Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Campaigns A-To-Z: Alphabet Soup

Fail. You lose. No stuffed unicorn for you. Thank you for playing.

Yep, failed another A-To-Z Challenge. I sometimes wonder why I start these? April is always a terrible month for me and I rarely have the time to devote to my blog as it is.


Oh well, maybe next year (See? What the hell is wrong with me?!).

On another, somewhat related note...

I won't be doing a Muppet Madness Month next month like I originally announced. Themed months are not feasible for the time being, especially ones where I'd want to put the maximum effort I could into them. My maximum effort lately just doesn't amount to that much effort it seems.

Back to talking about whatever the heck comes to mind.

See you in May.

Barking Alien

Friday, April 25, 2014

Campaigns A-To-Z: Ghostbusters: The Home Office

I almost posted a letter out of order. Seriously. This month is kicking my keister.

OK, back on track.

G is for Ghostbusters!

Ghostbusters: The Home Office


Gamemaster's Commentary: This post is about the first Ghostbusters campaign I/we ran, waaay back in 1986. It was definitely more humorous and less scary/creepy than the later games of Ghostbusters that I ran myself but still pretty scary and creepy.

To check out my notes on one of those games take a look at...Accidentally Awesome.

Some of the elements of this earlier game would be seen in the Ghostbusters animated series (The Real Ghostbusters) and other follow-up features in the franchise (such as Ghostbusters II and Ghostbusters International), all long before they actually appeared.

System: Ghostbusters, A Frightfully Cheerful Role Playing Game

Circa: 1986-89. Sessions generally averaged 4-5 hours in length (shorter than our 8+ hour standard for that era). The campaign lasted over three dozens sessions (roughly), though these were scattered across a three year period. The final session was run sometime in 1989.

Player Base: There were only four players including whomever was GMing as we rotated. Everyone took a turn but Joe ran the most. All four players were male and 17-18 years of age.

Characters: Just like in the film, there were initially four Ghostbusters, each a PC, and each with his own style and specialty. In addition, each carried a customized Neutrino Wand/Proton Pack unit.

The four were roughly analogous to the original four characters from the movie, though far from identical.

At some point in the campaign, our friend AJ joined in with a character of his own. While this technically made for five Ghostbusters, the rotating GM style we used meant one of the main four was essentially an NPC each session. So there were five Ghostbusters employed at the GB-HQ but usually only four of them would be on a mission together while the fifth did something else (modified their gear, did additional research, handled the EPA, etc.).

Dr. Alexander Dominic Thorton the 3rd (played by Joe V.):

The most original of the characters and not as easy to identify with one of the original four Ghostbusters, Alexander D. Thorton the 3rd is one part Ray, one part Peter, and two parts John Cleese as a paranormal investigator.

A wealthy British aristocrat originally hailing from England, Thorton lead a life of fancy lunches with good tea and tiny, triangular sandwiches, long Cricket matches, and other endeavors of leisure and little consequence. This was until he inherited a lovely, seaside summer cottage which turned out to be very, very haunted.

Hearing about the American supernatural investigation and elimination company Ghostbusters, Thorton sold off some assets, flew to the United States. and donated quite a bit of capital to the corporation in exchange for having them train equip him to open a franchise in London. After five successful years as the head of 'Ghostbusters UK' (technically Ghostbusters London), Thorton was asked back to the USA by Ray Stantz for the home office (See Synopsis).

Thorton's specialty was good old fashioned ghosts, spectres and phantoms. He was especially well versed in the dynamics of hauntings. 

His custom Neutrona Wand was capable of drawing ghosts directly into the device like a vacuum. The ectoplasmic entity was then sent through a tube into a ghost trap mounted on the side of the pack. This was referred to as the 'Quantum Incarcerator'. 

David Nelson (played by David C.):

A combination of Ray and Winston. The character was our tank and big gun, which was a very different role from that normally played by this player. He was great at it.

David Nelson was a former US Marine from Queens, New York who had encountered supernatural phenomena both at home and abroad during his tours of duty. After being discharged from the military, Nelson met with the Ghostbusters to find out why he kept having these encounters. Ray Stantz and Egon Spengler determined that Nelson's personal bio-electric aura and psychic resonance were such that weirdness was attracted to him like a magnet.

David became a freelance paranormal investigator for a few years before Winston Zeddemore asked if he wanted to join the Ghostbusters at the home office.

David Nelson's specialty involved Zombies, Mummies, and similar corporeal 'Risen Dead'.

He carried a Proton 'Cannon' (nicknamed 'The Neutrona Rod'), a much larger barreled particle stream caster with a much heavier Proton Pack. It was not able to 'lasso' the ghosts and was less accurate in general.

Robert 'Robbie' Stadler (played by William C.):

Our Peter Venkman, all the way.

Hailing from sunny Southern California, Robert Stadler was once a championship surfer, professional beach bum, and all around officially cool dude. During one surfing competition, a storm rolled in and Stadler was pulled out further to sea than he expected. Before long he was attacked by what he thought was a shark, only to discover it was a Were-Shark!

Robert managed to escape the creature but no one would believe him when he described his encounter. Amid a number of shark attacks over the next few days, Stadler contacted the Ghostbusters and asked them what to do about the situation. The very next day, Ray Stantz and Peter Venkman flew out to Cali and teamed with Stadler to root out and defeat the menace.

Stadler stayed in touch with the team and was later recruited for the home office.

Robbie's specialty was were-creatures, sea monsters and cryptids.

