Ignorance Is Bliss

April 30, 2012

This may seem like a strange topic to write about.

CDGs (collectible dice games) and CMGs (collectible miniatures games) differ from CCGs in fundamental ways.  Which are?  CCGs have hidden information – the hand.  Because of the hidden information, it’s not necessary, though some have it, to have a randomization mechanic.  CDGs obviously use the dice themselves to provide a random game mechanic to make resolution nonpredictable.  CMGs, at least all that I can recall, use dice to accomplish the same thing.

If you know what is in someone’s hand at all times in most CCGs, the CCG has failed.  Perfect information can result in perfect play.  Sure, chess has perfect information and rarely has perfect play, same with tons of other games – games I don’t see the point in playing when you can play CCGs.

Why am I writing about this?  I think people don’t realize the importance of hidden information.  Some quite enjoy knowing what is in others’ hands.  I hate it as I hate perfect play (or, alternatively, paralysis by analysis).  That CDGs/CMGs have everything in play is likely why I never embraced them like I do CCGs.

Not that a game ceases to matter the instant someone peeks at someone else’s hand.  Or, like can happen in a CCG like Magic, the game should be stopped as soon as someone’s hand is empty.  The need is for mystery, not mystery at all times.

So, Le Dinh Tho rips a card.  Okay.  I probably find it less annoying then a lot of players based on the reactions they give when it happens.  On the other hand, superior Revelations strips the game of an essentially valuable element.

Not to say anything about how useful revealing hands is.  Someone with a known hand is clearly at a disadvantage, with the level of disadvantage varying immensely on the situation and how fluid the situation is.  Whether it’s worth investing resources to put someone at that disadvantage depends highly on the cost in resources.  Tortured Confession has far more costs associated with it than Prophecies of Gehenna, while Prophecies is taking up a precious master slot.

Not much more than that.  Just thinking about how much of a bad idea it is from a design standpoint to make knowing people’s hands easy.  And, another reason Magic should have had a different draw mechanic, so that playing off the top wasn’t so common.

Page Of Myth

April 28, 2012

Funny, sometimes I struggle with what to write about.  Recently, I had several ideas, but my mind has kept moving on.

I’m a heroic high fantasy kind of guy.  I like epic.  I like dramatic scenes, pronouncements, etc.  I like the idea that heroes affect the world.  I even find epic levels of power interesting (see also interest in anime and superheroes).

I’m also someone who struggles incessantly with trying to figure out what sort of RPG campaign he wants to be in or run.  I both want and don’t want to world build.  If there was some world that I thought would work well for gaming, I wouldn’t feel as much desire to build my own, but I keep coming up with reasons why worlds, in particular fantasy worlds, just won’t cut it.

For instance, L5R would be easy to run but is not a world I actually care a lot for.  Young Kingdoms and other Moorcock worlds are interesting in that I think they can be highly appealing to read about but are actually missing enough detail in how they actually work that it would require making too much stuff up.  Wheel of Time, The Land (Thomas Covenant), Spellsinger’s world, etc. all either have limitations when it comes to gaming or require a bunch of work to develop for game play or both.

Of course, we have obvious high fantasy worlds to work with – historical mythology.  Not that this helps trying to make a decision since different mythologies have different appeals.

Greek Mythology

Pros:  Tons of material.  Heroes (demigods) are extremely important.  I own the  Hero supplement for it as well as GURPS Greece.  The world is open to adventure with a variety of challenges that can arise.  There’s an element of good and evil but also factionism, with each god/goddess being a faction.  Locations are often detailed.

Cons:  Lack of structure in what PCs should do.  In particular, there’s not a clear evil to oppose.  All of the deities seem to be equal parts beneficial and harmful.  Just because – one of my issues with BattleTech is that there are no clear good guys or bad guys, which is fine for a more gritty, realistic setting but ends up being less heroic than what I’m often looking for.  I’m not sure if the players will realize that being a demigod is not all mead and Helens.

Bottom Line:  I’m not really sure what my problem is with choosing this besides that I find it hard to imagine people I play with being into any high fantasy setting.  Probably just laziness on my part for how to structure a campaign.

Norse Mythology

Pros:  There’s a coolness to Norse.  I find the cosmology really interesting.  There are evocative monsters.  There’s a gravitas that comes with how much more serious Norse is then, say, Greek.  Valkyries are hot, and they would make a reasonable demigod level of hero.

Cons:  Probably just that I haven’t read enough, but I feel like so much of what happens is at the god level rather than the hero level, which is a problem for people who like to have their own characters.  Siegfried is a better PC concept than Thor, but I actually don’t have much idea of what other characters would fall into that level other than valkyries, even if names of other heroes show up on Wikipedia.  Even if you create your mortal heroes, what sort of adventures do mortals go on?  Thor, Loki, et al are messing with giants and the like.  Is that that plausible for mortals in a Norse world?  Admittedly, when playing Conan, we had adventures in essentially a Norse world and it worked well, if at a sword and sorcery rather than high fantasy level.

Bottom Line:  If I had a better idea what PCs would look like and what they would do that would capture the same elements of the adventures of the well known gods, then this would be more appealing.  A campaign of all valkyries would be hilarious (if played by guys) or awesome (if played by gals).

Egyptian Mythology

Pros:  Weird stuff going on.  A sophisticated culture, which contrasts with both Greek (pastoral) and Norse (barbaric).  Plenty of terrible things to deal with.  I can picture heroes below the god level.  Detailed locations.  Gary Gygax wrote some books where his protagonist was an Egyptian wizard who solved mysteries, who also happened to run across other mythologies.  While not the best written stuff ever, I really liked the concepts and enjoyed the adventures well enough.  I have the right supplement for it.

Cons:  Magic always struck me as complicated.  Maybe, it’s a boon that people have gone to so much effort to define how Egyptian magic works rather than a chore, but there’s just something offputting about the numerous parts of the soul and whatnot.  Maybe, it’s just a flavor thing that doesn’t appeal to me all that much.  Maybe my lack of interest in the science of magic rears its head.  Greece I can see being fun often.  Scandinavia has some buttkicking joy.  Egypt may not seem like that much of a joy to players.  I find the gods more appealing than the human world, which is a similar problem that the Norse world has.

Bottom Line:  I can see it.  It would require more work than Greek but would also have a more sophisticated tone.

