Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Not As Mad As First Conceived

Originally I intended on starting an all new Muppets March Madness Month tomorrow but alas, I do not think I will be able to.

Way to much on my plate in real life and the start of an all new campaign is taking up a lot of time. Add to this the fact that blogger is acting up again and I can just see myself getting angry and frustrated and I don't need the stress over something I enjoy so much.

So, for now, further Muppet fuzzy freakiness is on hold. Be back soon with more Supers, more D&D-But-Not and a few new ideas.

Hope you'll join me,

Barking Alien

The Making of Freedom City Unlimited: Ureka! It worked!

Once again, tons of views have resulted in no comments. It's pretty amazing. Someone on another blog will talk about standardizing the damage of weapons in D&D (everything does 6! It's brilliant! From a dirk to a thirty ton boulder - 6!), AGAIN I might add, and get thirty comments on his genius while I can't get a, "Neat idea, man" or "I like Mutants & Masterminds too". Sigh. Whatever. It's not so much that I want or expect recognition (my page views do that if that was my concern) but moreover, I really wanted this blog to be a place for an exchange of ideas for those of us who don't think D&D is the end-all-be-all of gaming experience. Unfortunately, I get the impression it is for the vast majority, which sometimes bums me out a bit. Oh well. Onward and upward. Or up, up and away-ward!

So why did last Saturday's Freedom City game work where the previous two failed?

Good question and one I have several theories about. Come, peruse my rambling thoughts won't you?

For My Part

There were several key differences in my running of this game as compared to the others but they mostly boil down to knowing my players, knowing my world and having fun with it.

Without Corey in the mix I was left with four pretty serious comic book fans. This meant that my experiences as a comic book fan and the ideas that reading comics for over 30 years would naturally inspire (for me that is) would be understood and appreciated by my group. A homage here, an Easter Egg there, all thrown in to a story that both played on and played against expected cliches, was far more likely, if not guaranteed, to put a smile on everyone's face and get them into the swing of things.

I also knew my world much more accurately this time. Now my first attempt was in my Champions setting, a world first created and developed by my friend William. I do know that world very well, especially the changes I made to it to adapt it to my own campaign style and the players I have. The problem was that the Champions world is a bit too specific in atmosphere and unless I convey it properly, it's hard to get a brand new hero to just pop in out of no where.

The second world was not only too high concept but I never got a chance to fully flesh out said concept. As a result, I don't think everyone really got it and who could blame them.

With Freedom City and it's universe I not only have a well thought out setting that really evokes the kind of comic books I want to focus on but it's also a setting I have run before. It's loose enough to through in my own stuff and, SUPER BONUS!, the Players are not familiar with it so I can alter some of the details of it's 'canon' and no one notices or cares. It is also a setting with a fantastic map and that is always fun.

Lastly, I didn't push to make it awesomely epic right from the start. Rather, as I do tend to like the epic opener approach, I tried only to make it fun. It would likely get epic on its own once the PCs got the hang of the setting, the NPCs and their characters' personalities and powers.

For Their Part

That is, "How did the Players contribute to a better session".

For one thing, they made great characters. They're a pretty diverse group and they are also somewhat traditional comic book heroes at first glance. You've got the Superman/Paragon/Flying Powerhouse guy, the Armor/Techie/Space guy, the Martial Arts Master guy and a Mutant Power/Mimic gal who serves as the wild card.

Each comes with a nice twist in bother powers and perspective:

Our Superman is a city dwelling, blue collar, regular joe. He has a Psychic/Sonic power that causes enemies and allies to hear music the can demoralize or heal respectively.

Our Iron Man from Space is the least experienced and honestly has no idea what he's doing. He not only became a hero by accident but the super suit has no instructions.

Our Martial Arts Master was trained under special conditions by an alien. He is our Asian Mysticism character AND our Cosmic character all in one.

Our wild card is a female character with really unsual powers. Looking at the specifics of the PC, the closest pre-existing characters she resembles are Nemesis Kid, one time enemy of the Legion of Superheroes and Shane Gooseman from Galaxy Rangers. She's got great pathos, wondering if she is really cut out to be a hero.

Although created separately with no real knowledge of each others' ideas, these characters fit together. You can see them being on the same team. Furthermore, their backgrounds overlap somewhat, making it fairly easy to come up with an opponent or plot that will grab them all.

