Odd Ends – To Rogue Or Not To Rogue

August 31, 2014

Let’s see if some theme can come out of noting some miscellaneous events.

A week ago, we played some five player V:TES.  Nice to have that.  In the first game, I was playing a new Hermana Mayor deck and my predator borrowed my Gangrel bruise bleed deck that put Bernard, the Scourge in play on turn two …

Fidus, across table was a target for being bloodhunted.  Predator’s Lectora, and every one of my crypt members.  My third turn consisted of Perfectionist, bleed, get bounced, Impundulu blocks, Weighted Walking Stick, long.  That Hermana got bloodhunted.  My fourth turn consisted of Perfectionist, bleed, get bounced, Impundulu blocks, Weighted Walking Stick, long.  No more Hermanas got bloodhunted, even though I rushed backwards to try to take out Bernard, Killer of Decks … and failed.  My predator got ousted with me doing pretty much nothing of consequence forward and only torping one Gangrel with WWS Brute Force.

I won the second game with !Nos with Dominate where I could have called Ancilla Empowerment to oust both my predator and prey but just tapped out bled my prey and ousted my predator the next turn.  I figured Delaying Tactics, which got played but got DIed since I was giving my new predator a VP, 4 pool, and costing myself 4 pool.

The third game we were supposed to play fast, so lots of fast decks saw Dementation bleed win.

Yesterday, we played BattleTech for the first time in a month.  The scenario I came up with was for light mechs and I had six points on the edge of the maps as victory point spots to hold for a turn to encourage spreading out.  Worked well.  I played pretty badly, which is funny because I’m the one coming up with the scenarios and I often make terrible decisions in my own scenarios.

Why?

That is, why do I make terrible decisions in BattleTech?

Because I like playing recklessly.

I was telling someone about how I played in the BT scenario and the response was “you must not like chess”, which is absolutely true.  I’ve mentioned it before, but I’m warming up on my theme.  I want to play chess recklessly.  I’m a romantic player (as opposed to technical player).  I want the sudden victory, the massive sacrifice(s) to get some mating combination through.  While some players can do that, they probably also do something I don’t have much interest in doing when I play chess – think.

It’s funny.  There are some games that I think a lot when I play.  V:TES is one of those games.  I weigh the probability of what’s in people’s hands, the probability of my drawing particular cards, run all sorts of potential play scenarios.  Then, there are games I’m not interested in thinking at all.  BattleTech, for me, is more about “close and fire”.

Play.  Think, when I play.  I think about games all of the time when I’m not playing them.  Though, I noticed that I do analyze games in ways that don’t have to do with actually playing those games.

There may be some correlation to how invested I am in the game, but I can think of an example of a game I think a lot about when I play but have minimal investment – Kill Doctor Lucky.  I’m trying to think of an example of a game I’m more invested in but don’t think much about.  BT is something I’m somewhat or middling invested in, and RPGs are a different animal.  HeroQuest was something I could be highly invested in, but I was usually the villain, so I didn’t need to make good decisions.  I’ll play mahjong recklessly, but I know when I’m playing it recklessly.

Magic was something I was partially invested in that I would play recklessly.  Same with Dragon Dice.  What about before I started playtesting the Babylon 5 CCG?  No, it wasn’t really suited to reckless play.  Well, there were hyperspeed openings that I latched on to, but I didn’t find those all that reckless.  Hardly anyone would play the counter to them.  It’s kind of hard to play Ultimate Combat! recklessly since it’s largely a game of massive offense, though I suppose it’s possible – not holding a Speed 1 or Strength 1 and a foundation open to play the advantage on defense.

Suicide Dragon, the only particularly memorable Wheel of Time CCG deck name I came up with (Forsaken.dec was too obvious), was not reckless at all, strategically.  It was the last, best hope for not getting smashed by the vastly superior Shadow side prior to the Light side getting broken to fight broken in Dark Prophecies.  Since you were going to lose, anyway, you might as well throw your characters into challenges and hope Thom takes out key cards through random discard.

Getting back to Magic and Dragon Dice, though, for a moment.  I think I see the pattern.  While both games have a creation element where one’s worth as a human being is judged by how well one can construct a deck/army, I didn’t feel like decks/armies for those games were all that important.  Now, one could say I did just as goofy things with B5 and V:TES as I did with Magic (Essence Vortex creatureless for the win!), so maybe focusing on deck construction is the wrong point.  The right point might be that there are many games where I not only don’t care much about winning but also, importantly, don’t care about not winning.

One thing B5 and V:TES have in common is the multiplayer aspect and the potential for making games suck for other people when you don’t pull your weight.  If I got trounced in Magic, it was 10 minutes or whatever of a game I don’t even enjoy playing that much when I win.  Dragon Dice always had the problem to me that I cared so much less about playing it than about thinking about it.

I have felt a responsibility with B5 and V:TES to try to make the game worthwhile for others.  After all, victories are of the hollowish sort if your opponents are goofing around.  I probably do feel some responsibility to play well in two-player play since the argument is the same.  I just don’t focus as much on it because it’s so much easier to goof off in a multiplayer game to where it’s more of a potential concern.

Consider, for a tangent, how not focusing on results might also impact play style.  I certainly approach the importance of doing stuff versus the importance of results very differently for some games.

WoT was a CCG I didn’t start playing until after I was hardcore playtesting, as evidenced by being one of the few people in the world to playtest the original set (beyond the precons).  I was always in playtest mode, aka results matter mode, where there was a responsibility to show what’s what.  Ultimate Combat! was my favorite CCG.  I really just enjoyed not only building decks but playing the game.  I might have made some goofy decks, like the white belt, techniqueless deck, but, more than possibly any game I’ve ever played, I was probably more into every game I played of it.  I also was outclassed during much of my career, so I probably felt like I had to prove myself as a player.  Yes, I actually was competitive when it came to UC! because, you know, I wanted to gain points [results matter!] to move up in the ranks.  I might qualify as an honorary black belt or something by this point, but I never progressed past brown belt in terms of what plastic ranking card I received.

I know why I like to play games recklessly.  And, I suppose I’m seeing why I don’t with some games.  The other problem with playing V:TES recklessly is that you might spend 30 minutes playing and 90 minutes waiting for everyone else to finish, something that doesn’t happen with two-player games.

 


Personal Banned List

August 23, 2014

When it comes to V:TES tournaments, I have a banned list that I apply to my decks.

Why?

Because it amuses me.  Really, a game that isn’t amusing isn’t worth playing.

Why does it amuse me?

Winning more than my share of tournaments has a lot to do with it.  While I’m not sure what the tournament win rankings currently are, I was tied for 21st last I could gather in lifetime wins.  What makes that more amusing is what I haven’t won with.

What is worthy to go on the list?

This gets into an interesting philosophical schism.  On the one hand, any card I’ve already won with can’t go on the list.  On the other, the nature of CCGs is variety and constantly trying different things, so there can’t be a list of “Personal Allowed Cards”.  In truth, part of the point of having a personal banned list is to force myself to play with less commonly played cards.  At the point where you can’t play Weighted Walking Stick, maybe it is all about Spike-Throwers and Elixirs of Distillation.