Celtic Mythology

Pros:  There’s a lot of untapped heroic fantasy available.  I’ve even tapped some of it by making Ireland my land of adventure for my old Camelot campaign.  There’s an individualistic element, a la Greek.  As well, heroes are frequently at the fore.  The environs feel good, unlike maybe Norse or Egypt.

Cons:  Name pronunciation – seriously, these sort of things can be annoying.  Establishing specifics with the myths – I was part of a team who gave a presentation in high school on Celtic mythology, we had very different explanations for what it was about.  Having enough scope, which might not be an issue if I’m too inclined to go for too broad of a scope for adventuring.  I actually started getting repetitive in my Camelot campaign, though I shouldn’t have – probably due to not feeling the world as strongly as I should have.

Bottom Line:  Kind of a cross between Greek and Norse in my mind, which seems a good thing.  I’ve already incorporated elements in a previous campaign.  So, why not?

Oriental Mythologies

Yeah, oriental seems a word on the outs these days, though I find it’s really useful for describing East Asia rather than having to specifically exclude Russia, India, et al when speaking of something being Asian.  Anyway, I mostly mean Chinese and Japanese, since I’m so much less familiar with other East Asian myths.

Pros:  So many things that can be mined.  So many opportunities to surprise people by correcting existing beliefs.  Should be able to do a wide variety of adventures.  Non-gods are important.

Cons:  Deciding what to use.  Names being hard to follow.  I’m just getting tired of oriental stuff with all of the L5R I’m involved in as it even taints my appreciation for Chinese fantasy.  I have supplements for oriental fantasy, but they don’t necessarily help with a mythological level of fantasy.

Bottom Line:  Just not the right time as I’m not inclined towards even more oriental fantasy.  Also, I think there are better options.

Indian Mythology

Pros:  Untapped.  Demigods matter.  Should be open to the style of adventures I’m looking for.

Cons:  How much work do I have to put in?  I was searching today to see if someone had done Indian mythology as a RPG supplement.  Apparently, not a lot out there.  Devastra, if it gets translated from French, might be what I’m looking for.  I’m not sure that players would find India as cool as other worlds.

Bottom Line:  Something I’m currently intrigued by as I don’t think I have given it enough thought in the past.  I also think there’s too much work for me to do until there’s more RPG supplements I can use to help define the world.

Native American Mythologies

By which I really mean North American mythologies.

Pros:  I like the spirituality.  I can totally see adapting concepts of Glory and Honor from L5R, so I could use a system I like.  There are rich mythologies that I don’t know enough about.  Heroes matter.  I feel like North America should get more use for adventuring.

Cons:  I don’t know nearly enough about the myths.  I don’t know how I would choose which tribe’s (or tribes’) myths to use.  Scope may be an issue, where I find it hard to keep coming up with different things to do.

Bottom Line:  I think I’ll never put the effort in to understand one set of Native American myths strongly enough to use.

Aztec & Incan Mythologies

Pros:  Material is readily available, especially for Aztec.

Cons:  Don’t know what sort of stories I would want to tell.  Just not feeling the draw of the worlds.

Bottom Line:  Aztec, I have used for Solomon Kane as antagonists and can continue to use.  That wasn’t high fantasy (well, I did wander into high fantasy at times), and I struggle to see what I’d want to do with a pure campaign of either.

Finnish Mythology

Pros:  Finnish mythology is awesome.  Heroes matter.  Untapped.

Cons:  I don’t know enough about it.  Names are challenging.

Bottom Line:  I want to know more about Finnish mythology.  I really need to own a good RPG supplement for it, so I can digest it in a partially mechanical form.


Did I leave important things out?  Russian mythology is interesting.  Various African could work well.  Pacific Island mythologies strike me as being Native American like, if much more water oriented.  I just don’t know enough to craft a coherent campaign.  Then, there are the mythologies I know so little about I couldn’t even think of them.  What of Spain and Portugal?  Etc.

I’m really not sure what my reluctance with Greek is.  Nor am I sure why Egyptian or Celtic wouldn’t be top choices.  Maybe, it’s having an interest in incorporating multiple mythologies, like Gygax did or Conan essentially does if as sword and sorcery rather than high fantasy, that distracts me from focusing on a single one.

Critical Nit

April 22, 2012

Critical hits, fumbles, hit location, bleeding, wounds, conditions, weapon damage, armor damage, and a host of other things are bad for PCs.  Feel it intuitively?  Take my word for it?  Perhaps.  Or, I can try to explain why.

One thing I think it takes time for people to realize, and it helps immensely to GM to see it, is that PCs and antagonists don’t have a symmetric relationship to combat.  This manifests in a number of ways.  One way is that PCs will usually be designed for greater efficiency in combat, eschewing certain weapon choices, armor choices, fighting styles, or whatever because they are suboptimal.  On the other hand, “people antagonists” in worlds where stuff outside of combat matters are usually much more focused on combat than an equivalent experience PC.

For example:  In Conan, a dagger is pretty much useless.  Can add poison, can have a bunch of Sneak Attack damage, but you can just substitute some other weapon and be better off.  The thief’s weapon of choice for a PC, assuming you go with some low damage weapon, is a shortsword.  There are examples in Conan of how a PC will go for more well-roundedness with Feat slots or whatever, but a really good example of how NPCs focus on combat was when I played in the battle event at Gen Con for HoR, where rank 2 Bayushi Bushi we fought all had 9k4 attack rolls as compared to my 6k3.  I might not get up to Kenjutsu 5 by rank 3(!!) at the rate things are going due to wanting a high Intelligence and putting points into noncombat skills, neither of which were relevant for one-shot antagonists.

Most of the asymmetry between protagonists and antagonists comes out of the typical fate we look for from each.  All players care about with regards to antagonists is removing the threat of them.  Usually, that means depriving them of life.  Don’t remotely care whether they have all of their limbs, whether they will never be able to breed again, how dented their shields are, etc.  They must be incapacitated, preferably permanently.

Meanwhile, lasting wounds, especially permanent ones, are a resource hit to a PC.  Weapon damage and armor damage – resource hit.  Even if it just takes money to fix something, if the money required rises to the level of significant, then resource hit.  Even survival can be a resource, as various systems have resurrection, usually at a great wealth cost.  Of course, survival can be even more important with the lack of resurrection.

Okay, all this seems obvious.  But, what about crits, fumbles, conditions, bleeding, and hit locations?

