The Rare Orgy …

November 10, 2019

… of Blood.

I played V:TES yesterday.  Yup, this has risen to the level of notable gaming activities.

I don’t recall playing since Origins.  Almost five months.  I thought I played like someone who has played for 20+ years rather than someone who hasn’t played in five months.

Game 1 – The Bestest Game

Mark (Hell-for-Leather/Spoils of War) -> Ian (Budapest Breath) -> Alex (borrowed Sea Pirates Redux) -> Sean (Anargh)

Alex hated playing my deck.  Ah, just like old times.  He pretty much gave up after a certain point even though Carlton got Mr. Winthrop, which mattered.  Sean gained control with no predator.  Qawiyya got a late game Matasuntha boost.

Mark’s Jacko kept fighting Agi for some reason.  Agi was Famed, then not Famed later due to a contest.  Agi was Havened multiple times.  Agi never went to torpor.  Jacko went multiple times as I had to decide which prevent cards to use when I Breath of the Dragoned him.  When Mark finally had an Immortal Grapple in hand, he ousted me with Hell-for-Leather due to my not ousting Alex when he was low and I had my one Walk of Caine in hand.

But, this game was fun for me.  My deck did exactly what it was supposed to do:  do absolutely nothing to defend its pool.  That and kept winning fights as long as my minions had Fortitude up until the last round when I finally started choking on masters.

I kept wanting to play Achilles Heel, even was going to play it crosstable, but I was too often too busy as Mark kept rushing me.

The signature play of the day for me was Mark getting Carlton in play, Carlton pesting me some, Agi trying to burn Haven Uncovered, Carlton blocking, playing Starvation of Marena to ensure Carlton (with one blood) was going to explode, and reveling in an Orgy of Blood.  Admittedly, that only gained one blood for Dorka and Viri was full (Zizi might have also been in play and full) in addition to Agi getting some blood back.

This is why I still want to play V:TES.  Not to watch Grinder v Girls v Anson Guns v Legionnaires or whatever passes for a bunch of tournament play.  Orgies are Potage Saint-Germain for the soul.

Game 2 – The Boringest Game

Alex (!Malks fight sometimes) -> Sean (Ondine Sinclair Hell-for-Leather) -> David (Etrius Bleeds) -> Mark (Eze & Friends) -> Ian (!Gangrel w/ Thaum)

While !Gangrel with Thaum is Tier 0 [VPs] ish, I didn’t have a lot to do in this game as Mark called Ancient Influence before I had out a vampire and David didn’t have to work too hard to get me after Etrius eviscerated Mark.  David got 3 VPs, then the game continued for a while.

Admittedly, I got ousted by Crocodile’s Tongue, which is another reason to play V:TES, even though one stealth would have done it just as easily.

Game 3 – The Bleediest Game

Sean (Palla Grande/Undue Influence) -> Ian (Baali of the Name 1.1) -> David (Thing) -> Mark (Fat Santa)

Mark’s game was actually rather rough.  Serenna got eaten and Anarch Convert got Bloodhunted by a Gangrel.  Gangrel saw play.  Sean bled me a bunch of times.  I bled David for a lot.

I had no !Salubri, decrypting multiple times and Effectively Managementing.  One less decrypt and I get at least one VP.  So, Hesha Legally Manipulated.  Giotto discarded what wasn’t worth playing and mostly what wasn’t bleed as he is wont to do and I couldn’t unlock him on the turn I needed a Sense the Sin bleed due to an Anarch Revolt nobody got rid of (I was hoping Mark would get rid of it through ousting Sean, as he got close).

Why do I have this ancient deck built and have had it built for a year or whatever?

Baali of the Name 1.1 is why I play V:TES.  It’s just a weirdly functional deck when it has no reason to be.  It’s weirdly functional when some of the cards in it would never see play anymore due to improved and changed card pool.  It’s even kind of fun to just keep discarding Blessing of the Name while bleeding for 3-5.

Am I now so detorpored out that I’m going to rally the South Bay and see us play some?  No.  I’m old and busy.

I just enjoy playing the game.  Budapest Circle was the first deck I’ve built in ages and does something different from other decks I’ve built.  That’s orgiastic.

Gaki & … Other Gaki

October 31, 2019

Still All Hallow’s Eve here.  I’m not a timing expert with seasonal posts all ready to spew in a carefully orchestrated agenda of spewiness.

What was coincidental was Andy asking about how I’d approach starting in on Fantasy Townies while I was thinking that Gaki Mura’s worldbuilding similarity would be more productive, seeing as I’ve already done work on GM.

Gaki.  Like ghosts.  Like ghouls.  Like vampires.  *points fingers in Happy Days style gesture*

If nothing else, if you are interested in campaign documentation or RPG worldbuilding or L5R worldbuilding, at least skip down to the end where the Welcome section is and read our campaign introduction document/manifesto.

Gaki Mura had two campaign hooks.  The Gaki hook.  And, the Mura hook.

First hook was to play L5R with a permanent, PC-known portal to another spirit realm to emphasize the supernatural elements of Rokugan and the cosmology as I’m far more interested in Asian supernatural than I am in samurai or politics or blackmail.

Second hook was player worldbuilding.  L5R has the ability to handle lots of stuff, far more than what is usually considered when thinking magical samurai in fantasy pseudo-Japan or looking at the CCG/LCG.  For instance, you can, craze as it sounds, even play something besides a samurai.  I’m sure there are a few mechanics, even, that could be dug up if you looked hard enough [*cough* every single book with mechanics *hack* *hack*].  What led me to the idea of the players helping build the base town was, I’m sure, my getting tired of campaigns that dealt overly much with day to day minutia of things other players didn’t give a crap about.

Each session of Gaki Mura was a month in world time.  Each session had a projects phase, so that, you too, could be a fantasy project manager, as all gamers are screaming to be.

I’m going to get off track and talk about the campaign more than about how I prepared for the campaign, but one thing that made this campaign somewhat different was that I wasn’t the only one involved with vision as to what the campaign was about.  I think that was a good thing.  I spend a lot of time in my own head.


One of the first things I did in preparation was research gaki.  L5R books/supplements from various editions, L5R wiki, D&D gaki, internet miscellaneous.  As the amount of info, especially monster descriptions and stats, was limited, I was looking for how to provide variety both mechanically and thematically with what was the primary villain.

I became interested in the variety of gaki and the potential for giving different sorts of (mostly combat) challenges. Important to understanding gaki was getting physical descriptions that distinguished them.  As a GM, I’m much more into how monsters look than I ever have been as a player.  Internet research of images is something I actually do quite often, even for things like mountain valleys, though I’ve yet to have players get excited by my images (I did get a reaction when I noted that an image of Haifa Wehbe was my representation of a girl next door NPC, but excitement wasn’t it).

On the other hand, gaki, gaki, and more gaki would bore everybody, so the campaign pretty quickly introduced a completely different element.

A neither Gaki nor Mura element.  Players created Unicorn PCs that had a concurrent storyline of trying to return to Rokugan as quickly as possible and the portal to Gaki-do from the other side being the fastest way to get home.  What had both good and bad points was that players seemed to enjoy more the travel odyssey of the Unicorn versus squabbling in Gaki Mura.

The Unicorn story had its own spiritual elements, where I drew on some other sources, including … think you can guess?

I’m not sure any of my players picked up on it, though one of them might have and I forgot.

One of the inspirations for Unicorn activity was Barsoom.

I had a Spanish NPC.  And, it worked.  Some of the craziness that had little to do with Gaki Mura itself actually worked.