Power is not the primary criterion for what cards make the list.  Boringossity is.  But, what’s boring?  That’s tremendously subjective.  On the other hand, it’s hard for a card that isn’t powerful to be boring.  People tend to play the best cards.  Commonality of play drives what is boring to the mostest degree.

I’ve won tournaments with decks that had Dominate requiring cards in them, so I can’t have Dominate written off entirely.  Fully a third of my TWDs ran Dominate, whether it was bounce for Daughters, Kiasyd, and Samedi or Far Mastery and Obedience for Augustus Giovanni.  Yet, even with the utter sleaze of the Kiasyd deck, with its two copies of … *gasp* … Dominate plus bleed (well, 6x Gremlins and it’s stupid outferior), no Bonding/Conditioning/Threats/Foreshadowing Destruction, no Govern the Unaligned/Scouting Mission/Mind Rape or any other Dominate bleed action besides the stupid outferior of Gremlins.  (Without that outferior, Con-Dom Kiasyd decks would be so much easier.)

Certainly, Conditioning and Govern are on the banned list.  But, what about Foreshadowing Destruction?  It’s not that I’ve never tried winning tournaments with some of these cards, it’s that I fortunately failed to win any tournaments with my 20x Foreshadowing Destruction deck and the like.  Whew!  I’m still interested in the “I play nothing but Foreshadowing Destruction until you all die” decks, but it is a really dumbtastic card that shouldn’t exist, and I can just resist the temptation.  Murmur of the False Will snuck itself into my win list, so now I’m tainted forever and ever with at least one plus bleed Dominate action modifier.  Bwa-ha-ha-ha-ha, I can run 20x Murmur in all of my decks!

But, what of Mind Rape?  With Mind Rape on my banned list, that means no more JackalRape decks.  I can’t see putting Slaughtering the Herd on my banned list, though I have a hard time generating enough enthusiasm to play the card at all.  Do I keep writing up Dominate Kine decks I don’t end up playing or do I keep myself untainted by stealth+bleed in one card?  The Ailing Spirit has to be at the Gremlins level of just biting the bullet and being afflicted with a Dom outferior.

Dominate is easy to point to.  What’s interesting is what else rises to the level of boringossity as some of Dom’s staples.  Wait, before going there, a comment about Deflection.  The game only functions because Deflection exists.  Vast numbers of decks only function because Deflection exists.  Explain to me again why Deflection level bounce isn’t disciplineless?

Oh, and bounce doesn’t bore me.  Bounce is possum.

I put Eyes of Argus in a lot of decks.  Yet, I’ve yet to be tainted by it, though that has a lot to do with how few tournament wins I’ve had since KoT got printed.  I had never thought of it making my list until like a month ago.  The card shouldn’t have been made.  It’s relatively ubiquitous … because relatively ubiquitous is a phrase that has so much relative meaning.  Including Sense the Sin and Nightmare Curse, fully 50% of my TWDs run Auspex.  Why should I play Eyes of Argus?  Why?  Just to win more with sleazy Auspex?

I need to get away from Auspex and its Telepathic Misdirectioning crutch.  I’ve had more decks with Auspex than Presence (assuming I don’t misremember irrelevant outferiors)!

Speaking of Presence, Voter Captivation has already made one of my decks.  So has Business Pressure, so I can’t ban Business Pressure.  No-o-o-o-o-o, one copy of Aire of Elation made my fat Pander deck!!  I am forever tainted by Aire of Elation, another card that should not exist, which by I mean that it should have no Toreador benefit.

Speaking of terrible KoT decisions … because I was totally speaking of those, right? … I totally dodged Deep Song in my Kiasyd deck.  Now, you might say that was an obvious deckbuilding decision because I wasn’t playing rush but playing “intercept” combat with that deck and Deep Song would never make the cut before Trainer, Hell-for-Leather, and the ultrasleazy Underbridge Stray.  Eschewing Deep Song doesn’t seem so challenging, given how broken Animalism is with Carrion Crows (uh, nope, never won with these) and Aid from Bats (no room when I had Amria to put in).  Oh, my!

Am I banned from Animalism based combat?!?  Heavens, no!!  Song in the Dark is totally legit as my go to Animalism combat play.

Then, there’s Dementation.  I have no entries for Dementation.  But, I still feel my nine person tournament, tournament winning deck.  I ran Kindred Spirits, Confusion, and Eyes of Chaos in that deck.  Can I hide my shame simply because that deck doesn’t count towards my Hall of Fame creds?  Do I embrace my lovey-dovey for stealth bleed and play nothing but “the !Malk sleaze” (yes, I’ve been around long enough to think of Malks as Dominating and not Demented)?

Grabbing breakfast before one of the August tournaments, we talked about what sort of Demented deck I could play (that actually does something and not my most recent attempt at Dementation “intercept combat”).  It amuses me, amuses me enough to play with … plus(!) … bleed(!!) … cards!!! … using the discipline better known for Prison of the Mind, Sleep of Reason, and Personal Scourge.

No Public Trust.  Sighification … guess all of those winnie Presence bleed decks are off the table.  Well, except how Legal Manipulations and Enchant Kindred show up in one or more of my TWDs.

Only one deck with Protean and no Dual Form.  Will I miss you Dual Form?  Can I be convinced that you aren’t boring?  Actually, there really is no justification for banning Dual Form.  So, it’s broken.  Broken isn’t a problem.  I played Dramatic Upheaval in multiple TWDs.  Lilith’s Blessing was in my Kiasyd deck.  Ghouled Street Thug graced that Pander deck.

No Earth Meld, Earth Control, or Form of Mist, yet.  Well, I have to be able to play Earth Meld in my tournament decks because it’s a key card to my No Decisions deck, version 1.0, that is the first in a long line of decks where I can stop thinking at the table all together.

Spirit Marionette is not so much boring as unpleasant.  Well, at superior.  Inferior interests me some.  This is another criterion for my banned list – unpleasantness.

Powerbase: Montreal, The Erciyes Fragments, mono-Imbued (even the Convictionless decks), and … other stuff have to make the list.

Sensory Deprivation got into my Nightmare Curse deck, so stuck with that joy of a card.  Shambling Hordes, however, have not shambled for me.  Yeah!  Neither have War Ghouls, but War Ghouls are actually cool because of their self-sacrificing ways, where Shamblers are just tedious.  I’m getting tired of checking, but I’m pretty sure there’s no way a Nephandus could be in one of my decks, but they are just so cute.

Parity Shift, Second Tradition – guess I need to go back to playing bloodlines decks and other, fun decks.  I did have a Fifth Tradition deck (post-CE) that played these cards.  I’ll just have to find something better to do with Fifth Tradition.  On the other hand, my hypocriticallity arises as I did run Protect Thine Own in a deck.  But, hey, wasn’t PTO fun?  … anyone, anyone?

Ivory Bow in two decks, blah.  Bowl of Convergence in zero decks.  Huzzah!!  Carlton shows up twice in the same deck – you cool, Carlton, you cool.

