Thursday, February 28, 2019

Barking Alien's Top 10 Favorite PCs of Others

When I decided to make a post about the 10 favorite PC's I've played, I knew I'd also want to/have to do one about my 10 favorite PCs played by others. 

Why did I do this to myself?

How in the Hoary Hosts of Hoggoth I am supposed to pick just 10 PCs from the hundreds, perhaps thousands I've seen in 42 years of gaming?

I have been exceptionally lucky to have played with what I can only assume are the greatest RPG players in the world. Seriously. The entire world. Possibly the galaxy. Maybe even the universe. 

From hilariously funny to deathly serious, wild action heroes to sublime character actors, I have seen players who have made PCs that actually made me stand up and cheer or sit down and tear up (It was something in my eye. I'm not crying, You're Crying!). 

I wish I could list my Top 100 favorites but I guess you and I will have to settle for 10.

As before in previous posts, these are in alphabetical order that has no bearing on how much I like the character. I love them all. I should note that this is focused on the PCs and not the players themselves. Nearly all the characters played by my ex-wife, our dear friend, the late Allen Halden, and my pal Jeff are freaking awesome. 

Not that it really needs to be said but the Gamemaster in most of these cases was yours truly. Only the Savage Worlds Western game, run by my friend Dan R., stands as the exception.

Here goes nothing...

#10 - Belarus Hosta

(Traveller - Classic/MegaTraveller House Ruled Variant, Played by William L.)

It pains me to say that Will and I are no longer speaking. Frustrations over each others play styles eventually lead to us parting ways. A shame. As a person, I like Will very much and as a gamer he is capable of amazing things, such as his character, Belarus Hosta. 

A 38 year old single mother, former diplomat, and heir to a powerful business position with the Solomani genetic engineering megacorporation SuSAG, Hosta was the driving force of the early part of our Traveller campaign, 'Operation: PALADIN'. As time went on she went from driving force to the glue that held it all together and the one element that could tear it all apart. 

What a deep, rich, layered character. Also, the best portrayal of a female protagonist by a male player I have ever seen in all my days.

See these entries for the merest glimpse of how good this character was. Honestly these posts don't even scratch the surface. It was amazing stuff. The campaign lasted three years of real time and the character evolved, changed, and yet stayed true to its origins.

#9 - Buddy Thatcher

(Savage World - Modified w/ House Rules, Played by Alex B.)

My own character in our Western game set in Dunton, Colorado, 'Professor' Milford Thatcher, ranks as one of my favorites largely due to my pal Alex's PC, Milford slow, sweet, well-meaning to a fault nephew, Bartholomew 'Buddy' Thatcher. We only learned Buddy's 'Christian Name' recently, as indeed Uncle Milford and Buddy himself thought Buddy was his given name. 

Strong as an ox and nearly as smart, Buddy is one half of the duo of 'THATCHER & Thatcher' ("I'm the lower case Thatcher", Buddy is quick to point out), who are out to mine silver using Uncle Milford's 'Thatcher Process' ("Scientifically speaking", notes Buddy, not completely sure what that means and totally clueless as to how the process actually works). 

I love Buddy. Love him! He is a breath of fresh, the perfect sounding board, and often a much needed laugh in tough times. At the same time, he is a more nuanced character than is immediately apparent, as his innocent and naive romance with a Native American girl and his belief that all of Humanity share the same faith, views, and emotions deep down completely elevates the material. 

Kudos to you Alex. Kudos. Beautiful. 

#8 - Ceren-Dee WindDrake

(Dungeons & Dragons - Advanced 1st Edition w/ House Rules, 3rd and 3.5 with House Rules, played by Selina W.)

No list of great RPG characters would be complete without my dear friend and ex-wife's incredible character, High Elven Warrior/Wizard Ceren-Dee WindDrake. The character enabled me to share my favorite hobby with someone special to me and reignited my enjoyment of D&D for a brief time. It also got me to resurrect one of my best settings, the World of Aerth and the Order of the Winghorn Guard.

What can I say about Ceren-Dee. Empathic, determined, and three dimensional to a fault. There were sessions which made Selina cry and others where she laughed so hard she could barely breathe. I have never enjoyed Dungeons & Dragons so much and it's not been easy recapturing that level of awesome. 

I could spend time writing a dozen posts detailing this PC, her trials, tribulations, and triumphs and probably only scratch the surface of all she did and all she is.

Like all good Aerth characters, she remains a part of the world's lore and can be encountered in sessions set there to this day. 

It's also Selina's birthday today so, Happy Birthday Selina!

#7 - Ipperius Witspear

(Dungeons & Dragons - Advanced 1st Edition w/ House Rules, played by Pete H.)

The late, great Pedro 'Pete' Hernandez was a natural born character actor. He could instantly create a character, oddly accented voice and all, and make said character come to life in no time flat. Unlike a lot of my other wonderful player who created characters with developed stories based on research or knowledge, Pete was a build-as-you-go type. His PCs came about their origins through playing them. He detailed them in the moment and then built on what he'd made as he went forward. 

