Allergic VTES

September 29, 2014

Really, I had allergy issues all day yesterday, whether morning BattleTech or afternoon V:TES.  Don’t like inflicting my sneezing on folks, but the gaming must go on.

BattleTech went well, a draw as the scenario was all about testing LosTech weapon systems.  The most famous Cataphract in all of our campaign fell down needing a four to make a piloting roll, preventing a kick, and leading to next round’s crit to the cockpit (before about 15 other weapon systems were going to blow the mech apart).  Merc Dervish and Trebuchet retreated, evening up the victory point totals our sides had.

I feel like every time I play V:TES I should say “I still do play V:TES” even though, in a given year, I probably play more V:TES than any other game besides the L5R RPG.  From a duration standpoint, V:TES probably comes out ahead as V:TES sessions are often 6+ hours long.

I showed up towards the end of game one.  Sergio from Portugal is in town for a while, so they have four players without me.  We get ‘merican food:  sandwich, hot dog, burger, falafel, gyro.  Then, I proceed to bring one of my more unstoppable decks to my first game.

Sergio (Giovanni powerbleed) -> Andy (Malk My Kin Against the World) -> Brandon (Aus/Cel/Pro vote) -> Eric (EuroBrujah) -> Ian (Incriminating Videotape)

I bring out Quira.  She bleeds at zero stealth a couple of times before Etrius comes out.  And, that’s game.

I could have really used Marie Faucigny, did finally cycle enough to draw Wider View, and inefficiently brought her out after Etrius crushed all before him.  See, what makes Parity Shift so annoying is that it so often goes in some direction besides forward, though it’s pretty annoying forward to.  Malks did 3 pool damage backward with KRC due to vote situation.  Protean voters were fine seeing powerbleeders lose 5 pool crosstable as it looked like two VPs for Giovanni if they got more turns.

Eric did try to rush me, but Etrius blocked and Swallowed by the Night to avoid punchface.  With Sergio at 5 pool because Etrius commanded it be so with the power of his sitting around not doing anything, I bled with Quira at stealth, then bled with Etrius at stealth, somehow not finding a Deflection.  With Andy low on pool and contesting the title of Prince of Rome all game between Tryphosa and Constanza, he transferred out feeling impotent before the ferocity of Etrius.  Eric got ousted, which made me sad both for the pool gain and because I was hoping he would knock down some of Brandon’s five dudes.  While Marie Faucigny was acquiring some sweet Videotapes for Etrius to watch, Pentex came a knocking and it was all about “home” movies.  Time ran out before Etrius needed to raze his enemies (or start in on Sorority Vampire Vixens 41, Part IV).

And, thus, the deck has proved that it cannot ever lose and, in fact, must always win, when piloted by someone who is a VCR expert.  If only the deck didn’t run Eyes of Argus, I could play it in a tournament, but, alas, it shall have to be someone else’s crushing victory to take the greatest crypt ever (in the last few months, maybe a year) and show that the truth is victory and victory is inevitable.  Remember.  It’s not the Videotape, it’s the minute possibility that an Incriminating Videotape might get put into play before time is called that is utterly devastating to your opponents.


Deck Name:   140731t  Incriminating Queens
Created By:  Marie Faucigny
Description: Has Eyes of Argus, so can`t be played in a tournament.

Crypt: (12 cards, Min: 24, Max: 44, Avg: 8)
4  Etrius                             AUS DOM OBF pro THA11 Tremere
4  Marie Faucigny                     dem tha AUS OBF7  Malkavian Antitribu
4  Quira                              AUS OBF obt tha6  Malkavian Antitribu

Library: (80 cards)
Master (19 cards)
1  Barrens, The
5  Blood Doll
2  Direct Intervention
2  Heidelberg Castle, Germany
4  Storage Annex
5  Wider View

Action (6 cards)
3  Magic of the Smith
1  Rave
1  Rutor`s Hand
1  Sibyl`s Tongue

Action Modifier (12 cards)
3  Cloak the Gathering
1  Elder Impersonation
1  Faceless Night
2  Lost in Crowds
1  Mirror Walk
4  Spying Mission

