Saturday, March 25, 2023

I Can't Post

Something is wrong with me. I can not seem to post. I am writing this in the hopes that I will break through whatever it is that is preventing me from blogging these days. It is incredibly, almost painfully frustrating.

Whenever I try to post about something I get three paragraphs in at best and then delete it, never get back to it, or rewrite it to the point of three paragraphs and the maddening process starts over. 


So much to say and can't seem to say it!

Barking Alien


Monday, February 27, 2023

Generating Interest - Part I

I had a fascinating conversation with my friend Ray last week regarding Player Characters in Fantasy RPGs versus those in other games.

The focus of the discussion followed Ray's observations as to why I - me personally - often find it difficult to create Fantasy PCs and why I don't often find the Fantasy Player Characters I generate all that interesting. This can lead to my becoming bored with the character, wanting to try some other sort of Race/Class combo, or simply losing interest in the game overall. 

Ray's keen insight into why I don't have an investment in Fantasy RPG characters is that they simply aren't particularly intriguing to begin with. They are not, by their nature, especially cool. To paraphrase Ray himself...

'Fantasy RPG characters don't start out interesting. They become interesting.'
I can just imagine the reactions to this statement out there in TRPG Internet Land and the images it conjures in my minds give me quite the hearty chuckle.

I should point out we are talking about Fantasy PCs created in the majority of the bigger, more popular Fantasy game systems; the discussion concentrates on RPGs like D&D, Pathfinder, Cypher System, and other Race/Class/Level based games. I could absolutely create a PC I find interesting in Ars Magica. Ars Magica is a very different beast from the games we're talking about here, though some of what makes it different will come into play (no pun intended) later in the post.

Many a modern gamer would disagree with this statement outright, saying the PC is as rich a character as the work you put into it. A truism I'll grant but that work is all you the player, with little coming from the system itself. Remember we are talking beginning PCs starting at 1st level here. I know many like to run and create characters that begin at 3rd Level or even higher but that only proves my point. The bulk of the classic style Fantasy games don't have you start at First Level with the kind of character you'd really like to play. That comes later (this is a key point that will come up further on in the post).

I can see the Grognards and Neckbeard Old-Schoolers (the latter the name of a Dwarf I met once I'm sure of it) saying that's the point! You start with nothing, a nobody, you're not a 'Character' in a story but a game piece, a component for the game that is D&D (or Rolemaster, Tunnels & Trolls, etc.). That's possibly true...and doesn't interest me. I don't want to play a glorified wargame or innovative board game. I want to go on adventures that tells/turns into stories and I want to be part of those stories with a story of my own. 

Now back to Ray's proclamation: It's always kind of bugged me that you begin many Fantasy game with a character who often seems like they never existed before they first stepped foot in 'Ye Ole' Meeting Place' tavern or the Dungeon-of-the-Week. 

"Flakgore the Barbarian turns to see an Elf in the Wizard Robes standing next to him. She wasn't there a moment ago but then again...was he? He has no memories of his life before opening the vaulted doors of the Crypt of Cataclysm. Looking at the other members of his party, there is a vague recollection of meeting them all in a tavern..."

These types of characters rarely feel 'real' to me and as such, I usually concoct a short description of who they are and why they've deciding upon the life of an adventurer. Without that, it all feels immaterial to me. Unimportant and definitely not special. The problem is, in my experience, I can't come up with a description because there isn't much to go on inspiration wise. Fantasy game settings often feel same-y to me and since I'm not a fan of the genre overall, these elements combine to create a blandness that doesn't motivate me to come up with much. 

Then there's the make-up of the characters themselves...We begin with 'Race'. Humans are boring, the other Races sound cool on paper but have few mechanics reflecting the fluff, and there are rarely rules for creating your own Species. This has improved in later editions and various systems. Classes are fairly rigid, start with few abilities, and multi-classing is usually poorly thought out. There is little to give any ideas for character background (later editions of D&D and other systems have added this and its much appreciated), and I just don't know where to go with it since I'm at a handicap with Fantasy to begin with.  

Compare this to some of my favorite games from other genres:

Star Trek (various versions) and Traveller: Rolls and/or choices develop your PCs pre-playing history. Your 'starting' character isn't just starting out in life but moving onto the next big, bold chapter of it - it just happens to be the chapter the GM and other players are interacting with. 

