Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Direct Hits

Yes folks, I know this one is late. OK, really late. My plans for the close of my September theme had to take a backseat to my Real LifeTM, which just got a lot more interesting. I am soon to be the owner of my own business. Details coming soon.

The next few posts are not all I have to say on the subject of comedic RPGs by a long shot, but they are all you're going to see of the theme month gimmick for September. As we are now into October already, I want to switch to my next theme, Horror, and Fantasy.

Just like September, I am going to play fast, and loose with the overarching motif, so some remaining material from September may yet find its way into the new month of posts.


My next guests first hit the scene in 1987, where they found a niche with fans looking for a different kind of sound. Not truly indie, they were also not emulating the bands that were topping the pop charts at the time. In many ways, they were very much a part of the new wave movement of the late 80s.

Here promoting their self-titled album, sentients and sophonts across the cosmos, please give it up for our musical guest...

Teenagers From Outer Space!


'Ride On Shooting Star'
From the Anime FLCL, or Furi Kuri
By The Pillows

I've said it before and I have no problem repeating it here:

Star Trek is my favorite setting to game in.
Star Wars D6 by West End Games is my favorite system.
Superheroes is probably the genre I've run the most at this point.
Teenagers From Outer Space however, that's the game that has my heart; green, eleven-valved, and methane producing as it might be.

Over the last twenty-eight years that the game has been in existence, I have easily run Teenagers From Outer Space, or TFOS, dozens upon dozens of times. Sometimes, I've even used it to run Teenagers From Outer Space!

Yeah, I'll explain...

I've told this story before, but about a day after reading the rules for TFOS, I modified them by changing the D6 standard to a D10 standard.

In addition to giving the game a bit more range, it made the system more compatible with R. Talsorian Games' other 'Interlock System' games, such as Cyberpunk 2013/2020 and Mekton. Other advantages to this alteration included facilitating some additional house rules, and homebrewed sub-systems, as well as making TFOS adaptable to outside systems, most notably Ars Magica (more about that below).

At a Japanese Pop Culture convention in 1995 or 96, I met with the editor of R. Talsorian's V-Max Magazine, a house periodical dedicated to Anime, Manga, and gaming with a lean toward their Anime related titles. I described to him my modified Teenagers From Outer Space game, which I had come to call 'Advanced TFOS'. He loved the idea, and had me work it up as a full article for V-Max. Unfortunately, RTG folded up the magazine before the article could see print.

While I'm not a huge fan of universal systems (believing a game's mechanics should be tailored to the game it's supporting), I do have a scant few games that I believe can be used for a wide variety of genres, subgenres, and settings. My Advanced TFOS, and even standard TFOS, are among the most versatile, and effective in my opinion.

The main reason is their simplicity. TFOS is a Stat + Ability/Skill + Roll system, with very little else going on to get in the way. Perhaps my favorite idea in the game though, is that if you roll too low, you fail, if you roll the difficulty number or higher you succeed, but if you roll too can end up backfiring on you royally. Exceed the required difficulty number by more than double, and things can get out of control. It is recommended that the GM embellish the success to the point of extreme, over-the-top, you'll-wish-you-failed-the-roll, comedic annoyance.
As I mentioned, I've used the 'Advanced TFOS' rules to run a plethora of games, including several set in my homebrewed campaign setting of Blast City Blues. The Blast City Blues universe is similar to the default idea for TFOS but my variant allows for more character and story options. Magical Girls in stylized sailor suits, Giant Robot Pilots, adolescent Cyborgs, and Psychic School Kids can all be found somewhere in the milieu of Blast City.
However, the default premise of the game isn't what I want to address with this post so much as what else can be done with the system. As the focus of September's entries are comedy games, I would like to tell you all about some other humorous trips I've taken using this very versatile map as a guide.
Some of my most successful alternate uses of TFOS include:
Galaxy Quest
My first Galaxy Quest game, a one shot that turned into a campaign (that became a phenomena! Um...yeah), was originally based on my Advanced TFOS rules. I added the Jobs, and Character Types, and the rest is history. It was a hell of a thing.

Near Miss

A Science Fiction Comedy campaign very much in the vein of Hitchhiker's Guide to The Galaxy meets This Is Spinal Tap.

The PCs were members of a musical group of misfit aliens travelling around the universe getting into one crazy mess after another. The name of the band, Near Miss, was also the name of a garage band I was in with some buddies from high school (who were incidentally the players in the group plus one, or two others).

Neo-Tokyo Crimebuster - Furiransu Keikan

Using a hybrid of the Advanced TFOS rules, and the rules of Mekton II (foolishly trying to make the R. Talsorian 'Interlock' systems actually interlock), Furiransu Keikan (roughly, Freelance Police) was an Action/Comedy set in a cyberpunk future where various corporations police various regions. Citizens are welcome to chose, and pay for whichever 'Law Enforcement Provider' they wish.

The PCs represented a small-ish, independent police precinct trying to make a name for themselves in the crime ridden, high tech city of Neo-Tokyo. Inspirations for the game included (but were not limited to) Dominion Tank Police, Blade Runner, Mobile Police Patlabor, Barney Miller, and Starsky and Hutch.
Once Upon The End of Time

A Science Fiction Time Travel/Action-Adventure/Murder Mystery campaign inspired by my friend Avram Grumer in which the entire plot is revealed in reverse order, starting from the end of the story in the first session.
Each session afterwards was set a few days to several months before the previous one. The last adventure had the players joining the Time Patrol, and being confronted on their first mission by their older more experienced selves who were out to stop the campaign villain's creation.

Wizard of Oz - End of the Rainbow
I ran a campaign set in L. Frank Baum's Oz, and its surrounding magical lands, and kingdoms using my Advanced TFOS system crossed with (get this) Ars Magica. Significantly simplified though the Ars Magica elements were, the combination of the two worked incredibly well. I was very happy with the outcome, and would love to try running it again.
I haven't played, or used the game in quite some time, and that is a shame. Not just because I love it so much, but because I feel it's the kind of game my Barking Alien Gaming Group could really get behind. So why haven't I brought it to bear with my regular gang? Well, it goes with something I am hoping to bring up in a future post, but in all honesty, I may just say to hell with it, and do it. We've been experimenting with the occasional one-shot comedy game here, and there recently, so there is no reason we couldn't give it a go.

We're going to pause one last time for a commercial break, but we'll be right back after this...

Barking Alien
Belated Happy Birthdays to Groucho Marx (Oct. 2), Jim Henson, and Steve Whitmire (Both born on September 24th!). 

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