Reaction (21 cards)
3  Confusion of the Eye
1  Delaying Tactics
4  Eyes of Argus
2  My Enemy`s Enemy
5  On the Qui Vive
6  Telepathic Misdirection

Combat (2 cards)
1  Flames of the Netherworld
1  No Trace

Equipment (16 cards)
1  .44 Magnum
3  Cooler
6  Incriminating Videotape
2  Leather Jacket
2  Pier 13, Port of Baltimore
1  Sargon Fragment, The
1  Veneficorum Artum Sanguis

Combo (4 cards)
4  Swallowed by the Night


Needing to play quick, I have this not serious Daughters deck built that I pulled out to die fast and live hard, raarrr.

Sergio (borrowed Bay and Howl) -> Andy (DEM bleed) -> Eric (Santa & Serenna) -> Ian (G-6 DoC) -> Brandon (winnie Pre vote)

I started with two Shattering Crescendoes in my hand.  I thought I’d need to go after Andy, but he seemed to be only mostly deadifying Eric.  Andy and Sergio contested Dreams until Andy was at one pool, so the contest probably was a mistake.  Sergio got to one pool, but he had Under Siege and, thus, was immune to having a predator.  Well, a couple of Crescendoes forward had something to do with limiting Brandon’s numbers (I drew a third quickly).

Eric did Santalize my Paris Opera House, which seemed not to be terribly important, didn’t Santalize a Vessel, which I rated a coin flip of a decision.  Before I could offer a deal to Giant’s Blood Santa, Eric played Giant’s Blood.

Arguably, I could have let Brandon oust Sergio, but Sergio had put Andy into a position where it probably would have been two VPs with vote lock, which would have been annoying, so I ousted Brandon.  Eric didn’t last that long before the power of Embraces and Conditionings.  I had to face Caitlin with Mr. Winthrop and Abbot and an Under Siege in play and had a theoretical path to victory but was not going to win, even if time hadn’t run out.

Lesson kiddies – play in NoCal, expect long games where Daughters decks hold the edge multiple rounds against 7+ minions.

Deck Name:   140607  DoC Group 6 Only
Created By:  Hillanvale

Crypt: (12 cards, Min: 4, Max: 26, Avg: 3.66)
4  Anarch Convert                     none           1  Caitiff
2  Harlan Graves                      FOR mel pre    4  Daughters of Cacophony
2  Hillanvale                         FOR MEL obf    5  Daughters of Cacophony
2  Janet Langer                       MEL pre        3  Daughters of Cacophony
2  Scout Youngwood                    MEL OBF PRE for qui8  Daughters of


Library: (70 cards)
Master (19 cards)
3  Blood Doll
1  Command Performance
1  Giant`s Blood
2  Obfuscate
1  Paris Opera House
3  Perfectionist
3  Storage Annex
3  Vessel
2  Wider View

Action (12 cards)
1  Art`s Traumatic Essence
4  Concert Tour
1  Persistent Echo
6  Shattering Crescendo

Action Modifier (22 cards)
2  Cloak the Gathering
1  Faceless Night
6  Freak Drive
5  Missing Voice, The
1  Phantom Speaker
2  Siren`s Lure
1  True Love`s Face
4  Virtuosa

Reaction (5 cards)
4  On the Qui Vive
1  Tourette`s Voice

Combat (8 cards)
1  Death of the Drum
2  Dodge
2  Majesty
2  Soak
1  Toreador`s Bane

Ally (2 cards)
2  Member of the Entourage

Combo (2 cards)
1  Madrigal
1  Swallowed by the Night

By the way, if wondering how I survived two hours with this deck, first turn Anarch Convert, second turn Blood Doll hunt, third turn hunt, fourth …

I got to play True Love’s Face at double superior.  … and, yes, there really are only six Shattering Crescendoes in this deck.  Possibly something to consider if you’ve ever seen me play it.

Fisticuffs [20140925]

September 27, 2014

I should probably get consistent about date formats.

