Flash VS Arrow

March 26, 2015

TV time.  For, one medium of storytelling can say something about another.

Throughout this first season of Flash and third season of Arrow, Flash has been the far superior show.

Why?

Angst.

Or, fun, the antiangst.

See, here’s the thing.  There are people in this world who like dark.  They like misery.  They like certain graphic novels or whatever with goofy pointy-haired art on Wolverine, or whatever.  Then, there’s people who like superheroes.

Superheroes are not about dark.  The grim, antihero avenger is notable for being different, not for being the norm.  Except, TV doesn’t work that way.  At least, not anymore.

If there’s one thing that I feel incredibly strongly from shows I watched while growing up and shows from the last decade or two, it’s angst.  I realize that telling the same sort of pollyannaesque stories that shows typically did gets old, but not everything needs to be edgy.  Sometimes, you can not be depressing.  You can avoid angst.

Sure, TV shows from the 60’s and 70’s weren’t as simplistic as I recall when I watched them as a child.  There’s an episode of Wonder Woman on this weekend that will have an alien point out the problematic nature of calling the US the good guys in WW2 given the treatment of Japanese in this country.  While I didn’t watch that episode as a child, I doubt I would have even noticed.  I was much more likely to notice the incredibly awful fight scenes in the show and, depending upon age, how wonderful Lynda Carter was.

I don’t recall Smallville that well, even though I watched most to all episodes and taped a lot of them.  But, what I do recall is the constant darkness, not just of the sets but of the tone of the show.  I’ve felt that a lot with superhero shows or shows about protagonists that essentially have super powers.

There are some interesting exceptions.  Oddly, one of them is part horror – Buffy.  Buffy could be dark, but Buffy had fun.  Buffy did humor.  Why in the world is a superhero show less humorous than a show full of demons?

Charmed was generally much more positive.  Now, it was top tier in the cheesiness, to the point where I actually had to turn the channel and watch Sheena.  So, I’m hardly going to point to Charmed for being more enjoyable or desirable TV (some parts were obviously desirable).

Arrow was good.  In season one.  In the first five or so episodes.  As soon as the Huntress appeared, I felt like it took a turn for the worse.  Now, sure, Thea was incredibly annoying, Laurel was annoying, the soap opera stuff was way overdone, and there were various things to nitpick.  I’ll get to nitpicking later.

But, it was different.  The superhero straight up murdered a bunch of people.  That might be the in thing these days, but I only watch a few shows anymore and my childhood was A-Team level violence for the most part.  It was clever.  Oliver expecting to get accused was clever, though his way out of it didn’t make a ton of sense.  It had fun.  Oliver speaking other languages.  Oliver being Russian Mob Captain.  Oliver parkouring around in broad daylight.  Felicity when Felicity was lovable.

Then, angst.  Oliver whining, going through a crisis of identity, whatever.  Felicity going from flirty girl to true love.

Does Flash suffer from the Barry/Iris relationship?  Sure.  But, that’s a given.  It’s also incredibly weird given the set up that they are de facto siblings, but whatever.

But, Flash has fun.  I don’t mean Barry having fun, like embarrassing a mugger, though that’s part of it.  I mean the entire show does humorous things.  It has characters laugh.  It has Eddie hug Barry.  It has Iris whack Barry for not telling her that Oliver is a friend of his.  We aren’t looking for Batman (60s) camp, even though that show is amazingly awesome for adults.  Where that show kind of failed was being a cool action show for kids because I did watch that as a child and I didn’t like it as much then as I do now.

Lots of people say Arrow season 3 is a mess.  I’d say season 2 was a slog of ludicrous motivations.  Plus, the action scenes were much better in early season 1 episodes than what I can recall of season 2.  I don’t just mean fights.  Again, Stephen Amell scaling a building in broad daylight is way cooler than some dark, too fast to see what actually happens fight between stunt doubles.

I’ve read that the writers of Arrow moved to Flash.  Maybe that’s why Arrow went into decline and Flash has been so good.  It really has been good.  It feels like a show about a superhero.  Arrow went down the path of Smallville of feeling like a show about someone burdened all of the time.

While it’s problematic to have Arrow maintain a murderer as its hero, it can recapture what made it exciting from early season 1.  How do I know?  Because Oliver visiting Barry was a really good episode.  Because Arrow still has moments, sparse as they are.  Laurel and Thea aren’t hatable anymore, which is amazing progress.  It shows that things can be improved.  The big problem is that Oliver went from lovable to hatable (Felicity too).  He went from supersmart to incredibly stupid.  I don’t like stupid characters.  Felicity still has fun … when she guests on Flash.

I get tired of the nitpicking of the two shows because I think nitpicking just misses the fundamental features of the shows.  Yes, Flash should just win in no time against anyone.  That’s a flaw with the character that can’t be escaped, much like how ridiculous Superman villains are, with their endless supplies of Kryptonite.

Nor is it the soap opera romances that I find worth dwelling upon.  Sure, they suck.  But, so much of them is to be expected.  Iris doesn’t actually bother me.  Enough *fun* stuff is going on that I don’t have to obsess over their awful relationship.  Plus, Eddie can be really funny when he’s not being jealous.

Arrow needs to recover or develop a sense of humor.  Or, it’s going to continue to wallow in its angst.

So, what does this mean for gaming?

Gaming is supposed to be fun.  While some folks might want to play Vampire: The Masquerade as it seemed to be intended or play Call of Cthulhu in a noncampy way or whatever, I don’t.  Nor do I see much in the way of others getting into an angst ridden lifestyle.  Because, you know what, we get that in our real lives.

Superheroes are appealing because of their superpowers.  No, really.  They aren’t terribly different in story form from numerous other types of characters.  Well, yes, there is a bit of old school upbeat sentimentality in their tales that other genres may or may not use.  But, the reason I read comic books wasn’t to dwell on failed romances and crippling psychological trauma but to see gods fight each other with lightning or to have some blue guy wrestle an angel on the moon.

While making fun of a genre detracts from it, to where I see it being challenging to play a superhero RPG a la comics, having humor be involved in play is fun.  Gallows humor can be fun, but it doesn’t need to be that all of the time, either.  I played a Conan adventure where my greatest enjoyment was picturing my character trying to hook up with a noblewoman’s daughters in her mansion, without it being obvious to everyone.  Offering to help another PC with a more puritanical bent get in with the older daughter was memorable.

But, it’s not just the funny that produces the fun.  It’s also just fast pacing.  Flash moves.  Arrow stalls.  I get really tired of planning in games, as I do enough of that in my life.  I want to do things.  Even high risk, low reward things are better than sitting around talking about what could be done.  Use abilities.  If Knowledge: Hilly Watersheds isn’t getting use, make up a reason to roll it.  Cut from one scene to another.  Don’t dwell on the logistics of travel or having the right equipment, or whatever (I know, some people, like Brad, like this sort of thing).  Keep things happening.  Give scenes that excite people, like pretty much any seen with HG Wells (except his Gideon scenes) – he is the best thing about Flash.

Where Flash focuses on using superhero abilities, Arrow seems to have them just be part of the background.  Focusing on the cool things that PCs can do rather than brushing aside the Whirlwind Death Cyclone Kick should matter.  If abilities aren’t cool, can make them cool.  RPGs are flexible that way.  Maybe you don’t want to change mechanics, but a GM can create enemies highly vulnerable to a mechanic that doesn’t play as cool as it sounds.

Try to make PCs feel competent.  Interestingly enough, Oliver griefs Barry on his poor use of his abilities, but, actually, the way the series go, Barry feels like the more competent superhero.  Oliver is way too tortured to enjoy any success.  Successes should be fun.  Of course, it’s great when failures are fun, too.  I think players get too used to succeeding and to the story being mechanical rather than thematic that the value of failures is overlooked.  I don’t think failure should be common, as that’s antiheroic and amazingly antifun.  I don’t think certain types of failure are fun – “Oh, you needed a 25 to swim to the other side of the lake to continue the chase.  I guess you drown and die.”  But, having setbacks that only emphasize successes later or by others is key to creating drama.

It doesn’t bother me that things go wrong for The Arrow and The Flash.  What bothers me is when it feels like the show is mostly about failure (Arrow) and the inability to enjoy anything (Arrow).  The pattern I see being preferable is one of mostly success with some interesting failures, not dark, dark, dark, dawn, dark, dark, dark, dark, dawn.


Fisticuffs [20150319]

March 23, 2015

I don’t have much to say about playing 3/12, but, then, I don’t have much to say about playing last Thursday.  Mostly, I just want to post my deck from that game.

Yup, we played one 2.5 hour game, four-player game, and that was enough.  While there is a definite sense that games are being too grindy, to where it looks like we will take a break for a bit, I thought it was an interesting game, if not for one of the players.

Don (Fire) -> Ray (Hand) -> Joren (Jammer/Monarchs) -> Ian (7 Masters)

Got to the point where there was only one FSS in play after 2 hours, with several annoying NFSSs in play, including Summer Fire Palace from a second player!

Joren had Jayne Insane for a long time and she kept changing stats.  Ray was a threat for a moment, with Cheng Hu Bai and Sifu Beumer, the latter surviving for ages and getting Hands Without Shadow to be a menace.

Don got stuff going but got stopped a lot.  Then, everyone except Ray became a threat to win with multiple burned for victory sites.