Anthem has an enemy in SHADOW, a Hydra or Cobra like group that deals in sorcery as well as science and tech. Onyx Dragon has an enemy in the cult, Way of the Void. The Way employs shadow soceror types, giving me a perfect excuse to team them up with SHADOW. Onyx Dragon knows about aliens and StarKnight protects our sector of space from alien invasion. Aliens or alien tech could be responsible for the 'flash' that gave Ad Hoc her powers.

Lastly but most assuredly, the guys really came to game last Saturday. Much less horsing around, fewer random nerdy side tangents and a real desire to make this particular game successful could be felt at the table that day.

Can't wait for the next issue to drop...

Barking Alien

Monday, February 27, 2012

Not-So-Secret Secrets From Our D&D-But-Not

Maybe it's a cleansing of the palette after so many Supers Game dishes. It could also be the result of the unseasonably warm weather here in New York. Perhaps it's an undigested bit of beef. Whatever the reason, I feel like posting some bits and bobs of meaningless trivia from my D&D-But-Not campaign universe, centered on the world of Aerth.

What follows are 15 not-so-secret secrets about the world, its inhabitants and elements of the campaigns set there that make it special to those who have played in it as well as myself. Some of these points of interest are known by some of the players. Others elements are known by other players. There is a least one NPC who knows at least one of these things as well. No one person knows every secret on this list.

Well, until now, since you do.


1) When the Elves, who are well known not to be natives of Aerth or it's Realm, arrived, they were divided into six tribes. One new tribe has formed, the Half-Elven. One tribe has died out. There are now nine tribes. The math is not wrong. Perhaps history was mistaken.

2) There are believed to be no more than five hundred Orcs left on Aerth. Most were killed in The Great Goblin War or The Aerth War. Many were hunted to near extinction by Men, Dwarves and Elves in the years that followed. The largest Orc settlement is on an island to the South of the old world continent. The Order watches the island to make sure the Orcs are left alone (with all that implies).

3) If you know a Mountain Dwarf and he is slain, be sure to gather all his parts and pieces and bring them to the Mountains at the End of The World. Your friend will likely be returned to life. Though he is unlikely to be your enemy because of such a gesture, he might not remain your friend.

4) While there are Half-Elves in the world, the Half-Elven of the Island of Corin are not all half Elven. Some are three quarters Elven. Some are one eighth. Most couldn't tell you how much Elf is mixed with how much Human. They are simply the Half-Elven of Corin, as inaccurate a name as that is.

5) To find the Cornerstone of The World, set sail for the North Western Sea until you see a triangular hole in the ocean. Continue on until you are swallowed by a storm that appears to pull you toward the hole. Turn your vessel facing away but do not try to sail back the way you came. Let your ship be pulled backward to its doom. This is difficult for anyone but so hard on the captain of the vessel that many of them go mad. If they don't and if you can do what is required, the storm will clear and you will find a triangular island of grey stone, pale sand, ashen plants and a small hill with a cave. This is the Cornerstone of the World. This is the last piece of Aerth left untouched from before the world was finished. The gods left it untouched because they couldn't decide what to do with it. The Steel Grey Dragon lives in the cave. He may help you. Or not.

6) Cooshee, also called Cu Sith, the Elven Hounds, howl at the Sun, not the Moon. They awaken Elven settlements much the same way roosters do on Human farms.

7) Dwarves, like Dragons, have Lantern Vision. When things get dark, their eyes light up, casting long, beams of light like those of a hooded lantern. This makes it very easy for them to see in the dark but it also makes them easy to see. The light comes from the fire in their souls.

8) Humans have both Spirits and Souls. Dwarves have Souls but not Spirits. Elves have Spirits but no Souls. Wilders, often called Halflings, have Spirits and Souls but usually one is stronger then the other. Gnomes are rumored to have both but only one at a time.

9) Elves don't have Souls and so they do not dream. This is why their sleep is called Reverie. When Elves Reverie they relive their entire lives up to the point where they went into that Reverie for the night. This is why Elves live so long and still remember so much of it. They see the events again and again every night. This is also why many of them seem melancholy and why they try to fill their lives with so many light moments.

10) The power of the gods is based largely on how many people worship and believe in them. Gods who are no longer worshipped become weak, warped and even mad. These 'Forgetten Gods' do not cease to existance however, even though that might be for the better.

