Mysterious

February 26, 2014

Finally got caught up on Sherlock.  I find that I enjoy reading people’s comments about the shows I watch, as I miss movie review programs and the like.

While I don’t think the show is as smart … maybe that’s not the word … as polished as it was in season 1, there’s a kind of complaint for this show I find common and notable.  People seem to complain more recently about how the mysteries, themselves, are neither as good nor as important.

I had an epiphany some years ago about ACD’s original stories.  I’ve read most of them more than twice, especially not the longer ones.  I’ve also read miscellaneous efforts by other authors.  My epiphany was that Sherlock Holmes isn’t about good mysteries.  In terms of “mystery quality”, the mysteries sometimes suck and a lot are just one-trick ponies.  The reader doesn’t get key information that would allow the reader to figure things out for themselves.  Trust me on this, it’s not always the case, but it’s often the case that Holmes does stuff to figure things out that we only hear about at the end of the story, when he’s explaining everything.

So, if the mysteries aren’t actually good mysteries, what does make the stories so compelling?

Characters.  Situations.  Scenes.

The hot babes Watson is constantly enamored with who consult with Holmes may not be especially notable, but so many of the characters who visit 221 or that the dynamic duo quickly come across in their investigations are odd, bizarre, distinct.  Some are just distinct for being “in every way a respectable Englishman”, but Holmes’ world is a world of weird characters.  Mrs. Hudson may be largely nonexistent and the Scotland Yard detectives tend to be hard to keep straight because they are mostly useless, but Mycroft is a character of a character, and so on.

The mysteries may not be all that mysterious, but the situations disguise that.  ACD’s stories were more pseudo-weird tales, where something seems insane because the baddies went way out of their way to make their crimes difficult, I mean, colorful.

While most mysteries are all about the revealing explanation scene, just as Perry Mason is all about the revealing outburst in the middle of court, there are other scenes that the pair find themselves in that register with the reader.  The “I can tell everything about someone” scenes at the beginning of many of the stories is key to the popularity of the series and the natures of the protagonists.

So, gaming.

The takeaway from realizing that Sherlock Holmes is not so much about solving mysteries but about the character of Holmes and the characters around him (including the everyman who describes their adventures) is that RPG play is often not about what it’s sold as.  For instance, the idea that playing a character and getting into character and seeing character development isn’t actually that common in my experience.  On the other hand, neither are the adventures seemingly at the heart of play.  Many an adventure (in home play) may come down to killing some mooks and killing some big bad and getting some sort of reward or making a bunch of rolls to do one thing well, e.g. climbing, stealth, diplomacy.  Nor is it being immersed in a world, not even when the world is supposed to be the reason for the game – see Star Wars, et al.

The most engaging element of RPG play, from my experience, is that of character sheet values.  “But, that’s your powergamer group, that’s not us.”  Maybe it isn’t you, but it’s not my group either.  It’s every single one of my groups, which is somewhere in the neighborhood of 30-50 people I’ve played RPGs with regularly at one point or another.

I’m not saying that character mechanics are the end all and be all of my play.  I just find it revealing and kind of fascinating how often someone who doesn’t seem to think he or she is a mechanics person mention something about a character’s numbers.  Then, it’s also the lack of mentioning things about the world, the NPCs, the inner thoughts or explicit goals of their characters, or the “why” we mow down a bunch of mooks that reinforces the idea that character mechanics are the primary interest of the player.

I’m not outside of such considerations.  I talk about my characters’ abilities all of the time.  But, when it comes to a comparison of what my characters achieve in game versus what they could achieve due to attribute X and skill Y, I’m far more enthused by the former.

“But, why can’t other people be like you?  Why can’t they talk the lingua game-a of stats but actually care about the role or the world or whatever artsy pretentious nonsense that you are trying to push on us?”

It’s possible.  But, again, it’s not just what people choose to speak about but also what they ignore in campaigns that makes me think that role-playing is nowhere near as much of a thing as roll-playing.  I’m not into elaborate backstories for my new characters.  I’ve spent far too much time thinking about things that never arise in play or even in my off stage stories.  The fleshing out of who someone is and where they came from and what they care about is all far better done through the course of playing that character.  And, I’m not fond of being put on the spot to make something up that may or may not make sense for the character once I actually get to play the character.

But, unlike others, I do develop those areas when it makes sense in the campaign to do so.  Obviously, a tactical wargame style campaign doesn’t incentivize character development.  I will give my players opportunities to develop NPCs that could be relevant to their characters.  I can’t recall, off the top of my head, someone taking up those opportunities and running with it.  On the other hand, I’ve volunteered to create NPCs for campaigns, NPCs my characters may never interact with.

I’m not a good role-player, in that I don’t care as much about character as I care about plot or as much as I care about tossing in some humor into play, either of which leads me to not spend much effort to get “into” character.  On the other hand, having a character that is a feature of a world (campaign) is a lot more interesting to me than having a collection of numbers that lives within the context of other numbers.

“What did you achieve?”

I achieved 10ke5 on my attack roll and 7km3 on my damage roll.  Shrug.

I achieved seducing the Emperor’s daughter.  “Who hasn’t?”  Um, anyone else in the party.

I achieved the killing of Oni no Acid.  “Well, we fought the Oni Lord …”

I caused the city to riot to help our efforts to kill the God of Iron and Steel, which led to the collapse of the worship of the old gods in this here parts.

I saved the world by rolling 72 on my Persuasion check.  “If you take the Cheat-Code Path from Broken Book III: The Breakening, you could totally do that at level -4, 81% of the time, and that’s not counting the bonuses you can get for being in deep fog.”

I found my wife, right before her end.

Another thing that’s interesting about how I play RPGs in contrast to (some) others is that I’m far more interested in NPCs … “Stop.  Just stop.  Tired of you bringing this up.” … and far less interested in other PCs.  It’s not that I don’t care at all.  It’s that what other PCs do is less important than what NPCs do because the latter is the window into the world where the former is just players like me doing stuff like I do.  I bring this up because I’m not bothered by other players having other priorities in terms of the experience they get.  If they want to tune their character sheets or deep dive into the pathos of their existence or keep a running total of kills/loot quantities, sure, whatever floats your boat.

What breakdown may occur is when the GM and the player aren’t on the same page … “Stop, Just stop.  Didn’t you talk about this like five times before in this blog?” … about what is rewarding to the player.  If the GM thinks the player wants to power up and the player wants to have meaningful relationships with Catholic, Japanese, angel/vampire/monster-hunter schoolgirls, or vice versa, an opportunity for a more fulfilling experience is lost.

