Weighing The Options

December 12, 2017

“After you push the door open, six goblins standing near a chest charge, roll initiative …”

“As you turn the corner, six orcs see you, scream something, and charge.  Roll initiative …”

I got to thinking about scale.  At a point in our Conan campaign, Brad and I talked about the point of playing higher level characters.  If all we were going to do was just face tougher enemies, why not just reboot the campaign and play at a more manageable level?

There’s a reason Gorgriffspidrascorps exist.  People crave variety.  Just increasing hit points, improving AC, increasing damage output is repetitive.  Different special abilities allow for playing essentially the same videogame over and over and still having a varied experience.

Then, I started thinking about several other things.

One, people may crave variety, but so, so many players crave doing the same sorts of things over and over as evidenced by how many players will play functionally similar or identical PCs.  I’m even prone to doing something along these lines in that my first two HoR PCs were the same character, at least up until the point where my second PC had some sort of personality and goals.  Gamehole Con wasn’t great, but it gave me important insight into which classes I enjoy and which I don’t in True Dungeon, while giving me more variety than what most seem interested in in terms of mechanical variance.

Two, I got to thinking about L5R in contrast to D&D style games.  It occurred to me that leveling up didn’t produce the same experience, that mechanics change as you rank up.  Combat goes from interesting at rank 1, rank 2ish in 4e to … vicious … above that.

Sure, it’s possible to adjust challenges to try to scale them, but offense so outstrips defense outside of certain spells that it’s a lot of effort to find the right numbers to make combat feel similar to lower levels.

Now, the D&D player, used to magical abilities and whatnot is going to bring up that “save or die”, et al, change the nature of combat.  Conan had a built in save or die mechanic, though that seems rather similar to just dealing enough damage with a bardiche to one shot some dude with 8hp, anyway.  If anything, Conan might have done a good job of maintaining the feel of low level combat.

Anyway, back to L5R.  Higher rank play does feel different.  The mechanics of brutality align(?) with the focus on culture to encourage less mechanical play.  What’s the most common challenge that is actually challenging in my experience?  Trying to prove someone did something wrong who has higher status than the party and/or trying to conduct an investigation with someone of higher status impeding it.

Do other sorts of games scale?  Putting aside dungeon crawl boardgames, obviously videogames scale – see Tetris.  But, do CCGs scale?  The players are generally better the larger the event, but the game itself isn’t providing greater challenges unless you make up your own in solitaire play.

Is there a reason to get (mechanically) stronger?

A challenge fight anime has is that the power jumps are so massive that you lose any sense of character abilities.  If you go by dubbed Dragonball Z comments, whatever the official stats may be, Super Saiyan Goku has a power level of one billion.  Compare that with the 180,000 that he reads at earlier in the same arc, nevermind what a wuss everyone is when Vegeta first arrives on Earth.  Bleach’s Ichigo’s fights become far less interesting because it’s just massive energy attack after massive energy attack.

Stronger has issues.  It’s prone to “fighting ogres instead of orcs”.  Now, more interesting applications of abilities is interesting in the moment, but how often do characters “forget” their own abilities because they need to be challenged in their stories?

Is higher level play more fun?  I certainly never found higher rank play more fun in L5R, though I got into a discussion with one HoR player who said that higher rank play was what appealed to her.

From a mechanical perspective, I have the sense that when we were in the 8th level range in Conan, we had the best adventures, but was that because of the level or some other factor?  Low level felt too much like you lacked a variety of abilities or anything that distinguished you from another bardiche wielder.  High level was prone to ability paralysis by analysis because of more Feats.

Because this topic isn’t well rooted in my mindspace, I’m going to just keep bouncing around.  L5R combat – is it memorable to me?  I remember fights, but do I remember them because of what I did or because of how they fit in the narrative.  I generally believe the latter.  Sure, the time I did more than 100 wounds in one round using a war fan against oni was memorable from a mechanical standpoint, but that’s because it should be.  I don’t remember much in terms of how many enemies I slew or how much damage I generated in most L5R play.  Kidai finished off a variety of things because he often guarded for a while until there was a reason to finish something off.  But, that’s a general style of combat and not a measure of growing stronger.  If anything, Kidai got weaker over time relative to the rest of the party and the challenges they faced because I didn’t create an advanced school that let me do two attacks a round with a yumi.

The point, perhaps, of this post is that powering up doesn’t seem to have a lot of payoff.  Whether you just up the numbers for everything or just have sillier and sillier monsters to fight, the payoff of a good story so far outweighs the payoff of being more badass.

With Kidai, gaining 5 ranks of status was far less interesting than hanging out with a widow.  With the vaguely courtierish Jun, losing a rank of status to run off to Unicorn Lands was far more interesting than having two oni consider him the greatest threat in a party with rank 4/5/6 bushi and shugenja.  Ty captured some magic with a Shot In The Dark, while rarely having much murder-impact, except that one time the priest was behind a bunch of followers and really needed to fail a massive damage save.

