World Of Command

September 24, 2017

So, I have played some things recently that were outside the norm.

Old boardgame group got together and played two games we’ve played a lot:  Lords of Waterdeep; Scepter of Zavandor.  The latter was something of a teaching game for my friend’s son, who won easily … with emeralds.  You could go look up Scepter of Zavandor, look at prior posts where I contrast it with Outpost, or I could just say it’s a reskinned Outpost that fixes the massive problem Outpost has with snowballing victory or … maybe better way to think of it … lack of snowballing into irrelevancy.  Remember, if you can outproduce everyone, just keep pushing further and further ahead.

I also wrote up some V:TES decks, which is arguably so trivial for me to do that it hardly qualified as gaming related, more of a 10 minute thought puzzle per deck.

My friend and I played through some of a tutorial for the Myth boardgame.  Lots of stuff going on in that.  Because of hanging out with him, I got to thinking about playing/running a simple AD&D game.  So, I went to my stack of old modules and … couldn’t pull out a module from what was a stack of all sorts of things.  Instead, I pulled out Greyhawk Adventures.  Yup.  The AD&D hard bound book for AD&D/AD&D2e.  Because people who write blogs like these have this sort of thing just lying around.

I actually read some of it.  I looked at the adventures – I guess I’m the sort of jaded gamer who is the target audience for zero level play except I don’t have any interest in playing a loser [uh … no comment].  I read some monster entries, glanced at god write-ups, skimmed through some NPCs.  There’s so much potential in RPGs for amazing stuff, yet the yesterworld was just replete with game stats.  I guess it can be inspiring, somehow.

Made me think that I should suggest to TD to use a Gorgriffspidrascorp as a monster some year.

But, the most different thing was playing Magic.  My first play of Commander was in Stockholm because my first “play” of Caylus was in Shanghai, etc.  Rather than ‘fist each other, I borrowed a Commander deck and only played my Commander after two players were eliminated?!?  Might have been right before my prey was eliminated.  I think I attacked with my Commander once in the game.

I can see the appeal of Commander, to a degree.  I would rather play Advanced Squad Commander with Commander rules and 50 card decks or 60 card decks, but I get that lack of reliably is an essential part of people enjoying the format.  It does address some of the problems of playing standard constructed.  But, I realize at certain points in Commander games – all two I’ve ever played – that it still has Magic’s fundamental flaw of drawing one card a turn.

I was mana limited all game.  Finally got an artifact in play to accelerate beyond four mana a turn and had the artifact bounced back to my hand.  Sure, I won.  But, that’s because I have decades worth of multiplayer CCG experience and have some vague idea what the rules for Banding are (white not my preferred color but whatever).

Yet, as much as Magic has this flaw, other CCGs have other flaws and the only perfect CCG is …

No, Ultimate Combat! isn’t perfect.  No, the Traveller Card Game isn’t perfect.  What’s perfect are all of those individual experiences playing whichever flawed game where you just enjoy the heck out of what you are doing.  The Level the Playing Field vs. Not Meant to Be war I can vaguely recall while in Castro Valley playing with one of B5’s designers.  Ousting two players with Jake Washington in a tournament.  And, others that will become harder and harder to remember as I age.

So, I’m fine with playing Commander.  I’m fine with building Commander decks.  But, where other people get off on trying to build coherent Commander decks that abuse their Commanders’ abilities or whatever.

I.  I opened up a pack of Betrayers of Kamigawa and Saviors of Kamigawa to see if I got a legend to use.  I did.  Now, Champions of Kamigawa would make more sense, but I have fewer of those packs lying around, maybe one or two, maybe not even that many.  I am now at a point where I don’t know whether to continue to open Kamigawa packs until I can put together a 100 card deck or branch out so that I can support a 100 card black deck where I couldn’t care less if I ever put my commander into play.

Do I just open packs of things I have lying around until I can make a deck?  Or settle on particular blocks (much harder given what I have in packs)?  Do I try to preserve some way to track what I’m opening out of packs so that I can convert Commander cards into Type P decks?  Would I ever try to construct a real constructed Commander deck rather than a sealed Commander deck?  I don’t see why.  I don’t enjoy actually putting together constructed Magic decks.  Oh, sure, I enjoy thinking about them.  But, where V:TES with its no card limits and numerous close substitutes doesn’t feel onerous to me at all in terms of what I’m willing to play with, Magic constructed has always felt onerous to me, even if I could scrape together an Essence Vortex deck with one copy of Necropotence (and lose a game because I played Necropotence rather than just own with Essence Vortex).