I spent most of the game with just a Mountain Hermit in play.  He kept joining attacks!!  The first one, with Northern Long Fist, got taken out.  The second got Invincible Stance, which got broken, then got Celestial Stance.  Phoenix Stance didn’t come out until I put Red Bat in play.  Jade Willow came out for free and multi-attacked for the win off of my last Mountain Hermit, though I had another trick.  My events tended to be really important.  So much damage was being thrown around between the two Monarchs decks that Kunlun Clan Assault fit right in and helped murder stuff.

Name:  Stance Master
Faction:  7 Masters
Size:  50

7 Masters Cards (28)
Characters (15)
1x Ghost Wind
1x Gold Lion
1x Ho Chen
1x Jade Willow
1x Monsoon
3x Mountain Hermit
1x Red Bat
1x Sky Dragon
3x Wah-Shan Clan Warriors
1x Wudang Monk
1x Wu Man Kai

Edges (2)
1x Balanced Harmonies
1x Bridge of Birds

Events (10)
2x Beneficent Tao
5x Kunlun Clan Assault
2x Monkey Fools the Tiger
1x Pao Yeh Pao Lo Mi

Sites (1)
1x Wudang Mountain

Generic Cards (22)
Events (6)
1x Scroll of Incantation
2x Solar Flare
1x The Becoming
1x Willow Step
1x Wing of the Crane

Feng Shui Sites (11)
1x Martyr’s Tomb
5x Rainforest Ruins
1x Stone Dolmens
3x Tangram Alley
1x The Shangshu Mansion

States (5)
1x Celestial Stance
1x Invincible Stance
1x Lunar Sword
1x Northern Long Fist
1x Phoenix Stance

So, 7 Masters are obviously broken.  Every card you play is ridiculously good.  Red Bat was only about 10 Fighting in my deck, but 10 Fighting for zero cost is … okay.  Jade Willow is as absurd as she sounded from reading a tournament report with a deck built around her.  Amazingly enough, free cards that aren’t typically free is kind of a broken thing in CCGs.  Monkey Fools the Tiger is straight up murder, while every time I’ve played Pao Yeh Pao Lo Mi, I’ve won …

While I love that KCA gives multiple talents to play amusing cards, like Stances, 7 Masters may just be too powerful for me to play, given that I’ve won every game I’ve ever played with a 7M deck.  I’m going to have to play various events and states from this deck in other decks, as they are pleasing.

Anyway, I’m getting to a point where it’s becoming harder to get enthused about deckbuilding.  I think it’s because I’m building too many of the same sort of deck, building around a lot of ramp characters and trying too hard to avoid various cheese cards.  I think I can bust out some 30 card decks with 5x certain cards I like that I’m not playing as consistently and be amused for a game or two, though, as I said, looks like a break for a while.

Not that that’s a good sign.  Whenever people want to take a break from a CCG, it seems like the real problem is that they just don’t like the CCG that much.  I find the fix to bad games or unhealthy environments to be to play more!!  The number one problem I see is staleness, with people not building decks more often, but other people have other problems with CCGs.  Lower expectations, people.  Lower expectations.  Will enjoy life more.  CCGs are really, really hard to get right.  I’d still much rather play Babylon 5 with Drakh, ISA, and Crusade piles than play Magic.  You just have to accept that only Ultimate Combat! is the best CCG ever.


L5R Party Combat Guide

March 20, 2015

Edit:  Forgot this was my 400th post.  Pats.  If only there were more rewards.

My L5R Combat Guide has been one of my more popular posts.

It’s not that long.  It’s not terribly deep.  It omits a lot of things.  Let’s get to some of those things.

Oddly enough, I am rather rarely playing in situations where my PC faces off against a single foe.  Nor a group of foes.  Nope, I bring my guns (shugenja) to a knife fight (oni or whatever), and, after some Jade Strikes, Tempests of Air, Fires of Purity, or … Amaterasu forbid … Kami’s Strength.  It’s sake time.

Sure, not everybody plays L5R with six person tables.  My most common number, in recent months (we’ve had quite a break), is five PCs.  While there are plenty of strategy and tactics for even two PC parties, my focus is more on the 3+ range.

Initiative

I got into this before.  Here’s the thing:  Initiative can be hugely important.  It just isn’t necessarily important for you, the selfish player, who wants the dicechucking repetitive stress injury.

The most common consideration with Initiative is whether the party needs a shugenja to get off a spell first.  That spell could be Be the Mountain, Fires of Purity, or even Jade Strike “3 Raises for four targets”, but these tend to be nonessential considerations.  Heart of the Water Dragon may be an essential consideration.  Summoning the Gale, less so.  Courage of the Seven Thunders, depending upon how a GM rules it (one hopes the GM allows for a new Fear roll, since it wouldn’t do anything otherwise), may be essential.  Earth’s Stagnation is a highly underrated spell for tilting combat to the party, as it should be easy to hit two targets and possibly easy to hit three or four.

But, it’s spells like Wolf’s Mercy, Hungry Blade, and Touch the Emptiness that address the “I really need one dude dead” scenarios, and the most common spell to lead things off, by far, is the “you all fall down” Tempest of Air.  Tempest is less good against maho-tsukai for obvious reasons, but, against meleers, success (which should be the case most of the time or you aren’t calling enough Raises) always causes lost attacks.

As parties get broken, trading Initiative to have a slayer go first can be an alternative to a key spell.  Of course, if the slayer is an archer, may have a high enough Initiative anyway.

Unlike one on one fights … which almost never happen, going late in a round has more consistent value.  Sure, if you are Defensegod, Master of Reflexiveness, then waiting for a horde to miss you before you do something is a tactic.  3e/3r often saw the advantage of a squishy sort going Full Defense on round 1 because there just weren’t that many ways to get a TNtbH high enough to not get hit.  4e doesn’t just have Defense Stance for shugenja, but it’s actually rather common to focus on ATN.

Anyway, going late.  See, when there are multiple PCs and often one PC gets more attacks than another, knowing how those PCs fare can affect tactics immensely.  I don’t play shugenja, so I’m not waiting around to Path folks.  I’m waiting around to figure out whether it’s “go time” or whether it’s “whoa time”, aka Guard time.

Concentration of fire should be the standard strategy.  Sadly, we lost the “spread damage around because it will totally matter” feature of 3e/3r.  So, another reason to wait around and see what happens is to see if Killer McKillsalot clears a dude or not.  Far better than overkilling a dude or spreading damage pointlessly, want to ace a face … to win the race.

While I’m a Guarder of Guardiness, there is a point to not waiting around if you know you are going “Defense Stance, Guard low REF shugenja and, uh, someone else.”  Get that ATN boost in before the slingstones rain down.  *Then*, you delay on round two to maximize Guard time.

By the way, it doesn’t matter whether I’m playing a high damage Sparrow Bushi with REF 3 or a low damage Usagi Bushi with REF 5, I still am constantly delaying to figure out where to apply maximum value.

The Face of Naughtiness

In my other post, I start off with threat assessment.  Why not this post?  Because Initiative is something you can control.  Antagonists are less predictable.

Huh?  I know what I’m fighting, unless the GM brings in a second wave.  Maybe.  Maybe this band of bandits uses tactics.

It’s really bad for parties when the enemy uses tactics, so I won’t go too much into dealing with intelligent foes, but, if for some reason the enemy acts like a PC party and does these sorts of things, you have to be prepared:  target shugenja, concentrate fire, Guard each other, use Knockdown or Grapple, cast nonstupid spells.

Targeting shugenja can be countered to some degree by Guarding or buffing the shugenja first.  Concentrated fire can be countered with timely Path or Force of Will or buffing more fragile targets.  Guarding is countered by attacking Guarders, though it’s amusing how often antagonists don’t use this philosophy against PCs.  High ATN counters Knockdown and helps with grapple.  Fires of Purity is an obvious antigrapple play.  Manipulating Initiative to “kill the Soultwister first” is the usual counter to enemy spellcasters, especially when you can get someone with high damage to go first and hope for some wound penalty action.

There’s another tactic, as rare as it is, that can grief a party – running away.  The standard for L5R combat is to fight to the death, for reasons mentioned in a different post.  But, there are also the “OMG, you killed Kenni-san” subordinates who flee in inconvenient patterns that might require some corralling.

I should probably use more headers, but a key consideration is figuring out how hard it will be to put an enemy down.  Giant piles of wet wood, aka Shadowspawn, are ridiculous to try to put down, as is going the beat down route on zombies and other things with high wounds and no wound penalties.  Oni may or may not be a problem.  Lost can be bad, very bad.  Whether you already know or you find out as you damage things, figure out whether something takes wound penalties pronto.  Nothing is worse than dealing 90 wounds to some dude and having it fight at 100% effectiveness when 30 more wounds were done somewhere else.

Any special defenses are something to factor in, as well.  Reduction can be crazy.  Invulnerability is so, so bad unless your shugenja have got it covered.  Spirit quality is insane.  Spirit quality, Reduction, and high wounds is “are you sure this is fair, GM-sama?” time.

But, fighting isn’t just about murder, it’s even more about not being murdered.  What’s the damage output like of the enemy?  Will they mess with your shugenja in some annoying way that they have to die even if they are doing like 4k1 damage?

May be wondering what this has to do with party combat and not just general combat.  Concentrated fire.  This will stop you dying by dyifying your enemies so, so much faster.  If you got dudes with Earth 3 and complex attacks and dudes with Earth 4 and simple attacks – probably have to take out the Earth 4 dudes, as tedious as that can be.  Just like any intelligent enemy takes down the Crab Berserker right after the shugenja, even if it’s a grind.

