Friday, June 29, 2018

Obsessive Compulsive

Sometimes...I obsess.

Who does? You Adam? Nah.

It's true. As anyone who's perused my blog or knows me can tell you, there are ideas I hook onto that I just can't let go of until I thoroughly explore them.

To that end, I haven't been able to post lately because I have too much to say.

Doesn't make sense does it? Hear me out...

I saw a movie recently and ever since I haven't been able to get the idea of running a game in that universe out of my mind. 

I am deeply pleased with our new Champions campaign, Champions: REVIVAL. We've had three sessions so far and the game is straight up slamming! I keep opening up blogger with the intention of talking about it...and then I think of my new idea.

I wanted to do a follow up post about the Star Wars one-shot I ran that might just turn into a campaign. I have one half written but...I keep thinking of my new idea.

It's an idea that will probably never see the light of day. It's something that nobody else I game with likes as much as I do as far as I know. 

Doesn't matter. Can't stop thinking about it. 

Expect more posts in July then you've seen from me in recent months, but expect them to be about my new idea. It's the only way I'm going to get it out of my system.

Stay tuned...

Barking Alien

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Parallel Development

My friend and fellow blogger, the rather brilliant and rather British Tim Knight, has been working on a new campaign somewhat similar to my own.

While I revisit the universe of my ol' friend William Corpening's Champions campaign, 'The Age of Champions', Tim is revisiting his old Villains & Vigilantes campaign for use in a new campaign of his own. Hmm. Champions and V&V. I smell a DC/Marvel style Crossover in the making! Filing that in my mental archives for later consideration.

A recent post on his blog HeroPress describes the various incarnations over the years of his original character, The Acrobatic Flea. Tim frames each version of the Flea from the many and varied campaigns of yore (across multiple game systems) as being the Fleas of Parallel Earths. 

Parallel Earths are a classic comic book trope dating back to 1961 and DC Comics' 'The Flash of Two Worlds' in Flash #123.The concept is a favorite of mine as I've noted in several posts over the years.

This got me to thinking about the Parallel Earths we've visited, been visited by, and learned about in the assorted 'chapters' of the Age of Champions campaign, including those run by yours truly. Will had a very interesting way of cataloging and tracking each alternate universe and as such, I actually remember quite a number of them. 

It helped quite a bit that a former Player Character turned reoccurring NPC, Professor Christopher Crichton, aka The Legionnaire, was our world's foremost authority on Alternate Universes and Parallel Dimensions. His superpower was the ability to switch himself with any one of an infinite number of alternate selves throughout the multiverse. 

Professor Christopher Charles Crichton
aka The Legionnaire

Scientist, UNTIL Agent, Superhero

Crichton made plots and subplots involving Parallel Earth viable in a fashion similar to the way Cisco Ramon does on the Flash TV series. 

Here then, without further adieu, is...

The Barking Alien Guide to the Age of Champions Multiverse!

I've mentioned it in past posts but I will repeat it for clarity: Will has a very specific convention for naming and numbering the worlds of the multiverse. Each dimension is noted for it's primary team of superheroic protectors, the world that serves as the Trans-Multiversal Nexus Point (usually Earth), one or more code names (based on who GMed, created, or published that world), and finally a letter, number, or both. 

World's with similar designations are likely similar to each other. As the elements of the designation change and move further away from one another, the more differences the worlds will exhibit. 

So, as an example, the universe in which most baseline Marvel Comics titles exist would be:

Avengers (Prime Team) Earth (Nexus Point) - Mu (Marvel) -1 (the main one). Avengers Earth - Mu-1 would be the world you would be viewing if you grabbed the latest issue of Spiderman off the shelves at your local comic shop. Alternatively, since Marvel itself refers to it's own Earth as '616' you could go with Avengers Earth - Mu-616

Will's original, 10+ year long Age of Champions campaign took place on Champions Earth - Wilcox Charlie-1. The particulars of that world include:

  • Aliens face prejudice like Mutants do in Marvel Comics
  • History, especially 20th Century history, is slightly different than it is on Earth-Prime*
  • Magic and the ability to use it is a very rare and powerful force. 
  • The Prime Team, The Champions, don't exist throughout much of the campaign
  • Superbeings are less common on Earth than they are in Marvel and DC.  
  • Technology is slightly more advanced than it is in on Earth-Prime*
  • The United Nations has more authority and influence here than it does on Earth-Prime*

On this Earth, Prof. Christopher Crichton is the superhero known as The Legionnaire until he goes on reserve status to further his research into Multiversal Dynamics.


