Saturday, January 29, 2022

31 Days / 31 Characters - CHALLENGE COMPLETE!

So that's it, the 31 Days / 31 Characters is Over! I feel accomplished. Can't wait for next year. Now on to...

Hmm? What's that? Not finished?! Whatever do you mean? Oh, wait...you're working on linear space/time. No worries. I will explain.

Last year I was only able to complete 17 entries. This year I wanted to do 31 and successfully accomplished the challenge as it should be done. Unfortunately, a number of factors slowed my progress. In addition to work (busier than ever), the regular games I run (three currently), and other concerns of Real LifeTM, there is the fact that I came often be an obsessive perfectionist. 

I didn't like my initial forays into this years challenge for various reasons; not enough or not the right images, a lack of accurate notes or information on a given character, etc. This is my 45th Anniversary year and everything this year has to be special, it has to be great. 

Why? No greater reason than that is what I told myself. Then I went and told all of you that so now I'm stuck holding my work to the most unreasonable of standards - my own. 

My friend Ray set me straight. He pointed out how hard I was making it on myself and how doing so tends to make me disillusioned with my endeavors. We've been friends a long time and he knows me well. He suggested that I instead work toward 14 entries for this year. Combined with the 17 from last year, the total number of character profiles would come to 31. With a feeling of accomplishment, I could mentally start clean in 2023.

Thanks Ray. I needed that. 

31 Days / 31 Characters:

ADAM - Red Dwarf / ALIEN RPG
Alexander D. Thorton - Ghostbusters
Arigon - Dungeons and Dragons
Black Adder - Mutants and Masterminds
Bo - Bunnies and Burrows
Carlacc Acen - Star Wars D6
Cat’s Meow, The - Gangbusters
CB Ramble - Car Wars
Ceren-Dee WindDrake - Dungeons and Dragons
Chicken - Red Dwarf / ALIEN RPG
David Myers - ALIEN RPG
Dietrich Armbuster - Gear Antique
Dusty Dibbs - Odd West
Emil Fujikawa - Traveller
Everyn Wolfshadow - Wares Blade
Fleeto Woff - Star Wars D6
GAMMA MAN - Villains and Vigilantes / Superheroes
Gates - Teenagers from Outer Space
Herek - Star Trek
Hyborian - Mutants and Masterminds
Ipperius Witspear - Dungeons and Dragons
Jet 'Ohana' Kahele - Mobile Suit Gundam / Mekton II
Jorran StarsByNight - Dungeons and Dragons
Kashpa - Star Wars D6
Kei Okami - Champions
Lance Gravity - Space Opera
Red Rider, The - Boot Hill / Various
Shade - Kapow!
Xerek Xeet - Star Trek

Hope you enjoyed reading about these characters as much as I enjoyed recalling them.

Next and lastly for January, a few last minutes thoughts...OK, a lot of last minute thoughts...

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Barking Alien







Friday, January 28, 2022

31 Days / 31 Characters - XERET XEET

Every good Character Design Challenge needs a Star Trek entry. The question is which character to use?

After all, I've run dozens upon dozens of Star Trek campaigns and one-shots and seen hundreds of characters. I could probably fill the entire 31 Days / 31 Characters Challenge with Star Trek personas without batting a bat'leth. What I need is one that stands out because it was unique, different, unusual in some way...

Wait a second. I got it.



Character: Xeret Xeet

AKA: Lieutenant Commander Xeet

Player: Adam Dickstein and Andrew (I don't remember his last name).

System: Star Trek, The Role Playing Game - FASA Deluxe Edition
 
Convention Two-Parter: The Battle of Midway

Gamemaster: Mark (I don't remember his last name) and Adam Dickstein

Circa: 1989 (I believe)

Origins: In 1989 I attended a local* RPG convention, mainly to meet with some friends and the guys I knew from West End Games. 

I bumped into a fellow I'd met a few times at my FLGS, The Compleat Strategist, who just so happened to be running a game of FASA Star Trek. He had an opening and invited me to play, knowing what a big fan of Star Trek gaming I am.

As I often do at most conventions where pre-gens are given, I waited to pick last. I've learned that most people don't like playing the kinds of characters I do, so after everyone else argues over the badasses I get my pick of the fun weirdos. Sure enough I was left with my obvious choice; the USS Midway's Chief Science Officer and Third-in-Command - Lt. Commander Xeret Xeet, a member of the Bzzit Khaht species. 

After a great first session I learned that this was a two-parter, with the second half to be run later that day. Over comes one of the organizers in a bit of a panic. The GM for Part II never showed up. Eventually we find out we was really sick - food poisoning or something - and he won't be able to run. Mark, the GM of Part I, was due to run something else in the same time slot. Without warning, Mark suggests me for the job. He sells it hardcore, "Nobody knows Star Trek or the FASA game like this guy!".

How could I say no? 

When I started Part II I made sure to have the same characters present and most were played by the same players. There were two people missing and two new people at the table, so one of them needed to be the Engineer and the other my Science Officer. A fellow a bit younger than me saw the picture of Xeet and fell in love with him. His portrayal was fantastic, though different from mine as I will explain below.

USS Midway, A Loknar Class Frigate
Mark III Refit


Backstory: The following (paraphrased of course) was noted on Lt. Commander Xeet's character sheet:

Xeret Xeet is one of the few Bzzit Khaht currently serving in Starfleet and perhaps the highest ranking to date. It is a position of great prestige and honor but one he feels pressure living up to. 

Xeet was first assigned to Scientific Research and Survey vessels for two 3-year terms before later serving one 5-year Exploration mission aboard the USS Valiant. He has just completed a 3-year mission aboard the USS Midway and has been promoted to Lieutenant Commander/Third Officer and Chief Science Officer. He now begins his second 3-year mission (within 6 months of the session). 
 
Xeet specializes in Xenobiology and Xenobiological Psychology. He studies and has knowledge of various alien life forms and how their biology affects their behavior. 

Overview: The Battle of Midway seemed a simple scenario on the surface.  

Our vessel enters a star system wherein an intelligent civilization is signaling the Federation/Starfleet for aid. The civilization is located on one of the inner planets and between use and them is a large asteroid field. It isn't too difficult for a ship like the Midway to maneuver through the field but hiding deep within it are a number of Klingon vessels. When we reached about half-way through the field, the Klingons attacked. 

There turned out to be a lot more to it however. The Klingons were well outside the Federation-Klingon Border. How did they get there undetected? It turned out the leader of the Klingon Squadron had a personal grudge against our Commanding Officer. Why was this Klingon out for revenge against the Captain? There really were advanced aliens on the inner planet. Did they actually call for help, was that just part of the trap, and did they know more about our predicament then we did?

While a good portion of the first session dealt with Starship Combat, there was also quite a lot of Role-Playing mixed in as we get to know the crew in a trial-by-fire. I played Lt. Commander Xeet as a man a little out of his depth. He was definitely intelligent and competent but not accustomed to actual battle conditions. He didn't want to let his friends and crewmates down but I made it clear he was out of his element. 

