Tuesday, February 28, 2017


I am taking a [not so] brief intermission between installments of my Pokemon RPG campaign idea to talk about a few other things that are on my mind.

I am bummed that while my Pokemon ideas seem to be going over well on the blog (viewership is high, comments are numerous and positive), only one person out of the three groups I game with has mentioned it at all. That's 1 person out of 13. 

Sure, I've gotten one, or two other responses to it from players I know (mostly a comment, or two on my one group's Facebook page), but no where near the kind of reaction that would indicate it was likely to be embraced as an ongoing campaign. 

The one gamer friend who did mention it asked it I was interested in running it with his group, and I have to thank him for that. Unfortunately it was my online group, and the nature of the system I'm using would make it a tad problematic over the internet. Perhaps there is a way. We'll see.

The situation reminded me once again that while I am among friends and fellow gamers I enjoy gaming with, I am not among 'my people'. I haven't achieved full synchronization. Gendo Ikari would be so disappointed in me.

I wonder, as an example, how many of my current players would get that reference. 

Anyway, as the days of this year pass, and I become more, and more aware of my approaching 40 year gaming anniversary, I also become more aware that I am not 100% happy with my 'State of Gaming' status.

Don't get me wrong. I am very grateful for what I have and how often I do get to partake in my hobby. I am in three groups! Two in person groups, and one online. One of the in person groups, and the online group, meet weekly. The other group is once a month. I am having fun, and feel really lucky.



Yeah. I just feel like I am not gaming to my full potential. I feel like a Bugatti Veyron, the world's fastest road legal automobile, with a speed of 258 mph, forced to drive through one 25 mph school zone after another. 

Once in a while I turn onto a street that's free and clear, only to make a right straight into yet another 25 mph speed limit area.

Not content to do less then my best, I have taken the liberty of contacting some old friends I haven't gamed with in a very long time in hopes of catching extended lightening in a bottle once more. I'm also checking inroads into adding brand new people.

My personal motto is, 'There is always way'. Nothing is impossible. The answer to a problem may be hidden, but it exists, and can be found. The only thing preventing me from running a truly fantastic game again is that I simply don't have all the particulars in place yet.

And really, that's all I am looking for. The particulars in synchronization. 

Barking Alien

Before I forget...

I do believe I almost let February pass me by without noting that it is/was/always will be Black History Month. This year I was particularly fascinated to look into the contributions African Americans have made to our collective pop culture. 

Check out Gerald 'Jerry' Lawson, the salesman, and electronics engineer who invented the Video Game Cartridge. 

Fill yourself in on Lonnie Johnson, the US Air Force engineer who invented the Super Soaker Water Gun. 

Snacking wouldn't have been the same if not for George Speck (aka George Crum), to whom the creation of the Potato Chip is attributed.

These are just some of the interesting day-to-day items many do not realize where invented by African Americans. Do a little research, learn something, and appreciate diversity. 

I am very sad to report the passing of Bill Paxton, who left us this past Saturday at the age of 61 due to complications from heart surgery. 

Paxton, a great guy and an amazing character actor, was a key component of many of fandom's favorite films. While he became known to a larger audience with 'Big Love', 'Tombstone', and 'Titanic', our lot know him best as Hudson in 'Aliens', as well as roles in 'Weird Science', 'Predator 2', and 'Marvel's Agents of SHIELD'.

His talent, dedication, and passion will be greatly missed.

Game over man. Game over.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Who's That Pokemon?

The Pokemon of Pokemon AD are largely the same as those of the established Pokemon universe.


With each new iteration of the Pokemon franchise new Pokemon creatures are introduced, at once expanding the setting and inspiring players to strive for the game's motto and goal of trying to 'Catch'em All!'.

As of this writing, there 802 Pokemon including mega-evolutions, 'ultra beasts', regional and other variants. This number may not completely represent the total number of distinct Pokemon. Very likely the official number is more like 720.

Now, here we are with Pokemon AD and a whole new area of the Pokemon world. The Canu Region (my original setting) will therefore bring with it a lot of all new Pokemon. At the same time, I don't know if I really want to introduce between 100 to 150 new Pokemon. Part of the fun of playing a Pokemon RPG is having your character go into battle with their familiar favorites, just like playing Star Wars lets you pilot an X-Wing or a Star Trek game lets you be a Vulcan.

