DunDraCon 2019

February 20, 2019

I played four events and asked a Ripley’s Believe It Or Not Boardgame question.

I ran a Traveller demo Saturday morning, ran a Traveller competition Saturday afternoon, attended Jeff’s Traveller demo Sunday morning, played in the V:TES event Sunday night.

Local cons are more work to me these days.  I was thinking I’d want to play a RPG, but there was no chance I was going Friday and I had no intention of being there Monday, which meant Saturday night was the only slot available.

But, I’m just exhausted going into cons.  Work is almost always active around the convention times as I do financial reporting input/output at the end/beginning of months and February is always squeezed by our coming out of a budget process along with four week fiscal month and President’s Day.  This con, I was also checking on friends’ cats throughout the weekend.

Then, I feel like I’m just doing more work at these cons rather than having a vacation or going to them to play games.  I do like the hanging out and talking about stuff.  The main topic this year was unusual …  I saw a few people I pretty much just see at cons.  Unfortunately, didn’t get to spend much time with someone who spontaneously decided to attend Sunday.

In the competition, I gunslinged a couple of times.  Sunday, we played a four player.  In all of the games I played of Traveller, I only lost to Jeff who was trying out a Beowulf piracy deck taking advantage of stacking connections.  He gained 12 VPs in one round from piracy.  Try Traveller – a niche CCG with surprising levels of variety.

I won one of my gunslinging matches with two cards left after pointing out to a new player that piracy was likely the way to do me in late in the game.  I was pretty close to the edge in the other gunslinging match, as well.  I didn’t play Scout both times.  I just have a very heavy card utilization style with Traveller, which is ironicful given how few cards I use in V:TES.

If you like a game where being more skilled at it matters, well, that’s also a feature of Traveller.

We gave out decks, a lot of playmats, and various promo cards.

Found out at the con that someone can even buy certain Traveller product off of Walmart.com to go with how full range of product is available to retailers and online options.

V:TES wasn’t that great as two players were borrowing my decks and con play just tends to feel really forced when it isn’t pickup V:TES at these NorCal cons.  Still, it was okay.  By far the most notable thing to my brain was how Lisette (Lasombra) repeatedly got bypassed due to the play of Acheron Vortex.  For all of my V:TESers out there, this is mucho hilarity.  For the rest of y’all, well, V:TES is a great game that more people should try (though, like anything else, not for everyone).

I got pastrami sandwiches and large smoothies four times in three days (as I ended up at the con Monday due to unfortunate events).  Twice bagel sandwiches as Bagel Street Cafe (there) doesn’t have rolls at 7-8AM.  Twice dutch crunch.  Three peach smoothies, one wildberry.  While things were hardly perfect and I got charged four different prices ordering the same two things twice, it’s one of the features of the con I look forward to.

Parking was insanely easy at 7-7:30AM on Saturday/Sunday.  Since the con has outgrown the hotel, is that because the attendee demographics skew towards people traveling together?  Uber/Lyft?   Everyone running out for breakfast at the same time?  Just weird how many spaces are available when the convention is so full.  I did notice, though, that Saturday morning at 7:30AM was not a terribly active time in the main rooms of the con.

I enjoyed things in the moment.  I was not excited by the commuting back and forth (forced due to the cats) and the responsibility of being required to be there at specific times.  I just don’t look forward to these cons in the way I used to as they aren’t really about my playing games when I feel like playing games (when I’m not exhausted).  Not running anything would help, so maybe I try to push someone local outside of Jeff and me to run Traveller and I’ll just attend the Traveller events as a lordly inner circler who can explain why Buffbot provides the skill tokens it provides.  (I started telling the story but never got around to telling the important bit.)  Besides Bagel Street Cafe and seeing people I rarely see, my focus on running my events/game also makes me feel not terribly connected to the convention – not enough variety.  Not the con’s fault.  I just don’t have time to prepare for these cons or time to savor them.  Contrast with cons outside the area, where I’m a player and playing in the things I want to play in all con.

It was very encouraging how into Traveller some of the con goers were.  We may not have widespread popularity, but the game works.  That it can easily transition between solo play, two player play, and multiplayer play is a real strength, though two player and multiplayer are going to be pretty different in feel.

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Not All Chows

February 18, 2019

DunDraCon is done, but that’s my next post.

I was in Virginia the week before.  Before getting more into that, let’s see what today’s Ultimate Combat! flavor text provides us.

A tornado of power focused in the fist.

Um, not so relevant in any way I can think of.  C’est dommage.

Calling upon your inner reserves brings extra power to bear.

Two Mantra of Power in this pack.  So broken.  Though, I made some minimal effort to find a rulebook for how power is spent as I started wondering about the timing and correctness of playing the best card in the game.  In some way, I feel like rules consistency would dictate that I’ve been doing power spending wrong, but I just am not sure which way it is wrong.

Celestial aid purges pain.

Yup, call upon higher powers to win your martial arts match.  I may need to call upon some celestial aid.

In the blink of an eye an asset can become a liability.

Guess this card.  Come on.  Even though people aren’t into guessing like I’m into guessing.  Based on what I’ve written about UC!, this shouldn’t be impossible to figure out.

The berserker welcomes pain to inflict pain.

Got a pain theme going.  I could claim pain at the moment, though it’s pretty trivial in the grand scheme of things.