But, then, after the portal to Gaki-do closed, not a lot did work.  Even before, players got confused wandering around in the woods due to multiple spirit creatures.  It was logical to me and created more variety if spirits from realms other than Gaki-do found themselves in the hood.  It took a long time for the players to figure out what was going on with the animal spirits.


The oldest saved file I have in my Gaki Mura general folder on this laptop is Project Plan – Medium Temple.  It’s actually just a template no different from my Project Plan file.  Point being that once the idea of players doing projects to worldbuild was decided, creating a minimal-effort tool was put together.

When I picture campaign worlds, I visualize characters (which are probably going to be NPCs even if I visualize what PCs would look like if I were creating the PCs) and what their environs look like.  I think not of villains at first or challenges, normally, but what PCs are doing.  As “doing” to me means there are other people [no, I don’t *just* think of people doing people], this naturally leads to starting in on NPCs.

I write up one or more NPC backgrounds and/or character sheets pretty quickly.  For my Legend of the Burning Sands campaign, it was far more about backgrounds and relationships to other characters rather than stat sheets.  With Gaki Mura, I fell into my usual trap of thinking up too many NPCs.  All of the research shugenja naturally assigned to the posting started getting clans, families, names, looks, abilities/foci.

I had a thought for another blog post, but I don’t know if I’ll ever write it.  Anyway, I often am more interested in my NPCs’ stories than PCs’ stories as I don’t know what the PCs’ stories are, while I obviously have complete control over the NPCs’ world when not around the PCs.  A reason I have a tendency to proliferate NPCs is because they are interacting with each other (in my mind) and they need more and more things to interact with.  I also probably give up too quickly on any given NPC when the PCs don’t immediately take interest.  More dimensions to one idea rather than numerous ideas could be better, assuming the NPC isn’t just terrible.  Given that my interests often differ from players’ (or other players’ when I’m one of the players), terrible-fitting NPCs don’t seem too difficult.

Getting back to this campaign some, we had a project tracker for townbuilding projects.  The townbuilding was too much for me as I couldn’t keep up with creating new mechanics for every project when the player didn’t have clear mechanics in mind.  Much of the townbuilding was reactive rather than being prepped ahead of time, and it showed.  Yet, instead of scripting this sort of thing, this is where players need to take on more responsibility, including how it matters to the story that some mechanic got achieved.


I write sessions.  By that, I mean I write intros to sessions that very well may contain scripted dialogue.  I either start with scenes in mind or will break up my scripting into scenes.  I usually have in mind how scenes will end with a success ending and a failure ending but may or may not write out notes about such possibilities.  I usually get tired of scripting out entire sessions and leave vague notes about additional material.

Does this end up being overscripted?  Actually, though I can run into problems with giving players agency, the writing, in and of itself, doesn’t feel like it railroads, as I often don’t use everything I write and my focus is more on setting the scene and what mechanics are specific to a scene than in determining how scenes will play out.

Maybe it’s not understanding how to motivate my players to claim agency, but it often feels like I underscript events and leave too many options to players who don’t know what they should be doing next.  Since this hardly makes sense for what aren’t intended to be dungeon crawl campaigns, as more scripting would likely lead to more railroading, this is an area that leads to some/most of my greatest frustration with running campaigns – I want the players to make decisions to guide where the story should go next and, in the absence of player decision, I make decisions, and nobody ends up being happy.

Here is an example of session writing from Session 1 of Gaki Mura that covers only the first half or third of the session, as I tried to interlace project management with notable events during each “month”, yet has most of the actual session notes:

Make first skill roll for one project.

Though not windy, it remains cool in the higher elevations. The days are shorter than they should be and the light of Yakamo is diffused to a degree, almost as if he isn’t all that interested in shining down on your new home.

Yet, insects are prevalent, and you are well aware that not all of them are native to Ningen-do. During the day, they make less noise, or, perhaps, it’s the sound of construction that drowns them out. Workers are constantly moving lumber and other materials. Sawing and hammering is constant. Though the heimin try to remain quiet so as to not disturb the samurai, they still must converse continuously to make progress on construction.

Your council has not enjoyed having meetings in tents, so you are having yet another meeting outside. Two of the spirit realms experts just finished providing their latest report – no progress on closing the portal, tears do not seem to be getting worse but the occasional dangerous gaki has managed to get into Ningen-do through them.

Yoritomo Iru brusquely starts complaining about how “her” troops need better accomodations, that it might be tolerable for the ashigaru but not for bushi.

Roll PER/Investigation (Notice) and Fear (3). Highest roll of 20 or higher notices a 4 inch mosquito-like insect alight on her right shoulder. TN 30, get to react after it impales her neck. TN 35, roll Initiative ,after Fear, to see when the PC acts. The gaki swells to about 2’ long.

Assuming she is not saved from the first attack, her skin rapidly begins turning greener than her Mantis kimono, and she starts vomiting green blood before she collapses. The right spell or Medicine TN 40 might save her after she is infected.

Given an opportunity, the gaki will fly down the main “street”. A peasant woman, a servant by how she is dressed, with her hair coiffed high, stands frozen in its path. You assume she’s too frightened to move. Her name is Sakare, servant of Kitsu Hinan.

After the PCs either deal with the gaki or it flees, a group of soldiers runs up and breathlessly exclaims, “Gaki, samas. Did you see it? Apelike, grey, and legless.”

Someone points. As you look up, you see the creature on top of the frame of [whatever building is part of a new project]. The creature retreats. PER/Investigation (Notice) TN 25 to notice an unidentified man in a kimono but without swords watching you. He ducks behind a tent.

What is highly important to me is (my) “feeling” the world.  Verisimilitude.  Not by describing in excruciating detail how things look, which leads to my getting questions about details of how certain things look and my having to either summon up my mind’s eye or make stuff up that I never thought about.  But, through activity following a logical path.  I think through what NPCs say, not just because I’m a fan of dialogue.  I think through where events are happening.  Background of events and what the movements are of NPCs prior to contact with the PCs.  How NPCs think of each other.

Then, as PCs get involved in events, I think about how the world reacts.  Whether it’s entire sessions’ plots or something smaller, the logic of cause and effect is in my mind.  In other words, I’m thinking of one continuous narrative from prior to the campaign start through how PCs are creating narrative to glimpses into the future.

How much of this gets conveyed to players?  Not as much as it should by how often my players seem bewildered as to what is going on.

I had NPC subplots, a variety of them, going on that didn’t really impact the two major hooks.  What’s interesting to me in looking back at what files I have saved is that I don’t have nearly as in depth setting information as I have for other campaigns.  The short periods of on stage play intermingled with townbuilding rolls may have meant I didn’t spend as much time working on the world.


Names matter to me.  While I may read a book with the main character named Bink, when it comes to campaigns I’m running where I can mine real world names or translations, I’ll mine like a miner full of mineness.  My L5R games are full of character names that are either picked from a list of actual names for their meaning or are translations of words into Japanese.  With LBS, I use Arabic more, of course.  Actually, used Arabic translations for most recent L5R campaign.

I bring up naming as a campaign prep topic because I actually spend a decent amount of time trying to decide on names, multiply that by the too many NPCs I create.  Much like studying 16th century sailing ships for my Solomon Kane campaign didn’t pay off, I spend a lot of time on things the players don’t care about and not enough time on what they do.  Now, admittedly, I spend time on things I care about, which goes to point out the disconnect in terms of what we enjoy about RPGs.


What sort of preparation would I do differently now for a Gaki Mura campaign?