I really like the idea of putting together a mono-color Kamigawa deck from just opening packs, but I don’t think it’s possible.  I’m not even sure how feasible it would be if I had boxes sitting around unopened.  The amount of packs I imagine I’d need to open to have a minimum number of non-basics to field a deck seems to be so incredibly wasteful (unless I can P the other cards somehow) that I can’t justify living such an extravagant lifestyle [quiet, tokens are a new toy].  I, of course, would rather build multicolor Commander decks.  So, maybe I dig through Ravnos or Return to Ravnos packs, except I don’t have like infinite quantities of those, either.  I could breakdown my Type P decks I never play and have little interest in playing to have stock.  I could even write down the contents to recreate the Type P decks if I ever felt that was sufficiently important in my life.

Given that every time I play Shadowfist, I think about how I could build new decks, yet rarely build new decks, can I get fired up enough to build Commander decks?

This is the beauty of Type P.  Five packs, 27 basic land, done.  Megasealed, which is what I’m thinking about, is just so resource intensive.  I already have to hunt for basic land just to complete P decks.  Scary how much land would be needed to field sealed Commander decks.

Interestingly, one of my friends gets me stuff.  Makes me feel guilty for not getting him more stuff.  Now, I’m totally good with my female friends getting me stuff as I do get them stuff, but that’s not gaming related and, thus, neither here nor there.  Anyway, he has gotten me Magic stuff that involves legends that could be used as the bases for Commander decks.  Since I don’t know what else I could do with constructed materials like those, since Type P is the only format I build decks for, seems obvious to make use of stuff people give me that’s, uh, gaming related.

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A-Void-ing Mistakes

September 16, 2017

Having a conversation at moment in comments section of last post on new Void shugenja build.  Thought we’d turn this into a post because there are some general character build comments I could make.

My first thought was that it would be hard to cripple yourself out of the gate since L5R has relatively few different buys and it’s not structured like a lot of games are structured (WoD, Shadowrun, Fading Suns, Mechwarrior, etc.) where initial buys are very different from advancement buys.  Think of how much you could [not] cripple yourself building a Champions character where everything is identical at starting and through advancement and … further realize Champions characters have radiation accidents where PCs get totally rebuilt to fix any pointless [ha] buys (COM 36 was more than sufficient, Mister COM 55; Power Defense when no one ever hits you with Power Attacks), while you are probably stuck with whatever advantages you overspent on in L5R.

My biggest mistake PC was a character who didn’t just plan for the future but that way overspent on non-Trait stuff early on where the present was significantly impacted, so I am concerned when the inclination is to overbuy on vants, ancestors, et al.

While I rate Luck as the best buy in the game and rate Wealthy as an amazing buy, I do want to clear up a bit that I’m not necessarily advocating Luck, for example, as the end all and be all of character creation.

My biggest mistake may have been a PC who wouldn’t make sense until 150xp into the campaign, but I find that I have a general tendency to prefer playing PCs who are who they are out of the gate.

Sure, my Isawa Mirumoto Bushi sailor was useless with an Agility of 2 and kind of an actual character with Agility 3 and two ranks of Kenjutsu.  But, the character was defined immediately by being a massive damage sponge to distract enemies long enough for others to eviscerate them.

Okay, enough about me.

JJ’s PC with Ishiken-do, Luck, Crafty, Great Destiny, Sage, and Benten’s Blessing concerns me as putting too much into situational payoffs and not enough into consistency.

Ishiken-do is required.  I would put Sage into required as well because the concept sounds like a Void/Air/Fire doer who won’t be a moron.  Only reason not to do Sage is because of thematic fail.

I would not bother with Crafty, as there are only five skills listed as low skills and I could imagine not needing Forgery nor Intimidation (any time soon, at least).  So, could have just taken one rank in the other three and be on the path to going above one rank as “needed” and spent the same number of points.  I would be unlikely to even spend those three points, taking probably one rank in Stealth and Temptation and buying Sleight later or maybe not even the first two if really pressed for points.

The ability to pump all Void into a roll along with the ability to recycle VPs means Luck is less crucial for the all important rolls that occur.  However, it depends upon how many other shugenja there are in the party.  The more other shugenja, the less crucial any one spell is, so the need to Luck a spell varies.

Great Destiny is something I often forget about because living campaigns don’t allow it.  I have a campaign idea that moves Great Destiny and Dark Fate into general rules rather than specific character features, but that’s neither here nor there for you all.  It does amuse me to try to figure out a thematic justification for Great Destiny rather than the mechanical view of “I don’t want to die right away”.