Bleeding, and what I really mean by bleeding is not someone in their death throes but someone who can start bleeding from lesser attacks, should be obvious.  Rules for bleeding from casual wounds force PCs to take noncombat actions or to put PCs on a clock.  Who cares whether the goblin bleeds?  The goblin is going to die or I am.

One thing about crits and fumbles is how often they occur and what the results are.  You can build these mechanics in such a way that they favor PCs.  For instance, you can say that fumbles only occur if you suck and make sure PCs never suck.  You can have fumbles reduce the amount of damage or attack percentage when PCs have a huge advantage with either.  Crits don’t tend to be so bad for PCs when PCs have far more hit points than their opponents and all crits do is increase damage.  And, so forth.

Yet, in all likelihood, these two mechanics will punish PCs.  There’s a crucial principle when it comes to RPG combat.  The principle is that PCs want combat to have less variance.  The more predictable combat is, the more reliably the PCs win.

But, you say, what about when the opposition is stronger than the party?  Of course that can occur, but why should it?  Why would the party be favored to lose?  Because … all sorts of reasons, you say.

Sure, there are legitimate reasons to put a party into a losing fight.  Parties choosing to bite off more than they can chew should be at a disadvantage.  Not every fight is supposed to be winnable.  In fact, if you are doing videogame roll-playing, like old school D&D dungeon crawling, the idea is that you go as far as you can as long as you believe you have the advantage and run/hide when you no longer think you can continue.  Though, if you were engaging in this sort of thing, you would expect every first combat in an adventure to be in the party’s favor, otherwise, the party will never get anywhere.

So, back to crits and fumbles.  They increase variance.  But, there are also other imbalances that normally occur.  For crits, antagonists usually make more attacks than PCs.  While this can vary, being outnumbered is a common combat setup for a party.  Even when not outnumbered, monsters often have more attacks than PCs.  There are plenty of RPGs where an animal would get both a bite and claw attacks or a bite and two claw attacks, while a PC will get a single attack.  Everything else being equal, which admittedly isn’t often the case, the increased number of attacks by antagonists leads to more crits.

But, you say, doesn’t this apply equally to fumbles?  Sure, volumewise, can tilt towards PCs.  Fumbles are primarily a screwjob on PCs because of the effects of fumbles.  For instance, if a possibility is to attack a friend or oneself, it’s rather normal for PCs to do more damage than their opponents.  Or, if the fumble is drop weapon, a PC will typically be highly dependent upon a particular weapon where some lizardman or whatever just switches to natural weaponry.  Actually, it doesn’t even need to be that complicated.  PC attacks are more valuable than antagonist attacks, if for no other reason than that the PC perspective is that PCs must win, where antagonists winning is … problematic.

It may seem like too many of my “typical” scenarios would be ones where the party is fighting a larger, but less skilled, force.  It’s also common to fight a single big bad or two badasses.  In these cases, if fumbles are just as likely and the effects of fumbles are normally things like losing attacks, losing defenses, attacking allies, or whatever, then fumbles can be worse for the antagonists.  At the same time, fewer opposition tends to go with more skilled opposition, so in theory, they will fumble less often, depending upon the system.

Again, though, we run into the idea of asymmetry.  If a party gets an easy fight because the opposition rolls badly, then the party is inclined to seek out more fights, to the extent such things are possible within an adventure, balancing out the results, or the party will be more successful, which, as long as it isn’t the norm that combats are easy, is likely not to make the players sad.  Meanwhile, a fight that goes badly because of unexpected results can either prevent the party from continuing on towards a goal or can result in permanent losses, which somehow seems sadder to the players.

As I’ve pointed out in the past, not even that long ago, while GMs can establish that the costs of failure be measured in things like lost reputation, prevention of story goals, being captured, and whatnot, the norm with FRPGs is death or other results that are of a similar severity.  Losing out on treasure, for instance, can be just as bad as dying in systems where stuff/wealth is critical to success.  I stopped playing my first RuneQuest character in part because he lost a bunch of Intelligence, reducing his skills to where I became more inept than I was at initial character creation.

Conditions are more nebulous.  What are conditions?  L5R 4e has a list that I recall fairly well that includes, among others:  Dazed, Fatigued, Blinded, Prone.  Pritnear every system has rules for being poisoned.  Attribute loss would be similar to a condition.  Some systems make these more permanent than others.  Permanent conditions, of course, are a major screwjob on PCs.  We played for over a year with a blind character in Conan.  There were unusual reasons why it worked at all.  In most cases, any sort of permanent injury means retiring or suiciding your character to get one that is whole.

But, what about temporary conditions?  Much less clear how they punish PCs.  Still, predictability.  That’s what we look for.  Dazed is an interesting condition in L5R.  It tends to be extremely bad in a fight, unless the one Dazed has nonattack combat abilities.  For instance, while not great for a shugenja to get Dazed, a shugenja can still cast spells.  A badass bushi Dazed is essentially useless, same with the vast majority of creatures.  I’ve GMed where a PC could Daze enemies, and it made fights insipid, in the favor of the party.

So, why bring up conditions?  Because conditions are more commonly inflicted on the party than inflicted by the party.  The whole point of supplements like the Monster Manual is to throw different stuff at parties and “different” often comes with special abilities that do weird things to enemies.  Also, an easy victory by the party due to blinding the enemy dragon tends not to be as problematic as an easy PC kill when your tank or spellcaster or whoever goes blind.  Anyway, that conditions are more commonly relevant to a PC than to an antagonist means having to deal with something outside of the norm, greatly increasing the reduction of efficiency of the party.

Conditions are things that have more impact the fewer combatants on a side.  If you kill a mook a turn, then you don’t really care if one of those mooks is also stunned.

Hit locations is interesting in that I see them being a PC screwjob whether the PCs are outnumbered or whether the party outnumbers the enemy.  While the Conan forums may have always given the impression that PCs fight similarly built NPCs, I have rarely played any RPGs where the antagonists were often built like the PCs.  Feng Shui, with named characters, comes to mind as a case where antagonists were akin to PCs, but usually, you either have a horde of mooks or a small number of big bads.

Obviously, if fighting your doppelgangers (not the monster but identical builds), hit locations would be fair.  But, when fighting inferior opposition, do you really care whether you hack off an arm or a leg when the enemy is dead either way?  Then, hit locations usually go with spreading damage around, i.e. the target can potentially receive more damage than a straight hit point system.  Even in RuneQuest, there’s some truth to this for PCs in that taking out a limb caps damage from a single attack.  I would argue that RQ is a good example of how this screws PCs on the other side – the big bad side.  If you spread damage around on a big bad, all that ends up happening is you end up taking far longer to kill the big bad.

