Shadow Of The Past

September 30, 2013

Played Shadowfist again, recently.  Painful commute to Oakland and only played two actual games, but I was incredibly enthused afterwards.

Discovery.  Customizable card games sell on discovery.  It’s why so many of them need constant expansion.  I’m in a discoverer phase.  Not just discovering what cards do or what is good but just what I like about cards and decks.

I have some terribly basic Modern format decks for Hand, Ascended, Lotus, Monarchs that have seen cards played for, if only in a two-player for the Hand deck.  I built a Dragon deck, after playing.  I’m starting to consider multifaction decks with my tiny collection.

All of the decks seemed to flow fine in actual play, which was surprising.  I thought they would tend to need more ways to power up.  But, I won 50% of my four-player games, getting Beaumains and Lord Hawksmoor in play at the same time and having them survive while I was the clear threat.

Because I’m running off one copy of each of the precons and other fixed sets, I’m playing a lot of one-ofs.  As few cards as I have, I still feel like I have some options.

So, what’s the point?  The point is that it’s like the early days with other CCGs for me, with this game.  That’s such a weird feeling.  Maybe it shouldn’t be, but it shows that I’m jaded with games I’ve played to death, not just any CCG.  I also get to test the theory that having few cards is actually more fun than being a Mr. Suitcase.  Though, I already have more cards on order.

I do feel that Modern needs more variety, especially among unique characters.  I estimate about 330 different cards which is only the size of a premier CCG set.

What is a bit different, though, is I actually have an idea what a lot of staple cards are.  I don’t know sites all that well.  In fact, I pretty much ignore synergy between my sites and other cards and look mostly at sites I don’t mind others seizing for each deck, aka looking at sites that hose my strategy.  And, I seem to have a much better idea how to make decisions than I expected to have at this point.

I was asked how many times I’ve played, and the best I could come up with was about 15 times … over 18 years.

Today seems a day for bouncing around from thought to thought, Ascended seem nowhere near as interesting as I was expecting.  Good thing Bite is One-Shot, though I agree that it’s still obnoxious.  Hand characters don’t do a lot for me.  Monarchs suits me well, I want to Brain Fire everything (I liked Deflection in Magic, but 4 mana was a lot, zero power is kind of better).  I have identified a Lotus character for me to favor.  I’ll get around to a monkeyless Jammers deck at some point.

At this point, I’d really like to see some more convenient location to play, but, otherwise, it’s like the good old days, even if the packs I’m cracking have exactly the cards I expect them to have.

Deconstruction 01

September 21, 2013

It was suggested to me to talk about deckbuilding (for V:TES).  Plan is to take a look at two tournament decks.

Why tournament decks?  I’ve built a lot of decks, so, even though I tend to get into ruts and have biases in deck construction, I still end up with a lot of variety of builds.  That variety is greatly reduced with decks I play in tournaments and my deckbuilding style is clearer with the smaller sample size.

Pale Panda Warriors

Crypt (12, average 7.0)
x1 Father Juan Carlos
x1 Melinda Galbraith
x1 Melinda Galbraith (Adv)
x1 Alicia Barrows
x2 Caroline Bishops
x1 Alfred Benezri
x1 Alfred Benezri (Adv)
x2 Matthew Romans
x1 Nickolai, The Survivor
x1 Lucubratio

Library (75)
x2 Auspex
x4 Blood Doll
x1 Dreams of the Sphinx
x1 Fear of Mekhet
x1 Information Highway
x1 Joseph Pander
x3 Minion Tap
x1 The Barrens

x1 Enchant Kindred
x3 Entrancement
x3 Epiphany

x1 Aire of Elation
x4 Iron Glare
x4 Voter Captivation

x1 Ghouled Street Thug

x2 Fake Out
x9 Majesty
x1 Stunt Cycle
x1 Thrown Sewer Lid

x1 Anarchist Uprising
x1 Ancient Influence
x1 Banishment
x1 Cardinal Benediction
x2 Consanguineous Boon
x1 Disputed Territory
x3 Kine Resources Contested
x3 Legacy of Pander
x1 Reins of Power

x3 On the Qui Vive
x1 Quicken Sight
x7 Telepathic Misdirection
x4 Wake with Evening’s Freshness

x2 Scalpel Tongue

This deck got more grief than many simply because it was better known than my other TWDs.

