World Of Command

September 24, 2017

So, I have played some things recently that were outside the norm.

Old boardgame group got together and played two games we’ve played a lot:  Lords of Waterdeep; Scepter of Zavandor.  The latter was something of a teaching game for my friend’s son, who won easily … with emeralds.  You could go look up Scepter of Zavandor, look at prior posts where I contrast it with Outpost, or I could just say it’s a reskinned Outpost that fixes the massive problem Outpost has with snowballing victory or … maybe better way to think of it … lack of snowballing into irrelevancy.  Remember, if you can outproduce everyone, just keep pushing further and further ahead.

I also wrote up some V:TES decks, which is arguably so trivial for me to do that it hardly qualified as gaming related, more of a 10 minute thought puzzle per deck.

My friend and I played through some of a tutorial for the Myth boardgame.  Lots of stuff going on in that.  Because of hanging out with him, I got to thinking about playing/running a simple AD&D game.  So, I went to my stack of old modules and … couldn’t pull out a module from what was a stack of all sorts of things.  Instead, I pulled out Greyhawk Adventures.  Yup.  The AD&D hard bound book for AD&D/AD&D2e.  Because people who write blogs like these have this sort of thing just lying around.

I actually read some of it.  I looked at the adventures – I guess I’m the sort of jaded gamer who is the target audience for zero level play except I don’t have any interest in playing a loser [uh … no comment].  I read some monster entries, glanced at god write-ups, skimmed through some NPCs.  There’s so much potential in RPGs for amazing stuff, yet the yesterworld was just replete with game stats.  I guess it can be inspiring, somehow.

Made me think that I should suggest to TD to use a Gorgriffspidrascorp as a monster some year.

But, the most different thing was playing Magic.  My first play of Commander was in Stockholm because my first “play” of Caylus was in Shanghai, etc.  Rather than ‘fist each other, I borrowed a Commander deck and only played my Commander after two players were eliminated?!?  Might have been right before my prey was eliminated.  I think I attacked with my Commander once in the game.

I can see the appeal of Commander, to a degree.  I would rather play Advanced Squad Commander with Commander rules and 50 card decks or 60 card decks, but I get that lack of reliably is an essential part of people enjoying the format.  It does address some of the problems of playing standard constructed.  But, I realize at certain points in Commander games – all two I’ve ever played – that it still has Magic’s fundamental flaw of drawing one card a turn.

I was mana limited all game.  Finally got an artifact in play to accelerate beyond four mana a turn and had the artifact bounced back to my hand.  Sure, I won.  But, that’s because I have decades worth of multiplayer CCG experience and have some vague idea what the rules for Banding are (white not my preferred color but whatever).

Yet, as much as Magic has this flaw, other CCGs have other flaws and the only perfect CCG is …

No, Ultimate Combat! isn’t perfect.  No, the Traveller Card Game isn’t perfect.  What’s perfect are all of those individual experiences playing whichever flawed game where you just enjoy the heck out of what you are doing.  The Level the Playing Field vs. Not Meant to Be war I can vaguely recall while in Castro Valley playing with one of B5’s designers.  Ousting two players with Jake Washington in a tournament.  And, others that will become harder and harder to remember as I age.

So, I’m fine with playing Commander.  I’m fine with building Commander decks.  But, where other people get off on trying to build coherent Commander decks that abuse their Commanders’ abilities or whatever.

I.  I opened up a pack of Betrayers of Kamigawa and Saviors of Kamigawa to see if I got a legend to use.  I did.  Now, Champions of Kamigawa would make more sense, but I have fewer of those packs lying around, maybe one or two, maybe not even that many.  I am now at a point where I don’t know whether to continue to open Kamigawa packs until I can put together a 100 card deck or branch out so that I can support a 100 card black deck where I couldn’t care less if I ever put my commander into play.

Do I just open packs of things I have lying around until I can make a deck?  Or settle on particular blocks (much harder given what I have in packs)?  Do I try to preserve some way to track what I’m opening out of packs so that I can convert Commander cards into Type P decks?  Would I ever try to construct a real constructed Commander deck rather than a sealed Commander deck?  I don’t see why.  I don’t enjoy actually putting together constructed Magic decks.  Oh, sure, I enjoy thinking about them.  But, where V:TES with its no card limits and numerous close substitutes doesn’t feel onerous to me at all in terms of what I’m willing to play with, Magic constructed has always felt onerous to me, even if I could scrape together an Essence Vortex deck with one copy of Necropotence (and lose a game because I played Necropotence rather than just own with Essence Vortex).

I really like the idea of putting together a mono-color Kamigawa deck from just opening packs, but I don’t think it’s possible.  I’m not even sure how feasible it would be if I had boxes sitting around unopened.  The amount of packs I imagine I’d need to open to have a minimum number of non-basics to field a deck seems to be so incredibly wasteful (unless I can P the other cards somehow) that I can’t justify living such an extravagant lifestyle [quiet, tokens are a new toy].  I, of course, would rather build multicolor Commander decks.  So, maybe I dig through Ravnos or Return to Ravnos packs, except I don’t have like infinite quantities of those, either.  I could breakdown my Type P decks I never play and have little interest in playing to have stock.  I could even write down the contents to recreate the Type P decks if I ever felt that was sufficiently important in my life.

Given that every time I play Shadowfist, I think about how I could build new decks, yet rarely build new decks, can I get fired up enough to build Commander decks?

This is the beauty of Type P.  Five packs, 27 basic land, done.  Megasealed, which is what I’m thinking about, is just so resource intensive.  I already have to hunt for basic land just to complete P decks.  Scary how much land would be needed to field sealed Commander decks.

Interestingly, one of my friends gets me stuff.  Makes me feel guilty for not getting him more stuff.  Now, I’m totally good with my female friends getting me stuff as I do get them stuff, but that’s not gaming related and, thus, neither here nor there.  Anyway, he has gotten me Magic stuff that involves legends that could be used as the bases for Commander decks.  Since I don’t know what else I could do with constructed materials like those, since Type P is the only format I build decks for, seems obvious to make use of stuff people give me that’s, uh, gaming related.


A-Void-ing Mistakes

September 16, 2017

Having a conversation at moment in comments section of last post on new Void shugenja build.  Thought we’d turn this into a post because there are some general character build comments I could make.

My first thought was that it would be hard to cripple yourself out of the gate since L5R has relatively few different buys and it’s not structured like a lot of games are structured (WoD, Shadowrun, Fading Suns, Mechwarrior, etc.) where initial buys are very different from advancement buys.  Think of how much you could [not] cripple yourself building a Champions character where everything is identical at starting and through advancement and … further realize Champions characters have radiation accidents where PCs get totally rebuilt to fix any pointless [ha] buys (COM 36 was more than sufficient, Mister COM 55; Power Defense when no one ever hits you with Power Attacks), while you are probably stuck with whatever advantages you overspent on in L5R.

My biggest mistake PC was a character who didn’t just plan for the future but that way overspent on non-Trait stuff early on where the present was significantly impacted, so I am concerned when the inclination is to overbuy on vants, ancestors, et al.

While I rate Luck as the best buy in the game and rate Wealthy as an amazing buy, I do want to clear up a bit that I’m not necessarily advocating Luck, for example, as the end all and be all of character creation.

My biggest mistake may have been a PC who wouldn’t make sense until 150xp into the campaign, but I find that I have a general tendency to prefer playing PCs who are who they are out of the gate.

Sure, my Isawa Mirumoto Bushi sailor was useless with an Agility of 2 and kind of an actual character with Agility 3 and two ranks of Kenjutsu.  But, the character was defined immediately by being a massive damage sponge to distract enemies long enough for others to eviscerate them.

Okay, enough about me.

JJ’s PC with Ishiken-do, Luck, Crafty, Great Destiny, Sage, and Benten’s Blessing concerns me as putting too much into situational payoffs and not enough into consistency.

Ishiken-do is required.  I would put Sage into required as well because the concept sounds like a Void/Air/Fire doer who won’t be a moron.  Only reason not to do Sage is because of thematic fail.

I would not bother with Crafty, as there are only five skills listed as low skills and I could imagine not needing Forgery nor Intimidation (any time soon, at least).  So, could have just taken one rank in the other three and be on the path to going above one rank as “needed” and spent the same number of points.  I would be unlikely to even spend those three points, taking probably one rank in Stealth and Temptation and buying Sleight later or maybe not even the first two if really pressed for points.

The ability to pump all Void into a roll along with the ability to recycle VPs means Luck is less crucial for the all important rolls that occur.  However, it depends upon how many other shugenja there are in the party.  The more other shugenja, the less crucial any one spell is, so the need to Luck a spell varies.