Sounds like the PC is a/the face of the party, so I get Benten’s Blessing.  Besides helps with personal … um … pursuits.

Ishiken-do, Sage.  then, I would rate the importance of the rest as Benten’s Blessing followed by maybe one rank of Luck followed by Great Destiny followed by second rank of Luck.  But, it’s not my character.  If inspired by the possibilities of Great Destiny, sure, go for it.

Just to move on, let’s say 16xp are put into advantages.  I don’t like assuming 10 points of disads, but, if you start with 40, kind of hard not to max out.  If there are 34 points left over, figure 12 for a trait, 18 for Void 3, 3 points in skills, and 1 in innating a spell.  Things get rough if more than 16xp go into advantages.

Spellcasting.  A R-1 spell needs a TN of 10.  3k2 can do 10.  However, a few things.  One, Path to Inner Peace is not really a 10.  Raise happy spells are not really 10’s.  May want to cast a R-2 spell in one round at TN20.  Some thought should be put into what spells need to be castable as a starting character.  Because most people want their characters to be functional, I would imagine this character would be Air 3, Void 3 out of the gate with a plan to get to Fire 3.

ATN.  With Reflexes 3, Air 3 in shugenja stance, minimum ATN of 23.  Probably want one rank in Defense just to move to 24.  Someday, really like Defense 5, but that’s so far away and combat doesn’t seem like a focus for the campaign.

Disads are another way to cripple oneself.  Overconfident, probably not a great idea for this PC (I’d argue a terrible idea for every PC, but whatever).  Weakness: Strength could be cheesemeisterishness or maybe the GM makes it actually hurt.  But, it’s unlikely to an “OMG, you killed my 40 point character” choice like some disads should be.  More than anything else, because disads often don’t have consistent mechanics like other things do, I’d work with the GM to have them be reasonable and more interesting than how many points they give you.

Now, what about advancement?  There are important considerations besides whether you get to take advantages after character creation.  As I blogged about before, rate of advancement changes things dramatically.  Do you really care how inept you are at 40, if you are at 60 after a couple of sessions?  You probably care whether you have another trait at 3 if you play like once a month and gain 2xp per session.

For this character, what’s essential?  Sounds like social ability, Acting, fixer abilities.

Plan would seem to be Awareness 4, multiple ranks in a variety of Awareness skills, Agility 3 for Stealth, with Void 4 at some point.  Seems like can mostly dump entirely on Earth and Water, eventually getting to Earth-3 only if the campaign proves more dangerous than expected.  While PER 2 is unhappinesses, have to not be good at something.  The single greatest problem with dumping on Water is that it makes Water spells rather terrible.

Fill out skills to support “Acting”, like Craft: Cooking Pot.  Commerce is an obvious skill to enhance disguises.

I don’t know if I got the idea of a ningenja, er, shuninja right or not.  Also, what is the rest of the party like?  Is there a lot of overlap in abilities?  Who are going to be the perceivers in a campaign that seems to badly need perceivers?  Is this PC a demibrain, the brain?  What sort of non-mechanical considerations are relevant, like clan interactions?  This sounds like a low Glory character, which probably doesn’t matter one way or the other, but what about Status?  How will the party interact with NPCs of different status?

As for spell selection, here are some ideas, including some I don’t normally see:

Air
By the light of the Moon
Cloak of Night
Legacy of Kaze-no-Kami
Nature’s Touch
Token of Memory
Way of Deception
Benten’s Touch
The Kami’s Whisper
Secrets on the Wind

Fire
Fires of Purity

Water
Path to Inner Peace
Reversal of Fortunes

Void
Boundless Sight
Drawing the Void
See Through Lies
Sense Void
Touch the Emptiness
Altering the Course
Drink of Your Essence
Reach Through the Void

What’s interesting to me is that being ninjaesque means making use of some spells that I’ve never seen cast.  Still, limited options means most of these will never get chosen.  Some of these, mostly Air require being clever, too, which can be a burden.  Would be nice to be able to play a shugenja who does weird stuff rather than one who has to constantly save the party from TPKs.

 


Labors Of Love

September 4, 2017

Who mentions love in a blog post some almost seven months from Valentine’s Day?  I’m that guy.

