Thursday, May 31, 2018


Hey everyone!

It's been a very hectic month for me and as such a very light one as far as posting goes.

I did want to finish off May with a little update on Champions: REVIVAL.

We've run two sessions so far and we definitely have a hit on our hands.

Before I do session write-ups (likely in the next week or so), I figured I would give you all the established conceits of the setting and the Player Characters involved:

Six months ago prior to the first session of our campaign (i.e. Issue #1):

An alien being calling himself The Examiner arrived on Earth with numerous, space-faring, mountain sized machines which scattered themselves around the globe, floating a couple of miles above the surface.

He performed what he called 'The Final Analysis' and deemed 'The Grand Experiment' a failure (whatever that means). The result was that he was going to use his machines to destroy the Earth. The superheroes of the world, organized by Project: UNITY, went to stop him and his android minions. Three major supervillains also tried to help - Holocaust, Kineto, and Paradigm Shift.

Holocaust and Paradigm Shift had their own agendas and ended up attacking each other. Wounded, they escaped and disappeared. 😢

In the end, Kineto sacrificed himself to destroy the Examiner and his devices after the other heroes had disabled Examiner's defenses.

Three weeks after the Final Analysis Event, Omni, arguably the world's most popular and powerful hero (top three at least 😉) resigned from UNITY to take care of matters of a personal nature. He disappeared after that and has not been seen since.

Kineto (left) and Omni (Right)*

The Greatest Villain and The Greatest Hero
Both gone from the world.

This is all the PCs know at the start of the game. I told them that if they have contacts in the Supers Community, Government, or Law Enforcement they might know more. Likewise, if any of them have Knowledge or other appropriate skills they might be able to learn additional information. So far they've been too focused on what they're up against to investigate the backstory further.

The heroes are:

Hypnagogia (played by Esmeralda V.)

Hypnagogia is defined as the transitional state between being awake and being asleep. 

We all agreed that Esmeralda came up with the perfect codename for this most mysterious of superheroines. With the psionic power to manipulate light and the way the mind perceives it, Hypnagogia is a mistress of illusion, with her 'psychic holograms' visible to cameras and digital film as well the Human eye. 

She possesses a number of other powers as well, including a powerful blinding flash, the ability to read and manipulate minds of semi-conscious individuals, and turning herself invisible. In actuality, she is permanently invisible due to a subconscious panic attack she had when her powers first manifested. She must concentrate to become visible, and often uses her illusion power to 'show herself' (meaning none of the other PCs or NPCs know what she really looks like as of yet).

She is a detective, battling mostly street level villains and gangs before joining up with the rest of the group. Now involved in the dark doings of true supervillains, Hynagogia is trying hard to expand her understanding and use of her abilities to better combat her opponents. 

Who this young woman really is and how her powers first came to her is unknown at this time. She may not even know those answers herself.

Matrix (played by Jeff)

An orphan whose parents were involved in some government project that got them killed, the boy who would grow up to be Matrix lived on the streets of New York City using his higher than normal intelligence and mechanical aptitude to get by. He often fixed devices for people or would repair discarded items and sell them to get food and other necessities. 

Eventually, the kid was approached by some gang members who had gotten a hold of a high-tech weapon and were willing to pay him to fix it. He did, and before long he was known as the go-to guy for super-science repairs and modifications on the fly. This went on for some years and he eventually did work for some big name super-crooks.

Unfortunately for him, Matrix was eventually caught and sent to jail. His high intelligence enabled him to survive and even help some fellow inmates to navigate the often dangerous prison system. One particular fellow became a close friend and when that fellow was paroled they stayed in touch. 

One day a man arrived and met with Matrix to offer him a special deal - join a top secret government research project to expand Matrix's intellect to it's full potential and Matrix would receive a complete pardon. Matrix agreed. Things did not go as expected however. The fellow was an agent for a black ops organization that experimented on Matrix and a number of other young people. Eventually the experiments on Matrix unlocked a latent Intrinsic Field Power that caused a massive explosion at the hidden facility where he was being held. He escaped in the confusion, learning all the other subjects had already been killed by the experiments days before.

