Wanderful

January 28, 2018

In recent days, it’s been mostly about Traveller.  My friends and associates have been getting their Kickstarter rewards.  Coworker showed me his stuff.  Went up to Oakland the day after the Berkeley tournaments to help explain how Traveller works.

Then, we realized the printing issue where the crew skills lack clear silver and gold borders.  That’s unfortunate.  We had a summit to go over the plan for making things right and I would expect an update from Jeff on what Horizon Games is planning to do.

See, I may not be able to see things at a distance so well, especially writing on flat surfaces, as I didn’t wear glasses in college except when I was trying to read blackboards (yes, that old).  But, I can still perceive small details, so I wasn’t that perturbed until a couple of things.  One, the realization that I have a huge advantage over people seeing the cards for the first time because I largely know what the cards already do, including what levels of skills the crew have.  Two, internal comments have been that the lack of clarity on the skills is a monumental deal.

Anyway, I didn’t post just to dwell on how many things can go wrong with publishing material.  I’ve been building decks now that I have real cards and not just samples – something that only happened yesterday, days after other people got real cards.  I’ve been answering questions on travellerccg.com‘s forums because I’m actually not just an authority but a “designer intent is this and since I’m a …” type person thingy.  I usually eschew answering rules questions for card games because, as a player of those games, I never wanted some random playtester to tell me how something worked but wanted someone who decided what the rules are to tell me how something worked.  Of course, I also happened to often be a random playtester myself.

Every once in a while I remind myself that:  we put out a game.  Yes, there are some miscellaneous things that didn’t go as planned, but it looks good.  I think it plays as intended, though it is not a simple game to get down right away.

And, we hope to keep making it better – expanding the card pool, addressing any production issues, addressing rules questions and concerns.

Shifting gears.  The John Carter KS continues on in a similar way to various other RPG [sic] KS’s that I’ve seen where the original threshold is just something to blow through for the stretch goals.

Now, what doesn’t get me as excited is that it’s not just a RPG KS but a minis KS as well.  I don’t hate minis.  I, in fact, backed a KS that was all about a board game with lots of minis.  But, I also have essentially no use for them.  I don’t know how to store them (and, I have way too much stuff already).  I’m a theater of the mind style player/GM.  I don’t hardly ever play games that require minis.  I also don’t see how more “different dice” is actually a goal of any sort or worth anything.  I want winners … er … I want content.

I got to thinking about content.  First, JC content.  There are nine books published based on various compiled magazine stories or whatever.  Decent number of locations are used or referred to.  Various cultures, as defined by races with different skin colors … uh … yeah, exist.  Some monsters.  Some tech.  Some weird psionic style powers exist.  There’s material.  Now, how you finesse putting a book out that goes into the differences between the black martians, the white martians, the red martians, the yellow martians, and, maybe, someone very PC will also find the green martians a problem is not entirely clear to me.  At least some of these have other names besides what color their skin is, but we live in a precarious age, which is no doubt some of the problem with pushing JC 100 years after it was written.

Putting aside the potential for getting people who don’t understand the source material riled up, I was just wondering why more RPG books weren’t part of the early stretch goals.  Because, I think about how insane the material is for both Conan and L5R.  Now, L5R is a game world, so you can expand it as much as you want.  But, I’ve read a good amount of Conan and I don’t recall there being that many locations and cultures and whatever well defined to where you can write an entire book about Aquilonia or, even more ridiculous, Cimmeria or Khitai and somehow find it challenging to write an atlas of Barsoom.  Maybe it isn’t challenging.  Maybe it’s just not a priority compared to having ship to ship combat rules or whatever.

I happen to have Savage World’s Lankhmar book handy and I have repeatedly wondered why there’s so little material in it and/or the property.  I haven’t read many stories, but I know there are a number, and I’m pretty sure they are more vivid than the game supplement.

But, then, I thought of a few things.  One, not every estate is as eager to expand on material that isn’t in stories written by the original author or official authors.  Two, Conan is different.  Barsoom is a made up world.  Lankhmar is in a made up world.  Conan’s world is a world of historical cultures mashed together.  You can expand on the societal norms of Shemites by just opening up an anthropological book.  Want to get Hyrkanians?  Well, not super challenging.  Brythunia was a bit of an uncertain match, but I interpreted as kind of like Ireland and kind of like Poland and maybe something else.

Conan’s world so good.  I can bring in famous Yemeni poets into my LBS gaming or Saudi festivals or whatever to flesh out that underdeveloped setting and find that entertains me as a worldbuilder.  But, with Conan, you can choose any corner of the continent you want and draw inspiration from this world.

I just haven’t been as enthused with KS as the end/intended results of things I’ve backed or tried to back haven’t been to my tastes.  Sure, I want to have PDFs for supplements rather than not, but what I really want are printed versions, and, yet, where would I even put more books?  I can’t fit what I have in terms of either books or cards.

Speaking of Savage Worlds, we have started playing a Spelljammer game using SW mechanics.  Still early.  Not what I would pick as a person’s first RPG experience, but that’s the case.  New setting for others.  We have intentionally not proclaimed “this is our new RPG campaign” to see if it works for people.  Is kind of interesting to me that my gaming seems to be expanding again, what with trying to play L5R LCG, Traveller, trying to have RPG play on a regular basis, plus Shadowfist getting back on track, the potential to get V:TES in the South Bay back on track.

It’s almost like everything new is old again.  How wanderful.

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January 22, 2018

Saturday, had two V:TES tournaments.  It shows how I am so much more into things when I play them regularly that I only built one new deck for the events and didn’t really have any idea what I would play in the second tournament.

Tournament 1 (12)

Round 1:

Ian (Akunanse bleed) -> Mark (Lucian, The Perfect Bleeder) -> Eric (Brujah vote) -> Rick (Forestal, Agaitas Brinksmanship)

As I see Mark working on some fattie and with Eric bringing out quick Rake and going through vote stuff, I consider Nkule useful for my second dude.  That proved pointless.  My first dude is Socrate.  Mark, Eric, Rick all play first turn good stuff masters – Dreams, Info, … something else.

