Monday, December 17, 2018

The Sound of Silence

November was something of a bust.

December is no better.

I am not done blogging, not by a long shot, but I have no interest in doing so at this time. 

This may come as a shock to you all - as it does to me - but I really don't have anything to say.

I am currently running two campaigns that are going along quite well, neither being particularly difficult for me to run. I have few problems to ruminate over, advice to give, or interesting insights into the inner workings of the games or their participants. These games just work, so it feels as if there is very little to address about them. That's a bit disappointing in a way but there you have it. 

I'm also in at least two good games as a player. I suppose I could address the differences between the style of the GMs of those campaigns and my own...but I just don't feel inspired to do so. Again, I have no great insight just now. I may give them a more thorough analysis later.

There are definitely other things of interest to me that I could talk about - Star Wars Resistance, Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse, CW/DC's Elseworlds, the final season of Voltron: The Legendary Defender - but I am simply not motivated to do so at this time. 


I guess I'll see you all in the new year. 

Hopefully with something more interesting to say.

Happy Holidays and a Joyous New Year Everyone!

Barking Alien

Monday, November 12, 2018

Hurts Like Heaven

I promised myself that I would remain positive this November and that all my posts would be about things I like. This is definitely about someone I like and someone who created things I like, so that will have to do. 

For you see, what I am about to tell you makes me sad and I do not like it one bit. 

Today I lost yet another of my heroes. 

On this day, the 12th of November, 2018, the world said farewell to Stanley Martin Lieber, better known as Stan Lee. 

Stan Lee - born in New York City, NY - was a creator, writer, editor, publisher and a character as large and as colorful as any he had a part in inventing. Collaborating with such artistic geniuses as Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko, Stan helped to create Superhero Comic Book characters known the world over - Spiderman, The Hulk, Thor, Doctor Strange, The X-Men, and many, many more.

Thanks to the popularity of feature films produced by Marvel Entertainment/Disney over the past 10 years, his characters are household names from Hastings to Hong Kong and Toledo to Tokyo. 

More so than any other single individual in the history of comic books, Stan Lee was the name and face most closely associated with that medium. He was a master of promotion and branding before either were really a thing in the modern sense. One could say one of the greatest characters he every created was Stan Lee himself.  At the same time he wasn't just interested in his own image and legacy. He was an advocate for the Comic Book and an unequivocally passionate individual in that regard.

He wasn't perfect. He was Human. Yet there are clearly those who could take lessons from him on how to be a Human being. In 1968, Stan used his comics as a forum to fight bigotry and published the following editorial:

I only met Stan in person once. I was a kid. We didn't really exchange words. I just stared in silent awe. There he was, a living legend, within a few feet of normal, teenage me. I wish I had said something, anything, to let him know how he'd inspired me. 

Well Stan, you did. You inspired me enough to go to art school, to make attempts to break into comics, to write and draw and keep the dream of 'With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility' alive. 

Farewell True Believer. 



Barking Alien

That's The Way, Uh-Huh Uh-Huh, I Like It

I like IP based games. 

It's true that this may not be universally the case as I won't play a game just because it's an IP. I have to like the IP to be certain. 

That said, I find that given the choice between DC Adventures or Mutants and Masterminds 3rd Edition - essentially the same game - I'd much rather run a DC Adventures campaign. I'd pick Star Trek or Star Wars over Traveller and I freakin' love Traveller. I miss running Ghostbusters and I've been getting ideas for a Men In Black game lately. 

I really enjoy running games based on entertainment franchises that I like. It might seem lazy to some or less creative than a game set solely in a setting of one's own design but I don't feel that way. Better yet I don't really care what those of that opinion think. 


Well for starters, I've had incredible success with IP based campaigns over the years. Some of the best games I've ever run have been set in someone else's universe. As I have noted in the past, I became sort of famous in my local gaming circles in High School and College as the 'King of Licensed RPGs'.

I always received interest if I said I was thinking of running Villains and Vigilantes, Mekton, or Ars Magica but I'd have scores of players chomping at the bit to be part of my Marvel, Mobile Suit Gundam, or Record of the Lodoss War games. 