But, you say, RQ has pretty severe penalties for losing a limb, so doesn’t this suck that much more for big bads, which are being outnumbered by the party?  No.  Hit points in systems with hit locations don’t tend to follow a “balanced” scale.  If you take a RQ character and give it 10 more hit points with the normal increases in each hit location, it becomes far, far more resilient.  How do I know?  I had such a character for a time.  One of my characters had roughly a 50% increase in hit points, and he became ridiculously more resilient to damage.  A big bad is not only going to have these defensive benefits but also improvements in offense to justify being a party challenge.  But, even ignoring the offensive side of the game, spreading damage on a high hit point target is awful for a party.

Note that one of the most played systems, if not a FRPG, which uses hit locations is BattleTech.  While BT is its own thing and lacks a lot of similarities to hit location systems in FRPGs, it is interesting to note just how resilient spreading damage can end up being in BT, something I think is a good thing in the game.  Of course, where limbs come off all of the time in BT and the player can not be too displeased, limb loss at the humanoid PC level is something I equate with a dead PC, displaying a way in which I find hit locations to be a screwjob to PCs – you would rather take generic damage and live or not live than lose the use of part of a body even if you do live.

Okay, you say, I get it – you just want PCs to never be threatened, for adventures to lack any sort of challenge, any sort of adventure.  Free XP and gold for all.

Actually, several of these mechanics I’m fine with, if handled in a reasonable way.  The ones I’m never fine with are bleeding, hit locations, and equipment damage; not specifically because they screw PCs but because they generate a bunch of accounting hassles while punishing PCs in ways I don’t see any benefit in.

Yes, I do realize that not having bleeding makes for some undramatic situations where you can just leave a horribly wounded person lying around forever.  Actually, let me make an exception or modifier to my feelings on bleeding.  Bleeding from any sort of damaging attack is annoying since it generally requires being taken out of a fight to deal with, which is crippling to parties.  Bleeding to death from something like being in negative hit points might be fine, preferable even if the alternative is you just die when you hit negative hit points (or the equivalent).  Conan, for instance, has bleeding to death rules that I’m fine with.

I’m generally anti-fumbles not because I have no sense of humor and hate variance but because too many fumble systems are disproportionately brutal to a PC, and it’s not often funny if fumbling directly leads to dying.  Maybe, it’s the systems I’ve played recently that have colored my thinking.  In the past, when I played less gamist systems, fumbles were more entertaining.  Immortal saw a 10% chance of fumbling every single time you used your magical powers (that everyone pretty much had); it even seemed like the intent was that you would fumble so that you got weird disadvantages from being tainted.

Really, more my point is that GMs/groups need to be aware of how these sorts of mechanics affect party results.  In particular, the more of these mechanics, the greater difficulty PCs have in being functional, a major takeaway from my RuneQuest experiences.

Maybe this is another case of my being inconsistent or having a hard time articulating a point of view that hits a sweet spot on a spectrum, but I’m hardly in favor of predictable combat.  If I know success is inevitable, I’m inclined to not fight it out at all.  At the same time, I have no interest in combat just being a randomfest of randomness, where anything can happen.

Why?  Because high levels of randomness undermines strategy and tactics, as well as undermining character building.  Decisions should matter.  If I want to attack the enemy but just end up shooting my commander in the back every time due to fumbles (this basically happened in a Mekton game I played in for our party), then I have no attack strategy/tactic left.  Why does my build matter if combat is highly unpredictable?  I might know next to nothing about first aid and be an aggro character, only to find myself repeatedly being removed from combat to stop bleeding.  Or, maybe I’m the tank healer who just sucks up attacks and keeps everyone else alive … who gets critted repeatedly or who fumbles parries repeatedly or who takes a head shot and gets immediately knocked out.

Mind of Chaos

April 19, 2012

I got to thinking about what disciplines I’ve won tournament wins and which I haven’t, again.  But, that’s really a better topic for after some more tournaments since it wasn’t that long ago (in “tournament time”) … well, actually, it was over three years ago I posted this.  The main problem with doing another look is that I don’t think anything has changed.

So, as unexciting as that is as a topic, I got to thinking about Dementation.  I feel bad about not doing more things with Dementation.  Unfortunately, the game doesn’t want people to do interesting things with Dementation.  Where Dominate’s “other” cards include things like Graverobbing (free), Obedience (free), Mind Rape (not free but not bad), Chain of Command (possibly free), Hall of Hades’ Court (kind of silly), Mesmerize (free), Dementation’s “other” cards include the likes of:  Mind of a Child (3 blood), Mind of a Killer (incredibly confusing), Prison of the Mind (3 blood), Sleep of Reason (2 blood), and some pretty weak effects.

Some like Blessing of Chaos, so I’ll give it a pass, even though every time I’ve tried to run it in a deck, I just ended up discarding it or getting ousted before I could discard it.  Lunatic Eruption is something I’ve had success with.  And, Dementation has far fewer cards than Dominate, as well as being a far less common discipline.

Still, Dementation is a perfect example of the tyranny of good great cards.  Kindred Spirits, Madman’s Quill, cardless bleed with mods, or, to a lesser extent, The Call all drive out inferior plays.  Being of an economics background, where you get Gresham’s Law, the “bad money drives out good” theory, I always enjoyed using the phrase “good cards squeeze out bad” to explain why so many CCG cards never see play or only see play in the most limited (and often poorly conceived) cases.

I do have some tech I want to try at some point, but we have such a limited tournament schedule that getting around to everything takes so darn long.  In the meantime, there are ideas that should be pursued just in the name of variety and discovery, no matter how discouraging they seem in the face of “Why don’t I just bleed?”

For one thing Dive into Madness is a bleed play, for another, the sort of decks I can think of where I’d want to try something effective are not the sort of decks I’m all that enthralled with playing, so while I’ve not done much with Dive, I doubt I’ll try very hard.

With more ways to untap, such as Danse Macabre, The Haunting and Total Insanity might suck less, but I tried multiple times to do something with these, and they … sucked.  Even worse, they sucked in a really tedious, let’s all hate this game, kind of way.

How many Tremere have Dementation?

I see.  I see.  I see nothing.