I think this is where D&D style modules often lose me – the focus is on mechanical challenge.  I like the ones the most that have a town of NPCs.  I want to harp on this.  Even Stormbringer adventures felt more like there was something going on rather than a series of “rooms”.  L5R modules/adventures are much more about the plot than they are the mechanical challenges … in general.  (OTOH, I have gotten into the problem of mechanics not really mattering, and I’m sure I’ll go into it again.)

Is it optimal to just hover around low levels all of the time?  In L5R 3e/3r, I’d say absolutely.  But, I can see a progression in other games.  I just don’t see the progression in combat effectiveness mattering a whole lot.  Far more important for Jun to pick up two ranks of Cooking and two ranks of Shogi than in “If I activate this kata and spend a VP, then spend a VP on my attack in the full attack stance, then Honor Roll after I call 11 raises and fail, I should be attacking at 10k10+42 with 5 free raises on damage …”

Unlocking abilities is a thing.  Vampire has the huge problem that the most interesting abilities are insanely expensive, though it’s hardly the only game inflicted with such progressions.  It’s obvious my lack of experience actually playing campaign Champions, as you can always come up with the weirdest abilities right off the bat if you want, though PC progression does seem to tend towards expanding skills since they are so expensive and don’t tend to increase your 8d6 EB’s effectiveness.

To avoid the L5R well and to give some love to Conan play, I did a lot of things with Ty to try to broaden his abilities rather than just hack … and slash … better.  I felt like it had payoff, though I would have preferred not falling further and further behind on the kill-ometer by not just focusing on high yield abilities.

Anyway, does any of this matter?  I have my doubts.  The powergamers and buttkickers enjoy powering up, and I often play with their kind.  I’m certainly pro “spend XP to gain XYZ” and not opposed to “I’ll take this Feat at this level”.

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Skullduggery

December 3, 2017

No, not a card of the weak entry.

Friday, played two games of L5R in like 3.5 hours.  That was not thrilling.  In fact, after we were done, the question was asked, “Do we enjoy playing this game?”

It’s unclear whether we do.  I continue to compare the game to chess.  Everything you do is a “move”.  While not impossible to come back from being behind, it can be draining to try to come back from behind – more so than the game already is.  A significant difference is that it’s not so clear when the game is essentially unwinnable, for one thing when is a game essentially unwinnable?  10% chance of winning?  5% chance?

I played Crab in the first game and my opponent conceded with something like one province broken.  I don’t think we broke a single province in Lion vs Crab in the first three rounds.  My first round Hida Kisada was still in play at the end, with both of us down to one card in hand at one point.  He sent three Lion, including Matsu Berserker and a dude with a Fine Katana in against my revealed province, Charged Toturi in, and I still won the conflict.  I got down to 5 Honor and, then, had like twice as much Honor as the Lion not long after, being around 14.

One of the big differences for me with playing this game versus the multiplayer CCGs I’ve been playing is that I enjoy far more when I’m doing well.  As long as I can do amusing things in multiplayer CCGs like … well, see below … I don’t need to be winning or end up winning to enjoy the game.  But, I find that L5R isn’t much fun when you feel like you are losing.  So, I’m not surprised that we called the game where his board would be clear and I’d still have Kisada in play for another round.

Second game, I played Unicorn vs Dragon.  This was very entertaining to me as it’s obvious that Unicorn should have a board of four characters – two courtiers, a shugenja, and a monk, with no cavalry.  That Unicorn should have three out of four guys honored.  That the attack on the stronghold can be 24 military with Cavalry Reserves in hand because a one cost dude is a 6/6 and because hardcasting Moto Horde is totally normal.  I am down on Ide Trader.  Just inclines me to jump through a bunch of hoops to trigger ability, though that’s what Unicorn is mostly like – spend lots of effort just to get back the cards and fate you spent trying to get cards and fate, while your smallish dudes can be easily stopped.

Still, I have cards coming, so I might find deck construction interesting enough.  Actually, thinking about it, L5R is being a lot like constructed Magic to me – fascinating from a deck construction standpoint, relatively unpleasant to actually play.

I don’t like chess.  I don’t like agonizing over decisions.

Saturday, we drove to Berkeley for a couple of games of V:TES.

Game 1:

Rick (POT/Pro high cap Amaranth) -> Ian (Mimir Will Survive) -> Mark (Lydia and Aus friends) -> Carol (!Malk SB) -> Alex (Ahrimanes) -> Brandon (Cube Toreador)

Brandon brought out Anneke, which led to Mark and Brandon “talking”.  I had lots of ways to deal with agg, so I often was blocking Baron Dieudonne, Adana, or Lydia.  Mimir did eventually get Disarmed as did Aksinya, but time ran out by the time the latter happened and Mimir came back to agg hands someone after being Disarmed.

