Saturday, May 31, 2014


I keep starting posts, then deleting them.

What I've been coming up with is too negative, too bitter. Too snarky, even for me.

Yes. You audibly gasped didn't you? We're talking weapons grade snark.

I don't want that.

What I do want is to tell you about a little thing going on in my headspace.

Ooh. Spacey.

I haven't been able to game very much lately, at least not either of my two ongoing games. I am seriously missing Traveller and can't wait to get to the second session of Champions.

Thoughts are drifting towards the development of a third game, run online over Google Hangouts, mostly to fill the empty void in my heart left by not getting to game in person as much as I'd like.

What will it be. Oh, if only I had all the answers...

See you in June.

Barking Alien

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Counter Productive

Hi all,


[I deleted the previous version of this post because it came out completely different from how I had imagined it in my head. I had something to say that I felt would be helpful and informative but the words I used, and the tone in which I used them, were all wrong.

Instead of imparting what I hoped would be valuable insight, I just vented and complained. You don't need to hear me bitch and moan. Oh I do it from time to time and sometimes I enjoy it don't get me wrong but this post needed to be more than that.

Yet try as I might, I can't seem to make that happen.

Here's why...]


Monday, while the majority of folks in the good ol' US of A were remembering the honored fighting fallen with seared meat and cold brews, I ran a one shot RPG session in honor of our group bidding farewell to one of its members.

My player and dear friend Hans is moving, and although he intends to return to New York City at some indefinite time in the future, for the foreseeable now he will not longer be gaming with us. This was his last hurrah, at least for time being.

The possibility exists for a game over Google Hangouts, but that is still a little ways away, and a discussion for another time.

What we decided to play was my personal, homebrewed variant of Dungeons & Dragons, invariably known as D&D AD, D&D-But-Not and D&D-For-Those-People-Who-Don't-Like-D&D.

Oddly, we have a few people in this group who do like D&D, but they were willing to give my weird, hippie alternative a try. After all, Hans was the guest of honor, and it was he who had chosen this particular game over other options. He had heard some of the players talk about my D&D before, but he hadn't played it himself. This might be our one chance to try it out, so why not?

The game went over well in general, and there were some great ideas, fast paced actions, creative uses of abilities, funny lines and cool character moments.

There was also...sigh...some issues.

These issues pop from time to time in my group, but for some reason, especially when playing fantasy. I'm sure they pop up in every group at some point or another.

For the last three days I've been trying to formulate a post that addresses the issues themselves but more importantly how one can combat them when they appear in their own game. Here then was Barking Alien's chance to give some really insightful tips to the GMs in the audience, both rookie and veteran, on how to handle a particular player generated faux pas.

In the end however, I can't do it. I can't do it, and honestly, I am not sure I should.

The problem in question resulted from the actions of a single player and I have no interest in singling that player out. It was brought to his attention by the entire group at the end of the game. I've spoken to him since and he not only admitted that he was indeed partaking in the behavior we all called him on, but he felt like an arse for acting that way.

He didn't realize he was doing it at the time. It's a habit he's had since he started gaming. He's noticed it before, but this was the first time everyone noticed it to the point where they said something. He has learned his lesson, or to be more accurate, he's going to try very hard not to do what he did Monday in future games.

So you see, I have no sage advice, no grand solution to an age old gaming issue. All I did was notice something, bring it to that player's attention and talk to him. He did, or will do, the rest.

This renders my original purpose for this post moot. It's not even worth identifying the behavior since it was the personal actions of one person who, with some help from his friends, will solve it himself.

Now, on to something far more interesting...

Barking Alien

Thursday, May 22, 2014

The Unbearable Lightness of Not Being A D&D Fan

Big news this week from Wizards of the Coast and honestly, I couldn't be more excited.

Can't you tell?

Release dates have been announced for the next incarnation of Dungeons & Dragons (Simply titled, 'Dungeons & Dragons'. Note that is was previously referred to as Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition, D&D Next and D&D Please-Don't-Let-This-Be-The-Debacle-That-Was-4th).

When I looked at these four covers, my first thought was, "Boy, am I going to be saving money this year!"

The Starter Box

Why do I want or need a separate, starter box for the game? The game is already going to be expensive (more on that later). Is it all that important that I pay $20 for a lesser version of a game that is coming out the following month?

Does the Starter Game give me any rules the main game doesn't? Can my players and I not start with the Player's Handbook?

Never get this kind of product.

The Core Rulebooks

Staggered out over the course of several months, this game will eventually cost you a buy-in price of $150.00. That's one hundred and fifty dollars to begin playing D&D 5th Edition. Aside from being $150 dollars more than I have, I have never, ever purchased a game that required I pay even half of that much to play it. Wait. Not true. D&D 4th Edition. I have since sold my slipcase of that having never played it outside of trying it out at two or three conventions.

 Wait, what if you don't need to pay that much to play it? According to Mike Mearls (via Twitter):

 "Lots of Q's about the staggered release: You will not need the MM or DMG to run a campaign. Or the PH or Starter Set to make a character."

See there! So...WHA?