Back when I was collecting the figurines I tried to get a hold of all the Pokemon based on or resembling dogs. I imagined it would be cool to encounter a Pokemon Trainer or Gym Leader that specialized in dog Pokemon regardless of what their Type might be. Pokemon Trainers specializing in Water Type, Grass Type, or Fire Type Pokemon are encountered often throughout the series but one focused on Bears or Cats is pretty uncommon. 

The Poke-Bear Necessities

Where was I? Ah yes...

The plan therefore is to add about 25 new Pokemon to a fairly select list of Pokemon from all the previous video games, with the option of introducing more later on if I feel it's needed, or if I get a lot of requests for a particular Pokemon I hadn't planned on using. 

Note that I just stated I would be using a 'fairly select list' of familiar Pokemon. Why?

The Canu Region that I am using as my setting is based on/inspired by my love of Canada. I want to use Pokemon that I feel are appropriate to the climate, terrain, and biomes native to that area of the real world. 

I intend to give more attention to this in an upcoming post detailing the Canu Region campaign setting, but suffice to say some of the tropical bird, fish, and jungle dwelling Pokemon of Sun and Moon's Alola Region (basically the Hawaiian Islands) wouldn't quite fit the arctic tundra, and boreal woodlands of Canu.

What then are my new, original Pokemon like? 

To begin with, I'll need to add a few more Grass Types that fit the region, more Ice Types for sure, fewer Fire Types in general, and perhaps a few that tap into local culture and folklore (Indigenous, British, and French). I have some great ideas (if I do say so myself) for three Legendary Pokemon that will tie into the meta-plot going on in the background.

The incredibly talented artist Darren M. A. Calvert (whose work I absolutely love) just so happened to post a series of Pokemon of his own creation not that long ago. Inspired by his own interest in the franchise (specifically his playing of the augmented reality app game Pokemon Go), and in honor of being a Canadian himself, his creatures homage and poke fun at his native Canada. 

Darren 'DMAC' Calvert's
Poutiny, and its evolution Poutitan!

What an amazing coincidence, no? It was Pokemon Go, in conjunction with Sun and Moon, that renewed my own interest and brought about my Pokemon RPG Gaming Epiphany. I decided on a region resembling Canada, did a search for 'Canada Pokemon', and found DMAC's illustrations. Perfect! They took my already jazzed attitude about the idea and sent it through the roof. 

Some of DMAC's Pokemon will most certainly be included in my Canu Region Pokedex. In addition, here are some others of my own invention that I am considering:

Pokemon #AD01 Cooljay

A Bluejay-inspired Flying/Ice Type Pokemon, and likely one of the Starter Pokemon of the Canu Region (see I Choose You! for notes on Starter Pokemon). 

The Bluejay is one of my favorite birds, as it has neat plumage, a distinct call, and a bad ass attitude for such a small bird. It is also a bird popularly associated with Canada thanks in no small part to the Toronto based professional baseball team.

I haven't decided on the names of its evolutions yet, but I am toying with #02 Cyanice, and #03 Falcold.

Pokemon #AD04 No Name Yet

Garter Snake-inspired Fire Type Pokemon. A Starter Pokemon for sure.

Believe it or not, Canada has the largest concentration of Garter Snakes in the world. I know. Snakes. Canada. It doesn't add up on the surface. However, the Narcisse Snake Dens of Manitoba, Canada see a gathering of as many as 75,000 Garter Snakes each year during the animal's mating season.

I intend to exaggerate the idea that Canada is cold, and snakes don't normally like that. With this Pokemon, their Fire-based nature keeps them warm, and active in the cold climate that would normally put them to sleep.

What do you think?

I intend #AD05, and #AD06 to be evolutions of this Pokemon. Any name suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

Pokemon #AD07 Wolverip

A Wolverine-inspired Pokemon of the Normal Type, that evolves into a Normal/Poison Type, or Fighting/Poison Type called Clawrine (#08). Like a number of other Pokemon it might have only two forms, with no third evolution.

Likely another Starter Pokemon.

I can see this one clearly, including its personality. I am definitely going to take the opportunity to play on some of the stories told about this animal, as well as parodying a certain Canadian born, Adamantium boned, Marvel Comics Mutant. Heheh.

In addition to these I am working on the 'version specific' Pokemon unique to each 'game'. For Pokemon Astro, an Electric Type and a Psychic Type, and a Fairy Type and a Ghost Type for Pokemon Dwimmer.

Snowy Owl Noctowl
by DiegoGuilherme

Regional variants are also big on my list. I am planning on a Snowy Owl version of Hoothoot, and Noctowl, a Black Footed Furret, and a few more I am still pondering.