This is especially true with the swashbuckling, often wildly eccentric Ipperius Witspear, an Elf of initially indeterminate origin who went through numerous riveting, harrowing, and yet often hilarious adventures before being retired as we moved on to our next game project. 

Of course, no longer being regularly played is not the same as dead. Ipperius Witspear, 'Ip' to his friends, popped back up in other Aerth campaigns from time to time, eventually becoming a major NPC when I brought the Winghorn Guard back after a long hiatus (see Ceren-Dee WindDrake above). 

I love Ip because there is so much more to him than meets the eye at a passing glance. He comes off as a typical devil-may-care, somewhat foppish scoundrel. In truth his personality is more robust, his tactics more subtle, and his story much richer than the usual roguish hero. Also, he is just so fun to play as an NPC.  

There have been a few references to Witspear on the blog, though not nearly enough. 

#6 - Jeard’en Kaine

(Star Wars, The Role Playing Game - 2nd Edition (WEG D6), played by Keith C.)

Like so many of my favorite characters, this one was played by a true character actor player, the amazing Keith Conroy. A multi-talented fellow with a portfolio of both great artwork and excellent RPG Player Characters, Keith has the ability to make the mundane seem amazing and the amazing just another day at the office. Case in point, Star Wars Smuggler Jeard'en Kaine. 

Jeard'en Kaine can best be described as a Blue Collar Han Solo or the Working Man's Buck Rogers. He isn't the coolest guy, the best looking guy, or the greatest pilot in the galaxy. He is cool, he cleans up pretty well, and he is A great pilot, don't get me wrong. What makes him special is...well...his normalcy. He's you or me in the Star Wars universe. Just another Joe Blaster trying to make a living and stay out of trouble. 

Unfortunately for Jeard'en he has too big a heart and trouble has a way of finding him. His generally calm and level-headed demeanor was as real as seeing him freak-out or even faint when things just weren't within parameters he could wrap his brain around. The addition of Jeard'en Kaine to a game is adding 100% pure, grounded humanity.

You can read a bit more about Jeard'en Kaine in this post here.

#5 - MAN-2

(Star Wars, The Role Playing Game - 2nd Edition (WEG D6), played by Martin K.)

It saddens me to note how many of these characters are tied to friends who have passed on. What memories remain are sweet but also serve to remind me they're no longer with us.

MAN-2, or more properly IM-MA-N2, started as a quirky R2-like repair droid but grew in capacity, depth, and scope throughout the course of the campaign. The character was comic relief early on in the 'series' and it worked thanks to Martin King's incredible skills as an improv actor and comic. However, as with many others on this list, MAN-2 became more than the sum of his parts if you'll pardon the pun. 

Great visual design work went into him as well, with players Martin King and Nelson Marty sketching out a number of concepts for MAN-2's ever evolving appearance throughout the course of the campaign.

MAN-2 has been mentioned here and here

#4 - Night Knight

(Champions - 4th Edition, played by Dave C.)

Dave C. should not be confused with David C. Simple right? Riiight. 

OK, Dave C. refers to my buddy Dave Cotton, whom I first met at my FLGS about 10 years ago or so. Wow. Have Dave and I really known each other 10 years? Anyway, he joined in a Mutants & Masterminds game I was running at the store and he's been a regular part of my groups ever since. 

Dave has a lot of great characters, especially Superhero characters, but Night Knight is probably my favorite. His character Impact is a really close second but I only have 10 slots and have to spread the love. 

Night Knight is the type of Superhero I am not generally into at first glance, falling into the vein of Daredevil, Batman, and other brooding, grim, street level crimefighters. At the same time, he does have powers, an origin he related directly to the world/setting mythology, and played him as reluctantly accepting the bigger role of being a member of the campaign's major Superhero group.

This evolution from street hero to world hero felt organic and necessary given the circumstances of the campaign and Dave did an amazing job of showing Night Knight's struggle with his position in the grand scheme of things. 

Night Knight appears in this post about my New Age of Champions campaign. 

#3 - Omni

(Champions - 4th Edition, played by David C.)

See now here is the other David C., David Concepcion, who has been profiled on this blog and whose characters have been mentioned at least as often as Dave Cotton's, if not more. 

While I've know Dave C. about 10 years, I've known David C. since high school. He too has a lot of PCs who could have made this list [being another amazing Player Character Actor] but if one stands out above all the others it has to be the Psionic Alien Superhero OMNI! 

I love Omni. He is just so - damn - good. I mean morally good. Just. Fair. Upstanding. Empathic. Kind. Determined. Dependable. He's what Superman is one paper at all times, but only actually is with a great writer. Omni out Superman's Superman in my opinion. 

Omni has been addressed a number of times as it was due to this character and its player that I joined in on the original Age of Champions campaign that he was a part of. You can see those posts here, here, and most recently here

#2 - Owen Blackfjord

(Ars Magica (?) - 3rd Edition, played by Allen Halden)

Boy oh boy this trip down PC memory lane is a rough one. Like Martin King, and Pete Hernandez, Allen Halden is no longer with us. Hmmm. Scratch that. He has departed this mortal coil but he is always, and will always be with us. Always.