To drag this back to the lead-in, just as someone reading (or watching?) Sherlock Holmes for the intelligent mysteries is likely to have a less than fulfilling experience.  The longer I’ve played, the clearer it has become to me what I’m looking for out of RPG play, no matter how hard it becomes to express my interests, at times.  What hasn’t become clearer to me is what others truly care about and not what they comment about.


Microhammer

February 25, 2014

A conversation the first night of our Orccon trip was what people would ban for V:TES.  A lot of folks have specific cards they really want out of the game.  I don’t.

I have a very long list of cards I want out of the game.  But, within that list, there are a lot of cards that are about equally undesirable to me.  The first thing I’d change about the game isn’t even card related, it’s a rules change – eliminating Scarce.

That night, I forgot a whole category of cards I’d like to see gone.  And, that’s the thing, for me, it’s more about categories than individual cards.  The reason why Eyes of Argus is bad for the game is not because of Eyes of Argus but because of the vast number of layerable intercept effects for Auspex.  If Enhanced Senses wasn’t legal, then, sure, have some other Auspex intercept variant.  But, I’m getting ahead of myself.

The first two categories I thought of were Imbued and promo cards.  I pretty much include 10th Anniversary cards in the promo category, including such reprints as Bowl of Convergence and, uh, Channel 10.  The only two 10th cards I’d miss at all would be Powerbase: Los Angeles and Rastacourere, and I don’t play either all that much.

Saturday’s tournaments reminded of the other obvious category – events.  Of Imbued and events, events are far more annoying.  The Unmasking is the primary offender, as the game was far better when you weren’t constantly getting blocked by allies.  Veil of Darkness, The Rising, The Slow Withering/Blood Weakens would be the next most in about that order, in my experience.  I’m sure some would be happy for Anthelios to go away, or whatever.

Sure, Ashur Tablets is incredibly bad design being nowhere near limited enough.  Govern, Conditioning, Aire, Foreshadowing are all too much bleed.  Parity Shift is both swingy and overly controllish.  First Tradition reduces interaction.  Out of turn acting ability is terrible and leads to awful decks like Reversal of Fortunes.  Voter Cap makes Presence too votesy.  No Secrets is a ridiculous lock card.  Sensory Dep is a ridiculous lock card.  Pentex is exceedingly antifun.  Et cetera.  Et cetera.  Et cetera.

But, there are just so many about equally offensive things that none of them really stand out to me.  To truly stand out to me, something would have to be more consistently played or just end people’s games in one shot.  The closest I can think of is The Unmasking, which doesn’t even show up all that often in my casual play as Imbued are rare and other ally decks are even rarer.

But, the beauty of no events is it takes that away.  The beauty of no promos is no more Gran Madre, Carlton, Bowl, Erciyes.

But, the problem with all of this beauty is that it doesn’t address the underlying issue with the game, which is that it has too many cards.  It’s not so much that abilities have bled from one discipline to another.  I don’t really care that Protean gets casual intercept.  It’s that there are so many cards that once were viable that just kind of don’t do much, anymore.  A long, long time ago, I thought of Necromancy as a stealth discipline, but Spectral Divination seems like so much filler these days, where it was a truly fascinating card back when stealth and intercept from the same card was odd and paying one blood for that didn’t seem all that bad.

Actually, that last paragraph is mostly a load of crap.  Bleed for six has always been around and constantly trumped playing other cards.  Tap and Cap has always been around.  Etc.  I got way off focus.

What is the worst thing about the game?

I don’t know.  I don’t like multiple master phase actions, never have.  I don’t like people doing a dozen different things before their minion phase – I brought up why in a previous year’s post.  I don’t like one thing from one game and something else from another game.

But, I lost every game I played over four tournaments and three casual games in one recent weekend and I still had fun and I didn’t find a problem with any particular table or deck.  Sure, I didn’t play against either Imbued deck.  But, I did get locked down twice in endgame situations because I didn’t play better to engineer not having to win those endgame match ups.


Political Necessities

February 24, 2014

At a point when we were in Los Angeles, Aaron and I were talking about his deck.  He has been working on a Followers of Set vote deck.  He was pointing out how often Confusion of the Eye and Delaying Tactics came up, especially from Bay Area players.

There’s a reason for that.

Fast forward to yesterday.  We played two games.

In the first game, a deck tried to get off a couple of Archons but both were DIed.  Of more importance was getting off Ancient Influence.  In the second game, a Parity Shift heavy deck easily rolled.

Voting is the least interactive and most game distorting facet of the game.

For the latter, it’s not nearly as crazy as the old days, when seat-switching was ubiquitous and “call a vote, burn a vampire” was legal.  But, you can’t give pool to people through bleeds or through combat or through equipping, bringing out allies, or nearly anything else except certain masters.  Those masters – Powerbase: Montreal, Powerbase: Chicago, Brothers Grimm, et al – tend to be slow and require effort on another player’s part.  Meanwhile, Con Boon and Parity Shift are solid ways to prop many a deck up.

Maybe not as common in a Scourge of the Enochians world (to the extent people actually play the card), but I’ve seen decks designed for tournament play that run only Anarchist Uprising and/or Ancilla Empowerment, as voting was the only feasible way to nuke winnie decks.  Often, the best way for a vote deck to win crosstable from a wall or tooled up deck is to bombard it with pool loss when it isn’t next to it.  Kindred Spirits is so powerful because you can go backwards or crosstable – it becomes awfully Social Charmy when it only goes forwards, if still better mostly for the easy stealth options and somewhat for the ability to gain pool off of the inferior.  Sure, rush or intercept combat can work on wrecking a predator, but vote decks can effortlessly shift from forward to backward or vice versa, as the situation calls for.

But, is anybody trying to argue the game distorting power of votes?

What someone might try to argue is the interactive elements of voting.  Even in Jyhad days, it was easy to find massive discrepancies in permanent votes, and that’s when everyone had Camarilla vampires.  Toss in indies, who tend to be vote suck, Sabbies, who tend to be less votey though they got some cheap dudes with some votes, bloodlines, virtually unvotey outside of Daughters, and discipline focused decks and you get vast discrepancies in the ability to influence votes.  Many, many of my decks have had zero titled vampires because, oddly enough, I like to play more than a small amount of the card pool.

