Tuesday, January 31, 2012

One Month And Two New Years Later

If this is the first month of the last year on Earth, I think it's gotten off to a pretty interesting start. You just can't beat a 'Year of the Dragon' for excitement and luck now can you?

While it's true my main game is going by the wayside, I think the potential for a new one is wide open and I'm very excited about the opportunities.

I began this month by discussing IPs and licensed games and indeed I have a new IP game concept or two waiting in the wings but I may hold off on discussing them just a little longer.

Instead, I would like to focus a bit on some of my newer game ideas, especially my projects for eventual publishing, my supernatural game idea which I've wanted to talk about forever and maybe, finally, a bit more about some of my favorite new indie games that some of you may not be familiar with.

Don't worry, we have until December before the Mayan Calendar ends and destroys us all. I'm sure I'll have time to get to everything.

Barking Alien

Sleepless Dreams

Can't sleep. Feeling a bit down lately. Thinking of games.

Space:2012 - Homebrew hybrid of InSpace and Carnage Amongst The Stars

 Set in the Solar System of Earth and it's various colonies 13 years after mysterious circumstances caused an industrial accident the blew Earth's moon from it's orbit.

PCs work as civilians or government personnel trying to deal with the ecological, political, social and financial devastation and ramifications of the moonless Terra.

I have a lot of ideas for this but it could be a hard sell.

Lights In The Sky - Homebrew - Working title for my one of my pet project games I hope to publish someday*

 Science-Ficition/Comedy/Action-Adventure RPG about what UFOs are really doing buzzing around the Earth.

Heavily inspired by my ideas for Hunter Planet and other uses for InSpace.

I could run this as a campaign which would also serve as a playtest.

Barkley's Den - Homebrew - Working title for my one of my pet project games I hope to publish someday*

Another Sci-Fi/Comedy game I've been toying with for years. It focuses on a sort of 'Tales of the Floating Vagabond', Draco's Tavern, Callahan's Crosstime Saloon type setting. A bar/restaurant in the center of all kinds of galactic mayhem run by everyone's favorite emerald pooch. OK, my favorite emerald pooch.

Like 'Lights in the Sky' I could playtest this while running a campaign of it.

Unnamed Ghost Story RPG - Homebrew-ish...See below

An RPG that tries to fix what I've always felt has been missing from or wrong with most supernatural games that focus on ghosts.

Years ago I remember playing this cool RPG at GenCon that for the life of me I can't prove ever existed. I can't remember the name but I've tried to search for several names I thought might be right and come up with nothing. I can find no one else who remembers this game. I am beginning to think I am only remembering it in part or that I may have dreamt it.

If that is the case, someone (why not me?) needs to put this thing out as a game. The concept is too good. I will continue to search to make sure it doesn't already exist but I will also be working on it in my spare time. Possible playtest at the next RECESS.

That's all for now.

Goodnight third rock,

Barking Alien

 *As I have said before I am publishing a game this year. I promised myself. Now as to which one of these ideas I am going with, I haven't quite decided.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Answering My Own Damn Questions

It would seem that either the questions I posed weren't interesting enough or people were just feeling a tad lazy this weekend, as literally dozens and dozens of views result in only three real responses.

What's a furry, green canine got to do to get a comment around here?

Anyway, thanks to those who did respond and now, I answer my own damn questions thank you very much (all in fun, all in fun)...

1) What is the most common type of environment or terrain encountered thus far in your current or most recent campaign? 

Champions - Urban.

Although in the 20 some odd sessions we played we visited forests, beaches, mountains, deep space, underground and underwater conditions, we always returned to a city.


D&D-But-Not Light - Ocean

Largely a pirate type game of sorts, the majority of our adventures have taken place on the high seas or small islands of various types.

2) What is the most exotic or unusual environment or terrain encountered thus far in your current or most recent campaign?

Champions - Outer space or an alternate timeline. Maybe underwater.


D&D-But-Not Light - Jungle Island with a mountainous ridge in the center.

3) What environment or terrain type have you never used but always wanted to? Why haven't you?

I can't think of any environment I haven't used ever. Previous campaigns have featured jungles that rain liquid nitrogen, lava fields, a dramatically enlarged environment, a dramatically small environment, the bottom of a frozen ocean and inside the body of a decaying, organic starship.

I love environments. Frozen tundra and arctic are among my favorites.

4) Do you have a combat rule or mechanic from another game system you are using in the game system you currently play, played recently or generally play?

I basically port the combat maneuvers from Champions into every game I play, allowing PCs to hold a move, deliver a haymaker, move by, move through, etc.

You don't need feats. Everyone can do these things. 

5) In your opinion, what genre has received too little attention in regards to RPGs based on that subject?

There are two really, IMO. Time Travel and Ghost Story style horror. It would really be horror per se but something more akin to supernatural folklore thriller. It's hard to describe (which may be why we haven't see it) but I will be addressing it with a blog post in the near future.

