Monday, January 30, 2017

The Magic Goes Away

When I first thought about doing my Campaigns I Have Played series, I had originally planned for the first entry to be the best Dungeons & Dragons game I'd ever been part of as a player. I decided to dedicate the first post to a Star Wars campaign instead for two reasons.

First, I was very much in a Star Wars state of mind when the opportunity to post came up. Second...I just couldn't quickly remember a really good, long term campaign of D&D that I played in. 

Dungeons & Dragons and I have, as you may know, a love/hate relationship.

Well...maybe a tolerate/hate relationship. I tolerate it. I'm growing as a person.

The thing is...there are a lot of reasons I'm not a fan of that particular RPG, but one of the biggest is that I just haven't had as many good experiences with it as I've had bad ones, and certainly not as many good experiences as I've had with other games.

It's like those magic jelly beans from Harry Potter - Bertie Botts Every Flavor Beans. Sure, you might get a Bacon one, or even a Baked Apple bean, but after numerous experiences with Earwax, Snot, and Soap, you'll just go for a different treat altogether, and cut your loses. Besides, Chocolate Frogs rock.

Where was I? Ah yes, D&D. 

It's not like I've never had any good experiences. I'm here aren't I? I'm still a gamer after 40 years, and I started with Dungeons & Dragons, so something must've gone right in the early days to take me this far. 

The bigger issue is that it is difficult for me to recall any D&D campaigns I've been in as a player that meet my criteria for this series. While I've had some good one-shots, and short campaigns, I don't remember many long, complete ones. They need to have been so fun, so successful, that they are memorable. My lack of memory of any points to a lack of awesomeness in this category. 

My friend Aris ran a really good one that was kind of long, but it didn't have a distinct ending. It just sort of faded as our schedules changed, and my pal Keith moved out of state. I had some good short ones in high school...well, one...but I don't recall that one being completed either.

Argh. This is quite frustrating. 

I am hoping to follow up my Champions series with this, but I fear it may get pushed back as I am much more focused on my favorite subjects of Science Fiction, and Superheroes right now.

Still...there must have been one...hmmm...

Barking Alien


Sorry for the delay in getting out the latest issue of this series. Modern comics always seem to come out late don't they?

Now that you've...

Checked into the origin,
Read the back issues,
Gotten a hold of the character spotlight on Starguard,

I think it's time we really got this party started...


Campaigns I Have Known Played
Proudly Presents...



Project: UNITY (in the AGE of CHAOS)

Left to Right:

(In the air)
Starguard and Omni

(On the ground)
The Arctic Fox, Night Force, Christian Scaramangler,
Pulse, Overload, and Fusion (Floating)


This name was actually given to the campaign after about a year or so of play.

Prior to that it was assumed that the events and characters within the game were part of The Bronze Age campaign, which had already been running for a year and a half. Will decided to differentiate it because of the change in tone and the influx of new characters, starting with mine. 

The Age of Chaos is the third of the four campaigns that made up the meta-campaign, The Age of Champions.

System: Champions 3rd Edition, by Hero Games (published 1984).

Will had some minor house rules but for the most part what he did was pre-figure a lot of the crunch in his notes and in his head. Combat was extremely fast, with the Phase/Combat Round system used for large battles only. Smaller conflicts (meaning those with fewer than five total participants) were simplified to make them go much quicker (while still keeping a character's Speed and Dexterity relevant). 

Circa: 1986-1989. The campaign ran for approximately 3 1/2 years. It may have been as long as 4 years, lasting into 1990.

The game was run Monday-through-Friday during the school year (roughly September-to-June) for an average of 5 1/2 hours each day. The sessions were often broken up into 1-4 hour intervals. 

We played before and after classes and during our lunch period. 

For the first three years of the campaign there were no weekend games, nor any during the Summer months.

In the final half a year-to-a year games were only on weekends and even then only one or two weekend sessions a month. I based my calculations on the same 5.5 hour average but the weekend sessions were usually longer than that in point of fact. 

This means there were approximately 552 five and half hour sessions in total. 

For more details see this post

Gamemaster: The one and only William Corpening, Champions Guru Extraordinaire! 

Will was, like most of the players, a 16-18 year old male and a New York City native (from Jamaica, Queens I believe). He is African-American. 

Player Base: There were a total of 12 active players in the Age of Chaos campaign, although on average no more than 5-6 were at the table at one time. An additional four players participated 'part-time', often appearing in 'cameo rolls' (joining in irregularly whenever they were able). 

At least two of the major crossover stories featured 12-16 players at the table all together.

Players were mostly male, with two female part-timers, made up of a vast array of ethnicities and all between the ages of 16 and 19. 

Characters: Oh boy...

With 12 regular players and 4 part-timers, there were a lot of PCs. 

But that's just the tip of the iceberg...

The Age of Chaos campaign featured troupe style play. While neither mandatory nor especially encouraged, it was totally fine to have more than one PC per player. 

Considering how dangerous and dare I say brutal the campaign was, having an alternate character to play while your main PC was in the hospital wing of the team's headquarters wasn't a bad idea.

In Starguard's second or maybe third appearance he got hit hard by a super baddie (well, he was a bad guy at the time) and got put out of action for about four or five sessions. It was nice to have someone to be while Starguard was recuperating. 

