Saturday, June 17, 2017

Into The Sea, You and Me

I'm running a fill in game for our Wednesday night Google Hangouts group next week.

As we prepare for our big, upcoming Marvel/DC Crossover mini-campaign, our regular GM Keith has asked for a short break to re-familiarize himself with Marvel Heroic.

Since I expressed an interest in running Anime/Manga style Giant Robots in the recent past, and others in the group have expressed interest in trying out the genre, I am to take this opportunity to run a story I've been thinking about for a while...

Gundiver is a Mobile Suit Gundam 'Side Story' set during the original series 'One Year War', in which the Earth Federation Forces develop an undersea operations Mobile Suit in an attempt to counter the superior aquatic mecha of the enemy Zeon Navy. 

Having developed the Mobile Suit first, the forces of the Grand Duchy of Zeon have a head start in the arms race to build the better giant, humanoid machines. While the armies and navies of UN SPACY (the NATO of the United Earth) have a mere half dozen robot designs that they customize and adapt for various missions, the Zeons have numerous mechs specially designed and build for various situations. 

When fighting underwater for example, the Earth forces normally use the General Model Mobile Suit, or GM, adapted for aquatic conditions. Later, they start specifically outfitting the RAG-79, or Aqua GM, with the gear it needs right off the assembly line.

Unfortunately, by the time they do so the Zeon forces have the Gogg, the vastly improved Hygog, the Z'Gok, the Z'Gok-E, the Acguy, and the Zaku Marine Type (the mass produced counterpart to the Federation GM). 

A trio of Zaku Mariners on the hunt for Federation Forces.

Our story will begin in space, where an Earth Federation Space Forces vessel prepares to send a 'care package' to its allies on terra firma. An experimental, prototype Mobile Suit - the RAG-79-G1 'Waterproof' or Aquatic Gundam, nicknamed 'Gundiver' will be orbital dropped to a hidden rendezvous point of the coast of Brazil.

It seems Zeon Intelligence is at the top of its game however, as Zeon forces attempt to insure the thought-to-be-secret 'Gundiver' never reaches its destination...

The game will likely be run with my own, homebrew Extended Mecha system (based on the free RPG Extended Mission). There will be about six players (not including myself as GM), and the plan is for this to be the first of three sessions.

I will keep you posted.


Barking Alien

The Manhattan Project

I have decided to make some serious changes in my life.

I will be moving soon, improving my dog walking business, and doing something that means a lot to me in my 40th year in the RPG hobby.

I've decided that a major change in my life is going to be that I stop being afraid of whether, or not I will succeed, or fail, and just do a thing.

Check this out from one of my favorite illustrators, Jake Parker:

I've been wanting to produce and sell a Role Playing Game product of my own design for, well, for forever now. It seems like my Questing Beast, a goal I'm perpetually chasing, but never able to the actual achieve.

That's over. I'm doing it now. I'm working on it even as I write this. I'm making an RPG for sale through DriveThruRPG.

Originally I wanted my first game to be Unfinished Business, my long overdue Ghost Story RPG, but I think that one still needs some work, and it's very niche for a first product. 

Another idea was my [as yet unnamed] Star Trek/Space Adventure Parody game, which I've used to run Galaxy Quest, and I am currently overhauling in hopes of using it to run a game set in the universe of 'The Orville'. I may make that a later product if this first one takes off.

Lastly, I've recently been toying with another attempt at an OSR Science Fiction/Space Opera game. Operating under the title Aliens & Astrobases, this is a very tricky project for me to pull off. I like the idea of creating such a game, but I am not a fan of those kinds of games. I feel like I might be able to make something fun to play, but I'm not as thoroughly motivated. It remains an idea on the back-burner (though it's probably the one that would sell to the largest audience. Sigh).

No, the choice for my first product is clear to me now, and really should have been all along. It took my good friend Dave Cotton to point out how to do it, but there is no question that it needs to get done, as it is my best work.

As InSpectres is not a Ghostbusters game, and Starships and Spacemen is not a Star Trek game, this game I am making is in no way a revised, expanded edition of a certain RPG project I produced in March of 2011. With new original characters, a new original setting based on one of my old campaigns, and all new art work, expect a fast, and furious fountain of fun, felt, fur, and foam to come your way later this month.

Just look at the interest in it from those who don't even know what I am doing...

Four hundred and twenty-five positive responses!
Holy Heck!

