Thursday, April 30, 2015

Ten Year Gap

Lowell Francis, of the blog Age of Ravens and the Play on Target podcast, as well as my staunch ally in the fight against the forces of boredom, and overall unpleasantness, has posed a question most ponderous...

What were you running/playing ten years ago? What systems have come and gone for your group?

Sadly, as much as I love looking back on my previous works, I can not participate in this particular exercise.

You see, in 2005, the greatest gamer I have ever known, my closest friend, and my biggest inspiration...she and I parted ways. My ex-wife.

It would be some time before I felt like gaming again, and it was hard even then to find someone to game with. I had been out of the loop, having gamed with the same group of friends, many of whom were couples, or at least friends of both of ours, for years.

The story has a happy ending...we're friends again, and we get to compare creative notes fairly often. We even game together a few times a year, usually around the 'big' holidays when we're all off from work.

Ten years.

A lot can change in ten years.

Barking Alien

Sunday, April 12, 2015

C is for Cancelled, I Need a Rest

It is the evening of Sunday, April 12, 2015, and I am just sitting down to dinner after my 36th day in a row working without taking a day off.

I am not going to complete the A-to-Z Blogging Challenge this year. More than likely, I will not be posting very much for the rest of the month.

For those interested, I have cleared the obstacle that required me to work so much in the first place. I succeeded. I am victorious. Victory is tiring. I am exhausted.

In addition, I haven't been gaming very much as a result of my work schedule. I have managed to keep up with the Google Hangouts Supers game I play in, and ran a one-shot of Star Wars D6 for that very same group. While they had fun, it didn't feel right to me. It was a pale shadow of my former exploits running the game.

I was actually told by a friend (who is no longer with us) many years ago, "Star Trek may be your favorite, but you run Star Wars best".

I did not run it best last week.

I could easily explain away my poor performance by blaming how worn out I feel, how long its been since I've run WEG Star Wars, the fact that it was over the internet instead of face-to-face...but those are excuses, and I don't want excuses. I want answers. I want to know why I didn't run a blow-the-lid-off-it, badass session of my favorite system, and one of my top favorite settings.

There is something off. Something is not right, misaligned, not loading properly.

I've lost my mojo.

While I search for it, and perhaps until I get it back, things will be quiet here at Barking Alien.

Don't wait up, but don't worry either.

I'll be back soon.

Barking Alien

Thursday, April 9, 2015

B is for Boot Hil, Should The Young Men Go West?

Prior to this post, I have only tagged Boot Hill, the 1975 Wild West Role Playing Game created by Brian Blume, and Gary Gygax, and published by TSR, only once before on this blog.

I may have mentioned it briefly a few other times.

That's just wrong.

Hmmm. Wrong might be too strong a word. I'll explain...

Hold it right there partner.
I plum reckon there maybe some clarifications in order.

Before I get into this in depth, I want to note that this is both a Thorough Thursdays entry, and the second installment in the April A-to-Z Blogging Challenge. As you can tell, I'm batting a thousand. I am a week late for both entries, which should have been posted Thursday, April 2nd.

Oh well, life goes on.

On a positive note, the albatross around my neck has finally been removed. I can afford to see a movie once in a while, take a day off, that sort of thing. Not too often of course, but compared to the past several months, it's going to feel like a vacation.

Now, in addition to having only one post tagged with Boot Hill, only three have ever been tagged with the words 'Wild West'. You'll also notice that there is only one previous entry for Deadlands (even though I may have mentioned it more than once in passing).

Truth be told, I am not a huge fan of Westerns. It's not that I really dislike them per se, I just don't list them among my top five favorite genres. I guess I would put them above D&D, Sword & Sorcery, smorgasbord Fantasy, but below Medieval Folklore Fantasy.

It just ain't my thing, the way my things are my thing.

Still and all, there was that one time I ran a Boot Hill campaign and it was awesome. So awesome in fact that I never even tried to do it again. 

Boot Hill was perhaps the second or third RPG I ever played. It is also possibly the second or third game I ever laid eyes on. This was back in the day when you could count the number of RPGs in print on your fingers.

Unlike Dungeons & Dragons, I had an immediate frame of reference for Boot Hill, having already seen many a Western film, and TV program by the age of 10. My maternal grandfather (who we called Pop, or Poppy) and my Dad were huge fans of the genre, and I ended up absorbing the tropes, and atmosphere by osmosis. Thanks to my Pop's love of cinema, and my father's fascination for old things, I learned to love the generation of John Wayne pictures as much as that of Clint Eastwood.

