Monday, July 31, 2017

My Gaming Monomania

I tend to obsess about games. Really that's nothing new. 

My problem is, I kind of like obsessing. I like being so head-over-heels inspired by a game idea that I go out of my way to do research on it, create a custom character sheet, investigate multiple systems to find the best fit, and spend hours thinking about my approach to running it.

When I don't have a concept...when I'm not flat out jazzed about anything...well...I can obsess about that too. That part sucks let me tell you.

Luckily, it's usually just a matter of time before a spark appears, a flicker, and then the fuse is lit. What comes next? With any luck, a big BOOM.

Since you've all waited so patiently, here's my BOOM...

The Role Playing Game

My Hero Academia is a Japanese Anime, and Manga series written by Kohei Horikoshi, and illustrated by Hirofumi Neda (in the Manga). The Manga is being published by Shueisha, and serialized in Shonen Jump. The animation is by Studio Bones, and released by Madman Entertainment (in Japan), and Funimation (in the USA).

The series began in 2014, and still in production. The animated series was released in 2016, and is only in it's second season. A video game, a spin off Manga, and a number of other items such as models, action figures, art books, and more have been produced. Funko Pop has even released a set of their vinyl/bobble-head figures this month. 


The story revolves around a young boy named Izuku Midoriya, who was born without any superpowers in a world where roughly 80% of the population has some kind of 'Quirk', a metahuman mutation that gives them special abilities.

In this world, which is otherwise essentially our own in the near future, one of the most sought after, and beloved professions is Hero, acting, and serving the public much like the comic book superheroes of old.  Midoriya wants nothing more in life than to be one of these heroes, to help people, to save lives...but he is 'Quirkless' as noted, one of the shrinking minority born without supra-normal powers.

His life takes a turn for the better, and eventually the more complicated and dangerous, when the world's greatest superhero, All Might, scouts out the boy as possessing the heart, and spirit of a true hero. All Might's quirk, One for All, can be passed down from one wielder to the next, and so boy, nicknamed 'Deku' (basically 'useless'), starts his journey toward following in his mentor's footsteps.

Midoriya attends Ultra Academy High School (called UA High School for short), where he and a cast of strange and colorful characters all seek to learn the hero trade from pro-Heroes, including the totally badass Eraser Head, the mysterious, space-suited Thirteen, and even All Might himself!


There is a lot to like in My Hero Academia, but I will be honest and say that at first it didn't grab me. I thought it was OK, but a little too goofy in a way that turned me off to it. Also, although the Japanese do better takes on Western-style Superheroes than we do on Giant Robots, the first season of My Hero Academia seemed far too full of anime tropes to also pull off American comic book superhero tropes. 

My pal Dave convinced me to give it another try, and I am glad I did. The second season of the show is far superior. The writer's love, and understanding of Western comics really shines through. There is a reference to one of All Might's costumes being very 'Silver Age'. In a practice session at the school, two students pretend to be villains with a bomb, and two play the heroes trying to thwart their plans. One student remarks, "This is a very American scenario, don't you think?"

Mix a healthy dose of Manga/Anime style humor, heartbreak, and high powered action with some of the most superheroic superheroes since DC comics in the 1970s, and early 80s, and you've got a milieu that is right up my alley, and perfect for the group I am going to be gaming with.

Enter my homebrewed RPG - My Hero Academia: American Ultra!

Set against the backdrop of a superhero training academy in New York City, our campaign with focus on Heroes-in-Training in the United States, where things work a little bit differently than on the show.

I am really eager to see what the players come up with for Quirks. They can be really weird on occasion. I am also excited to introduce them to some ideas I have, which of course leads directly to the villains I am going to be presenting.

I will be discussing more about this project as the week goes on, so keep it tuned to Barking Alien for updates.

Lots of cool news coming in the next few days actually. For now, an attempt at sleep!

Go Beyond Heroes! PLUS ULTRA!!!

Barking Alien

Sunday, July 30, 2017

My Gaming is Broken

It's 2017, my 40th Anniversary in the gaming hobby. 

I have recently come upon the opportunity (half fell upon it, half created it) to run a game with a very cool, if small, group of former players who I really like gaming with.

This is my chance to run something really grand, and run it my way. This is a group that thinks my games rock, and for the most part they're willing to give (almost) anything a go.