I think it’s even more important for me to record Shadowfist play sessions.  Shadowfist is harder for me to remember as so many little things happen that are or could be impactful.  I may play more cards in a V:TES game, but V:TES is just so much less of a swingy game.  Well, this and that I’m just much more familiar with V:TES and can extract what I consider interesting more easily.

We’ve now played three sessions with the same group of four players, so we both have a regular game going, having played weekly on Thursdays for two, yes two, one more than one, weeks in a row and we have a clearly defined metagame – super clear, fully defined, and immutable.

The 25th was my night to play three decks that I want to break down.  As with other CCGs I play where there’s no deckbuilder, I only record my decks when I break them down.  So, I don’t have a record of decks after I’ve changed them but before I change them again.

Ascended -> Cops -> Fire Ants -> Abominable Tech

Other people did stuff.  Meanwhile, what my game was about was not drawing foundation characters early, having people kill my Abominations shortly after they came out, drawing one event the entire game and using it, Expendable Unit, to kill my Field Medic rather than have my Blood Eagles die, then drawing nothing but FSS and foundation characters in the late game.

Fire Ants did do some attacking stuff, with The Dragon Throne reducing cost.  Nobody bothered going after The Dragon Throne, then everyone got so close to victory that there wasn’t time.  The Ascended always had lots of power, playing a Nuclear Power Plant early that I tried to take out but got stopped.  I did take it later, but they just played another one.  Ascended finally ended up winning after dropping Adrienne Hart a couple of times, Raven Li, and Might of the Elephant hitting a Disco while Raven was Fox Passed over to The Dragon Throne.

My inability to process what is going on during Shadowfist games is well examplified by the fact that my first FSS was Medicinal Flower Garden, it got revealed early on, never went away, and never got turned when Shrieking Witch Heads did exactly enough damage to smoke my Gamma Beast.  I, then, waited all of the rest of the game to find an opportunity to turn my MFG and nothing came up.

Yeah, it’s strong to completely overlook the ability of cards that you played that are sitting in play face up.

One thing this game demonstrated is the nature of our metagame.  The players seem quite happy to stop any sort of site removal while being happy to see characters get taken down.  It’s no wonder that two of the players play massive decks and expect long games.  Sure, people stop those going for victory, but just plinking an unrevealed site is cause to hop into the way of somebody.  Mobility is something I’m looking to avoid playing with as it will only feed into the mindset that everything needs to be intercepted.  I’ve gone entire games without losing my first-played FSS …

Dragon -> Tattooed Man (borrowed) -> Fire Ants -> Rattlebones.dec

I’m not sure it was the Fire Ants deck, again.  All of the 100+ card decks played are hard for me to distinguish.

When I got to three power, I played Jake Rattlebones.  When I won, Jake Rattlebones was a 13 Fighting, -1 damage to Armies of the Monarchs, five damaged character.  The question was asked as to why nobody took out Jake all game.  As was pointed out, he often had damage on him, so he just didn’t seem like that big of a deal.  I did have to Spirit Wrack one Nomad Army, then Tortured Memories a Golden Comebacked Nomad Army that tried to block his bid for victory.  Also, there was paying four power to get rid of Prisoner of the Monarchs on him.

Early Nomad Army plus Training Sequence got Evil Twinned crosstable.  They both died to Final Brawl.  Final Brawl certainly kept things relatively open.  That plus my Tattooed Man deck was being borrowed by someone who often plays his cops deck.  The deck may not work, I wouldn’t know since I hadn’t played any of my decks except my Daughters of Nu Gua deck, but I think it’s too massive a contrast in style.  I build defensive, low flow decks … wonder where that came from … that intend to win during a specific window of time with little offense … I’m sure that sounds familiar but I have no clue as to why …

Syndicate were just too starved on power to do much, not being able to push through for enough burns for power.  I will note that my first FSS was a Booby-Trapped Tomb and it never got revealed.

Healing Snow -> Lotus -> Cops -> Architects

My first FSS was Dockyard.  It never took damage in this two hour game.  I did trigger Six Points and get a warrior token that hung around with a Blast Aura for quite a while.  Chiu Bagong avoided Hands of Darkness but he and his Evil Twin ran into Overzealous Assassins.  Cops kept coming back with 200 Guys With Hatchets and Ladders.

