Friday, March 29, 2013

The Heroic Age...Of Around 11 - Part II

Continuing my majestic monologue of manic matters in the mighty Marvel manner...

In the Marvel Heroic session I ran months ago for the RECESS Game Event, I seem to recall no more than two 6-sided die, one 8-sided and one 10-sided being added to the Doom Pool in the entire four hour session with six players at the table.

When I ran the game at the study center last Sunday (March 24th), in the first few moves (only Wolverine, Human Torch and Scarlet Witch had actually taken actions), I already had two 8's and a 10 (not including the two 6's the standard Doom Pool always starts with). By the time Thor went...and than Thor rolled...

I was honestly caught in a paradoxical state of extreme sadness and chocolate-milk-out-of-my-nose laughter.

Scarlet Witches attempt to transform the molten, hotter than hot earth beneath Hulk's feet into stone and trap him failed. The Scarlet Witch's Player also rolled a 1 (an opportunity for me). I tweaked the rules just slightly and gave her not one but two Plot Points. It was a great idea and a good effort but if the Hulk avoided it than she negated the Complication (the ground was now solid stone, not lava-like).

Invisible Woman was up next and did the smartest and simplest thing she could think of. The Player had Sue create a force field wall with her and Wanda (the Scarlet Witch that is) on one side and Hulk on the other. Invisible Woman than gave the next move to Thor.

Editor's Note:

In Marvel Heroic, the Watcher/GM chooses who goes first and than that person chooses who goes next. The last person to go chooses the next person to go and so on and so forth until all the participants, NPC heroes, allies and enemies, have taken an action.

This means if you don't let the bad guys go in between the moves of yourself and your friends, then at the end they all get to go. This is not cool. I mean, it's cool for the Watcher but not for your fellow supers.

At first, this was a bit tricky for the kids to grasp but they eventually got the idea. Also, since they are middle school kids, they were being careful to pick people to go next who would actually help them (friends) and not those who would ignore them and simply attack the Hulk ('cause they have cooties or whatever kids think these days).

Now Thor...poor Thor. Sue's Player chose Thor because they had seen the Thor and Avengers movies and knew a little mythology and figured, if anyone of them could halt the advance of the Hulk, it's had to be Thor.

"’Cross the Rainbow Bridge of Asgard,
Where the booming heavens roar,
You’ll behold in breathless wonder,
The God of Thunder, Mighty Thor!"


"Doc Bruce Banner,
Belted by gamma rays,
Turned into the Hulk.
Ain’t he unglamo-rays!
Wreckin’ the town
With the power of a bull,
Ain’t no monster clown
Who is as lovable.
As ever-lovin’ Hulk! HULK! HULK!"
Thor certainly wins on theme song lyrics and better hair but the Norns did not look fondly on the Son of Odin that fateful day. The Player decided that the God of Thunder would hurl great Mjolnir at the Hulk and rolled...dismally. Three 1s. One of which was on a 12-sided die. I gave the fellow three Plot Points and than discarded one die from the Doom Pool to have Hulk retaliate on his Defensive Action.
As the Hammer misses Hulk and turns in the air to fly back to Thor, Hulk grabs it and uses it to carry himself to the Asgardian. One Player balked that, "Hulk can't lift the Hammer, he isn't worthy!". I applauded him for paying attention to the mythos but Hulk wasn't lifting it or wielding it in any way. Mjolnir was heading home to Thor's hand and Hulk just hitched a ride. Hulk proceeds to punch Thor (Well, not so much punch as be drawn to him via the Hammer with his big, green fist forward) and my roll was...devastating. Seriously. Hulk knocked Thor from Albuquerque to Santa Fe.
Falling back to Terra Firma (Thor was in the air when he threw Mjolnir and when Hulk struck him), we found the class was running out of time. We decided as a group to give Hulk his move and he (I as Watcher as Hulk) made an Area Attack. Clamping both hands together, Hulk hit the ground with earthquake inducing force. I added the D12 from the Doom Pool to really leave an impression. Unfortunately I was Reed Richards.
Spending a Plot Point on his Defensive Action, Mr. Fantastic calls for all the earthbound supers (that is, anyone who can't fly) to jump back through the Transportation Portal that brought them all to New Mexico. With a little help from Captain America (who also spent a Plot Point to grab The Thing), the flyers took to the air while Wolverine and Spidey made a mad dash and leapt back through the Kirby Krackle clouded gate to the Baxter Building.
Right before we ended, Richards came up with an interesting plan. "If we postulate that the Hulk is being driven to this higher rate of madness by some imbalance, illness or outside force, we need not defeat the Hulk to stop him. We simply need to calm him down and perhaps he can fight it himself."
Mr. Fantastic plans on devising a sedative-like elixir, to be delivered by Captain America, to get the Hulk back to the normal level of rampaging green giant we all know and love.
Be here in thirty, for a story we could only call...
Stay strong True Believers!
Barking Alien


Thursday, March 28, 2013

The Heroic Age...Of Around 11 - Part I

My computer is very near workable.