This is important.  For most, I figure they will realize why, but who knows what others think?  Obviously, paying 3 blood for a card is rather exorbitant.  Sometimes, like The Kiss of Ra, you understand the cost.  Sometimes, like Burning Wrath, you are probably playing a bad card that seems worth it.  Sometimes, you can easily recoup the cost, like Awe for 3 into Voter Cap.  Dementators are not a bunch known for great blood gain, though if you try hard enough and make your deck suck enough at winning, any deck can gain copious amounts of blood.

A common fix to costly cards is to play a Tremere.  Only need one to Magic of the Smith out The Ankara Citadel.  I did have a rather ridiculous Dragos deck that ran Dementation and Ankara.  It had nutpuncheritis.

Now, we do have Winchester Mansion to Magic out to prevent some really sketchy plays, like skill cards or Clan Impersonation.  Anyway, why so much focus on Ankara?  Mind of a Child and Prison of the Mind are two cards that beg to be played for half, rounded down, cost.

Mind of a Child has been around forever.  It’s awful.  It’s annoying, but what does it have to do with winning?  Again, there are more ways to untap in the game, even if we just look at more vampires with Fortitude.  Cardano has been around forever, but Gerald Windham is way cooler.  Either way, could also do things like run Restoration or Aaron’s Feeding Razor to recoup blood, nevermind Perfectionist.  Una is, of course, a natural untapping machine, so the focus here would be to gain blood to avoid the dreaded Clan Impersonation plan.  Then, Zillah’s Tears, Danse Macabre, Black Hand, etc. can all help !Malks with untapping to not waste actions on losing plays, with The Hungry Coyote helping with costs.

Same could be said for any expensive card, like the next one I’ll talk about, so why care about Mind of a Child?  Because if you can get enough of them out fast enough, you can murder decks.  What sort of decks?  Not really sure, but I’d be inclined to believe that high cap decks would be the best victims since you can only turn so many vampires into children.  Even then, is this worthwhile?  Isn’t this still a make someone lose but not win play?  Probably.  A lot of setup to justify the cost with a matchup based result that may just mess up a table, where Dementation already has plays to counter other decks, like Touch of Clarity and Wrong and Crosswise.

Prison of the Mind has not been around forever.  Besides being a way to nuke Imbued, if an unreliable one as React with Conviction kills it, the superior is never going away, unlike Mind of a Child being something that also requires defending.  At 1 blood, the inferior is hot.  The superior is always mean, if also not something that helps with winning the same way Kindred Spirits helps with winning, maybe not helping at all.  Even at 2 blood (Perfectionist?), the inferior is akin to Set’s Curse, which I think is entirely playable, though Serpentis is was actually far more of a control discipline than Dementation.

Giving -Stealth and -Intercept isn’t what we would call synergistic, but it does mean that it’s likely to annoy every victim.  But, to what end?  Why play defensive Dementation?  Minus intercept is an offensive play against Bowl-ers and whoever, but so is another stealth card.  Many a Dementation deck is happy to have stealth bleed at the table, so the -Stealth is more of an … antiannoying play?  Not like vote decks are necessarily going to be stopped that hard – stealth vote won’t care much unless you are a wall and nonstealth vote should have enough dudes without the card to do their thing.  Stops casual hunting, which is so totally worth an action and 3 blood that isn’t “bleed for 2 and gain a pool”.  Just not sure how much it will matter, but allies are annoying enough to run some odd plays.

Mind of a Killer may be confusing, but confusing cards have been known to be far better than people think.  This is, at least, free, so why not?  I wouldn’t be inclined to play it on my own guys, even though that’s an option, but like Lunatic Eruption, it might just be a nice disruptive effect that actually helps with winning, if not as much as bleeding would.  The two could be combined, but that’s not actually a combo, since the way the card reads, the burn clause from combat would not trigger the damage.  Sure, that makes it more of an “I play on my dudes” play, but how often do I want to go to so much effort just to get +1 Strength for an action?  Better seemingly is just to Lunatic one dude and Killer a different dude to encourage excessive amounts of combat, though that can also be achieved with just more Lunatic Eruptions.  Though(!), I’ve found that casual Eruptions are better than dedicated Eruptions.

Sleep of Reason is one of those things that I think sounds far better than it is at first blush.  Sleep of Reason is also one of those things that I think takes far too much effort to build around.  Yet, it’s really not that hard a card to play and has a powerful effect.  It’s one of those toolbox plays I can see, even in a nontoolboxy deck, just because it will be more likely to be relevant than casual Graverobbing is.  Play a couple of Storage Annexes and a couple of these and randomly torp people out of nowhere.  Gee, that sounds a lot like Coma.  Except, everyone knows about Coma, Coma costs more, Coma often means you are sending yourself to torpor, Coma is far less likely to land (dodge, combat ends, Immortal Grapple, maneuver), and I’ve just explained why Coma sucks (outside of Dragos, The Eye of Hazimel decks, yeah).

While the play of Sleep can be critical, the threat of it, like say ditching The Kiss of Ra or Walk of Flame or Hidden Lurker early, might be worth enough to justify it when it is a dead draw.  Discard Sleep, bleed like a Dementator, watch someone not Villein/Blood Doll down to 1.

Of course, when playing questionable tactics/strategies, one must be disciplined.  A deck full of Killers, Eruptions, Sleeps, et al is going to cripple someone in all likelihood and lose like crazy.  I’ve seen a Mind of a Child deck, and it performed vastly better when all it did was discard them and bleed.  Four to six slots is more along the lines of what I can see for a deck even built with some of these cards in mind.  Otherwise, sacrificing too many slots on good stuff plays and plays that do something VPwise.

Hosers Or Poseurs

April 17, 2012

Why don’t people play Scourge of the Enochians?

Is that the sum of my thinking?  No, but it is the most frequent question I have when I see Embrace decks win.

To be fair, I have seen winnie decks run Not to Be in addition to The Uncoiling more recently.  Still, I see people run 1 or 2 cap support vampires like it’s not a thing.  Let’s take a look at some winning decks.



38 players.  Five 1 or 2 caps with no ability to olden.  No counter for Scourge.  Does the deck need the dorks to function?  Hardly.  However, in a world full of Enochians, that same lack of need for the support staff means a reasonable decision to go to 3.  That slows the deck some.  Maybe enough that it doesn’t win, in Enoch World.  In “oh, right Scourge exists” world, picking off the chumps might also have led to defeatitis.


20 players.  Only five 1 caps, but five crypt slots were spent on Shalmath, so a deck much more dependent upon dork support.  Even an Inceptor.