Great Destiny is something I often forget about because living campaigns don’t allow it.  I have a campaign idea that moves Great Destiny and Dark Fate into general rules rather than specific character features, but that’s neither here nor there for you all.  It does amuse me to try to figure out a thematic justification for Great Destiny rather than the mechanical view of “I don’t want to die right away”.

Sounds like the PC is a/the face of the party, so I get Benten’s Blessing.  Besides helps with personal … um … pursuits.

Ishiken-do, Sage.  then, I would rate the importance of the rest as Benten’s Blessing followed by maybe one rank of Luck followed by Great Destiny followed by second rank of Luck.  But, it’s not my character.  If inspired by the possibilities of Great Destiny, sure, go for it.

Just to move on, let’s say 16xp are put into advantages.  I don’t like assuming 10 points of disads, but, if you start with 40, kind of hard not to max out.  If there are 34 points left over, figure 12 for a trait, 18 for Void 3, 3 points in skills, and 1 in innating a spell.  Things get rough if more than 16xp go into advantages.

Spellcasting.  A R-1 spell needs a TN of 10.  3k2 can do 10.  However, a few things.  One, Path to Inner Peace is not really a 10.  Raise happy spells are not really 10’s.  May want to cast a R-2 spell in one round at TN20.  Some thought should be put into what spells need to be castable as a starting character.  Because most people want their characters to be functional, I would imagine this character would be Air 3, Void 3 out of the gate with a plan to get to Fire 3.

ATN.  With Reflexes 3, Air 3 in shugenja stance, minimum ATN of 23.  Probably want one rank in Defense just to move to 24.  Someday, really like Defense 5, but that’s so far away and combat doesn’t seem like a focus for the campaign.

Disads are another way to cripple oneself.  Overconfident, probably not a great idea for this PC (I’d argue a terrible idea for every PC, but whatever).  Weakness: Strength could be cheesemeisterishness or maybe the GM makes it actually hurt.  But, it’s unlikely to an “OMG, you killed my 40 point character” choice like some disads should be.  More than anything else, because disads often don’t have consistent mechanics like other things do, I’d work with the GM to have them be reasonable and more interesting than how many points they give you.

Now, what about advancement?  There are important considerations besides whether you get to take advantages after character creation.  As I blogged about before, rate of advancement changes things dramatically.  Do you really care how inept you are at 40, if you are at 60 after a couple of sessions?  You probably care whether you have another trait at 3 if you play like once a month and gain 2xp per session.

For this character, what’s essential?  Sounds like social ability, Acting, fixer abilities.

Plan would seem to be Awareness 4, multiple ranks in a variety of Awareness skills, Agility 3 for Stealth, with Void 4 at some point.  Seems like can mostly dump entirely on Earth and Water, eventually getting to Earth-3 only if the campaign proves more dangerous than expected.  While PER 2 is unhappinesses, have to not be good at something.  The single greatest problem with dumping on Water is that it makes Water spells rather terrible.

Fill out skills to support “Acting”, like Craft: Cooking Pot.  Commerce is an obvious skill to enhance disguises.

I don’t know if I got the idea of a ningenja, er, shuninja right or not.  Also, what is the rest of the party like?  Is there a lot of overlap in abilities?  Who are going to be the perceivers in a campaign that seems to badly need perceivers?  Is this PC a demibrain, the brain?  What sort of non-mechanical considerations are relevant, like clan interactions?  This sounds like a low Glory character, which probably doesn’t matter one way or the other, but what about Status?  How will the party interact with NPCs of different status?

As for spell selection, here are some ideas, including some I don’t normally see:

By the light of the Moon
Cloak of Night
Legacy of Kaze-no-Kami
Nature’s Touch
Token of Memory
Way of Deception
Benten’s Touch
The Kami’s Whisper
Secrets on the Wind

Fires of Purity

Path to Inner Peace
Reversal of Fortunes

Boundless Sight
Drawing the Void
See Through Lies
Sense Void
Touch the Emptiness
Altering the Course
Drink of Your Essence
Reach Through the Void

What’s interesting to me is that being ninjaesque means making use of some spells that I’ve never seen cast.  Still, limited options means most of these will never get chosen.  Some of these, mostly Air require being clever, too, which can be a burden.  Would be nice to be able to play a shugenja who does weird stuff rather than one who has to constantly save the party from TPKs.


Labors Of Love

September 4, 2017

Who mentions love in a blog post some almost seven months from Valentine’s Day?  I’m that guy.

I avoid Pacificon because I don’t think it’s a good con and because I don’t think it treats GMs well.  When Celesticon was around, I got to the point of avoiding both because they split the gamerbase and made everything too much effort for what weren’t particularly good experiences.  I don’t have that justification anymore, yet I feel no particular desire to start attending Pacificon, which long long ago was my favorite of the local cons.

Close to the con, I was informed we were going to demo Traveller with actual sample cards.  So, I dragged myself the ten minute walk to the con that I normally make just to go to dinner with my friends and got a weekend badge.

Hmmmmm … let’s see.  I looked at the Conan RPG corebook for a bit.  I watched Arkham whatever (they all run together in my mind since it seems like pretty much a money grab to just make another variation of the same game).  I watched some AGoT 2e Boardgame play barely, glanced at some wargaming.

Mostly, I made myself available for demos.  Jeff had run a con listed event on Friday, which attracted more interest than our plop ourselves down wherever we could find space demoing.  Jeff and I talked about stuff, made some notes about next ship deck inclusions based on what we think the game could use more of.

It’s theoretically weird that I eschew saying much about Traveller here, but it does make more sense to post thoughts about the game on our website when we decide to launch it with content, which I expect to be soon.

No, the point of posting about the con is to give … insight … into my predilections, I guess I suppose.  I’m willing to actively oppose the activity of playing games when I feel like it.  I could have played Type P, but didn’t.  I could have played boardgames, but didn’t.  I could have suggested something, but didn’t.  I could have pushed for us doing something with the Conan RPG once I had a better idea when I was going to be at the con, but didn’t.

And, yet, I consider what I do as an activity of gaming.  Before I got into Shadowfist, some 20 years after it came out, I would watch people play because I knew the people.  I also played every few years, but, mostly, I watched people play.  I didn’t glean a ton from that, but I may have gleaned some tiny amount and I could have more-gleaned.

There are some games I ultraglean from watching.  Then, there’s discussing.

As an aside, I don’t have much desire to watch V:TES games, as I find them frustrating to watch, much like I find watching pretty much any CCG I play frustrating.  I realized why at the European Championships while talking to a Swedish player.  For games I know, I want to point out what people are doing that doesn’t make sense to me.  That totally doesn’t work.  Yet, I’m perfectly happy to watch games I don’t know and seek just to learn because I don’t have opinions on what people should do.  It’s not just CCGs, it just happens that CCGs are more likely to be games I know well enough to think I’m more brillianter than the people playing.  I can tolerate watching mahjong being played better because I used to do that a lot and, possibly, because I don’t care as much whether people make good decisions in simpler games.

Discussing games can be far more fun than playing them.  I never liked 1e A Game of Thrones Boardgame as a game, but I found it interesting as a puzzle.  Since it wasn’t terribly random, what moves should you intend on making as each position?  It’s like figuring out optimal moves for whatever boardgame given some particular set up.  Like how people talk about chess and bridge, et al.

Obviously, terrible play can also make for good stories.  I value my terrible RPG experiences for the ability to bitch about them forever.  The “mostly the game consisted of shooting our own mechs” Mekton game that prevents me from playing Mekton locally, the “when do the PCs get to do something instead of watching the NPC do stuff” Maelstrom game that solidified the unbreakable law that Brad and I are not allowed to play in the same scheduled RPG events, the “yup, this is a pretty typical way people play D&D” D&D games that mean I never will sign up for D&D at any con, etc. all offer something besides con strategizing.

Similarly, awful CCG experiences can make for stories that I’m sure everyone is utterly fascinated to hear about many times in their ephemeral lives.

Had two meals with con-goers and shed some enlightenment upon them as to the Truth.  What was that about not playing but still gaming?  Oh, yeah, probably 99% of my True Dungeoning is not actually playing it but wondering whether to sleeve more tokens, deciding when to jump into auctions, and adding builds to the app for various different formats of play since I now have to have significantly different builds for normal versus hardcore/nightmare, possibly different builds for hardcore versus nightmare, different builds for Grind, and do this for a bunch of classes I probably won’t play but might.

I guess the point of this post is not just that, yes, Traveller is progressing and Pacificon annoys me, but that we do things that sound suboptimal because we care enough.  Love, yo.