Allen and I were close and like the Scarecrow in the Wizard of Oz, I miss him most of all. 

Though I know it sounds selfish, I especially miss his contributions to our RPG campaigns. There are times when I come up with a game idea and think how perfect it will be, then scrap it because Allen is gone. How will my outlandish ideas work without Allen and his characters. 

The Character Actor's Character Actor, Allen was almost the opposite of Pete H. in approach. Allen would do research, plan, and thoughtfully consider his characters before playing them. This was used to fantastic effect when he portrayed the token, weird alien in one of our Science Fiction games or an English Brownie in our Faery's Tale Deluxe outing.

One of his most memorable characters was the Medieval European Warrior-for-Hire, Owen Blackfjord. Of Northern English or Orkney origin I'd wager, with his odd English/Norwegian accent and name, Owen was a lower class, poorly educated, not-that-well-meaning sell sword living some time around the 12th century.

He was most famous for being upon the handle of a sword, a handle with no blade, and being it was an enchanted weapon of great power. So proud was he to be the bearer of 'The Sword Unseen', and to have gotten a deal on it I might add, that he became adept at convincing others of it's majesty and prowess.

When he faced off with an opponent of note, he would draw The Sword Unseen and give his adversary pity and an ample chance to stand down. So sure was his resolve that many enemies did just that. 

#1 - Sollock (Doctor Sollock actually)

Star Trek, The Role Playing Game - 1st Edition (FASA), played by Joe C.)

I was starting to get nervous that this list wouldn't include a Star Trek character. 

Truth is I've seen so many wonderful PCs in our numerous Star Trek campaigns over the years that picking one...ugh. It's like trying pick a favorite child. I love them all! That said, one did stand out when I put my mind to the task and that one is one of the first two I've ever had.

My friend since 2nd grade, Joseph Cangelosi and I have played a lot of a lot of games together. Few as memorable as our very first Star Trek game, and though he had some great characters, I dare say none compare to Doctor Sollock. 

Sollock was a half-Human, half-Vulcan doctor serving as Chief Medical Officer on the covert operations starship USS Alliance during The Original Series era. He was raised on Earth by his Human father as his mother was an instructor at the Vulcan Science Academy School of Medicine. It was hinted at, though never made clear, whether or not his parents were estranged. 

Sovok was a character with just so much, well, character! He had habits and idiosyncrasies, likes and dislikes, beliefs and things he stood for. He was a wonderful paradox of Human emotion and Vulcan logic, arguing with his owns views nearly as often as those of the Captain or my Andorian Helmsman. 

You can read about Sollock in this post here.

Ok, all done. Woohoo! Another post that took way too long to put together. I think I am done with these lists for now. I have other ideas and things I want to discuss.

Here's to another 10 years, Avis willing. 

Barking Alien

I actually finished this on the 28th of February but put the post up on March 1st as I fell asleep at the keyboard and forgot to hit publish. Heheh. 

Saturday, February 23, 2019

Old War Stories - Pronoia

What is the opposite of Paranoia?

Why it's Pronoia of course. It's a real thing. Look it up. 

Pronoia is the psychological condition of believing that the world is conspiring on your behalf. It is the unfounded belief that people and events are looking out for your best interests. 

This brings us to today's Old War Story, a tale of a game gone by from my dear friend David Concepcion, whose birthday is today. 

"Fun anecdote about a game that didn't go so well. Rather, it went well but it didn't go right. 

[Our friends] Nelson, Eric, myself and a few others gathered to play in a game of Paranoia Adam was running, the first time for all of us.

We all get our mutant clones and whatnot, we get our mission, and then we worked together as a fine cohesive unit. We solved the puzzle, completed the mission, and even defeated an evil NPC traitor to The Computer. No PC's died. Not a one.

When it was all over, most of the players were pretty satisfied with the work they had done. When I spoke to Adam later, he said “I don't understand. That's not how Paranoia goes! What the hell happened?!?"

Thanks for that one Dave! 

Today, the 23rd of February 2019 is the actual 10 year anniversary date. My first post to the current version of Barking Alien was one this date in 2009. Check it out

Thank you to everyone who has been a long time reader for taking this journey with me. To those who are newer to the blog, I thank you as well for taking the time to stop by.

More to come...

Barking Alien

Barking Alien's Top 10 Favorite PCs of Mine

When I first sat down to make this post my initial thought was, "Have I even played enough characters over the years to warrant a list of my 10 favorites?"

The answer is yes...though just barely. 

Some characters jumped immediately to mind and a few of these have been described and discussed on this blog before. Others are less know to regular readers and I have to dig through the dusty bins of my memory to recall them. It helps that I have a pretty good memory for these sorts of things (if I do say so myself) and I used to keep excellent notes on my campaigns and character (I am a tad lazier these days though trying to get back into it).

The list below is in alphabetical order. It does not denote how long ago I played the character (the list in not chronological), nor how much I like them. If I had to pick a favorite among favorites I would probably have to go with Starguard as he is just so much fun to play. Jeckle the Jackal is a close second in that regard.

#10 - Counterfeit (aka The Counterfeit Kid)

(Space Opera, Gamemastered by ? - I forget)

I can't believe I almost forgot this character. 