23 players.  Three 2 caps and 19 babies.  Does run The Uncoiling but not Not to Be.

Don’t feel inclined to pull out the decks from smaller tournaments.  Yes, limiting to 20+ tournaments runs into sample size issues, but it also focuses on results of tournaments of significant size.

Of course, since we don’t know the lists of every deck or the results of every game, it’s entirely possible that Scourge did see meaningful play in these events.  Much of my surprise is from local play, including when the LA players make it up.  Sure, The Barrenness deck running around uses it, but that’s a special case.  I’m more wondering why I don’t see it in 75% of the decks people play.

Besides people hating winnies and besides crimping babymaker decks, who doesn’t want to grief Tupdogs?  Who doesn’t want to pick off first turn Anarch Converts?  Who doesn’t despise Chandler Hungerford playing Dual Form … uh, yeah, who?

Do I always play it?  Nah.  Ignoring decks that actually put out dorks, I may make a judgment call that my deck already griefs Tupdogs or whatever.  Then, hardly any of my decks get played in tournaments – I’m willing to not try to win in casual play to preserve slots for funner plays.  Actually, this philosophy applies to tournament play just as much.

Does it hit often?  Nah.  I rarely see Scourge impact.  This is one of the primary reasons hoser cards are insipid.  They rarely hose anything.  Yet, the reason one plays it is that when it does hose something, it obliterates the deck.  (Another problem with hosers is that most hosers don’t obliterate hard enough, so might as well play good cards.)

As much as I love me casual Tupdogs, Tupdog decks must be hosed out of existence.  It’s just righteous and pure.  Speaking of Tupdogs, Tension in the Ranks and Gran Madre, people?  Gran Madre is offensive in how annoying it is in any deck, and it was relatively scarce for a long time in these parts, but now that folks have them, it’s an odd choice that people don’t play such an annoying card that does more than devastate Tupdogs.  Tension is a more limited play, but where Fame drops all of the time, Tension should be dropping out of more decks, obviously especially combat decks, for the “I hate Tupdogs” and “I hate Nocturns” impact.

What is a hoser?

This comes up often, but I made a comment recently about my changing argument on the subject.  Defining a hoser is a pain.  Isn’t a Blood Doll a hoser against pool loss?  Isn’t Life in the City a hoser against blood denial?

The first thing, which I think all right-thinking people can agree on, is that a hoser is an answer.  Though, even that’s a bit of a problem.  Let’s say card ABC wins you the game if your opponent (assume two-player for simplicity) plays deck MNO.  That seems kind of hoserish in that the card is narrow and is dependent upon the play of something else, but if you win just by playing it, it’s kind of a threat more than an answer.  For instance, Magic has Karma.  Karma does damage based on number of Swamps you control.  That doesn’t stop the player playing Black, that just causes him to lose (eventually, normally).

In the above paragraph, we do get more that a hoser is a card that depends upon the opponent(s) playing some card or type of card.  What about some type of strategy?  Well, conveniently, this helps differentiate hosers from other effects.  Bringing out lots of 1 caps and Computer Hacking is based on specific cards, so Ancilla Empowerment or Scourge of the Enochians are hosers.  Bleeding is not dependent upon particular card play, so Deflection, Telepathic Counter, pool gain are not hosers.  Rather, they are defenses.

There is some spectrum of defense to hoser or, if you buy the argument that hosers can also be threats and not just answers like Karma or Anarchist Uprising, offense to hoser.  Protected Resources is more of a defense to Archon Investigation’s hoserness.  Telepathic Counter may get slotted into a deck because you hate Night Moves/Spying Mission decks or Night Moves/Enticement decks, in which case it’s acting more like a hoser, but it’s so general in its defensive properties, I don’t know how it would be claimed a hoser.  Archon Investigation, meanwhile, ends up serving a metagame role as a defense against the fact that bleeding for a lot is way too easy in the game, but it’s function is hoserish as decks can normally avoid it, making it a poor defense outside of Anu decks.

Those, Too

The point wasn’t just to talk about Scourge.  Scourge was just the most blatant example of people not running the tools available to mess with decks they hate.  Another startling example is how little Imbued hate people run.

After Imbued came out and dominated the tournament scene until cards got banned, a ridiculous number of Imbued/ally hosers got made.  My list for most relevant in the close aftermath, obviously, more got made later, like Invoke Poison Glands:

Autonomic Mastery
Chair of Hades
Cobra Fangs
Hard Case [how many non-Imbued allies would lose stuff?]
Liquefy the Mortal Coil
Permanent Vacation
Prison of the Mind
Set’s Curse

How often do these see play?  Maybe in your metagame, you expect them.  I don’t expect any, though I’m quite fond of Set’s Curse as it also hoses winnies.  I’m more inclined to run Chair of Hades these days, requirements permitting, and I think about Cobra Fangs, maybe even slot them for decks I haven’t gotten around to pulling the cards for.

Then, during the Summer of Imbued dominance, in the first tournament I played at Week of Nightmares, I ran Mercy for Seth in my Harbinger vote deck.  And, yes, I’ve played in a tournament game where it went “Play Break the Code.  Discard Break the Code.  Discard Break the Code.” with three players in succession.  And, Theft of Vitae was all the rage before Memories of Mortality got banned.

On the other hand, what about Tenebrous Form and Entombment?  I’m not surprised by Entombment out of a deck that can play it.  I’m surprised by how rare it is.  Obtenebration just owns Imbued, even if Veil of Darkness is a counterownage for the Imbued.  Not that I see that anymore.

People whine about Imbued constantly, but if they aren’t playing the cards to hose them, why whine about it?  It’s like hating being bled for 5 at stealth and not running any bleed bounce or Archon Investigations.  Who’s to blame?

Sure, Prison of the Mind is a pretty ridiculous choice just to hate on Imbued.  It’s not like Dementation decks don’t already have an answer in the form of the “I bleed you with Kindred Spirits at a bunch of stealth and you can only Champion one of these bleeds before you die” strategy.  But, if your deck is screwed by Imbued, maybe try playing cards that eviscerate them.

Yet, I sympathize with the idea that loading a deck full of hosers to counter every annoying thing possible is not only counterproductive but unfun.  I don’t want to run Tranquility just to not get ‘schrecked and run The Diamond Thunderbolt to deal with Form of Corruption.  Nor do I have any appreciation of the Event war involving The Uncoiling and The Fourth Cycle versus all of the annoying Events in the game.

