Sunday, December 31, 2017

The Last Days of Luke Skywalker

I've held off writing this post long enough.

The year 2017 has come to an end, and as such, I feel it is my duty as a Star Wars fan with a blog (i.e. no one of any real consequence) to speak my peace on the most polarizing, and quite honestly awkward, of the franchise's films to date...The Last Jedi.


I really don't know what to say that won't send me on some kind of rant. That's not what I want. It's not a fan ranting situation that I want to convey here. 

I didn't hate it, let's be clear. At the same time, I don't think it's a good movie.

Additionally, it isn't a great Star Wars movie. 

Having seen it twice, I feel like a few of the criteria that make Star Wars what it is were not met. This is separate from my particular feelings on what 'would have been cool', or how I think some of the characters should have acted. Those are my personal opinions, and don't effect whether, or not this was a well done film, or a solid entry into the Star Wars franchise.

The things I am addressing here are things of a cinematic nature, and things that make a good Star Wars, well, good. 


A Good Star Wars Movie is Fast Paced, And the Fast Pace Has Meaning

Star Wars isn't Science Fiction. Its not about what ifs. It has nothing to do with the ethical, social, or political applications of science and technology. It's, at best, Space Opera, but really more of a Space Fantasy. At it's heart, it is an Action/Adventure film.

Action/Adventure can definitely have moments of suspense, and tension, and they certainly benefit from scenes with character development and interaction. These must be placed carefully however, less they take energy and momentum away from the action that drives the entirety of the film. 

Here, the film largely revolves around the slowest, most tedious chase scene in cinematic history. The good guys move like tiny herd of wounded deer, followed by the world's laziest wolves. It was pathetic, sad, and drained the sense of urgency right out of the sequence, and because of its prominence, many of the sequences that followed. 

While there were some fast paced scenes in the film, many were self contained, and did not effect the overall narrative (more on that below). A starship battle right before the slow crawl through space simply highlighted how dreary the subsequent space slog scenes were. The awesome battle in the Supreme Leader's throne room against his personal guard was great, but had no bearing on the larger chase, the decisions of the participants, or anything. Police speeders chasing heroes on escaped animals did nothing to help the Resistance escape (though it may help them indirectly in the future).

Fast Paced Scenes are needed to generate and maintain excitement, and momentum. Those same scenes should have a direct impact on the overall plot.

Heroes in a Good Star Wars Movie Do Heroic Things - Successfully

Character need hardships to overcome, opponents to defeat, and be defeated by, and obstacles of all sorts to challenge them at nearly every turn. These are not merely things that bar their way on a path. By besting these challenges, we get to see what a character is made of. We learn how they act and think. Do they use their heads? Do they give up until reminded of a loved one, or friend in need? Do they throw caution to the wind, and use their physical abilities to barrel through because, hell, no one lives forever right?

In the end though, they succeed. They win, or at the very least they best their challenge and prove that they have what it takes to see the situation through and maybe, just maybe, save the day in the end.

No one accomplishes anything in this film. No one makes a difference, or proves they're special. Even when it seems like perhaps they do, they don't, because something detracts from their success. 

Luke does not truly train Rey. Rey does not learn very much. Rey does learn who her parents are but it doesn't matter. Rey doesn't turn Kylo Ren to the side of good. Kylo Ren doesn't turn Rey to the Dark Side. Neither does Snoke. Luke sees Leia before he dies, but not really. He gives her Han's dice from the Falcon, but not really. Finn, smitten with Rey and wanting to help her, never does.

Finn teams with Rose to deactivate the poorly thought out First Order device that can track the Resistance through Hyperspace. They fail. They look to contact the great Codebreaker. They don't. They instead get swindled by Benicio Del Toro (whose character is named Stuttering Benicio Del Toro as far as I can tell - he actually accomplishes something).

Poe proves himself a bad leader (somehow), then a mutineer, then an idiot. Admiral Holdo (who, am I to understand commands her vessel and fleet in a fashionable evening dress? No uniform? Because...?), is a great leader...or a coward. I couldn't tell. I also couldn't tell what the movie wanted me to think of her. Was her move a brilliant one? No. The defenseless transports were largely shot down going to the only planet in the area they could be going to. Many moviegoers complained that she should have told her team what her plan was so there wouldn't have been a mutiny. I disagree. The mutiny was Poe's fault for being an impatient jerk. She could have said, "Don't worry, I have a plan", but wasn't obligated to do so. No, my problem was that it was a terrible, terrible plan that ended up reducing the entire Resistance to no more people than could fit on the Millennium Falcon.

"Wait, Adam!" you say, "But Kylo killed Snoke, Finn defeated Phasma, and Rose saved Finn!"

