L5R 4e Material

October 31, 2014

There’s a thread in the products forum of AEG’s forums about the future of the L5R RPG.  Having a blog is a reason to post here, instead.

L5R 4e started off incredibly strong.  The core book was dry, had a bunch of dull mechanics, and swung the nerfhammer hard.  While 3e/3r certainly deserved some nerfing, I see the genre lending itself more to the spectacular and less to the +1k0.  But, it has a lot of content and has a lot of cleaner mechanics.  Anyway, the strength of 4e was in The Great Clans, Enemies of the Empire, and Emerald Empire.

Then, it dropped off immensely.  Imperial Histories was a great product for doing something few other product lines could do.  But, the Book of … series has been mediocre to bad (on my list of things to do is a review of Book of Void, that and Sword and Fan).  Secrets of the Empire was a massive disappointment with horrendous structure.  I’ve played in a Second City campaign.  I’ve looked for what was missing from that campaign in the material provided.  I still have little sense of what Second City is about or how to set a campaign in the Colonies.  Etc.

Why such a dropoff?  As much as folks like to go on and on and on about how much fluff matters more than crunch, two terms I’d replace with thematics and mechanics, mechanics matter.  Then, a lot of the thematics we get don’t.  A lot of it is stating the obvious.  A lot of it is redundant.  A lot of it isn’t new to someone who has previous edition books.  A lot of it is esoteric, which is like the opposite of the problem of material being in previous books, but there you go.

What I see as the biggest problem with the content of so many supplements is relevance.  It’s not just that I don’t need any material on monk brotherhoods or paths that only NPCs would ever take or whatever, it’s that what I could use the most information on is surprisingly (arguably) sparse.

Strongholds and Imperial Histories provide setting information, which is valuable when wearing a GM hat, but I still think that publishers can think more like GMs.  Some people really like settings with prebuilt conflicts.  I don’t need that.  I need to be able to convey how place A is different from place B.  What are the hooks that don’t rely on specific NPCs?  What do things look like?  It’s funny how little physical description goes with locales in fantasy worlds.  Sure, can always pull up a photo of Japan or whatever, but that has a lot of problems, one of which being that it requires effort.

Putting aside Secrets of the Empire’s problems with the minor clan and imperial sections, the spirit realms section was just terribly limited.  More than anything else, I want to know what it’s like to walk through a gate into one of these realms and wander around.  There were descriptions, of course, but they don’t go nearly far enough.  What are population breakdowns, commonality of encounters with various things, landmarks, etc.?  What sort of stuff am I going to find lying around?  In buildings?  Hanging from trees?

The other thing missing from what should have been its own spirit realms book was mechanics.  Where are the monsters?  Enemies of the Empire is great because it’s not just a bunch of statblocks.  But, that also means the game has plenty of room for more enemies.  Book of … series adds some animals and monsters, but they seem kind of random.  Again, if I go to Chikushudo, how often do I encounter various animal spirits, other stuff?  What are their motivations given that they aren’t alive?  What is there to do there?  But, also, what special abilities do they have, what skills, and what strategies would they employ during conflict?  (And, what do they look like?)

Minors, Imperials can both use kata and maybe paths, advanced schools, or even schools.  I mostly care about kata.  I suppose spells are another thing, but I’m not much of a fan of magic in L5R.

Okay, Secrets got made and the clamor for Secrets two seems nonexistent, though I’d say one of the most important things is to do that book over again and do it right.  Still, Enemies of the Empire 2 does seems viable.  Monster Manuals have always been popular.  A book on optional/variant mechanics seems viable where we get into things like changing how Void expenditures work, changing the wound chart, adding or changing combat maneuvers, alternate movement systems, having magic resistance based on Rings.  Can also get into creative uses of existing mechanics, something not at all present in the Book of … series, which just goes into obvious stuff like “You can use Stamina for this roll” or vague stuff like “The fire kami don’t like it when you overuse this spell”, neither of which adds value.

Just establishing standards would have some interest to me.  This edition heavily discourages buying skills above R-1, R-2, unless there’s some important mastery to attain.  So, what does an expert performer look like?  An expert gamester?  The way the game plays, the Trait-4, no skill character often competes strongly at stuff, which has some thematic problems and gets discouraging for people who buy skills and not traits.  I know I expect any Trait-2 character with any level of Skill, including like R-7 in a skill, is just not going to be that good at the skill.  I suppose every campaign sets its own standards, but there are NPC writeups in 4e books, so it would be nice to know what the design philosophy is.

As a player, I want things I can do mechanically primarily, with some thematic stuff being interesting (I keep making bows in different fantasy campaigns).  I want paths that are relevant.  I want kata because magic neither needs help nor is as flavorful as bushi stuff.  I want advantages and disadvantages so that my courtiers, artisans, and so forth have more distinguishing mechanics.