Mark avoids blocking due to the threat of combat.  Rick Slaughters me some revealing a bunch of Dodges.  My turn three Tunnel Runner is blocked.  I eventually have Obaluaye and Jubal in play.

Eric fails to block some important stuff forward early on and has no bounce for when Lucian gets around to doing his thing.  He votes a bit, but it has minimal impact.  Rick keeps taking my cards and plays more than half of them, including Predator’s Communion with Forestal.

I bleeds.  Mark gets Eric.  I don’t fear Lucian much as I’m sitting on an Archon, but I decide to bleed out Mark with Strange Day, having few of my bleeds bounced even though Mark has Black Lotus and Louis Fortier Advanced to assist in the realm of bouncing.

In the endgame, I am out of library.  Can’t stealth anymore and concede after Brinksmanship as, even if I get all of my other actions through, I’m one pool short of ousting.  Yup, 2/1/1 scoop to Brinksmanship.

I played poorly in this game with some early decisions, but I don’t recall specifically what they were.  Getting so old.

Round 2:

Eric -> David CK (Victoria and friends) -> Brandon (Stickish Men Under Siege) -> Ian

Since I pulled the cards for Brandon’s deck, I lamented how much we failed to block early Governs.  I don’t remember Eric doing much, though he passed a couple of Con Boons, neither of which were for Akunanse.

I did get an early Tunnel Runner, along with Aisata, Nestor, Uchenna.  Very interesting to have both Aisata and Uchenna in play, as I was trying to churn into bleed/stealth to finish off Eric.  He was at 10 pool, I bled him for 9, including using a Daring the Dawn to cycle and … the card after my replacement was plus bleed.

I fended Brandon off for a while, Dodge being pretty useful at not allowing him to cycle Hidden Strengths.  But, the problem is that any bleed that goes through is unfriendly.  David was rather impotent until I was ousted.  Brandon unnecessarily bled for 4 against Eric, which got a bleeder burned, greatly slowing down his assault on David’s weaponless region.

Again, I made mistakes.  I played Predator’s Communion twice when Brandon had Anarch Troublemaker in play, rather than wait until he starts acting, which was incredibly stupid, yet, oddly, didn’t hurt me given how things turned out.  I did something dumb early on.

But, mostly, the tournament was all about being one card away.  In a 12 player tournament, 2 VPs was a shot at making the finals.  In fact, there was only one GW from the first round as one table timed out with 1.5/1.5 and another table split – the Brinksmanship GW, of course.

The Fates were not Cheated.

Finals:

Brandon wins.

Pickup Game (5)

I played my Anthology Instantaneous Transformation deck, where I was all like “But, how do I get by his dude?”, then realized my turn one Anarch Railroad made me unblockable as I stole two pool from Powerbase: Washington D.C. [yup, P:WDC], burned counters off of Powerbase: Barranquilla, both my predator’s cards.  Nevermind that IT has an inferior version.

I had my Fangs Pulled and got Famed and got ousted by bleeds because my grandpredator’s Nergal deck, for some reason, didn’t bleed one more time to oust my predator.  I did Minor Boon when my grandprey’s Ahrimane got ‘schrecked by my prey’s Tzimisce deck.  Lambach did his usual thing of stealthing by Muricia and friends.

Tournament 2 (10)

Round 1:

Ian (Palla Grande/Soul Painting) -> Rick (Shatter the Gate) -> John (Kiasyd) -> Devin (borrowed Toreador Scorn) -> Mark (Capuchin Soul Gem)

Rick:  Zillah’s Valley, followed by Annazir, followed by StG, followed by StG, followed by two players getting the Edge and trying to burn a StG and my trying to get the Edge … and all failing, including Devin failing twice in one turn, followed by StG three.

After we got our shattered counters, I ousted Rick.  Then, our long national nightmare lasted a few rounds.  Devin seemed good since he had vote bloat, but he poofed.  Mark bled me for a lot when my deck refused to give me intercept or bounce after I spent three intercept trying to block Rick’s first StG.  I got bled a bit more and was shattered.

Mark had a huge edge in the endgame and still was in trouble because it’s hard to play the game when you are guaranteed to lose 3 pool every turn.

I played horribly.  I could have Washed Rick’s Secure Haven on Annazir … when I had a Soul Painting in hand.  I let The Capuchin block my Carlton because I actually have very little idea what unprinted cards do relative to my card knowledge of printed cards.  I didn’t play my bleed cards correctly to give myself a chance at ousting John, though he had wake/bounce, so it didn’t matter as much.  But, probably the worst thing was getting cute with transfers.  Rather than bringing Sheila Mezarin up third, I brought out Ian Wallingford, which meant one less possible bleed every turn.

Round 2:

Mark -> Kenneth (Caitiff vote) -> David A (Petaniqua Night Moves) -> John -> Ian

David got depleted quickly, unsurprisingly, but he brought out Muddled and Ossian and Caitiff got much beat down.  Mark had an incredibly awkward game, at one point getting a Samedi off of The Capuchin burning with Soul Gem.  Kenneth had Creepshow Casino to get one action by Capuchin (who was still in play most of the time), and there was much talking about how to have a game when he could lose two minions per turn and get Obedienced by his predator.

Eventually, David got ousted after the game got stale.  John bled me for 5 and I bounced to Mark and ousted Mark late to get the all important second VP.

Finals (4th seed):

Alex was fifth seed.  Brandon chose to be behind me.  Mark chose to be behind Brandon.  Kenneth chose to be my prey.  In thinking about what people brought out (as opposed to how Brandon’s deck was supposed to play), for Kenneth, he would have been better as Alex’s prey.

