Thursday, April 29, 2021

Leave Room for Dessert

 As I wrap up April and move on into May, I wanted to say thank you once again to everyone who came by this month and made it such a fun time. In addition to getting a record number of views for the blog's 12th anniversary year, I also received far more comments then usual. That really means a lot to me and I hope everyone continues this trend as I move into other territory.

Eat or be eaten in my homebrew 'Delicious in Dungeon' TRPG.
Coming soon...

I have decided that I am going to develop a homebrew 'Delicious in Dungeon' TRPG instead of a more general Anime/Manga Fantasy game. This is going to take some time so meanwhile the blog will move on from Anime and Manga to cover some other subjects. 

Subjects like...

Stay tuned,

Barking Alien

I'll Be Reckless If It Means I'll Win

It is nearly the end of the month and I have over 9000 views for April. Nine thousand.

That is the most I've had in a long while and I want to thank each and every one of you out there who has taken the time to give my weirdo, Narrative promoting, Anime discussing, Space Adventure loving RPG blog a looksee. 

You guys are the best.

For my final entry (for the time being) regarding my Goblin Slayer TRPG One-Shot run over the internet with four players in Japan, I want to talk about some interesting bits that didn't fit anywhere else. 

Hope you enjoy.

The Demon of The Lake
 of The Ruins of The Castle in The Lake

Deep Dive

I was reminded early on about one of the reasons I find Fantasy RPGs and just Fantasy in general so irritating sometimes - it is all so bog standard that any attempt to do something different often feels frustrating. 

I thought it would be cool to place the adventure in an interesting setting and terrain; a flooded castle, half submerged in a lake, and it was raining. I then took to the internet to find an image of a submerged castle. Nothing even remotely cool. 

I search for Sunken castle? No. Not completely underwater, how about Flooded Castle? Nope. Castle in a Lake? Hmmm. Castle with Water? Nothing. ARGH!

Are you telling me I am the first person in the history of Fantasy RPGs to have this type of setting in an adventure? Surely not. The first person to want a picture of it? Good grief man! WTH! I am other a savant genius of setting design or you Fantasy artists out there need to step up your game. 

Strangely, the idea was inspired by one of the early volumes of the Manga 'Dungeon Meshi' or Delicious in Dungeon. I didn't want to use that art though and confuse the IPs.

Don't even get me started on the Giant Killer Mermaid. At least that I could put together myself. Sheesh.

Favorite Quotes:

"I will make it rain Fire and Death." Naoko said this when it looked like the Lake Demon was going to eat Lady Knight and the children on the raft. She said it in a tone that was so incredibly nonchalant that I burst out laughing. It was an even, soft, but serious tone. She might as well have said, "Here are the quarterly reports you asked for" or "I took the liberty of ordering tea and scones for us". My favorite line of the night. 

Just like how [in the Anime] Goblin Slayer says 'Souka' or 'I see' a lot, Yasa's Armored Dwarf has the catchphrase Mondai Nai, which basically mean 'It's no problem'. He said it often enough that it became clear he was doing it to be funny. He would lean back on his chair and smile the same way almost every time while saying it. His Dwarf was so laid back he wasn't bothered by any dangerous or difficult task the group asked of him. 

"Dwarf, do you think you could retrieve the dagger I threw into that goblin's guts?'

"Hai. Mondai nai." Sure, no problem.

When Jenn's Lady Knight needed to reach the three children tied up on a raft in the middle of the watery ritual chamber, she started to get this desperate, earnest look on her face. She was honestly worried Knight Woman wouldn't be able to jump the distance to save the kids. John noticed her look and mentioned that the Dwarf was already in the water. She looked at Yasa (via screen of course) and asked, "Is that OK?" Clearly Yasahiro had no idea what she was planning but lean back and said, "Mondai nai."

Jenn describes Knight Woman leaping off the ledge onto the floundering Dwarf, then off him and onto the raft. Yasa's face was priceless. He laughed and laughed, moving his arms as if he was trying to tread water and then pantomimed sinking. Hero and Hilarious! For her part, Jennifer described the Lady Knight landing on the raft with a Superhero 'Three Point Landing' stance. 

Lastly, I described the Lake Demon in some detail; a beautiful but gigantic mermaid with a very curvy figure. Yasahiro smiled and basically said, "Oh ho!". Then I mentioned her rows of razor sharp teeth and long, sharp claws. He then said something under his breath in Japanese that caused Naoko to laugh for a full minute. 

After the game I asked him what he'd said. He told me that after his "Oh ho", he had also whispered, "Sexy" in Japanese. After the full description he changed his opinion saying, "Oh. Not sexy Mermaid. Scary Mermaid."

Naming Convention:

In the Goblin Slayer series (Anime and Manga for sure - not sure about the Light Novels) none of the characters have proper names. We never find out the given names of any of the characters. The Goblin Slayer is always called Goblin Slayer. The High Elf Ranger is referred to as 'Elf', 'High Elf', ' High Elf Archer', and 'Ranger'. Even the credits of the show list the voice actors as playing secondary characters like 'Guild Girl', 'Sword Maiden', and 'Cow Girl's Uncle'. 