Then, Surprise Influence, Dread Gaze, and all of the rest have the problem that Bewitching Oration is not symmetrical with Dread Gaze in actual play.  Vote decks can play terribly.  It could be that they get blocked over and over again in the case of Law Firm style, low stealth decks.  Or, they can be outvoted by random “I bleed with Inner Circle Member” decks.  Or, they can run into the few, relatively generic (well, two very generic and one reasonably playable) options for decks that don’t play a titled arms race or a massive intercept game – Delaying Tactics, Direct Intervention, and Confusion of the Eye.

It’s funny to think Delaying Tactics used to be free and allies could play it.  I guess I just didn’t see it back then all that much because people (I played with) didn’t feel the need to metagame against vote to the extent they do today, even though vote was more powerful when you could snipe VPs.

I used to argue that my primary reason for running DI was to stop seat-switching (toss in Protect Thine own, sure).  But, nowadays, every time I play OBF, Confusion of the Eye must go in.  Just far too many games where people sit around and watch Alastor, Parity Shift, or whatever make a game obnoxious.

Getting back to anecdotes.  In the first game, the deck calling votes had no intercept next to it.  Sometimes that plus vote control happens.  That deck had 5 votes in titles and the other decks had 6 votes in titles, but that didn’t mean any vote was contested, not even the bloodhunts from a couple of diableries.  In the second game, the stealth vote deck was calling votes at effectively four stealth.  It had intercept on both sides, including an Ahrimanes intercept combat deck in front of it, and that intercept meant nothing.  Vote lock and stealth – what sort of answer is someone supposed to have?

Any of the rest of the decks could have had Delaying Tactics, of course, or Direct Intervention.  The deck across the table had minions with OBF, so it could have had Confusion of the Eye.  None of those saw play on the Parity Shifts.  That game was fast and the only real interaction was due to rush (terrible interaction, but that’s a rant for another day).

I’d note that neither of the decks voting played Voter Cap and one of them wasn’t a vote deck.  Voter Cap only makes things sillier where massive amounts of blood turn into pool and then reappear.  Tables will often mitigate to the extent they can how much someone gains from Voter Cap, but a lot of decks have no ability to influence those amounts.

So, yes, DT and DI are rather the suck, as they don’t just slow down beastly decks but hamper workman decks, but, then, that’s sort of the nature of answers in CCGs – they tend to hurt less powerful plays more than more powerful plays as a side effect of giving players the ability to defend against more powerful plays.  And, CotE has the side effect of giving problems to decks that don’t own the votes and aren’t running votes that require titles.  But, I’d say a significant portion of uninteresting or flat out bad games come from runaway vote decks.

Now, there are other ways to stop voting decks.  Rush, Kindred Spirits, Bureaucratic Overload (I used to see this played, though it didn’t really do much), bleed for a lot, coordinated bouncing to the deck, etc.  So, it’s not like stealth vote is dominant.  I’ve considered it one of the elite archetypes in the game for a fair number of years, at this point, but that’s hardly unbalancing when you can run out an archetype with 94 in its name and roll over people.

Point being that this post isn’t about the nightmare pain of vote decks.  The point is that there are few answers for many a deck and decks that don’t run those answers tend to get abused when playing against voting decks.


Makeaways

February 20, 2014

Yup, more V:TES.  One of the main effects of playing a CCG is getting ideas for new decks.  One of the main effects of being around players you aren’t always around is getting ideas for new decks.

My main makeaway, though, from Orccon isn’t any specific deck.  It’s general things I’d like to do with decks that I forget about.

1.  Smaller Crypts

I’ve always found 5-caps and 6-caps pleasing.  It’s true that the current card pool has done a lot to push high cap play, and I see the metagame answer being winnies to punish high cap decks.  However, I don’t really care about what’s good in the metagame when it comes to actually playing the game.

I’m both interested in dorks and midcaps.  Banishment, Pentex, et al, all hurt less when you have four or five dudes doing deeds.  Just having 4+ dudes greatly increases action versatility since I’m not a big Freak Drive player.  More token bleeds, more token table actions, more hunts (missing the good ole days of hunting), more flexibility when it comes to pool management are seekworthy things.

So, why did I go high?  Variety.  I’ve built a lot of decks that ran one or two disciplines or three inclan disciplines, which is where midcaps tend to function.  I’ve never been sanguine on smallfries, not even when they were support dorks, as I’ve tended to be pro-disciplines and superiors are so much better than inferiors for a bunch of disciplines.

Whether it was unusual mixes of disciplines that tended to be more common in the sky or whether it was using the abilities of certain highflyers, I’d like to get back to “just some guys”.  But, see below for a countertrend.

2.  Goodstuff

There’s way too much goodstuff in V:TES, a function of an everexpanding cardpool.  It’s certain cards, such as Perfectionist, that I want to run more often.  It’s like how I always seem to get value out of Life in the City, but it rarely makes the cut.  Hell, I seem to get value out of Storage Annex but occasionally forget it exists.

With combat having become more of a thing, the random .44 is not as exciting, but there is usually room for a few discardable cards.  I think about Conceal at times but not consistently enough.  Earth Meld is so good, and yet I seem to run it rarely, more rarely than how rarely I run Protean.  Leverage is rarely played anymore, though that could change if I go shorter with the crypt.  Kind of hard to justify Leverage when the plan is an 11-cap, a 10-cap, and maybe a 6-cap.

Mostly an issue with masters and equipment, especially the former, but I’m sure there are some other cards that slip my mind that are goodstuffish.

3.  Proportion Changes

This is something I hadn’t been thinking a lot about that struck me over the weekend.  I want to take archetypes I’ve built before and mess with the proportions.  I’ve been doing this by taking out more and more offense for … I’m not sure what.  I’m building way too many low offense decks, so one path is more burn.  But, actually, more of the ideas I think about are ideas like Kiasyd going heavier combat (admittedly, I’ve done this multiple times).  Vote decks that run more votes is a thought.  Intercept combat with more combat is a thought.  Rush with more stealth is … not a good thought.  It’s mostly about having some sort of baseline and mucking about with it to see if that makes it terrible or not.

4.  Vampire Specials

Where 1. was about not building to specials, in theory.  This isn’t actually about superstar decks and the like.  I’d actually like to do more with tinier dude specials.  InJest saw Dr. Jest’s, Jazz’s, and Melissa’s specials being used in one round.  Obviously, I’m not concerned by having good specials to work with, just the random oddities that some folks get.  Even +1 STR versus a clan or the like would be somewhat entertaining.

5.  Remembering Cards

Where 2. is sort of remembering good cards, this is about remembering other cards.  So much talk of Boons one of the days.  Some Boons are kind of bad but not unplayable.  There are numerous cards that I think “oh, yeah, meant to play that” whether because I haven’t played it or haven’t played it in a long time.

