Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Vacation Plans

As we roll into the holiday season, my business tends to slow down a bit. In addition, my Mom travels on her annual vacation to somewhere with ancient ruins, rich culture, amazing food and little to no toilet facilities. My girlfriend is likewise away for much of December, visiting friends and family in India.

Bet you think I'll be one bored and lonely pup, huh?

Well, truth is, of course I will but it does give me time to hang out with the gang and get some extra gaming in. Time for Barking Alien to take a little vacation of his own.

I am hoping to get in at least one session each of both my D&D-But-Not game and Traveller, in addition to my semi-regular Champions game. In a perfect world that is. I don't know how viable my chances are of actually pulling it off but it would be great if I could. I figure it shouldn't be impossible to do between now and the first of the year, right? Right?

You don't sound very convincing.

In other news, I have submitted not one but two game session proposals to NerdNYC's RECESS. One for Sesame Street and one for The Muppet Show (although there will be a twist on the Muppet Show adventure to keep it fresh).

I have some crazy blog theme ideas for the new year. Expect a follow up Muppet Month, a Superhero Campaign setting based on an Superhero IP that is not originally from comic books and perhaps, finally, some actual, postive gaming notes on Medieval Fantasy from yours truly. Well, maybe.

Until next time,

Barking Alien

Artwork by Tommoy

Monday, November 28, 2011

Muppet Mondays! - Life's A Happy Song

Did I mention there's a new Muppet movie?

Here's my my-version-of-a-review review of the new film, The Muppets.

It's good. Really, really good.
Practically great.
I really, really liked it. I liked it a lot!
Not loved. Almost loved. Just short. Like a few inches from love.

Why? Well...Hi-Ho and Welcome to the SPOILER ALERT!

I will try very hard not to put actual SPOILERS in my review but I may mess up. You've been warned.

The Good

There is a good deal to like in this movie. The original songs are pretty much awesome, the dialog is great, the humor is quick and smart in its silliness and the characterizations are fantastic.

Kermit is an actor in this movie. He is as warm and charming as ever but there is a sadness, and pain that I wouldn't have thought Disney would let the writers and producers of this film get away with. It was moving.

A number of characters who has gone underused or into complete disuse due to the deaths of their original performers (most notably Jim Henson's Rowlf and Richard Hunt's Scooter) are back and performed beautifully.

Obscure side characters take the limelight! Uncle Deadly!!! Woohoo! We see the massive, blue creature, Thog and the dancing Mutations. Wayne and Wanda! The frickin' Newsman has lines! Too cool!

Walter. I love this guy! The newest addition to the Muppet family is sweet, dopey, charming, adorable, funny and just perfect for the film and the group. Welcome to the team little fella.

The Bad

OK, the 'Bad; isn't really bad per se, it is more...I'm not sure how to put it into words. Less than perfect is probably the best way to say it.

Some of Muppets look strange. Deadly's head and body are completely different shades of blue. In fact, his head isn't really blue at all but a pale grey. Fozzie's fur color and style seemed off at points. There were a few others. It wasn't a huge deal but it did look weird to me.

It was the same with voices. While hearing any Rowlf was like a little present just for me, Fozzie's voice was somewhat inconsistent. Sometimes Eric Jacobson had it, sometimes he just didn't. There were a few others with minor off moments but honestly everyone did an amazing job.

The movie could've used more Gonzo. What couldn't? But seriously, I thought his sequences were rushed and opportunities for humor missed. It would've been great to see an expanded conversation between Gonzo and Camilla the Chicken (are they married now? Are they still just boyfriend and girlfriend? I find that hard to believe given the nature of their moment in the film).

This leads me to one of my two true complaints about the film. Much like Gonzo's scenes, many of the other characters intro scenes and much of the humor seemed rushed. Not rushed in a 'done sloppy' way but in a way that didn't allow for the amount of time necessary for them to carry impact. Timing is the key to comedy. The original Muppet Movie had it perfect. This film...sometimes the punchlines come too fast, or too late, or just seemed disjointed from other things happening in the scene. The biggest and worst example of this is...