OK, let's look at those instances...

Kylo did indeed kill Snoke, who seemed rather powerful, so yes I will happily admit he accomplished something. Unfortunately, it ended a character that had yet to be developed, which is a problem this new trilogy has across the board. There are too many characters that come from nowhere, and go nowhere. For example...

Finn defeating Phasma was incredibly anti-climactic. Because she is a very 'Boba Fett'-like character (cool looking but doing little to show that she is bad ass), his defeat of her isn't very satisfying. They have but one battle, and in it she is done in as much by the exploding ship she's on as by Finn's combat abilities.

Finally, Rose saves Finn before he flies directly into the Beam Drill thing...and potentially destroys it and saves the day. Rose may have stopped Finn from being killed, but she also stops him from being a hero. His character serves so weak a purpose in the second film, and not much of one in the first film. Going from renegade Stormtrooper, to Guy who takes down the First Order's weapon and enables the Resistance to escape would've been a great character arc. Don't misunderstand, I like Finn. Heck, he's my favorite character in the new trilogy! The problem is that I am starting to realize he's my favorite not because of anything he's done in any of the movies, but because I like the actor, John Boyega. Finn the character is, like most of the characters in The Last Jedi, largely ineffectual. 

Characters Develop A  Lot More When They Interact, Less When They Are Alone

In the first film, Poe Dameron never meets Rey. Rey and Poe don't have a scene together in The Force Awakens. In this film, they have one tiny scene together at the very end. Rey never meets Rose. Rose never meets Leia, Luke, Chewie, or Han. Finn, Rose, and Poe have a handful of very short scenes together. Finn and Rose have more scenes together than pretty much any two other main characters (maybe even Luke and Rey!), and yet very little of it is spent getting to know each other. A little maybe. Finn knows about Rose, but what does she know about him? Then at the end of the film, she loves him. What?!? When did they happen? Screw that, when did it start, build, develop, and...what the hell happened to that entire subplot?

These people are all fighting for a united idea. That I get, I like, and it makes sense. They are not, and could not, be fighting for each other, or battling the enemy on a personal level with a scant few exceptions. Rose lost her sister. Finn lost (in a fashion) Rey. That doesn't feel like enough. I saw no sign that these characters were truly connected to each other. 

Poe's goofy taunt of Hux for example is funny, but doesn't really make sense. It doesn't motivate Hux to hate Poe personally, nor does Poe view Hux as his nemesis. Why didn't we see Poe in his X-Wing go up against Kylo Ren in his Tie Silencer? What a waste of both characters, and both vessels. 


In conclusion, I felt the movie was a lot like...soup. Not good, homemade soup, but mediocre restaurant soup. There were a few tasty chunks of meat, a couple nice vegetables, but it was all held together by a thin broth. It was served so hot you had to eat it slowly, but the next thing you knew it had turned cold, and wasn't even appetizing. 

I hope the next film is better. I hope the characters start to work together, and start to matter to the story. I hope we get to see a war in the stars in the final Star Wars movie of this trilogy. 

I hope Luke didn't die in vain.

Barking Alien


Thursday, December 28, 2017

Holiday Specials

Season's Greetings to everyone out there in blogland!

It's just me, your ol' pal Adam, here to wish you all a very Happy New Year, a Merry Christmas, and/or a Happy Holiday of your choice. You know me, I like them all.

December has been interesting so far.

I've run some really good Star Trek games, played at lot of Supers games, didn't get to see my new girlfriend nearly enough (she's out of town visiting family), and, well, got inspired and incensed in equal measure by various films, and television features. 

For now, let's focus on the positives...
By the way, SPOILER ALERT - SPOILERS Everywhere! - SPOILERS Up the Wazoo!


I am not, generally speaking, a fantasy fan. At the same time, I do love folklore as I've mentioned before, and can appreciate even traditional fantasy if done very well. Similarly, although am I not a crime drama fan per se, growing up the son of a cop, and the grandson of a movie buff, the genre does hold my interest on occasion. Bright, the Netflix original film staring Will Smith, Joel Edgerton, and Lucy Fry, was therefore quite a surprise, as I really enjoyed it.

Bright does an excellent job of world building a 'plausible' (perhaps workable is more accurate), alternate, modern day filled with elves, orcs, and magic wands while at the same time never overtly doing so. That is to say, it doesn't lay out how this world got this way, who are the big players are, or how things work on any in depth level. Instead, it does something I have been advocating for years in other genre features from television to movies to RPGs; Bright assumes its own world makes sense, and figures you will too. 