According to the series creator, Kumo Kagyu, this was done to reflect the fact that many players and Gamemasters of Fantasy TRPGs find it hard to come up with names for both PCs and NPCs and often forget them, simply calling them by their Race and Profession. 

When we started the game I told the players that it was fine if they created names for their PCs but I will only be calling them by their Species and Class. They were stunned and then told me the idea was brilliant. Perfect for this game world. I was pretty proud of that small but immersive choice.

A Sequel or Side Story?
We shall see.

One-Shot Wonder?

A question I've been asked by Tim Knight and others is, will we do it again?

I would love to and I am sure the players would too but the timing on the session we did was just a perfect zeitgeist. Normally Jenn, John, and Yasa only get the chance to play on the weekends and not usually together (though they might now - John and Yasa exchanged the names of their respective favorite Gaming Cafes.). 

If the opportunity comes up I would happily run for this group again. Such energy, investment, good RPG, good tactics, and a mindset many gamers these days lack - We only have 4-5 hours to play. Do stuff. Take action. Convey your character in a line or two. Keep it moving.

I will conclude here by thanking Naoko for this opportunity and her hospitality in inviting me into her home and world if only virtually. The same goes for all those involved. Jennifer, John, and Yasahiro, it was a pleasure and I look forward to the chance to enjoy your company again. 

正式にありがとう Seishiki ni arigatō

Barking Alien

Tabletop Gaming Online - English to Japanese Translation

A little behind the scenes information and analysis of my recent, online, one-shot of the Japanese Goblin Slayer Tabletop RPG by SB Creative, run for a group of four players living in Chiba Prefecture, Japan.

Let's meet the Players:

Jennifer is a White Female in her mid-20s, American, originally from California, who moved to Japan about 5 years ago. She teaches English to high school students but also does tutoring for adults. She only began playing TRPGs a year or so ago when she started dating her boyfriend John, though she has been an avid board game player for a long time. 

John hails from Seattle originally but moved to Japan a little over 5 years ago. Originally he lived in Tokyo but took a job that moved him out to Chiba. He is a White Male, mid-to-late 20s (he is a little older than Jenn). John was an avid TRPG player as a kid, stopped for several years and then got involved in it again 3 years back.

Naoko, whom I met through an online Art Forum, is a Japanese Female in her late 20s/early 30s who works for a Small Press Book Publisher. She has never played a TRPG before last night but became interested in them after seeing them at a Publishing Industry convention. She looked into them further and eventually started checking them out for her own company. She started reading my blog and that is how this whole thing really came about.

Last but not least, a colleague/co-worker of Naoko's, Yasahiro is a Japanese Male in his late 20s/early 30s who is very, very funny. Seriously, this fellow's quiet, subtle humor had me chuckling throughout most of the session. Yasa (he said to call him that) has had some experience with TRPGs but not a lot. He was the person most familiar with the Goblin Slayer Anime series. 

Now then...

This was my first time running a Japanese game for Japanese nationals living in Japan and as such I have no other experience to compare it with.

With that in mind, I put together some basic questions and answers based on ones I had going in and what I learned. 

If you want to know something that I didn't cover, please let me know!

Was this typical of how the Japanese play TRPGs online? I have no idea. As I said, I have no prior experience to compare it to.

Did you need to bring a 'gift' to the online session the way you would in Japan when visiting someone's home? No. As I understood it, this was more like when the Japanese go out to play RPGs at a Gaming Cafe. Yes, Gaming Cafes are a thing in Japan, one that is growing in popularity (or was prior to the Pandemic). Most Japanese Gaming Cafes primarily host Board Games but it is also a popular venue for TRPGs as well. 

How did you begin? Naoko facilitated things with introductions that were both more formal than a typical first time meeting of American gamers and more casual than proper introductions at Japanese business and social meetings I have attended in the past. This maybe because of the nature of the 'get together', the fact that three out of the five participants were actually Americans, or because modern Japanese social customs among people her age are less structured than they used to be. I don't honestly know. 

How did you introduce the game and the adventure? After getting to know everyone, I asked each if they had played TRPGs before, if so how often, and were they familiar with this particular game and it's Anime/Manga origins. 

I made it clear that I was not as well versed with the rules as I wanted to be. I was told that John had thoroughly read and understood the mechanics, while Naoko had gone over them the night before and got the basics. In practice their knowledge of the rules was incredibly helpful. Honestly, the two of them were handling the mechanical side of the adventure during play.

I kind of felt bad, like I was shirking my duties and letting them down. Even now I can't say I have a good sense of the rules in any detail. At the same time, having them overseeing the rules freed me up to focus on the narrative. 

I asked them if there were any elements or subjects they felt they wanted me to avoid and assured them that I had no desire to be particularly vulgar or graphic going in. There was a general consensus that we were all on the same page and that was that. 

I asked them to introduce and describe their characters and so they did, if briefly. Some of i it was especially interesting to me.

For example:

Yasahiro's Dwarf Warrior, sometimes called The Armored Dwarf, was the lightest of the characters in terms of pathos or background. As Yasa explained, "I just want to play a Dwarf. No one plays them for some reason. I think it would be fun. He (the Dwarf Warrior) is a fun guy. He is very likable." He played the character laid back, jovial, and very funny.