Concentrated fire isn’t any one thing.  Grapple + Feint should always be in mind for a party for tough combats.  Knockdown + Feint is another way to go.  Wolf’s Mercy + coup de grace is way better than Wolf’s Mercy + stand around and watch enemy do its thing.

As with the example of enemies where some have simple attacks and some don’t, varying enemies can call for division of PC resources.  Archers, “I hate Jade Strike” types, and whatnot may mean that you let the two shugenja in the party split Jade Strikes for a few rounds while you run off and Guard or Knockdown somebody or whatever.  Zombies might be left to the “I call 3 Raises with my no-dachi” dude while the maho-tsukai eats some Tail of the Fire Dragon action.

Damage

If PCs aren’t getting hurt, then the fights really aren’t that dangerous, and any sort of thought only matters for scenarios where you are trying to stop someone from running away or something.

So, let’s focus on PCs getting hurt.  Let’s start with nonshugenja/nonweirdoes.

Besides using grapple as a way to get out of TPKs, sometimes you can just have two beatdown PCs Guard each other while other PCs murder the enemy.  You may even have some ability to have a PC run aw- … around, avoiding attacks, while the others murder.  You may even get to get some use out of Full Defense!

Okay, then you have shugenja.  When is the right time to Path someone?  When they are in wound penalties.  Any wound penalties.  Now, sometimes you have to make choices, but the reality of the 4e wound chart is that being in wound penalties is next to being dead.  Even Down removes a PC from fighting, which may remove someone who can Full Attack + Grapple or Guard, even if otherwise useless.  But, dead kind of disrupts play for a player and is to be avoided.

Do you always Path?  No.  Be the Mountain might do more to keep someone alive long enough to Path the next round than Pathing this round.  Force of Will might be the techy play.  But, often, Path is a good call.  In 3e/3r, we didn’t have these choices.  You Pathed because wound penalties were ludicrously crippling much of the time and because you didn’t have Be the Mountain’s reduction around to buy time.

Don’t let shugenja get damaged.  Spells must go off or … fine red mist.  Wound penalties can slow down the 10k4 attack roll dude, but they suck for the 6k3 spellcasting dude so much.

I Ain’t No God

I didn’t split out magic because magic rules combat to where every strategy and tactic needs to consider what magic is going to do in the fight.  But, lots of people aren’t into playing gods.  They need some planning advice, as well.

So, you are just a courtier/artisan or just a bushi/weirdo who hasn’t gotten to simple attacks.  You don’t have no-dachi 7 or tetsubo 7 yet, either, in all likelihood because you decided that you had noncombat things to do.  You may be the only hope for the party.

You may be the damage sponge for the shugenja (Guard).  You may be the damage sponge for the slayer (Guard).  You may have to bleed a lot for the greater good (Full Attack + Grapple).  You may just have to be bait (Attack/Full Attack some scary dude to allow gods and slayers to do their thing).  You may have to bull rush (Full Attack + Knockdown).

Where gods can just sit in Defense Stance and ponder how they will prevent PC demise, you actually have to consider which stance has the most payoff.  Not mentioned above, but there’s one other role you may end up playing – hero.  Or, more specifically, as we are talking about strategy and tactics and not just chucking dice, Center Stance Hero.

I’m terrible about remembering that Center Stance is a thing.  Sometimes, mister “sure my REF are 5, that’s only one higher than my AWA” has to contemplate his yumi for a round before unleashing a 5k4 fleshcutter.  Now, this can totally get you murdered if you time it poorly, as seen in an early HoR3 mod that I played in with a Kitsuki who did this to the enemy leader and promptly lost Touch of Destiny to a bunch of arrows.  But, the point is that you can sometimes disappear in party combats where you can’t in arena fighting.

Examples

It’s hard to explain a lot of things well without examples, so let’s use my Princess Police PCs for some examples.

Let’s first get a dumb example out of the way.  Back in the day, I played an Overconfident bushi with Earth 2 and Reflexes 2.  A typical first round might be:  “ronin” – Center Stance; Moshi Shugenja – Fires of Purity on self(!!); me – charge into enemy line; ninja – attack someone who gets close to shugenja.  One can imagine how this would lead to “please, for the love of Benten, cast some spell on me before the next guy attacks me” situations for my PC.

Okay, let’s start with the most common party configuration in the last year or so.  Shinjo Bushi (high offense – slayer, poor defense), Usagi Bushi (high defense, poor offense), Moshi Shugenja, Isawa Ishiken-do, Ninja (moderate offense, mediocre defense) are wandering around when they come across …

Bandits!

Bandits rarely have simple attacks but may have numbers and may have bows.  We will have most of the party with higher Initiative much of the time.

Moshi has highest Init.  Moshi isn’t feeling like all Jigoku will break loose and casts Oath of the Heavens targeting Ninja and herself.  That makes sense.  Get a buff out.  Now, Fires of Purity is the broken play on probably the Ninja as the Shinjo needs more defense and less offense.  Tempest of Air is also a possibility, well, the most obvious yet banal possibility.

Usagi is next and Guards the Moshi and the Isawa (having declared Defense Stance at the start of the round).  Why not delay?  Because bandits don’t tend to do anything particularly annoying.  If there’s a spellcaster, one hopes my yumi is out and I plink.  If there’s a party NPC, because I like NPCs, I might guard her.

Ninja attacks.  The Ninja actually has more decisions than the rest of us nongods because he has weird techniques that make different decisions plausible, but we will assume that he’s not in ambush mode, so he just pulls out a sword and knife and swings.

Shinjo may want to delay.  Depending upon Init, the Isawa might be going early enough to drop Be the Mountain on him, and he can Full Attack for extra Feintiness.  But, we will assume the Isawa is slow and doesn’t spend a VP on Init (she has Touch the Void).  Shinjo swings twice, engendering hate.

Bandits go.  Couple bandits swing on Shinjo and mess him up.  Couple might go on Ninja because he’s being offensive.  Bandits should be swinging on shugenja, which they may end up doing.  Once Moshi lost her Topaz Armor, she became more vulnerable, especially if we are in an armorless state, so figure at least one hit on Moshi, Isawa, or both if I wasn’t guarding them, but no hit because I am.  Bandit may go after Usagi, but my ATN when guarding two people is still 41 with armor on, and I might only guard one PC without armor to put my ATN down to 38 (we have really good armor), so probably not going to do much.

Isawa goes.  Options.  Be the Mountain is solid to set up Shinjo delays next round or Moshi heals Shinjo before he goes.  Path is fine but doesn’t solve the basic problem that the Shinjo is too easy to hit (if he’s wearing his Kaiu Armor, the bandits are much less threatening, of course).  Kharmic Intent is not so great at the moment, but allows Shinjo to burn another VP to reduce damage on round two and still have some left.  Attack spell is terrible.  Fires of Purity isn’t even all that at this point as it’s totally worth it to murder the Shinjo through the burn.  If the Shinjo wasn’t hurt, Earth’s Stagnation would make sense, but I don’t know that the Isawa even has it.  Force of Will would be techy but possibly premature.  Settles on Be the Mountain.  Why?

Next round.

Moshi Paths Shinjo.  Win!  Usagi delays.  More win!!  This is huge.  Not only does the low offense, attack sponge character continue to sponge for the more important combatants, I can switch actions after I see how the round goes.  Ninja attacks, maybe drops a dude (should target someone already hurt).  Shinjo attacks, dropping a dude or messing someone up enough that wound penalties matter.  Bandits attack (not in Full Attack or anything dangerous because, if they do this sort of thing, we are dead).  Usagi might take a hit but probably not.  Hit on Shinjo probably bounces off of Be the Mountain.  Hit on Ninja is a minor issue unless dice go crazy.  Isawa casts Path or switches to Fires from Within (not a good choice much of the time, but targeting a couple damaged dudes might make sense) or goes for Kharmic Intent or Reversal of Fortunes on Shinjo.  Reversal is pretty hot on the party slayer.  Again, Fires of Purity is broken stuff, though casting it on the Usagi is an awful choice, while casting on shugenja is unnecessary and messes with Path (in theory).  Usagi goes and sees that numbers are more favorable, stays in Defense Stance and draws nagamaki (takes simple action to do so), and guards one PC, possibly Ninja at this point as Ninja is most likely to be most heavily damaged.  Usagi might swing with nagamaki on later rounds to finish off some wounded bandits.

Etc.

Oni!

Let’s say we don’t have the Shinjo or the Ninja but instead have our Kakita (one big glass cannonball coming up).

Usagi goes first and either knows Kakita is in Center Stance because we remembered to declare stances or delays until Kakita goes second.  Either way, Usagi guards Kakita and a shugenja.

Kakita contemplates sword explosion.

Moshi Jade Strikes.

Isawa Jade Strikes.

Oni does its thing.  On the plus side for the party, numbers are huge and the oni is in a heap of trouble.  On the downside, the PCs can’t abuse Jade Strike by splitting it among multiple targets.

Kakita jumps in Init due to Center bonus.  Sword explodes, possibly in Full Attack Stance, though this is not recommended unless it’s “go time”.

Usagi delays until after the shugenja go.

Jade Strike.  Jade Strike.  Usagi gets killing shot off with yumi if it was ready, otherwise Guards and waits for shugenja to finish off oni.

R-? Bushi!

Let’s say the party is our Taoist Swordsman (slayer), Moshi, Ninja, Shinjo.  If this is a four on four fight against R-3 bushi, this is going to be pain and should wipe the party.  Let’s say it’s two R-2 and two R-3.

