Flopping – Part Two

October 15, 2017

The new TV season started (for me).  Supergirl, Flash, Legends of Tomorrow, Arrow … nah, no pattern to what I watch at all.

Let’s work backwards.  I’m going to rant about shows and point out how this is relevant to RPG play.

Arrow

More than any other premiere, I just didn’t care what was going on.  Arrow did the worst job of following up on the season finale, which is saying something for these shows.  Is this because they don’t know how to do season premieres?  I would say it’s because they don’t know how to do season finales.  Do not have cliffhangers.  Cliffhangers are for when you follow up with a new episode immediately afterwards, like a week or two afterwards.  Cliffhangers work … when you give a damn what’s going to happen and can even remember what was happening.  I have only vague recollections of what happened in the season finales, which has something to do with how not great the season finales were, as well.

What is enjoyable about superheroes?  Right, as I said, antiangst.  What do we get in TV?  Wrongness.  Angsty wrongness.  Parenting issues.  Yup, that’s why I watch.

Here’s what I want out of Arrow episodes:  Ollie is working on his new trick arrow.  Ollie has a date with some hottie who doesn’t know he’s green on the outside, when Nyssa shows up and keeps saying “Husband, …”.  Secret identities are not for producing angst – comics actually tend to do a pretty good job with secret identities much of the time – secret identities are for humor and for those rare cases when you get inspired by the protagonist’s dual life.  You know what show did a good job with SIs?  Batman, ’60s Batman.  There was some humor.  There were times when supporting characters told Bruce or Dick about how great the caped crusaders are.  Anyway, humor ensues with Ollie doing stuff while not giving away his greenness.  Ollie wins fight at end with new trick arrow.  Do not bog down legit superhero stories with tedious melodrama.

Was last season better?  Sure.  Was last season great?  No.  Was last season good?  At times, but I got really tired of the endless losing by the protagonists.  TV back in my youth was so different.  It was episodic.  Protagonists won all of the time, and we were satisfied.  Nowadays, you take from the soap opera model of yesteryear and have losing, losing, losing.

RPG:  Don’t do cliffhangers unless you plan on playing again when everyone can still remember what’s going on.  Do not bring children into adult stories.  Do not go to the same dumb well over and over again – just accept the conventions of the genre like how SIs are for the SH to have an internal monologue about how they will keep their secret while actually doing fun stuff.  Get rid of fights that look generic – SH fights are cool because they emphasize the specialness of what the SH is doing in the fight, whether it’s cleverness, unlocking a new level, unlocking a new power.  Have PCs win, often.

Legends of Tomorrow

In its first season, the most cringeworthy show (unless you hate the progressive politics of shows like Supergirl).  At times, the most watchable of the four because it’s trying to be fun.

Season premiere’s problem:  the fun is repetitive and too broad for me.  I don’t enjoy the brofest between Nate and Ray.  Nate’s character has often not been good and the bro-ing only makes Ray seem like a joke.  Firestorm is completely wasted in every way virtually all of the time.  The best moments still tend to be Canary, Heat Wave, Cold making amusing remarks.  Then, LoT was about the less important proving they were important.  The premiere just hammers on the lovable loserness of the crew.  Few losers are lovable.  Sure, I watched Gilligan’s Island, but I also watched TV on TVs that had dials, where one of them was black and white and I had to adjust its ears.  I watched shows I hated, like I Love Lucy, because must show proper obedience to the tube.

There’s a huge time travel problem with the show.  Not that time travel is done all that well in any show I can quickly recall, but let me give some props to Doctor Who for something.  Doctor Who does future stories right, in that the Doctor and his companions can make the future better.  LoT cannot make the future better the way they play it.  All they can do is stop making it worse.  That’s depressing.  Have to fix things all of the time is not fun.  Let the future not be a case of worse and worse options.