So, Virginia.  This was to celebrate the new Earth Pig.  Did dim sum at a Vietnamese place that was covering for my family’s usual dim sum place.

Got in Friday night around 11PM, got to sleep around 1AM.  My alarm went off at 5AM (I was partially awake), felt mostly fine up until I started on a long, boring ride South.  Now, when I drove to Raleigh last year, it wasn’t so boring, but I had more sleep and it was something novel.  This was same highwaying.

Got to Emporia, about 160 miles.  Ordered breakfast at the meetup spot and, after we ate, divvied up True Dungeon tokens.  Yup, this is a gaming blog.  Had to get to the all important gamingness of gamingiosity.  Far fewer tokens to deal with, more value.

Felt pretty good (had coffee which I hardly ever have because I didn’t want to die driving back) … up until the point that I started a long tedious drive back to Annandale.  Multiple playings of Joan Jett’s I Love Rock n’ Roll as I jumped constantly between stations for stimulation.

Took a bit of a shut eye, then headed over to my father’s place.

For a bunch of mahjong with some movie playing in the background.

I did really well in the lucky seat.  Both Saturday and Sunday, it was the seat of the big chip leader.  Whether that speaks to our skill or the feng shui of the Earth Pig year is not so terribly important.

Sunday, got up later than 5AM (I know, weird to not get up then while on vacation and going from Pacific to Eastern time zones), talked a bit about the SF Giants, Bryce Harper, and other things.  Went to dim sum.  Afterwards, to the father’s place for … mahjong and movies.

Speaking of movies, I don’t like watching parts of things.  To not only be playing something, but to be crashing tiles while actors are offering lines would drive me nuts if I actually wanted to watch the movies.  Big Trouble in Little China is a fine movie that others like way more than me.  Romancing the Stone was my idea and a movie I’d be happy to actually watch normally not having seen it in ages.

I did not sit in the Earth Pig Luck seat.  I was hurting blue time.  I got a couple hands at the end to recover blue and red chips to where I was down less than a thousand (points, out of five thousand).  But, my talking about playing mahjong isn’t to go into my supreme ability to not suck at the game.

Everyone my siblings play with play our family style, so it’s easy to play.  The young ‘uns just play for chips if they play for anything because, unlike me, they weren’t playing as an eight-year old with great uncles and great aunts for money.

Over the two days, I played two rounds of winds.  That was pretty normal when I was growing up for one session.  I found the play very Earth Pig unusual in certain ways.

At least four hands were won with all pungs.  I won twice with all pungs, my father at least once and my sister-in-law at least once.  I almost never win with all pungs playing our style, as our style heavily incentivizes speed and only gives all pungs one fan.

What put me way up on Saturday was one suit pure, pinghu clear.  I use pinghu because I’m not entirely sure what the best spelling would be as we always call all chows with no points gained from the eye phonetically punghu, but I can’t internet a spelling like that.  I’ve seen the Cantonese as peng woo, which is kind of close.  Mandarin pinghu works for the second syllable but totally not the first.

Anyway, five fans.  I may have gone many years with virtually no mahjong play, but I’ve played a fair heft amount, especially in that key 8-12 age range.  I’ve gone for all one suit hands many a time, including in silly cases for the challenge.  I even made what I consider a suboptimal decision in that hand and still Earth Pigged my way to victory.

Truly celestial aid purges pain … or whatever.

We didn’t play Codenames though my brother who was hosting me for the weekend talked about playing it a couple of times.  One of our Chinese cousins who hadn’t played before was shown how to play mahjong.

Just a wallbuildingfest of wallbuildingness.

Anything about TD?  I’d like to get some 2019 rares.  Quite a few are used for transmutes.  Some are just good.  I had some thought at some point about something related to reading the forums but lost that somewhat at sometime.

We head to the airport about 7AM Monday morning.

I read a book during the travel to and fro.  Pirate story.  Resonated reasonably well but not great.  Read some reviews that I thought pointed out the shortcomings of what’s a perfectly decent story.  The protagonists are underdeveloped.  One person did a good job of sarcastically pointing out the Mary Sueness of the puppeteer hero.  The fantasy aspects got anime level ridiculous – this is my original thought.  The ending dragged, partially because the love interest is so irrelevant.  Still, nice to read a book that I didn’t dislike.  It reminded me of my Solomon Kane GMing but didn’t particularly stimulate me to want to run something, play a piratey game, or even world build much.

Was this length of trip the right length?  Felt like wasted days on traveling.  Half the trip was essentially traveling, whereas my December trip to hang with family where I used zero vacation days didn’t feel like I was wasting time traveling.  Of course, I had connecting flights on this trip and didn’t on that trip, so hanging out in Denver and eating twice at the same sports bar was time not spent explaining how True Dungeon works or getting snowed on.

Because it has little to do with DunDraCon, I should note that I played Shadowfist Thursday night.  We played two games.  I was incapable of playing any cards for several turns in the first game and it ended dumbly as I stopped a Reascended victory with Onslaught of the Turtle only to have the next player waltz in when little was left in play.  Second game, I played cards, enough hitters to get them taken out.  I didn’t actually do a whole lot with my Lotus/Dragon deck, but the game was less dumb.