There seems to be a misconception when it comes to my decks.  They aren’t full of crap cards.  I actually play quite a few staples and other quality cards.  The weaknesses of the decks, such as they are, come in three flavors:  crypt; unusual choices; strategic commitment.


Crypt (12, average 7.0)
x1  Father Juan Carlos
x1  Melinda Galbraith
x1  Melinda Galbraith (Adv)
x1  Alicia Barrows
x2  Caroline Bishops
x1  Alfred Benezri
x1  Alfred Benezri (Adv)
x2  Matthew Romans
x1  Nickolai, The Survivor
x1  Lucubratio

This is an obvious case of playing with a suboptimal crypt … assuming all someone cares about is winning.  Fortunately, I am not afflicted with a pure desire for winning.  In this case, the whole reason for this deck is to play fat Pander.  Caroline Bishops, as useless as she is, makes the deck what it is (in addition to the other two).

Starting with the idea that I have to play those three Pander and that I had to play library cards that require Pander, what was the best deck I could put together?  That was the question.  Two of my key minions have Auspex and Benezri is a second line voter to go with Legacy of Pander for unstoppable voting power.

So, obviously, I go Aus/Pre with some Potence somewhere, which is an easy combination to find in the game.  Furthermore, it’s easy to find on Sabbat vampires, so I can be rooted in a Sabbat vote deck.

The one thing I forgot during the tournament, which I’ve mentioned a few times, is that my crypt included various tap abilities to help do a two-way bleed/vote strategy in combination with Majesty for unsuccessful multiacting.

Unusual Choices

x1  Joseph Pander
x1  Ghouled Street Thug

x2  Fake Out
x1  Stunt Cycle
x1  Thrown Sewer Lid

Split these into musts and dependencies.

Why not throw one copy of Joseph in?  Maybe I play against squishy decks with empty vampires.  Thug is because people seem to forget it exists, and I played Thugs back in the day, when I built a lot more decks that had no concerns for viability.

The combat cards are due to not only the Pander-requiring cards but due to Caroline and Matthew sharing Potence.  Prayerish?  Of course, but that’s not the real value.  I hardly ever expected to hit someone with one-of flying junk, even though I did in the finals to my hazy recollection (maybe it was the first round when I had the same predator).  The real value of plays like this is that they confuse people as to what your strategy is.  There’s no combat strategy in this deck – it’s a vote deck with a touch of bleed.  But, if Caroline recruits Thug on turn two and he runs and Lids in his first fight, everyone can laugh at the horrible combat deck.  Fake Out doesn’t really cost as it is slightly synergistic with Majesty to avoid Immortal Grapple, which was more common in earlier days.  It’s just two wasted slots on combat cards, and Stunt Cycle even has defensive uses!

Because the deck is 75 cards, these six (really four when you take out Fake Out) slots were not so unlikely to show up.  Add in Caroline showing up reasonably often when she’s next to useless, and the deck seems far more junkified than it actually is/was.

Strategic Commitment

The only “criticism” that could be leveled here would be something like not enough vote bleed or bleed bleed to be oustriffic.  Cut the unusual choices slots and replace with KRCs or even just replace the largely irrelevant Legacies of Pander with vote bleed, and I think the deck looks “normal”.

Note that there is a tap bleed strategy in the deck that the deck commits to even if I didn’t commit to it while playing.  Bleed bounce plus Majesty plus specials all work together to land a few bigger bleeds.  Not many but a few.


x4  Blood Doll
x1  Dreams of the Sphinx
x1  Information Highway
x3  Minion Tap
x1  The Barrens

x1  Enchant Kindred
x3  Entrancement

x1  Aire of Elation
x4  Iron Glare
x4  Voter Captivation

x9  Majesty

x1  Banishment
x1  Cardinal Benediction
x2  Consanguineous Boon
x3  Kine Resources Contested
x1  Reins of Power

x3  On the Qui Vive
x1  Quicken Sight
x7  Telepathic Misdirection
x4  Wake with Evening’s Freshness

x2  Scalpel Tongue

I’m kind of down on Reins of Power these days even though it does give that first VP much of the time.  And, sure, there are four disciplines at work among these cards, but where’s the bad here?  Those masters count among the best the game has ever seen.  Wakes, bounce, Majesty, Voter Captivation – add in some votes and that’s the deck.