As a GM, I want to do as little work as possible building a world, dealing with mechanics, or defining challenges.  After all, I don’t need to pay money for any of those things if I’m willing to spend my time figuring those things out for myself.

I want to see more monsters, preferably with art.  I want more specific descriptions on locales of what distinguishes one from another and what the standard is for a village, town, city, district, temple, inn, road, etc.  I want better ideas on how to use existing mechanics or to standardize modifications to mechanics.

Somewhere in there, I think there’s at least one book.  For me, I just wish that what had already been published was a lot better since I know that better versions won’t get published for this edition.  As much as I might want a 5e, I don’t want that for a few years to give time to play 4e out.


The Road To Mana

October 26, 2014

I know that part of my purpose is to share observations.  It occurred to me that that falls under talk story, though I may need to graduate to storyteller at some point.  Maybe that’s one of the difficulties I have running RPGs.  I’m so caught up in sharing a particular element and I don’t put all of the elements together into a complete story.

Let me tell a bit of a story.  Well, a 4000 word story.  At some point, it will tie slightly into gaming.

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I haven’t posted to this blog in weeks.  Reason being that I was traveling for two weeks.  Because my father’s family is from Hawai’i, going to Hawai’i is not a momentous event for me.  And, while I’m there, I tend to do things that aren’t remotely adventurous.  Eat at the same old places, hit the same old beaches.  Primarily what I think of as the meat of the trips is seeing family and friends, which may be something I’d write about if I used Facebook or whatever, but it’s not something that is all that sharable except when some interaction is directly applicable to a matter at hand.

This trip had two primary purposes.  One was to make more use of the house in Honolulu [ladies …].  The other was to do more adventurous things.  A key component to doing more adventurous things was hitting the other islands.  Friends and acquaintances would travel to various islands and I had really nothing to offer about them.  So, two of my brothers, the twins Stephen and Blair, and I arranged a four part trip.  Short time on Oahu to get organized, Big Island for four days, Maui for four days, back to the house for a couple of days before heading home.

Stage one was mostly about familiar food and a get together with our cousin and her friend at a nice Japanese restaurant.  Let’s move on to stage two.

We get to the Big Island and have an agenda.  Because we are there in the middle of a Tuesday, we hit the Kaumana Caves on the way to our vacation rental, which is 25 minutes North of Hilo on the coast, so in the middle of nowhere.  Well, we actually had lunch first, but rather than go into a series of restaurant reviews, I’ll say that the food on the Big Island was underwhelming with a French restaurant where we got crepes being the highlight (for Stephen and Blair, I got a dessert crepe for breakfast on the day we left that was okay but not lifechanging).  Buttered mochi from the farmer’s market was good, but I now know why fresh guava is not something I’ve ever seen before.

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So, the caves.  There are two.  A lava tube split open and there are steep stairs down into a Dagobah-like environ.  There are warning signs but no one is posted to prevent people from doing whatever.  Fortunately, my brothers are much more the active sort and have such useful things as flashlights.  The caves aren’t lit.  We went down and down one side.  Supposedly, there’s an end, but after we got to something of a split, we turned back.  I think it was more than 30 minutes one way.  The other way stopped not that far in.

So, being a gamer, what was the obvious thought?  This is what’s like to really be in a cave, to really be underground.  No light – complete dependence upon flashlights to find one’s way.  Having to crawl in one place and stand easily in another, with variations in terrain but bumping into the rocks always being painful due to pointiness.  There weren’t creatures, but there was stuff hanging from the ceiling, colorful rocks, and, when the flashlight was pointed toward the ceiling in the dark, it looked like that lightsaber image, though we didn’t seem to catch that picture.

A cool start to the trip.  And, it was kind of cool and kind of damp.

We got into our palatial estate.  Blair had arranged the place but didn’t realize it was just going to be a huge, fancy house with eight rental areas.  I had looked at the website and had a much better idea what to expect.  We were in the right, upper wing of the house.  Kitchenette area to the right, living area to the left, master bedroom’s reception area was past the kitchen where you could step out on the front veranda, then around the corner for the bed.  The rear veranda was beyond the living area.  My room was connected to both.  The backyard had fish pools and required a bit of a walk to get to the edge.  No water access as this coast was all about cliffs.

Backyard

Backyard

We checked out Laupahoehoe to see about a beach.  Not really a beach place, but it was cool looking with channels between the rocks.  We couldn’t find the cafe that was supposed to be on the road to the Point, so we drove to Hilo for dinner and then returned.