Naoko described her character, the Elf Girl Mage, as "More pretty than cute". She described her having white hair, blue eyes, and dressing mainly in red. She wore a hooded cloak outside but inside she often put on a witch's hat. She also asked if she could take the Spell 'Blizzard' and change it to be Fire - same effects and damage but with a Fire/Flame descriptor. I called it Firestorm and she loved that, so we made it so. 

Jennifer's character, The Lady Knight or Knight Woman was less interested in reward money and more dedicated to protecting people who can't protect themselves. Furthermore, because Knight Woman isn't motivated by money, she is more likely to leap into danger to save others as she isn't weighing their lives against a monetary value. I Instantly fell in love with this character. 

John's Priest of The Home followed a Home/Hearth Goddess. His idea was that his character was not well suited for the life of an Adventurer at first glance. His opinion was taking him on an Adventure was like taking a piece of Home with you wherever you went. The way he applied his Spells and Skills made him seem somewhere between a Cleric and a Druid.

Were there any difficulties with the game? What was the hardest part? There were a few things that did come up during the game, though none of them impeded us overly much. 

For some reason, I did something I rarely do - I described distances and measurements. "This is 15 feet away", "that's over 20 feet high". Every time I did this I could see the Japanese players doing the Metric conversions in their heads. This issue never even occurred to me.

I usually describe things by saying it's about as tall as a fire hydrant or it weighs as much as an unabridged dictionary. Why was I suddenly giving exact measurements? I switched and at the end got great reactions by saying the Lake Demon, "stood three floors high out of the water", and "She reaches out to grab you with arms that are two cars long". The players loved that.

At one point, as expected, I started to go a little too fast. It was pointed out to me and I slowed things down. 

Japanese TRPGs have very distinct scene structures. This is especially true of those that have come out within the last 5 years. There is a Introduction Scene, then a Role Playing Scene, then a Combat Scene, etc. I imagine my style, which often blends many of these separate events together, could be very confusing if you are used to the Japanese approach.

I have also been known to start games In Media Res and that can baffle new players but I do it because it reflects film and animation which they might be more familiar with. I did just that here and luckily it worked really well. We began in the midst of a battle with Goblins and after the fight I did a flashback in which the group takes the mission and gets part of the exposition. This was followed by some character banter. We then proceeded back to the here and now to show the Party delving deeper into the Castle Ruins. 

At first, this approach threw them. Even John, who had prior experience with RPGs, hadn't really played that way and was now used to the Japanese approach. They all liked it a lot though, saying it forced them to think quickly and get into the story right away. They also said it was so much more like an episode of an Anime (which was my goal). 

OK, that's a lot and I need to get some rest. There is one more entry coming, hopefully giving some more notes including some of the Easter Eggs, humor, and setting details. 

See you soon,

Barking Alien

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

The Ruins of The Castle in The Lake - A Replay

"I will make it rain Fire and Death."

-Elf Girl Mage, my friend Naoko. Best quote of the session.

Goblin Slayer TRPG
Standard Edition Cover

"Plip. Plip-plop. Plitty-plip plop plip. Raindrops pitter-pattered across the landscape, covering the ruins of The Castle in The Lake in a heavy mist. As the raindrops fell upon the Lake, the water rose, flooding the already damp area.

'SPLOOSH' The Dwarf Warrior's foot came down in a large puddle as he blocked the Hobgoblin's massive club with his Axe. Several smaller goblins stood surrounded the combatants in a circle, engaged in battle with The Elf Girl Mage, The Lady Knight, and The Priest of The Home."

This is how I opened the session this morning, paraphrased here and there, for our One-Shot of the Goblin Slayer TRPG. The game was run over Zoom with myself as Gamemaster and four players.

I am in New York City, NY in the USA. They were in Chiba Prefecture, Japan.

Jennifer played The Lady Knight (aka Knight Woman)
John played The Priest of The Home (aka Home Priest)
Naoko played The Elf Girl Mage (aka Mage Elf)
Yasahiro played The Dwarf Warrior (aka Armored Dwarf)

The plot was simple and straight forward - Merchants, mostly Farmers and Fishermen, had pooled together a lot of reward money to hire Adventurers whom they hoped would defeat Bandits hiding in The Ruins of The Castle in The Lake.

The ruins were off the road that led from the Fishing Village to Market Town. Bandits had recently attacked Fishermen on the road going to Market Town, as well as Farmers and Merchants leaving Market Town for the Fishing Village. 

The Adventurers Guild Party took the job only to find out these were not mere Bandits. It was a Cult of Evil trying to resurrect The Demon of The Lake. The items robbed and people kidnapped by the 'Bandits' were to be used in an Ancient Ritual of Dark Magic!

The Party were all 'Steel Level' members of the Adventurers Guild and it seemed they may have been a bit out of their element. Goblins had taken up residence in a section of the Ruin and had attacked the group as they entered the area. These Goblins were odd however; different in appearance from the usual fare. They had frog-like skin with molted markings. The deep gray rain clouds provided just enough darkness for the Goblins to come out during the day or perhaps they were aided by the rain itself. 

With some effort and teamwork the Party managed to slay the Goblins but that was only the beginning. The Bandit Cult (as they became known) had laid traps for the Party and without a Scout they often had to find other ways in and around the Ruins (which I must say was very clever). 