I want to thank the Tabletop Role-Playing Games group on Facebook for being so supportive to a fellow gamer. I also want to thank everyone of my friends, and family for backing me up on this endeavor. 

Further announcements as we draw closer to release day.

The stage is set, and I am about to go on...

Barking Alien

Friday, June 9, 2017

Resistance Is Possible...Even Likely

A Borg Cube is on its way to Earth, and the citizens of the Federation have very mixed feelings...

It is time to address the 800 lbs. Mugato in the room ladies, and gentlemen.

Modiphius Entertainment's Star Trek Adventures Role Playing Game, the first official Star Trek RPG since Decipher's, is available for pre-order. Some of the books for the game will be out as PDFs in just a few weeks according to company founder Chris Birch. 

Among the items available is a limited Collector's Edition Box Set resembling a Borg Cube. This set is listed at 395 British pounds. That's $510 American dollar. Five hundred, and ten dollars. That's...a lot.

The set will contain quite a lot of material, some of it exclusive to the set. The core book cover art is limited edition, the box contains a beautiful, Borg themed Gamemaster Screen, and it has a complete set of all the dice, a set of game tokens, all the miniatures, and everything else the game will consist of when it hits the stores. I believe there is also an Alpha and Beta Quadrant poster map, and some Adventure Tiles (although I am not sure what those are for).

If you feel that's still too much money to spend on a new game as much as you'd like to (because, you know, it is), there is a slightly smaller bundle that was announced just yesterday (in response to fans, and potential customers expressing the opinion that the price of the Collector's Edition Borg Cube Box Set is too high). This alternative Borg Drone Bundle contains everything the Collector's Set does except for the miniatures, their are fewer dice, and none of the Federation Symbol and Red Alert tokens. Do you need these for play? Well...yes...but you could certainly substitute something else. 

This game will be expensive. There is no tip-toeing around that. Very expensive. The basic core book alone is going to be about $60 bucks. Sixty dollars. If I were to purchase that, and the first two or three supplements in physical book form (each estimated at $40 based on the first adventure collection book 'These Are The Voyages') - Great Bird of the Galaxy! That'd have to be around $140! That is simply too much money for me. I can't justify that kind of spending. 

In addition, I've playtested the game and its only OK. Not great. It isn't a bad game, but it's not for me. Like many games it has a fine core mechanic and then it over burdens it with unnecessary subsystems that complicate things with little benefit that I can see. The subsystems are also (personally) aesthetically bothersome. It's like a simple dish, fine on it's own, buried in garnish and sauces. It becomes not just unneeded, but also unappetizing. 

Lastly, I've been gaming in the Star Trek universe since 1982 with FASA. This game doesn't surpass that game, nor Last Unicorn's ICON System, which I feel is the best Star Trek game ever made. If what you are offering isn't better than what I am already using, why switch?

In the end, I plan on getting a physical copy of the core rulebook for my collection, and possibly the upcoming Command, Sciences, and Operations Division books on PDF for ideas and source material. Beyond that...I just can't see myself getting into it.

What's your opinion?

Barking Alien

Monday, June 5, 2017

Lacking Subtlety

Games, generally speaking, are not subtle. 

What do I mean?

Well, I had a conversation with my pal Dave about this a few days ago, and I came to the conclusion that most games lack subtlety. Their settings, premises, and how the various elements of those things are introduced to the players/PCs is often over-the-top, blatant, and even crude.

Everything is Extreme!, like the music videos of the eighties. Dungeons & Dragons, Pathfinder, RIFTS, and Shadowrun are perhaps the most obvious examples of this idea. The art contributes to this to a large degree, but also the commonality of the elements within. Spells, and Magic are everywhere, monsters appear in large groups, towering, skyscraper-like castles, and fantastically fashionably dressed characters abound.

I've noted in the past that this is one of the key reasons D&D, and the likes of it don't appeal to me. It isn't really very medieval. The bizarre, and glowingly arcane is so common place as to feel mundane. Every evil wizard, and dreadful monster is so much bigger, and more eccentric than the last that none of it seems special. There is no grounding in reality to judge the fabulous against.

I prefer subtlety. I like worlds that seem essentially real, basically normal, until you realize they are not, but at first can't put your finger squarely on why. As the wonder, and weirdness is revealed over time, you begin to have a new appreciation for not only that which is strange, but also for the comfort of the world you thought you knew. 