Another factor to note here is that some players were playing heroes while others played villains. I will list the PC villains in a separate post in the section entitled Opposition.

Characters featured in the majority of adventures or who were especially important to a large number of plots will be identified as 'Mains', as in Main Characters. Alternate PCs, played less often and usually having more minor or support roles will be identified as 'Alts'. 

With so many characters (and a busy schedule of late) its taken me nearly a week to write up this entry, which isn't complete by a long shot. In the interest of getting out more posts and making sure this post isn't ludicrously long (it isn't - it's only ridiculously long) I am breaking it up into multiple posts. 

Here then is the main team - all Mains, all A List, full time UNITY member superheroes.

A final note: Christian Scaramangler, although eventually labelled a villain, will be honored here by listing him with the other heroic members of Project: UNITY. Why? Well, for all the trouble he caused and even the damage he did, the player always thought of him as a tragic hero. Indeed he acted heroically in many instances, saving the lives of countless civilians. Whatever he became in the end, he started as a member of UNITY and the game wouldn't have been what it was without him. 


Arctic Fox / White Wolf II (played by Pete H. - Main)

Arctic Fox is essentially the Wolverine of a parallel, Marvel Comics homage Earth (Challengers Earth-Mu-1) that our world crossed over with during The Dark Trinity Incident. 

Trapped on Champions Earth-Wilco Charlie-1 following that event, Arctic Fox remained with the team, though he was having trouble feeling like he fit in. Eventually, he took some time off and traveled to this Earth's Canada in an attempt to reconnect with his origins. While in Canada, using a false identity, he befriended a old rancher and the man's daughter. Fox ended up helping the pair fend off gangsters trying to steal the old man's land. Fox also fell in love with the man's daughter in the process.

Afterwards the old man revealed that he was once a superhero himself. In fact, he had been the Golden Age Canadian super known as White Wolf. He told Fox that although this world may not be the one he's from, Fox would always have a home at the ranch. 

Arctic Fox returned to New York with a new name and a modified version of the old man's costume, becoming White Wolf II. (All of the that was actually run as a side adventure that eventually reconnected with our main plot).

Arctic Fox/White Wolf was born to a Canadian Mountie and an Inuit Fox Goddess/Spirit that saved the man's life during a terrible blizzard. He possesses heightened senses of smell and hearing, regenerative healing (though not as impressive as Wolverine's), incredible speed (he could run at about 100-150 mph), and had magically hardened, razor sharp claws. 

His most interesting power however was his uncontrolled, unconscious ability to generate ice, snow, and high winds the angrier he became. In intense fights his immediate area would experience blizzard level conditions and thick frost. 

White Wolf II is a full member of Project: UNITY. Following the 'Invasion: Earth War' story he transferred to UNITY Canada. On Challengers Earth-Mu-1 he was a member of The Northern Lights (aka Alpha Flight).

Christian Scaramangler (played by Eric F - Main)

At the age of 6 or so, Christian designed the first version of the Minute Man robots now used the world over to protect numerous nations from rogue superhumans. At 8 he created a Danger Room-like facility for super-beings to test and practice their powers safely. This design was was eventually replicated by the [Silver Age] Champions. 

It wasn't long before Christian's inventions were seen by a high ranking military official friend of his father, Joseph. With the assistance of the aging Golden Age super scientist, Doctor Jourdain Pascal Jeanias (aka Dr. Genius), the senior Scaramangler set up Scaramangler Industries to produce his son's technological marvels as a means of bettering the world and funding vast improvements to the Scaramangler Foundation. 

Avoiding any public recognition or appearances for most of his young and teenage years, the junior Scaramangler nonetheless developed into a handsome, cultured young man. Eventually, he made brief outings, leaving his workshop to support his father's humanitarian and super-humanitarian efforts. 

When Joseph Scaramangler was accidentally killed by two alien scouts who'd come to Earth as the possible prelude to an alien invasion, Christian designed and built for himself a custom suit of powered armor to join the search for the extraterrestrial culprits. Successful in apprehending them with the help of Project: UNITY, Christian was offered a position on the UNITY New York team by a joint decision of Omni and the UNTIL Director assigned to the group. Scaramangler accepted.

Unbeknownst to anyone (at least at first) Christian Scaramangler harbored a vengeful hatred of aliens as a result of his father's death. In addition, he misconstrued many elements of Omni's actions, as well as previous game world history, as the basis for an alien conspiracy he KNEW to be bent on world domination. 

Scaramangler would spend Experience Points, in-game resources, as well as time both in and out of game planning ways of defeating the alien menace he perceived. This included embarrassing, impeding, and thwarting many of the actions and efforts of Omni. Scaramangler (and his Player) was extremely deft at deflecting blame and getting rid of any evidence that he was behind any wrong doing.

Eventually, it started to get out of hand. Omni had difficulty doing much of consequence without his efforts being either deflected or his public image making it seem as if he were less than competent. So effective was Scaramangler that new players drifted towards being villains as often as heroes. He made it look fun. 

When I entered the picture it didn't automatically solve the problem but it did balance the scales.

