Do I just keep saying the same things as if we are in a chronic hysteresis?
I don’t think I’m going to come across as chipper in this post. I can’t be mister positivity 100% of the time [… uh …].
I’m not as engaged with local cons. When you ponder which DDC’s were more memorable out of 20+, it’s not like there isn’t a been there, done that aspect to it. Why don’t I feel the same way about Gen Con when I play HoR a lot and may end up playing the same systems over and over, like Four Colours Al Fresco for a while or Feng Shui or whatever?
Because in person play of HoR locally is very different from in person play of HoR at Gen Con, for instance. At GC, you get the core players and people who put thought into metagaming the campaign, even if it’s just deciding how to form Battle Interactive tables. I’ve never played any 4CAF outside of GC, nor any Babylon RPG, etc.
KublaCon is more interesting to me from a gaming standpoint because I get to play card game events that don’t exist outside of the con, e.g. Shadowfist tournaments. Have to defend my title as Classic Champion for the sixth largest economy in the world this year, for instance.
But, let’s get back to DDC.
No hotel this year. While I didn’t mind driving back and forth in the moment, I needed a break and DDC wasn’t much of a vacation. Now, my first vacation of the year is coming up soon … At some point, get on topic.
I skipped Friday because, sincerely, I’m not in the mood to game Friday nights at cons after being at work much of the day. It’s just a desire for a mental break. Now, I’m willing to game if there’s something I’m particularly interested in playing, but there are few things I’m particularly interested in playing. Again, RPG events may sound good, but I’ve had the spectrum from amazing to atrocious, from excellent to bad, from solid to mediocre, unforgettable to forgettable. I am more likely to enjoy playing than thinking about the possibility of playing. It’s like how I have no problem working out but hate thinking about working out so I hardly ever initiate the exercise.
Also, I don’t think my friends and gaming associates realize how little I have always been interested in quick games or pick up games or whatever. I invest in certain games (or types of games) and want to play those a lot, and I play what other people want to play that doesn’t feel like it will be a drag. I’ll demo games I haven’t played, but I don’t go out of my way to do so unless they have a hook that is extra hooky for me. I’d much rather talk about a game that interests me or even hear someone’s review of a game that doesn’t interest me than play filler games.
Saturday, I get in a bit after 7:30AM and find ample parking at the hotel. I get my usual breakfast from Bagel Street Cafe of pastrami and swiss on a poppy seed bagel (because they don’t have the bread rolls baked yet) with a large peach smoothie with whip cream.
Bagel Street Cafe. It’s a chain. I don’t think I’ve ever been to one other than in San Ramon. There’s one in the shopping center where I get my hair cut and I’m not entirely sure where it is. Yet, conwise, I’d be happy to eat twice a day at the place with the occasional dinner somewhere outside of the adjacent shopping center where I can get a burger or fish and chips or whatever.
I show up like 8:30AM for my 10AM Traveller demo. Try to work on my piracy deck for a Developer’s Corner article on travellerccg.com and fail to make much progress as people are already showing up to demo the game. Demoing happens, with Jeff leading. It’s only 2 hours for the event, but we continue demoing for another 2 hours. Then, food, or, as I like to call it, smoothie number two, berry [blackberry?] smoothie this time.
Saturday night is V:TES, which is a couple of games. We call the second game after my Hermana Mayor deck has gotten a VP from my prey’s Anarch Revolts and ousts a second player, while my grandpredator finally stealth bleeds out my predator. The first game was a spin on Hatchling.dec where I had .5 VPs at time and 3 VPs playing the game out with Arika as my predator and my Aus/Pre/Vic bruise bleed deck as prey. Sucked up a bunch of Starvations of Marena, but my prey decked.
Not home too late … if I wasn’t old and decrepit.
Sunday, roll in an hour later as I didn’t get out of bed at 5:20AM to build decks, like I did on Saturday. Get the strawberry smoothie and am pleased with it, as well. Which to get Monday? Which?
Demo, similar structure, different people, at 10AM. Then, tournament time. Time for ruthless beats. Time for glory, honor, status, and swag. Except, I’m one of the guys who made the game, so like none of those apply.
I’m playing against a precon. I’m not winning. I then have a crazy complicated turn after having relatively straightforward turns earlier. Oh, I’m playing my Prepared Scout deck from my website article, with a few adjustments to the crew and maybe one or two other cards.