Add to the mix Wild West tales in the form I understood best, comic books. From DC's Jonah Hex, Batlash, and Pow-Wow Smith, to Marvel's Kid Colt, and the Rawhide Kid, Western comics were a staple part of my early collection. Actually, they were a staple of my cousin's collection, but I tended to read his comic books far more than he did.

All this exposure pooled together, and helped me create one rootin' tootin', sure an' shootin' Wild West campaign back in 1979.

Thirty-six years is a long time to wait for a sequel.

In my mind that means one of two things. Either, if I haven't made one yet that I don't need to make one. Some epics just don't need a '2'. That, or it's about time. Maybe even long overdue.

Sketch by Alan Robinson

As I toy around in my head with ideas for a new secondary campaign for my primary, New York group, the idea of a successor to my original Boot Hill campaign has crossed my thoughts more than a few times.

What do you think? Worth assembling a posse for, or should I just let the stage coach be on its way?

B is for Boot Hill

Barking Alien

Thursday, April 2, 2015

A is for Active, The State I Like Best

I don't do nothing well.

A better way to say it might be...I'm not very good at doing nothing.

When running a Role Playing Game, I like something to be happening, always.

It really doesn't matter if it's a fight, a chase, an investigation, an argument with an NPC, or a heated discussion between PCs on the next course of action. I just want Something. Going. On.

Is it because I'm impatient? I get bored easily? No. It's none of that nonsense.

It boils down to the fact that the people, the characters we portray in the games we play, the stories we create, are people living on a razor's edge. They aren't just accountants, farmers, or even soldiers, even when they are. They are people gambling their lives on terrible stakes, against possibly insurmountable odds, in search of fame, fortune, glory, or justice.

Sometimes maybe a little of each.

These aren't people who want safe, easy lives. If they were really those types of individuals, they would never have become adventurers. Heck, if you observe some people play, you wonder why their PC bothers to drag itself out of bed every morning. Why leave your house if you're not going to do anything when you go outside?

The point is, my point is, don't overthink to the level that you do not do. Don't contemplate, analyze, and plan, but never execute said plan. If you should execute said plan, and it becomes more complicated, or it flat out fails, don't give in, give up, or sit it out after that.

Do. Be active. Be proactive, or even reactive. Keep moving. Move the scene forward, the story forward, the game forward.

Like life, gaming is not a spectator sport. Get involved, stay involved, see it through.

Gamemasters, always have something going on. Maybe it's obvious, maybe it's in the background, but something needs to be happening. Even in the quiet break moments when the PCs are resting, and recovering, the world, the universe you're playing in moves on.

A is for Active.

Barking Alien

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

What Kind Of Fool Am I?

With the month of March now over, and my real life schedule making free time a rare, precious commodity, there may be some erratic posting going forward.

Soon enough I will back to my old self, but after 25 days of work in a row as of today, with no day off, I hope you'll forgive me if I don't go out of my way to kill myself here on Barking Alien.

That said...


April is the time of year where I foolishly attempt the A-to-Z Blogging Challenge.

The exact reason I do this somewhat eludes me.

I think the idea is fun; bloggers post every day for the month of April, except Sundays, with each post title, or topic following the next alphabetically. Basically, a post with an 'A' theme on April 1st, to a 'Z' on April 31st.

Unfortunately, I've done four of these already, and I believe I've only completed the challenge once. April has notoriously been a month very rough on my free time the past few years. I am already seeing this year will be no exception.

As a female friend of mine is fond of reminding me every year, "April is the cruelest month".*

So, while it can be an enjoyable exercise, why put myself through the anguish? What anguish you ask?

It's completely self-inflicted I assure you. When I start projects like this, it's very difficult to near impossible for me to give up on it. At the same time, if I reach the point of no return, the point where I know in advance I'm not going to make it, or succeed at it, I beat myself up a bit. I get down, feel like a fool, and it throws me off my game for a couple of days at least. It's just a blog challenge, I know, it's no big deal, but I can't help it.

Knowing this as I do, what can I do to make achieving the challenge goal easier for myself?

My first outing was my only truly successful one, and it had no particular theme. Instead of making all the posts parts of a single subject, or even a group of related subjects (although I had started that way), I went with whatever popped into my head. That's going to be my approach this time as well.

Also, I sometimes wrote up the posts out of alphabetical order, even though I posted them following my proper ABCs. That is another tactic I will follow this go around.

One thing I am going to try to do, is keep with my Thorough Thursdays series during the A-to-Z Challenge. Whichever letter falls on a Thursday will receive as its post subject an under discussed Barking Alien tag.

Wish me luck, enjoy the posts, and good luck to you if you are participating in the challenge as well (and even if you're not!).

Barking Alien

*From The Waste Land, a poem by T.S. Eliot.