Optionals

January 24, 2021

I’ve been increasing my gaming.  One thing about the gaming I’ve been doing is that it has given me various ideas.

Now, I also got at least one blog idea from our Traveller design meetings, which I may or may not use here.

Let me use the power of quoting myself.

One thought is, rather than the usual ways cards are improved, to give the various bad characters the keyword “Unsuckiness”. When a character with Unsuckiness comes into play, you may increase its Fighting by its printed cost. Or, use whatever numbers. Cost reduction as an alternative was also a thought.

This is something just posted in Discord.

So, why does this matter?

Designing in a vacuum is hard.  Riffing on what already exists is much easier.  Taking into account observations from playing with stuff is a lot easier when there’s something to observe.

While not limited to original sets in CCGs, original set cards most often have the greatest variance in power.  Really, really awful cards get made.

Instead of trying to deal with cards in a piecemeal way, having one “make them better” mechanic is an idea.  Is it a good idea?  Very possibly not, as awful cards are still going to be awful to different degrees and a mechanic that works well for one card may either be too good or not good enough for another.

But, it’s an idea.  And, today, is more about ideas than solving all of your problems.

A possibly viable VTES deck construction method: pick a card, build a deck around that card using the best possible other cards, then remove the card you picked from the deck. Actually, this probably applies to most CCGs.

If you don’t get what I’m really saying here, then you either don’t build decks like a lot of us or don’t build a lot of decks.

What I’m really saying here is that lots of ideas are fine for exploring more deckbuilding space within CCGs, but a lot of those ideas are going to be suboptimal or just plain bad.  My first Dagger deck ran Dominate for Deflection and possibly even plus bleed and ran Fortitude.  Running Fortitude is often not that productive unless it’s for Freak Drive or Daring the Dawn, but running Dominate is pretty much going to increase your viability rating.  Lots of vampires are not good.  Build decks with them to confirm that.  Then, when you confirm that, take them out and see if the rest of the deck does something good.

Even if you don’t care about building good decks, just want to do something different, can end up building a deck around some rarely played card where the rest of the deck is interesting and the deck is still better than whatever card you started with.

A propos of playing Highlander decks, something I want to explore more is playing with lower CL than games normally have. While Highlander is the extreme, 2cl doesn’t lock someone in to nearly the same degree yet forces away from the paradigm of building around specific cards. Where SF has no deck size restrictions and already has a CL that makes low CL more feasible, I should really do a lot more with 2cl to disrupt deckbuilding ruts. While simultaneously working on 5cl decks to see if get a noticeable level of “I’m thinking differently when switching between these decks” rather than burning out quickly on different for the sake of different.

Of course, Highlander in Traveller is something I should also be doing far more often. Anything Traveller should be doing something far more often …

Also in the realm of building more interesting decks is an idea I thought about some number of years ago but haven’t made a big deal of.  Instead of the extreme of Highlander decks in whatever CCG, just go with less card limit than normal.  Sure, VTES can just be going with a CL at all, which I’ve done a lot of, but I don’t think I’ve ever done a 2cl VTES deck, where I have done like two Highlander decks.

Even in a 3cl game, like B5, WoT, or a game that’s in print like Traveller, going to 2cl is not the same as 1cl.  You still are likely to end up with more unpredictability while also having more consistency.

Emphasis:  The point isn’t to fix the game.  The point isn’t to relieve boredom, though *a* point could be relieving boredom.  The point is to think about how reduced consistency in deck construction actually affects play rather than theoretically does.

So, those are CCG ideas.  How about RPGs?


Preplanned Glory/Honor rewards.

Lots of games have such things as a Ring of Wishes in a side room that will melt if you cast Fireball at the monster.  L5R has Glory, Honor, and Status problems as I’ve mentioned before.  One of the problems with any of them is giving out gains and losses.

HoR has fixed ways to gain or lose Glory and Honor.  But, they are too infrequent (well, Honor is too infrequent) and not splashy enough in many cases, such as all of those cases where one’s Glory or Honor is high enough in HoR4 that you don’t gain anything.  HoR4 also has the problem with Glory of just shifting the standard Glory Rank.  Instead of 10 being the norm, 5.9 is the norm.  That, too, is boring.

While you can just use the table when someone does something on their own like craft something well, can lay out scenes with an if/then and with gradations.  “Wandering aimlessly across the Empire, you have a disturbance to the left and a disturbance involving lots of smokeshow geisha to the right.  What now mechwarrior?”  Then, have win/lose conditions for each possible story hook the party decides to get involved in.  Can also scale based on how much of the party gives a crap.  It’s different if four PCs solve the great geisha gobsmacker than if one does.

Glory Coins

Not my idea.  I was talking about turning Glory into a currency, where you spend it to do things, when my GM started in on the idea of getting Glory currency that can be spent without affecting your Glory Rank, as I totally agree that it’s a thematic fail to spend Glory itself.

How you get the coins, how much you get, etc. all TBD.  Hey, run with these ideas and solve your own problems.

House Rules

The more I consider house rules, the more I understand the idea of trying to avoid them.  The problem isn’t that RAW are most awesomest because they clearly aren’t.  Some of the problem is that keeping in mind rules at variance to RAW is just harder, where a lot of people don’t understand RAW to begin with so that the house rules make even less sense.

The biggest problem is that everyone else might be wrong.  Where all of my house rules are the pinnacle of human/vampire/dhampir/whatever achievement, other people want to do silly stuff that makes playing harder and has all sorts of unintentional consequences.

Also, again, not a whole lot of people understand the RAW to begin with, including those who are making house rules.  I don’t necessarily mean the rule that is being changed but all of the rest of the game’s mechanics that may interact with what is being changed.  If you remove grappling from L5R 4e, sure, you get a better game, but you eliminate an option for characters that may not have other useful options.  If you suddenly make Glory do something, then do characters chase Glory rather than telling deep, moving personal arc stories about their struggles between serving their lords and (surrepticiously) servicing hotties?