I have a Body Pistol in play and shoot Rika Honami. I Freelancer Flint into play and jettison her. I have played a SureShot Missile Turret and Just a Little Longer … another SureShot Missile Turret and I Glitch one of my Turrets to reuse it so that I do 6 or whatever damage as a pirate to bankrupt my opponent. May not sound that intense, but I think also Freelancered another crew in play for some reason and used my Starship Graveyard to get back one of those Turrets.
As usual, I was virtually bankrupt myself. A Scout may always be prepared, but this Scout is always poor.
If I hadn’t taken out Rika, he might have completed his contract and won.
Now, I think I only won – not because my constructed deck was the wasp’s elbows – because I understood the game far better than someone who just started playing in the Sunday demo.
Paired off with another 1-0 player, some guy named Jeff who has played the game before. This was a very casual event due to people kind of getting in late and not being quite sure who was playing. He got out to a lead. At a certain point, he was up 13-11 in VPs. Then, his friend showed up who was planning on playing and took over.
On the penultimate round, I went for a big contract to try to get 6 VPs and win. I got 5. I had numerous ways to get 6, but I had two cards left in my hand and none in my deck and didn’t have the money to play both cards or play one and use my Luxury Suite for the 20th VP. I was ready to concede as I thought that round was my only chance, as bankruptcy or my opponent getting to 20 seemed inevitable. With one card left, we went to the next round. I used my last card to jump to a cheap survey contract. With zero cards in hand or deck, with two crew who would have been jettisoned if my opponent had not healed each for one damage for amusement value, I scored three more VPs and my opponent got stopped by my deck that doesn’t actually interact hardly at all with my opponent (except when I can pirate on the last round for the kill) because he didn’t choose to gain Survey with the Empress Marava Far Trader during the resource phase and my last complication play was Electro-Magnetic Interference. Of course, if he had pirated me, I was dead.
In other words, if Jeff had played the game out entirely, he would have been 2-0 instead of me.
At this point can make a point by pointing out that knowledge of games is really helpful in games that aren’t luckfests of lucksackiness. Many, many plays could have prevented me from winning, but, when you get dumped into the middle of a game that you aren’t particularly familiar with and are playing against someone who helped create the game, sometimes you don’t win.
During the second round, I had more than 30 cards in my discard pile. In two rounds, I played or used about two-thirds of my deck. That’s some two legit two spit right there.
I outraced my opponent who didn’t have enough ways to stop me from gaining VPs. He had a slow start and was way behind and only because I do a great job of getting close to bankruptcy did I manage to get to 21 VPs with only a couple of cards left.
My intention is to write a “takeaways” article for our website. An obvious takeaway is that knowledge of the game matters. And, this is good. It shows we came up with a game that rewards things that should be rewarded.
Another takeaway is that the precons are fairly playable. Only one other player built a deck and he was 0-2 after two rounds of playing against precons, finally getting his piracy deck to work in the third round.
Went to dinner at a Cajun place and I got boring Cajun Burger since I was in the mood for a burger.
At one point, Brad and I were talking about FCGs versus VCGs. We are VCG fans. Do I go into a rant now?
I guess. It seems gratuitous to rant in a separate post.
VCGs are better. Here’s why.
Complaint number one: I don’t get all of the cards when I buy random packs. If you want to get complete sets, go to eBay to get complete sets. If eBay doesn’t have them, reach out to the publisher or the player base and offer to buy complete sets. Meanwhile, without randomness, you lose sealed play outside of “duplicate”, draft play that is remotely interesting, and you even lose any interest in opening up any product since you know exactly what will be in there when you do. Well, okay, *I* lose interest in opening any product. As much as I often feel bad opening up boosters for games where I need copious numbers of certain cards, I also find it interesting to occasionally crack a booster, though more so with Magic where I don’t own all of the cards already.