The result is a lack of wasted time, unnecessary exposition, uninteresting characters, and eye-rolling padding that the film doesn't need. It's awesome, and refreshing. 

Effects are good, very good in fact, and largely downplayed, which I also enjoyed. As the years go on, I am less and less impressed by Fantasy projects with vulgar magic. If you shoot bolts of arcane energy out of your hands, you better be a superhero. It's cool when Doctor Strange does it, but for everyone else it's pretty tacky. The look of it here, while occasionally flashy, definitely worked and was shown as rare and special. I liked that.

Overall, this is a very cool film, and a great setting for a game. It's very 'Shadownrun Now' if you catch my drift. While not my cup of tea (I'm a coffee drinker you see), I'd be down for playing it a few times if someone else was running. 

Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency - Season 2

I must confess that I liked the original Dirk Gently novels by Douglas Adams, but didn't love them. That's difficult to admit, considering how much I adore The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, and what a huge influence it is on my own works. 

In some ways, many actually, the recent BBC series created by Max Landis, and starring Samuel Barnett, Elijah Wood, Hannah Marks, Jade Eshete, and many more very talented people, is quite different from its literary origins. Those differences help, at least for me, as I found both Season One and Two brilliant! The blend of quirky characters, off beat stories, and the more than slightly surreal nature of the program really won me over.

While I enjoyed Season One more than Two, the second season was still wonderful, and it had a lot of great new characters, and interesting twists. 

I was very sad to learn that the BBC has decided not to renew the show for a third season. Aside from not getting more of a product that I enjoyed, the second season began to delve into a much richer, and deeper meta-plot that I can't believe they would just leave hanging there. Perhaps Netflix, Amazon, or Hulu will pick it up.

Time will tell. 

Is it gameable? Well, I'm not sure. Technically I think nearly everything is gameable to some degree, and I am pretty sure I could make a Dirk Gently-like RPG campaign work. The real question is would I be able to find people into it? Maybe...


Unlike the other two entries on this post, Happy! - a Dark Comedy/Crime Drama airing on the Syfy channel (No really! The Syfy Channel!), and based on the Grant Morrison, Darrick Robertson comic book series - is still going on. It hasn't ended yet, with Episode 4 having aired on December 27th, 2017. What does this mean? Well, only that I can't tell you my thoughts on the series as a whole, only on what I've seen so far.

I like it. A lot! I am once again surprised by my own opinions, as this sort of story is not to my usual taste. It succeeds in part because of the excellent performances by Christopher Meloni as lead character Nick Sax, and Patton Oswald as Happy!, the imaginary friend of a young girl who has been kidnapped, and seeks out ex-detective turned hitman Sax to find her. 

The other ingredient that makes this particular concoction hit the spot is the rather out there premise, and the creepy/clever way it is used in the narrative. Trust me, I do notice a theme going here. Both Happy! and Dirk Gently, appeal to my love of the largely untapped idea of a black humor Twilight Zone situation, and as such they are definitely inspiring ideas on how to incorporate that feel into my upcoming campaigns.

Which are? You'll have to wait, and see. That's a discussion for a future post.

There is a lot of other material I could discuss here, since as I noted I've watched a lot of stuff this holiday season. For instance, I can not recommend Guillermo del Toro's, 'The Shape of Water' enough. I really enjoyed that as well. It was a modernization of two older films in a way I both didn't expect, and always wanted to see. 

I feel like I'm forgetting something. Was there another big movie that came out? Recently I want to say. What was the last movie I saw? The Last J...

To Be Continued

Barking Alien

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Joy to The World

Welcome to December, the last month of 2017, the year that marks my 40th Anniversary in the Role Playing Game hobby. Wow. The year feels like it flew by at light speed. 

This was a year of big changes for me. I moved, my business picked up finally, and considerably, one relationship ended, another has begun, and I've done a lot of gaming. A lot. A butt load honestly. 

This blog has been a bit neglected though as a result of all these other things, and while that bums me out a bit, the aforementioned events needed my attention more than this did. Barking Alien is fun, and even therapeutic, but it doesn't pay the bills. 

Now the holiday season has arrived, and I am still incredibly busy. A good thing too, as I know things will get very quiet in a week, or two. With the additional time off I may be able to game some more, and even blog a few times. We'll see.

What I am getting at here is don't be surprised if you don't hear too much from Barkley, and I until January. I'm focusing on real life, and enjoying doing so (a far cry more than I have over the past several years). 

When Barking Alien returns to its regularly scheduled programming, (such as it ever is) expect to see a lot of Sci-Fi/Space Adventure material. I've been missing Science Fiction, and related gaming a lot and I'm heavily inspired to get back to it in a big way. 