Saving Time

More than one of my RPG campaigns has a time problem.  Players just take way too much time (not) doing things.  The reasons are different in different campaigns, so this is a topic for a much deeper post, but, like, whatevers.

Think about what you want to do.  Think about it between sessions.  Think about it when it isn’t your turn.  When some other character is off somewhere else.

Think holistically – what does the party want to do?  Figure it out fast.  Then, write it down.

Write stuff down.  Something I think is eating up tons of time in one game and some time in another is that what is going on requires way too much confirmation.  We are playing on Discord, folks.  Just write it into the chat channel.  Then, it can be referenced without being rehashed.

Write notes.  Sure, my notes are actually not as good as some other people’s in recent play, which I find surprising because so often I play with people who don’t take any notes.  It gets old when people can’t remember NPC names when could have just written it down.  Or, Temptation some other player to write stuff down for you, then actually bother to review the work others did that you could have been doing so that you have as good an idea of what’s going on as possible.

Focus on what matters.  This could be something like figure out what causes the party to take action rather than debate hypotheticals.  Or, it could be something like only worrying about things that affect play while playing.  Yes, OOC humor happens.  Shouldn’t spend a lot of time on this or other things that don’t affect play.  Don’t care what the hibernation habits of bear armies are if going to let sleeping bears lie.  Mechanics that aren’t germaine don’t pertain (TM, C, R).

Understand your character’s abilities.  Yes, this requires understanding the game system.  Then, understand what other PCs can do.  Especially in combat, your character is not in a duel with whoever is in front of it.  For instance, recent combat I had too many things to do (such is the way of gods).  I both facilitated an end to the combat that was not a sterling victory while also making certain decisions that seem in hindsight to be suboptimal.  I became too focused on my burning evil.  I could have facilitated others burning evil before I eventually got around to it.

A different example of understanding other PCs’ abilities.  One group has a massive brain.  Brains are made for Medicine and Lores.  We instead use an average brain and a tiny, feeble brain on such things.  Why do we hate ourselves so much?

Different campaign.  We avoid danger like the plague.  Yet, two out of three of the PCs have combat oriented magical abilities.  So, in trying as hard as possible to avoid confrontation with the forces of naughtiness, we take longer “investigating in force”.


Well, this was pretty incoherent.  Excelsior!


VTD 3B

January 18, 2021

So, I also played Witch Doctors for the first time in ages last night as 2020 was harsh on the GM, but I don’t know if I have a takeaway from it.

Virtual True Dungeon was this past weekend.

I did five runs.

I guess I got some value out of even the run I didn’t enjoy.  I really need to be more thoughtful about what runs I do.

First run was almost my attempt at soloing Nightmare.  I went druid for healing, decent damage from polymorph, spell damage for room 7, saves, damage reduction from polymorphing.  Polydruid is robust.  I had tons of spells left at the end even though I had to heal my partner.

Nope, someone didn’t jump my run at the last minute.  The earlier run got merged with mine.  So, suddenly, I wondered if room 7 was actually survivable.

Problem with that idea is that VTD is getting harder and harder, and my partner was not Epic equipped like I was.  I had to stuff him a rez potion in room 3, and we went puzzling rather than murdering because room 4 puzzle was known to us.  We failed room 5, new puzzle.  We had easy recovery in room 6 since we knew that puzzle.  Then, it went badly in room 7, much like how it would have gone solo.  I did forget something important because I’m too lazy to write out my strategies before doing dungeons I’m familiar with.

I got to crit undead multiple times for 80+ damage.  That was enjoyable.  I missed out on opportunity to turn into giant spider and hang with another giant spider.

Room 1 was harder than 3A.  Room 3 was different and I had no idea how very different it was as the screwage didn’t affect my build at all.

Later, I was on a Hardcore run, which is just weird.  Half the party should have been playing Epic.  This unevenness in awesome is really tiresome.  I didn’t have any reason to engage on puzzles except the new one where there were too many players for me to engage that much, and I didn’t really care about combat.

See, full parties are less fun.  Too many people talking for puzzles.  Too little focus on my l33t tech in combat.  Too often too easy.  Now, this is when playing with strangers.  Playing with friends, it’s always good, which is why I need to keep more to our clique, which has gotten pretty big.

Saturday, our group did Epic Double Down.  We did all combat.  Because we are 2l2l2q.  If you get that reference, there must be some way to search it on the internet or are of a certain age, I suppose.  We got close on killing necromancer in room 7.  Cloudkill did some of us in, and we didn’t really have a reason not to just concede.

That was fun for at least some of us.  My bard build wasn’t that interesting.  I cast spells badly.

Sunday morning was a nice, relaxing newb Nightmare run.  With nine players, even with 3 classes being completely new to TD, nevermind VTD, wasn’t that difficult.  Puzzles were all solved including new puzzle, though that was funny.  Those who didn’t know the puzzle got the first part completely right with guessing.  The second part did 40 damage to everybody as they just guessed until eventually getting it right on try #5.  I barded again, and it was somewhat more interesting.  I think I Sonic Darted in room 7.  We barely got some rooms done, where the DM was nice on time because of our newbs.  I ignored all of the puzzles because I knew them all, even though my understanding on why in new puzzle was wrong.

Later, final run with people outside my circle.  It amused me to do more damage with a melee attack than a spell playing … wizard.  My supercool tech for the run never came up, which was disappointing.  Need to run tech in small parties where stuff will come up more often.

So, 3B.

Much like 2AB and 3A, 3B had way too many saves with far too harsh effects of failure.  It just eats up time to fiddle with saves every round.  I didn’t like the new room 3 at all, thought it was worse than old room 3 even though I didn’t like old room 3.  The mechanic in room 3 that prevented certain spells from doing anything and prevented lots of weapons from doing anything was just bad design.  I get that people should only play Epic if they sunk insane amounts of money into TD, but other levels of play should not be so griefy in a nonoptional combat prior to room 7.  Other changes were fine.