I couldn’t put any forward pressure on, but that was a function of lacking ousting power in the deck.  I did Theft of Vitae someone, though.  Carol was doing fine until Mark got Talbot’s out and just murdered everyone.  Brandon lost a dude because of Adana and Mark wouldn’t help bloodhunt her, so Brandon blocked Lydia getting Preternatural Strength, and Anneke got diablerized.  Brandon got ousted.  And, that was it for the three hour game.

Game 2:

Brandon (as above) -> Ian (New Anarchs) -> Mark (Mata Hari does it all) -> Rick (Shatter the Gate/Parity Shift) -> Alex (as above)

Mark played Vaticination, looked at five players’ hands and discarded my Skullduggery.  You can have a lot more fun playing in NorCal.

I repeatedly blocked with Monica Chang because she was my most effective defense, playing Diversion at Thaum and being able to play Crawling Chamber.  I got out The Medic and Laura Goldman reasonably early.  Yes, that was my board.  Three vampires in play with a total of eight disciplines, where no two vampires shared a discipline.

Rick Shattered two Gates and got hit with Sensory Deprivation and, later, Pentex.  I called Reckless Agitation and ousted Mark, going to 20 pool.  Rick gave us shattered counters because nobody once tried to remove a Shatter the Gate.  Alex died.  I brought out Alabastrom, who in this deck Forced March.  We ran out of time, but, after time, I got Rick low and Brandon caused me to go to zero pool, where Rick Life Booned me and I tried to oust Rick which made it impossible for him to Parity Shift Brandon.  In a replay, if we were going to play it out, Rick and I probably talk about how to play out the endgame so that Brandon doesn’t just win.

I also Free States Ranted with a 3-cap to reduce two vampires to zero blood.  My Diversity got blocked when we all had shattered counters by not my predator.

So, V:TES can be played a number of different ways.  I was commenting to Brandon on the drive back that I enjoy it most when it avoids being completely noncompetitive and when it’s too competitive.  Would I ever play this deck in a tournament?  Of course not.  I’m just trying to play cards I’ve never played, like my entire Anthology Set crypt.

I had fun.  As I said recently, V:TES is something I can look forward to because it is so often enjoyable the way I play it.  The question is whether L5R can be played in a way where it’s actually fun for everyone.

If I didn’t have to do something soon, I’d probably post my decks since it’s unlikely I’d ever play either again.  Both decks need more ousting power, and the latter’s crypt may be funny, but it isn’t that interesting to me.  The Medic also needs way more Freak Drives than what I was running.  I should have played Skullduggery with him before it got discarded, but oh well.


Crisis Of Blog Why

November 29, 2017

The beauty of having a blog is that it allows one to be as self indulgent as one is wont to be … as someone wants to be.

How can I pass on commenting on Crisis on Earth-X?

Is it better than Justice League?  I don’t know.  I have no plans to watch Justice League.

Is it perfect?  Of course not.  Is any TV perfect (anymore, ever)?

Talking about four flawed shows, at least in my supremely brilliant opinion.

It is the pinnacle of what the Arrowverse has done.

Sure, one can say some of the early Arrow flashbacks or early Flash season one or particular scenes in Legends or moments with Superman or the early Arrow/Flash interactions were better in isolation.  But, this is what all right-thinking and left-thinking and centrist-thinking fans of superheroics wanted – a real crossover of an absurd number of supers.

It also gave Ollie and Kara “relating”, though not in the optimal way.  Nitpicking is easy.

But, let me counternitpick for a moment before we get closer to talking about gaming.

Olicity has been a thing for many a year.  As a thing, doing the comicbooky thing with it is the proper genre convention.  While I doubt the special effects could get better, though the fight choreography perhaps could, as much as the relationship drama could be better, it fit.

I don’t mark out for much.  And, I couldn’t help but think I’d want more interaction between Sara and Oliver, who, like, were a couple, and Palmer and Oliver, etc.  But, every minute held my attention because it was doing a solid job of servicing fans.  I even laughed at the sticking to things really well.

Better to try and service others than never get into servicing.  Compare what has been bequeathed upon us today versus Smallville, old Flash (had its moments), shows of yestery years.  I don’t recall Shazam! very well from the ’70s, but I somehow doubt it produced anywhere near the comicbook feel that this miniseries and these shows can achieve.

Maybe next year, they have a Green Lantern to show that the small screen can do that better, too.

So, what does this have to do with gaming?

No, it’s not time to say the same thing said around three times before.

Fun.  Gaming is supposed to be fun.  Looking forward to something.  I looked forward to night one, then to night two.

Do I look forward to playing L5R?  Shadowfist?  Heroes of Rokugan?  Attending Gen Con?