His custom Neutrona Wand was about half the size and two thirds the weight of the standard version. This 'Proton Pistol' was attached to a slightly lighter and smaller Proton Pack and had a hip holster charger. The weapon was less powerful but more accurate and controlled than the standard type.

Prof. Gabriel Zimmerman (played by Me):

Very much Egon Spengler and incidentally, my character.

Gabriel Zimmerman was a rather eccentric, socially awkward, scientific genius who worked as an astrophysicist at a university observatory in Illinois. Though fascinated by Egon Spengler's work with particle accelerators and other Ghostbusters technology, Zimmerman didn't believe in the existence of ghosts. Zimmerman assumed the phenomena being encountered by the Ghostbusters was something else (I forget what it was now but I had this whole speech where Zimmerman explains the events of the first Ghostbusters film in much the way the air force debunks UFO sightings).

At some point, Zimmerman was contacted by the Ghostbusters when a spectral astronaut started causing trouble at NASA's Space Center in Houston, TX. While aiding them (thanks to his extensive knowledge of the space mission this particular astronaut was part of), Zimmerman came face to face with the phantom spaceman and changed his opinion (followed by his underwear).

For a time after that, Zimmerman continued to worked as an astrophysicist but for NASA. In his off hours he took courses on metaphysics and parapsychology. After getting a degree in those fields he quit his job and applied to the Ghostbusters. He was quickly hired for the home office.

Zimmerman is the team's resident mad scientist and tech guy. His specialty remains astronomy and astrophysics but also astrology, UFO lore, and extraterrestrials.

Gabriel's personally modified Neutrona Wand generates a spherical 'bubble' of super-charged protons that can trap an ectoplasmic entity or protect him as a force field. The latter is difficult and requires a moment to mess with the devices settings to make it happen.

UPDATE: In recent years my good friend Michael Moss has taken over the role of Gabriel Zimmerman in games I have GMed and the character could not be in better hands. Mike's portrayal of Zimmerman is less 'nerdy' and a bit more 'off beat' then mine but I love it!

Pedro Preguntas (played by AJ):

I had forgotten that later in the campaign's run, the group was joined by another New York native, the Bronx born Pedro Prequntas. 

Pedro, a man of proud Puerto Rican descent, grew up on the mean streets of the Bronx doing...well...his exact profession prior to joining the Ghostbusters was never clear. In fact, while he was often alluded to that he may have been involved in various criminal activities, it was also implied that he wasn't completely keeping secrets about his past. He may actually have forgotten parts of it. The exact cause and nature of his memory lapses is unknown. 

We do know that he had seen some strange things in the dark places and back alleys of New York City and he basically showed up on the 'doorstep' of the Ghostbusters' Firehouse one day informing the group that it was in everyone's best interest if they hired him. Apparently, he'd handled some local spooks and spectral manifestation all on his own, using just the chip on his shoulder and a strong right hook.

Prequntas has cojones the size of the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man's.

Unlike the rest of the team, Pedro used the standard Proton Pack and Wand you see in the original film. 

Synopsis: A few years after the events of the first Ghostbusters film, supernatural activity is low and business is terrible. The various original members find themselves doing side jobs, speaking at lectures, in TV interviews, and doing personal research projects.

Following Halloween 1987, supernatural activity picks up again and various parties contact the 'main office' hoping to open franchise businesses. The most successful of these are Ghostbusters Houston (Zimmerman's location for a short while), Ghostbusters Kentucky, Ghostbusters New Mexico, and Ghostbusters UK in London (Thorton's location).

(Throughout the course of the campaign at least a half dozen others are mentioned. Though never seen or encountered, the Ghostbusters Louisiana franchise, located in the city of New Orleans, is supposed to be especially badass).

As the business side of things takes up more and more of their time and they get a chance to go into the field less and less, the original Ghostbusters decide to recruit a new team to operate out of the home office in New York City. They choose the best people from their various franchise operations and a couple of people the members have had personal dealings with. After an exhaustive process of going through dozens and dozens of candidates they decide on Dr. Alexander D. Thorton (Leader, Head Researcher and Accounting), David Nelson (Field Commander, Tactical Specialist, and Cook), Stadler (Front Man, PR Guy, and Customer Relations) and Zimmerman (Science, IT, Fringe Technician). Eventually the group is so busy they add Prequntas (who is their primary driver and mechanic). 

Adventures were mostly episodic, with very few multi-part stories or story arcs. The sessions (often called Episodes actually) were relatively short compared to other game sessions I was running at the time (as noted early - 4 or 5 hours as opposed to our usual 8-12). That said, some of the most memorable Episodes were longer than usual and/or multi-parters. Interesting, no?

The game was action packed, full of cool and creepy ideas, but at heart it remained a comedy. The focus was on seriously spooky situations but often came alive through its oddball characters and clever humor in the vein of the first film.

Bonus Features:

My friend Joe (who played Thorton) was/is an absolute Ghostbusters fanatic. Without him the campaign would not have worked half as well as it did. He had the 'making of the movie' book, built a prop Proton Pack out of found objects that looked fantastic, and was especially good at creating adventures with supernatural beings inspired by unexpected sources but which fit perfectly into the campaign (Such as an attractive though evil witch based on Maleficent from Sleeping Beauty who was awesome to battle!).

We made a couple of parody songs for the campaign including 'Only The Ghosts Die Young' (Sung to Billy Joel's 'Only The Good Die Young') and 'California Screaming' (Sung to 'California Dreaming' By The Mamas and The Papas).