And, it’s also possible to metagame without hosers.  Carna + Theft was a common answer to Imbued and somehow doesn’t suck otherwise.  Anarchist Uprising, Ancilla Empowerment, and sort of Domain Challenge are ways to take counters out of the game in bunches, which is not just an anti-winnie play.

But, some things are a pain without a sweet, sweet hoser.  Like being inundated with 1 caps, even worse when the 1 caps have two superior disciplines, built in rush, replace themselves, and effortlessly hit for 3 agg that can’t be dodged or combat ended.

Scourge, my friends.  It’s not just a stain remover.  It’s a way of life.

Elusive Targets

April 13, 2012

Been a while.  Been hard to focus on any one idea or interest.  That hasn’t changed …

Sometimes, I realize I don’t come across as the most consistent person in my arguments, opinions, and whatever.  In some cases, that’s due to being far more precise in what I mean than what is conveyed.  In some cases, I make an exaggerated statement for effect that undermines precision.  In some cases, I’m just not consistent, something it took me quite a while to realize.

Then, even if I were always consistent, as much as I try to describe thoughts in precise terms, it can be torturous to be precise or try to be precise.  Meaning isn’t always conveyed better by adding descriptive modifiers in an effort to be more specific.

There are times, like when it comes to RPG campaigns, when it helps to be clearer in what is desired out of the campaign.  Since I haven’t tried to write down my favorite things about role-playing sessions, I often don’t clearly express what experiences I want to have.  Yesterday, I wrote a couple of e-mails to one of my GMs about the sort of things I enjoy.  While I’m sure it’s kind of painful to follow, at least it’s a start and putting it in writing is better than trying to talk through points.

So, what experiences do I want out of a RPG session?

The Spotlight & Contributions & Cool

I’m not a spotlight type.  To argue for the validity of astrology, I could see someone using studies with sufficiently large sample sizes.  Otherwise, it’s far too subjective.  I bring this up because one of the features of my Sun sign is hating the spotlight.

Many times when I’m being spotlighted, I feel uncomfortable, feeling like I’m taking up other people’s time with things they don’t care about.  This is, yet again, another way that RPGs and fiction differ.  In reading a book, the reader doesn’t need to share the experience.  Role-playing is a social activity.  Meanwhile, I don’t mind other people being spotlighted for stretches.

I build bad characters, just like I build bad decks with CCGs and choose bad strategies in boardgames.  The goal isn’t to suck.  In fact, it bothers me when I can’t contribute my share to games.  Even two-player CCGs, where a lopsided game can be quickly conceded, the experience would have been better by not sucking.  Much of my drive that leads to sucking is the overwhelming desire to be unique.  I might play other people’s decks, but I don’t build other people’s decks (with rare exceptions).  I hate having cookiecutter characters.  I hate taking the well-known strategies in boardgames and, on those rare occasions I play them, wargames, miniatures, etc.

The thing is is that it’s pretty easy to discover most effective strategies.  In order to do something different, one has to either end up using an inferior strategy or discover something new.  Most of the time, it’s the inferior path.  With Conan d20, I tried a low Strength fighter.  Now, Conan is quite favorably inclined towards low Strength Thieves as Sneak Attack damage is insane.  It is not remotely favorable to those without copious amounts of Sneak Attack damage.  Even with new Feats in splat books, Strength or Sneak Attack damage or spells are what matter in combat.

Given my predilection to building (mechanically) offbeat characters, I still want to contribute.  I still want to pull my weight.  What that weight is varies by group.  In some groups, everyone needs to strive for effectiveness; for such a group, I will work harder to make a more effective character.  In other groups, being “sidekick level” or “spearchucker level” is good enough.  Usually, there’s something in between where a party weakness can be addressed.  That Conan character ended up being the primary diplomat of the party and a backup religious expert.

Okay, great, blah blah blah … why does this matter?  So, there’s designing a character and there’s playing a character.  Both should be meaningful to the GM, but GMs often have enough things to worry about without figuring out exactly how a party is going to function before it has some time to work together.  Given a particular build, in this case, a L5R build, to contribute, certain things need to happen.  My L5R character is knowledgeable about spirit realms.  If other (Rokugan’s realm is also a spirit realm) realms are never important, then that facet of the character serves no purpose and my contributions decline.

I don’t want the campaign to be all about spirit realm stuff (travel, invasions, etc.) just because I built a character that relates to that since I don’t care about the spotlight nearly as much as I think others do.  Well, I realize that quite a few people I play with are just as disinterested in the spotlight as I am, but some people care more.  But, since that’s the direction I went in character creation, it should be an element of the campaign.

Here’s where we get into consistency issues.  On the one hand, I eschew the spotlight and am often happy being a lesser contributor.  On the other, I like doing cool stuff.  I like to sneak up on people with awesome, which means being bodacious at least occasionally.  Of course, everyone has different ideas of cool.  I don’t find massive combat overkill cool, maybe when it’s a surprise.  I’m more into saving people who appear lost, holding off a superior force, or making emotional gestures.  Though, sure, sometimes I like one-shotting the high priest who is going to eat all of our souls, too.

In general, doing things others don’t is important to cool.  If everyone studies the glyphs, it’s just rolling dice.  If everyone else is looting the sarcophagi while I study the glyphs, that’s interesting to me.  One of Robin Laws’ gamer archetypes is the specialist.  I came out in the quiz mentioned in this post as 58% specialist.  That sounds reasonable.  I don’t always feel the need to be an expert in some area, but I like having my niche.

Looking back at the examples from HoR2 mods that I listed for my L5R GM, it’s clear that doing thing others didn’t and, maybe, couldn’t pleased me.  Though there have been instances where combat prowess or the like have been these things, usually it involves interactions with NPCs.

The World As We Know It

This is not going to be all that enlightening, but without a world (and people in the world) to interact with, interactions with NPCs aren’t going to happen.  So, one of the things I look for from my GMs is having NPCs, preferably NPCs with some depth, even better NPCs who are recurring characters.

I’m not going to like every NPC.  Nor am I going to hate every NPC.  But, I should fancy some NPCs and despise others.  To an extent, it can be forced.  A party villain may have done horrible things to every PC’s family.  I’m very much into subtlety, especially my own, but when it comes to NPCs, I don’t know that subtlety matters much.  Some things about a world just need to grab the player.