I’m not always happy when I play mahjong, as losing sucks and hands that “should” win don’t while hands that shouldn’t win … also don’t, but it’s just such a pleasant thing to do.  I would compare with how playing V:TES for 20+ years is just doing something I enjoy doing that I have mental investment in.  Plus family bonding.


Shift

February 3, 2019

Not that I have any playcalling cred, but maybe use your two tailbacks at once, throw to a tight end, run some screens before the fourth quarter, bootleg, end around, jet sweep, quarterback draw, draw, play from the shotgun, run hurry up, or run anything remotely different.  Good D.  Not terribly entertaining.

Shift

So, I played my 7 Masterless deck Thursday.  I play Wudang Monks.  So much hate.  Now, 7 Masters + 5 Auramancers is something I’ve played in a tournament before, but, just because an opponent had an Auramancer in play as I played a second WM and a third WM, somehow WM is too OP to live.

Speaking of living, we almost had an Underworld Coronation played, except two hitters were unaffected by events, so we played around UC for the rest of the game up until the point that the Reascended player played every Reascended in his deck and powered through for the win with the UC having been discarded earlier.  At no point in the game did my OP Monks or any of my other characters reduce a site’s body to zero.

Of course, my “Mountain Hermit” deck doesn’t make much use of Mountain Hermit as WM can unturn a Hermit, but the Hermit can’t unturn a WM.  My Occult Kung Fus (picking Dark Traveler, of course) got me three Fighting.  My Bridge of Birds was used more effectively by the Reascended (Cabinet Minister) than by me.  I think the better version makes use of Auramancers, maybe Netherworld Tricksters, other good stuff, and probably drops the Mountain Hermits for more cards that provide magic.  I’m not sure how this deck plays as is, though, as I drew five WMs and no removal in a deck that runs some removal.

Sure, we all had to start counting power using dice rather than counters because of multiple Bull Markets, Tranquil Peaks use, and whatnot, but that only does something when you spend that power to affect the game state.

Shift

I finally got out to the local Groundhog Day event.  I thought I had been to one before, but I tend to travel a lot this time of year or have some commitment as it’s close to DunDraCon, so I can’t recall if I have.

I just think it’s a really well written/produced movie.  It has a really good tempo to it.  It stays true to its concept.

I played Blood Rage, Key Flow, and Elysium.  All for the first time.  Blood Rage played differently than I thought it would, where I screwed up the second age massively by trying to contest Yggdrasil burning out my Rage to where I couldn’t play my hand full of upgrades, then I was irrelevant in the third age.  Winner won by two, while I was 40 points or whatever behind.  I would play it again, but I didn’t like it that much.  The Yggdrasil location just annoys me.

Key Flow is the sort of game that knowing how games turn out helps a lot.  I ended up in second by accidentally playing lots of animals, which wasn’t remotely my plan.  The winner (also won Blood Rage for the standard twofer) crushed us with heavily upgraded late game structures.  I would probably find this fine to play about the same number of times as 7 Wonders, which is a few.

Elysium saw me get ahead early and get crushed late as I still don’t understand scoring based on the incredibly unhelpful help cards.  Because I like mythology, I thought the game was fine up until the point it was over.  I have no interest in this game at all.  It’s actually rather boring, plays slow with people who don’t know the cards, lacks effects that interest me, doesn’t make me feel like the chrome matters at all.  If everyone knows the cards, I imagine it’s an easy game to play for people who want something lighter, but one could just play something else.  I think I’d rather play Ticket to Ride.

Shift

I was reading some L5R 4e books partially because I’m playing in HoR4 where mechanics might matter to my character, though not really as courtiers don’t get anything like kata, kiho, spells.  And, there’s one path relevant to my character which I was well aware of before playing this character, since Imperials get dumb mechanics where ronin have far more options.  Brotherhood Monks may have more options, though one would only know if one cared.

I got to thinking about campaign ideas.  I know.  This is dumb.  But, it was interesting.  I have this thought of a Hengeyokai campaign.  All of the PCs would be Hengeyokai with some sort of task that binds them together.  It would be a campaign where the PCs should be faking being samurai (or non-samurai, after all, still a reason to party together no matter what you are, though a traveling geisha character may be a stretch).  Might make far more sense as a one-shot, but …

… Why would I want to play a L5R one-shot?  I mean, using 1e, 3e, or 4e.  Obviously, a 5e one-shot to learn the mechanics makes sense.  So many modules, not just HoR modules, and box sets I’ve played are like one-shots.  So I can play a Brotherhood Monk who used to be a ronin who has Dark Secret revealed and becomes a Lost Akutenshi?

If I struggle to see playing L5R as a one-shot, what else?  Conan?  I think I do see where I stopped trying to get into con games of Conan because one-shots have the same problem of not providing anything I haven’t already done.

I can still see playing Feng Shui, which would probably only ever be one-shots given that 1e doesn’t work that great and 2e isn’t even trying to be a game for campaign play, but replaying Big Trouble in Little China for something like the fourth or fifth time isn’t really attractive.

Shift

I had opened an Ultimate Combat! booster before my last post and couldn’t fit in the flavor text I wanted to.  It still doesn’t fit.

Utter chaos blasts through the arena.

As a draft pack, the first pick is obvious, the second pick is less so.  As a sealed pack, while the technique is garbage, the pack is bountiful.

Strength X.  Warrior’s Helmet.  Strength 1.  Speed 1.  Gi Patch – Owl.  Combination 1.  Psychic Storm.