I will talk more about The Age of Chaos era Scaramangler in a later installment, discussing his truly villainous actions and what became of him as a result.

For the duration of this character's existence as a PC he was a full member of Project: UNITY. Even when the truth was finally revealed to the team and appropriate NPCs, the public was never informed of Scaramangler's dastardly activities less it cause problems for the Scaramangler Foundation, which was a truly benevolent organization.

Fusion (played by Paulo ? - Main)

Fusion is essentially the Firestorm of a parallel, DC Comics homage Earth (Champions League Earth-Delta Ceti-1) that our world crossed over with during The Dark Trinity Incident.

The major difference between the DC Comics character Firestorm and Fusion is what enabled Fusion to acclimate to living on a new Earth more easily than Arctic Fox did. Unlike Ronnie Raymond and Prof. Martin Stein, who merge to become Firestorm and then come apart, the, um, 'people' who form Fusion have a very different dynamic.

When the Professor, The Student, and an Android containing the Fusion Matrix merged to form Fusion, the merged entity first turned its power on itself. When it turned 'back' the three individuals had become one being with mixed memories. I forget their names, but it was something like...Professor Alan Bernstein, Student Claudio Acosta, and Fusion Android Mk. III who form Fusion. Fusion un-merges to become Prof. Alan Acosta the 3rd. 

Having to come to terms with this and essentially constructing an identity and a life from the ground up meant it didn't matter if he did that over on his Earth or on this one. It was all the same to Fusion. 

Fusion possesses the power to rearrange the atomic structure of matter with some interesting limitations and applications. He must know the proper chemical or molecular formula and early on had to say it out loud. For example, in order to turn Steel into Sugar, Fusion would focus on the Steel object and say, "C12H22O11!", the chemical formula for sugar.

Additionally, Fusion could command the atomic structure of an object to 'split', creating an energy blast. Fusion's powers only affect matter and possibly plasma but not energy. Later he could affect energy with extreme effort.

Fusion was a full time, fully fledged member of UNITY. Before being transported to our Earth he was a newly recruited member of the Champion League of Justice (the Justice League of America counterpart) on Champions League Earth-Delta Ceti-1.

Night Force (played by David C. - Main)

A brilliant inventor and engineer, Night Force was previous the Chief of Operations for Project: UNITY's top secret headquarters in New York City. After revamping the base's security systems, the Chief told Omni and the other assembled superheroes that no one, not even the villain Kineto, could break in. Omni asked, "Not even you?"

The next day the Chief called a meeting with Omni and the UNTIL Director of UNITY. The Chief dropped one of Omni's costumes on the Director's desk. He had broken into the base the night before, bypassed his own security measures, and took the outfit to prove it. Omni told him to keep it. Furthermore, Omni suggested his skills might be better used in the field. A few weeks later, the team added Night Force to its ranks. 

Night Force was once described, quite accurately, as "What if Batman were Reed Richards under the cowl?". While a skilled detective, it is mostly because of his high intelligence and analytical mind. Although a trained martial artist, Night Force is no Bruce Lee. As far as gadgets go however, Batman is using sticks with rocks tied to them compared to what Night Force has.

Night Force's costume has a complex network of teleportation circuitry. What appears to be a utility belt, bracelets, and the like are actually panels used to activate a teleport sequence that summons a particular device from a 'transporter room' storage facility at the UNITY base. He looks like he's doing hand jive half the time. Devices include moon shaped boomerangs that can explode, create a stun blast, triangulate a capturing force field, and generate an EMP. He can also summon a Jet Cycle, an Impact Foam Shield, and even a gravity field generator. 

Night Force became a full time member of UNITY and later in the campaign took over field command and tactical/strategy duties from Omni. Eventually Night Force was officially made Team Leader of UNITY New York.

Omni (played by David C. - Main)

As a small child, Omni was secreted away by his maternal uncle, the loyal court Chamberlain, when a bloody coup by the commoners killed the Mandaarian Empire's Royal Family. The two aliens hid on the distant and primitive planet of Earth, blending into the population of Queens, NY using their psychic abilities (including generating mental illusions). 

Initially the Chamberlain refused to let the young Mandaarian go outside of their small apartment without him and did not let him interact with Humans more than absolutely necessary. Omni learned about Human society through books, comics, and television. He grew to love the ideals of free and democratic nations and was especially enamored with the Superheroes who protected them and their people. 

As time wore on, the Chamberlain grew old and more feeble. In order to obtain food, medicine, and other essentials, Omni started working several jobs including supermarket clerk and paper boy. He found Humans to be fascinating and wonderful and would periodically glean from their thoughts images of what they thought a 'hero' looked like. 

One day while he was walking home from one of his jobs he encountered a bank robbery in progress. Ducking into a nearby alley, he altered the mental illusion he had constructed to appear Human and changed it to his 'Superhero Identity', a gestalt image of the traits he obtained from the imaginations of various people. Knowing he needed a symbol on his chest - the thought scans told him most heroes had one - he chose an infinity symbol. Suddenly the crowd was astonished to see a teenage Super with a costume, cape, and green skin swoop down from the sky to help with the situation. With powers such as Telepathy, Telekinesis, and Flight Omni was able to assist the police in apprehending the crooks in short order. 

