Logistics were fine, so moving on to gaming.
So, start in on my six slots of Heroes of Rokugan – 3 premier mods, finale, open, and …? Five year campaign coming to an end, I missed only about 10 of the nearly 75 mods.
I planned things out to some degree, using those business planner skills and all. First up was March Unto Death. While starting with a potentially dangerous mod might not seem like easing into HoR at the con, it was a low rank mod, so I was playing an alternative character.
Very dangerous. But, before getting to that, the setup was that Akodo Gintaku, The Steel Lion, shows up with his Lion army that he had been using to destroy the Unicorn and Dragon in his attempt to claim the throne. He says that he will put off claims on the throne until the Shadowlands army that overran Crab lands is dealt with, so with 2000 Tattooed Folks and others hanging in the village, we set off. Along the way, everyone expects to die, so there’s lots of hooking up as well as various diversions. Playing my Tattooed Actor, I perform the role of a famous empress in a noh play, making a bud of Hida Buso. Usagi Hachi, noted Hare lecher, sitting next to me, beats Buso and the Hitomi daimyo in wrestling to also BFUD (best friends unto death) Buso. Togatsu, ronin, snuggled with Hitomi Choju. I went to find a go opponent in some gambling house and ended up tenting up with Matsu Michiko. This stuff is actually important.
We get to the battle site. We split up into the fighty types going into the reserves, while we wusses go into the rear. Reserves fight some stuff, then cut scene. Gintaku sacrifices his kid, pulls the Sun/Jade Dragon out of the sky, then kills it, getting its power. Now, we run.
What follows is a series of skirmishes with ogres and goblins. My actor may be a goofy concept full of sheer awesome humor, but I did take all combat related tattoos, so I Hurricane, effectively nerfing the enemy as long as I’m around. By the way, Hurricane will come up prominently later. The reserves had to take 3 rounds to catch up with us. The other thing that keeps us doing okay is that all of those BFUDs that the mod has you make earlier show up now to nuke themselves on the enemy, a reasonably clever concept. Most of us make the running roll to get away, but those that don’t are kinda screwed. Bad resource management on the part of the Kitsune shugenja, who wasted way too many spells blasting ogres early on, as well as some non-use of Honor Rolls or whatever means that the Kitsune and the Kakita Jester(!!) are kind of screwed. Another mechanic in the mod is that people can sacrifice themselves for some mechanical benefit to others, so the Jester holds off the Shadowlands forces while the rest of us get to the last boat.
My recollection may not be right, but I believe that in all of the HoR tables I’ve played at, using one of the most deadly *popular* systems, the only time any PC ever died was by self-sacrifice. Grave of Heroes, aka Hero Gravy? One dude stayed with the twins. Essence of Toshigoku, aka Toshi-screw-you? Boring, except for the discussion of what to do after I give my first alt as a hostage. Battle Interactive (the first)? Those Slayer Knives kind of hurt, but why didn’t I get to make a roll against the ninja poison when I have Jurojin’s Blessing? Oh, because they are rank 5 (something my main never made it to). Doom of the Crab? I’ll try to knock down the Dark Moto that I can’t actually deal any damage to … oh well … hey, water tensai, why are you healing me?
Up next, is Hellas. Greek mythology space opera. I played a Zintar, tentacled head creature that uses artificial bodies (carapaces) to help do stuff out of water and whatever. The Greek connection is that the carapace pictured is centauresque. Our leader was a colony of insects, in Greek god/hero form, of course. We are sent to negotiate back some loot that some prince has gotten from a planet. We do stuff, find the location of the “kill everything organic on the planet” weapon/temple, self destruct it, end a space war/feud. Simple resolution system. Glory level determines what godly powers you have, so when I went over 60, I could start making helper machina (robots) – I was the engineer. One detail that was cute was that I got illusioned by some magi as I was trying to hack the station’s cameras to show the betrayal of the mercs working for the prince, so I jury rig my carapace to give me electroshock, er, stim treatment to pierce the illusion. The Glory mechanic is not quite the same as, say, Insight in L5R (or Glory for that matter), so it’s kind of interesting. I like how one’s name enables the character to one time auto-succeed based on the character’s epithet. I’m not as excited by descriptive RPGs – Dogs of the Vineyard, for example – as I once was as there’s no baseline to show how special your character is in comparison to, but a little bit of “I just do stuff because I surpass the rules” may be good.
Back to HoR. I debated playing my main in Fate of the Assassin as I didn’t care so much about XP as Honor and I heard that Honor wasn’t in the printed out .pdf. I played my main, anyway, to ease into the morning’s Celestial Journey, the high rank mod I had to play to be able to play my main in the finale. People couldn’t shut up about Celestial, so I was getting way too many spoilers. Anyway, Fate was kind of blah. A lot of man vs. nature, which I’ve gotten tired of after playing Shadowlands mods recently. Then, the ending made little sense. Yeah, the true Lion Clan Champion is alive, but why is Kagekaze, the assassin badass, here? We convince him his life is meaningless and he whacks himself, which is the more likely outcome, apparently, but the mod is pretty uninteresting. Even though I’m helping my Champion and my greatest Honor loss ever for was not helping my Clan, somehow, there’s no way to get Honor in the mod (for someone with my rank of Honor).
