Saturday, August 31, 2019

RPGaDay Challenge 2019 - LAST


The Last prompt on the Last day of the RPGaDay Challenge for 2019. 

As far as those participating in the event, I am very much embracing the idea of the word. I would be very surprised if I wasn't the Last person still putting up entries. 

As I noted in other places, I got hung up on one of the previous prompts and life outside of the blog caught up with me, causing me to fall behind and fail to complete RPGaDay on time. 

Hmmm. That all makes it sound like I am blaming things other than myself but in the end it is my own fault. I let myself get distracted.

There's always next year.

What Last brings to mind is the final session of a campaign and honestly I have mixed feelings about the very concept. 

Throughout my time in the hobby I have been part of games as both a player and a GM that were specifically designed to run their course in a given length of time. Before even beginning certain game series, we would all know that it was set to go X number of sessions and then we'd move on to something else.

These days I do this quite often, especially given my current gaming schedule. I am in two or three groups (there's a lot of member overlap), I have a wide variety of genres and ideas I want to try out, and only so much time. I would rather GM a game for a dozen sessions, create a satisfactory ending, and then announce another game then never get the chance to play some of the campaign concepts I have in mind. 

Well...sort see...

This dynamic, which is so common these days even for me, is not my default way of going about things. Perhaps it's more accurate to say it's not my default way of thinking but rather something I've adopted and adapted to out of necessity.

In my mind, there should never be a Last session of a really great campaign. The best campaigns are not finite or at the very least should not be thought of as finite. To put it another way, I don't usually plan a Final Episode for my Star Trek campaigns. They run until we don't feel like doing them anymore or the group splits apart do to scheduling/life conflicts (almost always the latter). This is also how I approach Superheroes, Traveller, Star Wars, and most Fantasy projects. 

Games Last as long as they Last. Stories have a beginning, middle, and ending, but the beauty of the unique narrative art form that is tabletop RPGs is that they can, in theory, go on and on and on. 

I would love to have another campaign like my old, classic, live-in-the-setting, open universe games of yesteryear, where the stories, characters, setting, and plots went on forever, until they didn't. Games built to Last with no Last call. 

Thanks for joining me for the RPGaDay Challenge Event of 2019.

Let's do it again next August.

Barking Alien

Friday, August 30, 2019

RPGaDay Challenge 2019 - CONNECTION

Connection? Connection to what?

The French Connection? Love Connection? I am definitely particular to the Rainbow Connection?

Ooh wait, that's for me to decide. I see. I didn't see the Connection at first. 

If I am being absolutely honest, what pops into my mind when I think about RPGs and the word Connection is the weird paradox of being 'Connected' to other fans of the hobby. 

Supposedly we are Connected not only by our love of games but also the games themselves. You may be playing a game right now with rules, monsters, spell names, and other elements that are essentially identical to someone else playing their game a thousand miles away! Gamers in different countries are playing the same game you are in different languages then yours! We are the world! We are the children!


In all my years of gaming I've never played a game 100% 'Rules as Written', and I am well aware that my approach to certain RPG settings and genres is quite different from most of those who likewise partake in those systems and worlds. 

Do I have a Connection to all the other people playing Traveller even if I use my own variation of the game's canon universe? Am I Connected to those running D&D if I run my D&D-But-Not setting of Aerth, which has a closer Connection to those running Superhero games? 

It is the great Catch-22 of gaming. If we are all running our games our way(s), if everyone has at least one houserule at their table, how can we all be considered to be playing the same game? In a broad sense we are a 'community of individuals', each group it's own island with unique cultures, terrain, and weather, but we form an archipelago, the 'Gaming Islands' if you will. 

I guess what unites us...what forms our true that we all enjoy a hobby where you are free to customize things to your liking, to make the experience our own. Even if doing so means playing a game RAW or changing it so it's barely recognizable. We can do that. We share that ability and the same end goal. To make/run/play the best game we can come up with. 

I feel so...Connected. 

Barking Alien

Thursday, August 29, 2019

RPGaDay Challenge 2019 - EVOLVE

Gaming as we know it first began in 1974 with the publishing of the original Dungeons & Dragons. 

Over the course of the next 45 years, the hobby expanded, improved, changed...Evolved. 

Did we?

That is to say, of course we gamers have changed along with the hobby and its industry, but at the same time many of us have not. We long for the glory days of the hobby's 'Golden Age' and the rules and play style we know by heart and rote. 