Sergeant Blightman came and went.  CHAR came and went and got Reinvigorationed and went.  Paradox Beast came and went.  General Gog won it for the Architects due to Uncontrolled Mutation.

Dan Dammer, Jammer Slammer showed up a couple of times, one time being intercepted by a Hand of Darkness …

I believe it was a PubOrd Officer who got crowned by Underworld Coronation.

If General Gog hadn’t gotten through for the win, I was about to drop Pi Tui to return six cops to play.  There was a comment that a horde of little dudes was a better way to go than big dudes (see Green Snake and White Snake get smoked when the table felt like smoking them), but I’d actually say permanents-based recursion is the most powerful thing in the game.  Whether that’s a bunch of dorks or Underworld Trackers or whatever.  Sure, Dragon event recursion is strong, but I don’t find it nearly as busted as repeatable, inevitable recursion.  While a surprising number of my plays were effective, the most interesting one in this game was Auramancer.  I don’t think I put out multiples at a time as that draws attention, but one Auramancer is extremely likely to get bigger in this meta, which means I’m gaining free power, as well.

I do need to put in more stuff to stop Fox Pass and Kinoshita House.  My bid for victory with Claw of the Ice Bear, Auramancer at 4 Fighting, and Six Points was stopped by Kinoshita, as have been many of my bids for victory in other games.


Name:  Abominable Tech
Faction:  Architect
Size:  40

Architect Cards (25)
Characters (17)
2x Arcanomoth
2x Blood Eagles
2x Combat Engineer
5x DNA Mage
1x Dr. Curtis Boatman (S&S)
2x Gamma Beast
1x Gnarled Annihilator
1x Melting Flesh Squad
1x NeoBuro Field Medic

Edges (2)
1x Reinvigoration Seed
1x Rise of the NeoBuro

Events (5)
3x Arcanovirus
1x Expendable Unit
1x Howling for Blood

Sites (1)
1x Dao Biotech Headquarters

Generic Cards (15)
Events (5)
5x Scrounging

Feng Shui Sites (10)
1x Booby-Trapped Tomb
2x City Park
4x Dockyard
1x Forgotten Temple
1x Medicinal Flower Garden
1x Mobius Gardens

Yeah, this deck isn’t playing good cards.  A lot of the good Architect cards just annoy me, even though comparable cards for the Lotus don’t.  I’m pretty sure I don’t need that many DNA Mages.  Should be a second Dao Biotech as that’s my linchpin.  No real coherent plan for punching through.  Yup, this is the complete opposite of every deck I build for multiplayer CCGs ever … right?  While it’s going to go away, I did fail to play a bunch of the cards in it, so I’m sure there will be more Dao Bioteching in the future.

Name:  Rattlebones.dec
Faction:  Lotus
Size:  50

Lotus Cards (36)
Characters (22)
1x Abaddon the Destroyer
3x Abysmal Wyrm
2x Exorcist
3x Feng Kan
3x Hungry Ghosts
5x Imp
3x Jake Rattlebones
1x Ravenous Devourer
1x Sewer Scum

Edges (2)
2x Insidious Plan

Events (12)
1x Bribery
1x Cries in the Night
2x Death of 1,000 Cuts
1x Feeding the Hungry
2x Spirit Wrack
4x Tortured Memories
1x Underworld Coronation

Generic Cards (14)
Events (5)
1x Discerning Fire
4x Pocket Demon

Feng Shui Sites (9)
1x Booby-Trapped Tomb
4x Dockyard
2x Forgotten Temple
1x Gambling House
1x Kowloon Gate

Unlike other factions, I actually play with good cards for Lotus.  They just have so many cards I like.  I am already tired of the ludicrous amount of removal they have.  Also, it would get old to put Evil Twin in every deck.  What I’m having a hard time doing is getting away from the Feng Kan + Exorcist combo or away from the efficient Abysmal Wyrms.  All of my Gambling Houses should really be Möbius Gardens as I just find that Gambling is not as easy as one would think and Möbius Gardens triggers far too easily, with one more Body.