They encountered several Cultist Bandits and an Evil Bandit Acolyte on a series of staircases descending deeper into the keep before reaching the center of the ruined Castle, which was itself submerged in the Lake. The Cultists there was standing at various positions on a magic symbols carved into the stone floor. They were in the midst of their ritual to summon The Lake Demon, prepared to sacrifice three young children who were tied up on a raft that was floating in the water. 

The Party sprung into action like they'd being doing this for years! The Elf Girl Mage shot a Firebolt at the Cultists, causing them to break from their positions. The Dwarf Warrior followed up by charging the closest Cultist, though this sent them both tumbling into the water where the Cultist had the advantage; the Dwarf couldn't swim well at all. The Priest of the Home, brilliantly, blessed the Lake with a Purify Miracle, causing steam and a distant, inhuman cry to rise from the water. The Lady Knight...heheh...OK, so the Lady Knight...

Knight Woman leap off the ledge at the edge of The Lake, bounced off of the Dwarf in the water, jumped from there to the raft with the three children, and then cut them free. Just as she tried to figure out how to 'row' them back to dry land, a couple of Cultists jumped in the water and went after her. 

Meanwhile the Bandit High Priest is completing the Ancient Ritual, somewhat unaware of the fact that conditions aren't perfect. He is either ignoring it or so wrapped up in what he's doing he's in a kind of trance. 

The battle rages with The Party making short work of the Cultists but Knight Woman and the kids are still out on the raft in the water. Suddenly...'SH-THOOM!' A massive, muscular Mermaid with markings similar to the frog-skinned Goblins emerges from the water. She is both beautiful and creepy, the Demon of the Lake and she is not under the control of the Cultists. With their Ancient Ritual disrupted and the offering of the children not properly given, Mermaid Demon is angry, hungry, and out for blood!

Obtaining clubs from the Bandit Cultists she defeated, The Lady Knight and one of the kids use the weapons as makeshift oars and row back to the shore/ledge. Mage Elf covered them with Firestorm (a spell we made up based on the game spell Blizzard). 

As the team regrouped on slightly higher ground, a blast of steam so hot and powerful it nearly knocked them all over erupted from the center of the Lake. The Firestorm spell, mixed with the water on and below the Lake Demon had created a tornado of super-heated mist. With a furious scream, the Mermaid Demon emerged from the steam, clawed fingered and sharp teeth barred, leaping toward our heroes.

End of Episode. 

Behind the scenes info, thoughts, and more after the eyecatch.

Barking Alien

Monday, April 26, 2021

The Four Sided World

A rare opportunity has come up and I couldn't say no...though perhaps I should have thought my yes out more carefully.

My friend Naoko, who lives in the Chiba Prefecture of Japan, has invited me to/requested that I run an Tabletop RPG One-Shot for herself and some friends tomorrow evening. To be clear, tomorrow evening for them is early tomorrow morning for me. 

The game in question is the official Goblin Slayer TRPG published by Softbank Creative. Not long ago, I was able to obtain a copy of the Limited Edition boxed set of this game thanks to Naoko. 

Box Set Art

Boxed Set Art

I am incredibly flattered to be asked to GM for this collection of players and overjoyed to run a game I know I might not get to play otherwise. I do have some concerns however.

Oh boy do I have concerns...

First and foremost, I do not speak Japanese. While I might know some words and phrases, I can't actually speak or understand the language for the purposes of a conversation. 

Second, I haven't read the rules. See the first conundrum. The game is written in Japanese instead of the use of English on the front cover of the box set and rule book. It has not yet been translated into English, professionally or by fans, though there are some groups working on that noble cause even as we speak. 

I don't know these players, their likes and dislikes, and the proper protocols for gaming over the internet with people from Japan. That is, are there cultural elements about gaming online that differ from those of the US? Given the subject matter of the early episodes of Goblin Slayer, is there anything that might offend any of them or make them uneasy that I should avoid referencing?

Well, check this out...

Accessories that come with the Limited Edition.

A Dice Bag, Custom Dice, and
a Goblin Slayer Miniature!

According to Naoko there will be four players - an American Female friend of hers who teaches English in Chiba, her friend's boyfriend - also an American, a Male colleague from work who is a Japanese native, and herself, also a Japanese native. 

The two Americans speak English fluently but also Japanese (particularly the teacher) so they can help with translations. Naoko and her Male friend speak English, though she says she knows her pronunciation and usage of some words isn't perfect. Her friend is similar.

Naoko and I have spoken a couple of times online and I have never had a problem understanding her. She sometimes has difficulty understanding me when I speak too quickly, which I realize I do quite often. I will make an effort to slow down tomorrow. 

As far as the rules, I have been able to obtain some basic rule information, though I am concerned about where it will be enough. At least one other person in the group has read the rules in full and Naoko is going over them tonight (or is that today? hmmm). 

Finally, in regards to what I can say, can't say, should or shouldn't say, I generally go by the simple rule that if there is nothing to added by being vulgar then there is no reason to be. It isn't something that concerns me because, generally speaking, I don't create scenes that might 'trigger' people.