That’s a possible draft order, with Strength 1 being possibly better than Warrior’s Helmet if you can sligh your deck or have Adrenaline.  Of course, if you have Strength X, you would want Speed 1 more.  Why Strength 1 over Speed 1 everything else being irrelevant?  Banana Peel in Limited.  Combination 1 could even be the second pick, though highly unlikely.  Psychic Storm might be a first pick if you were playing a multiplayer variant.  Yup, UC! made cards for multiplayer play.  I’d still take Psychic Storm over bad cards or extra technique for the possible “get ahead and end the game” ability, especially if I knew someone else had Favorite Technique or a weapon (either is rather likely if I don’t get them) for the reach ability.  If I had drafted healing, healing, and more healing plus had some way to deal damage, could also see it maybe mattering, though far more likely a defensive draft deck would play a decking strategy where Psychic Storm would be awful.

The art of Psychic Storm may be UC! level art, but I do like the vivid red of action cards with the gold rarity symbol.  Plus, it has an awesome name.

Shift

The next time I post, I may have 2019 True Dungeon tokens.  Will that cause me to think of anything to say about TD?

I could write about how the change in plans for Origins is disappointing, but it’s not that big of a deal to me.  Affects others far more.

DunDraCon is coming.  I’ll be running Traveller events, look to play in the V:TES event, be commuting back and forth so I might not try to play a RPG after all.  Only expect to be there Saturday and Sunday.


Gyros Of Rokugan

January 30, 2019

Too good a title to forget about.

We headed to Fresno Saturday afternoon.  Didn’t stop, through the power of GPS found the clubhouse we were going to, getting there a bit before 6PM.

Eric ran a mod that Andy and I deadheaded (technically, we could have sat around doing nothing as it wasn’t that challenging).  We head over to the hotel making less use of GPS.

In the morning, go to breakfast, go over to clubhouse, Andy eats a mod and Bill eats a mod, then head home from Fresno about 6:30PM after talking for about half an hour.  At one point during the weekend, talked some about 5e, as I have so little grasp of it.

Not my intention to rant about how it’s unclear what HoR4 is actually about.  Nor my intention to blog about what the conversation during the ride home was mostly about.

Just some miscellaneous observations.

I hadn’t played in a RPG session since … … Gen Con?!?  Yeah, I think Gen Con.  Oh, by the way, we got a strange hotel for GC2019, so it should be quirky in my GC report.

It didn’t feel weird to be playing.  I was just very conscious of how much I want to be doing things.  I did things while deadheading.  I was the only one who pushed a part of a mod that meant nothing (haven’t decided yet whether to rant about this or not).  I was more involved than most in the other mod.  It helps when you aren’t playing with a bunch of strangers.  Online play of HoR is far less appealing to me than it was in the past because I don’t feel inclined to be as active.  Could have been pent up desire to do anything as a RPG player.

One of the mods felt like a “mod”, i.e. felt like it was reasonably crafted.  Another mod was just a vastly inferior version of a mod from HoR3.  The third mod had different features that were probably more interesting to others than to me, but it was completely a bait and switch.  Not in a good, “you are now playing a peasant” way, either.

I spent a lot of effort into rating HoR3 mods.  Only one mod in HoR4 comes to mind as a “keeper”.  What does that even mean?  It means that the mod is sufficiently developed, which most early HoR3 mods weren’t and seemingly almost all non-court mods in HoR4 aren’t.  It means that the mod isn’t just a redux of another mod.  There are okay mods in HoR4 that just come across as a paint by numbers on some earlier HoR mod.  It means a mod that seems like it should be fun.  And, I guess, it also means a mod that fits.  CIT26 was perfectly pleasant to me and pretty interesting, but it was atrocious as an intro mod.  There is no way at all that you throw HoR specific stuff like the Owl Clan and zany features of L5R at people who don’t know what HoR is like (or may not even know what L5R is like, like two of the people I played the mod with).

Sure, the more one has played HoR/L5R, the more a new adventure is going to remind of an old adventure.  What I find interesting is that I look back on HoR3 not to complain about how incoherent the campaign was but with how much more memorable the mods were.  HoR3 really advanced in the area of court mods.  HoR3 had some mid campaign mods that had so many ideas that you couldn’t follow up on everything.  There were some pretty terrible mods that were at least trying to do something different.  There were mods that I appreciated for doing something different, in one case less than other players, in another case far more than the people I ran the mod for.  Not everyone likes the same things.  There were multiple mods I wished had no plot, that just let us shop and stuff.

While HoR3 didn’t do a good job with recurring NPCs, something HoR2 was far better at, even if you didn’t always want the Toritaka around, overall, it felt far denser than HoR4.  Balishnimpur has not been used effectively as a setting or a campaign element.  It’s hard to get an idea what any of the HoR4 mod series are trying to do.

The random inclusion of gaijin of various sorts in HoR4 is … well, part of the inspiration for the title of this post.  It’s such a random “wait, what did you just say?” that you could easily have Greekified Yodotai and it would make as much sense as some of the things that came out of the blue when I’ve been playing.