However, for anything to survive, it must Evolve. There must always be change. Gamers will design new systems and consider new ways of playing because they are driven to do so. They will do it because that is the only way the hobby continues and thrives. 

So why is it that players and GMs by the hundreds, if not thousands, embrace things like the Old School Renaissance? Why do so many gamers only play D&D, regardless of edition? What is it about this a particular type of game that draws so many in? Additionally, if we all only followed the model of this forty-five year old RPG, would we Evolve. 

My personal Evolution in the gaming hobby was one influenced very strongly by each game I played after my first exposure to it all through Basic Dungeons and Dragons. With each set of mechanics I learned, each additional genre I studied, I began to to see new ideas of how a Gamemaster could tell a story. I watched the reactions of my players to understand what it is players want out of games and campaigns.

My approach to being a GM Evolved from the role of rules referee and oral storyteller to the expanded role of director, writer, editor, and cinematographer. I learned not to sweat the details but be expertly aware of them. I learned to think about much more than my ideas, my story, and my NPCs; the real consideration is why others should be interested in this thing I created. How does what I want to depict relate to the Player Characters? Why does it matter to them? 

Essentially, I Evolved from a simple, water dwelling fish Dungeon Master to a mammalian bipedal, thinking Gamemaster. Like any Evolution, it took time. 

Do we all go through this same journey? I like to think we all go through a journey of some kind, though we surely don't take the same path or arrive at the same place. It is possible some of us don't take this magic trip. Not all creatures have evolved. Some are extinct, having failed to improve or adapt and dying out long ago. 

I like to think I am still Evolving, continuously trying to acclimate to the ever-changing face of the RPG hobby. Like most of us, I will always have my old favorites, but I will also persist in exploring new avenues of what makes a tabletop Role-Playing Game what it is and what it can be. 

Good luck on your own Evolution.

Barking Alien

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

RPGaDay Challenge 2019 - LOVE


Really? What's Love got to do with it?

I mean, sure, Love is all you need. I'd obviously stop in the name of Love. Really, I'd do anything for love, but a post about it for the RPGaDay event? I won't do that. 

Fine. I'll try...

Let's say you started an adventure in, how about, a Love Shack. Soon enough, you might as well face it, your PCs are addicted to Love. Now Love is a battlefield! Next thing you know, you're trying to fill the world with silly Love songs! 

In truth, I would probably focus on a Higher Love. An endless Love. I want a whole lotta Love. I shouldn't have to justify my Love and I don't want to Love in vain. 

After all, I'm descended from the Love generation. 

Well that's all I have. I'm all out of Love. 

Oh yeah, one more thing.

I love RPGs.

Barking Aliens

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

RPGaDay Challenge 2019 - SUSPENSE

Suspense is defined as 'a state or feeling of excited uncertainty'.

In storytelling it is a time of anxious anticipation usually followed by a dramatic moment. Rarely is the Suspense unwarranted. One does not purposely build up nervous tension only to reveal nothings of significance.

You can of course, though it is anti-climactic. Unless you make a sudden reveal once everyone is lulled into a false sense of security. Ooh-hoo! Aren't you clever. And here we all were thinking everything was going to be fine after all, when suddenly - Whoah! You got us that time. 

Suspense is very closely related to Surprise and I have that one waiting in the wings for the 23rd of September. I don't have a lot to say about this prompt as nothing comes to mind specifically. Something should, as I use suspense quite often and fairly well if I do say so myself, but for some reason I just don't feel inspired to randomly discuss it. 

You are reading this entry well after the date it was supposed to be posted. This prompt, #27 - SUSPENSE, is part of the reason I couldn't finish the challenge this year. I would come to it and draw a blank, just as I am now, and then go on to write the next one but feel obligated to complete #27 before posting #28 and onward. 

I eventually got over it but I still feel stuck on this one. No idea why. 

The Suspense is killing me.

Barking Alien

Monday, August 26, 2019

RPGaDay Challenge 2019 - IDEA


I have no Idea what to say about Idea. 

Aren't I always talking about Ideas? Is there any single subject or word that appears on this blog more often than Idea? Honestly I'd have to check. I haven't the foggiest Idea.

For me, it's all about Ideas. The concept of what the game is about, the plan on how to execute that concept, and the thought that goes into running it is far more important to me than anything else. The rules, the venue, and even the scheduling to some extent are all secondary at best. 

