Friday, October 31, 2014

Friday The Thirty First...The Thirteenth

Today marks the 13th day in a row I've worked.

The thirteenth, and coincidentally on Halloween by jove! Couldn't have planned that better if I'd tried. Only because if I tried, it surely wouldn't have worked out this way.

I find myself considerably lacking in Halloween spirit this year. I'm just too damn beat.

No costume, no jack o' lantern, no horror movies from Netflix (not that I really ever watch horror movies). None of that this year. Not even in the mood for candy corn.

Maybe next year.

I'm going to bed.

Barking Alien

Thursday, October 30, 2014

From Splash Page to The Silver Screen

As a fan of Superheroes, comic books, movies, and Superhero RPGs, I feel obligated to say something about the recently updated Marvel Cinematic Universe film release schedule.


The Black Panther! Yes! Captain Marvel? Oh yeah! The Inhumans...wait...really? AWESOME!

I am told DC is also going to make some movies. *Yawn*

Here's the thing...I love Superhero movies because I love Superheroes. I love Superheroes because I grew up on comic books. If the movies are awesome, but the comic books suck, I am less likely to be jazzed about the films.

Marvel is doing a pretty good job on it's comic books right now. Not perfect, and there's lots of room for improvement, but generally speaking, Marvel comics are good. Since their comics are good, I am interested in their movies.

Since the DC characters I love are really no longer around, and the films seem more aligned with the newer incarnations, I really have no interest in the DC movies at all.

At least I have The Flash TV series. I am really liking The Flash.

Barking Alien

Monday, October 27, 2014

Prepare Yourself For Being Unprepared

Welcome back to Barking Alien.

Sorry it's taken me so long to do this follow up post, but things have been hectic (in a mostly positive way) here at Barkley's Den (mostly positive. mostly).

Today, we're going to teach you how you can prepare a four course Dynamic Dungeon for five or six people, in half the time you'd think it takes.

To start off, you have to understand that most Gamemasters ^#@*ing over-prepare.

What Other GMs Do Wrong: Over-Prepare

I'll be the first to say that I over-prepare myself on occasion. It usually ends up happening when I am running a one-shot, especially at a convention. Additionally, I would definitely prefer to be over-prepared than under-prepared. Just makes sense.

That said, the key to an ongoing, dynamic, 'living' (or whatever you want to call it) setting, be it a dungeon, a city, or something else, isn't piles of notebooks, and a metric ton of spreadsheets. No, no, no, my chart and table obsessed cousins.* The secret is preparing not to be prepared. Carefully planning to ad lib. Focusing less on what might happen, and more on what would happen.

Enough fancy word play, eh? Straight talk...

Basically, you need not know the ins and outs of every denizen of a Dynamic Dungeon, anymore than you personally know the comings and goings of every person who lives, and/or works in your home town or city. I am certain that in many very small, rural, and even suburban towns, it can feel like you really do know everyone's business, but lets get some perspective.

I live in New York City, and more specifically the central borough of Manhattan. Manhattan alone has over 1,625,150 people. The city, complete with its infrastructure of maintenance personnel, police, firefighters, EMS workers, sanitation workers, and those who run our mass transit system, work and function on a daily basis completely independent (and likely unaware) of me. I benefit greatly from the system of people and services that make this city run, but I don't have much impact on their lives, nor they on mine on a one-on-one basis.

This is how your basic Dynamic (and potentially Ideal) Dungeon works. You don't manage, or worry about, every single individual being in the place anymore than you are currently worried about what that nice fellow who works at the newspaper stand is doing right now. What's he going to have for breakfast tomorrow? Oh no! How can I plan my day not knowing what he'll have for breakfast?!

Chill the hell out.

He will have breakfast, more than likely, and then he will be there when you go to get your paper in the morning. Some stuff just works, and keeps working.

Think in broader strokes. Focus on ways to portray the dynamic nature of a setting so that it feels dynamic. Don't get caught up in the minutia of running a town, and trying to determine every last detail. It serves no purpose, and only bogs you down and burns you out.

Think about it for a moment; how much of the complex economic and sociological matrixes you've developed to explain how the dungeon as living environment works are the PCs actually going to see and interact with? Probably very little. So there is no need for them.

All you need is a little common sense.

Let's look at some techniques for prepping a Dynamic Dungeon.


#1. Back to Basics (Of Information)

In your GM notes, place a sheet of paper with the name of your dungeon, and the elements of it's nature that you need to know to run an adventure there. What do you need to know? Well, it will be different for different GMs, but mine would look something like this...