With that...I have no idea what to run.

To be more precise, I don't feel jazzed about anything in particular at this very moment. Nothing is screaming 'run me'. I have a lot of ideas I'm kinda, sorta, somewhat interested in, but nothing setting the ol' creativity ablaze.

And that sucks. It really sucks. 

As my good friend Dave said today,

"I know guys you can run just about any of their favorites at any time. Tell them you want to play X, and they'll run X. And it'll be good. Maybe not great, but good.

You're not like that. You need to be in the mood for a thing. You need to feel it. If you don't you'll run three OK, to crap sessions and then dump it. It you do, it ends up amazing.

What do you feel like running?"

He's right on all counts, though I don't know that I've ever met the GM you can just run anything at anytime. I mean, if you don't connect with it in a deep fashion, how can you really run it well?

Anyway, not the focus. The focus is, if I get excited about something it will rock. If I don't it, will flounder. 

Why can't I get excited about something?

I think my gaming is broken.

Barking Alien

Friday, July 28, 2017

The Problem With Perfection

I definitely have a problem. 

Luckily, I get the feeling I'm not alone.

One of things I learned while putting together my recent RPG release, The Googly Eyed Primetime Puppet Show, is that when you are working on such a thing, sooner, or later (preferably sooner) you have to call it done. Even if there is a lingering feeling that it needs something, that if you just had another day, or two, it would be perfect, you've got to slap some sense into yourself, and call the product finished.

If not, it will never be finished. It will go on, and on for eternity, or what feels like one. Why? Partially it's because no game is ever really done, as they can always be improved.

More importantly because people like me (like us if this sounds familiar to anyone out there) are perfectionists. If it isn't absolutely perfect, it isn't worthy of being seen by the public. It isn't worth doing, we wrongly surmise, if it isn't going to be done to total perfection.

This is an excellent goal to aspire to, but it is also flawed thinking.

Nothing is ever perfect. No amount of time, preparation, and even diligence can overcome Human nature, and Human nature is imperfect. We aren't machines, and because of this fact we will always miss something, want to do more, think of a great idea five minutes after posting our project to the internet, and all other manner of things we simply can't control.

That doesn't mean you shouldn't do your best to minimize errors, to produce the best work you can, or that you should rush. I am a firm believer that things take as long as they take. 

At the same time, you have to pull the trigger some time. Not completing a project you've dedicated yourself to completing only generates more anxiety, and I would go so far as to say that for me it generates more then getting it right generates (even though that generates a boat load, I tell you me). 

Anyway, this lesson is one I learned only recently. It is, in point of fact, against my nature to call something done without checking, double-checking, and triple-checking it over, and over again. 

In the end no amount of reviewing guarantees a flawless product. Especially for my first, professional outing, it was far more important that I get it out there. 

It's out there. Now to take what I've learned in the process, and make the next product even better.

Barking Alien

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Hot Fun in the Summertime

For the next few weeks, my weekly Google Hangouts group (which is normally engaged in a Kapow! Superhero RPG campaign going on three years now) will be running...


It's a pretty crazy idea, the kind I've been wanting to do for some time now. 

For the first arc, our usual GM, Keith, will be running the Marvel Heroic Roleplaying Game, with the players playing established Marvel Universe characters.

When that arc ends, I will be taking the reins, and running a DC Universe story featuring established DC characters, and utilizing the DC Adventures Roleplaying Game (which is powered by, and introduced Mutants & Masterminds 3rd Edition). 

This will be followed by a Kapow! arc in which we pick our favorite Marvel and DC heroes from the two games above, and make them up in that system to face off against the ultimate cross-company crisis! Whatever it may be.

I've got goosebumps! How about you?

Summer Lovin'

We've already begun, having run the first session of our Marvel arc last night. 

The Boys of Summer

While the players aren't all guys, the super-team that assembles in the first session definitely was. It consisted of...

Doctor Strange (Melinda), The Falcon (Mark), The Human Torch (Stephen), Speed (Tim), Spider-man (Carl), and The Vision (me).

Cruel Summer

The story opened with a group of assorted villains meeting up in a dockside warehouse ("As they do", as Melinda noted), where the Kingpin, and Tombstone were preparing to sell a mystic tome to the highest bidder. The potential customers were M.O.D.O.K. of AIM, and Baron Wolfgang Von Strucker, of Hydra!