But, you know what?  Just because these living campaigns are called campaigns doesn’t mean I need to act like they are.  I didn’t start playing HoR2 because I was looking for a campaign.  I had plenty of enjoyable moments in HoR3 even though the metaplot stuff meant absolutely nothing to me or my characters.  I don’t currently look at the prospects of playing more HoR4 as a “gosh darn it, how do I gets into them thar story”.  I think I see more clearly that I just do my thing and roll with whatever.  Refocus back on my PC(s) and not worry about what others think may be going on.  True, it does create more character when you have things to bounce off of, like wiping out gaijin civilizations because they are annoying, but being more mechanically focused with L5R is still better than my D&D convention experiences.

Speaking of my character and mechanics, the most fascinating …

I took a closer look at crafting in the campaign since it gives a hook and has something to do with the campaign.  It amuses me the idea of getting to Void 6 just to make one special quality wakizashi before the campaign ends immediately afterwards.  Earth, which was part of the original plan, actually makes more sense if embracing the armor theme I’m doing.  Fire to make useless weapons strikes me as amusing and would mean no longer being a moron, thus inflicting myself with the punishment of not taking Sage.

What is the most absurd weapon to craft?  Bisento?  Probably not, but the idea of crafting massive polearms and heavy weapons while continuing to use a wakizashi in combat is groping me.  Of course, it helps to be making inexpensive weapons so that the TNs are low.

See, even though Noticed by _ has never mattered, crafting inane things is totally campaigny.

Combat has been highly inconsistent in HoR4, with the harshest combats being in earlier or lower rank mods.  HoR2 had some brutal early combats that I didn’t play until I was a more experienced character.  HoR3 was generally more combatty early on and would have the occasional heinous fight.  HoR4 seems to have even more editing problems where there are combats that should just rip parties apart due to being too early and/or too poorly set up.  What I found to be ironic is the one midrank mod wasn’t scarier to me.

I’m going to try to make more effort to find GM runs of mods so that we remove the mod eating that people have been doing.

And, I’m going to buy up Earth or Fire or Void to pretend to care about crafting.  And, Animal Handling because, for some reason, I don’t have Animal Handling.

There are no Miya heroes, but there may just be a Miya Gyros.


Fisticuffs 20190124

January 24, 2019

And, so I went through my built decks as my idea to run uniqueless 7 Masters required time I didn’t have to put together.

Manchu All Over You!

Don (Twisted Horrors) -> Joren (Architect Ambush) -> Ian (Manchu All Over You!) -> Justin (Quixotic)

I didn’t win.  Justin won after first attacking with a F-2 Superleaper from Unbroken Protectorship only to have his target change.  Then, the killing blow with a Fu Lions with 2 damage and Yanyuedao Blade against a Hidden Grotto.

There were no characters who could intercept.

Actually, earlier, Justin had no reason to Journey’s Reward my Moonlight Raid as I couldn’t stealth by the Fu Lions, anyway, not that I expected my Moonlight Raid to matter, even though I was going for the kill on Hidden Grotto with a F-2 Manchu Soldiers, a F-2 Manchu Bureaucrat, and Colonel Richtmeyer with two damage and Origami Handguns.  Later, the same Manchu Soldiers and Manchu Bureaucrat and a BuroMil Grunt went for the win against a Forgotten Shrine.  After that inevitably failed, my last bid for victory (in the same turn) involved playing General Senggelinqin and saccing the BuroMil Grunt to put into play a Manchu Officer.  The Officer was F-5 due to Stand Together (Manchu, of course, though Soldier would have been interesting) and got Math Bombed, while F-8 Senggelinqin got taken out by Glimpse of Brief Eternity only because one of the five cards was … Superior Tactics to match on Military.  No, not any of my other Manchu cards came up that Glimpse.

The game was kind of dull for Don, who didn’t do a whole lot of Twisted stuff.  Joren had tons of power and Neutron Bombed to put the game in peril of ending at any turn but played the game with few characters.  Justin put Huang Yi in play twice, Jade Fox, Wei Tian, but some of those plays put BuroMil Grunts back into play because my edges (in play!) consisted of:

Stand Together (Manchu)

Political Corruption

Political Corruption #2

Paper Trail

200 Guys with Hatchets and Ladders

Extortion

Tomb of the Beast

I also had five power generating sites in play a couple of turns, a Waterfall Sanctuary that got hit for five late, Tower of Glass and Steel (due to our house rules), Tranquil Peaks (seized, never turned by me), Manchu Garrison, and a Dockyard played late so that I could play another Manchu Soldiers when all I had in play were one-cost characters.  I ended the game with those sites and a second Manchu Garrison.

Typical Shadowfist.  The only way to stop Manchu beatdown is to show the General his lack of Superior Tactics.

Well, have an interesting weekend coming up.  I expect to play in a RPG for the first time in … a long time.  HoR4 catching up, where I have to remember what my character does.  Oh, right, “Full Attack, Free Action draw my wakizashi, call five raises for extra attack and …  You know, if they revere the Emperor, any survivors lose Honor for attacking me.”  So, from flopping to chucking in all likelihood for next post.

 


Dismay

January 21, 2019

This is just perfect.  I’m going to use an Ultimate Combat! booster to provide context to what I view as a failed RPG campaign.  See if you grasp the cleverness.

First of all, because even though I explain little as a GM, I will explain references I use in this blog, Dismay was a pretty popular card.  I am inclined to run Shake Up more than Dismay as killing two cards in play has … wait for it … a bigger effect than killing one.

