Lost Opportunities

April 2, 2017

Been traveling, work conference, then vacation immediately after.  That was poorly planned, as a lot of early mornings, with travel, with time zone changes, with 50 degree (F) temperature changes leads to health suboptimality.  But, that has little to do with gaming.

Work conferences and family vacations do not lend themselves to much in the way of gaming.  However, I have books to read, so I read on flights, something I should do more often as it really does reduce the discomfort of flying.

I read the first Grisha Trilogy book on one of the flights and most of another on another flight.  I have since finished the trilogy.

Wins.  Losses.

These are necessary things for drama.  Literature is replete with such.  Gaming?

As an aside, women’s college basketball is interesting for the first time in a long time.  Friday is why sports is sports.  As wagerable as it is, weird stuff happens, and that drives the future interest.

You have to both lose and win or gaming is boring.  Even competitive gaming.  Why do I value some of my achievements?  Because I lose often enough.  Why do I disdain certain achievements?  Because the challenge wasn’t there, the win didn’t come from doing anything more than showing up.

Losses can sting, but they build (player) characters.  If all you do is “17, hit, 6 damage, any more orcs, open chest”, well, I guess that is a videogame and videogames and videogame RPing have appeal, but it’s not the same level of appealing.

I like reviews.  I prefer movie reviews to movies.  I read reviews of TV shows I watch.  I read reviews of the Grisha books.  Why?

When I finished Wise Man’s Fear and got bored reading Auri’s book, I decided to start in on the Grisha Trilogy.  It seemed goth.  I was expecting dark fantasy.  I was not expecting young adult.  Not even romantic fantasy, though maybe I could have made a bit more effort reading blurbs.

Tonal whipflash.  What is romantic fantasy, btw?  I was thinking about it.  I differentiate a romance story with fantasy elements from a fantasy story with romance elements (aka all fantasy I am aware of).  To me, Grisha is in the former, but, then, I’ve read very little young adult.

I was not fond of the first book.  The rest of the series felt more pleasant, but that could be because I reset expectations.  Low expectations – enjoy life.

Wait, what’s the point of all of this again?  Well, I’m going to continue reviewing the series and maybe include something spoileriffic, but let’s take a moment to get back to wins and losses.

Kingkiller has wins and losses, as one might expect.  Grisha just feels like endless losses.  It’s morose.  That’s a turn off to me.  I don’t just want happy endings, I want “this is pleasant” at other times.

Which brings me to Arrow.  Arrow is better.  Prometheus is better.  It’s still way too dark.  Just stop.  Superheroes should have fun.  I know.  That seems weird when everyone thinks the only way to have drama is to be dark and when comics do get into bad stuff.  But, you don’t dwell on the bad stuff in my comics like TV shows love to dwell on bad stuff.  For all that soap operas are a model for superhero shows, I often found soap operas to be less dark.

I’ve played in campaigns that were just misery after misery.  That wasn’t fun.

Challenges, setbacks, losses – they don’t have to be a murderfest of murderyness.  They don’t need to involve torture and imprisonment and disfigurement.  Actually, if you think about quite a bit of fiction, the loss is just not getting a lot of money.  Having the potential love interest hook up with someone else, not scoring a big haul, getting assigned escort missions, having the regional map borders redrawn – these can be losses.

So, interesting reviews for Grisha3.  Some people absolutely hated it for how it resolved.  For many (I presume), the Darkling is the favorite character.  The complex bad boy who is oh so sexy.  Except, he’s neither complex nor bad boy.

Deeds Not Words.

More than anything else, L5R’s value to society is that.  Not a new concept, but it needs to be a mantra.  This is why I get so frustrated with sports talk shows.  I like sports talk shows.  Some of them are the most relaxing thing I usually do.  But, they obsess over comments athletes, coaches, and owners make.

Why?  I mean, why bother?

People say untactful things.  Politicians get crucified for it in many cases, though I don’t know why we are so concerned about what people say.  Is it insight into their souls?  Perhaps.  But, people aren’t paragons of virtue, nevermind that people don’t agree on what is virtuous.  I, for example, am not enthralled by sales tax increases, but I have no problem with gas tax increases (with credits or whatever for the trucking industry because, you know, the country is dependent upon trucking).

What’s important in sports is numbers.  Focus on numbers.  111-1 is a number that should have been a bigger story.  There should have been all sorts of sociology analysis on how losing saved the sport.

Darkling’s deeds – murder, torture, mind control.  That’s it.  Can say stuff, but that’s it.  There’s nothing complex there.  There’s no bad boy, just an awful man.

Sure, the series wasn’t suited to me.  I’m not opposed to romance being the primary driver … or am I?

I tried to think of what I read that was more romantic fantasy than not.  Spell for Chameleon?  Nope.  That’s somewhat comedic fantasy.  Anita Blake?  Now, here’s romantic horror … in classification.  But, I think the better description of the series when I enjoyed it was hard boiled detective novel meets supernatural romance.  There was a balance.  And, btw, if you want a real dark, sexy bad boy, Jean-Claude is that archetype.

I got to thinking about how you can identify romatic fantasy from fantasy with romance.  The romantic object in the latter is often underdeveloped.  John Carter/Barsoom books are romantic.  They are driven by the need to rescue love interests.  Hardly unusual when they were written.  But, still, the love interests are objects, something that reflects character rather than being interesting characters in their own right.

Spellsinger.  Love interests are bit players.  What of second Covenant series?  Better balance, for sure, but I don’t put the romance at the heart of the story, though there’s a relationship at the heart of the story.  The two lovers who struggle to just be happy together is so common that even when it’s huge, it doesn’t necessarily strike me as the point.  Well, maybe that’s more Covenant, which can be a burdensome psychological examination of victimhood rather than “I’m so jealous slutty empress batted her eyelashes at you, boyfriend material”.