Big Brother Earth - Alpha Delta-Z

Identified as an Alternate Earth instead of a Parallel as the characters, history, and concepts seen on BBE-AD-Z are very different from those of variants on CE-WC-1. In fact, they are virtually identical to those of Earth - Zero-Prime until the mid-1980s, including showing no evidence of superhuman activity. All supernormal, supernatural, or similar unexplained phenomena were deemed fiction, hoaxes, or simply impossible to confirm. 

At some point in the mid-1980s, a group of four friends on a camping trip in Upstate New York became imbued with incredible superhuman powers due to exposure to some as yet unrevealed cosmic event. 

The four teenage boys had powers beyond the type and level seen on many other Earths with super beings. Although not truly how it works, imagine that all the heroes and villains of CE-WC-1 or CE-AD-A draw their powers from a single source. Now imagine only four people drawing from a source that same size and strength. 

Within a few years of obtaining their powers the four boys, calling themselves 'Big Brother', managed to strong arm the nations of their world into a global peace. Simply put they said, "Be good to each other, cease acting like a-holes, disarm your nukes, or we will do it for you. Then we will find you and take care of your lack of compassion permanently. We'll then give the job to someone who gets it."

Heavy handed as their methods were they worked, though not all that smoothly and not all at once. 

Eventually, one of the four created a device capable of viewing other Earths, including CE-AD-1 (or AD-A, or WC-1 - wherever we are running our campaign). They decided to 'help' this chaotic world achieve peace and traveled there to 'enforce utopia'. An artifact was created to grant powers to two additional people who would remain behind to run things when the four left for CE-AD-1. 

After numerous battles and arguments, the heroes of Project: UNITY and the villain Kineto convinced Big Brother that their approach would not work on CE-AD-1 (et al). Indeed they were causing more chaos and doing more harm then good. The four members of Big Brother departed for their home Earth, warning that this didn't mean they wouldn't be keeping an eye on CE-AD-1. Should its inhabitants pose a threat to the peace of BBE-AD-Z, they would be back.

Big Brother is Watching.

The Prime Team is Big Brother, consisting of The Anachronist (capable of manipulating time and the perception of it), The Harmonist (capable of manipulating emotions and thoughts through music), The Revolutionary (who can perform amazing physical feats and alter probability, but only when he cheats, lies, or otherwise cons or fools people), and The Whimsy (capable of instantly creating any object or creature from thin air as long as it doesn't already exist. The object only lasts until it performs its function or the next object is created, but the effects of these creations are sometimes permanent. The Whimsy can never create the same object twice, as once he has made something, it has indeed 'already' existed). 

The Whimsy created an item he called the Cosmic Coalescence Conductor that granted superhuman powers to two additional friends of the Big Brother group. Sadly I forget their names. One could perform physical activities and cause effects that while technically impossible for a human being, they are nonetheless common in movies and television shows. For example, if he shot a handgun at a car's gas tank the car would explode. He could fall from a great height and walk away with minor cuts and bruises. The second was able to cast magic spells, create potions, and similar fantastical feats provided he spoke in theatrical incantations, mixed eye of newt with dust from a ruined castle, etc. He needed to make it showy and he needed to believe it made sense. 

Christopher Crichton remarks that he does not have a doppleganger on this Earth, though it is possible he did and the man is deceased. 

C.H.A.M.P.I.O.N.S. Earth - Alpha Delta-1

This Earth has no superhuman individuals in the classic comic book sense. It does have individuals with amazing levels of skill, high-tech devices, and some super science. It is a world in which secret agents battle diabolical masterminds and criminal organizations in a perpetual cold war environment. 

Imagine this world as being governed by the tropes of James Bond movies and television shows like Man From U.N.C.L.E. and The Avengers. 

On this Earth, Christine Crichton is the world's greatest spy, working for the Central Headquarters for the American Military Preparation, Intelligence, Operations, and Networking System - C.H.A.M.P.I.O.N.S..

Challengers Earth - Mu-AD1:

This Earth is a homage to Marvel Comics. It has all the Marvel tropes and the characters are clearly riffs on well known Marvel heroes and villains. The Prime Team is called the Challengers and resembles Marvel's Avengers. 

The Challengers consist of Favorite Son (Captain America), Tin Soldier (Iron Man), Raijin, The Thunder God (Thor), Big Man and Little Lady (Giant Man and Wasp), Sureshot (Hawkeye), The Apparition (Vision) and Sapphire Sorceress (Scarlet Witch).