What I want to see from LoT:  Mix up the character interactions as Stein is fine when he’s not interacting with Jefferson and the bro-down needs to chill.  Stop pushing how much these SHs are losers.  Stop focusing on fixing the time stream so it can be “meh” rather than catastrophic.  Show more cleverness in the humor.  Have Firestorm be an interesting SH, so bring on cosmic powered villains who can match his level in one-on-one contention.  Have better gender balance so that we can have relationship stuff that isn’t so limited.  Rip isn’t all bad but limit him so that we don’t feel the loser history of the group.  Have Amy show up in non-catfishing mode looking good.  Bring back villains doing their own thing because villains are way, way more interesting when they don’t just exist to be defeated (actually, this is hugely important for every SH show).

RPG:  Villains can be cool.  Let them be.  Don’t go for the same humor over and over again, especially when it’s not nearly as entertaining as other, more clever humor.  Don’t make the PCs seem like losers.  Don’t make the PCs feel like their crusade is just one of keeping the status quo.  Tell more personal stories rather than having to have spotlight time make everything groupful.  Have serious fights, like Firestorm bleeding nuclear fire from half his body as he faces off against a godlike power.

Flash

Talk is about how they are trying to bring the fun back.  What you probably need is to bring Harrison back because he was the reason season one started off amazing, well, sure, there was also the fun that Barry had.

Repetitive.  That’s how it felt, which just made Arrow that much more of a slog because I had already gone through the been to the speedforce, done the speedforce.

Was there anything in the premiere that was enjoyable rather than tolerable?  Danielle can look good, but it requires effort – Killer Frost tended to look way better, for instance.  Don’t do the white t-shirt look.  I know, this is rather specific to my interests, but I’m kind of the one writing.  Felicity would be so much better on this show, if possibly only for a while.  I’m having trouble remembering anything I liked about this episode.  Barry may not act emo, but change the haircut so that I can forget his emo days.  Cisco is so much cooler than Vibe – a little bit of Vibe goes a long way.

What I want:  Interesting power interactions between superspeed and the villains’ powers.  Superspeed is a hugely problematic power because you are a god and speedforce type superspeed is even worse because you can alter reality pretty … quick.  The villains have to have a plan to counteract.  Speed on speed was obviously overdone and got really boring much of the time.  Bring back the fun of things like Barry and Caitlin hanging out.  Iris should hang more with Cisco, perhaps.  Contrast the ridiculous power level of superspeed with the mundane.  I enjoy more the idea of superspeed food runs than much of the drama.  I kind of liked the police force being a character – give them more to do besides getting wrecked – not talking about giving Joe more to do.  Joe can be good but also just seems redundant a lot of the time in preaching same old, same old.  Stop forcing the season to be all or nothing, which is not a premiere problem but a general problem in the past.

RPG:  You can tell fun stories with powerful characters, but it requires thought.  Even if you put thought into it at first, it’s hard to avoid the trap of going to the same well over and over because that’s thematic or mechanically viable.  Supporting characters can be fun, but they need to breathe.  Mix PCs up.  Don’t forget your setting.

Supergirl

Angsty Kara.  Yeah …  Season two started off Class 1000 strong.  Why?  You know who the best character in Supergirl is?  Clark Kent.  No, not Superman.  Superman is aight.  Clark is fun.  Now, sure, can’t have him take over the show.  Instead, have Kara embrace Clark [uh, just cousins, it’s cool].

Of the four, I probably enjoyed Supergirl more, but that could be because it came first, and, rather importantly, it’s season finale didn’t end like the other shows.  There was the least amount of undoing everything that happened, though angry Girl becoming less angry Girl was kind of pointless doing/undoing.

Even Arrow because it’s a DC SH show, but especially the other three need to get more cosmic.  Evil businessman is tired already.  Foreshadowing was fine.

Want:  Clarkbar?  I guess not.  Karabar … hmmm … mmmmm?!?  Actually, Kara was pretty tolerable at times when she was at CatCo until the whole whinefest about how Kara wasn’t important began.  Lena.  Lena and Kara.  Not Lena and Supergirl, that just seems a painful path.  Lena and Kara shopping, golfing, working out …  Alex having interesting things to do rather than dwell on how stuff affects her relationship or on fights I don’t really care about.  Maggie getting back to having some of the fun Maggieness, which probably means hanging out with the boys.  Find all of the funny things Supes has done in stories and make more use of that, as I find Kara’s SI the most annoying except … it’s hard to explain, there are times when she’s being reserved at CatCo or wherever that she’s pleasant.  How about more singing?  Do cool things with powers, since you are a god that can do it all, might as well do goofy power stuff for entertainment value.  Date Ollie, at least twice.