Anime I often watch has similar balance, of it being more about fights or humor or whatever than true love.  Magic girlfriend shows so often are episodic humor.

Anyway, I enjoyed aspects of Grisha.  I would agree that it was a pageturner.  That doesn’t speak well of the term pageturner, though, as I was mostly waiting for some sort of resolution rather than looking forward to the next chapter.

I wasn’t bothered by the faux Russia culture.  I would agree that the worldbuilding was off.  It was neither overly missing nor done well.  I would say the problem is that the worldbuilding had the wrong focus.  I have no sense of one place versus another.  I don’t know why the various cultural elements are the way they are.  I didn’t care about NPCs (nor most of the PCs).  The politics wasn’t given room to develop.  And, everything was miserable, which might be a stereotype for Russia, but fantasy is about living in a world you prefer to live in to this one.

There was an opportunity to do something far more appealing to me, even given tropes that may get overplayed.  But, was I supposed to be the audience?

Reviewers hated Mal.  I didn’t.  I thought he was okay.  Third love interest?  Okay.  Neither OMG, so sexy.  Nor, seems a little marysue.  But, I’m not into guys, so maybe those characters were more appealing to those who are.

Pacing.  Having stuff happen is good.  Dwelling on certain narrative building things, like Covenant’s wife, is not enjoyable.  Grisha had maybe even a good pace.  I’m trying to tie back learning something from this series to gaming – give me more rope.

Anyway, I’ve talked about wins and losses before, but it’s my main takeaway from the series – it could have been so much more appealing if the PCs won more often.

Meanwhile, challenges in any sort of gaming don’t need to be torturefests.  They can be “I just realized if I dropped my lance on C-5 instead, I could have promoted it next turn and feasted upon your soul”.

Also, keeping love interests constantly fighting is not necessarily.  You know what’s great about soap operas?  Everyone hooks up with a ludicrous number of partners over time.  Who doesn’t want to see Kara and Oliver date?  Thea and HR?  The appeal?  Humor.  Soap operas are at their best when they are funny.  True love can survive until the show’s finale.

Well, the next series to work on is last Covenant series.  It’s a drag just trying to reread Runes of the Earth, which I hadn’t read in years.  I’m sure that will manage to prevent me from writing more about L5R character builds and combat strategies.


INT, STR, … Fate Points?

December 1, 2016

Watching Arrowverse crossover, of course.

Among the worst things the Arrowverse ever did was have Barry clean out the League of Assassins HQ in seconds.  It drives home how irrelevant the Green Arrow is as a superhero, where being Mayor Handsome with assassin trained employees and whatnot is probably a better night job.

In the beginning (of Flash), effort was made to address this problem, with Barry being the brawn and Oliver being the brains (superhero brains != brains brains).  But, Flash progressed.  It had original-fake Harrison to provide clever and ruthless.  It has scientists for brains brains.  Barry does stupid things, but he fights better.

So, Barry can fix Team Arrow’s problems seemingly at will, in that Team Arrow still solves problems by fighting.

To restore balance to the justiceforce, Oliver should be able to solve Team Flash’s problems easily.  In last season, maybe nailing Iris would have done something, but that potential shipping seems to have sailed.

Anyway, bigger picture.  Brawn wins fights in some pleasing materials.  Brains wins fights more often, in superhero stuff and various genres.  Then, there’s luck.  There are stories aplenty where luck wins.  Take a show like Doctor Who, where the Doctor is supposed to outbrain enemies.  That happens, so does outlucking, even when given a coating of inspired genius.

So, is one better?  Martial arts and animefight often go the route of train to unlock another power level.  I’m okay with that, though it does get out of control.  Where out of control means that any attempt to scale back the power level just seems ridiculous.  “If I can nuke the moon at will, why can’t I deal with someone named after a seasoning plant?”

Not that animefight has a monopoly on such things.  Babylon 5 got frustrating to me because I was into the Shadow War and found xenophobia and teeps to be tonal dissonance.

The issue with brains is not just that this is a gaming blog, where being clever in playing a game is harder because you are on the spot with your cleverness rather than having months to rewrite your novel to be more clever, but that brains isn’t always brainy when given N amount of time to consider what the outwitter did.

How satisfying is outlucking?  Less satisfying when you think about it.  In many cases, it’s not how you win, it’s how the story plays out, so not necessarily always unsatisfying.

That’s in written stories.  In gaming?  Luck is everywhere.  Oh, I wouldn’t say luck is the primary determinant of victory, though let me distinguish between competitive gaming and role-playing games.

RPGs are inclined to a social contract where the PCs are almost always going to win.  Now, newer games do try to create a dynamic where you are supposed to lose before the climax, which I have some problems with.

How satisfying is gaming your losses?  In something like a sumo tournament, gaming your losses may get your buddy a higher rank without costing you anything.  But, as much as a superhero story or a martial arts revenge flick or whatever is structured with the “lose first, murder master later” paradigm, playing that as a game just takes you into the gamist world.  It’s like dropping the no-dachi to grapple because this fight is “real”.

I may care more about narrative, but, if you just script the narrative, what are you actually playing?

Losing is such a huge problem in RPGs because players don’t expect it and there are often mechanics that don’t support it, whether the reliance on stuff or because someone should just tanto you in the throat if they beat you.  Yeah, A1-4 existed long ago.  Know why it gets so much credit?  It set a standard for how to do a common trope.

What about competitive games?  Is luck a good way to determine victory?

So, you design a CCG.  Card draw order is a common feature that institutes luck into the games.  Just having the brawn of better cards or the brains of better deck design and better card play, you get some luck to shake things up.