Just in time too, as I intend on doing something pretty cool and definitely fun for April's A-to-Z Challenge this year. A little more about that in the next post.

There are still a few kinks to work out but I should have them taken care of relatively soon. Besides, what is life without a few kinks? I have a good number of kinks myself. Hmmm. That did not come out quite as I intended.

Moving on...

A quick though regretfully belated Happy Birthday shout out to two fine gentlemen who are big heroes of mine - Happy Birthday William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy!


Last Sunday I started a new game with the kids at the study center in Brooklyn where I teach. The new game comes with a new lesson focus involving writing and story structure. The key this time is working on those elements that will be important in essay writing, a major part of the upcoming state wide tests.

What game did I decide to use to make my point?

Marvel Heroic! That's right Marvel Zombies, your favorite ol' diehard DC fanboy went over to the dark side once again, this time full force and ran a game featuring the Avengers, the Fantastic Four, Spider-man and a couple of X-Men for good measure.

While the roster of heroes we used closely resemble the modern incarnation of the Avengers (complete with Thing, Mr. Fantastic and Spider-man as members), I couldn't help but see them in their 80's outfits in my mind's eye. It's partly that that's when I was a really big Marvel fan (though I love DC too) and partly the way the kid's play Superheroes.

For the first session the story was fairly simple.

The heroes are hanging out at the Baxter Building (home of the Fantastic Four) or the Avengers Mansion (HQ of the mighty Avengers). Spider-man was visiting the FF while Wolverine and Storm were paying a visit to the Avengers at the time.

The full roster was Captain America, Human Torch, Invisible Woman, Iron Man, Mister Fantastic, Scarlet Witch, Spider-Man, Spider-Woman, Storm, The Thing, Thor and Wolverine.

All the male characters were played by males. All the female characters were played by females. The youngest player was in 4th grade. The oldest player is in 6th grade (should be 7th but the boy only moved here from China a year ago).

The plot, sorry, Event, began when the heroes all received a call from Nick Fury of SHIELD. Something terrible was happening just outside of Albuquerque, New Mexico. Something big. Something...

Yes indeedy-do comic book crusaders, the one and only (well, relatively) incredible Hulk was on a rampage once more and SHIELD needed help taking him down. It is important to note that the players received a number of subtle clues that this was not the Hulk's normal wanton destruction but that he seemed even madder and crazier than usual. On the Rampage-O-Meter, with a scale from 1 to 10, Hulk had his HULK SMASH dial cranked up to 12. He only partially recognized heroes he had fought or teamed with before and didn't really use any thinking or tactics (Specialties). It was just "GRRRRAAAA!", lunge, tear-to-shreds.

As Mister Fantastic, Captain America and several other heroes set up a sort of base camp/defensive line near the opening of Mr. F's Transportation Portal (he teleported the teams to New Mexico by tracking Hulk's gamma radiation signature), several other team members went to look for Hulk's exact position, obscured as it was by smoke, flames and screaming civilians.

The players and PCs of Mister Fantastic and Iron Man quickly picked up on the Hulk's abnormal level of know, even for the Hulk.

Iron Man's sensors pinpointed the Hulk and he radioed back to the rest of the group.

The first to attempt to take down the green goliath was the man who's the best there is at what he does and what he does isn't nice...Wolverine! Unfortunately, Wolvie's roll stank and Hulk easily avoided the blow. Next up was the Human Torch, who got into the system pretty quickly and used his Fire Mastery to set up a Complication. Instead of blasting the Hulk with flames, he heated the dirt and sand beneath Hulk's feet, causing Hulk to begin sinking into molten ground.

The Scarlet Witch attempted to follow up that move with a Transmutation Hex. Her idea was to transform the lava like earth into solid granite or marble and trap the Hulk's feet. No dice. That is, she too rolled pretty poorly.