11) Watch for falling stars. It is rare to see one but they hold great power and wonder and are well worth looking for. If you catch them at the right moment you can make a wish. If they fall to Aerth they often hold something marvelous inside them. Many are made of rock or metal with magical properties.

12) You can reach other Realms from Aerth in a number of ways. You can climb Mount Olympus, walk the BiFrost Bridge, walk down to the Gates of Hell or up to the Gates of Heaven, find the hidden monument to Sigil, The City of Doors or read from The Order's Codex of Infinite Planes (more commonly called Realms). Once on your way there may be complications with your chosen path.

13) Goblins are the most common and numerous of all the thinking creatures on Aerth. They exist in many varieties, shapes and sizes. Many similar looking types are given different names by those that dwell near by. There are big, furry ones (Bugbears), short furry ones (Bugaboos), man-sized, bestial and pale (Orc), man-sized, bestial and ruddy (Hobgoblins), medium to small with thick, armored hides (Norkers or Norkies) and dozens more. Ogres are not Goblins. Trolls are not Goblins. Kobolds are related somehow.

14) There are three species of Troll on Aerth and all are related. Legends say there was originally but one and something went wrong over the ages. The Jaette are larger then Humans, brutish, mean and extremely strong. The Huldra are so Human like as to pass for Humans except for some minor oddity they often try to hide but simply can not. Huldra women, for example, are usually quite beautiful but have the tails of cows. Many Huldra men have a third eye, pointed ears or oddly large eyes or mouths. Vitterfolk are the result of interbreeding of the Jaette and the Huldra and are remarkably intelligent, kind natured and clever. Many wonder if the Vitterfolk are what the original Trolls were like.

15) Dragons are not hoarding treasure. They are taking back what's theirs.

Barking Alien

A Super Spectacular Saturday in The Mighty Marvel Manner!

This Saturday, yours truly will be among several talented Gamemasters (how they let me in I don't know) running the upcoming Marvel RPG by Margaret Weis Productions. Pop in anytime between 11 am and 4 pm and try out the all new, all different Marvel Heroic Role Playing Game at the Compleat Strategist in New York City!

Bring your web spinning, your shield slinging and of course, your 'A' game.

Barking Alien

Freedom City Free For All!

The third time is definitely the charm heroes and heroines.

This past Saturday, four players and myself rocked the costumed and cowled capital of the world,
Freedom City (my slightly alternate take on it actually), and broke the curse of weak sessions that had been plaguing us of late.

We partook in a 7 1/2 hour session that saw the four PC's, billed as new recruits to the world's greatest super team, The Freedom League, team up with senior members and The Atom Family (Power Pack by way of being the children of the Fantastic Four) in order to take down The Meta-Grue (essentially the Super Skrull) and uncover a secret lab belonging to SHADOW (your not-so-basic basic clandestine terrorist organization bent on world domination).


I opened with the local morning talk show, "A.M. Freedom", being interrupted by popular Channel 3 Action News reporter, Amy Feng, with a fast breaking story of the Meta-Grue's sudden and inexplicable rampage in the Greenbank section of the city, a dreary, rundown area dominated by the train yards (and the remains of an older series of tunnels no longer in use). Just before leaving their headquarters for the scene, one of the NPCs, a well known member of the Freedom League who is himself a Grue shapeshifter (though he rebelled and became good) begins freaking out and attacking the PCs. Two members try to subdue him with the help of another Freedom Leaguer NPC while the other two PCs go help the Atom Family who are already in Greenbank getting their butts kicked.

Soon, all the PCs meet up at the battle scene, eager to find out why the Grue (good and bad alike) are, like, totally wigging. After cleverly defeating the Meta-Grue, who had definitely gone feral/crazy, the PCs investigated the 'abandoned' train tunnels to see if there was something in there he was after or that was causing he and his fellow alien such distress.

Eventually, the team uncovered a secret SHADOW lab attempting to unlock the secrets of this weird Jack Kirby-esque device (described as a sphere with tubes and handles. It sorta looks like a lantern. No, not like a lantern. OK, more like a camera. No, not like a The PCs, with some NPC help, defeat and capture the SHADOW agents and retrieve the object. In the process, the group discovers that SHADOW (arch enemy of one of the PCs) is in cahoots with mystic, martial arts cult called The Way of the Void (arch enemy of one of the other PCs).

Unfortunately, an android agent of SHADOW (a SHADOW Puppet ;-) escaped with some key data on the device they were studying. Next issue, they track him/it down...