What does that mean? If I don't need the Monster Manual or Dungeon Master's Guide to run a campaign why the hell are you charging us $75.00 for those two books? I don't need the Player's Handbook to make a starting character? Where are the rules than?

If I am understanding this correctly (and I am surely not as the statement as worded makes little sense), you really only needed to make one book but found a way to make three so you could make more money. Well, why didn't you just say so?

In Conclusion

I wasn't about to buy it, even if it had been in my price point range. I won't be playing it. I pretty much never play, run, or have the urge to play or run D&D of any kind, and when or if I do, I play my homebrew rules. I still have them, they still work better than anything anyone involved with the published product will ever make, and I may run a session of it soon just to prove it.

For $150 dollars the game had better actually be magical. I mean it had better literally teach me how to spin yarn into gold or give me clairvoyance.

Geez Louise.

Barking Alien

Listen...Do You Want To Know A Secret?

I haven't done one of these for a while so I thought I would for giggles (Also, I've been sick and working extra, a rough combo that has made it difficult to get back to serious blogging).

This one is kind of old (June 16, 2013) by I just saw it pop up on my tumblr feed.

The Tabletop RPG Ask Meme


1.) Game Master, Player or both? Why?

While I have taken on both roles, my love of GMing outweighs my love of playing by about 100 to 1.

There are a lot of reasons for this, but the primary two are:

Being a Gamemaster gives me a venue for all the things I like and think I am relatively good at. It's the only activity I know of where my imagination, writing, art, storytelling talent, comedic timing, voice acting skills and extensive memory of otherwise unimportant Science Fiction and Comic Book trivia actually come in handy.

With Gamemastering, all that stuff would remain bottled up in my head and heart until I burst.

The second reason is, sadly, a bit more judgemental and negative than is normal for me, but I can not help it. I don't like to play because the vast majority of other GMs I've encountered just aren't very good. I got tired of being told that won't work, you can't do that, that's not available, that's not possible, no, no, no, whenever I used my head and thought of something outside the box.

Playing was no fun. GMing is.

2.) When did you start role playing? How old were you?

I was 8. The date was August 25th, 1977.

3.) What was the first role playing book you ever owned?

Basic D&D. I believe it was the 1981, Moldvay version. I played the game, and even ran it, for about 2-3 years before I owned my own copy.

4.) Describe the first game you ever ran or played in.

The first one I played in, which I've described before, was awesome. I was a Halfling walking through a Wild West style ghost town (because at 7 and 8 none of the player knew what the heck a medieval town looked like) on my way to the King of the Human Lands. I was transporting a small case of hot sauce, which as it turned out, had the effect of giving Humans and Halflings super strength when mixed with other ingredients.

The ghost town turned out to be literal, as I was soon beseiged by skeletons, zombies and other undead. I ended up blowing a lot of them up by luring them into a saloon/inn and than setting it on fire. A cleric (another PC) saw the flames and ran to the village to help me. We than set off on our journey together.

I don't exactly recall the first game I ran but it was most likely D&D.

5.) Which system did you grow up with?

All of them.

I started at the age of 8 in 1977. It's 2014. I'm 45.

I wouldn't know what to begin.

The games I ran and played the most while "growing up" were FASA Star Trek and Villains & Vigilantes, followed by D&D and Advanced D&D.

6.) Which system do you play now?


Star Trek, by Last Unicorn Games, Ars Magica 3rd and 4th, Champions 4th, Marvel Heroic RPG, Mekton II, Mutants & Masterminds 3rd, Risus, Star Wars D6 (WEG), SFX, Traveller, various homebrews and many others.

7.) Longest campaign you’ve run or played in?

Longest ever run would be a D&D game using my homebrewed and customized variant of the game I call D&D AD. It lasted about 4 years.

Longest I was ever in was a Champions game that last nearly 10 years, but I was only in it for 3-3 1/2. Best game ever.

8.) Where did you meet your current gaming group?

Mostly at a local gaming convention called RECESS, put on by a group called NerdNYC. Sadly, the last RECESS was over a year ago or more. I don't think they are doing it any more.

A few others are friends from our FLGS.

9.) Strategic combat or dramatic plotlines?

Dramatic combat that is often the result of strategic plotlines.

10.) Favorite RPG genre?

Whoah nelly! Tough one.

For years and years I wouldn't have thought twice about this. I would have said Science Fiction and left it at that. Nowadays however, I think it might be Superheroes. Go figure.


11.) Your first character.

Gobo Pepperthorn. Male Halfling in Basic D&D. Died protecting a fellow PC from a Dragon Breath attack.

12.) Your favorite character.

StarGuard. Male, Alien Superhero in Champions. Still alive. Still badass.

13.) Your most ridiculous character.

That is hard to narrow down. I played Toon and TFOS a lot. Ridiculous was normal.

I played an Alien Robot Repairman in a game of Hunter Planet (though he was actually rather competent).

14.) The best in-character line you’ve ever had.

"I am going to put you through the Moon."

My Champions PC StarGuard said this to another PC who was acting like a villain even though he believed himself to be a hero. I challenged him to a one-on-one, honor duel on the Moon.