I avoid Pacificon because I don’t think it’s a good con and because I don’t think it treats GMs well.  When Celesticon was around, I got to the point of avoiding both because they split the gamerbase and made everything too much effort for what weren’t particularly good experiences.  I don’t have that justification anymore, yet I feel no particular desire to start attending Pacificon, which long long ago was my favorite of the local cons.

Close to the con, I was informed we were going to demo Traveller with actual sample cards.  So, I dragged myself the ten minute walk to the con that I normally make just to go to dinner with my friends and got a weekend badge.

Hmmmmm … let’s see.  I looked at the Conan RPG corebook for a bit.  I watched Arkham whatever (they all run together in my mind since it seems like pretty much a money grab to just make another variation of the same game).  I watched some AGoT 2e Boardgame play barely, glanced at some wargaming.

Mostly, I made myself available for demos.  Jeff had run a con listed event on Friday, which attracted more interest than our plop ourselves down wherever we could find space demoing.  Jeff and I talked about stuff, made some notes about next ship deck inclusions based on what we think the game could use more of.

It’s theoretically weird that I eschew saying much about Traveller here, but it does make more sense to post thoughts about the game on our website when we decide to launch it with content, which I expect to be soon.

No, the point of posting about the con is to give … insight … into my predilections, I guess I suppose.  I’m willing to actively oppose the activity of playing games when I feel like it.  I could have played Type P, but didn’t.  I could have played boardgames, but didn’t.  I could have suggested something, but didn’t.  I could have pushed for us doing something with the Conan RPG once I had a better idea when I was going to be at the con, but didn’t.

And, yet, I consider what I do as an activity of gaming.  Before I got into Shadowfist, some 20 years after it came out, I would watch people play because I knew the people.  I also played every few years, but, mostly, I watched people play.  I didn’t glean a ton from that, but I may have gleaned some tiny amount and I could have more-gleaned.

There are some games I ultraglean from watching.  Then, there’s discussing.

As an aside, I don’t have much desire to watch V:TES games, as I find them frustrating to watch, much like I find watching pretty much any CCG I play frustrating.  I realized why at the European Championships while talking to a Swedish player.  For games I know, I want to point out what people are doing that doesn’t make sense to me.  That totally doesn’t work.  Yet, I’m perfectly happy to watch games I don’t know and seek just to learn because I don’t have opinions on what people should do.  It’s not just CCGs, it just happens that CCGs are more likely to be games I know well enough to think I’m more brillianter than the people playing.  I can tolerate watching mahjong being played better because I used to do that a lot and, possibly, because I don’t care as much whether people make good decisions in simpler games.

Discussing games can be far more fun than playing them.  I never liked 1e A Game of Thrones Boardgame as a game, but I found it interesting as a puzzle.  Since it wasn’t terribly random, what moves should you intend on making as each position?  It’s like figuring out optimal moves for whatever boardgame given some particular set up.  Like how people talk about chess and bridge, et al.

Obviously, terrible play can also make for good stories.  I value my terrible RPG experiences for the ability to bitch about them forever.  The “mostly the game consisted of shooting our own mechs” Mekton game that prevents me from playing Mekton locally, the “when do the PCs get to do something instead of watching the NPC do stuff” Maelstrom game that solidified the unbreakable law that Brad and I are not allowed to play in the same scheduled RPG events, the “yup, this is a pretty typical way people play D&D” D&D games that mean I never will sign up for D&D at any con, etc. all offer something besides con strategizing.

Similarly, awful CCG experiences can make for stories that I’m sure everyone is utterly fascinated to hear about many times in their ephemeral lives.

Had two meals with con-goers and shed some enlightenment upon them as to the Truth.  What was that about not playing but still gaming?  Oh, yeah, probably 99% of my True Dungeoning is not actually playing it but wondering whether to sleeve more tokens, deciding when to jump into auctions, and adding builds to the app for various different formats of play since I now have to have significantly different builds for normal versus hardcore/nightmare, possibly different builds for hardcore versus nightmare, different builds for Grind, and do this for a bunch of classes I probably won’t play but might.

I guess the point of this post is not just that, yes, Traveller is progressing and Pacificon annoys me, but that we do things that sound suboptimal because we care enough.  Love, yo.

Extended credits:  Couple of us are going to Gamehole Con to play True D/G.  Since I both have real looking cards (and it would be very possible that I would have final print cards by November) and not anything to do in the mornings when there are no True D/G events, I expect to set up shop in open gaming or wherever and demo Traveller to those who wish to be exposed to a game so brilliant it like radiates UHEGRs or UHECRs or whatever (latter is more searchable if you don’t 说 my lingo).