Our uniforms were originally the same as the ones in the movies, then differen't colors like the Real Ghostbusters cartoon, and then finally we settled on a new, updated uniform that was the same for everyone (though we all wore it differently. Sleeves rolled up, front open, front zipped to the top, etc.).

We had three vehicles. The first was the original Ecto-1. The second was a motorcycle used primarily by Robbie Stadler. Later we added a truck/van type design based on an Ice Cream Truck I believe. It had a Ghost Storage/Containment Unit inside where the freezer would be.

Barking Alien

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Campaigns A-To-Z: Fedifensor

Last one was a long one. Hopefully an enjoyable one. This one might be a bit long as well.

F is for Fedifensor

Title: Star Trek: Fedifensor

System: Star Trek, The Role Playing Game, FASA System - Second Edition.

Circa: I tried to do the math on this, and it came out off. I'm pretty sure I've made a mistake somewhere. You see, I recall running this campaign in Junior High School. If memory serves, the game should have occurred around 1984. At the same time, the ship we used was from a FASA book that wasn't out until 1985.

Computer, check the chronometer on the Captain's Logs.

Player Base: This was a big group. There were originally seven guys, ages ranging from 14-16. Later, we lost one fellow to scheduling (read below - it's worth it), but gained a female player in the same age range.

Characters: The campaign began with a Human Captain, a Half-Human/Half-Vulcan First Officer/Helmsman, an Arkenite Navigator, a Human Engineer, an Human Security Chief, a Vulcan Science Officer and a Human 'Chief'. The Chief was kind of a homebrew idea. He specialized in things like Transporter Operation and Shuttlecraft Pilot and served as the reoccurring background guy who does what you need for that adventure. The First Officer eventually left for his own command, the Science Officer switched to being First Officer, and a female player joined as a Human Science Officer.

A few other players played occasional drop-in characters, like reoccurring guest stars. 

As I've mentioned in previous posts on the subject of running a Star Trek game, the ship is also a key character in the campaign, not to be forgotten or ignored.

Throughout most of this game, the ship was a Remora Class Escort dubbed the USS Fedifensor (NCC-1984), though the ship was modified a number of times over the course of the campaign. Improvements made to the vessel included improved Impulse Engines and Maneuvering Thrusters, Photon Torpedo Banks (which we did not start with) and upgraded Laboratory, and Medical Facilities (although they were still relatively small).

In addition, the wing-like, wedge shaped objects seen on the port-ventral (bottom left) and starboard-ventral (bottom right) of the Remora are Mission Pods, which can be swapped out for a variety of purposes. We saw the use of a number of different pods during the course of the campaign. Most memorable were the Troop Carrier Pods, the Medical Evac Pods, the Photon Test Pods (before the permanent torpedo tubes were installed), and the 'Party Pods', so nicknamed because they carried a massive diplomatic contingent that spent a large part of that adventure partying, and celebrating. Until the murder that is...Bum Bum BUMMM!


After about two dozen sessions or so, the Player playing the ship's first officer couldn't make it to the scheduled sessions. We decided to run a send off adventure where it's revealed that he has made Captain, and been given his own ship.

About 2 weeks later, I talk to the player of the first officer turned captain, and it turns out he had begun running a Star Trek campaign of his own. His younger brother played his former character, and the campaign followed the adventures of his new ship in the same area of space as my campaign. We stayed in touch, traded notes, and soon it was clear to any player of either campaign that the continuity of the two games was shared.

One additional Player came in to my campaign around this point. Female, same age range.

A few more months go by, and my friend and I met up with a good friend of ours at a local pizza place. We hadn't seen him in forever, as he was older, and had joined the navy (or Coast Guard or something), and was now back for a while it seemed. When he asked us if we still gamed, we told him about our Trek games. He flipped out. A huge fan of Star Trek, and a big gamer he wanted in, but neither game met with his schedule. Using our campaigns as a basis, we helped him develop his own to run with a few friends, and navy buddies. Then it hit me...all three campaigns were in the same sector of space, right?


It all culminated a few months after that. Rumors, and side adventures in all three campaigns led to the belief that a species of energy beings were possessing people throughout the Federation, and the Klingon Empire. Everything led up to a potential take over of our sector headquarters, Starbase Templar.

What happened next became legend in our gaming circles for years afterward (Perhaps that's a bit dramatic. No? Not dramatic enough?). Three GMs, 17 players, three Starships...a 24 hour gaming session that featured a battle between the forces of the alien invasion, and the PC vessels, as well as a lot of running around Starbase Templar trying to figure out exactly what was going on.

In the end, 4 PCs were killed, including the former first officer turned captain, who sacrificed himself, and destroyed his own vessel to eliminate the dimensional portal the aliens were using to enter our reality.

Synopsis: Roughly set just after the events of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, the main focus of the campaign was a Remora Class Escort, the USS Fedifensor, assigned to patrol the Klingon border and Organian Treaty Zone. The vessel's primary purpose was described as, "upholding, and defending the ideals of the Federation and it's people on a hostile frontier".

Most of our early missions were very action/adventure oriented, with numerous battles against Orion Pirates and Klingons, thwarting smuggling operations and escorting convoys, or diplomats, ambassadors and other high ranking officials to, and from their various points of origin, and destinations.

This eventually gave way to a mix of action and espionage, and than some more traditional, science fiction-y type adventures later on. This is one of the rare campaigns I've run where I used a lot of modules. I modified and adapted a number of the FASA Star Trek RPG modules to fit our particular campaign.