Sure, the deck is light on offense.  When the request to talk about deckbuilding was made, one of my first thoughts was that my style of play is to live at the margin.  I don’t blow people away or grind them out, I look for windows of opportunities and either exploit them or don’t.  I don’t need a lot of offense – I need the requisite amount of offense when I lunge.

Meanwhile, the deck is not light on defense.  Oh, it’s no intercepty fence.  But, titled minions and Scalpel Tongue, casual intercept, nearly 10% bounce, the ability to bloat some, and 12% Majesty mean a spectrum of defenses against pritnear everything.  Sure, Direct Intervention over Joseph Pander would make sense if the Pander theme is abandoned or whatever, but this deck can be thought of as a 65 card deck with 10 miscellaneous, low yield cards.  Small decks are all the rage now but weren’t at the time.

“When in doubt … Win.”

Crypt: (12 cards, Min: 10, Max: 38, Avg: 6.41)
2 Tupdog POT VIS 1 Gargoyle
1 Ismitta aus cel pot 4 Osebo
1 Idrissa aus CEL 4 Osebo
1 Homa AUS CEL POT 6 Osebo
1 Khalu ani pro AUS CEL POT 7 Osebo
2 Tatu Sawosa ani cel AUS OBF POT 8 Osebo
2 Massassi obf AUS CEL POT QUI 9 Osebo
2 Ayo Igoli obf tha AUS CEL FOR PRE 10 Ishtarri

Library: (80 cards)
Master (20 cards)
3 Blood Doll
1 Dreams of the Sphinx
1 Information Highway
3 Life in the City
1 Mbare Market, Harare
2 Minion Tap
4 Obfuscate
1 Direct Intervention
1 Barrens, The
1 Pentex Subversion
1 Giant’s Blood
1 Ancestor Spirit

Action (7 cards)
5 Computer Hacking
1 Legend of the Leopard
1 Victim of Habit

Action Modifier (11 cards)
1 Strange Day
2 Faceless Night
1 Lost in Crowds
1 Spying Mission
5 Cloak the Gathering
1 Elder Impersonation

Reaction (20 cards)
8 Wake with Evening’s Freshness
2 Eagle’s Sight
1 My Enemy’s Enemy
7 Telepathic Misdirection
2 Quicken Sight

Combat (8 cards)
4 Side Strike
4 Preternatural Evasion

Retainer (1 cards)
1 Shaman

Equipment (4 cards)
1 .44 Magnum
1 Ivory Bow
1 Changeling Skin Mask
1 Kduva’s Mask

Combo (9 cards)
8 Ancestor’s Insight
1 Swallowed by the Night


2 Tupdog POT VIS 1 Gargoyle
1 Ismitta aus cel pot 4 Osebo
1 Idrissa aus CEL 4 Osebo
1 Homa AUS CEL POT 6 Osebo
1 Khalu ani pro AUS CEL POT 7 Osebo
2 Tatu Sawosa ani cel AUS OBF POT 8 Osebo
2 Massassi obf AUS CEL POT QUI 9 Osebo
2 Ayo Igoli obf tha AUS CEL FOR PRE 10 Ishtarri

Osebo with Obfuscate, other Osebo with relevant disciplines, other Laibon with relevant disciplines – that was the order of criteria for this crypt.  This deck was a bit of a bookend, a finale, to my philosophy of playing bad clans in tournaments and showing that doing what the clans are supposed to be good at is the wrong path for winning with them.  Play stealth bleed.  Or, in the absence of that, play vote or something else that doesn’t suck.  Do not play melee weapon combat, etc.