The Endless Labyrinth

 The part of the Endless Labyrinth
will be played by the labyrinth from Labyrinth.

Concept: Greedy Merchant Baron commissions massive, underground labyrinth to hide his treasure, and his daughter. Is tricked by daughter's true love to use his friends as the Architect, The Builder, The Trapmaker, and the Artificer. Friends than tell true love how to get in and past everything. True love runs away with daughter, leaves note to Baron that he left treasure behind. Merchant Baron enters his own labyrinth to find his own treasure, gets lost. Forever.

Design: Seemingly endless maze. Cursed. Many traps. Few monsters, mostly undead, and The Juggernaut.

Inhabitants: Undead adventurers who tried to find the treasure in the labyrinth and never escaped. Skeletons, Ghosts, Zombies, etc. Unique Monster(s): The Juggernaut of the Endless Labyrinth, a clockwork/near-robot metal golem. Super strong, super tough, smart. Knows all the secret ways around the maze.

Special: Cursed location. If you die of starvation, dehydration, old age, or other natural causes while lost in the maze, you resurrect as a 'greater' undead, and continue searching for the treasure, or a way out. If you are killed in the maze by the Juggernaut, or an already existing undead being, you return in a lesser fashion - pretty much a mindless guardian of the area where you died.

Most of the undead are therefore explorers who died searching the labyrinth for riches, and/or a way out. Very few static monsters. PCs are in motion, undead are in motion.

Notes: Possible society of living people, or humanoids (Dwarves, Gnomes, Goblins, etc.) who took up residence in maze when they realized they couldn't find a way out. They have organized various means of obtaining food, and other basic necessities.

That's it. That is the entirety of my initial write up on this dungeon, which incidentally is a major, mythic site on my campaign world of Aerth (for my D&D-But-Not games). No one has ever even found the place. Why do I need more than this?

#2. A Sense of Purpose

For the denizens of your dungeon to have a dynamic society, there must be a reason they're there. They're needs to be something they are doing there, or need to do, that requires they live in the conditions of a dungeon. It need not be a complex, 'ecology of the...' reason, but it definitely should make sense.

Why? So that when encountered, the creatures therein act first, and foremost based on the motivation that this [the dungeon], is their home, their fortified base of operations, or what-have-you. When PCs do something in the dungeon, and you as GM need to determine what course of action the inhabitants of this domain take, it is imperative you know why they are there in the first place.

Is this their only home after being driven out of the nearby caves by Dwarves? Is this the only place they can find the rare plant, or foodstuff they need to survive? The inhabitants of such a place will likely defend it to the death!

On the other hand, are they just hired help, brought in by some evil priest or mad wizard to protect a project their employer is working on? If so, do they feel it's worth dying for?

#3. Where Do We Go From Here?

Quo vadis? Where are you going?

Why is this a dynamic environment? It's a dynamic environment because the elements of it move and change.

That is to say, once you know why the beings in this dungeon are in this dungeon, and you know why they'll move about, and what their motivations are for doing so are, you have to think of where they will go, and what they will do next. By putting some thought into the destinations of the populace should an emergency arise (like an invasion by PC adventurers hell-bent on killing them all, and stealing their livelihoods), you make your Dynamic Dungeons actually feel dynamic without A) having to do too much prep, and B) not having to worry about every, single, individual beastie.

Some will never move because they are mere monstrous beasts, locked in a room to guard something, or because they were caught and kept as a pet by the inhabitants of the dungeon. Perhaps the non-combat types such as children, the elderly, the infirm, etc. will be escorted to safer rooms deeper in the complex by more able bodied, but still non-warrior, denizens. Combat types will move to engage, or search the corridors for the sneaky intruders.

Having a rough idea of who is in there, and where they will go, is what will take you from static to dynamic without making you spastic.*

#4. All Dynamic Dungeons Start Static

Take a mental photograph of your Dungeon. Imagine this snapshot is a typical day in the life of all the denizens of this Dungeon. Unless something significant disturbs the routine, this picture you have is a perfect representation of this Dungeon at whatever time of day, or night you imagine it depicts.

This is how your Dungeon looks when the PCs enter it. This is your starting point. Regardless of what they are doing back in town, unless it somehow specifically messes with this picture, the PCs will find the Dungeon looking like your snapshot when they enter it. You need this base picture the way a marathon runner needs the starting line to run a race, or a fairy tale needs some point to serve as it's 'Once Upon a Time'.


I could easily go on, and on with this, but I hope what I have put here so far will help take the edge off attempting to run a Dynamic Dungeon. I mean, IMHO, if you are running a dungeon crawl, you're already running the most boring type of adventure possible. At least these notes may help pump a little life into it. :p

Now let's get to something more interesting. Like Superheroes!