Kenneth -> Alex (!Ventrue anarch block) -> Mark -> Brandon (Toreadorish toolbox) -> Ian

Kenneth could barely do anything forward and I dealt with him to let him get a Prince if I could move the Edge regularly.  I got early Carlton.  Brandon got some bleeds through on me as I slowed Kenneth very early, then got lots of minions in play, where I had only Remilliard, Sheila, Creamy, and Carlton to defend myself.  So, I would bleed Kenneth for 2-3 each round with one action, and Brandon and I would fight Toreador style with dodge defeating my possible Catatonic Fear/Target Vitals plays.

Alex did pretty much nothing forward and never tried dealing with Kenneth.  Mark finally got his combo online and started bleeding.  Brandon’s big problem was his first four vampires did not have Auspex.  He finally got one of his five superior Auspex dudes into play.  I ousted Kenneth as time was running down.  My only hope was Brandon lived, due to seeding.  Brandon did not have enough bounce to live.  I reduced Alex’s pool some, but the timing wasn’t right to finish him off … except, I did get him to 2 pool and probably could have cycled more in the game, needing an Aire to finish him off.  Not that I deserved to win.  Alex never should have been in trouble and time was on Mark’s side, plus he was unoustable due to his bloat, and Mark played well to stop bleeding me as time was running out as my hand was full of bounce at the end of the game.

Even if I help Alex do pool damage forward, not enough time to go through Mark’s pool, and he could try just walling up as I win if I oust Alex or if Alex ousts Mark.  A pretty boring game for me as I barely interacted with predator or prey after the first few turns.

Considering that I either discarded my Soul Paintings or had them get blocked during my games, and that’s the only thing remotely interesting about the deck, Fate decreed that someone who played better and built a more interesting deck won.

Problem was my other decks were rather janky or boring or one was a deck I had already won a tournament with.  While the last is really fun to play, no, seriously, I have a deck that’s fun to play and it somehow won a tournament, though even more seriously, I have enjoyed replaying some of my other tournament winning decks, I considered how completely uninteresting it would be to have two tournament wins with the same deck archetype.  After all, if I did win with that deck again, it would radically increase my Blessing of the Name count in my TWD card counts.

Thanks to Mark for organizing, to the players who dragged themselves out to play a game I quite enjoy playing, to my carmates for making the trek more pleasant than just driving for hours while tired.  The locale is good.

What I did suggest, since two tournaments in one day is quite tiring, was doing tournaments more often, having one in a day, and doing casual play around it.  As Devin just moved to the South Bay, we may also regenerate a South Bay play group!  Like a phoenix rising from an ash heap and sucking blood in the city after dark … or something like that.


Ancestor Rate

January 14, 2018

While it may never come to pass that an all ancestor, all the time campaign is run, I might as well see what I think about the ancestors so that I can make decisions on any PCs/NPCs I create.

When I reviewed Great Clans, I did some ratings for those ancestors.  But, for the first time, I will put it all together and spew ancestor thoughts for the ancestors in the three books where they are concentrated:  core, GC, Secrets of the Empire.

Comments:  I’m not going to bother with Spider or clearly NPC ancestors, like monks.  My overall rating is kind of irrelevant, as it’s just an average (rounded down) of the other two, but it gives me something to think about.  Desirability, of course, is all that really matters.  You can come up with your own feelings on how much you like what an ancestor does.  More comments after.

Ancestor Cost (Pts.) Effective (Pts.)
Hida 14 10
Kuni 8 6
Doji 8 6
Kakita 12 3
Agasha Kitsuki 11 8
Mirumoto 9 10
Akodo 12 11
Ikoma 9 7
Kaimetsu-Uo 9 10
Gusai 5 0
Asako 5 0
Shiba 9 9
Bayushi 12 11
Shosuro 8 7
Moto 10 3
Shinjo 8 9
Hiruma 11 8
Kaiu 9 9
Asahina 9 8
Doji Hayaku 7 6
Agasha6 6 9
Agasha10 10 11
Togashi Yamatsu 7 6
Kitsu 6 6
Matsu Hitomi 7 5
Moshi Azami 6 3
Osusuki & Akomachi 5 6
Isawa 12 7
Naka Kaeteru 10 11
Yogo 6 12
Soshi Saibankan 5 3
Otaku 7 4
Iuchi 8 5
Otomo 6 5
Seppun 10 6
Miya 5 2
Ichiro Fureheshu 9 5
Komori Iongi 5 4
Hida Heichi 4 7
Tonbo Kuyuden 3 2
Usagi Reichin 7 4
Toku 3 5
Tsi 6 3
Morito Garin 5 2
Doji Suzume 4 6
Agasha Kasuga 5 3
Sun Tao 10 8
Chiroru 8 5
Miyuko 12 14

First up, what the ancestors cost versus my rough attempt to calculate more accurate point valuations.  Note that just because something might be worth more or less points doesn’t mean I equate that to a quality rating, though there should be high correlation.

The assumption is that campaigns make use of PC abilities.  If playing HoR or the like, where spirits and spirit realms may never appear [ha, ha ha], then sucks to be Miss Kitsu.

Ancestor Demands
Hida Low
Kuni Very Low
Doji Low
Kakita Very High
Agasha Kitsuki Very Low
Mirumoto Low
Akodo Low
Ikoma Very High
Kaimetsu-Uo High
Gusai Very High
Asako Very Low
Shiba Medium
Bayushi Low
Shosuro Low
Moto Low
Shinjo Very Low
Hiruma High
Kaiu Very Low
Asahina Very High
Doji Hayaku Low
Agasha6 Low
Agasha10 Low
Togashi Yamatsu Very Low
Kitsu Very Low
Matsu Hitomi Medium
Moshi Azami Low
Osusuki & Akomachi Very Low
Isawa Very Low
Naka Kaeteru Medium
Yogo High
Soshi Saibankan Very High
Otaku Very Low
Iuchi Low
Otomo Low
Seppun High
Miya Very Low
Ichiro Fureheshu Very Low
Komori Iongi Very High
Hida Heichi Very Low
Tonbo Kuyuden High
Usagi Reichin Very Low
Toku Low
Tsi Very Low
Morito Garin Low
Doji Suzume Low
Agasha Kasuga Low
Sun Tao Very Low
Chiroru Very Low
Miyuko Very Low

The whole concept of demands is fitting, but the whole concept of demands resulting in losing an ancestor is dumb.  The demands aren’t remotely nuanced enough and some are just crazy to deal with where others are trivial.