Far too often, people overlook options just because other options are better.  The reality is that bleeding with Laibon with AUS is not that ridiculous.  I learned from doing Tzimisce stealth bleed that Dominateless/Presencesless/Dementationless bleed still hurts.  Besides the Laibon having toys (permanents in this case) that increase bleed, they get Ancestor’s Insight.

While I could speak of it later, I might as well stop now and point out something about cards I like to play.  I’m not into game swinging effects, raw, unbridled power, and the like.  I’m into versatility, flexibility, consistency.  Ancestor’s Insight is the sort of card to appeal to me for the same reason Changeling appeals to me or Telepathic Misdirection is probably my most played discipline-requiring card.

Anyway, back to crypt.  I’m a fan of crypt fungibility.  I’m not into superstars for sure, dude.  But, I’m also not even into chumps & studs style crypts and the like.  This deck is different.  I had my Obfuscators and my “look at all of the Osebo” dorks.  Ayo was key for expanding the Obfuscate angle while giving a theoretically useful special, but she was hardly necessary.

Unusual Choices

Action (7 cards)
5 Computer Hacking
1 Victim of Habit

Combat (8 cards)
4 Side Strike
4 Preternatural Evasion

One could say that the unusual choice was to graft Obfuscate onto Osebo, but for individual card choices, this is it.  Even then, Computer Hacking isn’t that unusual within context.

Victim of Habit has not lived up to the potential I saw when I built and played this deck.  I had a theory about that in some other blog post, but it just could be that it was always crap rather than becoming worse over time as metagames shifted.  I used the card in the tournament to oust someone … naming Unwholesome Bond!!  I was satisfied with it.

Computer Hacking seems to often get overlooked in decks that aren’t about winnies.  Well, admittedly, Dominate, Presence, and whatever else are so common in the game that Computer Hacking would be replaced.  And, nowadays, there’s Deep Song, so even Obfuscate and Protean decks get their own “Computer Hacking Plus”.  At the point of committing to stealth bleed, having action bleed pump was essential.  After all, this deck was modeled on my Tzimisce stealth bleed deck, so I knew that “Bleeding for how much?  4??” was a means for reducing pool.  Permanent bleed is less flexible and suited more to a grind style that I don’t possess.  Sure, some permableed is common in my decks and I’m huge, potentially large, on Heidelberg with J.S. and Tasha, but too much “on the table” scares folks into defensive postures and doesn’t disguise lunges well enough.

The combat seems goofy.  Maybe it is.  I know I was amused when making those choices.  Side Strike was obfuscation of whether the deck had meaningful combat or not.  Preternatural Evasion was obviously my No Trace long before No Trace got printed.  Leaking into strategic commitment, this deck was quite committed to its stealth bleed plan.

Strategic Commitment

Master (20 cards)
4 Obfuscate
1 Pentex Subversion
1 Ancestor Spirit

Action (7 cards)
5 Computer Hacking

Action Modifier (11 cards)
1 Strange Day
2 Faceless Night
1 Lost in Crowds
1 Spying Mission
5 Cloak the Gathering
1 Elder Impersonation

Reaction (20 cards)
8 Wake with Evening’s Freshness
1 My Enemy’s Enemy
7 Telepathic Misdirection

Retainer (1 cards)
1 Shaman

Equipment (4 cards)
1 Changeling Skin Mask
1 Kduva’s Mask

Combo (9 cards)
8 Ancestor’s Insight
1 Swallowed by the Night

That’s 50 card slots based on the idea of bleeding at stealth.  Yes, bleed bounce is stealth bleed.  Bleed bounce is “bleed (any)”.

Decks like this that force strategies that the crypts aren’t suited for don’t look committed.  But, actually, these sort of decks require additional commitment in the form of devoted slots just to do what other crypts could do natively.

Yes, there’s an intercept angle.  I find pure stealth bleed rather dull, so it’s the norm for my stealth bleed decks to have an intercept or intercept combat angle, just as it’s common for my intercept combat decks to have a stealth bleed angle.  Within the context that I don’t typically build monostrategic decks, this deck is committed to the stealth bleed with casual intercept archetype.

This deck was extremely successful, though I don’t recall what happened and can’t find a round by round report.  I think I was top seed.  I think the level of strategic commitment was better than some of my other tournament winning decks, certainly far, far better than that awful Ravnos deck and better than the Pander deck above.