6) If a quality RPG on the aforementioned neglected genre came out tomorrow, what would make you buy it? What would prevent you from buying it?

Light, flexible rules, easily adapted or modified to accommodate my style of play and decent to good art. Bad art and overly complex rules would prevent me from buying it. It would have to be both. I would either get it anyway just to milk it for ideas.

7) Do you find it easier to learn the rules of a game by reading the rule book or by sitting down and just playing it?

Playing unless the rules are simple and the writing style very light hearted. I don't have the attention span or patience for rule reading that I once did.

8) Name a currently available artist not normally associated with RPGs who you'd love to see do some RPG work.

I could name dozens but I'd love to see Brian Froud, Syd Mead or comic artists like Cory Walker and Chris Sprouse do some RPG illustrations. 

9) What one book, movie, video, etc. that is not an RPG that you think should be.

I personally think Tony DiTerlizzi novel for young people, 'The Search for WondLa', would make an amazing introductory game setting to get kids into the hobby.

The same is true for Fraggle Rock. This seems a no-brainer.

Lastly, Harry Potter. 'Nuff Said. 

10) Can you think of an RPG you've run or played in which the GM (be it you or someone else) used/referenced non-game related books to run the campaign more often than game related books?

Star Trek. I really use anything more than the main rule book and perhaps a couple of others that provide construction systems or additional subsystem (like starship building and combat). The rest of the game comes out of The Star Trek Encyclopedia, the episodes and movies and my head.

Anyway, back to trying to figure out what my next game will be from this point on. I have had a few too many game deprived weekends and I just can't let that continue.

See you soon,

Barking Alien

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Champions Defeated...Temporarily

Today is the second time in a row and perhaps the fourth time since the first weekend in Janurary that my players have bailed on me at the last second for our Champions game.

End result, Champions is on indefinite hiatus while I explore something else with other players. Unfortunately, I don't know what game with what other players, so I am currently in GM limbo.

This makes me very depressed. Aside from not having a current game to run, I was really, really enjoying this campaign.

Insert sad, super powered, green puppy howl.

Oh well, back to the drawing board.

Barking Alien

P.S. Please check out my
10 Questions post and post your answers either in the comments or on your own blog and let me know the link. I'd love to see what you have to say.

Friday, January 27, 2012


I invoke the power of initials to bring my own brand of RPG inquiry to the blogsphere in hopes of learning more about my fellow gamer!

(Translates as: I was inspired by
Zak's questionaire thingie so I made my own questionaire thingie.)
Do Not Ignore Me!

1) What is the most common type of environment or terrain encountered thus far in your current or most recent campaign?

2) What is the most exotic or unusual environment or terrain encountered thus far in your current or most recent campaign?

3) What environment or terrain type have you never used but always wanted to? Why haven't you?

4) Do you have a combat rule or mechanic from another game system you are using in the game system you currently play, played recently or generally play?

5) In your opinion, what genre has received too little attention in regards to RPGs based on that subject?

6) If a quality RPG on the aforementioned neglected genre came out tomorrow, what would make you buy it? What would prevent you from buying it?

7) Do you find it easier to learn the rules of a game by reading the rule book or by sitting down and just playing it?

8) Name a currently available artist not normally associated with RPGs who you'd love to see do some RPG work.

9) What one book, movie, video, etc. that is not an RPG that you think should be.

10) Can you think of an RPG you've run or played in which the GM (be it you or someone else) used/referenced non-game related books to run the campaign more often then game related books?

Have a great weekend if I don't see ya,

Barking Alien

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

A Giant Leap For Mankind...More Like A Stumble In The Dark

Is this my next big game idea...

Hmmm...could be.

"We' re all aliens...until we get to know one another."

Barking Alien

Voyage Into The Unknown...Ponies

I would be remiss in my duties as an advocate of trying something different (as well as a lousy friend), if I did not direct your attention to the blog of the amazing Erin Palette's, Lurking Rhythmically, and her My Life Pony: Friendship is Magic homebrew Unknown Ponies: Failure Is Awesome.

While I can't claim to be an expert on either the new My Little Pony series nor the Unknown Armies system, I do have a passing familiarity with both and this looks like a pretty solid interpretation. I really like the way Erin made the mechanics match the feel of the show and used terms taken directly from the MLP universe. This is the sort of thing I heavily endorse.

If you're a pony fan it's a must! If your an Unknown Armies fan you'll be WOWed. If you just want to take a look at how an IP can be easily and smoothly translated into an RPG, I highly recommend taking a gander.

Barking Alien

Monday, January 23, 2012

The Secret Is In The InSauce

Whether adding a few dashes of it to your favorite system or dropping big chunks of another game into it to slowly simmer, you just can't beat InSpectres by Memento Mori for livening up the flavor of an RPG.

I've mentioned this little gem before but I may not have focused on how well Jared Sorenson's InSpectres lends itself to being spliced into the genes of other games to create superhuman hybrids of fun.

