Monday, May 30, 2016

Back In Action

Why hello there stranger!

Yeah, I know what you're thinking.

"Didn't you used to be Barking Alien?" Heh. Good one.

Yes, I'm Adam 'Barking Alien' Dickstein, and I'm here to tell you that while things might be a little crazy next month, you're definitely going to see more posts from me. Hopefully, by late July/early August I'll be in full swing, and back to my [occasionally] prolific self.

I had originally planned on dedicating a good portion of June's posts to Science Fiction gaming, a subject I love that doesn't get enough attention in my opinion. The catalyst for this plan was the release of the computer game No Man's Sky, originally scheduled to hit stores on June 21st. Unfortunately, it seems that game has been delayed until August. I may just have to do the same for my Sci-Fi RPG discussions.

As for June, expect posts to be more frequent, but less structured.

I've been working on my real life business a lot lately, as well as getting ready to move again soon. After a year of living at my current address, I'm really looking forward to not living at my current address. I've tried really hard to like it here, but I don't. If the next place is even a little better than this one, that will be enough to make it fantastic.

As for my business, I am starting a second blog named for my service, Friend of Dogs, that will focus on my company, and my love of dogs. OK, mostly it will focus on dogs, but there will be some business stuff too. I already have a Facebook page, and I'd be ever so grateful if any of you could pop on over to it, give it a follow, or just a like. Thanks. I truly appreciate it.

OK, got to go to bed.

See you all soon,

Barking Alien

Monday, May 16, 2016

Ups and Downs

I've been experiencing a far number of rises, and falls in mood lately.

While not directly connected to the things I am going to talk about in this post, various outside influences can certainly effect how one feels, and I am no exception. In fact, I may well be the post child.

On the Up, and Up

Captain America: CIVIL WAR was AWE-Some! Or, as I like to call it, Black Panther and The Avengers. Black Panther was so fantastic, it has tripled my desire to see the solo Black Panther movie.

Did a mention Black Panther? 'Cause, ya'know, GODDAMN BLACK FREAKIN' PANTHER!

Supergirl has not been picked up by CBS for a second season.

It's been picked up by THE CW! That's right, Season 2 of the little, big superhero show that could will air on the same channel as Arrow, Legends of Tomorrow, and their much cooler brother The FLASH! Woot!

More crossovers? Oh I think so biznatches!


And now the bad news...

Down, Dooby Doo, Down, Down

Margaret 'Peggy' Carter, former Agent of the SSR, one of the originators of S.H.I.E.L.D., has had her program cancelled by the evil organization known as ABC, which is clearly a front for HYDRA. Not only has this diabolical group ended the career of Peggy Carter (played by the 'Is-There-Any-Way-In-The-Infinite-Possibilities-Of-Time-And-Space-That-You'd-Marry-Me' Hayley Atwell), but this despicable hive of dastardly despots has also cancelled...

The Muppets

I'm crying real tears here people. I can't say I'm entirely surprised the show wasn't renewed but I am very disappointed. It really started to get good, really good, in the last four or five episodes. I think it just wasn't what the majority of Muppets fans expected or wanted. A shame it won't get a chance to be something else. Something new that they might also enjoy.

I hope Disney/ABC gives the Muppets another shot. A different approach perhaps. We'll see.

On that note...

Today marks 26 years after the passing of Jim Henson. It's always such a heavy-hearted day for me.

Here is an excellent tribute from Jarrod Fairclough over on The Muppet Mindset.

Me? I'm going to try really hard to get happy.

Wish me luck.

Barking Alien

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Gonzo the Great

Welcome back everyone!

In my last post I spoke about the fact that I'm not really a fan of Gonzo in gaming. Now, I'm going to tell you why in spite of my opinion remaining unchanged, I am currently gung-ho about running a revamped version of my homebrew D&D setting, Aerth. Aerth, and The Winghorn Guard (the primary focus of the campaigns set in this milieu) are straight-up Gonzo of the highest order.

So why is this the Great Gonzo?

It isn't! I am! Ha-Ha!

Hey Gonzo! I'm glad you came by.

[ did you get on the blog? We're on a space station fixed to an interdimensional nexus point. Whatever. I'll look into it later.]

I'm talking to the folks at home about Gonzo gaming, and why I am enjoying the prospect in my new Aerth campaign.

"Well isn't it obvious! Being Gonzo is awesome! You're a boat with no rotor, cast on a sea of possibilities! There are no limits on the horizon - not even the horizon itself!"

Wow. That's a heck of a description. Yeah, that does sound cool...

"You bet it's cool! I am the master of my own destiny! The king of the domain of me. I might decide to launch myself over one of the great pyramids via catapult in a burning barrel! I could free fall from an airplane while juggling anvils, and singing the star spangled banner! No one puts baby in a corner!"


"Sorry, I got carried away with that last part."

Right. OK, but what about about cohesion. What's the thread that holds it all together?

"From a gaming stand point you mean?"

Yeah. I am with you brother. I want to allow for a heaping helping of anything goes, but if anything and everything goes, what stops it all from flying apart? What makes this all one world, one setting, one campaign.