The unusual choices section pretty much addressed quality.  Yes, Obfuscate masters are not strong like Dominate masters are, but, given that grafting Obfuscate was the plan, the card choices around that made sense.

Is this a good stealth bleed deck?  Only if you think disguising your strategy adds to goodness.  It’s awkward, especially with the smaller dudes.  It doesn’t have the copious free slots to put in magic bullets that efficient stealth bleed builds have.  Its intercept plan is medium and its combat plan is fragile.  Vote defense is not much of a thing, though the metagame at the time was much less votey than it is now.

But, it is versatile.  Side Strike and prayerish .44/Ivory is annoying while being additional defense (keep in mind that Carrion Crows wasn’t everywhere back then).  Ancestor’s Insight – two-way play.  Telepathic Misdirection … for the umpteenth time.  Shaman doubles as intercept while it’s waiting for the stealth bleed lunge.  Legend of the Leopard!  It’s not going to compare to modern Kiasyd decks in versatility, and, yes, it lacks the versatility of Govern the Unaligned type plays, but it could have been much worse.


A ripe topic for further posts.  For this post, what other takeaways are there about my deckbuilding style?

I like around 10% bounce.  I like having at least as many wakes as bounce.  I’m pro Dreams/Info/Barrens.  Card cycling is crucial in nearly every game where acceleration may mean the difference between having a game and not against a fierce predator.

I don’t tend to play a lot of copies of cards unless they give deck flexibility.  This is actually important for when people borrow my decks.  My decks may seem inconsistent due to not drawing copies of certain cards consistently, but the idea is that of fungibility.  If you just need one card to get out of a combat, whether you draw a maneuver, a dodge, or a combat ends doesn’t matter.  Enchant Kindred and Entrancement do the same thing at inferior.  Wake + bounce is the equivalent of taking a bleed action.  Sins of the Cauchemar is totally an intercept card …

Though, as an aside, my speaking of fungibility may seem misplaced by those who’ve played my decks as I’ve had people say that they run into problems when they discard a card that is key to the deck, not realizing its importance.  I’d actually say it has more to do with people discarding cards that they should play because the efficiency of the deck over the course of the game, rather than in the moment, goes up.  The card is not key.  The recognition of the potential for a card to be useful later is key, as is adapting one’s game based on lost resources.  For example, if I discard all of my permableed, I need to make up that pool damage some other way by additional bleed actions, bouncing bigger bleeds, having a tighter window in which to lunge, etc.

These two decks do share a theme of disguised intent.  When people borrow my decks, they don’t always know that some slots are taken up with cards that don’t need to be played or that don’t have anything to do with the strategic intent.

Now, these two decks both used Auspex, making them not as distinct as they could be.  Though, there is a reason Auspex is featured often in my tournament winning decks.  I think what I’ll do for the next in this series is try to find a nontournament deck that exhibits aspects of my building decks, one that is different in some qualitative way, though I fully expect similarities.


September 14, 2013

I have no opinion on the game play, not having time at Gen Con to demo it, but I hope people take a look at this Kickstarter:

Speaking of time magic, I’ve slid into a reflective mood at times, recently.  I’ve already touched upon the subject of playing a game without worrying about the game – just do whatever seems fun.  And, many of my deckbuilding gimmicks have involved rewinding time to a point when there were fewer cards and my deckbuilding strategies were different.

But, I’ve been thinking about what appeals and what doesn’t about various games that led me to where I am.


I have books on chess.  For some reason, I keep pulling one of them down from the shelf that I’ve never enjoyed reading.  The problem with its format is that it sets up a key point in a game to illustrate an aspect of chess and gives the key move … and then gives all of the remaining moves in the game without diagrams of the evolving play position.  I’m not motivated to pull out a set and play through the moves.  I realize that means I’m not the target audience.

Why am I not a target audience for chess?

It’s a game with completely known information.  I may not be that into surprises, but I like guessing.  I like unknown information, which, as I keep saying, is why I prefer CCGs to CMGs or CDGs.

