Saturday, January 25, 2020

Aw, Rats!

Gong Hei Fat Choy!

Happy Luna New Year - Year of The Rat!

Barking Alien

Friday, January 24, 2020

Round Robin

Remember that plan I had to game a bit less often this year but make each session more, I don't know, 'meaningful'? Well there has been a change of plans.

OK, not literally or completely but an interesting idea has come up among the members of one of my groups that may make playing more one-shots more appealing. 

One of my groups - a relatively small party of four regulars including myself - had been doing a monthly campaign which suffered from severe scheduling inconsistencies. Not everyone could make every session and when there are only four participants including the GM, well, we played about as often as we didn't. 

Although the scheduling issues were caused by legit conflicts with family obligations and bouts of flu, the longer we held off the less we were jazzed to get back to the campaign. This was partially because no one besides the GM was truly enamored with the setting or the system. It's not that we weren't having fun or outright disliked the game, but it just wasn't sparking a need to get back to it. 

After some discussion we came up with the idea of doing a Round Robin format wherein each month, or perhaps every few months, one of us would run a game and if everyone really liked it we'd run a short campaign. It one of the games just blew everyone away we'd decide whether or not we would turn it into an ongoing thing. 

We started this month with a one-shot, homebrewed Star Wars game that I must say was really fun. The system was simple, fast, and highly functional, though not perfect. A mechanic for handling stress and success probably needs a bit of a tweak but was otherwise very cool. I got to play a Jedi for the very first time and I had a blast doing so. I really liked my character, that's rare, and I'd totally be down for playing him again.

We don't have specific plans for the very next game, but a few Traveller sessions run by yours truly has been discussed. I am excited for the chance to run that game and universe again, especially with players who are less familiar with it. 

I will keep you posted as to how it goes.

Barking Alien

Sunday, January 19, 2020

Building Character

Creating a player character is a very challenging experience for me sometimes. Other times it's so easy as to make the challenging occasions all the more frustrating. 

As I've noted before, I don't play very often as a player and when I do I have very mixed feelings about the process of character creation and play even to this day. Sure, I've played more in the last 12 years than I have in all the 30 years before that combined, yet I still don't automatically enjoy it. 

To give you a clearer picture of why and what I am referring to, I would like to discuss what I am currently experiencing based on my previous post - the need to create two player characters, one for a Star Wars one-shot and one for a possible Dungeons and Dragons 5E campaign. 

For me, creating a Star Wars character is incredibly easy and always fun. 

One of the few settings I actively want to play in is the Star Wars universe. I would love to be in an ongoing Star Wars campaign but alas, no one runs them but me. Having the opportunity to participate in even a one-shot is personally very exciting. 

I started out the process of creating a PC for this Star Wars game by immediately imagining the kind of character I would want to see in a Star Wars story. Then I narrowed it down to which of those I thought it would be fun to play. Now I had over two dozen concepts and it was time to get serious. 

I finally decided on about 3 ideas, an outdated but heavily modified Astromech, an alien Scout/Explorer type, an alien pilot inspired by a character from the video game 'Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order', and then...I looked at what the other players were playing and noticed we had no Jedi. I've never, ever played a Jedi. Hmm. OK, I'll do it! Instantly I knew my species, my look, his name, everything. I was so inspired I immediately made an image of him.

Pyrro Urrunei
Cosian Jedi

Now for Fantasy...

Nothing came to mind. Normally ideas flood into my head to the point where I need to find higher mental ground or I could easily drown in them. Here I found myself sitting, staring at my computer screen thinking...I got nothing. What. The. Hell?

Everything seems so same-y. It's all been seen and done a thousand times before. The only way I am going to make this work is to play 'against type' and choose a character that, similarly to my Jedi in Star Wars, is something I've not played before.

Actually, that makes things quite a bit easier. I played quite a lot of D&D in my early years in the hobby and yes, there was a tendency to play the same or similar types of PCs. I generally played Dwarves with the occasional Gnome or Halfling. Usually I played a Cleric or multi-classed as a Cleric/Fighter. 

My thought here was Elf, a classic of D&D Fantasy that I've never actually played before, and a Fighter/Wizard (Mage? Magic-User? What the heck is D&D calling them these days?). Then the fellow who is going to GM the game mentioned that the classes have subclasses I guess, so I might want to go Fighter-Eldritch Knight, a warrior with some arcane knowledge and magical abilities. OK. That sounds solid enough.

I have now been trying to roll one up for a day or two and I don't know why but I just can't. I tried generating one with an online generator and half way through I get frustrated and bored. What is it about the process of D&D Character Creation that I find so tiring? I really wish I knew. 

Part of it is that all of the choices feel mechanical. Very little of the Character Creation exercise (with the exception of Background) is interesting in and of itself. It isn't numbers I can use to build my own vision like Champions. It isn't choices that inherently reflect a background or story like Star Trek. It doesn't come as a surprise that must be worked in like Traveller. It's just...numbers on a sheet. 