RPG:  While some similarities to Flash in that you have godlike PCs, even more than Flash, need to think through how using powers can be fun and not OP or repetitive.  If given godlike PCs, focus on the soap opera, especially a soap opera you can have with a Lena or a Maggie, who both seem like they just want to cast off the angst and have fun.  Jimmy was Supes’ sidekick, maybe have actual fun sidekicks.  Don’t make your PCs unpleasant for melodrama purposes.  Realistic emotions is better than arbitrary wild extremes.  Foreshadow NPCs.  Change the qualitative nature of challenges so that the focus isn’t on power but on how cosmic powered PCs face cosmic level challenges through interesting resolution.

Arrowverse

Most of all, do crossovers.  Take advantage of characters not burdened with their same old tiresome problems and give them a wild party of SHing … or have them date each other.  Green is so much more pleasant when he’s hanging with Red.  Green and Alien should hang more often.  LoT is a bit of a problem because of number of characters, but I also like the supporting characters mixing it up, so it’s not that much different.  Canary and Nyssa making sarcastic comments while Green and Alien are working together – that’s unobtainium.  Firestorm and Martian going full on (please not against Kryptonited Supes but like an actual villain) against big bad.  Guest star some Wonder because who wouldn’t want more Wonder?

RPG:  Give the world enough depth that other characters interact in interesting ways with it.  Maybe players have multiple PCs who mix things up, like an Ars Magica troupe.

Well, here’s to hoping I’m more invested in second episodes.

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Flopping – Part One

October 14, 2017

I don’t do pithy posts.  It’s not just having something gaming related to think about, it’s about having enough to drone on for an hour plus about.  I had two stronger ideas inspired by recent events that lack any mechanical connection but have a thematic connection that may not be obvious, so my intent is to follow up with the second post soon, while I’m still inspired.

First up, let’s talk CCGs.

Shadowfist Kickstarter is live:  https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/2113976333/shadowfist-a-better-tomorrow?ref=discovery

Am I excited?  No, not really.  Seems like it should have come out last year, when you could have had a Fire Monkey theme and appeal to all of those icky people who like monkeys.  [Should be noted that I only hate monkeys in Shadowfist and possibly other places, like RL.  L5R Monkeys are win.]

But, I like playing Shadowfist.  Building decks has gotten harder because I only get inspired after playing and don’t immediately start building decks after our Thursday night sessions.  When I go through cards before Thursday night sessions, I’m like “Where are all of the cards I thought of building decks around after last time?”

I think there’s some good in how the KS was done – always offer a high end option.  I think there’s some lack – offer more than one high end option.  I’m also not interested in any of the cards on the main page.  I have no particular feelings about resource edges.  I guess it encourages more Thunder on Thunder plays, a not so well designed card that nevertheless fills an important hoser function.

Speaking of Shadowfist, we played Thursday as we often do, and we had one reasonably entertaining game.

Ian (Squad Faceoff) -> Joren (Monarch States) -> Don (Ascended Discard w/ Punishments) -> Justin (Hand Swords)

I bring out Black Helicopter Squad and Hit Squad after putting Waterfall Sanctuary in play.  On turn two, I put “broken” Gardens in play behind Waterfall Sanctuary.  On turn three, I put Weeping Willows out.

Over an hour later, the Mobius Gardens never received any damage.  *shrug*

The Waterfall Sanctuary was never revealed the entire game!!

The Hit Squad I played on turn one was hanging around on the turn I won!!!

Miguel!?!  See, I use cards responsibly and people don’t go insane no matter how much they complain about Hit Squad being used against them.

Even though my Jan Zvireci got used multiple times, mostly against Don’s discard deck, never took damage or left play.  My Sacred Wigwam did get seized!!  I considered this a key to my victory.