Ninja is top Init.  Guards Moshi, preps weapons.

R-3 swings on Shinjo, Shinjo Voids and still hurts.

R-3 swings on Moshi, armor saves!

Moshi Paths Shinjo.

Shinjo swings on R-3.

R-2 swings on Taoist, some damage.

R-2 swings on Ninja (again, bad guys are stupid so that PCs live).  Misses.

Taoist hulks up and explodes with rage on …  Should be on R-3, especially if Shinjo’s R-3 is not badly wounded but has taken any damage.

Next round.

What should happen?  Is Shinjo not badly wounded?  What probably should happen but never does in my play unless I point it out is that the Ninja should switch Inits with either Shinjo-slayer or Taoist-slayer and murder one of the R-3s before they double attack.

Alternatively, if the Moshi cast spells she doesn’t typically cast, a Grasp of Earth, a Heart of the Water Dragon, Earth’s Stagnation split four ways, or a variety of other possibilities are something to do before the R-3s go.

While it’s not that common for us to have only one shugenja, note how only having one shugenja puts a tremendous healing burden on a single PC.  While the Shinjo and Taoist are burning VPs to reduce damage (not necessarily best use but both have low enough ATNs that R-3 dudes are going to hit probably anyway, since antagonists don’t call Raises – if they did, TPK time), they both want to be not so deep in WP that they can’t wreck a couple more dudes.

What the Ninja should do is get enough damage in to Hurt+ a R-3 dude, as the Ninja probably can’t take full brunt, either, even with a better ATN.  The focus should be on focus fire, and it should be on the R-3 dudes to remove simple attacks.

Soultwister!

Usagi shoot Soultwister.  Shinjo shoots Soultwister.  Ninja throws knives at Soultwister.  Moshi spends VP to go before Soultwister, Fires from Within Soultwister.  Isawa Fires from Within Soultwister.

Ravagers attack party.  Beatings are taken, though Usagi might get missed.  Combat switches to bushi fight after Soultwister is dead.

Replace any sort of spellcaster for Soultwister.  Never allow a spellcaster to survive the first round.  Of course, this is what antagonists should do to PCs, but that’s antifun, just as Full Attacking bandits who all attack the same PC is antifun, yet the mirror of what PCs should be doing (except the Full Attacking part).

Range

Range can play into things.  Tempest of Air slows a charge.  Yumi are that much more important.  Fury of Osano-Wo might be the go to spell due to its range.  In general, I don’t see a lot done with range.  Certainly, my Usagi can run around the battlefield to mess with people trying to attack me, but they will just turn around and attack the rest of the party.  Again, bringing up how party combat differs immensely from arena combat.

Steeds are amazing.  It’s incredibly easy to control a Unicorn horse in combat.  Get free moves around battlefield while totally doing whatever you want to do.  Now, I would rule that Fires of Purity on a PC will burn the horse because FoP is broken, but some GMs don’t even concern themselves with such.

Helpful?

I’ve run down on having things to say.  Hopefully, I addressed most key points to what party combat is like and more would be largely variations on the themes of:  coordinated fire, don’t let shugenja get hurt, manipulate Initiative to wreck your enemies, uses Stances and Guard to do things other than swing, grapple is win, knockdown may be win (but time it right!), spells own combat, kill the Soultwister first.


[Classic] TR Vampire Ratings [6/1/2008]

March 19, 2015

Sent to local list. I found this while looking through files in my V:TES folder because of the storyline.

* * *

I don’t get to do this for articles anymore, but I was in the mood to opine, so here are my ratings of the new vamps.

*         Suck
**       Normal, mediocre
***     Good
****   Great
***** Best in game

#01: Clifton Derrik [TR:V]
Clan: Brujah
Group: 4
Capacity: 2
Discipline: cel
Camarilla.

** Typical weenie.

#02: Jack Drake [TR:V]
Cardtype: Vampire
Clan: Brujah
Group: 4
Capacity: 8
Discipline: pre tha CEL POT
Independant. Anarch: When you put a younger vampire in play from your uncontrolled region, that vampire may burn a blood to become anarch. +1 strength.
Artist: Leif Jones

*** An anarch out of the gate who makes anarchs who is a bully and has the Power of One. Not cheap but not crazy expensive either.

#03: Marguerite Foccart [TR:V]
Clan: Brujah
Group: 4
Capacity: 6
Discipline: aus pot PRE CEL
Camarilla. Marguerite gets +1 intercept vs. political actions.

** Interesting crossover discipline spread and nontrivial special but not bouncy enough.

#04: Anarch Convert [TR:V]
Clan: Caitiff
Group: any
Capacity: 1
Discipline: –
Independent. Anarch. When the convert enters play, you may remove him from the game to make a non-titled vampire you control anarch and either gain 1 pool or draw a card from your crypt.

***** Not Tupdog, not far from Tupdog, usable for any group. In the running as a possible second best crypt card in the game.

#05: Andy [TR:V]
Clan: Caitiff
Group: 4
Capacity: 1
Discipline: for
Camarilla. An older vampire opposing Andy gets one optional press each combat.

* Borderline dork.

#06: Dirk [TR:V]
Clan: Caitiff
Group: 4
Capacity: 1
Discipline: pre
Camarilla. Titled vampires get +1 intercept when attempting to block Dirk.

** Adequate dork.

#07: Calvin Cleaver [TR:V]
Clan: Gangrel
Group: 4
Capacity: 3
Discipline: for pro
Camarilla. Calvin may add a blood to an anarch as a +1 stealth action. Once each turn, an anarch may add a blood to Calvin as a +1 stealth action.

** Usual.

#08: Jacob Fermor [TR:V]
Clan: Gangrel
Group: 4
Capacity: 5
Discipline: ani tha PRO
Independent. While Jacob is ready werewolves you control get +1 bleed. Jacob gets an optional press each combat.

** Good for some things, not so good for others.

#09: T.J. [TR:V]
Clan: Gangrel
Group: 4
Capacity: 3
Discipline: cel for
Independent. T.J. may tap and burn 2 blood to cancel a referendum called by a titled Camarilla vampire.

** Interesting filler.

#10: Antoine, The Lost [TR:V]
Clan: Malkavian
Group: 4
Capacity: 5
Discipline: aus cel dem OBF
Camarilla.

** Group 4 is not the hotness for Malk bleeders. Filler if you feel some need to play 4 OBFers or Dem/Obf.

#11: Sean Rycek [TR:V]
Clan: Malkavian
Group: 4
Capacity: 4
Discipline: aus dem
Camarilla. Once each referendum Sean may tap or burn a blood to gain 2 votes. He may burn a boon as a +1 stealth (D) action.

*** Cheap dude with meaningful vote power and a decent clan designation. Would rank higher with other disciplines.

#12: Toby [TR:V]
Clan: Nosferatu
Group: 4
Capacity: 5
Discipline: ani obf pre
Camarilla. Once each action, Toby can burn a blood to give an acting anarch +1 bleed.

*** Hate to give dudes with crappy disciplines love, but the ability is significant and the crappy disciplines include Veil of Legions and Power of One/Undue Influence.

#13: Topaz [TR:V]
Clan: Nosferatu
Group: 4
Capacity: 7
Discipline: ani for qui OBF POT
Camarilla. When Topaz successfully equips from your hand, you may look at your prey`s hand, and Topaz may take an equipment from it instead (discard the original equipment card).

* Love to give dudes with junk disciplines hate. Special is wild and crazy and that means play (in bad decks). Overcosted equipbleeder.

#14: Laecanus [TR:V]
Clan: Toreador
Group: 4
Capacity: 5
Discipline: obt pre CEL
Camarilla. Once each combat, Laecanus may press to end combat. He is immune to frenzy cards.

* Two uses. About two less than a decent dude at this level.

#15: Lin Jun [TR:V]
Clan: Toreador
Group: 4
Capacity: 4
Discipline: aus cel pre tha
Camarilla. If Jun is in torpor, vampires with Thaumaturgy controlled by your predator get +1 bleed.

* Usual in most cases, funny in weird cases, like building around. Unfortunately for LJ, usual of 4 caps with clan inferior is weak unless the disciplines involve Dominate and stealth.

#16: Preston Varrick [TR:V]
Clan: Tremere
Group: 4
Capacity: 7
Discipline: aus nec DOM OBF THA
Camarilla. Preston gets +1 bleed when bleeding a Methuselah who controls a ready ally.

*** Want to give 7 caps who got nothing but disciplines two stars, but I can see Varrick as a solid roleplayer in several decent archetypes.

#17: Tarautas [TR:V]
Clan: Tremere
Group: 4
Capacity: 4
Discipline: aus nec tha
Camarilla. While Tarautas is ready, Blood Doll and Minion Tap cards cost an additional pool.

* My kind of dude … in the RPG. Overcosted dork in the CCG.

#18: Juniper [TR:V]
Clan: Ventrue
Group: 4
Capacity: 6
Discipline: ani dom pre FOR
Camarilla. Juniper may steal an ally controlled by your predator or prey as a +1 stealth (D) action.

* Superannoying special makes up some for a substandard discipline spread but not enough unless the meta is ally ripe.

#19: Louis Fortier [TR:V]
Clan: Ventrue
Group: 4
Capacity: 5
Discipline: aus dom for obf pre
Camarilla.