15.) Your most epic death.

Hmmm. Didn't die a lot. Mostly because I didn't play a lot I guess.

Have to go with my first one. Dragon Breath in defense of a friend.

16.) Your most disappointing death.

See above.

17.) Something that shouldn’t have worked, but did.

After another PC created a terrible incident in which two alien armadas were about to go to war with each other while he kidnapped the princess of one of their nations (and blamed the other), I went back in time used a device similar to the Cosmic Treadmill or Doctor Doom's Time Platform and undid everything he did before it happened.

18.) Something that went hilariously awry.

Honestly can't think of anything as a player.

19.) Your most memorable in-character moment.

StarGuard leading several PC and NPC Superheroes, including members of his extraterrestrial superteam, into battle during an alien invasion of the Earth. I took out starships. I protected a few heroes from getting injured or killed, but I couldn't save everyone. My team fought hard but at least three were badly injured and one was killed (another PC).

20.) The coolest item you ever got and how you came to possess it.

Item? Got? Ummm...Oh! Finding treasure. Yeah, no, don't remember and wouldn't. Didn't play D&D much as time went on and it was never about the stuff when I did.

My Star Wars character Dreg, a Rodian, had a cool ship. He started with it but the backstory was his Dad game it to him to make a name for himself. It was sweet.

GAME MASTERS - Describe:

21.) Your favorite NPC and how the party reacted to him/her

I have a lot of favorites.

One is Ip Witspear, actually a former PC in an old game, I brought him back as the proprietor of a shop that buys and sells magic items and magical components. He is also used as a patron who hires PCs to search for some item or material a customer is looking for.

Most of my PCs love him. He speaks with an extremely exaggerated, foppish, British accent and misuses magical items, casts spells improperly, etc., so that just entering his store is an adventure. Various clues have revealed that is largely an act and that is quite an accomplished wizard in his own right.

Another favorite is the Patriot, a superhero who is best described as, "What if Captain America were a Vietnam vet and not the soldier hero of World War II?". He is a disillusioned, superpowered activist who listens to Led Zepplin, smokes weed and tells you, "Don't rule out those Secret Societies man. If you do man, they'll get you. I've seen some things man."

 22.) A game you wish you could run or want to run someday.

I have a certain idea or view of Fantasy that is very unlike D&D. I have run it only once and it was great. Attempts to run it since have failed.

One day.

23.) Something you made up on the spot.

Neither you, nor I, have the time it would take you to list all the things I have come up with on the spot. It's a lot.

A lot.

24.) Your most successful game.

Interesting. My most successful game. Not sure.

The D&D AD sequel to the original D&D AD campaign that I ran with my wife was amazingly good and fun. Our Traveller game was likewise pretty fantastic.

Both of my big Star Wars games were incredibly successful. People still talk about them.

My current Traveller game is going incredibly well and the new Champions campaign I'm starting has great potential.


There was also my Star Trek game...Fedifensor. That might have to be the one.

25.) Your least successful game.

Ooh. Ouch. Bring up the bad memories and the feels why don't you.

Pendragon. I recently tried running Pendragon and it went all kinds of wrong. It sucked rotten eggs through a dirty straw.

26.) The craziest thing your players have ever done, and how it affected your plans.

I don't plan that way other GMs seem to plan. I don't have a pre-determined idea of how the game will go. I have what the villain is up to, what they plan to do, how they plan on doing it and a good idea of what else the world around them is like.

Players are than welcome to do crazy stuff as much as they like, but if they don't thwart the villain, he/she does what he/she planned on doing.

If players investigate the wreckage of a spaceship, I know what's on it, why it's derelict and what could happen should they board it, but that's all. I don't know if the players are going to have their PCs tear it apart for salvage, board it and look around, tractor beam it behind them, toss it into the sun, or whathaveyou and as such, I don't make plans that require any one thing to happen.

27.) Your favorite setting or game location.

I like going from environment to environment, so Science Fiction, especially Space Travel Adventure Science Fiction, is my favorite type of gaming.

My favorite settings include the Star Trek and Star Wars universes, Traveller's canon (pre-MegaTraveller) and global superhero campaigns, whether original or set in the Marvel or DC universe. My preference there is DC, pre-nu52 of course.

As for locations, I like urban settings, space stations and starships and in or under water scenarios. I am also a big fan of Tundra and Arctic locales.

28.) Your creative process when you plan a game.

I have tried to describe this before and don't think I really can. I'll try again.

I get an idea. It pops into my head from somewhere. Sometimes it's something from a movie, a TV show, a video game, a comic book, a piece of concept art, a song lyric, a sentence in a game book, and then, it explodes. It starts bouncing off the inner walls of my mind, hitting other ideas from previous 'pops' and eventually, BOOM!, it all comes crashing down into a little room in my brain reserved specifically for finished product.

I mentally take it out, clean off the dust and any loose pieces, maybe spruce up the paint job at little, but that's it. I don't so much work on games or plan them. Ideas just hit me, fully formed and complete. If they are good, they are usually followed by an avalache of other related ideas and there you go, I have a campaign.