Omni became an overnight sensation! Although there was a general animosity towards extraterrestrials, the baby boomer and younger generations thought of Omni as smart, handsome, and dashing. It was a popular youth magazine that named him 'Omni'. The Chamberlain did not approve and went to Omni's room to give him a stern talking to. Unfortunately, he never made it. The Chamberlain died of a heart attack and although Omni did everything he could, the Chamberlain made him swear not to take him to a Human hospital. There would be nothing they could do for him anyway. 

That was the moment that Omni changed his life. He established his secret identity as a Human to enroll in school and his superhero identity joined The Champions as a junior member. Eventually he graduated and got a scholarship to attend a prestigious college. He went on to become one of the most popular and effective Supers of his day. Following the final mission of The Champions, Omni took some time off, finished college, got a job, and eventually returned to hero-ing solo.

Later still, as his abilities increased and expanded, he was asked to start and lead UNTIL's Project: UNITY New York team. 

There is sooo much more to Omni and his story but I'll save the details for another post. 

Omni is a member of the Royal Bloodline of Mandaar and like all Mandaarians possesses telepathic abilities. As with other members of the royal family, he has other additional psionic powers as well. Chief among his abilities are Telekinesis, the ability to create a TK Force Shield, a Telepathic Attack than can render someone asleep or cause debilitating headaches, create Psionic Illusions, and later in the campaign he could Teleport. Minor abilities include Psychotelemetry, Clairvoyance, and more. 

His physical appearance is an illusion. He is actually much less Human looking, resembling a classic 'UFO Gray' alien although his coloration in both forms is green. 

Omni was a full time member of UNITY and lead the team for the majority of the campaign. He is honestly one of my all time favorite Superhero characters ever. I meant that and I include ones from games, movies, television, and comic books. 

Overload (played by ? - Main)

Overload was once a US Marine who sacrificed himself to save his unit by diving onto a makeshift explosive in Libya. As he lay dying in a military hospital, a secret US government organization offered him the chance to undergo an experimental bionic procedure that would save his life and turn him into a superpowered soldier. He agreed and was transformed into Overload. 

PRIMUS assigned him as second in command of a team of American superheroes who they hoped would provide the USA with an alternative to always calling on UNITY for help with super-normal crises. That team was F.I.R.S.T. Strike (Federal Interception and Reconnaissance Superhuman Troopers). 

Unfortunately, most of that is a lie.

Overload, like all the members of F.I.R.S.T. Strike, was genetically engineered; grown in test tubes and imprinted with false memories. The person Overload was before he woke up as Overload never existed. 

When the truth was revealed by Night Force during a confrontation between F.I.R.S.T. Strike and UNITY, Overload switched sides as he was already having moral issues with the mission his team was on. 

In spite of being a nearly seven foot tall, cybernetic powerhouse armed with 'Rob Liefeld Guns', Overload is pretty down-to-earth. He tends to spend off hours having beers, playing pool, and watching sports with the folks down at Oddball's Bar and Grill (a popular hang out of the superhuman set), and seems like a fairly regular Joe.

Overload possesses superhuman strength, endurance, and durability, as well as a variety of heightened sensory abilities as a result of an array of cybernetic implants. He also has a built in transmitter and transceiver with a satellite link. He travels largely by superleaps achieved thanks to his bionic legs. 

His primary power however comes from his 'Kinetic Exchange Harness'. Overload can absorb a portion of any attack on his person that consists of kinetic energy/physical force and redirect that force through his specially designed 'hand cannons'. The absorbed energy propels the projectiles in these bazooka-life firearms to many times their normal speed, which is already quite formidable. The ammunition in the cannons varies and has included armor piercing bullets, concussion grenades, gas grenades, and high-explosive, gyro-jet missiles.

In addition to his special abilities and weaponry, Overload is as skilled as a US Marine with ten years active and combat experience (simulated). He is proficient in a number of forms of hand-to-hand combat including the Marine Corps Martial Arts program. (Yep. That's a thing). He is also a sharpshooter and well versed in the use of numerous types of firearms including bazookas, LAWs, and other rocket launchers from various countries.

Overload started out an anti-hero/enemy, became a probationary member, then a full member of UNITY.

Pulse (played by AJ - Main)

Ah Pulse. I love this guy.

When a lightning bolt struck his science exhibition display, many were certain the brilliant young physics student who would become Pulse was a goner. Instead, he awoke from a coma one month later with no immediately detectable injuries or issues of any kind. Before long he manifested his super-powers of speed and electricity and set out to right wrongs as the pavement pounding Pulse!

Unfortunately, Pulse's initial attempts at superheroing were a mixed bag. While he thwarted numerous crimes and even tangled with some serious super baddies, he didn't have full control of his powers. His activities caused brown outs, depleted batteries, and disrupted electric equipment in his vicinity. While the people of NYC (especially Queens and Brooklyn) loved him, the Mayor and a number of TV News personalities weren't so smitten. 

Pulse is very much a thematic homage to both Spider-man, and The Flash.

He isn't a teenager, being in a graduate program when The Bronze Age begins, but he was the youngest member of the UNITY team. He had a Rogues Gallery of colorful villains who pop up fairly often, not unlike Flash and Spidey. A common opening scene in many sessions was Pulse dealing with one of his many enemies and needing to finish up with them before he could join the rest of us.