By the end of the session, our heroes had taken some serious hits, mostly from the marauding missiles of the maliciously mad M.O.D.O.K., and the I (the Vision) from a clever, indirect attack by Baron Strucker. 

However, a good number of players rolled high enough on their defensive reactions to turn the tables on the villains, most notably Doctor Strange, and the Falcon. In the end, the criminals were defeated, though the mystery of the mystic book, and why they wanted it, remains unsolved until next issue...

Summer Breeze

The game went rather smoothly considering only one person besides the GM (me actually) had played Marvel Heroic before. The system worked, and I think the players largely got how the mechanics reflect the story, and vice versa.

It seemed a very straightforward adventure - really just a battle to claim the 'MacGuffin' - but it worked, and it did the job of setting us up for the next session. 

According to Keith, the entirety of this tale will directly relate back to our ongoing Kapow! campaign. Wow. I am curious to see how that plays out.

Alright team, big news coming soon. Until then, be Super to each other!

Barking Alien

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Fabricated Visuals

As a treat for those of you out there you have supported, and/or purchased my new RPG, or who are at least curious about what the art looks like in...

The Googly Eyed Primetime Puppet Show Role Playing Game

...I thought I'd post some of my favorite illustrations from the book.

The art was created by either hand drawing illustrations of the characters and then photoshopping the daylights out of them, or combining various photographs...and then photoshopping the daylights out of them. 

Many of the photographs are pictures of my own puppet creations, much of which are long gone I'm afraid. Thankfully pictures of them in varying stages of completion remained on one of my hard drives.

In some cases I combined my illustrations, and photos with stock, and royalty free images, especially of animals. Royalty free clip art was also used on occasion. 

Anyway, here you are, a little bonus material from Barking Alien Productions to you! If you haven't given this book a looksee, maybe the art will inspire you to do so. 

Peppy Monster and Yammer the Grump

The Many Costumes of
Frankenstein's Monster

Ludwig, The Avant Garde Wombat
and his faithful assistant.

Bogey Monster

Those are just a few of the illustrations in the book, and really they're some of my favorites. 

You know what? I'm feeling generous. I'll also include a color version of the character sheet that comes with the game, because that's the kind of guy I am.

As you can see, the character is very similar to my original sheet done for this product's precursor. It's been streamlined a bit, and I definitely like how it came out. 

Well, that's all for now. 

Much still to come,

Barking Alien

Spaceman, Spaceman

The 40th Anniversary of Traveller this past weekend is just one of the Science Fiction goings-on that are going on in my brain.

What? Um...OK, let me be more specific

I recently saw...Valerian and The City of a Thousand Planets

The movie is beautiful, with fantastic visuals from design, to execution. Not just 'special effects' in the modern, CGI sense, but the aesthetics of everything from the uniforms of the Earth military, to the planetary environments was absolutely breathtaking. 

The look of the film goes hand in hand with the world building of the setting. THIS is a universe I want to game in. I want to go to these planets, meet (or be) these aliens, and fight crime across the galaxy as a special agent of the Galaxity Council (OK, that's more from the graphic novels, but I like the name). 

The film opens >>MINOR SPOILER WARNING<< with the origin of the City of a Thousand Planets set to one of my all time favorite songs. That sequence is practically worth the price of admission to the movie. It was that good. I wanted a detailed breakdown of who each group was, and when they arrived so I could have the info available if/when I get the chance to run a Valerian and Laureline RPG.

The film isn't perfect by any means, and its weaknesses lie mainly with the main actors, and the characters they play. While not poorly acted per se, they were a tad flat. The dialogue doesn't give them much to work with, as much of it is shallow, and cartoonish. It actually reminded me of what a comic book from France, badly translated into English, and then read aloud would sound like. 

That's a shame, as that is not how the Valerian and Laureline comics read to me at all. Corny perhaps, and definitely molded from Space Opera clay, the dialogue of the graphic novels came off a bit more nuanced (especially Laureline), and complex. 

I thought the story was interesting, whereas many critics designated it a mess, and incomprehensible. I definitely have to disagree. While not necessarily fine literature, the story worked, and made perfect sense to me as a Space Opera plot. 