I intend to go more deeply into my gaming ideas based on The Orville TV Series now that Season 1 is complete, and I'm sure Star Wars: The Last Jedi will add fuel to the fire that's been burning in me to revisit that galaxy long ago, and far, far away. 

Until then, I want to wish everyone, and everything a very happy, and healthy holiday, regardless of the holiday, or tradition you follow.

Joy to the World,

Barking Alien

Friday, November 24, 2017

Ask Barking Alien - Nigh Invulnerable

My friend Mark Orr asks, "What do you consider the weakness[es] of Supers games?"

What a question! Wow, huh? 

"What's the meaning of life?" too easy for for? Geez.

OK, I had to clarify the question with Mark to make sure I was interpreting it correctly. As it turns out, my understanding of the question was spot on. What is really being asked here is, "What are the difficulties in running a Superhero RPG game", or "What makes it harder to run a Superhero game than say, a D&D game"?

Well...first off, I don't normally find Supers games hard to run, and I don't feel like the genre itself has a ton of weak points that prevent it from being enjoyable in RPG form. That said, there are a few obstacles to Supers games that can be tricky to get through.

Let's look at a two of the biggest...

If You're Not On the Same Page, It's Not Going To Work

More than any other single genre I can think of, the genre of comic book Superheroes has splintered to the point where it seems harder than it should be to find a group where all the members have the same view of Superheroes.

This is do to the various 'Ages' of comics, the deconstruction of Superheroes and Superhero comic book tropes in the late 80s and early 90s, and the exposure people have had to these characters. Some folks have been reading comics since they were kids, others only know them from modern movies, and tv shows, and still others have only a passing knowledge of what Superheroes are.

I've played in a few games now with players who are all gung-ho to play Supers, but having only read manga, or Vertigo comics. They end up playing teen age kids with no costumes and try to kill their enemies.

That's fine if you are all in synch to play that kind of game. If you're not, it can be problematic.

For a Superhero campaign to work the participants must share the same collective consciousness when it comes to what Superheroes are, why they do what they do, and how it all works. You don't just need 'buy-in', you need roughly the same buy-in. 

On a related note:

While discussing this very question, a friend remarked that in his view Superman's origin, and his weakness of Kryptonite, didn't make sense. If he were creating a Superhero universe of his own, he would 'fix' origins like Superman's. In what way? Well first, according to my friend, "Planet's do not just explode, so..."

It was at that point I tuned out.

You see, in my view, if Superman doesn't work as a character, then no Superhero character works. Kal-El being rocketed from his exploding homeworld makes no more or less sense than a kid being bitten by a radioactive spider, a pilot being given an alien ring of power, a quartet being bombarded by cosmic radiation...none of it results in super powered heroes. Most of it would result in dead people if the events could occur at all. None it makes sense. It's all thoroughly ridiculous.  


Unless you accept that you are talking about a Superhero universe, and the laws of such a universe make these things possible.

Character Power Levels Can Seem Disproportionate

One of the biggest issues when playing a Superhero RPG is handling the massive differences in scale that the genre accommodates, often seemingly without effort. Applied to the Player Characters, this means someone could end up playing Robin, and someone could end up as the Hulk. In comics this is nothing unusual, and teams often feature characters with abilities at different ends of the power scale. In the Avengers films for example Black Widow and Hawkeye are considered key team members as much as Iron Man and Thor are, but there is no way Hawkeye is ever going to contribute as much to a battle to save the world as Iron Man is. Right?

For many, this dynamic is not easy to replicate, or deal with in an RPG. If one player's starting PC can lift and throw a tank, fly at the speed of sound, and shoot energy beams from her eyes, how can the next player's PC be a martial art with Human strength, and a katana. Where's the game balance? How do you make it fair?

Some systems use very abstract mechanics to make this work, sacrificing detail, and genre tropes to maintain game balance. Others deal with it by giving the players points to spend, and saying the a 250 point Superman simply spends his points differently than a 250 point Batman. Clark has flight, invulnerability, and phenomenal strength, while Bruce has a car, a plane, a base, skills up the wing-wang, and wealth.

I'm a much bigger fan of the latter. If I want to play a skilled character with gadgets, if that's what I really want to play, then I'm not going to complain that I can't do what the flying brick can do. I could have chosen that kind of character. I didn't. No sour grapes from me.

I hope that answered the question and didn't veer to far off course.

Looking to move on to December to be honest. A lot of other ideas have been bubbling up.

Up, up, and away...

Barking Alien

Monday, November 20, 2017

Active Silence

As you can tell by this month's post count, I haven't been posting a lot at all lately. 