Rolling crappy in Wheel of Time was never supersatisfying.  Risk management is a thing that’s not a matter of luck but of better decisionmaking.  I’ve lost my share of V:TES games because I didn’t make the good decision but occasionally ousted or survived because of a bad decision.  Seems like luck, but I don’t think so.  Luck != random nor != two unknowns produce third unknown.

Back to RPGs.

Some of our biggest triumphs in Conan felt like luck triumphing over brawn and our lack of brains.

On the other hand, Princess Police didn’t feel like luck had much impact, at all.  We were routinely outbrawning challenges.

A good mix.  Is that the point of this post?

There was the lack of GA outwitting Supergirl, which some of us might have enjoyed if it was anywhere near as clever as shooting Barry in the back.  Wits is not strong in Invasion!, with “defeat mind control” being about as witty as things have gotten, yet that was also something of a brawn situation, since it involved a particular power.

So, you are the GM or game designer, what do you do to mix things up?  When I try to add thinking to RPG sessions, it routinely fails.  A lot of cleverness in competitive games has to be something the designer didn’t intend but was emergent intelligence.  Brawn can be controlled, but do you unbalance brawn?  By that I mean, in a RPG, one ability is just better than another for victory, in a CCG or whatever, one card/component is just better.

I put Fate Points in the title, but are FPs luck or the opposite of luck?  For players, they reduce luck, for characters, they are luck.  An interesting topic for another times, since this post just meanders all over the place – how does perspective change your perspective?  Many say that Arrow was fine focusing on its 100th episode rather than on the crossover because 100th is a thing.  Whatever, the series could be worse, much worse, like previous seasons worse.


Reign Needed

October 8, 2016

I haven’t checked in to Kickstarter for a while.  After backing Age of Legends, Conan, Aquelarre, I could use the break.

I did back Ninja Crusade 2e’s expansion Kickstarter, but it didn’t fund.  It did relaunch.  It’s already funded.  The game sounds like my sort of thing, in that I’ve played 1e and wasn’t that thrilled with the mechanics but like the sound of 2e’s changes.  Where Feng Shui ended up being a huge disappointment because it focused on things I didn’t care about and ignored addressing things I did, to the point where I consider 1e a better game for campaign play, I have hopes based on the description of the ethos the game is going for.  Since I missed the initial 2e launch, I’m mostly backing for getting the 2e corebook.  I doubt the stretch goal will hit, but that would be more useful to me than worrying about expansion materials.

Empire’s Reign

When is the Shadowfist Kickstarter going to happen?

In other realms, there’s a bit lacking in reins.  Nothing is really holding my attention outside of my latest fixation.

I’m well aware that I’ve always been this way – enthused by the latest thing I turn my weary gaze to.  When I play a campaign, it’s typically the campaign.  When I play a CCG weekly (or playtest or design), it’s typically the CCG.  But, the interest in V:TES is weak, Shadowfist is very undemanding (which is a good thing), Nightmare War isn’t moving very quickly and HoR4 will likely have the same experience of waiting around for the next session.

Wandering mentally has had the effect of getting me to reread some books (well, parts of them I find more appealing).  It’s interesting how I’ll come back to a novel after N+ years and find a different take on things.  There is a series that I read the first book for and found it in my wheelhouse, in that I would read modern supernatural stuff.  I never got the second book.  Skimming through it, I now think it’s rather … not so great.  I guess I realized that at the time.

See, it uses astrology, which you may realize I find a rich vein for fiction.  But, it just isn’t cool enough.  The writing now seems extremely repetitive.  The world just isn’t all that.

I kept up with Anita Blake stuff for ages because the world was just so interesting from book one.  Of course, it got sillier, though the world was not as much of an issue as the way the main character was handled.

I skimmed through one of the Deryni books I had only read a couple of times or so.  Far more engaging.  What I took away, though, since it was familiar ground, was just how different from a FRPG campaign it would be.  It’s political, whether religion politics, politics politics, or relationship politics.  One could analyze early books from later books and maybe say that the series has moved away from action and toward soap opera.  But, I don’t recall a tremendous amount of action in earlier books and I don’t recall caring about much of it, anyway.

Whether hinting at l33t swording by Morgan or energy battles, just not the draw.  If anything, the incredible stupidity on the parts of the protagonists in how they use their powers is a frustrating distraction from what’s often pleasant drama.  (I especially have a hard time with any of the books involving Camber because of how dark they get and how easily wizards can own non-wizards if they bother to.)

I did come away, though, with a bit of a new view.  Maybe I’m just really crotchety, but there’s too much “[blank] is the greatest of them all” to characters.  I’m not looking for flawed types who agonize through life.  I just don’t need people to constantly express how great someone else is.  Should be more subtle.  Can convey that someone is respected in all of the 11 Kingdoms without actually having one character state to another character how the person is respected by all.

Of course, this is from someone who can’t even write a short story to submit for publishing.  But, opinions are why blogs are written.

Speaking of opinions, Flash and Arrow premiered.

As I read reviews’ comments, my opinions feel like a rehash, but here we go, anyway.

Both series suffer from repeating annoying things.  That doesn’t make them bad, though I wouldn’t call Arrow good – Flash still has enough humor to be good.

Some folks commenting on Arrow are all thrilled by going back to a season one feel.  Um, look, I found it interesting when the series opened with Oliver murdering people left and right, but to go back to that undermines the supposed character development in later seasons.  I like better action, but I’m still not feeling it.  What was better in season one was the sense that characters were actually doing something interesting.  Even if the filming of action is less bad recently, it still feels like people going through the motions.  What was appealing was how Oliver and The Hood felt like the same justice warrior, not Oliver’s relationship problems and Green Arrow’s bow parries.

