Anomaly Log

March 17, 2018

I could rehash about no snakes in Ireland [did I ever hash?], how boring my day has been, and whatnot, but I can blog about gaming.

For, you see, I was in Virginia for a while.  And, North Carolina.  And, Maryland.

I got into VA on a weekend, did a family brunch on Sunday, but two brothers were out of town and other siblings had stuff to do so there wasn’t much group activity after brunch.  Monday, I drove to Raleigh … and back.  That was another clear instance of low life wisdom.

Why Raleigh?  To pick up True Dungeon tokens from someone I had never met.  Because … I have a game blog for a reason.

I showed him Traveller, briefly.

Tuesday was more normal for me and the scene and I had a lunch in Glen Echo with my mother’s cousins.  Cuz, there’s no shortage of people I know in the DC area.  I displayed to people who aren’t gamers our two-player starter set box and some of the cards.

Wednesday, I caught up on sleep until the point that three of my brothers came over to learn Traveller.  Now, a four-player game is not the best way to teach something as intricate as a customizable card game, especially not to people who aren’t card floppers.  But, we tried, and one brother got out to a lead, another felt like he was learning the game when we called it, and the third was the one who was interested in learning.

Thursday, was Steve’s demo of Traveller at Huzzah Hobbies in Ashburn.  I did not really expect to do a lot of driving on the trip outside of the casual run from Fairfax to Raleigh and back.  But, that’s because I wasn’t thinking through what I was committed to.  Steve’s demo went fine, with one person being completely new, the others having been shown before, and two people being interested in another demo who didn’t demo the game.

I got rid of our sample playmats.  We expect our cut when those things go on eBay for $1000+.  I figured that mound of playmats would just get replaced with tokens and one suitcase would work well.  Foresh-, um, foretelling – no, it did not work well to carry 40 pounds of tokens back with one suitcase, a gamebag, decks of cards, books, and a laptop + accessories.

Friday, I got together with people I knew due to V:TES.  I showed Traveller – three straight nights of demoing.  We played other games.

We played Shadow Hunters.  It was amusing how Pete kept getting attacked by his fellow hunter.  It was down to two of us and the other hunter fully healed while I didn’t.  Then, we played again, and the same two players won, this time as shadows as the neutral sprayed machine gun fire all around killing most of us, though I thought maybe he could win playing the steal equipment dude as there was enough equipment in play to steal, but he couldn’t steal all of it in one shot.

Then, down to four people, we played Star Trek: Five-Year Mission.  Not to be confused with other Star Trek dice game?  The owner discovered they had been playing stuff wrong and the game was not too easy.  We failed.

Saturday, I slept in.  Finally getting moving, I drove some more.  To Occoquan.  Because, who doesn’t casually drive to Occoquan when the need to buy birthday presents is afoot.  It was reasonably pleasant, with my not realizing George Mason’s main campus was just South of the house.  This has to do with gaming, how?

I drove to Occoquan to buy jigsaw puzzles, as we are all wont to do.  Now, I don’t recall how many decades ago I worked on a jigsaw puzzle.  But, it was something my sister mentioned for presents and, since the birthday celebrating early thing was not well known to everyone ahead of time, this seemed fortuitous.

Sunday, dim sum followed by birthday and unbirthday stuff.  Then, played a movie game that one or more of the siblings came up with.  It was enjoyable, but, since I don’t watch hardly any movies, it was hardly a surprise when I came well in last.

My youngest brother got in Saturday and did not have to go to work Monday, so we did what I do all of the time – we went and saw a movie.  I didn’t realize Red Sparrow had such mediocre reviews until after I saw it and read some, er, reviews.  Doesn’t really matter to me, since it’s not even the sort of movie I make some effort to see (Star Wars, …, …).  It would have done well in the movie game if the right categories came up.

Speaking of reviewing things that don’t have to do with gaming, I did not find Flash:Flashtime remotely comicbooklike nor remotely good.  To me, it was very TVepisodelike.  I got to trying to think of what TV episodes feel like comic book stories and I couldn’t think of anything off the top of my head besides the crossovers even though the Arrowverse does have normal episodes that likely qualify.

No V:TES.  No L5R (talked about it some with game store guy demoing Traveller).  No Shadowfist (didn’t make any effort).  No mahjong (Traveller instead, possibly to the regret of some).  Only a bit of solitaire at the airports.

Well, that was …  Why the title of this post?  Well, if you played Traveller, you might know how Stellar Anomaly Log is goodsome for Type S Scout Survey decks.  Survey.  Like as in travel around and explore.  Because I had never been to North Carolina and Optimist Park (yup, I went there … the place I was meant to be), Ashburn, Glen Echo, Occoquan.  See, my titles are superduperclever.  So clever.  And, not remotely obscure with injokes that only like one person in the history of the human race gets.



February 28, 2018

Sunday, we played V:TES in the South Bay.  This was made possible by a player moving out to the area, leading to critical mass.  Now, not looking to play every week, but we think something like every other week will be possible.

Played a four, a five, a four, and a three with people coming and going throughout the day.  This being this area, four games meant playing from 10:30AM to 4:30PM, roughly, with no significant food break.

I had time to build one new deck.  Since my extensive personal banned list only applies to tournament play, I decided it would be interesting to play a deck with Conditioning in it, well, and Govern.  So, I went Celerity/Dominate with beats largely through .44s.  This was reasonably entertaining made more so as twice I had Brandon as prey with his Akunanse deck, and I, of course, was running two Tranquility in my deck.

The three player game didn’t involve my doing a whole lot besides failing to blow up a location with a Bomb.  Two vote decks passed votes and one of them ousted the other.

In the five-player, I played Baali of the Name 1.1, and it entertained me as it routinely does where I’m amazed it can do anything in the modern meta.  It ousted my prey, a Matasuntha deck (of course).  It burned my predator’s She Who Watches because a Pre/Obf/Aus stealth bleed deck with combat ends and … stealth … totally gets blocked by Baali and has no way to defend against two ranged agg.

It was pleasant.  It was V:TES.  My Cel/Dom deck actually plays cards unlike so many of my decks, so I nearly ran out of cards in one of the four-player games.

Did I learn anything?  Do I have any philosophy to spew?  Was there the funniest play e-e-e-ver?