Characters begin the campaign after their 'Pre-Academy' days and 'Tours of Duty'. They may have gained 'Special Assignments', received 'Promotions' and/or 'Commendations'. They've lived interesting fictional lives before they've even entered the first session. This person is, to me, instantly interesting. It inspires ideas and makes me want to answer questions like, 'What was their homeworld like?', 'What was the Special Assignment they were given?', and 'Who gave them their Commendation? Are they still in touch?'.

Star Wars (specifically the West End Games D6 System) is so customizable that you can practically make up a cool character first, then figure out the Template's numbers, skills, Species abilities, etc. Let's say, OK let me try an experiment. I am going to do a Google Image Search for 'Star Wars Alien'. Give me a moment.

OK, the first three were a Hutt, Grogu (Yoda's Species), and Jar Jar Binks, a Gungan. OK, I love redeeming the Gungans so I'm make a one of those. What Template? I'll build my own. There is no official Gungan Mercenary but I like the idea of playing one. Another quick search shows a few different Gungan Species write-ups. The Second Edition has a Mercenary Template as well as rules for making Templates so - bing, bang, boom - I can make a Gungan Mercenary, customize some of the skills, take away some gear since I get a few Amphibious abilities as a Gungan and I have a character I like that I designed for the most part. His name is, hmm, Junji Terble. Yeah. I could totally play this guy. 

I had 20 minutes and too much coffee so I made an image. 

Champions and Ars Magica, take the previous approach and lean in on it hard. Through the purchasing of Attributes, choosing Advantages and Disadvantages, building your powers and abilities exactly the way you want, I can create precisely the character I would find interesting. I can come up with a story for the character and then dig through the systems for rules that reflect that story. If my Superhero character's origin has her trapped in a forest fire before being given her plant powers by Flora - Spirit of All Plants, Daughter of Mother Nature - she might be as mighty as a Redwood but remain afraid of fire. So...huh...Psychological Limitation. Cool. How about...Pyrophobia and maybe she takes Vulnerability: Extra Damage from Fire. Nice. That gives me more points so I can add more Plant-themed gimmicks to my PC's repertoire. Which gimmicks? How do they work? The ones I want and how I want them. 

One of my oldest Superhero characters, Excelsior - art by Keith Conroy, 1992.

The randomly generated Villains and Vigilantes version was cool. 
The custom built Champions version was AWESOME!

It would seem that the main focus of classic Fantasy RPG Character Creation is more Character 'Generation'. You are, for the most part, along for the ride as you roll dice and make some choices. You are a passenger on a commercial airplane flight. You get to pick your meal from one or two choices, decide what you want to drink, and whether or not you want the peanuts. 

With many of the games I enjoy it's more like being the pilot of a private jet. It's your plane. Go where you want to go, bring the food you want to eat, and if you want the peanuts, hell, knock yourself out. 

As Ray notes (paraphrasing): 

"The Fantasy character traditionally starts off simple. A basic design without much to make them appear unique. As they adventure, as they explore, fight monsters, and perform their skills, they will gather experience points they can spend to get new and more special abilities. Even more so, they will establish friends, enemies, and live through events that will give them a 'life story'.

Eventually, the PC will become much more interesting, both mechanically and narratively, as they've gone through numerous 'character building' moments."

OK, I get that. That makes sense certainly. I'll even go as far as to say it sounds fun to follow this complete rookie, this noob, through their development into a hero of the realm. But...

Spoiled I may be, what with having cool traits, knacks, and maybe some neat equipment at the very start - all of which I built or decided upon myself - can you see how I'd automatically be more invested, more attached to this kind of character than the one just described? 

At the end of say a dozen sessions, both a classic Fantasy RPG PC and a Space Adventure/Supers RPG PC will have had the same amount of potential in-game  character building and development time.

Yet the Space Adventure/Supers character had a head start on the 'being cool' factor right from the get-go. This is key to my forming a relationship with the PC that makes me want to keep playing them.

What can be done...?

Barking Alien

Sunday, February 12, 2023

Where I'm At

February. Oh boy. Where to even begin?

The month of February is always a taxing one for me, both physically, mentally, and emotionally. It marks a lot of major and minor occasions in my life, as well as being the month wherein things get really busy for my business after the lull of the Xmas to New Year's Holiday season. 

Today in particular is my birthday, a day I have not traditionally been a fan of acknowledging but I am in good spirits so this year, I am feeling particularly positive about it. I have a true day off, had a lovely dinner with my Mom last night (Peruvian Seafood!) and I'm going to try to get some RPG things done (maybe even another Post? Baby steps...). 