Now on the outside with a superpower could barely manifest again, let alone control, Matrix decided to turn his life around. He built equipment to help him harness and utilize his Intrinsic Field powers, and created the costumed hero identity of The Matrix to make up for the wrong doings of his youth. 

Matrix generates a field of energy that can only be fully utilized while wearing various devices of his own invention - gauntlets, boots, a helmet, a partial battle suits, etc. With the gear he can shoot blasts of different types, fly, use a variety of super-senses, etc. Without his equipment, he can only manifest a small portion of his power and it is extremely difficult for him to control the results. 

Pantheon (played by Dave C.)

A college professor specializing in Ancient History, Mythology, and Folklore, Pantheon discovered he possessed the rare gift [in this setting] of being able to utilize magic. On one of his many travels abroad, he learned that through long forgotten rituals he could communicate with the deities of old and channel aspects of them through himself to become their avatar.

The deities of this particular Superhero universe have yet to manifest in physical form on the mortal plane. While God and Goddess powered heroes and villains exist, there are absolutely no such mythological entities working the Earth. To put it another was, you might run into a Captain Marvel/SHAZAM type character or Wonder Woman, but there is no Thor or Loki.

The reason for this is currently a mystery, one Pantheon is curious to learn the answer to. In the meantime he uses his ability to summon divine aspects to fight evil magical entites, demons, and the Earth minions of evil gods. 

At present we know he can become the avatar of Isis, the Egyptian Goddess of Magic (various Spells and Mystic Abilities), Maui, Hawaiian Demi-God (Shapeshifting, Super Strength, and a Magic Fishing Hook) and at least two others. 

Pantheon has made a number of enemies during his short career, including the marauding mage who calls himself The Thaumaturge and his own former assistant who possesses the same gifts but tend to deal with darker gods. 

Too Fast (played by Marcus)

Not too much is known about this character's background either but he is definitely the perfect merger of classic and modern hero. While he is here to give his 110% to fighting evil criminals and saving lives, he also wants to make sure you caught that take down of the villains on your iPhone so he can upload it to his youtube channel. 

He is a little like Impulse/Kid Flash crossed with Booster Gold. 

His powers are particularly interesting. A Super Speedster for sure, Too Fast can also manipulate speed, adding it to or taking it away from objects and people. He often serves as a team support member by increasing the velocity of Warfare's running tackle or subtracting it from baddies as they try to escape. 

Too Fast's grandfather is a retired PRIMUS Agent (PRIMUS being a SHIELD-like organization that tends to look down on Supers in this setting). While relationship between PRIMUS and the Supers of the USA has improved here and there, it isn't all hunky dory. Grandpa is a source of info and helps the team navigate some of the red tape of dealing with PRIMUS, but he is also an older man out of his prime. It's like having Nick Fury and Aunt May combined!

Warfare (played by Eric)

By far the strangest character is Warfare, a four armed, alien warrior from a distant star who has come to our world to battle 'the greatest challengers and challenges the galaxy has ever known!'

Before coming to Earth, Warfare was a warrior/guardian on a planet that experienced centuries of global conflict. Sworn to defend his people from aliens, mad warlords, and anything else, Warfare was left without purpose when the wars finally came to an end. A new, world-wide government was established and peace and prosperity reigned supreme. Sadly, there is no place in a Utopia for one such as Warfare and so he left the planet for another world in need of his talents. 

As Earth was noted as a place constantly in danger of being taken over, destroyed, or otherwise subject to danger and villainy, Warfare headed there and has now joined with others to protect the people of his adoptive world. 

Warfare is seven feet tall, lightly scaled, pale green [with a darker, more scaly back], and possesses four arms. He strongly resembles Goro from Mortal Combat, though leaner and lizard-ish. 

In addition to great strength, armored skin, and martial prowess, Warfare wears the ancient Gauntlets of Chaos (really bracers). When Warefare takes enough damage he can utilize the damage to increase his physical abilities or duplicate himself, summoning a temporary clone. Unfortunately, absorbing a lot of damage can set off his Disadvantage of Berserker Rage. The Gems in the Gauntlets of Chaos want to promote rage, battle, and mayhem!

OK, that's the basics and all for now.