On this Earth, Prof. Charles Christopher Crichton is known as Prof. Phenomenal, leader of the Phenomenal Four. 

Champion League Earth - Delta Ceti-AD1:

This Earth is a homage to DC Comics. It has all the DC tropes and the characters are clearly riffs on well known DC heroes and villains. The Prime Team is called the Champion League of Justice and resembles DC's Justice League and Justice League of America. 

The Prime Team consists of The Blue Bowman (Green Arrow), The Golden Ankh (Green Lantern), MaxiMode (Superman), Quark (The Atom), The Rook (Batman), Ultima (Wonder Woman), Zephyr (The Flash), and others. 

Here Chris Crichton is the mild mannered disguise of none other than the Man of the Future, The Man of Iron, MaxiMode! 

Champions Earth - Alpha Delta-A:

This Earth is virtually identical to Champions Earth - Wilcox Charlie-1 with the addition of characters, events, and ideas that occur after the end of the original Age of Champions campaign. This is the universe of my current campaign, Champions: REVIVAL

The PC heroes here are Hynagogia, Matrix, Pantheon, Too Fast, and Warfare. They do not, as of this posting, have a team name.

No team currently exists called The Champions. The main superhero team of this world, at present, is the UN sponsored Project: UNITY.

Crichton is as he is on Champions Earth - Wilcox Charlie-1 (CE-WC-1)

Champions Earth - Alpha Delta-1:

This Earth is virtually identical to Champions Earth - Wilcox Charlie-1 up to the Invasion: Earth War event. After that point the history of this world diverges as it follows new characters, events, and ideas introduced in my previous long running Champions campaign, The New Age of Champions
The PCs heroes here are Arcane, Ballistic, Night Knight, The Power, Professor Nth, and Revenant / Siphon

Crichton is as he is on Champions Earth - Wilcox Charlie-1 (CE-WC-1)

Champions Earth - Alpha Delta-2:

Inspired by DC Comics' Earth-2 and Earth-X, this world is identical to CE-WC-1 and CE-AD-1 up until the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The Allied Champions prevent the bombings and World War II continues until 1955. 

The world's nations are divided up differently and a powerful Nazi regime still controls parts of Europe. The United Nations is referred to as the Alliance of Nations. The Prime Team is still the Allied Champions, though they are more commonly referred to as simply The Champions. The team membership is very different from the previously mentioned Earths. 

The Allied Champions consist of American Eagle IV and Winger IV (the latter being Bluejay on the Earths with a '1' or an 'A'), The Crusader, The Crimson Cowl II, The Mask of Freedom IV, The Phantom of Paris, and The Canadian Shield.

Here, a younger Chris Crichton is a 'boy genius' sidekick to the Allied Champions. He has a knack for building amazing devices out of found objects and junk (like a super-science MacGyver). 

Champions Earth - Alpha Delta-3:

On this Earth the heroes of CE-AD-1 are villains. This is the classic 'Evil Twin' Earth similar to the Pre-Crisis on Infinite Earths version of Earth-3. There are a number of heroes here as well, all alternate versions of villains who have battled the PC's, but many of them were killed by the Champions of Evil. 

The good guys of CE-AD-1 put a major hurting on their criminal dopplegangers in the New Age of Champions campaign by getting assistance from their alternate selves from several other Earths.

The Prime Team, the Champions of Evil, includes of Ice Witch (Ice Queen), Macrocosm (Microcosm), Ominous (Omni), Overkill (Overload), Pulse (Pulse), Scaramangler (Christian Scaramangler), and many others. 

Doctor Christopher Crichton is a scientist who specializes in multi-dimensional physics and while he doesn't have any powers, he has several inventions that enable him to teleport, fold space, alter his physical dimensions, and other related feats.

Champions Earth - Alpha Delta-4:

AD-4 is an Earth noted for its relative lack of superpowered beings. There are only a dozen or so costumed heroes and villains in the world and the powers that be generally frown on superhero activity. 

Not much else is known about this Earth. 

This world was heavily influenced by Charlton Comics, The T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents, and Watchmen. 

Here Christopher Crichton is known as 'The Chief', and serves as the strategic and tactical specialist behind the Champions super team. 

Champions Earths - Alpha Delta-7, Alpha Delta-12, and Alpha Delta-23:

Little to nothing is known about these Earths other then they were destroyed and consumed by the multi-dimensional villainess Lady Disdain (aka Empress Ishtara Dys'Tayn).