The Ugly - The Ending

The ending of the film was not quite satisfying to me. It seemed like an afterthought or more precisely, like two or three thoughts that the filmmakers couldn't quit decide how to execute.

It's a happy ending but only if you are paying really close attention. Otherwise, it seems like the good guys lose, like their comeback isn't one. I left the movie liking it so much but feeling sad, or at the very least, like the ending was bittersweet. That's not exactly how I want to think about the comeback of my favorite thing in the world.

Overall, it does seem appropriate. I guess I'm thinking, it didn't have to be that way.

In conclusion, I will likely see it again. Once it hits DVD, I will see it again and again and again. I love 'Life's A Happy Song' and 'Pictures in My Head'. I loved Rowlf's dialog. There wasn't a lot of it but it was great. I loved the Humans in it, though more active/inactive parts for the cameo stars would've been cooler.

Four out of Five from this Muppet Fan.

More Muppety stuff to come...


Barking Alien

Friday, November 25, 2011

Talking Turkey and Giving Thanks

I love Thanksgiving.

It is definitely my favorite holiday. So much so that I spent the entire day with my small but really awesome family, eat, laughed and didn't think about gaming one bit. OK, maybe one bit. Perhaps two. Ten times tops.

The point is, this holiday reminds of the things I consider myself lucky to have in this life, while all the while chowing down on my Mom's incredible turkey (never ever dry in any way - the best turkey anywhere!).

Things like...

My family. My Mom, Sister, Brother-in-Law, Nephew and close family friends who are so close you might as well just call'em family and be done with it.

My girl. I consider us both pretty smart and pretty lucky to have re-established contact and started seeing each other again.

My dog. I mean, she's my kid, ok? So cute, so smart, so well-behaved and she makes me smile every day.

My friends. I have quite a few and I am thankful for you all but I want to give a shout out to those who've been very close and special over the last year. Thanks Dave, Erin Palette and Selina. You guys have rocked above and beyond in 2011.

NerdNYC. It may seem weird to thank this entire group of people as I do not know them all and certainly few of them well, yet NerdNYC has given me a venue beyond this blog to try my Muppets RPG out on unsuspecting vic...I mean, open-minded players. Recently, on NerdNYC's RECESS facebook page, they said my Muppets game was in the Top 5 list of Most Wanted games at the event. Me. Muppets. TOP 5?! Wow. I am thankful for the ego boost if nothing else.

OK, enough of this sappy stuff. I need to get in gear and kick some Player Character butt. Champions again today. All gonna hit the fan.

Peace Out!

Barking Alien

Oh yeah and the Muppets movie. Can't forget the Muppets movie.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Second Coming of Kermit The Frog

Tomorrow, 'The Muppets' opens in theaters across the USA. This is the first Muppet film to be made in 12 years. Screw Christmas. I got what I want. 

I plan on seeing it opening day, which probably doesn't surprise anyone who knows me or has read my blog before. If it's, good (which I know it will be), I hope to see it at least one more time in the theaters. Haven't seen a movie more than once in the theaters in a long time but this one warrents it for me.

In other Muppet related news, I have submitted another installment of my Muppets RPG for the next RECESS Game Event to be held on Janurary 14 & 15, 2012. This time, instead of running a Muppet Show themed adventure, I am going to introduce NerdNYC fans to my variant/expansion, Sesame Street! 'Cause, y'know. I'm all grimdark and edgy like that.

If the response to this one is good I will likely do it again and then switch to Fraggle Rock for my fifth and sixth tries. Basically, run two sessions of each before switching to the next one. This gives people who hear about it but didn't get to play it the chance to try it next time while hopefully keeping things fresh.

Oh man, how am I gonna sleep tonight?

Barking Alien

Monday, November 21, 2011

Champions Powers Up

After an unintentional break that lasted nearly two months, Dave (Night Knight), Marcus (The Power - pictured above), Jeff (Siphon Zero/Revenant) and I have finally returned to our 4th Edition Champions campaign, simply titled, 'The New Champions'.