The game by itself is excellent. A simple die pool system with a few key mechanical additions to give it it's own identity. Among its game specific rules and concepts are the Franchise Dice that create a sort of mini resource management element, the Confessionals that enable players to directly influence and even rewrite (kinda) game events and a very cool system for having the players' ideas determine the nature of an adventures mystery instead of clues left behind by the GM.

Now a little research reveals that hacks of the game abound, including a game where you play kid supernatural investigators (In-Speckers) and another focused on classic, 'Big' Science Fiction concepts like 2001: A Space Odyssey, Solaris, Contact and the like (InSpace).

When I first got ahold of InSpectres, which is primarily about creating a paranormal investigation and elimination franchise, I harkened back to my days playing the official Ghostbusters RPG created by West End Games (as well as its sequel Ghostbusters International). It struck me that the games were mechanically quite similar. So similar in fact, that a merger of the two (using the Ability Score/Traits from one with the Talents/Skills from the other for example) would result in a game that filled out the sparse Ghostbusters game while adding a bit more crunch and setting to InSpectres.

The result was one of my best campaigns ever if I do say so myself. I ran the game with my friends in New Jersey (sometimes referred to here as the 'NJ Group') and would love to do it again.

So it goes that, about a week or so ago, I was talking to one of my players and best friends about the game 3:16-Carnage Amongst the Stars. I had heard about it but hadn't yet played or run the game. My friend had gotten the chance to actually play it at RECESS.

Awesome game but I needed a hook or something to spark an idea for long term play. As I was reading up on it on DriveThruRPG, I noticed that some time ago I must've put InSpace, the InSpectres science fiction variant, into my cart and never checked out. InSpace is $1.00, so it was a no brainer to pick it up.

Low and behold, new hybrid idea!
Carnage Amongst the Stars and InSpace are the perfect match for that under used and appreciated genre of Science-Fiction where two-fisted, laser gun blazing explorers actually come upon phenomena that can make profound changes in the thinking of humanity. Deep philosphical and speculative Science-Fiction with an added action twist thanks to Carnage Amongst The Stars could give you Voyage of the Space Beagle, The Jupiter Theft or Have Spacesuit Will Travel. I'm considering running a Space: 1999 game with this frankensteined system.

In-Speckers might enable me to finally bring another pet project to life. Using the system and its ideas to fill in the gaps lost in translation from the Japanese RPG Peek-A-Boo Horror.

In conclusion, I highly recommend giving InSpectres and its mods a try. I would also love to hear about your unholy, mish-mashed hybrids. What two great tastes taste great together in your book?

Barking Alien

Year of The Dragon!

Happy Year of the Dragon Everybody!

onsidering who we are this should hold a very special place in our hearts. ;)

Barking Alien

P.S. Our dragon is 'Red's Blue Dragon' from Fraggle Rock.

P.S.S. I hate Google and Blogger. Hate them. It get less functional everyday and the new interface is gawd-aweful. As we advance we get crappier?

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Under A Microscope

I'm going to try to post something even though...

Blogger is being horrible.
I said I wasn't going to bother.
I should be grabbing a beer and watching TV.

But no. Adam needs to ponder and blog.


I got the chance to play Microscope today with my friend Matt and a cool dude named Alex. Alex is developing a campaign world in association with his Obsidian Portal Project 'Bad Wrong Fun' which...well, just go over there and check it out.

I don't believe I've addressed Microscope in detail here before. I have read through it once or twice but never got the chance to actually play it until now. Initially some of the terminology took a a bit of focused attention to put to memory (even then I'm sure I got confused a few times) but the end result is an excellent excercise in world building and role playing.

I say excercise because Microscope is not a traditional RPG. It is indeed more an excercise in story development and even campaign design. Essentially (without ruining things to the point where you don't need to buy it - because you should), the players take turns analyzing and playing out various event in the 'history' of the world they are creating.

Collaberatively, the players in a game of Microscope determine the 'Palette' of story elements they get to choose from and what is right out for the purposes of their story/world. After that, they go around the table and create 'Periods' of time, 'eras' or 'ages' if you will, within the larger timeline. This is followed by 'Events', which are even smaller and more specific goings on.

The player whose turn it is is referred to as the Lens (Matt and I appreciated that from our positions as big E.E. Smith fans). The Lens determines the 'Focus' for the round. From that point forward, all periods, events and scenes much relate to the Focus that the current Lens has established.

The other neat element I recall clearly is the 'Legacy'. Once a Scene from an Event in a Period is finished (hope I got that right), one of the players (first player on the Lens' left? I think so) decides what the Legacy from that round is. A Legacy is an element that the player would like to see come up again. It's basically something from the event or in the scene that you'd like to explore further.

I am sure as heck not doing the mechanic justice. It was fascinating and created instantly epic moments in the chronicles of a world I was unfamiliar with as Alex, Matt and some other players had only created it the week before using a similar though distinctly different game called
Dawn of Worlds. Check it out too.