The GM and my fellow players game me a commendation me for original thinking - heheh - but seriously; everyone remarked how well I had done making Xeet appear overwhelmed and flustered by the situation but at no point did I display being 'bad' at my job.

In the second half of the game when I was the GM and Andrew played Xeret Xeet, there was a lot more investigation, mystery-solving, and science as the crew tried to unravel the plots and subplots behind the ambush. Here we see a very different Xeet - one who is charged with doing what he does best. Counter to my portrayal, this is Xeet completely in his element and doing what he longs to do, exploration and science. 

The Highlights:

Early in the first session I made a point that Xeet's species, the Bzzit Khaht, release a somewhat offensive odor as a by-product of their respiration and underwater coordination. He wears a deodorant that makes it considerably less powerful. I added that when nervous (breathing heavy) the odor is stronger and the deodorant less effective.  

I recall a moment in the first part [in which I played Xeet] where I responded to commands from the Captain and called out the readings while also giving additional information and ideas to other PCs. I mimed it all, physically moving like a frantic officer pressing buttons and looking from monitor to monitor. The look on my face and the quick, jerky movements I used made everyone else feel the urgency. At the same time, it made our Vulcan Navigator lean in towards me and try to calm Xeret down. 

I can see the scene in my head and recall the faces of the other players. I made them - through the situation - feel tense but also implied it was too intense for me as Xeret. 

The moment in Part II that stands out the most for me was when the PCs were arguing about what to do with knowledge that the native lifeforms on the planet were technologically advanced to roughly the 20th Century but were not Warp Capable. Did involving them violate the Prime Directive? The Klingons have essentially forced the crew of the Midway into doing just that by faking a Distress Call that made up contact the world. The PCs could not decide how to proceed. 

Lt. Commander Xeet walked up to the Captain and suggested that since the damage was done, why not ask the aliens how they feel about the situation. Explain the Prime Directive, note our concerns, ask the rulers what they think is best for their people. Interestingly, Andrew (Xeet's player in the second half) already guessed how the aliens would answer. He picked clues I'd mentioned indicating these beings would be overjoyed to learn they weren't alone in the universe. 

Game Info:

So long ago I couldn't even begin to say, though I recall Xeret Xeet was quite Intelligent, fairly Dexterous, and far better at Science related skills than any other type. 




Well that's it! Challenge Complete! Break out the Romulan Ale! It's time to move on to...What? What's that? Not finished? Sure we are.

Let me explain...

AD
Barking Alien





 


Friday, January 14, 2022

31 Days / 31 Characters - SHADE

I really love when I am playing in a campaign and my favorite character isn't necessarily mine. 

This makes the campaign, if good, even more fun and enjoyable. It stands to reason that you'll like the character you're playing (at least I'd hope so...more on that in a post next month) and will be invested and excited when you and your PC get to do something. When you like one or more of the other players' PCs, you can enjoy the game even when it isn't your turn. If the story and action is just as engaging when the spotlight isn't on you, then that makes for a great campaign in my mind.

Shade, the paranormal private detective played by my dear friend Carl in our long term Kapow! Superhero campaign is one such character. 

Most of this entry was written by Carl himself, indicated by text in pale green. I will periodically throw in my two cents. 


Character: Shade

AKA: Sol Sable

Player: Carl Eastlund

System: Kapow!
 
Campaign: The Wardens

Gamemaster: Keith Jacobson

Circa: 2008-2014 for the original campaign.

Character still exists and has appeared periodically since.

Origins: Shade began as a series of City Of Heroes characters I played, all named Sleuth Sable; variants on a private eye, sometimes with mystic abilities. To adapt the concept for a modern Kapow! campaign, I made Shade a ghost since 'private eye' heroes are generally from almost a century in the past. I first tried making the character when Joshua Macy, the author of Kapow!, was our GM. He was skeptical that I could even make the character work, it being a ghost unable to touch or be touched by physical objects. I find it amusingly ironic that Joshua didn't have enough faith in his own system, as Shade was eventually my longest-played character in the game. 

Shade wasn't Carl's first character as I recall, though I can't remember if he had only one or a few PCs before the ghostly gumshoe. Both Carl and I had a tendency to create characters, play them for a bit, and then want to make new characters. Eventually we each landed on a character we really loved and played them for a long stretch. For me it was Equinox and for Carl it was Shade. 

Backstory: Shade was born Sol Sable around the turn of the century. Here's my original bio blurb for him: Sol was a hard-boiled gumshoe from the era when talkies were coming in, vaudeville was going out, and all men wore hats.  Now he’s dead and a ghost. He doesn’t know why but not for lack of candidates. He was murdered and never got revenge…

He was cursed by a gypsy, but never got it lifted…He investigated Nazi experiments into psychic powers…He was a subject of government experiments into mind-altering drugs…He owes his existence to a time travel paradox…The only thing for sure is that he isn’t going away anytime soon.

Shade died an indeterminate death around the late '30s or early '40s, then came back as a ghost in Freedom City - our Kapow! game was set in the city from Mutants and Masterminds, for reasons. For about 80 years he fought crime in various ways with various partners before our campaign started. He amassed a great deal of magical artifacts and wards in his unassuming brownstone home. He hired a series of wizard assistants, both to maintain the brownstone and to try to undo the curse keeping him from the afterlife.
 



Overview:  In our campaign, Shade's magic Brownstone became the base of operations for our group of heroes, who we named the Wardens. The Brownstone - known only as such - was magically guarded, so only those who belonged there could even find it. The inside worked much like the Room of Requirement at Hogwarts: the house would reorganize itself to contain whatever rooms it needed, or to keep intruders confused and trapped, should any somehow find their way in. Shade also contributed a vehicle: a magically enhanced dirigible simply called ‘The Airship’, armed with a transmutation ray. At one point we broke into an enemy HQ by turning its wall into tapioca. The Airship wasn't very fast but it stretched space to get where it's going as if it were a supersonic jet.

Shade initially didn't know why he was a ghost, where his powers came from, or why they were so inherently terrifying no matter how he used them. This changed when we were sent back in time to the start of an alien invasion. Shade discovered that his body was used as the first host for the invasion, causing his death. The wizard who caused the invasion, hoping to achieve immortality by it, cursed Shade for intercepting the alien parasite, causing his undeath. After this incident, Shade knew how he had died and that his body lived on as 'GoodLife Sable', reanimated by alien technology. Other heroes eventually defeated GoodLife Sable by punching him through the moon, though. Like ya do.

Like you do.

The Highlights:

Playing Shade is really fun for world-weary sardonic quips. Shade is the epitome of "been there, done that". His death and seemingly eternal curse weigh on him, so while he wants to do right he has trouble seeing the brighter side of things.

The most fun arc I had was when Keith, the GM for most of Shade's run, replaced him with a villain. The Void, a reality-destroying being from beyond reality, replaced Shade after one campaign. I spent months leaving Shade in the background, declining to do hero work for ever more spurious reasons, tinkering with nebulous plans in the background.

