Posted in: Character Creation Challenge, Dungeons and Dragons, Role Playing Games, Star Trek, Star Wars, Website

Feedback on catalogs and ships

So I’ve been getting feedback from people who have visited my blog. Thank you. This tells me that others are reading some of the stuff I’ve been posting here. I had several people send me thank you notes for putting together the Character Creation Challenge. I’ve noticed that a few new challenges have started in April displaying the works of different homebrew stats. Unfortunately my April was booked up with some personal issues that prevented me from trying to participate. However seeing creativity inspires creativity so keep it up.

Shane Bradley asked about the ships in my Master Book that I talked about in Homebrewed Stats for Starships Part II. I am still planning to scan the other starships in there that I made when I put the book together back in the 90’s. At this time I just plan to make them into PDFs from the original printouts. Once that is done, then I may consider other tweaking of them. As an example, Shane sent me one of the ships I had presented in Excel format. I’ve linked it here. Thanks Shane.

Mark from from the Xon Gaming website (now hosted by a friend, click on “resources” link at the top) was impressed with the FASA catalogs that I had posted previously. He sent me a better scan of the 1983-2 catalog. It’s a direct scan, not pictures of the pages so it may be easier to read.

This next catalog is the FASA 1986 catalog that someone scanned and sent to me. It is only showing the Star Trek material in the book. However I don’t recall who sent it to me. I’ve looked back through all of my emails and message board posts and I can’t find the person who sent this to me. So sorry, buzz me again and I’ll credit you in a future feedback post. Here is the catalog to share.

Another reader sent me some Star Wars SAGA RPG books that he didn’t want on his shelves any more. This will give me a chance to review the system and see how it differs from the earlier D20 Star Wars books.

I am continuing to search through my past collections for items to post. I was also reading the Dungeons and Dragons Rules Cyclopedia and it inspired me for a possible homebrew to write up.

Thanks for the feedback. Keep it coming.

Posted in: Comic Books, Cosplay, Dungeons and Dragons, Fan Club, Movies, Rant, Role Playing Games, Science Fiction, Sports, Star Trek, Star Wars, Stargate

A rant on True Fans and Gatekeeping

So I got involved in a discussion on a Stargate fandom page online. The topic was the much debated Stargate Universe series. Some people stated that they liked it, others (including myself) stated that we didn’t like it. The conversation was going pretty well until someone posted the following “You are not a true fan of Stargate unless you’ve watched all of Stargate Universe.” Now this was a statement that I really had to respond to as I’ve heard this “True Fan” comment before and it bugs me a lot. Rant Mode On: I think this meme said it best.

True fan meme

As most of you know (or have probably guessed), I’m a fan of a large number of science fiction and fantasy franchises. And there are some shows that I have not found entertaining. I could never get into the Buffy and Angel series no matter how hard I tried. It seemed like every time I sat down to give The X-Files a chance while it was first airing, it turned out to be the episode of the season with the most blood. There are other series, movies, comics and books that I just couldn’t get into. Some I will talk about in future blog posts.

Even in my favorite franchises, there are stinkers. I’ve only seen the last episode of Star Trek: Enterprise once. And I only plan to watch it once again (to mine it for quotes and trivia questions) before I avoid it at all costs afterwards. If someone would have had the misfortune of having that episode be their first introduction to the Star Trek universe, I could understand why they may not like Enterprise or even Star Trek itself. They get to decide what they are fans of, not me nor anyone else.

Using the term “True Fan” is a form of Gatekeeping. Gatekeeping, in the fandom/hobby sense, is allowing only those the “true fans” deem worthy to join them in the fandom. They may use this to keep fans of a certain series in a franchise out of their club/social media group/etc. (i.e. “You can’t be a true Star Trek fan if you like Star Trek: Discovery), or they may use this to keep certain players out of their games (i.e. “You can’t play in our Battletech game with papers figures, you have to only play with painted figs). A note on this last one. A sanctioned tournament for a miniature or card game requiring certain items to use in the tournament is a method of marketing and sales, not gatekeeping. And one I see in cosplay groups is, your cosplay isn’t worthy of inclusion. Really? With how much time, energy and effort goes into cosplay you are going to get upset because it’s not “screen accurate”? Someone who puts their heart into their fandom doesn’t deserve to get it crushed.