Earth-Feeder, Hall of Hades’ Court, Inscription, Glass Walker Pact would be more of the build around kind of cards that I could do something with, but there are just miscellaneous cards I keep forgetting that aren’t unplayable but don’t see any play.


Orccon 2014

February 17, 2014

“You are what your results say you are.”

We had a blast driving down to the City of Angels for President’s Weekend to do the four V:TES tournaments in two days thing.  On the drive home, I was trying to explain with some difficulty (everything was difficult due to lack of sleep) that there is much more of a California V:TES community these days due to the evolution of the NoCal and SoCal scenes.  Back when SoCal had a thriving community on its own, it didn’t need NoCal, and NoCal used to be a bit more predictable about tournaments.  NoCalers still don’t travel much – a geographical reality of the US is that the West is not terribly convenient for those in other time zones and vice versa.  There’s a reason Gen Con gets 40,000 people and Gen Con SoCal was rather horrid.

With less individual … vitality(?), certain players are making the trek up or down this state, and we have become far more familiar with each other and only breed so much contempt.  My motivation to visit the Southerners isn’t just the weakness and/or monotony of Bay Area conventions on the three-day weekends and not just because I have a desire to play more V:TES tournaments but because I like hanging with the Southern Boys (though, if there were more Girls, that could only be a good thing – someone work on that).

We got a reasonable start Friday, largely dictated by when I could leave work.  Got into Courtlyoil’s place 12:30AM.  Talked for an hour or so and didn’t try some insane late night game.

Saturday

Jann Berger’s “M” is for Masochism (10)

We had the dreaded 11, so Goudie sat out.

Round 1:

Ian (Free Sacraments) -> Brandon (Vent-new First Tradition) -> Julien (Aus/Cel/Tha/?) -> Matt (mono-Valeren) -> Aaron (Cel/Pot/Pre)

Ooh, combat.  Everyone was ready to bust out combat for the first tournament.  I actually had all four of the tournaments planned in terms of which of my decks to play.  My thought was to go from most “fun” to most annoying over the course of the weekend since Sunday night’s event was expected to be the least attended and most “let’s get this over with”, which was completely not the case as we almost had attendance go up for every subsequent event.

I bring out Tara and Brandon still gets First Tradition off, which causes Matt, Aaron, and me to skip our turns, though that was just bad play on my part.  I was trying to get some psychological advantage, but it cost me time to contend with Brandon’s vote control.  I didn’t know it, but one of my early draws was going to be New Carthage, which got Washed when I played it but might not have if it came down a turn earlier.

Julien took one turn while Matt kept skipping.  Matt’s Sticky !Salubri concerned Aaron, so there was fighting over there.  I didn’t have a Second Tradition in the beginning but started drawing them and tried to contain Brandon.  We did stop stacked First Traditions, but Julien was still screwed by Brandon having a bunch of dudes with Dominate.  I got out Jann Berger after a time to stop having to pay for Sacrament of Carnage, but it was hard to land any against Majesty.

Aaron bled me some as I wasn’t inclined to fight to my right and try to keep Brandon from rolling to the left.  Julien defended a bit.  Matt took most of the beatings in his fights with Aaron’s Theo (adv) and Bianca.  Brandon ran out of Majestys and got low on pool even though my offense was muted by not wanting to bleed into bounce.  The First Tradition action had decreased his pool considerably as well and the recovery hadn’t really occurred.  Brandon ousts Julien, then is down to 2 pool, and I surprisingly oust him after holding on a turn from Aaron’s lunge.

But, Matt had recovered, as no one had cleared his torpor region.  Matt Codex of the Edenic Groundskeepersed away Aaron’s pool.  Aaron ceased.  In the endgame, mono-Valeren is just too much firepower of an Eldritch God (mostly due to Hide the Heart).  Matt’s gigantic pool stack due to not being part of the First Tradition poolsuck meant I had to nuke all of his dudes and I only Decapitated a single time.  I probably horribly misplayed masters at the end.  I was trying to Ashur Tablets for the first time, but I could have had more pool if I Minion Tapped instead.  Jann got torped but drank the Blood of Giants and came back only to see my lack of minion actions and lack of pool lead to Matt’s crushing victory.  Ill omens became ill tidings, or whatever.

Round 2:

Mike (Akunanse No Secrets) -> Ian -> Matt -> Andrew (Samedi Enticement) -> Julien

All I really cared about in this game was ousting Matt.  I had my doubts it would happen.  Amusingly, his Valeren combat trumped my Sacrament combat … due to my relying on dodges to avoid hitback.  I’m not that into combat already but having to account for not getting wrecked by Ivory Bow or other combat decks gets tiresome.  Vengeance of Samiel means beatings against Side Strike, Side Strike, Sacrament.

In some ways, I had a favorable start, having time to get Adana and Jann both in play.  On the one hand, the Akunanse didn’t bother me a lot (getting an Ivory Bow, though, because of course someone else gets it in play) conceptually.  I didn’t even really care if Mike went forward.  But, it got kind of dumb with how many bleed permanents Mike put out and his incessant need to prevent me from ignoring him.  Julien actually had time to do things, so his Cardano and Al-Ashrad were around.  Andrew did his Book of Going Forth by Night, Off Kilter, Freak Drive, bleed for 2 with The Baron and Reg dancing, which was scaring Julien and somewhat concerning Matt.

Matt just played his Valeren sleaze deck and offended all right thinking people’s sensibilities with Hide the Heart.

I got a lot of Resist Earth’s Grasps.  I would bleed at one stealth and got through a lot, which caused me to desire bleeding for 2 or 3 at stealth more.  I got off a set of Ashur Tablets.  The one window for ousting Matt was that Julien had Parity Shift and could have Shifted Matt given my six votes, but I didn’t see how that was nearly as good for Julien as Shifting Mike to oust him and gain 10 pool.  Mike expected me to threaten Julien into doing my bidding, but I liked Mike being gone with his standing seven bleed and lefty politics, and it’s my own fault if I can’t take Matt out with my deck.

And, it was my fault.  Just couldn’t get there from here, with Matt going no lower than five pool.  He Sense Deathed backwards some, one of which saved me from being ousted when I was in full “need one VP before time” mode and had no shields up to protect my three pool.  By playing combat cards, I drew into On the Qui Vive and Second Tradition.  While I Decapitated one of Matt’s dudes, it was more the Increased Strength, Increased Strength, Sacrament of Carnage for 7, cancelled by Deathseeker, Sacrament of Carnage for 7, Side Strike, Sacrament of Carnage for 7 (against empty Uriel), Taste for 7 that was the one time the deck lived the combat fanboy’s dream.