Then, Flash’s repetitive superspeed fights is repetitive.

But, back to Arrow.  So, so tired of Oliver having to navigate relationships.  What made for the best scenes in season one were the surprising interactions with folks.  Let me pull my shirt down to show you I’m Bratva.  Let me speak foreign languages to maids, et al.  Let me try to keep my secret in the most flimsy way possible from techbabe.  Oliver the outsider who plays by special rules so much better than Oliver the “oh look, I’m angst-ridden”.  Thea has her moments but is too slight to be credible as a super and too slight to be eye candy, Diggle is nowhere near as interesting to me as he is to a bunch of others, same with Lance.  If anyone, have Katrina Law be in more episodes, but don’t turn her into something else, even though that already started – she was so good early on.

What wasn’t all that was the family drama, the friend drama, the girlfriend drama.  Those things are old.  Be novel, or, at least, be short story.

Flash, meanwhile, has gone the same route of dipping into the well of time babble.  Just stop.  Find something creative to do.  I’m not saying avoid using superpowers, since I actually find superpowers more interesting in superheroes than lack of superpowers.  For instance, what’s a fight between two speedsters?  It’s a bunch of punching and kicking and pushing and throws and tossing stuff.  Gee, that sounds like a fight between two bricks or two martial artists (without cool martial arts moves, which Arrow did better in season one).  Now, there’s a problem.  Psionics is not interesting, probably even less so in TV.  Brick versus speedster can often be problematic interaction.  Teleporter versus speedster is awfully like speedster versus speedster.

Flash is more appealing because the characters are more appealing.  Harrison was amazing early on, still good.  Cisco may be a tad too forced sometimes but mostly good.  Some of the combinations work out well.  Course, swapping Felicity and Iris on the two shows could be so much better than the relationship slogs we’ve had to endure, as one of Oliver’s best moments involved Iris’s take on him, where Felicity and Barry always was at least decent.

I’m curious as to how Supergirl will go now that it can be better integrated.  I don’t really look that forward to it because it focuses too much on romance.  You know, as someone who actually likes romance in things, it’s not necessary to be beaten over the head with how it has to be a source of conflict.  There are other paths to go.  I’m also less clear what the show should be about.

Legends of Tomorrow actually ended on a higher note, though LoT is really all about certain characters doing fun things.

That’s the thing.  Superhero shows should be about doing fun things.  Make amusing use of powers.  Have conversations full of double meanings due to secret identities.  Fire boxing glove arrows.  Salmon that ladder (aka focus on training).  But, more than anything else, do crossovers because you get out of the quagmires of your own angst and just do fun stuff.  Nyssa showing up is like a crossover.  I do look forward to the Supergirl/other crossover, hopefully with Mayor Handsome being on her list of guys she can make an exception for.

Oh, did I get away from gaming?  Well, probably next time.


Cleanse The Slate

April 9, 2016

I might post next week but won’t be posting for a couple of weeks after.

I don’t have anything on mind that is philosophical.  I just have on mind miscellany.

Shadowfist

We played two games Saturday after I got out of a meeting.

Chi Bomb is really annoying, much more so than I expected.  It’s easy enough to work around once I remember that Jammers are being played, but I’ve gotten annihilated by it, like Thursday, when I played Crown of Thorns and lost three dudes and had sites take four damage just because I didn’t bother revealing all of my sites first.

Jenny Zheng multiattacked for the win.

In the second game, I played Purists and had three Quantum Sorcery in play at the end.  I had two revealed Great Walls, an unrevealed site, played Kisa Serkov, and she got Killdeered.  Then, someone ran into her until she died.  We were supposed to play a quick game so that we didn’t have to move tables when the store section closed, but we can’t seem to choose to play a quick game.

Which brings me to my thought on Shadowfist.  How to speed up games without making them boring?  More power is not the way.  Our house rule of playing sites to new columns for one less power is good for this sort of thing – opens up a lot more targets of attack.  Obviously, people could play decks with less stoppage.  People could play more superleap.  Both of those sound not that great, in that, for the former, the average amount of stoppage isn’t that high.

I don’t know.  We tend to like the amount of stuff that happens in our games, we just don’t want to play for more than 3 hours, so we rarely start a third game.  Superleap does a good job of ending games, but it can often end them in not very satisfying ways.

I was mentioning how the fastest games I tend to play in are ones where one or two players get rolled over by someone, which is like the opposite of fun.

V:TES

Stick with CCGs for the moment.  The tournament got me thinking more about V:TES.  There’s something of a discussion on vekn.net about tier one decks, which I don’t really have anything to say about since I’ve never played in an environment where you could define best decks nor am I even sure such a thing as best decks exists.  Better decks, yes.  My Ass SB deck is not as good as stealth plus Govern plus Conditioning.  Whether that makes Malk94 more likely to win a tournament or less is not as clear, but, if Kate and I had switched decks, she would have likely had no VPs where I could have ended up with the same or more without that much difficulty.  But, best?  I much rather prefer playing against decks like Malk94 or Dembleed because I actually bother to put bleed defense in most of my tournament decks.  They win the argument of “if a newb can win with this deck, then that makes it better than …”, but they lose often.  Lot of time they lose because I think newer players are more likely to be the pilots.

Anyway, what always comes up when I play is just how many decks I’ve yet to play.  It’s not always cards I haven’t played, sometimes it’s combinations of cards I haven’t played to a significant level.  I still haven’t gone hardcore Preternatural Strength plus Spike-Throwers, for instance.  Nor have I done casual Clan Impersonation.

I haven’t embraced my suggested variants, whether Ancilla Antics or Distinct Directive.