I have discussed IP gaming numerous times in the past from both a general standpoint and in relation to specific licenses. What I want to add here is that I really like the freedom they give me. 

"Huh?", I hear you say. "Freedom? But doesn't running a game in a known IP setting tie your hands considerably? You can't go against canon without someone freaking out!"

That is certainly a distinct possibility but let's focus on the freedom part shall we?

When creating a setting from scratch there are several things to consider, among them being what particular elements do and don't exist in your universe, how the people in the universe interact with and feel about those elements, and what is the function of the Player Characters in said setting. 

In IP settings, if the players are at least generally familiar with the IP, those questions are already answered. I don't have to explain what a Droid is to a Star Wars player, nor do I have to get into all the different ways Droids are treated. 

Likewise, I don't have to tell a Star Trek player that there aren't any Droids on their Starfleet Vessel. Star Trek doesn't have Droids. We all know this. 

When the rules are known and generally agreed upon by all involved, I as the GM don't have to worry about them. I can direct my energies towards creating new material - new stories, characters, locations, and other such components. It's quite liberating actually. You don't need to reinvent the wheel if you and a good size group of friends have the same favorite wheel you can take out whenever you feel like it and go for a spin. 

I could go on and on but I have other subjects I want to get to. I am really interested in running either an old favorite IP game or an IP I haven't touched in a while. Perhaps one I like but haven't yet tackled at all? Time will tell. 

Barking Alien

Friday, November 9, 2018

What I Like About You

I've been feeling a lot of negativity around lately - from social media, the gaming community, and the internet in general.

I don't want to talk about that. That is, I don't want to add to the negativity.

I want to talk about something positive. I want to be positive!

I want to talk about things I like.

So what is it that I like?

I like...well...I like a lot of things.

This month, that's going to be my focus. I am going to talk about things I like and what I like about them. I want to share my likes with the likes of you (heh - see what I did there?) and hear about your likes.

I'm going to try and avoid talking about my dislikes, which is hard. I - like pretty much anyone and everyone who would be reading this right now - am a geek and we geeks are a very opinionated lot. It's because we're passionate about our interests. Isn't that the very definition of the modern geek? We like what we like and we don't like what we don't like - both to the extreme.

I often talk about my dislike of things, from particular games and styles of play to the direction my favorite franchises have taken. It can be therapeutic in a fashion to vent one's frustration or disapproval of things that they deeply connect with.

I tend to (or I try at least) do it with a sense of humor. That humor can be snarky, even biting, but again I feel that getting it off my chest is better than keeping it inside. Besides, if readers agree I feel a sense of camaraderie with my fellow nerds. If someone disagrees, perhaps they will make a point that has me revisit my opinion.

The point is that disliking things is OK, and talking about your dislikes is fine too. I just don't want that to be the focus of November.

I'm inspired by the idea of Thanksgiving - not the holiday itself and what it represents but my own family's take on it. You see, for us it is the most family holiday there is. It's when the small, but very tight Barking Alien tribe gets to together to celebrate surviving the world we live in. It's giving thanks to whomever or whatever you feel like giving thanks to that we're all here, that we love each other, and that we will always rise up from adversity because we always have.

In conclusion, get ready for a month of Likes. Of things I like being liked. Of the word 'Like' being used like there's no tomorrow.

Like it or not.

Barking Alien

Monday, October 22, 2018

Head Space

Hi everybody.

I know it's been a while since I last posted and it's been sparse for a sometime even before that. I just thought I'd stop by and give you all a status report on myself and the blog.

I'm good. No really. I'm doing really good.

My girlfriend and I just celebrated a year together, my business is doing well (though a favorite client just moved out of state. Miss you PJ.), I'm playing in some great games and running some as well. All in all things are better than they've been in a long time.

As for the blog...Barking Alien is far from done but I am just not in the mood to blog lately.

Part of it is that I am struggling creatively with an idea that I am sort of obsessing over and it has me unsure about what to say. That is, I'm so pre-occupied with coming up with a new campaign for 2019, I don't feel I can talk about much else until I do.