Finals:

Robert S. (Osebo intercept combat) -> Aaron -> Darby (turbo War Ghoul) -> Matt -> Brandon

Four combat decks and Brandon.  Mono-Valeren as top seed.  Of course Matt won with the clearly best deck in the history of V:TES.

Jann Berger “N” is for Nimble Feet (12)

By gaining one player, we gained two.

Round 1:

Matt (Stanislava Force of Will) -> Darby (Goratrix wall) -> Ian (InJest) -> Robert G. (Toreador vote)

Goudie and I don’t play against each other all that much, but, seemingly, every time it happens it involves my being his predator and bringing out only vampires with Dominate.  That one time during the 2007 Week of Nightmares, every one of my Lasombra had DOM, but one of his Saturday Night Specials shut down my deck … because sometimes I do play nutpunchers in tournaments.

I keep speaking of the unimportance of deck strength.  It’s actually not that simple, though the exaggeration is for the effect of trying to get people to focus on becoming better players for any decks they may play and to not blame their decks for their losses.  Now, I have various qualifiers to this view, one of which is that a deck must meet a minimum threshold of viability.  InJest probably doesn’t meet that threshold.  Oh, it’s not that far away, as it does play Deflection and Majesty and a bunch of other good cards.  It just horribly lacks ousting power.

So, this game highly amused me for how Robert felt a desire to Banishment backwards … repeatedly.  Feel the dread power of Melissa Barton and her Blood Doll.  Dr. Jest did annoy Robert with his constant random discards, plus I hadn’t given Obfuscate to my Ventrue, yet, though Jazz did have DOM/FOR pretty quickly.  I also got to interact with Darby through his table actions of Powerbase Montreal and Barranquilla.  I could never get through, not even to Kine Dominance Barranquilla away from him, which would have been hawt.  Matt put out an early Renegade Garou and kept rushing Robert’s Anson, but Robert was made of Majestys.

I did use Jazz’s ability twice so that I could pitch the Edge on Robert’s votes to give Melissa blood.  Yeah, the deck is woefully inadequate when it comes to meaningful actions.  Matt didn’t bleed until he finally bled for 8 and Darby bounced to me when I was bounce deficient and my 5 pool proved inadequate for preventing the scouting phase to begin.

On the one hand, I was amused by the fear that a Dr. Jest deck could instill.  On the other, I wasn’t a credible participant in the game, even if one bounce would have given me a chance in the game.  Those of us who weren’t as smashed as Matt talked about what would have happened if I did have a Deflection, but it wasn’t that important.

Round 2:

Ian -> Julien (Alamut) -> Aaron (FoS vote) -> Matt

Four games, four Wedgeys.  Sure, Matt’s bleeds just enabled me to oust two players, but his Aranthebes, The Unmasking, Underbridge Strays, and my not being able to bounce in the endgame meant I had no game.  I really should have worked with Aaron to oust Matt and go heads up of vote deck against Dr. Jest deck (I did have Ventrue Headquarters in play).  Two VPs was less than sufficient for finality.

Finals:

Andrew (Dementation SB) -> Robert S. (Ventrue Grinder) -> Darby? -> Robert G. -> Mike (Tzimisce SB)

Andrew ousted Scythe and had good minions and good pool.  But, Mike took him out with a bunch of bleeding.  Mike won with 1.5 based on being higher seed.

The other thing during the day was two pickup games.  One involved my Biothaumaturgic Experiment deck that did an excellent job of reducing my pool.  I did discover a great way for putting pressure on my prey by playing a free three stealth Magic of the Smith to get free unique equipment, such as Bowl of Convergence to contest with.

The other game was a seven player game where I played Descent into Darkness and once again never seriously threatened my prey.

Sunday

It’s go time, time to whip out Dementation stealth bleed.

Jann Berger’s “O” is for Ossian (13)

More players!

Dennis (Guillaume) -> Darby (The Art of Dominate) -> Ian (Dementation toolbox) -> Brandon (!Gangrel SB)

I made some mistakes.  Would they have mattered?  Seemed unlikely.  Dennis couldn’t go forward as that would have just accelerated the recursive Govern, Conditioning action of my predator.  Brandon could go forward, though that helped kill me, as there were only so many wakes in my deck.

I did get a great draw, getting Anarch Convert to Anatole to Carlton to Theron.  Darby’s Appius just came out too fast because of Zillah’s Valley.  Though I Prison of the Minded him, it didn’t stop the nation of Domination from inflicting itself upon me.  The best I could do was Sleep of Reason Ermenegildo, but that led to one of the mistakes.  Brandon mentioned diablerizing The Rake, and I tried it with the Convert just because I thought it was vaguely amusing to tap one of Darby’s guys.  But, that was pointless, as I could have used the Convert on defense to force Darby to stealth every bleed on his next turn, and Brandon Loki’s Gifted The Rake to empty, anyway.  I also meant to attempt to block Darby’s first bleed with Carlton, but players were playing not slowly enough for me to remember that and it was easy for Darby to The Art of Memory back a Conditioning.  Tactically, not good; on the other hand, my remembering to use Anatole and generally doing my own stuff right was technically solid.  I was going to probably gain six pool on my next turn if I somehow didn’t die.

Of course, since my deck was toolboxy, I guessed 15% of it was worthless in that game, as this tournament was all about the stealth bleed decks, and combat cards are kind of crap when you don’t actually fight anybody.  That I got to play as long as I did and take as many actions as I did made this game not bad for all that I had no hope in it.

So quick I could run to get food and go to the scouting phase long before everyone else.

Round 2:

Jeff S. (Cel/Pot/Pre) -> Ian -> Robert G. (Dom/For bleed, disciplineless combat) -> Edward (!Brujah)

Edward had no hope, even though Jeff could rush Robert.  Jeff quickly rushed his new predator.  With no predator of my own, I got to tool up with the Ivory Bow and Ablative Skin on Anatole.  My deck was so perfect for this tournament as I had bleed defense for stealth bleed and combat defense for beatage.  Jeff crippled Robert, who I couldn’t affect because Robert avoided undirected actions like the plague.  But, Jeff went down to three pool to have a third minion to try to oust me and Robert Daring the Dawned for a second VP.  There was a single turn I was vulnerable before Robert had zero game.