Why?'s as I feared. With no single theme, challenge, or anything else, I don't have a lot of motivation to write anything down, and share it. I've gotten a few questions from viewers, mostly friends, but not a lot. No interest from you guys translates to no interest from me I'm afraid. 

I'm certainly gaming a lot, reading a number of games, and watching a lot (A LOT!) of cool TV shows that I find inspire game ideas, but I am also working extra hard lately, and dating someone, and the blog just isn't calling to me. 

I will get to the questions I've been asked, and maybe a little more here, and there, but November is going to be pretty quite at the ol' Barking Alien site it seems. 

Maybe it will pick up next month.

Barking Alien

Monday, November 13, 2017

Ask Barking Alien - Lost in Space

Foomf asks, "Have you ever created models, or art of Traveller spacecraft?"

The answer to this is yes. Unfortunately, I have no proof.

I'll explain...

Most of the spacecraft art, whether two, or three dimensional, that I've made for Traveller over the years was made long ago. It's been at least 10-15 years since I've made anything of a model-kit, or original illustration nature. 

Never particularly good at drawing Science Fiction vehicles (especially starships), and yet loving them to pieces, I would most often use already existing art found in books, and magazines. Eventually I met other gaming friends better at illustrating spacecraft, and left the depictions to them. 

I am pretty good at imagining, and designing ships, just not getting them on paper.

As my modeling skills improved, and I started to customize Japanese Robot models more, and more, I tried my hand at customizing Star Trek, and Star Wars models. I sold a battle damaged Klingon K'Tinga that I'd made, which originally hung down from the ceiling in the old Forbidden Planet comic book store here in New York. I later sold a customized A-Wing fighter diorama that included miniatures originally made for Star Wars D6.

By the time I started college I had begun creating kit-bashed speeder vehicles, and shuttles for Traveller, but this was around 1989-1990. We did not have cameras in our pockets like we do now, and so I never took pictures of any of my work. I also never kept any of it, since I rarely used miniatures in my own games. Instead, as with the K'Tinga, and the A-Wing, I made it a habit of selling my pieces to supplement my income.

So, the answer to the question is yes, I have made models of original ship designs, but no such works remain in my possession, and no photos exist of them that I am aware of.

You'll just have to take my word for it.

Barking Alien

A Podcast Service Announcement

The 2017 Discover Pods Awards are upon us, and I would like to take this opportunity to once again recommend 'The Pod of Many Casts' by my good friends Leo Jenicek and Alex Berkowitz (among others).

The podcast is eligible for entry in nearly every category, as all the categories are write-ins. 

Give the show a listen if you're into Dungeons & Dragons with a comedic flair. I like it a lot, and I'm sure you will too. 

Please visit the Discover Pods Awards, and vote for this, or your own personal favorite. If anyone knows of any particularly good Sci-Fi RPG podcasts, please let me know about them in the comments below.

Good luck gang!

Barking Alien

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Ask Barking Alien - Flying High

I am having a pretty good week so far, and as such I thought I'd post while in a positive, posting mood. 

I've only received a single question after my request for inquiries from the Barking Alien viewership, and while that's a bummer, I figure once more people read about it I'll get more questions. Right? Hello? Bueller?

OK, on to the question...

Tom Reed asks, "What is your favorite type of superhero to play?"

Great question! Why? Because even though I haven't played even half as much as I've GMed, the one RPG genre I think I've partaken in the most is Superheroes.

I've played a fair number of Superhero Player Characters, and although I've tried a wide variety, there are definitely certain types that I gravitate towards, and favorites that I have.

First, I tend to create characters that have elements of my favorite well-known, published Superheroes. These include, but are not limited to:

Green Lantern, Iron Man, Mon-El (Legion of Superheroes), the Silver Surfer, The Vision, and Wildfire (Legion of Superheroes).

What you'll notice here is we have a lot of spacefaring heroes, a good number of aliens, and characters who use high-tech armor, or are assisted by technology.

I like heroic, Silver Age heroes who can fly through space, and who are a little unfamiliar with the world setting they are in. I like to play the stranger in a strange land, an alien, or android trying to understand Humanity, and their place among it. 

I also like playing powerful heroes, though less for the raw power, and more for the flexible variety of options they have.

My three favorite heroes of my own creation are:

Equinox, Starguard, and Excelsior


An android whose chest cavity houses an ancient, pre-Mayan artifact that summons four elemental spirits into the android's body. The elementals then form a gestalt being with a variety of supernormal abilities.

Equinox can fly (thanks to a combination of his air, and fire powers), change the nature of his form to that of any of the four elements (air, earth, fire, and water), release blasts of any of these elements, sense changes to those elements in the world around him, and other related feats depending on the game system in which he was generated. Additional abilities in the past have included controlling, and shaping the elements, 'force fields' of the elements, and absorbing them.