Extended credits:  Couple of us are going to Gamehole Con to play True D/G.  Since I both have real looking cards (and it would be very possible that I would have final print cards by November) and not anything to do in the mornings when there are no True D/G events, I expect to set up shop in open gaming or wherever and demo Traveller to those who wish to be exposed to a game so brilliant it like radiates UHEGRs or UHECRs or whatever (latter is more searchable if you don’t 说 my lingo).

Getting Mental

August 26, 2017

Is charisma a mental attribute?  That’s another topic.

Nope, time to talk more about everyone’s favorite subject (… because it totally is something easy for anyone to do …) – more True Dungeon!?!???

Before getting into the actual topic, some miscellaneous notes.  I just updated my HoR4 characters in an e-file for both my main and my political characters.  I apparently did not do a great job tracking Glory, as it looks like I’m at 4.3 Glory for my main rather than 4.0.  “Yeahhh …”

Found out recently Gamehole Con will have True Grind, hope for the mornings, hope for the mornings.  Lots of free time in the mornings for us, at the moment.

For closing on a year, I’ve wanted TD to use up design space by making INT, WIS, and CHA more meaningful.  Sure, INT is majorly important for wizards and WIS is majorly important for priests.  But, it’s purely a threshold, there are hardly any ways to affect these stats, and nobody else gives for INT.

WIS already does something natively.  CHA kind of does something natively but is not tracked from a bonus standpoint.

I want various tokens that pump those stats.  Ioun Stones are obvious for pumping them, but neck slot (Amulet of the Citizen +1/+1/+1; Amulet of the Politician +2/+2/+2) or whatever works, too.  I mean, we have robes that pump DEX, INT, and CHA.

But, then what?  What you gonna do when the Drow come for you?

I was going to post first to the forums, then “classic” my post to here, but I have to think things through first as, otherwise, unclear thoughts will get lost in the massive threads on what tokens to do next year.

There are some fundamental problems with doing more with these stats.

Number one, lack of using them historically.  Classes aren’t likely designed to incorporate improvements or thresholds.  Now, classes can be redone, though that’s a major undertaking.

Two, discrepancies.  While one of the most important reasons to reward INT is to differentiate the stats of Wizard from Elf Wizard, if you suddenly bonus up INT to, say, AC, what about the massive discrepancies between classes that exist.

Three, overhead.  Suppose you make one ultrarare that uses INT bonus to do something.  Now, you have added one token to many that works differently than every other token.  Suppose you add one token that “ranges” (see below) INT.  Now, you have one token that looks for an INT of one value to do one thing and another to do another thing.

Ranges:  Tokens that work one way if stat is in first range, say 13-16, and another if in second range, say 17+.

Thresholds, Bonuses, Ranges.


Threshold seems the simplest because, uh, it’s already used.  Lenses of Divine Sight and Mad Evoker’s Charm are both premium URs that depend upon other tokens.  In the past, MEC was very dependent, affecting builds significantly, now everyone just Starhides or better.  LoDS is entirely dependent upon a single other token in the game.  Yes, even though WIS actually does something natively, there is only a single token in the game that makes your WIS stronger.  What?!?

My concern with thresholds is overdoing it.  It also is weird because the threshold is really just going to be set based on what classes already have and tokens may not get you to the threshold.  For instance, you wear the Amulet of the Citizen as a wizard – and you cut yourself lots with MEC.  Wear it as an elf and you did care at all, except how this nonexistent token pumps your WIS.


INT and CHA bonuses are already on the class card.  But, what about tracking – party cards, et al?  Well, the party card has a place for spell bonuses, so, if the token was add INT bonus to damage, that’s easy from a party card standpoint.  It’s somewhat more effort for manual calculation of spell bonuses but not a lot given how many other things to worry about and I see most UR running players going to using apps.  I know that I, not a millenial, actually downloaded an app and it was good.

Problem I see with bonuses is limited number of tokens that make use of them.  It’s just not a built in rule to the game like hit/damage bonuses or saves bonuses, so it’s limited design space.  Also, there’s the discrepancy issue.  How much whining are elves going to make because humans deal more INT than they do?


What I like about ranges is that there’s greater design space for all classes and not just spellcaster classes.  I want INT/WIS/CHA to matter to everyone (more so than the latter two already do).

I can see a range being 14-16 and 17+.  This encourages getting 13’s to 14’s and 11’s to 14’s.  Big problem:  classes are not well equipped for specific numbers and tokens that pump stats are going to have varying effects in ways that may not work at all.

Bigger problem:  what will these tokens do?

What will these tokens do?

Obvious thing is to turn INT into spell damage bonus or spell to hit bonus.  Okay but limited.  I can see INT doing general to hit bonuses, AC bonuses, and the like because, actually, d20 systems had mechanics like those.

WIS could pump healing, but there’s a belief healing is already broken.  Could just pump paladin healing, but that’s incredibly limited.  Healing in general very limited.  AC bonus?  AC’s are already out of control unless we are talking about a slot that no one playing BIS would use on the token.

Non-numerical abilities.  Can recast spells; limited to spellcasters.  Can reslide pucks; steals from Fighter even more and duplicates another token ability.  Bard Lore interaction (and its ilk); one class.  What does everyone do?

Take puzzle and push damage.  WIS token could reduce one or the other.  Second token reduces the other.

CHA does what?  So much push for bard instruments, which I’m good with.  But, I want CHA to matter to everyone.  Then, big problem is that some classes already have sky high CHAs.

CHA could be the help other party members with mechanical bonuses stat, except bardsong already does that.  Figurines already cover having helpers and high CHA is already a figurine thing.  Can’t do anything with treasure chips that wouldn’t be massively controversial and offensive to … me.

There are very few ways to interact with puzzle/push damage, so I definitely like the path that WIS can interact with those.  INT can add bonus to something.  CHA adding bonus to, say, AC is just awful with paladin.  I just feel like expanding on CHA expands in problematic directions.

One last, terrible, idea for CHA:  resurrection effect.  You are so hot, just like that story … from that book … that has a musician/arcanist/martial artist hero.

What slots?

Huge consideration.  You don’t create a WIS token in the eyes slot, head slot, torso slot, or shield slot.  Depends a lot on rarity.  You can have something like “Don’t Push My Buttons” that reduces push damage based on WIS at rare in feet slot, even though nobody BISing is going to run it because how do you compare to Boots of the Four Winds?

Well, actually, if you are on a nightmare puzzle run, maybe you don’t care about +5 damage … … … puzzles matter PTB, puzzles matter.

So, let’s post some ideas so that I can claim someone else stole them from the OG.

Charm of Savviness (UR)

Gain a bonus to hit with melee, missiles, and spells based on your Intelligence:  14-16, +1; 17+, +2.

Shirt of Divine Defenses (R)

Reduce “push” damage based on Wisdom:  14-16, 1; 17+, 2.

Lenses of Discernment (R)

Damage from puzzle failure is reduced based on Wisdom:  14-16, -1; 17+, -2.

Fiddle of Exultation (UC, slotless, Bard)

May restore a dead character to life once per game, and no Bard instrument may be used after this effect.  Requires 18 Charisma.

On a related note, I really like the idea of Ring of Soothing Touch but the execution is just bad.  For one thing, why would you not just use the ring immediately?  When would you ever heal less than 4 damage to someone who is pretty healthy?  For another, there’s no path to making the paladin more healy – I would have liked to have seen RoST be part of a transmute path.

Gloves of Pure Care (UC, hands, Paladin)

Once each room, use of Lay on Hands heals +2.  Requires 15 Wisdom.

Gen Con 2017 – The $8 Story

August 21, 2017

I am a Gen Con expert.  A limited one, of course.  I know RPGs and only a bit else gamingwise.  I don’t know a lot of food options that aren’t likely to interest me and a few that might.  I don’t know every ballroom name in every hotel and where they are in relation to each other.  I know nothing about industry events, parties, concerts, etc.  I know nothing about family events or the con puzzles, and I avoid the exhibit hall as much as possible.

But, I have had many years of incredibly smooth logistics because I knew precisely what I needed to do to fit my needs.

This year wasn’t smooth.  It certainly wasn’t efficient.  It wasn’t a cluster by any stretch, but it was a learning experience.

The single thing that had the biggest impact was True Dungeon, where it affected in many ways.  Rather than list those ways now, I’ll just move forward with something of a timeline.