Ancestor Quality Desirability Overall
Hida ** ** **
Kuni *** **** ***
Doji *** * **
Kakita * * *
Agasha Kitsuki *** * **
Mirumoto ***** ** ***
Akodo **** *** ***
Ikoma ** * *
Kaimetsu-Uo **** ** ***
Gusai 0 0 0
Asako 0 0 0
Shiba ** ** **
Bayushi *** ** **
Shosuro *** * **
Moto * * *
Shinjo **** *** ***
Hiruma ** * *
Kaiu **** **** ****
Asahina **** ** ***
Doji Hayaku *** * **
Agasha6 ***** *** ****
Agasha10 **** **** ****
Togashi Yamatsu ** ***** ***
Kitsu **** ***** ****
Matsu Hitomi ** * *
Moshi Azami * ***** ***
Osusuki & Akomachi ***** ***** *****
Isawa *** ** **
Naka Kaeteru ***** *** ****
Yogo ***** * ***
Soshi Saibankan ** * *
Otaku * * *
Iuchi * ** *
Otomo **** * **
Seppun ** ** **
Miya * * *
Ichiro Fureheshu ** ** **
Komori Iongi *** * **
Hida Heichi ***** * ***
Tonbo Kuyuden *** * **
Usagi Reichin * ** *
Toku **** * **
Tsi ** * *
Morito Garin * * *
Doji Suzume ***** *** ****
Agasha Kasuga *** * **
Sun Tao *** * **
Chiroru * *** **
Miyuko ***** *** ****

Note the reason for the multiple tables is because I’m too lazy to format things better and haven’t bothered to download a plug-in, which might still require me to spend time formatting data, something I find routinely tedious if it involves more than a few clicks.  I know this makes it much harder to compare my point valuations against my quality stars, but I seem to struggle with the idea of making this blog easy to read.

Anyway, here we get to the entree portion of our meal.  Two stars is average.

Let’s get Gusai and Asako out of the way.  Neither does anything.  I’m thinking whoever wrote 4e thought that Allies are supposed to do something, but I have yet to see it be the case.  Why you would need to roll against an ally is even more bewildering.  Gusai is just dumb and is totally a NPC thing that would apply to like one NPC in the entire history of Rokugan.

Of the ancestors I chose to include … there are a lot for such a low yield mechanic, almost like the intent and the play of the game are at odds … Core average is 2.5 stars, GC average is 3.1 stars, and Secrets average is 2.8 stars.  Continues the trend that core book mechanics tend to be weaker than supplement mechanics, at least with the more esoteric stuff, like kata.  Of course, Core mechanics’ averages often get pulled down by nonsense mechanics that clearly weren’t created with actual use in mind.

Toku.  If Luck is worth about 7 points, why does he get 5?  Diminishing returns.  Since you never take Toku unless you already have three ranks of Luck, you just aren’t getting the Luck sleaze you would get otherwise.  Though, I suppose, there might be some campaign that required ancestors where you may not max out Luck …

Chiroru is, in theory, an easy calculation.  You get the benefit of 3-4 points of Kharmic Tie with previous edition danger sense power.  Maybe danger sense is worth more than 1.5 points.

By the way, trying to evaluate the abilities for these things is really hard.  Why are Seppun and Bat Clan not equivalent?  Psychology.  Sure, you could save a VP all game until you reduce damage by 10 or you could reduce damage by 10 when you need to without a VP.  Well, plus, in the Seppun case, you aren’t spending a VP, so you circumvent the once per round restriction (by any reasonable wording, plus note difference in ancestor cost).

Now, where things get messier is when an ancestor says you can spend a VP to do something because they don’t say you can avoid the once per round limit, a completely idiotic and unnecessary limit.  The exception for school techniques is specific.

It’s funny to me that Sparrow don’t really get shafted in 4e, other than the absurd path in Secrets.  Their stuff doesn’t sound good but is far better than a lot of other stuff.

Sure, Kaiu is only once per year you get to make magic items … you … get … to … make … magic … items!!

Talking to animals is the bee’s sleaze [TM].  There’s a reason Dr. Doolittle just owns.

Makes me sad that Ikoma is such a problematic ancestor.  Again, if you go by Greek God patronage rules, makes way more sense as he respects your partying self but doesn’t blow a gasket when you aren’t partying heartying.

Such a sucker for Foxes and … Centipedes.

I have actually played Kitsu.  It was pleasant but didn’t come up that much.  It did inform certain aspects of the campaign that were pleasant up until I replaced the PC with a better one.

I don’t get Kakita.  It seems like dueling is supposed to be more core to the game, yet, the problem with doing that even if you wanted to is that dueling is grossly, grossly unfair unless your GM has a serious handle on it.  Also, lots of schools don’t duel, which means it’s not a core mechanic for lots of PCs.

I’m getting a bit more interested in the Ancestor Campaign.  Even as a GM, I can make NPCs with ancestors the players don’t care about.  Though, I need to be wary about trying to “play” my characters during games, an often painful activity GMs will fall into when they cherish their creations more than letting players play.


Shake Out

January 13, 2018

There are rather a number of thoughts on diverse subjects I have had recently.  I’m sure I will forget half of them.

Before I forget:  John Carter Kickstarter is going on right now!  Finally, the Dotar Sojat has returned to Jasoom!