Not really, at least not in the same way of there being anticipation.  For most of the gaming I do, I hope to avoid disappointment.  V:TES would be the one thing I still do that I look forward to.  Now, more so when I know the other players as, for me, it’s a casual game to be savored for the entertainment factor.

The other aspect of the event, though it does tend to get into RPG commentary, is “pull out the stops”.  Gaming shouldn’t be mundane, repetitive.  This is why I can’t generate much enthusiasm for a lot of games I’m willing to play – there’s no spectacular.  It may be harder for games that live inside the box, like boardgames, but there can be the “holy ay caramba!” moments in games.  CoE-X was epic.  Games can be epic.

Sure, much easier for RPGs to be epic, which is why I gravitate towards an inclination to prefer and/or favor theoretical RPG play.  But, sometimes Jake Washington ousts two players.

Finally, CoE-X gets into reasons for wanting to play a superhero RPG, even if just a one-shot.  I do think comics still have an advantage in that actors can’t always come across as badass as drawings can, but live actiony, special effects flavored entertainment gets closer and closer to rendering the images that have made people care about supers.

You don’t just have powers, you have a place in a world as an ultrabeing.  You live a huger than life … er … life.  The fate of the “world” is in your hands.  I probably mentioned playing Wasp in a convention game.  I may have mentioned looking in the Destroyer’s visor and pulling Surtur’s sword (Twilight Sword?) free because Iron Man failed his saves.  Supers embody ideals.  They aren’t realistic for good reasons.  Wolverine’s popularity can be in part attributed to calling forth the ideals of being the ultimate survivor, of being the ultimate tough (not strong) guy.  Green Lantern’s oath doesn’t sound all that cool when you say it … unless of course the Sun is being consumed by space darkness.

Now, next crossover should have Jay Garrick, Supes, Nyssa (because everything is better with Nyssa), Deathstroke?, Legionnaires, and a green ring.


Gobble-in’

November 26, 2017

Thanksgiving I spent with old friends I met through gaming – V:TES (not an unusual reason for my knowing someone).  My most relevant contribution was telling people about my friend Bill Ricardi’s book series.  Another Stupid Demon is coming out soon as a sequel to Another Stupid Spell.  Promotion pricing on Amazon for book one in a couple of weeks.

Friday, I played two games of L5R.  We played three games in under four hours.  Tournaments, here we come.  I played Crane both times, meaning I’m up to five clans played and up to seven non-tournament games to five tournament games.  Because of travel, I will miss the next two tournaments, thus defeating a possible raison d’être.

I forgot to gain fate twice in the first game, never had an air province revealed in the second.

I didn’t find my games terribly interesting.  Doji Hotaru did lots of work in the second game – round one, two fate on DH, Andy two fate on Togashi Yokuni, and I double Voided him.  I need more cards, so that I can cut the likes of Kakita Kaezin.  In the game I didn’t play, Crane won through honor victory!!  Welp, that’s …

So, maybe Crane isn’t my thing.  As I said, every clan has cards I like, so it’s not like I’m dying to play certain Crane dynasty cards I find appealing.  I definitely need to play similar decks repeatedly, though.  I feel paralyzed constantly by the decision trees available, even when winning.  Actually, it may be easier to play when losing, which makes me wonder if the reason so many people lose so often at the game is that it is easier to stop caring about making good decisions than to create an advantage or keep pressing an advantage.

Saturday, I went to GobbleCon.  It’s not my sort of con.  What I want out of cons … well, these days, for local cons, I seem to want hanging out with people I rarely see, but, gamingwise … are scheduled events that allow me to play things I want to play.  GobbleCon is all about not scheduling much in the way of events.  It is interesting how casual and family oriented it is, and there are some benefits to it.

One benefit is that there are people wandering around looking to try things out.  The reason I was at Gobble was to demo Traveller and we had our most successful demo experience at the con.

After dinner, which involved Shanghai Dumpling Shop not going back to the old, better tan tan mian that was spicier and less chewy but involved a return to more like the old, better sesame dumplings, hung out for hours talking to one of those friends I don’t often see.

The Burlingame cons are interesting in that I like being in the Burlingame area, where there are food options that interest me and where I lived for more than a decade, but I don’t much like the drive, as it’s very repetitively not short, though I may have gotten over how it used to remind me of driving to work in South San Francisco.

Thankful for having a reasonable commute in this area, thankful for having the ability to finance tokens, thankful for other stuff.  Now, I just need to figure out how to get through the remaining strawberry shortcake.  Speaking of which, now that I’ve been involved in the creation of such, as much as I hate baking for the massive amount of extra effort it requires over single pot/skillet/wok dishes, I have ideas for making my own shortcakey/biscuity dish with excessive amounts of whipped cream.  Gobble gobble.


Strength

November 19, 2017

I got inspired to develop a theme, on the way back from the park this morning.