Yup, this banned list is just going swimmingly.  What was it, again?

Banned List
1. Govern the Unaligned
2. Scouting Mission
3. Bonding
4. Conditioning
5. Threats
6. Foreshadowing Destruction
7. Eyes of Argus
8. Deep Song
9. Carrion Crows
10 Confusion
11 Eyes of Chaos
12 Kindred Spirits
13 Powerbase: Montreal
14 The Erciyes Fragments
15 Shambling Hordes
16 Parity Shift
17 Second Tradition
18 Bowl of Convergence

I need another two cards, at least.  Round numbers people, round numbers.

Anyway, the point of this post wasn’t actually to say that the game needs to start banning a bunch of cards, that the game needs to reboot with a better card pool, or that other people should embrace my weirdness and deprive themselves of staple or power cards.  I actually just needed to flesh out my personal banned list, as it wasn’t that clear to me what I could put on it and what I couldn’t or remember what I choose to deprive myself of.  Hopefully, there was some amusement in reading this, as any game that fails to amuse is not a game worth playing.


Gen Con 2014

August 19, 2014

What is the ideal Gen Con for me?

Sorry, I’m going to drone on with this for a while before getting to actual activities.

This is the question I started thinking about when I started thinking about how no one probably cares about my hotel situation or travel situation or food situation – the things that aren’t particularly gaming related.  By no one, I mean I can just let people I talk to on a regular basis know about these things, so it would be redundant in a blog post.

Ideally, I travel with two other people from California and stay in a quiet, convenient, and not unusually expensive hotel room essentially next to the convention center that is not the JW because the JW is way too far in one corner.  The traveling with people thing is because it’s more fun to talk to people about stuff on the way over and the way back.  Actually, vastly more fun.  Outside of Gen Con, I don’t think there’s any gaming event I would go to on my own that isn’t local or that doesn’t involve a specific invite from someone I know.  Whether it’s Los Angeles V:TES or Origins, if someone else wants to go, sure, if not, eh, probably not.

I have no travel issues, of course, including getting the Green Line shuttle from the Indy airport right away, getting into the hotel about 5PM, drop stuff off, get badge by 6PM, go out to dinner with those with me and others I know from around zee world.  I get to bed about 10PM.

Okay, how is this not as boring as actually describing what did happen?  I actually meant to get into ideal Gen Con from a gaming perspective and got sidetracked.

From a gaming perspective, play HoR because there’s a greater community to HoR as I’m sure there is with being invested in other living campaigns.  I may be on the periphery of the community, among other things I don’t even play in the political interactives that I could play in (Gen Con’s), but there’s some ability to not only spend some time with people I know but to talk to people I don’t really know about the campaign, the game system, and whatnot.

At the same time, while also something I can only do at Gen Con, the other end of the spectrum is playing things I don’t know.  Find systems or worlds or even genres that expand my RPG experiences.  This seems to be getting harder and harder.  Much like how I envision that local convention RPG sessions will be a lot like ones I’ve already had, I’ve found that the past few years of Gen Con has seen my “esoteric” RPG experiences be rather similar to ones I’ve had at Gen Con.  That’s not surprising, but it does reduce the possibility of the highest highs.

I tried to recall my highest highs from Gen Con RPGs.  I can’t remember that many of the great games I had, which is why a record, like this, is so useful.  I remember the game where we were playing dreams as the weirdest game I’ve ever played.  I remember the Native American game.  I remember Zero Movement.  I remember a Wraith game for some reason from back in the Milwaukee days even though it wasn’t all that interesting to me to play, maybe it was because we had too many players and we switched off with our Shadows.  Of course, it’s a bit easier to remember some more recent games, like the Babylon RPG from last year … no, not a Babylon 5 game for those who didn’t read my GC report from last year, a game set in Babylon.  (Or, Qin, Kuro, Yggdrasill, angel sucking, etc.)  Four Colours al Fresco for a while.  Supers, in general, for a year.  Immortal days.  LARP days.  Yes, I did some LARPing, not much, but there was/is a group, and I found playing a pregnant duchess hilarious.

Speaking of things that aren’t tabletop RPGs, what of CCGs?  There were the volunteer years of running Babylon 5 CCG demos that had value but I wouldn’t want to do something like that again.  I barely did anything at one con because of all of the CCG stuff.  Sure, major B5 or that one major Wheel of Time tournament were something, no matter how frustrating it was.  I only recall one V:TES tournament during the con, and it was goofy, not VEKN at all, what with the six player table and some card limits and banned list or something.

Getting to what I actually did and did not do, I did not do Shadowfist or V:TES.  I showed up where people were playing, twice in the V:TES case, but I prereg for as many RPG events as possible and CCG events just kill multiple RPG events unless they are unusually short (for the games I tend to play) or late in the day.  I felt bad about not supporting V:TES, so I’m going to look at playing in next year’s Sunday tournament and try to see about an evening tournament on one of the other days.  I don’t know what to do about Shadowfist.  I could make more of an effort for pickup games, which maybe make sense on Wednesday, Sunday after the con, or at strange hours during the con.

Thursday

9AM sees me, once again, starting off with HoR3.  This has a lot to do with how many fewer RPG things are going on at 9AM on Thursday of the con than during other slots.  I play Tomb of Jade, which is what I’m signed up for.  I’m inclined to avoid spoilers for mods because I’ve heard that HoRers may actually read my blog.  Somebody has to.  We were done in about 2.5 hours.  Things went smoothly, as opposed to horrendously.  At my table were Mirumoto Daiki, Kakita Shiro, Yoritomo Mifune, and Kitsu Saigo.  Cory ran.

I was 4xp closer to my goal.  I needed 10xp total before the Battle Interactive to go to Earth 4 with my main/combat character.  12xp would be better as, then, I don’t use my 2xp cert from the AEG event two years ago.  It will be funny to use that cert only when I get to the campaign finale next year, or will it?  I find out the tags for Aftermath and decide I’d rather do it with my alt, even though it’s what I’m signed up for Friday morning.  With March Beyond Hope also released at the con, that becomes another possibility, in addition to backfilling.

2PM sees me playing Wu Xing for the second time.  I can choose one of two abrasive female characters or a male character – I go with the female bookworm.  I’m already sleepy.  That is really, really bad, considering that I don’t game Wednesday nights at Gen Con.

A Nobleman’s Daughter is sympathetic to the Lotus Coalition and goes to find the Library of Alexandria of martial arts, that happens to be under an imperial base.  We gather intel in town before setting out, up the mountain.  We come across a watchtower, where we easily dispatch the few guards and realize that the imperials are digging up stuff on the mountain.  We find an old general’s camp, abandoned except for a tortured prisoner, an attendant of the lady.  The old general is trying to gain the power that the monks who turned evil sought in years gone by.  The old man wants to get back youth and glory.  We go underground to follow.  In the library, there’s an ink demon that suffocates people.  We find the lady and confront the general, who gets taken down.