Personality wise, Equinox was originally patterned heavily on the Silver Surfer - an intelligent, powerful being who exhibited a child-like sense of wonder, and fascination regarding the modern world. Not Human himself, he found Humanity strange, and wonderful, though dangerous to themselves, and their world. His goal in protecting them was to have more time to understand them, and perhaps help them to better understand each other, and the Earth itself.

Over time the character changed, and expanded. Each of the different elements, when in charge of the gestalt, had a different look and personality. Air is very much as described. His is curious, whimsical, and asks a lot of questions. Earth patient, a slow, though deep thinker, and a bit more callous towards Humans. Fire is bold, aggressive, more direct, and has the least amount of patience. Water is female, flowing, forever coming up with new ideas, and approaches, though likely to change her mind, or be distracted by new people, places, and occurrences. 

I created this character for a friend who wanted to play with an idea from an old folktale he knew. His favorite character was the Silver Surfer, who is a fave of mine as well, so I tried to merge the former Herald of Galactus with my friend's South American myth.

Equinox was first created in Villains & Vigilantes 2nd Edition, and played by my friend Sergio. He has appeared in Champions (as an NPC when I GMed), and Kapow! (finally played by me) as well.


One of my oldest characters, and my absolute favorite (though Starguard is a close second).

Excelsior is a former astronaut, and engineer from about 25 years in the future who was sent back to the present when the experimental FTL drive on the starship he designed exploded. In addition to being hurled back in time, Excelsior was converted into negative matter, or anti-matter, the source of the starship's power. 

To prevent him from exploding by just being in existence, those that found the time-lost man put him inside a highly advanced containment suit that uses magnetic fields to keep him together. This provides him with armor, but it's an armor without which he would detonate and easily vaporize a three mile radius. In addition, he has a limited perception of the world around him, as he 'sees' and 'hears' through magnetic sensors. He has no sense of touch, smell, or taste in his current state. 

For reasons unknown, Excelsior's body is surrounded by a constantly regenerating field of anti-energy. The suit has functions that allow him to channel that energy into bolts, create blasts from his feet for flight, generate a fine, 'anti-energy' mist that serves as a force field, and systems that give him superhuman strength, and endurance. 

In different incarnations his anti-matter powers have been either very powerful energy attacks and defenses, or what they were really meant to be, which is a power with disintegrating effects. For example, in Champions he could not only disintegrate matter, but incoming attacks disintegrated upon hitting his force field. 

Excelsior probably has the most complex personality of any character I have. He is very multi-layered, and I'm not sure I can explain it all in this post. Basically, he is a peaceful, scientist who now has the power to destroy, and only destroy. He can't really pull his punch, and his powers disintegrate. He is also a pretty non-violent guy, though he does know how to fight, he'd rather not have to. It takes him a while to come to terms with his abilities, and he gets pretty creative figuring out how not to kill people with his anti-matter.

He is also a man of 35 years of age hurtled 25 years back in time. He exists here as a 10 year old boy! Excelsior is told repeatedly not to interact with his younger self, but various situations and villain complicate that dynamic. This causes him to take very non-traditional actions to prevent events he knows will happen in the future. For example, he at one point speaks at his younger self's school, only to tell him that perhaps he should pursue art, or sports and not his dream of being an astronaut [an attempt to prevent the events that create his Excelsior identity]. 

Lastly, he has to deal with the loss of some of his senses, and in ways his Humanity. He can't touch another Human being, he can't eat, smell flowers, or enjoy any of the many simple pleasures of being a normal person. Music doesn't sound the same. Movies, and television have no depth, so he can't see them at all. 

A possible Excelsior redesign by my friend Aris

Excelsior was heavily inspired by Iron Man, and Wildfire from the Legion of Superheroes.

Excelsior was first created before I ever played an RPG. The first game he appeared in was V & V 2nd Edition. He was so close to the random rolls I made that I made him up in for the campaign I was in. He was later built in Champions 4th Edition, Mutants & Masterminds 2nd Edition, and several other games over the years.

I really love this character, and though he is my favorite story-wise, my favorite PC to play is...


Probably the character most familiar to my viewership, Starguard is the principal character I played in my friend William's legendary Champions campaign, The Age of Champions. I, and Starguard, were only involved in the game between 1986, and 1989, roughly. I was involved for three and a half years, but I don't exactly remember where the 'half year' fell. It is likely it bled into 1990. 

Starguard has been discussed on this blog a number of times. His origins have been told, and some of his exploits, both renowned, and infamous, recounted.  