Oh, I guess this time I was Robert’s predator and didn’t have DOM on all my guys.  Well, at least they all had DEM.  Two VPs yet again not enough for finality.

Finals:

Darby -> Andrew (Kiasyd SB) -> Mike (Week of Nightmares) -> Robert G. -> Dennis

Everywhere bleeds.  Bounce helped Andrew take out Mike, especially with Mike taking a bleed for six he could have blocked.  Robert discarded Deflections from what I hear to go hard on Dennis but couldn’t take him out.  Andrew was an action away from taking out Dennis, but Darby got him and won.

In a pickup game, I played my very Ianlike Nosferatu with Auspex deck and was once again the first player ousted.

Jann Berger “P” is for Projectile (13)

Goudie left, but we gained Aaron.

Round 1:

Dennis (Sylvie) -> Ian (Ass Smiling Jack) -> Fred (Dom/Mask) -> Brandon (Pre bleed) -> Aaron (Aus/For Sawed-Off Shotguns)

When I think of Malk94, I don’t think of Fred’s archetype.  His archetype is pure forward with Mask of a Thousand Faces.  Dennis rushed Brandon’s Dorian Strack because it looked like Brandon could bounce his way forward.  I bled Fred.  I bled Fred but should have been in bed.  I bled Fred but should have been in bed and couldn’t get into combat to Concealed out a shooter of lead.

Aaron put up a valiant stand against Fred, torping Mariel with a Shotgun.  Dennis tooled up.  I let Dennis tool up even though I really didn’t want to.  I was 95% in the camp that Fred taking out Dennis was optimal for me as I’d get two VPs in the endgame, but Fred brought Dennis to one action from dead, and my Selective Silence/Taste of Death on Sylvie only gave me one turn before Dennis’s permanents owned me.  I just didn’t feel justified in helping Fred make Dennis dead as I was an ineffectual predator and deserved to have to work for more than one VP, even if I knew it was going to be tedious.  My decisions were mostly of the “do I concede this turn or next turn” type.

Round 2:

Fred -> Andrew (Masika Madness) -> Ian -> Jeff P. (Aus/Cel/Nec)

This was the “stop Fred show to give Jeff the game” game.  Jeff was mean to me a lot given that my game consisted of preventing Fred from taking the table from Jeff, not being with the rest of the group when I told them one of my old email sigs was “I’m not very tough.  I cry a lot.  And, the tears won’t stop flowing.”  I did drop first turn Smiling Jack, per the plan, it got to 3 counters, and I made the key decision to let Jeff take it out.  Would it have changed anything to defend it?  Who knows?

I couldn’t draw a .44 to save my life … um …  I did draw the anti-Fred tech, making it a guarantee Jeff would take the table.  No, not the five Black Sunrises in my hand, not the various Nests of Eagles that could reduce by 3 all of his minions’ bleeds after Fred lost Greger.  But, before that, I should note that Fred’s crypt draw was atrocious.  The only one he drew with DOM was Ingrid Russo, who doesn’t belong in that deck.  Andrew blocked two bleeds early with Quicken Sight, which was amazing.  I threatened being able to block with zero intercept multiple turns.

Anyway, Fred got lower on pool, and I drew Extremis Boon.  Jeff wouldn’t give me any pool when he was my predator.  I just don’t know what the world is coming to.

Finals:

Brandon -> Julien (Living Lolita Loca) -> Fred -> Mike (Nos Thrown Gates) -> Jeff

The most interesting thing to me was how Julien could have played this game.  He could have cut a deal with Mike and tried to bloat enough to stop Brandon’s all forward strategy.  He could have tried to reduce his pool so that he got ousted as soon as quickly as possible after ousting Mike for a hoped for 2/2/1 split with Jeff … because Julien was top seed playing my 2001 tournament winning deck.  Instead, the predictable happened given Brandon’s forwardness and Mike’s backwardness, and Julien got murdered in the endgame against Jeff, with far too much time for Julien to win on time.

Fred?  Fred was dead.  LLL just murders his style of all forward deck.  In concept, Fred should have had happy feelings against Mike, but Fred got a slow start.

I don’t feel bad that my deck lost.  Jeff’s deck was very cool, at least in its crypt.  I felt bad that Julien was so close in this game and just had no chance in the endgame, where I counted up Jeff’s pool, minions, and .44s and counted 45 pool worth of stuff on his board.  He never had a predator, so Julien, who couldn’t get a turn to rest after killing Fred or Mike, was well shed.

We had to drive back from the con so that I could get to work at a reasonable time today.

Great stuff.  Most thanks to Courtlyoil for putting us up.  But, it was great to see and speak with Darby.  Never played against Scythe as he couldn’t make the Sunday events, but it’s good to see the SoCal gang.  As mean as Jeff P. was, he won with fun.  Everest continued to provide me with food substances of the sort I seek.

Oh, why did I start this post with that quote?

Four tournaments, two tables in one and three in the others.  I had zero table wins and played in zero finals.  Does this mean I wasn’t the best player?  The fishiest fish of them all.

Actually, on the drive down, I commented that it would be interesting if I did well, which would reinforce having done well the previous trip, or did poorly, suggesting that the previous trip was fluketastic.  A middling convention would have been fairly boring.

Finally, I tried to find the HoR folks at the con, but I just couldn’t figure out where particular RPGs were being held.


Finish Line

February 10, 2014

Have watched a bit of the cold Olympics, aka the better Olympics, but haven’t come up with my Olympic themed post, yet.

Had a conversation yesterday, during a V:TES day, about the struggles of building decks, in particular, completing them and playing them.  I can’t really relate to this for V:TES or any other CCG I’ve been fully invested in.  Sure, I write up lots of V:TES decks I never pull the cards for, but that doesn’t stop me from having an average of greater than one new deck per session.  Sure, that’s way down from that year in which I had over a 100 new decks in the calendar year, but I was kind of jobfree that year.

As much as I just want to beat people over the head with the comment “Just build more decks and stop thinking about it so much.”  That’s not the purpose of this post.

One thing I find interesting is that this problem seems far more common with V:TES than with other CCGs.  If you buy into the idea, like I do, that deck construction isn’t that important to success, that could be a reason why some folks just don’t get into it.  In other words, if your deck was very important and you didn’t want to lose all of the time and you wanted to play the game, you would be highly motivated to build better decks.  Admittedly, that’s not the same as new decks.

After all, if a game is stale, whether due to lack of new cards or because new cards aren’t impactful, a game may feel solved.  While this could be a reason that current players feel unmotivated, I’ve found pretty much throughout the game’s history that it was common for players to feel unmotivated to build decks.