The most notable thing was getting together with V:TES players and playing V:TES.

Now, I may push the banned list envelope more in casual play because it shakes things up.  Maybe I’ll even build decks more regularly and play some cards I’m less familiar with than Tranquility.  But, for a change, nice to just play the game and not overwrite about it.

DunDraCon 2018

February 20, 2018

Do I just keep saying the same things as if we are in a chronic hysteresis?

I don’t think I’m going to come across as chipper in this post.  I can’t be mister positivity 100% of the time [… uh …].

I’m not as engaged with local cons.  When you ponder which DDC’s were more memorable out of 20+, it’s not like there isn’t a been there, done that aspect to it.  Why don’t I feel the same way about Gen Con when I play HoR a lot and may end up playing the same systems over and over, like Four Colours Al Fresco for a while or Feng Shui or whatever?

Because in person play of HoR locally is very different from in person play of HoR at Gen Con, for instance.  At GC, you get the core players and people who put thought into metagaming the campaign, even if it’s just deciding how to form Battle Interactive tables.  I’ve never played any 4CAF outside of GC, nor any Babylon RPG, etc.

KublaCon is more interesting to me from a gaming standpoint because I get to play card game events that don’t exist outside of the con, e.g. Shadowfist tournaments.  Have to defend my title as Classic Champion for the sixth largest economy in the world this year, for instance.

But, let’s get back to DDC.

No hotel this year.  While I didn’t mind driving back and forth in the moment, I needed a break and DDC wasn’t much of a vacation.  Now, my first vacation of the year is coming up soon …  At some point, get on topic.

I skipped Friday because, sincerely, I’m not in the mood to game Friday nights at cons after being at work much of the day.  It’s just a desire for a mental break.  Now, I’m willing to game if there’s something I’m particularly interested in playing, but there are few things I’m particularly interested in playing.  Again, RPG events may sound good, but I’ve had the spectrum from amazing to atrocious, from excellent to bad, from solid to mediocre, unforgettable to forgettable.  I am more likely to enjoy playing than thinking about the possibility of playing.  It’s like how I have no problem working out but hate thinking about working out so I hardly ever initiate the exercise.

Also, I don’t think my friends and gaming associates realize how little I have always been interested in quick games or pick up games or whatever.  I invest in certain games (or types of games) and want to play those a lot, and I play what other people want to play that doesn’t feel like it will be a drag.  I’ll demo games I haven’t played, but I don’t go out of my way to do so unless they have a hook that is extra hooky for me.  I’d much rather talk about a game that interests me or even hear someone’s review of a game that doesn’t interest me than play filler games.

Saturday, I get in a bit after 7:30AM and find ample parking at the hotel.  I get my usual breakfast from Bagel Street Cafe of pastrami and swiss on a poppy seed bagel (because they don’t have the bread rolls baked yet) with a large peach smoothie with whip cream.

Bagel Street Cafe.  It’s a chain.  I don’t think I’ve ever been to one other than in San Ramon.  There’s one in the shopping center where I get my hair cut and I’m not entirely sure where it is.  Yet, conwise, I’d be happy to eat twice a day at the place with the occasional dinner somewhere outside of the adjacent shopping center where I can get a burger or fish and chips or whatever.

I show up like 8:30AM for my 10AM Traveller demo.  Try to work on my piracy deck for a Developer’s Corner article on and fail to make much progress as people are already showing up to demo the game.  Demoing happens, with Jeff leading.  It’s only 2 hours for the event, but we continue demoing for another 2 hours.  Then, food, or, as I like to call it, smoothie number two, berry [blackberry?] smoothie this time.

Saturday night is V:TES, which is a couple of games.  We call the second game after my Hermana Mayor deck has gotten a VP from my prey’s Anarch Revolts and ousts a second player, while my grandpredator finally stealth bleeds out my predator.  The first game was a spin on Hatchling.dec where I had .5 VPs at time and 3 VPs playing the game out with Arika as my predator and my Aus/Pre/Vic bruise bleed deck as prey.  Sucked up a bunch of Starvations of Marena, but my prey decked.

Not home too late … if I wasn’t old and decrepit.

Sunday, roll in an hour later as I didn’t get out of bed at 5:20AM to build decks, like I did on Saturday.  Get the strawberry smoothie and am pleased with it, as well.  Which to get Monday?  Which?

Demo, similar structure, different people, at 10AM.  Then, tournament time.  Time for ruthless beats.  Time for glory, honor, status, and swag.  Except, I’m one of the guys who made the game, so like none of those apply.

Match 1:

I’m playing against a precon.  I’m not winning.  I then have a crazy complicated turn after having relatively straightforward turns earlier.  Oh, I’m playing my Prepared Scout deck from my website article, with a few adjustments to the crew and maybe one or two other cards.

I have a Body Pistol in play and shoot Rika Honami.  I Freelancer Flint into play and jettison her.  I have played a SureShot Missile Turret and Just a Little Longer … another SureShot Missile Turret and I Glitch one of my Turrets to reuse it so that I do 6 or whatever damage as a pirate to bankrupt my opponent.  May not sound that intense, but I think also Freelancered another crew in play for some reason and used my Starship Graveyard to get back one of those Turrets.

As usual, I was virtually bankrupt myself.  A Scout may always be prepared, but this Scout is always poor.

If I hadn’t taken out Rika, he might have completed his contract and won.

Now, I think I only won – not because my constructed deck was the wasp’s elbows – because I understood the game far better than someone who just started playing in the Sunday demo.

Match 2:

Paired off with another 1-0 player, some guy named Jeff who has played the game before.  This was a very casual event due to people kind of getting in late and not being quite sure who was playing.  He got out to a lead.  At a certain point, he was up 13-11 in VPs.  Then, his friend showed up who was planning on playing and took over.

On the penultimate round, I went for a big contract to try to get 6 VPs and win.  I got 5.  I had numerous ways to get 6, but I had two cards left in my hand and none in my deck and didn’t have the money to play both cards or play one and use my Luxury Suite for the 20th VP.  I was ready to concede as I thought that round was my only chance, as bankruptcy or my opponent getting to 20 seemed inevitable.  With one card left, we went to the next round.  I used my last card to jump to a cheap survey contract.  With zero cards in hand or deck, with two crew who would have been jettisoned if my opponent had not healed each for one damage for amusement value, I scored three more VPs and my opponent got stopped by my deck that doesn’t actually interact hardly at all with my opponent (except when I can pirate on the last round for the kill) because he didn’t choose to gain Survey with the Empress Marava Far Trader during the resource phase and my last complication play was Electro-Magnetic Interference.  Of course, if he had pirated me, I was dead.