I've missed a number of opportunities to recap and update the status of the various characters and their adventure so, in the interest of staying interesting and current, I'll simply explain where they are now.

While our PC heroes have spent the majority of the campaign following similar goals but completely different paths, it was awesome to see their agendas cross and the three of them finally form a cohesive team. Allied with several NPC heroes and supported by agents of UNTIL (the United Nations SHIELD type organization they work with), the PCs attempted to pull a sting operation and draw out a major villain who's been working behind the scenes since the early sessions. It worked, perhaps too well, as the villain showed up with a number of powerful supervillain henchmen in tow.

Now these weren't goons. Oh no. This was more like Lex Luthor hiding in the bushes while he sends Metallo, The Atomic Skull, Weather Wizard and a few more villains of similar level to get the job done. While The Power, Revenant and a couple of NPC heroes fought the gang of uberbaddies, Night Knight and another NPC hero located the mastermind's hidden aircraft (a cloaked, super-high tech jet that looked like the Star Trek: Voyager Aeroshuttle) and snuck inside. Night Knight entered the craft through an access hatch near the forward landing gear, while the NPC did the same through the rear gear well.

Many rounds of crazy super powered, energy manipulating, car throwing, martial arts using mayhem later, our heroes had defeat all six of the villainous lieutenants as well as the head honcho and his hidden bodyguard, an intelligent, emorphous pool of blue-black ink similar to the animated and current versions of Batman nemesis Clayface or Batman Beyond's Inque. It was an impressive battle full of ingenius power useage and deep character moments in the aftermath.

Revenant, who tends to become obsessed with odd things at odd moments, tried to use his energy absorbtion and conversion abilites to permenantly nullify the abilities of one of the villains, determining said criminal's nuclear radiation powers to be a threat by the fellow's mere existance. In explaining why he wanted to attempt to negate this villain's capabilities, I saw in Jeff's PC, for the first time, a concern for innocent lives outside his own personal supporting cast and subplots. I was moved.

Anyway, the truth of the matter is that this was only the beginning of their getting to the bottom of a much larger evil scheme. I am looking forward to running the next installment this weekend. The return of Champions...RETURNS!

Barking Alien

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Empowered Powers Down

I regretfully announce that after only two sessions and much thought, I am discontinuing my Empowered inspired Mutants & Masterminds 3E campaign that I started over Skype.

This has been a very difficult decision, made all the more difficult by the players.

You see, the players liked it. Maybe not loved it but they were definitely having fun. I personally think they did a fantastic job of creating cool characters, getting into their PC's heads and making the game entertaining. It was a pleasure to listen to them and their laughter over my speakers.

Unfortunately, I hated the experience of GMing it.

For one thing, GMing over Skype have been plagued by poor sound quality and calls being dropped. Not sure why. I'm playing in
Erin Palette's Legend of the Five Rings game and I rarely have any problem at all.

When I talk to my girlfriend over Skype, no problems (or very few). When I try to GM over Skype? Absolutely terrible. Just terrible! I tried running a one-shot the other day with a friend to test some new ideas I had for how to make a Skype game work better (see the next paragraph) and it amounted to asking each other, "Can you hear me? Did I lose you?" over and over for about 30 minutes before we gave up.

I was concerned that gaming online with Skype would severely handicap my ability to GM in the style I am accustomed to. I was right to the third power. I feel like a blind man with no hands being asked to point to the red light. I need the visual cues I get from my players to know how things are going, when to add something into the scene or take something away, and many other elements that make me the damn fine GM I know I am or at least can be.

I also keep wanting to show what characters or things look like, create maps, and other graphic elements but couldn't figure out how to do so without slowing down gameplay (which was already too slow as it was and slow gameplay is anathema to me).

Finally, the above mentioned factors drained away my enthusiam for the setting and I couldn't seem to get a plot of any worth formulated in my head. The few times I did get ideas I found I wasn't implementing them well. It was like I suddenly lost all my Gamemastering powers. I blame Gold Kryptonite.