Granted, I have also played with people who don't get set off by in game actions or words easily. Sure, this might come up and if and when it does we will address it. If there is anything they don't want me to talk about or cover, I will ask them up front if there are any such things so there won't be any issues later on.

After going over all that I am feeling...still nervous has heck but I am really excited and can hardly wait to see what happens. I do need to calm down and relax a bit though. After all...I'm gaming in 8 and a half hours!

Gamemaster's Screen

“Luck, wisdom and courage! It all begins with whether or not you’re going to do something,
So do something!”
-Burglar, Goblin Slayer Season 1, Episode 8

Let's hope this group, unlike many US players, take that advice.

Barking Alien

Bug Stompers

 Happy Xenomorph Day Everyone!
April 26th, or 4/26, has become a way to celebrate the ALIEN franchise, referencing the planet LV-426 where upon the crew of the USCSS Nostromo and it's Chief Warrant Officer Ellen Ripley first encountered the titular extraterrestrial horror. 

I was really looking forward to today as Free League Publishing had originally announced that its delayed Colonial Marines Operations Manual would come out today, this most appropriate of days. has been further delayed and will not be out until, well, until they're completely done with it I suppose. When that will be is anyone's guess but Free League assures up the date is 'soon'. 

I am disappointed of course, partially because it would have been cool to have it come out on this particular date but also because I really like this game and there really hasn't been any great material for it since the main book was released. The special dice, the GM screen - all that and an adventure came out with the corebook or just after. What have we seen since? Another adventure or two? Nice but not something I need or use so I am looking for them to put out more books. A Colonial Marines sourcebook is just what the Android ordered! 

So now we wait. I hope Ferro and Spunkmeyer get here soon. 

Did...did you just hear a crash? That sounded like a crash...

Barking Alien

Friday, April 23, 2021

The Dungeon Meal Guide for Adventurers

While working on the rules for what I hope will be an upcoming Anime/Manga themed Medieval Fantasy RPG campaign, I had a mini-epiphany; one that is making me question how best to proceed.

The more I work on The Dungeon Experiment, the more I realize how much it is being influenced by a single Manga series: Dungeon Meshi, known in the USA as 'Delicious in Dungeon'. 

Sure, a lot of ideas go into a project of this nature and some are conscious additions while others seep in over time and through fandom osmosis. While I am not actively adding anything into The Dungeon Experiment from say, Record of The Lodoss War or Ruin Explorers, those are definitely two Japanese titles in the same genre that I really enjoyed in the past and to say they have no effect on my approach to this game would be short-sighted. 

That said, Dungeon Meshi is really the template from which I am working. This begs the question - Considering who I am and how much I love IP/Franchise based gaming, does it make more sense to create The Dungeon Experiment or simply make a Delicious in Dungeon Tabletop RPG?

In the seven years that the Manga has been in print (first US edition produced by Yen Press was released in May of 2017), the series has generated excellent reviews and a sizeable and dedicated fan following.

Creator, writer, and artist Ryoko Kui, in addition to the main Manga, has produced a guide to the characters and setting (The Dungeon Meshi World Guide Adventurer's Bible),  Senshi's Diary - A Record of Life (a series of diary entries by the Dwarf Cook Senshi noting observations about his fellow party members and what they'd all eaten), several one-shots tangentially set in the same milieu (most notably the story, 'There Were Dragons in The West'), and three artbooks/sketchbooks entitled Daydream Hour that have additional notes on the world, its species and monsters, alternate and additional characters designs and costume variations, and more. 

Finally, the book shown above, 'The Dungeon Meal Guide for Adventurers', is both an in-universe book the character Laios Touden carries around with him and an unofficial fan-made  actual book containing original fan art and recipes (giving both monster ingredients and real world ingredients that can be substituted to make the dishes in your own kitchen). 

All this additional material [beyond the Manga chapters themselves] fleshes out the setting in a way that is perfect for world-building an RPG campaign. The additional art is an excellent way to visualize elements unique or specific to the game world (such as depictions of Dungeon Meshi's Orcs and Kobolds). 

Left: Female Orc
Right: Male Kobold

I love the doggo Kobolds!

I have a lot of reasons to love this idea and to want to make an unofficial fan-made Delicious in Dragon RPG. But...

Should I? Shouldn't I stick with a more original, widely accessible game with inspiration from Dungeon Meshi AND all the other series I've been discussing. Part of me thinks this makes the most sense. I don't need to introduce those unfamiliar to the world of the Manga if I am using a world I am developing as I go. It's definitely more flexible, more expansive, or at least that's how potential players would see it (as people always feel strange entering an established setting that they don't know...for some reason). 

Yet...I am the 'IP Guy'. I feel the pull; the challenge of making a game based on this series. The same reasons I love running DC Comics Superheroes, Ghostbusters, Red Dwarf, Star Trek, and Star Wars, are the reason I feel the desire, almost the need, to make a Delicious in Dungeon RPG. 

I'm torn. 

Curious to hear what others think. 

I guarantee you more to come soon...

Barking Alien

Worlds Beyond System

My current pet project of modifying the rules of F.A.R.M. Champions into something I am currently calling 'The Dungeon Experiment' is going to take some time.

