Thursday, December 29, 2016

Is It Over Yet?

This is my last post for 2016.

What a year. I am personally very glad it's over.

While I ran some good games, played in some too, saw some cool movies, and TV shows, and met some great people, the year as a whole was kind of a downer.

From celebrities passing, to political and social disappointment on a grand scale, I feel like 2016 has long since worn out its welcome.

I still don't have a clear idea of what my next big game is, and that is bugging me a little. OK, more than a little. I really wanted to have the idea locked down a while ago so that I could start developing material for it during the holiday vacation. No such luck. 

Ah well.

To all my friends, family, and those who get even the smallest bit of use, and/or enjoyment out of this blog, I would like to wish you a safe, happy, and healthy new year. 

-Adam

AD
Barking Alien






Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Forever A Princess

Today, the world mourns...let's face it...far too many people to even hope to tribute in a post on a blog.

2016 has been a downright vengeful, insidious, and foul natured bastard of a year.

Earlier in the year,  my life long musical hero, the one and only David Bowie, was taken from us. Now, a very different kind of hero...






Carrie Fisher has passed away at the far too young age of 60.

Aside from her position as an iconic Star Wars actress, Ms. Fisher was a talented writer, speaker, and a bold and vibrant personality.

The daughter of Hollywood alumni - Singer Eddie Fisher, and actress Debbie Reynolds, her passing marks not only a sad day for her family, friends, and fans, but in some ways the end of a very specific era of our country's entertainment history.

I am surprised I was able to write this much. I am at a loss to convey by full regard for this woman.







May the Force Be With You, and with us...

AD
Barking Alien


Update: It is with great sadness that I must also report the passing of Carrie Fisher's mother, Debbie Reynolds, just one day after the death of her daughter. 

Cameras off. Curtain closed.






The Not Yet Really For Prime Adventuring Players

Few and far between are my posts this December.

It's just been too crazy a month.

I find myself with an entire few seconds just now, so I thought I would put you all on to something some friends of mine are doing.

The Pod of Many Casts is a new podcast series in which a group of people play D&D. Wow, right? Sooo special. Don't let the seemingly common theme fool you. This one has a twist. 

It's funny. Really funny.

The group consists of a number of oddball characters, and those are just the players! Two good friends of mine (and people I game with in person), Leo and Alex, are involved and I couldn't be happier. They are clever chaps, and have a background in improv comedy.

The cast of PCs is at once familiar to those who know D&D, and tweaked to be a bit off the beaten path. I am especially intrigued by Plum - excuse me, Princess Plum, and her valiant steed...well...I'll let you hear that for yourselves.

Available on iTunes, and elsewhere for the price of naught by a listen.

Highly recommended as a break from the norm.

Enjoy, Happy Holidays and Good Luck in the New Year!

AD
Barking Alien





Sunday, December 18, 2016

Looking for a Sign

The blog as been incredibly quiet this month...while real life has been anything but calm.

I've been working, spending time with friends, and family, and playing a lot of games. Of the latter, all have been fun, but none has inspired me to post. 

Why?

I'm not certain. I just feel like I don't yet have a clear idea of my gaming future, and so I don't really know what to say. I know plans are in the works for upcoming campaigns, but nothing is yet written in stone.

I feel like I'm treading water in a sort of gaming limbo - not going under, not drowning - but wading in the middle of the pool unsure of my next move.

I can't shake a strong desire to run things my players are less likely to be engaged in. 

I'm looking for an opening, a sign...a clear idea of what's going to be a hit with both myself, and my players.

Any ideas?

AD
Barking Alien







Thursday, December 1, 2016

I Have All I Need

Following our Wednesday night Google Hangouts superhero game this past week, many of us hang around post game to discuss the game, gaming in general, and what our favorite games are.

It was during this conversation that my friend +Keith Jacobson  gestured to the bookshelves behind him, and said some incredibly profound words (which I will paraphrase here as close to a quote as I can muster):

"I have been collecting superhero RPGs for a while now, but outside of supporting a creator, or company I like, I think I am done buying any new superhero games. I don't really need them. I have this big collection, but Kapow! (our current game) scratches my Superhero itch. I don't need anything else."

I've owned a lot of RPGs over the years, and played probably five times as many. I've always enjoyed checking out new games, and I still do. Yet there is a great truth in what Keith is saying here. 

I like new games. I don't NEED new games. 

If I were to consider running a new campaign, and I was limited to those RPGs that I count among my favorites, I would be very happy to do so without much of a second thought. Furthermore, if no new version, edition, or thematically identical game every came out I would still enjoy the heck out of the games I already have.

Case in point...Star Trek Adventures from Modiphius Entertainment.

Here's a game I have been chomping at the bit to check out. I have the playtest rules, and I am reading through them now. I am having a little difficulty wrapping my mind around some of the mechanics, but I am curious to test them in play to see how they really function.

Now, let's say they don't. Hypothetically here, let's say the game either doesn't work right, or simply doesn't work for me. I'd be bummed, but it's not like I can't run Star Trek now. 

I've been running Star Trek campaigns since 1982 with the FASA game. I was a playtester, and writer for my favorite incarnation of Star Trek in table top form, the Star Trek RPG by Last Unicorn Games. Both of these still work. LUG's works especially good for me personally. It fits my preferred style, and approach, has very smooth, workable mechanics, and it's easy to develop your own ideas with it. 