Council of Champions Earth - Alpha Delta-1

While many identify this as an Alternate Earth, Prof. Crichton insists on logging it as a Parallel. He once stated that although it seems very different from CE - WC-1 on the surface, it shares many analog events, people, and concepts with that Earth.

Sometimes called Council Earth - AD-1, this is an Earth where magic is the primary power in the world. Science functions but is generally less effective and desirable when compared to the arcane arts. 

Imagine something somewhere between an out in the open Wizarding World of Harry Potter and a somewhat Victorian-Era Dungeons and Dragons setting. 

The world is protected by an group of powerful and wise wizards and witches from across the globe known as The Council of Champions. The planet is ruled by the Tribunal of Unity.

Little else is known about this world, including the exact make up and membership of the Council of Champions. 

Here, Master Kristoff of Croton, Son of Charles the Undamned, Archmage of the Eastern Rivers, Protector of the Hudson, and Banisher of Demons is a member of the Council of Champions. Kristoff specializes in spells and arcane knowledge dealing with demons, devils, and invaders from other realms. 

Force United Earth - Alpha Delta-1:

Identified as an Alternate Earth instead of a Parallel as the characters, history, and concepts seen on FUE-AD-1 are very different from those of variants on CE-WC-1.

Here the United Nations is paramount (even more so then on CE-WC-1 and its close parallels), with individual governments running the day-to-day goings-on of their respective countries but final say on all international and global matters falling to the UN. Much like CE-WC-1, AD-1, AD-A, and others, there is an international network of superheroes and superteams. Instead of UNITY, this world has The Force United. 

One member of Force United America, the superhero Excelsior, was blasted through a dimensional rift from this world to CE-WC-1. He remained there for several months until The Legionnaire could find his world's Quantum Frequency and send him home. Excelsior is considered an Honorary Member of CE-WC-1's UNITY New York (and presumably AD-1's and AD-A's as well. Wait...or was that an alternate Excelsior who...nevermind). 

The Prime Team, Force United America, consists of The Cheetah, Equinox, Excelsior, The Patriot, Spellbound, Talon Guard, and The Voyager. 

On this Earth, Prof. Christopher Crichton is one of the foremost authorities on the Meta-gene, Meta-genetics, and the biological science behind superhuman powers. 

Ravagers Earth - Alpha Delta-1:

Identified as an Alternate Earth instead of a Parallel as the characters, history, and concepts seen on RE-AD-1 are very different from those of variants on CE-WC-1.

In the recent past, a dark wizard supervillain cast a spell intended to raise an army of the dead. The spell was improperly cast and instead of summoning a hoard of shambling skeletons he slew one third of the world's population and those slain rose twenty-four hours later as brain-eating zombies. 

Old Glory, leader of the world's greatest super team, The Righteous, snapped after discovering what had happened. He proceeded to hunt down the necromancer and beat him to death on national television. Glory than issued a televised statement that he and his team would protect the living, destroy the undead, and make every last villain who had assisted the dark wizard pay dearly. He became obsessive and if you weren't with him, you were a danger to the very idea of good. He renamed his team, The Ravagers.

The Prime Team here, The Ravagers, are Gear Head, Miasma (former villain), Morning Star, Old Glory, and The Saint of Spades. 

The Christopher Crichton of this world died and was resurrected as one of the undead. He has the power to teleport by displacing himself with another person (basically they switch locations - only people in visual range). 

In addition to these worlds, I have seen a few Parallel Selves of Chris Crichton/The Legionnaire without knowing the Earth they came from. In the three and a half years I was part of the original Age of Champions campaign I recall encountering:

Charles 'Creek Charlie' Christianson, a ghost fighting gunslinger from a 'Wild West' Earth. 
Christopher CX1, an android/replicant type from a Cyberpunk/Blade Runner themed Earth. 
Krees, from an Earth where dinosaurs evolved into sentient humanoids. 

There are an infinite number of quantum realities and there is no way anyone could ever catalog them all, let alone visit them. Chris Crichton will keep trying of course. It's what he does and we're glad he's there to do it. 

Until next time,

Barking Alien

*Our designation for our Earth, the Earth of the GM and players in the real world, is Earth - Prime-Zero, or simply Earth-Prime.

**Many of these Earths are my versions of ones William introduced in his campaign. Some are my own invention. Essentially, for each 'Alpha Delta' Earth assume there is also a 'Wilcox Charlie' incarnation.

