Thursday, July 30, 2020

Challengers of The Uninspired

This coming Saturday begins the RPGaDay Challenge for 2020.

I've been doing this challenge - initiated by Game Designer, Writer, and all around Interesting Nerd Fellow David Chapman of the blog AUTOCRATIK - for six years now.

This will be my seventh attempt at completing 31 individual game related posts in 31 days. The posts will be based on the prompts listed on the image above. I have been successful in my previous outings with this and although I sometimes tease and poke fun at it, I generally enjoy doing it very much. I have to admit it isn't always easy and this year looks particularly tough. 

To start, a lot of these prompts just don't provide me with much in the way of inspiration. They just aren't speaking to me. This is especially true of the early ones and I kind of need the initial few to be good in order to get the juices flowing for the next few. Like a good game of Star Trek Adventures, I really have to build up Momentum. 

The other issue is I am in a lot of games right now, some I'm running them and some I'm playing in and I'm trying to finish two out this month so I can end them a start a single new one. Between that and my real life goal of getting and doing more business, I'm not sure I'll have as much time as I've usually had in Augusts past. 

With the words being, well, a little boring to be honest, it compounds my second problem and vice versa. If it takes longer to put a post together but I have less time to write posts...Oh boy. Not quite sure how this year is going to go. 

Good luck to all participants...myself included.

Barking Alien

Monday, July 27, 2020

No End In Sight?

What began as a discussion about Japanese Anime classics from our youth on Facebook the other day, turned into an analysis of two very similar though significantly different storytelling styles between myself and my very dear friend, William Corpening, the greatest Gamemaster I've ever had the pleasure of gaming with

Essentially, William noted that it took him some time to truly appreciate the Eastern approach to genre storytelling that, unlike an American Comic Books or TV Series for example, has a definitive beginning, middle, and end. The idea that Superman might have an end to his story wasn't a concept William ever considered. Likewise, he didn't plan on there being any 'grand finales' to his RPG campaigns. They simply went on and on until they didn't. 

While I like to think I share that approach, it simply isn't true more often than not. Will noted that my tales have regularly featured a final chapter and apparently always have, though in many cases this never occurred to me. 

In response to Will's statement about having to get used to the idea of Anime and Manga series coming to an end I posted, "I feel like Eastern storytelling of the kind you see in Anime and Manga, especially of the late 70s and early 80s, always spoke to me and that's why I was so WOWed by it. It was what I didn't know I wanted. It influenced my GMing even when I wasn't GMing anything specifically Anime-themed."

This initiated a most interesting exchange in which we compared our Gamemastering styles, with William's insight into my own both quite different and more insightful than what I have gleaned myself. 

Says Will (quoted from text, only slightly paraphrased):

"Are you familiar with Kishotenketsu? Introduction, development, twist and reconciliation. Your style seems to follow that pattern.

You have an end in mind, as far as I can tell. You begin with the ending in mind. I don't think I can even do that, which is why it always broke my heart to leave one of your games early. I wanna see how it ends!!!

I never really played with the end in mind back then. That's why it never ends."

I found this an odd perception initially, though not entirely wrong when I took a closer look at it. Generally speaking, I don't have an end in mind such as, "This campaign ends with the heroes triumphant over the evil despot" or "There will be a big battle in the final session with the PCs fighting the enemy forces while a third party tries to take advantage of the situation".

I don't do that. I don't know where a campaign will end and I don't want to know ahead of time. That leads to Railroading the players and having the GM's story taking precedent over the PCs actions and decisions. 

That said, more often than not I do have a story idea I want to explore going in. "What would it be like if everyone lived forever and death was an unknown? How do you tell that story? Where is the tension?" or "Imagine a Four Color Comic Book Superhero world set in turn of the century France. Where will that idea go?"

At some point while examining the campaign's meta-concept I do see that there will be an ending. There is a point in [most of] my campaigns where I realize the story and PCs are going somewhere, towards some kind of finale. The initial question that prompts the campaign needs to be answered somehow. I look forward to finding out what that answer is as much as they [the Players and their PCs] do and as Will so accurately points out, that process means my stories/campaigns do come to a distinct end.