Eventually our friend Lloyd came back for a session and since he had not seen the gradual change, it was a stark difference for him. He called out that something was wrong with Shade. That's when Keith and I sprung our trap. The Void kicked everyone out of the Brownstone and took it over. I ran the next few sessions in which the Void collided every alternate reality we'd ever visited with our own Earth and the heroes had to reconquer their own impregnable base. At the end, they saved reality, rewriting a few things along the way, so everyone's character got a little change to further their character arc in some way.

That was indeed an excellent arc and it, like the one that revealed Shade's true origins (mentioned above), show the variety and versatility of Shade as a character as well as Carl as both a player and a GM.

Game Info:

To be updated.

Legacy: 

This is less about the legacy of Shade as it is the player but when Carl nails down his vision for a PC - its story, personality, and objectives - he absolutely shines, even among an ensemble cast full of excellent players. 

Carl is currently on well-deserved hiatus from RPGing but we all hope to have him back as soon as the desire strikes him. Gaming with him is such a treat and gaming without him just isn't the same. Love ya man!

As for Shade, I am certain we haven't see the last of Sol Sable.

Next, no character challenge is complete without a visit to the Final Frontier. Lay in coordinates and ahead Warp Factor 5 as meet the Chief Science Officer of the USS Midway - Lt. Commander XERET XEET

Wait...does that mean this character completes the challenge? Tune it and find out...

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Barking Alien






Thursday, January 13, 2022

31 Days / 31 Characters - The RED RIDER

This character has one of the strangest origins of any I've come up with. 

When I was 6 years - maybe 7 or 8 - I got a Tank Top shirt as a gift that I loved like no other. It was a white shirt with a character on it in a red outfit on a red motorcycle and he looked awesome. He was a mix of superhero and Evel Knievel and I needed to know who he was.

The truth of course is he was no one. It was just a 1970s graphic but as I was already a fan of comics, Star Trek, and all of that, I was certain he was someone. My older cousin, who was well known to tease me and make up stories to tell my naive younger self, told me who he was. He was called, 'The Red Rider'.

That's all I got and my imagination went wild. I envisioned a mysterious, daredevil motorcyclist who showed up from time to time, seemingly out of nowhere, to help those in need before disappearing once more.

Now, what to do with that...



Character: The Red Rider

Player: Non-Player Character

System(s): Boot Hill, 1st Edition - Seriously modified.

Later Cyberpunk 2020, Champions, and Mutants and Masterminds. 
 
Campaign(s): The Legend of Boot Hill, Champions: The Age of Heroes, The Black Neon Memoirs, and Dynamos Unlimited.

Gamemaster(s): Adam Dickstein and William Corpening

Circa: First created and appeared around 1979. Later appearances in 1986, 1990, 2003...

Origins: I've only ever run one long term Wild West game and it was so good, such a perfect execution of what I was going for, that I've never been able to do it again. Well, more accurately I've never tried to do it again. I've run one-shots, even a string of them but never another dedicated campaign. How could I top 'The Legend of Boot Hill'? 

One element that made it special was the inclusion of possibly supernatural elements that were kept vague and unquantified. No one was really sure if magic was real or if it was, what its true nature was. A big part of that was the late but powerful inclusion of The Red Rider, a seriously spooky character inspired by the fellow from my shirt.

Backstory: Shade was born Sol Sable, around the turn of the century. Here's my original bio blurb for him. Sol was a hard-boiled gumshoe from the era when talkies were coming in, vaudeville was going out, and all men wore hats.  Now he’s dead, and a ghost. He doesn’t know why, but not for lack of candidates. He was murdered, and never got revenge…

He was cursed by a gypsy, but never got it lifted…He investigated Nazi experiments into psychic powers…He was a subject of government experiments into mind-altering drugs…He owes his existence to a time travel paradox…The only thing for sure is that he isn’t going away anytime soon. 

Overview:  During said campaign, the PCs tried to save a stagecoach being hijacked by a group of bandits. The heroes rode off after the bandits while the town Deputy and a posse chased the heroes, sure that they were the criminals trying to rob the stagecoach. If this sounds a little like the situation Frankie the Ferret found himself in it's because this chase scene inspired that one. I love a good multi-faction chase. 

The PCs stalled the law, got ahead, and reached the bandits just in time. A shot out and some fisticuffs - not to mention some fancy horse ridin' - enabled the party to get to the stagecoach as it careened round a treacherous path, just short of falling off a cliff. Two of the PCs had been injured or delayed and two of the bandits had hoped atop the stagecoach. The coach driver had been thrown to his dead and one of the desperados had the horse's reins. As The Masked Cowboy and The Medicine Man tried desperately to catch up, a cloud of red dust kicked up in the distance. The sound of hooves striking the ground like thunder echoed around the land.

"You can make out a rider and his horse heading in your direction. His path is diagonal to intercept the coach it seems. His horse is the a dark cinnamon. He pants are deep maroon or brick red, caked with clay and...perhaps blood? Red blotches stain his shirt. His hat matches the horse and a bandana covers his face...not like the bandits but completely, like a mask. Two holes are cut in it for his eyes."

This mysterious man rides up to the stagecoach, leaps off his horse, and motions to The Masked Cowboy to get the passengers out of the vehicle. With some help from his Shaman friend he manages to do so, fighting one of the two coach robbers while their unknown ally tussles with the other. Finally, the criminal upfront shoots the stranger in the chest and he slumps over. The Masked Cowboy spins and shoots the crook, who falls off the stagecoach and goes over the cliff. Placing the passengers on his and The Masked Cowboys horses, the Medicine Man moves away from the edge of deadly mountain path. The Masked Cowboy turns the horses and then releases them, enabling them to run free to safety. Unfortunately, momentum is going to carry the heroic Cowboy to his death...

Just then, The Masked Cowboy is grabbed and tossed from the driver's set by a pair of hands possessing incredible strength and quick as lightning. As he awkwardly landed on his horse, he saw the mystery man sitting back up and nodding to him as the blood caked rider, the stagecoach, and the rider's horse all went over the cliff. 

Later, after recounting the events with locals in the town saloon, an old prospector said, "Ah, so you seen him too. That there was The Red Rider."

The Highlights:

The Red Rider would appear in the Boot Hill campaign once more in the next-to-last episode. He appears in a nearby canyon to aid The Masked Cowboy in tracking down the campaign's Big Bad, an evil Rail Baron responsible for numerous deaths and hardships throughout the game. Once more The Rider is shot but when The Masked Cowboy returns to the spot where the body fell sometimes later...it's gone. 

Some years of real time later, during a campaign of Cyberpunk 2020, as the PCs hunt down their Corporate Exec target on the highway between two cities, they are informed of an urban legend...a motorcycle riding vigilante Nomad who takes out criminals from the city traveling on 'their stretch of road'. Sure enough the group is forced to race against time to capture the Corp before the biker gets him. As I described the cyclist, with his crimson cycle and scarlet helmet, one of the players who'd been a PC in the Boot Hill game screamed - yes, he actually screamed - "Holy S***! It's the F***ing Red Rider!". Just as in the previous campaign the Red Rider took severe damage, appeared to slump over his bike, then rise back to life seconds before he crashed and then rode away. 