I mean, I know I want to run a Space Adventure Science Fiction campaign, probably one a bit more Space Opera oriented (the genre not the FGU game), but I don't know what rules to use, what theme I want, or really anything I can put into words.

So..while I sort through the labyrinth of my own head I am going to take a short vacation from the blog. Don't worry, most of its system run independently thanks to an AI program I purchased second hand from the planet Colu. It was further modified by one Richard Daystrom, who I understand is the top man in his field. Plus, Barkley is here to monitor the whole thing 24/7 (Earth Standard). What could possibly go wrong?

I'll see you all soon.


Barking Alien

Tuesday, September 18, 2018


I'd like to discuss a character flaw of mine. It's one I've found quite beneficial over the years. 

I am often inspired to run games not because I have been exposed to some great example of the subject or genre, but a recent encounter with it that was thoroughly awful.

The Star Wars Prequels and The Last Jedi made me want to run Star Wars sooo badly. After seeing the first J. J. Abrams Star Trek film (and I use the term loosely) and Discovery (Blech!) I just knew I had to run 'Trek. 

Unfortunately, the same thing happens when I am exposed to a bad game. If someone runs a poor Sentai game, I become obsessed with running a Sentai game of my own. (No reason I picked that particular genre. Ahem. None at all). 

I can't help it. Seeing something done poorly that I feel I could do better just plants a seed in me that is warmed by the light of my burning hatred for it, watered by my tears of sorrow over what could have been, and nurtured to fruition by my undying disdain for poorly executed ideas. 

Wow. OK. Deep breaths. Sounding a little 'Mirror Adam' over here. 

The thing the case of something like a bad Star Wars movie or a lame actual play podcast, no big whoop. I get inspired, I run a good session with my friends, I get it out of my harm, no foul. No one gets hurt and my friends and I have a great time. 

On the other hand, if my buddy just ran a right rank game of Mekton and now I want to run Mekton, it's hard to avoid looking like a turd-waffle who's trying to outdo him.

The truth of the matter is...and even I know this sounds like bantha-poodoo...I am not trying to upstage the other GM. I'm not. I am trying to show the subject some love where I feel like it was recently shown a disservice.

At the very least I want to try to take a different approach, to find out if it was the other GM, the game (subject or system), or if maybe I can't do any better than they did.

Yet I am aware I am potentially making someone else feel bad by doing this and it kills me. To that end, to that truth, I often don't run my idea with the same group that ran and played the session I didn't like. I am not looking to show anyone up. Again, that is absolutely not the point. I just get frustrated when I think something that could easily be cool just isn't. 

Don't think less of me ahead and think what you want. I know it's a donkey's rear-end thing to do but not only do I try to make sure it doesn't hurt anyone's feelings, I can't help myself. I gotta be me.

That brings me to Medieval Fantasy...Nothing makes me want to run Medieval Fantasy like bad Medieval Fantasy. Actually, the only thing that makes me want to run Medieval Fantasy is bad Medieval Fantasy.

I definitely don't get jazzed by good Medieval Fantasy. As I have noted many times I am not a big fan of it. Not in the way it's usually presented anyway. I rarely want to run Dungeons and Dragons and it's nieces, nephews, third-cousins, and endless derivatives. My girlfriend has gotten me to finally watch Games of Thrones, which is very well done by the way, yet it doesn't make me want to DM a game of D&D at all.

But then...

I recently watched both Disenchantment and The Dragon Prince, two new animated series released on Netflix. 

I liked Disenchantment, though I was surprised it wasn't as funny as The Simpsons or Futurama considering its DNA. I also thought that the twist (no spoilers) was cool but wondered if those who follow Fantasy literature saw it coming more easily then I. It seemed at once clever and nothing ground-breaking. 

And speaking of nothing ground-breaking...

The Dragon Prince was tepidly excellent. Overwhelmingly OK. It sets the bar of mediocre quite high. I enjoyed it for the most part but also felt that it was a bunch of empty calories. It's own pedigree - Avatar, The Last Airbender and The Legend of Korra - well, it isn't those. 