This works better in some genres than others, though many games with similar genres, or even the same genres, can be approached subtly as easily as they can be flagrant, and unabashed.

To illustrate what I mean, let's look at the World of Darkness.

Traditionally, Vampire: The Masquerade is subtle. The world of the Vampires remains in the shadows. The people of the world are not aware a secret war of blood-drinkers in being waged just outside the edge of their vision. Battles between members of The Kindred are stealthy, secretive affairs.

Werewolf: The Apocalypse however, often seems over-the-top, and obvious. No, the world is no more aware of the Werewolves then they are of the Vampires, but the powers in the game, the way battles are fought, and such makes the supernatural parts of the setting seem very apparent. Werewolf campaign end up feeling like superhero games more often than not.

Vampires are quite, hidden, stealthy. Werewolves are loud, brutal, and right in your face. That's the point right? I suppose...

Marvel and DC aren't subtle. HEROES is. Often Superhero games aren't subtle, like ICONS, Champions, and of course Marvel and DC related ones. Aberrant isn't really subtle either. GODLIKE? Hmmm. Perhaps.

How about in Science Fiction? Star Wars, Star Trek, and even Traveller are not generally subtle. Cyberpunk could be, but often isn't. Hmmm. SF is tough. One might consider the film Interstellar subtle, maybe Blade Runner (at least partially) or perhaps 2001: A Space Odyssey, but a subtle SF RPG?...hard pressed to think of one. 

Now I don't want to give the impressive I don't like the flashy, imposing set pieces, or crazy action of a mainstream blockbuster every once in a while. I absolutely do! I just wish we saw a bit more of the other approach in table top games. Right now Tales from the Loop is the best example of what I am thinking of, though even its default setting is a bit more transparent and less subtle than I'd like (as I posted last month, I would run it a bit differently than the book implies).

What about you? Do you think there is a place for subtle gaming? What settings do you feel come off as subtle? Is there a subtle Fantasy game?*

Barking Alien

*I think maybe Ars Magica could be considered subtle, depending on how you look at it. Any others?

Where Am I Now?

I realize I have a number of unfinished post series' on the blog, and I apologize to my readership for leaving them incomplete [so far]. I do mean to get back to all of them, but my thoughts don't always march out of my head in a straight line.

The Paradise Fleet series of Campaigns I Have Known posts, and the Champions: Age of Chaos series of Campaigns I Have Played will both be completed before August, I can promise you that. 

Additionally, I'd still like to write one or two additional posts on my Pokemon RPG idea, though I can not say exactly when I'll get around to that. Hopefully I can get those out before August as well, but I can't guarantee it.

This post is designed to get the ball rolling for the month of June. I have quiet a bit I want to discuss this month, but I felt I needed a 'State of Gaming'-type post to get things started after my short hiatus.

The total view number of views for this blog in May exceeded 13,000, which is decent for Barking Alien. It surpassed both April (around 11,000), and March (around 12,000). There were only 10 posts in March, 6 in April, and 7 in May. I personally felt that some of the posts over this three month period were very good. Comments and +1s to Google Plus seem to confirm that many others agree. 

As I draw closer to my 40th Anniversary in the gaming hobby, I figured it was time to take stock of what I am currently doing, and what is in the immediate future...

What I Am Running

I am currently running a Champions campaign with sessions run every other week (twice a month essentially) on Friday nights. I am looking forward to finishing it. It's been an OK game, but I haven't really been inspired, and as it goes on it feels more, and more like a chore. I should be about to sum it up next session (two weeks from now).

I am also running a monthly Traveller campaign focused on deep space exploration, with my 'main group'. We had the first session a week or so ago, it went OK, but I'm not really feeling the buzz I wish I was. Not sure why. Hopefully it'll pick up, and I'll get more into it.

What I Am Playing

When not running Champions with my Friday night group, I am playing in a Hogwarts/Wizarding World game with my Friday night group. It's run by my friend Alex. The game uses a variation on the Apocalypse World/Powered by the Apocalypse rules. It's good - really, really good - translated from Adam-ese that's high praise indeed. One week Hogwarts, next week Champions, rinse, repeat.

I am also still playing in a weekly online, Google Hangouts Superhero campaign using the rules lite system called Kapow! It's been about 2 and 1/2 years now, and crazy thing, we're still having fun. In fact, the last two sessions were a lot of fun. There was a real sense of urgency, heroism, and teamwork. It was a Superhero game session where we actually felt like superheroes. Loved it.

