Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Opening Up A Jar of Pickles

This past Sunday, one of my gaming groups came over to play an RPG. In addition to the regular three players - Dave, Jeff, and Marcus - my girlfriend joined for what was only her second gaming session ever.*

What did we play?

As I noted in an earlier post, I'd decided I wanted to run a campaign set in the universe of the Seth MacFarlane TV series, 'The Orville', using the rules for Star Trek Adventures by Modiphius Games. I've talked about my love of this show, and my idea of gaming in its milieu before...

Slippin', Slippin', Slippin' Into The Future

We Need No Longer Fear The Banana
Hugging The Donkey

Now that I've actually run a session of it, I am rethinking my decision, but for some very specific and quite enlightening reasons. 

First and foremost, the game went well. The players made fun and interesting characters, they role played them excellently, and the system worked just fine for the most part. If someone else were curious about running an Orville game using Star Trek Adventures, I'd say go for it! The subject and mechanics fit very well together. I mean they should; it's not difficult adapting a game from one setting to another very much little it. 

In the end however, I noticed something about the players, how they interacted with the game, and vice versa. It was an eye-opener, and it is definitely going to inform what we do next. 

One of the issues we had that made the game less than perfect was that I was quite distracted by caring for my furry friend. As a result of my concern for her condition at the time, I a tad disorganized. The session ran a bit more like a Session Zero, wherein the players get used to the system and their PCs, but it's not the real first adventure of ones campaign. 

Another was that the players took things very seriously, Star Trek seriously, and as such, The Orville didn't feel any different than running Trek. Furthermore...

This group enjoys, and is really good at, the major elements that make up the kinds of games I like to run.

They buy into the genre and setting.
They are good at getting into character.
They are interested in the world around them. 
They are excellent problem solvers. 
They work well together.

This means they have teamwork, and that means I can up the challenge. 

Analyzing these factors, I came to the realization that these players are too good for this game. 

Now what I mean by that is that although an Orville campaign could be super fun, it would kind of be a waste of talent. I could run a more serious, more detailed game with a somewhat more 'you live in this universe' feel with players like these. Sure, I could go for a light-hearted Space Adventure romp, but given how limited time and scheduling is, why not go for the gold? Why not run the best possible game I can run, with challenges, opponents, and plots that my other groups aren't quite adept at? 

For the first time in many years I think I can run a deep, dangerous game. While I love the Orville, and I suppose I could make it deep and dangerous, I think my players and I would be better served with something with a little more meat.

The Orville Adventures are therefore on hold, placed on my shelf of interesting projects I will get back to at some later date. 

My focus now is a revisiting of my Dungeons & Dragons-But-Not setting of Aerth, and an idea for a Traveller campaign.

This is going to be a thing. A new, fun thing.

Barking Alien

*My girlfriend played a Star Trek game I ran about 4, or 5 years back. She was in the first session only I believe, or maybe the first two, before scheduling became difficult. That first game was the first time we met. 

It wouldn't be until this past October of 2017 that we would see each other in person again, though we would talk on Facebook now and then. I'm so happy we reconnected.

My girlfriend spent the weekend with me, and after a fantastic Sunday, stayed over to Monday for what was perhaps the worst day, if not one of the worst days, of my entire life. My dog Delilah passed away while I was coming back from my first client. My girlfriend was alone in the apartment with her, and called me to return. I ran home, but it was too late.

Without my very special and absolutely amazing girl I would not have been able to function. She kept me focused and gave me unparalleled support. I am so very honored that someone so wonderful is sharing their life with me.

Later days my friends...

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Good Night Sweet Princess

Yesterday morning, around 8:30 or 9:00 am on the 22nd of January, 2018, my dog of 10 years and 4 months of age, passed away after a two week battle with a digestive illness. 

Delilah was more than my dog. She was my child, my best friend, and the singularly brightest light in my life. I am profoundly heartbroken beyond my ability to convey in words. 

Her energy has left her physical shell and gone back to the universe from which it came. She, like all of us, was made of stars and it is to stars she returns.