Actually, there were very few good rolls this past Sunday on the part of the kids. I would've slaughtered their team if it hadn't been for one really bad roll on my part toward the end of the session.

More on that after this ad for Hostess Fruit Pies and X-Ray Specs!

Barking Alien

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

A Colorful Character

This is the 'Silver Age' version of a villain I've used in my games since, oh let's see, about 1983 I would guess.

Ladies and gentlemen, The Prism!

His power is to split into seven different, distinct and seperate people, each with a special power and wearing a variation of Prism's costume (usually featuring only their color, black and white).

I don't remember them all but I do recall...

Red is a 20 something, Caucasian Male with a Southern drawl and heat powers.

Yellow is a 20 something African American Woman with light powers and scientific knowledge.

Green is an older Male, sometimes Caucasian with a Scottish accent (sometimes Native American) with plant and earth control.

Blue is Asian, often Male but not always, with water based abilities.

Indigo often has teleportation, fade, or phase into shadows, and other 'Nightcrawler' themed abilities. Indigo's mask is full-face and no one knows exactly what he, or she looks like.

OK, enough for now. Bedtime.

Barking Alien

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

For Future Reference

Inspired by Erin Palette's post revealing the star-spanning vessel used in her Traveller campaign, I thought I'd take a moment and show you the one from ours.

This vessel is designated as a Laboratory Cutter, similar to and yet very different from the traditional Lab Ship normally encountered in Classic Traveller.

The original Lab Ship is a ring with a pylon/tube extending from the inside of the ring to the center space where a small launch (shuttle) connects with the vessel. In this design, the ring is the ship, with the launch merely a support vessel.

In our version, based on a design created by my friend and I about 15 years ago, the ring houses the labs, staterooms and other elements but the control deck/bridge, Jump Drive and such are part of a modular cutter that connects to the ring is a fashion similar to the classic version.

The major difference is that in the original the ring is the ship. In the version above, the cutter is the ship and the ring is the support vessel.

Due to the need to depict the vessel's interior as clearly as possible, the lab/support ring has been omitted for clarity. I may show an interior shot of that in an upcming post. The overall design of the central cutter is based on the 'Super Swift' from Space:1999. 

Barking Alien

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Sad GM is Sad - But Not About GMing

Great Bird of The Galaxy and Allfather's Beard I do so despise Windows 8.

Frustrating to use when it does anything you want it to at all, it is also incompatible with half the programs I had on my old computer and does wonders with formatting for my blog. By 'wonders' I mean, of course, that it is a wonder that the creators and programmers of this monstrosity are allowed to wipe their own butts since I wouldn't put it past them to mess up something that simple either.

Anyway, as I stated in the previous post, these next two weeks or so will likely be light as I decide exactly what I am going to do in regards to my current computer dilemma. Most likely I will be uninstalling this OS (and I use the term OS very loosely here) and installing Windows 7 and some version of Office prior to '365'. I have not made a definitive decision on that latter part. I simply know that Office 365 was made to go with Windows 8 and based on the poor design and performance of that, the idea of using Office 365 has me more than a little wary.


In other news, I also have a few personal things to take care of, which will also contribute to the lightness of posts for the next two weeks. Don't worry all you cool cats and kidding kittens, your chronically hip Barking Alien is fit and fine. I just have to make some serious changes around here and I need time to do it.


Yeah, life has me feeling kind of blue and for a Green Dog, that's no fun let me tell you.

On a positive notes, actually two positive notes, our second Traveller session went well and we are starting up a new Champions campaign in the very near future (completely unrelated to the previous one).

These things (and my dog) make me smile.


Fret not, I will be by periodically to toss out some bizarre thought, crazy campaign idea or simply remind you all that I ain't dead. Nice of me I think.

Later days,


Barking Alien

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

User Unfriendly - Inter Face-Off

I got a new computer.


It uses Windows 8 (for now).

Boo! Hiss! Punch the developers in their short-sighted, low intelligence, do-these-people-actually-use-computers hipster-nerd faces.

I can barely do anything with this thing, none of my favorite programs (including and especially my art programs) are compatible with it and any time spent on it is an exercise in utter frustration so...don't expect a lot of posts this month unless I can fix this.

By fix I mean I am either going to figure out how to make it work passably, downgrade to Windows 7 or through the whole think out a window.

Place ya bets!