Player responsibility.  I would focus more on how the players are going to take away the need for me to do everything.  This is easier when the campaign is intended to give players responsibility for worldbuilding, of course.

I would try to limit the NPCs … and probably fail.  Ideas are easy and NPCs are easy ideas.  Main thing I’ve thought about with Fantasy Townies is NPCs.  Of course, an urban setting makes that make more sense, which is maybe why I should try to avoid running such settings – I need to spend far more thought on villains and less on an endless list of NPCs.

I might actually think about how to end the campaign.  The campaign could have easily ended with the closing of the portal, but it continued on and the group was pretty lost as to how to proceed.

I might try to have clearer intelligent villains as many gaki weren’t intelligent foes.

I would try to make the town council aspect of Gaki Mura far more relevant.  It rarely mattered, yet it had immense potential, for one thing creating play beyond just my writing up encounters and NPC hijinks.

Gaki Mura was not a failure.  It just had a predictable collapsed campaign as I still don’t have a good grasp how to end campaigns.  It was an experiment that gives insight into how to do similar style campaigns.  As to how I prepare material for campaigns, it was kind of different in that I didn’t prep hardly anything in terms of townbuilding and didn’t do anywhere near as much background work as I’ve done on other campaigns.

Besides the townbuilding and town council features of the campaign, I could easily see trying to do another campaign where each session is a month at a time.  I think that actually worked fine.


I did not write this document in its entirety by myself.  Andy, Joel, Mike, and others helped flesh out the setting background info and the mechanics and made this a much cleaner document than it would have been if I was the only contributor.


Gaki Mura is a L5R campaign based around a group of samurai given the stewardship of a town, a town whose purpose is to guard against the armies of the hungry dead. The campaign centers around themes of exploration, construction, investigation, and combat against the remorseless gaki.


Gaki Mura is not the first village to stand on its current location. According to Imperial records the village of Kurugu Haneshi Mura originally stood in this location many years ago. There is no information about its founding, at some point around the middle of the sixth century it appears on the Imperial tax rolls with no other notes. The taxes that it provides are small, exactly what one would expect of a smaller village far away from the main Imperial roads. The road to Kurugu Haneshi Mura was poorly kept once in accordance with the infrequency of its use. In general, to most outside observers Kurugu Haneshi Mura was a dusty village of very little importance that no samurai worth their salt would spend any time in if they could avoid it. It produced nothing but foodstuffs and forest products and imported only the bare essentials. No geographical features of any interest were known to be in the area and a lack of significant shrines meant that the village had very little spiritual significance. Kurugu Haneshi Mura was apparently a backwater assignment for disgraced or incompetent samurai where there was little they could damage.

At some point the fortunes of little Kurugu Haneshi Mura changed, though the actual chain of events that led to this is unknown. What is known is that during the winter several bedraggled peasants came shambling into another nearby village dehydrated and babbling about “horrible monstrosities” and “unimaginable creatures” in Kurugu Haneshi Mura. They told how the village was suddenly attacked in the night by dark figures “with faces like demons” and how they narrowly escaped by fleeing without any of their possessions. Normally peasants like this would be dismissed and punished but the vicious claw-like rending wounds on their body told a different story. One scruffy ronin named Isotu lent credibility to the peasant’s story.

This was enough for the local magistrate to launch an investigation and they set out that very day to find out the fate of Kurugu Haneshi Mura. They didn’t get far before they began to find the remains of those that had fled Kurugu Haneshi Mura, the bodies of peasants dotted the road leading from the doomed village. Their bodies were like grisly mile markers, many of them seemed to have been partially eaten, their bones poked through massive wounds where maggots writhed. This was clearly not the work of the spears and swords bandits, theses bodies had been savagely broken and mutilated. The magistrate began to suspect that this was the work of unnatural creatures from beyond the bounds of Ningen-do. The magistrates suspicions were confirmed when they encountered one of the creatures before they ever got to Kurugu Haneshi Mura. The vicious gaki the magistrate encountered killed all three of the magistrate’s ashigaru before it could be brought down. The magistrate turned back before going further knowing that their duty was to inform the proper authorities.

Within weeks the Imperial authorities responded to the carnage at Kurugu Haneshi Mura. A coalition of troops was quickly cobbled together, including Imperial Legionnaires, Emerald Magistrates and yoriki, local ronin, and miscellaneous clan samurai. They arrived to cleanse Kurugu Haneshi Mura. The battle turned desperate as the troops cut their way to the town’s center and the estate of the local daimyo. Terrible gaki seemed to hide in every house and hut in the village, some appeared as leering corpses, others as incorporeal ghosts draining the life from their victims. Even when the troops made progress through the village more gaki appeared behind the troops. A terrible realization dawned on the commander, this was no minor incursion of vengeful spirits, a portal had been opened to Gaki-do and these demons were still pouring into Ningen-do. In a desperate attempt to save his forces before they were surrounded the commander ordered that his troops pull back to the edge of town and bombard the village with fire. The commander himself charged into the fray to buy as much time as possible. The Imperial Legion Tai-i, Matsu Kawageru, was last seen surrounded by hungry gaki in the center of town.

The fire bombardment worked, in a sense, as the village turned into an inferno, a funeral pyre for the village. The next day the remainder of the force cut down the remaining gaki and located the source of their appearance. The portal seemed to have shrunk somewhat from its original appearance but it showed no signs of disappearing entirely, and the area was permeated with tears between Gaki-do and Ningen-do. Word was sent back to the Jade Champion about what had been found at Kurugu Haneshi Mura and the Imperial authorities began planning how to deal with this new threat.

Toturi I decided that the office of the Jade Champion was to be responsible for dealing with the ongoing threat and the decision was made to bring in as many experts on other spirit realms and found a new village on the site to support a garrison as long as it will take to close the portal. Rather than appoint a single clan or Imperial representative to oversee administration of the village the decision is made to govern the new village by a council (with a nod to the Phoenix). This allows the Jade Champion to avoid becoming enmeshed in interclan politics though it is not particularly pleasing to anyone. Several samurai are given responsibility to oversee different parts of the new town which is renamed Shizuka na Mura. This new council is given the task of providing all necessary support for the closing of the portal, building a new town to support the garrison, and ensuring that any more gaki that get through the portal before it’s closed are dealt with swiftly before they can cause more mayhem.


In this campaign you play one of the samurai appointed to the town council. Something has distinguished you as a excellent resource to have administer the new village. You are probably one of the survivors of the force that burned the original village down, so you would have experience fighting the horrors of Gaki-do.

In your position you have two primary duties, oversee the construction of the town and protect Rokugan from the dangers of Gaki-do. There are troops stationed at the new village to help defend against the gaki but they will need food and supplies to maintain the garrison for the long term, especially over the winter when it will not be possible to import food to the village. To ensure that no one samurai is overly burdened with the duties of managing the town the Jade Champion has decreed that each samurai shall be responsible for different aspects of the village.

These are the designated areas of responsibility, each character should select one and the other roles will be filled by NPCs:
● Minister of Finance –
● Minister of Exploration – Andrew H.
● Minister of Spiritual Affairs – Mike G.
● Jade Magistrate (Law) – Nate F./Tamori Mizuki
● Minister of Arts & Entertainment – Ben N.
● Minister of Education – Joel P.
● Commander of the Garrison – Yoritomo Iru
● Minister of Heimin and Hinin Affairs – Ian

Because the village is not under the control of any one clan, none of the clans are particularly motivated to provide resources to your samurai, after all, it is unlikely that any one clan would receive credit for the success of the village so why would any one clan put forward its resources. However, if a clan’s representative were to distinguish themselves, then certain allocations could be made. This campaign will use a variation of the Way of the Daimyo mechanics where your character’s Honor, Glory, and Status will enable you to garner Imperial and clan support in the form of resources (building materials and labor) or information (access to archives etc.).