In other words, if Jeff had played the game out entirely, he would have been 2-0 instead of me.

At this point can make a point by pointing out that knowledge of games is really helpful in games that aren’t luckfests of lucksackiness.  Many, many plays could have prevented me from winning, but, when you get dumped into the middle of a game that you aren’t particularly familiar with and are playing against someone who helped create the game, sometimes you don’t win.

Match 3:

During the second round, I had more than 30 cards in my discard pile.  In two rounds, I played or used about two-thirds of my deck.  That’s some two legit two spit right there.

I outraced my opponent who didn’t have enough ways to stop me from gaining VPs.  He had a slow start and was way behind and only because I do a great job of getting close to bankruptcy did I manage to get to 21 VPs with only a couple of cards left.

My intention is to write a “takeaways” article for our website.  An obvious takeaway is that knowledge of the game matters.  And, this is good.  It shows we came up with a game that rewards things that should be rewarded.

Another takeaway is that the precons are fairly playable.  Only one other player built a deck and he was 0-2 after two rounds of playing against precons, finally getting his piracy deck to work in the third round.

Went to dinner at a Cajun place and I got boring Cajun Burger since I was in the mood for a burger.

At one point, Brad and I were talking about FCGs versus VCGs.  We are VCG fans.  Do I go into a rant now?

I guess.  It seems gratuitous to rant in a separate post.

VCGs are better.  Here’s why.

Complaint number one:  I don’t get all of the cards when I buy random packs.  If you want to get complete sets, go to eBay to get complete sets.  If eBay doesn’t have them, reach out to the publisher or the player base and offer to buy complete sets.  Meanwhile, without randomness, you lose sealed play outside of “duplicate”, draft play that is remotely interesting, and you even lose any interest in opening up any product since you know exactly what will be in there when you do.  Well, okay, *I* lose interest in opening any product.  As much as I often feel bad opening up boosters for games where I need copious numbers of certain cards, I also find it interesting to occasionally crack a booster, though more so with Magic where I don’t own all of the cards already.

Complaint number two:  VCGs are too expensive compared to FCGs.  If you are the type to buy three core sets of L5R and be satisfied, you aren’t playing a CCG, you are playing a boardgame with customization.  You may feel differently, but that’s the way I feel.  I consider the correct number of L5R core sets to be minimum 18.  Every three core sets allows for two decks (with extras, of course).  So, 18 core sets is 12 decks at once (in truth, slightly more because you will avoid splashing too much of the same thing because you crave variety).  I’m a card flopper, 12 decks is a norm.  I range from 7 decks to 22 decks built at once for most card games I play.  I think I have around 20 Shadowfist decks built at the moment, about 12 V:TES decks (not counting decks for my limited collection experiment and the like), and only 4-5 L5R decks because I’m not taking L5R seriously yet.  Not that it’s a fair comparison because my Magic decks are almost all Type P decks, but I have about a hundred of those built.  Amazingly enough, 18 core sets is like $600-$700 plus getting like three copies of each expansion pack so that you have nine copies of every expansion card costs more money, though only nine copies of cards sounds rather low to me as some of those cards may go in every deck.  Then, if you really aren’t into being able to build every deck possible for a game, like I am, pretty easy to play CCGs for free.  Want to play Magic for free?  Just ask people for their extra commons.  Want to play V:TES for free, find me and I can hand over a thousand cards.  Will you have exactly three copies of every card for a three card limit game?  No.  But, I imagine the only need to have such a collection is for tournament play, in which case can just borrow a deck.  CCGs are about infinite variety.  I embrace that.  Hard for me to get into the mindset of only wanting to have like a thousand cards for a game, even if I’m also willing to play card games with only like a thousand card collection … up until the point that I end up with 20,000-40,000 cards.

Now, obviously, not everyone approaches gaming like I do, which is probably why I have this blog and not everyone who plays games has this same blog.  I mean, look at the market – we never considered putting out Traveller as a VCG because I’m in some sort of minority based on visible opinion.

Get home early, watch some Olympics because freestyle skiing halfpipe qualification is interesting.  Land high – ooh, not that high.

Monday is the key day.  The day that doesn’t involve showing people how to play the greatest card game, no, the greatest game ever possibly thought of in all of the multiverses in all of time, even the funky nonlinear time(s).  Monday is the day I decide to go with the berry smoothie again.  Monday is the day I fail forwards …

Brad is running 2d20 Conan.  For most of us, this is the first attack, the Pictish Frontier of Conan play, the day that ole Ian forgets to bring the character sheets he has been carrying around all weekend.

Character creation is involved.  Already, the suffering.  Plus, certain people, who shall remain nameless until I out him, did not back the Kickstarter and, thus, we are trying to learn how to play with four players and two core books.

Spoiler:  we didn’t like the system.  Now, we (most of us) played Conan d20 for like 9 years.  Sure, it wasn’t perfect [see blog posts for mini rants], but it wasn’t hard to jump into.  This was just hard.  For some, the dicerolling wasn’t clear.

For me:


I read a long thread on about Conan after I got home.  There were posters who talked about how antagonistic the game feels with Doom Pool uses.  I felt that in my half a session.  Em, we didn’t finish an adventure because Brad got tired of trying to run the system and it was close to the end of the con.  Now, I can’t say I’ve never felt like a GM was shutting me down when I wanted to do something, and maybe the adventure in the book just sucks, but I felt like there was way too much preventing us from doing things, which seems like the opposite of what narrative mechanics are intended for.


I grew so tired of these right quick.  Because geniusness also can include overlooktheobviousness, I didn’t realize until our postgame analysis that the reason rolling 20’s comes up so much more often than d20 is because … er, 2d20 is twice as much as d20, while 3d20 is like more than twice as much as d20.

Fail forward, “yes, but”, complications – all of these strike me as actually getting in the way of just playing a game.  They put more pressure on GMs and players to justify mechanics rather than just ad hocing on the fly as you are freewheeling … okay, okay, I’ll hinder myself.