If I want to run Star Trek, I have a game.

While I've wrestled with what superhero RPG I would want to use if I got the chase to run Supers again, I feel like...did I really? Why was it such a hard decision? You know you want to run, you're just afraid others won't take to it as you did, and do. The answer is Champions 4th Edition. Also...am I talking to myself?

If I want to run Star Wars, I have West End Games D6 RPG. Yes, I could use something else. Yes, I made a Star Wars adaption for Traveller as an experiment. That's not what I need though. All I need is WEG Star Wars. 

If I want Giant Robot Anime there is Mekton, or maybe my modified Extended Mission game. 

If I want Medieval Fantasy...ROTFL!...Heheh...no seriously, I could want that! Anyway, I would go with Ars Magica. 

The point is, I'm all for innovation, but I have what I came for. I have a collection of games that work especially well for me. They're all on my shelves, right here, right now.

I seem to periodically go on these soul searching dream quests for the perfect game when truthfully, I have everything I need. 


AD
Barking Alien






Monday, November 14, 2016

Was I Smarter In My Youth?





Kinga Rajzak, Photograph By Tim Walker
British Vogue - 2009



The title of this post was uttered by my friend Ray yesterday as he, myself, and the rest of the Barking Alien Gaming Group, discussed our next potential campaign.

The phrase came in response to my explaining my desire to run a Space Opera style Science Fiction campaign very much like the ones I used to run in the 'days of gaming yore'. As I've mentioned many times of late, in honor of my 40th anniversary in the hobby I want to both get back to my roots, and aim for my Ultimate Game.

Most of those campaigns were run with either FASA's Star Trek, or FGU's Space Opera

While the first of those makes perfect sense (one might even say it's Logical. Heh.), the latter one does not. 

How in the heck did we play Space Opera?!? Seriously, how did anyone? I look at it now, and it's like looking at a foreign language, translated into a code, read backwards in a mirror. Incorrectly I might add! Its rule mechanics are preposterously convoluted. Its organization cryptic at best. 

What were we thinking? No really. What were we thinking...

We somehow made it work. We not only made it work, we played it fairly often. I know I ran at least three campaigns of it myself, 'Cosmic Rhapsody', 'A War in G-Minor', and a Space Opera/Superhero kitbash that was set in the same original (-ish) universe as the other two. I played in at least one full campaign, as well as a number of shorter ones. 

How did we accomplish this? Was I more patient with rules back then? Probably. Did it make sense to my young, teen brain in a way it just doesn't now?

As Ray said...Was I smarter in my youth?

How about you? Any games you used to play that made perfect sense then, but are gibberish to you today?


Gotta figure this out.

AD
Barking Alien









Sunday, November 6, 2016

The Ultimate Game

A November Challenge for My Fellow RPG Blogger-ites*!

Heh.

What, for you, is the Ultimate Game?

Imperfect grammar aside, it's a question I've been asking myself a lot lately. With my 40th Anniversary coming up next year, and my age ever increasing (can we get someone on that please? Thanks), I'm wondering if I've already run my greatest campaign, or is my greatest campaign yet to come? Would I know it if I saw it? What would it consist of?

Now this isn't necessarily the same as my dream game. My dream game would be a game impossible to achieve. It would require conditions, people, and other various elements I not longer have viable access to. It couldn't happen.

An Ultimate Game is, by contrast, possible. It is a game that, if I could meet the appropriate conditions, could be done now, or in the coming months. Not easy perhaps, not guaranteed, but likely enough to make a go at it. 

So, what would my Ultimate Campaign look like? What would yours look like?

For me...

Genre/Setting

For me it would be Space Opera Science Fiction. 


Approach:

The style of game I'd most like to put together would be an open-universe, sandbox, or storybox in which the PCs start out as low-competence (but not incompetent) galactic adventurers, and can potentially go anywhere and do anything. 

Beginning as a Blaster-for-Hire, and ending up a General, or even the Governor of a Planet is not out of the question.


Pace

Fast. I want a faster paced game then I've been seeing in the last few years. I want to go back to rewarding action, even if it's social action, and penalizing taking thirty minutes of real time (or more) to decide what to do just because you think your in a 'safe area'. Screw that. I'm going back to dropping asteroids on you if you overthink what's going on.


Players/PCs

I would really love to run a game where PCs could come in, and out of the story. This means that not every player must be there for every session (or more accurately, a session can occur even if one or two people can't make it), as well have players with multiple PCs. I've really enjoyed troupe play in the past and I'd like to try it again.


System

Yes, system is last. Why? Are you new here?

Just teasing. System is last because to me it's the least important element compared to the ones I've already mentioned. It's not 'not important', but it can be figured out later. 

My preference would be one in which PCs improve over time, but it happens in small increments over a long period. Alternatively, you might get middle ground competent fast, but becoming really amazing at something takes a long while.


Well, those are my general parameters. What are yours? How doable are they?

My real fear is, I've already done this. That is, I've already run my personal, Ultimate Game. What if my best gaming years are long behind me?

Surely not. Right? What about your Ultimate Game? Already happened? In your near future?

