Monday, August 31, 2015

Fall Preview

Viewership is back up here on Barking Alien, showing that the old adage is true, 'If you post, they will come.'

Frustratingly vague though it was at times, doing the RPGaDay Challenge this year was fun, and completing it renewed and re-energized my desire to blog, just as I'd hoped it would. Hopefully, I can keep up the momentum going into the fall season, which is one of my favorites (that, and winter).

I have a bunch of mini-themes planned for the next few months. Largely it's just things that have been on my mind, and I needed a way to organize my ideas, while simultaneously motivating myself to post them. I'm not going to be especially strict about each theme, and you'll certainly see posts unrelated to each month's focus.

I thought I would give you some teasers though.

Shhh. The trailers are starting...

September is Funny at Barking Alien

The theme for September is Humor, and Comedy RPGs are going to get some much needed love here at Barking Alien. It's all in honor of the premiere of the first prime-time series in almost twenty years to feature my favorite fuzzy, felt covered stars, 'The Muppets' on ABC, beginning September 22nd!

Expect new material for The Muppets Role Playing Game*, some play reports about old comedy campaigns, and some new comedy game ideas for Hunter Planet, Toon, Teenagers for Outer Space, and more!

Psst. Hey Play on Target. September would be a great month to discuss Comedic RPGs, and get a certain guest on the program. Don't believe me? Check out what fans have to say!

October is Spooky at Barking Alien

What better month than October to talk about Ghostbusters, more about my Alien Dread idea, and perhaps finally lock down my original RPG Unfinished Business. Plus, it's an excuse to discuss a little frightening faerie folklore, and perhaps even some Fantasy.

 Illustration by Francesco Francavilla

Barking Alien discussing Fantasy? If that doesn't spook you nothing will.

November is Super at Barking Alien

November is looking like a job for Superhero gaming! A subject near, and dear to my heart that I sadly haven't done a lot lately. At least, not in a big way (which is the way I like doing it).

By the time November rolls around, we'll have seen the new season episodes of Flash, Arrow, the new Supergirl series, Agents of SHIELD, and more. We'll also have all the latest comic book news from New York Comic Con, which occurs in October.

  Mutant 009 - A Cyborg 009 / X-Men Mash-Up
by Thomas N. Perkins.

With all that Superhero goodness bouncing around, I'm bound to come up with some new Supers ideas, and insights for running, and playing Superhero RPGs. Be there! Nuff said!

December is Out of this World at Barking Alien

There is a certain little film coming out in December that has peaked my interest. Perhaps you've heard about it...

Yessiree Boba! In honor of Star Wars: Episode 7 - The Force Awakens, I will be posting some ideas, memories, and even art for the Star Wars D6 RPG by West End Games that I speak of so fondly.

December is also the month in which our three year long classic Traveller campaign finally draws to a close. I will be discussing that, as well as more details on my plans for our new Traveller campaign, tentatively scheduled to begin in January.

A Very Merry, Science Fiction, Holiday Season is coming your way this December from Barking Alien.

All this AND Thorough Thursdays is back starting this week!

As always, if there is a question you'd like to ask, a subject you'd like covered, or you simply want to say hi, feel free to comment anytime.

Are the leaves changing color yet? Are they?

Barking Alien

*Which is Unofficial. No Money is Being Made. It's Just For Fun. Please Don't Sue. ^ ^;

RPGaDay Challenge 2015 - Bonus Round

Noting my dissatisfaction with some of the questions in this year's RPGaDay Challenge, my good friend, and fellow rebel pilot WQRobb let me know that Zak (of Playing D&D with Porn Stars fame/infamy) had created some RPGaDay questions of his own.

I notice that Robb has taken it upon himself to answer said questions, so I figured I might as well do the same. 

Here goes nothing:

1. Worst game you ever played

Ever played? As a player? So many bad ones it's hard to think of a worst. One reason I prefer to GM and dislike playing so much is because of a lot of my early experiences with other people as GM were not great to say the least.

My first time playing AD&D 1st edition went very badly. I was invited by a really good friend to play with his pals who were all a year or two older than me. I played an Elf and everyone else was Human. In addition to the Elf abilities in the Player's Handbook, I noted that Elves are immune to the paralyzing touch of Ghouls.

I was made fun of by the other players, mocked for trying to be a munchkin or power gamer and just generally given the 'check out the dumb newbie' routine. I apologized, saying I could have sworn I saw it in the books somewhere. They went all rules lawyer on me, reading chapter and verse from the AD&D Player's Handbook. They made me feel foolish, unwelcome, and small.

Following that one session I 
went home to find my Monster Manual, which clearly states the Elves' immunity under the Ghoul entry. I didn't game with those guys ever again (thank goodness). 

It was the beginning of my disinterest in D&D, where rules knowledge or a lack there of was a point that divided it's players, not something that united them. Whether or not you knew the rules took away from the fun instead of adding to it.