I also ended up watching and listening to some D&D actual play podcasts, some great animated youtube shows on gaming ( do yourself a favor and check out The Animated Spellbook. Thank me later), and finally, listened to a friend complain about his recent attempt to run D&D 5E. 

This mix of the good, the bad, the ugly, and the thoroughly meh, has resist...can't...can't hold it in...Grrr! 

Crap. I want to run Fantasy. I want this non-Fantasy fan to show'em how it's done. 

It's my own fault. I know it. I did it to myself. 

Barking Alien

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Out of This World

Great Geks of the Galaxy! It's already the 15th of September!

So much for being inspired to blog more.

No, that's not right, I am inspired to blog. I've just let the time get away from me. 

While Indie Adam considers what kind of deep meaning, hippie-trippy RPG campaign will work best in the coming year, Mainstream Adam* is thinking about Space Opera Science Fiction once more.

I've been playing a lot of No Man's Sky...

I've talked about it before but for those of you who may not be familiar with it, No Man's Sky is a Space Opera Science Fiction, Action-Adventure computer and video game created by the independent studio Hello Games.

In the game you are an explorer traveling through a procedurally generated open universe of literally hundreds of millions of planets. The game can be played by different people in different ways by choosing to focus on one or more of the games key themes:


You can dedicate your time to battling space pirates, kill monstrous creatures, or destroy the robotic sentinels that appear on worlds throughout No Man's Sky's galaxies (yes, plural). Mine, craft, buy, sell, and trade to upgrade your personal and shipboard weapons, defenses, speed, etc. 

Of the four intelligent alien species in the game, the Vy'Keen are the warrior culture who most value fighting as a means of getting what they want.


You can earn Units and Nanite Clusters (two of the game universe's three currencies) by discovering new star systems, new worlds, scanning the creatures and plants that live on them as well as other elements. In addition, there are secrets to the various species and the nature of the Sentinels and the mysterious Atlas that can only be found by looking around and interacting with the artifacts and ruins you find scattered across the cosmos.

The Korvax, an intelligent species of cybernetic, or perhaps robotic lifeforms are the pioneers of Science and Discover in the game.


Nothing can be accomplished without money and resources. The game enables you to mine for minerals, plant material, and even chemicals and gases. These are used to keep you alive, powering your exosuit, multi-tool, and starship. They can also be used to build devices, bases, and vehicles to aid in the other aforementioned aspects of the game. 

The diminutive Gek, a reptilian alien species and my favorite of the four starfaring sentients are all about trade. 


The universe of No Man's Sky is dangerous. Toxic, freezing, and scorching atmospheres, deadly poison spores, quick striking pirate starfighters, and other hazards lurk across the stars. No matter how else you play you must also survive to Fight, Explore, and Trade another day.

The fourth species, the Travellers, are the ultimate survivors, or at least their memories and works will live on for eons...

No Man's Sky Next (see below) adds a fifth intelligent lifeform, The Anomaly, who appear for all intents and purposes to be Humans, but that has not been officially confirmed. Little information about them is available at this time. 

My Science Frigate, the GDV-101s Inquiring Mind
coming through an asteroid field and into orbit around
Yuki-Onna, in the Ame-No-Koyane Antares System

The game has had a few updates since its original release two years ago, with the latest a major content release known as No Man's Sky Next. I played the game when it first came out and again somewhere around the second update. Now, with Next, I have returned once again and I am loving it like never before. 

I am also getting very inspired. I want to get back to Science Fiction.

Not just any type of Science Fiction but Space Opera style SF similar to that of No Man's Sky. The adventures of brave but lonely space explorers roaming the cosmos in search of wealth, glory, and knowledge. The next planet you land on may hold a score big enough to retire on or the answer to questions about the very nature of the universe.

Now I just need a game that can handle that. Easy peasy, right?

Certainly I could do it with any number of games, with Traveller and Star Frontiers coming to mind immediately. When playing No Man's Sky I often find myself thinking about my old games of Star Frontiers. The look of things, the types of missions you take and 'quests' you get all feel very Star Frontiers to me. If Star Frontiers had better sentient species it would be No Man's Sky. 