I want to do less runs because it gets repetitive and the puzzles become meaningless, just rest rooms.  I want to do more runs to try different tech to meta the various challenges.  It’s a neverending conflict that will rage until the universe ends.  I guess spending less money is also good, as the treasure isn’t good enough to farm, not with how concentrated treasure has become in the community to where I can’t move things like monster bits.

It’s unlikely I do as much 4AB due to the completion tokens not being as good and the low staminas of certain others in our group, but it’s a bit of an unknown.

Meanwhile, app and dungeon tech continues to advance.  Enjoyable diversion each month and all of the in between planning.  Now, to finally get around to putting together transmutes so that my builds are all just strictly more powerful.


Scrappy

January 10, 2021

One thing I’ve been thinking about recently is ideas for L5R campaigns.  Not one-shots as I’m not terribly enthused by the idea of one-shots, like kind of at all anymore.  I wonder if there’s some way to recover an interest in just playing a game to play a game rather than it having deep meaning for the rest of my life.

In talking to folks who play and/or run L5R recently, I think I’ve had another epiphany.

Many of my ideas are DOA.

For instance, Rokugan 1600, Take Deux.  The same people who would get what I’m going for are pretty much going to be the same people who argue with me about the logic of the changes to the setting I’ve made.  I have zero interest in arguing about what to play.

Hengeyokai PCs?  What sustains this campaign?  It’s yet another idea that subverts the setting, which is fine for a one-shot, perhaps it’s even a great idea for a one-shot, but subverting the setting is, well, subversive.  I actually do like the setting.  An important part of the setting, some of the kitchen sink options aside, is playing a normal samurai.  There’s even a reason to screw over Imps with mechanics – clanness is normal, Impness is not.  Not a good reason in my mind as there are plenty of mechanics for great clanners and insufficient but sometimes OP mechanics for minor clanners, but whatever.

I was talking to someone who mostly GMs and he noted that single clan games never seem to work.  I can understand that.  L5R isn’t just primarily about great clans, it’s a setting where different player personalities can associate to different clans.  Just like Vampire or whatever.  How many single clan Vampire games have people played in?  I can’t think of a single one.

There are still a couple of ideas that readily come to mind that might still work.  Naishou Province style separated territory and/or you are your own minor clan.  But, I can see this having a fundamental problem as well.  Single clan game.  Or, if not single clan game, why are there multiple clans here?  Who are you interacting with?  Bunch of peasants?  PCs have their own fiefdoms?  Actually, that last idea would be a lot like LARP play or play by post play or whatever where the PCs aren’t just all on the same team.  But, even if I have no problems with player v player in the lesser degree, a game all about player v player sounds painful to me.

I want party that is fighting the good fight, to the extent that Rokugani can be imagined as good.  But, that’s like so many other games.  How to spice it up or distinguish it besides boring stuff of everyone following their own personal mechanical advancement goals?

Actually, I’ve played very little clan v clan play, even though that was kind of the thinking from day one.  Assuming the party is all on one side of a fight, which is already a huge assumption because players want to play their favorite concepts even if they don’t fit, what is the campaign about?  Is it really that interesting to try to murder the Crane every month?

That’s much more of a political/mass battle/intrigue game.  Where’s the fantasy?

I’ve already done players v Gaki, that is not something I’m excited by doing again.  I have no interest in players v Sakkaku.  Players v Chikushudo is like the opposite of what interests me.  Players v Tengoku or Yomi would be … different, but it would probably be one of those subversion situations.  Players v Yume-do is pretty silly.  Players v Maigo no Musha might work.  Meido – no.  Jigoku is kind of like what I’m currently doing and kind of like Princess Police.  Toshigoku strikes me as being limited in storytelling possibilities – “Don’t be too savage.  Win.”

Foreign supernatural runs into what happened with R1600-1.  The players didn’t sign on to play LBS.

I think there are lots of types of stories, but so many of them require specific buy-in, and some aren’t interesting to me.  I don’t want a campaign all about the law, as the laws in Rokugan suck.  Actually, no, that’s not the real problem.  The real problem is that I don’t care about laws in any game.  It’s like caring about economics in games.  Why would I want to play games about mundane activities?

Exploration?  I guess this is possible.  This might make more sense in a Dawn of the Empire style game, but, then, players aren’t going to have all of the schools and paths they want, so who is going to want to do this?

I claim that the sink is a lot bigger than people think with L5R.  I think that’s true from a write fiction standpoint.  From an actual play standpoint, boy, so much of my play is very, very similar to each other.  The variance isn’t so much in themes or goals or whatever but simply in player characters, sometimes just in character sheets.

So, I should still compile a list of more specialized possibilities that tell different types of stories just in case, but I have a feeling that it won’t end up mattering a lot.  So many people who want to play L5R want to play a particular type of L5R, myself included, that leads to homogenization.


Skirt Mish

January 3, 2021

I thought about posting something on 1/1/21, as I thought I had zero things I needed to do for a change.  But, I forgot that it was a weekly gaming night.  Yes, weekly.  We couldn’t really play what we intended due to technology defeating itself.  And, I lost the motivation to force myself to post something about De Void.

So, someday, I will have that post title left to use.

Yesterday, I did something different.  I played Warhammer Underworlds: Direchasm.

I’m not a minis guy.  I’m not a skirmish guy.  Sure, BattleTech is both, so that’s the exception.  I suppose BT for me is like the cajillions of skirmish games for other people – more than meets the eye.

So, after a couple of games, one to learn the mechanics, other to be a horribly one-sided affair, I think there are two main criticisms I, non-minis guy, have.