2. Interesting rule embedded within an otherwise baleful game

While I don't necessarily think the game is baleful, my players hated Encounter Critical. At the same time we all agreed that the idea of needing to accomplish something related to your class to go up in level is pure genius.

In others words, in order for the Pioneer to raise in level he or she must discover a new land or a new secret of the wilderness. For a Warrior to raise in level she must defeat an opponent of equal or greater power than herself.

That is sweet.

3. Game you never played but you knew it sucked just looking at it

Hmmm. I've guessed that a lot of games would suck before playing them, just by looking at the book, but I played them anyway in case I was wrong. 

Never played but knew it sucked? No. I just don't do that. I have to play it once.

4. Game you most wish didn't suck

Wow. Where do I start?

Decipher's Star Trek game. Goddamnit! There is no reason that had to be bad but it is. It's like a third rate, hackneyed copy of the LUG version. Awful.

ICONS. I want to like that game so much, but it's just a slightly less smooth Marvel Super Heroes/FASERIP. And I don't like that game either!

Dungeons & Dragons.

This could take a while...

5. Game about which you have the most mixed feelings

Shadowrun. I had so much fun with that game but it's so not me. Especially not anymore.

6. Old game most in need of an upgrade

Hunter Planet. And I will be the first in line to pick up the new edition if they make one.

7. Game you can run with the least prep

Star Wars D6. I don't even need the rulebook really.

I like doing a lot of prep for it but I've run it on the fly so many times with nothing but dice, pencils, and paper.

8. Game with awful art (and who you wish you could hire to fix that)

Sorry to say this, but Mekton. I would hire an actual Japanese manga artist to do it. Two actually. Heck, I would hire any one of the non-pro fan artists on pixiv, the Japanese equivalent of DeviantArt. One for the Mecha images and a character design artist for pictures of characters.

I've always said in regards to Mekton, Toon, and Superhero games, "If your game is essentially about an visual entertainment medium, it should look like that medium.

Anime/Manga themed games have no excuse for not looking good anymore. 

9. Best houserule you've seen in action and now use in your own games.

I gotta go with what WRobb said on this one. I already answered this.

See the original RPGaDay entry.

10. Game you've most changed your thoughts/feelings about

Classic Traveller. I went from hating it the first time I played it to having it become one of my all time favorite games. I love it to the point where all the other versions pale in comparison (with the exception of MegaTraveller).

11.  Game you'd use to run just about any setting if you had to

I tend to believe the game system should match the setting. A one size fits all game doesn't really work for me.

That said, my modified Teenagers from Outer Space game, nicknamed Advanced TFOS, is the closest thing to a generic, universal game I can think of. I like it a lot.

12. Game that haunts you and you're not sure why

Haunts me? In what way? How would I not know why? idea what this is asking.

13. Game that would probably be most fun to play a bee in

Toon or the Bunnies and Burrows campaign we had in the early 80's. Damn fine game.

14. Best Star Wars game?

Star Wars D6, 2nd Edition by West End Games. This isn't even a question. 

15. Game that's good in theory but you're kind of on the fence about it to be honest

Marvel Heroic Roleplaying.

It works, it's fun, and I even like it but I can't see it as my go to game for Superheroes. Considering how much I like the Superhero genre for gaming, why then would I bother grabbing MHR? That is, if I know it won't sustain a long term RPG campaign, what is to motivate me to use it for anything but a one-shot or at a con.

Not bad. Some interesting, and fun questions. Thanks Zak, and thank you Robb.


In conjunction with WQRobb, and Lord Blacksteel , I am looking to have the three of us create some questions of our own for next year. Stayed tuned for updates.

Barking Alien

RPGaDay Challenge 2015 - Day 31

The big finish.


About three years ago (or was it four...could it have been four? Wow), my ex-wife came up with a really unusual idea for the tutoring center she was running.

On weekends, after the conclusion of regular classes, the students would work on their creative writing, problem solving, and language skills by playing a Role-Playing Game. Basically, incorporating RPGs into a fun after class event in which the kids didn't know they were still learning, but they were.

To make this work, she needed someone with, as Liam Neeson once said, 'a particular set of skills'. They needed to be good with children, not afraid, or embarrassed to stand up in front of a large group of them, understand RPGs, write well, and who she knew well, and could trust (it was still a business after all).

She called me, and I accepted.

That was a while ago now, and although we no longer do the RPG program there, I am still a regular member of the Sunday teaching staff, occasionally coming in a few Saturdays as well. During the Summer months, I run my own Sunday creative writing class all by my lonesome.

What started as a pay-to-GM-for-kids gig, has turned in a teaching/tutoring job. Better yet, I get to work with, and trade ideas with one of the most intelligent, kind, talented, and truly special people I have ever known, my ex-wife.

I've also gotten to know some truly fantastic kids, watched them grow up, and seen them achieve so much. One young man went from barely speaking English to getting into a high school program for robotics in just three years!

