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).

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Gen Con 2017 – The $8 Story

August 21, 2017

I am a Gen Con expert.  A limited one, of course.  I know RPGs and only a bit else gamingwise.  I don’t know a lot of food options that aren’t likely to interest me and a few that might.  I don’t know every ballroom name in every hotel and where they are in relation to each other.  I know nothing about industry events, parties, concerts, etc.  I know nothing about family events or the con puzzles, and I avoid the exhibit hall as much as possible.

But, I have had many years of incredibly smooth logistics because I knew precisely what I needed to do to fit my needs.

This year wasn’t smooth.  It certainly wasn’t efficient.  It wasn’t a cluster by any stretch, but it was a learning experience.

The single thing that had the biggest impact was True Dungeon, where it affected in many ways.  Rather than list those ways now, I’ll just move forward with something of a timeline.

Wednesday

Every travel day is a hassle.  In order to get our 6AMish flights, we do things like get up at 3AM and finish packing.  Already the sleep deprivation has begun.  When the four of us congregated, it turned out we planned on checking two suitcases.  Four of us, to Gen Con, flying Southwest(!!), checking two suitcases.  That was not remotely my understanding and it added unnecessary stress.  We had to move stuff around from a suitcase to carry on bags.  My carry on was already heavy due to Magic decks I never used (I think I just give up on the idea of playing Type P in airports or in the nonexistent deadtime because it’s just not a high priority, anymore) and TD tokens.

Tokens are heavy.  My suitcase was already around 46 pounds, though it had a good amount of space.

Flights were fine.  Lyft was fine to hotel.  Check in was fine.  Some tickets were will call, so we went to dinner first.  Dinner was fine.  I had trades or buys to complete for TD tokens that complicated the night.  Two of us waited around until after the Golden Ticket runs and it was rather tedious and inefficient.  We didn’t have all of the builds ready or tokens sleeved or whatever for …

Thursday

8:26AM Dancing Combat

Our first game was TD, and it was the first combat run outside of the Golden Ticket runs.  I’m going to avoid as much as possible spoilers for rooms as I expect many of the same elements to exist at Gamehole Con and next year’s cons prior to Gen Con.

We broke four things in the first room.  We were not remotely close to figuring out the solution.

I suppose I should back up a little bit and, rather than wait until it was more noticeable, get this out of the way.  Having a collection means far more logistical concerns than not having one.  We were the only players with Charms of Avarice on three of our runs and I can only think of one other 5th level character on any of the four TD runs, though two players on the last run could have been, I’m sure, if they were playing at full strength.

So, I was much more stressed as I was worrying about:  do we have 5th level cards; what difficulty are we playing; does one of our group need tokens, maybe ones I just picked up the night before; does my app build match my album build; will the party card accurately show how many treasure pulls we get.

Learning experience.  I understood conceptually why people liked buying out runs and arranging parties ahead of time.  I now see how much practical impact it has, as it’s a huge pain in the back, shoulders, and calves to carry around a bunch of unnecessary tokens.  I’m thinking I go with a general build that applies to any class and switch out maybe a dozen tokens to cover class differences.

Second room, fight.  We got nowhere.  Eric was planned for bard but ended up ranger because the one other player with significant experience was playing bard.  I gave him a build with like a +16 to hit.  We were playing normal (we played normal in all four TD and in True Grind).  He missed every(?) time.  We think his melee stats were being used rather than ranged stats.  But, talking to an admin Saturday night and reading the forums, also believe the fights were just way too hard, at least early on.

I was telling my mother(!) today that the correct way to lead off TD runs is with a not difficult puzzle, followed by an easy combat, at least if you are running normal.  TD can be really hard for new players.  TD often involves groups who don’t know each other.  Give the party time to coalesce.  Give them time to adjust to what they suck at, like wasting time during combats.  Not only is it more fair to ramp up challenges as teams get into grooves, my personal feeling is that I enjoy runs far more where we are successful early and failing late rather than failing early and successful late.  TD has a ton of casual players at Gen Con, want players to feel good about spending $62 per run.

Third room, I mentally gave up immediately.  They made this easier later in the con, too.  Fourth room, fight with lockdown effects, i.e. spellcasters could not cast spells until something happened.  I’ll rant more about this later.  I could not believe how much damage was required to take out the enemy given we were playing normal.

Four rooms, four failures.  Fifth room, success.  Sixth room, is success even a thing?  Kind of a scenery room.  It was cool to look at but frustrating to play.  Last room, another fight where we accomplished nothing, as I was locked down the whole fight and couldn’t finally unleash my way OP build for normal difficulty.  Everyone did survive, which was something I guess, but it came across as a frustrating run.  I think I dropped below 60 hit points, which never happened on the three other runs.

Our OP builds didn’t really help.  I felt afterwards like I had to deal even more damage to make sure the group could get through fights, though this thinking is probably not the correct path.  If the fight is unfair, let it be unfair on the GM’s side.  Don’t make things even more unbalanced by being able to nuke any encounter at any time, as that just increases the perception problem.

We took treasure chips and went our various ways.  Eric H wasn’t going to do True Grind, so he got the privilege of standing 2.5 hours in line to get L5R LCG cards so that I could play Sunday’s tournament.

I had more transactions to do.  Here’s something I found really annoying – there was awful direction as to where things were.  I ended up in the wrong training room for the run because we didn’t go as a group (too long putting party cards together on three(?) of our runs).  I didn’t know where the dealers were as I didn’t realize there was other stuff inside.  I found out later where the transmute room was by accident since I was looking for the Grind room, that I didn’t realize was the left entrance rather than the right entrance.  Just awful guidance, where there was no specific information booth.

True Grind (Noon)

I try to get ahold of our True Grind patrons, as we were three replacements for their team.  I fail electronically but, fortunately, I run across one of their team hovering near TG and we figure out where we need to go.  Eventually, everyone is in the right place and Andy has no idea what tokens I forced on him because I didn’t think to print out our builds and nobody wrote anything down the night before when I had them pulled up on the screen.

We decide on normal but hardcore would have totally worked.  This group was really good at such things as sliding!  They pumped out tons of damage to where I could hold back on spells.  We cut a deal against one “room”.  The paladin and I were taken out for a while in room seven, to where my coming back led to a great storm of lightning.

At no time did I feel bad about throwing out 30+ point magic missiles.  Hail power!  I was the only one who took much damage, almost all of which was self-inflicted through Mad Evoker’s Charm.  Got to the point where nobody wanted to heal me until I had taken 42 or more damage just so someone could heal me for 42 damage.  I often spent time down around 24 points, leaving me at 57.  Dave got to successfully hit things with his +14 to hit fighter, dealing 30 points of damage at times, just like … not … when he played/plays cleric.

The best part of this may have been that Eric C was a room GM.  We hadn’t seen each other in years and we chatted a lot while the event was taking place.  I enjoyed my punishment for not metagaming harder.  The group was fun, sociable.  Thank Alek, et al, for giving us the opportunity.  The only thing I would have preferred is that there be more Fae to make more current year tokens relevant.

HoR (Thursday 2PM)

Start the other half of the con.  We get seated with John D as our GM for One Moment, One Encounter.  It goes well.  It’s a far better intro mod than any mod before it to Balishnimpur.  It runs well, with the main drawback being travel guide stuff that I already knew.  I really don’t remember a whole lot about the plot.

HoR (Thursday 7PM)

Can’t get into 5 or 8, so I try to get a table together for 9 or 12.  It’s just me, as Andy and Eric are at the concert and Dave isn’t doing HoR until Friday night.  I get into 9, Essence of Fire, with a GM coming in very late.  What proceeds is an incredibly tedious experience of dwelling on minutiae.  We aren’t into the plot until hours into the session.  I understand that some people want to experience their characters, again, a reason to play online when you aren’t sitting at a table and knowing how much of other people’s time you are wasting.

We finally get into plot, figure out what needs doing.  I have to run but get some rolls in to help the ritual.  Miss post ritual stuff completely.  I specifically wanted open library before late night TD runs to get short mods done early.  This was a fail, but I brought it on myself.

Find out the next day we were especially successful and I got a powerful sounding cert.  I actually want to run this mod as it seems like it could be enjoyable mechanically.

True Dungeon Moongate Combat (11PM)

I screwed up.  When TD was dropped from Sunday, I was annoyed because it meant having to play around my usual RPG schedule.  I worked out a way to have my triple steakburger and eat it too by scheduling late night TD sessions after my usual stuff.  Then, the reality of what this meant kicked in.

Thursday was harsh.  Thursday was brutal.  This schedule only contributed to Andy’s sickness problem.  We cannot do a schedule like this again.  What we talked about on the flight back was consolidating two TD runs into a single RPG slot.  Hopefully, Sunday TD is brought back.

This group was great.  We talked about stuff.  Came really close to playing hardcore.

I so vastly preferred this dungeon to Dancing.  Yes, everyone loves the first room.  But, I just found these rooms mechanically to be so much more pleasant, though maybe being successful at things helped.  The first room was beautiful in a few ways, but I just really enjoyed having a room with light.  It gets old constantly flashing your light around to see things.

Second room was what you want – low effort combat.  Surprisingly easy puzzle, though I now get that it’s only supereasy on normal.  Fight that didn’t seem hard as I mostly ignored it and we were fine.  Another fight that we succeeded at without being clever.  Fight that was awkward, as some TD fights get, and not remotely interesting to me where I still didn’t have to do a whole lot.  Final room puzzle that is fine but we didn’t figure out the second part at all, though there was an accident at the end that gave away what we were supposed to do.

Dave and Eric were playing RoSP classes because they were out of 5th level cleric and bard.  Neither took particular advantage of them.  Eric was an ill prepared troubadour.

Fun.

Friday

HoR CIT12 (Friday 9AM)

We have limited options as we wanted Dave to not play a court mod, and we weren’t missing much, so we did open library.  It went well, it went efficient.  I failed to convince an Owl Clanner who is into Imperial relations with my Imperial which I found interesting for my character.  I discovered my campaign hook in this mod.  I am the Miya of balance, in that complete obliteration, annihilation, and devastation must be rained down upon my enemies.  Will I live up to the moniker of Herald of Destruction?  Time will tell.  Yup, court mods.

Eric also got some character development.  The Flower Champion may have gotten bigger things to worry about after later events, but this is why you go to Gen Con.  Sure, he could have made rolls anywhere, but there are more opportunities to gain character hooks because you aren’t just playing with the same old, same old.

This ran so smoothly, we had time to go back to the room and nap.  Yeah, not a good sign.

ODAM (Friday 2PM)

My only non-HoR/non-True event (foreshadowing).  Of Dreams and Magic.  Sweet.  I get to play a self-help guru, that I attempt to roleplay, sweet.  We take forever to get things done and I have to leave before the game is over to make 7PM HoR even though I know it’s going to start late.  Tiresome.

I almost played the entire session without doing anything magical.

So, here’s something I intellectually know and try to incorporate into games I run.  If you have characters with cool powers, they must use those cool powers and they should use them as fast as possible in games.  Do you know why I loved Immortal: The Invisible War?  It wasn’t the incomprehensible and unplayable RAW.  It was Ran Ackels running my first couple of games and “just roll a die” and awesome special effects explanations of your powers.