Every travel day is a hassle.  In order to get our 6AMish flights, we do things like get up at 3AM and finish packing.  Already the sleep deprivation has begun.  When the four of us congregated, it turned out we planned on checking two suitcases.  Four of us, to Gen Con, flying Southwest(!!), checking two suitcases.  That was not remotely my understanding and it added unnecessary stress.  We had to move stuff around from a suitcase to carry on bags.  My carry on was already heavy due to Magic decks I never used (I think I just give up on the idea of playing Type P in airports or in the nonexistent deadtime because it’s just not a high priority, anymore) and TD tokens.

Tokens are heavy.  My suitcase was already around 46 pounds, though it had a good amount of space.

Flights were fine.  Lyft was fine to hotel.  Check in was fine.  Some tickets were will call, so we went to dinner first.  Dinner was fine.  I had trades or buys to complete for TD tokens that complicated the night.  Two of us waited around until after the Golden Ticket runs and it was rather tedious and inefficient.  We didn’t have all of the builds ready or tokens sleeved or whatever for …


8:26AM Dancing Combat

Our first game was TD, and it was the first combat run outside of the Golden Ticket runs.  I’m going to avoid as much as possible spoilers for rooms as I expect many of the same elements to exist at Gamehole Con and next year’s cons prior to Gen Con.

We broke four things in the first room.  We were not remotely close to figuring out the solution.

I suppose I should back up a little bit and, rather than wait until it was more noticeable, get this out of the way.  Having a collection means far more logistical concerns than not having one.  We were the only players with Charms of Avarice on three of our runs and I can only think of one other 5th level character on any of the four TD runs, though two players on the last run could have been, I’m sure, if they were playing at full strength.

So, I was much more stressed as I was worrying about:  do we have 5th level cards; what difficulty are we playing; does one of our group need tokens, maybe ones I just picked up the night before; does my app build match my album build; will the party card accurately show how many treasure pulls we get.

Learning experience.  I understood conceptually why people liked buying out runs and arranging parties ahead of time.  I now see how much practical impact it has, as it’s a huge pain in the back, shoulders, and calves to carry around a bunch of unnecessary tokens.  I’m thinking I go with a general build that applies to any class and switch out maybe a dozen tokens to cover class differences.

Second room, fight.  We got nowhere.  Eric was planned for bard but ended up ranger because the one other player with significant experience was playing bard.  I gave him a build with like a +16 to hit.  We were playing normal (we played normal in all four TD and in True Grind).  He missed every(?) time.  We think his melee stats were being used rather than ranged stats.  But, talking to an admin Saturday night and reading the forums, also believe the fights were just way too hard, at least early on.

I was telling my mother(!) today that the correct way to lead off TD runs is with a not difficult puzzle, followed by an easy combat, at least if you are running normal.  TD can be really hard for new players.  TD often involves groups who don’t know each other.  Give the party time to coalesce.  Give them time to adjust to what they suck at, like wasting time during combats.  Not only is it more fair to ramp up challenges as teams get into grooves, my personal feeling is that I enjoy runs far more where we are successful early and failing late rather than failing early and successful late.  TD has a ton of casual players at Gen Con, want players to feel good about spending $62 per run.

Third room, I mentally gave up immediately.  They made this easier later in the con, too.  Fourth room, fight with lockdown effects, i.e. spellcasters could not cast spells until something happened.  I’ll rant more about this later.  I could not believe how much damage was required to take out the enemy given we were playing normal.

Four rooms, four failures.  Fifth room, success.  Sixth room, is success even a thing?  Kind of a scenery room.  It was cool to look at but frustrating to play.  Last room, another fight where we accomplished nothing, as I was locked down the whole fight and couldn’t finally unleash my way OP build for normal difficulty.  Everyone did survive, which was something I guess, but it came across as a frustrating run.  I think I dropped below 60 hit points, which never happened on the three other runs.

Our OP builds didn’t really help.  I felt afterwards like I had to deal even more damage to make sure the group could get through fights, though this thinking is probably not the correct path.  If the fight is unfair, let it be unfair on the GM’s side.  Don’t make things even more unbalanced by being able to nuke any encounter at any time, as that just increases the perception problem.

We took treasure chips and went our various ways.  Eric H wasn’t going to do True Grind, so he got the privilege of standing 2.5 hours in line to get L5R LCG cards so that I could play Sunday’s tournament.

I had more transactions to do.  Here’s something I found really annoying – there was awful direction as to where things were.  I ended up in the wrong training room for the run because we didn’t go as a group (too long putting party cards together on three(?) of our runs).  I didn’t know where the dealers were as I didn’t realize there was other stuff inside.  I found out later where the transmute room was by accident since I was looking for the Grind room, that I didn’t realize was the left entrance rather than the right entrance.  Just awful guidance, where there was no specific information booth.

True Grind (Noon)

I try to get ahold of our True Grind patrons, as we were three replacements for their team.  I fail electronically but, fortunately, I run across one of their team hovering near TG and we figure out where we need to go.  Eventually, everyone is in the right place and Andy has no idea what tokens I forced on him because I didn’t think to print out our builds and nobody wrote anything down the night before when I had them pulled up on the screen.

We decide on normal but hardcore would have totally worked.  This group was really good at such things as sliding!  They pumped out tons of damage to where I could hold back on spells.  We cut a deal against one “room”.  The paladin and I were taken out for a while in room seven, to where my coming back led to a great storm of lightning.

At no time did I feel bad about throwing out 30+ point magic missiles.  Hail power!  I was the only one who took much damage, almost all of which was self-inflicted through Mad Evoker’s Charm.  Got to the point where nobody wanted to heal me until I had taken 42 or more damage just so someone could heal me for 42 damage.  I often spent time down around 24 points, leaving me at 57.  Dave got to successfully hit things with his +14 to hit fighter, dealing 30 points of damage at times, just like … not … when he played/plays cleric.

The best part of this may have been that Eric C was a room GM.  We hadn’t seen each other in years and we chatted a lot while the event was taking place.  I enjoyed my punishment for not metagaming harder.  The group was fun, sociable.  Thank Alek, et al, for giving us the opportunity.  The only thing I would have preferred is that there be more Fae to make more current year tokens relevant.

HoR (Thursday 2PM)

Start the other half of the con.  We get seated with John D as our GM for One Moment, One Encounter.  It goes well.  It’s a far better intro mod than any mod before it to Balishnimpur.  It runs well, with the main drawback being travel guide stuff that I already knew.  I really don’t remember a whole lot about the plot.

HoR (Thursday 7PM)

Can’t get into 5 or 8, so I try to get a table together for 9 or 12.  It’s just me, as Andy and Eric are at the concert and Dave isn’t doing HoR until Friday night.  I get into 9, Essence of Fire, with a GM coming in very late.  What proceeds is an incredibly tedious experience of dwelling on minutiae.  We aren’t into the plot until hours into the session.  I understand that some people want to experience their characters, again, a reason to play online when you aren’t sitting at a table and knowing how much of other people’s time you are wasting.

We finally get into plot, figure out what needs doing.  I have to run but get some rolls in to help the ritual.  Miss post ritual stuff completely.  I specifically wanted open library before late night TD runs to get short mods done early.  This was a fail, but I brought it on myself.

Find out the next day we were especially successful and I got a powerful sounding cert.  I actually want to run this mod as it seems like it could be enjoyable mechanically.

True Dungeon Moongate Combat (11PM)

I screwed up.  When TD was dropped from Sunday, I was annoyed because it meant having to play around my usual RPG schedule.  I worked out a way to have my triple steakburger and eat it too by scheduling late night TD sessions after my usual stuff.  Then, the reality of what this meant kicked in.

Thursday was harsh.  Thursday was brutal.  This schedule only contributed to Andy’s sickness problem.  We cannot do a schedule like this again.  What we talked about on the flight back was consolidating two TD runs into a single RPG slot.  Hopefully, Sunday TD is brought back.

This group was great.  We talked about stuff.  Came really close to playing hardcore.

I so vastly preferred this dungeon to Dancing.  Yes, everyone loves the first room.  But, I just found these rooms mechanically to be so much more pleasant, though maybe being successful at things helped.  The first room was beautiful in a few ways, but I just really enjoyed having a room with light.  It gets old constantly flashing your light around to see things.

Second room was what you want – low effort combat.  Surprisingly easy puzzle, though I now get that it’s only supereasy on normal.  Fight that didn’t seem hard as I mostly ignored it and we were fine.  Another fight that we succeeded at without being clever.  Fight that was awkward, as some TD fights get, and not remotely interesting to me where I still didn’t have to do a whole lot.  Final room puzzle that is fine but we didn’t figure out the second part at all, though there was an accident at the end that gave away what we were supposed to do.

Dave and Eric were playing RoSP classes because they were out of 5th level cleric and bard.  Neither took particular advantage of them.  Eric was an ill prepared troubadour.