Just last weekend, I helped teach two of my students to swim. One needs to past a swimming test to get into Brooklyn Tech High School, the other is overcoming a genuine fear of the water.

Role-Playing Games gave me this opportunity, and I can't thank them enough. The real thanks goes to my ex-wife though, who also loves RPGs, loves her kids, and being a teacher, and who had faith in me that I could make this work.

Man, what a good feeling to end the challenge on.

See you soon everybody!

Barking Alien

Sunday, August 30, 2015

RPGaDay Challenge 2015 - Day 30

Oh man, I haven't exactly been looking forward to this entry...

I don't put a lot of stock into the whole 'celebrity role-player' thing.

I mean, I think it's kind of neat if I learn that an artist, actor, writer, or director whose work I like played RPGs as a kid (or still does), but that's about it. It's neat. Nice to know. That's all.

The one exception* is Robin Williams.

t says 'Favorite RPG playing celebrity', but it does not specify living, or deceased. Sadly, to answer the question in all honesty, I must acknowledge that my choice falls into the latter category.

Between 1988 and 1992, I worked at the Forbidden Planet, one of New York City's prime pop-culture, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, and comic book retail stores. Perhaps the biggest, and most well known at the time. I mainly handled the toy section, eventually being an assistant buyer for import toys, and models, the main buyer for RPGs, and related products (like dice and miniatures), and eventually an assistant manager.

Robin Williams was a regular customer, visiting the store every time he was in New York.

I was a huge fan of his, but reigned in my enthusiasm each, and every visit so as not to make him uncomfortable. Most of the staff did the same, with the exception of one, or two who were just so star struck they couldn't help it I suppose.

Over time, he came to ask for me specifically when he came in. I helped him with a number of products, and sometimes we just talked the way fans talk. We'd discuss a particular Anime, Japanese die-cast robot toy, or what film he was working on, or had just finished.

I'll never forget him coming in just after he finished shooting Hook. He looked terrible. He was visibly tired, almost exhausted, and very thin. He didn't stay long. I didn't ask him about it, but did what I could to make him feel like we (the staff) appreciated him coming by. I think that meant something to him. I could see it on his face.

Then there was the time...

I would come to learn that he had played D&D, and a few other games, and at the time got into an occasional game of Warhammer, and Warhammer 40K.

I have a lot of memories of him from those four years. At least one, or two a year that I can easily recollect. The staff, and I never treated him like a celebrity. We treated him like a person. He repaid the gesture in kind.

My favorite celebrity who gamed? No question. The one, the only, Robin Williams.

Rest in Peace fellow gamer.

Barking Alien

Saturday, August 29, 2015

RPGaDay Challenge 2015 - Day 29


This one is tough, and for all the best reasons.

In the 7 years that my own blog has existed (Seven years? Holy Moley), I've come across some really excellent blogs, as well as helpful websites. I have also seen some fantastic blogs, and bloggers, come, and go.

I've made the acquaintance of a number of my fellow bloggers who I'd actually call friends, though we've never met in personal. Likewise, I have met a couple in person, and those were pretty great experiences.

When trying to identify a favorite however, that's when things get difficult. Choosing among my friends? That I simply won't do.

Instead, here is a list of favorites, alphabetically by author:

Charles Atkins' Dyvers Campaign

Lord Blacksteel's Tower of Zenopus

Lowell Francais' Age of Ravens

WQRobb's Graphs, Paper and Games

Zak Smith's Playing D&D with Porn Stars

In addition, here are a few that qualify more as websites than blogs, to me at least, but some of them have blog elements:

Plot Points - Resource for the Marvel Heroic RPG.

Rancor Pit - Forum for Star Wars D6 and general Star Wars RPG material.

TrekRPG.Net - Forum for all thing Star Trek RPG related.

Finally a special shout out to WQRobb of Graphs, Paper and Games. We seem to be of a kind he, and I. Although not identical in our preferences, it's nice to know there is someone out there who likes what you like. In our differences is where we learn from each other, and improve our craft.

I want to also say to those not listed up there in the top five, that not being listed doesn't mean I don't love you. Oh, no. I simply have a lot of favorites, and can't list them all, so I picked five.

It has to be said that I don't randomly add every gaming site I see to my blog roll. You might notice that compared to some blogs, my list of followed bloggers here on the right side is pretty small. If you're on there it's 'cause I think your blog, and your ideas, are something special.

Enjoy the rest of your weekend everybody!

Barking Alien

Friday, August 28, 2015

RPGaDay Challenge 2015 - Day 28

Not...gonna...get...upset. Got to remain...grrr...calm.

I knew this question was coming. I knew it.

Ah oh! Argh! Too late!

GRRR *Rip-Tear* Rawr!