Plus, this game was in the JW.  JW is a nice environment, but, as I say every year, it’s a pain to have games in it as it’s a far cry from everything else most of the time that matters to me.

HoR CIT14 (Friday 7PM)

Let’s get ready to rumble in the jungle.  Dave had already decided to play a combat character.  He strides boldly forth and is not punished for it.  Actually, he reminded me of my Daigotsu Bushi.  We learn the true power of the Tortoise.  We get a nice fast game in so that we can wander over to TD.  Solid action where I fail to hit calling 5 raises for extra attack.

TD Dancing Puzzle (Friday 11:03PM)

Solid group, again fun to interact with.  You could tell Andy was struggling with illness.  We were way OP for the one fight that mattered.  I was almost nonexistent on this run, even though we had failed two of the puzzles before.  This group got the workshop.  Got the forge.  Got path at last moment, where I mostly talked to the priest.  Last puzzle looked nice but so not my thing and we weren’t coordinated enough to make anything happen.  The only death.

Talked some more after the run.  Fun stuff.  I did some treasure pulls, got a bunch of junk, gave away a rare.  One of the two late night groups, I don’t remember which one at this time, I lent a Defender Helm to.  I should have just sold it for a $1, as it’s completely extra to us.

Saturday

Battle Interactive (8AM!)

Couldn’t miss this, even though I was getting sick and Andy was hurting.

The Flower Champion wilted and didn’t run with our assault team.  Andy and I found other Crab and the glorious killing machine that is Kasuga Ieyasu.  We almost had a Lion commander, but he moved to an extra table, so here’s the lineup for our assault table.

Hida Bushi, Hiruma Scout, Kuni Shugenja, Kuni Witchhunter(!!), Kasuga Smuggler(!!), Miya Herald …

I was living the dream.  The dream of evisceration.  I asked about a bow or armor.  Nope.  Miya Herald with a daisho and no ranged or armor.  Living the dream.

We start tier 2.  We have to keep up with Matsu Berserkers.  We kind of understand what that means.  We hack and slash.  I quickly realize the Smuggler build is essentially my build only further down the path of eradication, plus better in pretty much every other way.

We do reasonably well.  I make a mistake of spending a VP on ATN on round one only to have it end up mattering.  I’m out of VPs around round 3 of this combat.  Kuni Shugenja Medicines me after fight to full heal.  We had really good rolls early.

Tier 2.  We have to clear a building of archers.  Since the door is barricaded, I do the obvious and go to climb to the second story window.  I take 32 wounds, pull myself into the room, and face 12 enemies.  I’m thinking “it’s a good thing I can free action draw my sword”.  The rest of the team follows me, the Miya Herald, into the boss room.  The GM thinks we are nuts.  I think it’s dumb to have a barricade that a tetsubo can effortlessly break down and be punished for trying to do something interesting.

We get wrecked.  I’m about to go full defense when the GM has me notice the fight next door.  I pick up a spear, hurl it through the window and get +1 Devotion to my Matsu gunso ally.  With empty hands, I get reduced to down.  Only Andy’s tank is not ravaged.  The first level enemies are coming up and the Kasuga barricades the path!  The Kuni summons oil!!  The enemies get owned in a contested strength roll.  While Down, the GM lets me cast the best spell in the game:  DIPLOMACY, which summons a higher rank Matsu Berserker from improbablewhere.

By the way, the whole time we were fighting, I was exclaiming “COURTIERS” and “DIPLOMACY” as we cut down warriors and peasants.  Living the dream.

I get healed for a ton and we finally decide to swap with someone in the reserves and go tier 1.  We should have gone higher tier as our new shugenja healed us a ton and dropped Fires of Purity left and right.

The Maharajah’s Banner.  We took one of them.  Andy kicked fiery kicks of death while holding it.  I kept trying calling 5 raises for extra attack and … finally! … got off multiple attacks.  I came up one short one time, three short another, both times rolling 10 dice and having none explode.

While the last round was beneath us and the second round was poor play, this was a vastly better battle interactive to most of the HoR3 ones.  I felt like something was happening even though I probably did more interesting things in the early HoR3 BIs and the enemies were rather dull in our fights.  We could have faced cultists, which would have been different.

I just need to up my power so that I can be like my hero, Kasuga Ieyasu, then we start tier 3ing stuff.

Andy was at my table and got the banner.  Eric got his character defining moment of totally stealing from the Scorpion.  He wanted to wuss out on the political interactive, figuring the Scorpion would just kill him at their court, but I kept trying to get through that that’s not how it works.  Killing isn’t punishment in L5R.

Political Interactive (3PM)

And, so I switch to a political character, the natural switch from Miya Herald to Kuni Shugenja.  Team Crab!

I won’t get too much into clan politics.  I tried to focus on those groups the clan didn’t seem to care much about – Imperials, minors, Owl.  I felt like I did something.  It was interesting to see the real power brokers negotiate.  The Lion declaring war on the Crab was hilarious.  The insults to the Crane were hilarious.

I accomplished nothing.  I have no reward for taking a social character into a social setting.  But, I enjoyed myself.  Didn’t get burned out after an hour as I usually do at political interactives.  Eric got to lie to the Scorpion Champion, so he’s loving being the only Mantis left who is “when you come at the Flower Champion, you best not miss”.

Andy could not do another TD run.

TD Moongate Puzzle (10:01PM)

We had agreed beforehand that if we did normal, we would do 5th level sealed greedy, i.e. use only our 10 packs with +1 level and treasure enhancers.  This was not a boon.  Dave had to run to refund Andy’s ticket.  I still had my entire binder collection in case we weren’t doing normal.  Eric had Andy’s token wooden chest, with a padlock we couldn’t open.

We ran with someone who knew the dungeon well.  I was very much into observer mode on the run.  We didn’t succeed at everything, but it felt like it wasn’t really necessary to do so.  The two new rooms were good and not so good.  I liked the flower room because it looked nice and it was different.  I can distinguish that smells are different, but I don’t distinguish what smells are.  I just can’t articulate what I know.  The dark room was just really boring to me.

We just missed treasure pulls up front, which irritated me as I need at least one bag to not have to do tedious stuff.

We got back to the room and I started in on thoughts on TD.

Sunday

Collectively, we gave up on the one commitment of the day.

I was signed up for the L5R LCG tournament.  I had lost interest during the con pretty quick.  Andy had interest.  Eric got product so that one of us could actually play.  We couldn’t even generate the effort to return the seemingly highly prized $8 ticket given how out of it we were Sunday morning.  Plus, we had to check out (this is one reason I like returning Mondays).

In the past, I got pissed off by forgetting to return generics, which is why I never buy them.  I plan my schedule meticulously and force myself to do everything I sign up for.  It usually works quite well logistically.

I want to hold on to this $8 ticket to remind myself of something.  First of all, I’m not a poor gamer.  Nobody who can afford TD ultrarare builds is.  The money lost was trivial compared to the physical trials I put us through.  Second, it was a lesson in greediness.  TD is very prone to greediness which I’ll go into more in a bit.  I was greedy to play not only a normal schedule of 3/3/3/Sunday event but to add two more events on top of that.  To some extent, I just overlooked how important not only 2 hours is but that a lot of HoR play ends early and it’s far more than 2 hours saved by not running from HoR to TD late at night and that Lucas Oil is a huge drag to run over to.

Btw, if we hadn’t stayed at the Hyatt, this con would have been that much more brutal, as HoR, at least, was convenient.

I so hope TD returns to Sundays.  If it doesn’t, we have a thought on how to do GC next year, but it’s not great and highly dependent upon getting into precisely the TD/TG slots we want.

One of us could have played in a premier event at Gen Con.  We slept or lay in bed thinking about how time was passing and didn’t care.

The lesson wasn’t just that I overdid it, that I didn’t prepare enough, that we didn’t prepare enough.  It’s that I got complacent.  I am so used to having my Gen Con be molded to my interests that it’s easy, only being fraught with peril because I’m a worrywart.  TD at this level rocked my easy – 10 RPG plus something else with triple steakburger every morning at 7AM, 7:30AM, or 8AM and again later in the day between clearly defined RPG slots – world.

Went to the exhibit hall for a bit but didn’t care.  Watched L5R demos and was shocked at how slow they were.  Missed out on swag that could have been gotten Thursday if I had thought through how things were going to go.

True Takeaways

We played with PUGs (pick up groups).  We were grossly OP for normal play.  I got down to like 68 hit points in one run and only took damage in another run from the final room.  I have huge concerns about making a run fun for groups without ultrarare level collections.

My plan is to redo all of my normal builds to focus on saves and to run not so great weapons on normal runs.  No more +2 Keen Slayer on normal, it’s just dumb.  No +3 Deathcleaver, not that I ever gave that out, but, maybe, no +2 Slayer.  No 30+ STR builds.  Sure, I’ll run Mad Evoker’s Charm, but I just won’t use it as I think I used it like once in four True Dungeon runs and not every single spell on Grind.

I may have to break down and go with builds with hit points under 60.  Sigh.

Not only was I unhappy with our builds, I was unhappy with our presentation.  Sure, you can let people know that you know the puzzles or that your builds are stronger.  Don’t make a big deal out of it.  Downplay everything.  Last year, we played with someone who knew stuff and it worked well, but, then, I prefer observing people play rather than doing hardly anything myself, so I don’t care about being challenged.

My biggest failing was more subtle.  I cast very few spells to let others murder stuff.  I didn’t give away puzzles, though in many cases we didn’t know the answers.  But, I just didn’t participate much.  I tried talking to NPCs to pass the time and to be into the events, as I can embrace the role-playing aspects of playing more (not that embracing is anything the NPCs would go for).  But, I think I overdid it and may have come across like “I’m so powerful I don’t need to do anything”, which isn’t contributing to other people’s fun.

Next.

Silence is moronic.  All the rage at Gen Con HoR was throatpunching.  Throatpunching is moronic.  Do not prevent people from being able to do the one thing they care about doing.  For HoR, give a TN penalty to spellcasting non-innated spells or something.  In TD, just get rid of silence on normal difficulty.  Screw over people on hardcore and, especially, nightmare as much as you want, but let the newb or the casual player who plays once a year actually get to participate in what’s going on.  Combat matters in TD or the token economy wouldn’t exist (or would look incredibly different).  Let people do their 6 damage or their 11 damage.  I’ll accept being locked out of Lightning Storm with Mad Evoker’s Charm and a +13 damage stat, but I hated when I couldn’t cast an 11 point Magic Missile, and I’m sure others feel the same.

I know.  Meleers get screwed by fights with no melee, and rangies get screwed by antirange effects, and blah, blah, blah failed saves equal being removed from combat.  But, the casual player isn’t prepared for being taken completely out of fights.  Make them suffer one round of impotence is fine, then let them feel like they are playing.

Next.