It's not that the modifications I'm making are particularly complex or difficult to put together but rather that I just haven't had the time to sit down and do more than a little at a time. Hopefully I'll have something to show you guys before too long.

Today I want to talk about something a little different...

The ever-thoughtful JB over at the always intriguing B/X BLACKRAZOR has made some recent posts and comments that definitely have the gray matter working over time. 

In one of his latest posts (as of this writing), JB discusses returning to West End Games' 1st Edition Star Wars D6, which as some of you may know is one of my all time favorite RPGs and perhaps my favorite game system-wise. However, and you may want to be seated for this Barking Alien fans, he wants to redo the mechanics to use multiple, polyhedral dice. 

After getting over my initial shock and disgust, I experienced further shock and disgust. Why not paint over the Mona Lisa? Make an anchovy cream pie why dotcha? Replace those classic blue jeans with polka-dots on plaid while you're at it!

At the same time, aren't I doing the exact same thing with The Dungeon Experiment? 

I am putting together a 2D6 based, level-less, Medieval Fantasy RPG with Species and Classes, very different Magic, very different combat, and basically being just as sacrilegious to Dungeon and Dragons as JB is being to Star Wars D6. At least not to me. In my view there is a big difference.

I am not trying to make a 2D6 Dungeons and Dragons. I am not taking the game of D&D and changing things so it only runs on D6s. What I am trying to do is put together a Medieval Fantasy game reminiscent of D&D that is heavily influenced by Western Fantasy Anime and Manga from Japan. Also, I found F.A.R.M. Champions, a game whose creators seem to have had a very similar goal in mind, so really I am making modifications to that game to get it even closer to my vision.

Trying to deconstruct Dungeons and Dragons and then rebuild it as a D6 based game sounds like a lot of work and it's work that I don't think would guarantee the results I want at the end. It might use my preferred die type but if it's still just D&D when the dust clears then I will have failed in my mission. 

Altering the simple and super functional D6 System used for Star Wars to (What is in my opinion) the much more cumbersome use of everything from the limited D4 to the very swingy D20 seems extraordinarily strange to me. Counter-intuitive even. I just don't see the point in it but to each their own. 

When I brought this up, one of the things JB noted was - and this is the bit that prompted this post - and I quote, 'there's no particular dice type that is inherent to Star Wars or space opera.'

Right...huh? Oh course there isn't. There isn't any die type or rule system that is inherent to any genre and vice versa. Genre itself has nothing to do with mechanics at all. Why even bring this up?

Then I noticed it wasn't the first time JB had mentioned this or something like it. In a response to a comment I made regarding how my buddy used to run our old Champions campaign JD stated, 'Sounds like the players had a lot of narrative authority in play. Is that standard in a HERO system game?'

Again, the question strikes me as very peculiar. What does the system have to do with Player Agency? Sure, some rule sets encourage or discourage Player Agency and creativity to some degree but whether or not a GM gives players narrative authority in their game is dependent on the GM and their style of play. Barring modern Indie RPGs where a particular style of play and the way you interact with it is intrinsic to the game's design, most RPGs are systems of mechanics, a genre and/or setting, but how you use it is on you. No?

Maybe not.

This connection between Rules and How the Game is Played is something that has always fascinated me. I am a firm believer in the fact that the uses and abuses of D&D that put me off to the game aren't necessarily the fault of bad Gamemasters but rather components built into the very fabric of the game. Things that plague D&D games such as Min-maxing, Munchinkin-ism, Rules Lawyers, Railroading, and the quintessential Murderhobo pop up much less often in other RPGs in my experience. 

Likewise, the reason I play so many different systems is that each - if done right IMHO - gives a different feel and it is that feel you want for that game. Case in point, my favorite of all gaming subjects, Star Trek. Each incarnation of the game feels slightly different, though all cover an aspect of the atmosphere of Star Trek the franchise. 

FASA Star Trek was, like many of its fans, very interested in the fine details and minutiae of the Star Trek universe. The game was designed to let you create and run a crew and ship of Starfleet, Klingon, or other peoples who explored space and encountered new life forms and ancient mysteries. This wasn't a game about a TV show. This was an RPG about a living, breathing universe that made it's own internal sense. One the various television shows and movies allowed us to view. 

Last Unicorn Games' Star Trek game was similar, though often a bit more tongue-in-cheek. A little mind you; not overly so. It was definitely a universe and your character was definitely a being living in it but *Wink* - Shhh (beckons you over while checking to see if anyone else is listening) - it's all based on a TV franchise. *Wink. Wink* Pretend you don't know that. 

Star Trek Adventures by Modiphius Entertainment has a very different feel and vibe from the other two. Here, you are creating characters for a Star Trek TV series. In my head canon each group's campaign has its own Facebook, Twitter, and webpage put out by Paramount/CBS. Things work the way that would on a show far more than how they would work in a Science Fiction universe, let alone in reality. 

However, this all reflects setting or type of game and game mechanics. Not genre. Nothing about this is connected to genre per se. 

Going back to the questions and ideas that started me thinking about this, does a Fantasy RPG NEED Races and Classes? No, Ars Magica doesn't really have that. Do Superhero games require a certain type of mechanic? No. They need to have rules for things you'd see in the Superhero genre, though Champions does this and so does Kapow! and they couldn't be more different mechanically. 