It just so happens however that there is a game on Kickstarter right now (only a few days left to go!) called Free Spacer that seems right on the money (unless of course your advanced society no longer uses it).

What makes Free Spacer so well suited for a No Man's Sky type setting?

A big part of the No Man's Sky is the resource management and crafting aspects that work so well in computer and video games but rarely show up in American tabletop RPGs.

Free Spacer makes this a key part of the game play. There is a very interesting (and more than slightly complex) relationship between the in-game management of the PC crew, their starship, the items, materials, and information they buy, sell, and exchange, and the rule mechanics for bonuses to skills and various actions. 

I love a little resource management in my Science Fiction. It is something I found overwhelming in Traveller if you play it by the book but of course I never did that. Instead I simplified things and created a smoother, quicker, and much easier way of handling funds, resources, and the like that my players really get a kick out of. 

Other aspects of Free Spacer that sound intriguing include the options for 'world-building' the universe, which involves player and the Gamemaster collaboration, the way you can reward good Role Playing to power-up your character and the ship, and a host of other nifty ideas.

Here's a First Look at Free Spacer by Adam Koebel, co-designer of Dungeon World. Check it out but be ready to sit through some very youtube-content-poster moments. Still and all, quite informative and definitely made me want to see more of Free Spacer.

I am a little under the weather, so I am going to call it a day here on Space Station Samulayo Sigma. The Kickstarter is linked further up in the post.

Take care and safe travels,

Barking Alien

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

The Good Place

Hello everyone and welcome to September!

I'm in a Good Place.*

I hope you all had a relaxing and enjoyable Labor Day weekend (at least those of you who celebrate it here in the good ol' U.S. of A). 

I myself had a great weekend and did a lot of thinking on a lot of subjects. It was a time to reflect you might say. After completing last month's RPGaDay Challenge, I had to take a good long look at my current gaming 'state of affairs' and figure out the answer to a most perplexing question.

If I am presently running two campaigns and playing in a third that are all going well and a lot of fun, why am I feeling not quite fulfilled gaming-wise?

The short answer of course is that I am never 100% pleased with my gaming endeavors, always striving to do better, to do something more memorable, more amazing than the last game. I'm a perfectionist well aware that nothing and nobody is perfect but that doesn't stop me from holding myself up to a higher standard that I will probably never attain. 

Hmmm. That paragraph had a bit of a bummer vibe to it and that's not what I want to convey here. Rather, I want to communicate that coming to this realization has given me insight into what I need to do come 2019.

While there are a number of games I'd love to run based on subject matter, IPs I like, neat game systems that match those ideas, and so on and so forth, what I really need to do is get back to my 'Art Films'. 

My good friend Dave has said (and I have mentioned it on the blog before) that I run two types of games, 'Art Films' and 'Blockbusters'. 

Most of my campaigns are Blockbusters. They are action/adventure stories with larger than life characters, locations, and situations, easily accessible to the average pop culture fan and gamer. The genres and settings most commonly covered in Blockbuster campaigns are Superheroes, Hard Science and Space Opera Science Fiction such as Traveller Star Trek and Star Wars, and my D&D-But-Not setting.

I have been running Blockbusters for the past few years, almost exclusively, with the exception of a short campaign here and there that would qualify more as an 'Art Film'.

Art Film games are generally more esoteric in concept. They focus on character personalities, goals, and stories about philosophical or conceptual exploration. These are games that make the players think, really think, about the natural of Humanity, the universe, life and death, or whatever idea we're looking to explore. 

Alternatively, an Art Film game can tell a more traditional story but with a different approach. They are often more subtle, and sublime, subdued or surreal. Fantastic elements, be they Magical or Scientific, are often creepier and more mysterious. The PCs do not have supernormal abilities themselves, though they exist in the setting, or if they do they do not understand them and/or can not fully control them. 

These types of campaigns can be run in a wide variety of systems, some of which are designed to be more unusual, some of which can be reconfigured to serve the purpose of Art Film gaming. Examples include Changeling: The Dreaming, Golden Sky Stories, InSpectres, Steal Away Jordan, Tales From The Loop, and my own Unfinished Business (a Ghost Story game I am designing).