Heh. Just being snarky. Good gaming all!

But seriously...let's get back to Supers.

Barking Alien

*I apologize to my British readers. I am aware that 'spastic' has negative connotations in your vernacular. Here in the USA it's a slang term meaning clumsy, goofy, uncoordinated and frazzled to the point of making stupid mistakes.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Who Does That?

I hate dungeons.*

Have I mentioned this before? I'm sure I have. If I haven't, that's a major faux pas on my part. My bad, sorry.

I hate dungeons.**

Now that we're clear, let me tell you one reason why. Generally, it's because they share a not-quite-cool-to-lukewarm, unseasoned, grey sameness that bores the living crap outta me. Oh my stars and garters, save me from the game designers and GMs who feel their dungeons are exciting but feature the same damn 10x10 halls and rooms with goblin sized furniture that are otherwise empty. Seriously. Help me turn my Green Lantern ring upon myself to end my suffering.

This is part of the dungeon at Blarney Castle in Ireland.
It's so small!
How the hell are we gonna fit an army of angry Kobolds,
a Lurker Above, two Ropers, and an Umber Hulk in there?

You'd think they used it to hold prisoners or something.

Worse are Megadungeons.

Imagine waiting in line for an hour or more for an Amusement Park ride you've been on a hundred times before and it wasn't that exciting to begin with. That's a dungeon crawl to me.

Now imagine you're on a similar line, only the wait is about two to three hours minimum and the ride itself lasts a slow going hour or two with no way to get off. That's a Megadungeon. Kill my character please! A quick death, early on if you would be so kind. That way I can go do something else. This would be vastly preferable to being trapped somewhere in one of these endless malls of the bland and mundane.


Recently, my favorite site that talks about the type of games I don't play (and there by renders itself endlessly fascinating to me), Dyvers, has been doing a series about dungeons in which he analyzes the ideas of the Ideal, Static, and Dynamic Dungeon.

(I know I'm a little late to the party but I've had Superheroes on the brain a lot lately and I just had to get out my thoughts down on them while the iron was hot.)

Please go there to check out his definitions of each one. Go ahead. I'll make some coffee while you wait.

Done? Cool. He says some interesting things about them doesn't he? I think so.

Honestly, I was gonna leave this alone since, as noted above, I do not care for dungeons but the idea that the Dynamic Dungeon is a lot of work irked me. It irked me because I think it's a belief that a lot of GMs have. As a result, they default to the creation of Static Dungeons and Static Dungeons becoming the base standard typifies the boring dungeon and megadungeon designs I so lament.

Furthermore, it just isn't that hard to create a Dynamic Dungeon (or dungeon-like) environment.

This got me particularly incensed (OK, I wasn't really that upset. I just like the word 'incensed'.):

"Consider for a moment that as a Dungeon Master you invest a substantial amount of your free time into making your games better. You draw maps and work on situational responses to your players actions, filling countless spreadsheets and notebooks up with possible resolutions."

OK. Who. Does. This?!?

First, anyone making spreadsheets for an RPG should stop playing right now and go do my damn taxes. If you think spreadsheets are fun, here's the quarterly inventory list from Home Depot. Knock yourself out.

If you were going to fill spreadsheets and notebooks with the possible resolutions to my players' actions for my old New Jersey crew or better yet my buddy Will's Champions campaign, you would truly need countless numbers of them. I hope you have an infinite amount of paper, ink, and time.

"You read blogs and articles that offer advice and then you come to the table having spent a significantly greater portion of your time preparing for the game than actually playing it."

On the average, it seems like most GMs I've been reading about do this anyway. They blog, read blogs, prepare and design, and then run for a measly four hours. Four. That's 4 hours! This means that A) you are over-preparing, and B) you need to get more time to game if you're going to be putting that much effort into it.

I probably do less physical prep than 75-80% of the D&D GMs out there and my sessions last 6-8 hours minimum. A lot less work and I get double the run-time out of it. Now there is no right or wrong way to game but if this long set up yet short payoff sounds like you, then yes you are DOING IT WRONG.


"Adam, ADAM! What's going on in here? I can hear your font all the way in the other room."

"Sorry Barkley. I was...I'm writing a blog post. It's's..."

"You're not writing about D&D again are you? Or medieval fantasy in general? You promised me you wouldn't do that. Remember what your doctor said."

"Stephen Strange is a great guy but I don't think he's a real doctor. That's not the point. Yes, I am blogging about a fantasy subject. It's about dungeons..."