Gatekeeping by “true fans” makes the base of participants smaller and could kill our fandoms. You never know what was someone’s introduction to the fandom or hobby. While I was manning the USS Ticonderoga recruiting booth during the opening weekend of Star Trek: Into Darkness, a new fan came up to me and stated that the previous Star Trek film had inspired him so much that he went and watched all of the original Star Trek television series. He was now a fan of the franchise itself and was checking out the other shows. Had he been talking to a “true fan”, he could have been discouraged by the belittlement and not checked out the rest of the universe that awaited him.

It’s not just geeky movies and hobbies that his plagued by this. I’ve seen this same “true fan” mentality in sports fandom. “You can’t be a true fan of the (insert team name here) unless you can name a player from their 2009 championship run.” As our Dwight meme says above: “False!”

Now when someone asks a question like “Is the new Superman & Lois television series any good?” I usually respond somewhere along the line of “I’ve enjoyed it.” If I found that I haven’t been a fan of a series, I state that it is something I haven’t enjoyed. If someone says they enjoyed a series that I have not, then I’m glad. Not everyone has to enjoy what I enjoy. I request the same respect in return. The “I’ve enjoyed it” answer is also how I avoid the bait posts where someone is trying to start an opportunity to troll fans of a series.

So to recap, if you were to say to me “I’ve only seen a handful of episodes of the anime Cowboy Bebop and enjoyed it, am I a fan?” my answer would be yes. If you asked if you wanted to cosplay as a gender-bended Robin Hood and his band of thieves in the Sherwood Forest, would I consider you a fan? My answer would still be yes. “I really like Real Salt Lake because they are a local team.” I’d say welcome to the fandom. Would I shun you if you only wanted to play Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition? No, I would not and I even might ask if there is an opening in your game. You get to decide if you are a fan of something, not these “true fans.” Enjoy what you want to enjoy and don’t let anyone tear you down for it.

Now to get back to the Stargate Universe discussion. I really enjoyed the original Stargate movie ever since I first saw it on opening weekend. It took me a while to get a chance to sit down and watch Stargate SG-1 and Stargate Atlantis, but I enjoyed them both to the point where I call myself a fan. Because I had enjoyed both of these series so much, I took the opportunity to get season one, disk one DVD of Stargate Universe from Netflix (this should tell you how long ago this was) and my wife and I watched the first five episodes. There was one good episode in that first set (it was about time travel). I liked the nerdy kid who’s name I can’t remember. I really wanted to follow Samantha Carter in command of the USS Hamond and see her adventures. And I thought the concept of being trapped on a living spaceship not under your control sounded interesting. But I found the writing in SGU horrendous. The acting really wasn’t up to snuff despite some good names on the acting list. The use of the tech to switch bodies to go back to Earth and spy on your ex-wife was dumb. It was dark, dreary and depressing and was practically a soap opera. Talking into the floating camera things was too much like how reality TV show contestants would react to a camera between dramatic takes (a major turn off). And the scene where some woman is talking to her floating camera making a message for her husband, and then forgets to turn it off while she cheats on him with another member of the crew really made me roll my eyes. I think I realized this show wasn’t for me when the lead scientist and the lead military guy was fighting in the fifth episode and I turned to my wife and said “I don’t even care who wins this fight.”

Now if you are a fan of Stargate Universe. Good for you, I’m glad you enjoyed it. Some of the SGU fans in the discussion stated that it got better in season two and encouraged me to sit down and give the series another try. I could see myself doing this once I’ve gotten all of my other catch-up and new watching completed. I’m really enjoying Superman & Lois and I watch it every week. WandaVision was another series I had to keep up on. I need to finish my first watch through of Farscape (yea I missed it when it first aired) and someday I’ll watch all of the episodes of Gene Roddenberry’s Andromeda. There are a ton of shows in my streaming lists and interests that I want to watch. And that doesn’t even count the number of books and comics I want to read or games I want to play. Bottom line is that SGU is really down on the priority list. So yes I’d give it another try if my list has been completed, but that will not be for a very very long time.