Depending on what you choose to build in your section of town, various different events may occur, some good, some bad. In addition depending on what goals you pursue other story avenues may open up.

Other Objectives

These are some possible objectives that your character might want to pursue in addition to their mandate from the Jade Champion. Some of them may also help advance your progress towards your primary task as well. There may be additional rewards based on your own progress along these lines.

Move up the Ladder

Being given this assignment by the Imperial authorities is an excellent stepping stone in the career of an up and coming samurai such as yourself. If you demonstrate aptitude for administration you could move on to a more prestigious position, maybe someplace not infested with Gaki. You’ll need to make sure that your section of town is prosperous and harmonious, generating tax revenue will be important, as well as bringing attention to your success.

Close the Portal

Closing off the realm of Gaki-do from your own is the most important task at hand, everything else relates to this. You’ll probably need information about this portal and other spirit realms in general, this is going to mean access to information and calling on the help of others experienced in matters like these.

Explore the World

Nearly everything that was known about this area was lost when the previous village burned down. Exploring and understanding what is in the area of the village will be important if this village is to have a functioning economy. In addition, the answer to closing the portal may be found in understanding the area around the new village or on the other side of the portal.

Character Build Rules:
● 120 XP (total), No ronin, no non-samurai
● Characters should be able to work well with others (whether they choose to or not)
● Characters start with Status at 2.5 and an additional 1.5 Glory (PCs are technically now part of the newly formed Jade Legion)

Western Crane Lands, East of Tsuruchi Lands
Mountain summit area through which a pass runs, the previous village was in a cleared area surrounded by forest, with water coming from a well or from a stream along the mountains.

Early Toturi I reign (1130’s).
Following Kitsu Okura’s fall from grace in 1132, Seppun Sento became Jade Champion.
Each session is roughly a month.

Town Construction Rules:
Each PC gets 5 Construction Points (CP) per session as a base.
Each session, 5 skill rolls can be made to earn CP, each project has 3 skill rolls associated with it. The TN of the roll is 15 for a small project, 20 for a medium project, 25 for a large project. Success earns 2 CP, each raise 1 CP.
Small project requires 5 CP. Medium project requires 20 CP. Large project requires 100 CP.
1 CP = 10 Koku
Experts/specialists can earn CP or produce deductions on projects (reduce costs).
Can spend Void once or use another effect, like a spell, once per session on two different rolls to assist construction.

Town sections have their own “Glory” Ranks, representing popularity, morale, and successfulness, and “Infamy” Ranks, representing disreputable activities, tragedy, or poor morale not due to indifference. Glory/Infamy Rank starts at 0.0 and is only measured in increments of .5 (e.g. 4.5, 7.0).


Towns & Taxes

October 26, 2019

The group I’ve been playing Gloomhaven with has been talking about the idea of doing some RPGing.

Now, so far, it has various similarities to the many, many conversations I’ve had with various gamers about what RPG to play.  What system?  What concept?  What type of characters?  When?  Can we not rehash the same argument against XYZ for the N^23 time?

So, thinking about some of the things this group would be more interested in, I came up with a campaign idea.

This group is looking to avoid these things:  grimdark; inflexible rules; murderhoboing or, perhaps a better way to put it, lack of world to interact with.

So, I got to thinking and came up with …


Fantasy townies.

Reverse the usual paradigm of the PCs being the murderhobos with the townies being the NPCs with the townies being the PCs and the murderhobos being the NPCs.

You, too, can be a baker.

“But, gee, infinitely wise one and pure studmuffin dude, how do we murder ugly humanoids and loot their bodies if we can’t fireball them?”

This isn’t a setting for heroic adventuring.  This is, well, maybe not the best description, but I wrote “Sitcomy with worldbuilding”.  More of a social game where making sure you have enough yeast and butter to cater the mayor’s party after the party brought back the Yeastbeast and the Butterbinger by accident (who promptly escaped) with their phat lootz.

Embrace the “Base Town” paradigm.


oishD&D.  For the simplicity and the a proposness.  Since I don’t have all of the original books, what qualifies as oD&D for me are the red book and the blue book (thinking the black and whatever don’t matter).

Sure, the mechanics of ordinary people are … limited.  But, you knowim, the mechanics for anything in these books is terserrific.  That’s supposed to be a redeeming feature of rules that allow for 3hp starting PCs – you just stir fry your pepperoni.

Tangentially, the idea that more modern games limit what you can do may sometimes be the case, but it strikes me as overblown that oD&D allows you to do whatever you describe and later games don’t.  That’s DM dependent.

So, mechanically, how would PCs work?  How many HP do they get?  I was thinking average of CON and WIS as a rule that has absolutely nothing to do with oD&D.  After all, occasionally dealing with monsters too unimportant for adventurers to deal with or duels or baking accidents or falling off of roofs while carpentering are all things that go to the heart of HPdom.

Still, combat might be pretty weird.  What about advancement?  5th Level Townsfolk is just not a thing I care about.  Yet, I do want ability advancement (not attribute advancement).

For instance, I would say Alicia Alchemist will be able to generate one potion per day.  That potion could be used by Alicia, but it’s not her job to use her output.  It’s her job to sell/trade her output to make sweet, sweet gold pieces which get piled into her multilevel townhouse with a nice view of the river and her designer vial collections.

But, what does 2nd Level Alchemist do?  More potions?  Boring and broken.  Choose potions instead of random potions?  While very D&D to generate randos at L-1, how does this scale to Level 3?

Of course, could just not have Levels for the townies.  Even Spearchucker Selena, who does accompany NPC adventurers at times and comes back to town to relate her stories/read from her journals, could forever be a L-0 hireling who is more to carry 10′ poles, wineskins, torches than to survive being slimed.  This is limiting, though, when it comes to NPC advancement and how a NPC might start as a 1st Level loser and eventually be a 10th Level lord.  Spearchuckering for higher ups should require some level of improved combat competence.

Could do it as a series of feats/edges/ads/boons/other words that mean the same thing.  Selena takes “I Spear Gut” with its +2 to hit and +1 damage with spearing.  Belinda Baker takes “Advanced Presentation” which gives +2 to decorating cakes.

Yes, this means you aren’t really playing D&D.  You are playing T&T, no, not that T&T – a troll would wreck the town.

So, I tried reading through the red book and blue book to mine concepts for townies.  I know, humor.

One of my favorite things to do these days when reading D&D and AD&D books is to read the examples.  In the red book, by itself, two characters die … one before the combat example, the other in the combat example.  Now, maybe the players were playing multiple characters, but this would tend to indicate how utterly useless these mechanics are for any sort of play I would have any interest in.  Sure, I played something like seven characters in one RuneQuest dungeon, but that might be an indicator of how little interest I had in what was going on.

AD&D 1e DMG has a 2nd Level, let’s say the A’s are PCs, PC bite it in the combat example while the PH has two possible PC kills.

Anyway, this is why I can’t take the systems too seriously.  How much of the PH is taken up with spell descriptions?  What if you don’t cast spells?  Meanwhile, can you truly read through the DMG’s explanation of flying movement?