I considered various flavor text from this booster as defining themes of this post.

So much pain from such a small twist.

No, not a small twist.

To kick twice before returning to mother earth is devastating.

Well, this should be the theme of every post.

The school of experience is a great teacher, though the tuition is often quite high.

Two problems with this.  One, it’s not actually on theme, once I get to the point.  Two, boring.

Early attacks oft repeated add up.

Of all of the flavor text in the 13 options (there are cards with the same flavor text) available to me in this pack, I think this sums things up best.

Or, put another way, early mistakes repeated oft add up.  Or, put another way, repeated mistakes oft add up early.

My current assessment is that I committed a well known, rather egregious, and one would think easily avoided sin given that I know more than the average coati.  I didn’t allow the PCs to be the stars.  While I often have pieces of a metaplot going into a campaign that I build as I go along, in this case, I had a metaplot from the start due to having written the basis for Rokugan 1600 over five years ago.  Rather than have the PCs have their piece of the action, the PCs got dragged around from idea to idea.

Let various deconstruction that won’t encompass everything continue.

Ideas 

My assessment is that I do well with ideas.  Ideas are easy.  As I’ve said before, the problem is execution on those ideas.  Here’s the other problem that was a core problem with R.1600 – you can’t just keep coming up with more and more ideas.  Besides the obvious of providing more resolution, I can understand how players get frustrated when there feels like too many things to care about.  And, even if they focus on something, there are wasted ideas that the party never has time for.

A thought came to me.  Ideas as a player can be helpful.  Should be helpful to GMs.  Rather than having the GM have the burden of being responsible for everything involving characters, the world, play, the player coming up with ideas provides direction and personal engagement for the player (assuming the ideas ever get used).  I keep thinking that I’m completely different as a GM and a player, which is true in a way but probably not true in another way.  I keep considering possibilities as a player to engage me and my PC, and that’s good.  Whether it was fictions written for campaigns, characters referenced in those fictions that didn’t even exist prior, activities for my character(s) to pursue – that’s stuff to build on a campaign.  As a GM, I’m not disciplined.  I can’t just run with something to a straightforward conclusion but keep riffing on ideas with more ideas.

Structure

Having a preconceived story that set up the campaign only likely made things worse than usual with taking an idea and trying to make PC activity fit around it in ways the players weren’t interested in.  I made a comment after yesterday’s session where I felt like trying to reset or reboot on R.1600 was not a good idea with this group due to there being too much baggage.  In a way, due to not being better at GMing, this campaign started with baggage.

If you look in the 4e corebook for L5R, you will see a number of adventure styles listed.  Location-Based, Open World, Character-Driven, Episodic, The Epic, Relationship Mapping.

While listed as adventure types, let’s take them as campaign types for this exercise.  Which style was R.1600?

I, the GM, am not sure.  Drops glaive-guisarme.

I’m very accommodating.  As a player, that makes it easy for me to play in things, even if I don’t like them.  As a GM, that means I lack a coherent campaign vision.  Odyssey talks about writing things down.  We did write some things down early on but didn’t maintain a manifesto.

The players were perfectly happy to play nobodies in a war setting set in Rokugan.  Playing a nobody doesn’t interest me, so I didn’t realize that and how that would inform play.  By nobody, by the way, I don’t mean playing a peasant or something, I mean that there’s no recognition from on high as to who the PCs are.  BTBTW, it occurs to me that this is yet another reason I don’t engage much with dungeon crawling nor do I find random death remotely interesting – I want my PCs to matter to the greater world.

Getting sidetracked, I wonder how I would feel about my PC being locally important but unimportant in the grander scheme of things.  For instance, let’s take a Vampire game where my PC is a primogen or whatever but that nobody beyond the city gives a double eagle.  Would that interest me?  I don’t think so.  Not to say I would actively be annoyed by such a setup, I just don’t think I would care as much about what goes on if that’s the grandest ambition.  Of course, not everything is about Glory/Fame/recognition/whatever, just that I would find it less interesting if the world didn’t extend beyond me more greatly.

Not only did I not have a clear idea on which type of campaign this was, but, obviously, how would the players if the GM wasn’t even clear?  And, why didn’t we clear this up to begin with?

I keep thinking about how one of my players in a previous campaign viewed that campaign as a sandbox when I didn’t and how I may be inclined to play that is more player driven than either I or the players expect.  This is a repeated error.  That’s kind of the point of this post – I keep repeating errors, which I’ll come back to.

Speaking of structure, I just blogged about how the season structure was an attempt to provide more discipline and more ability to rechart course.  It didn’t help because …

What Does A Campaign Mean To You?

This was a question asked after the session as we had talked for quite a while about what the go forward plan is.

That highlighted something.  Very few of my campaigns have gone on very long and even fewer have had endings.  When I look at campaigns that were most meaningful to me, it was longer ones, generally, and, in particular, two that had endings even if one of the endings was scripted out.

No, that wasn’t what got highlighted.  What got highlighted is that I think of campaigns as something that persist indefinitely.  I may intellectually understand that campaigns are intended to have a resolution, but endings aren’t my thing.  I noted that I prefer TV to movies.  TV has more sessions and has no clear end.  I really enjoyed book series like the Spellsinger series because it didn’t have to end.  Even Chronicles of Thomas Covenant trilogies left open the possibility for more.  Elric may have had an end, but, then, there were more stories.