A lot on my mind. Hopefully I will have a little more time this coming month to explore some of it.

Barking Alien

*Illustration of Omni based on a Superman illustration by Eric 'Doc' Shaner.

Monday, May 28, 2018


This past Saturday, the 26th of May, I attended a baby shower for my friend Joseph Cangelosi and his lovely wife Evelin. 

A heartwarming event to be sure but, you may be wondering, 'Why post such a thing to this blog?'

Joseph Cangelosi, mentioned in posts on this blog here and there over the years, is my oldest friend. We met when we were both 7 years of age, in 2nd Grade. Over the course of our elementary and middle school years we became the closest of best friends, sleeping over each others houses all the time, attending the others family get togethers and holidays, and basically being brothers in all but blood. 

As my mother would often say when she introduced us, "This is my son Adam, my daughter Karen, and my other son Joe. Only Joe's not related."

We've know each other now for over 40 years. There have been long stretches where we didn't talk. I hadn't physically seen him in the flesh in over 15 years prior to the baby shower, though we speak on Facebook regularly. I hadn't seen his mom and dad in over 35 years. His older brother I could even say, but likely around the same length of time. His older sister 25-30 years, as she used to work at a Barnes and Noble I frequented in my high school and college years. As far as his younger sister, well it was thanks to her finding me and contacting me via Facebook some years ago that enabled us to reconnect. 

Seeing him this past Saturday, seeing them all, was an experience so amazing, so deep-down-in-my-soul good that I can not do it justice in words. Let's just say I don't say soul often, and I just did because I have no other way of describing it. 

I am so happy to have had the opportunity to be with Joe, his wife, and their families for this special event that I am beside myself. My girlfriend came with me and she said you could see the emotion on my face and in my body language. She also said that it was mirrored by Joe. He was as ecstatic to have me there as I was to be there.

We talked about the old days, the crazy antics of two geeky kids growing up poor in the pre-internet Brooklyn of the late 1970s and early 80s. We caught up on family, friends, who had kids, who got married, etc. Joe, his older brother Rob, and I talked about the new Star Wars, the Marvel movies, and all kinds of related subjects. It was an absolute blast. 

I will finish this post with the warmest and most sincere Congratulations to my dear friend, his wife, and the entire Cangelosi clan! I can't wait to meet the newest addition when he arrives!

Peace, Love, Joy, and Harmony to Everyone and May The Force Be With You.

Oh, did I mention the baby shower was Star Wars themed? Yeah. It was a Star Wars-themed Baby Shower.

Barking Alien

Monday, May 21, 2018


I was able to run the second session of my group's new Champions campaign, Champions: REVIVAL, this past Sunday, the 20th of May.

I was excited. Really, really excited.  The feeling of potential this one has is hard to describe. It's off the charts.

It's like I've discovered a door in a house I've lived in for many years that I've never seen before. Upon opening this door, I see an entirely new floor, with dozens and dozens of rooms that seem familiar though I've clearly never visited them. I can not wait to investigate further!

Since the world I'm using is one I previously played in and used with prior campaigns, much of the material is well known to at least three of the players. They love the setting and are looking forward to 'seeing' familiar faces, locations, and discovering in what direction their favorite plot lines have gone.

At the same time, the campaign needs new material as well. This is a world they once knew, now about four years on. It has to have changed, grown, and suffered loss along the way. It should be easily recognizable and yet totally surprising at the same time.

For the other two players who are coming in cold, how do I introduce over 10 1/2 years of backstory without losing their interest during the telling? They'll be right there for the new but will they be overly confused by the old?

Going through the campaign development process for this bad boy is therefore less about Campaign Construction as it is Campaign ReConstruction. 

I had to take everything I knew about the campaign up to the last point in which I was a participant and say to myself, 'That's not the end of the story. That's the beginning of it'.

This was followed by contacting several of the players and getting their accounts of the game post-me. I did some research into the canon of Champions as per the official products, the canon I could recall or get an account of from the old players, and then cross reference my own personal notes from previous games I'd run in this setting.

Finally I mapped out the logical (to me) progression of various character journeys, plots, and subplots, as well as throwing in a few surprises. 