First, the dice have too many symbols.  Half supports and full supports is overengineering.  In general, taking “HeroQuest” dice for a competitive game doesn’t strike me as a good idea.  Too random, as even first game showed, as one side won initiative every single time it was rolled.  Yes, even with other side getting free crit.  HeroQuest dice are fun because it’s team good versus the pure physical evil that is whoever is playing Zargon (usually me).  Small dice pools just exacerbate the randomness.

Second, the nature of the game is flawed in my, non-minis, mind.  The game has set warbands with variable decks.  Gee, if I’m like a minier, I think my attraction to playing with warbands would be modifying my warbands even if my decks remained fixed, rather than the other way around.  The “go buy another warband” for warband variance just leaves me wanting to go back to playing games I like – CCGs.  Hell, Dragon Dice feels more customizable because what you customize is what you feel an affinity towards even if playing Dragon Dice feels pretty repetitive (aka dull).

I talked with someone far, far more into minis/skirmish games afterwards, and he pointed out that the marketing philosophy is trying to achieve something that not only I, non-minis guy, but also miniers of various bents aren’t interested in, yet some people care more about the lore, the ease of play, or whatever.

I mean, sure, it was easy to play.  After one game, pretty much understood the rules.  I may be a gaming genius god grog- … wait, I don’t like wargames, so grognard isn’t right.  But, I’m sure the rest is perfectamost description of this humble/modest pure physical personification of evil.  Or, whatever.  So, it achieved some goal.

If the game replaced Warhammerstuff with mechs and my warband was like a bunch of mediums and all of the flavor was made mechian, I suppose I would have been way more engaged.

It’s almost like flavor matters.  Almost as if.  I should come back to this profound insight that no one could possibly have thought of in the past 12 years that this blog has existed.

Would I play it again?

Yeah, gaming to me isn’t just about playing games I like.  Gaming is a social experience where stuff other people like is fine, too.  I would rather play a different skirmish game, I imagine, to where it’s theoretically possible I, non-minis guy, could become a *gasp* minis guy.


The Best of … 2017

December 30, 2020

2017 was a peak year in this blog’s popularity.

January

Nordliga Riter

Just another gaming trek.  A lot like our drives over to Fresno, yet different.  So many pictures.  I have so many more from my camera and my phone.  The good old days, to be sure.

Of Sword Questions

More words = more gooder.

February

Riffing

This is not terribly useful to other people.  I doubt anyone who reads this will understand its importance.  Who would get value out of this is likely pretty limited and should involve those who don’t care about games.

March

April

Lost Opportunities

A jumbled mess.  In other words, my forte – wait, people don’t know how to pronounce forte correctly – specialty.

May

EC 2017: Veni. Vidi. Suxisti!

Can mark something off my bucket list.  That’s pretty rare.  It would help if I wrote up an extensive bucket list, then it would be easier.  On the one hand, a sign of how much better my life had gotten; on the other, a sign of doom a-coming.  Even got asked by extrala whether I took notes on play.  Bah – brain more gooder, enormical ability to recall … remember … something something something.

EC 2017 – Explicatio

A nice, long companion piece.

June

KublaCon 2017

Maybe some other year I might not find a local con report as compelling, but this year has brought to mind the loss of local gaming.  Note that there’s an important piece of info for all of my millions and … millions of Shadowfist opponents.

July

Fisticuffs – Time To Eat

Is this profound?  Maybe it is.  Guess you can just read it.  The inreferences even make it incomprehensible to people who play Shadowfist.

August

Gen Con 2017 – The $8 Story

Something about my Gen Con reports feels more important than it used to.  Perhaps it’s doing stuff with friends and navigating HoR and TD.  Of course, GC2020 going virtual was a harsh first world problem.  But, let’s try to worry about 2017, when all was right with the world, assuming you weren’t almost going to die at a game convention.

September

October

Living Legends

I really wanted to enjoy the L5R LCG.  I eventually decided I didn’t, but, until then, well, there’s this “hopeful” post.

November

Gamehole Con 2017

This was really useful for understanding more about serious TD play.  This also should give somewhat better idea what playing TD is like.

Crisis Of Blog Why

Looking forward to things.  Let’s all look forward to better things.

December

Oddyssey

So, this is not a useful post.  This is an example of self-indulgence.  But, other than reddit, quora, et al, where are you going to find this form of geniusness about something you want to avoid engaging with?

So, 2017 was a popular year, but it was also a year where I don’t know how many of my non-travel posts really matter.  Of course, all central-thinking people love hearing about my traveling the world and playing games, but I don’t know if they want to hear about my experiences with the L5R LCG, which was a more notable thing in 2017, or so much about Arrowverse or so much about TD.

It’s almost like there’s a reason the popularity of the blog dropped off after 2017.


Building L5R Characters – Unoriginals

December 28, 2020

As I’ve said multiple times, my post about Origins for L5R characters didn’t really cover what I intended.

It got way too mechanical way too fast.

While basing a new character on some mechanical feature makes a lot of sense in a lot of situations, it’s the nonmechanical aspects that should get more play.  BTW, why does it make sense to think in terms of mechanics so often with new characters?  Niche protection.  Party challenge-overcoming strategies.  Avoiding frustration while playing because mechanics and thematics are out of sync.  Avoiding mechanical incompetence.

I played my first session in an existing campaign.  I already have far more feel for this character than I do almost all of my new characters.

Why?

Because the basis of this character wasn’t mechanics.

Oh, sure, clan/family/school impact mechanics.  But, I didn’t really care that they did.  The GM gave me a list of more reasonable schools based on the campaign being about maho-tsukai and being centralized in Phoenix Lands.

I considered Henshin …

Because the party only had one shugenja and because … you may have heard something about this … I don’t particularly like playing shugenja but should more often *and* because I was going to start out as a 40xp loser, I thought a shugenja would be a good fit.