Gamistier Than Thou

I’m going to pummel this live donkey in another classic gaming rant.

Narrativist mechanics aren’t narrativist – they are gamist.  Because, pssst, let you in on a secret that nobody else can possibly derive – mechanics are gamist.  “But, old, decrepit, get off my AD&D 1e lawn dude.  You don’t understand gamist/simulationist/narrativist.  You are going to be defeated once I enlighten you to the true RPG metaparadigm whatsit.”

The more you mechanize a game, the more the focus of the game shifts from story to mechanics.  This is why I don’t like crunchy systems.

Before I forget, let me tell a story, like old, cranky people are wont to do.  When Origins was in San Jose, I attended and I was introduced to Immortal: The Invisible War.

I played two sessions run by Ran Ackels, who some of you may know as the guy who created Immortal.  I retain, in my feeble memory, a recollection that the way he ran these games was “Roll a die [d10], and I’ll tell you what happens.”  That is narrativist play.  Dice exist to give some level of randomness to short term results; as the party succeeds or fails at things in the short term, the long term is adjusted.

They don’t exist to be an economic engine.  Momentum, Doom Points, Fortune, Complications are all mechanisms for having players and GM focus on and manipulate mechanics.

Do I hate Fortune?  No.  It’s obviously related to Bennies in Savage Worlds which I do pretty much hate (slightly).  It reminds me of Fate Points in d20 Conan, Hero Points, and their ilk, which I actually like.

You know what else I like?  When we played oConan, we got ladybugs (reroll for you) for writing fictions/session reports, spiders (+2 to roll) for bringing food, arrowheads (reroll for anyone, including NPCs and antagonists) for extra effort.  Are these gamist in the way trying to maximize Momentum or trying to build Fortune is?


They are modifications to existing rules, whereas Momentum is a subgame.  This was my problem when I was exposed to Fate.  I felt like Fate was far more gamey than d20.  You do things not because you want to but because the *mechanics* of the game reward you for doing them.  I’m now playing a game of manipulating mechanics rather than playing a game of seducing the immortal witch (“failed Diplomacy, reroll, reroll”).

Do I hate Doom/Momentum?  *shrug*  Maybe.


Fail forward is, in other words, succeeding.  If you can’t actually fail at whatever the adventure is supposed to be about, what sense of accomplishment do you get?

This is a tricky topic that I’ve touched on before – the topic of players feeling a sense of accomplishment.  I worry about this when running systems where you either succeed at die rolls or fail at die rolls.  Because I can’t escape the epiphany that what I enjoy as a player is feeling like failure was possible but not actually failing, so accomplishment is an illusion of perceived ability to be disaccomplishmentary.

In oConan, we failed.  Oh, we succeeded fairly often, at times because of pulling a reroll out of our gamebags, at times probably because we weren’t doing something all that difficult, it just seemed difficult.  But, we also straight up failed.  We ran away from demons loosened.  We ran away from Pict harriers.  We Fate Pointed to be found on some island beach or in wreckage at sea or whatever that I no longer remember.

And, in seven years of one campaign, things moved forward and stories were told and retold.  This is what the intent of these narrative mechanics is – stories move forward with setbacks until you climax [sic].  But, you don’t need that in any given session.  You can get that across sessions to where a campaign isn’t some exercise of fudging [ha] results.

Why give power to the dice?  They already hold players’ pathetic little minds within their sway.  “These dice suck, I’ll go get other ones.”  “Don’t roll the GM’s dice.  They will curse you.”  “Look at how sparkly my dice are.”  “I always fail Honor Rolls.”


I don’t dislike the system (the part of the system that doesn’t involve Momentum, Doom, or Complications).  Though, I’m trying to figure out how you can build a functional sorcerer in the beginning, which I guess I could go to the forums and read about.  I just find it incredibly clunky and extremely gamey.  Just the fact that PCs get to decide what order to take actions in is itself gamier than rolling initiative.  Yes, it is.  It becomes a subgame, and the more subgames you have, the more game you have.

There’s also way too much emphasis on equipment, with a lot of equipment being obscenely expensive.  I bought a bow and that used up all but one of my gold.  A crappy bow, by the way.  This was something d20 did really well – outside of primary weapon, equipment was something you hardly paid any attention to.  Sure, armor could be good, but armor could also suck.

I might get used to the economics of the subsystems of Momentum and Doom that are built into the system.  I’m not sure I’ll ever think they add value to playing, but rewriting the game to take them out is a waste of time, when we could just go back to playing d20 or I could homebrew another Roll & Keep variant.

So, yeah, DunDraCon.  It was good.  Traveller isn’t perfect but playing Traveller gets me thinking more like a player of the game rather than being in developer/designer mode.  I think about how the game has all of these cards that you want to play but can’t at the same time, which seems positive.  Conan was something worth doing even if it wasn’t nearly as fun as our old convention sessions tended to be.  I got to talk to people.  I had four smoothies in three days, though the waistline impact is not a victory.

If only we could get more Traveller cards to the people who are enthused about playing.  If only I was a beam of sunlight reflecting off of a unicorn’s horn during a musical on Christmas Eve.  If only I remembered to pass the character sheets to Brad before Monday.  If only I could remember what else I wanted to write about so that I could get to 4000 words in this post.

1600 House Rules

February 15, 2018

So, besides becoming fired up to run Rokugan 1600, I happened to have been reading some L5R forum posts wherein I was:

Surprised to see so much love for 3e/3r.  Where were all of these people before?

Unsurprised but heartened to see the criticisms of the fine 3e/3r/4e games include such things as how contested rolls suck.  I might steal the TN 15 idea someone posted.

On a related note, I continue to be bewildered by the attraction to narrative mechanics – the fail forwards of the world, the “yes, but”, the whatever plus extra.  Maybe it’s having played plenty of great RPG sessions where success/failure was the norm where I see that narrative elements are something you always add to games as a GM and leave dice as a resolution mechanic rather than trying to get dice to tell you a story.

Anyway, got me to focusing or assessing or striking on what house rules to use in a home game of L5R.


First of all, going to use 4e.  Not only is it far more familiar to players, but it’s more familiar to me at this point, as I’ve played more 4e and have run way more 4e than 3r.