Magic

Type P for me is not the same thing as it is for most of the people who play it.  I’ve got some new “wizards” together, and I become reminded of what actually interests me and what doesn’t.

What I’m most enthused by is a deck that has clear and limited goals.  A card pool that is too strong and/or that has little you would want to change just doesn’t have much long term appeal.  I have an all Journey Into Nyx wizard that looks like a lot of fun to play, but it may get boring fast because there might not be enough interesting ways to evolve it.

Meanwhile, a wizard that has good enough cards to function but no hook is forgettable.  Type P wizards are a bit like RPG characters in that they have successes and failures and should have character development.  Just getting your 2/2 for 2 that can’t block upgraded to a 2/2 for 1 or a 2/2 for 2 that can block just isn’t compelling character development.  My Nightstalker deck can be hilarious, which makes it structurally interesting.

It’s not that I hate all of my good decks.  I have a blue/red deck that is extremely oriented to how I like to play, that also comes across as quite the beating (I haven’t played it anywhere near as much as 30 or so other decks).  It doesn’t have any coherent evolution plan.  If anything, its distinctive cards actually run counter to what makes it good.

I’m increasingly cognizant that any new wizard needs to build around the cards I’ll enjoy building around and not just trying to be good … since I don’t aim for just being good … trying to be good at whatever falls into some middle ground of balancing being good at something specific.  I really need to just pick those cards that are the most fun and really ignore whether the deck is remotely functional playing them.  Well, I might play a build that can win some useful cards to make it more functional at playing them.

Of my new wizards, one has an obvious, interesting goal – become mono-red.  It has some awful creatures in it even in a more viable R/U/w configuration just because I needed more creatures.  It would love 2/2s for 2 that can’t block, as a huge upgrade.  I know what packs I’d pity pack it with.  Winning something interesting might alter its path.  My dragon-collecting deck didn’t have a dragon-collecting plan until someone was fine with losing a dragon to it.

But, it’s these sorts of “this deck will be known as the deck that does …” things that makes me keep playing so many of my wizards.  With everything from Alpha to Shadows Over Innistrad available as potential antes to win, can end up with creations that no one would ever see, whether it’s because constructed play would weed out to many weaker cards or any popular format of limited Magic wouldn’t have the ability to end up with cards from any set.

Heroes of Rokugan

I still have yet to play any Nightmare War module.  I no longer really have any interest in trying.  If people I game with want me to play, sure, whatever.  But, I just don’t have enough interest to justify putting a bunch of effort into getting tables together.  Then, so much time has passed at this point, that I would rather just find out what the plan is for HoR4.

I wonder if Gen Con will have any HoR event that isn’t NW.  If it’s only NW, I very well may not end up doing anything L5R at Gen Con for the first time in a long time.

A format that opened up ancestors, not having to ask about kata, playing any minor or imp you wanted, any path or advanced school.  That format holds some interest to me.  Nonhuman PCs and guns really don’t.  That’s not L5R, anymore.

I do have interest in playing L5R characters.  I suppose if I were playing I’d have that much more interest.  As should be obvious in my pattern of posts, whatever I’m playing at the time is what I spend most of my time thinking about.

I have my HoR4 characters planned, I just have no sense of what’s going to happen.  I assume 4e will continue to be the mechanics – the buyout by FFG probably simplifies timing, though knowing that 5e isn’t around the corner in advance may have seen HoR4 follow right after HoR3.

Since L5R RPG posts are far more popular than my other posts, I could try to figure out what else I think about 4e.  I’m just not sure there’s that much more to say.  Do people have things they want me to opine about?  They sure seem to keep looking at the same posts over and over, so I don’t know if I’ve said everything I could usefully say or not.

Things I haven’t written much or anything about:  supplement mechanics – schools, paths, advantages/disads; advanced schools, in general; much about paths, in general; ancestors; kiho (because these don’t actually exist in my play); ninja stuff (might as well ask someone else who actually finds these sorts of characters interesting); and whatever.

BattleTech

I played a week ago as a demo on mechanics.  BattleTech, in the absence of narrative, is actually a pretty not good boardgame.  It really needs the story.  Whether you care about your pilot who got an Awesome shot out from underneath her, so she’s stuck with a Charger or you care about your Charger that went XL with double heat sinks and Gauss (or, even dumber, stole clan tech to effectively just be a clan mech) or you care about the scenario you are playing with its ice floes and explosive decompression rules while every third round someone bombs you, the resolution system is actually kind of a weak point in that it’s rather random for attacks while movement/terrain rules kind of suck.

I kept hitting the same left arm with a single large laser against a heavier mech, taking out half the AC/10s on my opponent early on, and our one on one was just kind of dumb after that.  That would make for good fiction, but it makes for a crap competitive game.  Sure, with experienced players, much like a two-player CCG, just call it and start up something new, but BT requires far more setup IME than shuffling up another deck.

TV

I read a lot of reviews of the shows I watch, most of which are superhero shows.  I find criticism interesting, but I also find myself thinking “okay, it’s not perfect, maybe not even well acted, well plotted, well staged, but … did you find it entertaining?”

A big difference between young me and old me is that young me watched a lot of TV and only really cared whether he enjoyed it or didn’t, where old me thinks about wasted opportunities, plot logic, acting, dialogue, fight choreography, special effects quality, etc.  On the other eye, I still decide to watch flawed shows just because they are entertaining.

I don’t know if I’d enjoy a high quality show, but, then, I don’t watch any high quality fiction.

Since pretty much all of the fiction I watch are DC superhero shows, one thing does come to mind.  Look.  The things that happen are often because the producers are trying to emulate comicbook logic.  Sure, it’s dumb the sort of things characters decide to do or the situations they may find themselves in.  Sure, a guy who can run fast enough to travel through time should never be threatened by anyone who can’t move that fast.