Pulse (but really his player AJ) was the heart of the team. He was always positive, quick with a quip, and constantly wowed by the superhero world he was a part of. 

He had some great villains too. Arachne for example, was a spider-themed, gadget using, femme fatale not unlike Catwoman or Spidey's Black Cat. There was always an underlying romantic angle to their encounters. His arch-nemesis was General Winter, a Russian 'Mr. Freeze' type who wore a 60s/70s era Russian military uniform with a Cossack hat. 

Pulse could run at super-speed but no where near as fast as the Flash. I think his top speed by the end was Mach 3 or so (it might have been a bit faster). More interestingly, the more and faster he ran the more he would build up an electrical charge that he could release like a lightning bolt. I always thought it was so cool that the more rounds he spent running and not blasting the bigger the bolt was when he finally let it loose. Later on in the campaign he could generate a radius/area of effect blast that worked like an EMP, knocking out technology of all kinds. Pulse could also trap enemies in an 'electricity cage' by running around them tossing lightning back and forth to himself with his opponent caught in the center.

Pulse was the first hero Omni recruited into UNITY. He remained a full member throughout. 

Starguard (played by ME! Yay! - Main)

What can I say about Starguard? He is my favorite PC ever.

He was so fun to play because of his power set and so interesting to play because he isn't quite like the real me. I wish there was a bit more of Starguard in me actually. Starguard was bold, fearless, and very focused. He was a man of singular purpose when the need arose. He wasn't perfect of course. Every good character has flaws and he was occasionally very stubborn and known to hold a grudge. 

Qualities I like to think we share include an unflinching loyalty to our friends, an intolerance of bullies and bigots, and a strong sense of right and wrong. At least our own senses of it. Sadly I have been known to do the 'hold a grudge thing'. I've gotten better about it though.

Starguard developed a close relationship with Pulse whom he was protective of like a younger brother. He had a strong friendship/rivalry with the former villain turned regular guy turned occasional hero Adamant. His closest friend was Omni, partially because Omni's player Dave and I were close and partially because Omni was the real reason Starguard was on Earth (both in an in-game and meta sense).

I liked that Starguard had come to this unassuming blue marble on the outskirts of known space on the off chance he could forge a lasting peace between his people and their closest and largest stellar rival. It's funny to think back on it and realize that the consummate warrior was actually taking the most peaceful, diplomatic approach to the situation possible the entire time. 

OK, here is where I would normally go into the Opposition, but I am not nearly done with the heroes yet. Next up is the B-Listers, the Beta Team, The 'Alts'. Following that, I might do the Fallen - heroes who died in the line of duty.

Stay tuned, and get ready for February!

Barking Alien

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Champions Is Kicking My Ass

Great Scott! Now I remember why I switched to Mutants and Masterminds. The math, Great Caesar's Ghost the math! Sooo slow going it's taking me days and days to make one PC (granted I've been super busy with work and other stuff and having been able to devote a more than 3-4 hours to it at a time).

Now I know why there aren't more people blogging about running Champions. If you're running it you don't have time to blog!

Still, in spite of it all...I love it. It's almost like sucking on a lime. Tasty even though it's sour and even slightly painful. I'm just so impressed by the system's ability to create exactly the type of character you want. The ways to go about certain abilities are staggering in their variations.

While I gather my thoughts and try to finish this character for my pal, here's some art depicted some of the greatest heroes of our old high school campaign...

Fusion - The Firestorm of an Alternate Earth based on DC Comics. He got stuck on our Champions Earth following a Crisis type event. 

Nightforce - What if a Reed Richard's type inventor and scientist were Batman. There is nothing in his utility belt, bracelets, etc. They contain a teleportation system that enables his to teleport any device he needs from his 'Batcave' like HQ including smoke bombs, grapnel guns, magnetic field generators, hand held particle cannons, a grav cycle, etc. 

Pulse - A superspeedster who absorbs and builds up electricity as he runs enabling him to fire lightning bolt style energy blasts when he stops. Can also create an massive EMP burst.

More to come,

Barking Alien

Monday, January 16, 2017

Painful Experience

It is to me a sad and painful irony that we celebrate the wisdom, dedication, and dignity of Martin Luther King, Jr. today, a mere five days before a person who is the antithesis of these qualities takes the highest office in the free world.

Doctor King,

Individuals have benefited greatly from your words.
Communities have risen on your ideals.
A society continues your dream.
But the nation?

The nation has learned nothing.

"We know through painful experience
that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor,
it must be demanded by the oppressed."

Happy Birthday Martin Luther King, Jr.


Barking Alien


I return you now to the year 1986 and my friend William C.'s 'AGE of CHAMPIONS' Champions RPG campaign, now in its sixth and a half year.

A year and a half into the second chapter, 'The Bronze Age', things have taken a most unusual, epic, and challenging turn...

A new player had joined the fray as the heroic, technological genius Christian Scaramangler, heir to the Scaramangler Foundation and Scaramangler Industries. With his father having been accidentally killed by aliens, Chrisitan Scaramangler has embraced the world-wide distrust of extraterrestrials. And then some.