So, what is it?  Why this game and why an issue for multiple groups across the history of the game?

Deckbuilding for V:TES can be or, at least, seem harder than for other CCGs.  Now, sure, V:TES today has a vast amount of cards that many CCGs have never had, and it’s much easier for someone like me to process the card pool as I was building Jyhad only decks in 1996 and Sabbat only decks in something like 1997.

What makes building decks harder, besides larger card pool?

No card limits.  Whatever the arguments for not playing with card limits in a CCG not designed for them, I would never design a CCG with no card limits.  While deckbuilding difficulties isn’t at the top of my list, it’s one reason.  The top of my list, by the way, would be to make trading and other aspects of collection control vastly easier (I have experience that backs up my belief that trading is vastly harder for V:TES than for the card limit CCGs I traded).  Number two would be making playtesting much easier, I suppose.

With card limited CCGs, there’s a lot of x3 of this or x3 of that (or whatever limit the game uses, I hear some use x5 or even, get this, x4).  V:TES limits card use in other ways than card limits – no same action modifer or reaction, etc.  That doesn’t necessarily help someone when it comes to building decks.  “Okay, I can run 90 copies of the same card, but I’m also supposed to diversify?”

That the game also doesn’t have a clear optimal deck size adds a factor that some CCGs don’t have.  Magic is all about 60.  WoT was also a minimum = optimal.  On the other hand, Babylon 5 decks could be fat and Shadowfist is something I’m tempted to run in the 40ish card range, though smaller or bigger are options.  Ninety used to be most common, but a lot of us have been moving smaller.  Still, I’m not particularly likely to run 60.  Not that my situation matters that much.  The lack of knowing that you never go above 60 doesn’t help.

Then, so many cards in V:TES do such similar things that the differences can be too subtle to process.  Should I run Flash or Pursuit?  Form of Mist or Earth Meld?  Faceless Night, Elder Impersonation, or Swallowed by the Night as my primary stealth card?  Do I even have a primary stealth card given the numerous options available?  Again, card limits would vastly reduce the decisionmaking in that you just run two copies of both Form of Mist and Earth Meld.  By the way, compare Obfuscate stealth to Thaumaturgy stealth, not in terms of usefulness but in terms of decisionmaking.  Kind of different.

There is a CCG I’ve had difficulty building constructed decks for – Magic.  There’s a reason I said “fully invested” above.  While Magic is one of the CCGs I have 10,000+ cards for, I was never deeply invested, except, arguably, one limited format.  Could my lack of enjoying Magic more be due to not having happy times building decks?  Well, of course.  If deckbuilding were fun for constructed like it was for sealed (draft was not as much my thing), I would have been far more into the game.  Even the play of the game would have been more interesting.

This is another key facet of CCGs that drives interest – it’s not just building decks, it’s building decks to produce a particular play experience.  One of the more common types of V:TES decks I write up but never play are concept decks that are really brutal bleeders.  Been there, done that.  That’s the opposite side of this facet, though.  It’s the “I was trying to build a deck to do ABC and it did AF.” that can be bothersome if it happens a lot, in theory.  In practice, I don’t find myself with this problem.  If I build Minbari Intrigue, it’s going to do Intrigue stuff … very badly (talking about pre-Shadows, here, folks).

I guess, for folks who care more about success, lack of a deck concept turning into a successful concept can be frustrating.  I just tend to see the infinite variety that leads to building decks around other concepts, instead.  Rather than beat my head against a wall trying to get !Salubri melee weapon to work, which I don’t even care about in the first place, I’ll play a much cooler Fortitude Dagger deck or a Laibon grinder with Kerries.

Another aspect of V:TES not shared by many other CCGs is length of games.  The longer games are, the fewer you play, the fewer experiences you have to try different things.  For me, that’s not a problem as I mostly want to try different decks every game, which is great when you play like three games a session.  For those into tuning decks, as deranged as such folks are, not only do you have to deal with multiplayer play making any sort of results kind of sketchy to base decisions upon but also that you saw only a few games with the same deck.  I actually haven’t played a lot of Ultimate Combat! in my life in absolute terms because there weren’t exactly a lot of opponents or regular events, but I played Instant Replay-Shoulder Throw decks enough to know when a modification was going to doom the deck (well, maybe).

Then, when you get ousted, it’s not like you start another game right away to try the deck again or a different deck.  Each V:TES game is so much more of an investment than other CCGs.

Because multiplayer CCGs are just different from two-player CCGs in terms of group commitment, I think I have been trained to focus on the micro-interactions of multiplayer CCGs and not on results.  That’s not for everyone.  I may have craved a two-player CCG after Wheel of Time went away, but that was largely to get the politics and kingmaking out of the experience, not because of the greater relationship between deck strength and result.

Speaking of multiplayer, a lot of CCGs have been based off of strong IPs – Star Wars, Star Trek, Middle Earth, etc.  Of the games intended to be multiplayer, the ones that had a more flavorful property than Vampire: The Masquerade probably incentivized more deckbuilding.  I would spoof on Babylon 5 all of the time – Londo gets Vorlon Rescued, Elric gets Vorlon Rescued, Mr. Morden gets Vorlon Rescued.  Having the cards be more than just mechanics helped with identifying things to do, and the subgame of having a deck do what it’s supposed to do rather than just try to win was more direct.  One element of this is that doing certain thematic things required very specific card choices that limited the number of decisions that would be made by forcing devotion to a certain number of slots for the subgame.

There are common reasons for deckbuilding ennui across CCGs, especially multiplayer CCGs, but to summarize a bit for why V:TES might have even more of that, we get:

  1. No card limits
  2. No clearly optimal deck size
  3. Lots of similar effects make for more decisions
  4. Little impact of deck on result
  5. Few opportunities to gauge deck construction
  6. Few must haves

So, does any of this help?  Not really.  There aren’t solutions, here.  I tried solutions for getting ideas before.  For executing on ideas, it’s hard not to just say “Build more decks and stop thinking about it so much.”  Agonizing over deck builds is the province of CCGs like Wheel of Time, where I spent hours deciding on the opening hand (four cards) of one deck.  That was possum.


Core-Tier

February 3, 2014

Current AEG forums thread is about high level court mechanics to write about in Sword and Fan, a supplement on the horizon.  The main issue with such a discussion is something brought up in an older thread – there really aren’t any court mechanics at any level.  There is the social combat system in Emerald Empire, but it’s too esoteric for general use.