Plans for physical exertion got cancelled, so I did something I do a couple of times in the Fall/Winter, I went and shot some hoops.  Aside1, I don’t play basketball – I enjoy shooting hoops, by myself, when it’s cold, don’t care if it’s raining or if there is ice on the ground.  Aside2, one might think I think to do this because it’s NBA season, but I don’t think so.  I think it has more to do with weather and vague recollections of going out on Christmas mornings and shooting some while food was being prepared.  There’s Spring when it might not be hot and, yet, I don’t recall thinking too often about it in the Spring.  Well, also, I suppose in the last decade or whatever, there’s my allergies to keep me from going outside.

So, I was walking back and got to thinking about my coworker struggling to carry a 50 pound bag of rice around for our company’s annual food drive (to give context, that’s around half her weight; half my weight wouldn’t be that easy for this decrepit body).

In this world, there are applications for strength.  Moving furniture/books/whatever.  Opening bottles.  Tightening and untightening whatever.  Sports.

Because I’m prone to bad habits and didn’t stretch afterwards, I’ll likely be sore tomorrow as I can feel my shoulders, back, and abs work just expending these meager efforts launching a ball into the air, unlike when I was younger and more resilient.

So, gaming.

Will get to CCG play in a moment.

I tend to avoid STR builds in RPGs.  I found Conan d20’s focus on STR to be dull.  I’ve never been all that interested in STR in L5R, even when I got to STR-4 with my Hare.  I had a STR/Potence character or two written up in Vampire, but I don’t think I played them.  I will have STR when the game virtually requires it, of course.  I just don’t find it all that interesting.

Yet, it’s a foundation attribute.  While some RPGs will do Body or Physical or whatever that incorporates strength, agility, and/or endurance, it’s extremely common to distinguish between STR and DEX.  One of the simplest games I have that is kind of a RPG (but not really) is Melee, and it has STR and DEX and, with those, STR builds and DEX builds and balance builds.

What RPG do I enjoy STR in?  Not Champions, though, to be fair, I’ve spent almost all of my Champions energy building characters and virtually none playing.  Still, I’m not into straightforward bricks, though superstrength is so common that there are concepts I could probably get behind.  I do like gods, after all.

In Stormbringer 1e, INT and POW attracted me.  But, I digress.

To me, even given how versatile comicbook strength is, STR just comes across as simplistic and inflexible and blatant.  I’m not into blatant.  It’s not even necessarily subtle abilities so much as surprising abilities.  I like fight anime, where abilities keep getting unlocked.

So, CCG play, which is something I was going to write about before I got to philosophizing.

I have now played as many L5R games outside of tournaments as in tournaments.

Andy and I played new decks.  I played Crab for the first time.  He played Phoenix.  While his deck may have been challenging, it was such a change to play a clan that wasn’t Unicorn level difficult.  I get to play good characters.  I don’t just spend lots of actions to replace the Spyglasses and Favorite Mounts I put on wusses.  I Way of the Crab away Kaede and others.  I flop triple Kisada on the last round.

In the second game, I played Unicorn against someone newer to the game than I.  I won, but it still had aspects of “I’m not really scary in, like, any way.”  Of course, I was still playing a deck with no 4’s and 5’s.

I have been saying and will likely beat this dead pony many more times that it’s good for me to play a competitive two-player CCG because it forces me to play good decks, something multiplayer CCG play has never really forced me to do.  Good being powerful.  Good having strength.

I’m supposedly a Spike, but I’m sure there’s some Timmy (and Johnny).  Big numbers don’t excite me.  Efficiency excites me.  I like ruthless beats in my friendly two-player play (doesn’t appeal that much to me in tournament play, a sign that I will never achieve Hatamoto or anything notable).  I just like doing it with a bunch of weefolk, removal, and reach.

So, I rejiggered my Unicorn deck to put 4’s and 5’s back in with some new tech to try to be more scary.  But, while that happened, I keep trying to figure out how to avoid playing 4’s and 5’s with other clans in the name of weefolk efficiency.  I’m so not Voltronesque, even if it amuses me for Jake Rattlebones to get up to 17 Fighting.

In L5R, having reach without 4’s and 5’s seems to be the issue.  Sure, one can lunge with a multitude of cards, especially Banzai, but it’s so card intensive when your dudes are running around with strength two, that it fails even being viable.  Maybe changes in cardpool will do something about making doofi scarier, but I have a feeling I actually become more dependent upon big stats as I try to cut down on Fine Katana and Ornate Fans and any other buffing attachment dependencies.

Speed, agility, surprises, tech – I strive for these things even when I’m trying to win.  Only when brute force amuses me, like my Type P deck that is collecting dragons, do I embrace raw, unbridled hugeosity.

Even if I get more competitive, I still will likely find a way to be unsatisfied winning off of the backs of Shoju or Kisada or like any champion besides the purple, sucky one.  On the other hand, I might have to break down and play Scorpion, as Kachiko might even seduce someone as principled as I given that I’m already a big fan of Scorpion Dropbears and find possibilities for amusing Scorpion splashes out of triple core.