Any ideas, requests, or suggestions? Feel free to send them my way.

Gotta Catch'em All, eh?

Barking Alien

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

I Choose You!

My previous post on the subject of a Pokemon RPG campaign was heavily abridged and edited from what I had originally intended to write.

Part of the reason for that (a BIG part actually) was that Blogger was acting particularly craptastic while I was putting it together.

Another reason was that I felt like I needed time to organize my thoughts on the subject in a very specific way. I want to excite and inspire you all out there, and maybe even my player groups, while at the same time not giving too much away should I get the chance to run it for anyone who reads this.

It's a bit like, "Please read this post about an awesome idea I have, but...ya'know...don't read it too much."

The system I am looking at for this is an unofficial, fan-made, totally free project called Pokerole, or Pokemon, The Role Playing Game I would like to point out that this is a well polished, visually impressive work, and that's important to me. The art, graphics, and overall design fit the universe of the Pokemon video games especially well, and therefore maintain the right look and atmosphere for a RPG set in that milieu.

There are a number of similar projects across the internet, many of which are D20 compatible (or at least related), but for me this Pokerole Project really hits the spot.

With that, I would like to discuss those ideas for running a Pokemon RPG that I think will get the blood pumping without giving too much away. Here are just some of the plans, options, possible houserules, and ideas that just won't let me be unless I explore them.

Here goes:

Pokemon AD

Every Pokemon game needs a name. In fact, it needs two.

We started with Pokemon Red and Green (Red and Blue internationally), went on to Gold and Silver, Ruby and Sapphire, Diamond and Pearl, Black and White, X and Y, and last, but not least (far from it) Sun and Moon. 

There have been a number of spin offs, but these are the main titles. 

The significance of having two versions of each generation of Pokemon game is that the two versions have Pokemon exclusive to one version, or another. The idea is that players will catch Pokemon and trade them with friends who purchased the version different from their own.  

When the idea for a Pokemon game first came to me I immediately starting calling my project 'Pokemon AD', largely as a place holder until I could think of a better title. Then I started getting the idea that, like each of the main Pokemon games, I could split the campaign's 'meta-plot' into two parallel storylines: Pokemon Astro and Pokemon Dwimmer!

At the start of the campaign, before character creation, the players much each decide which version they 'purchased'. Basically, are you playing the Astro or Dwimmer? 

Your chose changes which starting Pokemon are available to you, and gives you different information on the nature of the region you will be adventuring in. Also, certain types of Pokemon with be more aligned with the Astro, or Dwimmer aspects of the campaign giving the PC an edge when using Pokemon related to his, or her version


Each Pokemon video game (and each season of the animated series) explores a new and different section of the Pokemon World. These sections, known as Regions, are patterned after, or inspired by real world locations. Every Region has its own character, its own geography, customs, and its own Pokemon. 

So far most of the Regions have been patterned after provinces of Japan, and understandably so given the origins of the Pokemon games, and anime. Kanto, Johto, Sinnoh, and Hoenn are all based on Japanese islands (though share some traits with Japanese territories also occupied, or influenced by other countries).

The Kalos Region is similar to metropolitan France (Paris, and other cities), while Unovo is clearly New York City, with some of the more forested areas of New York and New Jersey being used to flesh out the wilderness needed to accommodate wild Pokemon. 

The most recent game, Sun and Moon, takes place on a string of islands akin to Hawaii, and is referred to as the Alola Region. 

I love the idea of starting the players/PCs in a new Region of the Pokemon World. It provides an unknown, open area to explore, while at the same time providing that sort of contained area with which to start building a campaign. As all Regions exist on the same world, there is nothing preventing the PCs from exploring other Regions after they accomplish whatever it is they wish to accomplish in their starting/home Region.

My present idea for a Region combines elements of Canada, and the North Western United States. At present, its called Canu (pronounced KAH-noo).

Flag of the Canu Region

Flag of the Canu Region's
Pokemon League

Starting Pokemon

Traditionally each Pokemon game begins with the player choosing one of three starting creatures - one Fire Type, one Grass, or one Water. 

I plan to do things a little differently for Pokemon AD.

In the video games there is but one player for the most part, so three options are fine. For a tabletop RPG which could have a fair number of people involved, I want to expand the selection. Also, and this is where the Gaming Epiphany comes in, I want the different 'versions' of the game to effect the PC's choices.

So, all the PCs will have the option of choosing one of the following:

A Fire Type, a Grass Type, A Normal Type, or an Ice Type (UPDATE: Changed Water to Ice as it fits the setting better).