So, let’s ponywhip for a while on what sucks about 4e.

Grappling, Void, stance declaration, wound chart, Feint, mastery abilities, Medicine doesn’t heal enough, Defense skill, numerous vants, dullness of school techniques, Glory does nothing, Honor Rolls, armor, Reflexes.

Okay, I don’t want an extensive list of house rules nor do I want ones that are hard to remember.  So, have to suck up some of the crap and just accept that not everything is going to be optimal.


Grappling just takes you out of playing L5R and makes you think you are playing some POS system.  Could just ban it, but I think I have in mind what would make it not obnoxious (and really not that good for PCs).

Fix:  Your ATN is not affected by grappling.

I suppose could say your ATN is reduced by 5 when in a grapple, but screw it – let’s go simple to remember.


There are several problems with Void in 4e.  Where do I want to draw the line?

Fix1:  You may spend any number of VPs in a round.  You may reduce incoming wounds multiple times if you wish.

Does this impact certain school/path abilities?  Who cares?

Fix2:  You may spend 2 VPs to ignore Wound Penalties, including Down and Out, for the round (kipping up as desired for free).

So, you may be thinking “This could be horrible for PCs as suddenly big bad just wrecks.”  Except, not all enemies have Void Points, one, and, two, PCs should have more VPs and manage them better.

Fix3:  Void costs 5x next rank to increase.

What about limiting max raises by higher of Void or Skill?  Well, that works fine for side skills, but it strikes me as dangerous as hell with attack skills.  I don’t want to completely redo skills in the game.

Stance Declaration

Why is it undefined?  This isn’t difficult, people.

Fix:  Everyone rolls initiative.  Then, everyone declares stances in reverse initiative order if anyone gives a crap who is in what stance.

Wound Chart

Leaving it alone.  To change it may have unintended consequences and veteran players are used to it the way it is.

Feint/Increased Damage

Feint is gone.  3e Feint was overly complicated for little benefit (why don’t I just kill my enemy with my first attack?).  I think the potential for abuse of +0k1 damage increases exists in 4e, but I’m playing a character who can increase damage by +1k2 in HoR play, and I don’t find it all that.  So, back to “2 Raises, +0k1 damage”, which is important for making Nk1 weapons remotely viable (well, in a world without Feint).

Bayushi get FR to damage.  Usagi ability was beyond dumb to begin with and will become something that matters.  HoR4 ditched Feint and maybe I use its ideas.

Honor Roll

Fix:  Reroll your original dice pool.  Add your Honor rank as a static bonus to the roll.  While not what I want mechanically as it doesn’t differentiate Honor ranks enough, it’s simple to remember.


Fix:  If someone knows who you are, you add your Glory rank to social rolls.  Straight out of 3e.

Fix2:  If someone knows your Status, they get +/- the difference in Status to social rolls.  Yes, this means 2x the difference when there are opposing rolls.  Only matters for those who care about Status, of course.

Why create a Status rule?  Because, as I’ve mentioned, Status doesn’t really work in L5R play.  While it can just be a mark of achievement and I’ve actually written that down in my notes for the campaign, let’s keep adding house rules no one will remember to at least try to get L5R to respect what makes L5R different from other RPGs.

Fix3:  You don’t gain a rank of Glory when you go up in Insight Rank.  You don’t gain Glory from Status gains.

The first is an important rein in factor to keep Glory from ten-ing.  The latter is an idea for trying to rein in some of the ten-ing of Glory.  HoR4 has done a job to keep Glory from automaxing, but it’s way too much bookkeeping for something that doesn’t matter.

School Techniques

Not going to go with my “Once per day, any rank technique.” idea as it isn’t simple and may be broken.

Tamori has to change.  Maybe to make it the same as Agasha.  I don’t know.  But, no potion magic.  That’s not L5R.  I’m not excited by the 3e Tamori technique from a flavor standpoint.

Possible changes to correct bad editing/utter nonsense.  Like clarify how Badger R-3 works.  But, this is low priority.

Mastery Abilities/Skills

Fix:  If a skill has no R-3 mastery ability, then it gets “R-3:  Gain +2 Insight”.  If a skill has no R-5 mastery ability, then it gets “R-5:  Free Raise”.  I don’t really care about skills above 5 for things in 4e that lack mastery abilities, as no one would take that many ranks anyway.

Fix2:  Each raise with Medicine increases wounds healed by +1k1.

I’d like to completely fix Medicine but this is simple.

Fix3:  Defense rank is added to ATN at all times.  Yes, this means Defense Stance doubles the benefit of Defense skill.

See Reflexes fix for preventing ATNs from getting out of hand.

Fix4:  Jiujutsu and weapon skills gain “R-7:  Your damage dice explode on 9’s”.  Yes, this means No-Dachi-7 and Tetsubo-7 don’t change, but everything else is less irrelevant.  Note that this includes Kyujutsu for the sake of simplicity if, maybe, not balance.

Fix5:  Mastery abilities that remove/reduce offhand penalties actually remove offhand penalties not produce some goofy left-handed attack incentive.


Fix:  Luck costs 7 points per rank.

Simpler than the better costing scheme of 8/6/4 or whatever.

Fix2:  Magic Resistance only affects hostile magic and does affect Maho, gaijin magic, et al.

Because anything else is moronic.

Sage should be changed, but I don’t care enough.  Servant is dumb in how it works, but nobody will have servants (who in a war campaign would die immediately), so it doesn’t matter.  Touch of Yomi can remain irrelevant to play for all I care.

For disads, just going to police character creation to keep disads to a minimum rather than worry about ones nobody would want to take or ones I find annoying to play.


Fix:  Fires of Purity does 1k1, not 2k2.  Back to 3e damage (basically).

I know, Fire sucks relative to the other rings, which makes me open to the idea of making it somehow better in other ways with its spells, but I’m so tired of Fires of Purity.  Tempest of Air is broken because GMs allow it to be.  Jade Strike is necessary (well, maybe multiple targets can be reined in).  Be the Mountain is not all upside.  Plus, I’m not against defensive or survival spells being good.  FoP is just broken.


No changes because this is a war campaign and armor is likely to be more of a PC survival aid than a NPC thing.