If I remember correctly, near the end of the campaign, our ship was decommissioned and the new USS Fedifensor was a Durrett Class Cruiser.

Bonus Features:

The name of the ship, Fedifensor, comes from an adventure in the November 1982 issue of Dragon Magazine (#67). It is the name of a Holy Avenger style sword and the focus of that particular scenario.

We often imagined and illustrated the Mission Pods on the Remora Class very differently from how FASA did (and indeed, differently than later fan depictions as well). For us, they were thicker nearer to where they touched the ship's saucer, more wedge shaped, with a vertical  'dorsal fin' on top. One of the players suggested each type of pod looked different depending on it's function.

This was the first campaign I ran with a regularly attending female player.

Prior to the extravaganza finale described above, no one had died in my campaign.

The Fedifensor's shuttlecraft were named Frazier, Foreman, Ali and Spinks. The Frazier saw the most use and had nose art with the words "Smokin' Joe" painted on the side. The Foreman was badly damaged and replaced by the Ali. Once the ship was upgraded and could handle more shuttles, the Foreman returned and the Spinks was added.

The dedication plaque of the Fedifensor reads, "It is better to fight for something, than live for nothing". George S. Patton.


Star Wars...then Star Trek...what could be next?

It's me. Superheroes of course...

Barking Alien

Monday, April 21, 2014

Campaigns A-To-Z: Ever Rimward

You may have noticed I am a little behind in producing entries for the A-To-Z Challenge. You would, in point of fact, be incorrect.

I am very behind. Extremely so. Monumentally would be an accurate assessment of how behind I am. Going to try to finish anyway.

Besides, the next few rock.

E is for Ever Rimward

Title: Ever Rimward

Gamemaster's Commentary:

Actually, Ever Rimward is the name I have given to a particular Star Wars universe continuity. It is actually made up of three separate campaigns that I eventually linked up together.

The first campaign, entitled "Tales from The Rim", though sometimes called "Tales Rimward",  was started in 92' I believe. I forget what prompted it, but it lasted roughly a year and was extremely popular among my gaming group at the time. It is still remembered fondly by those who participated.

The second was very short lived. I had created it on the fly at GenCon in 93' or 94' on the day we were getting ready to head home.

I had attended GenCon that year with a large group of friends from the New York and New Jersey area, including the earliest incarnation of what I sometimes call 'The Jersey Group'. One member of the group, my late friend Martin, had been convinced to come even though he had only one experience with RPG campaigning thus far and it has been a generally negative one.

Martin enjoyed himself at GenCon but really didn't get to play any great games. He was walking that fine line between being interested in gaming and thinking it wasn't for him. Hoping to sway him to the Light Side, I threw together an impromptu game of Star Wars D6.

After an hour or so of gaming, and an 18 hour drive back to NJ, the first question on everyone's lips was, "So Adam, when are we continuing that Star Wars game?"

Continue it I did, but after four or five sessions, the game was becoming unmanageable because, quite frankly, I never expected it to go beyond an hour at GenCon. It wasn't designed to keep going.

I sat the Players down the next time we got together and explained this to them. I also told them that if they wanted, I would actually create a serious Star Wars campaign for them. Everyone agreed that this was the best approach and I followed up with one of the best campaigns I've ever run.

Lasting roughly twelve monthly sessions, this campaign, "Star Wars: Ever The Brave" - aka 'Star Wars The Animated Series', since many of the players imagined it felt like a Japanese Anime show - goes down in history as easily one of the top 10 campaigns I've ever run or been a part of.

A week before Star Wars - Episode I: The Phantom Menace came out in the theatres, I assembled the Players of both groups (as many as I could), plus a few new additions, and ran an 8 hour adventure where the two teams met and faced off against an old enemy (from both campaign 1 and 3), on a familiar planet (to those in campaign 3), which ended by revealing the origin of one of the character from back in campaign 2. In addition, the main villain of campaign 1 ended up being their ally as he had a past grudge against the villain in campaigns 1 and 3. Whew.

That's right. We bad.

The cast of Star Wars: Tales from The Rim

Left to right, starting from the rear -
Back row: Phay-Rec-Seket-Tepth, a Bounty Hunter of the frog-like Tepth Species, Waphqui, a Nimbachi Pirate and Carlacc 'Junior' Acen, Brash Pilot
Middle row: Jeard'en Kaine, a Smuggler and his NPC girlfriend and mechanic, Naena Moonrift
(Along with R2-D6)
Front row: Drake Madamus, Vigilante Jedi

System: Star Wars, The Role Playing Game (Second Edition D6 System by West End Games)

Circa: I believe the dates were 1992 to 93 for the first campaign, 93 or 94 for the second mini-campaign and 94 to 95 for the third campaign. Additional adventures featuring the same continuity and characters were run in 99 and 2002.

Player Base: The first campaign featured five guys, ages 21-24. The second and third campaigns featured about seven players, four men and three women, ages 23-29. The later adventures featured a group consisting of a mix of the first two plus other men and women in those age ranges. Ethnicities were very diverse.


Group #1 from Tales from the Rim are pictured above.

Group #2 consisted of an Assassin Droid, a Tusken Raider/Sand Person, a Pho-Pheahian Engineer, a Smuggler and a Mercenary.

Group #3 had a Smuggler, a Repair Droid trying to improve it's own design to the point where it became a nearly Human android, a Mad Scientist, a Vhaspear (Original alien species) Medical Doctor/Scientist, a Brash Pilot, a Twi'Lek Dancer/Assassin and a Young Jedi.