** Hello, my name is “I have the most common disciplines in the game.” But, you can call me “The Filler”.

#20: Reverend Adams (ADV) [TR:V]
Clan: Ventrue
Group: 4
Capacity: 4
Discipline: aus PRE
Camarilla. During your master phase, you may look at the top X cards of your libary, where X is the number of Gehenna cards in play. Older vampires do not tap for successfully blocking Adams.

* I sound so good until you realize my drawback is harsh and that there’s no reason to merge me. I can let you look at the top card of your library, I can also be replaced by any of four other PRE 4 caps in group 4 alone who don’t have meaningful drawbacks.

* * *

Jack Drake is still someone I keep thinking of but have a hard time pulling the cards for. It’s just not clear what I want him to do that I can’t do without him.

Jacob has been a lot more useful than **.


Dead Sign

March 16, 2015

Several things I want to get to but maybe best to keep this to V:TES.  We will see.

We’ve played the Red Sign Storyline twice in recent weeks.

It sucks.

Only two of us have actually been trying to work with the mechanics introduced in the format.  Others have metagamed hate.  That’s a fail.

One may argue that that’s the players’ fault.  Except, it isn’t.  If you don’t provide mechanics people want to play with, then you failed at design.

Why don’t people want to play with the new mechanics?

There are too many cards.  Not a single storyline vampire has been played with.  Why do we even have storyline vampires?  Keep in mind that where someone playing their favorite clan can play library cards by jumping through some hoops, a vampire affects the ability to play one’s favorite clan.

Meanwhile, there are so many library cards that it’s overwhelming.  The number of mages is way too high.  The number of Master of _ are way too high no matter what you think of the thematics … unless you pretty much eliminate pages 2 through 5 of the 6(!!) page library file.  I was the only one who noticed that Master of Mind shuts down ally steal.  While I find the idea of mages running around with +2 intercept, +2 bleed, damage prevention, combat ends, and whatever kind of amusing – that’s not V:TES.  That’s a game of mage wars, oops, can’t use that name, mage battles?  Mage conflicts?  Mage arguments?  Yes, Mage Arguments.  I can see playing that game.  I can’t see playing this one.

It encourages allies.  Allies are already too much a part of V:TES.  Not just Imbued.  War Ghouls, Shamblers, Nephandi, Tunnel Runners, Ossian, Carlton, Mylan, etc.  I like some of these cards.  I think one or two Nephandi are really cool.  I’m a huge fan of allies, in general, … when they are a sideline.  When they rule the roost, spotlight the show, eat the Easter Eggs – screw ’em.

Of course, the worst thing about allies is The Unmasking, followed by any of the other events that promote allies.

This format only introduces the idea of playing a bunch more allies, leading to minor ally hate increases by one player and massive ally hate increases by another player.

Now, mages aren’t all bad.  I have a deck written up to play 0-1 cost Outcast Mages.  I just have no intention of ever playing this deck until the format changes.

“But, you can ignore allies in this format.  You can choke people on their +1 bleed actions!!!”

Which brings up the other fail of the format.

The Red Sign is something everyone except me is trying to avoid.  Why?  Because they can.  That’s a fail.  For a storyline built around a card, it’s incredibly easy to just ignore it, stealth bleed everyone trying to do anything different to death, and basically just end up playing a non-storyline game.

So, what are the fixes?

Ban The Unmasking.  Oh, people are going to bitch and moan?  Then, just ban it from this storyline.

“But d-u-u-u-d-e, then my allies can’t protect me.”

Um, note how this format has +intercept for mages.  Note how the game played just fine with decks that played out allies before there were armies of +1 intercept blockers.  Note that +1 intercept on a vampire is one of the more game altering abilities.  Note how a Sport Bike or Mr. Winthrop or a Raven Spy can screw over decks.  That’s a single minion.  Carlton doesn’t actually bother me that much, except for how he’s an obvious play in a ton of decks, making him way too common.  He’s a single (yes, annoying) dude who discourages diablerie.  I’m perfectly fine discouraging diablerie, but that’s getting off topic.  The Unmasking is a mass of dudes with built in combat ability or expendability who block and block and block against certain decks.  Those decks they don’t ruin may very well be heavy stealth decks.  Those heavy stealth decks are unblockable to casual intercept.  Also off topic, but the stealth/intercept balance in the game is screwed by the Auspex/Obfuscate arms race.

I was running a minimum of three Direct Interventions and running ally steal in my decks just to protect Goth Band!

Sure, Master of Mind, which I was going to play and which no one has actually played in either event will protect mages.  This gets into the second change.

Well, not really.  I was thinking of either eliminating or radically decreasing in power ally steal for this format.  But, then, I read Master of Mind.  Mages shutdown ally steal.  So, people can play mage decks.  They can’t play other ally decks because the ally hate will be massive, but that’s something I’m trying to change by making allies less good.

See, one would think it would require only a single explanation of this but it doesn’t penetrate – cards that help general areas of a CCG typically help the best strategies in those areas, which causes people to metagame against those areas, which causes less good strategies in those areas to get annihilated.  Make all allies better, like The Unmasking does, and you make Shamblers, Reanimated Corpses, War Ghouls, Carlton all better.  So, now, I bust out my Courier deck and I run into the 12 Entrancements deck.  Or, for a recent example, I bust out Goth Band, showing players the card for the first time in their lives, and it runs into decks with six Entrancements and OBF.

When trying to promote certain things in a game, don’t go general, unless there are no good strategies in that area.  Go specific or go clever.  Tupdog is the worst vampire idea to see print.  While not exactly the top of the list for why that is, one of the reasons Tupdog should never have seen print is that it hurts all other Gargoyles.  Yes, you can make cards good for Visceratika or Gargoyles or whatever that don’t help Tupdogs.  But, it requires effort.  Meanwhile, other slave Gargoyles suck and indie Gargoyles are shafted by the game.

The Red Sign.

Two problems.  It’s too irrelevant to winning.  The equipment cards that help winning with it only make the format worse.  Sounds contradictory?  Welcome to how the world works.

For, you see, you will always run the equipment in your deck if you want to win Red.  Anyone not running the equipment is far too far away, but everyone needs to act like the player only needs 3 counters, just like everyone needs to act like the deck with Gilbert, Mariel, Didi, and Ozmo is going to bleed for 6 a lot, even when it’s a Potence rush deck.  Then, uniqueness.  Okay, now I’m running equipment steal/kill to have my versions in play?  I don’t, and someone gets there first?

If the format had no new cards besides The Red Sign and a couple of ways to make it realistic you would burn it, then maybe the metagame plays make sense.  Instead, the stealth bleed deck just takes it and bleeds people out, not wasting deck slots on anything to do with equipment, Praxis Solomon, or whatever.

So far, we have banning The Unmasking.  The second actual rule we are proposing is to eliminate the equipment that makes it easier to cash in Red and allow both a single vampire and a single mage to take actions to put counters on the thing.  That encourages mages a lot more, in theory.  In practice, let me just stealth bleed everyone to death.

I would go further and add something to the format where having Red matters more.  I don’t know what that should be.  But, the format should be encouraging its use far more.

Was the Eye of Hazimel a good card to take?  I won one of the events because I took it – to get the +1 bleed (using an argument that made people think I was going to rush with it).  Sure, there have been a number of storylines where people can just play whatever they want and ignore what’s going on.  But, Red is so worthless so much of the time that it’s just a “Looks like you could win next turn, I’ll stealth by you and make this card irrelevant to the game, wasting your actions and efforts to defend it and your deck slots on those books all for the massive cost of one action and some stealth.”

I think this post should probably just stick with the storyline.  I can write up are other games, if I’m in the mood, write up Shadowfist games if I’m in the mood, or get into RPG stuff some other time.


Fisticuffs [20150305]

March 6, 2015

While not compelled to speak of every game, I thought a few details would be amusing from last night.

Ian (Sea Dragons) -> Don (Dragon/Architect guns) -> Ray (borrowed Thunder) -> Joren (Dragon weapons)

People played FSSs as not a lot of characters were out.  I played only two because I had Crystal Field and I didn’t particularly wanted to be targeted.  I put out Mad Scientist and Knightcaps, used Thermobaric Explosion to kill everything in play except Beaumains and that was game.  Don won with a Chinese Doctor(!!) tooled up with guns.

My Mad Scientist did go for a site with one body left, but an Auramancer braved intercepting.  Amazingly enough, Jammer resources don’t help a lot when your hand is full of Monarchs cards and cards like … Larcenous Mist.

Total time?  Maybe a bit more than 30 minutes.

Don (as above) -> Ray (as above) -> Joren (as above) -> Ian (Dr. Iron Golem variant)

This looked like it wouldn’t last much more than 30 minutes, as Don got an Ex-Commando with various guns while the rest of us had little.  We all had to go into stoppage mode, with Ray and Joren having little ability to play anything.

So, my Iron Fists McQueen cleared out Don’s chaff, came back with Final Showdown, and took out the first Ex-Commando.  The others didn’t prove all that threatening due to a lack of guns to buff them.

I made a bid for victory with Junkyard Boys, Chinese Doctor, Khofesh, Iron Fists McQueen, and Hitlist in play, but I did the math poorly and knew it wasn’t going to work once I started it.  I settled into waiting for “Is That All You Got?” to have recovery for the inevitable loss of a unique character.

The problem with that was that Don got out a tooled up You Xia with stuff, Ray attacked right with Beaumains, Lord Hawksmoor, and Lucius Centares, and Joren got out Johnny Tso and Seamus with states, including Tesla Lightning Blasters.