Depending on whether the player choses Pokemon Astro, or Pokemon Dwimmer at the start of the game, they may also choose between two additional types:

For Pokemon Astro players the additional two choices are an Electric Type, and a Psychic Type.

For Pokemon Dwimmer players the additional two choices are a Fairy Type and a Ghost Type.

Hopefully this will also help connect the players, and their PCs, to the larger Astro and Dwimmer meta-plots.

More to come,

Barking Alien

On a somber note...

The flags of the Third Galactic Imperium fly at half staff across Charted Space today, as Loren Wiseman, one of the co-founders of Game Design Workshop, and key creative people behind the Traveller RPG, has passed away. 

I am big fan of Mr. Wiseman's work, and have been for many years. His name appears in a number of my past Science Fiction RPG campaigns as a homage to his incredible contribution to the hobby. 

He was also, according to those who knew his personally, a heck of a nice guy.

My condolences to his family, friends, and fellow fans everywhere.


Monday, February 13, 2017

Gotta Catch'em All!

I noted in my last post that I had one of my Gaming Epiphanies. 

That's one of those rare instances when an idea for a RPG campaign pops into my head whole cloth - all the elements needed to make for an excellent series of adventures comes to me complete, and fully formed.

The setting, stories, NPCs, creatures, items, and other aspects of the campaign are there, all there, waiting to be written down, drawn, and used.

As good, and well thought out as this concept is, I fear it is one I may never get to bring to the table.

I want to be the very best
Like no one ever was.
To catch them is my real test,
To train them is my cause...

I can't believe this is the first post I've made in the eight year long existence of this blog specifically discussing Pokemon.

This could easily have been a Thorough Thursdays entry.

I first discovered the world of Pokemon in 1998, when the animated series reached television in the United States. It wasn't the hugely successful Pokemon video game that sparked my interest, but rather the accidental discovery of the show when it popped up during random channel surfing with my girlfriend at the time/later wife/now ex-wife.

We didn't initially love the show, with its weirdly dubbed voices, and dialogue changes poorly describing things that were clearly Japanese. It seemed squarely aimed at kids. There was something about the Pokemon themselves though. They were visually interesting, they had character, and they provided a source of both action and humor.

You've got to have balls to catch Pokemon.
Pokeballs that is.


As time went on, the show got better and better, and we were hooked.

While I was working at a retail/wholesale store that dealt in Japanese Pop Culture, and Anime/Manga related products, I became regularly exposed to Pokemon merchandise. As the second and third generation Pokemon games came out, I was able to play them and found I enjoyed them very much. With each additional game, and TV season the property's popularity increased. This meant more product in our store, and I started a small collection of my favorite 'Pocket Monsters' in the form of figurines, coffee mugs, stationary, and other items.

I will travel, across the land,
Searching far and wide,
Teach Pokemon to understand
The power that's inside!

At some point in the year 2002, with the release of Pokemon Ruby and Sapphire, I had this idea for a Pokemon RPG campaign that came to me in the 'Gaming Epiphany' way I have described above. I planned to run it for my old New Jersey crew, to the point of having a pretty clear idea of who should play what (I told them all they could play whomever, or whatever they wanted, but I also told them the character types, and roles I saw in my head. They loved my choices). 

Unfortunately, it never got off the ground. One missed opportunity lead to another, to another, and while we got some great Star Trek, and Ghostbusters games out of the next few years, the group eventually had to disband (My wife, and I broke up, got divorced, another couple broke up, one friend moved really far away, and another was dealing with an ill parent). 

Now, more than 15 years later...the idea is back...

(Gotta Catch'em All!)
It's you and me,
I know it's our destiny!

With the recent release of Pokemon Sun and Moon, and the continued success of the phone app game Pokemon Go, my personal interest in the franchise has been renewed. Once reignited, my old ideas for a Pokemon RPG came whirling back to me, joined by a dozen new ones!

You're my best friend
In a world we must defend!

The big questions are how would I go about it, and will it ever see the light of day at the table?

Stay tuned,

Barking Alien

Sunday, February 12, 2017

All System Is

Where to begin? Alright, well, today is my 48th Birthday. 

I have been really busy this month, and so my posting has fallen by the wayside a bit. I've also been in a gaming-funk of sorts, frustrated by my inability to match my particular interests, and style with that of my groups. This has been an ongoing issue for some time now, with no clear solution, or end in sight. It's not drastic enough to prevent me [or my players] from having a good time, but I remain acutely aware of it.