"Oh good grief."

"Just, just...let me finish this one post. We can talk about it later."

"Gads! Very well. Tsk tsk. Why do you do this to yourself? Humans."



Dyvers goes on to write:

"Then you begin run the game and you're flipping through your innumerable resources trying to apply the correct solution to your players' actions."

Ah ha! The key to solving the problem, as always, is one of altering perceptions. If this is how you go into it, there is no easy way of getting out.

"Suddenly the game really isn't all that fun anymore because you've burnt yourself out. Dynamic Dungeons are incredibly fun to explore for players and Dungeon Masters alike as they offer a greater challenge for each; however, there is a real danger in preparing too much for the exploration of these dungeons. So how do you guard against over preparing and burning yourself out?"

I'm confused. Why are we having this conversation if you just solved your own problem?

Don't over-prepare.

Well goodnight folks! It's been a pleasure and you've been a wonderful audience. Tomorrow on our show, we'll be featuring...wait, what? Elaborate? Do we have time? OK, our stage manager says we have time.

Let's do this right.

We'll be back after these messages...

Barking Alien

* I am defining 'Dungeons' here, in this first sentence, as:

 "A closed environment, usually full of enemies and loot. Caves and ruins are among the most common forms. In some more open-ended games, outdoor environments might be considered dungeons as well." (Paraphrased from, on account of their grammar often being terrible).

I should make it clear that I do not mind the occasional use of actual dungeons in a game set in a medieval, European setting. In real life, a dungeon was (as described by Wikipedia):

"A room or cell in which prisoners are held, especially underground. Dungeons are generally associated with medieval castles, though their association with torture probably belongs more to the Renaissance period. An oubliette is a form of dungeon which is accessible only from a hatch in a high ceiling."

** I do not despise all dungeon-like environments to the same degree, but I do try to keep the use of an enclosed, maze or labyrinth-like space, to a minimum in my games. I have been known to run sequences in games that take place in the maintenance tunnels of space stations, through the corridors of starships, in the halls of alien temple ruins, and the occasional death-trap filled supervillain hideout.

In these instances, I try very hard to vary the terrain, conditions, size and shape of the passages and rooms, and the nature of the obstacles the PCs encounter. By not overusing the concept, the 'dungeon crawl' feels like an unusual environment, and a change of pace for my players. If Adam is using a 'dungeon', you know something special is involved.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The Initivative: Superhero RPG Appendix N Blog Challenge

I've got to hand it to my good friend WQRobb of Graphs, Paper, and Games. Not only did he follow up my recent post with a doozy of his own, but in the comments section of his entry, he came up with an idea for another post that frankly, I'd love to see everyone who is into Superhero gaming do.

WQRobb asks, (an excerpt from his comment) "Is there a way to communicate what you are trying to do? Sort of an "Appendix N" of Superhero gaming?"

"There's a blog post idea...", he suggests. It's a great suggestion. Actually, it's a challenge.


The Initiative: Superhero RPG Appendix N Blog Challenge

I challenge you, the Superhero RPG GM, and/or player, to list between 5 and 10 Superhero comic books, and 5 to 10 Superhero live action or animated shows or films, that typify your style of Superhero RPG campaign.

Minimum is 5. Maximum is 10. This means you have to really think about the ones that best embody the type of Supers gaming you prefer. Who's up for the challenge?

I'll start!

Barking Alien's Superhero RPG Appendix N:

Superhero Comic Books (Including series, collections and graphic novels):

Astro City - Especially Confession, Local Heroes and Shining Stars
(Various publishers, Currently DC Comics, 1995-Present) By Kurt Busiek, Brent Anderson, and Alex Ross
Green Lantern (DC Comics, 1970-1987) By Various - Not always a continuous series
Justice (DC Comics, 2005-2007), By Alex Ross, Jim Krueger and Doug Braithwaite
Marvels (Marvel Comics, 1994) By Kurt Busiek and Alex Ross
The All-Star Squadron (DC Comics, 1981-1985) By Roy Thomas, and Various
The Avengers (Marvel Comics, 1970-1979) By Various
The Legion of Superheroes (DC Comics, 1974-1989) Paul Levitz era primarily
The New Frontier (DC Comics, 2004) by Darwyn Cooke*
The New Teen Titans (DC Comics, 1980-1984) By Marv Wolfman and George Perez
The X-Men (Marvel Comics, 1975-1980) By Len Wein, Dave Cockrum, Chris Claremont and John Byrne.