Name:  Healing Snow
Faction:  Monarchs
Size:  48

Monarchs Cards (29)
Characters (22)
3x Auramancer
1x Chiu Bagong
1x Claw of the Ice Bear
4x Fire Cadets
3x Fire Horse
2x Pi Tui
3x Six Points
1x Snow Fox
2x Snow Seer
2x Wayfarer

Edges (3)
1x Crystal Heart
2x Lessons of the Fallen

Events (2)
2x Winter’s Laugh

Sites (1)
1x Tomb of the Sacred Vigil

States (1)
1x Whirlwind Transformation

Generic Cards (19)
Events (4)
4x Pocket Demon

Feng Shui Sites (12)
1x Diamond Beach
4x Dockyard
2x Dragon Graveyard
1x Maze of Stairs
1x Mobius Gardens
1x Phlogiston Mine
1x Stone Spirals
1x Whirlpool of Blood

States (3)
2x Blast Aura
1x Six Demon Bag

This is just a mess of a deck to try to play a lot of new cards.  Winter’s Laugh and Blast Aura are surprisingly defensive.  Certainly, Winter’s Laugh isn’t all that in my play, being usually one power to cancel an event.  Haven’t gotten a Six Demon Bag in play yet, need to build a SDB deck.  For some reason, I really dislike Phlogiston Mine.  I keep thinking someone will take it and use it against me, even though my sites hardly ever get taken or burned (in this meta, which screws up a lot of my defensive plays).

I really like Fire Horse, but I got to have more focused Monarchs decks just because I should really like Monarchs but am finding I’m not liking my Monarchs decks that much.  Diamond Beach needs to see more play in this meta to deal with hordes of cops, ants, or whatever.  Toughness, in general, is causing a lot of problems for decks I’m playing against.  I think it has to do with how burns for power are stopped early on or avoided due to the commonality of Bite of the Jellyfish to where hitters aren’t as common (even though people seem to sit on massive quantities of power a lot of the time and have no issue giving other players power through Paper Trail or Fistful of Dollars or whatever) in addition to efforts to take out hitters right away.

Second Impressions

September 19, 2014

Much is made of first impressions.  For good reason.

It’s an area of life in general I could work a lot on.  So, forget them.

Second impressions.  Not everything is good.  Not everything can get better.  But, a lot of things can get better.

Feng Shui 2e is Kickstartering at the moment –

This relates somewhat to my theme.  First edition has a lot of style and some pretty awful mechanics.  There are way too many attributes.  AV is almost the end all and be all of effectiveness.  In those cases that it isn’t, like weapon stat differences, the game becomes silly with everyone running around with AK-47s because they are just strictly better.  Costs of schticks to use just seem haphazard, nevermind how expensive certain paths become to do the thing you want to do.

From what I could gather at Gen Con, sounds like Robin and team did a massive clean up to get the mechanics closer to the fluidity level that the game should have.

Stone Age seemed like an awful boardgame the first time I played it, though it seemed to get better towards the end.  Realized it’s a perfectly decent game once everyone became more familiar with the mechanics.

It occurred to me recently that I experienced Shadowfist before I saw my first Jyhad card!  I vaguely recall a demo of the game at Manafest 1995.  Well, I vaguely recall participating in a demo rather than just watching a demo.  Of course, I also experienced Highlander, Rage, Duel for the Stars (Race for the Galaxy in an earlier form), and one or two other CCGs besides Ultimate Combat! before I saw a Jyhad card.

I think Shadowfist has some issues, but so does everything else.  I didn’t get it in 1995, but I’m perfectly happy to play it now.  In fact, looks like we might have a regular Thursday game going at Game Kastle Santa Clara.

But, what got me thinking about second impressions was actually BattleTech.  No, I didn’t like the game more after my first experience.  But, I like our play a lot more after we have fixed various things.  We even fixed a scenario midstream last session because it was being annoying the way I devised things.  After the abort, the second try played out reasonably well.