If all of this sounds dry, it wasn’t.  It’s just that it has so much similarity to so many things I do and that I did very little that was notable.  The others pretended to be my entourage as I was the only one who could disguise well as someone from a higher class, just wandering the mountains.  I tried to use my ability to instaread books, but we still lacked time due to combat.  In the ending fight, all I did was lay down the general’s banner over his dead body after the others nuked him.  Maybe there were other things worth mentioning, but I have to keep this post moving.

7PM was Ragnarok Over Midgard, Fate of the Norns.  Apparently, this was created 20 years ago, only seeing serious publishment a couple of years ago after a Kickstarter.  The game uses a bag of runes for resolution.  Runes come in three types – physical, mental, spiritual.  There’s a Void Rune that you always have to use.  Each rune has specific abilities.  Damage is done by taking runes out of your draw bag and moving them through a pathway on a playmat.  So, everything is playmat and runes and character sheet info.  Runes can get locked to where you start running out, in which case life is getting bad.  There are conditions (on the playmat) where you mark whether you are Taunting or Poisoned or Degenerated or whatever.

I was playing a mischievous Maiden (I’m sure she was not a maiden) of Ratatosk, the squirrel who causes trouble in Norse mythology.  To my left was Ragnar, berserker.  To my right was Freki, skald, Volheim, runecaster, and Alfhild, witch.  We were setting sail from Norweig to get away from a failed mercenary operation.  A storm and some lightning/ravens/wolves lead us to an island where they are awaiting a king to pay tribute to.  We get put in the overflow tents.  Another group shows up, and I take an interest in the part troll lieutenant of their leader, as he doesn’t like the king or a bunch of nobles as his kin did a lot of service for the old king and his son and didn’t get proper respect.  We try to party some.  The king shows up and our new buddy, my boy toy’s cousin, is a big enough shot that we make the main hall and act like our plans for a democratic republic of communism on the island of Islandia (our destination) is already in place, as we take a high table.  Our ship’s captain, the only other survivor of the sea trip, ends up dying due to cold and talking about the pull of the mountain.  We figure that the local land spirits are displeased and head up the mountain to pay tribute, sacrificing some slaves that were already ready to be sacrificed (these people were dumb).  We do the ritual, but it’s still not good enough.  We fight some wolves on the mountainside.  We come down last and find out the local jarl has been murdered, with my man missing.  We follow my main to another town, where the slaves have been zombified and are attacking.  Unlike the wolf fight, where I taunt all of the wolves into attacking me because that’s what I’m really, really good for, I skirt the main fight and hook up with my big guy.  This is not good for the party, but the whole fight was more dangerous as spiritual rather than physical damage was being dealt, and our armor and parries and whatnot don’t do anything against spiritual attacks.  The zombies start coalescing into uberzombie that gets pushed into a burning building and crispied away.  Queen was behind things.

The system is different, which takes a bit to get used to, but it seems reasonably elegant.  I’m quite impressed with how much better it seems to handle diceless play than a lot of diceless games.  Andrew, the designer and our GM, has obviously used the years to work out a lot of issues with coming up with novel RPG mechanics.  I do think my character’s abilities are kind of crazy good, though.  In a physical fight, I can force everyone to attack me or lose actions, I’m hard to hurt, and I defend easily.  Everyone recovers wounds, though it seemed like I could also easily recover damage.  I may not hit hard, but I take aggro off those who can.  Where I avoided playing a saucy wench in the previous game, we didn’t have extra character options, so I embraced my saucy wenchness and this was my role-playing highlight of the con.  Probably my highlight, overall, as I really like it when someone can do something interesting with or without dice, and I’m a big mythology fan.

Speaking of mythology, I’m somewhat concerned about the world, though.  Ragnarok has already started and the Sun and Moon have been eaten, so the world lies in darkness.  Apocalyptic and post apocalyptic settings aren’t really my thing.  I did ask about setting before Ragnarok, after would be another possibility, and I was told there was a plan for something.  The game is going to be supported.  So, I think I need to pick this up.  I would totally do another session next year, maybe get a book signed.

Friday

9AM sees me back at HoR.  I’m scheduled for Aftermath but want to play Shielded by Fire, Glimpse Beyond, or March Beyond Hope.  I get into the last.  Richard Burns runs.  Going around left, besides Yoritomo Amuyu deadheading the mod, we have Togashi Ketsu, another dangerously beautiful Tattooed Monk.  To his left is Seppun Katsu, my new hero.  Then, Tsi Sanzo.  Where last mod ran only 2.5 hours, this ran more like 4.5 hours, with my getting out of there just in time to make my 2PM game without rushing.  We had a slow go of it investigating.  Katsu-sama did duel someone “to the corpse” that makes my Kharmic Tie with his ancestor tingle.  I should see about getting a Kharmic Tie to Katsu-sama, though I have a hard time seeing how it would ever come up.  Tsi Sanzo was the only one of us with simple attacks.  Ketsu, Katsu, and I were all R-3 and don’t get simples to R-4.  Seppun tech actually got used.  My Sorinpu actually got drawn and had one of its abilities matter, with the other being a possibility I thought of, then forgot.

I need to get a cert about being able to do something very normal without losing Honor as I’m tired of very normal things being bad.  I could save this comment for later, but my sense of the mods is that my experiences were all better than the mods.  I don’t actually know how good a mod is until I read it and probably run it, but I just felt like the mods were adequate but lacking in interesting things to do, where even with the odd time elements to my first two mods stuff was fun and the players were enjoyable.  Just felt forced.  Maybe it’s the face to face experience, where in the online experience I do much more personal stuff.  I did get to roll Engineering …

2PM was my Hunter: The Reckoning game.  We were investigating a haunted mansion/asylum.  I played a former soldier of the Defender persuasion.  The game was supershort.  We found out that the doctor suicided after he put his son to sleep, which indicated one or both were the ghosts.  We investigated during the day, which helped our research.  We went at night.  I Warded (force field) to keep bad stuff from happening.  Another character Insinuated the ghost away.  We both had 5 successes on our rolls.  While really short, I thought it was fine.  I think some players new to the game didn’t get a lot to do.  It wasn’t as cool as my previous Gen Con Hunter games, but I have yet to have a bad Hunter game, I wish they were more common.  Actually, there were two running at the same time.  I had plenty of time to pick up a Shadowfist playmat from Daniel for my Kickstarter rewards, but I didn’t engage with the other Shadowfist players.

7PM, last HoR mod.  I’m signed up for Laughter of the Flames.  I figure I play that, rather than try to backfill, but there is no table for it.  No table for a Gen Con release.  Huh?  I stand around until Togashi Ketsu and I get together with Utaku Yui and a deadheading not Kakita Rei and play Stolen Property.  The mod has no combat tag, so I wanted to play it with my alt, but it is mid/high and I need XP for my main, and it’s something I can play with no other table to play at, so I play it with my main.  Cory runs.  Todd and Adam wander by at various times and note they need the mod.  Organization people!  I found the lack of “everyone playing this mod, go over there, everyone playing that mod, go over there” to make things difficult for me, as I don’t have a group to form a core for a table.