Our Heroes!

Ad Hoc Played By Conrad

Attractive, African American business woman and financial genius. Total Type A personality, go getter. Being a superhero doesn't really fit into her life plan but after being exposed to a mysterious flash of light in the night sky and seeing others like her (the 'Flashfolk') using their powers for both good and evil, she felt ashamed that she initially hid her powers and did nothing. Now, she is at odds with herself over whether she is really meant to be a superhero.

Ad Hoc's body adapts to any hazardous outside stimuli in a most extreme way. In a radiation field she will turn to lead, in a lightning storm she may become rubber, etc. She can generate 'Countermeasure Blasts' such as jets of water to put out fire surrounding her or shards of metal to pierce armored attackers.


Anthem Played by the oft mentioned Dave

Formerly a 98 lbs weakling and science nerd of the Steve Erkle variety, Anthem invented a forumla to enhance his physical attributes that worked waaay too well. He wanted to be a handsome jock but gained super powers as well and now uses them to make a difference for the innocent, weak and downtrodden.

Best thought of as a blue collar superman, Anthem is garbed in a patriotic costume and is definitely the moral center of the group, though not above grabbing a beer after a super battle or hitting on his team mates or attractive reporters.

Anthem takes the classic superman power set, Flight, Invulnerability, Super Strength, etc. and adds a Psychic/Sound based aura the can demoralized his enemies and heal or 'amp up' his allies. He can also focus the sound into a sonic blast attack.


Onyx Dragon Played By Marcus

A homeless orphan abandoned on Earth was 'abducted' by an alien monk and given the choice, "Stay on Earth as you were or become my student and tour the wonders of the universe." Three guesses which he chose. The alien turned out to be the master of a technique that could tap the Force-like 'Cosmic Chi'. He trained his student in the philosophy of the 'Cosmic Chi' as well as teaching him the martial arts style of dozens upon dozens of alien species. Eventually, the master revealed one of his former students had twisted the philosophy to create 'The Way of The Void'. Not long after The Void Master attacked and killed the master but not before he had returned his newest student, orphan turned alien martial arts expert, Onyx Dragon, to Earth.

Now, The Void Master and The Way of The Void cult search for Onyx Dragon as they plan to take over the galaxy by achieving the ultimate level of cosmic awareness. Unless of course, Onyx Dragon and his 'Cosmic Chi' get defeat them or do it first.

Onyx Dragon is a martial arts master with nerve cluster pinches and crazy Wushu fighting styles that even work against bizarre extraterrestrials ("Of course I stunned him. An Altairian's blood flow is centered in it's right hip."). He can also focus the 'Cosmic Chi' to perform superhuman feats like 'Hulk leaps' and blocking/parrying energy swords.


StarKnight Plus Played By Ray

The newest recruit to be inducted into the Green Lantern Corps like organization known as The StarKnights, this young man came by the honor in a somewhat embarrasing fashion. A prototype for a new, more advanced StarKnight Armor was en route to one of the greatest members of their order when the starship carrying it was destroyed by enemy forces. The commander of the ship, who was also the mission leader, dumped the nanotech armor's primary data core so that if the suit survived the starship's destruction and the enemy got a hold of it, they wouldn't know how it worked.

The remains of the vessel crash on Earth, where a young man finds the containment crystal that houses the nanotech armor and is suddenly encased in the StarKnight Plus protective garb. Oh course, he doesn't know how it operates. Cross Green Lantern, Iron Man and the Greatest American Hero and you get the idea behind StarKnight Plus.

Ray's StarKnight is protected by Armor, can fly, shoot solar energy blasts and possesses Super Strength and Endurance. He can also rapidly destabilize the molecules of metal objects and reorganize them into other shapes so as to supply him with additional weapons, defenses, create a cage or restraints to hold a villain, etc.

Hoody Hoo! More to come...

Barking Alien

Sunday, February 26, 2012

20 Untimely Questions for The One-And-Only D&D-But-Not

Before recounting my Mutants and Masterminds game from this past Saturday, I thought I would answer the following 20 questions for no real reason whatsoever. Brendan seems a nice enough chap though so let's give a go shall we?

As a special bonus, I will try to answer them with specifics from my D&D-But-Not games, as most of these questions only apply to some form of D&D.

Here goes nothing...

Ability scores generation method?