HoR CIT12 (Friday 9AM)

We have limited options as we wanted Dave to not play a court mod, and we weren’t missing much, so we did open library.  It went well, it went efficient.  I failed to convince an Owl Clanner who is into Imperial relations with my Imperial which I found interesting for my character.  I discovered my campaign hook in this mod.  I am the Miya of balance, in that complete obliteration, annihilation, and devastation must be rained down upon my enemies.  Will I live up to the moniker of Herald of Destruction?  Time will tell.  Yup, court mods.

Eric also got some character development.  The Flower Champion may have gotten bigger things to worry about after later events, but this is why you go to Gen Con.  Sure, he could have made rolls anywhere, but there are more opportunities to gain character hooks because you aren’t just playing with the same old, same old.

This ran so smoothly, we had time to go back to the room and nap.  Yeah, not a good sign.

ODAM (Friday 2PM)

My only non-HoR/non-True event (foreshadowing).  Of Dreams and Magic.  Sweet.  I get to play a self-help guru, that I attempt to roleplay, sweet.  We take forever to get things done and I have to leave before the game is over to make 7PM HoR even though I know it’s going to start late.  Tiresome.

I almost played the entire session without doing anything magical.

So, here’s something I intellectually know and try to incorporate into games I run.  If you have characters with cool powers, they must use those cool powers and they should use them as fast as possible in games.  Do you know why I loved Immortal: The Invisible War?  It wasn’t the incomprehensible and unplayable RAW.  It was Ran Ackels running my first couple of games and “just roll a die” and awesome special effects explanations of your powers.

Plus, this game was in the JW.  JW is a nice environment, but, as I say every year, it’s a pain to have games in it as it’s a far cry from everything else most of the time that matters to me.

HoR CIT14 (Friday 7PM)

Let’s get ready to rumble in the jungle.  Dave had already decided to play a combat character.  He strides boldly forth and is not punished for it.  Actually, he reminded me of my Daigotsu Bushi.  We learn the true power of the Tortoise.  We get a nice fast game in so that we can wander over to TD.  Solid action where I fail to hit calling 5 raises for extra attack.

TD Dancing Puzzle (Friday 11:03PM)

Solid group, again fun to interact with.  You could tell Andy was struggling with illness.  We were way OP for the one fight that mattered.  I was almost nonexistent on this run, even though we had failed two of the puzzles before.  This group got the workshop.  Got the forge.  Got path at last moment, where I mostly talked to the priest.  Last puzzle looked nice but so not my thing and we weren’t coordinated enough to make anything happen.  The only death.

Talked some more after the run.  Fun stuff.  I did some treasure pulls, got a bunch of junk, gave away a rare.  One of the two late night groups, I don’t remember which one at this time, I lent a Defender Helm to.  I should have just sold it for a $1, as it’s completely extra to us.


Battle Interactive (8AM!)

Couldn’t miss this, even though I was getting sick and Andy was hurting.

The Flower Champion wilted and didn’t run with our assault team.  Andy and I found other Crab and the glorious killing machine that is Kasuga Ieyasu.  We almost had a Lion commander, but he moved to an extra table, so here’s the lineup for our assault table.

Hida Bushi, Hiruma Scout, Kuni Shugenja, Kuni Witchhunter(!!), Kasuga Smuggler(!!), Miya Herald …

I was living the dream.  The dream of evisceration.  I asked about a bow or armor.  Nope.  Miya Herald with a daisho and no ranged or armor.  Living the dream.

We start tier 2.  We have to keep up with Matsu Berserkers.  We kind of understand what that means.  We hack and slash.  I quickly realize the Smuggler build is essentially my build only further down the path of eradication, plus better in pretty much every other way.

We do reasonably well.  I make a mistake of spending a VP on ATN on round one only to have it end up mattering.  I’m out of VPs around round 3 of this combat.  Kuni Shugenja Medicines me after fight to full heal.  We had really good rolls early.

Tier 2.  We have to clear a building of archers.  Since the door is barricaded, I do the obvious and go to climb to the second story window.  I take 32 wounds, pull myself into the room, and face 12 enemies.  I’m thinking “it’s a good thing I can free action draw my sword”.  The rest of the team follows me, the Miya Herald, into the boss room.  The GM thinks we are nuts.  I think it’s dumb to have a barricade that a tetsubo can effortlessly break down and be punished for trying to do something interesting.

We get wrecked.  I’m about to go full defense when the GM has me notice the fight next door.  I pick up a spear, hurl it through the window and get +1 Devotion to my Matsu gunso ally.  With empty hands, I get reduced to down.  Only Andy’s tank is not ravaged.  The first level enemies are coming up and the Kasuga barricades the path!  The Kuni summons oil!!  The enemies get owned in a contested strength roll.  While Down, the GM lets me cast the best spell in the game:  DIPLOMACY, which summons a higher rank Matsu Berserker from improbablewhere.

By the way, the whole time we were fighting, I was exclaiming “COURTIERS” and “DIPLOMACY” as we cut down warriors and peasants.  Living the dream.

I get healed for a ton and we finally decide to swap with someone in the reserves and go tier 1.  We should have gone higher tier as our new shugenja healed us a ton and dropped Fires of Purity left and right.

The Maharajah’s Banner.  We took one of them.  Andy kicked fiery kicks of death while holding it.  I kept trying calling 5 raises for extra attack and … finally! … got off multiple attacks.  I came up one short one time, three short another, both times rolling 10 dice and having none explode.

While the last round was beneath us and the second round was poor play, this was a vastly better battle interactive to most of the HoR3 ones.  I felt like something was happening even though I probably did more interesting things in the early HoR3 BIs and the enemies were rather dull in our fights.  We could have faced cultists, which would have been different.

I just need to up my power so that I can be like my hero, Kasuga Ieyasu, then we start tier 3ing stuff.

Andy was at my table and got the banner.  Eric got his character defining moment of totally stealing from the Scorpion.  He wanted to wuss out on the political interactive, figuring the Scorpion would just kill him at their court, but I kept trying to get through that that’s not how it works.  Killing isn’t punishment in L5R.

Political Interactive (3PM)

And, so I switch to a political character, the natural switch from Miya Herald to Kuni Shugenja.  Team Crab!

I won’t get too much into clan politics.  I tried to focus on those groups the clan didn’t seem to care much about – Imperials, minors, Owl.  I felt like I did something.  It was interesting to see the real power brokers negotiate.  The Lion declaring war on the Crab was hilarious.  The insults to the Crane were hilarious.

I accomplished nothing.  I have no reward for taking a social character into a social setting.  But, I enjoyed myself.  Didn’t get burned out after an hour as I usually do at political interactives.  Eric got to lie to the Scorpion Champion, so he’s loving being the only Mantis left who is “when you come at the Flower Champion, you best not miss”.

Andy could not do another TD run.

TD Moongate Puzzle (10:01PM)

We had agreed beforehand that if we did normal, we would do 5th level sealed greedy, i.e. use only our 10 packs with +1 level and treasure enhancers.  This was not a boon.  Dave had to run to refund Andy’s ticket.  I still had my entire binder collection in case we weren’t doing normal.  Eric had Andy’s token wooden chest, with a padlock we couldn’t open.

We ran with someone who knew the dungeon well.  I was very much into observer mode on the run.  We didn’t succeed at everything, but it felt like it wasn’t really necessary to do so.  The two new rooms were good and not so good.  I liked the flower room because it looked nice and it was different.  I can distinguish that smells are different, but I don’t distinguish what smells are.  I just can’t articulate what I know.  The dark room was just really boring to me.

We just missed treasure pulls up front, which irritated me as I need at least one bag to not have to do tedious stuff.

We got back to the room and I started in on thoughts on TD.


Collectively, we gave up on the one commitment of the day.

I was signed up for the L5R LCG tournament.  I had lost interest during the con pretty quick.  Andy had interest.  Eric got product so that one of us could actually play.  We couldn’t even generate the effort to return the seemingly highly prized $8 ticket given how out of it we were Sunday morning.  Plus, we had to check out (this is one reason I like returning Mondays).

In the past, I got pissed off by forgetting to return generics, which is why I never buy them.  I plan my schedule meticulously and force myself to do everything I sign up for.  It usually works quite well logistically.

I want to hold on to this $8 ticket to remind myself of something.  First of all, I’m not a poor gamer.  Nobody who can afford TD ultrarare builds is.  The money lost was trivial compared to the physical trials I put us through.  Second, it was a lesson in greediness.  TD is very prone to greediness which I’ll go into more in a bit.  I was greedy to play not only a normal schedule of 3/3/3/Sunday event but to add two more events on top of that.  To some extent, I just overlooked how important not only 2 hours is but that a lot of HoR play ends early and it’s far more than 2 hours saved by not running from HoR to TD late at night and that Lucas Oil is a huge drag to run over to.