Anyway, a bit of an overall overview of my gaming these days - turns out the break I look at the end of 2022 was just the ticket.

I have, as noted before and in upcoming posts, begun my Pokemon AD homebrew RPG campaign, Pokemon: Rise and Fall which has only had two full sessions as of this writing. The players seem really into it and I am excited to see where it goes. 

Star Trek: Prosperity - my bi-weekly, Friday night Star Trek Adventures group - has returned to the final frontier! Now in our 7th year - Yes, you read that right - we've already had two real bangers; each session was both self-contained and part of a larger ongoing story. Once again, everyone seems to be enjoying it immensely, myself included.

Finally, I am playing in an Anime Fantasy RPG using the Cypher System, inspired by the Japanese TRPG Sword World. The jury is still out on this one but so far so good. We've only had Character Creation and a short introductory Bar Fight at this point. I trust the GM, my buddy Keith, who ran a fantastic and long Superhero game but I am still a little wary. I'm the big Anime otaku in the group and I don't yet know how Keith will make the game feel 'Anime/Manga'-ish. It's also the Cypher System, of which I am not a fan. Still and all, I'm optimistic. Let's see what happens.

I also want to raise a glass...OK, a mug of my dearly departed friend David Cotton, whose birthday was yesterday, the 11th. Miss you brother. 

Anyway, that's what's going on. Now on to...well...whatever comes next!

Barking Alien

Saturday, February 4, 2023

BREAK!! On Through To The Other Side

Ten Years In The Making...
Is WAAAY Too Long!

But still...

For a long while now, nearly as long as I've had this blog, I've been aware of and interested in an RPG project called BREAK!! 

Well, it turns out a Kickstarter for the release of the BREAK!! rulebook is starting very soon and I'd be VERY surprised if this didn't get funded and freakin' quick! 

Created by author Reynaldo Madriñan and artist 'Grey Wizard', BREAK!! is a Tabletop RPG inspired by Japanese Anime and Video Games that seems to have been in development for a least a decade. It uses multiple die type (Booo!) but mostly D20 and D12.

Characters are essentially defined by a Calling, an archetype not unlike a Template or Class in other RPGs but broader as I understand it. Each Calling gives the PC a framework or outline structure while also providing a wide array of options that enable the player to customize their characters. In addition, PCs have a Species, a Trait, a Quirk, Equipment, and all the things you'd expect to see in a 'Classic' or 'Old School' RPG. 

For the GM there is a ton of setting material, from locations and monsters, to magic and technology, and many other things with which to create adventures and campaigns. In addition, and most interesting to me, are guidelines you can use to create stuff all your own. Tools for adding my own components? I do love that. Remember that this is a game with Anime/Manga/Computer Games inspirations. In addition to Goblins, Wizards, and trap filled Dungeons, you'll also see Mecha, adorable Witches with Rocket-Powered Brooms, and bizarre terrain frozen in Day Time, Night Time, The Past, or The Future. 

This is a game I've been extremely curious about for, as noted above, an especially long time. I've checked back regularly, watched the YouTube videos on Character and Adversary Creation, and signed up for the mailing list. That last part is how I found out about the Kickstarter Pre-Launch and I have to admit, I was surprised. 

After so many years of following the project with no completion in sight, the idea that BREAK!! might actually come out wasn't something I consciously considered. The website was fun to check in with, the art is awesome and inspiring, but the thought, 'I can't wait until I can buy this!' hadn't seriously occurred to me since waaay before the height of the Pandemic. I viewed the game as something akin to actively developing vaporware. 

Now it might actual come out and I'm both excited and more than a little nervous. I don't need a Fantasy RPG but I do like the aesthetic and Anime/Video Game elements. I don't like Multiple Die Type systems (why do games I am initially excited about keep using all the dice?! So rude!) but I think I could mine the ideas in this for other systems, making it a fantastic resource.

All that aside, I want to see this! I really do. I just want to see what a decade of work on a single product can achieve. Having worked on pet projects of my own for decades, I know how difficult it can be to finally say you're done.

I am amazed not only by the effort and talent showcased here but seriously inspired by whomever said..."OK, it's finished."

I will be supporting this and I will keep you posted on how things go.

Barking Alien

Tuesday, January 31, 2023

New Game - Tutorial Stage

This is the second part of my first session recap of Pokemon: Rise and Fall, my mid-week group's new ongoing Pokemon homebrew RPG campaign. You can check out the first part right here.

A quick overview: 

Nature's Kiss Section of Makelit Land, most of which consists of the Kissed Nature Reserve
Pokemon Research Outpost 1 shown. 