Yes, plenty of people will post comments along the lines of “The reason this happened this way in this show is because it’s a trope/genre feature/CW show.”  So, I’m really just adding support to them rather than being all uniquely special.

Where I can see it being frustrating that time travelers with a variety of superpowers can’t take out some guy who lives a long time and has nebulous street level superpowers, I do respect that Berlanti and crew are not giving me Smallville, Lois & Clark, or whatever that felt more like a TV show with superheroes rather than a comics style superhero story on TV.

May

What should I write about in May?


The Story of O … -tomo Junhime and Usagi Kidai

March 20, 2016

I started writing that NPC post I alluded to.  Then, I had more urgent topics.  I was going to use this as an example, either tacked on to the end (possibly not ideal since reading lots of my posts is already so time consuming) or as a follow up.  But, I mentally inhabited a space that led me to start thinking about the campaign that ended last Summer, even wrote a fiction set after the campaign was over, and it reminded me that I’ve been meaning to post this to the playgroup for some time, just waiting to see if the GM wrote some sort of unexpected ending.

So, if I ever post the next NPC “here’s how PCs can interact with NPCs” post, can consider this an example of what I find to be the least effort – romance.

**     **     **

The Story of O … -tomo Junhime and Usagi Kidai

Usagi Kidai discovers that Otomo Junhime is one of the attendees of Winter Court spreading malicious gossip about Otomo Yasumi having an affair with Kaiu Hikosada.  [Session #32]

“I’m happy to observe your cousin, my lady.”  (Kidai to Yasumi)  [Session #34]

Junhime approaches group after Doji Shorai is outed as … Crane.  “Yasumi-chan, always surrounded by such handsome and virile gentlemen.”  Kidai replies, “Not just handsome and virile gentlement but also surrounded by beautiful women, including those who just visit.”  AWA/Sincerity.  Follows up with twinkling, AWA/Temptation.  <GM_Chris> You are certain you saw Junhime nod at you in appreciation.  [Session #34]

Later, Kidai chats with Junhime about her interests – “father always fascinated with sumai” – and some of the competitions.  Still later, while at the archery range to practice, write out the kanji for “sharumu” while Junhime is looking on, requires five rolls of Kyujutsu, all pass (ranging from 29 to 48).  Junhime talks up Kidai’s archery skill.  [Session #34]

Junhime approaches Kidai after opening ceremonies of WC.  Kidai talks about focusing his attention on her during the ceremonies and about making others happy, Junhime looks sad for a moment.  [Session #36]

Cousin of Isawa Daniwa wants assistance, eight days away from WC, Junhime seems sad when Kidai leaves.  [Session #37]

Junhime wants to go on a picnic at some nearby waterfalls.  Just Yasumi and Dove, Daniwa, Moshi Izumi, Bayushi Tanaka, and Kidai to go with her and one of her handmaidens.  Junhime wants to go swimming.  Yasumi, Izumi, Tanaka, and Kidai join her.  Junhime pulls Kidai’s leg, surfaces, and splashes him.  Yasumi finds the horseplay amusing.  Junhime dunks Kidai.  Junhime almost falls off cliff, Daniwa saves her.  Junhime offers battle formation plan while returning to Pale Oak Castle, Kidai takes interest.  After returning to WC, bit of flirting.  [Long OOC conversation about Kidai’s IC plans.]  [Session #38]

Kidai works on crafting a yumi as a gift for Junhime.  All five rolls (one to use workshop at Pale Oak Castle) are made and yumi is completed.  During fireworks display, Junhime and Kidai chat and arrange a walk in the woods, that ends up being chaperoned by a maid.  [Session #39]

Goose hunt.  Kidai presents the yumi as a gift.  Junhime and Kidai stay close together during the hunt.  Junhime gets some assistance from Kidai on murdering geese, she bags two.  Kidai bags … three.  Junhime is happy.  [Session #40]

Sumai competition.  Junhime is interested in that.  Kidai is interested in … something else.  A good, but not great, time is had while Junhime is still excited by the competition.  [Session #41]

<GM_Chris> So, are you going to focus your efforts on Junhime or Rin?
<Usagi_Kidai> Junhime is always the top … priority.
<GM_Chris> I figured as much.  [Session #41]

Shinjo Mikael knows how to ride a horse.  Kidai gains experience in horseless riding.  Junhime has some concern about being discovered.  Rumors of others doing naughty things helps cover for the two.  [Session #42]

Return from helping Jurojin out.  Junhime is quite excited by Kidai’s return as Kidai was gone for more than a week.  Kidai is quite excited at putting his Stamina of 3 to work.  [Session #44]

Riding competition.  Oh, and there’s the WC’s Riding event, as well.  There’s pillow talk, but Junhime never talks about her future.  [Session #45]

Kidai spends a lot of time thinking about the situation with Junhime when away from Pale Oak Castle.  His thinking is interrupted by the shameless Buttercup.  [Session #47]

Archery competition.  Kidai starts calling Junhime Kikujo-chan in private as a sign of affection.  Kidai tries to encourage Junhime to participate with her gift.  Junhime doesn’t think she’s good enough.  Suggestion that Junhime is interested in more than just Kidai’s well-used body.  [Session #48]

Bayushi Komaki implies that Kidai has an invitation for some private Scorpion time.  Junhime is displeased when Komaki talks to Kidai.  [Session #49]

Hantei Hanahime wants to talk with Junhime and thinks Kidai should tag along.  Stairway railing is unkind to Hanahime who grabs Junhime and both start to tumble.  Kidai has immense relief when neither plunge to their deaths.  [Session #50]