I'd love to hear from you.


AD
Barking Alien


*Is to a word.





Goal Setting and Risk Taking

I need your opinions on an idea I'm playing with...

A little while ago I ran a game with a system I kitbashed out of a variety of different RPGs,

The primary source for the mechanics were the systems Otherkind by Vincent Baker, Ghost/Echo, and other hacks of those rules. While each of those games describes the mechanic their own way, my personal take on the mechanic works like this...



***


Any time you take an action [of any kind] that could be challenged in some way (by opponents, environmental issues, a looming timeline) you role two 6-sided dice.

The first die represents the player's/PC's Goal.
The second die represents the player's/PC's Risk.

The goal is what you want your PC to accomplish.


For example: Joe's PC is trying to pick a fancy lock in order to get into a safe.


The risk is what can go wrong when the PC tries to complete their goal.


For example: There is a risk that the burglar alarm will go off.


Failing to achieve the Goal is NOT a risk. If you don't make a the Goal die roll successfully, your action fails. The risk can still happen. How? As follows...

The Goal Die: 

  • A Roll of 1-2 Fails to achieve the Goal.
  • A Roll of 3-4 Accomplishes the Goal, though not complete. A partial success.
  • A Roll of 5-6 Accomplishes the Goal.

The Risk Die:

  • A Roll of 1-2 Means the Risk happens.
  • A Roll of 3-4 Means the Risk happens, but it isn't so bad. A partial failure.
  • A Roll of 5-6 Means the Risk doesn't happen.


Going back to my example:

Joe's PC rolls with the Goal of picking the lock on a safe, and the risk of setting off an alarm.

Joe rolls 6 on the Goal Die, and 1 on the Risk Die. The safe is open, but the alarm goes off.

Joe rolls 1 on the Goal Die, and 6 on the Risk Die. The safe won't open. Luckily, the attempt doesn't set off the alarm.

Joe rolls 3 on the Goal Die, and 4 on the Risk Die. The safe unlocks, but is stuck. It's going to take a little muscle, and time to pull it open all the way. The alarm makes a loud, short beep, and then dies off. A short circuit? Probably. Well, it's not on now, but someone might have heard that.

The beauty of this system is that you can succeed, but something bad could still happen. Likewise, you can fail and crap could hit the fan, or you can fail and things could still be fine. 

Plus, I love the idea of letting the player determine the nature of the Risk involved. I have noticed some players have difficulty coming up with an appropriate Risk, and in those cases I'm happy to help come up with something appropriate, and hopefully entertaining. 

n my opinion, and from my experience, this occurs because most players are wrapped up in the idea of pass/fail. They assume/expect/hope that if they don't achieve what they are aspiring to do, well that's it. Situation permitting, the status quo is maintained. If you roll to hit an enemy and miss, you didn't hit your target. They aren't injured. Nothing untoward happens to you the attacker either. The combat continues.

Imagine instead a die mechanic that says you missed, and broke your bow string. Perhaps you hit, but only nicked the opponent. What about hitting your opponent dead on, but you chipped your sword doing so? 

I think you all get the idea of the basics. Let's move on to some expanded ideas, and my issue...

Advantages

Let's say you are creating a character who is a doctor. When you want to do something in the game, you state your Goal, roll the Goal Die and hope you get a high number. You also come up with a Risk, roll the Risk Die, and hope you also get a high number (and therefore lower, or eliminate the Risk).

Now, if the Goal is healing a injured person you might say, "My PC is a Doctor. Shouldn't I have a better chance of achieving my Goal?"

The answer is yes. In addition to your Goal Die, you roll an Advantage Die. When determining whether or not you met your Goal, pick the higher of the two rolls. For example: The Goal Die roll is 3, but the Advantage Die roll is 5. The Goal is met successfully thanks to the Advantage Die!

Likewise...

Drawbacks

Should the situation your PC is in be less than optimal, the Gamemaster may add a Drawback Die to the Risk Die. If you were a doctor trying to heal someone in complete darkness, or without the proper equipment, it would likely increase the Risk, or run counter to the Goal.

If a Drawback Die is added to the Risk Die is might look something like this: There is a Risk of the injured person's wound becoming infected. Roll a Risk Die, and a Drawback Die, since the doctor PC is working by moonlight only. The Risk Die comes up 5, but the Drawback comes up 2. While the wound may be patched up, and the injured individual can stand, it seems infection has set in.

Alternatively, the Drawback hampers the Goal. Instead of increasing the chance of Risk, you could have the Drawback Die subtracted from the Goal Die. A roll of 1 on the Drawback Die would still allow for a complete success of the Goal if the Goal Die came up a 6 (5 still totally achieving the Goal). This kind of runs counter to the idea that you want the Goal roll high, and the Risk roll high however. 

My question is...

I want the ability to have comparative level of skill, and the capacity of PCs to improve in order to give the system the ability to run campaigns. That is to say, it is my feeling that for campaigns to go on for a good length of time, PCs should improve their skills and abilities, even if it's slow, and/or marginal.

I can't really figure out a balanced way to do that with this system.

Any suggestions?

AD
Barking Alien




Friday, November 4, 2016

Sweet November

November. Can you believe it?

Seems like this year is flying by. 