One of the things I've noticed is that comedic games are easy to turn into Art Film games. Art Films often require a touch of humor added here and there to alleviate some of the pressure of more serious elements.

I feel that it's time to run an Art Film again. 

I want to do something different. Something I've never run before, or not in a long time, or not quite as I have before. I want to wow people. I want to see real emotion on people's faces. I want to do research, get artwork, make maps, etc. I want...I create something incredible. 

The key to all, the bottom line you see, is that I feel I am in position to develop and run such a campaign. All I need is the right audience. 

Now...what to create...and what to do with it.

Barking Alien

*By the way, the title of this post and the image are from my new favorite television show, the hilarious and absolutely amazing series, 'The Good Place'. If you haven't seen it, do so. I can't explain to you what it's about, as that would give away part of its brilliance. I would love to run a campaign that is like this show. 

Friday, August 31, 2018

RPGaDay Challenge 2018 - After Thoughts

The RPGaDay Challenge for 2018 is over and I thought I'd share some general musings about it and the experience of doing it. 

I noted a few times this past month that the questions this year were better overall than those of recent, previous years. Why? What makes a question better or worse?

It is my opinion that the questions in a challenge such as this should be challenging to the person answering them. That challenge should come from the nature of the question, the subject matter, and how they relate to the individual's own experiences. 

They should not relate to how the question is worded. So many questions from this particular challenge have vague, ambiguous, or simply poorly placed wording. 

I should want to think about how best to answer the question. I shouldn't have to think about what the question is asking. 

How would you define your RPG play and/or GMing style? Is a good question.

It let's you decide to answer it as either a player, a GM, or both, and directs it to the individual posters particular approach to RPGs. We learn something about the person answering the question, which in turn makes the reader think about their own style.

How does your style effect play? Is a terrible question.

What does it even mean? How does my style effect my own play? Play in general, for the whole group? My style in doing what exactly? How I play? How I GM? What is the question trying to ask?

Some of the questions this year focused on how gaming influenced you, the responder, or how you were influenced by other gamers.

This is great. More like this would be awesome. They are not always the easiest questions to answer in a single, reasonably sized post, but I would have have one like this then be asked for the dozenth time...

What art/music/movies inspire your game?

Ugh. That is such a boring question as worded. It implies we all play a single game, 'your game'-singular, and it limits the possible sources of inspiration. I'd much rather see something like...

What entertainment source gives you the most gaming ideas outside of the games themselves?

Yes, it's a tad wordy, but it covers more area and allows for a wider variety of answers covering a wider range of gamers. 

At least I think so. 

There were a few times when, while answering a later question, I had to give second thoughts to what I had stated in an earlier one. The most outstanding example of this is that my gaming ambition for next year (Day 26) made me want to change my statements on my plans for my next game (Day 16). 

Of my three potential new gaming ideas, only the Wild West idea really does what I said I wanted to do for next year. In truth, I have a ton of ideas far more esoteric than those, ideas that meet my gaming ambition for 2019, but they are definitely more peculiar and therefore harder to sell to a potential group. 

The great eternal paradox of my personal gaming tastes.

Last thought...

I feel like I could have written a lot more for some of the answers. The problem is I wouldn't know where or when to stop. Take the Day 28 post for example. I could have named another dozen people and it probably wouldn't even have scratched the surface of identifying all those who've inspired and improved my gaming with their humor, skill, and wisdom at the table. 

I had to end the posts somewhere and I'm not sure I did so in the perfect places all the time. A minor regret but one I will try to remedy in next year's challenge.

Well that, as they say, is that. 

On to September...

Barking Alien

RPGaDay Challenge 2018 - Day 31

This is it, the grand finale! The big finish!

I've noticed over the years that the summer months are a period of extreme slow down for me when it comes to blogging. 

I tend to game a lot during the summer but I can't seem to muster the focus or drive to post as often as I'd like. I am not sure why. It could be that my attention is directed more toward the games I'm running and not toward talking about them. That is to say, time I could be using to write on the blog about my last session could be better used developing material for the next session. 