Anyway, this entire post reminds me of a post I want to make about Sandboxes, Settings and the nature of genre versus an established world but...well I don't want to push my luck with blogger. I'll save it for another time.

Thanks for the game guys! Hope to see you again soon,

Barking Alien

Friday, January 20, 2012

Blogger is Being Blogger - Yep. Sucktastic.

I may not be able to post much this weekend as blogger is at it's worst in a long time.

I had some cool things to say but it seems blogger is too effed up to let me say them so I am going to do something else.

Hope you all have a great weekend and I'll see you soon, maybe on wordpress if this crap keeps up.


Barking Alien

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Speculative Engineering I

How do I know, at this point in my blogging experience, that I am a 'hit'?

Well, I now realize that it may have something to do with my lack of comments. Yes, my lack of comments. Apparently, considering the fairly large number of views my site gets, readers are so stunned by my brilliance they are unable to think and write back intelligible responses. Naysayers are rendered incapable of saying nay! I win the blogging!

So long as it doesn't go to my head.

I was thinking about games mechanics the other day and how,while I usually prefer they stay the heck outta my way
, I need them to be able to facilitate the kind of games I want to run and create.

Part of the reason for this particular musing is that I am once again working on my 'Project X' RPG that I've mentioned in the past. I intend on self-publishing at least one RPG this year. I have ideas for others but let's get this first one out and see how it goes.

To that end, I have been imagining all sorts of wacky rule mechanics and I've come across one that intrigues me for some reason and yet I am not sure I will be using it for anything. What do you guys think of this idea...

Players have a choice when it comes to taking an action. Any action. They can choose to roll the dice and see what happens or take an automatic Pass or Fail. If you take an automatic Pass you accomplish your goal, succeeding at a skill check or hitting an opponent but suffer some penalty as a result. Likewise, you can declare an automatic Failure and net a benefit toward some other action.

Now this isn't really a new idea as there are some Indie Games that utilize a similar mechanic. In fact, a game called Ghost/Echo is wholly focused on this dynamic with actions taking the form of Goals and Dangers or, in an excellent hack of this that I saw based on Men In Black, Goals/Risks and Benefits/Dangers. I am seeing it slightly differently in my head but reading the concepts from Ghost/Echo, S/Lay w/ Me or Men In Black/Project: Blackbook will give you some idea of my inspirations.

The idea is that by increasing or decreasing the risk or danger to your goal or action, you can gain some kind of benefit. The opposite is also true. You can take the easy way out and automatically succeed but you are going to have to pay back Lady Luck for the assist at some later point in time.

I actually think this would be awesome as a plug it for D&D (whose combat system I find especially boring). You can automatically hit the leader of the Orc tribe this round by next round you fight at -2 because...I know!...because you chipped your sword hitting his armor last round. You could let yourself take a hit on purpose from a strong opponent and gain a +2 to hit him or save versus his attacks the following round because...know that you watched him you can better predict his style. It was chancey but worth the risk.

I actually imagine a considerably more developed system for this idea. Or at least, I think it would benefit from a more developed array of options as to what you would lose or gain for opting to go this route. It would also have to be tested to make sure it doesn't steamroll over rolling randomly. I still would want players who prefer that option to be able to do so.

What do you think?

Barking Alien

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

23 Questions With Barking Alien

This questionaire comes from a young fellow named Zak. Zak writes...

1. If you had to pick a single invention in a game you were most proud of what would it be?

Tough one. Maybe the whole Applause/Star Power and A-B-Cs/Sunny Days thing from my Muppets RPG.

I also really like how I organize my gaming material for a campaign into one big, heavily illustrated loose-leaf notebook.

2. When was the last time you GMed?

This past Sunday, late afternoon/evening.

3. When was the last time you played?

Sometime last month I think.

4. Give us a one-sentence pitch for an adventure you haven't run but would like to.

Sci-Fi heroes transplanted into the bodies of specially designed robots try to repair the space/time continuum using fresh fruit and a small cup of Greek yogurt.

I haven't worked out the details.

5. What do you do while you wait for players to do things?

As a player I take notes or draw.
As a GM I make jokes or odd noises or roll dice to freak the players out.

6. What, if anything, do you eat while you play?

Pretezels are a favorite.

7. Do you find GMing physically exhausting?

It can be. Luckily I have some kind of crazy, mutant power of endurance and stamina related to my insomnia. Even when physically tired I am rarely mentally tired. I can easily game at full bore for 10-12 hours.

8. What was the last interesting (to you, anyway) thing you remember a PC you were running doing?

Marriage proposal to another PC in Erin Palette's L5R campaign as a means of consolidating power for my clan and the two PCs involved.

9. Do your players take your serious setting and make it unserious? Vice versa? Neither?

I have serious settings, non-serious settings and comedy-drama settings. We play the ones we are in the mood for when we are in the mood for them.

