where all the gamers are.

Some things never change.

On a related note, I would like to once again remind the powers that be that my Smurfs RPG concept is a work of fan fiction, created for the sole purpose of entertaining myself and other Smurfs and RPG fans. I have no intention of selling it or profiting from it in any way, shape or form. This is for fun. Thanks. A Smurfs Fan.


Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Indescribably Blue

I'm been sick of late and it's slowed down my posting which is quite frustrating to me as I want to talk more about this idea.

I've gone from interested to excited to clearly obsessed with my Smurfs RPG concept and as such, I am preparing to run a campaign of it. The first session, if all goes well, will be this coming Saturday, from 12-6 pm roughly, at the Compleat Strategist in New York City. If you have both the time and an open mind, come on down and Smurf it up.

A few more notes on the setting...

While I intend to have things take place in a fictious kingdom, the guidelines for the campaign region are based on a faux-historical, early 13th century Flanders. While the cities to the North East of the campaign kingdom begin to show increasing trade and prosperity, our own home setting, situated just outside the border of Flanders, suffers under a curse of poor harvests, foul weather, ill livestock and infighting. It is, after all, 'The Cursed Land'.

I will be playing up the faerie angle a bit more, with opponents such as hags, trolls (who've obviously migrated South from Scandanavia and Denmark), Crogue-Mitraine (a particularly frightening french nursey bogey)and even dragons being the real threat Gargamel tries to be but can't quite nail down.

Still, I have some ideas from him as well...


On to the rules...right now this is the character sheet:

This is a rough draft. A preliminary sketch if you will. While it does everything I want it to do, it has me wondering, "Do I need Gifts and Connections?"

In Faery's Tale Deluxe 'Gifts' are the magical powers, abilities or whatevers of the various types of fae. Here in the Smurfs RPG however, pretty much everyone has the same chance of doing anything with the except of your Trait, at which you exceed. As always, moments like this get pondering the nature of skills in every game.

Does a fighter need climbing skill? Does a thief really climb better than a fighter. So, you've got a world class mountain climber and a high school guy teacher with not climbing experience of note. The world class mountain climber is definitely going to know more about the proper way to scale Mt. Everest. Let's say that instead of Mt. Everest, both individuals run full speed down an ally and need to climb up and jump over a fence. Is the world class climber's skill going to give them any real advantage?

Hear it's simple if both are Smurfs. They each roll their Body, which both have at 2D. But wait, I forgot to mention the participants in this example are a Smurf and Wild Smurf. Wild Smurf uses his trait of 'Raised By Squirrels' and probably double times it over the fence without braking a sweat. I can live with that.

So your Trait gives you +2D to any roll that involves using it or falls under it's parameters.

Which in turn got me thinking about Clumsy.

Clumsy, Grouchy, Lazy and Greedy...all Smurfs...all Smurfs with essentially negative traits. What if, by taking a Negative Trait, you gain a floating +2D you can put to any action at any time by spending a SMURF point. The catch of course is that the PC whose Smurf has a Negative Trait has to role play it and if he has no successes on a given roll he not only botches (heck everyone can botch) but his botch effects the party or at least those Smurfs smurfing closest to him (or her, but ya'know, it's the Smurfs so they're mostly hims).

So that brings me back to a listing for 'Gifts'. Do I need them? Can I actually run an entire campaign with everything boiling down to three stats and a special trait? The question is somewhat rhetorical...yes, of course I, Adam, can but will this just blow people's minds? Are we gonna need sanity checks on the "I just looked into Cthulhu's sock drawer" level?

I'm kind of torn. I can't believe I am going to say this but I'd like the game's mechanics to have a little more to them than that. Am I right? Hmmm...

As for the rest of it I am looking to rename of a few things.

Boons section layout will be changed and expanded. It's going to be for things you have done for someone else or them for you and which one of you needs to pay back the other. I'm also thinking you'd start with a third one that could lead into a new arrangement. OK, like this...

Handy's Boons:

"I built a new oven for Baker. He's going to make me my favorite pie."
"I borrowed some paint from Painter. I need to repaint my roof and give it back."
"Brainy said he found a book about designing better bridges, I could really use that."

So in one case, Baker owes Handy a Boon.
Handy owes Painter a Boon.
Handy wants to talk to Brainy to set up a Boon.

Personal Smurfs are items, things that you own. I want to find a way to create rules, or at least guidelines, for players to have their own Mushroom House, and what it contains.

Maybe a little SMURF point resource management so you can get stuff for your place. Perhaps Judo Smurf wants to add a Dojo or Cowboy Smurf needs a stable out back for the heck do Smurfs ride? Ooh, I could take a page or two from my Gnomes book, and he the Smurfs highly involved in the societies of forest animals. Cool.