So, having a plan to end a campaign with points where a campaign could end is anathema to what I am actually interested in.  Does it bother me when, say, HoR campaigns end?  Not really, but, then, HoR is something odd, and, even when the campaigns do end, I don’t feel much resolution.  In my mind, The Princess Police doesn’t feel like it ended, and, by using material from it, I extended its life through R.1600, seemingly to the detriment of my players.

So, this may be another reason I enjoy convention one-offs more than much of my campaign play – no expectation of a campaign.  The focus isn’t on my PC or my storytelling.  The focus is on doing stuff in the moment.

So, would I be interested in a seven part series of adventures?  A 20 part?  If I didn’t think of it as a campaign (ironic given that military or political campaigns do kind of need to end).  A significant problem, methinks, with fixed length campaigning is that I don’t have any reason to care about my character.  Oh, just like a one-shot, I may care about what I do with my PCs  or what happens, but I don’t feel linked to a particular character.  So, I won’t care about character advancement (see my Ide Courtier in the marriage campaign we played) and I won’t care about having a personal story arc.

Now, how important is advancement?  I’m not sure.  I know for many that it’s hugely important, and I’ve played HoR at times where all the campaign meant was mechanically advancing a character sheet.

But, what I really enjoy is having a personal story arc.  Of course that’s possible with fixed length campaigns.  That’s possible with any number of sessions including a single session, as I’ve had a number of cases of feeling like my PC (that I didn’t create) had a story arc in a one-off.  It’s just that I view the focus on limited duration RPing to be elsewhere to where I don’t expect to be able to feel the character in the same way.  For example, it can take a varying number of sessions to feel a PC, and, in some cases, you need to change PCs to have a proper campaign fit.  If you don’t have a fixed number of sessions, you may never get anywhere as the campaign just stops being played, but a known length to a campaign means you have to plan something that doesn’t necessarily make sense to plan.  In other words, you can be forcing something that maybe shouldn’t be forced.

Better groups probably handle these things better than worse groups.  I don’t know.  I guess I forced a story arc at the end of HoR3 (for my alt character!), and that made that campaign more satisfying (since it was not remotely satisfying with regards to my main character).

Then, I haven’t been involved in much fixed length campaigning, so ignorance may lead to unfounded concerns.  Yet, I know that when I play home games of limited sessions, I tend not to care about my characters at all.  The last such venture, with Savage Worlds Spelljammer, I know I didn’t advance my PC for ages and don’t even recall whether I ever advanced my PC, though my githyanki did get to help murder a mind flayer who was also his employer, so there was some personal achievement.

Hobgoblinism

Wisdom is making good decisions.  To keep repeating the same mistakes of firing up a new RPG campaign only to get frustrated by how things don’t work out as envisioned, even with initial character creation where I can see that my players aren’t on the same wavelength I am before we actually start playing, is making bad decisions.

Sure, I have enjoyed world building for campaigns like FSTH or R.1600 or even Gaki Mura, which players have praised after it petered out.  But, my experiences with repeated problems only remind me as I try anew of past frustrations, and I get really prone, entangled, dazed, and fatigued when players are noticeably unhappy.

Gaming is about fun activities.  Now, those activities aren’t limited to play and not every single activity is going to be fun, but there should be net fun.  Just like there are nigh infinite deck building options with CCGs, there are nigh infinite possibilities for electing to do fun things over doing things that aren’t the fun.

I stopped haranguing card floppers to flop more because I realized that not everyone enjoys flopping as much as I.  I think I stop trying to run campaigns.  That I mostly want to world build/expand works when I’m a player and is too little of what players need out of a GM.  I can see running one-offs at various times for various possible reasons.  I can see running someone else’s game (that’s what HoR GMing is), though guest GMing in campaigns has worked out really badly when I made up my own adventures, so I need to make sure I’m running someone else’s adventure.

Meanwhile, what I should do is be a player more often.  Get back to playing in local convention RPG sessions, for instance.  I can see how HoR structure has had influences on me that could be limiting my perspective.


Seasonality – Winter

January 19, 2019

Winter is … is … wait, Cali doesn’t have Winters, just cooler times where water may occasionally fall out of the sky or may not.

Last weekend, I ran season four’s finale for Rokugan 1600.  I’m not sure what you have in mind when you hear that, but every season so far has had three core narrative sessions, and a complete randomfest of additional side sessions due to having only two players at times.

Season one had one side session.  Season two had a tack on session for one player.  Season three had one side session that may have not been intended as a side session, certainly intended to include one of the players who didn’t play.  Season four has had three side sessions and is going to have a fourth set after the finale.

I didn’t realize how unlikely side sessions were earlier on.  I kept thinking of how players couldn’t make every session, but I ran two sessions from season two without all of the players.  Season two was kind of another intro season, as season one was supposed to be, but it was a stranger intro because I inserted the new players into a different part of the world and had them doing stuff that didn’t intersect with season one virtually at all.

So, R.1600 has been disjointed.  But, when I think about its history, makes a lot more sense to me why.  So, we get to season three and the campaign seems to finally feel like a war campaign, with warry things going on and less focus on the romantic adventures of NPCs.