While simultaneously standing side-by-side with the heroes of UNTIL's Project: UNITY, Scaramangler (and his player) secretly used his money, influence, technology, and most of all his devious brilliance to waylay the team's leader, Omni.

Omni is an alien you see and one of the most beloved heroes in the USA, if not the world. Scaramangler's player spent a good deal of time and effort trying to embaress, frame, beat-up*, and otherwise hinder Omni at every turn.

The key element is that while all the players involved were aware of what was going on, the characters in the story were largely unaware of Scaramangler's participation in the plots to sabotage Omni (as well as any other aliens - good or evil). Scaramangler's player, my friend Eric, was incredibly good at covering his character's tracks.

The end result was an amazing multi-layered story, featuring deep characterization and complex plots within plots. As the game was primarily run in the lunchroom of our high school, many people watched and listened to the narrative and eventually wanted in on the action. A number of new heroes and villains appeared at this time.

While the game appeared to be going great, there was real concern behind the scenes on the part of Will (the GM) and Dave (Omni's player). How long could they all keep this up? Would character animosity bleed over into player animosity? How would Omni and the other heroes balance the scales as more new players came in wanting to play villains?

Most of all, how could they find a way to counter the Machiavellian cunning of Eric/Scaramangler? What they needed was a special kind of hero PC - a good guy as good at being good as Scaramangler was at being bad.

One day, with no particular fanfare before hand, the group assembled to play their next session and I sauntered over to say hello to Dave and some of the other players. I then sat off to the side and waited for an appropriate moment to make my character's entrance.

The scenario that day involved Scaramangler Industries unveiling the new Mark IV (I think) Minute Men robots - good guy versions of the Sentinels from Marvel Comics that helped protect the Scaramangler Foundation. Some were to be shipped to PRIMUS, some to UNTIL, and a few were going overseas to Britain's MI-13 and Japan's Superhuman Self-Defense Force.

The Scaramangler Industries 'Minute Men'

In the livery of:

(Left to right) the Scaramangler Foundation, UNTIL, PRIMUS,
and The Japanese Superhuman Self Defense Force

As the robots were loaded on to ships and into warehouses by PRIMUS, UNTIL, and Scaramangler Industries personnel, all under the watchful eye of several member of Project: UNITY (the heroic PCs), I got up, walked over to the table, and stood with my arms folded next to where my friend Dave sat. The GM, Will, described an object, no a caped humanoid, descending slowly to hover some 30 feet in the air over the loading dock.

Heroes, military, and police prepared for a fight but Omni stayed them all with a subtle shaking of his head and a calmly raised hand. He was told by the GM that Omni was familiar with this being's species, an alien race known as the Pleiadesians.

The alien identified himself as StarGuard, leader of The Protectors of Pleiades, guardians of the Pleiades Imperium.

"What is it that you want here on Earth 'Imperial'?", Omni asked.

StarGuard informs Omni and those gathered, that he knows Omni is actually the heir to the throne of the planet Mandaar. The Pleisadesians and Mandaarians have been rivals for centuries. Now they are locked in a Cold War that could result in a devastating conflict between the Imperium and the Mandaarian Empire (though I think they called themselves a Republic). StarGuard insisted that Omni return to Mandaar to retake the throne from the fascist government currently in charge.

Omni simply refused, saying he was more a citizen of Earth than a ruler of Mandaar. He refused to abandon the place he called home and the people he'd sworn to protect.

Finding honor in his words, StarGuard would not force Omni to break his vow to Earth but nor could he let the only chance of peace between their two peoples be harmed. StarGuard vowed to remain on Earth to protect Omni, until such time as Omni agreed to return to Mandaar.

Scaramangler was not pleased. (Heheh) A new alien superhero had literally dropped into their midst and one with experience and power. Furthermore, he was being played by me, an 'X-Factor' to a group in which not everyone knew me well.

And so began...The Age of Chaos!

Barking Alien

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Approaching on Impulse

I've been having a little difficulty progressing on this project. I'm definitely interested in doing so, but there are a few factors holding me back.

First, and foremost, I am not really in a 'Star Trek Mood' at the moment. I mean, I love Star Trek, and I'm always in a Star Trek frame of mind to some extent, but there hasn't been a lot lately to fire up the old mental warp drive. Instead...

I'm in a Star Wars mood. The Force Awakens, followed by Rogue One, and the steady flow of Rebels has me really interested in running that universe long term. Maybe more Star Wars Traveller? Flesh that one out some more, and give it another go? No sure. I really love the WEG D6 version of Star Wars so if the opportunity to run Star Wars comes up, why wouldn't I go with my favorite?

Lastly, and I can't believe I'm saying this, but I think I'm finally reaching that point where I'm as interested in learning, or even developing new systems. 

Learning new games was once something that defined my time in the hobby, and as a result I've played way more games than the average RPGer (or so it seems from conversations with my peers). Now, I really don't get as jazzed by new rules.

Part of it is that I'm old enough, and have enough experience to realize I have favorites that work really well for my personal style of play. I must have run and played a dozen Superhero RPGs this year, many of them relatively new, and still I end up going back to Champions 4th Edition again, and again. Fourth Edition. Why? It works, I've got the book and charts down to memory, and I enjoy it. Do I need ten more Supers games? Do I need to relearn Champions with a few dozen tiny tweaks? No. I really don't.