Some of you may notice a modification to the list. One character is missing to be replaced with this one. All evening and all night I couldn't get rid of the feeling that I was missing a PC, a very special PC. It hit me this morning and I just had to make the change. 

Jon Candor, aka The Counterfeit Kid and later simply Counterfeit, was a character my friend Joe C. created for me. We came up with this idea to create characters for a Science Fiction RPG where we would design the coolest character we could think of, then switch them. Basically Joe would play the perfect character for me and I would play the perfect character for him. 

When a friend of ours had an idea for a Spy themed Space Opera campaign - Inspired by the Retief novels by Keith Laumer, the Stainless Steel Rat by Harry Harrison, The Dirty Pair by Haruka Takachiho, and of course Ian Fleming's James Bond - Joe and I got the chance to use our characters, Capricorn Alpha (changed to Capricorn) and The Counterfeit Kid (changed to Counterfeit). 

Counterfeit was a secret agent working for the Interstellar Intelligence Initiative (the III), sometimes referred to as 'Third Eye'. When Jon was a young boy he was nearly killed in what appeared to be a shuttlecraft landing accident. It was no accident. In fact it was an attempt to kill his parents, top Cybernetists working for Third Eye. His body all but decimated in the incident, Jon was saved by being transformed into a cyborg, outfitted with some of the most advanced bionics in the galaxy of our Space Opera's 25th century. 

As a young adult he was teamed with a partner, the 'Transhuman' Psionic known as Aia Diei, codenamed Capricorn Alpha (as he was the only member of the III to hail from the planet orbiting the star Alpha2 Capricorni). When we first see them in the campaign they are adults but there were periodic flashbacks to their first meeting and younger days as junior agents which was super cool IMHO. 

What made Counterfeit fun and unique aside from the setting and style of the campaign itself was relationship with Joe's character Capricorn. Our brotherly friendship showed up in the interactions between these two PCs. We also gave them a bit of an 'Odd Couple' feel, but the closeness of Joe and I definitely came through. 

More on this campaign some other time. It was a blast. 

#9 - Dreg

(Star Wars, The Role Playing Game - 1st Edition, Gamemastered by Peter C.)

Dreg is a Rodian Smuggler from the only long term Star Wars RPG campaign I ever played in. I honestly love this character. Cowardly, neurotic, and clearly not cut out for the life of a heroic Rebel, Dreg nonetheless found a way with the help of a quick wit, good friends, and a really cool spaceship. 

What I loved about playing Dreg was that he was not built to be a hero and didn't want to be, but he was. He cared about his friends, he cared about the battle against the Empire, even if it was against his own better judgement. That dichotomy was extremely fun to explore. 

You can read more about Dreg here

#8 - Equinox

(Kapow!, Gamemastered by Keith J.)

Equinox was a Superhero character I originally created for my friend Sergio way back in 1982. He was created for a Villains & Vigilantes campaign in which each of the heroes was from a different country. Sergio based his character on mythology from his homeland of Argentina, mixed with that of other Pre-Columbian cultures. I added elements from Sergio's favorite comic book Superhero, The Silver Surfer and what I hoped were a few unique twists.

Many years later - about five years ago in fact - I was cycling through various Superhero character ideas for the online Kapow! game I was in. I would play a hero for a few sessions and then switch to another. Finally I landed on 'resurrecting' Equinox.

What I really loved about this character was getting to play the same character with four different personalities and approaches. Originally I had intended on focusing on the singular 'Air' persona and hoping to figure out a way to get to the other ones in at some point.

With the help of an idea from one of the other players (my good buddy Carl), the four entities that make up Equinox were split apart and I was able to switch to the 'Fire' entity when they spirits recombined. 

Over time I got the chance to check out each of the spirits in turn, eventually getting to play a completely and fully merged gestat. It was a really fantastic experience. 

You can check out more about Equinox in this post and this one.

#7 - Excelsior

(Villains and Vigilantes, Champions, Mutants and Masterminds, Others - Gamemastered by Various)

Excelsior is one of my oldest characters, created before I started playing RPGs. I have mentioned him on the blog a number of times so I won't go into him much here except to say how cool it is to have been able to translate a character from my pre-gaming imagination to my gaming hobby. He was the first and most prominent example of my doing that that I can think of. 

Check out Excelsior here, here, and here for more information. 

#6 - Francis 'Frank' Pellgrove

(Hogwarts/Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Homebrewed System based on Apocalypse World, Gamemastered by Alex B.)

I get an extra special sense of satisfaction when I create the kind of character for someone's game that I'd like to have in my own games and the GM appreciates it. 

What I mean is, if you are setting up a certain type of game with a very particular setting, genre, or whathaveyou, let's see a character that simultaneously fits squarely into the setting but also brings something new to the table. 

I also vehemently dislike it when people create PCs who don't fit the game the group has agreed upon. I don't like it when players don't put at least a little creative effort into character creation either (I'm looking at you D&Ders with Mages named 'Merlin' or 'Joe Magic' - ugh).