Polearms competition.  Junhime is unhappy about Kidai talking to Komaki.  Kidai points out that not flirting with Komaki would be suspicious … and that only supernatural possession or the like would cause him to be physically unfaithful with another woman at Winter Court.  Junhime calms down but doesn’t want Kidai seeking Komaki out.  The Emperor asks Kidai to sit with the family due to Junhime providing a reference (goose slayer, yumi crafter).  [Session #51]

Kidai starts working on his first novel as a gift to Junhime where the main character, a Rokugani Princess who ends up on another world, a world of monsters(!) and magic(!), one might say a fantasy world, portrays how he thinks of her as the best thing ever and how she should think of herself.  Seiji is confronted.  Attack on the Imperial Family.  Kidai rushes to assist Junhime while others focus on other family members.  Junhime is not under attack, Kidai borrows her yumi to use to fight off the metal kumo attacking the Emperor, Crown Prince, and Crown Princess since he doesn’t wander around the castle with either his yumi or a naginata/nagamaki.  [Session #53]

Because of Kidai’s promotion from helping save the Emperor’s family, Junhime works on making Kidai appear to be legit enough to be a suitor.  Kidai’s novel is still being illustrated by Shiba Toyoka and calligraphized by Tsugumi and Kidai is working on content.  Emperor gets attacked again, Kidai Guards Junhime.  Kidai almost dies fighting oni and friends when party separates Seppun Nana from an oni.  [Session #57]

Junhime expects Kidai to continue to do “amazing things” (of the socially acceptable sort) to enable everyone else to think of him as suitor material as she’s fallen for Kidai.  GM makes the rolls for the novel.  [Session #61]

First use of Kharmic Tie (Otomo Junhime) when fighting Gaijin assassins trying to kill the Imperials.  [Session #63]

Kidai suggests a farewell to WC picnic with Junhime, Yasumi, and Hanahime.  “Amazing thing” – the picnic happens.  Kidai has second novel’s story completed but needs Tsugumi to calligraphize before Junhime receives it.  Kidai leads escort duty for Junhime and others returning to Otosan Uchi, Yobanjin attack.  [Session #64]

Mantis Isles, time to shop for a present for Junhime – Kidai considers things he gives her are “presents” now and not “gifts”.  [Session #65]

In Tsuma, Kidai talks to Yasumi about Junhime; Yasumi wonders if she has fallen for someone and who that might be.  [Session #71]

Junhime finally makes it to Tsuma for the Topaz.  Kidai gives her the present he got for her on the Mantis Isles – Pachisi set.  When he returns to his room, U. Kidai finds a watercolor of maidens watching archers shoot at targets with geese flying in the background.  Junhime will be setting out for Ryoko Owari to end her mourning period.  [Session #76]

Junhime insists Kidai go play with his friends and murder some bandits for the “glory”.  Kidai has her and her entourage set up observing bandit murder way too close by.  Kidai tries to tap her for her knowledge of Battle, as she was Kidai’s inspiration … for learning about formations.  First use of second point in Kharmic Tie.  Junhime’s maids make sure that the two won’t be bothered when spending nights at inns on the way to Ryoko Owari.  [Session #77]

Junhime wants to check out the Licensed Quarter.  Junhime’s eyes narrow when Kidai speaks to Bayushi Aiko privately at dinner.  Kidai is “reasonably certain” that Junhime will be safe guarded by the governor’s guards.  Junhime is good with Kidai running off to find bombers and going out to do her ritual thingy if he isn’t back soon.  Junhime gets abducted by Shosuro Shinen while off to her ritual thingy.  [Session #78]

The party chases after Shinen, catches up to him, and recovers Junhime, who doesn’t appear to be a shapeshifting impersonator.  [Session #79]

Kidai thinks it’s better for him to guard Junhime’s body 12 hours out of every day.  Usagi Toshihiro – Emerald Champion, Clan Champion, Big Bunny, Righteous Rabbit, High Hare, “Dad” – meets with Kidai privately and imparts:

“His Imperial Majesty informs me he is aware his youngest daughter
looks kindly upon you. Also, he tells me the Crown Princess spoke
favorably of you. He wished me to know he would consider you an
acceptable suitor for his daughter, were you to prove yourself worthy
of her. I suggest you take advantage of this opportunity to both rid
the Empire of this foul creature and demonstrate why you deserve to be
chosen to marry Otomo Junhime-sama.”

He also takes over personally protecting Junhime.  Junhime and Kidai don’t make it to the Licensed Quarter before Kidai needs to continue on to the Plains Above Evil.  Kidai goes late into the last night in Ryoko Owari discussing how to protect Imperial family members with Aiko and the Big Bunny.  Kidai carries his notes for third novel with him, mentions to Usagi Taka that he has papers to go to Junhime or Hanahime if he can’t deliver them himself.  [Session #80]

GM:  As previously mentioned by the EC, your efforts to bring about a successful end to the situation with Diwe, including being in command of victorious forces of a detachment of the First Imperial Legion, combined with your previous service to the Empire and Emperor has earned you the right to petition to wed Otomo Junhime.  You would take the Otomo name and be assigned responsibilities commensurate with your station and talents.  [Campaign Denouement]


Brought By The Number 7

November 10, 2015

One

One coworker from China joined us in Arkansas for some software training.  She has now had one fortune cookie in her life … at a Thai restaurant.  One American style pancake in her life.  She has been to one hobby game store (Gamer Utopia in Rogers), has one set of polyhedral dice, and …  And, on the way back to the hotel, has experienced one US kids’ carnival (if not any funnel cake or cotton candy – we had way too much food on the trip).

One thing can be different for one person from the next person.  I have only been pushed into duck tongue once, lotus seeds once, etc.  Experiences vary.  There are many RPGs I’ve never played and RPG situations I’ve never been in.