I could not keep a second location in play as every attempt to have multiple columns ended up with people attacking me and every turn of sitting on one location saw other people getting attacked because they had lots of Fighting in play and could often win on their turns.  Justin had like three NFSSs out for quite a while.  His Rice Paddies got seized by Joren, then by Don.  I never got my Sacred Wigwam back.  By not being close to victory and not having much of a site structure or anything particularly threatening offensively in play, I had the ability to regulate towards victory then pick up the pieces after hitters kept getting stopped.

I, of course, could retire this deck undefeated.  Or, I could play it again and hope to play the various cards that never saw play.

CCGs.  So, there’s this new FCG based on magic samurai.  There’s a tournament coming up, single core with roles, I plan on playing in.  Single core just seems awful with how you have no real ability to customize your 30 Dynasty Deck, defeating what I am excited about – deck construction for a CCG.

I love Influence (not Shadowfist Influence, which is terrible).  Given the tiny card pool, it still has me thinking about stuff.  I don’t love the tiny card pool for Dynasty cards.  Now, I hear people may “quit” [internet verbiage for whine about nothing in a way that just calls attention to how more important you are than people who make their financial decisions without saying “look at me”] because of the release schedule to have more cards to work with, but more cards kind of necessary or the game play is going to be really stale.

Am I committed to getting into this version, unlike the version I thought was a terrible game?  Nope.  But, I may end up committed soon.  I almost got into the VCG.  Now, I have read a review of the LCG that sounded very relevant – I’m not interested in “chess”.  I enjoy slam, bam, thank you ma’am two-player play like UC!.  I enjoy two hour dice-rolling fests of two-player play like WoT.  I enjoy a variety of multiplayer CCGs for their humorously inconclusive interactions.  Do I really want to get owned repeatedly by people who think harder than I do at card games?

On the other hand, if I can afford buying True Dungeon ultrarares, a new CCG is hardly going to be much of a financial drain, and it does give me options for things to do at cons or even maybe get back to having more regular card nights at game stores.

I’ve already created my personal ban list …  Oh, by the way, I’ve yet to actually play a single game of L5R LCG.  I haven’t even watched people play.  I’m knowledgeing myself entirely by [gag] reading rules and play guide and by reading from the interwebs.

Of course, at this point, it might be a tentative ban list.  I might sacrifice my personal honor.

Actually, I can only think of two clans I’d want to play at this time – Crab and Lion.  Crab, of course, is the only clan that has any reason to exist in Rokugan.  Lion appeals to my interest in aggro.  Oh, sure, I like Lion in the RPG, but that doesn’t translate well in my experience, i.e. what I like in RPGs and CCGs tends to diverge quite a bit.  Take Dominate – hate it in the RPG, only eschew it in the CCG because it’s a crutch.

Dragon has lame attachment theme, maybe get interesting when monkage expands.  Phoenix has lost interest to me due to RPG play …  I mean, I guess there’s some connection.  Just not interested in shugenja.  Would be interesting to have a Phoenix focused RPG campaign to make Phoenix less extreme between the boring and the psychotic.

Crane may be acceptable in CCG play where they are unacceptable in RPG play.  Unicorn suffers in CCG play from being terrible.  In theme.  In play, sounds like they suck, but I haven’t played the game, yet, so that’s just hearsay.  Unicorn reminds me of Jammers.  They will probably have cards I want to play, but I will need to dodge what they are intended to do because what they intend to do is antifun.

Imperials may have some possibilities.  I’m a hopin’ FFG doesn’t screw minor clans.  If anything could keep me wanting to play the CCG, it’s minor clan play.  Besides, gots to do what everyone does and make broken Monkey Clan stuff.  What might kill me is what they do with Shadowlands.  Shadowlands is both a great boon to the L5R world and a huge bane to rationality.

So, Shadowfist is chuggin’ to some degree.  I like that I can still play it and new cards may not be bad (unlike V:TES, where I think new sets generally make the game worse since they don’t expand on what should be expanded upon and expand on stuff that gets more annoying over time).  L5R is a possible into the 違反.

Flop, flop, flop.  Maybe I can get some V:TES play in some time.  Oh, and, of course, Traveller is the best FCG I have actually played.