Common Folk get 3D6, arrange as you like.
Gifted Folk get 3D6 re-roll ones, arrange as you like.
Special Folk get 4D6 and drop the lowest, arrange as you like.
Super Folk, get 4D6 drop the lowest, re-roll ones, arrange as you like.

Most of my campaign fall into the Special or Super category.

How are death and dying handled?

Zero is dead. What is this minus X crap? Hit points are life. If you have zero hit points you have no life (One could argue that...never mind). When you have no life you can't get less no life. Negative hit points always confused me.

If you take more than half of your HP in a single attack you must make a fortitude save (or System Shock or whatever) to avoid being knocked unconscious. At 75% you are considered dying.

What about raising the dead?

Good luck. Rare ability. Can be expensive or free depending upon religion, region, nature of recipient's death, etc. Difficult to do. Nasty side effects if performed incorrectly or the Gods are in a foul mood or not on great terms with the caster or recipient.

How are replacement PCs handled?

You roll them up and I find some logical way to have them meet up with and join the others. The player may help me find a place for them to fit in.

Initiative: individual, group, or something else?

Everyone rolls a D6 and adds their Dexterity Bonus. People with the same number attack at the same time.

Are there critical hits and fumbles? How do they work?

Rolled a 20! Critical hit or success - double damage or effect.
Rolled a 1! Critical miss or fail - weapon is dropped or breaks or situation worsens.

Do I get any benefits for wearing a helmet?

Uh-huh. It protects your head.

Can I hurt my friends if I fire into melee or do something similarly silly?

You can if you fumble/critical fail. Otherwise, quite contrary to most D&D games I've played in, you are not assumed to suck. If Robin Hood or Hawkeye can do it so can you.

Will we need to run from some encounters, or will we be able to kill everything?

Short answer: you will sometimes need to run.

Long answer: If you are 4, 3rd Level characters and the monster you are facing just leveled a manor house with a single swing of its tail, you may want to rethink charging it. Your call.

Level-draining monsters: yes or no?

No. Never liked that power. More annoying then fun or interesting.

Are there going to be cases where a failed save results in PC death?

Rarely. Maybe very rarely.

How strictly are encumbrance & resources tracked?

Resources are tracked dramatically most of the time. You only run out after a long battle and a bad roll (fumble), etc.

Encumbrance? Is that some kind of vegetable?

What's required when my PC gains a level? Training? Do I get new spells automatically? Can it happen in the middle of an adventure, or do I have to wait for down time?

Normally we wait until the end of a session to record XP and yes, even if we end the game in the middle of a battle you can level up if you have the points. You gain new spells as it is assumed you were either studying their basics already (Wizards), you'd been praying for them for days now (Clerics), the spirits of Nature smile upon you (Druids) or the forces of some hidden realm grant you a new spell or power in exchange for a small favor (my Sorcerers).

If you are looking to obtain a rare spell or special ability you will have to return to some place you can learn said power before gaining full access to it.

What do I get experience for?

Playing in character, teamwork, exploring or developing the plot, exploring or developing a subplot, creative use of your abilities, spells, powers, etc., entertaining the GM and other players.

How are traps located? Description, dice rolling, or some combination?

Combo with bonuses to rolls given for creative search methods and/or good role playing.

Are retainers encouraged and how does morale work?

Retainers are neither encouraged nor discouraged really. Morale is an RP thing based on your (the PC's) attitude and the mindset of the retainer. I do not roll randomly for morale.

How do I identify magic items?

Begin by looking at them. Kidding (sorta).

There are a number of NPCs with the ability to identify most items (for a modest to elaborate fee) but PCs can learn the technique as well.

Can I buy magic items? Oh, come on: how about just potions?

Yes. You can purchase magic items. The prices of some items will be much lower then those in the books. Some will be higher. Most Mage Shop owner would rather barter or trade items. They may have what you're looking for if you can get something for them.

Can I create magic items? When and how?

Sure. When? When you acquire the skill or talent for it, find the right materials or ingredients, have free time to make it, etc. How? Ask me how to make a work of art. Each one is unique unless you are churning out shlock.

What about splitting the party?

Yes please.

Barking Alien

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Responding To The Trouble Alert

Two consecutive bad game sessions have set a pattern in motion that can not be allowed to continue!

Most assuredly it can not be allowed when we're talking Superheroes. I love Supers, Supers games and I am putting my colorful, buccaneer boot clad foot down. I'm taking this band to a new city...Freedom City!