10. What do you do with goblins?

A lot of things. Depends on the campaign.

Primarily, in my main D&D-But-Not campaign universe, they are sort of a cross between forcibly relocated Native Americans and the goblins of Labyrinth.

11. What was the last non-RPG thing you saw that you converted into game material (background, setting, trap, etc.)?

An explanation of 'Shield Volcanos' and the geography of some of the larger ones located on the Hawaiian islands as the setting for a supervillain's base in Champions.

12. What's the funniest table moment you can remember right now?

I wouldn't know where to begin. I occaisionally run a Muppets RPG, remember?

This past Saturday, Sweetums opened his mouth to show that the Weapons Grade Grape Pop Rocks had turned his tongue purple...which resulted in him accidentally firing on all of the PCs and NPCs with what amounted to a gatling gun style release of candy coated shrapnel.

13. What was the last game book you looked at--aside from things you referenced in a game--why were you looking at it?

What was the last RPG manual I looked at that I was not using for a game at the time?

Men in Black RPG by West End Games. Last night. On the can. I like to read RPG books in the bathroom. Helps me think.

14. Who's your idea of the perfect RPG illustrator?

Depends on the game. Supers should be drawn by comic book professionals, D-MAC (Darren Calvert), or anyone who gets what comic books look like. For fantasy I prefer DiTerlizzi, Froud, Arthur Rackham, and those who have a similar feel. For Sci-Fi it really varies depending on the setting or subgenre. I really don't like the art in most popular RPGs. Not enough diversity.

15. Does your game ever make your players genuinely afraid?

It has. I've made people panic and even cry a little in D&D, Traveller and Ghostbusters.

16. What was the best time you ever had running an adventure you didn't write? (If ever)

Don't remember. The last time I did that I was about 17. I am 42. That was a long time ago. Even then, I probably modified it. Castle Ravenloft maybe?

17. What would be the ideal physical set up to run a game in?

6-8 people around a table with some chairs and snacks. Maybe I don't get the question. What else do you need?

18. If you had to think of the two most disparate games or game products that you like what would they be?

Champions and Faery's Tale Deluxe. I love FTD, which is so simple it makes we wonder why I enjoy Champions so much. Champions is so crunchy that a this point I should just despise it but I don't. It is one of my favorite games.

19. If you had to think of the most disparate influences overall on your game, what would they be?

That's harder. Most of my influences share some commonalities, though they are very different from each other. I don't see any of them as so different they are incompatible.

20. As a GM, what kind of player do you want at your table?

A quick thinker willing to get immersed in the setting or genre. One who thinks about what their character would or could do and not what the rules/stats/etc. say they can do. Someone with a sense of humor.

21. What's a real life experience you've translated into game terms?

My travels to various states in the US and my visits to Canada and England. I try to make sure the players aren't stuck in one spot for their whole campaign. Thanks to my seeing different types of cities and terrains I think my descriptions of different places feel different from each other.

22. Is there an RPG product that you wish existed but doesn't?

Yes. Dozens. Most notably, I wish there was a new Star Trek RPG. I also wish Hunter Planet was revamped and rereleased. Heck, just a decent Sci-Fi/Space Opera game that isn't based on D20 would rock my socks!

23. Is there anyone you know who you talk about RPGs with who doesn't play? How do those conversations go?

There is but it's not a full on or in depth discussion of gaming itself. They appreciate my passion for it and I am glad they let me share my excitement but I know it's not their thing.


Thanks Zak and everyone who stopped by. We love getting your cards and letters so keep'em coming. Remember, Barking Alien is for anyone and everyone with a little moxie and a big imagination!

See you next time,

Barking Alien

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Reflections on RECESS

Attending RECESS is fast becoming my favorite venue for gaming outside of running a long term campaign with my closest buddies.

Since running a long term campaign seems to get harder and harder, the thrice a year RECESS events are starting to feel like oasises in times of gaming drought.

As it stands right now, my Champions campaign is on indefinite hold because one of the three players just got married (Congrats again Jeff!). No matter, that universe is frozen in time until it's needed once more and we move on to something else. But what?

The game most in demand is, of course, my least favorite, Dungeons & Dragons. Granted, my version of D&D is a bit atypical in style but seriously, I just don't want to play D&D. I'm bored of it. Even my own.

This leads me back to my affection for RECESS...

While there is no short supply of people running and playing D&D in its various incarnations (including Pathfinder), I am constantly astounded and heartened by what else I see at the RECESS events.
This past RECESS saw people running a hack of
Dogs in the Vineyard, Dread, Leverage, MAID, Psi Run, Steal Away Jordan and even some wacko's homebrewed Muppets RPG. Heheh.

It is an amazing feeling to see this kind of gaming diversity, at least for me. It is moving, inspiring and just so dang cool in my opinion. There are times when it feels like no one is playing anything out there except the one game I don't particularly care for. That can make you feel lonely and even a bit singled out. Then you enter a room of 75 to 100 people and overhear discussions about Gumshoe and Carnage Amongst the Stars.