We cannot be that disorganized about tokens again.  It was obnoxious as hell, and I think we lost one of our more prized tokens though our only particularly good treasure draw replaced it.  I am not interested in hauling multiple binders around all of the time and making adjustments to things on the fly.  Now, my coin album set up for my wizard build did work well for me, though I don’t know if it worked well for the party card maker.  And, the binders I got right before Gen Con were a way I liked storing stuff I didn’t need on the run.

The Android app was essential.  True Grind, where we worked out things ahead of time was awesome for how simple it was for me, though Dave and Andy had problems because I didn’t know their builds.

I do not want to haul a bunch of stuff to Lucas Oil.  Quip was kind enough to meet me on Sunday at the Hyatt for one last deal, as I did not want to run over there one more time.

I think I know what to do.  It may very well mean beginning to divest of some of the alt build tokens I’ve picked up in the last year.

Treasure pulls.  I actually kind of hate these.  I had completely forgotten about bags until too late in the con.  I did 26 of my pulls for no reason.  I don’t just hate the wands.  I always hated pulling from treasure chests at the end of runs, only liking those treasure pulls that used to happen during runs in the long, long ago.  Give me bags or give me … cash? … friends who don’t mind doing pulls?

I hate doing pulls after runs.  There are so many things going on after runs, like making sure I didn’t lose any tokens and making sure I got my XP card and my completion token, that I just want to get my stuff, get into a well lit, open area, and deal with logistics.

Should be interesting to get to Gamehole Con and do a bag and 11 pulls right away to get caught up or maybe I hold my 11 pulls.  I’ll have to do the math on how many pulls we are going to get from our runs, there.

Next.

True Grind was especially good for me, as it was a first time, I got to hang with someone I knew, I liked the other people in our party, and it’s well lit.  But, I think one of the great benefits of TG is that it’s different from the dungeons.  It’s just good to get away from the repetitive nature of wordplay and darkness and whether your group is balanced.

Doing one of each run was good.  But, it has to be better timed.  I’m old and decrepit.  I can force myself awake at 6:30AM to play games because games infuse me with chi, but it’s just not good that I’m now getting tired at Gen Con midday Thursdays.

Next.

We still no jack and _ about what hardcore and nightmare are like.  We have to do hardcore, at a minimum, for the XP.  I would imagine parties intending to do these things are better fits from a token collection aspect for our UR heavy collections.  I’m not clever, but I might fit into organized parties better as one thing I don’t like is a lot of people arguing about what to do, and I’d imagine hardcore and nightmare inclined parties tend to be more organized just from an experience standpoint.

Next.

To me, TD is like 50% good, 25% eh, and 25% below not good with numbers I’m totally making up.  That’s just the nature of it.  Some runs will be much more fun than others.  I like talking with other players, which I should have done more of instead of talk to NPCs or be baffled by the coaching room logistics.

Next.

Gamehole Con will be another learning experience.  I expect I still have some important things to learn.  For instance, I never slid once the entire con, playing wizard four times and elf wizard once.  I am likely an awful slider, but, mostly, I just don’t care about sliding.  I’d enjoy sliding if it was only people I knew in the party and we talked through strategy/tactics.

Probably should be a next, but I forgot.

Food

I only had triple steakburgers like twice.  That’s not enough.  Full meals at night are hard on me in my sleep deprived, jet lagged, eating at weird times, snacking on weird stuff, maybe having a milkshake without taking Lactaid first self.  This is something the others don’t get.  It’s not like my diet of triple steakburger combos is good for me or all that delicious, it’s that it’s what I need when I need it and does not introduce variance that leads to my body being further wrecked.  I could sub in Subway for every meal and achieve a similar effect, but Subway isn’t open at the hours I need food and it’s boring.

I was introduced to Pearings.  I liked my smoothie.  My panini was fine but not much food, which, in some ways, is good.  But, I don’t like their menu, too limited for what I want … says the person who orders the exact same thing every time to where I have a sense of how much it will cost to the penny at his usual depot.

The sandwich place across the street from the usual depot is not to my liking.  I would so much enjoy my sandwich more without french fries and cole slaw on it.  Plus, take away soft fries and cole slaw (something I don’t usually like to begin with) and I feel like I should be paying less money because I may not be poor but I do not like wasting money on food … says the man who can live off of triple steakburgers for a con.

My food truck noodles weren’t bad, but they needed to be poured out of the container into like a bowl.  They were too bland at first and too salty later.  I would have used less soy sauce in the sauce, but whatever.  My hatred of food trucks has only something to do with how bad I think foodtruck food is on average.

Again, Indianapolis Airport is one of the few airports I don’t feel bad about paying overpriced prices at.  I got a huge Pom Beach smoothie.  I got a burger with not awful fries.  It was overpriced, but the airport is just so pleasant in the hub.

 


Privilege

August 13, 2017

On August 5th, 2017, I was in Washington D.C., watching the premier screening of the Abaarso School movie at an event where cocktail attire was expected.  I borrowed a blazer, but otherwise I wore what I might wear to a game convention.

The piano bar after party had singing (by the pianist) so painful my musician brother and I desperately wanted to go get pizza elsewhere.

Let’s start with the first reason this has anything to do with gaming.  The students trying to get placed in US high schools, prep schools, universities are coming from a situation that I just can’t process.  The 60 Minutes (yes, the TV show) producer who did a panel after the screening asked Harry (my brother who made the movie with Ben and Kate) to contrast the opportunities available to someone who went to Thomas Jefferson High School in the NoVa area with what the Somaliland students had to deal with.

Role-playing games.  An opportunity to live out, to whatever dicechucking degree you wish, fantasies unrelated to your lifestyle.  For someone who has had it easy (that being me) by growing up in US suburbs, gloss over upbringings that involved true hardship as some characters may have had.  Economic position, educational prospects, ability to make choices, etc., etc. etc.  While RPGs are a great way to just “it’s clobberin’ time” some hours away each week like hitting a sports bar and pounding back some brewskis (I assume people call it that), it’s not a bad thing to take a moment and try to get into the headspace of what it’s like to live in a completely different milieu.

I did not play any games in my 1.5 days in Virginia/DC.  There were scenes in the movie of students playing cards and whatnot.  But, the second way this trip relates to (my) gaming is that I missed out on a V:TES tournament weekend.

I know Mark and Kenneth won tournaments.  Eric sent me a picture of a Sens. Depped Laecanus with Praxis Seizure: Stockholm, which is probably more than at least two injokes you may not get at all, but maybe you will.  But, I have little sense of how things went, probably because lots of people use Facebook and I don’t.

Given how rare V:TES play is, this is a significant lost opportunity.  Now, I obviously prioritize family stuff over gaming, but it’s an unfortunate result that I could have avoided if I had been more on the ball about suggesting when the tournaments should have taken place.  Actually, the weekend before Gen Con is usually going to be okay because it’s unlikely I would have travel I can control, knowing that back to back trips is suboptimal.

I am so disconnected from V:TES play, but, then, this year has been unusually heavy with travel and, er, with Traveller.  That’s … symbolic?

When in town, we usually get together for Thursday night Shadowfist.  In our last session, we played three games.  That’s not a good thing.  Our short games, well, our short four-player games, tend to be bad.  We had two games that felt like three-player games in that someone got out to a strong position, failed to get “regulated”, then won because people’s decks are way too big and inconsistent and/or lack character stoppage.

I completely failed from a metagame standpoint playing a deck full of edge hate in the first game, where no one had edges in play.  I really need to build some new decks.  I keep wanting to play more Final Brawls, but I just don’t own that many that I can find.

Speaking of failure, in the business trip leading up to hopping off to DC, there was no time for mahjong, my VR experience was lacking any actual play, and my friend’s phone cover of “Winter Is Coming” had pretty much no impact because I may be a nerd, but I’m an iconoclastic nerd who has never read Harry Potter nor A Song of Fire and Ice, nor made any effort to watch their visual media unless you count looking at a screen on a plane.  Nor did I hit Core Gaming Salon, as there were two other Americanos in Shanghai for me to have Italian food with, and I was only there for a week.

Been playing around with the True Dungeon phone app, discovering a real bug and a faux bug.  The faux bug is what I want to talk about.

What are the most contested equipment slots in TD?  For me?

Neck.  I was heavy Amulet of the Champion in my builds until I realized Charm Necklace probably does me more good, while Exalted Creeper Amulet is amusing, plus Amulet of Treasure Finding is necessary for our fourth and fifth characters, and a host of other stuff is irrelevant because it’s not as good but sounds cool.

Wrists.  I can’t even decide on wrists for my primary build.  Bracers of Fast Fitness is my preferece, but, if I have to burn stuff like in Grind or Hardcore/Nightmare, I guess I go Bracelets of the Cabal.  For other builds, Bracers of Supreme Archery, Charm Bracelets, Fast Fitness, other stuff all contend.

Feet.  I want to own a bunch of Boots of the Four Winds, but I’d rather play with Boots of Might or maybe even Boots of the Marauder.  All comes down to whether playing normal dungeon or not.  Not a lot of choices but ones that I constantly toy with.

Charms.  This is a recent phenomenon.  For the longest time, charms and ioun stones were two things my collection was really weak in.  Now, the three charm limit is impactful, as I frequently am happy to pump Dex at a cost of Str, yet Vicious Charm isn’t making the cut anymore.  Charm of Enlightenment is taking off as I realize just how bad non-healers want to not have embarrassing Will saves … just in case.

Least contended slots?

Fingers.  Sure, my wizard builds could do more ringing, but I struggle immensely with finding a second ring for ranged fighty builds even using first slot on Ring of Heroism.  It’s currently easy for me to level up builds as I can just Ring of Heroism up some build, except so many of my builds run the Charming Trio that RoH is unnecessary.  Obviously, if I had a certain Legendary ring or a certain Eldritch ring, things would be different, but I don’t.  I’d really like to see a ring that increases physical ranged damage by something reasonable, like 1 point, to avoid making ranged Ranger even more IO’sP (probable gross exaggeration as ranged Ranger gives up double attack Ranger).  I could, of course, pick up the rare saves boosters to have something that is theoretical good stuff – shows what sort of holes exist in my collection that I can trot out more URs than rares that do something.

Legs.  I really don’t know what pants to run when not going Kilt of Tavernbane.  When I go with free action pants, I’m defeated by how Boots of the Marauder provides free action.

Head.  Either Templar Helmet, Defender Helmet, Redoubt Helm, Crown of Iron Will, or Charming Crown.  Charming trumps Iron will, but I only own one Charming.  Templar will normally trump Defender, but I own only one Templar set.  Blessed Redoubt might suffice, but Redoubt doesn’t really at the moment, especially since I won’t own one until Gen Con.  Charming and Templar don’t contend with each other.

Shirt.  I often don’t even know what to run unless it’s Linked Shirt of Healing for everyone.  Shirt of Blessed Strength for those rare STR based builds I do, of course.

Most binary slot?

Waist.  Belt of Blessed Constitution or Girdle of Frost Giant Strength.  That’s it.  That’s all I’m going to run, unless I end up with a Viper Strike Belt at some point.