I think I’ve said enough to end this rant. If you are still reading, thank you. Just remember, you decide what you are a fan of, not other people and not those who gatekeep with the term “true fans”.

Tally Ho

Posted in: Comic Books, Science Fiction, Star Trek, Star Wars

The Good, The Bad and The Internet

Clickbait vs Easter Eggs

So there have been two trends that I’ve noticed on the internet. Yea, these may have been around for a while but I want to talk about them for a second. The evil of click-bait sites and videos and the good of easter egg and behind the scenes videos.

There have been a lot of sites and videos with “Trusted Sources” spreading rumors about some of our favorite franchises and shows. What bugs me is the way they try to sell themselves. Usually with a headline that screams click-bait. These type of sensationalized headlines are a form of social engineering. They want you to react to the video/article and the only way you can do that is by clicking on the link to their site. “Has {insert showrunner name here} been fired at {studio name here}?”, “{Famous person} ruined our favorite franchise, here is the proof.” or “{Famous person} reacts to my video/post/website/outlandish claim.” See how they can practically recycle the headline just by switching out a few details and boom, another click-bait headline. Some of these videos and sites can get to be quite toxic.

Another trend has not been quite as negative, but still very click-baitish. Streaming services have been a gold mine for fans of various franchises. The studios are trying to attract subscribers by taking chances on shows that may not make it onto the over-the-air or cable channels. This has brought us more shows in the Star Trek (I’m looking forward to the Pike series, Strange New Worlds) and Star Wars universe (love The Mandalorian). There is an upcoming series for Battlestar Galactica and it looks like I’m finally going to be able to see Moon Knight on the screen. While this is good, it also gives rise to rumor websites with headlines like “{Character name} series confirmed.” At the rate they are pumping out these “articles” you would think that we would soon see a series focused on Captain John Harriman (would the XO be Commander Ferris Bueller?) for Paramount+ and Disney+ releasing The Star Wars Muppets (actually I’d watch a SW Muppet series, but don’t quote me as a source). These rumors are not as outlandish as the “{show name} canceled immediately due to plummeting ratings.” headlines and I think that’s what makes it a little bit dangerous. Some actors want to return to the roles that made them famous. Others never want to return to the franchises if they don’t have to. But there is a little bit of a toe-hold that these “news sites” to say that a new series is coming soon and you better read about it here. When you listen to these sites, they use the weasel words that you commonly see on those Ancient Alien shows. “Could this be true? It’s possible.” Ugh that bugs me more than it should.

Why are these sites and videos posting these dubious claims? In one word, money. The more clicks a site/video has, the more eyeballs see them. The more eyeballs they get, the more they can sell themselves to advertisers. Technically nothing is stopping them from being the Weekly World News of the internet. So like spam and robo-calls, they continue to be a scourge on the internet.

What can you do about them? Well learn to spot click-bait headlines. If it sounds like it was posted to get an emotion, be suspicious. Look at the source. Most social media posts will give you the domain the article/video is coming from. If it’s not from a source with a good history (for most entertainment news that’s usually Variety, Deadline, Entertainment Weekly, one of the mainstream media companies, etc.) or from the studio itself, then be suspicious. However be careful, there are still rumor news sources that are on TV or in print. If you are suspicious about a headline, then remember that Google is your friend. If a rumor is close to being true, multiple sites will post about it. With the rumor websites there may only be one or two sites posting about the topic. If your Spidey-Senses are going off, don’t click on the link or video. By clicking on them, you are giving them what they really want.

Now, in my humble opinion, there is a really good trend going on right now with some online videos. The “Easter Egg” videos that point out some of the things in the background. Some are very spotable, some are very hidden (hence the name Easter Eggs). There are some video makers that will freeze-frame certain scenes and translate from the alien languages (if translations exists) to dig up hidden details. I am a big fan of Star Trek and Star Wars so I’ve noticed a lot of these Easter Eggs in Picard, Discovery, Lower Decks and The Mandalorian. So for me the fun was seeing if I had missed anything and if I had spotted stuff the video makers themselves had missed.