My particular and perhaps peculiar predicament is that A) I have too many [often conflicting or unrelated] Ideas and B) my Ideas can be big. Sometimes too big. 

My Ideas come fast and furiously into my head at all hours of the days and night, inspired by anything and everything from a random thought to a piece of artwork seen on Instagram. 

The upcoming Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance series on Netflix has me contemplating revisiting my Dark Crystal RPG concept - but wait - did you see that trailer for The Mandalorian? Rise of Skywalker is coming soon. Hmm. I'd love to get back to Star Wars for a bit...hold on...they're bring back the Legion of Superheroes in DC Comics. Not sold on it from the previews. If I was going to run Legion of Superheroes as a game I would...ooh...a Legion game...Did I mention I'm running a Sci-Fi/Space Horror game? Got some thoughts on that too...

As far as big Ideas...Sorry...Big Ideas...I sometimes come up with what one might call 'high concept RPGs'. These games require either a heavy amount of buy-in to the subject, a wide suspension of disbelief, or both. Games like Doom and Cookies, Hunter Planet, Steal Away Jordan, and The Secret Lives of Gingerbread Men - not to mention my own The Googly Eyed Primetime Puppet Show' - are far from your typical gaming fare. These games can be very difficult to find an audience for and even harder to maintain over time unless everyone is equally on board my own insane Ideas for how to make it work. 

I suppose in the end, more than just a good Idea, you need an Idea shared by others. You, the GM, and your players need to be working off the same Idea or pool of Ideas to make a game go well. That and/or be open to new Ideas. If I am a player at a table where the GM says, "Look, I have this Wild Idea for a game", I am more than willing to sit down and see what comes next. I (personally) don't have to know and understand your Idea if it is presented in such a way that I get it as we go one. When that happens I start to comprehend your Idea and it forms the catalyst that enables me to generate Ideas of my own. 

Because Ideas that inspires Ideas have...wait for it...The right Idea.

Barking Alien

Sunday, August 25, 2019

RPGaDay Challenge 2019 - TRIUMPH


You want to talk about Triumph? I am a couple of days behind in the Challenge and I haven't lost my mind over it. THAT'S a Triumph!

Here's another - August 25th is my 42nd year Anniversary in the RPG gaming hobby. I played my first game, 'Basic' Dungeons and Dragons, on this date in 1977. 

Triumph, used as a noun, means a great victory or achievement. As a verb it means to achieve victory, to succeed. 

What does Triumph mean in game terms?

While I am sure it means different things to different people, personally it causes me to consider that while you can't really win an RPG, you can Triumph. 

Both the player and their PC have goals in a game scenario and even more so in a long running campaign. These goals vary but if reasonable and possible they can earn both the character and the player a Triumph. The key is to know what success means to you and your in-game persona.

It could be as simple as having the PC defeat a major enemy or the player [as their character] solving all the puzzles and riddles they encounter. Victory conditions can be set higher of course, with true accomplishment being met only when long term goals are reached. Maybe the PC wants to be crowned ruler of her country of origin or the player wants to finally make a character who survives from the beginning of a campaign all the way to the end.

As someone who primarily GMs and honestly prefers it that way, Triumph for me is the creation, running, and completion of a long term game. I'll go a step further and say that if the game ended a while ago and people are still talking about it, well Achievement Unlocked!

Funny thing is, now that I think about it, a Triumph comes at the end of an endeavor. I don't know if any of my current campaigns will be major accomplishments until they are over and done. Likewise, was your attempt to play a charming yet realistic policeman of the 1930s successful? We'll know when you are finished playing him. 

In the mean time, strive to run or play the best game you can. Knowing you are putting your all into it is a sort of personal Triumph all its own.

Barking Alien

Saturday, August 24, 2019

RPGaDay Challenge 2019 - CALAMITY

You may notice something amiss, a bit wrong, off-kilter. If this gets worse it could turn into a real problem, a hazard, maybe even complete havoc. If that happens, we'll be right smack in the middle of a...

Today's word is supposed to Triumph. Tomorrow's prompt is Calamity. That doesn't make any sense to me. Does the RPGaDay 2019 event have no sense of narrative structure? The Calamity comes first, then the Triumph, otherwise what exactly are you Triumphing over? 

A Triumph followed by a Calamity indicates an unhappy ending and while that is certainly a strong storytelling choice, the games I run are usually focused on trying to overcome Calamity so the heroes can Triumph in the finale.