So, the town will be in a mountainous area, near a major river that allows goods to come from upriver while letting there be trade with a major city at the sea downriver.  The town exists to support adventurers, so it needs outlets for having massive jewels turned into magic items or vice versa.  The town will be human dominated even if I have to suffer through the existence of demi-humans.  No mining.  That’s dwarflands.  It’s the town where your sages hang out and your mapmakers and your Identifiers and your healers and your curse removers.

Nearby are three “dungeons”.

The Shallows

Your typical humanoids plus loser undead milieu.  Cultists love to hang here.  The occasional ogre or whatever.  Cave network that doesn’t get too esoteric.  This is where fresh out of mechwarrior school, 3hp magic-users Sleep.

The Misery

More esoteric.  More dangerous.  More exotic.  A sculpted dungeon of the odd lesser demon, giants, golems, hydras, higher level undead, multiples of trolls.  This is where the mid-level adventurers prove they have the HP and magic items to get rich.

The “Lair”

At different times, this is The Lair of the Lich King, The Lair of Larry the Lion Slayer, The Lair of Lilith, or whatever.  This is where the way overpowered adventurers prove they have the saving throws and degenerate magical abilities and probably psionics as well to loot.  This is an ancient, prehistorical city swallowed by the AEIOUrth millenia previously where old, rather tentacley gods once held sway and will again.  This is where the ultimate storyline – The Invasion of Base Town – will originate.

Meanwhile, Innkeeper Iliana has two interviews this morning to fill in the role of skanky waitress as the last one ran off with the bard, I mean, instrument-playing Thief.  Funny how candidate number one’s reference letter from the God-Emperor of Atlantis seems to misdraw a bunch of Atlantean pictographs …  The Society of Sturdy Backpacks Guild couldn’t possibly be trying to inject a spy into yet another base town … could they?

Of course, troupe play style could be used where players play adventurers and homebodies, but that’s a different concept that may appeal more to a different group.  Hard to say.  Lacerating & Looting is something pritnear everyone is in favor of, at least some of the time.

Gloomhaven – Heart Of The Matter

October 16, 2019

So, I researched some how to hide text because if there’s one thing you get used to when reading about Gloomhaven it’s spoiler hidden text.  I could use splitting text functionality, but I decided I’m not spoiling anything terribly important.

Nevertheless, if you hate knowing even cards above first level for one of the six starting classes, you should go read my numerous other blog posts on such important topics as _.

So, Gloomhaven analysis.

There is no intention for this to be a class guide.  Nevertheless, it may seem like that at times when I go into my approach to playing a class.

The obstacle class.

I have generally enjoyed playing Cragheart.  Because I’m totally a follow the pack sort who is into cutesy nicknames, let’s call my take on Cragheart Mr. Spar, Feld Spar.

My first Gloomhaven experience was playing Brute and I went for maximum XP even though that was pointless as I was just going to sacrifice his soul and create a more powerful version of ladderful reincarnation [if you get this joke, well, so help you].

From the basic classes, rockin’ out sounded totally gnarly, dude.

Came in at level 2. Still, my focus was on maximizing XP.


Because what I want out of games is options.  Well, groupies might be good, too.  Options of groupies sounds even better.

Options.  This is why I vastly prefer RPGs and CCGs to most other games.  This is why certain RPGs turn me off, like strict class based systems where you are interchangeable essentially from someone else playing the same thing. Think AD&D 1e fighter.  If I could just choose what to play in a fresh AD&D 1e campaign and I didn’t have to worry about alignment, I could imagine choosing druid, where you get spells (if not the range of magic-users) and additional abilities.

Items, to me, are something to be eschewed in games where you can shoo them away or are necessary lawful neutrals in games where you just always run items.

Money didn’t mean anything to me, at first, because I had no real comprehension of the economics of enhancement.

So, ability cards.  Ramp on ability card options.  Perks.  Ramp on perkiness.  Well, maybe, it’s hard to get too excited by perkiness, even if they are good stuff.

So, I run SC-2 and try to cram as much XP gain in as possible.  I continued to do this for a while in the quest for level four.

So, what does it mean to focus on XP with Cragheart?  It means a range build with obstacle action but not even running Massive Boulder because XPing.

If you squint real hard, you still can’t see an XP.

I may be prone to iconoclasm.  But, I also want to embrace groupies, I mean, the meaty core of the path once chosen.  So, obstacles.  Have to obstacle up.

Thus, the push to level four, where obstacledom achieves its desperate desire for obstaclefulness.  There’s always more obstaclicity later, but it’s only level four that matters.

Having achieved that, it was time to recalibrate.  Above level four is antimatter.  No, seriously, who cares about any of the higher level SC cards?  They just do much of the same or are lossriffic or don’t sound good, and you have to wait far too long to get Move-Jump-4.

Sure, at level five, I take the other level-2 card so that I get both obstaclation and more ranged.  Then, level six, take Petrify because it’s … a thing, a stiff, hard thing.

But, with no particular need for XP and a personal quest that will last until the Great Sahara Forest returns, I needed straight cash, homey.  No, not for items.  For enhancement.  Someday, it will be the Woundnado, but there’s extra Heaving (perhaps) or expediting Feld’s Massive Boulder or hopping on the way to the Explosive Punch or whatever that will do me marginal good while embiggening the potence of Feld’s successor.

Yup, that means running the Loot card.  Having played less than 10 times, I’m already encountering a greater level of strategic metagaming than I expected.


SC can do different stuff, pounding it hard up close or spewing a few hexes away or constricting the flow of enemies along absurd paths.  And, yet, in certain ways, I feel quite bound by two of SC’s features.  The first is obvious – bad initiative.  While certain monsters just always defeat Feld’s plots, it’s actually the other PCs that keep screwing over the Spar.  They steal available loot, they kill enemies in tight formations, they end scenarios before looting or spewing or curling up in a ball can occur.

The second may seem like “part of the game”, but, when I’m yet again forgetting my personal quest or my battle goal or my retirement plans, my greatest in play frustration is movement.  I will likely never take Kinetic Assault, but, if it had Move-2 or if there wasn’t the massive enhancement tax to just give it +1 Move, I’d be all over getting some top card movement.  I’ll either have multiple bottom movement available and have to wait or have bottom movement and Loot 1 I want to do that bombos hard or I’ll want to make a couple extra obstacles someplace not adjacent to where I’m standing.  Being pushed around by another class was rather fun, not bombo fun but bimbo fun.

Perks?  Negative Scenario Effects.  Then, double double leaf.  Then, -1 to +1.  Double double leaf may not have been that great an idea.  Reduces the value of Strengthen when we had a class that easily Strengthened.  They just stick together and give me too many leaves at once.  Plus, I have a lot of non-attack stuff to futz about with and no summons to get more leaf action.  OTOH, unlocked class also likes salad.

Outside of the class in the specific though, I am seeing why guides mean very little to how to play a class in your own games, even if they are helpful in understanding how cards work.  I’m tempted, sometime, to run all of my best initiative cards just to see what a mess of crappy abilities that gives me while I might be lootful.  We keep having scenarios with significant shields, so I keep trying to squeeze true damage into my builds.  Now that I’m motivated to curl up and die as often as possible, I have a huge incentive to run as many loss cards as possible and focus on how to use short rests.  Something I completely forgot about in our last session where I was Straggling and loss-lost.

Goals V Fun

So, I have a personal quest … when I don’t forget what it requires.  I have only failed Battle Goals twice, once because we failed the scenario and I didn’t realize when I chose it that you needed to succeed.  The other time when I stupidly didn’t murder demons when I could have easily taken a small break for true murder.