Now look what you made me do.
Hulk Dog by Waylou
I've addressed this topic before, either in response to another such blog challenge question somewhere, or simply as a statement of my own on the subject.
I've heard of this situation before, and it's mere existence boggles my mind.
There are honestly gamers in the world, people who enjoy RPGs, and are devoted enough to the hobby to partake in it on a least a semi-regular basis, who no longer play their favorite game.
This isn't some Bigfoot, Bermuda Triangle crap working here. This is an honest to goodness thing-that-happens. WTF brothers, and sisters?
How can a game be your favorite if you don't play it? I mean, if you cared that much about it, you'd find a way right? Uh-oh, here come the whinny excuses...
Oh, but Adam, I like game X, and my players won't play it.
Screw them. What a bunch of narrow-minded louts. Get new players.
Tell them you've been running their crappy arse favorite game for however long, the least they can do is play a one-shot of yours.
See if anyone is running, or playing it online, at your FLGS, or at a convention. Offer to run it online, at your FLGS, or at a convention.
Don't let comfort zone hugging fools dictate what game you get to play!
I lost my copy years ago, and I haven't been able to find it again.
Are you serious? Are you aware that it's the 21st century? You may not realize this, and hold on to something 'cause I'm about to blow your mind, but you're looking at this blog on a thing called, 'The Internet'.
The Internet is full of websites, like this one, some of which are stores you can order games from. Some of those stores carry out of print games. If you still can't find it, try a thing called ebay, or talk to your players, and see if one of them has a copy.
Don't give up! I'd been trying to find a copy of Hunter Planet for years, and years, and kept missing out when it popped up at Noble Knight Games. I would find out it was on ebay, only to be outbid. Finally, the creator of the game heard my lament (OK, read about it in one of my blog posts), and he sent me a copy (Thanks again David - seriously man. That was incredibly awesome of you).

My favorite game is really obscure. How can I get people to try it if they haven't even heard of it?

I don't know. If it's your favorite, and it's obscure, how the hell did you hear about it? How did it hook you? Also again, why do you play with such tunnel-visioned dweebs?


There is no favorite game of mine I no longer play.

That is, if I no longer play it, ever, it is not a favorite of mine. If it is a favorite of mine, you can be rest assured that within the last year, or two, and within the next, that game will see play.

You can't play your favorite all the time perhaps, but the question above specifically says 'no longer play'.

My favorites include:

Ars Magica - Short, failed campaign a few years ago. In talks for a new one.
Champions - One solid campaign and several failed attempts over the last few years.
Faery's Tale Deluxe - Played with the kids at the tutoring center not too long ago.
Muppets RPG - Ran a one shot last Christmas. May be doing one this Christmas.
Star Trek (LUG) - Just finished a 6 session short campaign with Dan's Group.
Star Wars D6 - I have a one shot planned with Dan's Group before year's end.
Traveller - Running now with the Barking Alien Group. New series planned for next year.

About the only ones I haven't gotten to do in a long while are Mekton, Wares Blade, and Ghostbusters/InSpectres. Mekton might be a harder sell then Wares Blade, which I can probably swing a one shot of sometime next year. I've already pitched a Ghostbusters/InSpectres one-shot to Dan's Group and they're up for it.

Love a certain game? Want to play, or run it? Get off your lazy, candied arse, and go do so you lily-livered, scallywags! You make me ill. I can't even look at you.


Ahem...Greetings all, this is Barkley.

You'll have to excuse my Human cohort here. This is one of his pet peeves.

His rather brash, and snarky demeanor aside, he simply feels that too many people play the same old games, because that's what they've been playing.

Human nature leans towards wanting to stay with the familiar, and wanting to play it safe. There is nothing inherently wrong with this, unless of course it makes for a less than enjoyable time for those of you who prefer to try the new, and different.

The key message here is, if there is something you like that others around you do not seem particularly fond of, don't just walk about with a sad face, wishing you could partake in it. That way leads to sadness, and bad blood in the long term between you, and your gaming buddies. Instead, find a way to enjoy it, even if you have to do so on your own (that is, with another group, even for just a one-shot here, and there).

Don't deprive yourself of a favorite thing for the sole reason that it isn't everyone's favorite thing.

Thanks for your time.

Barking Alien


Thursday, August 27, 2015

RPGaDay Challenge 2015 - Day 27

Now this one is interesting...

Favorite idea for merging two game together, huh? Favorite idea.

I like the wording here for once. This is not necessarily the best merging of games you've ever done, but rather the best idea you think you've had for doing so.


A tough question too. I've merged many ideas together, crossbred some games from story to system, and at the same time, I'm not a fan of subjects that seem to hodge-podged, and thrown together needlessly.

As a genre junkie, I feel one must be careful when mixing together two very strong ingredients. What seems like chocolate and peanut butter could in reality be oil and water, or worse, acid and bleach.

With that, there is still the desire to combine two of my favorite ideas together, like Space Adventure and Superheroes (Did that), Space Adventure and Mecha (Done), or Mecha and Superheroes (Yeppers).