Next, and perhaps most importantly, I took at look the Player Characters my group and created and got a handle on their various backstories and particulars. Using these write-ups as a base, I envisioned how the PCs would interact with the world I'd built, and vice versa. Modifications were made to the setting - nothing huge, a nip here, a tuck there - and I was able to organize what I believed to be a working replica of the game universe as it would be some six months after the final session of the original campaign.

Luckily, another element I remembered to include was room. I left room for new heroes, new villains, unexpected turns of events, and additional player input. 

The results have been awesome so far.

They say you can't go home again. Maybe that's true, but you can recreate your old house and start a new life there from that point forward. 

More as it develops.

Barking Alien

Friday, May 11, 2018


I originally planned to post this entry on May 4th, for reasons that will be obvious in just a moment. Life got in the way and here we are. Where is that? Well, at least while you read this, it's a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away...

After the disappointing outing that was The Last Jedi, I wouldn't fault anyone their skepticism about the future of the franchise. It's enough to curb your enthusiasm something awful. At the same time, the finale of the animated series Star Wars: Rebels was absolutely excellent.

For me, it's hard to resist getting excited about anything Star Wars. I can't help it. I love that universe. Done well it's so much fun, and it's easy to do well. I'm actually amazed when the powers that be don't get it right. When they do...well when they do it's magic.

I already have my tickets for Solo: A Star Wars Story (for my girlfriend and I - Opening weekend, though not opening day). I am pretty excited.

The film has a lot going against. It's production has been wrought with directorial changes, acting challenges and issues, and it's lead actor has some very big boots to fill. All in all, things don't seem too promising. So why am I so jazzed?

Well first, I've watched the trailers and the films looks great! Funny dialogue, amazing visuals, and just the kind of story you'd expect from a movie that focuses on everyone's favorite space pirate and smuggler. 

Second, Chewbacca! It shouldn't come as any surprise to my readers that I am a BIG Chewie fan. I do it all for the Wookiee, you feel me? Having another film where Chewie gets to do his thing - his thing being, ya'know, being Chewie - is pretty awesome in my book. 

Lastly, I've noticed a number of references and homages to the Han Solo and Lando Calrissian novels of the late 70s and early 80s. It might just be me, but the Millennium Falcon's droid pilot reminds me of Blue Max and Lando's strange pilot robot from the books. In addition, one of the characters not shown on the poster above (aside from said Pilot Droid) is an alien named Rio Durrant, who greatly resembles a Ph'Pheahian, a species first introduced in the novel Han Solo's Revenge.

Left, Rio Durant, an Ardennian Pilot and Gunner from Solo: A Star Wars Story
Right, an illustration of a Ph'Pheahian from Han Solo's Revenge.

Separated at birth?

To me, this just looks like a fun movie. That's all I hope it is and all I need it to be. 

We shall see...

I'm even more excited for...

The Star Wars powers that be have announced another animated series! Following the excellent Star Wars: Rebels - which in turn followed the amazing Star Wars: The Clone Wars - the Disney Channel will be producing a brand new show set just prior to the events of The Force Awakens. 

The story focuses on a young Resistance pilot named Kazuda Xiono who, along with her fighter squadron, undertakes a secret mission to scout out the growing threat of the First Order. Much like its predecessor Rebels, Resistance will primarily feature new characters, but well known characters from the new sequels will make guest/cameo appearances. 

There are several things I love about this premise. 

I think there is a lot of untapped potential in the Sequel Trilogy setting. I foresee this series doing for the Sequels what Clone Wars did for the Prequels.Just as Clone Wars fleshed out the characters and situations of those terrible films. This new series will likely turn the First Order, Snoke, Captain Phasma, and the Resistance into actual, full formed concepts (unlike the films, which had a vague set up and very little follow through so far).

I also think making the main characters fighter pilots is brilliant! Starfighter pilots and dogfights in space is so specifically a Star Wars thing I'm amazed its taken so long to devote an onscreen story to such a group. I can hardly wait to see their fighters in more detail (assuming the fighter in the logo is the basic design concept).

In conclusion, the Force is still very strong in the entertainment world and our fandom. I may be labelled a die hard optimist, but I'm got a good feeling about this.