I have stated the paradox that is my love of certain IP settings and my general dislike for pre-made game settings many times before but there are exceptions to every rule and one of them is Freedom City.

I've used this 'house setting' of Mutants & Masterminds before in both it's 1st and 2nd Edition incarnations and I find it really fun.

More then just an amalgam of DC and Marvel with the file numbers scraped off (though in some ways it is that), Freedom City has exactly what I am looking for in a Superhero game that I want to be different from my Champions game. This world is more 4-Color, more brightly lit and harkens back to the Silver Age of Comics without feeling dated. Ya'know, like DC could have done with the New 52 instead of
what they did.

My ever astute pal Dave, who is one of the four players in the game, made some observations on what I have done for successful games that I didn't do in my last two attempts.

1) I usually give players more info prior to starting the campaign or right at the beginning that tells them the state of things so far. This gets them in the mind set of what's going on. The last two times I kind of rushed the 'opening scene', since I felt we were more pressed for time and were going to have shorter sessions then usual (which was true). I need to slow down a bit and take the time to immerse the players.

2) At the same time, Dave suggests I do go with one of my 'En Media Res' openings, as he feels those are my best and most exciting types game starts as a GM. I agree. At least I like to think that my beginning an adventure half way into a fight and/or story is one of my signature 'moves' and something that keeps my games different from many others'. PCs do not usually meet in a bar or at the Superhero Team Headquarters, though they do sometimes. I would much rather the PCs hit the ground running and punch up the excitement level by saying, "You're not about to face danger, you are in danger. NOW!"

I am really hoping this next one sticks 'cause, quite honestly, it's my last alternate Supers attempt for a while. I have my Champions game and it seems that it is waaay better to create a side Superhero game then try to shoehorn the new guys into Champions. So, should I be unable to make the stars align this Saturday, I think it's about time I ran Traveller again (just in time for Mass Effect 3!).

Wish us luck,

Barking Alien

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Crisis on Earth AD

Very soon I may have to change the name of this blog from Barking Alien to Barking Super.

In the past two weeks I've run two different Supers RPGs with more players joining each time. I will be running a game at the Compleat Strategist on the 3rd of March demoing a brand new Superhero game about to hit the market (very likely with a haymaker depicted next to the POW!).

While I intended to focus this blog primarily on Science-Fiction gaming, fate and the personal preferences of my players and I have resulted in Comic Book Superheroes becoming the default RPG genre for myself and my group.

I couldn't be happier (OK, maybe if we were playing a Star Trek campaign I could be), while at the same time, I am feeling a bit frustrated as these past outings have not been my best. I won't lie, I take a lot of pride in my games and my approach to running campaigns and anything less then a really, really good session can kinda crash my mood or harsh my mellow. I don't know why but I love that phrase. Harsh my mellow. I am such a hippie.

Now one of the new players, the aforementioned, all-around great guy Corey, is bowing out of the campaigns. The game conflicts with another game he really wants to be in and with a wife and kids, his free time is both limited and precious. I totally understand that. Does it bother me that he'd rather spend that time playing someone else's game and not mine? Yes. Actually, it hurts quite a bit. However, I kind of saw it coming.

Corey fit in awesomely as a member of our group of friends and I'd hang out with him any day. If he wanted to see a movie or have a beer, I am right there. I believe that our play styles or perhaps our ideas about what makes a good Supers game didn't perfectly gel. No ones fault. These things happen. I would much rather it be this then we were jerks to each other and didn't get along as people. That would truly have sucked.

The final outcome is that I now have two new players, though exactly what we're playing from this point forward remains to be seen.

I do know, it will be super...

Barking Alien

Friday, February 17, 2012

A Deceptive Silence

It's been awfully quiet here at Barkley's Den lately, as I've been gearing up for a new campaign (or side campaign as it were) and preparing to demo a soon to be released RPG sometime in March (no not that one).

Add to that my Birthday, Dave's Birthday and a host of other birthday's and anniversaries and I just haven't have two seconds to myself to write anything of consequence (or better yet, entertainment!).

In truth, my days and nights, weekdays and weekends, have been whirlwinds of activity. The quiet on this blog masks a clandestine busy-ness. So, sorry gang if the Barkster isn't barking so much at the moment. Hopefully they'll be tons of stuff to howl about soon.