Starguard is everything I love in a superhero character.

He has pathos, mythos, and the ability to fly through space and throw comets. He is a larger-than-life individual, doing what is right for the right reasons. Starguard stands up for the little guy, he despises cheaters, and thieves, and punches tyrants in the face. He has epic adventures, travels through time, and does all the most amazing of amazing things only superheroes get to do. 

His personality is also a ton of fun to play, as it isn't typical of the type of characters I create. Starguard's persona is patterned after Marvel's Thor, and Prince Namor, The Sub-Mariner. He boasts a lot less than they do, but he is prone to being just as arrogant, stubborn, and aggressive as they are. This is tempered by a 'Knights-of-Camelot'-like sense of justice, and honor that always keeps his ego in check. He will get angry, swear vengeance, call the villain a 'knave', or the like, but he never forgets he is there to protect the people under his charge. 

First designed, and constructed as a PC for Champions 3rd Edition, he has been rebuilt in 4th. Mutants & Masterminds, Villains & Vigilantes, and other Supers games. 

So there you have it. My favorite Superhero PCs to play in Supers games are high-powered, aliens, androids, or time-lost individuals, trying to make trying to make sense of the world and people they've sworn to protect.

Flying High, and on to the next question!

Barking Alien

Friday, November 3, 2017

November Has Come

Hey gang!

Adam and Barkley here at the Barking Alien Blog to welcome you to the month of November, and what we're going to focus on this month.

Excellent! What are we going to focus on?

What? I thought...I thought you knew.

Me? Why would I have that kind of information?

The blog is called 'Barking Alien'. You're the barking alien.

Oh no. No, no, no. You're not laying this in my lap mister. First...technically...I don't have a lap exactly...and second, we knew going in that this site is your baby. I'm just the help.


Look, don't get discouraged just because your out of post ideas...

I'm not out of post ideas. I'm not. How long have we known each other? I'm never really out of ideas for posts, I just...I don't know what I actually want to take the time to talk about. 

I'm running two campaigns right now, a Star Trek Adventures campaign titled, 'Star Trek: Prosperity', and a homebrewed Superhero campaign based on 'My Hero Academia' called, 'My Hero Academia: American Ultra'. 

I'm also playing in three campaigns. A modified Powered by the Apocalypse Wizard World Game - 'Hogwarts: Ravenclaw' - , a Kapow! Superhero game featuring our original team, 'The Wardens', and a bi-weekly (or so) Star Trek Adventures campaign titled, 'Star Trek: Excalibur'. 

That's a lot of gaming! So what's the problem? You have tons to talk about.

Yeah, but I don't really want to play-by-play report on all of those. If I talk about some, why not others? It's just not the mood I'm in blog wise.

Geez. Fine. What do you want to talk about?!

I don't know! It's's like when you're really hungry, and you're at the supermarket, and you can't decide what you want to eat. Know what I mean?

No. I'm a extraterrestrial dog. If I am hungry enough, the boots on your space suit are just fine. By the way, you need new space suit boots. Just FYI.

*Sigh* I need something to spark my drive to post. Something I haven't done before, or in a while. I'm thinking, if I can find my catalyst, everything else will fall into place. 

You need a theme for the angle.

Yes! Precisely. I will probably talk about other things as well, but a theme will help me focus my thought. If you look back at August of this year, and the RPGaDay Challenge, I made 42 posts even though there were 31 questions. The challenge got me writing, and coming to the blog so I did an additional 11 posts. I need something like that.

OK, so how's this...

Hey there Barking Alien enthusiasts, viewers, and visitors! 

For the month of November, 2017, the Barking Alien blog will be answering questions from our audience! That's right, ask any question, and Adam and I will answer it to the best of our ability.

Did Adam ever co-GM a game, with two GMs running simultaneously? What is his favorite snack food? How many times has a starship named Bonhomme Richard been destroyed in his Star Trek games? (Answer: Every time).

Not a bad idea. I can still post whatever comes to mind, but I will also post responses to ideas from my fellow gamers. It also ties into my 40th Anniversary, answering questions about my gaming interests and experiences as we head toward the end of 2017. I love it! Thanks Barkley! Good work ol' friend. 

No problem chum. That's why I'm here. That, and the free food. 

Well, this might turn out to be an interesting month of posts after all...

Barking Alien

Monday, October 30, 2017

A Matter of Trust

Some weeks ago, a friend suggested she should try Dungeons & Dragons.

She has played but a single role playing game you see, at least to my knowledge. It was a few years ago, so I may be mistaken. She could have played many times since our first, and last session together.