Two

A cousin is having twins.  Twins aren’t that rare in the family.  Along with a couple of others at the family get together, I correctly guessed that they would be girls.  Guessed be the operative word.

I’m not an expert on twins, but let’s say that they tend to be more alike, yet can have substantial differences.  Two games can be very similar yet significantly different in some way that one is vastly preferable to the other.  Ultimate Combat! is vastly preferable to Magic.  Scepter of Zavandor is vastly preferable to Outpost.

What distinguishes these differences – that’s a good place for analysis.

Three

Three beaches.  Yes, when I’m in my father’s homeland, I do go to beaches.  Shark’s Cove was interesting, if always bleedy, too (if you plan on going and haven’t been, let’s say there’s a lot of sharp rocks).  Waimea Bay was abbreviated.  I told one of my brothers about a FSTH session I set there.  Rain had us head back early.  Waimanalo (where Magnum P.I. was filmed) was choppy.  Each time I go there, I explore a bit further to just have something different to do.  I know, some people wish they had my problems.  Some day, might try swimming out to Bird Island.

I belabor the point about having similar expectations to make campaigns function.  For a change, I’m going to bring up differing expectations.  You don’t always want to do your favorite things.  There’s more to cuisine than Zippy’s Chili, crispy gau gee mein with cake noodles, and dim sum from some better place.  Now, I’m willing to try a trip where all I eat are these things, but, uh, I suppose I can suffer through some shave ice and a hamburger club sandwich at Like Like Drive Inn or whatever.

Anyway, you try different things.  You get suboptimal experiences.  You still sometimes like them.

Four

Four days of vacationing means focusing on the essentials.  Oddly, it also meant a lot of downtime.  Not every session of a RPG, CCG, BG, mahjong/cards, whatever is going to encompass the panoply of pleasures.  We had four of us staying at the house, yet no mahjong.  No local game store visit.  No hiking (for me).

While I can be satisfied with less, I think I think too much about pulling every lever.  Maybe more so from the GM side, where I can’t satisfy myself, so I get tired of trying to satisfy my players.  Sometimes, can just do less and save the rest.

Five

Hours in the air.  My most dreaded length, as the 13.5 hour flights I just give up any chance that they will end until a third of a sudoku book is completed.

Just as not everything good will be accomplished, not everything bad can be avoided.  Shadowfist timing sucks, while reliance on two different basic resources (in normal play) can suck so much more.  V:TES timeouts where nothing really happens are fangless.

Six

Six of us went to breakfast Monday.  First time my sister met one of my father’s friends (from high school).  Opinionated opinions.

Connections come in different forms, from the new to the reconnecting of the old.  I’ve played with a variety of gamers in the area.  I still do, to some degree.  I used to do three or so CCGs on weeknights at Matchplay.  I see some folks once or twice a year at conventions that I saw much more often, even weekly.

If I mentioned a variety of experiences above, there’s also a variety of players.  I often really enjoy getting together with, say, V:TES players from other locales just because it breathes freshness into things having a different perspective.  Besides, people I hang out with probably are superbored with my repetitive stances.

Seven

Double oh, to be more precise.  One may wonder why one should care that I saw a movie recently.  After all, I did see another movie earlier this year, exceeding my annual average (per my guesstimating) by 100%.

Spectre was okay.  I find it interesting how a lot of people loved Skyfall and hated this movie or hated Skyfall and thought this was much better.  I don’t exactly hate Skyfall, I just didn’t like its narrative nor its action and thought the ending’s payoff could have been done with a better lead up.  Some commenters on review sites summed up my highlights for Spectre – terrible villains, wasted Monica Belluci’s participation, missed opportunities, humor/fun is really missing.

On my grandfather’s bookshelf was a Bond novel by John Gardner.  I’ve read a number of Gardner novels, though not for decades.  I don’t recall them having major problems.  I do recall liking things about them.  Death is Forever is atrocious.  The characters are awful.  The characterizations are awful.  The villains are awful.  The plot is awful.  The payoffs or lack thereof are awful.  The dialogue is awful.

It’s less half-assed than double-oh-seventh-assed.  Did he just need to throw something out to hit a deadline?  I’m curious as to whether I’ve changed and just didn’t notice some of these problems in Icebreaker, For Special Services, and whatever else I’ve read of his.

Compare and contrast – nice school words.  As not great as Spectre was, it was at least not terrible.  The medium changes the storytelling – Bond is constantly falling for his harem in the books where you don’t really have that feeling in the movies unless the woman dies.  The focus on the quality of the food at some obscenely expensive hotel or on some luxury transportation in the books is shockingly (or not) absent in the movies I recall.

Games are about entertainment.  Now, some like their entertainment to be competitive, some like it to be random, some like it with more whips.  If we roll together some of the other comments above, we look to see that gaming can hit some but not all chakras and still entertain.  To be perfect is to be unlikely.

But, at the same time, it has to hit something.  I enjoy some bad books (looking at some books written by a LKH or a RJ) because they give me stretches of enjoyability.  How does this translate to various games?

The ending of Shadowfist games is often not enjoyable.  The combat in V:TES is often not enjoyable nor a lot of table talk.  Putting on armor because the camp got attacked during the night is not enjoyable.  Constantly failing to launch in your Almost-Night Struggle is not enjoyable.  Getting all lefts when you just need a move back one is not enjoyable.

But, I regress.  Was there a theme song to all of this?  Btw, didn’t really get Hunt’s theme song and don’t recall thinking Adele’s was the wasp’s whiskers.  Who cares?  Sometimes, you ramble because you want to toss things out.  At least I didn’t dwell on how I didn’t get a warmed up cookie or on the quality problem that prevented me from buying …


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.