That’s the mechanical consideration.  The not so mechanical consideration was that I like minor clans and that this setting has the old Snake Clan.  Snake Clan in a game about maho-tsukai …

I didn’t care that Chuda get Strength bump (which doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense for anti-Taint shugenja, but whatever).  The GM and I are still trying to figure out what one of the school abilities even does because, shockingly, a minor clan’s technique is poorly explained; the other ability is exceedingly weak at SR-1.

I did have to think about what it meant to be an Earth Shugenja, especially because the other shugenja is intending to be an Earth Tensai in like one more session.

But, my interest is really in exploring the development of the Snake Clan.

Then, I did what players should actually do and looked at disads to define the character before worrying about other aspects.  I wanted to go with a single disad or a very coherent combination of disads rather than the “how do I get 10pts of disads?” mishmash that players are so inclined to.  The single disad led to a thematic backstory, which led to thoughts about parents even before being encouraged to flesh out parents.

It also led, in combination with a mechanical consideration of filling a possible hole in the party, to choosing a flavor advantage.  Oh, not a garbage advantage.  I’m way too into the mechanics of 4e L5R to waste points in a 40xp build, but certainly not a cheese ad.

It all flows rapidly.  This has happened before.  I do have more fleshed out characters at times.  This is just flowing easier than usual.

Probably because of the pent up demand for more thematic characters in 4e L5R play that arose from far too many years of creating a supply of overmechanized characters.

While I’ve spent significant thought on advancement (for reasons covered another time), I don’t actually care a lot.  I quite favor advancement based on what characters do on stage – reactive advancement (a concept to flesh out more … another time).  If I had done more notable things in my first session, I might go along highly narrative lines.  As is, while I intend on advancing to not suck at casting spells, if the next couple of sessions have a strong narrative direction for the character, I don’t have a problem with continuing to suck (to the extent that a shugenja with at least one ring higher than two can suck).

I can write fictions for this character without it feeling forced.  This is a character who has spent no more than 15 minutes of real time actually doing anything.

While the character name was a struggle and ended up more awkward than it probably should be as the other players struggle with it even after I tried to help with pronouncing, let’s see if my attempting to come up with a meaningful name meshes well with other thematics over time.

That the campaign already had an identity certainly affected focus.  So many games have PCs that are created without context that they don’t fit either together or into the world.  This character has thematic fit and, maybe, just maybe, it will work out well mechanically, too, when all is said and done.

But, I guess we will see after I post like a dozen more posts about this character (assuming campaign persists long enough).  At some point, I may also have a name for this campaign that I can tag these posts with.


It’s A Wonderful Post

December 25, 2020

Last night was the first time I had ever seen It’s a Wonderful Life.

When I say I don’t watch much in the way of movies, that includes movies on television.

Since I knew the general story, it dragged.  One reason that I don’t watch more movies on TV is that they are long.

What I had so little concept of were the details.  I started off surprised at the cosmic chitchat.  Felt much more B sci-fi flick at that point.

It was mostly depressing.  But, then, people already knew that.  I’m part of the way through a review that goes into exactly how the movie is much darker than people remember/think.

While hardly a George Bailey, I can relate to some of his problems.  Where I can’t relate is the extremely contrived plot that sets up evil versus schmoe.  But, then, as a spin on Job, well, it’s not exactly a surprising take.

One might wonder why I like Miracle on 34th Street, which is full of arguable contrivances to tell its story and not like the same in this story.  Difference I see is that one eventually glosses over the many years of misery that characters endure where the other has its ups and downs in a fairly short stretch.

It’s funny that so many Christmas classics are about the evils within capitalistic greed, but … there’s a reason for that.

Anyway, eventually need to bring this around to gaming.

Could segue on how gaming as an escape from each person’s Bedford Falls (well, George’s view of his home town).  But, that seems kind of a downer.

And, if there’s one thing I’m all about, it’s rampant positivity.

Gaming?

Let’s deconstruct Bedford Falls to use for one’s own RPG settings.

Villain

You have a clear villain.  The villain is really all about control through the typical mechanism of controlling money.  Now, while a L5R villain could have trappings of this villain, one of the features of the L5R world is that there’s always someone above you and where the Emperor actually does (in theory) own and control everything, so this strikes me as a poor L5R setting.

A more generic fantasy setting can use such a villain.  If.  First thing is that you may have to drop money as the root of power.  Magical control of people to have the really fun theme of preventing people from becoming indentured servants is theoretically possible, and I’m sure someone motivated to make this happen can come up with a plausible way it would work.  Now, I say may.  People are free to play low fantasy or videogame roleplaying where money, money, money matters.

Regardless as to whether keeping money as a tool to power or not, what makes this villain compelling?  I would argue nothing.  I don’t need all of my personae to be full of complexity and redeemability, but this guy is just an avatar for a boring source of evil.  The villain could have just as easily been a corporation his identity is so irrelevant.  This idea of replacing an individual with an organization, though, does have a gaming benefit.  When there’s a single villain that produces evil, what happens when the party learns Teleport?  The downside of an organization is the common problem of making evil faceless.  Who gets excited by mowing through minions of the Darkforce?  But, then, taking this guy out is hardly interesting.

Would it be better if this guy was building up to something besides just methodically taking control of the world?  Because just trying to prevent the world from being taken over just sounds like a very dull existence for PCs.  It’s like how so many settings have a situation where the protagonists are trying to prevent evil rather than rooting it out.  Problem with this guy trying to build to something that could be disrupted is that that’s a different character.  This guy is a representation of capitalistic greed and grinding out the humanity in, um, humans.

Town

Small town, not completely isolated but separated from the rest of the world.  My problem with this setting is that it’s either too isolated or not isolated enough.  Violet almost decides to start over somewhere else, and it’s unclear why she doesn’t unless the afterparty with happy George ends up being a very happy George (with some fanfic happy Mary).  George can escape his Hell as long as he stops giving a crap about other people.