So, you may have heard that Gen Con is in August.  I wonder if it’s going to be a zoo, given that it’s sold out.  Sold out.  Interesting comments as to why moving to Chicago wouldn’t be better.  I wonder what next year will be like.  Will some folks be so turned off by the excessive number of attendees this year that attendance would actually be lower than recent years?  Unlikely.  Probably get new blood who takes the place and everyone will hope hotel situation will ease when it won’t be GC50.

For most of our group, it’s lots of TD and HoR.  Will let you know how that turns out in a couple of weeks.

Privilege.  Play games.  Travel the world.  Question why people want Italian food when in China.  Get pizza in Georgetown at 1AM.  Afford my TD collection.  Just so fortunate and useful to remind myself that it could be so much worse.


KublaCon 2017

June 3, 2017

It seems like each year KublaCon is less and less convenient for me.  I don’t know if it’s because I do monthly financial reporting for work that is timed toward end of month/beginning of month or what.  Well, even with my previous company, where I didn’t have such things, there were things like doing training on the East Coast, so maybe what.

Add in how less enamored I am by local con RPG play and add in how Gen Con did something dumb and scheduled event registration on a holiday weekend, and what I get is a barely there fare.

I skipped Friday to try to get rest and/or something done for the Saturday evening Traveller demo.  I skipped Monday, even though there were two RPGs I had interest in, because of old man disease.

Saturday

I move slow.  Build my Shadowfist Classic deck, figure I’ll play it multiple times rather than switch decks between games, so I bloat it to an absurd 45 cards to give me lots of extra options.  Base it on my ole Aerial Bombardment, Fire in the Sky deck that sometimes worked … somehow.

I get to the con about 11:30AM and find out CCGs are in a different room this year.  Get to the room.  A good room!?!

Maybe trying to separate CCGers from mainstream sorts is a new goal, and we just got the benefit of isolation’s blessed windowfulness.

Watch Earl and Jason finish up on Star Realms.  Then, we get five players.  Earl keeps offering to sit out so that we don’t have to endure five, but he-y-y-y, it’s all good, who doesn’t love five player CCG play?

Game 1:

Drew (Architects) -> Earl (Hand Monkeys) -> Jason (Architects w/ Napalm Belchers) -> Miguel (Big Bruisers, et al) -> Ian (Blood Eagles)

Actually, I think maybe Miguel went first.  I’d give my deck a better name except:  1, unlike V:TES, there isn’t a bunch of real world flavor text to steal; 2, Blood Eagles.

I lived the cheese dream … I actually make an effort to do strong things in my Shadowfist tournament decks because I don’t have a history of repeated accidental success that leads to winning every tournament I’ve ever played with a Sensory Overload deck … and get Möbius Gardens, Test Subjects, and Manufactured Island out on turn one.  Or, I could be totally wrong and my Gardens was a Dockyard, otherwise known as the only other Modern relevant FSS, but I think it was a Gardens.

Then, it doesn’t take forever for me to get a Blood Eagles in play.  I’m doing stuff … I’m doing stuff.  Miguel also does stuff and I’m not so threatening that he doesn’t backwards or crosstable his stuff.  In fact, his armada of two Good Ol’ Boys is feverishly eager to inflict heinous beats upon my poor partially damaged Manufactured Island.

So, I Bzzzzzt! one of them.

Drew plays Loyalty Officers.  They eventually get cleared by Final Brawl.  Earl has a slow game, lacking Monkey madness but still Iron Monkeys and picks on people who have more power than I.  Jason can’t get any resources so keeps playing sites but eventually gets out a Napalm Belcher and the “fun” part of Shadowfist ensues.

Drew puts out Dr. Jean-Marc Ngubane, so he can unturn a Belcher.  My CHAR gets Tracer Implanted, so I never turn it again, though I considered the possibility of turning it when going for the vic-tor-y play.

Instead, CHAR is an Expendable Unit, and I eventually get down to Assassin Bug, Arcanomoth, Blood Eagles.  I believe Arcanomoth is turned for some reason and still in play but maybe got wiped by this point, then all of this stuff is wiped.  Earl and Miguel have generated heft, with Big Bruisers being kind of easy for my deck to kill if I have the cards but not so much when I don’t have the cards.  Everyone has been a threat except Drew.

I survey the sadness that will come after I pass my turn and decide there’s no place like resting all hope on an Assassin Bug.  Assassin Bug feasts on Ngubane’s soul as nobody has anything to intercept with.  Blood Eagles with two damage and an Arcano- … wait, not an Arcanomoth since my Reinvigoration Process gets undone … my Dark Traveler … my 2-Fighting Dark Traveler go for Drew’s damaged FSS for the win.

And, that’s Shadowfist.  Hey, pun-time.  My deck could have been called Traveler, The Next Generation to … um … to … em … to achieve ultimate dorkiness.

That was not a quick game.  Then, there was game two.

Game 2:

Drew  -> Miguel (Monarchs) -> Earl (Lotus w/ Uniqueness) -> Ian -> Jason (Lords)

This was not a quick game.  Miguel came out fast with Queen of the Ice Pagoda and continued to threaten, though never did the annoying Ice Sword play on her that I see so often.  With his Netherworld Returns, the game got funky at times.  His Monarchs kept getting beaten up, even Darkness going down, but Returns was undermining Drew’s ability to “We Can Rebuild Him”.

Earl just got stronger and stronger over time, though we did manage to toast a couple of his Underworld Trackers and Miguel did turn the Queen of the Ice Pagoda into a ghost before she could get Tortured Memoriesed.

I was not strong.  I discarded a couple of times before playing any cards.  By the time I could get a site and a foundation in play, I had lost something like six characters to discards.  When I finally play a CHAR to have something that isn’t a foundation in play, it gets toasted by a redirected fight of the Darkness Queen, leaving me with pretty much Arcanomoth as my only way to have more than a 4-Fighting character in play, and I couldn’t even do that because I didn’t have three Architects resources.

Seemed to be payback for game one to prevent someone from sweeping to undisputed victory for the Championship of the sixth largest economy in the world.

Miguel was so threatful, only by decking did he ceased being a factor, which also didn’t help me any as I kind of liked his threat factoriness to rein in Earl.  Jason got strong at one point with Lord Shi and Lord Hawksmoor, but he got beset by Wailing Apparitions.  Yes, that’s Shadowfist, and I told Earl I’ve routinely seen their annoying ability matter.

Drew got a Napalm Belcher and didn’t Belch Earl when Earl had one location and lots of little stuff.  Typical Shadowfist stoppage (aka every possible effect) stopped stuff to keep the game going.  Oh, I remember why I wanted Miguel in play – his sites were easier to take than other people’s.  I decked without a real chance to win.

Later, I found out Earl had won.  For you see, I had a Traveller demo to do.

Traveller Demo

We had like seven people, no one who actually knew about our Kickstarter.  We didn’t have great demo product to show people, but things seemed okay.  We are still moving towards putting what we think is a good looking, solid game out.  Mostly need to get things printed at this point.

Bohnanza

As mentioned, I defeat a 10-year old on tiebreakers.  Who’s the Bean Harvester Now?

Game 3:

Back to Shadowfist.  Miguel has stuff he needs to do, so time to play crummy less than five-player Fist.

Ian (Lotus Killing Rain) -> Jason (Reentry Squad) -> Drew (Hand) -> Earl (Purists)

I so hated this game.  It happens.  It happens with V:TES, with B5, with … er … Blood Wars? and all sorts of other multiplayer card games.

Some day, I need to actually have more Killing Rains in my Killing Rain deck since I rarely play them.

Here’s the problem.  Jason’s deck is a site suppression deck.  Drew didn’t play sites but somehow got enough power to keep putting out annoying Hand characters like Buddhist Bellringer and Reformed Bandit.

None of us had answers to Reentry Squad until late in the game, when I was irrelevant.  The thing was that early in the game I wasn’t irrelevant, getting enough fight in play to take sites, but I didn’t know what to do when only Earl had any sites in play.  Oh, sure, if I was the only one with dudes, I could take on the table, but Jason and Drew had dudes, just no sites.  Then, my sites kept getting taken out by either Jammer crap or being attacked, which meant I couldn’t generate any power as my dudes started disappearing, which led to Shadowfisticus Ineffectualitus – an extremely common disease when playing normal rules.

Sure, it was funny when I took one damage to each of my FSSs and I revealed two Diamond Beaches to go with my third Diamond Beach, but, after that, I was sitting around waiting for Earl to win.  For, you see, Earl’s decks tend to have long game play, so they will keep getting Mutators out or whatever and no one will board wipe.  I did try an Underworld Coronation on my Exorcist, but, predictably, Jammers players always have Who’s the Monkey Now? in hand when I play character removal.

Drew eventually ended up winning after spending much of the game attacking right, with a decent sized horde that included some superleap.

The Thursday night group whines about superleap constantly, but it doesn’t really bother me that much.  I find sitenuke far more annoying not because it’s more powerful but because it undermines the basic nature of the game of putting sites in play and having characters attack them.  I find power steal far more annoying because it can easily lock a player out of the game.  I find edges far more annoying because the power level on a lot of them is way too high for a repeatable effect when there’s really relatively little edge removal in the game.

Pretty much every Shadowfist game really needs one Final Brawl played, one Thunder on Thunder played, maybe one Neutron Bomb played.  Instead, either feast or famine on these sorts of plays, though only the first gets really annoying when it happens multiple times.

Sunday

Gen Con event registration, the second most stressful day of every year, though, actually, my wish list hardly mattered due to how many HoR events I was signing up for.  When I saw Don Thursday, he said he didn’t get into anything he tried to.  I just assumed I’d get into everything except Friday 2PM because I wasn’t our group’s True Dungeon guy.  Dave had the lamentable task of trying to get us into TD and True Grind.

We did well.

I go back to sleep.  I eat something at home.  While I did have tan tan mian from Shanghai Dumpling Shop, I will say this – I’m disappointed with what was my favorite restaurant.  Both tan tan mian and the sesame dumplings in crushed peanuts are nowhere near as good as they used to be.  Yeah, I can continue to get savory dumplings from them, but I miss what were two of my favorite dishes in the panverse.  Also, Zorba’s pizza way overpriced for what it was.  So many places could drive to in the area that would interest me.

I roll into the con 3:30PM to be available for pickup V:TES and to drop off Anthology Sets.  I sit around for a while with only Brad and Rob being around to talk about stuff.  I also unload some 30,000 cards I was sitting on to be passed to needful players.

Seriously, I don’t know if it’s because of shipment costs, but anyone in California can effortless have a 30,000 card collection just by waiting around until someone leaves the game.  V:TES staples are not remotely hard to get.  I could probably drop 10,000 extras on someone if I felt so inclined.

My V:TES event starts half an hour after the Shadowfist Modern tournament.  I have no chance to prove I dominate at all multiplayer CCGs that lack Dominate.  I was the defending Modern champion from last year’s Kubla.

We have seven players at first.  Yes, multiplayer CCGs are a Bear Market when it comes to having the right number of players.

I don’t try running tournaments at cons anymore, just too unpredictable who is playing, how long anyone is playing, etc.  So, I give away my precious boosters as table prizes and let people play for a pack.