I feel somewhat like an up, and coming garage band, one that knows it has real talent, but is asked to 'keep it down' when they practice.

How can I play my best when my best is big, and loud, and I'm not allowed to be loud?

In other related news...

I have a Gaming Epiphany a few days ago, the likes of which I haven't had in a long while. For those unfamiliar with what I mean by a 'Gaming Epiphany', in my case it means an idea for a campaign comes to me (sometimes inspired by something, sometimes out of the blue), and it comes fully formed with a clear concept of the setting, possible meta-plots, plots, and sub-plots, NPCs, creatures, tech, and the total package. It all pops into my head at once. 

Unfortunately, it is one of those IP games that unless I have the right group, it simply won't work. A guaranteed 5-star success 10-15 years ago, I don't know that I have the audience for it right now. 


I will talk about it in an upcoming post, but first...

I've been thinking a lot about system lately.

While I was running through my thoughts, and opinions on the subject, I the opening paragraphs of several games that all seemed to use a similar example to try to explain what a role playing game is.

Paraphrased, they go something like this:

"Remember when you were a kid and played pretend? Cops and Robbers, Cowboys and Indians, or whathaveyou; one kid would say, "Bang! I got you. You're dead!", and the other kd would say, "No I'm not! You missed." Role playing games give you a set of rules to help you determine what happens in the event of such a situation.

You know you've read paragraphs like that before. We all have. From Star Wars, to Teenagers from Outer Space, Champions to Toon, nearly every RPG ever published that has a, 'What is a Role Playing Game?' section has a few lines like those above. 

I sat, and pondered...so what happened?

What went wrong?

It occurs to me that there is only one purpose to rule mechanics in RPGs. If we are to believe these 'What is a RPG?' introductions to the hobby, and I have no reason not to, then all we need is a way to determine the outcome of random events, and/or events in which there is a chance of failure do to probability, and circumstance.

Basically, all gaming is, and all it needs to be is...

Player: I want to do a thing.

Gamemaster: Roll this die to see if you succeed at doing a thing.

Player: OK. (Rolls). I got what I needed.

Gamemaster: You do the thing.

Sometimes you want to do a thing, and an NPC, or another player/PC, does not want you to do that thing. This goes with the classic 'Cops and Robbers' example in the RPG introduction - I got you/No you missed me. So we need the following additional bit:

Player: I want to do a thing.

Gamemaster: The bad guy doesn't want you to do that thing. Roll this die to see if you succeed at doing a thing. I, as the bad guy, am going to roll the same type of die to have you not do the thing. The higher roll wins.

Player: OK. (Rolls). I got what I needed.

Gamemaster: You do the thing.

Why do we have more than this? Why are RPG books a hundred, two hundred, even three hundred or more pages in length? What is the rest of this crap?

Well much of it is combat in the vast majority of games, probably because combat is such a big deal in action/adventures genres. Does it need to be as complex as it is in the vast majority of RPGs? I don't know. Personally I don't think so, but boy oh boy there sure are a lot of games that have a ton of combat crunch.

What does it add to have all those additional rules? What is it missing without them?

Imagine playing tag, or some pretend game with friends at recess, and trying to determine if the chain-link fence around the school yard counted as one quarter cover from being 'it'. Picture yourself, and several of your buddies discussing it, when suddenly the bell rings and it's back to class. You just wasted all your fun time. 

I often feel the same way during any game session where the players focus on the mechanics more than the game itself. Players often get way too tied up on one rule, or another, and burn precious game time. It's especially frustrating because what exactly would the end result of a particular rule question be?

If it's success, or failure based on a rule...well that makes sense I suppose...but as I noted above, that should be a relatively simple thing. More than that sometimes seems little more than an obsession over minutia.

"But shouldn't I get the +1 bonus for wearing a blue shirt on a Friday, while using the related trivial feat, and being seated to the right of the GM bonus? I demand my +1! It's in the rules!"

I'd rather the player come up with a great idea. I'd give them a much bigger bonus for being clever, or even just say it works.

Am I really advocating the idea that rule mechanics are meaningless? No, not exactly. I am wondering though, at what level is it excessive? At what point do we say that the added crunch isn't adding anything substantial to the gaming experience.

When do the rules have too many rules?

Barking Alien

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

The Legendary Defender

Can you believe it's February already? This year is already going fast.

Anyhow, let's get down to business...

Have you seen the new Dreamworks reboot of Voltron on Netflix?