Frank comes from a long line of Wizard shepherds and farmers in the North of England near Hexham ( or somewhere between North Umberland and the hills of North Pennines). His family is poor or at least lower middle class, but they own land on which they raise sheep, pigs, chickens, and less muggle oriented beasts. 

Frank comes off as a bit thick sometimes, though he is a Hogwarts student in House Ravenclaw. The young Mister Pellgrove is not dumb by any means but he is - as one of the other PCs noted - differently smart. His field of specialty is unsurprisingly Care of Magical Creatures. Newt Scamander, Rubeus Hagrid, and Edwardus Lima (author of The Monstrous Book of Monsters) are his heroes. He 'minors' in Herbology and recently Transfiguration. 

He rarely uses his wand if he can avoid it. "What?", you're thinking. "A Wizard who doesn't use a wand?" No, no, he uses it when he needs to but he isn't very good at casting spells, dueling, or that sort of thing. He is very hands on and physical. A bit unusually so for a Wizarding World character. When a fight breaks out and everyone reaches for their wands, Frank is likely to charge across the room, tackle an opponent, and punch him in the face. It's surprisingly effective as most Wizards are not prepared for it. I mean, who does that? You could say Pellgrove fights like a Muggle, lol. 

He is one of the quickest thinking characters in the group, quick to action, a bit impetuous, stalwartly supportive of his friends (whom he thinks are all more worthy of being Hogwarts students than he is). He is brave to a fault, unafraid of beasts or bullies, but very wary of adults with wands aimed at him (the only times he's been badly injured in the game have been from grown-ups using spells). 

I could go on and on. He is surprisingly deep, thoughtful, humorous, and exciting to portray. Can't wait for the next session. 

#5 - Gobo Pepperthorn

(Dungeons and Dragons - Holmes Basic Edition, Gamemastered by Tom Z.) 

My very first character in my very first RPG, August 25th, 1977. He was a Halfling in the days when that was both his 'Race and Class'. That still cracks me up. Ah, old D&D, you silly thing. 

I've mentioned him in a number of posts over the years and really my most distinctive memories of him are his first and last appearances. 

What makes him special and qualifies him for this list beyond being my first PC is that in a very real way, Gobo set the tone for how I would see gaming from that point on. He wasn't played with the idea that he was a set of numbers in a game. I didn't base his actions on his character sheet. I played him with the idea that he was a person in a world. He did what someone would do given his story, circumstances, and the genre. 

This remains my head canon when running and playing RPGs. The mechanics are there to explains your actions, not the other way around. 

#4 - Jekyll the Jackal

(Originally Toon - 1st Edition, Gamemastered by Me (See below) )

Jekyll the Jackal was not designed for an RPG campaign. A game was built around him. 

Some friends and I were discussing various American cartoon such as Animanics and Tiny Toons when I began to ad-lib Jekyll, an anthropomorphic jackal, breaking the 4th Wall to talk to an unseen audience and various stage crew. I/He explains that he is putting together a kids TV show and is now hiring for various rolls. My friends then piped in with a variety of other wild characters auditioning for roles on the show. 

An unusual amount of backstory and plot ideas were dropped in the next hour or so until someone finally said, "We need to make this a game." I decided they were right and I quickly wrote the campaign up for Toon. Jekyll, Uhaul the Rhino, The Killer Emu, and many other characters as well as the Zoonatics campaign gets mentioned in my own game, The Googly Eyed Primetime Puppet Show

Jekyll is a favorite for the unique nature of his portrayal, both character wise and in the pacing and management of the games he's in. 

To begin with, Jekyll is a deeply flawed humorous cartoon character. He is somewhat egocentric, delusional, obsessed with the life, career, and death of Abraham Lincoln, and dismissive of danger (not because he is brave but because he hired a legion of highly trained Stunt Jackals to place themselves in harm's way any time he is threatened with injury). Honestly, this only scratches the surface of the surreal madness that surrounds this character. 

Most interesting though is I almost never 'GM' when using this character in the traditional way. He is the host of 'the show', the MC, and the director of the events going on around him. It's a lot like having the GM be a PC if you can picture that. Very fun, very liberating, and it enables me to interact with the other PCs in a very different way. Playing the AI of a ship in a Red Dwarf game is very similar. 

Jekyll and Zoonatics have not been mentioned very often on this blog (oddly) but if you do a search I'm sure that something will come up. 

#3 - Milford J. Thatcher

(Savage Worlds - Modified w/ House Rules, Gamemastered by Dan R.)

With 15 sessions under his belt, Milford J. Thatcher, aka 'The Professor', is my newest Player Character and I absolutely adore him. If Starguard is 'playing against type' (See below), then Milford is a nearly perfect example of an 'Adam Character'.

He is a character who lives by his wits, his earnest demeanor, and the image he puts forth of being part sage, part charlatan. Clever, even crafty, and a fast talker he nonetheless someone who actually knows what he's talking about. Using what seems like alchemy to the good folk of Dunton, Colorado circa 1869, Milford is able to extract silver from the sludge and lead found in various sites of the outlying Rockies. He refers to his technique as the 'Thatcher Process'. 