No, I don't. I blame me. I just couldn't get it together and when I can't get it together to that degree I just start get disgusted with the whole process. It was probably the wrong setting and game for the medium. At the very least it was the wrong set up for my first attempt at this. I should gone simplier, easier or with something more familiar and focused.

Whatever. It just did not work for me.

It's very tough for me to accept defeat but in this case it's all I can do.

I apologize to my players. You deserved better. I endeavour to do better next time.

Barking Alien

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Up In The Air

As of this moment, this very moment right here, I have no idea what I am running this Saturday.

My girlfriend is unavailable to hang out with in the evening as her parents are visiting from out of town (out of the country to be more precise), so I have the option of running a looong session for the first time in almost two months. Can't wait.

Um...can't wait to figure out what it'll be a session of. Let's Vote! Should I run...Fantasy, Science-Fiction or Superheroes? Which should I do? What would be my personal choice? What will my players prefer? OMG! The suspense is killing me.

Barking Alien

PS: It has been brought to my attention by some in the blogosphere (you know, the zenith of all cultural, social and philosophical understanding) that I may well be a nerd who occasionally vents my feelings about things. Wow. I did not know this. My life is enriched by this revelation. Thank you for this gift of enlightenment. So...on to why I despise licorice...

Monday, November 14, 2011

Blues Traveller

Great minds?

For the better part of the day I've been thinking about posting about Traveller. Low and behold, I come home to find I am
not the only one with 'Science Fiction Adventure in the Far Future' on the brain. Even the subject of the post is similar. I am surely in good company.


I have been feeling at odds with myself over what to game.

I want/need to get back to my Champions game, I am running my Empowered/M&M 3E game Fridays nights* and I am supposed to be running a Smurfs campaign at my FLGS 'The Compleat Strategist' but an erratic weekend schedule has prevented me from running anything after the first adventure.

I feel the desire to run fewer games and therefore have more time to dedicate to the ones I am running. In addition, I haven't run Science Fiction or Fantasy for a while and those two genres have been
at war in my heart and head quite a bit recently.

Now for Fantasy I would like to return to my D&D-But-Not system and setting which, to be quite honest, is more like a medieval Superheroes RPG. I do love that world and the rather unusual nature of adventuring there and it is comic book-like enough to also support my continued fascination with Supers.

For Science Fiction, as much as I loves me some Star Trek (and I do loves me some Star Trek), I would be really excited to get back to Traveller.

Traveller and I have a rocky relationship. I love it but didn't always. I would venture to say that even though it is a favorite of mine now, I probably don't run it 'right'. As I have grown up and Science and Science Fiction have evolved, so too has my view of the Traveller RPG and it's universe. Combine this with my love of Anime and video game imagery and you get a Traveller that may not appeal to a lot of the classic and traditionalist fans of the game.

Nowadays, when I think Traveller, I mostly think of Mass Effect...

While I don't see the two as identical to each other, I see Mass Effect in my mind when I am describing a lot of things in my Traveller games. When playing Mass Effect and/or its sequel, I also start thinking about running Traveller.

While not my favorite starship design ever, the Normandy is definitely what I think of when I think of a Traveller ship. The aliens, while not exactly Traveller aliens, are still somehow Traveller-like to me. Same thing with the weapons and equipment. Many of these things are not in the classic Traveller RPG but I feel like they belong. They should be there. They are there in many of my games.So if I take inspiration from the overall look and feel of Mass Effect, combine it with images by the legendary futurist Syd Mead, drop in some of the politics and pathos of Dune mixed with Babylon Five (before it went down hill) and added a dash or two of A. E. Van Vogt's Voyage of the Space Beagle, I think I'd have the Sci-Fi, space adventure, hard-space opera game I am looking for.

That's Traveller to me.

Crazy huh?

Barking Alien

*I'll discuss the details on that continuing experiment another time.

Fantasy Versus Science Fiction - Unfair Fight?

A good friend of mine has brought it to my attention that my recent series of 'Fantasy Versus Science-Fiction' posts, originally a way to air my thoughts on which of the two I should run next, have amounted to little more than D&D/Old School Medieval Fantasy RPG bashing.