What's On The Horizon

As I noted, my Champions game should be ending in the next session, or two. After that...who knows. I am not really sure where to go with my Friday group. Theirs are an eclectic mix of interests, opinions, and approaches. Finding a games that works for everyone isn't easy. Still, I'm sure I'll think of something.

As for my online group, we are going to take a break from our regular campaign in a few weeks and run some interesting short campaigns for the Summer. First, I will be taking over the GM reins briefly to run a Giant Robot game. I am thinking of using either original, 1st Edition Mekton or my homebrew Extended Mecha system to run a Mobile Suit Gundam series. A few sessions at most of war, tragedy, and heartbreak should be an great palette cleanser.

This will be followed by an idea our regular GM Keith and I came up with that I think will be awesome. Keith will run a few sessions of Marvel Heroic, set in the Marvel Universe. He hasn't been able to fully grok that system, but really wants to. We compared notes, and now he wants to give it the old college try. Xavier's Institute offers college courses, right? Following that, I will run a few sessions set in the DC Universe using Mutants & Masterminds 3rd Edition's DC Adventures RPG. It'll all come to an epic climax when a GM (TBA) runs Kapow! (our regular game) featuring characters from the Marvel and DC games.

Ultimate Superhero Crossover Action!

Marvel Characters in the Marvel Universe, using Marvel Heroic
DC Characters in the DC Universe, using DC Adventures/M&M 3E
Marvel and DC Character in a Crossover Universe using Kapow!


Finally, my friend Dave Cotton is back in action after nearly two years. I am really looking forward to getting a game together with him, and the mix of old crew players I've talked about in the past (two of my NJ friends, and one friend from high school). More may be added. I have the perfect idea for that campaign...but I am not ready to reveal it yet.

Soon. Soon.

Other Projects

I am looking to e-publish one, or more RPG games through DriveThruRPG later this summer. It is my sincerest hope to finally finish Unfinished Business, as well as a Sci-Fi/Space Adventure Comedy game idea. 

Wish me luck, stay tuned, and have a great summer!

Barking Alien

Friday, May 26, 2017

Thorough Thursdays - CYBERPUNK

This Thorough Thursdays entry was supposed to have gone out yesterday, but I came down with a terrible cold, and forgot to publish it. Gomen nasai!

Prior to this post, I have only tagged three posts with the label Cyberpunk.

Those posts refer to the Cyberpunk 2013/2020 Role Playing Game by R. Talsorian Games, and the genre as a whole respectively.

Three posts labeled Cyberpunk by a Science Fiction fan who loves the concepts of artificial intelligence, robots, and Anime/Manga.

That's just wrong.

I first discovered the term Cyberpunk through my uncle, a brilliant fellow, and an avid reader of Science Fiction. He is especially interested in SF works that address changes in Human nature, culture, and thought brought upon us by advancement in technology.

After reading a number of novels in the genre he recommended them to me, namely Hardwired, and Voice of the Whirlwind by Walter Jon Williams, Neuromancer, Count Zero, and Mona Lisa Overdrive by William Gibson, and Blood Music by Greg Bear.

I became quite a fan, and since I am influenced as much by cinema as literary works, I became further inspired by the film Blade Runner, and the often underrated TV series Max Headroom.

This all lead my to the R. Talsorian Games RPG Cyberpunk 2013, and its follow up, Cyberpunk 2020. I ran a lot of 2020, often altering it a bit to reflect more of a Blade Runner setting, and feel. I also tried my hand at Shadowrun, 2300 AD, and other games with significant Cyberpunk elements.

Around 1990 I discovered the Japanese RPG Metal Head, a Cyberpunk RPG that also included space travel, mecha, and other elements that really appealed to me. I ran a few games of that as well.

Many of my Traveller campaigns contain heavy Cyberpunk influences in the way technology, and corporate culture in used. 

Cyberpunk is a strange genre. It really should be jarring, then thought provoking social commentary, and sometimes it is, but it is just as easily an excuse for technology-porn, and non-stop action.

How many Cyberpunk stories have cybernetics? Most, if not virtually (pun intended) all.

How many Cyberpunk stories feature 'punk'? Not many.

Punk is traditionally a social movement born out of the frustration and angst of the working class. It bucks tradtion, corporate culture, and celebrates freedom, non-conformity, and the establishment through acts of counter-culture rebellion.