These are genres however, not 'games'. For two games I'd most like to merge, things definitely get a bit trickier. I've had the idea of the Traveller universe with giant robots a la' Mekton, which I dubbed 'MechaTraveller', That's one I particularly like.

Favorite idea though, hmmm..

I think I'd have to go with an idea I came up with about a year ago, but haven't had the chance to do anything with. Attack The Block, The Role Playing Game. Combining Japan's Asian Punk. Tarantino-esque Crime RPG SATASUPE Remix, with the All-Australian Sci-Fi Comedy game, Hunter Planet, and based on the awesome film of the same name, I think this thing would rock as a one-shot, or maybe even a short campaign.

Well, that's my answer for Day 27.

"Are we there yet?"

Almost kids. Almost.

Barking Alien

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

A Thorough Outlook

This month was supposed to feature the return of Thorough Thursdays, but as the RPGaDay Challenge went on, and real life took up more and more of my time, I quickly realized it was not going to be.

Still, and all I would like to bring it back for at least a month, or so to see if it continues to be an enjoyable, and worthwhile endeavor. It went over well with readers, and commenters alike, and got some love on Google Plus as well, so I am generally inclined to keep it up.

I definitely find Thorough Thursdays fun, and helpful myself, since the entries give me the opportunity to cover subjects I really enjoy that for one reason, or another I've not had the chance dedicate much blogging time to. 

Among the potential subjects to receive the Thorough Thursdays treatment include, but are not limited to:

David Bowie
Golden Sky Stories
Harry Potter
Wares Blade
Wizard of Oz

Any others? That is, are there any other tags on my list, or things I've talk about that you'd like to see me blog about more thoroughly? Let me know! I love feedback, and I love giving the people what they want to see.

Unless they want to see Dungeons & Dragons. Can't help you there. *Wink*

Barking Alien

RPGaDay Challenge 2015 - Day 26

OK, what do you have for me today Mr. RPGaDay Challenge 2015?

Okaaay. Different approach today. Going to try to ignore the abhorrent grammar, and use of vocabulary, and just try to answer as best I can.

Because, to have a favorite inspiration...that would know...impossible.

If there were one thing that always inspired you no matter what you were working on, one go-to source for "the process of being mentally stimulated to do, or feel something, especially to do something creative" (Definition by way of a Google search), one could just go to it any time they needed any idea, for anything. Right? Yeah. So...ugh.

Also, grammatically, this is kind of asking, "Remember that one time you were really inspired to do something? Tell us about that one time." Your favorite inspiration would be the one time you were inspired that you enjoyed the most.

I don't think that's what we're going for here.

Let's try...

Revised Edition

Is this what you meant maybe? OK then. Why didn't you say so?

Inspiration for my games, and game ideas comes from a wide variety of things, and sources. It depends very much on the subject of the game, the style, and atmosphere I'm going for, the mood I'm in, and whether I am trying to do something new, or recapture an old vibe from back in the day.

For example, when trying to get inspiration for Traveller, I look at what kind of PCs I have first. If I am getting an exploration motif out of the team (like we're aiming for with our upcoming Traveller: Beyond game), I will check out Sci-Fi artwork, books, films, comics, and games focused on discovery, and exploration. If on the other hand it's a mix of combatants, bureaucrats, scientists, spies, and such (Like our current Operation: PALADIN campaign), I am going to look into things that are more conspiracy, espionage related.

I guess if I had to pick a favorite source of inspiration for my games, I would say artwork tends to be a major inspiration. I will get more ideas from a cool illustration than a written work more often than not.

On a related note, Anime, and Manga of various sorts are often great catalysts for ideas. Again, the nature of the Anime/Manga series will inspire a related genre, or idea. I get a lot of comedy ideas by watching comedies. I am inspired to run a military mecha game after seeing a great military mecha Anime.

For Superhero gaming, comic books, especially older ones, and ones with more obscure titles, and characters are key inspirations. I love the forgotten heroes, and villains of the forties, through to the sixties. A gonzo villain updated a bit, with a new name, and a redesigned costume always makes a big impression on my players, mostly because I'm jazzed about them.

Music, songs to be more precise, used to inspire me a great deal, but less so over the last 5-10 years. It's getting harder, and harder to find modern stuff that gives me the ideas that pieces from the 60s and 70s did.

My last great source for inspiration is conversation with friends, especially fellow gamers. One discussion will lead to a joke, which will set off an idea, and presto, I have a concept for a scenario I can insert into my game world.

So that's about the size of it. Art, Anime/Manga, Comic Books, Classic Rock, and Good Conversation are my favorite inspirational sources.

How about you?

Oh, and about fixing the question, really, there's no need to thank me.

Just doing my job.