Btw, if we hadn’t stayed at the Hyatt, this con would have been that much more brutal, as HoR, at least, was convenient.

I so hope TD returns to Sundays.  If it doesn’t, we have a thought on how to do GC next year, but it’s not great and highly dependent upon getting into precisely the TD/TG slots we want.

One of us could have played in a premier event at Gen Con.  We slept or lay in bed thinking about how time was passing and didn’t care.

The lesson wasn’t just that I overdid it, that I didn’t prepare enough, that we didn’t prepare enough.  It’s that I got complacent.  I am so used to having my Gen Con be molded to my interests that it’s easy, only being fraught with peril because I’m a worrywart.  TD at this level rocked my easy – 10 RPG plus something else with triple steakburger every morning at 7AM, 7:30AM, or 8AM and again later in the day between clearly defined RPG slots – world.

Went to the exhibit hall for a bit but didn’t care.  Watched L5R demos and was shocked at how slow they were.  Missed out on swag that could have been gotten Thursday if I had thought through how things were going to go.

True Takeaways

We played with PUGs (pick up groups).  We were grossly OP for normal play.  I got down to like 68 hit points in one run and only took damage in another run from the final room.  I have huge concerns about making a run fun for groups without ultrarare level collections.

My plan is to redo all of my normal builds to focus on saves and to run not so great weapons on normal runs.  No more +2 Keen Slayer on normal, it’s just dumb.  No +3 Deathcleaver, not that I ever gave that out, but, maybe, no +2 Slayer.  No 30+ STR builds.  Sure, I’ll run Mad Evoker’s Charm, but I just won’t use it as I think I used it like once in four True Dungeon runs and not every single spell on Grind.

I may have to break down and go with builds with hit points under 60.  Sigh.

Not only was I unhappy with our builds, I was unhappy with our presentation.  Sure, you can let people know that you know the puzzles or that your builds are stronger.  Don’t make a big deal out of it.  Downplay everything.  Last year, we played with someone who knew stuff and it worked well, but, then, I prefer observing people play rather than doing hardly anything myself, so I don’t care about being challenged.

My biggest failing was more subtle.  I cast very few spells to let others murder stuff.  I didn’t give away puzzles, though in many cases we didn’t know the answers.  But, I just didn’t participate much.  I tried talking to NPCs to pass the time and to be into the events, as I can embrace the role-playing aspects of playing more (not that embracing is anything the NPCs would go for).  But, I think I overdid it and may have come across like “I’m so powerful I don’t need to do anything”, which isn’t contributing to other people’s fun.


Silence is moronic.  All the rage at Gen Con HoR was throatpunching.  Throatpunching is moronic.  Do not prevent people from being able to do the one thing they care about doing.  For HoR, give a TN penalty to spellcasting non-innated spells or something.  In TD, just get rid of silence on normal difficulty.  Screw over people on hardcore and, especially, nightmare as much as you want, but let the newb or the casual player who plays once a year actually get to participate in what’s going on.  Combat matters in TD or the token economy wouldn’t exist (or would look incredibly different).  Let people do their 6 damage or their 11 damage.  I’ll accept being locked out of Lightning Storm with Mad Evoker’s Charm and a +13 damage stat, but I hated when I couldn’t cast an 11 point Magic Missile, and I’m sure others feel the same.

I know.  Meleers get screwed by fights with no melee, and rangies get screwed by antirange effects, and blah, blah, blah failed saves equal being removed from combat.  But, the casual player isn’t prepared for being taken completely out of fights.  Make them suffer one round of impotence is fine, then let them feel like they are playing.


We cannot be that disorganized about tokens again.  It was obnoxious as hell, and I think we lost one of our more prized tokens though our only particularly good treasure draw replaced it.  I am not interested in hauling multiple binders around all of the time and making adjustments to things on the fly.  Now, my coin album set up for my wizard build did work well for me, though I don’t know if it worked well for the party card maker.  And, the binders I got right before Gen Con were a way I liked storing stuff I didn’t need on the run.

The Android app was essential.  True Grind, where we worked out things ahead of time was awesome for how simple it was for me, though Dave and Andy had problems because I didn’t know their builds.

I do not want to haul a bunch of stuff to Lucas Oil.  Quip was kind enough to meet me on Sunday at the Hyatt for one last deal, as I did not want to run over there one more time.

I think I know what to do.  It may very well mean beginning to divest of some of the alt build tokens I’ve picked up in the last year.

Treasure pulls.  I actually kind of hate these.  I had completely forgotten about bags until too late in the con.  I did 26 of my pulls for no reason.  I don’t just hate the wands.  I always hated pulling from treasure chests at the end of runs, only liking those treasure pulls that used to happen during runs in the long, long ago.  Give me bags or give me … cash? … friends who don’t mind doing pulls?

I hate doing pulls after runs.  There are so many things going on after runs, like making sure I didn’t lose any tokens and making sure I got my XP card and my completion token, that I just want to get my stuff, get into a well lit, open area, and deal with logistics.

Should be interesting to get to Gamehole Con and do a bag and 11 pulls right away to get caught up or maybe I hold my 11 pulls.  I’ll have to do the math on how many pulls we are going to get from our runs, there.


True Grind was especially good for me, as it was a first time, I got to hang with someone I knew, I liked the other people in our party, and it’s well lit.  But, I think one of the great benefits of TG is that it’s different from the dungeons.  It’s just good to get away from the repetitive nature of wordplay and darkness and whether your group is balanced.

Doing one of each run was good.  But, it has to be better timed.  I’m old and decrepit.  I can force myself awake at 6:30AM to play games because games infuse me with chi, but it’s just not good that I’m now getting tired at Gen Con midday Thursdays.


We still no jack and _ about what hardcore and nightmare are like.  We have to do hardcore, at a minimum, for the XP.  I would imagine parties intending to do these things are better fits from a token collection aspect for our UR heavy collections.  I’m not clever, but I might fit into organized parties better as one thing I don’t like is a lot of people arguing about what to do, and I’d imagine hardcore and nightmare inclined parties tend to be more organized just from an experience standpoint.


To me, TD is like 50% good, 25% eh, and 25% below not good with numbers I’m totally making up.  That’s just the nature of it.  Some runs will be much more fun than others.  I like talking with other players, which I should have done more of instead of talk to NPCs or be baffled by the coaching room logistics.


Gamehole Con will be another learning experience.  I expect I still have some important things to learn.  For instance, I never slid once the entire con, playing wizard four times and elf wizard once.  I am likely an awful slider, but, mostly, I just don’t care about sliding.  I’d enjoy sliding if it was only people I knew in the party and we talked through strategy/tactics.

Probably should be a next, but I forgot.


I only had triple steakburgers like twice.  That’s not enough.  Full meals at night are hard on me in my sleep deprived, jet lagged, eating at weird times, snacking on weird stuff, maybe having a milkshake without taking Lactaid first self.  This is something the others don’t get.  It’s not like my diet of triple steakburger combos is good for me or all that delicious, it’s that it’s what I need when I need it and does not introduce variance that leads to my body being further wrecked.  I could sub in Subway for every meal and achieve a similar effect, but Subway isn’t open at the hours I need food and it’s boring.

I was introduced to Pearings.  I liked my smoothie.  My panini was fine but not much food, which, in some ways, is good.  But, I don’t like their menu, too limited for what I want … says the person who orders the exact same thing every time to where I have a sense of how much it will cost to the penny at his usual depot.

The sandwich place across the street from the usual depot is not to my liking.  I would so much enjoy my sandwich more without french fries and cole slaw on it.  Plus, take away soft fries and cole slaw (something I don’t usually like to begin with) and I feel like I should be paying less money because I may not be poor but I do not like wasting money on food … says the man who can live off of triple steakburgers for a con.

My food truck noodles weren’t bad, but they needed to be poured out of the container into like a bowl.  They were too bland at first and too salty later.  I would have used less soy sauce in the sauce, but whatever.  My hatred of food trucks has only something to do with how bad I think foodtruck food is on average.

Again, Indianapolis Airport is one of the few airports I don’t feel bad about paying overpriced prices at.  I got a huge Pom Beach smoothie.  I got a burger with not awful fries.  It was overpriced, but the airport is just so pleasant in the hub.



August 13, 2017

On August 5th, 2017, I was in Washington D.C., watching the premier screening of the Abaarso School movie at an event where cocktail attire was expected.  I borrowed a blazer, but otherwise I wore what I might wear to a game convention.