Wednesday was volcano/lava day.  Well, up until our helicopter tour of the lava flow was cancelled due to weather conditions.  We drove to the Volcanoes National Park and did what I always do – hike six miles.  We started with a short sulfur vent hike.  While not spectacular, it was like being on another world, with the steam rising up from the ground and the ubiquity of a certain gray/green plant that made me think original Star Trek planet.

Then, Kilauea Iki.  Four mile hike.  My brothers do Tough Mudder, I barely leave the house.  I was fine on the way down.  I was pleased with the overcast, windy, and cold environs of walking through the crater.  I was laboring once back up through tropical rainforest.  Good cardio workout, which brings up how walking from place to place in a non-industrial world, a la many fantasy worlds, is not so great unless you are physically awesome.  Also, I had not planned for the level of hiking we did, so I could have used better clothes, better planning of replacing shirts, which were gross, etc.  We stopped at the Thurston Lava Tube because we planned to and because we forgot when we got back up to the road that the full hike went past it.  It was very boring after Kaumana Caves.  Looks like a Disney ride’s cave.

Drive.  Few takeaways about the Big Island.  One of them is that everything was further than I thought.  I’m used to Oahu where 45 minutes (without traffic) takes you anywhere you want to go.  Big Island was “We aren’t even close to where this place is.” after 45 minutes of driving in a number of cases.  Also, jumping ahead a big, driving in complete darkness or really doing anything with no lights anywhere is not what this child of the suburbs is used to.  Big Island was this rural environment that I only ever might drive through on the way to some city.

Petroglyphs.  They were pretty dull.  The combination most interesting thing about the park’s petroglyph’s was the contrast of the biomes.  I’m not even sure biome is the right word, let alone describing things correctly.  But, anyway, went from tropical rainforest to open, treeless shrubland(?).  The petroglyph hike was just walking in a flat, open area over rocks to an amusing boardwalk built a bit above the ground to prevent people from getting too close to the petroglyphs.

Then, “end of the road” and sea arch.  Really, it’s the end of the road, as the road that used to go through this section of the coast was overrun by lava.  The rock remains here are more of an oily black sort.  Well, it was hard to see too clearly as we only got to the end when the Sun was setting.  Bit surreal to be walking in the dark, along a cement road that leads nowhere with the only trees in existence being this strange copse of palm trees near the cliffside.  Then, a long, long drive back through the park in the dark.

To the museum in the park.  On the Big Island, I was very hot once.  I was very cold twice.  This was the first time.  With the elevation, at night, to see the glow from a lava hole next to the Jaggar Museum, there was wind and there was “wearing a wet shirt and shorts is not comfortable” ness.

Hilo for dinner, then to the house.

Thursday was supposed to be beach day, but we had rescheduled our helicopter ride, as it’s not so easy to actually see lava on the ground, these days.  There’s no spurting lava up into the air or peer over the side of a crater like they show in videos.  No flow that you walk up to and stick a stick into, as far as I’m aware, unless you want to break some laws and get near the flow that is threatening Pahoa.  So, we had perfect weather in the morning.

Actually, while Tropical Storm/Hurricane Ana did cost a day of doing some stuff on the Big Island and we got some heavy rains at points, in terms of how we scheduled things on the various islands, we ended up pretty fortunate.  When we had to get clearer weather, we got it.

I think I’ve been on a helicopter since I wasn’t a baby, but I can’t recall specifically when.  A plus to having had the original ride cancelled was that I moved seats and ended up in the front on our actual ride.  My favorite part of the Big Island stretch was floating up into the air, zipping towards the clouds, and having the clear cockpit beneath me to look down upon the world.

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While I don’t know that learning to fly will have the same enjoyment as having someone else fly me around, this was the closest I think I’ll get to the feeling of what it’s like to fly.  I’ll get into my lack of scuba diving later.

It wasn’t all that spectacular as the lava is underground, just some burning of trees and seeing some of the magma through holes in the ground along with the wide destruction of forest.  We also checked out some waterfalls from a distance.  We didn’t do the doors off tour as we didn’t even know that was a thing.  Next time, the suggestion was to do a tour where we land places and get out.  My second favorite part of the ride was landing, so anything with more close ground action is probably to my taste.

Beaches.  This was the only day we actually went to beaches on the Big Island.  The storm took out our planned window for manta ray swimming.  Beach parks were closed on Friday.  We didn’t do anything on the Kona side of the island, even though Pu’uhonua o Honaunau was one of my top things to do and snorkeling at Kealakekua Bay was going to be part of hitting that area of the island.

Just means we need to go back.  We did everything we cared about from the North tip to the South tip of the island on the East side and nothing we were looking to do on the West side.  Mauna Kea will be gotten to in a moment.