The three Player Characters - Curt - a Pokemon Reporter, Rina - a Pokemon Pilot, and Suzy - a Pokemon Arranger - all arrive at Pokemon Research Outpost 1 in the Nature's Kiss Section of Makelit Land to begin their Pokemon Journeys. 

While Suzy got there on her own, Curt and Rina arrived via Rina's seaplane after flying through a harrowing blizzard! Upon arrival, it wasn't hard to determine that something serious was going on. There were emergency vehicles and both law enforcement and rescue personnel all about the place! There were even a handful of Pokemon Rangers!

It turns out a Hiker was moving through the area and stepped on what he thought was solid ground or ice only to have it collapse into a sinkhole beneath him! The overflowing brooks around the area turned the spot into a pit of freezing mud and icy water. Our party of adventuring youths volunteered to help out. Suzy is a good samaritan. Curt likes to get involved and thought it would make a great story for his magazine. Rina found out there was a cash reward for helping and operating a seaplane on your own is expensive!

Word came that the time to act was now and so the kids piled into a Police Car with Officer Jenny, her Bolthund* 'Taser', and the lead Pokemon Ranger, Sten and headed to the site. 

Here's part two...

The drive to the Sinkhole was pretty rough; the roads were covered in frost and the blustering wind made controlling their vehicles really difficult. The drive took some time, enabling the PCs to properly introduce themselves to each other. After that, Officer Jenny filled everyone in on a few remaining details (some of which I mentioned above) and how there were already Police, Rescue, and Ranger personnel at the location. 

Once the team arrived, Officer Jenny got an update on what was happening at the moment. The Hiker was still in the Sinkhole, likely close to drowning and/or freezing! The obstacles to the rescue were many. In addition to the biting cold, still falling snow, high winds, and slippery ground, the mud/water combination in the hole was thick and chunky, like a Slushy. This made it even harder for the Rescue workers to see the Hiker, the Hiker to see a thrown rope, and the Hiker to swim to the top. 

Officer Jenny immediately asked Suzy if she could use her Arranger skills to summon a Pokemon that might be able to help them retrieve the Hiker. As Suzy went to it, a Police Officer noticed Rina's flight jacket was adorned with Gym Badges. This indicated that she must be a pretty impressive Pokemon Trainer and was therefore needed at the forefront of the effort to save the Hiker. Well OK! We have a real ace here!

Unfortunately, the Gym Badges on her jacket, like the jacket itself, belonged to Rina's father. Rina herself had never directed a Pokemon on her own. As a matter of fact, she hadn't even discovered which Starter Pokemon she'd chosen. Now, she found herself in the perfect spot to save the day and expected to do so...somehow. She figured it was time to see what, or who, she was working with. A dumb luck release, a bolt of blue energy, and 'POP/BANG!', Rina comes face to beak with...Ugling! The Ugly Duckling Pokemon. A Flying Type! 

It appeared, looked at her, and begun grumpily berating her for her lack of technique and poor execution. 

Curtis had begun walking around the site with Pyrrel to see where they could be most useful. At one point, Pyrrel noticed a seriously large chuck of ice toppling into the hole. If it fell in and hit the Hiker he could be knocked unconscious. If it didn't hit him it would still make rescuing him even harder. Initially planning to use Pyrrel's Ember fire power to melt the ice, he wisely changed his mind last second and had his Pokemon use Tackle! Tackle was a physical attack that benefitted from Pyrrel's speed and agility. Pyrrel dashed across the Sinkhole/pond, leaping from rock to rock, ice patch to floating branch, and shoulder checked the threat harmlessly off to the side. The nearby cops and Rangers were noticeably impressed. 

Suzy meanwhile had formed a ring of plants, flowers, berries, and other materials from her immediate surroundings. Under the [mistaken] impression that the Hiker might not be completely submerged and the Sinkhole not totally filled with water, Suzy hoped to summon a strong Pokemon that could physically reach in and pull the victim out. She tried for a Sawsbuck that she spied watching the situation from the woods but instead got one of its offspring, a bigger than usual Deerling**. After connecting with it and offering it food, Suzy explained what was going on, asked for help, and explained her plan. 

The Deerling agreed to assist, jumping into the Sinkhole hoping to reach the submerged Hiker with its hooves. Unfortunately, the Deerling was still too small, the water too deep, and now it looked as if the Pokemon itself might be in trouble! Oh no!