The town itself is not evil.  This is better than just dumping PCs in an evil setting which just sounds miserable to me.  The town, however, has an ethos, an ethos of being boring and having modest aspirations.  Hmmm … isn’t that like the exact opposite of a fun setting?  George wants to be a PC, instead is a Fantasy Townie who services the PCs.

Now, as a locale in an adventurous world, it seems like such a place could have good symbolism.  Either the PCs escape this place that tries to trap them in mediocrity and later find out how it gets swallowed by a demon or leave this town behind and come back to it later where it has been transformed into demonland.  But, instead of that trite storytelling, this could be a pass through location that the party engages with that represents the unadventurer.  That the PCs don’t fit this town in obvious ways and that the more they interact with it the more warped it becomes, not necessarily in a bad way as that would be depressing.

Taking characters from this town as flavor certainly works.  The noble cabbie.  The noble policeman.  The noble ethnic restaurateur.  The poorly run capital management institutions.  I guess.  What makes these characters more interesting than you could find in other fiction?

Cosmology

Does how God, Joseph, and AS2s work get you excited by including them?  If an AS2 can cause you to cease to be born, that’s harsh on PCs.  Of course, this setting was never intended for PCs, so the high fantasy aspects can be particularly arbitrary/unfair.

I certainly have no problem with guardian angels, but it occurs to me that I’ve spent no time thinking about a game where you had PCs who either had specific guardian angels or who were guardian angels themselves (in the more specific sense of being attached to specific individuals and constantly protecting them).

I’ll have to think about this a bit more.  I can imagine that it would be challenging for players to want to do more than a one-shot playing as dependent characters (in either case, it’s something of a codependency).  Actually, you could do this in L5R, where every PC is a yojimbo for a NPC shugenja/courtier, but I’m not clear on how this would work.

Next post:  the guardian angel campaign.

Themes

Responsibility versus selfish pleasure.  Adventuring seems very much a stand-in for more general hedonism.  Fooling around with naked chick gets defeated by responsibility, for instance.  This sounds like a terrible theme for a game.  The whole point of playing games is to escape from responsibility.  The act of the game is itself going to Europe or South America or even New York.

Greed is bad.  Again, kind of the opposite of gaming, at least a very common form of gaming.

Being the guy that fixes everyone else’s problems and only gets rewarded for it when you want to kill yourself makes for a wonderful life.  Nope.

Home is actually not as bad as it seems, even though leaving home gets you medals and wives and lots of money.  “You know what?  Instead of saving the world tonight, let’s just hang out and talk about our jobs and families and health problems.”

Anything can be used in some way, but the fundamental problem with using IaWL is that George is the antiadventurer.  He’s your butler who defeats all of the supervillain schemes to take over your base while you rescue “amazons”.

Vampires

One thing about the setting is that it seems a far better fit for a game like Vampire.  The isolation is enforced by the need to feed and the dangers of interacting with strange vamps.  The Prince (or whoever depending upon the setup) taking over more and more of your home sounds more plausible, if rather depressing.  Note that a spin could be that you are the Prince’s coterie while the Primogen keep trying to overthrow your inhibited boss.

Or, what about a Hunter game (human hunters, not Hunters) where you can’t off the Prince because way out of your league, but you can loan money to the tramp so that she can continue to flirt with everyone?  Not sure what you would spend your time doing, actually.  The IaWL villain doesn’t have minions, yet the obvious place to start is by defeating Evil’s minions.

Misery Until Winning

I just read a review where the review is much like IaWL – it dwells on the dark/negative, then gives the “happy” ending where we all cry with joy because … winning.

Nope.  I was in some game where it was all misery with the idea that you, then, win at the end (I think, I’m actually struggling to remember the particulars).  This is antifun.  I don’t play games for misery.  I play games to escape misery.

Put another way, gaming itself is the “I want to live”, the “Merry Christmas”.  I sent out my annual Christmas/New Year’s/Holiday emails (because I hate writing physical cards and have no interest in mailing more than what I have to).  So many of them are directly or indirectly due to gaming.

See my geniusness.  Merry Christmas folks.  All you had to endure was the unrelenting negativity before winning!


Hammering Out House Rules

December 22, 2020

I have been thinking about house rules. For Rokugan 1600, I had around 20 house rules to address things that offended me. That was not terribly productive. Far too many, far too confusing what I changed.

Rules that don’t matter don’t matter.

For instance, I hate 4e grapple rules. I’m not the only one. But, the grapple rules don’t come up all of the time because players don’t want to play All Nippon Wrestling or whatever.

They don’t come up.

So, the obvious solution isn’t to modify rules, which just leads to confusion. The obvious solution is just get rid of them.

I recosted Luck because it’s stupidly undercosted.

Gone.

Honor Rolls don’t work the way I like.

Sayonara. Yup, this makes Honor even less valuable. Oh well.

Yes, eliminating the two primary rerolls in the game makes rerolls far less common. Almost as if a low Honor character didn’t take Luck. Almost as if.

Other weapon skills don’t explode 9’s on damage. Well, problem solved, now no weapon skill explodes 9’s on damage.

Fires of Purity the most annoying of all overpowered R-1 spells? One less Fire spell. [Well, see below.]

Errata is always more confusing than bannings.

Say hello to my little bannings.

Oh, one other thing I’m thinking of banning in my next game …

“So, you can play a bushi or you can play a courtier or you can play a Tattooed Monk. What are you thinking?”

Meanwhile, there’s this thing in home games that I hear might work to fill in holes in the rules: “Agree that the rules don’t really cover that, let’s come up with some homebrew mechanics for this specific case.”


Camping Tools

December 20, 2020

Before getting to a major inspiration for this post, some miscellany.