The 'Thatcher Process' is a fictional variant on the real life Parkes Process, invented and patented by Alexander Parkes around 1850. In reality, the Parkes Process wasn't used in the United States due to the low native lead production in North America. Our campaign assumes that there was more lead in the campaign region than previously thought and that the Professor somehow made the process more cost effective and therefore viable. 

Prof. Thatcher is not a combatant by nature, believing violence is never the answer to any problem, mystery, or puzzle worth solving. At the same time he is well aware that most people in his time see no problem with pistols at high noon and that sort of thing. Although the least physically adept and battle hardened member of our group, Milford has already killed two men and a bear, all in self defense and at different times mind you. 

I love playing Milford. I love his voice, a combination of Groucho Marx and character actors from the heyday of the Hollywood Western. My friend Alex plays his nephew Buddy Thatcher and the banter is at once hilarious and sublime. His interactions with the other PCs, the townsfolk, Navajo Traders, and other NPCs is what I live for in a game. 

Our next session is a sort of Season Finale and I am both excited and not looking forward to it. We are taking a break from the Dunton story and I will be running something for the group for a while. I will really miss spending time with the Thatchers. 

#2 - Sh’Hasta Zihl

(Star Trek, The Role Playing Game - 1st Edition, Gamemastered by Myself and Joe C.)

My first Star Trek character, created for my very first campaign using the FASA rules, Zihl was originally made up as an NPC. We had two players and myself as the GM, but I thought it would behoove the game to have a Kirk-Spock-McCoy style trinity, so in addition to the PC Captain and Chief Medical Officer I added First Officer and Helmsman Sh'Hasta Zihl, a Male Andorian. 

I really fleshed him out as a NPC and at some point in the campaign my friend Joe said he wanted to try running an adventure. It was decided that his character, the ship's doctor, would become an NPC and I would play Zihl as a PC. 

I love Zihl for his unique relationship with his Captain and the CMO. A Hawk to the good doctor's Dove, tempered by the Captain's cool and calm demeanor, the dynamic between them was some really great stuff. 

The campaign featuring Zihl has been mentioned here and there over the years. I managed to immortalize his name in Among The Clans, the Andorian Sourcebook for the Last Unicorn ICON System Star Trek game with one of the NPCs I created for the project. 

I am not sure if his status as an occasional NPC should disqualify him from the list but I am going to say no because I really liked playing him, developed him quite thoroughly, and it's my blog so there. Ha!

#1 - Starguard

(Champions - 3rd Edition, Gamemastered by William C.) 

Starguard, perhaps the most enjoyable PC I've ever had, is also probably the one best documented on this blog over the past 10 years.

The Praetor of the Protectors of Pleiades has been described here, here, and of course here

I've spoken about him so much I won't go into details here except to say that he is definitely the most fun character I have ever played. He isn't the deepest and certainly not the most subtle but he was incredibly enjoyable. He is very different from what I normally prefer. I tend to play characters less physical, less combative, and more thoughtful. In classic Dungeons & Dragons terms, I go Wizard or Cleric but never straight Fighter.   

This guy though, he made playing the Punch and Tank guy fun because he was more than just a Punch and Tank guy. He was so Silver Age, Big Personality, Over-the-Top Superhero-y that I couldn't help but love him.

Honorable Mentions go to characters I really loved playing but were only used in one-shots, very short campaigns, usually served as NPCs, or were alternate PCs which I would sometimes play instead of my main character.

Adam 'Black Adam' Schott, Guncannon Pilot (Mekton/Mobile Suit Gundam)
Alien Robot Repairman - Don't recall his name (Hunter Planet)
Gates, Near Human Alien (Teenagers from Outer Space - NPC and occasional PC)
Gabriel Zimmerman (Ghostbusters)
Harlan Quinn, aka Harlequin (Shadowrun)
Jet Kahele (Mekton II/Mobile Suit Gundam)
Kid Chameleon (DC HEROES)
Mummy Treasure Hunter - Don't recall his name (World of Darkness)
The New Yorker (Champions)
Rook Grey, Android Operations Chief (Aliens Film Franchise RPG - Don't recall the system)


Barking Alien

This post took waaay too long to finish. 

I starting writing it over a week ago. I got distracted by life and other project as well as, I'll admit, writing too much material. The post was supposed to be a list and while I knew it would have to include some notes on each but I feel I may have over done it. 

I'll try to make future posts more concise.

What you you think?

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Old War Stories - The Alternative Vulcan

There is no feeling in the world like someone remembering a game you ran or a character you played 10, 20, even 30 years later. It is the surest way of knowing deep down in your heart of hearts that you don't suck at this hobby after all. 

What do we have when the campaign concludes, the dice are put away, and at some point, sadly but inevitably, the notes are lost or fade. We have our memories. If there is any real prize or reward in RPGs, a way of 'winning' as it were, this is it. If people cherish a memory of gaming with you, you did good. 

In honor of Barking Alien's 10th Anniversary, some of my dearest friends and oldest gaming buddies have decided to grace us with some memories from the good ol' days.