Barking Alien

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Happy Commercially Enforced Day of Romance

I dislike Valentine's Day and not because I am bitter or not a romantic. Rather, I dislike it because I am a romantic and it just seems to be far too arbitrary and commercial for a day that is supposed to celebrate love.

That said, I hope those who have someone special enjoy this day and those who don't realize it's OK and you will.

Peace and Love EVERYDay,

Barking Alien

Monday, February 13, 2012

Star Wars Birthday and The Challenge of The Super Friends

So, yesterday (as of about a half an hour or so ago) was my birthday. Normally an event I dread, I actually really enjoyed it for once. I had breakfast/brunch with my Mom, my Sister, my Brother-In-Law and my Nephew. It was my Nephew's idea to throw Uncle Adam a Star Wars themed party, complete with paper plates and cups covered with images of Yoda and Darth Vader. It was very cool and I felt like I was his age for a bit (He's 5), instead of my age (Not 5).

Afterwards I went to Brooklyn to run my D&D-esque game for the kids at the Learning Center and review the RPG Journals they have to keep in order to make sure they are doing the learning assignment part of the deal. Some great, some not so much but I see progress in many so I'm happy and so is my ex-wife (whose Learning Center it is) and the parents.

This topped off a pretty cool Saturday (Feb. 11th), birthday of my pal, the oft-mentioned Dave.

We got to play a bit of our Champions game, though we had a slow start and an all to quick finish before we had to go our separate ways.

Two of the best parts of what was essentially an only OK game outting were...

The New Guy! Corey joined us for the very first time and I swear it was like we'd known and gamed with this guy for years. As Dave remarked, "Is it me or was he always a part of this group?". Definitely felt that way. The only bad news is that in two weeks he won't be available, although there is a silver lining. Before I tell you what that is I will go to the second awesome part of Saturday.

An Old Guy! Teasing 'Rad. My old pal Conrad got to join us. Turns out Conrad's schedule has changed somewhat enabling him to game with us on an irregularly regular basis.

Now wait...Conrad can't be there all the time and Corey can't be there all the time and sometimes it won't be the same time. Argh! Hold on...*RING*'s that silver lining I promised...NEW INCREDIBLE IDEA!

When all are available (Me, Dave, Marcus, Conrad and Corey...and maybe even Jeff and/or a another possible player to be named later), we play Champions.

When only three or four are around we play a new campaign specifically designed to have players pop in and out. Very episodic. If you're there you play and at the end of the session the story is over. Next time, new story and if you're there you play, etc.

The vote is in for Mutants & Masterminds 3E, with the world being another pet project idea of mine. This time it's a twisted alternate history of a combined Timely/Atlas Comics (Pre-MARVEL Marvel) and National Comics (Pre-DC DC) universe. The idea was inspired by my love of Golden and Pre-Silver Age comics, the recent resurrection of many Public Domain Heroes by Dynamite Comics and Marvel and a firecracker-down-your-shorts crazy idea by one of the players (Marcus actually).

I think we have met and bested the conundrum of how to get more players and what to play and come up with something truly epic. The Challenge of The Super Friends has been won!


Stay tuned,

Barking Alien

Friday, February 10, 2012

Five Guys Against Evil

Sorry posting has been light of late but my resurrected Champions campaign has demanded a lot of my attention (when I am not working and work has kept me very busy).

I had mentioned two new players...well make that three.

Now five guys are standing together against the forces of evil and I couldn't be happier. Hmm...'Five Guys Against Evil' sounds like a great name for a Kung-Fu movie. Or a band.

Anyway, play recap report sure to follow in a few days. Other then that, have a great weekend and good gaming all!

Barking Alien

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Ch-Ch-Changes Remain The Same

So it seems Champions is not was merely resting. Sort of like Superman.

It looks like Superhero campaigns don't go down easy. Good for them and good for me.

With the addition of not one but two new Player Character heroes, 'The New Champions' is set to return with a bang and one I'm pretty thankful for.

The threat of no regular game was starting to effect my mood something fierce. Now it wasn't the only facotr contributing to my feeling down but normally it's gaming that picks me up when I am depressed so I felt like I was waging a loosing battle.

Luckily, like my favorite 4-color heroes I refused to give up and as fate would have it I was introduced via email to a new player named Corey and was able to get ahold of an old friend and player named Conrad who is free to join us on game day.

More details as they come up. Watch out villainy...the boys are back in town.

Barking Alien

Monday, February 6, 2012

Wasting Time

I really dislike wasting time.