Such was not my intention, nor do I 100% agree that that's what they are, yet at the same time I must concede that by putting thoughts to screen as it were, those thoughts do come up. I can't deny that I am not a big fan of D&D and the type of Fantasy it covers but since I don't run the game in the typical way I should have probably changed the nature of my comparisons. Perhaps.

Tell me what you guys think? Unfair portrayal or spot on observations? D&D bashing or honest gaming fan speaking his mind?

Inquiring minds want to know. I want to know.

Barking Alien

8 Days until The Muppets. I hope I can make it without exploding in joy first.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Fantasy Versus Science Fiction...Heroes - Made or Born?

My good friend, fellow gamer geek and 1999 'National Welcoming Bear Hug Champion' Allen Ravenfeast for the rest of you mugs) brought up an interesting idea in the comments of one of my previous posts. Essentially, he postulated that Fantasy characters are generally larger-than-life heroes (or anti-heroes when appropriate) but Science Fiction characters are just people in space doing their job.

Now there is some validity to this to be sure. Elric of Melnibone' has several elements to his story that make him unique amoung his people and his people special to his world as a whole. A young King Arthur draws Excalibur from the stone because he is not just some shmoe but the rightful king of all England. Even the beloved Fafhrd and Gray Mouser are unusual individuals with particular talents that set them apart from the average citizen walking the streets of Lankhmar.

Now in Science Fiction, very often, the individuals can be just as unique and special but more often seem to simply be regular people in the right place at the right time (or wrong place at the wrong time in some cases).

Louis, Teela and Speaker-to-Animals are not especially gifted or unusual individuals in their setting of Larry Niven's Known Space, yet they become heroes in the Ringworld story. Certainly Mr. Spock is an unusal individual at the time of the original series, a half Vulcan, half Human hybrid but is Leonard McCoy gifted in anyway that is abnormal from the rest of Humanity? How about Scotty? Uhura? What about Ripley and the crew of the Nostromo in Alien? Gulliver Foyle from Bester's The Stars My Destination? Foyle is amazingly clever and skillful in his attempt to enact revenge on those who he felt left him to die but before being galvanized by that concept he was quite the opposite of special.

Now here's where it gets dicey...when you add dice of course...


Whenever I here the old schooler talk character creation, sorry, character generation, the idea is you are not making a large-than-life hero per se. Rather, D&D seems to learn toward making a character who is quite average or even a bit inept. Nothing wrong with that. Some of my favorite Fantasy characters are largely inept at the get-go. Bilbo, Frobo, Schmendrick the Magician and The Mouse (Matthew Broderick) in Ladyhawke all begin pretty wimpy.

I ask you though...when you sit down to play D&D or it's related games, is that who you want to be. Is that what you're gunning for? I am sure some of you are and I'd even go so far as to say many are at least once in a while. But wouldn't you, generally speaking, rather be playing a character like Conan, Lancelot or Jon Snow of A Game of Thrones.

So I suppose this entry into my 'Versus' series is more one of query than personal opinion.

Should Fantasy PC generation create your average commoner turned adventurer or hero of legend? Why not have options for both?

Are Science-Fiction PCs just the run of the mill, average joes of the far future? Do you think they are automatically destined for greatness? How so?

And while we're at it, you'll notice I try (though I'm sure I don't always remember and succeed) to avoid using Star Wars as an example. To me Star Wars is a blend of the two and therefore not so useful in a discussion of one vs. the other.

Barking Alien

*I do it in my D&D-But-Not game.


Thursday, November 10, 2011

Fantasy Versus Science Fiction...Changes of Scenery

In all likelihood, you'll start your journey through a world of Medieval Fantasy here...

It is in this place that you will learn of great treasures and foul, unnatural beasts living just past the surrounding countryside of...

In a place like so...

If you survive to find wealth and glory, you will likely return to...

To spend your hard won booty and prepare for another adventure.

Now, not all of you, that must be said. For some it will be a frozen wasteland, while others will find themselves in an arid desert.