Hopefully. It isn't guaranteed. I suppose it depends very much on the nature of the 'event causing great damage or distress'. This is the Oxford Dictionary definition of Calamity. It basically means 'disaster'. 

Let's take a look at Calamities in RPGs. 

It's my opinion that what makes for a great campaign is a variety of Calamities. Keep switching up the stakes. If every disaster is monumental, every threat the end of the universe, eventually the doomsday scenarios will lose their luster. Simply put, if everything is amazing, after a time, nothing is. 

Start small. Try something personal, a Calamity that means something to one or more of the PCs but doesn't necessary threaten all life on Earth. For example:

The PCs receive word second hand that an old friend has gone missing. He was searching for something, perhaps a deposit of rare ore, a hard to find medicinal plant, or other treasure that isn't a hoard of gold and jewels. The person in question was a teacher or mentor to one of the PCs, a drinking buddy to another, and a reliable and likable business associate to the rest. The PCs will likely decide to go looking for him and find themselves in danger that could seriously harm them, their friend, and the find (whatever it is) but has no major bearing on the rest of the milieu. 

The next level up threatens a village, town, or small to medium-size outpost with a disaster that could injure or kill dozens upon dozens of people (but not hundreds or thousands). Add in a personal connection like mentioning one of the PCs came from this place or their parent grew up there. 

Switch back and forth a bit between the small, directly related events and the slightly bigger, 'a lot of people are counting on you' situations, and then drop the 'a disaster like this could wipe out everything along the Eastern Coastline for miles and miles'. 

Aside from adding greater gravitas to the epic situations, I've found this approach makes the PCs and players care more about the milk run missions, giving simple scenarios the feeling of being dire circumstances. 

A Calamity is a tragic thing but Human nature dictates that a Calamity that befalls you or those you care about is ten times as serious. 

Luckily, as I stated in the opening, the presence of stalwart heroes can turn Calamity into...

Barking Alien

Friday, August 23, 2019

RPGaDay Challenge 2019 - SURPRISE

I've got a Surprise for you all. No peeking, now.

The Surprise is...well if I told you it wouldn't be a Surprise would it?

OK, OK, the real Surprise is that I am not going to talk about Surprise. I can't. Why? It would ruin the Surprise. 

Let me explain...

The next session of my new/current Science Fiction/Horror campaign FRONTIER (which will incidentally be the third session, though technically Episode II) will feature a major plot twist. The players are in for a huge Surprise!

One might even call it a game changer! 

Talking about Surprise now would almost seem like a waste when I can discuss the subject right after dropping one hell of a bombshell on one of my groups in an active game. 

To this end I am going to give this post a 'rain check'. 

I promise to do a post on Surprise on the 23rd of September. I know! It's crazy! Unprecedented! You always knew I was a maverick, outside-the-box type guy, but this is madness! 

This Barking Alien blog plays by its own rules baby!

Trust me I can hardly wait for the big reveal. They'll be so Surprised!

Barking Alien

Thursday, August 22, 2019

RPGaDay Challenge 2019 - LOST


Wait...where am I?

After the last post I found myself Lost in thought.

I was thinking about the next prompt, which is, in point of fact, Lost. 

While Lost in thought about Lost, I Lost track of time. Suddenly I realized...wait...I've Lost my place.

Ah yes, Lost...

I find myself thinking about friends I've Lost. 

Over the years I've Lost a number of very good friends and we, together, have Lost opportunities to reminisce about old games, create new ones, and enjoy the very special bond that comes from shared experience of gaming. 

I have my memories of course but it saddens me that no new ones will be made with those particular fellows who left this world well before their time. 

Sometimes I reflect on their passing and feel a bit, Lost. 

To Allen Halden, Pedro 'Pete' Hernandez III, and Martin King, I recall the words of the great Bob Marley: 

Good friends we have, oh, good friends we've lost
Along the way.
In this great future, you can't forget your past
So dry your tears, I say.


Barking Alien

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

RPGaDay Challenge 2019 - VAST


Space is Vast but I've already talked about Space.
There are a Vast amount of RPGs out there, but I've talked about that with Plenty.

Stuck for an idea, I took a look at what my fellow RPGaDay participants had to say on the subject and it seems I am not alone in not having much to discuss about a word that means 'Immense' and 'Of great extent or quantity'. 