Does Cyberpunk actually do that?

As noted, sometimes it does, but other times the main characters of Cyberpunk stories end up working with, or at the very least within, the confines of the established authories to take down other interests who aren't all that different in the grander scheme of things. For example, Major Motoko Kusanagi of Ghost in the Shell isn't some punk rebel trying to stick it to the man, but rather a kind of police officer - She is the man! know what I mean.

Wouldn't a true Cyberpunk hero, or heroine have no cybernetics, avoid the 'net', and try to dismantle the oppressive culture of megacorporate government control? Are Shadowrunners really Cyberpunk if they go on runs for one megacorporate patron against another? That's just facilitating the situation, not rebelling against it, which is the real definition of punk. 

For a time it seemed that Cyberpunk in the classic sense had fallen out of favor. Real world scientific advancements had shown that biological, not mechanical, improvements were the logical next step. Also, things stated to look less dystopian, and an oppressive corporate culture less likely to prevail. 

Now, things have swung back the other way. Between the current world political and social climates darkening yet again, and improvements in the fields of prosthetics and virtual reality, the outlook for our future seems more Cyberpunk then ever. Is it just a coincidence that Blade Runner is getting a sequel now, and they finally put together a live action Ghost in the Shell film (crappy and poorly handled as it was)?

Recently Age of Ravens started a Cyberpunk retrospective of sorts as part of his History of RPGs series. One of the podcasts he's involved with, Play on Target, released a recent episode covering Cyberpunk gaming as well. Check them out won't you?

In the end, I am going to say I am a fan of Cyberpunk, especially its presentation in games, Anime/Manga, movies, and television. At the same time, I see it in a fashion similar to how I see Fantasy. It's a guilty pleasure for me this genre, since I don't feel like most of the Cyberpunk we see is truly what Cyberpunk is, or what it could be. The Cyberpunk we get is over-the-top, sensationalized Cyberpunk, and that's the opposite of what Cyberpunk should be.

What are your thoughts on the subject?

Barking Alien

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Happy Birthday Star Wars!

Walking in the rain so often recently I suppose it was inevitable that I'd eventually catch a cold, and so I have. Nevertheless, that shouldn't stop me from commemorating this most special of days (following immediately after by taking NyQuil and going right to sleep...hopefully).

Today we celebrate the 40th Anniversary of the release of Star Wars, the first film in the blockbuster franchise known today as Episode IV: A New Hope.

Here is my opening day Star Wars story...

...or...ya'know, 40 years ago in Brooklyn, New York...

On Tuesday, May 24th, 1977, at the age of 8, I went with my Mom, and younger sister into Blondie's, a Luncheonette in Brooklyn not far from our apartment building. I saw on the racks of magazines a comic book from Marvel called 'Star Wars'.

My Mom bought it for me, and later that day she surprised me by telling me that Star Wars was a new motion picture coming out the next day, and that we (my immediate family) were all going to go see it.

On May 25th my father drove us to the Nostrand Theater, the movie theater managed by my grandfather, whom we called 'Pop'. The lot of us consisted of my Mom, my Dad, my sister (only three at the time), my Grandma, and myself. 

The lights dimmed. The film began. The music swelled. My mind was blown.

After the movie my father (a police officer) went off to work. My mother, grandmother, and sister were going clothing, and household shopping and planned to take me along.

"Can I stay at the theater today and help Pop?" I asked (OK pleaded). 

There was some mild protesting - Pop would be too busy to watch me, and I was only 8. 

"Oh let the kid stay," Pop replied, "he can sweep up, help the ushers, and even help out at the concession stand."

Honestly, I loved doing that. Whenever my grandparents babysat I always hoped I would get dropped off at whichever theater Pop was managing so I could pretend I worked there.

My Mom said it was OK, and I immediately went to help clean up the theater before the next showing. After sweeping up, I assisted people to their seats (remember when ushers did that?). Afterwards, I asked the lady at the concession stand (who knew who I was) if I could have some popcorn, and she gladly gave me a medium. I thanked her, and headed right back in the theater.

I watched the film again. I repeated this entire process three more times. Yep, you read that correctly. I saw Star Wars five times on its opening day. For free.

One of my favorite memories, and the start of a long standing love affair with that galaxy long ago, and far, far away. 