This first one is from my friend William Corpening. Will is one of the greatest Gamemasters I have ever had the pleasure of knowing and playing under. In fact, he may very well be the best of the best. 

His tour de force is a 10+ years long Champions campaign that I talk about all the time and was lucky enough to be a part of for about 3 1/2 years from 1986 to part of 1989. My current Champions campaign and a number of previous ones are based on his setting. 

He also GMed short campaigns of Call of Cthulhu, co-GMed West End Games' Ghostbusters with me and two others, and participated as a player once in a blue moon in my own campaigns, most notably Mecha Anime games such as Macross-Blue Dragons and Paradise Fleet.

Apparently, I also ran a FASA Star Trek game he was in according to this story I received from him a few days ago...

"Here’s an old war story to add to your blog for the 10th Anniversary...

So… I stopped by the Compleat Strategist one day (NYC's premiere FLGS) and ran into Adam and a gaggle of players getting ready for a game in the back room.

I joined in obviously. Adam was GMing and that's always a treat. I quickly generated a Vulcan First Officer who was also the Security Chief/Tactical Officer.

Adam thought I was playing more of a Tuvok than a Spock, a Vulcan who saw physical combat and tactical solutions as logical in the right context [though this was long before we first met Tuvok]. The [NPC] Captain asks, “Are you from the Vulcanis Lunar Colony, then?” The Commander responds, “Perhaps…”

It gets crazier from there, but of course it does.

We find ourselves in a face-to-face with what seems to be a highly advanced Romulan Warbird. Some of the PCs theorize it may be a prototype of some kind. Adam drops a few clues as to the vessel's superior nature; it's not just superior to our own PC vessel, a 'Wrath of Khan' era Miranda Class, but a ship with cutting edge technology and systems that are only theoretical to Starfleet at that time.

My character seemed to know a lot about Romulan ships and their capabilities, leading some to wonder if I wasn't a militant Vulcan but a Romulan defector or worse, a spy. 

At some point I instructed the crew to fire "Photon Torpedoes, maximum yield!"

“Don’t you think that’s a bit much?” the Captain asked, surprised at a Vulcan being so aggressive.

“No,” the Commander replied flatly and calmly.

When we realized the barrage only did minimal damage to the ship (barely any damage at all actually), the Captain said, “Hmmm...Good call.”

We were hailed by the Romulan ship, which demanded to know why we had fired upon them, especially since we were allies. "Allies?", the PCs said bewildered. 

"Of course", said my Vulcan First Officer, "this ship is from the Future". (Nailed it.) 

So many adventures left unfinished… and so many great times had.


Thanks William! 

More Memories To Come...

Barking Alien

Oh, today is my 50th Birthday. Wow. Feeling good. 

Monday, February 11, 2019

Barking Alien's Top 10 Favorite RPGs

As we get older our tastes change. 

Maybe we get tired of the same old routine time after time after time. Maybe it's because we get exposed to new things and new ways of looking at old things. Something we never even tried as kids becomes our go to after giving it a look-see as an adult. Factors such as brain and body chemistry even come into play, making flavors we once loved into ones that no longer agree with us. 

Wait. Sorry, scrap everything I just said.

That's for normal Humans. We're gamers. 

I know people today who are still playing the same Traveller campaign they started in 1977. 

My personal experience goes like this...

I tried Dungeons & Dragons in 1977 and absolutely loved it. Then, sometime later, I played other games. With every other game I played I loved Role Playing Games in general even more and D&D less and less. 

I love trying new games and probably always will, but there are definitely RPGs that I repeatedly return to time and again. Some more often than others, either because it's harder to find an audience for them or I don't feel the inspiration as often as I do for my favorite-favorites. 

Here now are Barking Alien's Top 10 Favorite RPGs (as of this post!):

Oops! I almost forgot to mention...

These are in no particular order though I suppose they are roughly listed from my least-most favorite to most-most favorite. My number one choice below is indeed my number one game. 

Also, these are the ones I enjoy and have the most fun with. They are not necessarily the best RPGs every written. My number two choice is certainly a contender for that spot and a game I think is mechanically superior to my number one choice. 

OK, let's do this!

#10 - InSpectres (Memento Mori Theatricks) 

Essentially an improved version of West End Games' old Ghostbusters RPG, InSpectres adds a few new twists and tricks while remaining simple and versatile. I'd love to get back to using this system again for another GB outing. 

#9 - Ars Magica (Lion Rampart/White Wolf)

One of the few Medieval Fantasy Role-Playing Games I've encountered that actually feel both medieval and fantastic, Ars Magica is such a special work of art that it keeps bringing me back to it. Add in the games excellent treatment of folklore from all across Europe and this is definitely my go-to for wizards, knights, and dragons (when I go there of course). 

#8 - Mekton (R. Talsorian Games) 

A game ahead of its time if only in regards to its subject matter, Japanese Giant Robots and Giant Robot Anime and Manga. As a fan of Mecha Anime before most people in the USA had even heard of the term, I absolutely adored Mekton and still do. I felt like, "Hey, this company likes what I like! They made a game for me!" I've been in a Mecha mood again recently. We'll have to see what happens with that. 