But, it occurred to me that there’s another aspect of chess that differentiates itself from, say, Dragon Dice or another game with known info.  Symmetry.  Collectible/customizable games lack symmetry.  RPGs lack symmetry.  Some boardgames have symmetry or close to it, while others have varying start positions or have factions.

While having nothing to do with time, lack of symmetry is appealing to me.  I don’t like doing what everyone else does, which is quite obvious with my RPG characters but should be obvious with my CCG decks.  That ability to do something different is dependent upon the lack of symmetry in a game.  Sure, you can make various dumb opening moves in chess games that nobody makes just to be different, but the goal isn’t to be stupid, it’s to be different, and there are only so many of those moves, anyway.


When am I ever going to play again?  No idea.

Note that mahjong has hidden information.  I found the subgame of trying to guess what people have in their hands to be quite entertaining.  It’s also asymmetrical!  Sure, you have equal chances of having any hand, but you never have the same hand as someone else, even though it’s possible.

Rather than break bridge out into its own section, as I’ve never played a significant amount of bridge, I’d just point out how scientific games like bridge are because by definition you cannot have the same cards in hand as someone else.

Mahjong was my favorite game growing up for a variety of reasons that had nothing to do with its mechanics.  It was a family thing.  It has gambling.  The tiles (without numbers) look cool.  Different sets had different styles which gave different personalities.  I liked the old-fashioned or more stylized sets much of the time.  I even collected sets – I’ve always been into collecting.

And, it had special mechanics that separated it from rummy card games I played.  Certain melds, certain tiles (flowers), certain hands all followed special rules, which even bled into special rules in play.  “Nine down” meant you had to be careful about throwing a tile of that suit, and so forth with the exotic/esoteric old school style of play that the family used.

Style.  Specialness/unusualness.  Trying to read other people’s positions not by trying to read other people but by following their actions.  These and possibly more are elements I see in games I choose to play today.


I technically started with some transitional product between D&D and AD&D, but AD&D was really my first experience with D&D.  A very limited experience as I didn’t play the game growing up, just bought it and read it and did some character creation and whatnot.

That period of being interested in AD&D but not playing it had an effect that makes me wonder about my current tastes in RPGs.  The reality is, while maybe not a problem for the day or when put up against so many competitors, the mechanics of D&D games rather suck.  What drew me in with the Player’s Handbook and the Monster Manual was flavor.  The art made me interested in creating a paladin character (or a victim of a succubus or whatever).  I had yet to become offended by how dwarves and elves and other demihuman races are portrayed in RPGs.  Even the art in Dragon magazine and the like was appealing with Phil Foglio cartoon humor, et al.

One of the reasons I stopped buying D&D products is that it lost all of its flavor to me.  Fourth Edition may be the worst offender when it comes to feeling like everything is just numbers, but 3e started down the path of making the game feel just mechanical to me, even if that path had been started previously with 2e or whatever.

Now, if there weren’t other RPGs out there, then maybe I would have stuck with it.  Off the top of my head, I’m trying to think of what fantasy RPG showed me a different model.  Not Melee/Wizard/The Fantasy Trip – those were precursors to an even more mechanical feeling game:  GURPS (Fantasy).  Champions certainly would never have made me see a different path!!

It had to be something about playing at conventions in one-shots of more narrative games.  Vampire: The Masquerade, perhaps, with 7th Sea being a more fantasy RPG in a similar vein.

But, you know what?  It might have been Origins 1994 that took me down my path.

Immortal – The Invisible War

Once my favorite RPG (maybe even game).  Highlander (TV series) and World of Darkness RPGs is what I thought of when I was first exposed to this (playwise, I saw ads for it in Dragon) when Origins was in San Jose (it was in San Mateo in 1981?!?).  After having Ran Ackels, the designer, run a table for me at Origins, I started describing it as a cross between Highlander and Mage.

I have my signed copy sitting a couple feet away.  I’m getting interested in it again, though no one else would ever run it for me and I don’t have any desire to run it, myself.

What was so appealing about it?

First, mythology.  I love mythology.  Where I got increasingly disenchanted with AD&D because I thought the game was making Tolkien (and the original Northern European myths) races silly, Immortal could be all about a spin on real world myths.  Sure, V:TM got there first as did whatever else, but this put world mythology up front.