Fix:  ATN = 5x Reflexes + Defense Rank.

On the other hand, ATNs do get unhappinesses in 4e play.  As much as combat gets vicious at SR-3, it’s also possible to get out of control with ATNs, especially as a shugenja.  To rein in the “Every PC has to have Reflexes 5.” problem in the game, well, maybe this will do that.

Theoretical lower ATNs (because I don’t see giving chumps Defense 5+) should mean that Agility gets somewhat better, as well.  Spells only get better the harder it is to hit things due to autohitting, so maybe there’s some magic reining in with this change.


This is about 20 house rules.  Some are intuitive, like declaring stances after rolling initiative and knowing where every combatant stands.  Some are specific to certain schools and may not be made if no one bothers playing Tamori Shugenja.

A few are big deals.  Reducing the cost to increase Void might be one of them.

Some, unfortunately, are going to be hard to remember, the Glory/Status in particular, but Glory has to do something and Status logically follows.  In reality, Status difference shouldn’t be so minor a bonus/penalty.  Should be like “Each rank of Status above opposing character grants a Free Raise.” if you want to make the thematics matter more.

Five Rings Chilled

February 13, 2018

What’s the most five ringsy thing to talk about right now?

So, of course, the reason we watch the Olympics is for curling.  That women’s slopestyle was painful, a lot like watching figure skating, if anyone still watches that.  Can see the wind most visually in various events.

I haven’t watched as much as I could because this is a time of year in which I need to do some other things, like Traveller things/DunDraCon things/Traveller at DDC things, which I’m making slow progress on.

I got to thinking about biathlon, since it was one of the early events.  There are sports I watch, sports I would like to be good at, and sports I can see myself having done if I had some sort of more athletic background.

That model is eerily similar to how I see myself with CCG cards or RPG characters.

When we were in a “make yourself as a card” phase for V:TES, I couldn’t quite decide between:  what would I be; what would I want to be; what would I be as a player of the game.  Then, there was what others thought.

I find it interesting to this day that True Brujah was something that my friend thought made sense.  I kind of see Malk as easy for many a gamer, but I am inclined to think Tremere is a better fit than Malk just as I no longer think Dragon is anywhere near as good a fit in L5R for me as other clans.  Sure, there are aspects in other things, but one has a tendency to exaggerate individual aspects of themselves, which is fine when you are making a character/card you wish to be.  I feel some affinity for Tzimisce and generally enjoy playing the clan, but is that as good a fit as Tremere?  antiTrem?  Caitiff?

With V:TES, CCG and RPG ideas naturally crossover.  Less so with something like Wheel of Time or Babylon 5, where the characters already exist.  In Ultimate Combat!, would I be the “Takes A Beating” action, “Your Kung Fu Is Weak” advantage, “Who Is … Not The Master?” coach card?

So, biathlon.  I couldn’t deal with the pressure for accuracy.  I would beat myself up for failure far too much.  Oh, sure, I could somewhat imagine archery for me since I’ve done archery and it’s more of a “well, that sucked” rather than a “if I miss this shot, off the podium” feel.

Numerous other sports would be the same way.  Even if I knew how to ski or snowboard, I wouldn’t be trickin’.

No, I realized that what I could see myself doing is cross country skiing.  Or, something else that was based more on exertion.  Not saying technique wouldn’t matter, but it wouldn’t be a one off “did the entire experience come down to achieving this one action” technique but more “extend your follow through more, crouch lower, …” technique.

Which got me thinking to the L5R RPG and how much I like Earth and how generally weak Stamina is.  I am playing a high Agility character, otherwise known as a showoff build.  While there are certain things that fit me in such a build, such as a natural stealthiness, though that would be better represented with the Stealthy advantage, displays of coolness are not my thing.  Now, to be fair(?), I don’t have great endurance [ladies, wait, ignore this paragraph].  But, I think I could build endurance.  I could get more precise with ranged weapons, but the pressure would drive me nuts.

I thought about reporting on my recent Shadowfist play, as we got back on track for playing that.  But, it seems a stretch to tie any of that into my crystal clear theme.

Speaking of five rings and cool, I have gotten more enthused about my Rokugan 1600 campaign idea.  Set about 100 years after HoR2, it always took elements of HoR2.  Rokugan is at war, on the Southern front is what happens when you try to make certain clans interesting.  On the Northern front, which seems to be of more interest to potential players, is a gaijin assault.

I wrote up most of the material five years ago.  Five.  Wait, is that my theme?

A major, multi-part theme to the campaign is the failure of the clans.

Crab failed for not protecting the Empire.

Crane failed for living in denial.

Dragon failed for sitting on their asses.

Lion failed for not showing Crab enough respect.

Mantis failed for being selfish and greedy.

Phoenix failed for being pacifists.

Scorpion failed for being inferior villains.

Unicorn failed for not fighting gaijin with gaijin but for fighting gaijin with Empire and Empire with gaijin.

As part of the idea that the clans pretty much sucked, certain clans have to, you know, do something.  The Phoenix are on the front lines in the South (and, then, there are more gaijin from the East).  The Lion are using their military to actually fight an enemy of the Empire.  The Dragon are supporting the Northern front.  The Crane are right there with their Lion soldier buddies fighting the hopenottogetTainted fight.

Now, I haven’t added a lot, yet, to what I wrote five years ago.  However, because of the interest in the Northern front, aka the gaijin front, I got to thinking about how legacies of my LBS campaign could be incorporated.  So, rather than redo LBS, I can just pull everything together into one perfect campaign.  Because nothing ever goes wrong when you try to do it all.

So, curling.  Curling is what I would like to do casually.  It’s more what I’d like to watch.  Would drive me nuts to actually compete because I can visualize what I want to do in sports like curling, billiards, golf, but I can’t get my body to make the shot.  Who wants to be constantly frustrated?  Hockey goalie, not that hockey has anything to do with the Winter Olympics.  That’s something I loved as a kid when we played on cement with hollow plastic pucks.  Kind of late to *start* using skates.

Downhill?  Not unless I learn to deal with my fear of heights and disinterest in slipping.  Short track – too slippery and too contentious, where long track seems too repetitive.  Maybe luge.  Bobsled requires too much getting into the sled.