One thing I’ve thought about is how our boardgame group has house ruled boardgames to try to make them better.  While house rules are omnipresent with RPGs and talked about quite a bit with CCGs, especially those that don’t have much of a tournament scene, I don’t get the sense that house ruling boardgames is all that common.

But, sometimes games get a lot better when you fix them.

Sometimes, it’s having different components.  Sometimes, it’s different players.

I’m not really sure how someone makes a decision to give something a second try.  Seems like a variety of factors.  I guess my point is that sometimes a second try leads to discovery that something is not as bad as it seemed at first.  There are so many alternatives in life, a nice problem to have compared to those who don’t have them, that it can be easy to try something once and eschew it for ever after.

But, then, how would one ever be able to be given credit for being like the only person ever to actually build Hyborian Gates decks?

Wandering off topic, I have played games of V:TES and Shadowfist recently.  I do not think I have the enthusiasm to do reports on the actual play.  Well, whatever.  I did show how to win with Incriminating Videotape.  I think I discarded the copy I drew some hour into the game or so.  I did win the last Shadowfist game I played by putting an Urban Monk into play on the same turn I played my fourth FSS, after my “predator” Neutron Bombed and couldn’t quite get through my Catacombs for the win.

I was thinking that there are so many experiences I’ve enjoyed from gaming that I can’t specifically recall because of volume and because things just run together.  It may seem rather minor to record miscellaneous games, but maybe having some sort of record of those games is better than just forgetting them.

Occasionally, like when I’ve been lazy, I’ll modify my V:TES decks.  I find that I modify existing Shadowfist decks a lot.  I don’t know if that’s because there are more cards that I always want to play or because I constantly want to change decks rather than play them more than once.  While I have yet to get enthusiastic about new Ascended options, the faction that has had the least appeal to me, there’s a surprising amount of Hand stuff I like playing from the latest three sets.

I suppose there’s one other thing that has made me consider second impressions, though it’s outside the realm of gaming.  The new Doctor has generated much the same extremes in remarks that other Doctors have, possibly more as some folks have never experienced an old Doctor.  I like the idea of a Doctor more similar to the original run ones rather than the boyfriend ones of the reboot.  But, I also realize that the show is quite flawed and often less satisfying than I think it should be.  Anyway, regardless, rather than go off the deep end or gush uncontrollably about a new Doctor, I’m amazed that people can’t just give it some time to settle in.


Dungeons and Dragons … and Dungeons …

September 6, 2014

Fifth edition D&D is out.  Maybe it’s my seeing the Player’s Handbook at the local game store.  Maybe it’s having read those reviews of starter rules.  I just read a review of the PHB and skimmed through a review of Hoard of the Dragon Queen.

I don’t have an opinion about 5e, at least about whether it’s good or bad.  I don’t know enough.  It sounds like they tried to undo some of the “why am I not just playing WoW?” of 4e, which is a good goal, but I just don’t know the game.

I never bought 4e D&D.  I hardly played 3e D&D, though I played lots of d20.  I didn’t like the 3e books and pretty much hated the idea of 4e, since, you know, gamers I know have computers and can play WoW or whatever whenever they feel like it.

As may be fairly clear, I’m down on D&D.  So, I decided to do something.

I pulled out my AD&D (1e, of course) PHB and read it, skimming through a bunch of sections, but made an effort to spend some time on those sections I never cared that much about.  When I finished doing that, I pulled out my D&D Basic red book and read through that.

No, I didn’t stop to read every spell description or every monster writeup in Basic.  I did move quickly through most things because, as much as they haven’t been that relevant to me in my life, I looked at some of this stuff (far more AD&D than D&D) a good amount in my formative years.

I got D&D product for my birthday in 1980.  I picked up the AD&D PHB, DMG, MM, and Deities & Demigods in short order.  As with most RPGs where I bought a bunch of books prior to getting older and actually getting into campaigns, I created hundreds if not thousands of characters.

Will I pick up 5e D&D?  Probably not, though maybe something will change my mind.  Would I pick up AD&D today if somehow I lost my books?  Not to play, no.