That seems rather odd doesn't it? It's almost counter intuitive. One would think there is a Vast amount of things you could say about Vast, being that it is so, well, Vast and all. 


I could talk about the Vast number of different rules systems that have been developed over the years to determine the outcome of everything from combat to romance and inventing to friendships. Professional Game Designers and fans alike love to read, write, rewrite, tweak, and kitbash game mechanics. There are so many ways to simulate and emulate the adventures, characters, settings, and genres we love to experience and explore and it's astounding to see the Vast array of them laid out before us in such wonderful abundance. 

The Vast number of players and the diverse nature of them, of us, is also amazing. I have gamed with artists and actors, politicians and police officers, parents and their children. My own groups have always consisted of a mix of ethnicities, religions, genders, orientations, and ages. So many people, so many personalities, all united by a love of gaming and invested in whatever campaign we were participating in together. True, some more than others, some more compatible with each other than others, but over all there for the same reason, the same end goal; have fun, tell a good story, make happy memories. 

Memories are also Vast. Think of all the memories you have of the games you've run and played in. Realize that you are in the memories of those who were in those games with you. Surely, some moments have been forgotten, but perhaps they are recalled by the games other party members. Perhaps the GM told the story to a friend who regaled a group of fellow gamers with the tale at a convention. Are our stories just ours? Is this a form of shared memory, a modern age oral tradition, a strange immortality? Memories are the mentally recorded stories of past events and nothing, nothing is more Vast than stories. 

Vast is so big, so all-encompassing a word, it is difficult to know where Vast begins and ends. It is hard to determine quite where one is with Vast. Within the Vast it is easy to get...

Barking Alien

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

RPGaDay Challenge 2019 - NOBLE

Nobility is not a thing I equate with most Role-Playing Games or Gamers, at least as it applies to games. 

Allow me to clarify...

The typical 'Heroes' of a Fantasy Role-Playing Game just slew anything and everything in sight before stealing all of the treasure that could find. They then proceed to a nearby village where a beggar, hearing of their exploits and seeing their bulging sacks of coin, asks humbly for pity and a few coppers from the brave adventurers.

He is likely killed.

So is the guy eyeing them as they entered town who just happens to work for the city guard and is not accustomed to wealthy armed strangers entering the gates. This brings in the rest of the guard who are also killed as the 'Heroes' defend themselves from a 'clearly unfair' GM. Before long the town is a burning ruin and the 'Valiant' PC party are off to their next crime. 

I have seen Nobility. True Nobility. Noble Heroes gilded not in shining armor or gold but in self-sacrifice. I have seen PCs put themselves in harms way to save each other and NPCs. I have seen players have their PCs do what is right, not what 'makes the most sense'. 

A few examples: 

Star Trek

The Asst. Chief Engineer of our Star Trek campaign starship had developed an interesting personality and backstory over time, such that he was a favorite NPC of much of the crew. He was of Indian descent, had a wife and a young son, took any opportunity to cook real food for his friends and family (as opposed to synthesized food), and collected old timey watches and clocks as a child. 

In a particularly serious session the Engine Room was flooded with deadly radiation and evacuated, but someone needed to stay behind to shut down the main reactor manually due to computer/system damage. The PC Chief Engineer decided to stay and get everyone else out. Our Asst. Chief insisted he stay. The two argued, valid points on both sides, and it eventually turned into a wrestling match, fist fight as they each struggled to save each other.

Finally, it looked like the PC had won but just as he turned his back on the prone Asst. Chief, the NPC sprang up and saved the PC, the massive blast door trapping our favorite clock-fixing, chef in the radioactive Engine Room. He managed to manually disengage the system just as the PC ship was about to suffer a TPK overload. 

The players were sad for weeks. The Chief Engineer was so guilty he became a surrogate dad to the NPCs family. It was the height of Noble.

Star Wars

My buddy was playing a Smuggler who was one part Han Solo and two parts Wild West gunfighter. Throughout the campaign, though he was helping the Rebellion against the Empire, he never once claimed he wasn't still in it for the money. He had no Princess Leia to love, no Luke to befriend, and his co-pilot/companion was a droid. 

As the final battle of the campaign began, the Smuggler and his droid, now a full on independent being, reunited to lead an attack on the Imperial Interdictor that served as the command ship of the series long big bad. Not only did he drop the veneer that he was just a mercenary doing this for a payday but he rallied the ships and fighters in the fleet with a rousing speech about fighting for what they all believed in; truth, honor, justice, and freedom!