As Otomo Kidai may have said a time or two back when he was Usagi Kidai, “I’ll keep my ears floppy.”


Anti Death And Dismemberment

October 7, 2017

Well, dismemberment isn’t really the likely result.  Disintegration is probably more likely.

So, it’s not that I haven’t looked at, skimmed, and even read my AD&D 1e books and modules in the last 35+ years.  It’s that they have low penetration because I’ve used so little of the game besides Polymorph Self followed by Invisibility in order to polymorph into a Storm Giant and backstab other giants.  You know, compared to what you see in mods for optimal PC play, that actually seems reasonable.

The material is inspiring to some degree.  Oh, not much of it.  Most of it is boring as hell.  Some of it is amusing if not quite to the same level as Temple of Set lunacy.  Treasure locations and types are particularly bizarre.

Just to be positive because everyone knows I’m all about the positive, monsters, magic items, and locations are what I find most inspiring.  I realize the intent of towns in mods is to provide adventure, which is why half of every town seems to be evil rather than just being people trying to live their lives in worlds where monsters can attack at any time from any direction.  Still, towns are just so much more interesting than dungeons.  Even when towns are treated like dungeons, where every location has stats and treasure notes.

While lots of monsters are absurd/silly, there are actually evocative monsters.  Something about ghouls.  I can’t stand level drain (should be attribute loss of some sort), but other undead are also more interesting.  Not so much liches, at least not when a mod just throws a lich into a side passage.

Almost all DMG magic items just come across as insanely gamey, but, that’s probably because AD&D is a gamistfest of gamistness.  Meanwhile, mod magic items or the odd stuff NPCs might have are more akin to the distinctive items folks in books might actually have.

Segue time …

I tried to think of what magic items book characters run in series I have taken seriously.  Stormbringer is a special case, but, sure, magic swords are a thing.  Elric even runs around with a magic ring, gets a magic shield at some point, and whatever.  Actually, magic items are rather important in Moorcock’s other stuff.

I can think of cases where characters have special equipment that isn’t magical but is, uh, special.  Jon-Tom has his staff and his cape.  Actually, when trying to think of what sort of magic items are more likely (ignoring stuff like Arabian Nights’ style stories which tend more towards fairy tale style), cloaks are it.  Cloaks totally get play.  Corum had a magic cloak.  Invisibility is super relatively common.

I have ideas I’m putting down for an adventure.  Magic cloak for PC totally works for me in ways that so many other things don’t.  I could buy a staff (not a wand or a rod, unless it was Egyptian style scepter or the like), I guess.  Weapons, to a degree.  Sting was fine because it fit, even though how the party got those swords was grade A dungeon crawl stuff.  The big problem with weapons is that someone else can just take it from you and be that much more badass, whether someone who downs you in a fight or another party member who would use it better.

For example, you have two N level fighters.  One has a higher STR to hit/damage bonus, otherwise their stats are essentially identical.  One has a +1 shortsword and the other a +2 broadsword.  Who should wield which weapon?  It’s not like Mudge uses a shortsword because he’s compact and all about speed and Jon-Tom uses a long staff that gets longer because he’s unusually tall and not much of a weapons expert.  In terms of team optimization, either balance things by giving better weapon to lower STR lass or unbalance things and make stronger lass just better.  Same with armor.  I was looking at one module where a multiclass character had much lower HP but had a Ring of Regeneration.  Sure, that makes sense, but doesn’t it make more sense to just pass around the Ring tactically?

RuneQuest has you bind magic items a lot of the time.  I find it to be a terrible mechanic, but it does address the problem that equipment is just, er, equipment.  This is why I hate equipment that matters.  My style of FRPG would see fighters do more damage based on things like level or based on skill level, with STR following, finally maybe care about your stuff (well, obviously, magic stuff is going to be better than non-magical stuff).  I know games have done something like this.  L5R, to an extent, does this sort of thing with techniques that add damage or attacks, though a k3 katana is way better than a k2 katana.  Power Attack, et al, in d20 works this way, but, then, every fighter is going to have Power Attack, so back to being dependent upon equipment for differentiation.