First up, Black Sands Beach.  I did get into the water but not for very long.  It was rocky.  It was choppy.  We had other stuff we needed to do.  Memorable about BSB were a couple of things.  Hottest sand on the trip.  Coldest sand I can ever recall just below the top layer.  Very pretty pond behind the beach.  And, of course, like everyone always does, I bought a sweatshirt at the tourist shop.

Black Sands Beach's pond

Black Sands Beach’s pond

For, you see, life tries to make up for some of my stupidities.  It will sometimes cause gaming events to be cancelled when I’m too sick or exhausted or whatever to really be doing stuff, and so forth.  In this case, it said “This idiot forgot that the plan was to drive up to Mauna Kea for sunset this evening, where 10,000+ of elevation is not balmy.  We must make up for this lapse in bringing long pants and a jacket to beach trips by giving a tourist shop that happens to sell sweatshirts in 90 degree heat.”  Now, my brothers did forget long pants, as well, and fleece jackets, but they did have raincoats with them.

Green Sands Beach.  The guidance is that it’s a long hike to get to the beach.  First it’s a long drive on the highway.  Then, it’s a long drive to get to the parking.  Then, it’s a 2.5 mile hike to get to the beach.  Okay, even though this gave me bad blisters and led to my slipping and falling on a cement boat launch, I was happy to do it.  I’m not so sure I’d bother to do it again, unless I was with people who hadn’t done it.  Unless you really enjoy tedious 2.5 hikes over a bunch of rocks, pay the locals to drive you to the beach from the parking area.  Then, pay them again to drive you back.  If there’s one thing less palatable to me about hiking 2.5 miles to do something like swim, it’s hiking 2.5 miles after I’ve been swimming.

Amazing beach.  Stephen and Blair liked it more than I did, with it being the highlight of the trip for Stephen.  I still thought it was really cool.  It’s this tiny little bay with a steep lava rock backing, where there are no rocks on the beach, soft (green) sand, good visibility.  One side has a little cove thing.  Ironic that the black crabs were here rather than at Black Sands.

Green Sands Beach

Green Sands Beach

Still, while I couldn’t avoid any hiking on the rest of the trip, this pretty much did me in for anything more than maybe a half mile hike.

There was no way were going to make sunset on Mauna Kea, but we had a jeep, so we had to go up for stargazing.  We stopped on the way at Jack in the Box since it was open and since everyone knows how useful their parking lots are for changing into dry clothes.

Visitor Center at 9200 feet.  We got there just after the center closed and wanted to stay a bit to get used to the altitude.  We opened the jeep doors.  It was so cold we had trouble getting jackets on.  Still in shorts, I stood next to the visitor center to have no wind.  For, you see, wind … and rain (well, not that much at the center, itself).

Only Mauna Kea picture I have.

Only Mauna Kea picture I have.

Stars were starry.  Looked cool.  Thought it would be cooler at the top.  Colder, for sure.  We drove up to the summit area.  I say area because it was dark and we weren’t entirely sure where we were, but the road appeared to end.  White buildings were around.  So was snow and wind and rain.  We rushed out to touch one of the buildings then drove back down the 4000 feet to the visitor center and did some stargazing there.  I saw a shooting star.  It was amusing, but Mauna Kea is another thing to do next time, with hopefully a fuller experience.

At this point, even though we were going to miss out on stuff we had planned, it still felt like we had been on the Big Island for ages and had done a ton of stuff.  Friday was just driving up to Waipi’o Valley, where we didn’t decide to go down into the valley.  I couldn’t have hiked it.  We lacked either horses or mule drawn wagons, and the locals aren’t fond of people driving on their private land.  Horses.  There’s a reason horses play such an important part in non-industrial worlds.  They help you get blisters on your ass and not on your feet.

We drove to Waimea/Kamuela to hit Village Burger.  Checked out some cowboy stuff.  Drove to Polulu Valley Lookout.  Went down the Northwest coast highway, then back to the house.  Tropical storm only affected us in that all of the beach parks were closed.  Saturday, we tried Akaka Falls, the only thing on our list actually close to us, but it wasn’t open, which might have been due to it being shortly before 8:30AM or due to hurricane.  We got our crepes, noted that the lunch/dinner menus had tamales and chile rellenos at our favorite French restaurant on the Big Island, finished some shopping, and spent some time at the airport talking to a very attractive local.

Propeller plane to Maui.  Nice to make our flight, as we had early Sunday plans.  Saturday evening, we relaxed, finding our rental condo to be an interesting contrast to the house.  Maui, itself, was such a contrast with my main takeaway being just how much of a suburb of Oahu it feels with how new and manicured buildings look.  When I was on Maui for a day trip five or so years ago, I didn’t catch the same feel.