From Ne'er Do Well to Noble in 12 sessions. 


Where do I even start?

Starguard (my PC) saved Pulse (our PC speedster) half a dozen times at least. Pulse saved civilians constantly. So did I. Omni (telepathic leader PC) saved everyone a least a dozen times. Tachyon overloaded his powers, preventing him from being able to use them again, in order to save New York City from the villainous Sundown!

Then there is this, wherein PC Superheroes sacrificed their lives and even the very fabric of their reality in order to defeat an enemy who threatened to destroy the infinite multiverse!

This looks like a job for being Noble!


As I've mentioned before, my own D&D universe is actually patterned after Superhero comics and features a world-spanning order of heroic individuals united to protect the innocent, the weak, the struggling, and the oppressed from harm both natural and Arcane!

Saving fishing villages from floods, defeating brigands, and battling monstrous creatures is all in a days work for The Order of the Winghorn Guard. It should be noted that while the Guard will sometimes claim treasure unaccounted for, the goods stolen by brigands are always returned to the merchants they were taken from. A portion of all gold and other coin found is donated to the people of near by towns. The Winghorn Guard members also give a portion of their findings to the Guard proper to fund their continued operations. 

My D&D is not about killing things and taking their stuff. It's about the Nobility of being a hero with a purpose. 

I am sure your game features truly good and heroic people doing truly good and heroic deeds. Like mine campaigns, your players imbue their characters with a sense of Nobility that raises them above the common riff-raff and scallywags of most gaming groups. 

At least I hope so. There is no more Noble act than Noble acts. 

Barking Alien

Monday, August 19, 2019

RPGaDay Challenge 2019 - SCARY

A criticism commonly leveled at my games over the past 10 years or least until that they just aren't Scary. 

I'm not talking about Horror themed games. I'm talking about all my games. Many of my players across a few groups feel I go too easy on them. They say that they never fear for their characters lives or well being. 

I will admit that I have had difficulty bringing that aspect to my games over the past decade. There are several factors that contributed to this, some of which I've discussed before, but the bottom line is I changed my style a little to accommodate less experienced players and then got stuck on 'easy mode' without even realizing I was doing so. 

Initially the idea was to make things not quite so hard, complex, or dangerous that I ended up killing off the characters of newbie players and then discouraging them from continued play. If your character dies in its very first session, before you even get to know them, the world, or anything about gaming in general, you're probably going to shrug and go play video games or watch a movie on Netflix. 

The plan was let them get their feet wet, let them look around and get into some trouble, then kill an important NPC or destroy something they owned*. Now they will see things and people are indeed breakable and watch themselves and their surroundings a bit more carefully. 

This was a mistake. 

The first problem I discovered was that I realized all too late that the group of players I had adjusted for simply weren't the same as my old group.

It wasn't that they weren't as smart, as organized, as creative, or anything of the sort. They didn't have the same skills and experience needed to effectively deal with me. My games are a tad different from the average GM I've encountered. They are more open ended, flexible, character focused, setting focused, and it takes a certain kind of player thought process to play them. Not a better player. A player who gets what I'm trying to do. 

If you have to twist in a screw you don't need the world's best hammer or most advanced wrench. You absolutely need a screwdriver though. 

The second and much bigger issue was that by going easy on them they weren't challenged to get better. There was no need to up their game (so to speak) if they weren't in any real danger. Another way to look at it is if their level of play was working up to X point, there is no real need to change. We (Humans) do not make changes from positions of comfort. If we can get by doing what we're doing we will. 

That's not how I want to be as a GM. I always want to be improving, always striving to be better at the craft. In the end I didn't just stagnate them, I stagnated myself. I couldn't be the best GM I could be if they weren't the best players they could be, but why be better if the level they were at was working just fine?

Now there is another factor that I've noticed more recently.

In the past few years I've noticed that some of the people who say my games aren't tough and Scary enough are also the ones whose PCs are unphased by anything. You know what I'm taking about. The characters who are so cool they bleed ice and laugh in the face of the 100 ft. tall, city-eating space monster. No matter how awesome the spectacle set before them, they toss a wise-crack and head right for it. 

I don't want to completely discourage that. I love that in some cases. Not every game is an Anime however and sometimes things should just freak you out. If you're PC is not freaked out it actually takes the other players and the GM out of the game a little. It's too meta. It isn't a realistic reaction to such an insane situation. Yeah, yeah, I know, your character is too cool for school but could you at least pretend to think this is serious so it makes sense in the context of the game?