Still, there’s something about AD&D that I think 3e and 4e, both of which I’m at least somewhat familiar with, lack.  Every version of D&D now strikes me as overly mechanical.  What’s funny is that the Hero System feels less mechanical to me, even though it’s supernumbery.  Something about D&D has always been off when you try to envision taking a fantasy world from fiction and turning around and playing it.

But, it was first, and it was the only real game in town.  I still own zero Tunnels & Trolls products.  Why?  Don’t recall them ever being available when I was young.  Meanwhile, I have a bunch of modules for D&D and AD&D that are pritnear useless to me because they are statblock after 40×40 room after statblock after new magic items after new monsters after wandering monster tables after statblock.  There are interesting story ideas to be sure.  I3-I5 sounds like a cool desert trilogy.  I went to look for inspiration for a desert setting.  I found mechanics.  And, that’s one of the best sets of modules I can think of.

I love L1, The Secret of Bone Hill.  All of the little town shops that have some statted up low level dude do paint some sort of picture to me of a fantasy town.  The interactions of NPCs was something to hang a hat on.

But, getting back to the point.

Which is?

AD&D had something I haven’t felt from 3e and 4e.  It had flavor.  It felt like fantasy.  D&D has caused me to hate dwarves and elves unless you can get into Norse Mythology deep enough for me to forget how much D&D makes me hate dwarves and elves (and I always hated halflings and gnomes, which, by hate, I mean I tried to ignore them as much as possible).  But, that took time.  When I poured over the PHB character mechanics, I was perfectly happy to come up with multiclass builds for elves and half-elves.

Being the primary game in town gives you a lot.  See how reinventing Magic: The Gathering is just a waste of time, unless it’s done as a martial arts game with pictures of real martial artists and was done in 1995.  Still, the PHB made me want to play different characters.  The class system especially but also racial differences made me think of possible PCs.  I should say that the art in AD&D is just so much better than what I can remember seeing in other D&D products for making fantasy feel serious/important.  As silly as I may find D&D undead now, undead then was stylish, no matter how moronic level loss was.

Psionics?  Ludicrous.  Bard?  WTF?  Spell abuse?  Whatever.

What’s my main takeaway of reading the PHB these days?  It’s short.  It’s a lot shorter than it felt.  Note that I only focused on a small portion of it back in the day, but that’s kind of the point.  Back in the day, I was interested in creating characters for the game.  I was interested in what abilities got unlocked as you leveled up, even though I hardly ever played pre-d20 D&D to have characters level up.  Ten or so pages in the PHB opened up a massive world of fantasy.

I’m older now.  I’ve seen better.  I actually can picture fantasy PCs better with Body Pips and Stun Pips than I can with THAC0.  Of course, Fantasy Hero never had the world baggage that D&D acquired.  You didn’t need articles on the ecology of ochre jelly or how flying monsters twice as wide as people were behind dungeon doors that a human had to squeeze through.

oD&D is also so amazingly treasure focused.  Not to say nD&D isn’t, but it’s so fundamental to oD&D the idea that monsters guard treasure straight out of the videogames that came after D&D.  I used to not hate +2 swords.  I quite despise them, now, for their complete lack of flavor or specialness.  Retainers get a lot of paragraphs in those old books, yet I don’t recall, off the top of my head, ever having retainers in any RPG be something I spent virtually any time on or having virtually any impact on play.  But, when PCs died like flies, retainers dying first was great.

I read an article recently, which I’m pretty sure I blogged about, about how the point of oD&D was survival of the fittest.  It was a gamist venture from the wargame roots to survive as long as possible.  Just one more dungeon.  Just one more boss fight.  Just one more check for traps on the empty room with the chest in the corner.  Boardgames, such as Descent, cover this for tabletop play, and, of course, videogames.