The piano bar after party had singing (by the pianist) so painful my musician brother and I desperately wanted to go get pizza elsewhere.

Let’s start with the first reason this has anything to do with gaming.  The students trying to get placed in US high schools, prep schools, universities are coming from a situation that I just can’t process.  The 60 Minutes (yes, the TV show) producer who did a panel after the screening asked Harry (my brother who made the movie with Ben and Kate) to contrast the opportunities available to someone who went to Thomas Jefferson High School in the NoVa area with what the Somaliland students had to deal with.

Role-playing games.  An opportunity to live out, to whatever dicechucking degree you wish, fantasies unrelated to your lifestyle.  For someone who has had it easy (that being me) by growing up in US suburbs, gloss over upbringings that involved true hardship as some characters may have had.  Economic position, educational prospects, ability to make choices, etc., etc. etc.  While RPGs are a great way to just “it’s clobberin’ time” some hours away each week like hitting a sports bar and pounding back some brewskis (I assume people call it that), it’s not a bad thing to take a moment and try to get into the headspace of what it’s like to live in a completely different milieu.

I did not play any games in my 1.5 days in Virginia/DC.  There were scenes in the movie of students playing cards and whatnot.  But, the second way this trip relates to (my) gaming is that I missed out on a V:TES tournament weekend.

I know Mark and Kenneth won tournaments.  Eric sent me a picture of a Sens. Depped Laecanus with Praxis Seizure: Stockholm, which is probably more than at least two injokes you may not get at all, but maybe you will.  But, I have little sense of how things went, probably because lots of people use Facebook and I don’t.

Given how rare V:TES play is, this is a significant lost opportunity.  Now, I obviously prioritize family stuff over gaming, but it’s an unfortunate result that I could have avoided if I had been more on the ball about suggesting when the tournaments should have taken place.  Actually, the weekend before Gen Con is usually going to be okay because it’s unlikely I would have travel I can control, knowing that back to back trips is suboptimal.

I am so disconnected from V:TES play, but, then, this year has been unusually heavy with travel and, er, with Traveller.  That’s … symbolic?

When in town, we usually get together for Thursday night Shadowfist.  In our last session, we played three games.  That’s not a good thing.  Our short games, well, our short four-player games, tend to be bad.  We had two games that felt like three-player games in that someone got out to a strong position, failed to get “regulated”, then won because people’s decks are way too big and inconsistent and/or lack character stoppage.

I completely failed from a metagame standpoint playing a deck full of edge hate in the first game, where no one had edges in play.  I really need to build some new decks.  I keep wanting to play more Final Brawls, but I just don’t own that many that I can find.

Speaking of failure, in the business trip leading up to hopping off to DC, there was no time for mahjong, my VR experience was lacking any actual play, and my friend’s phone cover of “Winter Is Coming” had pretty much no impact because I may be a nerd, but I’m an iconoclastic nerd who has never read Harry Potter nor A Song of Fire and Ice, nor made any effort to watch their visual media unless you count looking at a screen on a plane.  Nor did I hit Core Gaming Salon, as there were two other Americanos in Shanghai for me to have Italian food with, and I was only there for a week.

Been playing around with the True Dungeon phone app, discovering a real bug and a faux bug.  The faux bug is what I want to talk about.

What are the most contested equipment slots in TD?  For me?

Neck.  I was heavy Amulet of the Champion in my builds until I realized Charm Necklace probably does me more good, while Exalted Creeper Amulet is amusing, plus Amulet of Treasure Finding is necessary for our fourth and fifth characters, and a host of other stuff is irrelevant because it’s not as good but sounds cool.

Wrists.  I can’t even decide on wrists for my primary build.  Bracers of Fast Fitness is my preferece, but, if I have to burn stuff like in Grind or Hardcore/Nightmare, I guess I go Bracelets of the Cabal.  For other builds, Bracers of Supreme Archery, Charm Bracelets, Fast Fitness, other stuff all contend.

Feet.  I want to own a bunch of Boots of the Four Winds, but I’d rather play with Boots of Might or maybe even Boots of the Marauder.  All comes down to whether playing normal dungeon or not.  Not a lot of choices but ones that I constantly toy with.

Charms.  This is a recent phenomenon.  For the longest time, charms and ioun stones were two things my collection was really weak in.  Now, the three charm limit is impactful, as I frequently am happy to pump Dex at a cost of Str, yet Vicious Charm isn’t making the cut anymore.  Charm of Enlightenment is taking off as I realize just how bad non-healers want to not have embarrassing Will saves … just in case.

Least contended slots?

Fingers.  Sure, my wizard builds could do more ringing, but I struggle immensely with finding a second ring for ranged fighty builds even using first slot on Ring of Heroism.  It’s currently easy for me to level up builds as I can just Ring of Heroism up some build, except so many of my builds run the Charming Trio that RoH is unnecessary.  Obviously, if I had a certain Legendary ring or a certain Eldritch ring, things would be different, but I don’t.  I’d really like to see a ring that increases physical ranged damage by something reasonable, like 1 point, to avoid making ranged Ranger even more IO’sP (probable gross exaggeration as ranged Ranger gives up double attack Ranger).  I could, of course, pick up the rare saves boosters to have something that is theoretical good stuff – shows what sort of holes exist in my collection that I can trot out more URs than rares that do something.

Legs.  I really don’t know what pants to run when not going Kilt of Tavernbane.  When I go with free action pants, I’m defeated by how Boots of the Marauder provides free action.

Head.  Either Templar Helmet, Defender Helmet, Redoubt Helm, Crown of Iron Will, or Charming Crown.  Charming trumps Iron will, but I only own one Charming.  Templar will normally trump Defender, but I own only one Templar set.  Blessed Redoubt might suffice, but Redoubt doesn’t really at the moment, especially since I won’t own one until Gen Con.  Charming and Templar don’t contend with each other.

Shirt.  I often don’t even know what to run unless it’s Linked Shirt of Healing for everyone.  Shirt of Blessed Strength for those rare STR based builds I do, of course.

Most binary slot?

Waist.  Belt of Blessed Constitution or Girdle of Frost Giant Strength.  That’s it.  That’s all I’m going to run, unless I end up with a Viper Strike Belt at some point.

So, you may have heard that Gen Con is in August.  I wonder if it’s going to be a zoo, given that it’s sold out.  Sold out.  Interesting comments as to why moving to Chicago wouldn’t be better.  I wonder what next year will be like.  Will some folks be so turned off by the excessive number of attendees this year that attendance would actually be lower than recent years?  Unlikely.  Probably get new blood who takes the place and everyone will hope hotel situation will ease when it won’t be GC50.

For most of our group, it’s lots of TD and HoR.  Will let you know how that turns out in a couple of weeks.

Privilege.  Play games.  Travel the world.  Question why people want Italian food when in China.  Get pizza in Georgetown at 1AM.  Afford my TD collection.  Just so fortunate and useful to remind myself that it could be so much worse.

Classful Society

July 23, 2017

If I were to attempt to rank my topics from most popular to less popular, the list would be something like:

L5R RPG mechanics

V:TES tournament reports or more serious analysis

RPG general analysis

Food options when traveling to play games?  I don’t think Shadowfist has terribly broad appeal, maybe general CCG analysis has some.  What of the oddity that is True Dungeon, something only in extreme limited availability and where analysis is really more the province of an even more limited playerbase?

Well, I haven’t been playing much besides Shadowfist and haven’t been buying much besides True Dungeon tokens.  I didn’t get any gaming in when visiting family recently.  I need to leave some topics on Traveller for our website, where my column should be going up soon.

So, True Dungeon it is.  But, not tokens.  Tokens are a rabbit hole that I think I’ll maybe talk about after Gen Con, when I see our collections at work.

Oh, I suppose I could have tried to talk about the Wonder Woman movie and try to tie it into gaming, but I just thought that would be repetitive to my various DC TV show posts and gaming.

Classes.  In many ways, classes don’t matter.  Amazingly enough, I don’t find combat to be all that relevant to the experience when you are the casual player.  Is this ironicful given how much token tycoons relish being better at combat?  Let me expound.

First of all, half the time or so we are doing puzzle rooms.  How do the classes matter when doing puzzle rooms?  Well, there are saving throws sometimes, there are situations where free action may matter, and, of course, there’s hit points.  The cleric, followed by the druid, followed by the paladin are too legit to knit for their abilities to restore hit points.  Possibly, a spell may do something but who knows?  Then, there’s the almighty rogue.  Go rogue, go rogue, go rogue.  I totally get the appeal of the rogue even if you pretty much ignore combat, though it has mighty antiappeal pour moi, as mentioned previously.  Being immune to disease or feather falling or whatever might be relevant once every X number of years.