After all, there are an infinite number of parallel worlds.

Yours is out there as well.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Flying Solo

The latest film in the Star Wars saga and franchise has been released and as one might expect, I now have a serious case of Star Wars RPGing on the brain.

A funny thing...the very first Star Wars film, later designated Episode IV: A New Hope, came out a scant four months before I first played an RPG and a good ten years before West End Games would put out the first official game.

I absolutely adored that first film. I took it in, absorbed its universe into my imagination, and saw it as a fantastically entertaining work of movie magic. It inspired me and deepened my love of movies, outer space, and storytelling. 

Every film since has been viewed through the lens of "What does this have that I can use in my games?" Essentially, the original Star Wars was my introduction, and the rest are enjoyable research.

This newest entry is no exception. 

First, I want to say that I very much enjoyed the film. After the original trilogy, Solo: A Star Wars Story may be my favorite film in the franchise.  It wasn't a perfect movie by any means but it was very good Star Wars.

From this point on I am going to issue a SPOILER WARNING. I don't intend on revealing any big secrets, but just in case you have been warned. 

"You never heard of the Barking Alien Blog?
It's the blog that gave a SPOILER WARNING in less than 12 parsecs."

Always in motion is the future

One of the things that makes for a good Star Wars adventure, and indeed a whole campaign, is forward momentum. 

Things - people, starships, events - should always be in motion. Like any good road trip, you need to stop now and again at some truck stop or scenic site to catch your breath and reflect on the journey, but never for too long.

Once you're ready, and there is always some underlying feeling of urgency even on a site-seeing trip, you're back on the road. You have a goal, a final destination, but the twists and turns of the trip itself are half the fun.

This, to me, is Star Wars and Star Wars gaming. 

Solo does a good job of this. Again, perhaps not perfectly executed, but well enough to get the characters, and the audience, moving along toward an exciting climax - the ultimate goal of any action/adventure story. 

Your first step into a larger world 

Another element key to Star Wars films and gaming is to utilize the familiar, yet be sure to introduce the new.

Players and their PCs should see familiar species, starships, droids, and maybe even worlds (use these sparingly - see below), while at the same time encountering new creatures, devices, and planets right along side them.

Imperial Stormtrooper variants in Solo, A Star Wars Story

When you run Star Wars [or any IP based game for that matter] make sure you include well known elements to reward your group for choosing to play Star Wars in the first place. I mean, why choose to place your game in the Star Wars universe if your not going to use Astromechs, TIE Fighters, Rodians, or other favorite bits?

That said, if they only ever see things they already know, they're going to get bored with the setting. Maintain a balance of old and new and you will always have a reason to return to the same universe. 

Solo introduces us to new types of Stormtroopers, new TIE Fighters, and new aliens but doesn't leave out regular Stormtroopers, regular TIE Fighters, and shows a Rodian character near the end. Hurrah! That's enough to satisfy both criteria.

Make the jump to Hyperspace!

Related to both of the aforementioned factors is the notion that, unless you are running a particular type of game, my advice and preference is to travel to different planets fairly often.

How often? Hard to say. My recommendation is to play it by ear but for me, I don't usually like to spend more than one Star Wars session on the same planet. Yes, you read that right. No more than a single session. 

If your games run short - say, 3-5 hours - sure, you can spend a couple of sessions on one world. For my in-person Star Wars games, which usually last around 8 hours, I try to either start the game on a world or with the PCs arriving at the world and by the end of the session they should be leaving it and heading somewhere else. 

But I want to explore the planet and survey it's terrain and ecology.

That's Traveller.

But I want to learn about the native species, their art, and culture.

That's Star Trek.

This is Star Wars. You want to do a thing, get in trouble with the Empire for doing that thing, then battle your way past the Imperials on your way to do another thing on another world. 

Solo does almost over does it. In the span of the movie's 135 minutes run time, the characters and events take place across no less than five planets. Maybe more. I am not actually certain. There is a scene or two that seem to take place on the same world but may be different world's and vice versa. Also, the final scenes - which are relatively brief - take place on a planet not previously seen in the film so I guess it's really six.

I got the chance to run a Star Wars one-shot this past Sunday and I tried my hardest to GM it based on the principles I've mentioned here. It went over really well and the players are hoping to turn it into a campaign.

In an upcoming post (perhaps several) I will detail the first session and dive more thoroughly into how the above concepts were implemented and why they worked. 

Until then, I have a good feeling about this,

Barking Alien