Another good thing about these videos are for the series I’ve been enjoying, but I don’t know much about the source material. The latest example has been WandaVision. While I know Marvel’s Spiderman, Captain America, Iron Man, other-mainstreams, etc. I only know very little of the other superheroes that Marvel has in their catalog. I’m more of a DC man myself, but I don’t turn my nose up at the Marvel non-mutant titles (don’t ask me about the mutants now, that will be saved for another blog post). After encouragement from friends, I checked out WandaVision. I found that I enjoyed the writing, the acting and the special effects. But I felt like I was missing something that came from a deep source. So I turned to the same Easter Egg video makers that I had enjoyed before and they expanded my understanding of the WandaVision storyline. In the last episode of WandaVision there was a “big reveal” from a bad guy (no spoilers so don’t worry). I felt that this reveal wouldn’t have made a big impact if I hadn’t watched the Easter Egg videos telling me who these characters were. Thus I was “in on the story” when it happened.

While I’m encouraging you to avoid the click-bait sites, I would also encourage you to check out the effort that goes into the Easter Egg videos. Let me know what you think of these videos that have been released.

Tally Ho

Clickbait
Posted in: Character Creation Challenge, Role Playing Games, Science Fiction, Star Wars

Character Creation Challenge Day 27: Star Wars Roleplaying Game

Character Creation Challenge Day 27

While I’ve had lots of experience with the D6 Star Wars RPG by West End Games, I have never played the D20 Star Wars RPG by Wizards of the Coast. I’ve been able to collect a few of the books. Apparently there is a revised edition and a saga edition with smaller books. But I’m not certain how they all go together. But being a Star Wars fan I knew I had to make at least one character in this system for the Character Creation Challenge.

I will be using the Revised Core Rulebook that was published in 2002. I’m thinking a Fringer that is a member of the Rodian race named Navik. He was kicked out of his village by a rival who’s father was on the village council. Navik wandered the lands until he decided that he wanted to leave his homeworld, probably forever. After taking a few odd jobs he ended up helping some rebels. Feeling like he was wanted for once, he has joined the cause for freedom in the galaxy.

With this being one of the many D20 variants I was curious on how the attribute generation was set up. They had the 4d6 random generation rule, the planned generation with base attributes and spending points to obtain the score you wanted or just a standard score package. The last one didn’t sound very fun, I’ve done the second before so I rolled. I just feel better rolling for the character. After adding racial adjustments Navik had the following stats. STR: 15, DEX: 16, CON: 14, INT: 13, WIS: 14 and CHA: 8.

Interesting, this game calls it Vitality Points instead of Hit Points and your CON score is your Wound Points. There are also Force Points (even a non-Jedi starts out with 1 FP). A Reputation score is also a part of the character.

Not a lot of basic equipment in the core rulebook I wonder if one of the supplements had a lot more equipment to choose from. But I selected what I thought a wandering Fringer would have and called it good. Here is the character sheet.

Navik character sheet
Navik character sheet

Afterthoughts:

I was a little surprised that Bounty Hunter wasn’t one of the classes in the core rulebook. With how popular the Mandalorians are I thought for sure that they would be in there. I was thinking about making a Bounty Hunter after watching The Mandalorian series.

This character sheet uses really small fonts. I understand trying to get as much as you can on the page, but I probably wouldn’t use this character sheet in a campaign. I’d probably put something together in Excel.

Being familiar with the D20 system I could see myself easily playing this system. However if given a choice I’d play the D6 version first probably due to the nostalgia factor.

Additional Notes:

I’m having a lot of fun coming up with these characters. Some I had a general idea what I wanted to do before I started. Others like this one I made up on the spot. It’s interesting to see where inspiration strikes and where it strikes from.