I told the story of the Red Rider to my friend and Gamemaster William Corpening, who run the greatest game of Champions I was ever in (see Champions: Age of Heroes and Age of Chaos on this site). He loved the idea so much he secret built a Red Rider in Champions (though he didn't tell me). Many months later when our Champions PCs toured the United States to meet different Superheroes across the country, the Red Rider appeared to team up with us somewhere between Nevada and Oregon. 

I would use this version of him myself - red Harley Davidson, crimson leather outfit, and ruby metallic helmet - in sessions of Champions set in Will's universe and in my own Mutants and Masterminds games. While he is never encountered (I never got a chance to run a planned appearance), he is mentioned in a World of Darkness campaign I ran as well.

Game Info:

There is no surviving (pun intended) Character Sheet for the Red Rider and in point of fact, he never had one in his original appearance. He is more of a Plot Device and a tool for injecting setting color then he is a full-on character. That said, I absolutely love him. 

His abilities are generally undefined but there are some interesting consistent elements. He appears to be unkillable, likely because he is already dead. Some sort of zombie, ghost, or other supernatural entity he is known to be a solid being and does bleed when shot or stabbed. It usually takes him a couple of minutes at most to recover from minor wounds but much longer for more egregious injuries. 

He originally carried two copper-plated revolvers but subsequent versions of him over the ages have been equipped with a wide variety of weaponry. He is physically stronger and faster than a normal person, with limitless endurance except when damaged. Originally he did not speak, using only grunts and hand signals to communicate when it was necessary. More modern and future appearances have him speaking with an economy of words, his voice deep, low, and gravely. 

His horse or motorcycle, called 'Blood', appear to be as abnormal as their rider. Both are red in color, with the beast a dark cinnamon red and the cycle a deep red. Specifics of the horse and motorcycle vary. Notable are the horse's eyes which usually appear similar to those of a shark. Sometimes they are described as glowing red in the dark. Both animal and machine can travel much faster than normal for their respective modes of transportation but never visibly go supernaturally quick. No, it seems they can only do that when not being directly observed. 




Legacy: I promise you the world of Tabletop RPG gaming has not seen the last of The Red Rider. He is out there somewhere and he'll definitely be back. 

Come back soon and meet another supernatural savior, though he'd never call himself that. If this private eye is on the case, you've got nothing to fear but the bad guys sure do. Meet SHADE of the Wardens - Death can't keep a good detective down..

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Barking Alien 








Wednesday, January 12, 2022

31 Days / 31 Characters - LANCE GRAVITY

Back in the 80's it didn't take a lot to convince me to run or play in a Science Fiction campaign. Still doesn't. 

The problem was never a lack of interest. Far from it. Rather it was the fact that most gamers I met in those early days only wanted to run Dungeons & Dragons. If I or a of a very select group of friends, didn't run Sci-Fi, well it didn't get run. 

Thinking back on it now it makes me kind of sad as Space Adventure Science Fiction is, by far, my favorite subject for gaming. For anything really. 

When my good friend Leo suggested I do one of the Character Design Challenge entries on Space Opera, it prompted a memory of a particularly fun PC from my earliest days with the game, in a campaign run by myself and two other GMs [taking turns]. 

Without further adieu...



Character: Lance Galloway / Lance Gravity

AKA: Captain Gravity, Logan Galloway

Player: Martin Lederman

System: Space Opera - Fantasy Games Unlimited
 
Campaign:
 Originally unnamed. Now, 'Second Chances'.

Gamemaster(s): Adam Dickstein, Martin Lederman, Terrance H.

Circa: 1982-1983

Origins: If I had to pinpoint one inspiration for this character I'd have to go with Slipper Jim diGriz, better known as The Stainless Steel Rat, from the novel series of the same name by Harry Harrison. My friend Martin, who played Lance Gravity, was a big fan of the Stainless Steel Rat.

As for me, the idea behind this particular campaign was trying to reconcile the Space Opera Literature of Harry Harrison, Anne McCaffery, Larry Niven, H. Beam Piper, and E.E. Smith with Science Fiction pop culture such as Battlestar Galactica, Buck Rodgers in the 25th Century, Jason of Star Command, Logan's Run, and Quark. 

Going by my approach to Campaign and Adventure Design, the Premise here is, 'Imagine an episodic Space Opera TV series where Television-style Action and Adventure meets Big Idea Sci-Fi.'

Backstory: Lance Galloway, interstellar gentleman thief under the pseudonym 'Lance Gravity' has been a thorn in the side of The Interplanetary Patrol for far too long! As he embarks on his greatest caper yet, stealing the Quasar Crystal from the Casino Galactica, the IPP have a cunning plan to capture him. 

With the help of his unique 'Gravity Gauntlet', his incredibly fast ship the Relativity, and his crew of misfit specialists, Lance Gravity is certain he won't get caught. What he doesn't know is that the Interplanetary Patrol have enlisted a group of Transhuman Psionic Police who've initiated the use of Clairvoyance, Precognition, Psychometry, and Telepathy to thwart him. 

In the midst of his gang's daring do, Lance Gravity experiences visions of a another life, that of author Logan Galloway, creator of the fictional character...Lance Gravity?

Overview: The campaign consisted mostly of heists in the vain of the old Pink Panther movies but in a Sci-Fi Future setting. A sort of Space Opera Lupin the III.

Most of the adventures in this campaign were inspired by various modules and published scenarios for Space Opera, Traveller, and other games, including the aforementioned Casino Galactica.




Not a single one was run as presented. No, we were inspired by the title or some aspect of the adventure and then completely reworked them. 

The through line of the campaign - the Conceit - was that each PC had taken or been given a second chance at life for whatever reason. One was a ex-Interplanetary Patrolman left for dead but saved by the 'bad guys' and given cybernetics. One was an alien whose planet had been conquered by an hostile Imperium. His family was likely dead or enslaved but an Imperial Agent felt pity for him and let him escape. The was a female Transhuman banished from her homeworld for having 'feelings' but accepted by the Relativity crew. 

Lance Gravity's deal was definitely more complicated and very mysterious. After being effected by Transhuman Telepathy he began having flashs and dreams of being a different person, prolific and popular Science Fiction writer Logan Galloway. In these visions, Lance Gravity was simply a character who starred in a series of books, films, and other media. 

The going theory was that this was a past life; that Lance was a descendant of Logan's and that Lance must have heard of, read, or seen some example of the Lance Gravity character as a child. Then the clues starting piling up and getting weirder...for one thing, Lance had no memory of growing up or being a child. 

The Highlights:

Martin handled the character with intelligence, charm, a lot of humor, and a real sense of adventure. At the same time he added a sense of melancholy and pathos to Lance as the game went on and he explored who he was, who Logan was, and the truth behind their connection. 

For me the highlight moments were:

One adventure had the team trying to get into an ancient alien tomb or vault. Lance came up with a plan to split the party in order to obtain the three components needed to open the vault. Then Martin and I came up with a cool idea  - He, another player Terrance, and I would each run one of the split groups through the quest to find each MacGuffin, with the players playing either their characters or some NPCs based on who went where. The session Terrance ran had a military op. theme and was very combat heavy. Martin's session felt very James Bond/Spy Movie oriented. Mine, which featured Martin as Lance, was totally Indiana Jones inspired. 