Barking Alien

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

All This Time

Thirty-eight years ago today, in front of P.S. 130 in Brooklyn, New York, I was introduced to Dungeons & Dragons. I went on to make up a character, play through a session, and started my long, crazy, wondrous obsession with the hobby of Role Playing Games.

All that time...

I've been looking forward to writing this post, commemorating such a long time following the same interest and passion, but now that I'm here I'm not sure what to say. There are so many memories. I've had so much fun, and there are so many things I've learned, it's not just hard to know where to begin, but it's hard to process it all as you start churning it up in your head to put it all down.

I started as a player of Basic D&D in 1977. I first GMed a game, also Basic D&D, in the Summer of 1978. I identify myself as a Gamemaster primarily, who also plays. I prefer to GM about a thousand times more than I like to play.

The first game I played after D&D was probably Boot Hill. I also believe it was the first game I ran after D&D, and possibly the very first campaign I ever ran. That would be 1979 I think. I've never run another Western campaign since.

I played, or attempted to play, Traveller for the first time in 1979. I hated it as only a 10 year old can when he feels like someone made a boring mockery of his favorite genre. I wouldn't get to play in, or run the kind of Science Fiction game I wanted until I purchased FASA's Star Trek RPG in 1982.

I did play a few other games between 1979, and 1982, notably Gamma World, the closest thing to Science Fiction I would get before Star Trek. From my initial entry into the hobby to 1982 though, we played mostly D&D. I altered it, added to it, ran things a bit more like a Superhero comic book, but it was D&D, and AD&D all the way for a good stretch.

I discovered Villains and Vigilantes in 1982, at one of New York's largest Comic Book, Sci-Fi, fandom related stores a few months prior to finding Star Trek at NYC's primary, dedicated game shop. V&V took away a lot of D&D's thunder for me.

That was nothing compared to buying the Star Trek RPG. It launched a fully volley of Photon Torpedoes at D&D that the old girl never recovered from in my eyes. For me, it was the beginning of the end for Dungeons and Dragons' place at my gaming table, and the dawn of a much larger world.

Between 1982, and 1987, we played a lot of, well, a lot of games. A lot. Trying new games was a goal of ours in, and of itself. A hobby within the hobby you might say. Many games never went past the first try out, or very short campaigns of three to five sessions at the most.

We eventually settled on favorites that saw a lot of table time, as free moments were devoted to gaming. Our mainstays were Star Trek, V&V, Mekton (and then Mekton II in 87'), Space Opera, Star Frontiers, Ghostbusters, MegaTraveller (Traveller redeemed!) and Toon. In 1987, West End Games produced the Star Wars Role Playing Game, and following hot on it's heals over the next few years was Ars Magica, Cyberpunk, Shadowrun, and my introduction to Champions. Not to be left out, and an absolute favorite during my high school years, was Teenagers from Outer Space.

D&D couldn't hold a candle next to the plethora of Science Fiction, Superhero, Anime/Manga, and oddball games that existed by the early 1990s. It was also around this time that I began to research and collect Japanese tabletop RPGs, or TRPGs, quite seriously, falling in love with Sword World, Wares Blade, Metal Head, SATASUPE Remix, Paradise Fleet, and others.

I attended my first Gen Con in 91'. I went again in 93', and 95'. I went there with my ex-wife in either 1998, or 99' and again in 2000. I then didn't go again until some years later, and my last time was around 2007 I believe.

I love conventions, and have attended far too many to count, both as a fan, and professionally. Among the ones I have the fondest memories of include Dex Con (NJ), Katsucon (MD), Origins (Chicago, IL), Otakon (Baltimore, MD), Shore Con (NJ), and a number of small local conventions such as Crusader Con, and the seriously missed RECESS.

I have done work that has appeared professionally in a number of RPGs. My most well known was writing I did for Star Trek (LUG), and Star Wars (WEG). I've also done artwork that appeared in Adventures in Oz, and some online magazines that are no longer with us.

I have appeared on National Television at least twice talking about RPGs on news, and Human Interest programs.

I have taught classes using RPGs as a tool for English-as-a-Second-Language students, and others, from 2nd, to 7th grade.

My longest campaign was, believe it, or not, an Advanced Dungeons and Dragons campaign, set in my homebrewed world of Aerth, which lasted 3 and a half years (almost four). It spanned over 300 sessions, most of which were about 6 hours long, others about 8.

Other long campaigns have included multi-year games of Star Trek, V&V, Space Opera, Champions, and Traveller, and year long campaigns of Star Wars, Mutants and Masterminds, Mekton, Teenagers from Outer Space, and many more.