So, I posted about how I’d like to see a deep dive on the major courtier schools not just to deep dive on the mechanics related to those schools that are vastly underdeveloped but just to try to figure out what AEG’s vision for courtiers is.  I am of the view that most courtier abilities are too specialized to be useful in general play, that they need campaigns built around them.  Even then, in the absence of context, of a social combat system at least somewhat more like the combat system in the game, everything is a judgment call.

Without some sort of gift economy, how does a Yasuki work?  Without clarity on what allies do, how does a Doji work?  Without clarity on blackmail, what does a Bayushi do?  What does an Asako do, at all?

I’ve also been thinking about what sort of character concepts, from a school perspective, I want to play after I finally get around to playing a shugenja.  While thinking about this post, the two lines of thinking converged – I started thinking about fleshing out which courtier schools I’d be interested in playing and why.  I also got to thinking about which fit best if you translated me into a Rokugani.

Yasuki Courtier

I have no interest in the pursuit of wealth and find most accounting tedious.  Yet, I’ve been attracted to the idea of playing a Yasuki for some time.  Some of it has to do with the fact that Rokugan doesn’t have any sort of coherent economy.  Commerce rolls don’t bother me at all.  It’s a skill a lot of my characters will have (of course, a lot of my characters will have a high Intelligence, so it’s mostly a matter of leveraging a strength).  I find Commerce use to be pretty funny much of the time precisely because money isn’t supposed to matter, and there’s generally no accounting involved in the Commerce rolls my characters make.  A lot of the time, the rolls are just info-gathering.

My interest is limited, however, by how spread out I see a Yasuki character being.  My in thing these days is hyperfocus on one or two Rings.  But, Earth 3 is necessary for any character in campaigns with reasonable levels of combat, so you get E3, Perception for school tech and because you get P3 for free, Intelligence for Commerce general and whatever, Awareness for social, and Reflexes for general goodness.

Doji Courtier

Besides finding the Crane the least likable clan (I may not find the Scorpion plausible, but I find it dull to dislike them, nevermind that I play with them all of the time), there’s something rather dull about this school.  Yet, as an extreme school, there are so many goofy things I could do with it.  Rank 2 tech is meaningless in general play.  Rank 3 really needs clarity on allies.

Kitsuki Investigator

Played too often to hold any interest to me.  Mechanics are fine, but the theme also doesn’t interest me any, either.

Ikoma Bard

One would think I’d never play one of these … again.  It’s just so hard to resist schools that don’t have techniques (well, it sort of does something at R-3 and does do something at R-4, but that takes so long that you long since stopped caring).  Actually, in terms of archetypes that suit me the best if I were translated into Rokugan, while Asako Loremaster is probably the best fit, this is actually a better fit the more I thought about it.  The bragging for others thing makes sense.  While not an outwardly emotional sort, being able to break the rules of etiquette fits.  It’s totally a help others school.

Yoritomo Courtier

I already built a highly amusing character of this school.  In fact, building that character has probably influenced me in building other Ring extreme characters, though the one I’m more interested in playing is a shugenja.  I’m kind of more into socializing with non-samurai, and I’m more into lower Honor concepts.

The downside of this school is that I’m not really into playing Mantis Schools, even though I’m a big Moshi fan and don’t really have a problem with the Yoritomo as a family.

Asako Loremaster

The obvious.  Actually, my main replacement for HoR3 is an Asako Loremaster, so I kind of can’t do anything with this school until it becomes clear whether I’ll play that character in HoR3 or not.  Mechanically, this school doesn’t do much outside of Free Raise on Lore Skills.  In terms of clarifying what this courtier school is supposed to do, it has arguably the least need for mechanical clarity but has rather little going on thematically.

Bayushi Courtier

Possibly even less desirable to me than playing a Tsuruchi Archer.  I like the Bayushi Bushi School (in that, I like R-1 for tech, trait, and skills).  I could see myself being translated into a Shosuro Infiltrator, amusingly enough.  But, no, never this school – I would never do anything with it.  That doesn’t sound like much since I don’t consider a number of schools to have any relevant techniques, but it’s not just never using the techniques, I would really never do anything as a Bayushi Courtier, as the archetype is so repellant.

Ide Emissary

A school I keep coming back to.  If Asako Loremaster is possibly the best fit for me, there’s an argument that Ide might be better.  But, it’s not so much that that I find attractive.  Unlike a bunch of the courtier schools, Ide seems to borderline do something.  There are more mechanical things I can get enthused about as this school has the benefit of not being diverse, though there is a place for spreading out traits.

I’m also generally more interested in Unicorn than I used to be.  I really should play a Crab since so many of my characters are Crabs at the core, but Unicorn feels a lot more flexible to me than other clans.

Kasuga Smuggler

I really like some of the abilities, others I can’t see ever mattering.  As a minor clan and imperial fan, this is the only minor courtier in the core book.  The downside is being too spread out in traits, which could be fixed by not being from the Kasuga Family and Different Schooling as a Smuggler, which is my kind of hilarious.  But, I don’t see HoR or anyone else going for that sort of nonsense.

Miya Herald

This is so good for me.  It’s a school with no techniques.  It’s not a great clan.  It’s mellow.  It’s even something I might be if I were a Rokugani.

So, besides whether the GM/campaign would allow this, what’s the problem?  It’s boring.  It’s not just that it has no techniques, it’s that its techniques have no flavor at all.  At least Ikoma get to cry.  There are some goofy build things that could be done since it’s a pure Air school out of the gate, but those goofy things would be more fun with another school, in all likelihood, as there would be something to leverage, where this school has nothing besides a high level of koku.

This school is one of the ones I want explained the most.  I get that techniques in 4e are meant to be thematic and having them be mechanically unregardable is not a concern to the design team.  But, I’m curious as to whether the design team ever thought any of these techniques would ever get used.  Like the Otomo School, it’s just a ludicrously NPCish school.  But, it’s cool … because it’s mellow.  I played a Miya at a convention, and it was fun because of the thematics of being a peaceful dude.

Mechanics matter.  As much as folks are attracted to L5R for its beat you over the head culture, mechanics matter.  They may not matter in a solo game, but, as soon as you have a party and that party gets into a fight, the party is going to wonder why you are so useless.  This is why goofy shugenja builds are more interesting to me, these days.  Shugenja are always useful, no matter how much you try to make them weird.  Admittedly, my Miya would likely be socially functional and could probably bow okay in combat, but I’m becoming less interested in the “sorry I’m playing this, guys” characters.