When Lance Gravity finally discovers the truth behind who and what he is, I was blown away by Martin's portrayal of Lance and Logan Galloway in 'flashbacks'.

As it turned out, Logan was indeed the author of  'The Adventures of Lance Gravity'. He was also a meek and frail man, living with the after effects of a childhood illness that made it difficult for him to have real life adventures of his own. Walking with a cane and often bed ridden for periods of his existence, Logan couldn't help feeling sad and bitter, though self aware enough to fight against these feelings and give back to friends, family, and his fans.

Logan had amassed a small fortune as his character was quite popular and he had no children or spouse to leave his wealth to. Just prior to his death at 113 years of age, Logan had a modified clone body patterned after Lance Gravity constructed (grown?) and placed in suspended animation to be woken 100 years after his passing. Brain Tapes and other technology would download the knowledge and personality of Lance into the new body. Legally, his last name would be Galloway and Logan would leave any remaining funds, holdings, etc. to himself. Some unexpected element of the whole process left Lance with residual memories of Logan which were brought closer to the surface when contacted psionically. 

Game Info:

Not only do I not have the Character Sheet for Lance Gravity, this was Space Opera were talking about. I have lamented before that we used to play this game all the time and now the rules seem opaque and incomprehensible.

I believe his Class was Astronaut. Beyond that I can not recall. 

Equipment: He had a device called the 'Gravity Gauntlet' that he wore as a bracer on his left arm. It could generate a 30 ft. radius sphere of 'Alternative Gravity' around him. At Zero-G he was weightless but able to use his better than average Physical Strength and Agility, enabling him to leap great distances and bounce off walls for truly spectacular Combat and Acrobatic maneuvers. At Heavy-Gs he could slow an opponent or hit someone really hard. 

Lance Gravity is a handsome, slightly roguish looking Male Human of roughly 33 years of age. He stands 6' tall, 200 lbs., with wavy brown hair, and brown eyes. He is normally attired in a very stylish silver and blue space suit. 

Next up, there is an old folktale told West of the Mississippi of a blood stained cowboy on a cinnamon horse. Some say he's on the side of the angels, others say he's the devil himself, but all I know is if you're a sinner at heart...beware THE RED RIDER

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Barking Alien






Monday, January 10, 2022

31 Days / 31 Characters - KEI OKAMI

When I was in my early years of college I had an on again off again romantic relationship with a girl named Liza. We used to joke that if we weren't seeing anyone it meant we were seeing each other.

I really liked her. It could have turned into something more but for various reasons it didn't and I had to break it off. That sucked as those things often do. When I was thinking about old characters from old campaigns I started thinking about her and her character Kei Okami and decided she needed to be included in this year's 31/31 Challenge.

The character that is, not the player. Well sure, the player too but well, you know what I mean. 

This character is rather unusual and stands out on this list as a great PC from a great campaign that I had absolutely nothing to do with. I'll explain...



Character: Kei (Pronounced Kay) Okami

AKA: Kei the Wolf Girl, Wolf-Spirit Kei

Player: Liza Rodriguez 

System: Hero System, 3rd and 4th Edition
 
Campaign:
The River of Dreams

Gamemaster: Unknown. Never met the guy. 

Circa: 1989-1991

Origins: I wish I knew. Liza was clearly ahead of her time when creating this character as nowadays every Video Game, Manga, and Anime are chock full of tough, sexy, feral wolf-girls. Was she the first? Probably not and I'm sure Liza's love of Japanese Anime played a part in the creation of this character. 

Anime and RPGs were among the many interests Liza and I shared but I never actually got to game with her. As I recall she had her groups and I had mine and she played in this campaign in Brooklyn on the same day I ran one of my Star Trek or Star Wars games in Manhattan. We would update each other on the various characters and goings on in each others campaigns, which is how I have this story to tell.

Backstory: At some point during Japan's late Meiji or early Taisho Periods (roughly 1888 to 1912), many of the land's ancient spirit clans found their numbers dwindling; resources grew scarce, and their magic waned with influx of foreigners and the expanded industrialization of the islands. It was during this time that a young, female Wolf-Spirit Bushi (Warrior) - orphaned in a past war with Humans long ago - found herself on the run from a demon known as the Spirit-Eater. Doomed to fade from the world like all the other supernatural beings, the demon discovered his power and lifespan could be extended by consuming other paranormal creatures. 

The Wolf-Spirit Girl, Kei, had been alternating between fighting and running from the demon for the better part of a day. When night fell she seized her chance to escape by making her way to a Human city along a river and disguising herself as a common Mortal. This was no easy task given her wolf ears, bushy tail, dark tan complexion (very different from the locals), and lack of knowledge of basic Human customs or manners. 

While moving along the river's edge she saw a man from the West in colorful garb performing magic tricks for applause and a few coins. He smiled at her and winked over his glasses, subtly gesturing towards a passing Steamboat. It was a large ship of Western design with lantern lights and music coming from onboard. Just then the demon - also in disguise though Kei could easily smell him - burst from a crowd of people. He was bearing down on her like a charging bull! Kei ran and believing the street magician may have been trying to help her, leapt over the railings and on to the ship. 

The demon seethed and stared daggers as the boat pulled away, disappearing into the evening mist. 

Overview: The campaign focused on this very 'New-Orleans-Turn-of-The-Century' steam powered riverboat, , as it traveled along 'The River' from one world to the next. Yes, you read that right. Kei met some of the boat's other passengers, all of whom were from different places and times (though all roughly within the era when Steamboats regularly traveled on rivers for the most part). 

The other PCs I can recall include:

A Cowboy Gunslinger type who was extraordinarily lucky, with both the good and bad kind being equally in play. 

A Fortune Teller/Medium who could see the future using tarot cards, speak with the dead through a seance, and had other such mystical abilities.

A Masked Superhero similar to DC Comics' Hour Man. A secret formula gave him Super Strength, Speed, and Toughness for a short time. Too much of the elixir made him go mad, giving him a slight Jekyll and Hyde vibe. 

A Mechanical Person, an advanced steam-powered automaton resembling a butler or maid (I forget which) that claimed to have been Human at one time. 

The Steamboat was owned by the Street Magician fellow whom Kei had met and who Liza described as a Willy Wonka-esque figure. The ship essentially ran itself, with no Captain or Crew aboard beyond the PCs and the Magician. 

Every few sessions the Steamboat would run a low on supplies or need repairs for some reason and dock at a port on 'The River' that could be literally anywhere. From what I can recall they once stopped at a medieval fishing town that thought they were circus performers of some kind. Another adventure had them at a late 16th century Pirate Cove. They encountered such adversaries as Unseelie Court Faeries, bloodthirsty Pirates, a Ghost Ship of Undead Sailors (late Age of Sail), and more. There was a Big Bad, a central menace behind it all that wanted the Steamboat and possibly the Magician but it wasn't a person; more like an abstract concept focused on crushing one's dreams. 