Happy Birthday Star Wars!!!

May The Force Be With You All!

Barking Alien

Monday, May 22, 2017

Space Is The Place

It seems like the idea of a television show featuring a starship exploring outer space and battling evil is a fairly popular concept. Why, just last week there were two trailers for two different programs with this very same idea.

The first trailer was for the FOX Television Science Fiction Comedy-Drama The Orville. I liked that a lot. It really had that classic Star Trek feel, and a look that merged Star Trek: The Next Generation, and Galaxy Quest. I think The Orville has a lot of potential.

Now the second trailer is for a new series that should be familiar to many of you...

Star Trek: Discovery is the newest television series - the sixth - in the long standing Science Fiction franchise that has been my favorite example of Silver Age Space Opera since I was a wee lad. Anyone who knows me, or who visits this blog knows how much I adore Star Trek. That said...

Star Trek: Discovery looks good. I mean, its production values are top notch, and it has some really good actors attached to it. The camera work is more 'movie cinematic' than is typical of modern television, and lens flares aside it has great lighting. Very atmospheric. 

Sadly, if the best things I can say about an upcoming Star Trek project are that is has good camera angles and decent lighting, that's kind of unfortunate. Star Trek: Discovery didn't grab me. It didn't excite, or interest me overly much. 

The setting is supposed to be 10 years prior to Kirk, Spock, and the Constitution Class Enterprise, but it definitely doesn't look it. The starship exteriors, interiors, and pretty much everything looked too advanced. Isn't Captain Pike out there somewhere, with Spock as his Science Officer and 'Number One' as his First Officer? Isn't the Enterprise the state-of-the-art vessel of the time period? What the heck?

Also, are those Klingons? They are? What the heck? Why change their appearance yet again, and have it look so...not like Klingons. What is the purpose? Does CBS not understand that Star Trek is something beloved, and familiar to a lot of people?

The main issue however is that it didn't look special outside of the cinematic way it was presented. The uniforms*, the aliens, everything just looked generic. It could be any Sci-Fi universe if it wasn't for the title, and the arrowhead emblems (which shouldn't be there at this point in Star Trek's fictional history).

"Now hold on Adam", you might be saying, "Orville looks that way too."

True, but I would remind you Orville is a parody. Orville is trying to emulate Star Trek. At the same time it looks more like Star Trek than ST:D does (what an unfortunate abbreviation). Also, the more I look at The Orville the more I see the originality and attention to detail in it. For example, note that the uniforms feature four different division colors, and their insignia badges have different designs. 

I am griping a bit, but understand it's only because I love Star Trek so much. I think it deserves to look and feel better than a parody of itself. While I am happy, and thankful that we are getting more Star Trek on TV, we the fans have to pay for the show. If you want to be able to watch the first season of Discovery, you'll have to get CBS's All Access network. That doesn't feel right. It seems almost 'Anti-Federation'. 

In conclusion, my fingers are crossed that it will be good, but I am not holding my breath. I hope to be pleasantly surprised. Star Trek: Discovery's trailer doesn't have me hyped to run a Star Trek game though. The Orville's trailer on the other hand does, parody, or not.

Barking Alien

*The uniforms...I really don't like them. I am not sure why, but I am not into them at all. 

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Slippin', Slippin', Slippin' Into The Future

Yesterday FOX Television released a trailer for a new Science Fiction Comedy-Drama created by, and starring Seth MacFarlane. It's called The Orville, named for the Planetary Union exploratory starship whose crew is the focus of the series.

Take a look.

Is it wrong that I'm already working out the game mechanics and adventure ideas for an 'Orville' campaign? 

No. No it is not. Before I get into that...

I'm pretty impressed with what I am seeing. Although I'm not a huge fan of MacFarlane's, I enjoyed the early seasons of Family Guy, and American Dad, and I found the humor in the trailer to work for him - and for me - even if it isn't lose-your-breath hilarious.

What was far more intriguing was the universe they are putting together - a definite parody/homage to Star Trek, but getting right a lot of the Space Opera tropes the recent efforts have gotten wrong.

This looks fun, features neat looking tech, cool spaceships, and interesting, genre appropriate aliens (including a gelatinous crewmember, and a weird, water dwelling, Muppet snake-worm-thing - haven't seen that in Star Trek). I like that the female alien security chief has seriously formidable super strength, and that the big alien Bortus is shown in command of the ship during a space battle at some point. Add in a robot crewmember who looks classic 60s-70s Sci-Fi robotic, and I'm totally sold.