Thursday was an intense day as there were a bunch of eBay auctions I was following before and during latest HoR4 play.  I can’t say I didn’t win any of them, but I watched a lot of depressing results as what I wanted was too pricey and what I didn’t wasn’t pricey enough.  This wouldn’t seem to have a lot to do with gaming, but eBay, as annoying as it is these days, remains a market for gaming goods.  Seemingly horrible place for Shadowfist cards as people treat unopened packs/boxes as collectibles when I just want certain cards in those sets.  Not worth spending $100 on something where you might get like one card that matters.

The HoR4 mod was okay.  Surreal.  Desperately in need of editing as pretty much everything HoR4 is to make more coherent and/or develop not bad ideas.

I appear to be joining a new L5R campaign.  I know, I know, you were desperate to hear about more of my characters so you now feel blessed.  But, that’s not going to get covered here.

I was reminded of what caused last campaign I ran to fail.  But, that’s not going to get covered here.

What are the most essential tools to a new campaign?

I’m thinking files/documents.

I think it varies.  I think the single most important tool for a L5R campaign is …

NPC Tracker (Who)

Why is this more important in L5R play than other play?

Because L5R has a social structure that is supposed to be respected.

Because Rokugani names are hard for folks.  Was that Akodo or Asako?  Doji or Daidoji?  Kaiu or Kuni?

I struggled with a character name and eventually ended up with the awkward Kitayakei.  A player already asked how to pronounce that.  Actually, it’s sufficiently challenging to flow that I thought someone might just go with the nickname Kita.  Kagayatsuki flowed far better, just being long.

Then, family members and lots of distant relations have very similar names.  Hida Benko and Hida Bendo might be siblings, parent child, or essentially unrelated clanmates.  There’s no guidance based off of name like you might see in other games where 100,000 NPCs won’t have the same family name.  Or, where names aren’t as prolific in the first place.

BTW, this is a really important element of L5R play I hadn’t thought much about before.  It’s not just that names sound similar in L5R play, it’s that names are similar by the nature of the world.  Family names are shared across thousands upon thousands of people, most of which you couldn’t care less about.  No wonder names throw new L5R players so much.  Your given name isn’t even as important as your family name, yet your family name is just the same as N other characters.

Should enter faction information somewhere, might as well be here.  While some worlds have enough established identity that you don’t need to mention the Hutts and what they do, anything campaign specific that the players should have some inkling of that could be relevant (gets mentioned in character) should have an entry.

Similar …

PC Tracker (Who)

Could just put all characters into same document.  But, the PC tracker may have qualitatively different details.  Players don’t need to know everything about PCs, but it’s a lot easier to have a document with people’s Status, titles, achievements, familial relations, etc.  This became more noticeable to me when joining an existing campaign rather than being an original member of a game.  I know the clans and some schools of the other PCs, but I only found out by asking that nobody has Status above one.

In a different world …

Maps (Where)

L5R is very different in that you can go to the wiki or pull out Atlas of Rokugan to know all sorts of stuff about a location.  That mod Thursday had some odd location references as I think I know where certain places are in relation to each other due to extensive study of the world of L5R.

In other games, like any homebrewed world, set the scene, so to speak.

Then, there’s …

Campaign History (When)

A new campaign should give some sense of what has come before unless the setting is already established in people’s minds or can be looked up easily from books.  For instance, Hyboria is not a world where someone needs to know what already happened so much.

L5R is very detailed to where *when* matters a lot.  One of the more confusing elements of this new campaign is that there’s no when.  It’s trying to portray a generic L5R world, so you get things like the Snake Clan prior to its fall existing while Unicorn are in Empire, something that never happened in canon as Snake were only around 60 years while the Kirin Clan was gallivanting across gaijin lands.

But, it’s not just sweeping world history, it’s PC relevant history.  An existing campaign should have a timeline of events based upon what the players have already done.

Not always relevant, but …

House Rules Doc (What, Why)

I didn’t do a good job of this, myself.  Not only do you need a reference for house rules, the reference should be very clear.  Don’t bury mechanics in a bunch of analysis as to why you did something.  Just bullet point the relevant details.  Can provide an explanation as to why somewhere off to the side.

Character creation limitations or changes are very common for established players of a RPG.  Write them out.

Well …

Toolbox

I’m probably overlooking something important, though I don’t consider it absolutely necessary to have the campaign mission statement, elevator pitch, or whatever written up.  Helpful, just not necessary in the same way.  Sure, the What of the campaign and the Why of the campaign and the How of the campaign can be clarified, but a lot of Why = we want to play this RPG, who cares why anymore?

The How can be inferred from the other documents.  Though, I must admit I had to ask how to communicate with the GM and players and how to roll dice for this campaign, so maybe I’m undervaluing having an official How To Play document for any given campaign.


Fist Faction Preferences

December 13, 2020

Before talking about Shadowfist factions and what I like less, feel compelled to note that had another Virtual True Dungeon weekend.

VTD 3A caught people by surprise because it was hard, much harder than normal.  Puzzles were harder.  Last combat was much harder than people expected.

I was ready to solo a Nightmare run, someone jumped on it.  We did fine until we hit last combat.  We had no way to win last combat.  I keep thinking about how to solo that combat on Nightmare.  I don’t think there’s a way without like playing rogue alt class.  Well, if also making it through earlier combats, though there’s always taking lots of heal pots to be full up, so I guess I could see a wizard build with as many multispells as possible that fires off Lesser Maze, though even that doesn’t do much due to little chance of winning Initiative due to the dumb Initiative wars caused by Charm of Awareness/Awakened Synergy being everywhere.  Druid Summoner might be able to do a little bit but unlikely.  Stun happy monk can’t stun enough rounds, I don’t think.