The Highlights:

The two tales I remember the best are:

Stopping at a Napoleonic Era French port, the Gunslinger met a very lovely and charming 'Lady of the Evening' and invited her onto 'his' boat, claiming he won it in a card game. She turned out to be a powerful Vampire and the PCs were pretty outclassed. Thanks to excellent teamwork and the players' own knowledge of the Steamboat's layout (including the way each PC had defined their private staterooms), the heroes were able to beat her. 

Another story involved needing to travel down the river to get a medicine to heal one of the PCs. Kei covered their escape, holding off a dozen Spanish Inquisitor Zombies pretty much by herself. She got the job done with clever moves, great rolls, and a little help from a pack of Iberian Wolves. 

Game Info:

I never saw Kei's Character Sheet and Liza and I didn't talk rules, so I can't give you much solid information on Kei's attributes and the like but there are some things I do recall. 

The system used was initially Champions 3rd Edition, later updated to 4th. All the PCs started out as 200 Point Characters, with 150 Base Points and up to 50 points of Disadvantages. I believe Attribute Limits were enforced. 

Liza described Kei as twice as strong as a normal Human (Strength 20?), able to outrun turn of the century soldiers on horseback, capable of Anime leaps of 20-25 ft. or so, and tough enough to take very limited small arms fire. She would get hurt and bleed but would likely survive. Possibly more Justice, Inc. than Champions?

Her Powers and Skills included a Heightened Sense of Smell and Hearing, the ability to See in the Dark, Regeneration (amusingly she could regenerate faster if she could lick the wound), and the ability to Detect the Presence of Supernatural Entities such as ghosts, demons, and other spirits. Kei could 'smell' an Oni or similar creature even if she could not see it. 

The Wolf Girl was highly skilled at Hunting and Tracking, Stealth, Swordsmanship, and Martial Arts. Her fighting style involved a lot of launching herself at enemies from a crouched position and leaping down on enemies from above. 

In combat she initially wielded a Wakizashi of poor quality but was later gifted with a paired Katana and Wakizashi of superior, possibly supernatural quality. She could also scratch with her clawed fingernails or bite someone with her very sharp teeth. 

Her Disadvantages included a noted lack of proper Human etiquette, being baffled by many Human devices and tools, a very short temper (though her anger was just as quickly forgotten), and a need to howl at the full moon. 




Notes:

Okami means 'Wolf' in Japanese.

Kei - pronounced Kay - is the name of one half of the famous Japanese Science Fiction duo The Dirty Pair; the other being Yuri. Kei's hair is often referred to as a 'Wolf Cut'. 

I based the illustrations of Kei on the work of Japanese Manga Writer and Artist Kunihiko Tanaka, best known for the Anime and Manga 'Fam and Ihrie: The Ruin Explorers' and the Xenogears and Xenosaga series of video games. 

Liza's group preferred Fantasy over Superheroes but preferred the Hero System over other Fantasy games. That was likely a contributing factor to the creation of this campaign. 

What's next? A trip to the 25th Century aboard the starship Relativity and a visit with its reluctant captain, LANCE GRAVITY! Hyperwarp to Maximum!

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Barking Alien




Sunday, January 9, 2022

31 Days / 31 Characters - KASHPA

It feels appropriate that on the heels of The Book of Boba Fett that the next entry in the 31 Days/31 Characters Challenge for 2022 be a Star Wars character. Not just any Star Wars RPG character but one of my all time favorites by one of my all time favorite people, my dear friend Lynn Morton.

I have known Lynn for over 30 years. Originally I knew her as the girlfriend of a friend of a friend but eventually we got to know each other and become close ourselves. We've seen break-ups, birthdays, weddings, and the loss of friends and family over the decades. Although time goes by where we don't chat nearly enough, we always find a way to stay connected. 

A member of what I often call 'The New Jersey Group', Lynn has been an integral part of some of my best TRPG campaigns. She's been mentioned [directly or indirectly] many times on this blog. She played Ziva Yesperani in the Ghostbusters, NJ, Lt. Shilana Kincaid in Star Trek: Thunder Bay, and Dr. Ana Myr Clearwater in ALIEN FRONTIER (the best introduction of a PC after the beginning of a campaign I've ever had). 

So it is that I absolutely had to do a post featuring Lynn's first character from the first campaign I ran with her in it. 



Character: Kashpa

AKA: The Sphere Dancer, Lady Kashpa

Player: Lynn Morton

System: Star Wars, The Roleplaying Game, 2nd Edition - West End Games
 

Gamemaster: Adam Dickstein

Circa: 1989-1990. The original campaign - set during the Original Trilogy of Star Wars films - lasted 12 eight hour sessions, run once a month for a year.

Kashpa returned some years later in three one-shot follow-ups; each run after the Prequel Trilogy films were released. The one-shots took place seven years after Return of the Jedi and combined the continuities of the Enter the Brave campaign with those of my New York group's Tales from the Rim campaign.

She remains an NPC in post-Return of the Jedi/The Mandalorian Era games to this day.

Origins: I have told this story before but it's a good one so I'll briefly go over it again...

On the last day of Gen Con (1989 or 90) my friend Martin was feeling down. He did have a great experience, was new to gaming, and was thinking that perhaps the hobby was not for him. I got angry and when I get angry I get defiant and made him create a Star Wars D6 character right then and there. I convinced the rest of our friends to join in and ran a quick session, maybe no more than a half hour long. Everyone, especially Martin, loved it and they collectively asked when we were continuing this campaign.

Continuing? Campaign? Er...OK. About a week or so after returning home I ran a follow-up adventure and then another a few weeks later. Unfortunately, there was no 'campaign'. I hadn't planned on continuing and although they didn't see it, I knew I couldn't maintain this for long. I told everyone as much and said, "If you guys want to play a Star Wars campaign, I am more than happy to run one. This just isn't it though." The group understood and we went about making a new campaign from scratch. We also pulled in additional players, including Martin's girlfriend Lynn. 

To think I once knew her only in that way makes me laugh now. She is awesome and takes center stage whenever she's present. 

Backstory: Captured by slavers looking to sell attractive and able bodied young Twi'leks to rich Hutt Crime Lords and corrupt Imperial Governors, Kashpa's life changed dramatically when the transport carrying her was besieged by a group of anti-slaver pirates led by Tiree Palmight. 

When the handsome and heroic young man found Kashpa and told her she was free she asked him, "To do what? To go where?" 

His answer, "Whatever you want. Wherever you want." Palmight pointed out a viewport window at the sea of stars. "That is the galaxy. Give it hell."

And so she did.

Kashpa helped her people land on a remote, unpopulated but hospitable world and then took a small shuttlecraft into space, eventually making her way to the Outer Rim Territories. She learned a great deal apprenticing with a variety of colorful characters and combined it with the training of her, um, original destined vocation. After a number of years, Kashpa was a dancer and performer in high demand among salacious criminals and Imperials, the toast of the Galactic Underworld. She was also a 'Robin Hood'-like assassin, slaying evil despots, slavers, and other villains who preyed upon the innocent and less capable and spreading their wealth among the downtrodden. 

On a few occasions she crossed paths with Tiree Palmight again and the two teamed up to free others enslaved by the tyranny of life under the Galactic Empire. The two also had an on-again-off-again romantic relationship but Palmight was always on the move and Kashpa felt her 'mission' couldn't afford too many breaks. 