Is any genre or setting directly tied to any sort of mechanic? I would generally say no. Certain specific settings obviously benefit from certain mechanics designed to reinforce the way the reality of that setting works.

If you want a game that resembles a TV Soap Opera, I would imagine that rules for creating or determining your connection to the other PCs would be important. In Fantasy games the rules you have regarding Magic will greatly influence how Magic is used and perceived. ALIEN has a wonderful Stress and Panic system, perfect for a game set in space, where no one can hear you scream and you and your companions freak out over the unknown. As I've mentioned, a close look at this led me to use the ALIEN system for the Sci-Fi Comedy Red Dwarf, which oddly works in a very similar way. 

Anyway, this ended up somewhere between a thought exercise and a tangent and I'm not sure I came to any great epiphanies or conclusions. I suppose my final word on the subject for now is let the fluff match the crunch and vice versa and achieve that by any means you see fit. The only rules that are wrong for a given genre are the ones you can't make work. 

I hope that both JB and the view public out there understand I am not picking on him. Quite the contrary! He made me think about this and for that I am thankful. I am very eager to see where he goes with his Star Wars DEverything system. I want to know not only how it will work but why it works better for him (and perhaps others) than the classic version. Go check out his blog and wish him luck!

Now back to slaying goblins and eating meals made from monsters...

Barking Alien

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Breath of The F.A.R.M.

It's time to take a good, hard look at the system I want to use for my Anime/Manga themed Medieval Fantasy game. 

Here goes nothing...

While doing this deep dive into my efforts to run an Anime/Manga themed, Dungeons & Dragons inspired, Medieval Fantasy RPG, I came across the art of Misosile Busher (aka 'HIZIKI'), who did the illustrations for an interesting little game called F.A.R.M. Champions.

Cover Art By Misosile Bushner ( HIZIKI )

F.A.R.M. Champions is a Pay-What-You-Want, Rules-Lite, Indie game created and written by Matthew and Tim Bannock. Currently in its BETA stage, this game has the right feel and mechanics (generally speaking...but I'll get to that later) for the kind of game I'm going for.

There is a lot to like in F.A.R.M. Champions. It's a simple, 2D6 (Yay!) based game with a very easy Stat + Skill + Roll and beat a Difficulty Number action resolution. When going against a Difficulty Number set by the Gamemaster it is called a Test. When going against another character or condition actively trying to thwart you it is called a Contest. A Test would be unlocking a locked chest, swimming across a creek, or trying to recall some vital fact about a Monster. A Contest would be if the chest turned out to be a Mimic and tried to attack your PC and they tried to dodge.

It has a little extra crunch, specifically in the area of Settlements. 

In addition to Character Creation the players and the Gamemaster work together to establish the village from which the characters all hail. It is a conceit of the game that the PCs grew up together in the same town and that they continue to live and work in this town. The Settlement has its own Attributes which determine its nature, size, and that sort of thing. Stats cover things like:

Safety - how well protected it is from threats.
Resources - the availability of natural resources such as farms, metals, water, and wood. 
Solidarity - how civic minded are the citizens, It measures their ability to work together.

There are additional areas but you get the idea. Deciding what the Campaign Setting is and therefore where the Settlement is located effects the stats of a Settlement so for example: A Wilderness Settlement has a Safety of -1 but a Resources of +1. There is ample access to hunting, trees for timber and fruit, but there are also a large number of dangerous animals and strange beasts lurking in the forest. In some ways this reminds me of building your kingdom in the Japanese TRPG Meikyuu Kingdom.

When you go on Adventures you are generally doing so to aid the Settlement and its Community and the game provides random charts and ideas for generating Events and Threats that might force a brave and hardy band of locals to team up and go on a Quest to aid the village. There are mechanics for this and yet it's not at all complex.

A high stat in one of the Settlements attributes means it is likely to attract new denizens and allow local families to grow thanks to prosperity in whatever area has done so well. Likewise a low or zero score in one of the attributes is likely to require a journey to find something or someone who can improve the Settlements situation.

If Safety is at 0 perhaps a band of Goblins has moved into the area causing all sorts of mayhem and Adventurers must root them, chase them off, or slay them if they have to. If Resources are at 0 we might need to find out why the crops have all gone foul. Maybe we can find the legendary treasure from the nearby Dungeon and give in to the King in hopes he will reward the town or lend extra support.

Art By Misosile Bushner ( HIZIKI )

All in all, I am leaning heavily towards using this game for my Anime/Manga Medieval Fantasy campaign idea. With some minor adjustments...

OK, there are a few things I would need to expand and change.

The way they do Occupations is neat, giving each PC a job in the town in addition to an Adventuring Class. The Occupations contribute to the Settlements stats but don't seem to give the characters themselves any kind of ability or skill. I would add that in so your choice of Occupation directly effects play. I might have to look at Ryuutama again to see if anything there might be worth porting over. 

I think I'll expand Classes a bit as well. F.A.R.M. standards for Fighter - Acolyte (basically Cleric) - Rogue - Mage. Nice but I would put in a few additional Classes that are especially popular in Anime/Manga Western Fantasy such as the Ranger and Paladin.