Now in the first adventure in your typical spacefaring Science Fiction game, you could well begin in a bar in a starport city like this one...

From there you will transverse the void and a sea of stars...

In one of these...

To an out of the way place like this...
Here's why I like Sci-Fi over Fantasy and altered the nature of my Fantasy world to accommodate...generally speaking, in most Fantasy settings, if the above places where visited in the first adventure, which lasted, shall we say, three sessions, then it's very likely that in session four or five, you are still there. While you may not be in that particular dungeon or that particular medieval town, you are surely near that forested area and in a town that's very similar or a dungeon not far way.

In a Science-Fiction game however, the planet you're on in session four or five could be a completely different one from that visited in the first adventure. Why, you could even be on one planet in session four and another planet in session five. In the span of the first adventure, which took place on a single planet for sake of argument, you could have travelled from steamy, jungle to a primitive, lake-side settlement to islands in the middle of the ocean thanks to the ease of transport (grav vehicles, spacecraft, transporters, etc.).

As I've brought up before, I have an interest (bordering on obsession) with providing not only interesting locals but significantly diverse environments and terrains for the PCs to encounter. Part of the reason for this is a reaction to my own experiences as a player and going sight seeing on everyone and their brother's Middle Earth. Good lord people! There is a whole planet full of cultures you can draw inspiration from. Why oh why are we still trouncing across Tolkien's backyard? There was more to medieval times then fog and forests. Really there was.

I love providing a serious change of scenery for my players and they usually response positively to it. And, because they are so anything-other-than-Europe deprived, they can be wowed by the simplest things. What I mean is it doesn't have to be overly fantastic. Frozen lakes surrounded by icy tundra, extremely jagged mountain peaks and even being on a ship at sea is enough to get them super jazzed about an adventure. Plus, they never know what they'll see next. Or will they?

As I said this is much easier and more likely in Science-Fiction. New terrains and bizarre locations are not but a hyperjump away.

Barking Alien

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Fantasy Versus Science Fiction...Total BS

The following post may have the possible side effect of making me somewhat unpopular, especially with those who can't tell my serious bits from my humorous ones. Luckily, I don't really care too much 'bout those people. I'm also not entirely sure where one ends and the other begins in this post to be honest...

To me, one of the major differences between Fantasy and Science-Fiction is the level of BS and how well it works in the setting you're creating. Perhaps level isn't quite the right word though. Nature? For instance...

In 9.9 out of 10 Fantasy settings I encounter, the bottom line answer for the why of all things is 'Magic'. Of course it is. It's Fantasy. At the same time it seems to me that very few writers and even fewer gamers determine what, if anything, magic is. I guess what I mean is, I feel you could put any word there and it would be just as valid (or invalid).

"How is it that these great and terrible winged lizards fly through the air and breath fire o' mighty and majestic master?", asked the young apprentice of Morbrood the Less-Dated.

"Why it's poop my boy", exclaimed the dateless Morbrood, "Everyone knows poop can do anything".

Now I know what you're thinking. Science-Fiction is the same thing. But it isn't to me.

In Science-Fiction, the BS needs consistency. It needs to make sense on close inspection, even if it's only internal sense in the setting. Just saying, "It's Science!" just doesn't cut it. In Fantasy, the cop-out is excepted, even expected. In Sci-Fi it comes off as lazy or poorly thought out.

Kind of a double standard. See, I think magic should mean something too. It should be something, even if that something is difficult to handle and impossible to fully understand. It should represent an idea or a concept on the nature of the nature of things and not simply be a word whose very definition is 'to hand wave; to not have a real answer. See also 'Full of crap.''

Not sure why this was on my mind but it was and so now, like an embarrassing youtube video of that party you went to last weekend, it's on the internet.

Barking Alien

Monday, November 7, 2011

Mood Swing

My groups and I have been playing a lot of this...

...but some of my players are in the mood for this...

...while I find myself missing this...

Hmph. Mood swings.

Barking Alien

MUPPET MONDAY ALERT!: Only 15 days until "The Muppets"! I think I'll watch it at least 3 times in the theaters. Maybe 5.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

What We Don't Write About...