And, then, season four went in a different direction.  Rather than sticking with the field ops of season three, where the party was much more on its own and focused on counteracting enemy army movements, season four was all about “The Meeting”.  The Meeting meant something to me in the grand scope of the war effort, but it just felt like getting pulled into some not terribly relevant to the PCs stuff, with some Hare-brained schemes.  I think having the many side sessions helped with distracting the players from the war efforts, though I would say the first side session feels grossly underexamined by the players.

Anyway, we talked after the finale and it became much clearer that the group interest was having more campaign like season three, at least in terms of types of activities and feel, especially fewer NPCs everywhere.  Also, there’s a player decided direction for what season five will be about.

I’m hardly surprised that people’s expectations differ from the reality; that’s pretty normal in my experiences.  What was more notable to me was how little time there was to actually establish a “normal” for the campaign.  There still isn’t a normal, where I tend to be interested in epic fantasy where volcanoes erupting wipe out enemy bases off stage or romantic fantasy.  My remembrances of Princess Police side sessions was more “someone shows up claiming that a village is under attack by bandits” where there was limited narrative relevance.  It was more about straightforward investigations or combats, and I liked those sessions, in general, quite a bit.  My side sessions often try to expand upon the setting and/or relate in some important way with what’s going on without there being a major confrontation with the noble invaders, er, I mean the non-human abominations that are invading Rokugan.

Maybe the better thing would have been to have a discussion after season three where I would have been clearer with how the players thought that was the norm that we should be striving for.

The thing is is that Rokugan is diverse and finely detailed.  I actually like the setting even given some things I really dislike about it, and one of the things I like most about the setting is that places are defined.  So, I want to have the party visit different locations that aren’t just some village out in the boonies as that forces me to at least a half-assed degree to come up with details about where the party is.

Maybe I should have put forward “Hey, keep in mind that this is the third side session this season and that I’m trying something different than what I view main sessions to be about, so get ready to … dance, dance, dance.”  Or, maybe I should lengthen seasons so that side sessions don’t overwhelm a season.  Though, I like planning for three sessions each season as it pushes me to be more focused and more concise, something I at no time ever have any problem with in my life due to my core conciseisityness, but also means we can refresh the campaign and send it in a different direction faster rather than get lost in something no one wants to play.

So, why doesn’t this post have a L5Rish title?

Well, I also have been playing Shadowfist recently, and I would make mention of how we actually got two full games in last Thursday in our threeish hour block.  Actually, the week before, we played a five player and a four player and finished two games, but I was borrowing decks from another player as I had the wrong deck boxes in my bag, so I was playing far more threatening decks.

This session, I played an Architects/Hand deck that tries to combo something.  Instead of comboing, which would have been entertaining, I put out two Anomaly Spirits (yes, Architects/Hand with Anomaly Spirits) and it was deemed I was “weaponizing” our house rules (that encourage additional columns heavily).  Someday, I may reveal the intrinsic brilliance of this deck that apparently has no way to generate power so can’t afford to do much more than play a 2 or 3 cost character once a turn.

So, that brings me to yet another perfect deck.

Name: Iron Gift
Faction: Dragon/Guiding Hand
Size: 45

Dragon Cards (8)
Characters (6)
4x Junkyard Boys
1x Khofesh
1x Seamus

Events (2)
1x Golden Comeback
1x Never Surrender

Guiding Hand Cards (10)
Characters (8)
1x Bao Ling
2x Buddhist Bellringer
1x Rosalee Leung
2x Shaolin Supplicants
2x White Crosus Society

Events (2)
1x Journey’s Reward
1x Rigorous Discipline

Combo Cards (7)
Events (5)
5x Eagle’s Gift

States (2)
2x Iron Fists

Generic Cards (20)
Edges (2)
1x Martial Focus
1x Shared Interests

Events (2)
2x Scrounging

Feng Shui Sites (10)
5x Dockyard
5x Möbius Gardens

States (6)
1x .44 Kincaid Magnum
2x Butterfly Swords
3x Fortune of the Turtle

This just oozes perfection.  My only winning deck at Merlin’s place a couple of weeks ago.  Then, proof of perfection Thursday.  After all, bringing out Junkyard Boys and Shaolin Supplicants is exactly what every deck needs to beatdown with.  With White Crocus Society as backup to heal those F-1 characters when they may get conflicted.

Joren was playing Monarchs Netherworld Returns, Justin Dragons, Don Architects with Black Helicopter Squads for Bite of the Jellyfish.  Don [Chi] Suck[er]ed with little effort to stop the Sucking.  I used an Eagle’s Gift to get back Six Demon Bag to stop a bid for Sucktastic victory.  Justin got Jenny Zhang in play but was kind of defensive with her.  Three of us were at four FSSs, when I went over the top and nonstop with Boys, Supplicants, and Bellringers.

I could have played Iron Fists, but I wanted that for a character with fighting greater than two.  I also had Khofesh in play, pointlessly, as I’m terrible at Shadowfist math.  Whoa, that’s a great article for someone to write – Shadowfist math.

Yup, Iron Gift is retired undefeated.  In no way will I plan on building a less effective version for play in the future … unless, perhaps, I can find a way to squeeze a higher percentage of F-1 foundation characters in play.  I will consider, however, keeping it together to lend out to others who want to win major tournaments.

And, so, I literally literally provide a gift to you, my devoted audience.  Happy almost Martin Luther King Day.