With all the buzz about D&D 5th Edition coming out, I can't help but wonder what you happen if we actually started teaching our next generation 'next generation' RPGs. D&D, even the original Basic set, is no where near as simple in mechanics or concept as Toon, Faery's Tale Deluxe and even Psi Run. If we started with those and then when on to D&D and others, would we still see D&D have such a dominant position. We as a hobbyist community seem to be reinforcing Wizards of the Coasts prominance ourselves. Even if you play Labyrinth Lord or Pathfinder, you're playing D&D and WotC is the owner of that game.

Start a young player on a diet of diversity and maybe they'll be more likely to taste new things as they grow up. Or, we can continue to feed them Happy Meals and wonder why they end up being so picky the only thing we can get them to eat is Mickie D's.

Sorry, entered rant space there for a bit.

Anyway, one last little tidbit that made me feel great about RECESS...

I walk into the room where they are calling out the numbers each person has so that individual can come up and sign in for their game of choice. I hear someone call me name. I turn and see a fellow I don't recognize. As I smile and go to shake his hand, he tells me that no, we don't know each other. He says he reads my blog. This blog. He tells me how much he enjoys it. Highlight of my day, maybe my week. Thanks again, man.

OK, off to bed and dreams of my new projects. I've got a bunch.


Barking Alien

Monday, January 16, 2012

Muppet Mondays! - RECESS Replay - Part II

The second game I ran for RECESS was one I've run there before, the Muppets RPG utilizing the characters and continuity (such as it is) of The Muppet Show. For this session however I wanted to do something different. I wanted to incorporate a new mechanic and change the standard Muppet Show episode format into a more open ended game designed to resemble one of their motion pictures (where things seem to be really happening (Real) as opposed to being part of a show (Staged)).

The main inspiration for this adventure was 'The Cheapest Muppet Movie Ever Made', a proposed idea for a Muppet film by Jim Henson, Frank Oz, and Jerry Juhl that never came to be.

It went over well, very well in fact, but I can honestly say it almost didn't. I made a few poor choices in how to set up the adventure and I broke a few of my own cardinal rules. Part of the reason for this was that I was exhausted after not enough sleep and the earlier Sesame Street game being awesomely draining. In retrospect however, the fault lies largely with my spending too much time over the previous weeks working on the Sesame Street RPG and the Muppet game's mechanics and not the story for the Muppet game and how to time it out like I usually do.

Eventually I was able to get things back on track, thanks in part to some great players who got what I was going for and ran with it.


The Muppets - Big Time Hollywood Movie!

So the plot...

Following their smash hit film, the Muppets decide to begin work on another movie since their comeback motion picture was such a success. Unfortunately, after paying all the actors, the crew, allotting for damages caused by special effects, etc., most of the profits from the movie are gone. The Muppets must therefore produce this new film on an extremely limited budget.

The script and plot ( written by a Muppet staff writer who is not revealed until the end of the session) basically deals with the Muppets trying to make a movie while an unscrupulous film producer attempts to sabotage them so he can steal their story and put it out first. The result is a sort of movie
within a movie within a movie as that is exactly what starts to happen around the Muppet studios lot.

When a pair of Pigs kidnap Miss Piggy, it is at first thought to be part of the film (since such a scene is in the screenplay). Realizing it is the real deal, the Muppets team up (near commando style in the case of Sam the Eagle, Gonzo and Animal) and try to rescue her. Some of the best, craziest Muppet moments we've ever had were in this sequence, yet after Piggy is safe we sort of meandered for a moment as to what to do next. Sam and Big Mean Carl step in to interrogate the Pigs and it turns out the plot of the movie is happening in 'reality'.

The Muppets eventually track down the culprit, who has also stolen an experimental special effects item from Muppet Labs. Bunsen reveals he was working on Pop Rocks that basically act like a fragmentation grenade or those Russian missiles that open up to fire lots of smaller missiles (forget the name). Once wet, the kernel sized rocks will break into smaller rocks, firing randomly in all directions at a hundred miles an hour. When asked why he would invent such a thing the fellow playing Bunsen said, "Kermit, do you really think working here PAYS for most of my research? We have defense contracts you know."

Anyway, the big bad ends up being
Fleet Scribbler, former 'reporter' from the Daily Scandal who was fired from the Muppet Show beat and eventually from the magazine. He attempted to become a film critic but failed at that as well.

As the player playing Bunsen, Rizzo and Sam the Eagle said, "He couldn't make it as a film critic? Is there anyone more pathetic?"

Eventually he saved up enough money to start his own studio. He hired the recently out of work Moopets and stole a copy of the Muppets' screenplay. Now he is attempt to make his own movie and get it out before the Muppets.