Noisms asks about...

Things Role Playing Bloggers Tend Not To Write About (And I try to answer why that may be...):

Book binding. (I can't be the only person who bemoans the way new rulebooks tend to fall apart like a sheaf of dry leaves after about 5 seconds of use).

Nearly all my books, dating back to my 1st Edition AD&D books, are in perfect condition with the exception of my 4th Edition Champions Hardbook which is huge and often read so it's not that odd to me.

Why don't we blog about it? I don't know. Don't feel like complaining about that sort of thing. 'Specially when you can get practically anything on PDF.

"Doing a voice". How many people "do voices"? Should they? How do you get better at "doing a voice" if that's your thing?

I do voices. Lots of voices. I have been practicing doing voices for years. I have read a number of articles and interviews with voice actors and obviously have a special connection to the puppeteers of Jim Henson's Muppets. I also make blasters sounds, explosion noises and my favorite, a hopefully unique 'CHUNG-Chi-Chung-Bang-Bang' sound of a malfunctioning Traveller jump drive.

I get better by practicing between games. I will say various things in a noted character's voice (a character who needs to appear more than once) repeatedly and/or in a variety of ways to get the sounds and style/personality right. I listen to sounds I need to use often (the Enterprise's Red Alert, Godzilla's roar, what-have-you) and try to repeat those as well.

Why don't we blog about it? No sure. Good subject.

Breaks. How often do you have breaks within sessions?

Eh. It's irregular. In a typical 8 hour session, I would say we break for snacks or bathroom for a few minutes at a time a few times a game.

Is this really a big thing? Most bloggers don't blog about it because...I don't know, I don't really care about this myself. Whatever works.

Description. Exactly how florid are your descriptions?
I'm a really visual guy, as are my players, so when I was younger I would be very descriptive and florrid, yet I and my players would also draw pictures of things. Eventually I realized that since I had pictures for a lot of things, I needed to waste less time describing those things.

I often think about what constitutes good descriptions and how much is too much.

Why don't we blog about it more? Not sure. We should.

Where do you strike the balance between "doing what your character would do" and "acting like a dickhead"?

Rarely comes up. I don't play with dickheads. What our characters do is not act like dickheads.

Why don't we blog about this more? I kind of think people blog about this too much. There are a lot of dickheads out there.

PC-on-PC violence. Do your players tend to avoid it, or do you ban it? Or does anything go?

Depends on the campaign. More often than not it just doesn't come up. We tend to all be on the same side.

Why don't we blog about it? Hmmm...I wish others would. I would be curious to read peoples opinions on this.

How do you explain what a role playing game is to a stranger who is also a non-player? (Real life example: my friends and I were playing in the local M:tG club space. A M:tG groupie teenage goth girl came over and asked, "What are you playing?" "[We answered.]" "Sounds kind of gay.")

I usually start by saying, "Ok, let's say you were going to the store and you saw a bright light in the sky. Really bright. Definitely not the sun. What would you do?"

After a few sentences back and forth I say, "Well, it's like that. That was role-playing. There are usually some die rolls involved."

Why don't we blog about this more? Well, most bloggers are old school guys who are preaching to the choir. Generally, they aren't talking to people who don't already play. So, maybe, they just don't think about it enough. Too bad. I think we should discuss it more.

Alchohol at the table?

Doesn't come up. Don't drink much or often.

Why don't we blog about this? Really? Don't know. Again, it doesn't come up for me.

What's acceptable to do to a PC whose player is absent from the session? Is whatever happens their fault for not being there, or are there some limits?

I try to reduce the level of activity of a PC missing their Player but I refuse to pretend they suddenly aren't where they were or don't exist. That is to say, if the Captain, First Officer, Doctor and Security Chief beam down to Beta Rotori IV and are still there at the end of the session, they are all there at the start of the next session even if Paul isn't there to play the Doc. The Doc becomes an NPC and I, as GM, will try to act as much in character as possible while also keeping him out of harm's way as much as possible.