Why the hell not?!?

It's pretty awesome!

For those unfamiliar with Voltron, it was originally a Japanese animated series entitled King of the Beasts GoLion. The series was adapted for American television with a story written by Peter Keefe and John Teichmann, founding partners of a company called World Events Productions in 1984. 

There are a great many folks in the 30-50 year old range who have a deep affection for this show. As with many Japanese animated programs brought to the U.S., and altered during the 80s, I never developed a taste for it. The problem being that I was already exposed to the original Japanese version, and therefore found the American version more like a knock-off.

This feeling got even more pronounced when the later versions of Voltron were introduced. The further incarnations were based on Armored Fleet Dairugger 15 (Voltron II in America), and GodMars (If I remember correctly - used as a tv movie/special) which unlike GoLion were shows I was more interested in.

All in all, I never became a fan of the American phenomenon of Voltron.

In spite of this (or perhaps because of it), I found myself really intrigued by the rebooted version entitled, Voltron, The Legendary Defender

The Paladins of Voltron!

Left to Right:
Keith (Red), Lance (Blue), Shiro (Black), Pidge (Green), and Hunk (Yellow)!

Although ostensibly a reboot, I viewed it as an original program. The original was an adaption of an already existing Japanese product, where as this Voltron was actually built from the ground up to be Voltron!

I've now watched both seasons, and I have to say I really like it. It isn't perfect, it has its flaws, but overall I find it a ton of fun. It also provides some excellent inspiration, and insight into how to effectively run a super-heroic, giant robot anime style RPG campaign.

I will get to my RPG related ideas in a follow up post, but first I want to do a general overview/review of the series (or at least how I see it).

Sensors are detecting SPOILERS!
SPOILERS are Imminent!

The Good

The designs, animation, script, story, and pretty much everything that goes into the show is top quality. It is all very well done.

I am particularly impressed by the visual design of the 'Castle', the team's starship headquarters. I also really like the look of Voltron in fully combined, robot mode.

The aliens they encounter are very neat, looking reminiscent of the alien species from another favorite animated series of mine, Oban Star Racers. Going hand-in-hand with the nice look of the aliens in the series is the impressive setting artwork. The artwork done for the planetary environments is really cool indeed..

I like all the characters, each having a distinct personality, a specialty, a unique weapon, and an interesting background/subplot. Well...almost all of them have that. I'll discuss that a bit in the next section.

I also like that each pilot's robot Lion has unique powers, and special weaponry all their own. The connections between the Lions and the elements they're linked with are handled much better than they were in the original series. There are some distinctly mystical, and emotional relationships between the Paladins, their Lions, and the psychic/mystic forces the Lion draw their powers from. 

An excellent balance is achieved between the science-fiction, and mystical components of the setting and story. The result is a Space Opera setting that is one part classic super-robot show, and one part modern character driven action/comedy.

The Bad

The only real weakness of the show is that when it fails to do what it is good at, it shows.

For example, whereas Shiro, Keith, and Pidge have intriguing backstories, motivations, and goals, Lance, and Hunk are mainly comedy relief. This wouldn't be so bad except for the fact that it makes Lance and Hunk seem like especially weak characters by comparison. The two are considerably less interesting then their fellow Paladins at best, annoying distractions at worst.

Hunk suffers the worst because his comedic elements don't work as well as Lance's do. In addition, he is routinely depicted as cowardly, with a weak will, and constitution. Why is he even there? I like some of Hunk's dialogue, and feel the voice actor does a decent job. He, and the character, deserve better material, and more to do.

The Lions are shown to have cool unique abilities, but the enemy mecha are sort of hit, and miss. In the two seasons they've shown I can only recall them fighting the enemy robot-kaiju (Robeasts as they are referred to eventually) a couple of times. I can only clearly remember two of them. One appears in the first season, and returns in the second. The other is in the season two finale 'final boss'.

The Ugly

This is may sound a bit weird, but I am not sure how I feel about the character of Coran. 

Coran is the advisor to Princess Allura, an Altean male, and an experienced space traveller, and possibly soldier. I say possibly because although it's clear that he served the Altean Royal Family, I am not entirely certain in what capacity he did so. 

He is depicted as knowledgeable and compassionate, but also foppish, goofy, and absent-minded on various occasions. The character is more often than not far too comical to be taken seriously, especially during critical events. 