The Blasters easily ate my characters.  Don and Ray destroyed each other.  Don decked.  I had to fight Joren by myself and couldn’t do anything to his characters.

We played Star Realms afterwards, as it was late enough.

What’s the takeaway?

I don’t know if I have one.

I could metagame more.  States are reasonably common, so nullifying them is a thing.  I worry, though, that Larcenous Mist becomes too common, as it obliterates decks I might want to play, like Sea Dragons.  Edges are very common.  The Hungry gets played a lot.  Spot, character removal would be really strong much of the time, as it’s more about making huge dudes, then middling dudes.  On the other hand, swarms were something we were seeing for a while.  They may have gone away as Final Brawl is incredibly common (Ray).

Or, I could go for more powerful plays on my part and force other people to play answers.  That can be potentially bad as I’ve won some of the worst games we’ve played, not off of strong cards, but just because there were no answers.

As much as I wasn’t doing that much in the second game, I played every unique character in my deck and stopped the game from ending in 30 minutes, with a chance to win.

I probably should change up in deckbuilding style, though.  I’ve gone increasingly to silly and should have some decks that are more coherent mechanically.  At the same time, there are cards I could be trying out and trying out to see if they are good rather than just if they are funny.


Building L5R Characters – Disadvantages

March 4, 2015

Can’t use the same system used for advantages in my post I’m too lazy to link, so here’s my disad system of scoring:

Dead

Scan your character sheet in and move on.  This is a level many disads should hit in actual play but very few actually do because GMs either are nice, don’t realize you have deadifying disad, or don’t care enough about disads to have it deadify you.

Crippling

The pain I feel is pain.

Sure

What a disad should be.

Cheese

I’m just showing up so I don’t get fined.  Too nebulous a connection?  I exist on your character sheet just to give you more XP.

List

I like to throw out disclaimers because otherwise people think I’m less right than I always am.  But, then, hardly anyone ever comments on anything I say, anyway, so I can just assume everyone knows I’m always right, right?

Actually, let me get into an essential principle.  There are those who see disads as a way to have character arc.  I don’t mean the people who play up their lechery or whatever to give the character personality, which is why a lot of RPGs have disads – to promote roleplaying character traits.  I mean those people who see a character having some harsh disad to start out with as the way to produce character development by removing that disad at some point in the character’s future.  For these PCs, a lot of rather brutal disads make more sense and end up being more fair.

Antisocial (Sure/Crippling) – The -1k0 version is just a thing.  (If “A Thing” didn’t require extra typing, I might have used it as a rating.)  The 4pt. version is borderline dead.  I guess someone afflicted with an Awareness of 3 from family/school who doesn’t give a crap about socializing isn’t dead, just crippled.

Ascetic (Cheese) – This should be relevant in some way, but, just as Wealthy is awesome for no good reason, being broke doesn’t matter … um, hold on, that’s actually not alike at all.  Wealthy is awesome because money can matter, being broke is meaningless because money is glossed over when you aren’t flashing the cash, homey.

Bad Eyesight (Sure) – A go to disad for me.  I just relate to it.  Not a wise choice, as it’s crippling to the PC who has it.  Except, PCs don’t live in a vacuum and the rest of the party takes up the perceiving slack.  (If they don’t, you are all dead.)

Bad Fortune (all over the goddamn map) – This goes from complete irrelevancy to play to Sword of Damocles dead (in theory, again, GMs go out of their way to avoid killing PCs).  Bunch of these are so weird that I have no idea how people manage them.  How are Disfigurement and Evil Eye not Disturbing Countenance?  How is Allergy bad fortune?  Unknown Enemy is different from Sworn Enemy?  The irony of this smorgasbord of examples is that Bad Fortune thematically covers a lot of interesting possibilities that aren’t mentioned anywhere.

Bad Health (Dead) – Ha.  Ha ha.  Remember whippersnappers, we are looking at things from a PC perspective.  In reality, most L5R characters should just expect to be dead, not on arrival but not very long after arrival.  No reason to encourage someone to think “Gee, if you didn’t have this disad, I might feel bad about wasting you.  But, you brought this on yourself rather than just save 24xp by never buying your Earth Ring up, which totally justifies my going easy on you.”

Bitter Betrothal (Cheese) – Any time I see this, it’s flavor and matters not mechanically.

Blackmailed (n/a) – While I gave a rating to Blackmail in the other post, that was based on a PC being able to use a NPC.  I neither see the desire to take this nor understand how it ends up working in practice, though I’ve had a PC Blackmailed in one mod.

Black Sheep (Cheese) – Either you took this when you were going to Different School, anyway, or some story justification prevents this from actually hurting you, in so much as I understand how it has worked out for anyone – I’ve only had minimal contact with those who cheese this, I mean, take this.  I’ll go more into story stuff when I get to Dark Fate.

Blind (Dead) – Awfully popular trope.  Absurd mechanical impact.  Yes, I played a number of mods with a blind shugenja who had memorized all of her spells.  Still should have been dead in the first “Kill the shugenja first!” engagement.  If you defeat this with kiho or whatever, that just gets into the argument that a disad that isn’t a disad isn’t a disad, no matter how often the GM remembers that while you can perceive all of your enemies you still can’t read store signs (which some other PC will read for you).

Brash (Crippling) – In reality, lots of PCs take this and it’s not remotely crippling.  Meanwhile, this is dead, dead, dead if played correctly.  So, I just averaged things out.  You end up offending someone and duel and lose and take your meaningless Glory loss, maybe an Honor hit (god forbid someone give you Honor for playing this correctly) when you should be dead, dead, dead.

Can’t Lie (Crippling) – *sigh*  I keep giving ratings to what something should be more like.  In 3e, this was pure cheese.  You just kept your mouth shut.  In 4e, this should wipe your party unless you happen to have the all paladin party.  But, this is only likely to be somewhat problematic … or, unlike some of these other ridiculous TNs for Trait rolls, you Void your Willpower roll and pass it.

Cast Out (n/a) – I would imagine it’s pure cheese, but I don’t recall ever seeing this rise to the point where someone may have had it (on cheese level, of course) but I never knew.  Also, okay, people don’t like you – so what?  There’s no specific mechanic to that.  Thematically, is the GM going to take a stance of “Well, one of you has Cast Out, so I guess the monks don’t tell you about the adventure, see you guys next week.”

Compulsion (Sure) – Choose wisely … or not.  This tends to be a flavor thing for players rather than plot relevant.  However, played correctly, this should be absolutely brutal.  (Compulsion: Say Nice Things To Higher Status Samurai and the like are obviously not real disads.)

Consumed: Control (Sure) – Etiquette isn’t actually important in most of my play, for reasons that somewhat escape me.  Sure, every once in a while a GM will be like “Roll INT/Etiquette TN 10 to remember to prostrate yourselves and not get executed.”, but that doesn’t matter a whole lot when the PC always makes the roll.  I find that most Etiquette TNs are so low as to be a waste of time.  On the other hand, Sincerity matters in my play.  It’s far more important than any other social skill for actually resolving major challenges.

Consumed: Determination (Crippling) – Losing the ability to +1k1 rolls is really, really harsh.  This is arguably dead due to failed Athletics rolls and other one, big “fail and die” style rolls.

Consumed: Insight (Cheese) – See Doubt.

Consumed: Knowledge (n/a) – This has come across to me as short term cheese for long term dead.  And, no, in FRPGs, we aren’t all dead in the long term.  Sometimes, three of our characters can play in a battle interactive and our Earth 3 Courtier cuts down multiple oni.  This just strikes me as a story effect rather than a mechanical effect, with so many unknown repercussions.

Consumed: Perfection (Dead) – I’ve seen this played … with a house rule to make it less horrendous.  Holy ay caramba!  I am willing to argue that this is worse than Momoku.  The most absurdly undercosted disad?

Consumed: Strength (Cheese) – While very cheesy due to being worth way more points than it should be, not using Feint kind of matters.  Can’t quite pull it into the realm of cheeseless, though.  Wouldn’t think it cheesy at only 2xp.

Contrary (n/a) – I hate this disad, even though I like the concept.  I recuse myself simply because I normally see this being cheese, but it can be all over the place.  Just so vague.

CbtR: Chikushudo (Cheese) – Oh no, a penalty to a skill hardly ever used.  That reminds me a lot of … Doubt.

CbtR: Gaki-do (Cheese/Dead) – Should be the latter.  I’ve seen this taken a lot, and I’m sure you will be shocked … shocked … to hear how often it didn’t autoslay the PC.

CbtR: Jigoku (Cheese) – I hate how Taint works.  It it horrorlike?  Sure, whatever, I’m not playing katana dude to play horror.  I’m playing katana dude to slice and dice.  The funny thing is that Taint largely doesn’t matter.  Oh, sure, thematically, it can be the end of your PC.  But, mechanically, you can sit in less than one rank forever, easily.

CbtR: Maigo no Musha (Crippling) – One hopes this comes up, otherwise, like any disad that doesn’t come up, it’s cheese.  I really do not like the idea of every roll being at penalty.  It would be insane in a campaign like HoR3, though I imagine someone has it and hasn’t been deadified.

CbtR: Meido (Cheese) – Like Consumed: Strength, way too many points for something that should have only a minor impact.  This would be a go to disad for antiperceivers if I didn’t find myself in campaigns where you couldn’t actually take this disad without having to talk to staff.

CbtR: Sakkaku (n/a) – Not my idea of fun.  This is for like anime samurai, even then, I have a very negative view towards cruelty and don’t need it in my gaming.