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/modiphius/john-carter-of-mars-the-roleplaying-game?ref=nav_search&result=project&term=john%20carter

Steak and Shake in Campbell closed recently.  It was open four months.  It was designated to be opened for far longer.  Its closure was sufficiently notable to not only be in the paper (that would be newspaper for you young ‘uns) but also be on the radio (that would be … um … radio for you young ‘uns).

We went to it.  I’m not remotely surprised it closed.  First, the location was terrible in that it was just East of the upscale-ish downtown.  Second, it was not Steak and Shake.  Well, it was not S&S a la Indianapolis’s S&S is.  One in Indy is a fast food place that’s slow, somewhere along the lines of being at a more focused Denny’s in terms of ambiance.  This S&S was pretentiousized for the hood.

Now, I don’t live in downtown Frisco or NYC or whatever, but we get plenty of pretension in the San Jose Bay Area.  Whole Paycheck is ubiquitous, et al.  Why have another burger chain that competes with Five Guys, The Counter, The Habit, Smashburger, or whatever?  It wasn’t trying to?  Well, then where is the audience?  Best milkshake I can recall, which, admittedly, is not something I think a ton about since it’s kind of effort to screw up a milkshake, I got at Fuddruckers of all places.  5-Way?  Well, sure, not a lot of places to get 5-Ways in the Silicon.  (That’s what all the kewl kids call this milieu, n’est-ce pas?)

Bad fits.

That’s a topic for today.

I’m going to talk about L5R.  At some point, I’ll switch to the LCG.  But, before I forget, I had some RPG thoughts.

Campaign Ideas:

Greek Mythology convention meets L5R.  Everyone has an ancestor from one of the 4e books because they hardly ever see play.  Rather than lose your ancestor over something black and white and rather arbitrary, you incur the ancestor’s displeasure for a time until you get your act together.  Great idea, people.  Make it so number one.

Welcome to the kuge, minorlings.  Widowed emperor decides he’s good to go without a word to say on marriage number two to some minor clan yumyum.  Guess how many PCs are not related to the minor empress?

Not Campaign Ideas:

One of the Friday night LCG players is someone who would much rather be playing the RPG.  Actually, that’s how I met him years ago.  He’s hot for getting into HoR4 or like anything else RPG related but especially L5R R&K.  So, we’ve been talking.

I mentioned Odyssey, TCGMGtCM, and how it related to my running stuff for him and the rest of our local RPG group that dispersed.  We talked about old campaigns.  We talked about how our interest in the LCG is strongly based on the world and not the game [foreshadowing alert, foreshadowing alert].

I may have problems with aspects of Rokugan, but it’s so, so easy to think about playing more L5R.  It’s so easy to think of campaign ideas.  I found my mod attempt for HoR3 that I ran a couple of times and got unenthused by due to my just not having the ability to polish efforts up to the level that makes them acceptable.  Well, also, staff consistently ignored me, so I stopped bothering trying to contact anyone.

It’s such a fleshed out *game* world.  Sure, if everyone knows some book/TV/movie series, you can grok possibilities, but, for us veteran Rokuganites, L5R is just so meaningful.  For instance, I was looking stuff up in Strongholds of the Empire.  I’m perfectly willing to read about towns and cities I don’t plan on using as settings.

LCG

Back to the topic of whether the game is any fun.  First, it is.  As long as you are winning.

My experience of going back to playing a two-player CCG  is utterly fascinating to all multi-celled organisms.  I get so much enjoyment out of multiplayer CCGs when the results are inconclusive.  It’s this bizarrely mundane feeling of liking doing better than my opponents in L5R, the LCG, that is palpable.

Or, maybe, it’s just that I hate playing Unicorn, and the fact that I often suck while playing them is incidental.  Except, I played at least one game of Unicorn where I was feasting on my opponent’s soul and it was tasty.

It is “funny” how switching to Crab is perpetually like “Huh, my cards do stuff.  They do good stuff.”

For the others, it also seems to be a game that is enjoyed when you are crushing throats and tearing off limbs.

I read forums.  Multiple forums, in fact.  No, I don’t read Discord.  Not a fan of the interface and I have better things to do, like read the newspaper.  Seems to be a certain level of disenchantment.

Then, I ‘fist with a L5R player, and he’s telling me his group is losing interest.

It’s this like really interestingly designed, very possibly well designed, game that is just so not as fun as we-folk want it to be.  I’m finding that I’m already reverting to my random-game-element meets minimum-threshold-of-viability tendencies with what interests me in L5R.  I’m struggling with the idea of trying to develop superior decks in what’s a very limited environment.  I’m more interested in happy, friendly Scorpion, Lion wall, Cautious Scout.dec, and/or whatever.

I thought of an idea umbrella for trying to put the casual back into causality.  League.  You must play a role that is not the official tournament role for your deck’s clan.  You may, of course, change decks, including changing clans.  Or, some variation thereof.

I played a game last night.  I played Crab, and I had fun.  My first turn Kaiu never left play, having Reprieve that also never left play.  I flopped three Iron Mines in the game, put another Reprieve in play that also never got used.  I Way of the Crabbed once.  Now, my opponent was playing Lion, so his military sucked, and he wasn’t running Feast or Famine, which I kept trying to play around.  Nor was he playing the required 3x Policy Debates.

See, forumites are bitching a bunch.  I think for good reason.  I don’t think it’s a particularly fun game to play, though it’s also not terrible.  The card pool sucks.  Oh, a lot of it doesn’t.  Provinces are mostly the problem.  That Unicorn have so many subpar or oddly narrow cards is kind of antifun.  That Voltroning is such a thing is problematic.  That Iron Mine got added to the mix, so that Crab Voltrons never die seems like poor development.