Barking Alien

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Might As Well Jump

If you haven't already checked out Erin Palette's post on how Maneuver and Jump Drives work in Traveller, take a moment to do so. It's really good stuff. Plus, it's Erin Palette actually talking about gaming and how often does that happen? ;)

I kid, I kid, I am the kidder.

Now, I have nothing so cool as an intelligent and well thought out scientific essay on the technobabble of our mutual favorite Sci-Fi RPG (or at least one of them). Instead, I have a cool illustration of the alien Za'Tachk, another member of the Hive Federation...

And a cool chart showing how 'fast' Traveller's Jump Drive goes IMTU. See, in the Traveller Universe I have been using for the last 20+ years or so, Jump Drive is slightly different than the way it has been traditionally presented in canon.

Generally, when a starship enters Jump Space, it is there for a week. So, a Jump-1 vessel goes 1 parsec in 1 week. Likewise, a Jump-6 vessel (the most powerful and effective Jump Drive there is) goes 6 parsecs in 1 week. Now, how long would it take a Jump-6 vessel to go 1 parsec.

Simple. 1 week. It takes 1 week to go from Normal Space to Jump Space and back. It always takes 1 week.

That did not sit well with my collection of Star Trek, Star Wars and related Sci-Fi IP buddies, so we have an alternate breakdown of how long a starship is in Jump Space and how long it takes to travel a given distance. Like so...

So the skinny here is that as drives improve in power they are also more efficient to some degree. Regardless however, the key is always that it takes 1 week to go the number of parsecs equal to the drive designation. Also, if you have a Jump-5 Drive it should take you two week (2 x The Drive Designation) to go 10 parsecs. A Jump-2 vessel will take two weeks to go 4 parsecs, etc.

The change doesn't have a major effect on the game except that the character's don't age as quickly just getting from place to place. Also, it does (somewhat) encourage a bit more traveling in Traveller, which I am all for, but I am aware not every Traveller GM enjoys. Many prefer that their PC crews hang out in one place for a while. Not me. Part of the reason for this chart is that I want to play Traveller not Settler.

Barking Alien

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

When Not Preaching To The Choir

I've got a few things I want to talk about in the fields of Science Fiction (Our Traveller campaign!) and Supers (Our upcoming, brand new Champions campaign!) RPGing, so I hope I have time available to do so this month. At the moment, things are looking to be pretty busy.

February was, as I noted recently, pretty low on page views, very likely because it was also pretty low on posts. A real bummer and a little bit of a surprise since the posts I did make were largely focused on Traveller and Supers, two things that usually bring a lot of people 'round the campfire. Ooh, s'mores are almost done! Where was I? Ah yes...

I did get more comments than usual and that's a good sign but my goal is to get a little more of both. I want a lot of people to come visit, stay a bit and talk. It's lonely here in this orbital pod all by myself.

Moving along...

As recent as yesterday morning, I was having a conversation with Erin Palettle about some material she created for a Traveller game she is running. The conversation inspired me to post something about the particulars of Jump Drive 'In My Traveller Universe' (IMTU TM*), which differ a bit from the traditional canon of the game.

I would prefer to post my material after she posts hers, so I am going to hold off on that for the moment. Instead, I will address something of the Superheroic persuasion, which I feel is of interest to gamers in other genres as well, although I've seen it in Supers more than anywhere else. This posts inspiration comes from conversations I've had with a fellow you may know as WQRobb. If you don't know him, well, consider what you're missing out on!


A Superheroes RPG is an extremely difficult game to run if your players aren't comic book fans.

I will amend that statement slightly. A Superheroes RPG is an extremely difficult game to run if your players aren't comic book fans and you are hoping for a Superhero Comic Book style campaign.

While it isn't too difficult to explain Dungeons & Dragons to someone who hasn't read Lord of The Rings or get someone who's never seen Babylon 5 into a session of Traveller, I would wish you good luck running Supers for someone who doesn't have a few dozen issues of The Avengers or Teen Titans under their belt.

With the Fantasy and Science Fiction genres, you can easily point to the medieval period of European history or an issue of Discover Magazine that discusses exo-planets and space travel. Fantasy goes back to fairy tales and the time of kings and knights. Science Fiction looks toward the future and the What If? of where we are going with technology and culture.

Supers is a strange bird (no, it's a, it's Super...ahem). It postulates an impossible now in which certain utterly ridiculous constants are common place and excepted.