Of course, it’s not just non-spellcasters.  Even magic-users are frequently going to focus on using things like wands to supplement how few spells they cast.  “I’ll whip out my Wand of Annoyances and do 1d2 damage.  Hey, Gindalf, you have any charges left on your Rod of Explosive Decompression?”

Speaking of death … oh, I wasn’t?

Speaking of death, I didn’t use to pay much attention to HP for pregen PCs or monsters.  I’m focusing more on that sort of thing because I realize that when you have a 12hp PC, it’s going to die young, unless it’s Neutral or Evil.  Get it?  Not just a joke, more likely the N or E PCs are going to split when the going gets dangerous.  But, I’m also paying more attention to how many attacks it will take a PC to off a monster, which is basic stuff, I know, but I gloss over the dull ubiquity that is numbers in mods.

Speaking of deadliness, I do find it humorous when the module calls out how dumb highly intelligent monsters are for using weapons when their natural attacks are far more dangerous.  But, go with it because you want to give the PCs some hope of surviving.

I’m anti-death.  Oh, sure, there are compelling arguments around how it destroys any sense of narrative when you just replace one victim with another victim.  But, that’s not my problem so much.  I just don’t see the point of not caring about your characters and that’s what random death does.  I’ve heard people talk about how much they loved certain characters for how they survived the massacrefest that is oD&D.  Sure, but that’s in the style of playing something more akin to a boardgame (one might even say a … wargame).  I’ve played way more RuneQuest than oD&D and I really couldn’t care less about any of my characters or anything they do because they are just waiting to die.  Oh, I did more enjoy the troll I played because he wasn’t guaranteed to die in half the fights, though he still never lived beyond one dungeon (in campaign play that was mostly wilderness encounters).  Even with ubiquitous resurrection so that you can keep playing the same PC, it’s just some numbers on a sheet of paper that gets murdered by numbers in a book.

On the other hand, if you play a game where death is as common as Rot Grubs, you are depriving people of the experience by allowing them to avoid falling for 20d6 damage.  It’s like a different game.  A weird game where monsters don’t devour you or turn your skin slimy … and then take your place in the party only to betray it later.

Maybe that’s the thing.  Forget campaign play.  It’s all about one-shots-in-the-head.  Play it tournament style where you score points for how successful team looter is.  Yes, that’s the model for various boardgames these days, but what sort of campaign do you have when the only continuity is Grog17, cousin to Grog16?

I still find parts of AD&D charming.  It still entertains me to stat up a group of teenage “gang” members even if I have no idea whether any of their thief skill percentages are good enough to matter.

One way I’m different is I find Deities & Demigods to be quite inspiring.  But, then, I like mythology.  I’m not going to have PCs fight gods so I’m not terribly worried about what spells a god can cast 1/day, but somewhere, between the numerical nonsense, you get something.  The art helps.  I like AD&D 1e art, when it’s serious, and am not bothered when it’s cartoonish.  I guess so does having some idea about who the various deities are besides what AC they have, what their Magic Resistances are, etc.

So, one can run something any which way but Chaotic Neutral.  …  What I meant to say was that it’s possible to steal small amounts of 1e and run something that interests me, 100% storyteller, more.  In theory.

In practice, well, maybe I’ll generate enough interest to try it.  And, if it doesn’t work, just switch systems to Fantasy Hero … then Stormbringer 1e … then The Fantasy Trip … then Weapons of the Gods … then Maelstrom … then 7th Sea 2e …

 


Hazard Play

October 1, 2017

I built two Commander decks.  Both use the same Commander because it’s a three color legend I can find.  Coincidentally(?), one of my decks has a warrior thing going on and the Commander is a warrior.

I almost got a new V:TES deck done yesterday … for a session that never happened.  I suffered injury before I could complete the deck.  Old age?  Stricken down by higher powers?  Don’t try to move around heavy boxes of cards in cramped spaces without care for one’s back?  That the deck runs at least three cards on my personal banned list would suggest higher powers, but, since my back still hurts, maybe not everything can be blamed on malevolent spirits.

I am in the process of reading AD&D 1e materials.  Clearly, True Dungeon got me thinking about oD&D, while there’s this recurring question as to whether oD&D materials are actually useful for anything except humor.