I love you Delilah and always will. 

-Adam Dickstein

Barking Alien

Monday, January 15, 2018

Insufficient Funds

In celebration of the birthday of America's greatest civil rights leader, I'd like to present one of my favorite parts of the 'I Have A Dream' speech:

"In a sense we have come to our nation’s capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked “insufficient funds.” But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. So we have come to cash this check — a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice."

-Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., August 28th, 1963

Peace, Love, and Equality,

Barking Alien

Sunday, January 14, 2018

I Ship It

"We're going to need to repair the fuel tubes on that Nova 3-Z. No, no, the one in Bay 5. She took a heck of a beating back in...Oh Hello! Sorry, I didn't see you there. Happy Western Civilizations of Earth Solar Cycle to you!

Yes it's me, your ol' pal Barkley. Hmm? What am I up to? So glad you asked.

One of the interesting features of the Barking Alien Blog is our Space/Time Interphase Capacity Ket-Yield, or 'S.T.I.C.K.Y.' Hangar Bay, and Orbital Dock facilities. These unusual launching, landing, storage, and maintenance yards allow Adam to store every starship he has ever used in a Role Playing Game campaign.

No it's true!

Why everything from the very first faster-than-light vessel he ever used as a character to the Leviathan Class Heavy Cruiser from his upcoming The Orville game is docked here in S.T.I.C.K.Y. fleet yard facilities. 

Periodically throughout the year, Adam will be featuring one of these beauties on the blog in one of his irregularly regular features. This new one, entitled STARSHIP SUNDAYS, will give you information on the many galaxy-spanning space vehicles Adam and his players have featured over the last 40+ years.

Well, I'd love to chat with you some more but these ships don't stay in tip-top working order all by themselves. As it happens I'm covering for the lead Dockmaster Droid who's currently on leave. His wife had twins! Isn't that wonderful! No, I don't understand how it's possible either.

Hope to you see you again soon!

Barking Alien

Additional Notes:

In this series I will showcase the interstellar (or even interplanetary) space vessels that have appeared in RPG games I've run or played in.

Just to be clear, a lot of these were ships used by the PC party in a campaign I ran and are therefore not original designs. Some are, but a lot of them are ships from the respective universes the campaigns were set in. For example, the PCs in a Star Trek game might have used a Miranda Class or a Nebula Class, vessels I certainly didn't come up with.

At the same time, I won't be covering the ship classes overall but the specific ship we used and what made it unique and special. 

I will also be discussing craft that my own PCs commanded. A lot of my Sci-Fi PCs have had ships, from one-man starfighters, to freighters, to the big capital ships. When I play SF games my desires are pretty simple; I want to be an alien and I want to own, or at the very least serve on a starship. Everything else is just icing on the cake. 

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Cowboys and Aliens

Happy New Year!

Welcome to the first Barking Alien post of 2018! 

I apologize for taking so long to get started this year. I've been incredibly busy of late. All good I assure you.

I am now technically in my 41st year in the Role Playing Game hobby.

Wow. Can you imagine?

So what am I going to be working on this year? What's my current 'State of Gaming'? What is my next big game project (or projects)?

I know you're all waiting, gripping the edges of your respective seats in anticipation. Well, some of you are. That guy is. You know who I'm talking about. Yeah you. This one's for that guy.

Where are we now?

At the moment, I am playing in two games, and running one. The other game I was running has ended, at least temporarily. 

On Wednesday nights, I am involved in a Kapow! Superhero campaign that has been going strong for about three years now. I've been getting a little frustrated with it lately due to no fault of the GM, or the other players. The group is the thing I enjoy most about the game. It's me. I'm a little bored with the Superhero genre right now. Even I find that a strange statement coming from me, so I can only imagine what you're thinking dear reader. I attribute it to too many Supers games in 2017. 

The second game I'm playing in, which has been hiatus for some time now, is an in-person Hogwarts/Wizard World of Harry Potter game run using a homebrewed variant of Apocalypse World. The game is has traditionally been run on alternating Friday nights, except when the GM is unavailable (such as this past holiday season, and into the new year), or when more than two of the players can't show (as there are only four players in the group).