Complaint number two: VCGs are too expensive compared to FCGs. If you are the type to buy three core sets of L5R and be satisfied, you aren’t playing a CCG, you are playing a boardgame with customization. You may feel differently, but that’s the way I feel. I consider the correct number of L5R core sets to be minimum 18. Every three core sets allows for two decks (with extras, of course). So, 18 core sets is 12 decks at once (in truth, slightly more because you will avoid splashing too much of the same thing because you crave variety). I’m a card flopper, 12 decks is a norm. I range from 7 decks to 22 decks built at once for most card games I play. I think I have around 20 Shadowfist decks built at the moment, about 12 V:TES decks (not counting decks for my limited collection experiment and the like), and only 4-5 L5R decks because I’m not taking L5R seriously yet. Not that it’s a fair comparison because my Magic decks are almost all Type P decks, but I have about a hundred of those built. Amazingly enough, 18 core sets is like $600-$700 plus getting like three copies of each expansion pack so that you have nine copies of every expansion card costs more money, though only nine copies of cards sounds rather low to me as some of those cards may go in every deck. Then, if you really aren’t into being able to build every deck possible for a game, like I am, pretty easy to play CCGs for free. Want to play Magic for free? Just ask people for their extra commons. Want to play V:TES for free, find me and I can hand over a thousand cards. Will you have exactly three copies of every card for a three card limit game? No. But, I imagine the only need to have such a collection is for tournament play, in which case can just borrow a deck. CCGs are about infinite variety. I embrace that. Hard for me to get into the mindset of only wanting to have like a thousand cards for a game, even if I’m also willing to play card games with only like a thousand card collection … up until the point that I end up with 20,000-40,000 cards.
Now, obviously, not everyone approaches gaming like I do, which is probably why I have this blog and not everyone who plays games has this same blog. I mean, look at the market – we never considered putting out Traveller as a VCG because I’m in some sort of minority based on visible opinion.
Get home early, watch some Olympics because freestyle skiing halfpipe qualification is interesting. Land high – ooh, not that high.
Monday is the key day. The day that doesn’t involve showing people how to play the greatest card game, no, the greatest game ever possibly thought of in all of the multiverses in all of time, even the funky nonlinear time(s). Monday is the day I decide to go with the berry smoothie again. Monday is the day I fail forwards …
Brad is running 2d20 Conan. For most of us, this is the first attack, the Pictish Frontier of Conan play, the day that ole Ian forgets to bring the character sheets he has been carrying around all weekend.
Character creation is involved. Already, the suffering. Plus, certain people, who shall remain nameless until I out him, did not back the Kickstarter and, thus, we are trying to learn how to play with four players and two core books.
Spoiler: we didn’t like the system. Now, we (most of us) played Conan d20 for like 9 years. Sure, it wasn’t perfect [see blog posts for mini rants], but it wasn’t hard to jump into. This was just hard. For some, the dicerolling wasn’t clear.
I read a long thread on rpg.net about Conan after I got home. There were posters who talked about how antagonistic the game feels with Doom Pool uses. I felt that in my half a session. Em, we didn’t finish an adventure because Brad got tired of trying to run the system and it was close to the end of the con. Now, I can’t say I’ve never felt like a GM was shutting me down when I wanted to do something, and maybe the adventure in the book just sucks, but I felt like there was way too much preventing us from doing things, which seems like the opposite of what narrative mechanics are intended for.
I grew so tired of these right quick. Because geniusness also can include overlooktheobviousness, I didn’t realize until our postgame analysis that the reason rolling 20’s comes up so much more often than d20 is because … er, 2d20 is twice as much as d20, while 3d20 is like more than twice as much as d20.
Fail forward, “yes, but”, complications – all of these strike me as actually getting in the way of just playing a game. They put more pressure on GMs and players to justify mechanics rather than just ad hocing on the fly as you are freewheeling … okay, okay, I’ll hinder myself.
Gamistier Than Thou
I’m going to pummel this live donkey in another classic gaming rant.
Narrativist mechanics aren’t narrativist – they are gamist. Because, pssst, let you in on a secret that nobody else can possibly derive – mechanics are gamist. “But, old, decrepit, get off my AD&D 1e lawn dude. You don’t understand gamist/simulationist/narrativist. You are going to be defeated once I enlighten you to the true RPG metaparadigm whatsit.”
The more you mechanize a game, the more the focus of the game shifts from story to mechanics. This is why I don’t like crunchy systems.
Before I forget, let me tell a story, like old, cranky people are wont to do. When Origins was in San Jose, I attended and I was introduced to Immortal: The Invisible War.