Impuissance

November 13, 2017

Saturday

V:TES.  Berkeley.

We wander.  Victory Point Cafe.  Power outage.

Game 1

EuroBrujah -> Anarch Aus/For -> Anthology Anarch Instantaneous Transformation -> Mata Hari Chimerstry -> Saulot IC

Uninspired at deckbuilding.  Have Anthology reprints.  Instantaneous Transformation + new vampires.  Use piles of unsorted cards.  90 card deck.  No offense.

No pressure on prey.  No pressure from predator; steals Gas-Powered Chainsaw.  Saulot helpless.  Grandprey and predator ousted.  Field Training with Salvador Garcia “fun”.

Game 2

Trem Bleed -> Aus/Dem/Vic -> Vidal Jarbeaux -> Santa & Serenna -> Baali

Santa suddens.  Predator bleeds.  I bounce.  VJ go away.  Wall up.  Baali broken.  Luc blocked.  Ousted.  Endgame.  Santa wins.

Game 3

Borrowed +1 STR CEL wall -> AAIT -> HoS Temptation -> Gangrelish with Dom -> Prince Kaymakli

Giotto multiacts.  CEL murders predator.  Club Illusion.  Temptations?!  Bleed prey out.  Flesh of Marble predator.  Kaymakli readyless; ousted.

Done.

Food:  Decent.

Hot chocolate:  Expensive, not sweet.

Ambiance:  Good.

Drive:  Bad.

Sunday

L5R tournament.  Castro Valley.

Brunch:  country fried steak (okay), seasonal vegetables (not good), spaghetti (bad).

10 players.

Pickup – Scorpion.  Unfinished.  Five completed LCG games.

Unicorn vs. Scorpion

3-costs.  Hiroue.  Yunako.  Defensive.  Time.  Concede.

Andy (Dragon) vs. Unicorn

Reduce hand.  One break first three rounds.  Andy recovers hand.  Raitsugu duels.  One Honor.  Void = three Keeper Initiates; Voidless.  Unicorn fall.

Dragon vs. Unicorn

Tilt?  Threatless.  Three rounds – three Doomed Shugenja.  Time.  Concede.  Eight completed games; tournament five.

Play:  Weak.  Slow.

Deck:  Fourless/fiveless!  Weak or ultraweak?

Prizes:  Not weak.

Nostalgia:  Talked to Ed of old days.

Mood:  Frustrated.  Unable break provinces.  Unable outwide Dragon.  Opponents’ hands full.

Enjoy cards:  Cavalry Reserves.

Unpleasant:  Dueling.  Defensive play.

Overall:  Fine.

CCGs

Desire:  Deckbuilding, tournaments.

Skillfulness:  Lacking.  Improve?

Decklists:  Improbable.


Gamehole Con 2017

November 9, 2017

Where to begin?  Oh, probably with some unexciting stuff.  I do have some enthralling material later, but let’s get some minutia out of the way.

It sounds so simple.  Take two days off from work.  Fly out to Madison on Thursday, fly back on Sunday.  No commitments other than True Dungeon.  Take L5R to play when bored and take Traveller to show off.

I kind of forget what it’s like to fly East.  Set alarm for like 3AM to get up and finish packing before getting to airport and being delayed half an hour because of undownloaded paperwork.  Set alarm for 4:30AM after Daylight Saving Time ends, in the dark, at 2:30AM, to head back.  Sure, we could sleep in twice, but, then, there’s the “what the hell are we going to do with all of these tokens we just acquired?” phase of the con.

Everyone else, even Californians who flew out, seemed to really like GHC.  I didn’t.  Oh, I don’t think it’s the con’s fault.  I think it’s the city’s fault, in part.  The convention center is isolated, so you can’t just run over to a restaurant and run back between games.  The food trucks and stalls didn’t have bad food, just food I didn’t want (well, the smoothie that was $2 more than it should have been was desirable tasting).

The hotel was loud – first night seemed like a helicopter flew right over the building.  Okay, that’s unusual and hard to control for.  Next two nights could hear our neighbors talking clearly, and I’m sure they could hear us talking clearly.  Doesn’t it get cold in the North?  Would think sturdier buildings.

Our one opportunity to go out for food was okay (if expensive).  Always amusing to go to Wisconsin for your Laotian food.  I wonder if the pork tod mun would have been better as beef, and the beef Lao paradise meat would have been better as pork.  Might have fixed the texture oddities the two appetizers had.  The main dishes were good.  Who doesn’t like deep fried noodles?  I could get even further off topic by talking about ratings for food as I travel, but let’s get around to gaming at some point.

We played a game of L5R Thursday night.

Friday

Three True Dungeon runs and True Grind.  Since there were only two dungeons, a lot of stuff just runs together.