In her mid-twenties, she received a communique from a mutual contact that said Tiree was on the run with the Empire closing in. He needed her help and asked her to meet him on a planet somewhat off the beaten path of respectable hyperspace trade routes. She went then immediately and ran into a group of interstellar misfits - a Smuggler and his odd Astromech, an Alien Scientist, a Wanna-be Jedi, a Mercenary - all looking for Tiree Palmight. Only, they all described a different Palmight, with his age, profession, and even demeanor varying wildly. 

As Bounty Hunters arrived to capture the Smuggler, he stole Kashpa Speeder Bike and headed for his ship. Kashpa leaped from the second story of a Cantina onto the back of the bike and the rest is history. The group became a part of the Rebellion against the Empire, learning the truth of the many lives of Tiree Palmight, ending the threat of the 'Worldfist' doomsday weapon, and vanquishing the mysterious Dark Side wielders Denaan Karr and his acolyte Pal Rartha.

Overview: Lynn has a very strong case of what I call, 'Protective Suspicion'; many of her characters will defend their friends like a momma bear watching out for her cubs BUT she must first establish exactly who qualifies for 'friend' status. It isn't always easy getting into the club. Kashpa was a perfect example of this, initially distrusting the other PCs: Smuggler En Fochs, his droid (played by Martin) MAN-2, the mercenary known only as 'Blade Dangerous' (later Blaze Gold), and even the Jedi-in-Training Raiza Kendall. The only one she trusted was the bizarre looking alien scientist Dr. Bospero, since his agenda of seeking knowledge was worn clearly on his sleeve. 

Raiza Kendall had a long romantic relationship with her Jedi Master, one Tiree Palmight, and that irked Kashpa even after the two women discovered their Tirees were not one and the same. At first I thought Kashpa was jealous of the life that Raiza had experienced but that wasn't it, at least not completely. What elevated the character of Kashpa was that she saw Tiree had given her the chance to carve her own destiny and by her own decision she'd spent it enacting vengeance moreso than 'righting wrongs'. What Kashpa was envious of was Raiza's naivete and innocence.

At some point between the end of the original campaign and the first of the one-shot 'sequels', Kashpa decided to hold herself to a higher standard and became a respected leader in the New Republic's Intelligence Service. 

The Highlights:

Before going into highlight moments, I'd like to discuss Kashpa's unique weapons and abilities. 

Her key talent and skill was her incredible agility and a ribbon dancing technique useful in both mesmerizing onlookers and serving as a martial art she called 'Sphere Dancing'. Her lithe form and exquisite, graceful movements were perfect for capturing people's attention and forming a diversion. In battle, she moved with a twisting, spinning fighting style that crossed Capoeira with Ribbon Rhythmic Gymnastics

This martial art was made ten times more dangerous thanks to a unusual weapon of Kashpa's (and Lynn's) own design: Two metal spheres, each gold in color and the size of a small to medium grapefruit, that were hollow except for spools in the center. Wrapped around the spools and between the two globes is a long length of satin-y material of incredible tensile strength. 

One could throw and pull back the spheres, lengthening or reeling the cloth, spin, dance, whirl, and juggle the whole thing for a dazzling dance display. At the same time, Kashpa could throw a globe and wrap it around an opponent, use it as a grappling hook, a flail, or even choke an enemy with the material. The edges of the satin-like ribbon were paper thin and strong enough to cut someone like a knife. 

While not actively connected with The Force, Kashpa was known to have prophetic dreams, an old 'mysticism' often attributed to the women of Kashpa's family line. Often tricky to decode, her dreams were nonetheless helpful in locating and defeating the mad Sith Pal Rartha, who turned out to be a Twi'lek as well. 

As for standout moments, I loved her introduction; mingling among the scum and villainy at a party on the second floor of a cantina, she hears a ruckus down on the street below which makes her look out a window. A scruffy fellow with blonde hair with a dark streak (Smuggler and future friend En Fochs) steals her ride, a top notch speeder bike. She hands her drink to a droid waiter, steps out of a window, runs across the rooftop and then leaps on to the back of the speeder bike as it races away.

As the two are chased by Bounty Hunters and Stormtroopers, Kashpa wrestles with Fochs (who's driving) and tries to wrap him up with the Ribbon of her weapon. When the pursuers get too close she slings out one of the Spheres yo-yo style, knocking one guy off his speeder bike and causing another two drive off the road into a wall. Finally, just as a group of two or three try to overtake the heroes, Kashpa uses her weapon to lasso a post on each side of the road, clothes-lining the lot of them. She than yanked the weapon back as Fochs spun the bike 360 degrees, firing his Heavy Blaster Pistol at the remaining opponents. 

Another memorable and very different moments came when Kaspha had a prophetic dream wherein she was walking through the 'Bright Lands', part of the Twi'lek afterlife. There she saw Pal Rartha, the mentally unstable Twi'lek Sith who seemed to be slipping in and out of existence. As Kashpa attempted to help him gather his wits, he was once again consumed by madness. In doing so he let slip a number of hints and clues that gave Kashpa the location and plan of attack that the enemy would attempt in the final battle against the planet Sullust. 

It was a deep, spiritual conversation and while it failed to bring Pal Rartha back to sanity, he revealed how pain can drive one to terrible choices if one gives in to it. Kashpa took her pain and used it to make things right and later still, make things better.. 

Game Info:

Kashpa - As of the Battle of Ord Itani (the last time she was played by Lynn)*

Twi'lek - Female, 30-35 years of age.

Template: Twi'lek Intelligence Agent

Serving the New Republic's Intelligence Service from a base on Kolindoor.

DEXTERITY: 4D 

Acrobatics +3D, Dodge +3D, Sphere Dancing +4D                

KNOWLEDGE: 3D

Espionage +2D, Politics +2D,                    

MECHANICAL: 2D+1

PERCEPTION: 3D+1

Disguise +3D, Persuasion +2D, Sneak +3D            

STRENGTH: 2D+2

Climbing/Jumping +3D

TECHNICAL: 2D+2                       

Security +3D

Note: Stats reflect a character played numerous times and an in-universe time jump of 7 years.

Equipment: Comlink x2 (one on wrist, one hidden in head-dress), Diplomatic Dress, Formal Attire, Vibro-Knife, New Republic Identification, Sphere Dancing Outfit, Twi'lek Ribbon Spheres. Pet Kowakian Monkey-Lizard, 'Eeky' (formerly known as 'Damn-You-Damn-Rat' and 'Echuta').

Legacy: In any game I run in the Star Wars Universe set between the era of Star Wars: REBELS and Star Wars: The Mandalorian, Kashpa exists and is up to something. Perhaps you'll cross her path and if you're very forthright, totally honest, and extremely lucky, she just might - after a long while - come to trust you.

Next I've got an unusual one...travel with me down a River of Dreams aboard a Magical Mystery Steamboat and meet a cunning, cuthroat canine cutie known as KEI OKAMI!

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Barking Alien







Saturday, January 8, 2022

31 Days / 31 Characters - FRANKIE THE FERRET

Funny story...