Overall I enjoyed it. I don't feel the need to see it again on the big screen, but I would definitely get it on DVD, or a similar format just to review the universe, and its curious inhabitants.

On a very different note...

People of Earth has returned for a second season!

I don't know if I've mentioned this little gem of a show before, but it's a very clever, oddball comedy, with a Sci-Fi twist that puts it right up my alley.

I find myself attracted to this show primarily because of its premise; A news magazine reporter decides to do a Human interest piece on a support group for people who believe they've been abducted by aliens, only to find out he may have been abducted himself. 

The premise is further expanded upon as we see the aliens' side of the story, something I didn't really expect going in. 

As some of you may know, UFOs and alien abductions are a favorite subject of mine dating back many years. I was a big fan of Project: UFO, and one of my all time favorite films is Close Encounters of the Third Kind. 

Having come out with my first professional RPG product, The Googly Eyed Primetime Puppet Show RPG, I am considering what my second one should be. An idea I've had on the back burner for a very long time is something called Visitors from Space, which definitely shares some similarities with People of Earth.


Well, off to my day job. I'll be back soon with some cool updates on my current gaming situation. 

Until then, Watch the Skies...

Barking Alien

Monday, July 24, 2017

Time Will Crawl

Yesterday, Sunday, July 23, 2017, marked the 40th Anniversary of Traveller.

I've told the story before of how my first encounter with the game did not exactly endear it to me. It seemed a very lackluster vision of the future to someone who, at the age of 10 or so, was enamored with the kind of Science Fiction found in Star Trek, Star Wars, Space:1999, the Legion of Superheroes, and a number of SF novels above my grade level (I was an advanced reader).

Traveller was more akin to Alien, or Outland (which would come out after I first played the game), and that just wasn't how I saw Space Adventure Sci-fi, or how I wanted it to be. It certainly wasn't the universe I wanted to live in as a character in a Role Playing Game.

For the next 7 years I basically ignored Traveller. It wasn't even on my radar. I only got back into it on the recommendation of my friend Jason (shout to Big J!), and the release of MegaTraveller in 1986.

Fast forward to the present, and it is one of my all time favorite RPGs. 

Granted, I play it a little faster, and looser than most people probably do, and although I try to adhere to the Hard Science aspects of it, a solid dose of Space Opera finds its way in to my campaigns. I love that the game can handle that. I love that it has a simple structure that is easy to use, or modify as needed. 

It feels like only yesterday that I didn't like it, then rediscovered it, and then made it one of my reoccurring, go-to games.

Happy 40th Anniversary Traveller! Clear skies, and keep on flying!

Barking Alien

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Funny Business

If you're wondering what I've been doing with myself this past month, or so (I know I have), then you might be interested to know that among the things that's kept me busy has been putting together my first, self-published role playing game - now available on Drivethrurpg.

It's called...

Yep. That's a real game, really made by me, and really available right now for purchase.

It was inspired by my love of those very particular puppets seen on television, in movies, and in many other entertainment formats over the past 60+ years.

It also celebrates all puppets, and puppet programs like theirs, from Rags on the Patchwork Family, to Gary Gnu of The Great Space Coaster, and the characters of more adult fare such as Avenue Q and Netflix's The Fuzz.

If you've enjoyed that sort of wanton craziness in the past, and would like to try it as an RPG, please give it a look-see. 


Barking Alien

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Out of Mothballs

The door to the Barking Alien blog's bridge, control room, and coffee bar lounge opens only part way with a slow, deliberate hiss. Adam and Barkley stand at the doorway tentatively, each pulling out a small flashlight and moving it slowly across the room. 

A thin layer of dust - the exact origin of which - given the life support systems and artificial climate - is unsettling at best, covers everything in sight.

Adam walks across the room, accidentally stepping on a droid part here, an empty nutrient-pack there, until he reaches the main display interface. He runs his hand, fingers outstretched, over the screens, a forlorn look on his face.

Suddenly there is a low beep, a hum, a series of quiet music notes, and the entire interface from floor to ceiling comes alive. 

Looking about every which way, he finally fixes his gaze on Barkley, his paws 'index finger', firmly on the 'Power On' button. A smile beams on his furry, snouted face. Barkley moves his gaze from Adam to the 'Command Chair' and back again, as if to say, 'Go on. Sit down'.