Finally, I didn't go into it but another great feature of the game is the concept of a Health and Wellness system separate from Hit Points. It is some I am eager to use, inspired by Delicious in Dungeon's emphasis on eating well and resting as the keys to Dungeon survival. 

F.A.R.M. Champions does use Hit Points however and that is a major thing I wanted to do away with. I don't like the traditional Combat Systems of most Fantasy RPGs, with Hit Points, Damage, and Armor being my chief pet peeves. I think I can adapt the Combat System I planned on using for my Mecha game in with little difficulty. 

Well, that's all for now. I am very excited and curious to see where this goes next...

More to come...

Barking Alien

Sunday, April 11, 2021

Boredom Slayer

Alright gang, here's where I lose you...

All this time I have been talking about my Medieval Fantasy game, I have yet to address what it would be about. Basically, what is the theme of this and why is it different from the majority of the other games out there.

In addition to the obvious Anime/Manga elements of kinetic action, complicated romances, wacky humor, and the other tropes previously discussed, the medium is really good at taking a well worked concept and adding a distinctive twist to give it new flavor. 

On the surface, Neon Genesis Evangelion is just a Mecha/Alien Invasion series but it's not really that at all. My Hero Academia is basically just The X-Men or Avengers Academy but then it goes in its own direction with both its characters and world building. 

What I want is something similar for Dungeons and Dragons-style Fantasy. What appears to simply be another game of Mazes and Monstrosities turns into a world with a lot more options for the kind of games you can play and stories you can tell.

One of the things that's always bugged me about the typical Medieval Fantasy RPG experience is the sameness of it when I feel the genre has more to offer.

My current obsession - the Manga series 'Delicious in Dungeon' - prompted me to give more thought to what could be done with a Fantasy game other than 'Killing monsters and taking their stuff' and 'Saving the world from the evil /mad villain'.

Imagine a world where 'Dungeon Delving' and the 'Ecology of a Monster Ecosystem' are part of the every day life of a select few of very brave and dedicated professionals and/or those who want to be that someday. What cultural, social, economic, and political dynamics would develop over this type of addition to Fantasy Medieval societies? 

Some possibilities that came to me include:

The Delicious in Dungeon World Guide
The Adventurer's Bible

A Guide to the setting and character of the Manga
Delicious in Dungeon

PCs are Professors or Students at a School for Adventurers and Dungeon Explorers. It's like Harry Potter in Medieval Times or My Hero Academia meets D&D. I have actually run a one shot using this idea and it went over pretty well. Lessons cover telling various Monster or Flora apart, what attacks and defenses are most effective against which Monster, and how to disarm traps. Exams could have groups of Students compete to which one can reach a Mock Treasure first or defeat a Monster quickest with the least amount of injury. Then they need back out of the Dungeon an allotted amount of time.

PCs set up and run a Supply Shop/Inn/Tavern inside the Dungeon. Instead of going back to town to resupply or rest up you just need to make it back to the third level of the Dungeon to get to the Player run business. This concept is actually seen in Delicious in Dungeon and it has all sorts of potential. Part of the campaign could see the PCs going into town or a near by waypoint to buy, sell, and trade what they need for their shop. There could be a rival shop run by the local Dungeon inhabitants! Maybe you need to go into the Dungeon to retrieve someone who owes big on their bar tab or had a big supply order come in.

PCs are or work for a well known Magical Component supplier - perhaps with a chain of stores - and go into the Dungeons and Fantastic Forests purely to gain such materials. It isn't their job to slay Monsters or Save the World but those who do depend on them.

A variant of this seen in Delicious in Dungeon (and further expanded with ideas of my own) is that the Dungeon might have the perfect conditions for growing certain crucial healing herbs and potion ingredients. Maybe it was even set up by the local Magic School or Wizard's Guild for that very purpose! Your party is really a group of Field Researchers seeing how the great Dungeon Experiment is doing. (In fact, if this was my campaign the Anime/Manga-themed title would be 'Dungeon Experiment' and then the name of the region or the project's creator or something). 

Ooh, what if a friend of the PCs, a classmate or fellow researcher or what-have-you, went into the Dungeon for a 'Jane Goodall' type study of a Monster type and didn't report back when the study was supposed to conclude. Was she eaten by a Monster? Killed by the very Monsters she went to study? What if she spent to much time in there and was changed by a curse or foul magic? What if she just made friends and 'went native'?

And this is only if the game revolves around Dungeons! Seriously, these ideas are already twenty times more interesting to me than any of the Dungeon adventures I've ever been on. 

I have so many more ideas and would like to hear yours! No Murder Hoboing (unless you have a wildly different take on it) and no Fight Evil/Save the World stuff. What ELSE can be done with the genre? It can be angsty, humorous, espionage oriented, or anything else but it must be something we don't usually see applied to Medieval Fantasy. 

Now to work out a game system. I definitely have some thoughts...

Barking Alien

PS: The way I know I'm really on to something here is that after three days of searching for images to go with this post I found nothing, NOT A THING, that came close to displaying the kind of 'Slice of Life' Fantasy Adventure I'm thinking about. I must therefore assume I am revolutionizing the very concept of the Fantasy RPG. 

Even though my ideas are largely borrowed from or inspired by Fantasy Anime and Manga.