Superhero Non-Comic Book Media (Including films, animated TV series, games, etc.):

Batman: The Animated Series (Warner Bros., 1992-1995), Animated TV series
City of Heroes (NCSoft, 2004-2012) MMORPG By Cryptic Studios
Justice League/Justice League Unlimited (Warner Bros., 2001-2006) Animated TV series
Superman/Superman II (Warner Bros., 1978 & 1980) By Mario Puzo/Richard Donner
Superman: The Animated Series (Warner Bros., 1996-2000) Animated TV series
Teen Titans (Warner Bros., 2003-2006) Animated TV series
The Greatest American Hero (ABC Television, 1981-1983) By Stephen J. Cannell
The Incredibles (Pixar, 2004) By Brad Bird - Best Superhero Film Ever Made
Villains & Vigilantes (Fantasy Games Unlimited, 1979, 1982) RPG by Jeff Dee and Jack Herman

I'm a little short of 10 for the non-comic book, comic book Superhero media list because, quite frankly, I don't feel there were ever that many films, movies and games that got it exactly right.

Now bare in mind, I am not talking about getting Superheroes in general right. No, no. Avengers, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Iron Man, the Champions RPG, etc., are all awesome examples of the genre.

This is the Appendix N for the type of game I want to run, the type of Superhero themes, settings and styles I am trying to emulate.

I loved Watchmen, The Dark Knight Returns, the (early) Wild Card anthology novels, and of course, DC's Kingdom Come (perhaps my favorite, all-time Superhero story). However, those deconstructed tales of what's wrong with the concept of Superheroes in a post-modern world are not the kinds of stories I am looking to tell right now.

Think I overlooked something? Disagree with one of my picks? I would love to see yours!

Up, up and away,

Barking Alien

*There is also an animated film version of New Frontier. I highly recommend it.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

A Secret War

I want to run a Superheroes RPG campaign.

I really do. I don't think you understand how much. More than that.

No, you don't get it. I really, really want to run one, sooo bad. I mean, I just used a 'so' with three 'o's in it. Who does that? That's some high school crap. Well I'm willing to do it. That's how desperate I am to run Supers.

Alex Ross painting Marvel Super Heroes
from alternate times and dimensions much!

The problem I have, as evidenced in many of my previous, recent attempts to do so, is that I don't have a lot of consistent players who are comic book readers, and/or fans of the Superhero genre. Fewer still who are fans of my type of Superhero comics, the 'Four Color Comics' of the Silver Age and Bronze Age.

See, I am fighting a 'secret war' of sorts. The objective is to get a group of people on the same page that I am on in regards to comic book Superheroes so that I can run a campaign of it.

That page is a beautiful, action-packed, double-page splash. If only I could get them to see it, I'm sure they'd be amazed. This is far easier said than done, as the two or three people I am thinking about probably don't even know what a 'double-page splash' is.

*Thuds head against the wall. Repeatedly.*

Even though, intellectually, I am well aware that there members of fandom who may never have grown up with Superheroes and comic books, it is still sometimes hard to me to wrap my head around the idea. To me, Superhero comics are an American institution, right alongside hot dogs, apple pie, and horribly expensive health care.

Hmmm. Bad example. OK, how about this...

The U.S.A. is only 238 years old. Our history as a nation pales in comparison to that of England, France, Japan, China, and numerous other countries on the Earth. In addition, while it's awesome that we are a people of mixed cultural heritage, we don't have the unified mythology and folklore of our respective homelands from which we originated. Sadly, the average American citizen has little knowledge of the spiritual tales of the original Natives either.

So what is our folklore? Who are our mythic heroes and villains?

Well, you definitely have characters from the fiction made popular entertainment in this country such as Dracula, Frankenstein's Monster, and the like. You have the tales of Tarzan, the Lone Ranger, and perhaps Conan. Prior to these characters and other heroes of the Pulp Era, you had Paul Bunyan, Johnny Appleseed, and the real life cowboys turned larger-than-life like Billy the Kid, and 'Wild Bill' Hickok.

Beyond that, you have Superheroes.

Is this not Ragnarok, The Fall of the Gods?*
Superman, created by two young, American lads from Cleveland, was originally conceived of as a very different character from that which we know today**. It wasn't until they hit upon an incarnation of the character as a heroic individual in the mythic tradition of Hercules, Samson, and others, who fought against evil, and stood for justice and truth, that Superman caught fire in the imaginations of America's youth.