CbtR: Tengoku (Cheese) – This seems like it should be epicly painful.  I expect this to matter for like one meaningful roll in a campaign.

CbtR: Toshigoku (Sure) – Why sure?  Unlike a host of disads, I can see the balance of the consequences against the TN for this.  Is it a hard TN to fail?  Yeah.  But, you probably care enough to make an effort not to fail it.

CbtR: Yomi (Cheese) – This is going to affect a PC how?

CbtR: Yume-do (Sure) – This should be crippling.  But, GMs will let you skate, a lot.  I have this with a character currently, and I am not thrilled, but there are plenty worse.

Dark Fate (Broken) – This is an advantage.  This is important, so pay attention.  Even if this had no mechanical effect at all, this is an advantage.  What actually matters in a noncompetitive game, like a RPG?  Spotlight time.  This gives you more spotlight time – your character arc is more important than other people’s.  Then, mechanically, you get the best effect you can get (other than like 3e Toku Bushi IR-1 technique!).  Great Destiny doesn’t bother me, even though it’s cheese.  Dark Fate is just moronic for a PC.

Dark Secret (Cheese) – Another atrocious disad.  In this case, it’s because this is binary – nothing or dead.  How is that remotely a good idea?  That works in fiction because a single hero is the focus of the story and it drives plot.

Dependant (n/a) – Recusing myself.  Too far away from those who have taken this.  I would consider it cheese, but, amusingly enough, I bought a Servant for a campaign and it was treated like a Dependant, never once being useful to me and being a source of grief.  I hate the Dependant disad in all games (e.g. Champions) because it’s just too disruptive to other PCs.  Like Dark Secret (Secret Identity in super games), it makes far more sense when there’s only one protagonist.

Dishonored (Cheese) – This is an advantage for anyone who wants to play a Deathseeker, but, for others, it’s just an irrelevant disad.  Let’s try to take a step back and think about character generation.  Players have goals.  Players have things they care about.  They often abuse, er, manipulate, um, adjust their characters to play towards those things they care about.  In a very philosophical way, every disad is actually an advantage because the player wanted the PC to have it, but let’s not step that far back.  If I care about Status in a campaign, would I ever take this?  I’m thinking I’m unlikely to do so.  (IOW, homey don’t play that.)  So, logically, I don’t care about Status, in which case this does nothing.

Disbeliever (Cheese) – How do you know cheese?  It’s ubiquitous.  I see this taken all of the time.  Sure, there can be times when you actually want to socialize with monks or shugenja.  I don’t see the penalty being why someone takes this, though.  Actually, it can be a thematic indictment of the Rokugani world, which is why I think some people take it.  So, in that way, it’s cheese but a different flavor that is “I like being katana dude, but this world can be annoying” that comes with bonus XP.

Disturbing Countenance (Crippling) – Should be dead, but, hey, whatever.  I would find it funny to take this with a courtier or AWA 4 dude, though it’s a pretty trite trope to be the “I had a promising career as a smooth operator, until this(!) happened.”

Doubt (Cheese) – How do you know cheese?  You see Doubt on a character sheet.  See my “Origins” post for more on Doubt.

Driven (Cheese) – This probably should be more like dead.  Yeah, if you play a PC who needs Honor for mechanics, this isn’t cheesy.  Are you playing that character or are you playing one who doesn’t care about anything besides your own selfish wants?  I typically see this taken to define more clearly what it is the PC plans on doing anyway.

Elemental Imbalance (Sure) – This requires a lot more thought than most chargen things.  You can cheese this to a high degree.  But, spells are so useful, that you have to make an effort to have this never come up.  I think this is just hilarious and is a way to rein in the godlike power of shugenja by taking it in an element you actually care about.  Now, that makes it more crippling than sure, but, hey, you are shugenja, so you already dominate the game, anyway.

Epilepsy (Sure) – While this gets forgotten constantly, when it isn’t, the TN is low enough that this is kind of like CbtR: Toshigoku.  For something that really shouldn’t work, I’ve seen this work not that badly.

Fascination (Sure) – By description this is crippling or dead, but nobody goes by the description as it’s a frickin’ 1xp disad.  Can be interesting.  Hit or miss, though, also worth so few points that it’s really a quirk.

FoB: Compassion (Sure) – Would be dead if you weren’t part of a party.  Hmmm, all the PCs are not lower Status than I am, but missus “I am essential to resolving this challenge” is.  Good thing you have a party and you aren’t playing a shugenja, so that others can keep the losers, I mean, nobodies alive.  I wonder how much somebody would have to jump through hoops to avoid gaining Status to make sure the other PCs aren’t lower.  That random Emerald Magistrate thing is great for this being funny.  Or, you play with people you don’t give a crap about and let them die.  Or, the real reason this actually works, you just hang on to extra Void Points.

FoB: Courage (Dead) – I gave this to a character, a NPC.  I like the thematic idea of playing a coward.  That doesn’t actually work when one PC not pulling weight can doom the party.

FoB: Courtesy (Cheese) – If this came up, it would be reasonable.  When does this come up?

FoB: Duty (Sure/Cheese?) – This I want to play so badly because I think it will make me make better decisions in combat and give 6xp.  On the other hand, will I make bad decisions and get slammed when I shouldn’t get slammed?  One problem with this is that the thematics can be bad for a particular concept I have in mind.

FoB: Honesty (Sure) – Play a liar, not care.  Play someone else, and the interesting thing is the cost to penalty math.  It actually seems about right.  Again, Sincerity may not be the most commonly rolled social skill in my play, but it’s the one I concern myself with the most.

FoB: Honor (Cheese) – Ha.  Ha ha.  See advantages post for how often this will come up.  Not the biggest XP boost, but it’s something for nothing and all of those Dangerous Beauties for free (since you might not resist them without your “honor”).

FoB: Sincerity (Sure) – It’s bad, but it’s not the end of the world.  Decent amount of XP.  Math doesn’t seem quite right, this should be at least 5xp, but it’s close enough for me to give it a pass and not dwell on how consistent I’m being with other social disads.

Forced Retirement (n/a) – What is this?  This isn’t a disad; it’s a story arc.  I’m sure someone has ended up with this because it exists, but, if it didn’t exist, no one would think it needed to.

Frail Mind (Sure) – I’m not a fan of this even though it should come very rarely.  I just don’t like things related to the Earth Ring or its Traits that hurt, as the hurt might be permanently painful.  But, that’s just being cautious.

Gaijin Name (Cheese) – The ubiquitous (well, overly common) Unicorn cheese.  Not really worth that much to others to go out of the way.  Seriously, my maximum on any one die is only 20.  Egads!  I be smoted.  At least it does something in 4e, unlike 3e.

Greedy (Cheese) – Once.  Once I saw this come up for a PC.  I have never taken this for a PC.  Biases.

Gullible (Cheese) – Even if the opponent succeeds, why do you care?  Then, you may be momentarily perplexed until Peter Perceiver susses out the truth.  This is, of course, one of the problems with disads like this.  Do I believe strange person who sounds truthful or do I believe my party?  Trust but verify … shouldn’t apply to someone Gullible, but, I don’t believe in party conflict, so what do you do?  You continue to play rather than argue, and you wish disads like this didn’t exist.

Haunted (Cheese) – This is primarily cheese because who can be bothered to have Haunted actually affect play?  I hate this disad, as it’s just disruptive or irrelevant.  Another overly taken disad, though I’d prefer that it didn’t exist at all.

Hostage (n/a) – Not a PC disad.

Idealistic (Sure) – On balance, this might be okay.  This is one of the least strange disads in nature that produces the strangest incentives.  This is the disad every honorless scum should take as it’s a speedy way to bury your Honor.  Of course, that’s only if you never want any Honor.  In reality, it’s way more complicated, as Honor 5 has some value for Honor Rolls and Honor above that has significantly more value.  This is also certainly a case where the clan benefit makes sense as Lion schools so often use Honor, so losing it hurts.  I think this is taken too often by those who don’t understand how much losing Honor can mess up mechanics, but whatever.  It’s not a crazy Honor loss.

Infamous (Cheese) – Glory has no actual benefit in the game.  What does Infamy even do … in play?

Insensitive (Sure) – Kind of cheesy, but it’s not worth that much, and, assumedly, it will matter at some point, though rarely.  This is the less messy version of FoB: Compassion.

Jealousy (n/a) – I have no idea how this would work.  Is it cheese because it should never hurt you?  I don’t know about that.  I just see it being too much thematics, where Fascination and other nonmechanical disads can skate on being not so … involving.

Lame (Dead) – Can’t move, can’t fight.  Not entirely true, as you can just shugenja your way to combat victory, except that you will fall down the chasm with your failed Agility/Athletics roll unless your GM lets you get away with flying over every chasm.

Lechery (Cheese) – Are you sure you don’t want to Temptation me?  Oh, come on.  I’ll pretend to resist.  Oh, I failed.  Such a shame.  That’s like the 50th time this month I failed resisting.  And, no, all of my PCs don’t have this.  Only one ever did … and no one ever tried to seduce him.  Well, what can you expect?  Ryoko Owari only has paragons of virtue as inhabitants …

Lord Moon’s Curse (n/a) – I tried having a character with this.  Got shot down.  I eventually agreed that campaign play isn’t all about me and my desire to play something incredibly problematic.

Lost Love (Sure) – I haven’t seen it that often, which is kind of strange, as it comes across as one of the few balanced disads.  That is probably the problem.  People either choose disads poorly or they cheese the system.