I like this game a lot, although the tone of the last several sessions shifted too dramatically for my personal tastes. Our PCs are in their third year, but the situations and antagonists felt like they were more appropriate to Book 5 (The Order of the Phoenix). This wouldn't be a big deal except Book 3 (The Prisoner of Azkaban) was my favorite book, and Book 5 my least favorite. We all had fun, but I felt a little shorted, or cheated thematically. Still, I am very much looking forward to this games return in the coming weeks.

On the alternating Fridays I mentioned above, I am running Star Trek: Prosperity, a Star Trek Adventures campaign set in the late, Original Series era. Our campaign begins a before the U.S.S. Enterprise under Captain James T. Kirk has completed its 5 year mission, and is now approximately a year, and half in to its own 3 year mission. Our campaign has a number of influences from The Animated Series, as well as various Star Trek comic books.

I was running a Superhero game with a homebrew system that was based on the Japanese Anime/Manga series, My Hero Academia entitled My Hero Academia: American Ultra. I completed the campaign's 'first season', which went well, but I began to feel that aforementioned weariness with Supers that I mentioned. I felt it necessary to end the game while I was just jazzed about it. It could certainly be optioned for a second season at some later date. . 

Kapow! continues, as does Hogwarts, and Star Trek: Prosperity, but a new year means new games, and I have several concepts I want to explore. The question therefore is...

Where are we going?

The two ideas that are foremost in my mind right now are:

The Orville

A traditional Science Fiction/Space Exploration campaign set in the universe of the Seth Macfarlane's TV series of the same name.

In addition to really liking the show, I love that idea that the players will have the kind of familiarity they would have with a Star Trek game, but without having to worry about all the continuity, and elements they don't know. There have only been 12 episodes. We've all seen the same 12. Not hard to keep things straight. 

I also like that although the show is not really the comedy that everyone expected, there are more relaxed and light hearted moments than you might be on other Sci-Fi shows. This milieu is one of serious Science Fiction, but it doesn't take itself too seriously. 

As noted in some earlier posts on the subject, I am adapting Star Trek Adventures for this. Expect to see a lot of The Orville Adventures in posts throughout the year, but especially within the next couple of weeks.

Travellin' West

A working title, with another possibility being Western, or Westward, Traveller. Essentially, a Wild West RPG campaign using a variant of classic Traveller. 

Now, when I say a variant, I am talking about the kitbashed, house-ruled version of classic Traveller I've been running for many years now. Basically it's classic with some updated rules from MegaTraveller, and an optional 'Death During Character Creation' system that can result in some very neat background material, plot hooks, and even special abilities, and items on occasion. 

I've been toying with the idea of returning to the rather unusual approach to running a Western I took when I was very young, and still a relative newbie with RPGs. You can find references to both the original game, and my desire to revisit it here, and here

While considering and turning down a number of options for a new campaign for this year, the Western idea kind of crept up on me out of nowhere, but stuck in my head even as others came, and went. While trying to find a system, it occurred to me how relatively simple, and effective it would be to adapt Traveller. It has an ideal balance between simplicity, and mechanical crunch, features a combat system where a pistol can kill an unarmored man, and PCs don't get more hit points as they improve in other way. A bandit's bullet can take you down in session fifty, as easily as it can in session 1.

There are other elements I think also translate over well, including the Character Creation, with Career rolls, and the building of the PCs history as they're being generated. 

I am pretty excited about this endeavor. I will keep you all posted regarding my progress. I hope to get it down, and working, and not drop the project as I did Star Wars Traveller.*

Alrighty now...we've got the ball rolling!

Let's see where it bounces...

Barking Alien

*Star Wars Traveller is on the back burner, and has been for some time. With my feeling less than impressed with the latest film, and far too many other ideas going through my head, Star Wars Traveller is not my concern at this time. I may get back to it at some later date, but right now that later date seems to be much, much later.