Can find the class details here:

True Dungeon Classes

So, combat. Oh, not Nightmare combat where memorization just wastes time murdering.  Still talking about the casual experience, the Normal of normals, the “I don’t own any URs” fest that we have been used to over the years of casual play.

Barbarian needs a 2h-er to unleash excessive beats.  Comes with healthy hit points.  Fighter hits most often, I guess.  Ranger can ranged fight if someone has a ranged weapon, where double sliding is something I don’t think advantages the inexperienced.  Monk seems to be the least desirable class IME, though bard doesn’t get a lot of love either.  Paladin can absorb damage for the hit point handicapped to some degree.

Though, mostly what I see with people who basically have random equipment is the inability to murder stuff, not so much the being murdered, until you hit room seven and, if you fight something, routinely get butchered because it will deal out substantial damage.

If I’m a barbarian, fighter, dwarf fighter, ranger, monk, or paladin, how much difference do I feel when I just have some random stuff?  Meanwhile, cleric, druid, wizards all have clear needs to figure out what they are going to do.  I’m usually a wizard, and I blast things til they die … or not.  I’ve been in fights where everyone just kept missing and I used up a ton of spells to finish some monster off because might as well do something and worry about the consequences later (plus, in theory, I have scrolls and wands if I run out of spells, not that I end up using them).  Clerics are often busy as hell unless the party is efficient both in combat and at puzzles.  Druids have plenty of things to worry about, having arguably the toughest decisions on what to do round by round.

Sure, classes matter.  I’d say healers matter the most often.  But, this is mundane analysis.  Where’s the rule of cool, the harm of warm, the thought of hot?

Let’s talk 5th level classes.  I don’t have any designs on a Rod of Seven Parts, nor do I find the variant classes all that compelling, even less interesting in some cases, like the sorcerer who is like the most boring caster ever in that all it does is blast, blast, blast.  On the other hand, we have graduated from playing 4th-ies.  Just too many interesting things to do at 5th plus the number of tokens that uplevel you at this point is so vast that you can only sink a couple hundred into TD and play varsity.

What’s the coolest thing a barbarian does?  Because puzzle damage seems to be Eldritch, the damage reduction is really just another combat ability, though it’s not entirely clear whether all puzzle damage is Eldritch or not.  I love me my damage reduction, but nope.  Greater Rage?  Um, well, since the damage bonus ability is the same as the 4th level dude, you could make this argument.  I just don’t see how a barbarian doesn’t do lots and lots of pain.  But, the barbarian needs to hit things and, while a +4 to hit/damage from STR is fine, just hitting in combat defeats many an adventurer.  Of course, if you are 5th level, you can probably jack your STR to obscene levels or, at least, use the recent synergistic tokens that give hit/damage bonuses at like the uncommon/common level.

Bard.  The coolest thing about being a bard is, of course, distracting everyone with your banjoharp/other.  But, suppose you want to do something besides generate static bonuses.  I know nothing of the lore skill test, since I think bard didn’t exist back in the long, long ago, and, for some reason, there’s discouragement to practicing a class’s tests that you aren’t playing.  That it takes an action just seems incredibly wrong.  Like, why do you need a special instrument to use both your abilities at the same time?  That’s mean.  Of course, this is the quintessential bard issue – without a special instrument, you can do lots of different things but only one of them at a time.  What’s the point of having spells if you don’t cast them because Bardsong is so badass?  Some bards even like to fight, though I don’t know why given that the class offers so many other things to do that someone who likes swinging knouts would go for a knoutswinger class.  You get heal, possibly more efficient than paladin heal, as well.  We don’t have one, but the instrument I rate the most me, myself, and I relevant is Briano’s Blessed Bodhrán.  But, then, why don’t I just play a wizard?

I’m not enthusiastic about playing cleric.  I like protecting folks much and I like healing well enough, but the cleric is just far too busy in my play and gets into weird situations of waiting to see if someone gets hurt.  While the abilities to restore power and restore spell are strong like mule, I’d rather be on the receiving end of restoration rather than the giving end.  Cleric has too much coordination to do between finding out who needs what level of healing and when to “do it again” on some tactical nuke.

Druid is like the best of all worlds.  You can continue to ignore AC while getting good saves, blasts, and heals.  I played druid a couple of times once upon a time (or maybe it was just once), which seems odd given how much time I’ve spent studying the wizard planar charts.  Polymorph?  Sounds cool, but, then, don’t you just become another fighter?  Coolest thing about a druid?  Versatile spellcasting.

Dwarf fighter is for people who love the idea of taunting monsters or for folks who are really good at sliding.  ’nuff said.

Elf wizard ever going to polymorph?  I haven’t seen it.  Do high end parties love the elf for the ability to Alertness every combat?  Well, I guess it’s “fun” to always murder the monster before it gets to act.  I find Ironskin to be the sort of spell I’d like to see cast more, but I somehow doubt it.  I don’t believe it affects puzzles, again Eldritch pierces damage reduction to my knowledge, which is unfortunate for making spellcasting more versatile.

Fighter doesn’t even have taunting.  If you are really into sliding, being able to knock around pucks is I guess a thing.

Monk is where I think the TD experience differs much from a more varied experience.  You get a ton of abilities, but you pretty much end up being fighterlike in what you actually do.  I like the idea of weird abilities and great saves to the point where I actually picked up a token for a monk build, a monk build just for funsies as it will be terrible compared to real purple monks.  Should you be the one to fiddle around during puzzles, trying stuff out?  Perhaps, so this is another strike against the class for me as I’m cowardly by nature.

We finally get to the inspiration for this here particular post.  Ah, the paladin.  Sure, somebody expects you to fight.  Pshaw, grandpa.  The paladin’s real purpose in the world is to Shiba Bushi.  No, not guard.  Well, yes guard but not as the point of your existence.  Nope, the point of your existence is sacrifice.  Who doesn’t want abilities that just say “you don’t die”?  Okay, maybe I’m far into dramatic rescues.  Yup, I could paladin.  I could even go serious defense paladin, in theory.  Btw, an interesting thing about sacrifice is that it disincentivizes high HP.  That’s rather interesting to me, as, suddenly, my obsession with CON in builds doesn’t need to cookiecutter my character building, and, it starts making “don’t nuke me after sacrifice” plays, like sudden HP gains or whatever far more interesting.  Are damage reduction builds optimized with paladin, who is fine losing HP since any serious threat will leave pally at 5, anyway, but wants to lose slowly and not deadfully?  Pretty strong saves, too, plus random weirdness, plus healing.

Ranged ranger is the only build that interests me as I want to do less sliding not more.  May even go to the point of not bothering with melee weapons or wielding idiotic ones for the humor value.  At 5th level, get spells!  So funny.  Who doesn’t like casual spell use?  Decent saves.  It would be interesting to see if I could generate interest in trying to crit repeatedly without sliding 20s.

There’s a surprising amount, to me anyway, references to sneak attack being a thing.  Neither flank nor sneak seem to me to be relevant to the rogue experience, but, hey, whatever, gives some bonus combat utility.  If I were to rogue, I’d sadly need to pick up all of the rogue cheats so that I could fail miserably and still defeat chests.  Rather than do that, I will stay far, far away from this class.  Pretty terrible saves.  Too much effort to flank/sneak.  Well, I rogue enough in my RPG play, where the mechanics are usually less challenging.

Finally, the roc has come back to Greyhawk.  I still don’t get how Lesser Maze is supposed to work since there’s a really simple way to rule on it that, apparently, is not how it actually works.  You don’t get to Alertness cheese combat.  Saves are kind of crap.  Lightning only makes some monsters bigger or electrifies entire parties.  Yet, this is comfy for me.  I can be a kind of sucky bro who cares more about getting memorization right than actually murderfesting the enemy.  I can pretend I’ll use a wand someday without ever actually using one since they pretty well suck compared to what you can do with spell damage bonus tokens.  I like how builds are free of the sort of dull options that others find interesting.  I can ignore armor.  I can wear whichever crown I want.  My hands are just going to play with my staff or maybe my flute, if I’m feeling frisky.  I can run around with no STR, though Elf is pretty much the same.  I’m not some goofy elf, unless someone forces me to option into elfdom.  Sure, wizard isn’t as hot as druid or as Shiba as paladin.  But, hey, I’ll blast you, you’ll fang me.  We will just murder each other like two ships in the night on a collision course, or someone else will murder you and I’ll be pondering the last puzzle we couldn’t figure out.

True Dungeon – it’s not remotely about class … up until the point that it’s all about class.