A couple of weeks ago in a Chat with my friends from high school (the group that ran and played Ghostbusters: The Home Office , Champions: The Age of Heroes and Age of Chaos, and Star Trek: Renown), we were discussing Comedic/Humorous RPGs when my pal David name dropped Frankie The Ferret, his Toon character from our 1988 'The Boys of Cellgate' campaign.

I said to myself then and there that Frankie HAD to be one of the characters showcased in this year's 31 Days / 31 Characters #characterdesignchallenge. 

Three or four days ago I told Dave my intentions and asked what he remembered about Frankie. His answer was...nothing. He honestly couldn't remember a damn thing. Luckily, I keep notes.


Character: Frankie The Ferret

AKA: Frankie T. Ferret. Frankie Ferret. Will not respond to 'Frank' (See below). 

Player: David Concepcion

System: Toon, The Cartoon Roleplaying Game  - Modified with various Houserules
 
Campaign: The Boys of Cellgate

Originally this campaign didn't have a title. It was just 'the Toon campaign'. As is common with my older games, at some point later, often after the campaign has concluded, I'll give it a title when I archive the notes. I think this one was referred to as 'Cellgate' before it ended and 'The Boys of Cellgate' afterwards.

Gamemaster: Adam Dickstein 

Circa: 1988.

This was a short though complete campaign, running about a dozen sessions. Maybe less. 

Origins: This campaign was a direct result of my friends and I - all students at the High School of Art and Design and Animation buffs - seeing the film, Who Framed Roger Rabbit. For me, this was immediately followed by reading the book the movie was based on, Who Censored Roger Rabbit by Gary Wolf.

Dave really loved the Weasels, the 'Toon Patrol' that served as henchmen to Judge Doom. He was inspired by this gang of crooks, cutthroats, and cuckoos to create what amounts to their more affable and well meaning 'cousin'. The result was Frankie The Ferret. 




Backstory: Frankie The Ferret was born and raised in the Los Angeles Toon ghetto of Cellgate. By the start of the game Frankie lives in a Half-Wit House (a Halfway House for Toons and Strips Living newspaper comic strip characters also called 'Funnies') along with two of the other PCs, Mister Mooch and Wally Winky. 

Frankie occasionally does jobs for the Toon Mob as a lookout and/or a safe-cracker. Frankie isn't keen on doing illegal stuff and wants to stop but he got involved with them in his youth and he can't seem to get out.

When a simple, high paying heist job turns out to be a set-up, Frankie barely escapes with the help of his friends Mooch and Winky, as well as a Strip by the name of Mal. Mal (Mal Function that is), a Robot, was a worker at the warehouse being robbed. The Toon Mob captured him and forced him to give them the details on how to break-in. 

When the gang gets outside they are immediately confronted by Police Detective Copper Cody (a Strip) and his sidekick/partner Toon Robbie Rabbit. They were following Frankie and were ready to take the boys 'downtown' until Frankie convinces them to let him and his friends help the detective take the Toon Mob down. 

Overview: Although the game was as wacky and comedic as any classic Looney Tunes cartoon, there were also a lot of darker elements as well. 

As more and more Toons moved into the area, the old neighborhood of Inkgate was renamed to Cellgate. The Strips were pushed out - more by landlords hoping to rent to Toons than by any animosity between Toons and Strips - and the 'Funnies' became third class citizens.

Black and White Toons found it very hard to get work in the new full color movies and were sometimes treated very poorly by Humans (Wally Winky is a B&W Toon Rat resembling Felix the Cat and Oswald the Lucky Rabbit). There were restaurants that wouldn't serve 'Colorless' customers. 

Somehow this all worked with the fast paced hijinks and snappy dialogue, a lot of which I attribute to Dave and his portrayal of Frankie The Ferret. His was funny, sometimes silly, but also clever and sincere. It was definitely Frankie that held the whole thing together, keeping the game focused when things threatened to get too out of control. 

I also loved some of the humor that Frankie injected that wasn't so typical of the animated shows of the time but still fit right in. For example, Frankie never answered to 'Frank', assuming the speaker was talking to someone else. Frankie is also referred to as Mr. The Ferret and corrects the person saying, "Ah, it's just Ferret. Mr. Ferret. The is my middle name."

Finally, I really liked how we went from 'well meaning ne'er do wells down on their luck' to real heroes in a way that felt very organic. Friendship and loyalty were keys themes. 

The Highlights:

Let's see...

Some of the character's designs were influenced as much by The Bowery Boys and other films of the late 30s and early 40s as much as Merry Melodies and King Features animation. Dave and I, as well as many of the other players, are big fans of the early comedy film pioneers such as the Marx Brothers, the Three Stooges, Laurel and Hardy, and others. Their presence was definitely felt. 




Frankie's main ability and personality trait was talking on and on in nearly run on sentences, jumping from one subject to another, often without warning. Frankie's rambling speech was his greatest weapon, able to confound and confuse even the sharpest of...oh will you be quiet!

In one sequence I recall the group was being introduced to an informant by Copper Cody and Robbie Rabbit. A Toon Mob gangster was trying to listen in to get all their names and figure out how many of them there were. Frankie introduces himself and his friends in a way that completely confuses the mobster, giving them impression of a much larger team. It was a 'Who's on First'-like bit, though not exactly. The mobster reports back and the Mob Boss thinks the police are sending a veritable army. 

At one point the police get wind of what's going on with the PCs but they don't have the whole picture, thinking the Player Characters have stolen a priceless artifact from the warehouse in the first session. OK, they did, but they don't have it. They give chase, a fleet of police cruisers chasing their Toon Cadillac Sedan. OK, it wasn't theirs. Mooch borrowed it from a valet friend. At the same time, the PC party was racing against time to catch a Toon Mob lieutenant before he could deliver the relic to his boss. 

A car chase ensues with Frank (Who?)...sorry, Frankie...Winky, and Mooch trying to do anything they can to slow the cops without harming them, while Mal drives like a madman (or Robot) to get to their destination. The PCs were tossing things out of the sedan to impede the cops including dry cleaning, a pair of fancy shoes, the seat cushions, the gear shift, the brake...wait. Hmm.

The cops fire their guns and blow out the tires on the party's car (the name of which escapes me), which sends it into a wild spin.  As it whirls out of control, Frankie suggests they throw everything and the kitchen sink at police and the others do just that. Finally,  they all abandon the car just before it crashes - all but Frankie; who insisted he get to roll to see if there was a Kitchen Sink in the car. Indeed there was, indeed he threw it, and it bought the team enough time to escape and jump on a crosstown Trolley. 



Game Info:

I don't have the sheet for this character as it was over 30 years ago and it was one of my shorter campaigns. As I recall, Smarts and Chutzpah were his high stats. His Schticks included Incredible Luck and Baffle, one we made up that enables Frankie to confuse people by talking to them. 

It's been a long time but I haven't run a lot of full-on Toon campaigns, so the few I have really stand out in my memory. Dave Concepcion's commitment to character, sense of humor, and grasp of the genre not only gives this campaign a unique identity but elevates it above a simple slapstick comedy. 

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Barking Alien