I played two sessions run by Ran Ackels, who some of you may know as the guy who created Immortal. I retain, in my feeble memory, a recollection that the way he ran these games was “Roll a die [d10], and I’ll tell you what happens.” That is narrativist play. Dice exist to give some level of randomness to short term results; as the party succeeds or fails at things in the short term, the long term is adjusted.
They don’t exist to be an economic engine. Momentum, Doom Points, Fortune, Complications are all mechanisms for having players and GM focus on and manipulate mechanics.
Do I hate Fortune? No. It’s obviously related to Bennies in Savage Worlds which I do pretty much hate (slightly). It reminds me of Fate Points in d20 Conan, Hero Points, and their ilk, which I actually like.
You know what else I like? When we played oConan, we got ladybugs (reroll for you) for writing fictions/session reports, spiders (+2 to roll) for bringing food, arrowheads (reroll for anyone, including NPCs and antagonists) for extra effort. Are these gamist in the way trying to maximize Momentum or trying to build Fortune is?
They are modifications to existing rules, whereas Momentum is a subgame. This was my problem when I was exposed to Fate. I felt like Fate was far more gamey than d20. You do things not because you want to but because the *mechanics* of the game reward you for doing them. I’m now playing a game of manipulating mechanics rather than playing a game of seducing the immortal witch (“failed Diplomacy, reroll, reroll”).
Do I hate Doom/Momentum? *shrug* Maybe.
Fail forward is, in other words, succeeding. If you can’t actually fail at whatever the adventure is supposed to be about, what sense of accomplishment do you get?
This is a tricky topic that I’ve touched on before – the topic of players feeling a sense of accomplishment. I worry about this when running systems where you either succeed at die rolls or fail at die rolls. Because I can’t escape the epiphany that what I enjoy as a player is feeling like failure was possible but not actually failing, so accomplishment is an illusion of perceived ability to be disaccomplishmentary.
In oConan, we failed. Oh, we succeeded fairly often, at times because of pulling a reroll out of our gamebags, at times probably because we weren’t doing something all that difficult, it just seemed difficult. But, we also straight up failed. We ran away from demons loosened. We ran away from Pict harriers. We Fate Pointed to be found on some island beach or in wreckage at sea or whatever that I no longer remember.
And, in seven years of one campaign, things moved forward and stories were told and retold. This is what the intent of these narrative mechanics is – stories move forward with setbacks until you climax [sic]. But, you don’t need that in any given session. You can get that across sessions to where a campaign isn’t some exercise of fudging [ha] results.
Why give power to the dice? They already hold players’ pathetic little minds within their sway. “These dice suck, I’ll go get other ones.” “Don’t roll the GM’s dice. They will curse you.” “Look at how sparkly my dice are.” “I always fail Honor Rolls.”
I don’t dislike the system (the part of the system that doesn’t involve Momentum, Doom, or Complications). Though, I’m trying to figure out how you can build a functional sorcerer in the beginning, which I guess I could go to the forums and read about. I just find it incredibly clunky and extremely gamey. Just the fact that PCs get to decide what order to take actions in is itself gamier than rolling initiative. Yes, it is. It becomes a subgame, and the more subgames you have, the more game you have.
There’s also way too much emphasis on equipment, with a lot of equipment being obscenely expensive. I bought a bow and that used up all but one of my gold. A crappy bow, by the way. This was something d20 did really well – outside of primary weapon, equipment was something you hardly paid any attention to. Sure, armor could be good, but armor could also suck.
I might get used to the economics of the subsystems of Momentum and Doom that are built into the system. I’m not sure I’ll ever think they add value to playing, but rewriting the game to take them out is a waste of time, when we could just go back to playing d20 or I could homebrew another Roll & Keep variant.
So, yeah, DunDraCon. It was good. Traveller isn’t perfect but playing Traveller gets me thinking more like a player of the game rather than being in developer/designer mode. I think about how the game has all of these cards that you want to play but can’t at the same time, which seems positive. Conan was something worth doing even if it wasn’t nearly as fun as our old convention sessions tended to be. I got to talk to people. I had four smoothies in three days, though the waistline impact is not a victory.
If only we could get more Traveller cards to the people who are enthused about playing. If only I was a beam of sunlight reflecting off of a unicorn’s horn during a musical on Christmas Eve. If only I remembered to pass the character sheets to Brad before Monday. If only I could remember what else I wanted to write about so that I could get to 4000 words in this post.