Anyway, these musings aren’t useful to anyone.  What was more interesting to others is that I did an Epic run with our group where we could have succeeded if we played much faster and I did a no spellcaster run – Double Down, only Barbarian, Dwarf Fighter, Fighter, Monk, Rogue – where we succeeded on Nightmare.  More interesting not because we succeeded (with monk stun) but because we metagamed heavily for the run and I kept using ammunition.  I used a bunch of heal arrows, one of which managed to actually heal me for 8, which might sound plausible until you realize you need to slide/roll a 20 to get a heal effect with these things.  I also used a couple Arrows of Ricochet.

I was amused.  No spellcaster was really fun.  It goes to show that the way to improve fun on TD is to play with fewer players and metagame and play at an appropriate challenge level.

Btw, on that run, I got turned into a goblin, so my personal narrative is that I claimed the throne of the mine with my ultra keen slayer longbow and my Khing’s Ring.

I have thoughts on playing 3B, but I guess we see who is available when January rolls around.

So, Shadowfist …

So, a comment on Discord led me to think about my ranking order for favorite Shadowfist factions.

Architects

Why first?  I think they have a lot of thematic themes going on.  I like abominations.  I like arcanowave.  I like removal even if I don’t play their most common removal … which is probably why I like their removal as they have so much of it that I can play inferior cards and still zap characters.

I like their color scheme.  Cool chopper.  Don’t feel like I’m forced to play one sort of deck or forced to play cards I don’t like.

Lotus

Another zap faction, who de thunk?  Another faction with demons.  Might have been weaker early on, but Modern makes this faction replete with quality characters.  Character steal is something I like as long as I do it and nobody else does.  Some other things to do besides demons, like hoods, petals, cattle.

My personal card that I won’t likely get to ever make would be a not obviously evil Lotus character.  Because CCGs not RPGs.

I like various magic cards.

Hand

It’s not that I like superleap, it’s that I like the theme of a number of superleapers.  Where the RPG has uptight martial artists, the CCG just has martial artists.

I like defensive plays, though I actually don’t care at all about Iron and Silk and I don’t like counterspells being too common.  Fu Lions is one of my favorite cards in the game in part because what they do, in part because of the art.  Same with Daughter of Nu Gua.

I like the color scheme.  I have some interest in the peasant theme and whatever.

Jammers

I have personal banned lists with CCGs. Anything monkey, including art unless the art involves the monkey being decapitated, burnt alive in some negative way, eviscerated, being eaten, or about to be these things, are on my banned list – took me a while to realize that involves a card I actually like playing but I caught my mistake with Monkey Fools the Tiger. Whether flavor text that’s pro monkey needs to apply is on the watch list. I also have some other cards that would be more relevant to my opponents, but I’m sure no one cares.

There are just a bunch of cards I like.  I feel like I’m playing a faction unlike Dragons and Monarchs which feel like playing cards in a Magic color.  Tech is far more welcome here, where it doesn’t feel off theme.

Having more limited options never bothers me in CCGs as long as a faction doesn’t feel played out.

Dragons

Lot of cool things in Dragons, of course, but there’s just something about the faction that decks feel like they are overly restrictive thematically.  Maybe, it’s because Dragons are so much about unique characters that decks either feel too uniqueful or not uniqueful enough.  Big Bruiser, I’m still willing to play, but it just feels cheesy.  Various plays just feel cheesy.

Don’t feel much theme in foundations.  Tech in Modern is way overdone, vehicles even more so as I don’t care to build a bunch of vehicle decks.  Dragons should have remained the jack-of-all-trades faction.  I like Magic Dragons more than most other Dragons decks.

Color scheme not as nice as Hand.

I don’t find Final Brawl enjoyable.  I favor Thunder on Thunder because edges suck, but I don’t like the card.  I find splashing Dragons in unaligned decks is more appealing to me than actually playing Dragons decks, yet I’m mostly doing that because Netherworld Trickster or whatever is broken.

Monarchs

Pretty much just like Dragons only with different cards.  I like lots of the individual cards and just find playing full Monarch decks to be hollow, like there’s no real theme to the deck.  Sure, there are mechanical themes like warriors, burn everything in existence, and … it’s actually hard for me to think of other themes I’m interested in.  I don’t like most of the unique characters.  The monarchs for the obvious reason that I don’t like playing cards people play all of the time.

Ambush interests me, but I like Architects ambush better.  Nuking Netherworld cards is fun.  I like Sea Dragons, though they work way better for others than they do me even though I’m willing to run counterspells.

Syndicate

Color scheme.  More on theme than other factions (for an obvious reason).  Downside is that I don’t like the cards as much as I used to.  Got boring to play this faction pretty fast.  I’m not into characters who kill characters.  Without being played out, feels played out.

Seven Masters

I’m not into obvious power.  Even the other Masters are too obviously powerful for me (except Sky Dragon due to cost).  Slim pickings outside of Masters.  Can’t play my sort of card due to Monkey taint.  Kind of like color scheme.

Purists

A lot like Monarchs lite.  I’m totally into their weird cards and totally bored with how their decks play.  The weird stuff just doesn’t make for interesting game states, while the good stuff makes for annoying game states.  Stuck playing too many of their good cards to have a MToV deck (minimum threshold of viability).  Color scheme seemed cooler at first, now feels too monotonous.

Ascended

Sure I play more Ascended than Syndicate, Seven Masters, and Purists combined.  Ranking is based on average desirability.  I don’t play iconic cards because I don’t like what they do.  I don’t like main themes in Ascended.  Power steal is just obnoxious.  Power gain is boring.  Pledged horde is boring.  Manchu is pretty played out.

Still, given the vast number of different cards available, still plenty of things to do I don’t hate.  Perfectly happy to run more Cobra Clan Stalkers.  The number of characters I actually like is extremely low.  I like Zero-G Sumo more than tons of Ascended characters.  Modern helped my interest in this faction significantly because there are non-awful cards that aren’t just same old, same old or with subpar art for what they could be.

Don’t like color scheme.

I do like Reascended decks.