I win my first game with like 11 Hermana Mayors in play or it timed out or whatever.  I remember the last game, when tiredness was kicking in, that I killed my predator with Can’t Take it with You to table split with my prey.  My predator had like double digit pool.

It’s not that I’d rather play Shadowfist.  It’s just that getting to play CCGs is rare enough that I don’t want to miss out on an opportunity to play all of the CCGs I could.

Long, boring drives home after midnight.  I’ve got to start scheduling my events at 8AM, when I’m up and at ’em.

Traveler, The Next Junction Point

Faction: Architect
Size: 45

Architect Cards (24)
Characters (14)
3x Arcanomoth
2x Assassin Bug
4x Blood Eagles
2x CHAR
3x Test Subjects

Edges (2)
2x Reinvigoration Process

Events (8)
3x Aerial Bombardment
2x Bzzzzzt!
1x Expendable Unit
2x Fire in the Sky

Generic Cards (21)
Characters (2)
2x Dark Traveler

Events (8)
1x Ejector Seat Malfunction
1x Salvage
5x Scrounging
1x The Algernon Effect

Feng Shui Sites (10)
2x Dockyard
5x Möbius Gardens
3x Manufactured Island

States (1)
1x Disintegrator Ray

You know, just because Imprisoned, Nerve Gas, and Neutron Bomb are on my personal banned list doesn’t mean I don’t love me my Architects.  Yeah, I actually find Architects very pleasing, sometimes even more pleasing than Lotus for when I’m tired of same old, same old deck building with Lotus.  That’s me – the removal guy.  Yup, I’m a Red/Black kind of player.  I Shake Up.  I … I … have a hard time continuing the theme though B5, WoT, et al do have character removal.


DunDraCon 2017

February 20, 2017

Should be reasonably quick.

Friday, head from work and get to con at 5:30PM, which is not long but felt long in the rain and with a missed turn.

No dinner plan.  Jeff and I do two hours of Traveller CG play.

Saturday morning, I did my usual pastrami (unfortunately on a bagel) and peach smoothie.  Ran my Rio Grande games.  I taught Cardcassonne, Assyria (which ran surprisingly long).  The Assyria game was incredible for how close it was.  At times, it looked like someone was behind only to develop in a way that allowed for catch up.  The game ended with the winner being one point ahead of second (140-something to 140-something) and last place only being maybe 6 points behind.

I show Loch Ness to one player, when we sit around waiting to see if more people show up.  He’s not enthused.  We play two player Assyria, which I hadn’t done before.

Then, V:TES.  So, I’m all in favor of new players or returning players, but it’s not fair to anyone to throw people who don’t know how to play into a five player game.  In hindsight, quick hindsight as I realized when the game ended, the way to teach someone is with three player games.  The more time other players take, the less the learning player spends doing things and seeing what happens.  Also, never give a new player “toolbox” Gangrel or Brujah or Nosferatu or any of the other clans that don’t bleed for a bunch.  It’s incredibly frustrating to be trying to bring out allies and retainers or to bruise bleed or to rush or whatever when a player could have been learning Govern/Conditioning.

It’s not just being a simple deck.  My +1 STR deck with Sport Bikes that I played wasn’t complicated in what it was trying to do.  An inexperienced player needs to see and learn bleed.

We really need more demos and casual learning games to recruit.  Alternatively, throwing someone into a fire can work … if they are not at a con.  If it’s all V:TES, all of the time, only people who attend such things are likely to be motivated to learn all sorts of challenging rules.

Sunday morning, I actually played a RPG.  I put my priority into Feng Shui.  The game was enjoyable, but a few things.

Feng Shui’s mechanics just seem suckier and suckier as I endure them.  Skill rolls are boring because you either have an insane skill that should make rolling meaningless or you have a target number so high that it’s far too unlikely you make the roll.  But, that’s not the big problem.  The big problem is that FS combat sucks.

I loved our home campaign of FS back in the day, and I enjoyed combats where we would all whip out our AK-47s, so it’s not impossible for combat to be fun.  It’s just unlikely.  Mook murder is incredibly unsatisfying.  Named battles are tedious grindfests.

Sure, the set up for the combat can be made to where there’s more to do than blast away over and over again.  But, the thematics of FS lend themselves to mechanical monotony.  See, the action flick is typically about beat down.  But, it’s beat down that doesn’t particularly work.  Named characters take way too long to take out.  Everyone is doing their own thing rather than “ritual rending” big bads into oblivion.

I used a homebrew for Feng Shui Tu Huo precisely because I knew combat was a weak point with FS and not a weak point with L5R.

The GM did have cool cinematic combat that didn’t involve mechanics at all, based on playing cut scene music.  Meanwhile, normal combat just dragged on interminably.

The other thing is that both my RPGs put action-y stuff after breaks.  That’s not the end of the world, but I think it’s suboptimal.  Players who want to use their combat abilities are going to wonder if they ever get to use them.  Players in general are going to get whipsawed by how much the game changes in nature between character interaction and dicefesting.

I keep thinking that the games I should run should be high action, like FS thematically, with an opening of dicefesting and more dicefesting after a reflection point, second reflection point, final dicefesting.

Finally, the party did some really weird stuff.  One group got thrown out of the police station for trying to convince the sheriff that we were in town to help in ways that didn’t lead to constructive discourse.  The other group choked out a forest ranger for unclear reasons.  It was hilarious.  When two PCs got arrested and one of them called our monster hunter team boss to get help getting out, his response was “Just two?”

I had nothing afterwards, so I walked over to try to get curry only for the place to be closed (even though internet said it was open), so I got a burger at the Hopyard, which was okay foodwise but going to restaurants by yourself tends to be rather boring.  So many of the places I wanted to go to or try just had awful hours, being oriented towards breakfast/lunch, which I don’t have time to run around to get.

I played some turns of Paths of Glory with Jeff because he wanted to talk about wargame mechanics.  We played a three player A Game of Thrones LCG 2e game, which had all of the usual elements of what does not enthuse me about the game – inability to play cards, getting annihilated by things I can’t do anything about, having no way to hold on to gains and just getting rolled with no comeback ability.  Now, we were not playing real decks.  But, real decks make me often feel the same way, which maybe is more due to how I wasn’t involved in building something with the economy and permanents I want.

Monday, I played in a Changeling game.  It’s a recurring con game where many of the players were used to playing specific PCs.  I had little choice and took the leader.  Oh my … it actually worked out fine.  While I hate being party leader, I could play a somewhat subdued leader who mainly stepped in when there was a reason to step in.

It was really good in certain ways early on – both my RPGs had really good role-players in them.  Hilarious, meaningful feeling.  But, when we left town, too much worrying about trivial things, like whether to eat a restaurant or a fast food place.

I didn’t feel a lot of Changeling to the game.  I hadn’t played Changeling in a long time, plus I haven’t played Changeling much, so the mechanics of how your powers work were mostly lost on me.  While there’s the struggle between growing up and wonder in the ethos of the game, there wasn’t much of that conflict in this game.  This was far more about interpersonal relationships, which I don’t have a problem with, as I like soap operas, but I can see someone wondering why there isn’t more magic.

Admittedly, if you have 10 player games, you kind of need the players to interact with each other a lot to give everyone time to do stuff.  Apparently, I played my character the way he is normally envisioned.

Getting back to mechanics for a moment.  In both games, there were lots of things on the character sheets that never ended up mattering, including a bunch of “this is what sets you apart” stuff.  Even if the stress is on character interaction, still seems to me that it’s good to make use of abilities characters have.  My PC had True Faith, which is supposed to be rather rare, and at no point was it mechanically relevant, as an example.  Of course, in the FS game, a couple of my abilities were used at the end in what was far more of a cut scene than actually resolving things, so that made the abilities irrelevant (to play).

Or, choose a different system that doesn’t give PCs these abilities.  Now, I guess it’s a lot of work to mix and match systems, plus the GM may really like part of the system and just not care about other parts.

Score

Amusingly enough, it was my mother who asked what score I’d give the con.  I’d give it a 6 out of 10, as something pleasant but close to mediocre.  I’d give the gaming a lower score because of the non-RPG stuff.  The RPGs were enjoyable but could have been more so if there was a faster tempo and/or more plot.

I got into both RPGs I tried to get into.  As both were series, I find the parties interesting.  But, I just don’t really care about playing con RPGs at local cons, anymore, because I’ve had the awful games, I’ve had the amazing games, I’ve had a bunch in the middle.  I’m just not engaged at the level that I can get engaged with trying out something new at Gen Con, playing HoR, playing certain home games.

Nostalgia kicked in to some degree.  What I miss with gaming is more the small group V:TM game, Conan, doing research for FSTH/LBS/Solomon Kane.  I don’t think it’s because I was wrong about con games being on average better, but it’s that I’ve done enough of them that there’s not the same level of resonance that sets in.  They are increasingly blurring together, might even get that way with Gen Con games at this rate, though 2017 is a big HoR/TD year (in theory), so I won’t have as many miscellaneous RPG sessions.


Tributaries

August 21, 2016

Still no philosophies.  No reviews.  No how to.

Some ranging thoughts.

Gen Con feels shorter.  While the amount of been there, done that is strong, which makes everything run together, I think there’s another reason it feels shorter.  I don’t take any breaks.  I used to leave an open slot to get some sleep and/or hit the exhibit hall.  Now, I just don’t have the lack of things I want to do to leave any slot open.  Even having HoR slots likely slows things down some because there are fast mods and slow conversations to break up the “well, got to run to the next game”.

I’ve been reading quite a bit about True Dungeon.  That’s not necessarily helpful as so many people on the forums are the types who think nothing of debating which ultrarares/transmuteds/legendaries are the better way to go.  Of course, now that I’ve seen most of the 2016 set of commons/uncommons/rares with my own eyes, I can pretty much figure out what I care about of those.  Still, it’s always interesting – I so ignore shuffleboard that I miss a lot of important things about it.

After GC, I had a family reunion, ironically in a place where I have more family on the other side.  Gaming hits so many notes for me – there’s the story aspects of RPGs, the puzzle aspects of deckbuilding, the gambling aspects of trusting in the heart of the cards or the whimsy of the dice, the analysis in determining component or action efficiency, etc.  No one else in my family is what I’d call a gamer, and many have virtually no idea what I’m talking about, though, to be fair, I game with people who knew nothing about True Dungeon until I started explaining it.

Both of my parents were relevant to my interest in games.  My mother and I used to play rummy or hangman when waiting for food at restaurants.  My father had some interest in chess and poker, but, of course, that side of the family was mostly about mahjong in terms of consequential gaming.

As I think about my mother’s birthday present(s), I wouldn’t consider anything gaming related, even RPG books that are more thematic than mechanical.  Buying anyone gaming stuff is rare, as I try to avoid getting into present exchanges with friends.  Not unheard of, but there are just some ways in which not everything ties into gaming, which I suppose has some benefits.

Not sure why daimyo info for HoR4 was worth posting this early – I would much rather know what character I’m creating than caring about NPCs that likely have no impact on my play experience.  Still leaving the door open to bail out on playing a Loremaster.