Sunday morning was diving.  For me, snorkeling as I don’t have medical clearance to overcome how I take blood pressure medication.  It felt kind of awkward, but I enjoyed the boat ride and talking to the captain.  We boated out to Lana’i.  We boated back.  Blair more so but both of my brothers had some motion sickness issues.  What I found trippy was how, after the helicopter ride and after boating, I could close my eyes and feel my body roll and sway.  Oh, besides the not being able to dive thing, this wasn’t my best day for another reason.  My blisters had gotten good enough that I ignored them.  I may have broken my toe while just standing outside the shower that morning.  That was annoying.

We didn’t do a lot in Lahaina, just some shave ice (too sour for me, with Tiger’s Blood being the best flavor) and Cool Cat’s, where my burger was fine, but I need to stop ordering medium rare as it’s getting kind of raw for me, which may just be how people cook things these days as medium rare was my norm when growing up, or I’m just changing.  Speaking of changing, we got Thai food one night on the Big Island and I had the hardest time getting through it, even though I only went spicy and not “Thai spicy”.  Weak.  It would have been my favorite food on the Big Island if it wasn’t such a pain to eat and the quantity of curry was so ludicrously vast, three times as vast as the rice to go with it.

Rest of the day was slow.  Because of the diving, we had to plan when to do flying and Haleakala.  Monday, then, became our day for the Road to Hana.  If diving could have been disappointing because snorkeling off Lana’i wasn’t that interesting, the Road to Hana was the biggest letdown by far.  They say to focus on 2-3 things as the trip is so damn long (Stephen did all of our driving on the Big Island and Maui, which displayed impressive patience).  We tried Waikamoi Falls.  We found the hiking trail.  I think we found the falls.  But, we couldn’t find the way you are supposed to go up.  We hiked up rocks that I think was the base of the falls.  They say it only shoots water when there’s rain.  Well, we just had a hurricane.  Very little water.  Okay, but not that great.  Our next thing was Waianapanapa.  The “Alice in Wonderland in Hawai’i” hike was more “Hobbit in Hawai’i” to me.  It was okay.  The beach was awesome.  Unfortunately, due to needing to hit other stuff before dark, we didn’t stop to swim or anything, just wander around a bit and take some pictures.  Black sand beach with a lot of contrast of beach from rock, to smaller rocks, to sand.  Places where you could be inside the rock formations.

Obvious gaming relevance.

Obvious gaming relevance.

We continued on to Ohe’o Gulch and the Pipiwai Trail.  I asked the ranger if it was common for their to be no water access at the Seven Sacred Pools.  He said that the storm meant the water flow was too dangerous.  If I would have known, since being there didn’t involve anything else for me to do, I would have been dropped off at Waianapanapa.  Stephen and Blair did have enough time before dark to do the Pipiwai Trail, but they would have liked to jump in the water afterwards, themselves.

So far, Maui wasn’t doing much for me.  Tuesday was kayaking.  Well, kayaking and snorkeling, but Stephen and I didn’t realize that was part of the event.  This redeemed Maui for me.  I may not have good balance or control seaborne vessels well, but I love the alternate transportation stuff.  It was a personal tour, so we opted for maybe about an equal distribution of kayaking and snorkeling.  Snorkeling was fantastic, much better than off Lana’i.  Right off Makena Beach, so it was 10 minutes from where we were staying in Kihei.

That shirt got really wet.

That shirt got really wet.

Lunch, the family store in Kula (Keokea, whatever).  The society house that our father and I visited on our day trip for Ching Ming wasn’t open, so it wasn’t much of a family thing as had been the previous trip.  Up Haleakala.  Had the usual drive through clouds thing.  Actually, the morning was so clear that there weren’t that many clouds, but we got out clouds.  Did much the same stuff I had already done.  Drive back down through clouds didn’t see the lateral rain I experienced previously, but it made the forest section below the visitor’s center kind of spooky.  I got to use my sweatshirt for a second time.  Yes, Hawai’i is all about the sweatshirt wearing.

Just keeping it "real" at 10,000 feet.

Just keeping it “real” at 10,000 feet.

The unfortunate thing, here, is that I think the massive temperature changes and elevation changes got me sick.  I had a sore throat on the way down.  I ended up badly congested that night and am still congested.  Too much Sun probably didn’t help, either.

We had most of Wednesday to do stuff.  Having hit very few beaches and since we were staying across the street from a beach, we decided a morning swim.  Kamaole 3.  Softest sand I’ve ever been on.  It was like walking on flour.  Clear morning.  Great visibility (water and out).  Calm.  Fish would appear and disappear out of the sand at our feet.  I was in the process of decongesting using my go to saline solution of the Pacific Ocean.  Just exquisite (well, could have used more beach babes, but whatever).  Having tons of time to kill, we decided to hit the aquarium.  It was okay as an aquarium.  What I liked a lot was that most of the time I was inside, in the dark, with cool air blowing.  I was feeling sunsickness pretty bad.  I just wanted to sit and not move.  I was a bit concerned that any worse and I might embarrass myself.