The show tries very hard to be an exciting action-adventure, but also still very funny. For the most part it succeeds, but there are many points in which they overdo the comedy and this is particularly true in scenes with Coran. He is so over-the-top, he shakes the suspension of disbelief. His humorous moments sometimes seem less humorous because they are so overdone, and more like a failure on the part of the episode's writer, director, or story editor to comprehend the proper use of the character as described. 

That's enough for now. I will follow this up with a post focusing more on what gamers - specifically Anime Mecha and Science Fiction/Space Opera gamers - can learn from the series.

Stay tuned,

Barking Alien

What It Is I Do

What is it that I do exactly?

What I mean to say is, what is the nature of my play style, how do I view that approach, and what do I do to make it happen?

By jomacatopa96

These questions, and others like them, have been crossing my mind a lot lately.

They have been the subject of discussion with friends, the inspiration for my personal notes, and analysis, and have driven me to check out podcasts, blogs, and articles on how others answer these very same questions.

All in all I have determined this much...

I am a world-building GM so I create universes to explore

I like my games to have what I consider living, breathing, open-world settings. I there to be places to go, creatures to encounter, environments to deal with, people to meet, stores to shop in, and things to do.

I like the NPCs to be people with interests, dislikes, agendas, and goals. These characters are all doing things, whether it's going to a 9-to-5 job each day, or planning to conquer the galaxy. Every single NPC (and every sentient being in my setting who isn't a PC is an NPC) can be interacted with if you want to interact with them, and you can logically figure out how to do so.

You (as a player, through your PC) can go anywhere, and do anything so long as, again, you can figure out how in a logical, setting appropriate manner. You are limited only by the established principles, laws, and conditions established in the genre, and universe. 

I place inconsistencies, straight-up falsehoods, and deep secrets throughout the setting that no one is obliged to investigate, or discover, but which I personally feel would be really exciting, and rewarding if they did.

I am a GM who cares about PCs so I give PCs opportunities and options

Although I want an open world/universe, sandbox style setting, I want the PCs to feel connected to the setting, and I want it to be connected to them. 

I want to include material the players of the PCs want to see. If you want political intrigue, tell me so I can include it. If you love big space battles let me know so I can make sure we have those in our campaign. If you hate wilderness adventures, and love city ones, talk to me about it. I will negotiate with you. I would be have to have fewer outdoors adventures, and more indoor, civilized ones. Perhaps you could explain what you don't like about a certain type of encounter, and I can fix it to make it more interesting. 

If you want your PC to be the best pilot around, I will give you opportunities to fly a starship. If you like to tinker, and invent mad-science devices I will include rules, and chances to do that. Stealth/spy types will be given the chance to sneak around don't worry.

I will not always say yes, but I will always listen to a well reasoned idea

If you want to do something non-standard with your PC, run it by me. I can not guarantee I will allow it, but [unlike a lot of GMs I know] I will not automatically veto the idea. I will listen, and probably try to help you make it work.

As long as the concept fits the genre, doesn't break the rules systems too much, and isn't overpowered [relative to the other PCs, and the game setting as I whole], I will likely OK it.

This goes beyond character creation, and abilities as well. In my campaigns a good idea, well thought out, and befitting the game setting supersedes, or has a much larger influence on the outcome of a situation then a die roll does. That's a universal Adam Dickstein rule. 

I like action so I like to include a lot of fast paced action

Expect things to explode, chase you, argue with you, collapse on top of you, shoot at you, and attack you with tooth, and claw. I am going to give you a lot of opportunities for action.

What I'd like from you, the player, is a sense of urgency where appropriate. I sense of adventure. A willingness to mix-it-up, and get into that action.

I like deep characters so I allow time for, and reward role-playing

Your PC should have a personality, something that drives them, and goals. I like to see PCs that seem like 'real people', or at the very least three-dimensional, well written characters. This isn't easy for every player, and I don't intend, or expect to see them gripping, and nuanced in the first session (or even the first dozen). I would like to see that kind of thought put into them, and to see the PC develop little, by little as time goes on. 

I may not need to see a full fleshed out character in the first dozen sessions, but I definitely want to see an effort towards that goal in the first dozen sessions.

To facilitate this, I try to include spaces between events in the games, breaks in the action if you will, where PCs can relax, grab a meal, and just talk. I like allowing for down time. I also encourage a smart player/PC to converse with their allies, enemies, and neutral contacts before, during, and/or after a battle, or other action sequence. Your are playing sentient beings (well, most of you. Right?), and sentient beings talk to each other (again, most of them do anyway).