Case it point, I have no trouble seeing a wizard next to an alien with super strength, next to a guy with a bow and arrows in a Superhero game, because the genre is Classic Superheroes and that's a setting that easily fits all that.

Now I am running a D&D style Fantasy game, and if things get too wacky, it stops feeling like Fantasy to me.

"What does it feel like instead?"

Well, it feels best it feels like...Oh.


It feels like Superheroes.

That's why I am so excited about this campaign. This is my chance to finally run a good Supers game with my Barking Alien Gaming Group. Superheroes hasn't really worked for us in the past because not everyone in the group gets the concept of Superheroes in the same way. Here...

"It isn't Superheroes. It's Fantasy. Gonzo Fantasy. And they get Gonzo Fantasy don't they? But to you Gonzo Fantasy is really..."


Whoah. Mind blown.

"Haha! Great idea! Hmmm. Maybe I'll figure out a way to do that which isn't permanent. And which somehow includes tapioca."

Um...sounds like a plan. Hey man, thanks. I needed a little help on this particular epiphany, and you were there at the right place, and the right time. I really appreciate it.

"What are friends for? Well, I've gotta fly. I'm taking Camilla to see Civil War."



Gotcha. Have fun.

This is going to work.

Barking Alien

Thursday, May 12, 2016

The Kitchen Sink and Dirty Dishes

I'm doing a pretty lousy job of posting more, no? Go on, be honest. I can take it.

That bad, huh? Sheesh.

I can't seem to help it. I want to post, really I do. I'm just exhausted lately. Business hasn't been especially good (though it's improving thank goodness), and yet I'm completely wiped out by the time I get home.

There is also the matter of this feeling I'm experiencing that, well, I don't know what to call it. A gaming black hole? A creative singularity if you will. I'm involved with a number of good, even great games, but I still have this spot in the core of my being that remains unfulfilled.

More on that another time...


JB over at B/X BLACKRAZOR made a post a few days back that inspired me to think about 'Gonzo Gaming'.

What is 'Gonzo Gaming'?

Strangely the definition of what Gonzo means is a bit vague. Unlike so many other elements of modern geek slang, I found it very difficult to find an exacting explanation of Gonzo. Perhaps that's because the very nature of Gonzo is so crazy it's hard to describe.

As I understand it, Gonzo refers to a style of gaming where over-the-top, everything and the kitchen sink, bat-s#*^ crazy is the order of the day.

I've always found that kind of strange.

Now don't get me wrong, in my early days I had my fair share of Gonzo elements in my games. I've played and run Gamma World, threw magical mecha into my homebrew D&D world, and while I never went full on RIFTS, extra-dimensional travel to and from our campaign's home plane wasn't unheard of.

As I moved forward through my time in the hobby, I partook in Gonzo style campaigns less and less. I've now reached the point where I really don't care for Gonzo in the traditional sense.

If Gonzo is 'The Kitchen Sink', what I perceive is a thing I'm calling 'Dirty Dishes'.

The Kitchen Sink approach means anything that can be conceived of is put into the game if so desired. What you end up with [IMHO] is Dirty Dishes - basically a big mess where little bits of everything get stuck on everything else, but none of it's as appetizing as it was in its original presentation.

I've made a few curious observations over the last few years in regards to Gonzo gaming.

First, people like Gonzo. That is, most people I've met and gamed with seem to really enjoy it.

Second, and I'm sure this is directly related to the first observation, many newer, and/or younger players don't really comprehend the tropes of various genres.

See, if every game you play allows for, contains, and promotes ANYTHING and EVERYTHING, it is extremely difficult to then introduce you to a game where some stuff just doesn't fit.

Player: Why can't I play a Japanese Samurai in a game of Pendragon?

Me: Well, it's complicated. Essentially it comes down to THIS IS FREAKIN' PENDRAGON! Name the goddamn Samurai in the Arthurian myths. Go ahead, I'll wait. Ain't none? Why? ENGLAND. FIFTH CENTURY. Did I mention we are playing PENDRAGON!

There is certainly a time and place for magic in your Cyberpunk (Shadowrun) or a guy in powered armor standing next to a Russian secret agent, standing next to an Asgardian God  BUT those are awesome ideas made special by being unique genre situations on to themselves.

Shadowrun is cool but so is Cyberpunk just being Cyberpunk.

You can play Deadlands, but a slightly spooky, subtly supernatural Western is also cool.

Comic Book Superheroes is a genre. Everything shouldn't be Comic Book Superheroes.

All out Gonzo can bury any sense of the atmosphere and feel of a setting under a mountain of Woohoo-Wacky. If there even is an atmosphere. Usually it seems to me that Gonzo has no feel at all with the exception of a feeling of chaos. Things are nutty and out of control and that is the prevailing way the players and GM think of the game.


I have absolutely no interest in that type of game anymore.

I want parameters that identify the game as a Science Fiction RPG, a Medieval Fantasy, a Silver Age Superhero game, or whathaveyou.

I love tropes. I do. I love' em. I want to see them when I play in a given type of game. I want them to fit and I want them to matter.