Synopsis: OK, let's see if this can be conveyed in a way that makes sense and gives you some idea of how awesome these games were.


Tales From The Rim focused on the Star Wars universe's Outer Rim Territories three years after Return of the Jedi. Remnants of the Imperial Empire controlled some of the systems rimward of the New Republic and had recently captured members of a terrorist cell posing as a religious group called the Ho-Ken-Tota.

Unfortunately, their intel was bad and they captured the wrong people. The PCs all meet as prisoners onboard an old Victory-Class Star Destroyer (an older design than the one in the films), currently on course to drop them off at a penal colony. During the trip, the Star Destroyer is attacked by zealot members of the real Ho-Ken-Tota. The PCs must survive the attack and escape the ship, which is damaged and out of control.

Sometime after reaching relative safety on Tatooine, each PC reveals a bit of their background to the others and they decide to team up, as some of their background elements overlap. Before long, they are a band of brothers, and one sister (NPC) seeking to destroy the evil, Sith Inquisitor Prakken Drol and the mysterious Sith lord, Darth Galos.

In the final battle against the Imperial forces and their allies and the PCs, Prakken Drol's command ship is destroyed, instantly killing his second in command, Admiral Moloff, and likely killing Drol as well. Darth Galos escapes. One of the PCs sacrifices himself to destroy the enemy vessel and the shipyard facility he is using as a base.


The mini campaign was set at an unknown point in the Star Wars saga. It revolved around a mysterious escape pod crashing in the Tatooine desert known as the Dune Sea. An Assassin Droid painted metallic red emerges and encounters a large predator which is quickly dispatches. Having witnessed the event is a Sand Person named Fa'Hee. The Tusken Raider saw the pod crash and the droid's handiwork and believes him to be both a friend and 'The Red Metal Spirit of Death'. The two journey together to the nearest city, as the Red Metal Spirit of Death has told Fa'Hee he must return to the night sky where 'A Great Spirits War' is happening even as they speak.

The ruse doesn't fool the other PCs but they decide to humor the two nutcases as the droid actually has some money to pay them to help him return to space.

We kind of ended it there.


Ever The Brave takes place during the original trilogy. A number of the different people from very different walks of life (the PCs) all know a fellow named Tiree Palmight. Suddenly, Palmight disappears leaving clues as to where he might have gone. The PCs pursue the leads, run into each other and find themselves on the run from bounty hunters and Imperial agents looking for Palmight. They also discover some oddities in their relationships with and descriptions of their missing friend. Some describe him as an older fellow, a wise man, a scientist and a mentor. Some say he was a scoundral and a rogue but with a heart of gold. Two women seem to describe a much younger man, a rebel, a visionary and a lover. Who is the real Tiree Palmight?

It turns out that Tiree Palmight was Jedi, made a Knight just prior to the rise of the Empire. He was hunted down by Darth Vader's lackey, a force sensitive Inquisitor by the name of Prakken Drol (This is tied into the Tales From The Rim campaign. Drol killed the father of Drake Madamus, that groups resident Jedi.). Palmight crashed on the planet Kolindoor, the site of an ancient force using splinter culture. His ship was transporting parts and equipment for the clone banks used during the Clone Wars. By combining this equipment with some of the old Kolindoor technology, Palmight was able to clone himself (it was never clear how many times).

The small team of Palmights made survival on the barren world a little easier. While on this planet, Tiree communed with his other selves and had a prophetic vision. Eventually, the lot of them were rescued by Tiree's half-brother, Tiron Gold, and the group went about trying to prevent the tragedy that Palmight perceived in his vision. To this end he and his clones manipulated the PCs into various situations that would eventually lead them to find each other and join forces to defeat Drol and his allies.

Eventually, the PCs become pivotal parts of the Star Wars story, if only off to the left of what you've seen. It was this group that transported the Bothan spies that stole the plans to the second Death Star. It was this group that freed Sullust, the planet used as a staging area for the rebel fleet before the Battle of Endor.

In their final battle: The female Young Jedi kills Prakken Drol's Twi'Lek apprentice and adds in the defense of Endor. The alien Physican, Dr. Bospero, escapes to Sullust with radical healing technology based on the Kolindoor/Cloning devices and techniques. The Brash Pilot, adopted as a daughter by Tiron Gold, takes out one of the Star Destroyers at the Battle of Endor as the power of the Force awakens within her. Our Twi'Lek Dancer and Mad Scientist board the second Death Star, steal some key information and than attempt to escape together but are separated. She makes it safetly to Sullust but the Scientist is lost. The Smuggler and his all too Human Droid somehow merge, enter an escape pod, and are blasted into deep space in the wrong direction...

The Mad Scientist eventually crashes on Tatooine and loses his memory. Dr. Gustal Frahkeen is found by Sand People who called him Fa'Hee. Some months later, the second pod crashes containing the merged Smuggler/Droid biomechanical construct, who is mistaken for an Assassin Droid by many and as 'The Red Metal Spirit of Death' by his former ally.


Bonus Features:

Where to start? OK...

I say 'Come to the Light Side' when most people say Dark Side. Why would I want you to be hateful, scared, and sad?

Tiree Palmight is an NPC in a sample adventure from the very first Star Wars RPG corebook by West End Games. I took a liking to the name.

All the R2 units in my games were initially named for dice. R2-D4, R2-D6, R2-D8, D10, D12, and D20.

Prakken Drol killed Drake Madamus' father Indego Madamus and downed Tiree Palmight. He had tonfa-like lightsabers, personal body armor, and a force field similar to the Droideka. This was long before the prequels however (all these games were).