We run the whole slot.  I didn’t find the mod all that interesting, but, with fewer players, more stuff happens per player, so it was good.  I got my 12xp and was set for the BI.

Saturday

I had an open slot in the morning.  I could have tried to sign up for Feng Shui 2e game, which I only found out about at the con.  That sounds possum.  I could have played in the political interactive for HoR.  I might have had other options.  I slept in, til like 8AM.  I ate breakfast over by the political interactive, saw the list of side contests.  One of them was interesting to me, but it would require playing my main, and I’m already not inclined to play, nevermind that I do noncombat stuff with my alt.

1PM was Feng Shui.  I asked someone who had played 2e earlier about it, and it sounded like some good changes were made.  We basically played Big Trouble in Little China, with some minor modifications.  My fiancee was the special bride.  One of the GMs spoke Mandarin, one of the players knew at least some.  My awful, awful knowledge of Mandarin just makes me not so happy.  Golf balls were used to trip people.  Metal fan was stolen and handed off to our lawyer to reflect lightning.  Jack’s truck was recovered.  We didn’t use the actual combat mechanics with the shot chart and all, but that’s fine.  I actually see 1e’s combat as one of the game’s weak points (in that it slows things down a ton to actually do the mechanics).

7PM Battle Interactive.  I get placed at a R-3 table, with only Kakita Shiro being R-4.  Moshi Arashi, Yoritomo Wakou (table commander), Shiba Kazuo, Kakita Shiro, Hiruma Tanjo, Isawa Reiko form my table.  Due to Arashi being Earth 2 and my lack of simple attacks, the plan is for me to yojimbo her and whoever else.  Eytan is our GM.

Round 1, we hit Noodle Street for a tier 3 encounter (we could have done 4 but wanted to prepare for bigger things later), where the smells of fried food are in the air.  Sandbags with spikes narrow our path.  Hot oil is thrown at us.  Otomo and merchants heckle us from above.  I roll 40 initiative, which is amusing given my following of O’Saigo.  Round 1 of the combat, I guard the two shugenja.  Round 2, I drive a cart into the spikes to clear them, making an Engineering roll, which I have to Luck.  Round 3, I’ve been delegated to call in our minor clan bonuses, which are healing shugenja, and a Kitsune appears to heal the Hiruma.  Round 4, a Dragonfly comes in to heal the Hiruma.  Our table Medicines another Noodle Street table a bit.  The Yoritomo and Isawa throw things at the Otomo and gain Infamy.  We are relatively unscathed.

Round 2, Central Market.  We fail the Battle roll, then fail it again.  We are stuck with a tier 3 encounter worth 1 VP.  Cory comes by and gives us a special encounter.  Dragon assassins failed to kill our leaders and are on the way back to their lines with intel.  We must stop them.  This encounter is all offense, as they are in wound penalties but are also R-5 Mirumoto/Taoists with R-3 Mirumoto “mooks” and a ronin shugenja with Void spells.  On round 1, I guard Arashi and Tanjo.  Combat was essentially over before my action on round 2.  Yes, four R-5 bushi and four R-3 bushi and a R-5 shugenja were taken out before the end of round two.  The shugenja was possibly going to cast Destructive Wave on round one as only one of them needed to survive.

As those who follow the forums or who were there know, Toturi Daio showed up under the banner of the Black Lion and we minions waited for our commanders to figure out what to do.  Kazuo, Shiro, and Reiko left our table, when the rest of us followed our side’s orders to attack the Black Lion forces.  We did a tier 4 encounter, which probably made little sense, though I guess the point of the BI on a personal level is not so much Glory, as I can’t gain Glory with my main, nor can a lot of others, but to have difficult fights for the fun of it.  I actually had to attack in this fight as Arashi kept increasing her ATN to 52.  I missed the R-5 Hiruma on round one but hit some R-3 “mooks” on the other rounds, taking 36 wounds total.  Tanjo “died” but had Touch of Destiny left.

I preferred this BI to last year’s, as last year’s was kind of easy and dull until we got to the weirdness at the end and almost got wiped, which wasn’t all that interesting either.  Here, I got to roll Engineering.  I might have been able to get through a BI without once making an attack roll.  Heavy armor helps my build so so very much.  As Glory is meaningless, I’m not sure what the incentive to do anything besides special encounters is.  Sure, the side gets VPs, but it seems way better to do tier 3/tier 5 special than tier 4/tier 4, so why waste the resources on anything besides specials?

My main survived.  I’ve had my replacement ready to go for a year, now.  I can even get it to be somewhat less pathetic if I can get 2xp per mod played.  I really need something to do with my main.  The one thing about this con is that the list of daimyo supporting the Black Lion actually made me want to kill somebody.  I’m highly apolitical (which is one of the reasons to avoid the political interactives) but also kind of unmotivated in this campaign and ambivalent.  While there were daimyo on the other side I didn’t want to fight, there were many I was happy to see suffer.  Yeah, politics.

Sunday

I had another open slot.  I dropped by the V:TES players again and Felipe and I talked about next year.  The morning worked out well for Josh and me to hit the exhibit hall and get checked out of the hotel.

My noon game was Urban Shadows.  Kickstarter was recent.  Publish will be soon.  I really liked the character creation system for a game of modern supernaturals running around dealing with each other, elements of WoD, Armageddon, supposedly Dresden Files, lots of book series.  The structure of the game is that it’s character driven and the GM built a story based on character creation.  That’s okay.  It meant a lot of my background didn’t matter as we only had two hours to actually do stuff, but part of playing was making up stuff about our characters, which is a thing.  The dicerolling system didn’t interest me.  It’s built to create complications, but, for a very storytellerish game, it seems really random what the dice say.  Also, the mechanics are kind of odd in that they are very structured in an OOC way for what’s a very storytellerish game in style.  It’s not even listed what damage actually does to you.  Advancement is really weird and seems very gamable.  But, I got to play a Danish immortal in Uttica, who had ownership in a newspaper, so I quite liked my character, as little that I accomplished as I did.

That night, I had to sleep at the airport because of thunderstorms in my connecting city.  Could have been worse.  Besides that, it was pretty smooth and enjoyable, much like recent years where only minor things were less than desirable.  Again, nothing spectacular but it was really good to check out Fate of the Norns and Urban Shadows.  I need to remember to back the Feng Shui Kickstarter.

And, just to reiterate, hanging out with people I know (to varying degrees) or have something to talk about with is one of the best things about Gen Con or any con or, really, any sort of gaming at all.


[Deck] Chapel Hard By

August 12, 2014

http://www.secretlibrary.info/index.php?deck=view&id=16808

Deck Name:   Chapel Hard By
Created By:  ICL
Description:  There is a required local name for this deck, but I’m not one to stir controversy.  This deck could have had a variety of cool names.  It’s really all a matter of the key cards.  Take away the Creation Rites, Obfuscate, and Computer Hackings and what do you have?  Death to unbelievers.  Once upon a time, once when you rhyme, there were those who lacked faith.  True, truth is not an issue.  Fleeing, though, accomplishes nothing.  Health comes from drinking.