Part of the problem with the card pool is that it’s not a multiplayer game (yet).  In a multiplayer game, I’d be beastmastering and war dogging all over the place because it would be entertaining.  In a throatcutter game, you just do the same old, same old of top tier stuff, with the occasional Miya combo deck or try to do your own spin on Drop Bears, Switchycorn, or whatever.  With Wheel of Time, because so few people actually played, when you ran with an idea, you might have been like one of one posters.  With a game that’s actually kind of popular, just another clone deck with maybe a few cards changed.

If the card pool were bigger, then maybe there would be more interesting variation.  But, I don’t think the card pool needs to be bigger to have fun.  Just to have fun as a throatcutter game.

Would banning Policy Debate make me happier?  Um, no.  I don’t presently care about Policy Debate, except that I do think that the one area of the LCG that is just bad mechanics is dueling.  Dueling is hecka boring and full of NPEness.  Sure, it’s not a guarantee that everyone always chooses 1 in every single game.  It’s just a guarantee that I have so little interest in resolving duels that I’m okay with mentally seeing tables being flipped.

But, wait, that’s actually kind of like the RPG.  In that, duels aren’t guaranteed to go one direction, but the whole concept of resolving anything important with a subgame that’s grossly uneven so much of the time is not strong in the PPE side of the Force.

I played a game the week before where my opponent won when I broke his third province, as he went to 25 Honor.  If he doesn’t win, then, I break his stronghold as my first conflict the next round with my unstoppable Imperials and their Unicorn flunkies.  30 minute game.  Takeaway #1 – it was how CCGs should play in that it was close with decks doing different things and there was interaction.  Takeaway #2 – because I felt I did so little in the game, it felt rather unsatisfying even while I was playing, nevermind the end result.  Would I have enjoyed that game if he only got to 24 Honor and I shred his soul on the next round?  I don’t think so.  Would I have enjoyed that game if he got to 24, I went after his stronghold, he stops me from breaking with all sorts of cards getting played, he does something clever to get to 25 (instead of just declare an Air Ring conflict)?  Poss-i-bly …

Shadowfist

We ‘fisted for the first time in months last Thursday.  The first game was terrible.  I spent a number of turns not being able to play a site, then had no characters to do anything when I got sites and a Test Subjects out.  The second game I won in a game where everyone was hanging around at four FSSs, and I used superleap cheese and recurring counterspells.  Because, who is the … Master?  Sho’nuff.  Check Youtube if this exceeds the vertical elevation of your brain.  Some parts are cringeworthy, but I really like that movie.

Third game went to third player.  My Salarymans kept killing unimportant things, and got killed when real characters showed up.

Given how prevalent superleap is and buffs are, I’m surprised Hand isn’t more popular.  Now, there is a weakness against site effects, evidenced by how I got stopped by a site effect in one bid for victory, but there are antisite plays to deal with that.  Character removal from events is countered by, uh, Hand counterspells.  Of course, 7 Masters exists for the classic players, and that’s another level of sleaze.

I enjoyed playing.  Shadowfist is usually fun.  Sure, it has some terrible design, pretty messed up card pool (especially if you play Modern), requires making extremely complicated decisions even if you don’t realize they are extremely complicated.  But, it’s not chess.  You do stuff and stuff happens.  You don’t wonder if you made a mistake putting two fate on some dude.  Now, normal ‘fist does have the problem that you may very well not be able to play anything, which is where it did an even worse job than Magic with forcing requirement cards to be in play to play the game.  But, you might be able to come back because it’s not a one v. one game.

Well, I may have forgotten a few other things that would have made my bad fits topic fit less badder.

Wait.  I had a topic?

Let’s see.  L5R LCG appeals to people who like theme, want to play game where they get to enjoy playing beastmasters.  Difficult and highly “mechanical” card game may be good for some, but it doesn’t end up being most goodest for others.

RPG is a decent fit for those of my ilk.  On the other hand, campaigns like our 20 Goblin Winter campaign were bad fits because we didn’t really get to enjoy anything about L5R while also being unclear on what we were supposed to be doing.  Second City sucked as a campaign; I would say part of that is that you remove the familiar world of Rokugan and fail to replace with something as rich or interesting because you just didn’t develop the Second setting.

Trying to take throatcutting seriously is a bad fit for me, while offgoofing is good fit.  It occurs to me that WoT was a case where I didn’t end up throatcutting that much, as most of my play was playtesting rather than striving for prizes.  So, I’ve never been a master throatcutter, with my two-player tournament wins usually being in sealed deck play, where I focus more on building better decks rather than tier 1 decks.  I’m the guy who played one copy of Necropotence in his Essence Drain deck, rather than the other way around, yet beat a Magic world champion in a sealed deck game with repeated use of Capsize and with a Rolling Thunder with zero cards in my library.

Doh!  That’s what I need to do to get my competitive fix on – only seriously compete in CCGs where sealed deck tournaments occur and have decent prizes.  Octa-libra!  That means I have to take up Magic, again …

Speaking of bad fits, the John Carter movie was a bad fit because it failed to explain why Jesus C-, um, JC is a fun dude to hang with or why sword and planet is a compelling genre or explain how you can do a 21st century movie with a bunch of races defined by their skin color.  Read the books.  Compared to a lot of other stuff, they are better.

Now, will the setting be a good fit for RPG play?  Will it be a good fit for people I play with?


Savage Thoughts

January 7, 2018

We played two mods of HoR4 yesterday, backfilling with the help of our allies in Fresno (well, Bill, who spent a whole day just GMing for us).  Prior to that, talked to some local L5R players about RPing.  I’ve had a number of thoughts run through my mind as I tried to think about what would end up in this post.

Get to talking about my HoR4 character last because I’m guessing that’s the least interesting thing I could talk about, but I may need to refer to our three-PC core group to hit on certain things … at any time.

Dungeon Crawling – Rokugani Style

This was a topic, as both mods were relatively dungeon crawlesque.  In my experience, doesn’t happen much.

Should it?