29.) The best / worst character concept you’ve ever heard.

Some of the best characters I've ever seen were not high concept. Most of my ex-wife's character were people, normal for the most part, who became amazing due to her actions and the way she interacted with the settings and other characters.

My friend Andy is surprisingly good at Superhero concepts. I say surprisingly because his favorite genre is horror (albeit somewhat campy horror). Two of his character concepts that blew me away were/are:

Starboard, an android superhero in the mold of the Silver Surfer. A cosmic crusader who travels from planet ot planet warning them of the approach of some great evil. He then remains with them to help them defend against it, whatever it may be.

What makes the concept so cool is that Starboard is actually a starship. He is a Human-sized and shaped, FTL capable 'giant robot' for a species of miniature Humanoid beings. Kind of like Meet Dave merged with the Japanese mecha series and films Ideon. Except cooler and with a heavy dose of Silver Surfer.

His current character in our new Champions campaign is called The Grey Flame. The ghost of an actor who died trying to save immigrants from a burning tenement in 1927, the entity now known as The Grey Flame was, for many years, thought to be an urban legend. Originally referred to as, 'The Man in Grey', the ghost received his current name from one of the few remaining members of the Silver Age Champions who thought The Grey Flame was a hero recruited to join the team.

He appears as a man in the garb of a Muskateer, with a long, dramatic, dark cape. The was what the actor was wearing when he died, as he was on his way to a performance. He is completely invisible and immaterial, unable to be seen, heard or touch, unless he concentrates and wills himself visible and solid.

That's right gaming fans, his power is to become tangible and visible. He expends Endurance points to do so. Awesome.

I'm hard pressed to say these were the Best Characters Ever, but they were the best I've seen in a long time. Definitely cool, and memorable.

As far as worst, eh, I have this one player who, well, all of his concepts are pretty weak. His ability to come up with interesting ideas that aren't just, "I fight good", is pretty limited. Yes, I know that was poor grammar. That is indicitive of this player as well.

30.) What makes GMing fun for you.


I really love everything about it. I love playing to a crowd. I love to entertain. I love gathering a group of friends together on a regular basis to enjoy each others company and a shared hobby. I love making artwork, maps and character sheets for my games.

I love it when Players believe they have figured out some discrepancy in the logic of the game world, point it out, and than I get to see the look on their faces when I say, "Ah, noticed that did you?"

Yeah. I love that.

Barking Alien

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Champions: REBIRTH - Editor's Notes

Before continuing with my first session recap, I wanted to point out and detail some elements of this initial adventure that may not be clear to the readers out there.

In some cases, it's just a matter of clarifying what I wrote and in others, it's more about those very special intangibles that happen when people role play.

Let's start there shall we?

A number of the players making up the group for this particular campaign are excellent role players. They are all, so far as I can tell (two of them are brand new to the group), good gamers, but a good portion of them really get into their characters heads and act accordingly.

As such, some of their actions may seem strange, as noted by a commenter on a previous post, to not only those reading this blog, but also to their companions. In truth though, the other players and their PCs get to benefit from in-character and out-of-character player dialog, so they quickly learn each others personality quirks.

You gentle reader, well, you had to be there.

Yet you weren't, so, I'll try to explain...

Unknown asked,

"If everyone was trying to take the plane down, why was MB (Master Builder) trying to help it? Because Vanish was on board? How did he know?"

The cloaked jet plane belongs to an at first unknown enemy, later identified as Terror Incorporated. Basically, this is a Supervillainy outsourcing operation working for the true villain who remains a mystery.

Master Builder was a superhero in England prior to coming to the USA, but he botched up a mission badly and was all but disowned by his family. He was banished with the stipulation that he not return until he understood what it truly meant to be a hero.

It is largely this reason that motivates him to try and save the people in the Terror Inc. plane. He wants to capture them and take them to prison. He had no intention of killing them, and likewise doesn't want them to crash into the ground and die.

I've noted before that this is a common mentality when playing Supers often missed by those more accustomed to the murderhobo play style of games like D&D.

"And if IMPACT threw MB, isn't he then going to plummet to his death?"

Yes. It's just that, he has a plan.

I should point out, Dave the player doesn't have a plan. IMPACT does.

Dave is playing IMPACT as a 14 years old boy who has incredible superhuman powers. This kid transforms into a hulking pro-wrestler who can run at 255 mph and lift 100 tons. He is protected by a force field that sends attacks rebounding back at the assailant.

IMPACT believes himself to be indestructible. Dave knows his character is not. Dave still plays IMPACT using IMPACT's mind set, not Dave's.

So when IMPACT throws MB, IMPACT isn't worried about falling to the Earth like a fleshy meteor. He's a Superhero! He has Superpowers! He can lift a Space Shuttle! He'll figure something out.

Incidentally, this is not something new to me. I've always felt that the Old School D&D default play-style lends itself to overly cautious players and PCs. Superheroes, Star Wars and other more romanticized, cinematic genres and settings seem to encourage bolder actions on the part of the PCs, such as leaping out a random window to avoid an overwhelming number of enemies, or running full bore at an oncoming AT-AT.  