Second, mechanics.  Sure, Immortal made InQuest Magazine’s “Games That Suck” article (I think the first one but maybe the second).  Sure, when talking to Ran and Rick Don, who became the game’s champion, there were comments about how the mechanics didn’t actually work.  But, I think that’s an important point – mechanics only need to seem to work.  I was not a campaigner back in the day.  I was a conventioner.  I didn’t see all of the problems in trying to build real characters or in how the GM was to resolve issues.  What I saw in that first experience was a PC going through sewage pipes in some liquid (maybe gas) form.  I saw my character look into the future and be reluctant to tell anyone what would happen because, the more the future is known, the less you can change it.

But, I’m getting off track on mechanics.  What appealed to me about the mechanics was Floating Immaculum.  And, yes, the game had just as many and possibly more (!!) pretentious names for everything.  Immortals have (rainbow colored) Halos, which are attributes.  They have Motes of Immaculum in those Halos, showing how strong the attribute is.  Okay, just pretentious names for same old, same old.  Except, Dragon Magazine’s Immortal flyer went over Free Immaculum.  Immortals have a certain number of Motes that can be moved around from attribute to attribute.  I need to be stronger, I assign to Orange.  Faster, Green.  If I leave it as Free, my initiative or number of actions or something was improved.

The art isn’t quite my style, but it was evocative.  But, I digress.

Immortal gave me a view of a RPG that could appeal on a story level much more than “My half-elf is multiclassed fighter/magic-user and will Sleep the orcs.”  It gave me weird mechanics (to go with mundane things that were essentially modern day skills – I also like real world settings whether modern or historical).  It was not a mass market product.  When I played it, which, at first, was only with Ran running, I got to do cool stuff, the mechanics were incredibly minimal, but it didn’t have the “rules lite” annoyances that a lot of more modern games incorporated.

For a time, it was perfect.  Later, it became less perfect in my eyes.  I saw more of the challenges in mechanics and running a campaign.  I really didn’t like what was done with Second Edition.  The game became too much about Immortal politics rather than modern day mythology in my play.

Tying into Chromancy, there was even time travel in some adventure I was in, might have been the LARP I played in.


Time to wrap things up.  Memories make you.  There have been many games I’ve left behind that mattered a lot at the time.  Besides leading to me to where I am, it is possible to go back to the well with some of these games.  Can still riff on Babylon 5 with that CCG, can still try to do opening hand optimization with the Wheel of Time CCG, can still play the most fun CCG of all time, Ultimate Combat!, and, of course, RPGs never become obsolete.  After all, how different is Melee/Wizard from, say, BattleTech?

Bu Shi Bushi

September 8, 2013

Not a recent argument I’ve had, but looking at some threads I commented upon on the AEG forums, I feel like making my one-sided argument for how not good L5R 4e bushi can be.

Basically, I don’t have much respect for bushi.  But, more specifically, I don’t have much respect for bushi that don’t have simple attacks and in relation to other options.  Context being everything and all.

For instance, how much better is a bushi in combat than a courtier with high Reflexes, a bow, and armor?

Let’s look.

Removing armor from the equation (which really screws Hida Bushi) and looking only at common bushi techniques, what would a bushi archer (w/ yumi) do better at combat than a courtier archer (w/ yumi) at or below the level of simple attacks?

Hida Bushi

Reduction equal to Earth Ring.  Not a terribly fair comparison since heavy armor is a specific thing for Hida Bushi.

Hiruma Bushi

+1k0 attacks.  Increasing ATN as combat continues at rank 2.  Another ATN bonus.

Kakita Bushi

Initiative bonus.  Gaining more from taking half of their combat rounds doing nothing than other people who use the do nothing stance.  Possible +2k0 attack rolls.

Daidoji Iron Warrior

Wounds, +1k0 attacks.  Broken rank 2 tech.

Mirumoto Bushi

Heal 5 extra from Path to Inner Peace, +2 ATN per school rank.

Akodo Bushi

Ah, Lion.  Studly stuff.