Mechanics matter.  When I get together to talk L5R, most of the conversation has to do with character sheet stuff, whether what a character currently can roll or how XP will be spent.  I found better mechanics than D&D.  I quite dislike the 3-18 attribute system, these days.  I do like how D&D Basic/Expert/et al respect stats that aren’t 16+, if only slightly.  I actually quite dislike d20’s every two points is a one modifier, though, as it’s horribly inelegant compared to halving everything.  Nor am I fan of using a d20 for resolution.  It’s fine to roll a d20 for some esoteric table to give 20 possible results.  For standard resolution, however, a d10 is so much better (not to be confused with percentile – percentile is even worse than a d20 for the same reasons – it gives too many empty results, leading to everything feeling terribly mechanical even if it’s possible to scale everything in the game to where there’s no mathematical difference between the systems).

It’s funny to read how 5e making feats optional is bad because it takes away player choice.  Um, AD&D and Basic had nothing remotely like player choice after you adjusted your starting attributes and chose a class besides things like spells.  And, that was not the end of the world.  Sure, systems where you spend XP to make the improvements you want to make are vastly superior … vastly.  But, the d20 feat system sucks.  No, really, it sucks.  It has good intentions, but it sucks.  It has feats you would never take, feats you always take, and so many feats just come across as pure mechanics, lacking any sort of Both Guns Blazing or Carnival of Carnage flavor another RPG might have.

Would I play AD&D (1e, probably not 2e) or Basic?  Yeah, I can see it.  That Basic only has leather armor, chain armor, and plate armor is nice simplification.  Alignments are Chaotic Evil, but they are easily ignored.  I just feel like the oD&D mechanics, though screwy in all sorts of ways, were more elegant than more recent versions of the game.  I write down my strange saving throw numbers.  I have to get a magic weapon ASAP in order to hurt certain things.  I wonder why there are racial limits on classes and hope everyone dies before they matter.  I ignore how busted some spells can be … really, D&D Expert Haste affects 24 allies by giving them double attacks with no penalty … really?!?

I’m not opposed to dungeon crawl play – see interest in HeroQuest boardgame.  I’m not opposed to videogame role-playing.  I think my greatest problem with any new edition of D&D is just going to be the baggage of it never being what I prefer out of a RPG, which is an elegant set of rules for both character creation and resolution to tell stories in fantasy worlds (that aren’t silly).

I can go into a dungeon.  Draw a map.  Hope nobody cares about the party light source or how many feet it provides visibility for.  Hope we don’t have to stop and check for traps every 10′ and check for secret doors every 10′.  Maybe even play a spellcaster, as it occurs to me that I’ve played spellcasters a surprising amount in D&D play compared to other games.

Meanwhile, for more narrative play, I imagine using some other system because the habit, if not the requirement, with D&D is to fall into the dungeon crawl/tactical wargame aspects of it.  Oddly, that other system could be d20, of the Conan sort – I’ve never played Pathfinder and don’t get the sense that there’s any reason to start.  I’d prefer it to be Roll & Keep, but that requires effort and removing expectations.  Savage Worlds is not terrible, but I’m not sure I think it’s adequate.  Hero might be worth a shot, might not be.  GURPS?  No.  Unisystem?  Is there a reasonable fantasy option.  BRP?  No.

I’m not against D&D.  I don’t have a problem with it being an industry leader, nor do I really care that Pathfinder has surpassed other editions of D&D.  Though, I suppose there’s one way I have a problem with it.  It distracts from far better games, even far better fantasy games.  It gives people the wrong idea about what FRPing should be like.  The number of FRPGs that have elves and dwarves is horrendous.  No matter how brilliant the game might be, as soon as I see these sort of generic, I mean Tolkien, nonhuman races, I will lose interest.  Might as well play one of the versions of Middle Earth, even though I have a hard time seeing how to run a game in the world.

Okay, maybe I am kind of against D&D.  I’d rather see games on the shelf that let me play the game I’m interested in rather than some extraordinarily gamey world.  One might say GURPS has that niche, having a universal system for whatever genre you want, but GURPS is too heavy.  Okay, some people really like Savage Worlds.  I tolerate it.  I’m sure the system closer to what I want a system to be has been made, but it probably included halflings or something and, thus, made itself unregardable.

Anyway, for those people who enjoy it, more dragon-subduing for ya … and dungeons.