(Yes. Those two things have happened in my campaigns.)

More on topic, some players play themselves, and others play an invented character. Let me point out, neither is better, or worse than the other if they are done well.

A player who is playing themselves isn't literally playing themselves as their in-game character, but rather all the characters they play have the player's gaming personality.

For example, one of my players, Jeff, has played a number of different characters in a number of different campaigns I've run. While they have all had different goals, powers and origins, they have all been very much Jeff. He is the guy in the group who researches the setting in-game, and learns all it's secrets. He is going to bravely and boldly meet the challenge of bigger and badder opponents to help his selected dependent group (innocent civilians, his family or species, his crew). He is going to be the badass peacemaker. That's Jeff.

Dave is going to create a character, and while they may have similarities, they each have very different personalities and ways of thinking. Dave actually played IMPACT a few years back in a Mutants & Masterminds game I ran, and that IMPACT was quite different from this one. In the original incarnation, IMPACT's secret identity was only 12. He was much more of a fan boy of the other heroes and of being part of the superhero community. He was a bit more careful with his powers, as he didn't really know the extent of them. The current version is less impressed by his peers, a bit more sure of, and even full of, himself and is portrayed as having been around fighting crime for at least a year or so.

Dave isn't really playing Dave when he plays IMPACT. He is playing IMPACT.


I hope I clarified Vanish's ability to keep up with the Gravity Module Shuttle and pursuing Terror Inc. jet plane (*See the comments in this post --- Adam). There are a number of minor and not so minor abilities that the PCs have that I didn't go into. My goal was to introduce the characters to you so you know who I am talking about when I recap the adventure, not to give you a full on Marvel Universe Handbook or DC Who's Who entry.

If you have any specific questions about any of the characters please let me know. I love questions! Ask as many as you like.

If it becomes necessary to go into greater detail to tell a recap story I certainly will do so.


I like to keep some aspects of my campaign universes vague and mysterious, giving the PCs the opportunity to learn the hidden truths and uncover the dark secrets that can have major impacts on the games story and setting. The key of course is having players who are interested enough to investigate these secrets, otherwise they simply lie dormant.

As noted above, Jeff is that kind of fellow and to keep him interested, and keep both he and I on our toes, I often give him clues or perception rolls that seem to have no bearing on the current plot. This sometimes manifests as my telling him his PC just sees something interesting, and at other times, I will give his character a cryptic vision that Jeff must figure out the meaning of before he even begins to have his character check into it.

For an example of this, in my first recap post I note that Jeff's character Equilibrium uses his Cosmic Awareness ability to search for threats to the passenger shuttle  he is on. While a possible threat is revealed, it also gives him a vision of "a small, but intensely bright, blue camp fire burning somewhere in the distance. Moths of many different shapes and sizes fly toward the fire as if in slow motion."

This, like the enemy jet aircraft that he eventually detected "swooping in like a great carrion bird" is conveyed via metaphor. Jeff still doesn't know what the blue camp fire and the moths represent, but it has him intrigued and really, that's all that matters.


Questions, comments, ideas? Let me know. As a matter of fact, I'd love to do a monthly feature for this campaign like the 'Letters Pages' from old comics. I'll compile all the questions or notes you guys make and answer them once a month.

Sound cool?

Barking Alien

Tuesday, May 13, 2014


I would like to pause my Champions campaign posts for a moment to acknowledge, and mourn, the passing of a visual artist whose work has had a huge impact on me during his lifetime, and mine.

Swiss surrealist painter, sculptor and designer Hans Rudolph Giger, who created the look of the iconic Xenomorph from the ALIEN film and its subsequent sequels, passed away yesterday, May 12th, 2014, in Zurich, Switzerland.

Since the original ALIEN film, many, many artists have emulated the look of H.R. Giger's designs. The look of many characters, sets, creatures and devices for movies, games, book cover and other media can be described as Giger-esque, and rightly so.

No work looked like Giger's before he appeared on the scene, though numerous attempts were made to create works that looked like his afterward.

This is the sign of someone who was, is and will always remain more than a talented artist (though that alone is enough). This is someone whose visual style defined the term originality and who's very existance meant that you could break the mold, you could do something different from what everyone else was doing and touch a chord with a generation and beyond.

For the timeless art that H.R. Giger gave us, and for the message of originality that sometimes even artistic people miss, he will forever cause me to think, re-evaluate and enjoy the visual medium. For this alone, he has my thanks.

Rest in peace.

Barking Alien

Monday, May 12, 2014

Champions: REBIRTH - Comics Digest

Greetings Supers Fans!

Here we are continuing my recap of the first session of our new Champions superhero RPG campaign, Champions: REBIRTH.


As IMPACT and Master Builder prepare to leap through the air from atop one rapidly moving aircraft toward a second one they can not really see, Phalanx, Silent Justice and Equilibrium get all necessary parties up to speed on the situation.