Matsu Beserker

Best rank 1 bushi tech.  Tactical movement stuff.

Yoritomo Bushi

+1 ATN per rank, questionable terrain ability, +1k0 attacks.  Reduce ATN of something you hit.

Tsuruchi Archer

+3 Initiative, +1k0 attacks.  +2k0 damage.  Simple yumi attacks.

Shiba Bushi

Guard as Free Action (the other ability should have hardly any combat impact).  Spell manipulation.  Void recovery.

Bayushi Bushi

+1k1 Initiative, often +5 ATN.  Couple of points of damage bonus.  Fatigue.

Moto Bushi

+1k0 damage when mounted.  Highly unpredictable attack bonus.

Utaku Battle Maiden

Attack or damage bonus.  +5 Initiative or ATN.  If mounted, simple yumi attacks.


That’s 13 schools for comparison.  One can argue that comparing at archerness is hardly fair since most of these schools do other fighting stuff.  Sure, but, if you consider an archer to be valuable in combat, then there’s a point to this.  If you don’t consider a high REF dude with Kyujutsu 3 valuable in combat, I don’t think you understand 4e combat very well.

Anyway, removing Hida Bushi as an unfair “test” when it comes to arguing about how important armor is to differentiating bushi from those who don’t get it in their starting kits, I’d say six of these schools are clearly superior at being a combatant:  Daidoji Iron Warrior, Akodo Bushi, Matsu Beserker, Tsuruchi Archer, Bayushi Bushi (!!), Utaku Battle Maiden.

A Hiruma will start creating separation at rank 2.  Kakita Bushi is actually pretty much an archery school and would have the attack bonus often enough to be distinct from being a courtier.  Two schools depend upon magic being cast to have much of a combat impact, though free Guarding can be more meaningful in certain parties and Shiba rank 3 is a separator.

But, is the separation for the other six that great?  If I have a REF 5, Earth 3, Kyujutsu 3 [blank] versus the same build courtier, am I going to feel outclassed playing the courtier?

The primary point is that there are a good number of not terribly important bushi abilities.

Armor is amazing in 4e for both pushing up already higher TNs than 3e and for reduction.  But, a courtier, shugenja, monk, artisan, ninja can wear armor, too, they just don’t normally have it.  If you internalize armor, then, sure, bushi all get a substantial combat effect for being bushi, but I hate equipment being important to how powerful a character is, and a dependence upon armor as a separator means that situations where you don’t have your armor get embarrassing.

But, y’know, if the separator is just +1k0 on attacks, +4 ATN, or the like, I’m not seeing the awesome that bushi are supposed to be at combat.  That bushi would tend to be built differently, spending more time with most schools on Agility and having 9’s explode on damage, the pure archer saves a ton of XP riding Reflexes to the promise land of combat relevance.  Not to say that courtier excel at combat, more that by the time the bushi is getting simple attacks, they finally start being meaningful vis-a-vis shugenja in combat, no longer being an also ran, like courtiers, et al, are.  After all, the air shugenja is going to have REF 5 and Kyujutsu 3 … unless the player hates efficiency.

The better bushi schools certainly outclass random Reflexes dudes at fighting, even without simple attacks.  But, only about half of the bushi schools actually qualify to be called better, in my view.  Rather, I have the sense that people make apples to oranges comparisons based on how they think characters from different schools will be built.  There’s no particular reason a courtier will have lower combat relevant traits or lower combat skills.  If kata were much more useful in general, that would be something, but a lot of them suck (as blogged about previously), if less and less a percentage of the total as newer ones get published.

Now, there’s certainly an argument that Reflexes is overpowered.  If all attack rolls went off of Agility, that would help combat balance.  But, I’ve been making arguments about how 4e is, not how it should be, when it comes to denigrating the value of bushi.  Not that I’d argue for the superiority of courtiers – half their techniques seem virtually worthless to me.  Nor am I even suggesting that shugenja being better than everyone else (besides things like Henshin) is a big problem, as efficiency isn’t a major problem in my L5R play, I just don’t get why people don’t think they are so much more powerful/versatile than other schools.  That lack of recognition offends my sensibilities.