And, yet, there’s also enjoying playing and not just metagaming the career of Mr. Spar.  In our last session, I didn’t do my first attack until like turn four.  Then, I murdered three out of four things.  I blew chunks across the battlefield, and they did things, like helping constrain my sleazy compatriots so that I could snag mucho moolah.  Actually, to further my goals, I could have hurled on an ally to put him in the ground, which would not have been so bad for him. But, even if I had thought of doing that early enough to execute this brilliant stratagem, seems unlikely as it would have put additional risk on team success.  I just need to manage my resources wisely.

Moving obstacles, exploding obstacles, raining down obstacles in weird places – sure, fun.  Certainly more fun than “attack for 3 at range 3, flip, leaf, flip, +0, do 1”.  I need some Woundnado action sooner rather than later.  I’m not even running Dirt Tornado because it’s so weak and bland already.

Next up will be … some class with better initiative and hopefully a top move.

Comme Ci Comme Ça

October 13, 2019

So, time to give the spiel.  The Protospiel.

But, not yet.

In terms of sequence of events, can start with my receiving my Aquelarre Kickstarter rewards.  Much like, oh, 7th Sea 2e and Feng Shui 2e and Conan RPG and John Carter, I have yet to do anything with them.  I did take the shrink-wrapped book to today’s gaming session and forgot to pull it or Traveller cards out to show folks.

Sometime before or after that stuff showed up, we had our usual Tuesday night Traveller session.  This was different in that Horizon’s first print on demand cards arrived in time for me to get them and look at them.  Three of the five cards are darker than they should be.  I don’t know how fixable that is, but I’ve noted it.  Still, they look good and the Gazelle just sounds so strong, though hampered for VP gaining decks by how few military contracts exist until we publish more stuff.

Thursday was the strongest inspiration for this post.

We played two games of Shadowfist, one more than one!!

I won both.  And, that’s where you get the primal duality of existence, the bifurcated Geminian clonification of the gaming experience.

The first game sucked.  I put out Average Jane.  She got tough.  She got a Battle Suit.  I had Back for Seconds and Stunt Driving.  I played two characters the whole game and the second didn’t change anything.

The second game was what I would rate a desirable game.  The Manchu All Over You Manchu-chued through.

I had four Manchu Bureaucrats in play multiple times (200 Guys with Hatchets and Ladders), where the fifth was in my toasted pile.  In my winning turn, I played my first Manchu Soldiers.  General Senggelinqin became an edge.  Superior Tactics and Stand Together (Manchu) did things.  Orders were given to Colonel Griffith to support Manchu maneuvers.  Math Bomb cleared out the Queen of the Ice Pagoda and other, more heinous, stuff (Auramancer).

This is the sort of thing that appeals to me with CCGs – goofy stuff having success every once in a while.

Name: Manchu All Over You
Faction: Ascended/Architects
Size: 55
Architects Cards (6)
Characters (6)
4x BuroMil Grunt
2x Colonel Griffith

Ascended Cards (36)
Characters (16)
2x General Senggelinqin
5x Manchu Bureaucrat
4x Manchu Officer
5x Manchu Soldiers

Edges (10)
1x 200 Guys with Hatchets and Ladders
1x Agency Support
1x Extortion
1x Faith in the Halls of Power
1x Kickbacks
1x Paper Trail
3x Political Corruption
1x Tomb of the Beast

Events (5)
4x Moonlight Raid
1x Red Tape Assault

Sites (5)
5x Manchu Garrison

Generic Cards (13)
Edges (3)
2x Stand Together
1x Superior Tactics

Feng Shui Sites (10)
2x Dockyard
5x Nine Dragon Temple
1x The Iron Palace
2x Waterfall Sanctuary

Yup, five Manchu Soldiers.  Just like how I’ve never played more than five The Great Walls.  I’ll cut Tomb of the Beast.  While 2GwHaL is stupid broken, Extortion is amazingly annoying to play against.

Sure, not every game needs to be good, blah blah blah.  I think the inspiration here is more that I enjoy games where interesting things happen and don’t games where they don’t, even if I win them.  It’s why I don’t try to build decks to stomp on people or don’t make card plays in multiplayer games that cripple people.  Extending this point, I was talking to my friend about what he liked in games and we like different things in large part, but our interests create overlap in liking some of the same games, like Gloomhaven.

For instance, he likes Dominion, and I don’t …

Saturday went to Protospiel,  More of my ninja got killed than the game designer’s.  Then, I scored more points at building snowmen.  One of these games draws heavily on the Dominion aesthetic, yet I liked the game well enough, anyway.  I found Protospiel at the game store to be odd because it was hard to get into games to playtest them, and the two games I did play didn’t have a survey at the end of my experience.  I volunteered far more thoughts than received questions about what I thought.  As a game designer/developer, I try to offer things beyond just what I thought of the play experience.

Today, played another Gloomhaven scenario in which I once again didn’t think through what I was trying to achieve and missed out on moving forward with my personal quest.  First time played four-player.  Four-player is certainly better for me in a key way – AOE attacks.  But, I don’t think I factored in how the fourth player made things sufficiently easy that I could switch to doing what I should have been doing.

Good.  Bad.  Other.

Friday night, Jeff and I met to talk Horizon gaming stuff.  A theme for that conversation was that the games we make are far more likely to be the sort of games we like/enjoy.  May seem odd that this would ever need to be brought to the fore, but there is a business side to producing games … I hear there may be events where you can engage on the business side … that influences decisions by some degree.  Just like everyone else I game with, Jeff and I have different interests with some degree of overlap.  I think we overlap more than I do with most of the people I play stuff with more often.  Of all of the people I’ve gamed more with, Andrew Hart (as opposed to the other Andrew H.) and I probably had the highest level of overlapping interests.  He introduced me to Jyhad.  We worked on Campaign Dragon Dice rules.  We met because of Ultimate Combat!.  We both really liked playing Shandalar.  He likes MMORPGs and I don’t care anything about them …

After Andrew (who goes by Andy with some, not to be confused by “Andy” who goes by Andrew with some), Bill would be next on the list, with similar RPG interests and similar CCG interests.  Well, maybe it’s not clear.  I tend to think of Andrew because of the range of stuff we played together before he moved out of the area.  Anyway, I think the point is more that I game with people where there are overlapping interests but also significant differences and this influences how gaming goes, including game production …

What does a potential game need?  Money.  I mean, besides money?

Passion and vision.

I got to thinking about the concept of thinking through what sort of game I want to make.  I’m more interested in producing a RPG than anything else, but I don’t have a lot of passion for that as I can’t even pin down how I would take all of the RPGs I’ve ever played and cobble together perfection from them.  So, if just another game to put on the shelf, why bother?

Then, there are plenty of games I want to play.  I want to play all sorts of existing RPGs, Ultimate Combat!, V:TES, Shadowfist, Gloomhaven or HeroQuest or another dungeon crawl boardgame.  I have the personality of being more passionate about something when there’s a perceived lack.  What’s missing in the gaming world?  An easy to play mech game with meaningful mech construction rules and fun resolution?  Boardgame version of snooker?

Darkest Kebab

October 6, 2019

Because starting with the main topic is always so gauche, let’s begin with Gloomhaven.

So, it has become one of the three most consistent gaming things I do, in recent days.  Traveller CCG on Tuesday and/or Wednesday at Game Kastle Fremont, Shadowfist, weekend Gloomhaven.

I am planning on retiring my first character as quickly as possible.  That’s not going to be that quick, as I have at least eight more sessions before I can accomplish my personal quest.  In the meantime, I hit the all important level four for the character I’m playing and care not hardly for the higher level cards.  I’ll actually plan on picking up the other second level card when I inevitably level up, which could happen in two sessions.