Green Leader, standing by.

Barking Alien

Friday, May 4, 2018


With the exception of a single, personally significant post, I decided to take the month of April off from blogging. 

It hadn't been planned ahead of time and I'm not sure at what point during the month I made that formal decision, but I am very glad I did. Things were especially busy and hectic and I really didn't know what, if anything, I wanted to say regarding the hobby. 

It's a new month and I've had experiences that I want to discuss. I took a break and now I'm born anew, ready to talk about my new campaign, TV shows, movies, and my ideas for the future.

Praise the dice and Hallelujah!

The Gospel According to Champions

We have returned once again to the universe of my old friend William Corpening, whose epic 10+ year Champions campaign was as deep and layered with mythology and pathos as anything Marvel or DC Comics has created. 

In the past, when I have adapted Will's Champions Earth-Wilco Charlie-1 to my own games, I designated it Champions Earth-Alpha Delta-1, a variant timeline/parallel world in which the story continued after I left the original campaign along a different path. 

Since my last major event in the game was an alien invasion (The Invasion: Earth War crossover to be exact), I usually start my campaigns six months after that occurrence. It should be noted however that while that was the last time I was in the game, the original campaign continued for another two and a half years. 

My newest campaign is set in yet another universe, Champions Earth-Alpha Delta-A, with the idea of being a direct sequel to the original. Our story begins not six months after my last time playing Will's game, but rather six months after Will's game actually ended. The status quo is quite different. The major NPCs are different, with some heroes and villains gone, some returning, and many new ones entering the arena. 

It is a world many of the players find familiar and yet this take on it is almost equally surprising and fresh. Win-Win!

Preaching to the Choir

One thing that has been reinforced to me time and time ago over the past few years is that you need to have the right people for the right game and vice versa. Sometimes matching the group up with a game such that we're all on the same page feels like a monumental task. Other times, it just works. The parts all fit together with hardly any effort. 

Champions is that game for this group.

After such false starts and failed attempts, we have returned to the game that four out of six of us love. The remaining two are new to the setting and the system, having never partaken in them before.

My girlfriend is just learning to play RPGs in general, but she is clever, creative, and gets the general idea of Superheroes. She is a self-proclaimed problem solver, so she gets jazzed by the idea that figuring out a crime or defeating a villain is simply an obstacle to be overcome. 

Our other new addition also gets Superheroes and is well versed in Anime, Movies, and things that can easily be tied in. He represents an area of the game universe that hasn't been explored very much, but it's out there just waiting to be investigated. 

Basically, this is a group that understands the genre and is primed to be immersed in a campaign that embraces it. Those who know the setting really enjoy it. Those that don't are curious to find out about it. 

Since I tend to focus my games on the Player Characters, the universe they live in, and how they interact and relate to it and one other, I'm over the moon to have players with solid character ideas that link into key aspects of the setting. 

All in all this is looking very promising largely because of the people involved. 

Amazing Grace

To this very day I'm stunned that I love this crunchy, math-heavy system as much as I do, but Champions (specifically Hero System 4th Edition) is by far my favorite Superhero RPG. 

I've been playing (as a player) a rule-light Supers game over Google Hangouts for a few years now and while I have been enjoying it, the system is starting to get to me. It feels flat. The characters are not mechanically different from each other as powers have little variation in how they apply to the situations in the game. Skills are an after thought. There really isn't a feeling that one particular attack is better than any other in a given moment except you might have higher dice. My 10 Power is better than your 8 Power for example, but what power it actually is seems inconsequential. 

Champions not only gives you options, it gives you variety. It allows you to play the character you want to play the way you want to play it. It lets me, the GM, dial up or down the detail, the difficulty, and the scope based on my preferences and the story I want to tell. 

Every ability, every power, every situation or condition is able to be translated into the games mechanics. In it's crunch and rules-heaviness there is a certain elegance, a beauty in its complexity. . 

I love that it works, that it works well, and that my players get it. 

As the month goes on I will include more details regarding this campaign including information on the Player Characters, the plots and subplots, and anything else that seems interesting enough to share. If anyone out there has any questions about the campaign, please feel free to ask.

Can I get an Amen?

Barking Alien