Not sure what else to do, Suzy finally released her own Starter Pokemon, Trolip! Knowing he was a Grass Type she asked him if there was anything he could do using the available plants and trees. Normally a mischievous sort, Trolip was nonetheless taken aback by the pleading in the little blonde girl's eyes. Using Grassy Terrain, Trolip increased the length and breadth of the vegetation in the pit, raising the struggling Hiker and the Deerling up more towards the surface. 

That was when Rina, who'd been arguing with her stubborn and grouchy Ugling, decided on a bold plan of action! Seeing where the Rescue Workers had thrown ropes into the water, where Trolip raised the plants, and how the Deerling was positioned, she said to Ugling, "Hold on! I recall hearing that Ugling's have great eyesight. Is that true?" The Ugly begrudgingly confirmed this to be so. "Ugling, use Keen Eye to spot the Hiker or at least where he's thrashing around!"

She then took a length of rope, lifted Ugling and plopped him on top of her pilot's cap, and tied him on. Once Ugling found evidence of the victim moving about, she jumped into the water herself, pushed along the bed of plant life Trolip had made, grabbed the ends of the ropes in the water, and helped get them around the Hiker and Deerling. The Rescue Workers, Police, Ranger Sten, and Curt then pulled both the large man and the Deer Pokemon out of the hole. 

They Did It!

The Alfmork Region Starters:
Ugling, Ugly Duckling Pokemon - Flying Type / Trolip, Troll Pokemon - Grass Type / Pyrrel, Red Squirrel Pokemon - Fire Type

Emergency personnel ran up to the Hiker and Rina alike, treating them both for hyperthermia. After some much needed medical attention, a silvery blanket, and a cup of hot cocoa, the PC group huddled around each other, congratulating their friends, the Rescue workers, the Police, the Rangers, and receiving the same right back at them.  

The three Starter Pokemon had their first meeting at this time, with chirper and optimistic Pyrrel, curmudgeon-y and bossy Ugling, and jovial, sly Trolip shaking hands/paws and patting each other on the back. Well, except for Ugling. The most he would give was a terse, acknowledging nod.

Suddenly, something in the snow caught Curt's investigative eye. He walked to the Sinkhole's edge and discovered a small piece of dark metal and a massive footprint. The print was massive, deep, and the center resembled a military boot. Hmmm. Curt wondered...a robot? This was definitely peculiar...

Next, Session Two - Part 1. 

Our heroes' Pokemon Journey is just only just beginning...

[If the retelling of this session seems a bit chaotic toward the end of the rescue, that's because it kind of was. Perhaps chaotic isn't quite the right word but I am really proud that I was able convey to the players a sense of tenseness, urgency, and the threat of failure. The PCs were harried, a lot of was expected from them, conditions were poor, and the characters were new to this dealing with kind of situation. 

Mixed into the actions and events were some wonderful character moments. Curt's efforts to calmly analyze the situation and figure out how best to act. Suzy misjudging the nature of the Sinkhole and nearly getting the Deerling as trapped as the Hiker. Suzy also clapped and made a big to-do about whatever Trolip did in order to connect with him. She reasoned, correctly, that he is more than a bit of a ham, endeared to anyone who praises his theatrics. As far Rina, it became obvious her bravado and self-confidence masked the fact that she was well aware that she was in waaay in over her head. Add that to her having difficulty connecting with her Pokemon and you got a great picture of young woman running on pure willpower less she breakdown and give up. Great stuff!]

I am so happy with how Session 1 turned out. Absolutely fantastic.

More to come...

Barking Alien

A Few Notes:

*The proper name for Pokemon #0836 of the Official National Pokedex is Boltund. I keep remembering it and saying it as Bolthund, mainly because of the Swedish Vallhund, a real life breed of domestic canine sometimes called the 'Swedish Cow Dog' and 'Viking Ratting Dog'. I've decided that Bolthund is in fact the Alfmork regional pronunciation. Everybody wins.

**I've always had the head canon that as a Pokemon gets closer to its evolved form, it gets a bit larger (depending on the Pokemon - many do this but by no means all). A Deerling evolves into a Sawsbuck at Level 34. Suzy was trying for a Sawsbuck but didn't get enough Successes, therefore the Deerling she calls over with her Arranger Skill is likely Level 18 or so. 

I commissioned a design and illustration of Pyrrel from Pravin Rao Santheran, an incredible artist from Malaysia you should definitely check out. The image came a little late for the first session of the campaign and additionally fits a different Pokemon even better on further consideration. You will definitely be seeing it in the future. 