Comic books are our mythology. I'm sure I've said this on the blog before, but it bares repeating. It was actually comic books that got me into D&D. I wasn't intimately familiar with the literary sources that inspired Gygax and Arneson. I was 8 years old in 1977 when I started gaming. I knew fairy tales. I knew the Wizard of Oz (films and books), and some English, Irish and Scottish folklore. At that time however, I knew little of the type of medieval fantasy, or sword and sorcery, from which Dungeons and Dragons drew its 'setting'.

I knew Star Trek, Star Wars, Lost in Space, and a host of other Science Fiction shows and movies. Mostly, I knew Superheroes. My friends and I talked about them all the time. We drew pictures of them. We read the comics, and wrote our own stories about the heroes and villains depicted therein, even before we played RPGs. These were the stories we knew, branded into our heads by a love of them, and multiple re-readings. These are the stories I still pass down today.

I fear there is no way to win this war of mine, since there is not weapon as powerful as my own love of the genre developed over the last 40 years. I have no illusions that I can make anyone get it the way I get it if they didn't share the same experience, but even a glass half full would be nice. I don't expect it to be an intrinsic part of them (my players), but a cap they could put on and feel comfortable with.

How to do this remains a mystery.

In the meantime, I continue my fight, to right that which is wrong, to defend peace, and serve all mankind.***

Barking Alien

*Art credit where credit is do. This is the cover to the 'Crisis On Infinite Earths: Absolute Edition' hardcover. It was illustrated by series artist George Perez, and then painting over by the amazing Alex Ross. It has to be one of my favorite pieces of comic book related art ever. My two favorite artists working together on a single piece. Incredible.

**While Superman is often thought of as a boring character (largely due to writers who, IMHO, focus too much on the wrong elements of him), the story of his creation is absolutely fascinating, and worth a little research.

***Recognize this catchphrase? Ever-so-slightly modified, it is part of the intro to the classic, animated TV series Superfriends.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

The Never Ending Battle for Truth and Justice

It's a good time to be a Superhero Comic Book fan.


Sort of.


OK, let's break it down:

Today, New York Comic Con begins, and while I am not going, I am curious to see if any interesting news comes out of it.

As of this moment, nothing in mainstream comics, in a general sense, is wowing me. There are some individual books that I like, and I want to see where certain stories and characters go, but overall I am less invested in the Big Two (Marvel and DC) universes right now.


Well, Marvel is going through one of its 'Change-For-The-Sake-Of-Change' phases (which could actually be read as 'Change-For-The-Sake-Of-Sales'), and DC remains largely unaware of what the hell it means to be DC Comics, although a tiny glimmer of hope is on the horizon (read on).


Film and Television

While the heroes and villains of DC and Marvel Comics compete on the stands of comic book shops and books stores hoping to earn your admiration and your cash, the real battle is occurring in the movie theatres.

Production plans and schedules dating well into 2016, and beyond, promise to bring characters both well known, and somewhat obscure, to the silver screen.

Marvel has Avengers 2, Ant-Man, Doctor Strange, and even The Inhumans in the pipe. The Inhumans! Wow. Can't wait.

Ant-Man Teaser Movie Poster

At the same time, while motion pictures maybe their new battlefield, TV is their new home. DC is kicking it big time, with Arrow, The Flash, Constantine, and upcoming series for Supergirl and The Teen Titans! I'm pretty disappointed with DC of late (Understatement of the century), but The Flash was pretty darn good, and a Teen Titans show done right would make me pay for cable again.

The strengths are flipped from movies to TV, and on the small screen Marvel is both a tad sparse and a tad weaker than DC. Nonetheless, I am enjoying Agents of SHIELD, even if the first six episodes or so were pretty lackluster. A Runaways TV show guys? Nova? Come on, think about it.

DC's The Flash and Marvel's Agents of SHIELD


Where are Superhero characters currently at their least impressive? Why, in comic books of course! *Soft, quite tears*

Nonetheless, I know Marvel will be back to its status quo following its current event, so I'll just wait it out. There are a few new and fun things going on unrelated to their event books, so I will continue to read those. One good one is the not-so-mini-mini-event, Spider-Verse. While I am still not exactly sure what is going on, we are getting to see the Spidermen and Spiderwomen of alternate Earths, and some of them are awesome. My new favorite character in Marvel is...Spider-Gwen!


OK, Spiderwoman, from a universe where Gwen Stacy was bitten by the spider instead of Peter Parker. The issue that introduced her, Edge of the Spider-Verse #2 (Edge of the Spider-Verse is a mini-series of one-shots leading up to Spider-Verse. Each issue showcasing a different, alternate take on Spidey), had great art, a funky 60's meets modern vibe, and would make a great permanent addition to Marvel's comics line if they could figure out how to fit it in. Trust me, there is more implied in that one issue than just 'Gwen is Spiderman'. Looking forward to more.