With myself as GM, she and a group of perhaps five others partook in a pretty epic session of the FASA Star Trek RPG. She was brilliant at it. A natural, as they say.

We managed to meet for only a meager handful of sessions. That was a few years back, and we've been trying to get together to game again ever since, but distance and conflicting schedules has made that extremely difficult (read: impossible).

I got the chance to see her again at New York Comic Con, and we discussed the possibility of staging another game. She said, half jokingly and half seriously, that perhaps she should try a game of Dungeons & Dragons. Her reasoning?

"It's like 'geek cred', no? If you're going to be a gamer, you need to play D&D at least once."

Strangely, for someone who has no great love for the game, this hit home, and made sense to me.

D&D was my first game, and I can't deny the fact that without it, without the experience of that first game, that first campaign, nothing would have followed.

That is to say, had I never played D&D, had it not existed and I hadn't played it when I did, I wouldn't be blogging this right now, I wouldn't have written, and sold my own game, I wouldn't have celebrated 40 years in the hobby this year, and I wouldn't have had all the incredible memories I've form over all these years.

My friend asked me to run a D&D game for her, and my first thought wasn't, 'Ugh. That game', or 'But Tales from the Loop is sooo much cooler' (even if it is). My first thought was, "Wow. Why me? What makes her think I'm the right guy for this honor?"

Maybe I'm the only GM she knows. Maybe I was there when she thought of it.

Maybe she trusts me. Maybe she thinks I'm good at this stuff, and she wants her experience to be good, so...

I've been mulling around fantasy ideas in the back of mind ever since. 

I'm not sure what I have in mind exactly. I see something classic, old school, to give her and the other players that participate a taste of what it was like in the 'Golden Days'. At the same time, D&D is a taste I've never quite acquired. I need to season it somehow, to make it not only palatable, but full of the kind of flavors I enjoy. How do I accomplish B, while still achieving A? That's the real trick isn't it.

I will figure it out. I want to. I have to. 

At the risk of being overly dramatic, it's a matter of honor now. A matter of trust.

Barking Alien

Monday, October 23, 2017

Return to Prosperity

I haven't been able to follow through on my plans for October.

I wanted to discuss games with a creepy, scary, or generally Halloween-y feel, but my mood this month hasn't leaned in that direction. Sadly, it has also made working on my Unfinished Business, Ghost Story RPG, a very difficult thing to work on. I'm simply not in that headspace.

Instead, I am in space...the final frontier.

USS Prosperity, NCC-1585, Ventura Class

Captain Ann Fletcher,
First Officer/Science Officer Cmdr. Solok
Chief Engineer Lt. Cmdr. Both, and Communications Officer Lt. Rhys Carr

Three years ago (in October of 2014), I started an on again, off again campaign of Original Series Star Trek using the ICON System from Last Unicorn Games entitled, 'Star Trek: Prosperity'. I ran about a dozen sessions, the final of which was in December of 2015. It was the first part of a two-part (two session) story that featured two additional players, and PCs in conjunction with my four regulars. Unfortunately, schedules changed, things got complicated, and we never got back to it. 

A week ago, I finally ran the second half of the adventure. The two players who were added to the mainstay crew would not be joining us again on a regular basis - if ever (one moved, one has a completely incompatible schedule now), so I decided to pull the trigger on that phaser and complete our tale. 

Custom Character Sheet by yours truly. 
Part 1 of 2

It went over so well, the group and I have decided to continue the exploits of the USS Prosperity into a second season as it were. 

Season Two sees the whole thing converted over to the new Star Trek Adventures 2D20 system. The more I play and run Star Trek Adventures the more I like it, though I definitely feel there are things about it I don't get. Some of the mechanics are a little cumbersome, specifically Extended Tasks, and Reputation.

Additionally, I haven't yet gotten familiar enough with it to remember what all the Talents do, or how they work. This gives me unappealing memories of games like D&D and Pathfinder with their strings of Feats that force you to refer back to the rulebooks to find the rules behind them. I hate having to refer to any books during play as it slows the game down, and I'm not a fan of charts for similar reasons. Hopefully this will change over time. 

Part 2 of 2

Right now, there are more positives than negatives, and the first session with the new system went over well with the group. As familiarity increases, so will flow improve, so I have high hopes for our ongoing efforts.

I promised the group that if for some reason this system doesn't work for us, we can go back to LUG/ICON, and I won't drop the campaign out of frustration (which I sometimes do). I like our campaign, the characters, the setting, our ship, and exploring the galaxy TOS style is exactly what I want to do right now.

Starship Record Sheet.

Any questions, comments, or anything, please feel free to hail us.

One to beam up.

Barking Alien