Weather turned.  Pouring rain while we were at the gift shop.  Made me feel much better.  Don’t know if it was adrenaline for getting out of the rain or things cooling or humidity turning into water, but it was a vast improvement.  Sam Sato’s was closed, so no noodles.  We got flatbread (essentially pizza) in Paia as driving on Maui, outside of the Road to Hana, Hale’akala, and maybe Lahaina was superquick.  I wasn’t terribly impressed with our flatbread.  We got gelato.  Insanely expensive.  Still not that impressed.  Actually, the food on Maui wasn’t any better than the Big Island.  My Cool Cat burger was better than my veal burger at Village Burger, but the veal burger meal was tainted by how unimpressed I was with my strawberry milkshake (nevermind that $24 for a burger meal doesn’t impress me much).

We stopped at a beach park and sat in the car while it rained.  We drove to a mall and my brothers wandered a bit while I tried a nap.  Significant rain and needing to be ready to hop a plane do not make for a lot of stuff to do, especially when not into shopping.

Weather was decent enough for our night flight back to Honolulu.  Had a family reunion on the Lee side Thursday night, saw a few Pangs before I left, but I flew out before the Pang dinner.

So, gaming.

Few things.

One obvious thing I thought about was my Feng Shui Tu Huo campaign that I started after my last trip to Hawai’i.  I had some trouble thinking about how to incorporate specific experiences into sessions, as a lot of the experience of the experiences we had was on a very micro level, where the action is the personal strain of hiking or swimming or paddling.  In other words, for an action game, don’t want to get too bogged down in mundane things.  The less mundane things, like the massive temperature and elevation swings need to be fleshed out.

I always think about superheroes when I’m in Hawai’i.  I don’t know whether it’s because I watched Kamen Rider, Kikaider, and Condorman (not the American thing, the 1975 show where the meteor allows you to see demons and throw explosive darts from your condormobile) when I was visiting.  Maybe it was having more time to dream, like when I was thinking of how to create a Transformers RPG when visiting.  I thought of a concept for a super for me to play.  Two problems.  One is that I’d need to find a GM in order to actually play much rather than run.  Two is that I start thinking about worlds and genre conventions and stuff and run into a lack of wanting to go to the effort of creating a supes world.

So, there I was, bored at Ohe’o Gulch, listening to the people in the neighboring car tell their rental agency they couldn’t start their car, not even thinking about jumper cables until my brothers got back and we looked for some to no avail, running through just how fast inches of flight in Champions are when multiplied out by Speed.  I kept coming to the conclusion that going fast in Champions at combat speed is really, really hard, with the noncombat multiplier being jacked up really high being how you get into mach speeds.

I thought of another fantasy premise, but I don’t see it going anywhere.  Can’t even quite conceive exactly what the enemy is.  Had some V:TES anarch card ideas.

In general, I tried to think about how actually doing exotic activities would relate to RPGs and didn’t get that far.  I have a somewhat better idea on physical challenges of various things that I haven’t experienced in a long time.  I have a better sense of what it’s like to actually be flying, which plane travel doesn’t give me.  But, it was mostly a more personal and more immediate adventure that I’m struggling with translating into things I’d run.

 

 


Fisticuffs [20141002]

October 4, 2014

Same four.  I hadn’t realized that I actually should have been building new decks.  I had left those decks from the previous week that I was done with just sitting intact.

As our fourth was late, I quickly turned Rattlebones.dec into a Rattlebonesless.dec for the next time we play.  I looked through my Monarchs and Dragon decks and realized I had already made some minor changes so that they weren’t the same – smaller which equates to more fun.

Speaking of smaller …

Ray (Lotus recursion Destroyer/Tracker style) -> Justin (7 Masters/Hand) -> Ian (Ascended Agents) -> Joren (Lotus recursion Whiskey/Rope style)

Was someone saying something about permacursion being fractured?  I vaguely recall brilliant insight into all matters fractured.

Joren gets out sites, a Devil’s Rope (unique promos are moronic according to Brilliant Insightman), and a couple Demon Whiskey.  Having seen this before, I knew that there was one worse thing Lotus do recursively …

Ray put out Underworld Trackers.

I tried to keep Joren under control but still got intercepting grief for bothering to put characters into play and turning them to attack.  My Cops on the Take just got Tortured Memories into Rope or my Legal Eagle with a SWAT Van would get attacked or my Academy Instructors would get attacked.  That’s another feature of the metagame which leads to lots of sites in play and difficulty punching through – characters keep getting attacked (in addition to getting intercepted when trying to keep someone in check).