Crypt: (12 cards, Min: 16, Max: 30, Avg: 6.16)
———————————————-
2  Greensleeves                       for pot ANI OBF7  Nosferatu Antitribu
2  Lukas                              pre ser ANI OBF POT8  Nosferatu Antitribu
2  Marie Faucigny                     dem tha AUS OBF7  Malkavian Antitribu
2  Stavros                            dem AUS OBF PRE7  Malkavian Antitribu
2  Tupdog                             POT VIS        1  Gargoyle
2  Xendil Charmer                     obf CEL PRO SER7  Gangrel Antitribu

Library: (70 cards)
——————-
Master (26 cards)
1  Black Forest Base
1  Communal Haven: Temple
1  Festivo dello Estinto
2  Hungry Coyote, The
12 Obfuscate
1  Powerbase: Madrid
2  Specialization
6  Tribute to the Master

Action (19 cards)
1  Abbot
1  Blood Feast
6  Computer Hacking
1  Consecration Rites
10 Creation Rites

Action Modifier (17 cards)
8  Cloak the Gathering
3  Faceless Night
2  Leverage
4  Veil the Legions

Political Action (2 cards)
1  Blood Siege
1  Cardinal Benediction

Reaction (2 cards)
1  Confusion of the Eye
1  Delaying Tactics

Equipment (1 cards)
1  Chalice of Kinship

Combo (3 cards)
3  Swallowed by the Night

Black Forest Base was the canal.  In some other way, this deck could have been different.  Like, if it got changed, it would just not be the same, man.  So, yeah.  The key is rush.  Rush opens doors, after it gets turned.  When you play with other people, bad things happen.  Alone, in the dark, that’s when the sighs are the loudest.  Laugh?  Better noir than red.


[Tournament Report] Berkeley Three-Way

August 11, 2014

Mark decided to organize some local V:TES tournaments.  Of the four scheduled, we South Bayers made three of them.

Having just got back from a business trip and with a lot of different projects pulling on me, plus Gen Con coming up this week, I didn’t have much time for getting decks together.  Jeff Y. wanted me to rebuild an old deck, but I just didn’t have time.

We congregated at Chez Haas and drove up in my car to Berkeley.

Powerbase: Berkeley – Tension in the Ranks

Round 1

Mark (Mata Hari ally) -> Ian (Principia Discordia) -> Brandon (Toreador bleed) -> Rick (high cap Lasombra) -> Eric (Guruhi fight)

We had 13 players.  With some SoCal players, we would have had more.

I seem to have a lot of problems making transfer decisions these days.  I had an uncontrolled of Badr al-Budur, Nepata, Sir Marriot, Anarch Convert.  I brought out Nepata and made her an anarch.  I think I got another Convert and got Anwar.  I think I Clotho’s Gifted, maybe had Count Ormonde in my uncontrolled as well.

Mark brought out Ossian early.  Eric didn’t kill it with Nangila.  When Ponticulus came out, Eric had little ability to do anything.  Mark kept using Luc’s ability to add three cards.  Brandon brought out Anson, Ramiel, Mariana, and Victoria.  Rick brought out Moncada and de Polonia.

Brandon bled.  Rick did some stuff, including Disarming Mariana.  Eric brought out Nana and did a set of Ashur Tablets at some point.  Mark just kept bringing out allies.  Anarch Revolt hurt some, putting Mark within range.  Mark Sensory Deprivationed my Badr, which made me sad as I was accumulating Nests of Eagles.  He started rushing my guys prior to that.  While I played a few Principia Discordias at Serpentis against Brandon, I was largely irrelevant.  An empty, torped Anwar got saved late to Nest of Eagles Mark’s bleed to where he only got me to one pool before time.  Brandon had 2.5 VPs.

Quote of this game for me, Brandon to Mark “He’s got two vampires with Serpentis!” as an argument for doing stuff to my three vampires, one of which didn’t have Serpentis.  Looking over the decklist, I’m not quite sure why I don’t have any permableed.  There are twelve cards that can give plus bleed, but that’s not scary, and they only give plus one.

Round 2

Brandon -> David (Shattering Crescendo) -> Ian -> Henri (!Ventrue grinder)

Henri brings out Sister Evelyn and Pentexes Anson.  I can’t avoid bringing out multiple dudes with my deck, so I suck Crescendo.  I put out Crocodile Temple to discourage making me more impotent as a predator, but David seems to think that it’s important to unregardableize me.

Sister Evelyn switches from bleed of five to Vessel/hunt.  Neighbor John Sticks me for four as my deck doesn’t do anything about Target Vitals.  He later Sticks my Badr again when she tries Principia Discordia at Serpentis(!!) against a full Sister Evelyn.  David eventually gets me, though Henri was looking pretty good for a sweep.  Henri cleans up.

Jeff Y. borrowed my toolbox Daughters deck for the tournament and couldn’t figure out what it was supposed to do.  Just oust your prey … somehow.

Finals

David Corson-Knowles won with Francois, Victoria, Aus/Cel/Obf something.  I never saw much of the deck.

Powerbase: Berkeley – Unexpected Coalition

With that debacle out of the way, time to get more Quietus action on!  We dropped to 10 players for this tournament.

Round 1

Rick (!Trem with Idalia) -> Brandon (Inside Dirt and Beatrice) -> Alex (Giovanni rush bleed) -> Ian (Ass with Thaumaturgy) -> Jeff K. (Brujah Debate how to selfishly play Parity Shift)

I have Ur-Shulgi, Qadir, and two Anarch Converts in my uncontrolled.  I sadly bring one out on turn one.  This prompts Jeff to Recruitment for Lupo(!!).  So, I Blood Doll Convert and hunt instead of bleed.  Alex Fames my Convert.  Brandon and I agree that he will contest Convert.  I give up Convert.  Alex bounces bleeds of two and three to me from the likes of Beatrice and bleeds me with Conditionings.  I bring out Ur-Shulgi and have six pool.

Jeff keeps bringing out Brujah.  I kill his first Parity Shift, the Shift of selfishness as he tries to give himself five pool rather than give me all of it.  Such selfish players.  Brandon continues his bleediness, which causes Alex to rush backwards and wreck Brandon’s ready region while also walling up, with Jeff growing stronger, so I should go forward, having eventually brought out Qadir.  Yes, stable and with 20 pool of minions after being at one minion and six pool.  Stable being slightly relative as I do suck Anarch Revolt damage until I have Qadir take the anarch action (my second Convert had to double anarch my first Convert).  Rick didn’t care about Revolt, as Hannigan anarched.  He had Selena and Idalia and did bleeds to Brandon.

Jeff’s deck was designed to lose pool to Parity Shift, what with the Recruitments, so he momentarily got low.  I had Truth of Blood in hand and wanted it to bleed forward.  Ur-Shulgi got past two Second Traditions with Into Thin Air and another stealth card.  I had Songs of the Distant Vitae in hand, he had four pool, and … I completely forgot there was an Anarch Revolt in play and he had no anarch, so I overthought the situation and left him at three pool rather than bleeding with Songs for three with Qadir (because Jeff had hunted prior).  The most epic fail in many a year to not cause Jeff Kuta, Betrayer of Assamites, to be ousted because of Songs of the Distant Vitae bleed (and Brandon’s Anarch Revolt).  I guess it shows how much less strongly I feel about things that it only bothered me for the rest of the day rather than haunting me for eternity.