Adam stares as the chair for what feels like an eternity, then sits stiffly, uncomfortably, like being around old high school friends you haven't kept in contact with while at some sort of reunion. Barkley just shakes his head. He saunters over, clicks on the mic, pulls out the keyboard, and points to it. 

"Just write. Write...what's on your mind."

Deep breath. Here goes...

Hi all!

I've been away for a bit, dealing with some real world issues that have luckily been resolved and the results include my living in a new apartment, in a great neighborhood, within easy walking distance of my day job. 

The added free time (though it has still been at a premium) has given me the opportunity to complete my first, honest-to-goodness, for sale table top RPG product! Well...sort of...

I'm really passionate about RPGs. I mean I love them, and I want to write them, and...yeah. My problem is, there are a whole boat load of other skills that are needed to really do them right, professionally that is, and frankly, I don't really have those skills.

At present, the game is complete and has been uploaded to DriveThruRPG. It takes a day or so for them to approve it I guess. We'll see what happens. 

I thought I'd be super happy when it was done, but during the process I felt rushed. It was partially my own fault for announcing to people that I was doing it before it was really done, done, but then people just kept asking me if it was finished, and...well...sigh. It's done now. Hopefully people will like it enough to buy it. The artist in me feel it could be a thousand times better.

What can you do?

Well...Hopefully one thing I can do is make the next product even better. This one was pretty special to me, both because of the subject, and the fact that it's my first, but next one is going to benefit from the mistakes made this time around. I hope.

When I know for sure that it's available, I will link it's page here.

In the meantime...

Barkley and I have a lot of repairs and cleaning to do to get the blog back up and running. We're low on dilithium crystals, there are mynocks and frackles practically everywhere, and the trouble alert keeps blinking '12:00'. 

We'll be here working until late, so stop by in the comments and let us know you missed us. Heheh.

Don't worry, we'll be back to normal soon.


Barking Alien

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Declaring My Independence

I am working really hard to get my Soon-To-Be-Published RPG product completed, though the more I work on it the longer it seems to be taking. 

I haven't yet reached the point where I wish it was just done already, but yeah, I'm getting close to that mark.

I'm going to watch some fireworks, cheer myself up, and keep at it. 

Happy Fourth of July, American Independence Day everyone!

Barking Alien

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Where Are We Now?

I have moved into my new place.

It has been a pretty crazy week, ending a pretty crazy month, and generally speaking, it has finished on a positive note.

For the past two years I've been living in a pretty crumby neighborhood, on the sixth floor of a steep staircase walk up. Every day, several times times a day, for the past 730 days, I've had to walk up and down six flights of stairs. It sucked, and not just because I walk all day for a living as a professional dog walker.

The building was often dirty due to neighbors who didn't care. The streets around the building were the same way. The supermarkets all had crappy selections unless I walked really far from my apartment. At the same time, they were more expensive than similar grocery stores in other parts of the city.

I tried very hard to see the positives, but after two years I just hated it.

It's been tough on my self-esteem, my drive, and my peace of mind.

Things have greatly improved.

I am now in a much nicer neighborhood, in a much nicer apartment, with better shopping, cleaner hallways, and people who say hi, and tell me how beautiful my dog is when they walk by. I am closer to my clients, and get to walk my own dog more often.

Best part so far? I'm on the third floor, and there is an elevator.

I don't tell you, I'm pretty happy.

Somehow, in the last two weeks, I've run a Dungeons and Dragons 5E game, two sessions of Mobile Suit Gundam/Japanese Anime-Style Giant Robots, had a session zero for an upcoming Ars Magica mini-campaign, and discussed with my buddy Dave a possible new Superhero campaign (likely Champions 4E).

Lastly, I am a day or so away from releasing my first professional RPG product on DriveThruRPG. I think it has turned out pretty good, maybe even damn good, and I really hope you will all give it a look see (I won't lie - I need the money - the new place set me back a ways). 

Well, that's where I've been, and where I am. Further updates will be forthcoming, and of course I will announce my game's official release when it happens. 

Thanks for checking in. 

More to come.

Happy Fourth of July to my fellow Americans, and Happy Canada Day to my friends in the North.

Barking Alien