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,

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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...

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...


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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? Well...it'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.

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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.


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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!

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