My goal shifted from maximizing XP to get to level four to maximizing money to plow lucre into enhancements so that the next player gets something out of my rock-ing this character.  Looking to add jump to one or two moves, power up some of the attacks as I feel that my attacks are kind of weak for the current level of play.

I’m being vagueish because there seems to be a high level of desire to avoid spoilers with the game.  Now, as someone who craves discussion about games, I’ve read all sorts of spoilers including knowing all of the locked classes and have seen their cards.  Also, know some things about future scenarios, though I rarely look at those threads.

As fascinating as this may all sound, the reason I’m bringing up “#1” is to comment on the game generally, aka criticize.  Now, I’m not going to criticize in the same way that someone changed a rating from 10 to 8 criticized over an unbelievably trivial aspect of the game that is easily worked around to be the way the player wants.

I’m more brillianter in my analysis.

Obviously, set up and break down is slow.  Real slow.  It’s a component heavy game.  Fiddling with conditions during play makes it even more … fiddly.  Sure, there are apps to manage the logistics of play, but I’m relatively app-athetic.  Oh, no, I didn’t!  Actually, I’m quite app-athetic.

Perhaps obviously, it is not a game suited to indecisive people who want to finish games in the most reasonable amount of time.  A better V:TES player than I (Ira), as I’ve mentioned before, said something that resonated with me about playing CCGs and games more generally:  “Mistakes are part of the game.”

I strive to not make mistakes in games.  However, that striving is generally when I’m proficient at a game.  In early play of a game, I don’t see any particular reason to concern myself with making mistakes, especially in an extremely forgiving game like Gloomhaven.  If you fail, replay the scenario.  If you miss out on a check mark because you forgot that you wanted to kill as much as possible, well, going to retire the character some day, anyway.

As an indecisive person, I have little tolerance for indecisiveness in others.  Life is an endless series of making decisions and suffering the consequences of those decisions.  Embrace undeath.  Er, it’s a game.  Not like deciding to marry the wrong person or take the wrong job or whatever.

In recent play, have both the situation of players taking a long time to decide what to do, then discussing the idea of rolling back.  In a coop game like Gloomhaven, where there’s no objective standard for play, could do something like the latter.  I just don’t see the point.  Make a mistake, loot on.

Obviously, there’s a steep learning curve.  Some of the discussions on monster AI make it clear that some of the game is really hard to track.  Well, that doesn’t necessarily prevent people from playing.

Okay, not a lot of other complaints about Gloomhaven at this point, so let’s move on to the real topic.


So, I’ve been feasting on kebabs (this is the US, so assume a somewhat in between definition of what kebab means rather than skewered meat on the one side and a very wide open definition on the other) much more than I once did.  Kebabed for lunch one day, had extra rice leftover from that to go with my kebabbing for dinner.

There’s a place between work and home that I favor for how they cook da meatz.  They even do chicken well, well enough for me to like their chicken [this would mean more if I mentioned that I don’t, as a rule, like poultry].  The place next to GKF has a pretty dry beef seek kabob, which is why I order their beef seek kabob karahi, something I have enjoyed quite a bit though it does go better with good amounts of naan or rice as it’s spicy.  I tried some grocery store, frozen beef kebabs and they were rather dry, as well.  The second half of the box, I fried the kebabs in oil to heat them up and dumped in some Jalfrezi Curry from a jar to add moisture and flavor.

I’m prepping to run Solomon Kane again, at least a one-shot.

Setting:  Africa.

More specifically, Kingdom of Kongo, East of Luanda in what might be Angola these days.  My minimal research on the matter brought up interesting tidbits.  I hadn’t realize Timbuktu was known for a university in the 16th century.  Where my Mexico SK campaign had strong Spanish elements, have to think about how to use Portuguese.

Because.  Kebabs.  I was thinking about the scene where the PCs gather to set on their mission to remove some Hellspawn so that missionarying can expand deeper.  I got to thinking about what sort of food would be served locally.

See.  It all ties neatly together.

I’ll probably end up building some one-shot PCs for the players.  Certainly, my friend just wants to buttkick and doesn’t care much about setting.  He described himself as probably buttkicker/powergamer, and I can see that.  I don’t know what the other main player is looking for or who else will end up playing.  Spent some time with a huge REH/SK fan yesterday after Gloomhavening.

Ah, Savage Worlds, a perfectly serviceable generic RPG system that never gets me excited by PC mechanics.  In fact, it’s probably far better for me to run SW than play it as I’d likely get frustrated by the default concept of zero to hero with terrible advancement mechanics.

Africa rather than Mexico.  Kebabs rather than … burgers?  Tex-mex tacos/enchiladas?  Triforce rather than Sun (for my friend who keeps trying to rush to unlock stuff) or Lightning rather than Circles (for me, assuming I fulfill my PQ before someone else unlocks Lightning)?

Gaming is seeming to regain some focus.  Now, in two-player play with our current characters, I just need to open doors and force focus upon my not-tank.

World Changing

September 21, 2019

Proof this is actually a gaming blog – there are so many aspects of our world that perhaps should be changed and I’m not going to address any of them.  I did talk a bit of politics Thursday night after Shadowfist, but I’d much rather stay in the happy place that is the gameosphere.

So, when I first heard Gloomhaven was #1 on Boardgamegeek, I was a tad surprised.  Sure, Gloomhaven is qualitatively different from HeroQuest or Descent or whatever, but that’s what I think of when I play.  I think of a dungeon crawl boardgame.

Legacyness appears to be all the rage, Pandemic Legacy: Season 1 being #2.  Makes me think that there’s a yearning for more storytelly style gaming that RPGs can’t meet due to the logistical ass pain that is having functional campaign play.

Well, that could be a blog topic, but it’s not so much today’s topic.

I’m not really feeling the story with Gloomhaven, but maybe that’s just due to not playing enough and not being part of the driving force behind our group.

I made the comment to my friend, after a Traveller CCG session … yup, Traveller CCG is totally a possible rage, that Gloomhaven wasn’t world-changing to me.  He asked me “What is?”

I want to focus on the play of a game being world-changing.  For me, that rules out AD&D from the following list even though D&D/AD&D existed prior to most of these other games.  I just didn’t play AD&D for a long time.

Ultimate Combat!

Inspired topic from a boardgame with a transition into RPGs and, yet, choose a CCG first.

The impact of playing Ultimate Combat! was profound.  Not only was I enthused by the game, specifically, it started a chain of events and a world view shift.  Acquiring game components might have been something I was already prone to as evidenced by how little I’ve played Champions in my life and how many products I still have from the game’s early years.  But, UC!, as a CCG, made acquiring game components actually important.

When my father and I drove to New Jersey (from Virginia) to go to ShoreCon for a day so that I could play UC! and he could amuse himself outside of the con, not only did I get some UC!ing in, I also made a trade for Amulet of Kwai Chang so that I could build a fully multiplying, brown belt Adrenaline deck.

As a side note, I probably already mentioned this, but I also played some Highlander CCG at the con, borrowing a deck as I barely built any Highlander (CCG) decks.

Twenty thousand plus Magic cards, 40,000 plus V:TES cards, 10,000 plus Babylon 5 cards, 20,000 plus Shadowfist cards, one of the largest Wheel of Time CCG collections probably in the history of the human race, and probably one of the larger Traveller Card Game collections in the history of the human race later and I still view CCGs (customizable card games) as the ultimate [sic] form of competitive gaming.