Of all the RPG campaigns I could run, would Legend of the Burning Sands be the one I’m most interested in?  It keeps coming to mind.  I think I hit some rich veins, though it wasn’t like I ran it for very long.  I sort of see why fantasy can be appealing to run – you can do strange stuff and it fits the genre.  Solomon Kane was much more rooted, and I get distracted by the mundane when trying to create the adventurous.  Camelot suffered from veering too far into the out of genre with not having enough in genre.

In the realm of solitaire, Card Invaders is too hard and Stalactites too easy.  I’ve come up with yet another way to try to make Card Invaders not be like a 10% win rate game – instead of burning aces and deuces to draw cards, once per turn, after drawing a card, can put a card from hand on the bottom of the draw deck and draw a card.  Seems to add slightly to decision making.  With Stalactites, it’s just too much like playing FreeCell, where you know you will win, you just have to run through all of the possibilities until you find the winning plays.

Kickstarter rewards have been showing up.  I’m not enthused.  One game is way less interesting than I thought; another is something I just don’t know if I’ll play, at least not until I get some session in at a con.  I have so much stuff that it’s just overwhelming to figure out how to manage all of the cards, tokens, books, etc.  Meanwhile, I still have little interest in ebooks for RPGs – I tend to be terrible about learning mechanics without an actual book I can peruse.

In general, my enthusiasm is more for L5R and TD and not with card games or trying to do something new with RPGs.  As the Summer has been eventful and Fall may be less so, maybe I can get some of the house in order and feel more open to additional things, as I’m not gaming that often.


Gen Con 2016

August 8, 2016

As much as it might be interesting to try writing this post in iambic pentameter or whatever, I have work tomorrow, so strive for simple.

Gen Con moved to Indy in 2003.  I’ve been every year that it has been there and I believe every year since 1996.  Last year would have been 20 years, and that didn’t even occur to me.  I recognize someone who works at Steak and Shake from the first years of it being in Indy (see last year’s post for more on S&S … can’t wait til Campbell gets one??).

Three of us traveled together.  First time I went with Dave in quite a while, went with Andy last year.  They PokeGoed and Space Teamed on the way back.  I hate using my phone except when necessary.

Travel over was fine.  Hotel …

It wasn’t perfect, but I enjoyed our hotel room this year.  We were in an optimal Steak and Shake location, so a roommate observed.  We got complimentary Mountain Dews, though I would have preferred having one at 7AM rather than at midnight.  Stuff worked, it was quiet which is what I value quite highly, adequate size if kind of short on drawer space.  Didn’t have to wait forever for elevators like the Hyatt (most of my stays in the last 14 years were at the Hyatt, used to be incredibly easy to get a room there back 5+ years ago).

Let me just get food out of the way, as I know it utterly fascinates no one.  I am not a fan of food trucks.  My lasagna at a certain hotel restaurant was way too cheesy.  Granite City was slow but otherwise pleasant.  I mostly lived off of triple steakburgers and fries as per the norm.  Indy airport is rather not horribly overcosted as airports tend to be.  Andy enjoyed all of the food he had without my presence.  Dave went for consistency.

Will Call was stupidly long on Wednesday, taking us an hour to get stuff.  Reasonably expecting us to have stuff mailed next year, as I can tolerate 30 minutes of airconditioned standing but have no tolerance for waiting in sunlight.

Thursday

And, so began the three of us doing very different things.  Dave did a bunch of Magic.  Andy had Flames of War, tried some things like 5e D&D (he should tell the tale of Badgerfest), and even borrowed one of my Shadowfist decks and ‘fisted to third place.

The Black Ship of Mars

Savage Worlds set in Barsoom with some alterations.  For instance, I played a White Ape, which doesn’t quite work in normal John Carter stories barring brain surgery, telepathic mind transference, or whatever.

Solid game.  I liked how the GM had written up an extensive prelude that wasn’t too long to explain why we were adventuring together and why we wanted to recover the NPC, Sorolian Jad.

We had a Green Martian in our group, who turned out to be the best healer.  We had an Earthling cowboy.  We had three Red Martians – rogue, scientist, pilot.  We immediately encountered a band of Greens and drove off their leader.

We continue our chase of Lar Nastor who has taken Jad to learn more about a fabled Black Ship of the Yellow Martians (very different from ERB Yellows).  In the abandoned burbs of a city, we catch up with him.  He is dispatched and Jad is rescued.

She keeps wanting to get to the ship.

We enter the city and look for a flying ship to take us to the tower where the BS is supposed to be.  I enlist some fellow White Apes to cause a diversion and we end up taking them along with us (because of course as General Okus, I’m a social character) when we claim a ship from a treacherous Red.  Flying to the tower, we get attacked by the pilot’s former lover, a pirate captain with her own flying ship.  We leave her to go to the tower.  In the tower, we eventually find a mad Red with a bomb and decide to deactivate the bomb.  I grapple him so that he stops trying to kill the party brain.

In the bowels of the tower, we find the ship when another BS appears and out pop Yellow Fishmen ninja.  We get to the first BS and travel … elsewhere …

While I’d prefer a completely faithful Barsoom, playing General Okus was quite amusing.  I had the Savage Worlds disad that forces you to spend the first round of combat doing nothing, a disad I think is awful and ridiculous – why have people do less?  But, I enjoyed thumping my chest, ape dancing, and whatever.

Other people were new to SW and discovered things it’s quite good at – straightforward play, for instance.  I kind of feel like SW is in the middle for me.  I don’t dislike it.  I don’t favor it when there’s something better.  But, there are so many things that aren’t better, that it’s an okay choice for a system, a reasonable default that I don’t see Hero, GURPS, or whatever as.

Queen of the Gremlins

After the con, when I tried to identify the lowlight(s), I picked this.  I am a critical person.  I don’t, however, ever try to be personal about criticism.  I believe it’s fair to criticize actions but not actors.  This game experience was bad.  That would not have rated it as the low point, however.  It was more that it was a wasted opportunity.

The game is Pythos.  The adventure was … a dungeon crawl.  Is that inherently bad?  Not inherently, but let me pontificate.

There are two things a new RPG can do.  It can improve upon mechanics.  It can offer up an interesting setting.  It can also do both.  After playing this and talking with the designer, I feel like it’s aiming more to be a better set of mechanics.

I tried to get the designer to articulate what the setting was about, as I didn’t get any sense of it from play.  I still have no sense of it.  There are theoretically interesting elements in that it draws from real world cultures, a la Conan’s world or whatever.  But, I wasn’t feeling any depth to the world.  It felt like trying to improve upon D&D with the setting sounding like it could be cool.

A key to the mechanics is in action resolution.  I do think there’s something there, though I think other games have something similar in defining types of actions.

The session itself involved way too much discussion of how to go down corridors, which is also on the players.  There was no leader personality strong enough to get the players to just push forward and do stuff.

Still, there was just no concept of the setting being anything different than what you might find out of a ’70s game and wasn’t even terribly internally consistent.

Having some time, I watched Andy play some Shadowfist and talked to Daniel a bit about playmats and whatnot and hit the exhibit hall.

Cornerstone of the World

Fate of the Norns.  Let me get through plot, first.

I played Eidi, a godi of Freya.  We were all godi – priests.

We started in Evengard (sp?), in the South, a bastion of civilization with a formerly profitable mine.  The mine stopped producing and investigations where done where none returned.  People were near lynching (us?) because things are going to hell (see below).  We talk them out of it and say we will fix the mine situation.

We talk to its owner, who provisions us.  We set off into the snow and find wolves rending a PC who was going to be played by someone who had to leave without playing.  Arngrim, the godi of Thor, sets aside his hammer and tells the wolves to bring it.  One of the wolves gets mind controlled into attacking a leader.  Wolves are dispatched.

After resting, we move on and discover a frozen wall of body parts outside the mine entrance.  Some of the godi beseech their gods.  We find an awful abandoned mine town inside, with frozen bodies shackled to walls and whatnot, as slaves didn’t necessarily escape.  Magnus, the shady owner, was cheating the slaves out of buying their freedom.

Valdarr, Bragi’s follower and a master of the art of getting sloshed, grabs a mine car (dwarves can make the darnedest things) and speeds down the tracks … until he gets launched into freezing water and the car follows him.  Drowning bad, m’kay.  Dropping some clothes, I use Bewitchment to teleport to him and help him get entangled with his antler chandelier (primary weapon) and an arrow line from Astrid, our huntress.  He is dragged back to land before he can go over a waterfall.

We seemed to have gone down a different path that what was intended.  We had two GMs, with one to take over for the other, but, rather than the dungeon crawl that it was supposed to be, we had eaten up a lot of time just getting to this point.

We hear noises.  We find ore just sitting around, magic mead steel chunks.  We get told a bunch of stuff as there wasn’t time to play through it.  We encounter the quartermaster, who has become something different with slaves still shackled to his body that he would eat.  Using my Unearthly Beauty ability with Amplify, I unintentionally wipe his rune pool for a round, rendering him open to beatdown, with Astrid eventually freezing him solid, a la a spirit bomb like effect due to a reference I made earlier, though I imagined more Captain Hitsugaya from Bleach ice crystallizing someone, a reference not understood.

His belly bursts and snakes run out, tying into what was really going on.

It was good.  The other players and the GMs seemed way more excited by the session.  That’s great.  I enjoy games much more when other people enjoy them.

Okay, Fate of the Norns is really hard to wrap your head around when you are used to other games’ mechanics.  The flow of runes, to me, requires all sorts of understanding of miscellaneous, perhaps nuanced, mechanics.  I really like the mechanics, in part because it is distinctive, in part because it feels like you start getting it after a while and it works more coherently than it seems at first.

There’s one thing offputting about Fate of the Norns.  I don’t like the setting.  Oh, I love having a high(er) fantasy, mythological setting with scholarship behind it.  I just keep running into how depressing and farfetched it is to have the Sun already eaten.  I can see playing in a game where the Sun is partially eaten and things are going or in a new age being formed, but I’m not into post apocalyptic and I can’t get past how ridiculously petty the people in the world are when, uh:  crops don’t grow; animals die; there is no f*ing sunlight.  Sure, if you believe all adventures happen in a one month span, you can roll with it.  Having played this years apart, I don’t feel that suddenness.  The lack of urgency on immediately making the world livable again is appalling – from a gaming standpoint, where high fantasy settings can be weird, it’s more that it’s incredibly distracting.

Friday

Nightmare’s End

Of Dreams And Magic.  2015, I bought the book.  I don’t think you realize how unusual that is.  I bought nothing in the exhibit hall this year.  I may Kickstarter RPGs, but I rarely buy a RPG book anymore because I have so many I don’t play already.

But, this is my sort of game.  I’m a huge fan of modern day supernatural.  I’ve said this before – mythological settings (Fate of the Norns, for example), historical supernatural (see below but Conan is kind of like this), and modern day supernatural are the three I think of most when thinking of settings I want to play in.

So, I was really interested in this and was interested in seeing how much like Immortal: The Invisible War it is.  Quite a bit.  I guess there’s tremendous potential for a modern day supernatural game to have the “secret world” (see below for yet another example) where you are special and fight secret battles.  Still, it gets me many a time.