I want the rules of the universe to make sense within the confines of the game and vice versa. Few things are as important to me as a setting's internal consistency. It is the unified field that holds all the elements of the game together and simultaneously gives it the vibe of being a living, breathing place unique onto itself.

I've rarely been in a D&D, Gamma World, or RIFTS game where I felt that vibe. I hardly ever feel like these places are truly functioning milieu. 

This is an important consideration for me, especially now... I am running such a Kitchen Sink game.

Barking Alien

Side Note: Of course I want the rule mechanics to make sense as well but only in the most general sense. Seriously. Like the systems in most old games actually made any kind of 'sense'. Har Har.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Cold Reboot

What does it really mean?
Well, originally it's use was to denote the process by which a running computer system is restarted, either intentionally or unintentionally.
Believe it, or not, it comes from a military phrase. To "re-boot" meant to change, or replace footwear before beginning a new operation.
Why would one perform this particular action? Under what circumstances does one need to reboot, or re-boot?
Well, in the military I can only assume you changed your footwear because there is quite a lot of travel, much of it walking, and boots get worn out fairly regularly. You wouldn't want to undertake a new mission with footwear that would hurt your feet, or give out and fail to provide you adequate protection.
The term is most familiar in use from it's computing origins however. Why would you need to reboot a computer?
According to the Reboot (Computing) entry on Wikipedia, there are a number of causes including [but not limited to]:
Troubleshooting: Rebooting may be used by users, support staff or system administrators as a technique to work around bugs in software, for example memory leaks or processes that hog resources to the detriment of the overall system, or to terminate malware. While this approach does not address the root cause of the issue, resetting a system back to a good, known state may allow it to be used again for some period until the issue next occurs.

Manual, hardware-based: A power switch or reset button can cause the system to reboot. Doing so, however, may cause the loss of all unsaved data.

Manual, software-based: Computer software and operating system can trigger a reboot as well; more specifically, Microsoft Windows operating systems are outfitted with a restart command that closes open programs and eliminate data loss due to reboot.

Power Failure: Unexpected loss of power for any reason (including power outage, power supply failure or depletion of battery on a mobile device) forces the system user to perform a cold boot once the power is restored.

So basically, you reboot if something goes wrong. Furthermore, it's often either a last ditch effort sort of situation, or is done to protect the good parts of the system before they can be corrupted. It is a good bet however that unsaved, and unprotected data can be lost in the endeavor.

Why then do we reboot franchises, settings, and stories that for the most part aren't broken?

These thought occurred to me when I read the news that YouTube is reporting the trailer for the upcoming Ghostbusters reboot, "The Most Disliked Trailer in YouTube History".

I don't want to discuss that particular film, or trailer specifically, and why people may, or may not like it. Rather, I want to look at our definition for reboot, and ask ourselves, "Was the original Ghostbusters universe damaged, broken, malfunctioning, and/or had it completely lost power?"

Let's see...IDW has been making Ghostbusters comic books since September of 2011. There have been numerous video, and computer games with the latest ones having come out in 2009, 2011, a Virtual Realty game at Pax East in 2012, a mobile app game in 2013, and a video pinball game in 2014. There continue to be action figures, collectibles, t-shirts, cosplayers, fan films, and even a LEGO playset. There are at least two novels coming out that I know of, a version of the in-universe book Tobin's Spirit Guide (referenced in the first film), and I know I personally purchased the Insight Editions book 'The Ultimate Visual History'.

Now what do all of these items have in common? They are all based on the original film franchise, and it's expanded universe.

I am sure the new film will have a slew of products, but that's not what I'm addressing here. I am simply pointing out that the original version still sells. It is the love for the original that makes us want to see more of those characters, and that world. So why reboot?

If it ain't broke, for the love of Nimoy, DON'T TRY TO FIX IT!

DC Comics, Star Trek, Ghostbusters, and so many other IPs are not in need of repair. They are in need of expansion. They need love. You want to reboot something? Reboot something that sucks.

On that note...

It occurred to me that there is a certain RPG from gaming's heyday that is notably viewed with mockery, and disdain. A game considered, not good-bad, but just bad-bad. At the same time, I find it to be a game with a promising core premise. A game whose idea is good, and whose execution is terrible.

So don't reboot good stuff you shlubs, reboot this...

Because if you don't...I will.

Barking Alien

Sunday, May 1, 2016

In The Merry, Merry Month of May

I'm in one of my moods.

Which one? Well, this is the one where I'm running a bunch of different games, none of which I want to talk about right now.

Nope, not a one. Not in the slightest.

One is still forming, one is a little ways off, and one is driving me just a little crazy to be perfectly honest.

Again though, not what I want to discuss.

May is going to be the month I get back to regular irregular posting by putting up whatever the heck is one my mind. Believe you me, there's a lot of stuff up there. Wild stuff. Crazy stuff. Mostly stuff that I haven't gotten the chance to run in a while that is once again gnawing at me to bring to life.

So, no theme this month. No grand design, or purpose.

Just posts.

As with my favorite campaigns, I'll just run it and see what happens.

Barking Alien