Tonight I am heading out with a great, big group of friends to see Marvel's newest cinematic entry, Doctor Strange. Between now and then, a busy day indeed.

All things considered, not a bad day.

Now, what does the month of November hold for Barking Alien?

Glad you asked.

First, I have a game idea I'd like to discuss with everyone. It's unusual in that the idea focuses on finding a way to use an interesting mechanic I can across. I don't normally work this way, but this game mechanic concept intrigued me, so I started building a RPG around it. Thing is, the rules aren't fully formed yet. The mechanic I'm speaking of isn't really a working thing at this time.

Maybe you guys can help?

Next up, more Campaigns I Have Played! I've got some interesting ones lined up, including games not normally addressed on this site. Remember these are ones I've played, so sometimes you're going to see games I would participate in, but not necessarily run myself.

Lastly, as I've recently mentioned, next year I celebrate 40 years of gaming. That's right, 40 years! I want to run something really special to commemorate the event. But what?! Check back as I periodically freak out over it. Wee!

That's all for now. I hope everyone has a fantastic weekend! Happy Birthday to Walter Cronkite (who would have been 100 years old today), and good luck to those running in The New York City Marathon this coming Sunday!

Later days,

AD
Barking Alien







Monday, October 31, 2016

STAR WARS - SCUM OF THE GALAXY - Part II

Continuing my first Campaigns I Have Played entry covering the only the Star Wars RPG campaign I was ever in as a player, I'm going to add a few new features in addition to those I regularly have in my Campaigns I Have Known series.

The first new feature I've already added, as the previous post contains a reference to who the Gamemaster was for this campaign. In the Campaigns I Have Known version of this series, the GM is always me (or me, with a few sessions run by other here and there).


Another feature, which I am thinking of applying to future entries of both my '...Have Played' and '...Have Known' posts, is Opposition. Basically, a summary of the opponents the PCs faced during the campaign. 

Lastly, there will be a section called Player's Perspective. It is here that I will give my personal feelings about the campaign, and how it was run and played from a player's point of view. As I prefer to GM, this section may have a Gamemaster's slant to the review. 

Now then...

 A Long Time Ago, In a Galaxy Far, Far Away...







From Left to Right:
Tag Aether, Dreg, Alec Raydawn, Reek,
and Hud Choban (rear)


Opposition: The main enemies of the PCs in this campaign were intergalactic crimelord Chuuphga Two-By-Four, an Imperial Admiral, and an Inquisitor. Other reoccurring opponents were several Bounty Hunters, numerous minor Imperials, and the competing crimeboss Gumbad the Hutt (and of course his henchmen). 


The most memorable villain was, by far, Chuuphga (pronounced CHOOF-gha) 'Two-By-Four'. A Pho Ph'eahian career criminal who started as a small time hood under a younger Jabba the Hutt. Making his way up the ranks, he eventually took the initiative and gave himself a promotion to kingpin of his sector. The previous crimelord retired. Permanently. Due to blaster fire.

A mix of movie mobster styles, Chuuphga could best be described as a Russian Mob Goodfella. He was polite, reasonably well mannered, cordial, and warm if not exactly charming. He was also ruthless, randomly killing minions who displeased him.

Chuuphga was humorous, smart, and honestly scary. We were more worried about dealing with him, and his minions than we were the entirety of the Imperial Forces sent against us. 

I recall the voice of the Admiral having a classically sinister British accent. Other then that, I don't recall much about him. He was pretty clever, but terribly arrogant. It was easy to fool the Admiral by playing off his perceived self-importance. 

The Imperial Inquisitor was cool in that he was very different from what you'd expect. He wasn't the typical athletic, physical sort as much as he was old, sage-like, and wizardly. He was much more of an advisor, and deeply knowledgeable about the Jedi texts that the Imperials were attempting to uncover.







Our Imperial Inquisitor was more like one of the Emperor's Advisors
as seen in Star Wars - Episode VI: Return of the Jedi



Synopsis: Local legend on the planet Ord Itani says that there was once a notorious gang of pirates, scoundrels, and other riff raff who met at the Laughing Gundark tavern, and eventually used it for a base. The gang became known as 'The Laughing Gundarks' themselves as a result. Eventually the group was wiped out by their rivals, 'The Smiling Banthas'*, and by the early rise of the Galactic Empire. The establishment was driven out of business by it's association with the name of the gang.

Several years later, the cantina opened up again using the pirate den identity as a theme to bring in customers. As the planet was now on the very outskirts of Imperial jurisdiction, controlled more by Hutt crime families, no attempt was made to dissuade the owner from using the name. In fact, keeping up the idea that the Laughing Gundarks were a thing of legend, and not something real, benefited the Imperials and the Hutts.


Many years went by before an employee of the Laughing Gundark Cantina, the Uchoda mechanic named Hud Choban, got involved in an after hours altercation with some local gangsters. A group of Chuuphga Two-By-Four's goons, and a few others he didn't know were trying to start up a fight with a Rodian whom Choban thought he remembered from earlier that same day.

Choban decided to step in and assist the Rodian, as a second Rodian (the one Chodan had actually seen beforehand) joined in the fight. Well, sort of joined in the fight. Stumbles into it is more accurate. The three of them end up in a pitched battle between themselves and the various blaster totting thugs. 