I’m not competitive minded.  I embrace weakness and goofiness, especially with multiplayer CCGs, yet I’ve had success at a number of CCGs simply by virtue that I love them.  I’d play Blood Wars again.  I’d play Guardians, again.  I still have my Tempest of the Gods and Hyborian Gates cards.  I have playtester rewards for Buffy without ever buying any Buffy CCG product.

Ultimate Combat! set my interests on a path of embracing flopping by virtue of just being really fun.  Really fun to play, really fun to build decks for.  Sure, Magic would have likely done the same thing if it had been first, instead.  I did acquire Magic cards in my first year of flopping.  I played some with family when I visited them.  I always preferred UC!.

Immortal: The Invisible War

I was a huge fan of RPGs as soon as I was aware of them.  I didn’t play them that much, almost like playing RPGs requires a level of effort beyond, say, solitaire or sudoku.

I still don’t actually understand if the mechanics of 1e Immortal are truly functional or not, and I’ve never tried to understand them well enough to use them in actual play.  I’ve also never played in or thought much about campaign play for Immortal.

So, why Immortal and not … um … Feng Shui, which had my first notable campaign?  Yes, Feng Shui is the RPG that I can think of where I had my first memorable campaign.

Because my convention play of Immortal: The Invisible War achieved what I have always wanted out of a RPG.  A story in a cool world getting to do cool things.  Sure, I’ve had lots of convention games that were good, gooder, goodful.  My memory of lots of those is fading faster than my memory of events from Immortal.


Why am I not agog at the majesty of the currently ranked highest game on this planet, probably even in this solar system?

Maybe because I already played a dungeon crawl boardgame with RPG elements.  Elements I made up.


The idea is to have the adventurers become more interesting over time and to lessen the emphasis on equipment.

Each surviving adventurer in a successful or partially successful quest gains 1 XP. Additional XP may be possible.

Advantages (XP cost)
Quick Feet (1) – +1 movement, may be bought multiple times

Discipline (2) – Paladin or Monk only; +1 Mind Point
Haggler (2) – roll 2 dice when selling back equipment; the sales price is 2D6*10% of the list price instead of 1D6*10%
Luck (2) – once per quest, may reroll *any* die roll or may change one die’s face to anything
Savvy Investor (2) – earn 10% interest on any monies held in the “bank”
Wisdom (2) – +1 Mind Point

Bargain Hunter (3) – buys equipment at 1/2D6*10% discount
Dodge (3) – costs one less for the Monk or Thief; +1 Defend Dice
Meditation (3) – Monk only; each turn that you do absolutely nothing and there are no monsters in the same room or corridor and you cannot see any monster, you heal 1 Mind Point
Probe (3) – this costs one less for a Dwarf; may detect traps on the other side of doors when searching for traps
Specialty, Spell (3) – varies by spell, may be bought for each spell
Specialty, Weapon (3) – +1 to Attack Dice with one weapon, may be bought for each weapon
Split Movement (3) – may begin moving, act, then finish moving
Tracking (3) – costs 1 less for the Barbarian; may make a Mind Roll to determine which direction a specified goal is likely to be in, each 6 rolled should provide the player with an increased amount of info

Beserker (4) – Barbarian only; once per quest gains the effects of the Courage spell, requires an action
Hardiness (4) – +1 Body Point, may be bought up to 3 times
Memorization I (4) – Wizard or Elf only, costs 1 less for the Wizard; may begin the quest with one additional different spell in a group taken
Tactician I (4) – the hero or monster with this advantage may choose one enemy, both roll their Mind Dice and the two totals are compared, if the Tactician wins then the chosen enemy must attack the legal target (within the Hero’s party) of the Tactician’s choice on its next turn or it cannot attack at all

Acrobat (5) – prerequisite: Dodge, costs one less for the Monk or Thief; +1 Defend Dice
Biofeedback (5) – prerequisite: Discipline, Monk only; each turn that you do absolutely nothing and there are no monsters in the same room or corridor and you cannot see any monsters, you heal 1 Body Point
Florentine Style (5) – may use 2 one handed weapons (the second must be a dagger or shortsword), gaining a second attack
Giant Slayer (5) – when attacking a humanoid monster of larger than 1 square, rolls 2 additional Attack Dice; when defending against a nonmagical attack from a humanoid monster of larger than 1 square, rolls 2 additional Defend Dice
Martial Arts I (5) – costs 1 less for the Monk; base damage, and minimum damage with melee weapons other than the Dagger, are increased by 1
Physicker (5) – may heal 1 Body Point of damage to any party member after any combat in which the party member was injured, not cumulative with any other healing including healing by another Physicker with the exception of a Master Physicker or Doctor
Poison Immunity (5) – unaffected by all poisons

Memorization II (6) – Wizard or Elf only, costs 1 less for the Wizard; prerequisite: Mem. I; may begin the quest with one additional spell in any of the four groups (five groups for the Elf)
Mind Bar (6) – prerequisites: Discipline and Meditation, Monk only; immune to mental spells – spells that can be defended against by rolling Mind Dice
Spellcasting 101 (6) – nonspellcaster only, may know and cast one spell from one of the four groups

I didn’t do much in the way of world building or quest treeing or having pre-quest encounters or whatever, so nowhere near as sophisticated, but, then, I didn’t need all of that to be fascinated by Zargoning HeroQuest.

One of the few games I played with family a significant amount.  We played a lot one time I was visiting.  I’m not sure that my siblings would be as interested in dealing with the logistics and mechanics of Gloomhaven.

If you can’t have an enduring RPG campaign, you can certainly trot out HeroQuest scenarios.  So, I get it that dungeon crawl boardgames that offer character definition and appealing minis can be popular.


Forerunner to all else.  My father taught me chess.  Then, xiangqi at some point, a game I’m awful at.  My mother rummy and hangman.  This had a tad more impact.

Another case of family play being a feature.  In this case, with my grandparents’ generation.  I may not have gotten to know my great aunts and great uncles that well, but I certainly spent far more time with them due to playing this.

Anything Else?

Nothing really comes to mind.  Being first is a big deal.  Can see this with first loves, first cars, first homes, first pets, first jobs, etc. where what was first was more memorable.

Within particular categories, those four games were firstish, firstable, and/or firstriffic.

I do have another game that comes to mind.  Before ending with that, I can summarize the point of this post being that a game may be objectively higher rank but still not be as impactful as another game.  Even within my own rankings this can be true – Immortal isn’t really playable mechanically where I’ve had far more enjoyment from L5R.

And, while V:TES may be my most played CCG, it just occurred to me that I don’t really think of it as world-changing, though perhaps I should since V:TES is how I ended up getting my first normal office job and why I work where I do now.

Babylon 5 CCG

Could be argued that B5 was world-changing for me as it set me on a path of playtesting, development, design, a path that eventually led to the Traveller Card Game having my name as a designer and developer.

It was a game I had influence in, unlike V:TES, even unlike UC!.  While Immortal led me to B5, B5 led me to read the entire Wheel of Time series minus chapters I couldn’t stand.  It was the game I crusaded the most for, bitched the most about, colored my views on game management the most.

World-changing is a personal thing, of course.  For somebody else, I’m sure Settlers of Catan led them into a world of Euroing.  There are professional egamers likely not from my generation, a generation that grew up on arcade play but way preceded esports.  Maybe Gloomhaven is this for somebody else, someone who may go on to embrace RPGs or may be like “RPGs suck.  Gloomhaven is so much easier to play.”

*shrug*  I may be downplaying the awesomeness of #1, but, you know, I do actually enjoy playing it.  Better than a lot of other possibilities.