UPDATE: Marvel Comics has announced that in February of 2015 (right in time for my birthday) they will be publishing the first issue of a Spider-Gwen Ongoing Series! Woot! I can hardly wait.

The Cover of Spider-Gwen #1
by Robbi Rodriguez

Speaking of cool female characters...

The latest issue of Batgirl as of this post (Issue #35 - October, 2014), takes the character in a new direction that is, believe it or not, actually rather new. It was fresh, and very modern. It was so modern in fact, so current in its depiction of the social, and technological reality of today's college age experience, it was a tad jarring in a superhero comic book.

It worked, as a story and as a world being developed, but it threw me for a loop a little. It felt like an indie comic and not a DC comic.

Considering what else, or what little, DC has been doing over the last three years, it is a much needed change. At the same time, is this the direction I want to read personally? Not sure. I'm going to give it a few more issues.

I liked it overall. It features strong, independent, and individual female characters, interesting visual storytelling techniques, and dialogue that is highly relatable to today's college demographic. I am not sure I related to all of the dialogue, but I understood it. 

My concern is that it will seem as dated in 5-10 years as some people feel the Silver Age stories do now. It lacks that timeless quality that comic books at their best possess. I think the art was fantastic though. Truly amazing. Artist Babs Tarr is an impressive talent.

My one quip; this felt like Stephanie Brown with red hair to me. It did not feel like the character of Barbara Gordon, as I know her. My favorite version of Barbara is her Oracle incarnation. I just think this would have worked even better with Stephanie.

Finally...nothing would make me happier than if DC would bring back its previous, pre-New 52, pre-Flashpoint universe. Heck, if I'm wishing, bring back the pre-Crisis on Infinite Earths universe, or multiverse. Yeah! Screw 52 Earths. Infinite baby. Oh well, I can dream can't I. It's not like...


Oh. My. Gawd.

It is currently being speculated far and wide across comic fandom that a new Crisis is coming. While it may or may not bring back the Infinite Earths of DCs Silver Age, it is very likely to bring back some, or all, of the pre-New 52 continuity. I don't think they'll get rid of the New 52, but rather they'll put out a few books set in the last pre-stupid-New 52, or pre-Crisis (squee!) universe the same way Marvel has the Ultimate universe.


None. Nothing. Nada. Zip. Zilch.

Neither Marvel nor DC currently has a regularly published and supported table top Role Playing Game.


My desire to run a Superheroes game is at an all time high however.

Something is in the works...something has to be...

Barking Alien

Monday, October 6, 2014

Peace and Prosperity

Incoming mesage from Starfleet Command...

USS Prosperity, NCC-1587
Based on the Ventura Class By John Byrne

This past Saturday, October the 4th, I got the chance to run a one-shot of Last Unicorn Games' Star Trek Role Playing game for the bi-weekly group I have so far only gamed with as a player.

Star Trek: Prosperity was set during the Original Series, roughly analogous with the end of the session season. Everyone was fantastic, and the game seemed to go over well. Well enough in fact that I've been asked to run another one sometime in the future!
So, while not a Star Trek campaign exactly...but  perhaps a non-committal series of one shots with the same ship and characters​ is in my future. Ha! Maybe.

Will wonders never cease?
Episode Synopsis:
After receiving a resupply and 'tune-up' at the nearest Starbase, the USS Prosperity, NCC-1587, a Ventura Class Light Cruiser, is sent to the planet Proteus Scylla IV to perform a planetary survey. The world was last scanned and cataloged 5 years earlier, but the Scout ship which performed the service only did a cursory survey. A much more in depth look at this world is in order after Starfleet analyzed the previous mission's reading and found some very peculiar data.
The Prosperity arrives and after sensor sweeps of the star systems Gas Giant, Asteroid Belt and the main planet, discovers a mystery of interstellar proportions. It seems the United Federation of Planets wasn't the only galactic power interested in Proteus Scylla IV. The nearby Dramian species had sent two scout ships there, one searching for the other. Both suffered tragic fates. The first was crushed, and its crew consumed, by a bizarre native life form. The second, while looking for his 'countrymen', was struck by an asteroid...under very suspicious circumstances.
As it turned out, the Dramians wanted to study the planet in hopes that it had properties that could help them with a terrible plague on their largest colony, Dramia II. Unfortunately, the Orion Syndicate, dreaded, organized crime cartel of the cosmos, had discovered this world at some earlier date. The Orions were skimming off a waste film from the native life, a massive, sea sized colony organism, and using it to manufacture a medicine they were selling to the Dramians for exuberant prices. It was the Orions, using a tractor beam to push an asteroid, that did in the second Dramian scout vessel.