I think I played monk on the first run, cleric on the second, ranger on the third.  Did play ranger in Grind.

The first two runs weren’t terribly notable, except some general views on the changes from Gen Con.

I didn’t like Dancing at Gen Con.  I loved Moongate at Gen Con.  I actually wasn’t terribly fond of Moongate at GHC and thought Dancing was respectable at GHC.  Switching out one of the puzzles in Dancing improved it.  Sure, the fights were still not great, one of which was actually ridiculously pointless on normal and hardcore because of how little damage was dealt.  Moongate suffered from having too little combat.  And, while I understand why it was used and we even somehow solved it on our third run of Moongate, it had a puzzle I hate … not hated … hate.  Plus, it had a puzzle I was over with the second time I ran Moongate at Gen Con.

Then, came run three.  We played hardcore, with six players, three of which lacked much experience, and two of which didn’t have hardcore level builds.  What’s a hardcore level build?  Hard to quantify outside of my view that you should never play hardcore with less than 30 hit points and shouldn’t play nightmare with less than 40.  If we had a full party, probably would have been more enjoyable.

So, we got to the second fight and we got wrecked.  Two players were a round away from dying.  I took 42 damage.  I figured we were doomed at that point, even though we got through the room.  Look, the point of challenge level is to be challenging, not to be “well, you asked for it”.  The fight didn’t scale based on our party size, and I still contend that it should due to how it worked.  If it worked differently, then, sure, don’t adjust it for underadventurered parties.

Now, we did the exact opposite of what you are supposed to do in another room.  After that amusing fiasco, I knew we were going to get wiped fast in room seven.  In some ways, that was a good thing.  For, you see, in none of the other six runs were Andy and I challenged.  Now, some of that had to do with knowing the solutions to many of the puzzles from Gen Con.  A lot of that had to do with my whining about playing a loser paladin who only ran around with 60 hit points, unlike my 77 hit point monk.  Of the seven runs, I think three were normal and four hardcore.  When we played with nightmare level players, we also had party members who could never be relevant at nightmare except as victims.

So, we were challenged and end room wiped.  Something else happened during this run.  I used consumables.  I never use consumables because that’s like burning money, in a way.  Not only did I hand out potions, but I actually used a Mystic Mushroom to bring someone back to life.  That’s right.  I finally used a token to bring someone back to life.  That’s actually more like what TD should be when you play a combat run.

There’s an argument that the reason to rein in the Eldritch healing bonus is because it makes runs boring with how easily clerics/druids mass heal parties.  Having played various ultrarare builds on normal difficulty, I totally get the idea of not feeling like there’s anything at stake, anymore.

We went to play Grind.  Before I get into some facets of that experience, I’ll note that while talking to Andy about how the last run went, I realized that I had completely forgotten:  I was psychic and could heal 4 hit points; 5th level ranger has a healing spell; I was wearing both a Linked Shirt of Healing and Pants of Blisswalk to get bonuses from Andy’s healing spells.  I may also have forgotten Icecrag healing at times.

Then, I failed to murder a puppy.

In True Grind, we played with six players who didn’t know anything about what TG is like, which is reasonable as I didn’t know what TG was like until … until … I played it.  More problematic may have been that they really didn’t have the tokens to be playing Grind.

Though, our bigger problem wasn’t combat effectiveness … no matter how much the giant head and neck of the puppy evaded my +18 to hit with my +2 Keen Slayer Longbow.  Our biggest problem was indecisiveness.  At Gen Con, with a similar plot, the group made decisions, mostly to fight, and it was good.  With this group, we kept not knowing whether to fight or not.

It was amusing.  Besides missing every single attempt to put an arrow in a puppy’s head, I did get devoured by a Gazebo – the just punishment for not being a “I guess I Mad Evoker’s Charm my Lightning Storm and Ring of Spell Storing my Charm of Spell Swappinged Magic Missile” wizard.

Worst ranger ever.  I think it only fitting I never play ranger again.  “Oh, crap, I had spells!?!”  I didn’t even remember to cast Barkskin, which I talked about doing before we started playing.

If you’ve survived to this point, let’s say I’ll go over what I thought of playing different classes after I explain Saturday.

Saturday

It is pretty sweet to have transmuting when you want to transmute.  We got 50 treasure pull bags and got mostly junk, which is to be expected.  We did finally get an ultrarare in like our sixth bag, maybe fifth bag.  We tried to put together trade item transmutes to cut weight.

For, you see, TD is really all about reducing how many tokens you have.  TD is all about cutting weight.  As Leftcoastians, we fly.  Now, if United or Southwest, we can get by with weight.  But, even so, I had to correct the counter person that I could have two overweight bags at my status level.  If you are kind of dim and fail to comprendez the problem, plastic tokens with metal inside of them weigh a lot, especially when their owners aren’t too organized and bring extra stuff to try to get rid of it only to realize that you constantly get more stuff you want to get rid of and don’t have time to because you need to get back home before work starts.