As August is the month wherein I celebrate my gaming anniversary (specifically August 25th), I am more motivated to post during this month. But what to post about exactly? I need an inspiration, a catalyst of some kind to shake off the habit of not posting I've grown accustomed to over the prior two or three months.

That's where the RPGaDay Challenge comes in.

It gets me to think about gaming again in a different way, a way that involves wanting to put down my thoughts and share them with others who are sharing theirs.

I give the Challenge are hard time, with snarky and sarcastic comments about the nature or wording of the questions but I do enjoy it. If I really didn't like it or think it had merit I wouldn't make jokes but rather just not bother with it at all. 

This year's questions were, generally speaking, much better than those of the past couple of years. I am glad this was the case and hope the trend continues. 

Well that's it. I guess I will see you all again next year for RPGaDay Challenge 2019!

More of Barking Alien's regular weirdness coming really soon!

Take care,

Barking Alien

Thursday, August 30, 2018

RPGaDay Challenge 2018 - Day 30

Brace yourselves...

Something I learned playing my character?

As I've noted many times before, in the 41 years I've been playing RPGs I've probably only had a dozen or so characters. I've primarily been a GM. When I say 'primarily' we're seriously talking 95% Gamemastering to 5% playing as a Player. Actually, that 5% seems a tad generous.

Sadly, although there are positive reasons as to why I started Gamemastering, my focus on it over playing stems from what I learned playing my character(s) fairly early in my years in the hobby. 

My time as a player wasn't always wonderful in the early days. 

OK, let me be sucked. Being a player in Dungeons and Dragons games run by other people taught me never to do that again. And yet I have, so perhaps I never learned anything at all. 

No, no, that's not right. Let's focus on the positive. 

I learned to be bold, take risks, and think fast. 

I learned that if you complicate your actions the GM had more material to use against you. I like to think I mastered the art of keeping things simple, concise, and straightforward.

I learned to concentrate on what I wanted the outcome to be and then I would figure out which skills, abilities, powers or whatever could be used toward accomplishing my goal. 

This is something I am always trying to convey and teach to new players. Don't look at your character sheet, scan your abilities, and see what you can do. That's foolish. It makes your brain freeze up. If you don't see any powers you can use in a given situation, most people lament 'there's nothing my character can do here.'

Frell that noise. Make the GM work to figure out how to rule on your action instead of making your action fit his or her narrow view of how things should work. 

I learned to play my character's personality and thought process even if it isn't the most 'beneficial' or 'efficient' thing to do in the moment. Unless I was playing a moron I wasn't going to purposely do something stupid but I learned it was more fun and interesting to not be so perfect all the time. 

A major pet peeve I have with a lot of modern players. Few players are willing to see their PC as anything less that a perfect, always prepared, 100% badass all the time. Rarely do I see people get surprised, feel astonished or frightened, or have PCs take in the wonder of the world around them. 

I also learned - though I knew this from the start really - to be aware of the other players, the other PCs, and the GM. I played my character but always with an unspoken acknowledgment that I was only one of the players in the game. I never created the lone-wolf guy who doesn't work with a team for example, because, ya'know, I wasn't at the table by myself. I always wanted to learn about the other PCs stories and help them solve mysteries in their backgrounds. I investigated and explored the settings because the GM had worked hard to create a setting to explore and investigate. 

I guess the most important thing I learned as a player was what my personal preferences are. I now try to make games that would be campaigns I myself would want to play in. That can backfire too of course. What I think players want to see, what I want to see, isn't necessarily what the average player desires. 

I gotta be true to me though.

Barking Alien

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

RPGaDay Challenge 2018 - Day 29

First, a Happy Birthday to my good friend Joe Cangelosi, who was mentioned in yesterday's post. 

Now, speaking of friends...

Sometimes I feel like I wouldn't have any friends if it wasn't for gaming.

Of course that's not true but I will say that I definitely met the majority of my current collection of good buddies, my girlfriend, and most of my close associates thanks to our mutual love of RPGs. 