Using Phalanx's leadership skills, Equilibrium's Cosmic Awareness, Silent Justice's Psychic Senses and Telepathy, and N*Gage's ability to tap into internet and satellite feeds, the Champions team has everyone pretty much on the same page as to what to do in case of a variety of scenarios.

The odd man out at first is The Grey Flame. He can not be contacted telepathically in his fully incorporeal state and he has no team communicator for the same reason. In order to stay informed, he uses his ability to read minds by touching a person (which only works were he is immaterial).

Learning the plans and contingencies, and wanting to help his new found allies, The Grey Flames floats towards the back of the shuttle, then stays in place allowing the shuttle to WOOSH past him. After passing through the craft and it's engine (the Gravity Module giving him an odd sensation for half a second), he finds himself floating high above the Earth. A heartbeat latter (Yikes! Sorry Grey Flame. That was insensitive), WOOSH, and Grey Flame is passing through the cockpit of the cloaked plane in pursuit of the shuttle.

Grey Flame allows the cloaked vehicle to rush through and around him as he takes in how many crewmembers it has, how they are armed, what they're wearing, etc. When he reaches the center of the craft (or it reaches him), he passes into another chamber with three occupants. While phasing through the arm of one of them, the individual turns and looks around, seemingly aware of Grey Flame somehow.Grey Flame notes this person is pale, with tough skin and blue-black veins in his exposed arms. He could be undead! Grey Flame flies back to the shuttle to give his team a description of what they were up against.

Meanwhile, IMPACT prepares to leap, when suddenly Master Builder turns to a near liquid form and tries to wrap around him. IMPACT is quick to stop him and warns him against doing that in the future (it came off as rude but in truth IMPACT may have saved MB's life! IMPACT has an invisible, damage dealing force field that has double knockback! Grabbing him in a bear hug will get you thrown away rather roughly).

Master Builder explains that he is only trying to help and has some ideas on how the two of them could, you know, no plummet to their deaths if they miss the plane. Reluctantly IMPACT agrees to carry him over but tells him to flow over the shield easily and smoothly, with a bit of space between the force field and Master Builder, as not to get blasted off. MB shapes himself over IMPACT forming medieval looking plate armor, and IMPACT launches himself through the sky toward the cloaked jet.

Leaping high above the aerial chase, IMPACT focuses his force field downward towards his feet. He goes in a corkscrew spin, intended to drill into the craft as it reaches him. Unfortunately...he misses. The pilot drops a bit and veers left, causing IMPACT and MB to miss their mark. At 35,000 feet.

Thinking fast, Master Builder forms part of himself into a long arm with a grappling hook like end to try and snag a wing as they fall past it. Sadly, he only grabs a maneuvering flap, which tears off from his momentum, weight and great strength.

N*Gage manages to detects signals going to and from the cloaked plane and is able to tap into their communication array. He discovers the pilot and co-pilot of the craft called 'tech support' and reporting that they are having trouble controlling the plane do to the damaged wing. N*Gage manages to hijack their comm lines and tells the crew of the invisible aircraft to turn off their cloak and divert power to manuever thrusters. It works! Now the plane can be seen.

Tachyon and Vanish now reach the location of the incident, albeit far, far below the actual action. The two of them have arrived in Wyoming, and after quickly scanning his vicinity, Vanish comes up with an unorthodox (and damn cool) plan. Using his superspeed, he is going to run up the side of Devils Tower*, and then use his momentum to take a running leap skyward, at which point he will teleport into the plane. Tachyon looks him straight in the eyes and says, "Kid, that's nuts. I say...go for it."

All this time, the Champions are analyzing data -  reports from Grey Flames, telepathic scans from Silent Justice, info obtained by N*Gage while on the enemy comm channel - and they are able to determine that the attackers are Terror Incorporated!**

Master Builder, not all that desperate to see if his maximum level of density increase will enable him to survive a fall from this height at his present, incredible speed, turns himself into a thin, flexible, but very wide concrete hang glider to save himself and IMPACT. Success!

Vanish is likewise successful and appears in the cockpit of the Terror Incorporated plane as it attempts to pull up. He manages to injure three members of the crew and knock one flat on his back with his dimensional strike ability***. The pilot, after being punched by Vanish, hit the afterburners, causing the craft to streak toward the ground at full thrust! Working as fast as he can, the pilot pulls up hard and one of the engines tears loose from the wing assembly.

High above, IMPACT and Master Builder see what have happened and have a plan. MB transforms his shape into that of a disc, which IMPACT than throws at the plummeting jet. Applying the same idea he used to save IMPACT and himself moments ago, Master Builder turns into a hang glider again, angled and shaped slightly differently, to act as a parachute. A concrete parachute?

Oh boy...

More on the way true believers!

Barking Alien

*Devils Tower
Have I mentioned before how obsessed I am with Devils Tower in Wyoming?

Since first seeing it in the 1977 film Close Encounters of the Third Kind, I was completely taken by its visual appearance. In 1981, or thereabouts, I saw the actual site in person, although at some distance, while passing through Wyoming on my way to California to visit my paternal grandfather.