After a massive and mad battle featuring machine gun firing Pop Rocks, Swedish Chef's deadly use of a match and a can of oven cleaner, interruptions from the Newsman, frantic rewrites of the script to change what was happening and Bill Shatner, the Muppets manage to put an end to Scribbler's plans and incapacitate the Moopets.


The New Mechanic:

The Budget - Very simply, for this 'Movie Style' adventure, the players had access to a pool of bonus dice that represented the film's budget. Want to make a bigger explosion, summon a cool vehicle, have a famous star make a cameo? No problem but it comes out of the budget. Remember not to blow too much 'money' to soon. You're likely to need some extra cash for that big finale.



A newly constructed, virtually life size, Starship Swinetrek, on loan from ILM, piloted by Link Hogthrob and Dr. Strangepork, attempts to head off two Pigs in a truck cab pulling a trailer containing Miss Piggy. The vessel dives from orbit, shrouded in flames due to improper operation of the shields, careening toward the Earth at Mach 20 or there abouts.

To save the two Pigs in Space stars, Gonzo gets on a motorcycle, has the cycle and himself loaded into a cannon and fires himself through a window on the ship to access the bridge. Amazing dialog and rolls result in the ship and its occupants landing safe if not so sound.

Sam the Eagle, Rizzo and Bunsen were played by an older fellow and his wife played Rowlf, Beaker, the Newsman and...I forget. They were both incredible. And by older I mean probably my age or just a tad over - if you guys are reading this I do not mean old! You guys were AWESOME! They uttered some of the funniest lines of the game whether on purpose or accidentally.

Sam uses a huge American flag from his personal collection to blind the front windshield of the truck being driven by the two Pig henchmen. Animal then climbs up on top of the truck and tries to get at the driver but can't. The flag is in his way. Animal begins to chew through the flag to get to the Pig.

Sam: "Kermit, stop him! He is eating the flag! My god there goes Rhode Island!"
Animal: "Mmmm. CA-LA-NIES. Tastey."

Sam: "I don't trust this Shatner fellow."
Kermit: "William Shatner? He was Captain Kirk."
Sam: (Whispering) "He's a Canadian."
Kermit: (Softly) "I'm sure he's a citizen by now..."
Sam: (Whispering forcefully - with menace) "Once a Canadian, always a Canadian."

Sam: "These people are criminals of the worst sort. Jail is to good for them."

Kermit: "What did you have in mind Sam."
Sam: "Three words. GUANtanAMO."

This last line (above) had the entire table in stitches except for one fellow who wasn't there at the time. He had left the table with his young son to use the bathroom and upon returning both father and son wanted to know what he missed. There was no way to tell him because, as one player put it, "So...many...levels." Hopefully he can read it here now.

Another key moment came when one of the organizers of RECESS and a fellow I've had the pleasure of gaming with at a previous event walked by as I said...

"OK, just to be clear. Gonzo, you and William Shatner are on a motorcycle. You are driving. Both of you have a hatchet in each hand. You are driving up to the curb and then wheelie-ing into a jump to smash through the front door of the house. Correct?"

To which I hear the fellow observing behind me say, "This...is the greatest game...ever."

Oh, almost forgot...so the Muppets all enter Scribbler's house but he's nowhere to be found. We notice he has two guard dogs on the back porch. Someone tells Rowlf, "OK Rowlf, you're on!". The woman playing Rowlf proceeds to mimic playing the piano. The group asks Rowlf what he's doing.

Rowlf: "Aren't I playing us out?"
Scooter: "No Rowlf, this is your chance to shine."
Kermit: "Yeah Rowlf. You can do something here only a dog can do."
Rowlf: "...?...Pee on the furniture?"

The other players meant talk to the guard dogs to find out where Fleet Scribbler went.

Hilarious group. Awesome portrayals.

The big Muppet Fan couple from the first (Sesame Street) game were back for this one too. The young lady (sorry I am so bad with names - remind me in the comments if you see this) did an amazing Miss Piggy. It wasn't so much the voice but the mannerisms, the style of speech, and the attitude. Fantastic.

The young lady playing Gonzo was incredible too. She really nailed his weirdness. She didn't play him as crazy like some do but rather as an eccentric artist who is sure that his ideas are brilliant on a level most have yet to realize. He is bringing both excitement and avant garde culture to the masses using flaming torches and the Hungarian Hatchet Dance.

It's all so clear to me know.

Anyway, great games, great people, another great RECESS. I actually have some more stories to tell about the event and some things I'd like to say about ideas the event inspired but I'll save that for tomorrow.

Until then,

Barking Alien

Muppet Mondays! - RECESS Replay - Part I

As I mentioned previously, this past Saturday I attended the first RECESS game event of 2012, running two sessions of my Muppets Role Playing Game. The first was a Sesame Street adventure called 'D is for Dungeon' and the second was a variant Muppet Show adventure called, 'The Muppets: Big Time Hollywood Movie!'.