Frahkeen of Campaign #3 becomes Fa'Hee of Campaign #2. Likewise, Smuggler En Fochs (pronounced Ian Fox) and IM1-MA-N2 (aka MAN-2) from Campaign #3 merge to become R3D-R1BB0N (aka 'Red Ribbon') in Campaign #2.

Red Ribbon is a reference to the evil organization of robot villains in Dragonball Z.

The name of the Smuggler's ship in Campaign #1 was originally 'The Good Fortune'. He gains a device that can give false transponder code readings and created the following additional identities: The Centurion Turtle, The False Profit, Ill Wind, and the Star Spray.

Jeard'en Kaine's modified Ghtroc 720 Light Freighter
'The Good Fortune'

The look of Drake Madamus, anti-Imperial Vigilante Jedi, is based on Batman.

The Ho-Ken-Tota is mentioned in the Art of Return of the Jedi book. Markings on Jabba's Sand Skiff are attributed to them.


Some much more...

Special thanks to Keith Conroy and Aris Iliopoulos for the artwork.

May The Force Be With You.

Barking Alien

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Campaigns A-To-Z: Distant Soldier Herakles

D is for Distant Soldier Herakles

Title: Distant Soldier Herakles

The title mecha, the OCA-X10DS Herakles
with Thruster Pack and Rail Gun Rifle

System: Mekton II

Circa: 1989-90. Two follow up one shots, entitled 'Distant Soldier: The Twelve Labors War' and 'Be Forever Distant Soldier', were run in 1991.

Player Base: 6 players, four males and two females, ages 20-23.

Characters: All but two PCs were Mecha Pilots serving the Outer Colonies Alliance, a group of off-world colonies set up by the Earth but now banding together to seek their independence.  One PC was their Mechanic/Engineer and one was a sort of Politican/Bureaucrat doing shady dealings with the mercenaries, pirates, OCA sympathizers in the United Terran Space Government (UTSG) to keep the fledgeling rebellion supplied and protected.

The UTSG-AST9 Harpy
A Transformable Aerospace Mecha
Markings indicate it's from the 70th Squadron stationed at Pollux.
Above, Soldier Mode. Below High Speed Flight Mode. 
Synopsis: In the late 22nd century (originally 2189 I think), the United Terran Space Government and many of it's most distant colonies are at war as the latter attempts to gain it's independance from the former.
Wrongs in the conflict have been perpatrated by both sides and eventually a cease fire is called to negotiate a peaceful settlement. Unfortunately, the peace talks are a ruse, and a young Terran pilot, learning that the UTSG intends to strike hard at the OCA while their leaders are arrested at the bogus negotiation meeting, steals the prototype UTSG 'Distant Soldier' Mecha codenamed 'Herakles'.
The young pilot convinces his friend, a Harpy pilot, to assist him in saving the Outer Colonies Alliance leaders and forces and join him in eventually defecting to their side. He and his friend are labelled traitors and ruthlessly hunted by a female UTSG politican who wants them dead but the Herakles robot returned as intact as possible.
Many of the adventures and plots were based on or at least inspired by Greek Mythology, crossed with classic Japanese Anime space-war-soap-opera such as Mobile Suit Gundam or Macross. The technology of the Earth and it's colonies was akin to Blade Runner or the fairly recent Sci-Fi film Elysium.
Distant Soldier: The Twelve Labors War focused on a mission in which the UTSG had set up 12 different 'secret weapons', hidden in various facilities in different star systems. The team of PCs had to destroy the 12 items or devices or whathaveyou before the UTSG could begin putting them into action. One wasn't an item at all but a young girl with vast psychokinetic powers who was brainwashed into being a sleeper agent.
Be Forever Distant Soldier revisits the setting 5 years after the end of the original campaign. The Herakles (upgraded during the series to the Herakles-Champion) and it's pilot (PC) are stranded on a planet inhospitable to Humans with limited resources, including food and air. In flashbacks we learn that the war is over and what happened to everyone.
In the final 'scenes', the female pilot of the Harpy (also upgraded to the Harpy-Zephyr), now the captain of a starship in the Outer World Confederation fleet, detects the distress call of her marooned long time friend. As he begins to pass out from lack of oxygen and sends a farewell communication into the stars, the woman's cruiser pulls into orbit and launches a rescue shuttle.
End credits roll. Totally Anime.
Bonus Features: I loved building, and customizing Gundam model kits back in the day, so I built, and painted several as 'minis'/props for the game. I later lost, or sold most of them.
This is another campaign with a theme song. Several in fact. I don't recall any of them except for the closing to Be Forever Distant Soldier (at least part of it).
Be forever my distant soldier.
Be forever my distant soldier boy.
Be that one in a million.
Be the one that made it out alive.
Don't be the one who went down fighting.
Don't let only your memory survive.
Don't let them say he went out a hero.
Don't let them say in the end he was so brave.
Be the one that knew when to call it.
So at least yours was the life you saved.
Well, I don't know if they told you,
But you'll always be forever my distant soldier.
The one I'll hold so tightly,
The I one I pray for the gods almighty,
To bring home.
To bring home.
Barking Alien
OK, so far so good. I can do this. I can make this challenge work. Go me!

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Campaigns A-To-Z: Cosmic Rhapsody

C is for Cosmic Rhapsody


Cosmic Rhapsody

Gamemaster's Commentary: The fellows over at the Play on Target podcast once noted how "cringe-worthy" it would be to go back in time and listen to recordings of the games of their youth. The inference is that they have learned so much from the mistakes they made in their earlier days in the hobby.