Saturday, January 28, 2023

New Game - Press Start

This week I ran the first session of our Pokemon: Rise and Fall campaign based on the world renowned Pokemon franchise and using my fan-made Pokemon AD homebrew TRPG system.

In doing so an amazing and frankly astonishing thing happened.

It worked. It worked really well. 

Additionally, everyone liked it!

Let's discuss...

It is an unofficial tabletop roleplaying game work of fan appreciation. 
This not a real Pokemon game product of any kind.

As noted by my good friend and player Ray, a big part of the reason this endeavor turned out so positively is that we put in the time and effort to make it the best it could be.

This was no slapdash effort, no half-baked idea rushed to the table too quickly. I put thought and feeling into it and I think it showed. Likewise, the Players created characters that fit perfectly into the setting and bought into the premise wholeheartedly resulting in a fun and memorable experience. 

The Player Characters:
A Pokemon Reporter, a Pokemon Pilot, and a Pokemon Arranger

Our story opened, as does every episode of the Pokemon animated series, with a 'voice over' narration:

Narrator (GM): "Meet our heroes...Oh goodness!...two of them appear to be caught in a terrible snowstorm, high in the air, buffeted by wind and with limited visibility! This doesn't look at all safe! Not only that but they're running late..."

We immediately focus in on a dinged up seaplane struggling against blizzard conditions as it tries to find its target destination on the ground below. Young Pokemon Pilot Rina Mare (played by Will) grips the plane's throttle, reassuring her passengers that everything is under control.

Behind her, Curtis 'Curt' Matthiessen (played by Nick), Pokemon Investigative Reporter, and his pal Pyrrel, a Fire Type Pokemon, shake, rattle, and roll but maintain the highest level of optimism. Ice on the wings, temperatures dropping further, and the wind wiping up faster, put that optimism and Rina's determination to the test!

Narrator (GM): ...far below, at Makelit Pokemon Research Outpost 1, the third member of our intrepid group has already arrived. It seems there is something serious going on however and starting her Pokemon Journey may well be delayed."

Little Suzy Jansson (played by Ray), a Makelit Land local Pokemon 'Arranger' of some note, approached the Research Outpost only to find it surrounded by Police Officer, Rescue Workers, and a few Pokemon Rangers. Curious, Suzy looks for the person in charge of whatever this operation was and found Officer Jenny

Officer Jenny recognized Suzy and was willing to fill her in on what was going on. It seemed someone hiking across the Kissed Nature Reserve (in the Nature's Kiss Section of Makelit) fell into a sinkhole created by the dangerous conditions of water logged ground and heavy ice and snow from the current storm. Suzy immediately offered her aid and after conversing with a Pokemon Ranger, Officer Jenny agreed to let her but first she needed to check in at the Outpost and get her first Pokemon.

"Once you have your Pokemon, meet me out here and we'll discuss how you can assist." Eager to help, Suzy ran into the Center as far as she could. 

The Nature's Kiss Section of Makelit Land


Up in the skies overhead, Rina makes a desperate bid to, well, not crash. She takes a deep breath and tries to recall what her father would do or had done in a similar situation. She suddenly killed the engine and leaned on the controls to dive into the wind. Her plan was to glide aggressively, to be carried along until the right moment wherein she kicked the engine back into gear. [Will rolled Rina's Fitness of 5 Dice, modified by her Drive of 2, and lastly added her Trainer Class Skill of Piloting 3 for a total of 3 Normal Dice and 5 Exploding Dice. The result of 6 Successes and I gave her a Story Point for Will's portrayal of the character and reference to her father - a big part of her backstory]. 

As Curt and Pyrrel came really close to questioning their faith in the pilot, the plane roared to life and shot like a thunderbolt (see what I did there?) directly over the Pokemon Research Outpost and much further than intended. Aiming for a snowy clearing, Rina landed the aircraft mostly intact. A quick roll mitigated some of the damage by the plane suffered an overheated engine, a few loose maneuvering fins, and an empty fuel tank. Rina was glad to be alive and happy to have saved her paying client but was now in need of some more cash pronto. 

Curt's investigate instincts drew his gaze back towards the Center and the lights of the various law enforcement and emergency vehicles. Instantly energized, Matthiessen directed Pyrrel and Rina to follow him back to the Center ASAP! Before he could grab his bags, Rina picked them and started walking in the direction he indicated. Curt and Pyrrel exchanged glances, impressed by this athletic and really headstrong pilot. 