I have had the absolute pleasure, and good karma, to have gamed with some of the greatest gamers, and most wonderful people, a guy could hope to know. There is no way to list all of you, but I feel I wouldn't be writing this now, and most of my best stuff wouldn't exist, without Tom Z., Paul, David F., Joe C., Chris D., Bruce D., Martin L., Richard K,, Mathew K., Ben O., David P., David K., Richard G., Rachel F., Danny G., Aldrin A., Nelson M., Martin K (RIP)., Ken L., Allen H., Lynn M., Rebecca H., Rob L., Phil L., Beverly M., Anna P., Avram G., David C., William C., AJ, Peter 'Pedro' H., Selim N., Michael M., Artie I., Vlad R., Adam T., Jason M. (Big J), Jason N. (Little J), Keith C., Junior, Ray H., Will L., Emi L., Steve Y., Andy R., Hans, Carl, Keith J., Lloyd G., Cameron C., Dan R., Leo J., Alex B., Arthur L., and of course, Selina.

Well, I think that's all I have in me for today.

Thanks for being here dear readers. Thank you for sharing, and spreading the love, the interest, the dreams, the ideas, the questions, and answers.

As always, a very special thank you to those I've never gamed with, but who remain steadfast friends of the blog - WQRobb, Lord Blacksteel, Lowell Francis, Ivy Shorts/The Happy Whisk, Jay of EXONAUTS, and Charles 'Dyvers' Atkins.

Play on everybody, play on.

Barking Alien

For further (hopefully entertaining) information about my early days in the hobby, check out my 'Secret Origins', Parts 1, 2, and 3.

RPGaDay Challenge 2015 - Day 25

Last year's Challenge was far more fun than this years I'm sorry to say. The questions this year have largely been very vague, or they are asking about elements of gaming I really couldn't give a Womp Rat's butt about.

Today will be different though. Today is special you see. It's my 38th Anniversary in the RPG hobby. That's right, 38 years of gaming. I know in my gut, that today's question will be creative, fun, and...

Seriously dude? Seriously?

I'm sure there are dozens of 'revolutionary' game mechanics, hundreds even, and not a one, not a bloody, single one, is my favorite.

How would you even quantify that?

Basic D&D was revolutionary, as it was the first game of its kind.

Nearly every system since Basic D&D was innovative beyond compare when only a handful of other games existed.

Champions was a revolutionary game when it introduced point buy character generation to the level it utilizes it.

West End Games' Ghostbusters, and Star Wars, were a breath of fresh air when they became the first popular games to use dice pools in their mechanics.

What's my favorite mechanic that no one used before? I have no freaking clue. Most of those games came out over 30 years ago. Are games using those rules now revolutionary? No, but is the originator still revolutionary 30 years later? I guess. I don't see how I'm supposed to answer this.

On top of all this, I don't care for mechanics so much. I said in my previous RPGaDay Challenge entry that I tend to downplay the game rules, sweep them under the rug so they don't get in the way of the game.

You're asking which of the things I don't care that much about do I like the most? Frell if I know.

I guess I vote dice pools.

I am really hoping for a different approach to the questions next year.

So is Barkley.

Barking Alien

Monday, August 24, 2015

Too Much, Too Little, Too Late

Lowell Francis, star of stage, screen, and five time winner of the...

Wait...sorry...Barkley was holding up the wrong cue cards. That should read:

Lowell Francis, blogger extraordinaire, and proprietor of Age of Ravens, made this interesting statement in his response to the RPGaDay Challenge question #17, 'Favorite Fantasy RPG':

"I’m always struck by the number of rpgers I’ve met who don’t like fantasy"

I am struck as well, but by the assertion that a considerable number of our fellow gamers dislike the genre of Fantasy, or at least Fantasy gaming.

I've met far too many who love fantasy, and a solid bunch who have trouble wrapping their heads around anything but.  Far too often I come across people who lament that they can't get a game going with their group of anything other than fantasy. That [although they, the GMs are up for it] their players just won't give other games, and genres the time of day.

I only know a very small number of gamers who don't like Fantasy, myself included among those people. However, I should be clear in saying that I don't like Dungeons & Dragons style fantasy. I totally go in for folkloric, and 'fairy tale' fantasy.

Back to Lowell's statement though, he continues on to note:

"I’m never sure where that comes from: oversaturation, bad experiences, personal taste. Fantasy’s been such an important default for me as a gamer. I enjoy the room it offers and still dig trying to figure out new things with it."

Where it comes from? Fair enough. I will try to explain...

For me, and me alone as I can not speak for anyone else (although if anyone would like to speak up on the subject please do - comments are always welcome, and appreciated), there are a number of factors that have contributed to my disinterest, and even dislike to some extent, of traditional Fantasy RPGs.

What do I mean by traditional? Well for now let's say I am referring to classic games like Dungeons & Dragons' various editions, Palladium Fantasy, Rolemaster, Tunnels & Trolls, Warhammer Fantasy Role Play, and modern ones such as Burning Wheel, Metal, Magic, and Lore, and Pathfinder, just to name a few.

Basically these are games in that particular sub-genre of Fantasy that D&D occupies, and indeed typifies. It isn't quite Medieval Fantasy, but it is, while also being Sword and Sorcery, which it's not exactly. I see it as a Fantasy mish-mash, a Frankenstein hodge-podge of Tolkien, Vance, Leiber, Moorcock, Howard, and others.