I often feel the opposite is true. I am missing something in my GMing skill set that I had when I was younger. I've lost a bit of my edge over the years. I'm too easy on my players. I'm too nice.

This campaign for example, in contrast to my current Traveller campaign, would be viewed as downright brutal.

Additionally, this game began as a traditional Science Fiction space adventure campaign in the vein of Poul Anderson, Alfred Bester, Gordon R. Dickson, and even E. E. Smith. A true 'Golden Age of Science Fiction' campaign with a strong feeling of 'Hard Science Space Opera' as I like to call it.

Somewhere just past mid-way through things started to change and become closer to the 'New Wave Science Fiction' of the 1960s and 70s, with a powerful undertone of influence from Heavy Metal magazine. Anderson and Smith gave way to Harlan Ellison, Robert Silverberg and Norman Spinrad.

System: Space Opera (Fantasy Games Unlimited - Possibly Modified)

Circa: 1983

Player Base: Five players, all male, 14-15 years of age.

Characters: Initially, the group consisted of the types of characters you'd expect to see in a Sci-Fi/Space Opera game by 15 year olds in the early 80s. You had your Han Solo-esque Smuggler/Pilot, his Co-Pilot/Engineer buddy, a Lizard Man Alien Mercenary, a mysterious Psychic/Mystic type, and an Alien Scientist/Explorer.

The game was kind of deadly and I recall we lost the Co-Pilot and the Scientist early on. The Co-Pilot was replaced by an Alien Engineer who couldn't pilot at all but was better at all things mechanical. The Scientist was eventually replaced by a Human Explorer/Scout type fellow.

Synopsis: On the brink of a war between...well...everybody, an invading armada consisting of the Klackons (cross a Klingon with this cool lobster dude), the Mertuns (War of The Worlds-esque alien tripods) and 'The Bugs' (Starship Troopers) threatened to conquer all of known space in the chaos.

Putting aside their differences in order to kick space invader butt, the nearly warring factions of the galaxy called a truce and teamed up to face their combined enemies. Afterward they called a more permanent cease fire to their own instellar hostilities. They weren't suddenly friends but they all agreed to hating the Mertuns, Klackons, and Bugs more than they did each other.

A neutral zone sector in the middle of the various interstellar government domains was created and it quickly became a hot bed of smuggling, piracy, corporate and military intrigue, and planetary exploration. Enter the PCs as your typical band of freelance troublemakers trying to strike it rich in volatile environment.

By the end of the campaign things had gotten very weird. As mentioned in the 'commentary' above, we left the classic space opera of the Golden Age of Sci-Fi and entered into a sort of Psychodelic-Heavy-Metal-Magazine type of Science Fiction.

The Explorer had merged with some female alien intelligence/spirit/anomaly thing that had killed the Mystic as he turned out to be both secretly evil (true) and overconfident in his ability to mentally communicate with the entity.

She/He/It/They became a new life form/cosmic entity, and decided to leave this plane of existence but not before teleporting the Pilot/Smuggler guy back to Earth. Literally, back to the middle of the small, midwestern town where he was born from a site half way across the galaxy.

The Lizard Merc left the ship and crew to fight off an incursion of the Klackons. He died in battle, taking hundreds of them with him thanks to an experimental explosive (a Quasar Bomb or something. I forget).

The Alien Engineer, left alone and unable to pilot the ship effectively, is last scene sending out a distress call and waiting in his quarters for someone to find and rescue him.

One of our sadder endings.

Appendix N: 2001: A Space Odyssey novel and film - author Arthur C. Clarke, Epic Magazine by Marvel Comics, Heavy Metal Magazine by Metal Mammoth, Inc., the Heavy Metal animated film, Solaris novel by Stanislaw Lem, Stranger in a Strange Land and The Moon is a Harsh Mistress novels by Robert Heinlein, Trader to the Stars novel by Poul Anderson and many other science fiction stories of the 40s, 50s, 60s, 70s and early 80s.

Bonus Features: This campaign featured several firsts and unusual approaches for me.

I was the GM of this campaign for about 75% of the sessions. My friends Martin and Jerry GMed for about 25% of it. I ran of the ending of which I am quite proud. This was the second time I ran a co-GMed campaign and the first time with more than two GMs including myself.

Looking back at the rules for this games many times over the years since this campaign was run, I haven't the faintest idea how we played it. This has to be one of the most overworked, convoluted games ever made.

We used minis for characters and spaceships on occasion, something I have rarely ever done when playing RPGs.

This is one of the first campaigns I ever ran that I actually gave a title to.

Cosmic Rhapsody is the first campaign I ever ran to have a direct sequel. I ran a follow up campaign called 'A War in G-Minor' about a year and a half after this Cosmic Rhapsody ended.

Sometime later, a Superhero game with a sort of classic 'Guardians of the Galaxy' flavor was set in this same universe.

Barking Alien

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Campaigns A-To-Z: Blast City Blues

B is for Blast City Blues

Title: Blast City Blues

System: Teenagers From Outer Space (Modified)

Circa: 1987-1988 (Follow up campaign in 1989).

Player Base: Three players at the start, male, ages 17-18. Eventually added three or four more, same age range. A follow up campaign in the same setting occurred a year or two later and included one additional male and two female players.

Characters: PCs were Human and extraterrestrial high school students attending Blast City High, hoping to graduate and get the chance to attend Blast City University. Each of the PCs had a superhuman power or skill, including super speed, super strength, energy blasts, super intelligence, supersonic screams (like Marvel's Banshee or DC's Black Canary) and many others.