Four runs, including the last Dancing run.  I played paladin in our first run, our only run organized ahead of time through the forums – one of our better runs … hmmmmm … could there be a connection?  Then, I played monk, bard, and, finally, paladin.

Beginning with the ending, because save the best for last, our last run was so easy that I guarded someone squishy and never received any damage on a combat run at hardcore.  See below for more on playing a paladin.

Will get to playing a bard in a moment.

I found monk to be rather pleasant.  Of course, I was playing a ranged monk, as all “geniuses” do.  See … no, screw it, let me talk about ranged builds now.

Ranged Builds

I was told that in Kirk’s DMing class/seminar on Thursday night that the most common or one of the most common mistakes by room DMs is using melee stats for people using ranged weapons.  I believe, though I’m old and increasingly senile, on every single one of my seven TD runs (not my TG run, of course), there was at least one room that the DM used my melee stats when I never used a melee weapon.  Yup, in seven runs, including playing cleric(!!) and monk(!!), I played seven ranged builds.

I’m trying to get increasingly efficient with tokens and it’s just really easy to use the same high Dex builds for every class.

On some runs, it was particularly egregious how my attack mode was ignored.  In the only challenging run, my melee stats were used in the room that doomed us.  Look, I’m into being a sidekick.  I’m good with others murdering puppies better than I.  But, when I’m needed to impale fae spiders, I kind of want to be impaletastic.

I’m aware enough to call out that someone should use my ranged stats on a challenging run.  My bard can bury my strength so deep that I get -2 to hit and the DM realizes that can’t be right.  (Btw, when I played bard with a STR of 6, I was also hauling around a 30 pound backpack for 8 hours of upright gaming.)  But, what about other poor schleps who don’t scream bloody puppymurder?

Rating

It was not a bad experience.  It was a learning experience.  What we learned is that there’s not really any reason for us to go to GHC again.  We could have been at the L5R Worlds, at a HoR con.  All we really did was play True events and it was repetitive and below great.  Yeah, I’m cool with the idea of getting to know other forumites better, etc.  I just don’t need this particular setup to do more of the same.

Ratings

Bard

I don’t want to play bard again.  Maybe it would work in a run where I knew everyone.  But, it’s not the awkwardness of singing that sapped my enthusiasm while I was playing, it was that bard has too many options.  I could lore, I could bardsong, I could attack, I could scroll, I could cast.  Just too many options where I’m not that into any one of the options.

Andy’s girlfriend did ask about highlights of the experience.  I did eventually remember that having like four attacks succeed … in one round … because of bardsong was a highlight.

Cleric

I only played cleric on a run where challenge was so irrelevant that nobody even bothered skill checking me.  Hello, why do we play the game?  We play the game to pass skill checks through being suprageniusy at memorization.

I studied beads.  I never studied beads before.  I … I … *weep* … never got to prove I could identify a bead.  My soul has been crushed.

I hated playing cleric, anyway.  As I figured would happen, I was just constantly in “do you need any healing?” mode, which is tiresome.  I want spells that can burn any puppies who blink at me.

Monk

Good times.  Originally, I pegged monk as one of the classes I would never want to play.  Then, I won an auction for a crossbow, and I realized it would be perfect to be a crossbowing monk with saves greater than that of God.  I didn’t go full overboard saves with my GHC build, but I was pleased with my +14/+5 ranged monk build, playing either normal or hardcore.  On hardcore, maybe I switch into Bracers of Supreme Archery for more damage, but whatever.  I’m not sure how, but I was doing like 21 damage with some shots.  Not sure where bonuses were coming from that would have got me there.

Maybe I create some sort of thematic monk character to get into character.  Or, I just impale things with bolts instead of useless puppymurderfailing arrows.

Paladin

Two runs, two not remotely in danger scenarios.  But, I did learn one thing.  Every DM I had avoided attacking me or my ward(s).  I’m pretty senilesure that nobody I guarded and not my own personage were ever targeted for attacks.  That’s something that maybe someone can abuse in a meta way.  It’s also a bunch of crap.  The point of having abilities is using them.

The irony was that I was playing a paladin build that didn’t have an unusually good AC and had relatively poor hit points.  I was guarding the ranger on one of the runs, too.

Ranger

Dead to me.  Devoured and fertilized in the great gazebo planes.

Wizard

Not a single wizard or elf wizard play.  That was good.  Fighters are mindnumbing to me, rogue would only be tolerable in Grind, druid was so close but I didn’t have a build built because I don’t expect to be able to play druid, barbarian is just too brutal for sensibilities except maybe on nightmare where I can unleash.

Next

Finally, I can get someone to go to Origins.  Now, I can play in the V:TES NAC with TD as … a time competitor?!?