More about that later.

For now...


Yes. This is definitely a factor for me. It comes across in several forms.

Note how many games I listed above, and that's not nearly all of them by half. Dungeons and Dragons was popular, so people made more games like it, or their version of it. In the earliest days of the hobby, as new RPGs started to spawn here, and there, it surely felt like every third one was a Fantasy game, and often, one not all that different from Dungeons and Dragons.

Even nowadays, as my friend Luke noted over the weekend, "Look at your computer games, your video games, and your MMOs. Most of the big ones are Fantasy based. World of Warcraft, Final Fantasy Online/14, Dragon Age, Witcher, Elder Scrolls, and on, and on. Sure there are Sci-Fi ones, but not as many, and certainly not as many with as much backing in the field of MMOs. Superheroes? There was City of Heroes, and City of Villains, but the rest are all also rans. None have the kind of popularity WoW, Everquest, and their ilk."

I perceive Fantasy genre oversaturation in the form of tabletop games to be far greater than any other genre by leaps and bounds. There are just too damn many Fantasy games, making the whole of them blur, and intermingle. None of them really stand out, none seem special, or all that different from each other with a few exceptions. To me, it's one massive sea of the Dungeons & Dragons.

Now, let's look at it from a personal viewpoint.

I began playing RPGs in 1977, at the age of 8. By the time Villains & Vigilantes 2nd Edition, and Star Trek (FASA version) came out in 1982 (the first two games I personally owned other than D&D), I'd already been playing D&D for 5 years. I'd been gamemastering for 4 of those years. I was charged up with excitement seeing a Superhero game, and a game based on my favorite Sci-Fi TV program. By 1987, I was 18 years old, and had been gaming for 10 years. I was long since tired of D&D, and other Fantasy games. That was 28 years ago.

Bad Experiences

I have never had a bad experience playing Champions, Ghostbusters, Mekton, Star Trek, Star Wars, Teenagers from Outer Space, Toon, or Villains and Vigilantes.

I have only ever bad experiences playing D&D. That is to say, D&D is the only game I've played where I as a player have personally had a bad experience. This doesn't mean I've never been in sessions of other games that didn't go so great, but I don't consider those less than perfect outings to be bad experiences. That has only happened with D&D.

These experiences range from being made fun of by older, more experienced players, to being on the receiving end of Player vs. Player combat that made no sense in the adventure, to just being bored to tears. Scratch that, I also experienced that last one in Pathfinder. Ah yes, and failing to be effective in the game because my character wasn't 'optimized'. That was another Pathfinder experience that only occurred in that game.

Largely, Fantasy for me equals boring games, with hostile players, unnecessary crunch, and down right silly rules, in a setting I've seen a hundred times too many.

Personal Taste

I grew up on Science Fiction, and Comedy television. My fondest film memories are Star Wars, The Muppet Movie, Blazing Saddles, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and Superman I and II. I lived for comic books, and read them religiously, from the Legion of Superheroes, Teen Titans, and Iron Man, to lesser knowns like E-Man, Nexus, the heroes of Charlton Comics. I even read Captain Canuck. I had a high reading level at an early age, and read Ringworld, Dune, The Forever War, Voyage of the Space Beagle, The Stars My Destination, 1984 and many others all before I was in 8th Grade.

See any Fantasy in there? No. Neither did I. I had no real access to Fantasy, at least not the type of High Fantasy D&D portrays.

When I did read Fantasy it was folklore, Greek, Norse, and Egyptian myths. I devoured the books Faeries, Gnomes, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, and Through The Looking Glass, and of course the various Oz books.

I did inherit some Fantasy novels from my Dad's cousin-in-law. From his collection I read the Elric series, Hawkmoon, and several Lankhmar novels. I also received, and read several of R. E. Howard's books, and found I did not like them.

D&D Fantasy just isn't to my tastes at all. It drums up little to no interest in me. It feels like a mess of ideas, tropes, and styles with nothing significantly tying it together. It has no atmosphere, no feel. You can give it one, but I just don't often feel inspired to make the effort to do so.

With most Fantasy RPGs, the magic doesn't feel magical, the combat (the heart and soul of most Fantasy RPGs) doesn't feel any more exciting then button mashing on a home video game, and the environments are, wait, is it yet another vaguely European town near a forest? Really? What are the odds?!

Wake me when it's over.

In conclusion

Yeah, for me, and again I can only really speak for myself, Fantasy is an endless array of the same old thing; a thing I don't have enough interest in to make the effort to make something different out of it..

I mean I could, and I have, but why bother when I could make something out of any game one of a hundred other games, in genres I like so much better?

If Fantasy was going to impress me in any way, it probably needed to do it 20+ years ago. It didn't, and now I'm on to other things.

Barking Alien