Where as in the past I've given you guys the complete, play-by-play breakdown as a session recap, this time I'm just going for the highlights. Trust me, there were a lot of them.

At the same time, I will mention that the second of the two had a somewhat slow start. I was really afraid it wasn't going to go over well. For starters, it used a more open ended framework instead of the structure of a typical Muppet Show episode. In order to run a Muppets RPG, you kind of need that structure to give the craziness form, otherwise it can turn into either an amorphous blob of silly or fall flat to the ground and go inert. I feared we were in danger of the latter. It was totally my fault as I'll explain in the next post but I also figured out how to save it about half the way through so 'yay' me.

Sesame Street - D is for Dungeon

So the plot...

As Susan reads fairy tales to some kids and monsters, a few other kids are playing at being knights and wizards. When someone asks, "Were there really Knights andWizards and Kings and Monsters and Castles?" Susan and Gordon clarify that while Knights, Kings and Castles were real long ago, much of the other stuff is from stories.

*POOF!* That's when a wizard shows up and says the magical fairy Abby Cadabby is trapped by a Dragon and an evil wizard in a castle beyond a mystic forest. It's not far actually. It's a few blocks past The Count's castle and the Amazing Mumford's castle. You can't miss it.

The wizard claims he tried to save her but his wand was broken. After convincing various characters to go on a quest to rescue her he heads to Luis and Maria's Fix-It Shop to get his wand repaired.

After facing numerous perils including as a smelly, slimey swamp, a puzzle at the front door, a terrible timpiece and a lightly sleeping Dragon, the heroes manage to reach Abby who is trapped in a large, birdcage like prison. Eventually, it is revealed that the wizard the PCs first spoke to is actually the evil nasty of the castle. In truth, Abby broke his wand while they were dueling before her capture. In the end, the quick thinking of Bif and Sully, Ernie, Snuffleupagus
and Elmo saved the day.


"I'd like to thank you all for coming and choosing to play this game. I also think we should thank NerdNYC and RECESS for their awesome event. Also, I'd like to thank The Children's Television Workshop, The Association for Public Broadcasting, The Sears-Roebuck Foundation and a grant from The Helena Rubenstein Foundation. And remember, we couldn't do this without the contributions and support of viewers like you."

My opening monologue for the Sesame Street RPG, paraphrased from what we hear before the show airs in New York on the Public Broadcasting Service/Channel 13.



Me: "Any last questions before we get started?"
Player: "Yes, on Mr. Snuffleupagus's character sheet it says he has...Snufflekinesis."
Me: "Yes."
Player: "What is Snufflekinesis?"
Me: "What's telekinesis?"
Player: "The ability to move or manipulate objects with your mind."
Me: "Right. So what's Snufflekinesis?"
Player: "The ability to move or manipulate objects with your...Snuffle?"
Me: "Exactly."


A fellow by the name of Carl who runs
BrickQuest at RECESS played Forgetful Jones and Sherlock Hemlock, among others, totally flooring me with his portrayal of these rather obscure characters. It's incredible but it never fails. At every session someone turns a third or fourth string Muppet into a star.

We had two couples playing and it was awesome. One couple were huge Muppets fans (and in fact, the fellow ran a Fraggle Rock game using the
PDQ system on Sunday. Sadly I had to work and couldn't attend. If anyone knows how it went please tell!). The other couple was simply very in sync and did an excellent job playing as the Two Headed Monster (one head per player).

Other notable characters and actions included Bert's player trying to use Windex to clean a swamp, Oscar (played by the same player) ignoring the adventure to bath and play in the swamp, Cookie Monster showing responsibility with Gordon's Metrocard (only to eat it at the very end), Elmo and Mr. Snuffleupagus teaming up to spend Sunny Days and literally Sweep the Clouds away by blowing enough air through Snuffie's trunk (or Snuffle as it is properly called) to part the dark clouds above and let the Sun shine through. This had the effect of ruining the mean wizard's powers and clearing the darkness (much to Oscar's dismay).

Here's a Sesame Street News Flash!

A few Easter Eggs and in jokes from the Sesame Street game...

D and M are the letters of the days. As in Dungeon Master, since the whole thing was a D&D parody.

Although the adventure is 'D is for Dungeon', there is technically no dungeon in the adventure. The PCs enter the front of the castle and progress upstairs, higher and higher into the place.

The smelly swamp around the castle is a reference to the 'Bog of Eternal Stench' from Labyrinth.

The description of the castle itself was a homage to Jareth's (David Bowie) castle in Labyrinth and the castle of the Skeksis in Dark Crystal.

The Terrible Timepiece on the second level of the castle was inspired by Jim Henson's 1965, experimental short film,
'The Timepiece'.

The dragon on level three was
Delbert, the La Choy Dragon.

When the clouds part at the end, breaking the wizard's spell and freeing Abby, the scene is a homage to the end of The Dark Crystal.

More to come,

Barking Alien