Escaping their opponents, the team runs into Alec Raydawn, a scoundrel also on the run from Chuuphga's gang. Together they make a play for Dreg the Rodian's ship, the Green Sun Endeavor. Unknown to the four, their movements have been followed by Mercenary Pilot Tag Aether, secretly a Rebel Operative. Using his Toscan 8-Q starfighter, Aether covers the Green Sun Endeavor's escape. The Transport, and the fighter communicate, then depart together, with Aether giving the others the coordinates for a safe haven on the planet Nanador.

The campaign then follows the group as it goes on the run, hoping from planet to planet, sometimes on the defensive, sometimes on the offensive. While trying to avoid prolonged engagements against Chuuphga's forces, and those of the Imperial Empire, the group actively pursued their enemies from time to time to find out what they were up to. The PCs were also out to determine why Chuuphga and the Imperials had joined forces [unbeknowst to the galaxy at large]. 

It is eventually revealed that while hiding out on a remote, abandoned, mining colony planetoid as a younger man, Chuuphga discovered some sort of Jedi Temple buried deep beneath the surface. The structure turned out to be more a library then a temple. After being rescued by his cronies, the crimelord hide the truth about the planetoid until he could find a way to exploit his findings. He eventually bought the planet with his ill gotten gains, and contacted the Empire. Working together, the two parties hoped to bypass the library's hidden defenses, and excavate any useful texts, maps, or other materials.

We (the PCs) performed a number of hit and run attacks against our adversaries in the later half of the campaign, getting bolder and more confident as the game went on. We learned the truth of what they were after, and pursued a plan to thwart the enemy. Eventually we were able to disable the Admiral's strike cruiser, killing him in the battle, and badly wounding the Inquisitor. The final fight was actually against a Sith Spirit possessed Chuuphga in the ancient, lost Jedi library. Chuuphga, true to his nature throughout the campaign, is able to fight the possession (with our help and encouragement), enabling Raydawn to banish the Dark Side Phantom to the nether reaches of the galaxy.

The game ends with the team, 'The Laughing Gundarks', turning the location of the Jedi Library over to Luke Skywalker just after the Battle of Endor. Luke considers taking on Alec Raydawn as an apprentice after he gets the chance to read through some of the texts in the library.

Tag Aether, Hud Choban, Dreg, and Reek are seen swapping stories with Wedge Antilles, Nien Nunb, Han Solo, Leia Organa, Chewbacca, and Lando Calrissian (who acknowledges Alec with a smile, and a wink - see Part I). 

Big finish, epic music, classic screen wipe, roll credits...


Appendix N: In addition to the Original Trilogy, and some material from the Han Solo novels by Brian Daley, there wasn't a ton of expanded universe information back in 1989.

Wait...that's not true. There was the RPG.

Our GM, Peter C., used a ton of the material found within the West End Games produced RPG to aid in the 'world building' of our campaign's particular take on the Star Wars Universe. Several modules, sourcebooks, and related supplements factored into our story, often with the names, locations, and such altered to fit our game.

In addition, a number of other films from the 70s, and 80s served as inspirational material for the theme, and atmosphere of our campaign including: 

Dog Day Afternoon, It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, The Poseidon Adventure, Raiders of the Lost Ark, and Take the Money and Run (as well as many others).


Bonus Features:

I played this campaign while attending my first year of college. Most of the players were friends, and classmates I went to college with. We were all artists (it was an art college), and the game had a good deal of artwork made for it as a result. Sadly, I do not have any of it anymore (the GM kept most of it). All the illustrations in these past two posts were either obtained from other sources, or drawn specifically for these entries.

I created detailed deckplans for my ship, the Green Sun Endeavor. I had the bridge/cockpit layout, knew where each character's room was, and even accounted for secret panels, and hidden cargo holds.

The overall look of the Green Sun Endeavor was based on the arrow shaped ship in this painting by Peter Elson and the Star Bird toy by Milton Bradley

For a few sessions we were on a planet that translated the name of the ship...poorly. 'Green Sun' was the nickname for an illness one could catch from too much exposure to the local sun. Endeavor was oddly translated as well, believed to be a term for a never-ending, or ongoing process. The natives called my ship the Unending Incurable Illness. Very embarrasing.

A number of other players stepped in to run NPC guest stars. Most were one-shot appearances, while a couple would appear, and then come back several sessions later for another episode. 

Our GM used a surprisingly large number of modules in the campaign. Many elements of these modules were changed to fit our campaign, but pre-prepared adventures were fairly common place. For example, the adventure Tatooine Manhunt, the first Star Wars D6 module produced if I am not mistaken, was set on the planet Pumot, a volcanically active world of ash, fire, and stone. Although the location, and some other elements were changed, the plot - find a hero of the Clone Wars, thought long dead, while evading bounty hunters - remained unchanged. 









Player's Perspective: NEW FEATURE! What I really liked about Peter as a GM, and especially as a GM of Star Wars, was his excellent use, and command of pacing.

Chase scenes and battles had a fast, often frantic pace. Planning scenes were given time to happen, but then something would complicate matters, and get us moving again. We had moments of downtime to think, relax, and catch our breath, but not for longer than necessary. Never so long that it slowed down the game's overall pace. 