Creating a D&D character, for me, doesn't evoke the desire to see them played. I can't think of any other way to describe it. Also, since I don't have a clear idea of the character (background, personality, etc.) before I sit down to make them, I don't get that cool feeling of seeing a character I imagine in my mind realized (the way I do in Champions for example). 

I suppose I will find a way to get this done, though I don't want it to feel like a chore. I want it to be fun. Maybe I want it too much and I'm putting undue pressure on myself and the rules?

Anyone want to generate a Third Level, High Elven Eldritch Knight? I'll owe you a Star Wars PC illustration.


Barking Alien

Thursday, January 16, 2020

Fits and Starts

One of my skills is seeing patterns in separate bits of information and then putting those bits in order in a way that makes the pattern work better overall. 

It is this skill that got me jobs working as an Event Coordinator for a Comic Book/Fan Media Convention company and as a Dog Walking Manager managing over 200 walks a day in six different locations across New York City. 

It's all pieces of a puzzle and knowing where the pieces fit.

At the beginning of the month - and therefore the year - my good friend Dave mentioned that one of his hobby goals this year is getting into an ongoing Fantasy game. 

Now that may sound easy to all of you, as Dungeons & Dragons and Pathfinder campaigns are all over the place these days. It seems you can hardly walk ten feet without tripping over one. That may be true in most gaming circles but if you've ever looked at this blog before today you'll surely know that this isn't the case with my groups. 

Let's break it down:

The primary GM in three different groups of players, totaling around 15 individual gamers between them (some members overlap a couple of groups) is me, and I don't run Fantasy very often. Given the last dozen campaigns I've run and any I am currently running, I think one of them was Fantasy oriented. Maybe two. 

So finding someone to run a Fantasy game requires that Dave look outside the core groups,


My friend Leo was getting a little frustrated with the Numenera campaign he's been running for almost a year now. The games' schedule is supposed to be monthly but it's been inconsistent due issues ranging from player availability to holidays to people being out sick. Even when the regularly scheduled sessions are run, inevitably one person is missing and with only a GM and three players one can feel like a lot. 

Recently we had to reschedule and when it came up, no one responded with their ability to make it until a couple of days after the date announcement. No one said anything to the effect but it was feeling like there was a lack of enthusiasm. Leo was starting to get a little down. 

Then it hit me...

I asked Leo, who I know likes Dungeons & Dragons (yes, we remain friends), if he would run a D&D 5E campaign for Dave and I and whomever else he wanted to add. At the very least he'd have Dave and I who are generally quite consistent and we'd be two players who wanted to play the game he would be running. After all, we asked for it. 

Now I know what you're thinking (I have that power), "Wait...D&D for YOU and Dave? YOU'D play D&D?!? On Purpose???"

Well sure...I'll explain.

It wouldn't be my first choice for an RPG campaign (let's face it, it wouldn't be my 51st choice) but I could tell Dave was really eager to play some Fantasy and I also knew I wasn't in the mood to provide it. Let someone else do the heavy lifting for a change. 

In addition, Leo had said to me recently, on more than one occasion , that "You would probably like D&D 5E with the right DM". Challenge accepted! Let's see what this hunk a'junk can do.

Meanwhile, our next regular Numenera session has been preempted as a buddy of ours wants to test out a Star Wars homebrew system. We're getting together for a one-shot and I get to play Star Wars as a player. 

This year is already starting out with bang and a twist. A Twang? A Baist? Well it's starting out interesting I'll tell you that. 


Barking Alien

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

2020 Vision

The year is 2020!

Cybernetic limbs with built-in smart weapons. United Defense Force troops battling the alien Mimics. Arno Stark becoming a villainous version of the superhero Iron Man. Gipsey Danger defends Anchorage against a Kaiju attack. The sport of robot boxing sweeps the world. 

Yes! None of that @%*^ is happening!

This is 2020 however, the year of renewal, new beginnings, and perhaps a good strong dose of unfounded optimism. Hey, any optimism in a storm right?

So what's the plan for The Barking Alien Blog in 2020?

A major directive to myself is to blog more than I did in 2019. Last year didn't see the lowest post count in the blog's 11 year existence - that occurred in 2018 - but it was definitely too low for my personal liking. It makes me sad to see a number below 120 for the entire year. It's disheartening in a way that is difficult to rationalize, let alone explain, but it does bring my overall mood down something fierce. 

Thankfully I have some big ideas for 2020 (One big idea in particular) and I am definitely going to want to share my thoughts.

Additionally, I have been inspired and energized by several friends, including some fellow game bloggers, who have told me they enjoy my blog. A few, who have renewed their own dedication to communicating their love of RPGs, have spurred me on even further with their reaffirmed zeal.

Love promotes love. You feel me? Righteous.

So what exactly is my vision for 2020? A concentrated effect to do what I [hopefully] do best; think about games, think about gaming, think about gamers, and maybe have some laughs along the way. 

Join me won't you?

Barking Alien