I ended the game with 11 power and three Operation Killdeers in hand.  Oh, and five cards in my deck.  I didn’t win.  Even if I had drawn those five cards, no character I had left had more than two fighting.  Not enough hitters.  See, as I’m routinely running around with more than five power and sometimes double digit power in these games, I should be playing more hitters and crazy expensive ones, to boot.

Justin did hardly anything.  Couldn’t figure out where his characters were.  I had Corporate Informered him to see that he had only one interesting play in hand.  As he kept sitting on 7+ power, I had Kicksbacksed him only to see Joren do most of the spend three power at the same time thing.

I never did get an agent token into play.  Guess I got to rebuild this 35 card deck to be more consistent.  I did get two Cops on the Take in play at a time for a brief shining moment of doing annoying turning stuff on attack and getting murdered on other people’s turns.

Ray got hit with Inauspicious Reburial cleaning out two Underworld Trackers and his Destroyer, but Petal’s Attendant helped him rebuild his resource pool.  With a Feng Kan that survived to not be Reburialed, the Attendant, and something else that was midsized, plus a Tortured Bloody Hordes in reserve, we had nothing to stop him.

Ray (Triumvirate) -> Justin (Architects w/ States) -> Ian (Superleap & Sites) -> Joren (Architects)

Ray got Molten Heart into play and that was perturbing.  Counterfeit Heart made him scary even when he didn’t have Queen of the Ice Pagoda and two Blades of Darkness in play.  Justin got a Plasma Trooper Robot Armed but that was a problem with a Waterfall Sanctuary in play that we all wanted to attack.  Assault Drone did overtime work on clearing out both Blades of Darkness and making the Queen tiny enough to finish off.  It even survived, healed the following turn – being turned when I won.

What was funny about my setup was that my Venerable Apothecary (the first one) was the most vulnerable target.  I got to heal it with Lui Loyi before he got smashed by someone who had no power intercepting.  I got two damage on a Kung Fu Master but had to keep attacking with him to try to keep people under control.  That didn’t work so well and he finally got Paradox Beast to the face.

This game was incredibly strange.  There were a number of sites in play that weren’t FSS, so Justin was at two, then one FSS with a Trade Center.  Ray had two power a turn off of triumvirate stuff, so he got attacked and was down to one FSS.  Joren had tons of power, so we attacked his sites, reducing him to one.

So, with enough power to have Jade Monk, Li Po, couple Temple Guards, couple Students, and later Iron Monkey in play, I just superleapt over everyone to take three sites in one turn, the only three FSS in play except mine.  That’s some kind of flawless victory, right?  Nobody else in a four-player game having any FSS in play without some sort of site suppression deck at the table?

Somehow, two Architects decks couldn’t find a way to eventkill Li Po, Iron Monkey, or any stupid guy to stop my attacks.  I did have Secrets of Shaolin and Confusion Stability in hand to mess with events, but I had Secrets in my hand for most of the game and didn’t want to play it the only time I could have played it.  Hmmm … maybe not so great in this meta.

My Garden of Peaceful Reflection did have 19 Body at the end of the game, with only nine of the chi being in play.  For a meta that hates characters and a deck without character recursion, that was quite strange how many I had ready to superleap for flawless victory.  Li Po even took the final site by himself from Ray and his single, one-fighting dude.

Again, I seem to have no problem amassing massive amounts of power in our games, which may have something to do with how I put in alternate power plays to not be in a powerless, “I can’t do anything with 1-2 power” mode.  Since it’s easy to have three FSS in play in this meta, those just uppower to where dropping some seven cost hitter doesn’t seem all that challenging, though, in this case, it was the six cost Li Po who made everyone a hopping menace.

I’m definitely playing the Ascended deck again, with a few tweaks to get more fighting into play.  I may actually play the 40 card Hand Site/Superleap deck again.  So, I’ll worry about writing up these decks later, when they are ready to be broken down.

 


Ambivantaged

October 3, 2014

I got a taste of the new WordPress UI and it was horrors.  Why do companies feel like making their products hateworthy?  Is there something about the age of product managers that they want things to look like some awful ’80’s, Basic style where everything is hard to read?

I’ve seen it with Google.  I’ve seen it with GoToMeeting.  Yahoo made Yahoogroups absurd, if maybe not quite as pastel blocks with low contrast text ish.

Anyway, I was reading the L5R RPG forum and, since I’m part of the blogosphere, one might even say a blognoscenti, I have to respond to thissums:  John Wick Stealing Ian’s Favorite Conceptual Concept Thingamajig.  Yup, I totally ownerize talking about balancification and RPGs.  No one else has ever thought to spew their own brainheadedness vitriol upon their audience when it comes to balance and RPGs.