Inside the Outpost, Suzy sees Professor Grayleaf talking to three boys, one of whom was none other than her own rival, the trouble-making, undisciplined Alvi Linnaeus. Why was he here? Wasn't he on his own Pokemon Journey? As it turned out, Alvi was there for an 'upgrade' to one of his Pokemon. Suzy had no time to bother with Alvi and his foolishness. She spoke to Professor Grayleaf who was kind but clearly frazzled. The Police and Rangers had been using her Outpost as a Command Post and getting her advice about nearby Pokemon.

The Professor directed Suzy to the Starter Pokemon currently resting in their Pokeballs. The three choices were a Pyrrel, an Ugling, and a...huh? A Trolip? "This shouldn't be here", said Grayleaf absentmindedly. "Trolip's are rare! This should be a..."

Before Grayleaf finished, Suzy politely pointed out that she was in a hurry, had promised to help with the rescue effort, and Officer Jenny was waiting for her outside. The Professor placed the Trolip's Pokeball back down on the table and was then distracted by one of her assistants. Without really looking, Suzy grabbed one of the Pokeballs and left. Alvi called after her, "Wait! She chose the...!"

Walking back into the snowy and blistery air, Suzy notices Officer Jenny and the Pokemon Ranger now speaking to the young reporter Curt and the pilot, Rina. The Ranger indicated in passing that there was a reward for helping with the rescue but before he could go into detail Rina volunteered without needing another word. Considering the situation to be both worthwhile and great material for a story, Curt signed up to assist as well.

Realizing she didn't have a Pokemon of her own yet, Rina exclaimed as much as ran for the Outpost, running right past Suzy like a blur. Barreling down the entry hallway Rina notes two handsome fellows walking toward the door too late for her to stop. She recognized one as her business rival, the smoother than smooth Neilsen Piers, and she refused to crash into him. Instead she turned, realizing too late that would send her right into Cyrus Swift, a rival reporter of Curt's currently trying to cover this sinkhole incident. WHAM! [I offered Will a Story Point to have Rina and Cyrus knocked on their keisters, dropping stuff and being embarrassed. Will added that Rina would blush and get mad about running into a good-looking guy her age - a very Anime reaction. I gave her one more. Romantic complication subplot with another PC's Rival? YES PLEASE!].

The PCs' Rivals.
Pokemon Sailor, Pokemon Reporter, and a Pokemon Battle Trainer!

Thoroughly flustered and desperate to get back to Officer Jenny, Rina - like Suzy - ran up to the table and reached for a Pokeball without looking. Professor Grayleaf recognized Rina as the Professor had worked with her father in the past but the young Pilot had no time for pleasantries. As fast and politely as possible, Rina greeted Grayleaf and then returned to the rest of the group outside. 

Nature's Kiss Officer Jenny & Professor Grayleaf

Once all the PCs were together, Officer Jenny let them know the time to move was now! Word from the site was things weren't getting better and indeed were likely to get worse due to the blizzard. Everyone was instructed to pile into Officer Jenny 'Range Rover' style car and they did so. While they were on route, the group introduced themselves and then Officer Jenny gave them the details of the situation...

To be continued,

Barking Alien

Sunday, January 22, 2023

Rabbit, Rabbit, Rabbit

Gong Hei Fat Choy!

Saehae Bok Mani Badeuseyo!

Akemashite Omedetō Gozaimasu!

A Very Happy Lunar New Year Everyone! 

Barking Alien

We Praise Him For His Decency

My apologies for this belated acknowledgement and commemoration of the birthday of Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr.

I give you the words of the one and only Rod Serling...

“In his grave, we praise him for his decency - but when he walked amongst us, we responded with no decency of our own.

When he suggested that all men should have a place in the sun - we put a special sanctity on the right of ownership and the privilege of prejudice by maintaining that to deny homes to Negroes was a democratic right.

Now we acknowledge his compassion - but we exercised no compassion of our own. When he asked us to understand that men take to the streets out of anguish and hopelessness and a vision of that dream dying, we bought guns and speculated about roving agitators and subversive conspiracies and demanded law and order.

We felt anger at the effects, but did little to acknowledge the causes. We extol all the virtues of the man - but we chose not to call them virtues before his death.

And now, belatedly, we talk of this man's worth - but the judgement comes late in the day as part of a eulogy when it should have been made a matter of record while he existed as a living force. If we are to lend credence to our mourning, there are acknowledgements that must be made now, albeit belatedly. We must act on the altogether proper assumption that Martin Luther King asked for nothing but that which was his due... He asked only for equality, and it is that which we denied him."