Celestial Journey. Go find the Obsidian Dragon who has gone nuts from the Sun dying in March. Go to heaven to convince the Celestial Dragon that humanity can get the new Jade Dragon’s egg to hatch. Along the way, find all of the PCs lost in other spiritual realms in prior mods. So, my first alt is back. I think I’m the only person in the campaign who had three “get into the finale” cards, one for Zetsu from March, one for Ryota from Celestial, one for Jun from playing Celestial. The main thing about Celestial was that it was meant to rebalance the campaign for the finale. All of the cheesy, broken stuff that characters could acquire (excluding very special stuff that people could acquire) was written into the mod to get excised. So, you sacrifice part of yourself to the egg, and the GM lists like 40 things that you remove from your character sheet. If you have none of them, in other words, if you aren’t a power gamer, you permanently lose the ability to spend one of your Void Points. Then, you choose body or spirit. Depending upon which you choose, you lose stuff off another list of 30 or so things (each) or a Void Point (but can’t lose two). I could have lost stuff on the spirit side, more so if I had more of my certs signed – I only had two of six. I only ended up down a VP. Hoshi would have probably been slammed, but then, he would have never been in this high rank mod.
The main things that were nailed were things like tattoos, Hurricane at the top of the list, strong combat ones second and third. Crane, which *just* enables you to not die once per session, wasn’t considered problematic enough. Great Destiny, Great Potential, blah, blah, blah. Dark Fates could be lost, too, like in Jun’s buddy Seppun (nee Soshi) Soko’s case, where he almost turned on the party, but he was too weak of a villain to be a party killing villain.
The one mod I cared about getting in before the end was Loyalty, the finale to the Code of Bushido series, where I hoped to get the better Nishari cert … and hoped to get my Honor back to 5. Celestial left it at 4.9. Jun had so many things trigger off of Honor, that just being at 4 was sad. Not that he or anyone deserved to be at 5, but since other players easily got to 5, it annoyed me not to be. We mostly broke Loyalty because certain spells in the game are horribly broken. I got my pip of Honor to get to 5, I got my cert. I wasn’t going to screw things up and play Jun again before the finale, so I started thinking about playing in the political event Saturday morning.
Unwind time. I played Fortune’s Fool, a Renaissance, Tarot resolution, fantasy RPG with stuff I’ve grown to hate – elves, dwarves, goblins, etc. In this case, however, I was cool with it. I played Grillo, a goblin muslim nobleman from the Ottoman Empire who was Gepetto’s bud and Pinocchio’s tutor. We were awfully violent chasing after Pinocchio having gone bad because the dibbuk animating him had woken up on his 7th birthday. I eventually killed the annoying halfling thug that we kept running into. Did I mention that I was a skilled fencer? The game had a lot of numbers on the sheet, similar to how The Zero Movement, another Tarot resolution game, was way too mathematical, but here, the game wasn’t trying for great symbology. The mechanics were actually rather CCGesque. The deck manipulation abilities characters get are insane. My best was being able to look at the top three cards of the deck and discarding one. Another guy could shuffle back in all cards with a value equal to or less than what he named. Another could summon The Fool, which was important for nuking The Tower, the screwjob card for the players, though The Fool did other stuff. The GM isn’t supposed to ever draw, so the GM can go search for cards and stuff while not changing the order of the deck. Players draw both for their actions and for the NPC actions against them. Anyway, playing Grillo was amusing. The picture of him was too sweet not to come up with some sort of ridiculous accent.
I had sound reasoning for giving up on playing a mod I missed and playing the political event instead. For one thing, I wasn’t going to play my main. If I played Zetsu, then I play him anyway in the political event, because Tattooed Folks are natural politicos. I didn’t think forming a table of a mod I needed was that likely so late in the campaign. I was kind of bored because I went to the con by myself and only talked to people around my games, and the political event was likely to have more interesting mechanics.
I was just along for the ride, but my table was annoying. One person was way too bitchy. Others were way too unclever. We succeeded at getting the Dragon on our side but failed to convince the Emerald Champion. Another table took care of that. One of our nobodies (tables were often balanced between mains and people just along for the ride), killed herself to try to get his attention, but she wasn’t important enough. I’m sure two others could have used that trick, two others maybe could have. The event finished with some LARP stuff that saw a few characters get cut down for speaking the wrong things. Quite a bloody affair, as various tables had players off themselves to get their jobs done, too.
To The Last Breath. Gintaku needs to die, so we throw our tiny army against his two big ones. The wedge is designed to just get as many heroes to him to cut off the head. Each table can send one character on. If you die, you can bless someone else. If the table dies, they can bless another table. There were about 16 tables. They were forming at least 8 per table, yet my table was 6.