As for Will's approach: 

"I never really played with the end in mind back then. That's why the story never ends.

I think we may be convincing ourselves and each other that there is some great difference between us. Our differences are likely infinitesimal. I'm starting to process it that way. I'll go left one day where you might go right the next. And yet, I still say you handle story better than I do. Maybe I might handle [large] ensembles better.

It's like I'm Biggie and you're Tupac. Biggie was a rapper and Tupac was a poet. You're the storyteller and I'm the freestyler."

An interesting analysis and one I think I will visit further sometime soon. I am talking to Will about doing a post where we discuss our approaches - both how they differ and what they share in common - and then putting it up and taking questions. Not sure exactly how this will be formatted yet but it is definitely on my agenda. 

That's all for now...

WAIT! Before I forget, a quick reminder that next month is the 2020 RPGaDay Challenge! Please check back as I tend to post A LOT during that time. 

OK, be safe,

Barking Alien 

Monday, July 13, 2020

Playing Catch Up

Hey all.

Sorry I've been quiet this month but a number of things have come across my control console here at the Barking Alien Blog that require my attention. 

First and foremost, my girlfriend Esmeralda's birthday was July 11th. Happy Birthday My Love! Not being able to be with her due to distance and the current planet-wide health crisis truly sucks. I mean it really REALLY sucks. I am glad she is safe and sound at her place and the same for me at mine but I miss her terribly, especially today. 

Meanwhile, I have been looking over a number of RPG items that have come my way and learning what it takes to get me interested in a game. What I mean is, what makes me want to learn a new set of rules, tackle a particular setting or genre, and how or if I plan to use a given game in the future. 

Cases in point...

Modiphius Entertainment recently released the PDF for a new Core Rulebook for the Star Trek Adventures RPG entitled 'The Klingon Empire'. This book is not only a sourcebook for all things Klingon but a true core book for running Star Trek Adventures, albeit with a Klingon bend. 

The book features some reorganization and clarifications of the Star Trek Adventures rules and while not exactly an 'Second Edition', it is a better representation of the ideas and mechanics used in this RPG, one that's become a favorite of mine. 

That said, I am in no rush to get it. I really wish they'd make it a sourcebook instead. I don't feel like I need a new core rulebook, I am not in desperate need of that much Klingon material, and most importantly, it's not like I am going to be running a Klingon focused campaign - one where the PCs are Klingons on a Klingon ship - any time soon. OK, maybe ever. This makes the book, with it's tons of pages and larger price point not especially enticing to me. I'll get it eventually, it's a Star Trek RPG book after all, but I am in not hurry. 

The next item, which is holding much more of my interest and attention, is Free League's Vaesen RPG, a game about 19th Century Paranormal Investigators dealing with Faerie Hauntings in Sweden.

I know, niche much?

I have long been intrigued by the faerie folklore of Europe; not just the popularized Pixies and Banshee of the British Isles, but the lesser known and appreciated Nisse, Vaettir, and very different Trolls of Scandinavia.

Running a game that is one part dark fairy tale and one part Call of Cthulhu is right up my alley, though I do wonder if perhaps I should move the setting to mid-1800s London to make it more familiar to my players and I. I have knowledge of what a Wood Wife is but only a vague grasp of life in 19th Century Upsala. 

Next up is an upcoming RPG that is currently in Playtest status. I can't discuss it at this juncture but I surely will in the future. Trying to make time to read it between all the other reading I'm doing. Actually playing it is another matter entirely. Isn't there a pandemic? Don't I have all this free time? I thought I did...

Finally, I am working on a project near and dear to my heart that, like my ALIEN RPG campaign and my old Smurfs RPG idea, has been on my mind for over 35 years. I am putting it today with an original rules set derived from many of the mechanics I've encountered over the last decade and trying to get it all to function in harmony.

Fingers crossed and more about what it is as it gets closer to completion. 

Anyway, that's where my head is at. Hopefully I can get a few things out of the way to post some more real content in the near future. 

Thanks for dropping by,

Barking Alien