Rick couldn’t oust Brandon before he got swarmed out.  Brandon did recover enough to oust Alex.  Jeff ousted Brandon.  So, I went from fresh Ur-Shulgi and six pool to be the only one left who could Extremis Boon when Jeff ousted me, which he failed to give me pool for to survive longer.  Selfish.

Round 2

Andy (Malk My Kin Against the World) -> Ian -> David (DoC vote/bleed) -> Brandon -> Mark (FoS bleed)

Brandon smashed Mark, who only brought out Ankh-sen-Sutekh before evaporating.  Andy played a game of Parity Shifting crosstable.  Early on, things were great for me.  I got out Ur-Shulgi but couldn’t decide between Thetmes and Yazid.  I brought out Thetmes for more votes.  Thetmes got a Blood Doll but David Vesseled it, thus killing my pool gain.

Votes were called.  Votes were messed with.  Lutz caused me to lose pool on stupid stuff.  Andy got low enough that he was in danger, but Andy recovered.  David got superlow due to my not doing anything.  I was in a position to oust two players and Andy needed Brandon gone, so he Parity Shifted to take four pool from me and give to David, so that I couldn’t oust David on my turn, with the deal being that David would Lily Prelude backwards to oust me.  That kind of happened.  My Extremis Boon saw Brandon bid one pool, which forced Andy to bid two pool, as David would have just rolled over both of them if Brandon went out that quickly.

Andy stole my last two pool through Extremis Boon.  Andy won the endgame.

So, the main thing from Saturday is that I hardly did anything.  Even with windows to oust in the second tournament, I just didn’t really do much.  My prey would get low because of how their decks worked.  You also couldn’t remotely tell that my deck ran some Thaumaturgy cards except when I discarded Rutor’s Hand in the second game.  I did manage to Coagulate Blood both forwards and backwards with the power of Market Square intercept.

Finals

In a very tight game, Andy got Jeff down to one pool, Brandon almost ousted Jeff in the endgame.  Andy got one, Brandon two, Jeff won as higher seed with two VPs.

Sunday

We were exhausted on Saturday.  Definitely couldn’t see doing two tournaments on Sunday.  Andy had to do other stuff, so we figured we’d have eight or so people.  We ended up with ten in the morning.

After my pointing out that I play too many decks that don’t do anything (prior to my inevitable victories), I got badgered into playing a deck that takes actions.  I happened to have had built a Creation Rites deck that at least takes actions.

Round 1

Mark (Horrid Form wall) -> Brandon (FoS high caps with Dom) -> Ian (OBF Creation Rites) -> Eric (Nocturn) -> Alex (AAA)

I had one early Tribute to the Master and never saw another.  I got Specialization after not too long and Black Forest Base kept giving me two pool.  Brandon’s start was explosive, with Eternals of Sirius into Kahina into Kephamos and Saqqaf, with Allonzo Montoya joining the party.

Eric seemed threatening as I wasn’t affecting him and he had Nocturns plus Dominate bleeds.  Alex brought out Anson and Alexandra, eventually getting Anneke.  Mark was a threat to beat people up but didn’t interact a lot with his neighbors.  He had Meshenka, Stravinksky, and Little Tailor.

The voting situation was in my favor to gain two pool every round.  I played Creation Rites and not a lot else.  I didn’t need stealth with my neighbors.  I should have been discarding to draw into a Tribute.  After one hour, I had played 10 cards, five of which were Creation Rites.  About an hour and 20/25 minutes in, I needed pool, so I bled Eric for the first time and ousted him that turn.  Alex had too much pool for me to oust him in time.  Brandon got me as I kept losing pool faster than I could gain it from Specialization and Black Forest Base even with the one copy of Abbot in my wakeless deck in play.

Round 2

David (Arika multiacts) -> Rick (Tzimisce high cap wall) -> Eric -> Mark -> Ian

Rick and Mark talked about contestation possibilities, but I wasn’t sure why.  Mark got Meshenka and Little Tailor.  Rick got Lambach and Stravinsky.  Eric got Pentexed by Mark right away, so Mark had no predator.  I couldn’t build up Creation Rites, as I just didn’t draw that many for some reason.

David’s Ranjan got torped.  Arika came out.  Arika got torped and eaten by Stravinsky, who burned in the bloodhunt.  I debated whether it was in my interest to burn Stravinsky.  Long run, I knew that was a play for two VPs as Eric would own me in an endgame, if we didn’t time out.  But, being tired of overthinking things, two VPs was better than one for me, plus it reduced the number of votes on the table so that my Black Forest Base bloat was more likely.  Eric didn’t have much pressure, so he got out other dudes.  Mark was not high on pool and had played an Under Siege.  With David at six pool, I ousted him with big vampires Computer Hacking.

Eric broke Pentex by ousting Mark.  I started Computer Hacking with my few guys (maybe I should have just built up Creation Rites) to either oust Rick or get Eric lower.  Rick got ousted due to lack of bounce.  Eric ground me out in the endgame.  I couldn’t even take the Edge, though I could gain three pool a turn.

Finals

Ian T. (Palla Grande) -> Brandon -> Mark -> Eric -> Ian L.

Eric lost his first dude to Deep Song rush and so I had no predator.  I did have an unfortunate crypt of two Greensleeves, Stavros, and Tupdog.  Well, maybe not that unfortunate as I played Specialization on turn one and brought out Tupdog.  Turn two, Specialized away two Obfuscate, played Black Forest Base, called vote with Tupdog, and Mark’s Meshenka supported the vote.  I got Xendil off of Tupdog …  Yeah, seven cap Priscus power for the win!

Ian T. brought out Greta, who got Temptationed by Brandon.  Brandon got out Kephamos, Nehsi, and Count Ormonde.  Mark had Meshenka, Caliban, Little Tailor, and Path.  I agreed to go after Path if I could convert one of my priscuses into a Cardinal.  I failed to get Path but Ian T. got it.  There was much ganging up on Mark because Eric was doomed.  Wall deck with pool and VP seemed kind of good.

I switched to ignoring my predators, but I had to cycle to draw into my first Creation Rites.  Even Specializing away four Obfuscates and two Cloaks, I still had not gotten my first Creation Rites.  I had decrypted into Marie Faucigny (one of my favorite vampires in the game) and brought out Greensleeves and her.  Greensleeves got the Chalice of Kinship.  Marie played Consecration Rites on my Black Forest Base, just in case Mylan appeared!!  One of those two actions was key in the game, probably the latter.