The GM allowed for extra players.  That is … risky.  But, it worked, at least from my perspective.

Because there were only so many characters, some of us had the same ones.  The players made the characters stand out some.  I took my boyishly charming, fiction writer and made him a Hollywood, new agey weirdo, you know, someone who has to shop at Whole Foods and goes into the latest Asian imports of philosophies.  I described myself as wearing a Yin-Yang earring with a long silk jacket and slippers … when we showed up in a warehouse in the woods of Pennsylvania.

The prelude was sharing a dream with other PCs where a woman was being consumed by a giant monster.  We see a car drive off the mountain road near Sterling, Pennsylvania, as black animals chase it.

We wake up, talk about things for a bit, explore the warehouse of Ritz Logging.  Find out some owners’ names.  We walk 4 miles to Sterling.  I draw an impressive image of the woman, as we still don’t know her name, just heard her say the word “Starset”.

I propose our cover, since we are some weirdos, to be that we are a production company looking to make a movie where we were going to interview her for a role in our production.  Someone else elaborates that we are doing a Civil War documentary.

We know she’s at the hospital in ICU.  We work on gaining identifying info so Weird Al (PC) can pretend to be her cousin, as well as our documentary’s dance choreographer.  We have to have something going on in the romantic subplot that all documentaries have, right?

We split up.  Half the party investigates the accident scene where they find out the woman is Brianna Jackson and lives the next town over, she used to work for Ritz and moved on to a medical company.  Weird Al, who happens to be like the second best social character in the party, makes his entrance and gets to see her.

Who is the most social character?  Why, the sociopath pyromaniac of course.

We find out her doctor has the same name as one of the owners of Ritz and we create a diversion by burning down the hospital so that we can take her with a stolen ambulance.  We go back to the warehouse.  We enter her dream.  We watch her, as a spaceship named Starset, get destroyed by a black being, with a escape craft being pursued.  We are forced out of the dream and lose half of our Conviction – the thing that powers are specials and dreamwalking.

That’s a lot to lose.  Lost Conviction makes bad guys stronger.

We go to the doctor’s house.  I go through drugs in the ambulance in preparation for battle.  Half the party meets with the doctor, who walks into the back of his house, pulls out a huge alien gun, and returns to confront the party.

Here’s where we win.  See, one of our PCs has a bigger gun with a completely absurd guns skill.  In a Dragonball Zesque battle of energy weapons, our PC rolls well … and the GM botches.  Our Wave Motion Cannon does its thing.

Brianna comes out of coma and seems to be dreaming.  Two of us enter her dream and we see a battle fleet come to the pods rescue and take out the space monster darkness.  She wakes up enough to thank us.  I don’t get a chance to talk to her about “Contract?” for starring in our movie.

I did very, very little supernaturally.  I just loved playing my role, thus enjoyed things.  The player who blasted evil?  He doesn’t usually play combat characters, so it was more entertaining than usual seeing someone do the fightwin.

Hope Springs Eternal

I had trouble finding my table because most of the ballroom was being used by another group.

When I did, I recognized the GM and he recognized me.  For you see, I have played Of Gods & Heroes multiple times.  This was Fae Noir.  I hadn’t remembered playing it before when I signed up for events.  Justin thought I had played this adventure before, though like five years ago.

He was right, but I forgot so much about it, and it wasn’t like I had anything better to do.  I don’t remember what I played before in 2007??  (I don’t have files from 2007 like I do from 2005 forward, and I don’t see any listing in other years.)  I played one of the government/Pinkerton agents this time, with our group being two hotel detectives, two Fae detectives, and two government detectives.

Quotes:

“Let’s just murder them.”  Our third least hostile option after coming up with suggestions for relocating hillbilly kobolds to a “reservation” or to perhaps “concentrating them in a camp”.  I was all in favor of making the little suckers suffer.  I kind of like how my gun couldn’t one shot kill them very easily and I could make them feel some pain before they died, though it did mean they got to counterattack with crossbows.  I may not do immoral all that well, but I can do vindictive …

“First thing, no human sacrifice.  I think we can all agree.”  Not us involved in baby murder, them darn kobolds trying to flood a town with supernatural toxin by baby murder.

“Yup.  Continue negotiation after stop human sacrifice.”  We all had different agenda.  Hotels sorts wanted business as usual.  Government wanted business as usual.  Fae kind of didn’t like what was happening.

“Reindoctrinating, with intelligence experiments.”  I got them kobolds.  They didn’t survive the government experiments, however.  Oh well.

The troll detective crushed lots of kobold ribcages and knocked off their puny heads.  I mentioned how we should team up more often.

I never did use any of my poison gas canisters.  Fortunately, the one written as nerve gas was only mustard gas.  I mean, there are limits and nobody should want nerve gas anywhere, let alone with miles of their present location.

We gave each of our characters two flaws.  I chose cowardice.  This is the opposite of what I normally play.  I was curious.  It was challenging.  Yet another bad trait for a PC.  We should all be Paragons of Plot Propulsion, not things that work against wanting to act.

Ancient of Days

My second go playing Kevin’s Babylon game.  Combining historical details with plausible potential technology (like computers, cyborgs, etc.) with a resolution system unlike others, I’m a huge fan.  Considering that I played it last something like 3 years ago, I hope he gets things together and Kickstarters it.  I both find the resolution system very interesting and just love the setting.

This is despite that he explains it as being Shadowrunesque.  I don’t like the Shadowrun world nor mixing tech with magic.  To me, it’s more historical with highish fantasy elements and fantasy tech for those into such things.

We get summoned to the king’s palace.  An agent of the king gives us a mission to find out why the townspeople are saying terrible things happened at the Temple of Bel and why they attacked a Hebrew, Nehemiah.  The king can’t get involved since he wasn’t murdered.  Want to know why he was targeted.

The agent says what dwells there grows larger.  We head to where Nehemiah was staying.  I am playing a “citizen”.

So, aside.  While I get the idea of doing character creation for the game because characters are actually quite simple, it did take a lot of time since we had too many players and a lack of handouts for people.

I’m not a fan of character creation in con games.  I know it can give people more insight into a game.  But, I think it produces an energy draining event at the beginning of a game.  You want action in one shots.  You want action when you are horribly sleep deprived.

Anyway, I went with a social build, so I socialized.  The computer guy, the warrior, the surgeon/thief, the necromancer, the necromancer’s slave, the Egyptian astrologer? (some magic type), the Hebrew scribe, and the student either followed after suspicious sorts or went to investigate Nehemiah’s room since he left.

People didn’t understand why they were so angry.  Nehemiah was a poor scholar.  Two Hebrews enter and the flophouse turns hostile.  We assuage.  Others find out that the rage is coming from some place near the Ishtar Gate while the temple is being reoccupied and cleaned to be rededicated to “The Mighty One”, one who cannot be named directly.  Nehemiah is out by God’s Footprints, outside of town.

We meet up with the guy behind the rage spell.  He follows some god before time but mostly is wanting to get Nehemiah killed because Nehemiah turned from his faith and called upon another power.  The spell simply got out of control, and he couldn’t just kill Nehemiah because then he would be up on murder charges.  The spell, amusingly, targeted anyone wearing a Hebrew style hat for hate.  Hat Hate.  That’s a pure form of hate, my friends.

We book it to Nehemiah’s location to stop his bonfire ritual.  With staff and donkey sacrifice, he’s about to summon one of them old time gods.  He somewhat succeeds but gets taken out by the justice team.  We report back, including the info on rage dude.  We get treated better in the future.

The only thing about Kevin’s games is that they tend to be shorter than other con games because of the character creation and explanations of things.  But, they flow so well and have the verisimilitude that they feel weighty.  I suppose them being more expensive than other 4 hour slots is kind of weird, but do I really care compared to my overly cheesy $20 lasagna or my $500+ flight or how True Dungeon went from less than $20, to $28, to now $56?  Not so much.  Get this thing on Kickstarter!  I especially hope for plenty of background info so that I feel armed well enough to actually run the game, unlike … um … I guess I have enough info to run other games, just too lazy to do so.

Friday was certainly better than Thursday.  I couldn’t get into an Artemis game to play with Andy and Dave because no tickets and no openings for something we wanted to sign up for in prereg but wasn’t added until June or so.  It was okay, as I was tired and got to talk to HoR folks for a bit, instead.

Saturday

Critical.  I just need to be at times to be remotely honest about things.

Starspike III

The GM asked me if I was entertained after the session.  Yes, entertained.

I felt like this was one of my awful RPG experiences.  Up there with the Mekton game that means I can’t sign up for any local Mekton game unless run by a woman as I can’t remember the GM’s name, right up there with the Maelstrom game where the PCs did nothing and the NPC did everything, right up there with sucking the life energy of an angel while playing a Voodoo priest, right up there with the Charmed d20 game.

Not that all of these are the same kind of atrocious/awful.  The Charmed game is a classic of playing with psychotic players and a GM who wasn’t much better.  The Maelstrom game was just incredibly boring as there was nothing for the PCs to ever do.

Did this really compete?  The reason why I feel less outraged is probably because I recognized that this was going to make for a hysterical story afterwards pretty quickly and that I’ve been through similar experiences often enough to be more jaded to them.

That’s the thing.  In the moment, such a game may be painful, but the joy of retelling the stories of how bad something is provides life value.  The truly worst RPGs are the completely forgettable ones because they have no lasting value.

Let’s list some things to avoid:

Character creation – I know I’m against it almost all of the time, but I’m especially against it when it drags and when it’s silly.  Babylon character creation was intuitive.  Picking from 40 races and 50 classes is not intuitive.  Having to figure out spells when other players are waiting is not intuitive.

Backstory – Half an hour! of droning backstory on what other parties did!! that has no relevance to what I’m going to do!!! is not something to inflict upon people.  I wasn’t sure whether the other two players were going to get up and walk out or whether I was.  A synopsis of parts one and two makes a lot of sense.  Look up the definition of synopsis.

’70s D&D – We finally start playing, some 1.5 hours in.  We are following some linear plot and are about to enter a city when we get ambushed for no particular reason, with no hope of not being ambushed.  I get hit once, I heal myself.  I get hit again and fall unconscious, actually, I should have died per the rules.  Ten minutes into actually playing, I thought about saying thanks for the game and leaving since resurrection was expensive, but I figured more humor was coming and we just played with my character unconscious.  Immediately after I heal everyone up after I get healed to consciousness, we search for treasure.  I don’t mean we told the GM we would loot the bodies.  We just automatically searched for treasure, in their underground lair, because that’s what PCs do.

“Next thing you do is search for treasure.”

’70s D&D Continued – I know a lot of D&D wasn’t like this.  It’s the worst of ’70s D&D that I’m getting at which would be a parody today if you wrote this sort of session up, except we lived it.  We find an artifact … that helps us search for more treasure!!  We find more treasure.  “What’s your Resolve?”  Resolve is an attribute.  “3.”  “You find 300 gold.”  Hmmm, my Resolve is 2, will I find 200 gold?  Yes, I will!  By the way, attributes aren’t on a 1-5 scale like WoD or a bunch of other games where stats start at or close to 2.  I could have chosen a Resolve of 0 or a Resolve of 5 at character creation.