I have an inkling of a goal.  Maybe I abandon it before it becomes a second stage inkle.  I’m actually thinking of using AD&D mechanics for a non-VRPG (videogame RPG) experience.  First thing to do is strip out things that I don’t consider relevant, like races.  Then, put back in racial modifiers for different tribes of humans; just kidding, possibly, or not.  One questions why not just use Conan d20, a system known to be playable, unlike the highly questionable system where a PC might have 9 hit points at level 5 (using max HP at first level for this magic-user).

Already arbitrary to start PCs at 38,000 XP (or so), rather than have players enjoy moving up through levels in the old school, Survivor-style play. Then, I have a vague idea for how to roll attributes that will lead to superiorites rather than loserites, like how the DMG offers up a variety of ways to not start out with a loserite.

Far less weird to play something else, like Fantasy Hero with 150 point characters or whatever, though as much as I’m curious about playing a basic FH campaign or a mythological FH game, part of the idea was to take only that which I find charming in AD&D and rip out a bunch of mechanics that mean nothing to me, like weapon to hit modifiers based on opposing armor type.  Or, do I rip out those mechanics …?

How to deal with magic items?

My view on magic items is that they should always be personal and specific.  Sure, once upon a time, I thought in terms of +3 Frostbrands and whatnot, but no more.  A magic item is special and not just something you will to your replacement PC for when you are guaranteed to fail your disintegrate save while your magic items pass.

That requires work.  See, that’s the thing.  You can play anything anyways you want given enough work.  But, the more work, the less it makes sense to bother since there’s, like, a lot of alternatives and one or two alternatives are better.

What’s really going on?

Lack of something to focus around.  I’m looking for something different because I don’t have V:TES or Shadowfist or HoR or “other” to keep my brain energies channeled.  I’m mentally wandering, looking to be entertained.

If I play Commander or run AD&D or find something else to latch on to for a bit until Gamehole Con pushes TD to the fore again, well, that’s fine.  This is why I’m a gamer and not elsenkind.

How to deal with spells in a less gamist experience?  No idea.  Sure, memorize that Feather Fall when the likelihood of it doing anything is:  implausible.  It’s not like Dungeon-451, part 8, wherein the party has gotten to level 5 of the dungeon and discovered a mighty waterfall guarded by owlbears and xorn.  Sorry, I played some AD&D but not enough ever to see Feather Fall or a host of other spells cast.  My magic-user/thief would just Polymorph Self all of the time, anyway, so I could always fly while scouting/fighting.

Maybe abandon the charm of AD&D as written with tons of expurgations.  Have clerics and magic-users (I’m thinking avoid druids for the moment and illusionists seem bizarrely pointless) just cast whatever they like up to their spell slot limits each day to allow for flexibility.  Well, whatever they like except limits on known spells and deity approval.

What sort of armor do PCs wear?  Etc.  Etc.  Etc.

I don’t really like the D&D paradigm in the first place.  I just want to use classes because I suddenly have this enthusiasm for classes and distinct abilities.  Actually, I was hoping to have rangers and paladins cast spells, but I forgot how high level they need to be to do that.  Definitely not dealing with 9th+ level characters in systems I’m less familiar with.

It is amusing to pay more attention to the ridiculous.  Sure, I have Best of Dragon Magazine I, II, and III, so I have consolidated articles on why monks and bards are absurd mechanically and could be done differently.  Nope.  Monks and bards don’t exist.  Now, psionics …  If you ignore psionic attacks/defenses and just looked at the powers, those are almost a functional magic system.  Not really, as some are just completely over the top, but Cell Adjustment is like how healing should kinda sorta work.

People played the game.  A lot.  Not sure how.  But, they did.

Anyway, the preference would be more V:TES, more Shadowfist deckbuilding, and finding some way to get more RPG play in either my running or someone else running.  It’s time to flame on, er, game on.

 


World Of Command

September 24, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


A-Void-ing Mistakes

September 16, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

Okay, enough about me.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fire
Fires of Purity

Water
Path to Inner Peace
Reversal of Fortunes

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

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

 


Labors Of Love

September 4, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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