I don’t know.  I don’t mind the idea of being indoors as something is going on, but that in itself doesn’t make for a dungeon crawl experience.  A dungeon crawl is more of a room by room experience, which the second mod was in golden spades.  Room challenges, whether of the trap sort, the puzzle sort, or the monster sort.

I don’t hate traps.  I hate certain traps whether because they inflict some crippling condition randomly, fine red mist characters randomly, or just seem like anyone with any sense would bypass them effortlessly.  By sense, I mean adventurers.  Do people who have experience with quicksand ever end up in quicksand?  I don’t know.  If you see a gas or smell something funny, do you not:  hold your breath; cover your nose; retreat away from it?

Puzzles are not all that satisfying to me.  Either you gnome it or you dgnome’t.  When you dgnome’t, you roll some dice and either you succeed or you fail.  Or, you trial and error.  In pretty much every case, I don’t find it interesting challenge.  I do acquire puzzle books.  I find acrostics and cryptograms interesting, sudoku can be time filling, Scrabblegrams can be really good or really terrible.  But, these are solitary experiences where time is not really a concern and my personal welfare isn’t much at stake.  Then, for another take on puzzles – True Dungeon – I don’t normally feel anything about those, either.  I’m curious as to what the solutions are, but I don’t feel invested in finding them.

In RPG play, puzzles have often been incredibly tedious.  I appreciate some clever (rhyming) poetry, but that doesn’t mean I’m into the solving, as, again, tends to be too easy or too hard.  Plus, figuring things out as a group doesn’t hold much appeal to me.

An inherent issue with puzzles and, often, with traps is no choice.  See some blog post about how combat is such a compelling challenge because it offers, among other things, options.

Less plausible to me for L5R is having dungeon monsters.  Whether humans or not, in the normal theater of the mind play of L5R, you fight things because they are in the same vicinity as you, not because they are waiting for a door to open.  HoR2 did have a mod where you had dudes attack you as you progressed, but, still, it’s a completely different paradigm from the many D&D dungeons I’ve seen that expect you to rest for a while somewhere in the dungeon or just outside and keep incrementally progressing to the payoff.

Given that I find legal challenges tiresome in L5R as well as many similar social challenges, what challenges do I like in L5R?

One of the mods almost had something I would have really liked.  It was quite humorous to realize that our core group of two bushi and essentially a third bushi are really well advantage to pursue careers in opium harvesting.  Projects with multiple tasks where you check tasks off a list using obscure skills with possibly amusing trait combinations is generally favorable.  Harsh Lessons was great for that, though my players may have gotten tired of having to full attack bamboo.

I like combat, at times.  I tend to like more the fights where the party fights 2 or 3 big bads.  But, there have been bandit fights or zombie fights that I’ve enjoyed.  I just think it’s hard to structure combat challenges due to the randomness potential in damage output and the significance of good tactics versus poor tactics.  Yes, the more you learn of 4e (or prior editions), the more you can control for the party.  But, a few things are spanners in the works for such.  One, maybe the PCs you thought were going to show up for a session didn’t.  Two, PC combat prowess can change a lot with advancement and you may not have developed the calibration skills for such changes.

For example, PCs gain simple attacks.  You don’t upgrade your opposition, it gets ripped apart.  You give your opposition simple attacks and … so not good for PCs.  In the Princess Police campaign, when we were R-3 or R-4 or something, we fought like six Mantis bushi, six … R-3 … Mantis bushi.  Um, that’s like fighting six bears with better attack rolls.  If.  If the shugenja know what to do, then you may have an edge.

I like some social challenges, when the rolls work out or when you can try things that involve lesser used skills, like your perform skill(s) to help convince some cutie pie to go for someone.  I’m into clever ideas for social challenges, I’m not into clever arguments for social challenges – too much pressure on the spot.

I have had some good experiences with contests but also lots of not good experiences with contests as R&K is not a fantastic system for PvP or PCvNPC.  Curiously, duel tournaments actually seem to work better than a lot of contests, perhaps because more die rolls are involved.  But, contests with lots of die rolls become tedious, especially to people not involved or not competitive.  Races don’t often work, but sometimes they are fun.

Anyway, got off track.  Besides the dungeon crawl just to do something different, I don’t know that a dungeon crawl is going to be something I look at as all that for L5R or any sort of RPG that isn’t designed for dungeon crawls.  Just too narrowly focused on what’s sort of a weird paradigm.  On the other hand, True Dungeon is fine to me as a dungeon crawl with all of the aspects of self-contained challenges and managing resources across rooms, though I haven’t found the right balance with it, either – challenge balance that is.

L5R Combat

I really like 3e/3r/4e’s combat system.  I find that they have the right number of options and that they feel exciting much of the time (sure, there are grindfests that suck).  It occurred to me yesterday that I also just find L5R a really, really easy system to understand and play.

I’m pretty sure there are other people who don’t.  But, it’s just so intuitive and so … straightforward.  You aren’t burdened with tons of math [yeah, I said that … about R&K].  Should be easy to learn.  Don’t have to track too many abilities.  And, yet, somehow, other people struggle with the system(s).

I’m increasingly perplexed.  Sure, if you struggle with all systems.  If you struggle with systems beyond just “roll your attack roll”, I guess.  I just don’t see how playing L5R after a couple of fights or outside of combat resolution is anything but one of the more basic resolution systems.  Hero may be easy for people who understand maneuvers or when to recover REC or whatever, but I find its options far more intimidating, though I also haven’t played much Hero.  A lot of D&D style play just seems like you have no real choices as to what to do, though Conan could be the opposite when you had the Feats or when grappling reared its painful tentacles.

Now, good tactics is something more.  I often fail good tactics, as I’ve repeatedly mentioned, forgetting Center Stance, forgetting Knockdown (though it’s almost always a bad play for my low STR PCs), not playing shugenja hardly ever also probably means I would make poor spell choices when put on the spot.  How many raises to call is always a question, which is a facet of a deeper system than if raises didn’t exist.