Of course, I am relatively flexible about what I deem 'time well spent'. Playing RPGs, brainstorming, laughing and hanging out with friends, these are not wastes of time by any means. That are important, necessary, and they make it easier to handle the rest of the baggage and garbage life has to offer.

So this weekend, with some exception, was wasted.

True, I got to run my game at the learning center in Brooklyn for the kids and it was fun but the rest of the weekend felt like I accomplished nothing. When I say nothing I mean I didn't even accomplish that unwinding and recharging that comes with enjoying ones self in some way on the weekend.

The end result is I am starting this week a bit under-enthused. That is why this post is such a downer. Sorry. I felt the need to get this off my chest and placed somewhere. I chose here. It's my blog, I can do what I want right?

If you want to know what RPGs do for me, what purpose they ultimately serve in my life it's this...they prevent and neutralize this. They get right of this feeling of nearly crippling blah.

A new game is needed. And soon.

Barking Alien

Friday, February 3, 2012


Its been kind of a crazy week and I for one am very much looking forward to the weekend. Specifically Saturday. I intend on taking it easy...

With my last few attempts to get the gang together for a game being somewhat unsuccessful, I think I am going to redirect my energies toward working on my own intended-for-sale RPG projects. I've had a number of fun and odd ideas for rules mechanics pop into my head and I figure I should explore them before deciding exactly what the rules of my games are going to intale.

Plus, I working with dogs all day but feel I hardly ever have time to spend with mine so that is going to be another positive of an RPG free Saturday.

In other related news, I may have a new player joining my group. He comes recommended by my friend Alex and so far as I can tell seems like a pretty cool guy. His time here in New York is limited (moving down South in about 6 months) but in the mean time I'd really love to have him join in on our Champions game if I can resurrect it before it fades out completely. I really do hope I can. This has been a great campaign.

OK, got to get ready for work. Talk to you all very soon.

TGIF and then some!

Barking Alien

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Steal Away Gaming

February is Black History Month and so, having a lot of friends of African American descent (as well as other nationalities that would fall under the category of being considered 'Black'), I thought I would take this opportunity to honor all of the Black game designers who contributed to the hobby of RPGs since it's earliest days.

There' Mike Pondsmith. And...huh.

Much like comic books but even more so, our hobby seems to be one where the number of minority members who are fans is largely disproportionate to the number of people of that minority in creative positions in the industry.

Now first I must apologize to the many Black creators, writers and artists in gaming. Yes, I know there are more then one of you. I singled out Mike Pondsmith because his is a well known name and because he is a personal favorite of mine. The nature of this post is to start off the month with a bit of controversy and an attempt to shock but please bare with me.

Breaking down the demographics of my last few gaming groups, the vast majority of players I've had have been Black. Now this doesn't 'matter' in any particular sense. It doesn't change what I do or how I game. It does make me wonder why we don't see more key creative people among the powers that be in the hobby.

My best friend Dave (who I've mentioned many, many times), has some interesting observations about this and specifically about which games he and his friends gravitated towards. I'm going to try and get him to do a guest post on the subject.

One creative person whose work should not go unnoticed is
Julia B. Ellingboe, the deep and talented mind behind the indie RPG, Steal Away Jordan.

Steal Away Jordan is not an easy game. Not in the context of the rules mind you but in the nature of its content.

Steal Away Jordan is a story game that enables players to look into the lives of people who live in a time and place where slavery exists. This isn't 'Goblin Slavers of the Dragonfaced Island' slavery. This is slavery as it happened. This is slavery as a terrible, sad reality.

The emphasis here is on the people, the characters, the culture and their lives. The settings time and place can be changed. It creates a story of the situation and the institution of organized slavery and its effect on those who live with it from the smallest, poorest child to the oldest, wealthy slave owner. Steal Away Jordan is written and depicted in the spirit of such great authors as Margaret Walker, Alex Haley, and a personal favorite of mine, Octavia Butler.

Using this premise of historical fiction, players explore the social and psychological implications of life in a society where people can be bought and sold as property.

The subject matter is, as I noted, difficult. It can make you uncomfortable. A certain fantastic element can be added as per the rules resulting in a story that does indeed remind me of Octavia Butler's book Kindred. At the same time, if handled well, it only enhances the feeling and atmosphere of the material.

Food for thought on this first day of February.

Later days,

Barking Alien