For example...

One running gag in our previous Champions campaign was that one player refused to have his PC wear a costume, when all the other Supers of the world thought of it as not only normal but a given. Decked out in his leather jacket and shades he viewed himself as looking way cooler and more logical than any of the colorfully garbed, spandex lot. Unfortunately, all the NPCs, from fellow Supers to the Police to Reporters failed to understand why he dressed so strangely for an official Superhero. Many times our SHIELD-like organizations (PRIMUS and UNTIL) would tell him to get out of the way and get to safety, thinking he wasn't supposed to be at the battle.

PRIMUS Officer: "I'm sorry sir. This is a restricted area. There is a superhuman battle going on. All civilians must get to a safe distance."

ARCANE: "I'm a member of Project: UNITY. I have superpowers." (Shows Officer his ID).

PRIMUS Officer: "Oh I see. Sorry. Why aren't you in costume? How is anyone supposed to know?"

It was viewed as normal to wear a costume and a mask if you were a Superhero. It was tradition. Otherwise you're just some metahuman yahoo or worse, a poser.

On a related note, here is something that gets me (mini-rant warning)...

Sometimes, you have a group of players, all about the same age, who ARE big comic book fans. They've read and like a lot of the same comics and talk about what's happening in different titles all the time. Then, when you get together to create characters for a Supers RPG (Yes CREATE, not Generate, as the most popular Supers RPGs, Champions and Mutants & Masterminds, are both point-based systems that let you create the character you want to play) you get characters you would almost never see in an American Superhero Comic.

Why?! Please someone tell me why this is! It defies all logic. I get it if some of the players are familiar with comics and some aren't but when you gather a group of comic book fans and get un-comic book like characters...well...What the Hell?! Seriously.

(End rant)

I have tried to run Supers RPGs for those who don't know much about or even aren't into comics and it never goes well. It has gone less-than-horribly a few times but rarely close to what I would deem 'really good'. Maybe once but I got lucky, I had great players.

Why is this? That is to say, why is Supers hard to comprehend for the non-comic reader? Aren't comic books and comic book heroes the modern myths, filled with present day Daedaluses and Dianas? If you can understand a Wizard battling a Dragon why is Superman striving to fell Chemo so hard to wrap one's head around?

I honestly don't have an answer for this since I get it.

What do you all think?

Barking Alien

*There is no actual trademarking going on here. ;)

Saturday, March 2, 2013

From The Far Future To The Silver Age

Short one today as I am heading out the door in a few moments...

As I prepare to continue our Traveller campaign, I am also gearing up for a side or 'back-up' campaign of Champions. I will be using Champions 6th Edition for the first time ever and I am a little unsure about how this will turn out since our last Champions campaign started out AWE-to-the-SOME and ended with a whimper.

Part of the reason the last Champions game went south toward the end was because of the player dynamic we had and my getting so tired and fed up with them that I dropped the ball and let them get away with crap just to get it over with. That is a damn shame. I am ashamed. That campaign world, that universe deserved better. They, the PCs, deserved to die and I was too afraid of hurt feelings to kill them. I am not normally like that but I began to realize that they (the players) just weren't on the level of my older groups. They couldn't handle it. It I went all out and did what I can do, what I should have done, we'd have been making up new PC's every three weeks (and it was a weekly game).

This current group, well, I have high hopes but I am also committed to not being a pansy. If these guys screw up, they buy the farm, no ifs ands or buts. At the same time, knowing what I know now and having some of the previous game's players joining in here, I am setting my sights on a less deadly game overall.

William's Champions World (Champions Earth Wilco Charlie-1 and my variant of it, Champions Earth Alpha Delta-1) was a deadlier, more brutal place. The villains were out to accomplish their goals, willing to kill each other in the process and the heroes were largely viewed as annoying speed bumps that periodically got in their way and slowed them down.

This new setting, which is largely based on an old Villains & Vigilantes campaign of mine, is far more Silver Age DC with Bronze Age Marvel undertones. There is angst and melodrama and the occaisional Gwen Stacy being tossed off a bridge but the villains are a bit more, mmm, 'Comic Book-y' overall. Quirky power or gizmo baddies are numerous, with a good number of smart, mid-level villains, followed by a few of your master villains and then the rare but astonishing cosmic nemesis.

I will have more to say on both this and my Traveller campaign very soon. Until then, enjoy the weekend and good gaming to one and all.

Barking Alien