I brought out Stavros because lack of Creation Rites.  Mark walled up to play for the time out win as I had lots of pool and enough stealth that I could probably get a Black Forest Base action off to gain more.  I actually drew Tributes in this game.  I finally drew into Creation Rites and built up.  Brandon beat down Mark.  Ian T. got brandon into ousting range but two Eagle Sights crosstable and bounce prevented him from getting Brandon long enough for Brandon to get Mark.  Brandon got me down to one pool … good ole Tupdog pool gain.  I Tributed next turn.  Ian T. ousted Brandon.  I bled with 11 minions give or take having to hunt after Tribute.  Time was running short.  I kept bleeding with many guys until I did just enough to oust Ian T. with about 2.5 minutes left.

Yup, that’s what swarm Obfuscate bleed does – swim backwards for the 2/1/1/1 VP split.  I really didn’t think I’d oust Ian in time as he had 12 pool for so long and my early bleeds just got reduced or bounced.

I’ll follow up with a separate post about the deck.

Thanks to Mark for organizing.  Without organizers, we don’t have tournaments.  Great to see people again that I’ve played against for many years.  Hopefully, next time, a SoCal presence.  Assuming Labor Day Weekend has SoCal tournaments, I believe some of us plan to make them.

 


Re D&D

August 3, 2014

I was reading this review:  Review of Dungeon Magazine #1.  I followed links and read some blog posts about oD&D.

To say I totally get what is being said about how the nature of oD&D was different from what people often think of as the point of RPGs these days is hardly value add.

I could cite examples, bring up anecdotes, and contrast with what I play.  Sure, let’s do some of that.

The gist of one of the blog posts I ended up reading was that D&D wasn’t about killing monsters.  It was about loot.  Okay, right, kill and loot, kill and loot.  Except no, take away the kill part.  Killing monsters was the most common form of challenge overcoming, but it wasn’t just that it didn’t have to be, it had nothing to do with the goal, which was to accumulate treasure.  XP gains from monster smiting were horrid.  XP gains from meaningful treasure were how you badged up, uh, I mean, leveled up.

Well, there’s more to the gist.  Gistierly, the play experience was the extremely gamist one of leveling up.  Didn’t I just say that or doesn’t everyone know that?  Again, it’s the difference between an aspect and the end all and be all of play.  Leveling up was the end all and be all of play, to where death was part of play because death prevented just continuously leveling up.

The argument being made was that balance existed not in terms of PC vs. PC or PC vs. challenge but in terms of PC vs. game.  Weak characters died.  Poor decisions led to death.  Bad luck, more death.  The group was fighting against not progressing but each PC was also fighting against not progressing to where there were advantages to other PCs dying – this last comment being mine and some arguable value add.

I believe it’s the combat example in the AD&D 1e DMG that shows PCs of uneven levels in a party, where low level thief gets killed because … low level thief.

I find PC death problematic for reasons I went into in some blog post.  That’s because what I play isn’t supposed to be a survival contest.  It could be, but that’s something to get into later.  oD&D death was the norm because, hey, start playing some new dude and hope for weak encounters with goodly treasure, which, actually, didn’t need to be that goodly due to the constantly increasing XP requirements to level.

An anecdote for the obsession with treasure was my playing the gold box Pool of Radiance computer game.  I memorized the game after a certain point.  I couldn’t care less about killing monsters except for how fixed encounters had fixed treasures.  Some treasures were just hidden and could be accessed with no fighting.  Wandering monsters were annoyances that slowed down my completing pieces of the game, which, admittedly, did involve quests that involved killing monsters.  Now, I played it so many times that I did go looking for random encounters at times just to do something different.  But, I was usually focused on how to turbo level up one half-elf fighter/magic-user/cleric and eventually got to the point of just turbo grabbing the +5 longsword.

Killing monsters couldn’t cause level increases to any sort of meaningful degree.  It was always treasure or rewards.

Contrast with what I play.  Okay, RuneQuest is this loot model and, thus, an exception, with the level system not being so rigid or possibly better put as a stage system, which ends up working out the same.  Even when I play or run level systems, Conan d20, I don’t think about how players should be earning levels.  I think they should just go up a level every 2-3 sessions because the variety at the mechanics level is gaining abilities, not creating a new character.  L5R is not impossible to play with highly divergent PC abilities, after all, shugenja already exist.  It’s just not oriented towards the idea that a new samurai will pop up every couple of sessions, even though that would actually make sense.

I can totally see a campaign of yoriki where the yoriki die constantly.  After all, samurai are supposed to die.  But, the player expectations would have to be completely different.  Out goes character development.  Out goes coherent narrative.

Gamist play has drama.  Narrativist play tries to capture the drama found in fiction, where you set up a scene where everything is at stake.  Simulationist play gains drama from how things happen to the character that aren’t preplotted and not just a mechanism – the character exists in *this* world where what *this* character chooses to do has impact – it’s the drama of the reality of the game.  Gamist drama is the same drama you find in other competitive endeavors, the dice/cards/whatever either go your way or they don’t and stories are made when the unexpected happens or when there’s a high level of unknown or when crucial mechanical decisions are made.

But, I can get that from playing things other than D&D or some RPG.  I can get that from CCGs, from mahjong, from solitaire.  I could get that from computer games, if I played those anymore.

Is there a point to the idea that a RPG is really just an exercise in maximizing loot gain?  Can’t Descent, WoW, or all sorts of other things achieve that experience without the rigmarole of using a RPG framework?

For some people, I guess not.  There’s something about the more open-ended experience of tabletop play or maybe it’s the people you do it with or the milieu where a kitchen table is qualitatively different from a computer screen.  I’m certainly willing to play a loot Roll-PG and not willing to play a MMO.  I’m willing to constantly create new RuneQuest characters rather than go through resurrection over and over.

But, it only works when that’s what is expected.  Yes, all things come back to the idea that everyone needs to be on the same page.  In this case, if one player thinks the game is about achieving in character goals and another is looking to level up, it’s going to be frustrating.  I know I’ve been on one side of that, the question is whether I’ve also been on the other.  I can imagine I have.

Consider HoR.  It’s easy to focus on your PC and basically ignore what other people are trying to accomplish that doesn’t maximize your XP and your certs and your Honor.  I can believe I’ve been that player at one time or another, where I was focused on maximizing rewards (“loot”), where someone else was role-playing to not their level up maximizing benefit.

The more I think about this, the more I think about this.  It interests me, at least, that sometimes I’m not the 100% storyteller that every quiz says I am.  I can be the treasure guy, though not when it’s just boring old money to be had.

It’s a matter of being in the right mode.  Unfortunately, I commonly see cases where the modes are different for the players.  Anyway, that style of loot play can be fun.  I don’t want to take the position of the snobby narrativist who deems gamist play to be the realm of boardgames.  But, there shouldn’t be any mixed messages.  If all we do is loothunt, we shouldn’t be worrying about some NPC’s sick parent or whether my +3 boomerang of paralysis has a name or not.  Otherwise, I’m going to break out of loothunt mode and start wondering whether I’ll find a NPC to help or whatever.  Then, there should also be no attempt to compare such a loothuntventure to something with a nonmechanical story.

Others may be able to deal with the mixed natures of such games.  I just end up baffled to where I don’t optimize my loothuntventuring.