Whenever possible, I try to come up with an excuse to have it appear at least once in an appropriate campaign (Superheroes, Horror, Wild West, etc.).

**Terror Incorporated

A well known staple of Champions canon, the Terror Incorporated of Champions Earth Alpha Delta-1 is not all that different, though some of its inner circle of villains are.

Basically, Terror Inc. is clandestine company that trains minions, equips them, loans technology and provides similar support services to various supervillains. In addition to training your goons or lending you their cloaked aircraft for instance, they can also provide already trained henchmen and even have a catalog of minor super-baddies you can hire for that very special, foolproof plan you've always dreamed about. Order two squadrons of highly skilled henchman today, and get a third squadron at half price!

What this tells the team is whoever hired Terror Inc. has big bucks, but doesn't want to get his or her hands dirty themselves.

***Vanish's Dimensional Strike
This is the ability mentioned in his write up on the team member profiles post as, "(an attack by sending a) punch or kick into interspace gates, causing the blows to land on targets in a radius up to two hundred feet away."

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Giant Size Adventure #1

Welcome back Superhero RPG fans!

(As well as those who stumbled upon this blog accidentally, children who were left unattended and wandered off, but found their way here, lost souls of the damned and extraterrestrial intelligences looking for a way to communicate with our primitive species)

You're in luck! That's right! You are just in time for my review of the latest comic book series from Champions Earth Alpha Delta-1, sure to be a smash hit: Champions: REBIRTH.

Fabulous First Issue - "Rattle Them Bones".

Our story opens on a fair, cool and sunny day at John F. Kennedy International Airport. Arcturus Mann (NPC), multi-billionaire industrialist and philanthropist is at a podium discussing Mann Industries' (a division of MANN UNLIMITED) latest innovation, the first Gravity Module Commercial Passenger Plane. This amazing shuttle can travel from New York to California in just over an hour, takes off and lands vertically, uses less fuel than conventional commercial aircraft and provides the smoothest ride you can imagine.

Perhaps even more amazing is the fact that Mann has promised to make the Gravity Module available to any interested companies for a comparatively modest fee, while making a downgraded version available on the net in a sort of Creative Commons equivalent deal. The top grade and lower grade variants are significantly different in terms of their ease of construction, some materials and power and fine control of the gravity field.

Today will be the prototype shuttle's maiden flight (OK, it's first public flight. It's already been tested a number of times). The flight will take the craft from JFK Airport to LAX, the Los Angeles World Airport. Passengers will include Mann, a number of dignitaries, heads of state, important business people and media personalities and a dozen children from the Scaramangler Foundation*.

To ensure the safety of the flight, its passengers and crew, today is also first major mission and official debut of the new Champions Superteam. The group is introduced to the public with much fanfare by Tachyon (NPC)**, a former member of the Silver Age Champions and one of the world's most beloved heroes. Released from a self-sentenced exile and cured of his dangerous, excess power, Tachyon has been chosen to be the one to guide the new team in the right direction. He calls out each name and the crowd erupts with excitement over each new hero!

Equilibrium, IMPACT, Master Builder, N*Gage, Phalanx, Silent Justice and Vanish (The PCs)!

While introducing the group, a spectral image of what appears to be a musketeer shrouded in colorless fire, and wearing a long cloak, forms above the team and watches the proceedings. When the assembled crowd points him out and cheers for the strange, ghostly visitor, Tachyon thinks quickly and introduces him as a member, calling him 'The Grey Flame' (PC).

Afterwards, as the team leaves the stage, Tachyon and Phalanx greet the phantom and ask him if one of the members of Project: UNITY asked him to attend the event. The Grey Flame simply replied, "I go where I am needed." Tachyon shrugs and going with his gut, adds the The Grey Flame to the team roster for time being.

The plan is for the majority of the team to fly aboard the grav-shuttle just as the passengers will, but ready to take action should the need arise. The only oddities are IMPACT, who will be travelling in his secret identity, a 14 year old, skinny geek kid, and Master Builder and N*Gage, who decide to travel in the craft's twin cargo holds (since all three are too large for the seats on the plane and Master Builder and N*Gage don't have to worry about cabin pressure (since they don't need to breath and are extremely tough).

The only Champions not boarding the craft will be Vanish and Tachyon. Both of the them will run ahead along the flight path of the plane. Vanish runs 681 mph and can teleport. Tachyon can travel faster than Vanish but now gets winded as it takes a lot more endurance to use his powers than it did in his youth. The two of them get a head start.

While onboard, Phalanx coordinates security efforts with Mann's own personal security detail, Silent Justice uses his psychic senses to monitor everyone's vitals and make sure they are all what they seem, IMPACT (in his true, 14 year old kid form) watches the Scaramangler kids play and talk and Equilibrium taps into his Cosmic Awareness.

All seems well as Tachyon, and then Vanish, reach the first checkpoint, somewhere in Ohio. There is a bit of ideal talk about how Vanishes power reminds Tachyon of his old friend Vector. He recommends Vanish do some research on Vector as it might help him with his own abilities. Vanish nods and seems to blow off the 'old man's' advice, but secretly takes it to heart.