I only know my good friend Carl because we met online in a Google Hangouts group only to later discover we lived within relatively easy face-to-face distance. Now I am friends with a fairly extensive group of people thanks to that Google group but I actually get to see Carl in person. 

One of my best buddies is Dave, one of several Daves I've mentioned on this blog in the past, but this particular Dave is a fellow I met when he dropped into the second or third session of a game I was running at my FLGS. That was over five years ago, probably more like eight, and we talk about a lot more than gaming. 

My point is, when people share a common interest, there is no guarantee that they'll end up friends. Friends are a deeper thing than just a gaming buddy. Friend require more of a commitment on the part of two individuals to make the relationship and connection work and become something you want to come back to again and again. 

Still...friendships forged through gaming seem to be pretty solid and last a long time. I vaguely remember someone describing it as similar to the connection people form when serving together during military actions. Well, I don't know if I'd go that far but I get the gist and I can't argue with it. 

In summary, I have a lot of friendships I've made because of RPGs. The best ones have continued and become stronger not because of RPGs but because of friendship. 

Barking Alien

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

RPGaDay Challenge 2018 - Day 28

I've been feeling a bit frustrated since posting my Day 26 entry on Sunday. 

It's not the post itself that is getting to me - not exactly - but rather a combination of it's subject matter and some of the responses to a recent post I made on my Barking Alien Gaming Group Facebook Page.

The nature of the latter was that I advocated starting a campaign with flawed and/or less experienced and powerful characters compared to what we (my players and I) are used to doing. My thinking was and is that the campaign will last longer if you start small and build upward and outward.

This was met with mixed reactions, though most of my fellow gamers agreed with me. Some even wrote me or call me to discuss the subject. 

One particular fellow, a member of one of my in-person groups, disagreed on the basis of the fact that our games don't always last long enough and we only play once a month.

That is to say, since we only play once a month, and we tend to play campaigns that last  about a year at most, he has a desire to start off a little more capable and powerful just in case we never get to that point.

I can understand that to some extent. If you're someone who feels that game 'gets good' at 5th or 6th level and the games you've been in only get from 1st to about 4th before the GM ends the story and feels like switching to something else, sure, I can grok the idea of starting at 3rd so you and your PC get to see what being 6th is like.


One of the reasons this particular GM (me) grows weary of campaigns is because we start out with really tough, really 'effective' characters who are difficult to challenge and almost universally act like they've been there and done that. Basically, the fact that we start so good and get really powerful after a while is the thing that makes the game end. 

If we actually started with flawed, imperfect characters who were challenged with staying alive, we'd get to know those characters better, build a fondness for them, and the campaign would actually last longer. 



Answering this question by naming a single individual would leave out so many people it's nearly impossible to choose one. 

I'm really not sure I can. I've learned so much from so many players and gamemasters over the years. I've had the luck, the pleasure, and unparalleled opportunity to game with some of the most skilled and talented people you can imagine. That's aside from them being dear friends.

I'll go with some of my earliest memories...

I am grateful to a 7 year old boy by the name of Tom Zizzo, who taught me to play Basic Dungeons & Dragons 41 years ago,

I am grateful to Dave Pollack, who a year later made me the Dungeonmaster for himself and our mutual friends. I am further grateful to Dave for being a good friend for many years, a damn fine player, and someone willing to play a truly Lawful Good character and do it right.

I am grateful to one Martin Lederman, a close friend growing up and one of the funniest guys I've ever known. I thank him for playing a character that was three dimensional, flawed yet powerful, and for going halfsies with me on Villains and Vigilantes.

How can I forget Joseph 'The Animal' Cangelosi. I can't. We've been friends since 2nd. We've re-kindled our friendship and it's awesome. I thank him for showing as much enthusiasm for my purchase of FASA Star Trek as I did, beginning my over 35 year obsession with running games in that universe.

There are so many more people I could mention. Dozens. A hundred? Maybe.

In the past I have done 'Player Profiles' posts focusing on friends I've gamed with who I've felt deserve special recognition. I've really only done three of them as of this writing. I am inspired by this question to make doing more of those a priority. 

How about you? Are there any gaming gurus or playing pals special to you?

Barking Alien