It was very much in keeping with the approach described in the West End Games products, and IMHO, very much in keeping with what makes for a good Star Wars RPG campaign. Lucas himself could've used to take notes on Pete's approach before embarking on the walking-talking head prequels. Ugh.

Peter was also good at creating memorable NPCs. Their quirky natures, accents, and distinct personalities made them fun to encounter, as well as easy to love, or hate. Of particular distinction were the droids 'Wendy', and 'Ruby', the bartender/owner of the Laughing Gundark Cantina, and of course everyone's favorite crimelord, Chuuphga Two-By-Four.



***


Well, that about wraps up my first 'Campaigns I Have Played' entry. Sorry it took so long to complete. October turned out to be incredibly busy, and not entirely smooth sailing for me in the real world. 

Now we're about to embark on November, and I have a lot of ideas and thoughts I'd like to get out so let's hope for the best, and see if I can get back to posting more regularly.

No promises.


AD
Barking Alien







Tuesday, October 18, 2016

STAR WARS - SCUM OF THE GALAXY - Part I

Followers of this blog (you know what you are...) may remember that I've been wanting to do a 'Campaigns I Have Known' series focusing on my (limited) time on the other side of the table. Unfortunately, things have been kind of busy in my Real LifeTM, and as such my blog has fallen by the wayside a bit. Campaigns I Have Played is therefore long overdue. 

Since I'm preparing for a new Star Wars campaign, let's start with a campaign set in that long ago, far, far Away galaxy.


I've only been in one long term Star Wars Role-Playing Game. 


Star Wars is, as I've noted in the past, one of my all time favorite games. Not only because I'm an immense fan of the Star Wars universe, but also because the West End Games D6 RPG is a work of gaming genius. Star Wars D6 was my first dice-pool game (I believe). The game also took a really interesting approach to telling the potential player, and GM how the game was to be played. The rulebook suggested a fast paced, free-wheeling approach, heavy on pizzazz and light on a slave-like devotion to the rules they were giving you.


It was awesome, and eye-opening and did quite a lot to influence my outlook on how RPGs could be run, and played. For me it hits the rarely achieved sweet spot between genre atmosphere, and crunch.



As noted in the Campaigns I Have Known entry on my very first Star Wars campaign, I was running Star Wars as an RPG setting long before West End came out with theirs. I usually used a homebrewed / kitbashed mess of a thing that worked largely because we wanted it to. 


When West End Games put out their excellent Star Wars game in 1987, the flood gates had opened, and now anybody, and everybody could run Star Wars to their hearts content. Yet no one did. No one in my circles wanted to run it, though many wanted to play it. It was up to me...as always.


A sad, sad thing that I have experienced throughout most of my 39 years in the hobby is that for every hundred games on the market, there are ninety-nine GMs running D&D.


Anyway, at some point in 1989, while I was working at the Forbidden Planet and attending Pratt Institute (my freshman year of college) a friend decided he really wanted to run Star Wars after hearing about it from me. This was a very surreal time for me, as I was big into the game, had friends who either worked at West End Games, or had relatives working at West End Games, and had family friends who lived only a few blocks from the company's offices on New York's Upper West Side. 


As I have mentioned before, I was the go-to guy for any game that wasn't D&D, and to hear that someone else wanted to run Star Wars just got me so excited I overcome my usual distaste for playing, and came up with a character in a flash. The GM, spurred on by my enthusiasm, had a group assembled in short order, and we played after classes a couple times a week (see below). The game eventually evaporated when summer came, and we all went our separate ways for the off months. 





***



Campaigns I Have Known Played
Proudly Presents...

STAR WARS
SCUM OF THE GALAXY






Welcome to the Laughing Gundark Tavern
Drinks so strong they'll pull your ears off.




Title: STAR WARS - SCUM OF THE GALAXY

The campaign was not actually called that. To be honest, I don't think it had a proper title. I simply remember it under this title because the term 'scum' came up at lot during the game.


You may recall from the original trilogy, it came up fairly often there as well. Mos Eisley was a 'Wretched hive of scum, and villainy' according to Ben Kenobi. Bounty Hunters were referred to as the kind of scum the Empire didn't need by an Imperial Officer. Of course the Rebels were Rebel Scum. All these references played into the PCs in this campaign.


System: Star Wars, The Role Playing Game by West End Games. 1st Edition - Some house rules.


Most of the house rules involved an expansion of the skills that ended up almost identical to Second Edition. 


Circa: 1989. It only lasted about six months, with a large break between early December, and mid-February. Still, and all, there were around 20-25 sessions averaging about 7 hours each.


Gamemaster: NEW FEATURE! The GM for this was my friend John's brother Pete. Pete was about 25, white male, Huge Star Wars fan. 


Player Base: There were five regular players, including myself, all male, all between 20-22 years of age. Three of the players were African-American, two were Caucasian. 


A few other players joined in for 'guest star' rolls. Most only for one, or two sessions. Most were male, one female player, same age ranges, various ethnicities.


Characters: The overall theme of the campaign was a bunch of murderhobo ne'er do wells who somehow get it together and end up honest-to-goodness heroes. None of the character were truly that despicable to be honest. They were movie matinee/serial feature crooks, and criminals, with a heavy dose of bearing in mind that the 'law' was the Imperial Empire. 