#7 - Teenagers from Outer Space (R. Talsorian Games)

You can't mention Mekton or R. Talsorian without mentioning TFOS. As with Mekton and Mecha Anime, Teenagers from Outer Space came along at the perfect time for a teenage age Adam pretty much obsessed with 'Japanimation'. Like I noted above, I was into the subject well before Anime was a household word here in the United States and TFOS was exactly what I wanted at the time. Damn but I've run a lot of this RPG. I love it because it's simple, straightforward, versatile, and easy to modify. I think I've run almost as many non-Anime based campaigns with TFOS as I have Anime themed ones.

#6 - Champions (Iron Crown Enterprises/Hero Games)

There are times, phases I go through I suppose you could say, where I like this game even more than I usually do. I've come to realize that if I feel like I'm in the mood to run Superheroes, what really that means is that I am in the mood to run Champions. Once in a while I like to try other approaches for a different experience but I always go back to the grand-daddy of the genre. It's a little complex, a little clunky, and a lot of work but for some reason I just love it. Likely it's the versatility and the fact that it gives me the tools to build what I want instead of just pages and pages of powers that I would end up needing to modify on my own anyway.

#5 - The Googly Eyed Primetime Puppet Show Role Playing Game (Barking Alien Productions)

Yeah, my own game. Wanna make something of it? Well please do! Make your own off-the-wall puppet show series! I have to say, I am really proud of this game. It's not the slickest, or the most beautifully written, but it is fun and I like to think it really captures the feel of the subject matter. It's easy to learn and easy to play IF you get what it's about. It's niche, very niche, and I totally OK with that. 

#4 - Traveller (Games Design Workshop) 

It's funny to think back to the first time I ever played Traveller and realize how little I appreciated what the game was trying to accomplish. Maybe I should more accurately say, 'what the game could accomplish'. Traveller is one of those great games that is simple at first and more complex as you did deeper into it. Easy to learn, hard to master, eh? I started out disliking it and now it's one of my faves. I guess tastes do change. 

#3 - Star Trek Adventures (Modiphius Entertainment) 

When I first read through the Playtest Rules of the Star Trek Adventures I didn't really get it. Having run Star Trek RPG campaigns for over 30 years prior to the game's release, I had a very clear idea in my head about how Star Trek games should work. Star Trek Adventures didn't function as I envisioned and as such it kind of turned me off. Fast forward to a few month later when I got to play it and I suddenly understood how it functioned. Now, nearly two years later (give or take) I am thoroughly enjoying it. It may honestly be the reason my current Star Trek campaign (converted from the Last Unicorn ICON System and now in its 4th year!) have worked so well and lasted so long. While a tad crunchy in some areas, its basic mechanics are easy to grasp and the addition of Momentum (a type of Hero or Drama Point) make for some really great dramatic moments. 

#2 - Star Wars (West End Games) 

This is just about my favorite rules system ever made and very likely my second favorite game to run. I love Star Wars and the legendary Star Wars D6 System from the West End Games just works for it so well. I have said a lot about this system in the past and it is fairly well known so I won't go into too many details here. Instead I will sum it up like this, 'Imagine there is a meter measuring the level between Narrative Role Playing and Mechanical Crunch. Star Wars D6 is ever so slightly past the midway point at the center. It is on the Crunch side of the middle mark but only just'. IMHO, that's perfect for Star Wars.

and my #1 favorite RPG is...

#1 - Star Trek (Last Unicorn Games)

I would describe the three major Star Trek RPGs, produced by FASA, Last Unicorn Games, and Modiphius respectively, as follows: In the FASA game you create a character who lives in the Star Trek universe. In Modiphius' Star Trek Adventures you create a character who exists on a science fiction television show. In LUG's version, you create a character who lives in the Star Trek universe and then the game gives you the tiniest wink. It's very subtle and you might not even notice it. It beckons you closer and when you get near it gives you a playful jab and whispers, "Lighten up, this is based on a show". With pun fully intended, LUG Star Trek is the best of both worlds, a serious approach to Star Trek that never tries to assert it's own viewpoint but instead does everything in it's power to assert the viewpoint of the various TV series. This is made thoroughly apparent in the changes in tone and atmosphere between each of the core rulebooks. The Next Generation one is quite different from The Original Series one, which is in turn different from Deep Space Nine's. The mechanics are the same but the 'what is this game about' elements are adjusted from series to series. 

Honorable Mention must go to the following RPGs, which had a major impact on me during my time in the hobby, and I do like all or parts of them very much, but they aren't exactly 'favorites':

Cyberpunk 2020 (R. Talsorian Games)
Faery's Tale Deluxe (Green Ronin)
Mutants & Masterminds (Green Ronin)
Paranoia (West End Games)
Pendragon (Chaosium/Green Knight/White Wolf)
Shadowrun (FASA)
Space Opera (FGU)
Toon (Steve Jackson Games)
Villains & Vigilantes (FGU/Monkey House Games)
Wares Blade (Hobby Japan) 

This post took longer to write than I intended. Hopefully now that it's done I can get the ball rolling with my plans for this month.

See you tomorrow,

Barking Alien