Another thing I thought about as blog material was content …  Uh, that is, I mean, RPG content.  Like, instead of talking about playing, post actual material I’ve come up with as a GM, kind of like my Story of O … -tomo Junhime post, only less about trying to get into a widow’s kimono and more like …

The Amulet of Hayat.

The amulet has a blue-green chrysocolla stone set in silver and hangs by a silver chain. Three pod-shaped pieces of volcanic stone banded by brass hang from the primary piece.

Why don’t I explain what it does or its back story or how it got named?  The first two because I am waffling on the spoilerness of spoiling in case it appears in Rokugan 1600.  The last because the person who inspired it didn’t die a long time ago.

My take on fantasy Mada’in Saleh would probably be fine as a writeup.  Actually, I could probably do a summary of my LBS campaign session by session as inspiration for all of those folks living to run LBS.  I might even remember what sort of research I felt I needed to do for the horribly underdeveloped setting.

Speaking of which, the whole L5R greater world is a real opportunity for someone to create and develop.  Why has there been so little interest in having a Senpet Empire supplement?  Doesn’t seem that challenging.  Rereading the history of the Yodotai, there are all sorts of references that could be fleshed out into something.  Of course, how the continent remotely works when you have the Yodotai just march across it and ignore the Ivory Kingdoms or like anything else about the layout and how it would reasonably function is a mystery.

Besides, I’m not competitive enough to be an Olympic athlete, professional athlete, high school athlete.  But, I could coach!  “Now, remember, that target stole your lunch money, kill it dead with extreme airgun prejudice.  Once you’ve murdered all five of those lunch money stealers, viciously trod over the packed down snow for it is laughing at you and your B- in high school Trigonometry.”  Yup, I’d be on the podium of coaches.

All About Miya

February 5, 2018

Played a couple of HoR4 mods recently to where I’m almost entirely caught up.

On the plus side, these mods felt more … normal, even if the second mod had crazy things going on.  The absence of Ivory Kingdoms as a setting was not noticeable largely because the Ivory Kingdoms haven’t really added anything to the campaign.

On the neutral side, I am getting close to needing to make a decision about character advancement.  Since there’s nothing more interesting than hearing about how someone else will advance a character, you are in for a treat.

I wrote up advancement plans through around 250xp.  I’m on track, about to hit another endgame achievement.  But, I’m bored.  See, the problem with planning these things is that almost all of the buys are large XP expenditures.  Large XP expenditures are boring.  Sure, I like having Agility 5.  Agility 5 is fun.  Agility 5 can continue to be fun.  But, work on Earth 4, like the plan?  So, so boring.

I want to spend 2xp at a time on things.  I want winners … at Horsemanship (Pony) rolls, at Stealth (Sneaking) rolls, at Athletics (Throwing) rolls.  I don’t want to make a buy every four sessions.

I thought about my HoR2 characters and how much more charactery they were and how much more fun advancement was.  It was simple – I hadn’t planned ludicrously far into the future.  I didn’t know what an IR-2 version was going to look like, nevermind IR-4.  I bought stuff that interested me at the time.  Some of those buys made my characters more effective … and some didn’t.

That’s the thing.  Our approach to HoR is completely different from my approach back when it was a casual affair.  Back then, it was about having a character who advanced.  Now, it’s about hitting certain milestones at certain points in the future.  “When everyone else is IR-3, I need to have Earth 4, 10k6 attack roll, explode 9’s on damage just to keep up.”  It’s just trying to keep up with some theoretical threshold of competitiveness with other PCs and/or mod difficulties.

And, that’s boring.  I want to be able to play mods with people I know, sure.  I don’t really care if I get any kills.  After all, the Miya have no heroes.  Of course, the thing is to stop worrying about effectiveness, get murdered by a peasant girl, then play a shugenja so that my godlike power is useful to any group.

Speaking of shugenja, while I played one of those two mods with four shugenja and life was sustained, our usual groups are godless.  It gets really annoying.  Not having Path to Inner Peace means PCs might actually have wounds after combats.  That’s horrendous.  It’s incredibly narratively disruptive.  I had to figure out a way, as I GMed one of those mods, to get things back to how the mod is supposed to play where you don’t have PCs hanging around Injured the day after they get Crippled.

As much as the most broken thing about shugenja is Commune, the most necessary thing is Path.  Wound Penalties outside of combat just make playing dumb.

Even in miya case, while I routinely called raises while Hurt, outside of the few rolls miya does well, miya is completely incompetent with -10 to skill rolls.  Investigation rolls are common after combat, and I forget that godless parties might have their perceivers at -15 or, even “better”, -40.

So back to talking about miya.  I see three paths for advancement after the requisite Kenjutsu 7.  The first path is to continue to push the “showoff” build.  This is my preference but not necessarily my inclination.  I want to buy a second rank in Horsemanship, get mastery abilities in Stealth and Athletics and, uh, even Horsemanship.  That means I go from glass cannonesque to full on glass cannon as everything else gets stronger.

The second path is to stay true to my absurd endgame plans.  This means being survivable in combat and getting better at pretty much nothing.  It’s the more humorous path that isn’t all that funny when you contribute little to mid/high rank parties.  I’m really losing interest in this because of what I wrote above where I just see planning for endgame builds to be a failure of having actual fun.

The third path is to undermine my stubborn fetish for focused builds and make goodstuff buys.  This, of course, is the way to be more relevant as a murdermate, but it has no thematic flavor and no mechanical spice.  Just sounds boring.  Btw, this path is the path of Reflexes.  Get Void to 3, maybe INT 3, work Air, and buy up social skills to be a parttime talker.  That sounds so dull and defeats the whole point to playing miya character.

Of course, there may be some way to balance between paths 1 and 3.  The problem with trying to balance with path 2 is path 2 is the path of insanely expensive buys and nothing but insanely expensive buys.

Now, there is a way for me to get more combat effective without advancing at all.  See, one reason I’m not a great fighty type for someone who has almost all fighty XP expenditures is that I don’t have any armor or a bow or a no-dachi.  The way the campaign works, I can just get those by burning my otherwise irrelevant favors.  So, sure, I could run around in heavy armor with a no-dachi, 10ke6-5 attack roll with 6km3 base damage and be something the enemy has to pay attention to.