There were various factors that made it hard to figure out whether our table should have been wiped. The goal of the event was to kill 75%-90% of the PCs because that’s how samurai stories end. My table was short, which I didn’t know whether was bad or whether the GM was adjusting for. We had a really good character setup, unfortunately, we had a flawed player setup as I sat next to a basketcase. I don’t mean gamer basketcase – weirdo, gun happy, etc. I mean someone who kept crying. I don’t think she’s functional without one of her friends, who happened to be at another table. I don’t know if the GM adjusted for this.
One would think that he must have as we all survived. See above for my good luck charm power on RPG tables. Actually, when I started recounting my tales of Gen Con, one of my fellow V:TES players pointed out that it was just like playing V:TES with me – nobody dies (except maybe by sacrifice).
I had little impact in the first battle against Akodo and Matsu bushi, who mainly went after the rank 6 Hida. I killed a couple of samurai with my first attacks when I was calling raises for extra attacks, foreshadowing? The second battle was against 4 oni. I was crippled going in, btw. Two ugulu, known for invulnerability. A rhinocerous oni, which seemed scary. A headless oni that actually had a specific name. The Hida did some damage to the rhino. Rolling 4k3, I did 63 damage to the rhino killing it. I got healed up some. The headless grappled the Hida, effectively eliminating him from combat. Had to die. I did 124 damage to it. War fan 2, oni 0. The two ugulu went full attack on me. Our Scorpion Tsuruchi Magistrate wondered why, and the GM’s reply was, “Did you just see what he did?” I stupidly didn’t spend a Void to increase my TN, so the first one outed me, which at least meant being alive. With various environmental effects – arrows, exploding winged demons from nearby tables – I went down to 1 wound box. I got healed enough that I killed one of the ugulu, another 95 damage. Then, I was pretty much spent. So, I did 282 damage in three attacks when 57 would kill my character – yeah, 3e L5R is a bit sick. Let’s see what 4e is like.
Third battle is mostly fought by our water shugenja (rank 5), the Hida who has taken around 170 wounds and is spending Void to not die and keep fighting, and our earth shugenja. Fortunately, the water shugenja casts a broken spell, Suitengu’s Embrace to drown four of the Lion samurai including their shugenja. The GM makes a call that he has to concentrate to continuously drown his targets unlike how the spell reads where you basically permanently continuously refill the targets lungs with water as a fire and forget spell. We are the last table to finish, but we win. We send the water shugenja to the final table with a rolloff.
The final table is amusing where Gintaku has godlike powers where he just acts whenever, kills when he wants, and resists … well. Some of the more notable players in the campaign – Eric Menge with Kuni Fumio, Hida Tango, Todd Stiles with his Akodo War College character, Ethan with his “if you kill me, you die [unless you are a god]” certed Crane, etc. – get off some good lines and amusing actions. Todd’s “do it twice” lines were awesome – Akodo War College rank 5 gives other characters additional actions. Fumio blew up the bloodsword Ambition but had his crystal eye explode from the magical feedback. Hida Tango lived (of course). The Kakita Artisan (really?!?) even chopped off Gintaku’s arms.
The last day, including those who played the event on Wednesday who GMed Saturday, failed to kill its quota. I think only about 66%-75% of the PCs were killed. Before the final table, they played solemn music and named every character killed. It went on for a while … I was happy to contribute with my sort of bard, former Emerald Magistrate (one of two in the campaign), apparently “one shot anything I can hurt” oni slayer.
I wasn’t a diehard for the campaign, but, really, it was awesome. Five years of storylines, so many characters doing cool things.
My GM for my night game is in the hospital, so instead of Feng Shui, I play CSI style Hero. Actually, the system was meaningless as I only ever made three rolls, two Perception, and one Intelligence of my own choice to decide what to do. It ended up being CSI meets the X-Men. It was okay, but anticlimactic.
I had scheduled a noon game with my morning for rest and dealer’s room. I do that and my noon game has no one show up, so I go back to the dealer’s room bored and find someone I stalk so that I have something to do until the con ends. I finally give up and leave before 4PM to go back to my hotel and chill.
In the end, things worked really well gamingwise, even if I did lose out on Feng Shui and a Green Lantern game. I don’t know if I want to do six slots of anything ever again, but every five years might be okay. No V:TES. I couldn’t even find White Wolf’s booth, I’m not sure they had one even though it was in the book. I bought virtually nothing, mainly dice!!! I’m normally disdainful of people who buy dice when they have enough already, but these were astrological dice, so I make exceptions. I only bought a single RPG supplement for $5. I demoed nothing (not counting RPGs I preregged for) except a Are You A Werewolf? type card game that I just thought was unnecessary.
Probably some other things I want to mention, but I have to run … gaming is a harsh mistress.