Why don't we bog about this? We...wait. Sorry. What exactly is the subject? "What is acceptable to do to a PC whose player is absent". Do to? Ah. D&D thinking.

Barking Alien

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Empowered...More or Less

Ran the first of my Empowered based M&M 3E sessions and I have to say I am really unsure about how I feel about it.

First, I want to say the players were amazing. No, you don't understand. A-MAZE-ING! Huge kudos go to
Erin Palette who all but stole the show as her character, party-hardy-goddess-of-having-a-good-time Debarchery.

Gwen, a new friend introduced through an old one (my good buddy, the often mentioned Dave) was excellent as Statuesque, a female, stone-skinned powerhouse.

Rounding out the group was Dave of course, whose character Grasshopper was played a bit too stiff and traditionally comic booky when compared to the other PCs and the setting. He certainly could have played it off as the straight man or focused on one of his character's key motivations (a strong disdain for the state of Superhero-as-celebrity that permeates the Empowered universe) but he didn't. I'll talk to Dave today and find out why.

In truth it was a ton of fun. So why as I feeling a bit bummed about it?

Well first, Skype sucked that night and we couldn't hear each other or the call was dropped for 75% of our session time. It was really annoying. It definitely slowed my pacing and threw off my GM mojo.

Second, I really, really missed not being there in front of the players. People in person rarely have any trouble hearing me. Also, I felt my energy level drain as I sat in my chair and looked at the computer screen. Boring. No watching people's reactions and expressions, no talking with my hands, no showing cool panels from the Empowered comic, no pointing to stuff to show distance. Bleh. I'll take playing at a table to playing online any day of the week.

Lastly, Dave put this bug in my head about getting back to my D&D-But-Not game world. I do love that world. I miss it periodically and now seems to be one of those times.

Anyway, a good game that could have been a great game. I will try to make it better each time.


Barking Alien

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Fridays Are EMPOWERED!

Beginning this Friday, November 4th, I intend to run the first session of a new Mutants & Masterminds 3E RPG Campaign based in the universe (or one roughly parallel to it) of Adam Warren's sexy, superhero, action-packed comedic drama sitcom 'Empowered . 

For those unfamiliar with the Empowered 'American Manga' series from Dark Horse Comics, the book follows the adventures and very often misadventures of an aspiring young superheroine for whom the series is titled.

Empowered's superhuman abilities come from a 'hypermembrane' super suit that is tighter than skintight. We're talking 'painted on' in appearance. Unfortunately while the suit provides super strength, the ability to project energy blasts and a number of other minor abilities, it's ablative, with each hit that it takes protecting its wearer at the cost of it deteriorating. As it shreds, its power providing capacity diminishes. The end result is our spunky but highly self-conscious heroine bound and gagged by the villains or their minions and left for the rest of her team to find.

Despite the setbacks of her crappy super suit and it's unreliable abilities, major self-esteem issues and a lack of support from her teammates (who are largely a bunch of jerks), 'Emp' has triumphed on a number of occasions against major league villains. Also, her supporting cast, from her a-hole fellow 'Capes' to her female ninja best friend (Ninjette) and her former witless minion boyfriend (Thugboy), is absolutely awesome.

The key components of the series are it's humor, it's focus on realistic human emotions, failings and relationships and, IMHO, the world in which the Empowered stories take place.

Oddly, I would almost describe the Caped Community of the Empverse as being akin to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Sure, the Capes interact with the mundanes a bit more but they seem to have this whole other world that they run. Suprahumans are not answerable to anyone except other Suprahumans. In the past, this has caused some serious situations to unfold.

At the same time there is a Suprahuman cable news network with Suprahuman reporters, a Suprahuman Treatment Wing at the Purple Paladin Memorial Hospital with Super-Doctors and Uber-Nurses and a whole host of secrets only the other superheroes seem to know.

I highly recommend reading the series as both the art and the writing is superb. I love Empowered! Its currently my favorite superhero comic on the market today.

Over the next few days I will discuss my campaign concept, how it relates to the series and hopefully have a recap of the first adventure sometime Sunday evening.


Barking Alien