I’ve played an unusual amount of Heroes of Rokugan recently, two mods in the last week. I commented recently to people I play with online that, while it’s obvious that the more you play the more you get into the campaign, I didn’t realize how pronounced the effect was. I’m constantly in touch with the campaign due to weekly local play, where I either GM or superfluously hang out while another GMs an adventure I’ve already played. But, I haven’t been as jazzed about my (main) character in ages.
Then, I had a few other observations from the unusually prolific recent play. There are my usual views on party composition – unlike home play where a GM can adjust challenges, the living campaign challenges are largely out of a GM’s hands, so metagaming party composition is important. Combat tactics was something I spent a good amount of time thinking about. Sure, it may be ironic that someone who favors combat as an activity so much less than others thinks more about it, but it is an outlet for analytical thinking.
I guess I’ll start with some comments on recent mods. I will do a new set of rankings on subjective desirability and attempted objective quality for what I have played to this point. But, first, I enjoyed both recent mods I played – Cold Hands, Stone Heart (SoB15) & Tear Away the Darkness (SoB22). I especially enjoyed the former.
One of my complaints about HoR3 – yes, I have a variety, no, I’m not trying to grief staff by regularly pointing them out – is that too many mods are underdeveloped. The underdeveloped ones tend to just be short at least one scene or major challenge. Some play okay but seem to hint at far more than what you end up doing. I got really tired of investigative mods from HoR2 because they felt like they dragged, but it wasn’t due to having too much to do, simply that what you did had too much sameness to it.
SoB15 was not one of the underdeveloped mods. It gave me plenty of opportunities to do the things I enjoy … going to try to avoid being spoilery. The rolls in the game made my character useful mechanically. It had one or more themes that speak to me.
Meanwhile, SoB22’s enjoyable experience had a lot to do with relief. I keep telling folks that I really want to read the mod to see whether it’s as harsh as it seems and how it scales for different groups. I’m a big fan of smiting evil in L5R – as the first Shadowlands mod for the campaign, there was evil to be smited. I didn’t have as much of a thematic experience, but I got to use my analytical mind …
Latest thoughts on HoR3 mods:
|Scenario||Stars||Rank – Quality||Fun||Rank – Fun|
Moving on, party composition. Fairly sure I mentioned some elements to an effective party in another post. Some additional comments and some reminders.
First, the more shugenja, the better. Shugenja are just superior to other schools for the usual reason that magic is almost always better than the lack of it. Supernatural stuff dies to Jade Strike like it totally doesn’t to a lot of other things. Tempest of Air, though I believe GMs are too generous with how many enemy targets and how few friendlies get hit by it, wins fights, including fights that wouldn’t otherwise be winnable. Fires of Purity is broken. Path to Inner Peace is essential. Commune is broken.
After that, we get into specific roles.
Always want a talker – Awareness at least 3, preferably higher, at least 3 ranks in Courtier and Sincerity with Etiquette being important if less so. Why Sincerity? A lot of adventures come down to convincing someone to shake off possession or the like.
Hunter – I used to call this the Perceiver but most folks realize the importance in Investigation where too many people don’t value Hunting highly enough. Picking up trails is essential in a number of mods, more so in HoR3 than HoR2. The Hunter will have Perception at least 3, preferably higher, at least 2 ranks in Hunting, preferably at least 3, at least 2 ranks in Investigation, preferably 3, should have Battle too since Battle is the only other Perception skill.
Brain – Intelligence 3+, Sage, Commerce, Medicine. Engineering makes sense but isn’t rolled that often. Yes, a number of party brains get by without Sage, but Sage is so stupidly good that it really should be part of any character who plans an INT of 4+ and gets the party by while the character works up from INT 3 to INT 4.
“Ranger” – a new category for me, someone who can control range, more specifically, prevent a target from getting out of range of the party when in pursuit and who can affect enemies at range when melee isn’t effective. This isn’t as essential as the others, and shugenja typically fill this role by accident what with Tempest of Air or Water spells increasing actions/movement or Earth’s Stagnation/Grasp of Earth. Fire has a harder time with this as Fires from Within is actually not that effective damagewise.
Grappler – grapple is broken, sometimes it’s the only way to deal with problematic enemies.
Murderer – massive damage is the party’s friend, good to target with buffs from shugenja.
Taking my characters’ roles as examples, we can see a bit why I’m so reluctant to play my alt (nevermind not wanting an XP suck for my main). Typical online party for me is: Utaku A’Nen, Kitsuki Ketsumei, Ide Xiao Xi, Kitsu Kagami, and Moshi Shigeo (moi).
Ketsumei is the talker. Xiao Xi and, now that Ketsumei has Hunting, Ketsumei are the hunters. Xiao Xi and Kagami are shugenja. I have become a much more useful brain now that I’m INT 4, though I lack Sage. I don’t think Kagami has Sage, which means no Sage in party. I think Kagami can ranger, though my recollection is that we don’t ranger well. A’Nen is a mild grappler (less mild outside of combat). Xiao Xi can probably grapple well. Xiao Xi murders well; I’m okay at slaughtering.
Now, my alt, Hoshi Takumi, is best at talker but inferior to Ketsumei. Two talkers is okay but not thrilling, depending upon what is given up. For instance, two Air shugenja talkers would be fine because they have shugenja brokenness. Takumi recently went to INT 3 and is a Sage! But, he’s been pretty much behind Shigeo at all times as a brain. Takumi is only a demibrain and will likely never rise to quality braindom. Takumi also offers nothing else in these categories, though he is a moneypockets, which is a category that’s occasionally useful.
Bottom line, a solid talker and demibrain isn’t as useful to my typical group as a demibrain (Shigeo lacks Sage!), front line fighter, and demimurderer. Take Ketsumei, though, out of the party and Takumi’s value rises astronomically due to not having niche overlap.
Combat tactics. I’m not going to go into a lot of depth on combat tactics in this post. More, there are some bad tactics that amaze me.
Frequent bad tactic – attacking someone who has already gone in the round when there are enemies who have yet to go. Another, though this is more of a 4e phenomenon due to the awful inversion of the wound chart from 3e – not murdering the wounded, aka spreading damage rather than concentrated fire.
Spellcasting – yes, any spellcasting tends to be highly productive, but not splitting Jade Strike, splitting is far more damage output than calling raises for damage, wasting spell slots on easily winnable battles, and not healing the damage sponges, er, bushi are the main criticisms I have.
Initiative and stance manipulation should be much more common; I’m particularly guilty of forgetting that Center Stance exists, though I rarely see it being a good idea for my character. Typically, initiative is going to be manipulated by Void Point expenditures, well, speaking of spending Void, people seem to overlove spending VPs for damage soak when ATN boosts are likely to be better defensive return on investment.
Everything is situational. Most fights aren’t deadly enough for a total party kill, but that’s what gets people dead. Fight a tough fight and all of those bad habits actually matter.
And, those are my primary HoR thoughts today.