I am not out to kill the PCs, but I am out to challenge the players

If I run my campaigns correctly - that is, if I execute the running of a campaign the way I want it to work - PC deaths will be rare if the players play smartly. This does not me cowardly, it means intelligently. I am not out to kill your character. I am trying to challenge you the player to use your character to best difficult situations, and in order to achieve some kind of goal.

Now let me be clear on this. Yes, I am trying to challenge the player as much as their character. In the end, the PC does not have a mind separate from that of the player. They are not an independent entity. The player makes the character's choices, and decisions, and controls the character's actions. If you play your character as not very observant, or astute, that PC is more likely to be injured, or killed than his, or her more perceptive, and wiser companions. 

Just FYI.

I really despise inaction so I penalize overthinking, and wasting time

Stop thinking about what you're going to do, describing what you're going to do, and asking me [the GM] what makes sense to do if it's going to take over 3 minutes of time - that's easily two, or three times longer than is necessary, or logical in a dramatic moment - Just (PLEASE, for the love of Bowie) Do Something! 

From now on if you take more than a couple of minutes to decide what to do, I think I shall implement a rule that you either loose your turn/action, you get a negative modifier (the enemy has had time to plan a counter move, or dodge, etc.), or I will add an additional danger to the situation. This is how I always used to play. I stopped doing this for whatever reason, and now I am constantly regretting it.

I put a lot of thought into my games, and I expect a lot of investment from the players

This one is tough. It's something I didn't really realize about myself, or my games that I've come to perceive, and except over time. I subconsciously ask for a good deal of buy-in from the players in my games in order to make my campaigns excel to their full potential.

While I think it's absolutely fair to ask one's players to put least two thirds of the effort into the game that the GM does, I don't think it's right or fair that I don't tell them that before hand. I haven't made this desire clear in recent years. Why? I am not used to doing so. This was just an automatic thing for my past groups (specifically my High School, College, and New Jersey groups). It was just how we played.

I also can't really tell you want that means exactly. It very much depends on the game. It can range from: If we're running a serious, dark game, don't create a comedic character whose goofy antics constantly break the mood - to - if we are playing in a medieval European setting, don't approach everything from the viewpoint of a 21st century American well-versed in modern chemistry, and physics. The people of this era didn't know those things.

I like genre, and I run different genres in different ways

I really dislike when games become a hodge-podge, kitchen sink mess. I like when games have a feel. I enjoy it when there are rules to the setting, and the campaign that aren't necessarily the rules of our world.

The rotating justice system of a comic book universe that allows villains to escape, or otherwise return to menace the heroes again, and again isn't illogical. Not in a comic book universe. Likewise, the idea that heroes don't kill the villains as a way to prevent this makes perfect sense in that setting. The idea that time is sort of suspended to allow a Japanese Sentai style hero team to combine their vehicles and form their giant robot is part of the natural physics of a Super-Robot Mecha Anime continuum. 

They are tropes, but not to the people living in those worlds. To them, it's completely normal. Stop thinking with your post-modern, deconstructing, 'look how clever I am' brain, and try enjoying the fantasy.

I like using known intellectual properties as campaign settings

Sure, I love creating my own universes from scratch, but think about this for a moment: If I have about 15-20 hours tops a week to develop material for an RPG campaign, how much can I get done if I am making up every last NPC, opponent, creature, location, piece of gear, and concept myself?

Now, how much more can I get done in the same allotment of time if some of that work has already been done. All I need to do is develop the material specific to my campaign that I am adding. If the players have a general idea of the layout, and atmosphere of a setting, I am focus on the parts of it that directly impact our game.

I can add heroes, and villains to the DC universe, but I don't have to created Star Labs, or explain what Gotham is like. My Marvel Comics setting probably doesn't need to explain to the players who the Avengers are, or who Galactus is. People are generally familiar enough with Vulcans, Phasers, and Starfleet, so I can direct my energies towards the new worlds, and civilizations the PCs will encounter.

Plus, if I love something I want to explore it, use it, look at it in different ways. A favorite mug is usually the one you use the most, right?

Let's review

I create universes to explore
I give PCs opportunities and options
I will always listen to a well reasoned idea
I like to include a lot of fast paced action
I allow time for, and reward role-playing
I am out to challenge the players
I penalize overthinking, and wasting time
I expect a lot of investment from the players
I run different genres in different ways
I like using known intellectual properties as campaign settings

Well, that's me.

If I can do all these things, if I can be allowed to be me, I can create some truly awesome RPG campaigns. 

What is it you do?

Barking Alien