Coming Up Next:

Apes Victorious

Posted in: Character Creation Challenge, Role Playing Games, Star Wars

Character Creation Challenge Day 14: Star Wars

Character Creation Challenge Day 14

First there was Dungeons and Dragons, then there was the Star Trek Role Playing Game by FASA. The next big game that influenced my gaming experiences was Star Wars The Roleplaying Game by West End Games. This game was quick and easy to learn and there were a bunch of friends that wanted to play it. I developed a lot of good memories from the different sessions. One night had twenty players participating (probably the largest game I had ever been in). In another game we all discovered the Con (not Constitution, con as in con-job) skill which allowed you to bluff your way out of a tricky situation. I still giggle when I think about the “Fresh Fruit Express”. One player learned that a certain dance turned out to be a mating proposal dance to a Wookie (yikes). I even moved out of town for nine months while on a job and when I returned, the game was still going on. While I was gone I had found one of those old toy Star Wars blasters at a thrift store. I brought it to the game and kept it hidden until we had a combat situation in the game. As luck would have it, we didn’t encounter any Stormtroopers until the very end of the game allowing me to pull out my surprise. So when I decided to take up the Character Creation Challenge, I knew that this game had to be one of my entries.

One final note, when I was pulling books out of boxes and I came across this set, I also found a bunch of computer printed notes that included various prices and availability. I don’t recall if I had pulled them from various sources (I have a lot of books for this game) or if I had homebrewed them. I know that for a local gaming fanzine I had written an article talking about some of the skills seen in supplements but were not in the primary book itself. I know I still have the article, I’ll have to see if I can scan it and post it online sometime soon.

I loved the X-Wing pilots in the original Star Wars trilogy. So I wanted to create a character that was a Rebel pilot. In the Star Wars game you created a character by finding a template close to the type of character you wanted to play (Smuggler, Diplomat, Pilot, etc.) and copy down the template provided. You then have extra options to customize your template to make a character your own by adding 7D to a skill. I selected the appropriate skills that I thought a hot-shot pilot would need. When you roll a skill in a test, you roll the number of dice you have listed for that skill and add any pips (+1 or +2) to get your final result. Even though I wasn’t a force user, I still had one force point.

The template had the character’s starting equipment which I wrote down. I had the credits to buy more equipment (and I probably would just before a game) but in the core rulebook the character creation was quick and simple. It takes me a while to create the characters for these challenges because I’m typing in this blog entry, reading the rules so I can create the character by RAW, and thinking of the details. I was done with this character within minutes. I think this was a decision by the designers to get the players quickly into a session at the start of campaign. The additional books gave players additional options to create a variety of other characters. Here is the character sheet.

Bry Traan character sheet

Afterthoughts:

Now that I think about it, this game may be what set me on the course for liking various quotes. I remember being amazed that characters could develop a bit of personality by having a quote on the character sheet. Every time a new sourcebook for the game could come out, I remember looking for the character quotes.

I’ve read the D6 rulebooks (the game that was released after the Star Wars license was no longer held by WEG) and I found those rule improvements very well thought out. While I never had any complaints about the original game, there is always room for improvement. I know that fans still love this game. There was an anniversary edition released a year or two ago. Fans are also making homebrewed supplements for this game. I recall seeing a fan-made sourcebook for the TV series Star Wars Rebels. I wouldn’t be surprised if there is a fan-made release for The Mandalorian soon.

Additional Notes:

I’ve been having some interesting conversations with other participants of the Character Creation Challenge. I’m also learning about quite a few other games that are out there. Some of the participants are using this challenge to promote games that they have worked on. I’ve been impressed with the amount of creativity that is out there.

Coming Up Next:

The EverQuest RPG

Posted in: Conventions, Star Wars

Farewell David Prowse

David Prowse was an English actor who recently passed away at the age of 85. According to his daughter, he passed away due to complications to Covid-19. As fellow geeks, you probably know David Prowse from his most famous role as the actor in the Darth Vader suit from the first three movies. He was also seen in The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy (the BBC TV mini-series), Space: 1999, The Benny Hill Show, Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell (as The Monster), The Tomorrow People, A Clockwork Orange, The Horror of Frankenstein (again as The Monster), The Saint (TV series), the 60’s Casino Royale movie and Doctor Who.

In 2007, David Prowse was one of the guests at a local fan-run Science Fiction convention that I chaired. I cannot tell you how much of a gentleman he was. Even when he was in pain (which he suffered from a lot) he was always gracious to the people around him. He appreciated his fans who came a long way to see him and made the meeting a memorable one. He posed with my daughter and myself for a photo just before getting ready to return to England. Farewell good sir, you’ve earned your rest.