Low Pain Threshold (Sure) – Can take Strength of the Earth to mitigate the pain and still net points (and Wound Penalty increases).  Spells or whatever can mitigate.  When it hurts, it hurts, and, when it doesn’t, it doesn’t.  Much more fair than 3e.

Missing Limb (n/a) – It’s not so much that I think this is out of line, as I would never take this disad, ever.  I have an idealized view of heroic adventuring where this just fails my vision.

Momoku (Dead) – Better than 3e’s version, but it’s still like a 20 point disad.  Is it an interesting challenge?  In theory.  In practice, the fun of playing the game drops immensely when you lose access to a basic mechanic of the game.

Obligation (n/a) – Conceptually just like Blackmailed.  In practice, what does it harm you to fulfill your obligations?  Again, think meta.  There are adventures.  Do you ignore them because you don’t have an Obligation?  Of course not.  In practice, all adventurers have “Obligation – Seek Adventure” at the infinite point level.  Most of the time, it”s cheese.  When it’s not, mechanics just can’t handle what it means.

Obtuse (Crippling) – This is a really, really terrible idea unless you don’t want to have fun (or have a very different idea of what’s fun than I do).  I have never found myself in a situation where I thought I had extra XP that had no use.  I always find myself in situations buying up High Skills.  Can you work around this if you really want?  Sure, that’s why it isn’t dead.

Overconfident (Dead) – Of course this isn’t likely to kill you because GMs don’t do that.  It just should kill you.  Every time.  Let’s meta this puppy, too.  Okay, you only roll this when outclassed.  You also only roll this if you want to stand down or run.  Samurai don’t run … unless the choice comes down to “fail my lord by dying”.  You might make this roll.  When you don’t, death’s a bore.  Even the court campaign is going to end badly, but I assume some sort of average campaign that involves a significant amount of combat.

Permanent Wound (Dead) – Where Overconfident kills you when a trigger fires.  This just means you start out dead.  I find the idea hilarious that there are mechanics to prevent a PC from dying by giving them this, instead.  Oh, sure, the concept of that is great, it should be a sidebar optional rule to give out disads instead of death.  Except, this disad is death, whether Meido death or “look, I’m a monk now who doesn’t do combat anymore” death.

Phobia (Crippling) – This is a really problematic disad.  If your fear factor comes up often, you are getting like 20% of the points you should be getting for this disad.  Really not a fan of this as there’s no concept of frequency built into it, unlike Hero System disads that combine level of effect and frequency.

Rumormonger (n/a) – I don’t rate this because I can see it being irrelevant, being suicidal, or even something a bit more towards the middle.  I would not like to GM this.

SFC: Benten’s Curse (Sure) – I never take this.  It sounds horrendous.  But, I’m the one who points out that my experience with Etiquette rolls is that the TNs are typically so low as to make the roll rather pointless, or it’s something tiresome, like eating spicy food, that gives a minor Glory hit.

SFC: Bishamon’s Curse (Sure) – Almost cheese, just not worth enough XP to be cheese considering that it does do something you don’t tend to want to be the case.

SFC: Daikoku’s Curse (Cheese) – Ah, dollar dollar bills.  All upside and no downside with how wealth works in my play.

SFC: Ebisu’s Curse (Sure) – This may actually come up often enough to matter.  How much it matters, well, somewhere in the 3xp range might be right.

SFC: Fukurokujin’s Curse (Crippling) – As I like to know stuff, I would never, e-e-e-v-e-r take this.  But, suppose you are a moron (by you, I mean your PC, I don’t think a moron could have put up with 4000 words to read this line).  Since knowledge rarely matters, why does it matter that you are even more stupid?  I just put crippling because I would find it crippling, even though I play a moron character currently, if not for much longer.

SFC: Hotei’s Curse (Cheese) – Supercheese.  Don’t choose a dumb school and take your free 6xp.

SFC: Jurojin’s Curse (Cheese) – I may like the idea of being more reckless while gaming to make up for not being at all reckless outside of gaming.  But, I still end up being rather cautious.  So, I never take this even though it would be relevant maybe once in a campaign.  Note how sucky -2k0 is compared to the benefits of +2k0.  With Trait rolls, -2k0 is essentially -2k2, where +2k0 is still only +2k0.  The costing and levels of effect in 4e are so screwed up.  Advantages often give you +1k0 and disads give you -1k1.  “But, d-u-u-u-d-e, advantages come up all of the time and disads don’t, like you even spell out.”  Some advantages come up all of the time.

Shadowlands Taint (Cheese) – Time to go meta.  If you don’t mind having Taint, then you don’t mind having Taint.  Until you get a rank of Taint, Taint doesn’t do anything except accrue, anyway (with some possible exceptions that I don’t care enough to look up, but you aren’t “Tainted” until you have a rank).  Meanwhile, as I consider having Taint to having a dead character due to the social limitations it should cause for the player to play the PC, I see no reason to allow this disad.

Small (Sure) – I saw this so often, maybe that was in 3e.  Get a horse.  But, then, you are getting 3xp to do -1k0 damage, which is kind of like SFC: Bishamon’s Curse.  See how SFC: Bishamon’s Curse gets awfully close to cheese?  You do not want this disad in campaigns where PCs actually run away, though, I suppose, someone else will just carry you because GMs don’t try to kill PCs.

Social Disadvantage (Cheese) – I’m ready to play this.  The idea of being sidekicky is just so appealing.  Remember, Status doesn’t matter.  (Do I have to explain this?  Just go read some post I made a long time ago about how Glory/Honor/Status fail to work correctly in L5R.)

Soft-Hearted (Crippling) – This is taken way too often.  Look, if we don’t kill them, they will Meido us, so get to murdering, especially you shugenja types with your superior murder powers.  On the other hand, you do have a party so that you can pretend that you aren’t full of murderous intent with your low dice or “soften them up with a boulder” tactics or whatever.

Sworn Enemy (n/a) – I just don’t think this works.  Either enemies are par for the course since, you know, you are playing a game that has challenges to be overcome.  Or, you have some dude who will annihilate you.  The Hunted disad in Hero sounded like it made sense to me, at first, but I eventually got to the point where it was absurd, as enemies showing up is a plot device, not a mechanic.

Touch of the Void (Dead) – This disad is so poorly understood and so often incorrectly played.  It is certainly vague as to the timing of things.  Anyway, with official clarification, this is one of the worst disads in the game, being comparable to Momoku (the obvious play is to take both, even though you exceed the 10 point limit on disads).  See, having the option to screw yourself over is not actually a gain over having no options.  Yes, this is far worse for those who need to be able to melee attack … in theory.  In reality, shugenja have to get off their spells, where the weak and pathetic nonshugenja can afford to miss or can spend a round Guarding or whatever.  This should be a minimum 15 point disad when played correctly, no matter how much you want to try to game the system (outside of also taking Momoku).

True Love (n/a) – I see this on character sheets on rare occasions.  I’ve never seen it come up in play.  It’s a highly problematic disad to incorporate into play if the love wouldn’t logically be hanging with the party.  It is defeated by a VP, interestingly, I think the game does equate a VP to about 3xp worth of disad, providing some sort of benchmark.

Unlucky (Sure) – Shouldn’t have been made cheaper in 4e, even though I maintain that this is a meta play.  You take this disad when you believe GMs will be easy on you.  You don’t take this disad when failure is really important or you don’t trust your GM.  With a kindly soul, what happens is that the GM makes you fail rolls that amuse the GM but don’t really hurt or makes you reroll things that aren’t all that important to succeed at in terms of survival (may cost you Kenshinzen requirements, but, whatever) or that you will roll just as well on with the reroll.

Weakness (Cheese/Sure/Crippling/Dead) – Stamina = Cheese.  Reflexes = Dead.  Well, I did the latter in a court campaign where it was cheese instead.  This is definitely a consideration for any PC I need points for, as Strength is also an option for having minimal impact (just give up on the idea of grappling anything).  Willpower = Crippling.  Strength = Sure.  Perception = Crippling.  Agility = Sure.  Intelligence = Sure.  Awareness = Crippling.  Of course, don’t expect these ratings to be applicable to all characters – melee bushi and archer are way different builds, for instance.

Wrath of the Kami (Cheese) – I tried to make this less cheesy by choosing Fire with my PC.  Even making up mechanics to represent this disad in play, it has never mattered.

Deadly Cheese

If you read through all of that and didn’t come away thinking “This guy really hates the corebook’s disads.  He thinks a bunch of them are cheese, a bunch others are scan your dead character’s sheet into an archive file, or a bunch others are crippling.”, then I didn’t do a particularly good job.

While it’s a truism that the first thing you should do with chargen is figure out your disads (or equivalent mechanic), nevertheless, I find so many of L5R’s disads to be so harsh or so irrelevant that it just frustrates me every time I go through the list.  Epilepsy might “work” as a disad, but that doesn’t mean I want to have an epileptic PC.

I’m increasingly going to disadless characters.  That doesn’t work when you start with a 40xp pathetic loser, as many a campaign does, but it does work pretty well when you start with 120xp.  I just don’t see how I can build a newb HoR character with 0-2 points of disads, which is more like what characters should be, rather than the 10 that forum posters just assume every character has.

As a GM for home play, I try to heavily discourage more than 1-2 disads, as I just can’t track them for an entire group.  Now, there are major differences between mechanical disads that players can manage and story disads the GM has to deal with, but, still, this isn’t Champions where the assumption is 150 points of disads just so that you can build a functional superhero.