I expanded the rules for powers so that each PC started with 10 Power Levels. You could have Super Speed at Power Level 10 and be as fast as the Flash, or, as was the case with the character 'Mech' Herrera, a teenage cyborg, you could break those Power Levels up into different abilities. Using Mech as an example, he had Super Speed 2, Super Strength 2, Invulnerability 3 and Micro Missiles 3.

Magical characters could change up what their PL 10 abilities were, but had to pay a price (Needed to rhyme to cast spells, spells that hurt opponents bestowed bad luck on your allies for an hour, etc.).

Synopsis: 25 years ago, an alien spacecraft of considerable size landed just off the tip of Long Island Sound in New York. A plethora of extraterrestrials emerged from the vessel, proclaiming themselves to be the surviving members of the United Galaxy Alliance. The Alliance was invaded, and every last one of it's worlds conquered, and stripped of their resources by the terrible Dreggetti. Like space locusts, they swarm across planet after planet, consuming all in their path. Now, they are heading for Earth!

Luckily, thanks to their superior Star Drives, the refugees of the United Galaxy Alliance have arrived in our solar system at least 1 year ahead of the Dreggetti fleet. They've come to Humanity with a secret weapon that might just have a chance at defeating the evil aliens.

The greatest minds of the UGA have developed Polytransmorphic Metamutagen Alpha! This chemical, well, it's a compound actually, can...I suppose gaseous gelatin would be more accurate. Where was I? Oh yes, so there's this process involved and, you see it's all very complicated. The end result is that PM Alpha can give Humans superpowers. Sadly, it doesn't seem to work on any of the UGA member species since many of them have superpowers of a sort built into their genetics. Since Humans don't, the potential of the PM Alpha on them is unknown and potentially limitless.

After meeting with the world's political powers, the Earth unifies under the banner of the United Earth System Alliance and begins developing superpowered soldiers and learning all about the incredibly advanced technology, and scientific knowledge of the UGA aliens. At the end of one year, they ready themselves for what is destined to be the war to end all wars, deciding the fate of the Human race and perhaps the entire Galaxy, once and for all.

Only...the Dreggetti never arrive. Time passes. The aliens settle down on Earth, the Moon, a terraformed Mars and a few other spots in the solar system. Still no Dreggetti. The UGA starship is converted into a city, dubbed Blast City, which contains additional housing, training facilities, as well as business and government offices for many of the aliens and the superpowered population. More time passes. The Dreggetti are still a no show.

Fast forward to the present, and the sons, daughters, and unisex, undulating, spore blobs of the superpowered Humans and alien refugees are going to school, printing spread sheets, watching Zero-G Boogie Ball (a sport I created), and just trying to live with each other and not destroy any private property in the process. Some superpowered individuals are part of the United Earth System Alliance Defense Force, while others have more 'normal' jobs.

Adventures ranged from wacky 70's sitcom fare mixed with sci-fi or comic book elements, to fairly serious disasters and villains that forced the PCs, none of them old enough to graduate high school, to really work together and be courageous in the face of certain destruction!

Appendix N: Galaxy High animated cartoon series, Legion of Superheroes comic books from DC Comics, Sidekicks comic book from Oni Press*, Super Dimensional Fortress Macross (In the USA, Part 1 of the R-word ** series: The Macross Saga) Japanese anime series, Teen Titans comic books by DC Comics, Urusei Yatsura (Those Obnoxious Aliens - Lum) Japanese manga and anime series.

Bonus Features: A short comic book featuring the setting, and characters was created by our high school RPG club and sold at the school's annual art faire.

One of the coolest things we ever did for a game was create both an opening, and closing theme song for our Blast City Blues series. The song was written by me, and performed and recorded on a cassette tape (long since lost) by a garage band my friends, and I had put together.

Another friend of mine (one of the players incidentally) translated the entire opening into Japanese, complete with minor changes to make it sound, and read, more sensibly in the Japanese language.

The opening song's overall styling matched the Japanese pop-music of the era, while the closing had a more blues-rock n' roll sound. I don't recall much of the closing theme (I Love Blast City) but the English opening goes like this:

Well hello!
Hello, how are you?
I'm doing fine.
I'd really love to talk, but I don't have time.
What do you mean?
I'm off to school and I can't be late!
I want to learn the golden rule, and take a chance on fate.

Ohhh, School House Rock!
Ohhh, School House Rock!
Ohhh, Oh School House Rock!
Nothing to dread, when you use your head.

Tell me more!
Well, my school, it's a little strange.
Why don't you come and see it, 'cause you'll be amazed.
There's a boy who can fly,
A girl shoots rays from her eyes,
And the teachers walk through walks to no ones surprise.

Ohhh, School House Rock!
Ohhh, School House Rock!
Ohhh, Oh School House Rock!
For Heaven and Earth to be seen, you must stand in between.

Oh no, the bell!
That's the bell, and I have to run,
But it was great talking to you. It was lots of fun.
Think about checking out the school.
The light in your eyes tells me you're no fool.

Ohhh, School House Rock!
Ohhh, School House Rock!
Ohhh, Oh School House Rock!
Nothing to dread, when you use your head.

Barking Alien

* Sidekicks was not yet created when I ran my Teenagers from Outer Space/Blast City Blues campaigns but it has some remarkable similarities and is one of my all time favorite comic books. Highly recommended.

** Adam does not say the R-word.