That doesn’t necessarily interest me.  It amuses me to be heavy infantry with no armor and fast drawing a wakizashi.  But, that’s not the problem so much as the problem is that anyone who can load up on armor and run around with a no-dachi should be doing that, and that’s just monotonous.  Nevermind that everyone should be yumi-ing it up with their Reflexes 5 builds.  It’s so, so 4e banality.

Every character should do something different.  Moshi Shigeo was a no-dachiist who loved heavy armor.  Snore.

I miyan sure, there’s the concept of playing a character rather than a character sheet, so whether you no-dachi or no-no-dachi, you can still have a 1.5 dimensional personality.  I just find that it’s easier to have a character when the character sheet has something distinctive mechanically to it, which brings me back to how path 1 with maybe a bit of path 3 sounds like what will make me more enjoy playing this character.  After all, I didn’t enjoy playing Shigeo much from a character standpoint.  He was mostly just a tsurugi-chucker along for the ride.


January 28, 2018

In recent days, it’s been mostly about Traveller.  My friends and associates have been getting their Kickstarter rewards.  Coworker showed me his stuff.  Went up to Oakland the day after the Berkeley tournaments to help explain how Traveller works.

Then, we realized the printing issue where the crew skills lack clear silver and gold borders.  That’s unfortunate.  We had a summit to go over the plan for making things right and I would expect an update from Jeff on what Horizon Games is planning to do.

See, I may not be able to see things at a distance so well, especially writing on flat surfaces, as I didn’t wear glasses in college except when I was trying to read blackboards (yes, that old).  But, I can still perceive small details, so I wasn’t that perturbed until a couple of things.  One, the realization that I have a huge advantage over people seeing the cards for the first time because I largely know what the cards already do, including what levels of skills the crew have.  Two, internal comments have been that the lack of clarity on the skills is a monumental deal.

Anyway, I didn’t post just to dwell on how many things can go wrong with publishing material.  I’ve been building decks now that I have real cards and not just samples – something that only happened yesterday, days after other people got real cards.  I’ve been answering questions on‘s forums because I’m actually not just an authority but a “designer intent is this and since I’m a …” type person thingy.  I usually eschew answering rules questions for card games because, as a player of those games, I never wanted some random playtester to tell me how something worked but wanted someone who decided what the rules are to tell me how something worked.  Of course, I also happened to often be a random playtester myself.

Every once in a while I remind myself that:  we put out a game.  Yes, there are some miscellaneous things that didn’t go as planned, but it looks good.  I think it plays as intended, though it is not a simple game to get down right away.

And, we hope to keep making it better – expanding the card pool, addressing any production issues, addressing rules questions and concerns.

Shifting gears.  The John Carter KS continues on in a similar way to various other RPG [sic] KS’s that I’ve seen where the original threshold is just something to blow through for the stretch goals.

Now, what doesn’t get me as excited is that it’s not just a RPG KS but a minis KS as well.  I don’t hate minis.  I, in fact, backed a KS that was all about a board game with lots of minis.  But, I also have essentially no use for them.  I don’t know how to store them (and, I have way too much stuff already).  I’m a theater of the mind style player/GM.  I don’t hardly ever play games that require minis.  I also don’t see how more “different dice” is actually a goal of any sort or worth anything.  I want winners … er … I want content.

I got to thinking about content.  First, JC content.  There are nine books published based on various compiled magazine stories or whatever.  Decent number of locations are used or referred to.  Various cultures, as defined by races with different skin colors … uh … yeah, exist.  Some monsters.  Some tech.  Some weird psionic style powers exist.  There’s material.  Now, how you finesse putting a book out that goes into the differences between the black martians, the white martians, the red martians, the yellow martians, and, maybe, someone very PC will also find the green martians a problem is not entirely clear to me.  At least some of these have other names besides what color their skin is, but we live in a precarious age, which is no doubt some of the problem with pushing JC 100 years after it was written.

Putting aside the potential for getting people who don’t understand the source material riled up, I was just wondering why more RPG books weren’t part of the early stretch goals.  Because, I think about how insane the material is for both Conan and L5R.  Now, L5R is a game world, so you can expand it as much as you want.  But, I’ve read a good amount of Conan and I don’t recall there being that many locations and cultures and whatever well defined to where you can write an entire book about Aquilonia or, even more ridiculous, Cimmeria or Khitai and somehow find it challenging to write an atlas of Barsoom.  Maybe it isn’t challenging.  Maybe it’s just not a priority compared to having ship to ship combat rules or whatever.

I happen to have Savage World’s Lankhmar book handy and I have repeatedly wondered why there’s so little material in it and/or the property.  I haven’t read many stories, but I know there are a number, and I’m pretty sure they are more vivid than the game supplement.

But, then, I thought of a few things.  One, not every estate is as eager to expand on material that isn’t in stories written by the original author or official authors.  Two, Conan is different.  Barsoom is a made up world.  Lankhmar is in a made up world.  Conan’s world is a world of historical cultures mashed together.  You can expand on the societal norms of Shemites by just opening up an anthropological book.  Want to get Hyrkanians?  Well, not super challenging.  Brythunia was a bit of an uncertain match, but I interpreted as kind of like Ireland and kind of like Poland and maybe something else.

Conan’s world so good.  I can bring in famous Yemeni poets into my LBS gaming or Saudi festivals or whatever to flesh out that underdeveloped setting and find that entertains me as a worldbuilder.  But, with Conan, you can choose any corner of the continent you want and draw inspiration from this world.

I just haven’t been as enthused with KS as the end/intended results of things I’ve backed or tried to back haven’t been to my tastes.  Sure, I want to have PDFs for supplements rather than not, but what I really want are printed versions, and, yet, where would I even put more books?  I can’t fit what I have in terms of either books or cards.

Speaking of Savage Worlds, we have started playing a Spelljammer game using SW mechanics.  Still early.  Not what I would pick as a person’s first RPG experience, but that’s the case.  New setting for others.  We have intentionally not proclaimed “this is our new RPG campaign” to see if it works for people.  Is kind of interesting to me that my gaming seems to be expanding again, what with trying to play L5R LCG, Traveller, trying to have RPG play on a regular basis, plus Shadowfist getting back on track, the potential to get V:TES in the South Bay back on track.

It’s almost like everything new is old again.  How wanderful.