So really, who's the villain? Am I right?



Alec Raydawn, Human Con Man / Young Jedi (played by Mike F.)


A young con artist who grew up on the streets of Cloud City, the glistening metropolis that floats over the gas giant world of Bespin. 


Abandoned, or possibly orphaned as a child, Alec lived in the ducts, tunnels, and subsurface chambers throughout the city. He eventually gained access to an apartment by posing as a Tibana gas mining executive until he was discovered by the Baron Administrator. A former scoundrel himself, the Administrator let Raydawn go, shipping him off on the next gas freighter to the planet Ord Itani, where Alec could get a fresh start.


While on Ord Itani, Raydawn ran afoul of the notorious crimelord Chuuphga Two-By-Four, and eventually hooked up with a gang of outlaws known as 'The Laughing Gundarks'. Together they uncovered a secret operation by Chuuphga, backed by the Imperial Empire, that lead to the discovery of ancient Jedi texts.


Raydawn's true lineage came to the fore when he discovered his parents may have been Jedi Knights killed in the purge that wiped out their order. Raydawn decided to change his ways (mostly) and follow the teachings of the Jedi in hopes of defeating the Empire.


Alec Raydawn was a handsome if scruffy looking man in his mid-to-late 20s. He normally dressed in a plain, rough and tumble fashion, but was very good at disguise, and blended in well wherever he went. He carried two blaster pistols - a long barreled hunter pistol, and a very small hold-out blaster that was weak, but easy to conceal.


He eventually learns the ways of The Force...somewhat. He never truly masters it, but he continues to try his best. He finds a damaged lightsaber at one point, and is able to repair it, keeping it as his own. It's blade is a pale blue/white.



Dreg, Rodian Smuggler (played by ME! Yay!)


My character! Woo-hoo!


Dreg hails from a rain forest/jungle world in Hutt Space. As such, his coloration in a deeper, but brighter green than most Rodians. His snout is a bit longer, and his antenna, and ears a bit larger than average as well. 


Dreg's father was a legitimate merchant for many years, until the heavy taxes of the Empire and the protection money he needed to pay the Hutts drove his business to ruin. When he was old enough, Dreg decided to take his dad's ship, and try to make money as a smuggler. After every successful haul (there weren't many) he would send money back to his family. 


The life of a Smuggler was tough on Dreg, and he became quite nervous, almost neurotic. He was a terrible shot, a bit of a coward, but good at talking his way out of bad situations. 


Eventually, Dreg found himself on the run from various creditors, including a Hutt named Gumbad, and the galactic kingpin Chuuphga Two-by-Four. He was also hounded by various criminals seeking revenge on him, mistakenly believing him to be a Rodian Bounty Hunter named Reek. 


Hiding out on Ord Itani, Dreg met Reek, and some other characters who all ended up teaming up to save each other from Chuuphga's goons. Before long, they started calling themselves 'The Laughing Gundarks' (named for their favorite cantina - see Synopsis), and became a major thorn in the side of both Chuuphga, and the Galactic Empire.


Dreg wears a long coat, over a cheap, hand-me-down pilot's uniform. He carries a blaster pistol, but is a lousy shot for most of the campaign. Eventually, Reek takes pitty on Dreg, and teaches him to shoot, and fight. 


Dreg is a mess of anxiety, little fears, and neurosis. My portrayal of the character was largely inspired by Woody Allen in Sleeper, and Take The Money, and Run

His ship is his baby, a converted Koensayr KT-104 Troop Transport called 'The Green Sun Endeavor'. The Troop compartments have been converted into cabins, and additional cargo space. It is not the most maneuverable ship out there, though it can go straight very fast thanks to large, and powerful main thrusters. It can take a beating, and dish one out. 
Dreg also has a Treadwell Droid named WED-15ND, sometimes called 'Wendy'.






The Green Sun Endeavor
A Koensayr KT-104 Troop Transport
Converted for civilian use.



Reek, Rodian Bounty Hunter (played by John C.)


A feared, and notoriously tough Bounty Hunter operating in the Outer Rim Territories, Reek originally hailed from a Rodian colony world, giving him a distinctive deep, bright green skin color, and longer than average ears, antenna, and snout. 

As such, there came a point when he was repeatedly mistaken for another native to his homeworld, a cowardly, cringing smuggler who went by the name of Dreg. Creditors, and two big different crime boss both sent muscle to rough Reek up, accidentally mistaking him for Dreg. Reek handed them their butts, and started looking for this Dreg guy to clear things up once, and for all.

Reek, and Dreg finally encountered each other on the world of Ord Itani, when they were caught in the crossfire between people out to get each of them. This soon lead to Reek becoming labelled an outlaw himself, and associated with the 'Laughing Gundarks' gang by both the Imperial Empire, and the underworld figure Chuuphga Two-By-Four. Reek's personal sense of honor made him join up with the ragtag bunch, and devout his note worthy fighting skills to his new found friends, and later the Rebellion. 