[excerpt from a letter to The Los Angeles Times in response to the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr.; April 8, 1968]

Happy Birthday MLK, Rest in Peace.

May we do better someday. 

Barking Alien

Pokemon Go...Shoppng!

This post was originally meant to focus on Runar Synch Moves, the super secret special abilities I'm instituting into my Pokemon: Rise and Fall RPG campaign. Unfortunately, its taking a little longer than expected to rework and format the information so I figure its as good a time as any to tackle another aspect of the game that needs fleshing out: Inventory.

This is a set of guidelines designed to give the Pokemon AD player a little 'resource management' mixed into their high adventure exploration game of cute monster collecting. The mechanics here - such as they are - are less concerned with tracking encumbrance and that sort of thing and more about deciding what your character can and can't live without when heading into the wilderness on your Pokemon Journey. 

This past week, while giving my players an overview of the Inventory mechanics, one of them asked, "How important is Inventory going to be?". A reasonable question and one relatively simple to answer, though as is often the case, what one person says and another hears can be two very different matters. 

Suffice to say Inventory is not one of the most important or largest elements of our Pokemon campaign. It is an element though and as such, it needs some rules. 

Pokemon Trainers begin with a Basic PokeBag that has 10 Slots of Inventory Space. PokeBags can be upgraded at Pokemon Centers for a fee and new PokeBags with far more Slots can be purchased at Poke Marts (A Pokemon League sanctioned international franchise of convenience stores that sell Pokemon related supplies). 

Most items take up 1 Slot. These items are generally about the size of something that would fit in a small backpack, 'fanny pack', or handbag. That's just a rough estimate of course. A rolled up Tent for 1 person also takes up a single Slot. So would a Medical Kit that would itself contain Bandages, Antiseptic Spray, Aspirin, and other related components. 

If the item is notably larger or effects/is useful to multiple people at once it will likely take up two or even three Slots (though that is rare). If the item is too big, not only will it not fit in your PokeBag, it may possess Inventory Space of its own. In fact, that's a good sign that you're looking at an item that shouldn't go in a backpack, like a Steamer Trunk or a Car.

Note that many special items can have multiples of themselves stored in a single Slot. These items will be listed with a ' # per Slot ' on the table below indicating how many can be stored together.

Here are some standard Pokemon Journey items, how many Slots they take up, their cost, and some descriptions:

Items noted under the Number of Slots column may be listed as # by Type, such as Potions. This means that a single Slot may hold 3 regular Potions or 3 Super Potions or 3 Max Potions but different types of the same item do not stack. The important thing is that if you have 2 regular Potions and 1 Max Potion, the regulars will go in one Slot and the Max in another. Different varieties of Berries may be stacked together and different Evolution Stones may as well. Not so with Potions or items listed the same way. 

If the Cost of an Item is written #+ by Variety, such as Pokeballs at 200+, it means the basic or standard version is the price listed but improved or special versions of the item can go for more. A standard Pokeball is 200 but a Great Ball costs 600, while an Ultra Ball costs 1200! 

Items with an asterisk * are considered Key Items. Key Items are items often available for free under certain conditions. When a player creates their PC, they may choose up to three Key Items to begin the campaign with. It is strongly suggested that at least one of these choices be directly related to your Trainer Class. For example, if you are a Pokemon Rider, you don't have to buy Riding Gear. You can just choose that as one of your starting Key Items and its definitely a good idea to do you

If an item has no Cost, it is generally not available for purchase or is far too expensive to make it viable to a Player Character. Fear not! These items may be given for free as they are intrinsic to the game (like a Pokedex) or they may be obtained on a Scenario by Scenario basis (though in these cases you might not get to keep them). Some are gained as a reward by performing a task for an NPC, as is the case with the Bike Voucher. 

Some items here will likely require further description and explanation but I will save that for another post. This one is already quite long and was much delayed. 

The list above is also no where near complete in that it isn't anything and everything a Pokemon Trainer might want or need so Players and GMs should consult with each other regarding adding new items using the Item Chart about as a reference point. 

It probably doesn't need to be said but you might have some D&D players in your group so: A PokeBag takes up 1 Slot if placed inside another PokeBag, as long as the stored PokeBag is empty. If there is even one item/slot occupied, it counts as 'too big' to place inside the first PokeBag because, as noted above, it is an item with its own Inventory Space. 

Barking Alien