Not long after the shuttle passes over checkpoint one, Equilibrium's Cosmic Awareness gives him a vision. First, he sees a small, but intensely bright, blue camp fire burning somewhere 'below him' in the distance. He feels he is moving away from the fire on the wings of a swift. Next, moths of many different shapes and sizes fly toward the fire as if in slow motion. Finally, out of a dark bank of clouds, a large carrion bird, ash grey and blood red in color, descends upon the swift with great speed.

(The Player of) Equilibrium surmises that the shuttle is the swift and the vulture or buzzard is some kind of plane that is following them. Sensors aboard the craft reveal nothing behind or above them. A cloaked plane? Possible, but few villains or villainous organizations have cloaking technology that absolute!

Realizing his partner has discovered something, Silent Justice speaks to Equilibrium telepathically. Told of what his friend has sensed, Silent Justice networks the rest of the team in and lets them know the situation. Unfortunately, Silent Justice's telepathy doesn't work on N*Gage (he's a Robot) and Grey Flame (he's...well...dead, not to put too fine a point on it). The two of them are alerted by team communicators.

IMPACT, uncomfortable around the kids even though some are his own age, is eager to spring into action. Accessing a aft ceiling hatch, he transforms into his 8 ft., pro-wrestler looking form, complete with theme music, flashing lights and distant cheers and applause. Master Builder, has come up from the cargo hold, joins him top side. IMPACT opens the hatch without thinking of the cabin pressure and wind, but luckily Master Builder is a quick thinker and was prepared for just such a situation.

Using quick hardening foam*** found in the cargo hold, Master Builder absorbs the material, transforms in a column shaped plug for the hatch and then morphs away, leaving the hardened foam in his place. With the opening now sealed tight behind them, IMPACT and Master Builder search the skies for the other aircraft. Wait! There! It may be invisible, but it still has mass and moved through a cloud. Good enough for IMPACT. He prepares to jump.

Off the top of the plane. To land on another plane. That he can't actually see.

To Be Continued...

Barking Alien

*The Scaramangler Foundation
A major component of the setting, the Scaramangler Foundation is a US based, international relief organization that is best described as a cross between the Red Cross and Xavier's School for Gifted Youngsters.

Basically, mutants and other young superbeings are not hated and feared, but rather viewed as people with a disability, albeit one that can potentially blow up tanks, cause storms or stop time.

A member of the Silver Age Champions, Tachyon's powers were originally the ability to absorb light energy, transform himself into a light being and 'run' at incredible speeds (actually turning into a beam of energy). This later evolved into being able to fly.

During the final mission of his team, Tachyon absorbed far too much energy from the villain Sundown and overcharged his powers. From that point forward, Tachyon could not activate his abilities without causing a solar fusion explosion, potentially endangering everyone and everything in a 1000 ft. radius. 

Some years later, Tachyon served as a sort of PR/Spokesperson for Project: UNITY, becoming a major factor in swaying public opinion of superheroes back towards the positive after it was tarnished by the final mission mentioned above. While the overall opinion of superheroes had dropped, Tachyon's personal popularity had never been higher and he used that to the advantage of the entire superhero community.

One fateful day, about three years after the formation of Project: UNITY, Tachyon's sister, one of the most popular newscasters in the Western World, was kidnapped by the villain Mister Grimm. Tachyon's sister was the girlfriend of another hero, Night Force. Grimm tapped into the Project: UNITY communications system and announced he was going to kill the woman in 10 seconds. Unbeknownst to the rest of the team, Night Force was already hunting Grimm and had located his hidden island villa in the Mediterranean.

Seeing his sister in mortal danger with barely seconds to spare, Tachyon activated his powers, rocketed skyward and came down upon Grimm's location in seconds. He was too late. Grimm shot the woman and than fell dead himself, as Night Force had 'Nightarang'ed him in the back of the head, again, seconds too late.Tachyon later discovered that the activation of his powers has created a solar plasma blast that killed two Superheroes and injured three others. He pleaded guilty at a hearing and requested he be locked away in the superhuman detention facility known as Stronghold.

Tachyon remained there for years until a UNITY member named Syphon (Jeff's previous character) began visiting him and convinced Tachyon to let him try and help him. Syphon devised a way to use his own energy absorption and conversion powers to rid Tachyon of his uncontrollable, excess energy. After a couple more years of retraining and therapy, Omni and Night Force (the latter now leading Project: UNITY) asked Tachyon to train, advise and act as a liaison for the new Champions. He accepted.

Tachyon can still convert to an energy form, but only runs at Mach 1, the speed of sound. He can no longer absorb energy and as a result gets tired more quickly then he did in his youth. Although about 60 years of age, he looks closer to a man in his late 40's. He is still quite handsome, as personable as ever and has an Eidetic Memory, so he remembers the name and face of every person he has ever met.

***Flotation devices consisting of bags of rapid hardening foam were stored on the Gravity Module Shuttle. The foam, when hardened, contains thousands of tiny bubbles, enabling the packs of foam to float. I forget the name of it, but this material actually exists.