So what does this mean for Star Trek Traveller?

Well it means I'm working on it, but it isn't a priority right now.

At the top of my gaming To-Do List is developing my new Champions campaign, which begins with Dan's Group this Friday. Then, I need to work out the second half of my ongoing monthly D&D-But-Not/Ars Magica game. After that, I want to figure out what that group's (The Barking Alien Group) next ongoing will be.

It could be Star Trek Traveller, but it could just as easily be something else.

We'll see.

Barking Alien

Tuesday, January 10, 2017


One of the games I was able to run over the holiday vacation was Champions 4th Edition, my favorite version of one of my all time favorite Superhero RPGs (probably my current favorite - sorry Mutants & Masterminds 3E. I still love you man). 

The sessions were designed to teach the game to a few friends who'd never played it before, as well as giving a refresher course to some ol' Hero System veterans who hadn't played in a while (or were more familiar with other editions). 

The group I ran for [Dan's Group] responded positively to the game so it looks like I'll be running a full on campaign with them. 

Running Champions always takes me back to our absolutely incredible high school campaign. It's one I have mentioned many times on this blog, though I don't feel I have ever given it the justice it deserves (pun intended). 

Consider this a prelude to a Campaign I Have Played

In order to tell the tale of Will's epic Champions game, the backstory of it needs to be told as well.

You see, my friend William started his campaign in 1981, with the first edition of the game. That first team of PCs and their campaign formed the early canon for the subsequent adventures William would run on his world of Champions Earth-Wilco Charlie-1 for over a decade to come.

Through middle school, high school, and early college, his campaign would cover an eleven year history in real time. In-game, it would detail Champions Earth-WC-1 from the pre-historic era to the distant future, across the stars, and onward and outward to parallel Earths and other dimensions.

The world was grounded in our reality, so there weren't any fictional cities as one would see in the DC Comics universe. Most of the action took place in New York City, New York and other real world locations. Just as in many comic book settings secret lands, alien civilizations, and even the occasional fictitious nation could surely be found.

Real world people and events also played a role, sometimes in an alternative history fashion. 

Each 'chapter' of the campaign was a mini-campaign onto itself. One might even say they were separate campaigns with a kind of 'meta-campaign' based on their shared world history tying them all together. The various campaigns emulated [sometimes on purpose, sometimes accidentally] different eras of comic book history as well and received titles based on said periods.

The Silver Age of Champions:

The Champions (of the Silver Age)

Left to Right:
a teenage Omni, Tachyon, Garrison, Tower, and The Legionnaire***

The first campaign was entitled Champions: The Silver Age, and lasted from 1981 to about 1983. It began thematically Silver but was very Bronze by the end of it. 

It featured a team of traditional costumed and code named superheroes who inherited their team name from their long defunct predecessors, the Golden Age* Allied Champions. The team consisted of...

Garrison (a Super Soldier created to deal with the Iran Hostage Crisis)
Legionnaire (Scientist who can swap himself with one of his parallel Earth duplicates)
Omni (An alien teen with mental powers who joins as a rookie/sidekick member)
Tachyon (Super Speedster who converts to an Energy Form, and can absorb Energy)
Tower (Team Leader - a man with growth powers)

As I understand it, there were a few other PC and NPC members of the team at various points that I sadly don't recall. 

They took on evil organizations such as VIPER and DEMON, as well as numerous costumed criminals and malevolent masterminds. Major enemies included Dr. Destroyer, Eurostrike, Sundown, and Kineto**.

The campaign's finale involved a feud between two supervillains (Sundown and Kineto) and the heroes stepping in to prevent their battle from destroying Manhattan. The heroes had intel about roughly when and where the fight would occur but were dramatically divided over how to proceed.

Garrison insisted that the only way to stop what could be a terrible catastrophe was to kill the two villains. The rest of the team refused to kill anyone 
in cold blood, even major bad guys. Unable to reconcile, Garrison quits the team before the final battle.

At the battle, Sundown prepares to unleash an attack that would certainly destroy most of the city. He kills the Champions' leader, Tower, when that hero tries to sneak attack him from behind. A number of Champions members are also injured in the battle fighting Sundown and Kineto. 

Tachyon uses his energy absorption powers to reduce the power of Sundown's attack, which unfortunately overloads his own powers rendering him unable to use his abilities ever again less they go out of control. Tachyon is aided by Kineto in the conflict. Kineto uses his inertia and kinetic energy control to deflect Sundown's remaining Solar Sphere attack into space. 

The conflict ends when an unknown sniper, making an impossible shot with an incredible projectile weapon, shoots Sundown in the head. He falls from the top of a tall building and dies. Kineto escapes. The Champions, crestfallen by the outcome, the death of Tower, the neutralizing of Tachyon and other issues, disbands.

The Bronze Age of Champions:

A new campaign kicked off in 1985 with the timeline forwarded a few years.  