Also, it is worth mentioning that buy-in and immersion are also aat play. Not being Scared your character may die may say your PC is a badass but it can also say to the GM that you don't really care about your character. It can also mean you don't understand or acknowledge the dangers the GM is presenting you with. If you act like you don't take a serious threat seriously, the GM is left to  wonder what they are doing wrong. Maybe something...or maybe nothing and you are just looking at it like a computer game. 

Yet another reason I am loving my new FRONTIER campaign is because the Scary is there. The game uses a variant of the Year Zero System which includes rules for Stress and Panic. Characters are just people, even if they're Armored Spacesuit wearing, Cybernetics using professionals. When they see crazy stuff they can potentially lose it and I love that. So do they, as it gives them great role-play opportunities.

One of my favorite moments of the first session of FRONTIER was when we realized one of the people we had rescued from a crashed starship was carrying a gun. A murder victim had been found on the crashed vessel but we hadn't located the murder weapon. Just as one PC mentions this fact over the radio, the guy with the gun slides it out of his jacket. A PC rolls to take it from his hand and succumbs to Panic. He raises his hands and shouts. "GUN!", which alerts the other PCs next to him. 

We discussed afterward the monumental moment that was in setting the tone of the game. As opposed to the numerous games where you and your party are using a bunch of weapons against a large group of enemies also using weapons and no one batting an eye, here a single guy with a gun caused a panic.Just like in real life, a gun can kill you in a single shot in this game.

In FRONTIER, alien wildlife is rare and Scary. Weapons are Scary. Falls from great heights are Scary. You are a Human being in an unknown ecosystem and nature is Scary. 

One of the things I've gotten back is my ability to Scare players. Now if I can just get certain players to see things as Scary, I'll have it made.

Barking Alien

Sunday, August 18, 2019

RPGaDay Challenge 2019 - PLENTY

An interesting thing happened to me the other day that hasn't happened in a good, long while.

I was having dinner with my girlfriend and her friends and found out that two of them play Dungeons & Dragons. Pretty seriously too. They were a couple and the fellow made a D&D related joke, one only gamers would really get, so I knew they were the real deal. 

Apparently my girlfriend had told them about me and that I gamed as well. I said, "Yes I am a big RPG fan. Have been for a long time. I just don't really play Dungeons and Dragons".

To which the fellow inquired, "Oh, so more computer, video game RPGs?"

I chuckled, "No, no, definitely tabletop, just not D&D."

He seemed a little confused. " Warhammer? Miniatures?"

Here were two people well versed in the Dungeons and Dragons game who were largely unaware that there were other RPGs out there. I know this is a thing but I don't recall encountering this personally since the 80s I think. Just as they must have assumed D&D is the only game of its kind, so did I assume everyone who knew there was one RPG must automatically know there are many. 

And there are...many that is. One could say...Plenty.

The fact is we live in an amazing time in which there are Plenty of RPGs not only available for purchase and even for free, but covering Plenty of different genres and styles. With the internet as a resource you can buy and download PDFs or order physical copies of an absolute plethora of games.

RPGs new and old, serious and comedic, Fantasy to Modern, Superhero to Hard SF, one-shot party games to those designed for long term play are available to virtually anyone who has access to a computer. 

Why then would people only play or even know about only one game? 

It's a strange mirror to my last post that I can barely conceive of the idea of only playing one game and yet there are those that do just that. They do it and are happy and that's both infinitely wonderful and totally bizarre to me. 

There are Plenty of games out there, ipso facto I want to play Plenty of games.

Again, as before, I use a food analogy (because I am a bit of a foodie) and try to imagine eating the same meal over and over again. As much as I love Sushi (and I do LOVE Sushi), I don't think I could eat it for dinner 7 nights a week. I would get bored of it and then probably lose interest in having it again for a long, long time. 

Part of me is saddened by the possible realization that there indeed Plenty of RPGs but that Plenty aren't being played. Plenty are probably purchased but I wonder how often they are being brought to the table instead of tried and true games like Dungeons and Dragons, Pathfinder, and a few others. 

In response, and to some up this post, go play an RPG you haven't played before. Run one you've never run. Pass on to your fellow gamers the word that Plenty of games exist and as such we should each give Plenty of them a chance. 