Reek is a Rodian in black, and dull red uniform, covered in charcoal colored body armor. He carries numerous weapons, but a heavy blaster rifle, a heavy blaster pistol, and a vibro-knife are among his favorites. He is a terrible pilot, and driver, though he has convinced himself he is good at pretty much everything. When reality sets in he offers to teach Dreg how to fight in exchange for Dreg teaching him how to drive, and co-pilot the ship when necessary.

Reek and Dreg end up best friends, almost like brothers, but their relationship has shades of The Odd Couple (Oscar and Felix respectively).


Hud Choban, Uchoda Mechanic (played by Travis G.)


Hud Choban is an Uchoda (YOO-choh-duh) an original alien species created by the player [Travis] and based on this illustration by concept artist Ron Cobb [for Star Wars: A New Hope]:







Unused alien concept art for Star Wars - Episode IV: A New Hope
By the talented and prolific Ron Cobb.



Choban, like all members of his species, possesses traits related to various arctic animals including polar bears, walruses, and even penguins. Like the Platypus, the Uchoda are egg laying mammals. Choban has great physical strength, but even greater endurance, and stamina. He is an excellent swimmer, and obviously highly resistant to cold and water pressure. His thick fur covers a layer of blubber tissue that provides armor against attacks such as punches, kicks, or being hit with a bludgeoning weapon. 

When we first meet Hud Choban he is working as repair man, and part-time bouncer for a cantina on Ord Itani called 'The Laughing Gundark'.

One evening at work, Choban breaks up a fight between a Rodian pilot, and a group of men working for interstellar criminal Chuuphga Two-By-Four. Later that same evening, Hud sees a few of those same men, and a few others he doesn't recognize, trying to start up a fight with...the same Rodian? Couldn't be. This guy looked totally different, and seemed like he could handle himself. While he should have gone straight home to bed, Choban decided (against his better judgement) to help out the mysterious Rodian. Choban, and his new friend Reek soon cross path's with Dreg, the Rodian Pilot from earlier. The three of them end up caught in a firefight between a group of hired guns after Dreg, and another after Reek. 

The team ends up escaping the battle, and runs right into Alec Raydawn. Also being hunted by Chuuphga, and his minions, Raydawn joins the group and they all head for Dreg's ship.

Choban is easy-going, laid back kind of fellow just trying to get by. His world was invaded, and his people enslaved by the Empire. While he harbored a desire to free his planet, for the most part he just tried to keep his head low, and avoid too much trouble. All that changed when he joined up with the rest of the group.

Hud is about 6' 4", but stoops over a bit, and is very broad-shouldered. His fur is a light yellow-cream color fading to white on his chest. His skin underneath the fur, seen on his face, palms, and the bottoms of his feet, is a very light, warm grey. He rarely wears clothing, but will sometimes don a sleeveless vest for the pockets. He normally has his tools, gears, and weapons on his belt, or in a pack slung across his back. He carries a blaster carbine that he always uses one-handed. 


Tageris 'Tag' Aether, Human Starfighter Pilot (played by Mark E.)

For several years Tag (short for Tageris) was a star pilot for hire, serving as a mercenary on the border between the Outer Rim, and the Inner Rim. At least that was his cover story. In truth, the serious, stalwart, and no-nonsense ace was a secret recruiter for the Rebel Alliance.







Tag Aether's heavily customized

Shobquix Yards Toscan 8-Q Starfighter



While investigating a build up of independent starship movements in the Outer Rim Territories, Tag discovered the galactic kingpin Chuuphga Two-By-Four was amassing a small fleet of armed vessels. Clues indicated he was being backed by another, even bigger party. While trying to follow up a lead, Aether witnessed an altercation between a group of Chuuphga's men, and a small band of scoundrels whom he had been keeping tabs on. 

One thing lead to another and Tag ended up teaming up with the oddball group, helping them escape from Ord Itani with Chuuphga's men hot on their tail. In addition, henchmen of Gumbad the Hutt, and agents of the Imperial Empire joined in. Outer Rim TIE Pilots were no match for Tag and his custom fightercraft, and in combination with the rest of the gang aboard the Green Sun Endeavor, Aether managed to lead the group to relative safety on the planet Nanador. 

Aether kept up appearances as a fellow scallywag, while trying to convince the team to join up with the Rebellion. After many (often hilarious) misunderstandings about what he was really trying to do, the group eventually agrees to become part of the Alliance Fleet.

Tag Aether is a handsome, fit man in his late 20s-early 30s. He is most often seen wearing either a Rebel Pilot Flight Suit in blue (instead of the traditional orange), or fairly normal cloths similar to what Han Solo would wear. His pilot helmet has red stripes across blue fields. He carries a heavy blaster pistol as his standard weapon.

His fighter is a Shobquix Yards Toscan 8-Q Starfighter, a design pre-dating the Clone Wars. Built specifically to be easily modifiable, Tag's version has an Astromech socket for his R2 unit (R2-RB1, 'Ruby'), twin ion cannons from a Y-Wing fighter, and four fire-linked laser cannons. Later in the campaign he gets an improved hyperdrive, improved shields, and slightly more powerful engines. The fighter's main weaknesses are that its sublight speed, and maneuverability are considerably behind more modern fighters like the X-Wing, Y-Wing, and TIE Interceptor. 









Watch for Part II...

AD
Barking Alien