Now back to gaming it...

My very first thoughts after seeing the trailer were, 'How best could I run this as a game?', and 'What system says, 'The Orville'?'.

Obviously I could simply adapt an existing game such as Starships & Spacemen (which this show basically is), the recently released Retrostar (that'd be neat), or even my old homebrew Galaxy Quest RPG.

At the same time, I'm getting a vibe off the show that a better approach might be a hybrid. It seems like it has funny characters, but a fairly serious premise. I am looking at something crunchier, and more serious than my Galaxy Quest rules, but at the same time lighter, and more - I don't know, 'wacky' maybe - than Starships & Spacemen. 

I have some ideas rolling around in my head already. I'll develop them a little further, and see where it takes me. If anything pans out, I'll share them with you guys. If you have any ideas, please pass them on to me.

Looking forward to the adventures of the USS Orville, and whatever they inspire.

Barking Alien

Monday, May 15, 2017


It's been a while since I was really excited about a published RPG.

I've looked forward to things that were lackluster upon release, just weren't what I thought they'd be, or that never ended up coming out at all. As noted on the blog several times, especially here, I not only have enough games in my collection to last me a lifetime, I also tend to go back to the same five, or six games again and again and don't need new ones to do what I like to do.

At the same time, I like trying new games. That's a thing with me, and it always has been. I like discovering a new approach to the craft, or being inspired by a new take on things. 

Periodically I will hear about a new game coming out, get interested, do some research, and more often than not take a look at a friends copy. What I mean is, my excitement wanes and I don't feel driven to buy it when it comes out. Sometimes I do, but it is very rare these days.

However...I just found one that I really like. Maybe even love. I'm talking about...

Inspired by the art book of the same name by Swedish artist Simon Stalenhag, Tales from the Loop is an RPG set in an alternate history 1980s.

In addition to catching the thrilling adventures of Knight Rider, and the A-Team on television, listening to the music of Bonnie Tyler and Culture Club, and going to the movies to see The Breakfast Club, or Indiana Jones and The Temple of Doom, you can watch industrial robots, flying cargo haulers, and ominous towers pass by as you bike home with your friends.

The premise is that The Loop, a massive particle accelerator first built in the 1950s, and active recently has caused weird machines and strange occurrences to happen around your otherwise normal suburban home town. You play kids, between 10 and 15, who investigate the odd goings on and try to unravel the mysteries behind them. 

The setting that comes with the game postulates the creation of one such Loop on islands just offshore of Stockholm, Sweden, and another not far from Boulder City, Colorado and the Hoover Dam in the US.

The feeling evoked by the game's concepts are reminiscent of films like E.T., The Goonies, Flight of the Navigator, Back to the Future, and the recent Netflix phenomenon Stranger Things. 

Perhaps it should be...

I think the game is brilliant, with an easy to understand and play set of rules, and an intriguing premise. I have a plethora of ideas for running it, but I would definitely change some things.

I am not a fan of the alternate history where advanced technology openly exists along side analog devices like the walkman, and the Sega Master System. That just doesn't make a lot of sense, and more importantly it doesn't fit the genre.

In all the cases I mentioned above - The Goonies, Stranger Things, etc. - the world is normal, without any fantastical elements prior to the situation that arises. It is the very fact that the world perceived by the characters and the audience matches the real world that makes the events that take place in the story so extraordinary.

I would set my game(s) in a world with the only amazing thing being that some government, or independent scientific research foundation/corporation has built a super collider near the PCs' home town. After the particle collider is tested, strange events start happening, and fantastic elements are introduced to the world. Also, when I say the world, I am really talking about the immediate vicinity of the Loop, and the PC's town. 

I am also thinking of moving the central location to somewhere in the North Eastern United States. Why? Well, simply put, I know it better. Stalenhag obviously based his book on the suburban region of Sweden where he grew up. I would probably go with the suburban/rural areas of Upstate New York where my father lived during the 80s. The low mountains, the large number of rivers, and streams, area weather, the small town feel coupled with isolation in the winter - all these components are familiar to me and would be easier to convey to players than Sweden or Nevada, which are places I've never been, or haven't spent much times in [respectively].

Anyone else check this game out yet? Curious to hear what others think of it. 

Hopefully more to come on this...

Barking Alien