So, with our three-men team of fighty sorts, we didn’t feel like our combat tactics were all that bad yesterday.  But, again, no gods in this party.  So, when we take wounds, we take them and dislike them.  We also are three fighty sorts with approximately to the absolute degree zero ranged attacks outside of funky stuff like the good ole wak throw.

Yup, like three PCs with REF 3 and not a single bow between us.  My Miya actually has Kyujutsu but doesn’t have access to a bow, which is kind of incredibly dumb and kind of incredibly distinctive.  How many games enforce social restrictions on equipment (though, this particular social restriction could be obviated if I tried)?

Team Opium Harvesters

Our team has mostly the same strengths and mostly the same weaknesses.  That is not what one might call … optimal.  We are all morons, for instance, which seems to actually matter in HoR4.  We have one perceiver, who has Void 2.  We have two-thirds Void 2 PCs.  Sure, we all Earth reasonably well.  I have a good attack roll.  Damage rolls are decent.  ATNs range from solid-high to pretty suck (same way I can get a yumi and ya, I could get light armor).

We aren’t amazing at social or perceiving.  We have zero Medicine.

What would be the fix?

Replace my PC, as mine is the least relevant in many ways no matter how much I just broke a mod with an awful school technique.  Replace with a god (shugenja) who does brains and brawny-Path-to-Inner-Peace.  My replace idea is half that, just being yet another moron.  Hiruma-san is the sponge and half-perceiver.  Yoritomo-san is the socialite and Void recoverer.  I become half-perceiver and …  Well, one of those two could have been the brains, as, after all, bushi are much better oriented to being brains than courtier/shugenja, as only bushi might care about Agility.  Everyone is a food taster.  I become the ranger with my mud build as I walk fast and carry a big Grasp of Earth’s Stagnation.  Any of us could grapple.  Any of us could murder.

As is, we have two demi-talkers, no brains, demi-ranger, all possible grapplers, all murderers to some degree, no chasm crosser (well, maybe I am), two shoppers (and an anti-shopper), and three possible food tasters.

I guess I need to add more roles to my list of L5R PC roles as one of our biggest problems is the lack of Healers, plus there’s an argument that Buffer is a fully real role, even if you are like a Void Shugenja who just buffs yourself – Improver may be a more appropriate name for the role, as a key aspect of playing to the dice system is figuring out ways to improve rolls.  On the other hand, if you think about it, we all have Luck and I have a solid Honor Roll, so we do have a fair amount of die results improving at hand, which is possibly the only way we got through either of those mods or any of the other mods that were challenging.

And, of course, I left off Sneak from the list.  But, my Miya has that covered and I think our party is actually reasonably sneaky, though the others being afflicted with armor impairs that.

Herald of Annihilation

Was so long between Gen Con and yesterday I didn’t remember much about choosing to serve Galactus/Onnotangu/whoever.  I’ll have to review my notes.

My experience with my character is that I’ve enjoyed what the character has done, I just don’t find much of interest in the character’s sheet.  Buys are slow and add little value.  Tons of weak areas.  The Showoff archetype is already a poor party member and we’ve only got three and are godless.

I have no goals (unless I check my notes and refresh some goal I may have had besides “they all need to burn”).  I didn’t even find horizontal dancing with a sailor to be as captivating as it may have been for another character.  I’m rich and find shopping rather dull.

I’m sitting on exactly the XP to make a critical mechanical buy for what my intent was and I’m torn.  I could brain up, though I wouldn’t have Sage.  I could, hmmm, almost every idea involved braining up.  I would probably enjoy having a reasonably sized brain.  It’s not even anathema to my concept.  If I had infinite XP, I would have an INT above 2.  I just don’t have that on my buy list until around the 212 XP mark.  Of course, being one with the soil isn’t absolutely essential.  It’s just that I defeat my own concept by not making the 20 XP buy I can make right now.  Small buys don’t change the character hardly at all – it’s all whether I go to three in a Ring or not.

Btw, if I did 3 a Ring, I’d get my next broken school technique.  Can’t wait until someone tries to influence me and I get to roll Etiquette with a +7 (currently) bonus.  That will be the ultiproof that the future has already happened.

A bigger brain is just so XP crippling, and it doesn’t really solve the healing problem given how crap Medicine is, though it would be funny to completely rethink the character and make that ultidoctor PC.  Aiya!  Is that what the omniverse is trying to tell me?  Can I actually … achieve … enjoyment … through the power of nuclear accident and become the biggest brain of them all?  Oh, except, problem with going brain surgeon path – I failed to take Great Potential Medicine, so I’m still horrid at actually restoring the beaten down bushi.

Still, it’s almost a half-baked idea.  One that can involve browning and braising.

HoR4

My feeling about the campaign at this juncture?

Still have no idea what matters.  Have a hard time hooking a character into anything because there doesn’t feel like anything to engage with.

But, that’s not terribly different from HoR3.  What is different is that I haven’t really considered any mod so far a superior mod.  There are some decent ones.  But, two of the ones that come to mind as decent would have been largely forgotten in the other campaigns.  There are some ideas I see that try to be novel, but I’m just not feeling payoff to those.  Lack of meaningful NPCs, lack of the Ivory Kingdoms mattering at all (part of our discussion on the drive back was how the Ivinda lack any recognizable NPCs), lack of even such things as the Nightingales or getting a cert for encouraging a ronin.

Maybe it’s a meta thing, where it’s just become old hat.  Or, maybe it’s just the difference between HoR2 and 3/4, where people felt like something was going on early on in the campaign and people discussed it, and … and … it actually mattered what was going on not that far into the campaign!  Unlike HoR3, where the end is just a whipsaw of “um, sure, cool conspiracy, bro, I have, uh, demon cats to murder so I can awaken this sword, yeah”.