Charms & Smurf Magic refers to magical items, potions or things you may have found that maybe alchemy ingredients or similarly magically useful.

As far as Connections, originally I intended to make this a relationship mechanic area but now I'm thinking it seems redundant with Boons, which are more fun. Boons as used in the above description, could constantly change, with new ones being added and completed all the time.

OMS! (That's 'Oh My Smurf!' by the way) I love where this game is taking my head but I'm still not finished with the rules and I need to run this on the coming Saturday.

See, setting and adventure ideas - easy. I already have about three dozen of them. Rules? I've barely completed character creation.

"I absosmurfly hate rules."

Me too Grouchy. I am with you brother.


More when I figure this out...

Barking Alien

Friday, August 12, 2011

Blue In The Face

The Anatomy of a Smurf...

Blue skin? Check.
Three apples high? Check.*
Says "Smurf" A LOT! Check.

OK, so here's the inside smurf on Smurfs...

I am imagining that Smurfs are a strange sort of Faerie folk, originating, like all fae, beyond the misty veil of dreams. They are brought into being by an ancient, mystical ritual that involves alchemy to some degree. If you'll notice, both Papa Smurf and Gargamel are usually creating potions or items to perform a good deal of their magic. Papa is definitely an herbalist as he often heals injured or sick Smurfs with leaves and ointments. Smurfette was made using blue clay, a recipe like spell and a cauldron.

This also explains Gargamel's sometimes fluctuating objectives...Sometimes he wants to eat them, some times he wants to use them to create a potion that turns things into gold and in the film he believes that creating an elixir out of their essence will make him a more powerful sorcerer.

What if he's right?

A mix of Earthly plants, ancient alchemy and Faerie magic, a Smurf is quite an unusual entity. Maybe a Smurfs' essence (or life force if you will) can be used to create a reliable Philosopher's Stone. Process the essence another way (same main ingredient, different recipe) and it can increase your magic powers or make you live forever (Immortality being another power attributed to the Philosopher's Stone). Eat them directly, while a crude method to be sure, and some of their essence must surely be transferred to the consumer.


The base rules I am using here are my variant set for Faery's Tale Deluxe, which only seems apropos considering the subject matter.

So the stats remain Mind, Body and Spirit, with each starting at 2D (two six-sided dice) as per Blacksteel's suggestion. Coincidentally, that is the stat breakdown of a Brownie in Faery Tale Deluxe. Not too far off in my opinion.

The figured stat of Essence is simply perfect. A Smurf's 'Essence' is mentioned continuously. I use Essence as Life and the final resort to turn to when you've lost your 'Glamour' (my additional stat) in Faery's Tale Deluxe. But that doesn't quite work here. Instead, you have your SMURF (or Smurf Points if you prefer). When you want to do anything that will require a special effort, when you want to add extra effort to a mundane task or when you get hurt, you spend a point of SMURF.

Can you see it?

GM: "It looks like the damn is about to break. As the water begins spilling over the lip of the damn, the sound of stressed wood begins to echo in your ears."

Hefty: "I push against the damn and hold it so Handy can get to work fixing or bracing it."

GM: "You...hold back a river with hands the size of peas?"

Hefty: "You bet your smurf I do. I SMURF my Body roll."

GM: "Wow. Good luck you brave, crazy Smurf."

Now as far as Gifts (the magical abilities that faeries come with in FTD) go, here in the Smurfs RPG you get but one. It is one that is directly linked to your character's identifying trait. When performing an action, skill or whathaveyou that falls under this trait, you can perform it with no penalty and one success under normal conditions. You may need to spend a SMURF to perform it under unusual or dangerous conditions or to perform it at an abnormal level of quality. Spending three SMURF would enable you to perform almost magical effects or complete a normal task when plummeting toward the ground, avoiding eagle attacks, while on fire.

I intended on adding some additional info and game mechanics linked to Risus but as of now I can't decide exactly how I want to approach it. I'm going to think on it and get back to you all very soon.
I highly recommend checking out Faery Tale Deluxe for the full details on the rules.I intend to do quite a bit of additional reading and research on the flora and fauna native to the region, as well as more stories from French faerie folklore. I've gone from screwing around with this crazy idea to actually wanting to run this. You'll see why soon enough... In a moment, we make a Smurf PC and look at the world of the Smurfs that lies beyond the Smurfs.

Smurfing Smurf

*"Three Apples High" is a French colloquialism meaning very, very small. The American equivalent would be, "Knee high to a grasshopper." It was not intended to be an accurate measure of how tall they are. However...a number of fans have noted that Europeans crabapples are much smaller than their American cousins and if you stood three of them up on top of each other you would be pretty close to Smurf height.