Tachyon (now an NPC) had retired from active superhero work but served as a media personality and superhuman advocate. The events of the Champions' final mission, as well as several subsequent situations, had caused superheroes to fall out of favor. Few Supers were still active. Most superhuman crimes were handled by special forces of the police, the organization known as PRIMUS (in Will's campaign, 'ParaHuman Response and Intelligence Military for the United States'), and UNTIL (the United Nations Tactical Intelligence League).

One of the superheroes still superheroing was Omni, that former junior member of the Champions who was now one of the only costumed crimefighters to have the public trust. This was no small feat either as Omni was an alien and aliens suffer a prejudice in Will's universe like that of mutants in Marvel Comics. 

Thanks to Omni's continued good deeds and Tachyon's spin-doctoring of those deeds, the tide began to turn. More new superheroes began to come out in public view. After Omni and several other heroes saved the President of the United States and a group of UN Ambassadors, UNTIL decided it was time to implement a plan they'd been considering.

UNTIL contacted Omni and asked him to help organize and lead a new team of supers that would be available to respond to situations in countries all over the world. UNTIL would oversee the teams, each with its own leader. The US, experiencing the most superhuman crime, would get the first team, based in NY, and lead by Omni. Omni agreed, but nixed a plan to refer to the teams as the World Champions. Instead, he wanted the team to be referred to as Project: UNITY. 

The Champions (of the Bronze Age)
aka Project: UNITY

Left to Right:
Steel Hawk, Ice Queen, Pulse, Omni, and Vector

The initial line up for UNITY consisted of:

Ice Queen (NPC - Female Doctor and Medical Engineer with Ice/Cold Powers)
Omni (Team Leader - Psi-powered alien all grown up)
Pulse (Super Speedster with Electricity Powers - Popular Local NYC hero)
Steel Hawk (Winged Vigilante in Armor with a number of crime fighting Gadgets) ****
Vector (Physicist and Mathematician with (Extremely Cool) Teleportation Powers)

Legionnaire joins as a scientist for UNTIL/UNITY specializing in alternate Earths, fractured timelines, and extra-dimensional research. Although technically retired like his friend Tachyon, Legionnaire's powers still worked just fine and he lent a helping hand on several adventures. 

The team was very successful and public opinion was soon swayed heavily in favor of superheroes returning. Superhero fan clubs, dedicated news shows and magazines, and much more started to appear. The team expanded and teams started appearing in England, France, the Soviet Union, and elsewhere. 

Unfortunately, new villains (PC and NPC alike) started to appear as well and old ones came out of hiding. Major enemies of this campaign included a returning Doctor Destroyer (until his final defeat and apparent death), Prof. Muerte & Terror Incorporated, Genocide (an anti-Mutant group - with a twist!), Shark &  Viper, The Grand Scheme, and many more.

Just as anti-superhuman sentiment dropped, anti-alien notions were on the rise. Although Omni was still a beloved hero, alien villains and an attempted invasion made people very leery of strange visitors from other planets. This was further instigated by a well-connected conspiracy theory group called The Extra Solar Society that claimed aliens had secretly taken over the government. 

In one story arc, aliens scouting out the Earth for a possible invasion kidnapped Joseph Scaramangler, a reverend and the founder of the Scaramangler Foundation, an organization that helps super-powered people learn to control their powers and lead productive lives (imagine a global version of Xavier's School for Gifted Youngsters combined with the Red Cross and Amnesty International - one of my favorite elements of the setting). 

Joseph is killed accidentally by the aliens before he can be rescued. His son Christian, a metahuman with super-genius level intelligence in the field of technology, joins forces with UNITY to defeat the aliens. He is asked to join UNITY and accepts, but secretly does so in order to keep an eye on Omni, who Christian is convinced is secretly out to take over the world. 

IMPORTANT: Omni and Christian Scaramangler are both PCs. Imagine Superman and Lex Luthor are now on the same team - both members of the Justice League. They will fight side-by-side against supervillains but Scaramangler secretly hates Omni and tries to undermine him at every turn. 

It made for a fantastic dynamic but one that soon got out of hand. Scaramangler was often two or three steps ahead of Omni and his friends, none of whom knew Scaramangler was actually a villain in many ways. The game changed from a Superhero game to one focused on espionage where the bad guy was acting like the primary protagonist. 

This situation prompted Will and Dave to invite me to join the campaign and ushered in...

The Age of Chaos.

Stay tuned...

Barking Alien 

*Although heroes, villains, and events of the setting's Golden Age (the late 1930s to the late 1950s) are referenced often during the campaigns, Will never ran a Golden Age specific campaign.

**Kineto is the big bad of The Silver Age - one of the biggest bads of The Bronze Age (although he occasionally acted heroically) - and THE biggest big bad of The Age of Chaos (while still sometimes coming off as heroic!). 

He is a complex, multi-layered villain with a long history dating back to being a kid Superhero in World War II. He has personality, charm, intelligence, gravitas, honor, and a ton of baggage. 

He is one of the most interesting, awesome, and frustrating villains I have ever encountered in a RPG and a primary example of why my buddy William C. is the best GM I've ever had the pleasure to play under.

***I don't recall Legionnaire's original costume at all. I put him in his later UNITY/UNTIL uniform instead. 

***I may have this character's name wrong. It might have been Steel Wing or City Hawk. I forget.

UPDATE: See comments below for additional information!