On the other hand, I realized only recently just how little interest I take in other PCs.  It’s not that I don’t care about them being successful, it’s that I don’t feel a need to interact with them since they don’t help the plot move along.  I am, after all, primarily a storyteller archetype, so I care a lot about plot.  Sure, sometimes I like to interact with another PC, but that’s typically because the PC’s player is female.  Then, there are campaigns where players drive what happens, not campaigns I play in nor campaigns I would be all that excited by as I hate driving the action – I have an extremely reactive personality.

There are other things I like to see in the world.  I like the world to be biased towards the PCs.  Yup, I said it.  I’m not looking for fair, though fair is a step up in some cases.  I want the world to be more pleasant than the real world.  Otherwise, might as well play real life.

I want the world to be oriented towards telling stories.  I play RPGs to get away from mundane crap like worrying about money, worrying about my career, worrying about food and shelter.  Shopping is not an adventure.  Nor is a lot of the other minutia that crops up.  Not every moment needs to be about dramatic challenges, but I want to do things that are sufficiently engaging that I would write about them later.

What about the PCs’ place in the world?  While I’m a high fantasy kind of guy, when it comes to RPGs, I don’t know that it matters a lot to me how important the PCs are.  I don’t want to be constantly reminded of lack of importance, of course.  Look at L5R.  A newb character in most campaigns is going to be Status 1 or 2, maybe be an Emerald Magistrate with effective Status of 4.  If a campaign constantly pointed out that the Status 3+ NPCs got to sit at the big kids table and we were nobodies, that would be fairly irritating.  On the other hand, knowing that there are lots of more important folks but having them be off stage is fine.

Eeps & Toys

I hate stuff.  Not always.  Not even usually for some kinds of stuff.  But, in general, equipment, magic items, and the other stuff that define the specialness of D&D characters, et al, just turns me off.  I can’t stand the idea of a +1 sword or a Bag of Holding.  Those are videogame toys.  I don’t even like the idea that armor is useful and I have virtually no interest in distinguishing one weapon from another beyond ranged vs. melee.

However, I do like rewards.  I like experience points, especially in games where you can buy precisely what you want rather than games where you only level up.  In terms of other rewards, there are a couple I like.

I do like “useless” stuff with flavor.  L5R has a lot of potential for this where superior equipment is scarce but a scrap of the banner held by some dude when some force held off a thousand goblins means a lot.  My favorite mod experience in HoR2 came from Words and Deeds.  One of the things that happened in that mod was gaining possession of a notable shogi set.  It had some mechanical benefit, in fact even a benefit I used in the mod to win the shogi tournament, but the coolness to mechanical benefitness ratio was extremely high.  I think part of it was also that it had a significant cost.  I burned a bunch of allies and/or favors to afford the set.  And, when I gave it away at the end of the mod, I was quite pleased with myself.

I’m also more inclined to favor stuff, even useful stuff, when it’s one of a kind and is the result of what a character does.  Being handed Stormbringer is not interesting.  Fighting Yyrkoon and Mournblade to get it is somewhat more interesting, only being kind of a fail because someone has already done that.  Forging one’s own blade from a scale of a dragon that the character slew – that works.

I’m even more into intangibles.  I liked the Reputation mechanic in Conan until I eventually gave up on it as it wasn’t serving to distinguish characters from each other and it was just a tedious accounting exercise.  I like that L5R has a Glory mechanic, though I wish it actually did something – a suggestion I made to my GM.  I like being thought of favorably (or feared) by nations, towns, NPCs, factions, cults, etc.  There’s a reason people donate money to universities, et al, and have their names put up on the buildings.  And, think about the adventure creating advantages of having a library named after your character; that library ain’t burning down without a pile of corpses.

Rocks Fall, Massive Damage Save Of 50

I don’t feel a need to be constantly challenged.  That is, there are times when playing when it’s okay for things to be happening that aren’t an obstacle.  On the other hand, weak challenges are lame.  More specifically, if I think the challenge was easy, I’m not interested.  Even if it is easy, if I think it felt challenging, then I’m happy (just don’t tell me differently).

In particular, I hate easy combats.  For whatever reason, even though I can get deeply into what proper tactics should be, combat just doesn’t interest me a lot to begin with.  Pointless combats or combats that are just resource drains are annoying, even in videogames.  I hated random encounters in the slums in Pool of Radiance because they just wasted my time getting to interesting stuff.

Dangerous combats are a different story.  I often get excited by combats that don’t seem survivable, though it helps if the system isn’t insipid.  Then, combats where there’s a particular goal, like rescue a kidnap victim or protect a helpless character or prevent some building/object/whatever from being destroyed, tend to be interesting to me.

Similarly, other challenges should be engaging.  I tend to find riddles to be obnoxious.  Usually, either someone knows the answer immediately or it’s just painful trying to come up with an answer.  Other forms of puzzles, like logic puzzles, don’t really work for me, either.  I like logic puzzle books, some more than others, but the experience of having a bunch of people try to work a puzzle out is not one I’m interested in – I don’t like shared efforts for such things.

Talking to NPCs can be good or bad.  Arguing a point, court drama style, might be good.  Bartering, negotiating terms, and the like tend to just be irritating, which is probably why I’m so uninterested in HoR’s political interactives.  Logistical challenges don’t do it for me, either.  It’s too close to “accounting nonsense” to worry about how much water we have, how fast a horse can go in a day, and so forth.

Traps are not as exciting to me as intelligent opposition.  Some traps, like ones where you have to figure out what order to pull levers in and the like, don’t interest me at all.  I’m more inclined towards physical challenge traps resolved with dice rolls.

I do want decisions to matter.  However, very often, there’s not enough information to make an educated decision, in which case it didn’t matter.  Just recently, our party had a decision as to whether to take a shortcut or not – there wasn’t enough information to determine the advantage over one path or the other, just a guess that the shortcut’s increased risk would make up for the shorter path, so it was a non-challenge and an irrelevant decision.

Like combat, other challenges should tie in some way to the party’s goals (or PC’s goals).  Arbitrary obstacles, whether traps, puzzles, or whatever, are just as bad as arbitrary combats.

Grandpa, What Happened?

Ultimately, the experiences I’m looking for are ones that make for good stories after the fact.  I want to do things I think are cool without bogging things down for everyone else or stealing their thunder.  To be cool requires that there be context, with the world being the context.  I want to be rewarded for things that I do, appropriately of course.  I want to overcome meaningful challenges, i.e. challenges that seem challenging, whether they really are or not.