“Redcaps are notorious treasure loonies.”

Offensive stuff – I somehow end up at a party, as I thought I was talking to someone I wasn’t.  I manage to move on and find who I actually wanted to talk to.  GM asks me if I want to know what would have happened if I stayed.  Yup, I wanted to know what absurd thing would happen.  Don’t ever bring up certain subjects with strangers.  There are people who can’t play in games where in their characters’ backstories there is such things as losing children because of family tragedies.  We live in a world where terrible stuff happens constantly.  Games are an escape from that unless you specifically choose to play a game like Kult.  In Kult, with people I knew, well, admittedly, in Conan and some other things with people I knew, I can see certain things.  Our Conan play got kind of dark at times.  I’m really hard to offend.  I wasn’t offended by what could have happened at this party.  I would have expected a different reaction from many others.

The juxtaposition with how there are laminated cards in one of the ballrooms for professionally run games that say “If at any time you feel uncomfortable, raise this card.  You do not need to explain why.” is telling.  I know juvenile is not the end of the world, but is it necessary for immaturity to creep into written material?  I was reading the corebook for the game and the advice and some of the designer notes put in as quotes at the bottom of pages just amazed me.  Why would anyone ever want to come across as so juvenile?  Are you trying to parody D&D and just not being too clear of that?  Why bother?  We’ve moved on from socially inept teenager mode.

Again, I may come across as bashing D&D unnecessarily as this wasn’t even a D&D game.  I have just experienced that the thinking that says it’s okay to do certain extremely gamey things or to be incredibly casual about what can be traumatic in real life seems to have sprung from a time when immaturity was rampant in the RPG world, a world dominated by D&D and its clones.  I can see where that’s somewhat unfair.  Take World of Darkness.  V:TM came in and shook up the industry because it was such a different focus.  But, if you have awful things happen in the world, you might get a pass because it’s not the World of Dimness or the World of Somewhat Unpleasantness.

Then, how hypocritical is it when I played in a game where I was looking to torture my enemies and make jokes about awful things that have actually happened to people historically?  I guess fairly hypocritical.  There’s some social contract where you have a sense of what you can get away with and it be funny rather than offensive.

The mechanics were kind of interesting.  Probably not balanced even putting aside that hit points made no sense.  I had 10hp and my partymates had like 60hp.  I explained to the GM/designer how this may sound internally consistent because it’s based on something but works out with a result that means you really have two models for PCs.  The squishy PCs are so squishy they are playing a completely different game from the not-squishy.  The expectation of squishmeisters buffing themselves up doesn’t work so great when you get ambushed at zero range and lose initiative.  Then, when we had a chance to “shop” because that’s a thing you do in ’70s D&D parodies, I bought up through money and experience damage reduction 5.  On average, that would mean taking zero damage from the ambushers, though I still would have taken damage from the hit that one-shotted me.

Also, the game ended an hour early, though that might have been merciful for us players.

The Assault

Part-Time Gods.  Another example of a game feeling a lot like Immortal.  Actually, given that Immortal’s mechanics didn’t really work and the game was likely too ambitious in setting even if sessions could be superfun, I would probably play/run this or ODAM or something else first.

There’s one thing I won’t sign up for.  I won’t sign up for a 2 hour RPG event because I have better things to do than demo games.  Already, 4 hour slots, the norm at Gen Con, are considered by many to be too short, though I’m fine with it when the game has sufficient events, as most do.

I chose Nakemura Hiroko, Goddess of Blood.  This worked well, with one exception.

Part-Time Gods is all about lots of new gods appearing in the world as something is going on metaplotwise.  Gods settle down and form territories, often in pantheons because they can’t coexist otherwise.  In talking to the GM afterwards, I was trying to get a sense of campaign play, and he mentioned superheroes and that made perfect sense.  You are effectively secret superheroes, in that you take care of your hood.

I didn’t care that Hiroko was a gothic lolita or that she wanted to be the world’s best DJ.  That she was apathetic and unemotional drove my play.  Unemotional meant I could speak in monotones and feast upon whatever blood was inside or outside of people without undue concern.  Apathy is not a good thing in a game.  Sure, it helped my establishing character as someone blasé about everything, but it led to multiple times having to stop from trying to pursue plot advancement and hope the rest of the party would push forward.

The others in the party played:  God of Dead, God of Storms, God of Music (and I wanted to be the best DJ ever?), God of Liquor, God of Hunger.  I felt like I did enough stuff for a satisfying game.  I don’t know about them.

For, you see, the GM, who took over at the last minute for someone who had a crisis, was under the impression that the game was supposed to be a 2 hour demo of the game, using the adventure in the back.  No.  Definitely supposed to be four hours.  This offended me, though I chalk it up to the substitute GM being confused as to what was supposed to be run.  I know HoR mods can take 1.5 hours at times played at cons, but living campaign mods are harder to control than true one shots.

With extra time during the day, I went back to the room and lay down for a bit, which did seem to help even if I didn’t feel like I slept at all.  I got to do far more exhibit hall wandering due to my having games end earlier than I expected.

The Hounds of Set

Atlantis, Second Age.  I have seen references to this on rpg.net.  I was looking forward to learning more about it.

Mechanics still aren’t that clear to me, but I would buy this game.  Very Conanesque setting, as the game is aiming for swords and sorcery. Not sure what I would do with it, but I like the mechanics of Hellas, put out by same company, just don’t like setting of Hellas as I don’t want tech with my mythology unless it’s subtle tech, like the Babylon RPG.

I played a Jinn.  We are hired to acquire a saint’s heart at an auction.  We come up with plans for when we fail to win the auction.  I turn into an owl and watch from outside while two of our group bid at the criminal’s tavern.  An ennui stricken Atlantean wins the auction over a lich.  I notice undead in the alleyway, they all head off.  Not having too many specifics on what to do after the auction if we don’t win, I fly after the now broke Atlantean.  Our burglar starts to pretend mug him.  I land, shift to humanoid form, disguise myself as a zombie and assault the group.

Yes, it’s as absurd as a PC plan can be.  The burglar pretends to be in danger from the “zombie horde”, our warrior stabs the Atlantean from the shadows hoping a zombie gets blamed.  I shamble “brains, I mean, viscera, I mean, cartilage, I mean, hearts”, take the heart and shamble off while the Atlantean’s slaves are still mostly milling about.  Our alchemist corrodes the body to make it look more like an undead assault.

Not that any of this necessarily matters.  It was just fun.  We give the heart to our employers and the lich shows up.  Turns out to be the guy who the saint defeated in the past.  We fight Atlantis, Second Age’s Darth Vader and do so much damage in one round that he gives up for now.  Penniless, valley priests go home and we split up money, with possible investments in their valley to make up for how they liquidated everything to get the heart.

Sunday

True Dungeon

We finally unite to do the same damn thing!

Part two of True Dungeon in the morning, then part one in the afternoon, with food truck food in the middle and some last minute exhibit hall, Magic prizes stuff.

The morning session sees us with someone with lots of power tokens and a pretty clever group.  We do well early on with puzzles and get through combat.  We labor in the middle/end as one of the puzzles is just way too confusing and we lack the combat prowess in shuffleboarding to deal with the boss monster.  Admittedly, I’m partially to blame for forgetting I have wands I can use when Silenced.  So, I survived, but we failed in room 7.  Andy actually died, didn’t even realize it, though the monster was doing 15 damage at a hit, so it’s not shocking.

A theme of the day was characters not having enough ranged firepower (or any ranged attacks) and combat being far more challenging than usual.  I’m used to just doing my spell thing and stuff eventually dying.

Oh, I should mention that I played Wizard both times, Andy Druid, Dave Cleric.  I love Druid, but Andy is a leafmeister, while I’m a memorize planes of existence charts meister and am well aware that taking more than 2 damage as a Wizard means whining for healing ASAP.

I did practice some treasure chest stuff in the second session as I have the chart memorized, and I do not ever, ever want to play a rogue.  I had no sense of why I was setting the light off.  I need to practice more shuffleboard, but, mostly, what we need is to make sure other players have enough equipment to be functional on normal mode.

We are so not equipped for higher modes.  We have never focused on equipping, though Dave did pick up some specific tokens.  There are plenty of tokens that would make a world of difference, some are even less than $200, less than $100, even some less than $80 that would make a huge difference.

It’s amazing how big of an economy exists for True Dungeon given that it’s so hard to have an opportunity to play it.

The second session?

Our group was less experienced.  We were awful early on.  We couldn’t figure out virtually anything and needed tons of hints just to have a chance.  Our rogue was a new player but supergood at treasuring, so that was a bright spot.  We finally started getting more competent at the end and even figured out a puzzle or two, including the last one, and nobody died.

So, TD is strange.  On the one hand, you can spend $8,000 to get a bunch of tokens.  You can cast multiple fireballs with the help of tokens.  You can be broken.  On the other, does it matter?  Your payoff is largely just getting even stronger.  I’d rate the most important things in a group being:

  1. Cleverness – It’s just more fun to solve puzzles.
  2. Roguemastery – More treasure for all is fun, and it comes from doing something rather than just having extra treasure tokens.
  3. Combat Experience – Being quick at shuffleboard.  Knowing what to cast when.  Having a ranged weapon.

Sure, better tokens make the party better one way or another.  But, I haven’t seen a pre room 7 death in a long time.

I look at tokens that are not absurdly expensive and think “I can be so much better with minimal expense.”  I also, however, think “Why am I playing this?  I’m playing this for the experience, not the experience points.  I like the randomness of equipment rather than being a Mr. Suitcase, as being a Mr. Suitcase for this game is superexpensive and unbalancing with others not so well-equipped.  I’m playing this once a year as I’m hardly going to fly out to a minor convention for this or virtually anything else.”

Also, I only do True Dungeon with Andy or Dave or other friends.  I’m not that clever, so I help little with puzzles.  I cast spells good but forget I’m sitting on three wands in my back right pocket and pay little attention to what other players do in combat.  I haul around absurd numbers of tokens I don’t use (scrolls, conditional magic items) or don’t understand what I’m supposed to do with (gear).  Does this sound like someone who should take it far more seriously?

I love collecting and find tokens to be somewhat aesthetically pleasing.  The transmutation possibilities are intriguing, though so many are so offputting because they are so damn hard to achieve without just buying what you need.  In other words, great concept, really annoying execution as it doesn’t allow most folks to partake.

That’s not necessarily a good thing.  Unlike CCGs, where I play with my suitcases of cards, I’d be sinking money into something with a twice a year payoff, if I go with other people, and where I mostly just want to observe other people being clever, other people critting at shuffleboard, other people operating their styluses to more treasures.

We leave the con after True Dungeon.  Another year.  A good year, if not great.  A year with some negatives that have some positives.  A year with a relatively low financial outlay, hotel being split three ways, no purchasing at exhibit hall.  An opportunity to spend some time with Dave – we used to game all of the time back in the Precedence days.  A year with no HoR sessions.  Going to be much tighter schedulingwise next year, one presumes.

Now, what’s this I hear about extensive character creation info for HoR4?