Also, I just wanted to smurf that this RPG is a smurfy work of Smurf fan fiction and as such is not intended to smurf on any copyright or trademark of the those who hold such things for the Smurfs. This game is for smurfing fun only. It will not be sold and a will not make a single smurf off of it. If however, the powers that smurf want to smurf an official Smurf RPG, please smurf me at BARKINGALIENatGeeMailDOTcom.

Thanks for not suing the smurf out of me. :)

Blast From The Past - My First Star Trek Character

This is an easy one and a relatively short post considering my love of Star Trek and gaming in that universe.

You see, I mentioned him in some detail already a
long time ago, in the days when my blog barely received any views. T_T

I even posted a picture of

I have since changed his name from Sh'Hasta to Ch'Hasta in keeping with the expanded universe naming conventions tied to the four genders of Andorians.

I guess I have a thing for blue people.

Back to the Smurfs right after this,

Barking Alien

Thursday, August 11, 2011

My Blue Heaven

Sorry it's taken me so long to continue with this post and the last but I am totally wiped out from work and what appear to be allergies. I've never really had serious hayfever or pollen allergies but damn if I am not feeling like they've joined forces and hit me with some kind of combo attack.

So...where were we? Ah, Grandpa, Nanny, Papa and what my theory on the nature of Smurf existence does for a Smurfs campaign...

Let's say it's the 8th century and a dark curse has been placed over this small kingdom nestled somewhere in the region of French Belgium.

A good natured wizard tries to summon forest spirits to counteract the black magic. Low and behold, fading into view in the morning mist is a village of mushroom cottages. In the moment it takes the old wizard to catch his breath at this wonderous site he thought might only be legend, a tiny, blue skinned man with a beard comes out of one house. This is Papa Smurf (actually Grandpa but Papa at the time).

Using his mystical powers and his keen insight into the true hearts of Humans, Papa determines this man and his plight worthy of help. He summons into being 99 near identical blue, male fellows with phrygian caps. The Smurfs.

The Smurfs and the Wizard have many exciting adventures but all too soon the village fades back into the mist.

This happens oft and again many times through the centuries. Sometimes a wizard will summon the Smurfs only to pass on or be felled by evil. Perhaps his apprentice can summon them. Indeed! But alas, his power is not strong enough the first time he tries and they fade too quickly.

Now I see Papa/Grandpa as a shrewd and adventurous fellow. What if he gives an allied mage the formula and incantation to create a female Smurf. Why? Papa/Grandpa knows their time on this Earth is limited (in a quite literal fashion) and he needs help raising the 99 Smurfs so that they can help fight the dark forces of the Cursed Land. This is my personal idea for the origin of Nanny. Grandpa wanted a Nanny Smurf and got someone to make one. Unfortunately, it's entirely possible this spell fell into the wrong hands and/or was lost. This is how Gargamel was able to create Smurfette.

Eventually, Papa/Grandpa discovers The Long Life Stone (called The Life Long Stone in some translations - I actually like that better), the magical crystal that maintains the Smurfs' long lives in the mortal world (time is different in Faerie), needs to be magically recharged. So, he officially takes the name Grandpa, dubs the most magically gifted of his Smurfs Papa (the Papa Smurf we all know and love) and he (Grandpa) leaves the village on his quest to empower the stone once more. Nanny follows him but gets lost, eventually becoming trapped in the enchanted Castle Captor.

The next time the village fades, Grandpa is no where near it (and neither is Nanny). Having walked beyond the Cursed Lands, Grandpa does not disappear when the Mushroom Village returns to the realm of the Fae.

The coming and going of the village is a great frustration to Papa Smurf. He wants his little Smurfs to learn and grow. Luckily, an encounter with a young knight-squire from the nearby kingdom and his court jester friend give Papa Smurf (and the Smurfs) a chance. Apparently, a magically flute, originally created by the Smurfs, has been stolen by a wicked rogue. The Smurfs need to create a new one to counter the originals effects. As told in, The Smurfs and The Magic Flute.

Now my thinking is that this was the first step toward weakening and eventually getting rid of the curse plaguing the Curse Lands. The more victories for good, the more good done, the weaker and less powerful the dark powers become.

So this makes a Smurf RPG campaign one part light-heart comedy in the smurfiest of Smurf traditions, one part classic Medieval Fantasy campaign and one part fairy tale/folklore game. Basically, it's Perfect!

I can easily see the PCs as being heretofore unheard of Smurfs sent on various missions by Papa Smurf, Grandpa or even other Smurfs who really need their help. Even various woodland creatures or other faeries or magical entities like Wood Nymphs, Mother Nature or Father Time.

Perhaps they are privy to the workings of the court of the local kingdom since they can easily sneak in to the castle undetected (or at least difficult to detect). Mix in a bit of real world history and you've got Ars Magica with Smurfs!

OK, next up - the actual game rules!

Barking Smurf