Since I already said all that needs saying on such topics, I will segway into weaponspeak, well, I guess gearspeak.

I find gear tedious.  I actually used to get gun magazines (for those young folksers, talking about products made of a slick, paperlike product known as paper).  Whether a Walther P-88 was the most accurate 9mm in the world (circa 1988) when comparing cluster sizes of silvertip hollowpoints was an article or I might be merging wordstuff into an amalgam of unregardableness.

But, as much as it’s possible to handwave differences in gear, there is some feel in gear that has nothing to do with mechanics.  I am swordmonstermasterdude, master of monsters with swords.  I happen to have left my lamia-rapier at home.  Shouldn’t I be countervantaged?

Which got me thinking that there’s three states to handle gearstate.  A character can be countervantaged, ambivantaged, or ultravantaged.  Those terms are way too long, let’s try these:  “screwed”, “normal”, “fully rocket-packed autogyro-ed”.  Mechanically, this matters.  How it matters is a matter for the system of game.  If the system of game is akin to L5R 4e, we say that normal is 3k2 damage, screwed is -2k0 to attack and damage, and fully rocket-packed autogyro-ed is +0k1 attack and damage.  Note that this thought is quite similar to the D&D 5e idea of roll twice and take better or take worse depending upon how rocket-packed you are.  Whatever floats your fully rocket-packed space yacht.

Time for another cegweigh.

I can totally play Vampire or Call of Cthulhu like D&D.  I am curious as to whether the way I approach multiplayer CCGs or various other competitive games is due to some attempt to turn competitive ventures into role-playing games.  If balance isn’t a concern with RPGs (though I would say spotlight time is within the realmosphere of balance), that suggests it is a concern of other games.  I intentionally nadirbalance things for myself, which could just be because both variety and challenge interest me more than firsting, or it could be because introducing thematicality to games is more goodly.

Why does it matter whether I’m screwed or normal?  Because, duh, story.  My story of stopping the ’08 invasion of the blueberry-givers of Arcturus Minor 9 with only a few Synchro Cannons and whatever Sunbeams I have lying around is way more profound and humblebraggable than if I had some decent energy weapons.

Some folksies are into gearstuff.  Heya, what is BattleTech but the gearthing being your character?  I’m less into saying “No, bad gamer, do not bring your weapons compendium to my table of RPA (role-playing art).  I don’t care that it goes zero to 60 in 3.42 seconds, it’s still not going to get a better speed rating than Doctor Wicked’s Yugo.” than I am how to make happy feelings with some folks who care that my clip only holds 17 rounds with one in the chamber versus those who are “If I fire a gold-tipped arrow at a castle-spaceship trying to achieve escape velocity, how long before it explodes outside of our atmosphere?”

Certainly, the spotlight is crucial, but does it need to be based on competence or just player decisions?  Is it sufficient to have a NPC relationship be as simple as “If I am nice to the NPC, the NPC is happy and likes me.  If I am jerkalicious to the NPC, the NPC is unhappy and dislikes me.”?  There’s no measure of success factor, just a decision.  Ah, but this is too much in the Fortress of Solitude.  We need to have more than one thing happening at a time.  I combat victims with my combat.  Dice rolled.  Smiting and stuff.  More to life than combat?  “Tis this be true, yonder stage manager?”  Okay, in this scenario, that might be fine.  Competence and results are managed through smitestuff, decisions without regard to measuring success rule social.  But, what if everything is social?  What if combat is largely dictated by decisions and not character sheetness?

I can see where having full control over things is less engaging than partial control.  Yes, I’ve played a bunch of one-shots where everything was a matter of decisions, but there’s a reason I don’t see those sort of games working so well for campaigns.  For one thing, control of your fate is wearying.  Having dice or card draw or whatever removes some level of responsibility and brings the game into RPG.  That may be why some folksies are totally into videogame roll-playing because it’s more relaxing, less work.

“The spotlight, forsooth, it comes right for you, monsieur.”

“I ready my fauchard-guisarme.”

“It’s an 8 hit die monster with a blinding attack.  Roll to save against Paralyzation, Wands, and Spotlight Breath.”

“13, does that make it?”

“You are a 2nd level marketing assistant.  I’m afraid your soul has been shredded so that only a 36th level Psionicist-Owlbear can cast Unincarnation on you and you will lose enough XP to drop to 1st level marketing assistant.”

“My next character is totally going to have Heart of Hatred: Spotlights.”

“Sure, sure.  Roll 1d4-3 for your stats and put the lowest number into Wisdom.”