The Orions showed up in the final act of the episode, using three pirate vessels to protect there investment and operation. Luckily, the three smaller, more maneuverable Orion ships were no match for a Starfleet cruiser with an experienced Captain and crew. The Orions defeated (with one ship completely destroyed), the Captain of the Prosperity began to open a dialogue of mutual friendship with the strict, no-nonsense Dramians.

Our Officers (The PCs):

Captain Ann Fletcher (Dan), Born in space and accustomed to Zero-G conditions, this bold, young woman made things happen! Warm and social to friends, aggressive toward her enemies, you definitely want to be in the right category. For good or bad, she knew how to push the Dramians' and Orions' buttons (though never touched a button on the bridge, lol).
First Officer, and Chief Science Officer, Lt. Commander Solok (Leo), a Vulcan sensor systems master! He had a wry wit, but if you suggested such a thing he would surely tell you how illogical you were being. He managed to hack the Orions' less advanced computer systems to sway the fight in the Prosperity's favor.
Chief Medical Officer, Lt. Commander,  Dr. Jemm Paker (Ross), was a pretty no-nonsense medical professional, with the mind of a detective. In addition to performing as a secondary Science Officer in many respects, Dr. Paker was key in unravelling the mystery of why the Orions were trying to prevent the Dramians from learning the secrets of the medicine they were selling them.

Chief of Security, Lt. Bhoth (Pronounced like 'Goth', not Oath) (Alex), an Andorian with a chip on his shoulder the size of an iceberg on his home planet. Paranoid, and none too keen on the Orions as a people, the always combat ready Both was also a heartbreaker, leaving a forlorn love to join Starfleet, and having some previous relationship with our Geologist NPC, Ensign Plith. He formed a serious dynamic duo with Communications Officer 'Race' Carr. The Andorian managed some seriously devastating hits against the Orion ships.

Communications Chief, Lt. Rhys 'Race' Carr, (Arthur), sharing a bit of the Security Chief's paranoia, Carr was well versed in Starfleet regulations and protocols. If they were going to die, he was going to make sure it was by-the-book. Great use of the Communications system and character type to perform assists in both scientific research and combat. Wait, Race has a bowling date with Plith? Oh boy. The Both/Race bromance may be going to Red Alert!
Chief Helmsman, Lt. Stephen LeBrock (Saul), young, confident and easy going, LeBrock's maneuvers early in the episode enabled the ship to get much needed scans and intel on the nature of the star system, and the tragic destruction of the two Dramian ships. (Sorry you couldn't stay the whole session Saul. Good to see you and please come back anytime!).

I had a great time. Star Trek is one of my favorite fandoms, and my favorite subject matter for RPGs (though Superheroes runs a very close second). I really appreciate the gang letting me run this for them, and hopefully more games to come.

Live long, and prosper,

Barking Alien

This adventure was largely inspired by the Star Trek Animated Series episode Albatross.


Sunday, October 5, 2014

The Fall of Gaming

What a strange Fall it is so far. Strange and busy.

I was off yesterday, my first day off since the 13th of September, and I was able to run a game of Star Trek (Last Unicorn Games ICON System) for the group I game with roughly bi-weekly. It was my first regular RPG game since September 13th as well (not counting the games I run with the kids at the tutoring center).

Business has been slow during the work week, so I've been covering for a vacationing teacher at the tutoring center to make up for it (and of course to help with coverage). I love it, but it's still work, and twenty days without time off to run something is twenty days too long in my book.

Looking forward towards the immediate future, my gaming time still appears somewhat limited. Next weekend is New York Comic Con, so my regular group's game is called on account of adjacent fandom. I will most likely not go, but take the opportunity to work another Saturday. Got to get that money where you can brothers and sisters.

Where does that place my RPG schedule? Hmmm. A good question.

The plan for this month (right now), is to run the next session of my main groups Traveller campaign on the 18th. Other than that, I don't have any other game session planned for October.

This means I would get to run the third session of Bushido until November. Bummer. Still need to do the recap of our previous sessions as posts. On my list of things to do.

I don't know if I'll get to play with my bi-weekly group, since schedule conflicts (the 18th being one) have arisen.

I am still playing in a weekly online Superhero RPG campaign on Google Hangouts. It's going pretty well. I'll talk about it more another time perhaps.

So there we are, or at least, there I am.

It seems fall comes before a pride.

Barking Alien