You may not find any you like more than the one(s) you are currently playing. On the other hand you may find...Plenty.

Barking Alien

Saturday, August 17, 2019

RPGaDay Challenge 2019 - ONE


One is the loneliest number.

If there can be only One, it should be One in a million. One singular sensation.

Most of all, the One that you want. 

Let's go with the old, 'If you were stuck on a desert island with only One RPG, what would you want it to be'? Basically, if you could only play One game for the rest of your life, what is that game?


One game?! It's hard for me to picture myself not going bonkers with access to only One game. My personal opinion and outlook on the hobby is that each RPG should support a setting, genre, or style of play and therefore no one game can be the perfect game for every situation. 

It's not that I don't believe in the idea of generic or multi-genre systems. I have certainly run Hero System for more than Champions and used systems for subjects they weren't specifically designed for. At the same time, my preference is that the mechanics fit the game and the game the mechanics. I don't like it when my fluff and crunch feel like two separate things that aren't meshing together. 

Still, if I only have One RPG at my disposal, shouldn't it be a game that can do a variety of genres and setting decently well?

By my own logic and reasoning, I would choose One game that could do many things or at least most of the many things I would want to use it for. In other words, if I were stuck with but a single system, I would want it to be a system that could run Star Trek, Star Wars, other Spacefaring Sci-Fi, Superheroes, and maybe Giant Robots. So...some variant of the Interlock System by R. Talsorian Games? Mekton perhaps or Teenagers from Outer Space?

The other approach to this is to choose One's favorite game. If I am only able to play One RPG, why not have it be the RPG I love the most. Well friends and fans, that ain't so easy when you're Adam 'Barking Alien' Dickstein. 

I love Pork Ramen, especially if it's spicy, but I can't eat it every day. Nor could I eat Tacos every day and damn if they aren't a favorite as well. I'm just not wired that way. I want, nay need, variety. 

My favorite RPG at present is, well, ugh, that's another thing that makes this tough. I can't really decide. I am loving the Year Zero system variant I am using for my FRONTIER Sci-Fi campaign, but I am also having a blast with Modiphius Entertainment's Star Trek Adventures. Star Wars D6 by West End Games remains my all time fave rules wise of course, at least for the time being. 

In the end, I can't really decide. One of these, One thing will lead to another, and I'll give it One more try. 

Oh well. Another One bites the dust.

Barking Alien

Friday, August 16, 2019

RPGaDay Challenge 2019 - DREAM

Dream, huh?

Seriously? This is what I was referring to in my last post. Dream is so broad, so generic, and just so over used a word that it isn't really all that interesting. It could be, even should be, but it's heard so often as to become banal even as it implies aspects of thought, hope, aspiration, and imagination.

I Dream that the word prompts get a little more exciting.

The only thing I can think of at this point for Dream is describing my Dream game. 

You may have seen me tackle this before on my blog as the subject of one's Dream game has come up in the past, perhaps even several times. The thing of it is, one's Dream game can change and therefore it's worth considering again from time to time. 

A Dream game can go as far as being truly a Dream, with unrealistic parameters and criteria that one could never achieve. For example, I could Dream up the perfect Star Trek campaign and include my late, much loved friend Allen, but that is a game that will never come to pass. Incidentally, I miss that guy something fierce. 

Being more realistic in my Dreaming, what game would I run now, that I could run now, if I could run it?

Funny, I feel like I am currently running one of my Dream games. 

My Science Fiction/Horror Space Adventure FRONTIER, which has had but two sessions so far, is a game I've wanted to do for over 30 years. More accurately I've been thinking up ideas related to the concept for 30 plus years. 

In addition to the premise - A group of Scientists and Engineers on a distant Space Station working on Scientific Breakthroughs to save a Dying Earth - I have gathered what is turning out to be a near-perfect cast. A diverse group of smart players with quirk but believable characters who interact well and are immersed in the universe. If that isn't your Dream team what is, right?

Back to my Dream game...I really don't know. I am really happy with FRONTIER, content with Star Trek and Champions campaigns, and while I am looking to do one more, I don't feel like it qualifies as a Dream game. I view my next project, whatever it is, as 'What is the most I can get out of what I've got to work with'? If I can make that happen, I will be very happy. 

Maybe someday I will have an itch to run the perfect game, with the perfect group, and when the concept comes to me I'll definitely want to share it with all of you.

A fellow can Dream can't he? 

Barking Alien