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.


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?


Unusual Suspects

May 15, 2016

I will post about the routine.  V:TES playdays, Shadowfist nights, not as much RPG sessions as I’m not trying to elevate the visibility of RPGs the same way I have an interest in elevating the visibility of CCGs.

While recent gaming hasn’t necessarily been esoteric, obscure, or unprecedented, I feel like there’s some callout on the distinctiveness of certain things.

We didn’t play Shadowfist last Thursday, but we did the week before.  There was one thing I wanted to mention.  I played a Gibbering Horror.  “Yo, dude, so your metagame is, like, eventriffic, n’est-ce pas?”  Could be.  Red Bat is fairly common.

Gibbering Horror, rather than posting the whole text, has a Fighting equal to the number of events in the smoked pile of the player to your left.  I played one.  The player to my left had this many events in his smoked pile:  0.  I was the table threat that needed to be beaten down for much of the game.

I questioned what I was doing when I did it.  I eventually concluded it was the correct decision.  Spending three power for no characters in play – try not do or do not.  I’m sure any Shadowfist player will figure out why it was necessary – resources.  With a second Lotus resource, I could play characters that did something.

Okay, moving on.

Saturday, I played in a playtest of a friend’s Feng Shui game using the FATE system.  It went fine.  We pointed out a few things.  I was reminded of why I have such a hard time with systems that mechanize thematics.  You don’t need to mechanize thematics.  I find FATE so much more gamey than d20, for instance.  When everything relates to some sort of mechanic, you are actually, shockingly enough, more mechanical than a game where the GM just says “Okay, go ahead and roll Brains + K: Pudding.” and tells you what’s what.  Anyway, always nice to have food served for his events.

We played V:TES today.  Brandon built a cube.  In my mind, a cube draft is you choose any card from the cube and people keep doing that with all cards and picks known, but I guess I’m wrong as Wikipedia says you can make makeshift boosters out of your cube.

Six of us did that.  We made crypt boosters of nine cards, two “packs” per player, and booster drafted them.  We made library boosters of 10 cards and booster drafted them.  All of the crypt cards were group 1, no duplicates.  Library cards had some duplicates – the total contents of the cube weren’t known to the rest of us.

So, let’s say you know V:TES.  Which vampire did I draft first?  No, not Gideon Fontaine, I actually passed him when he came around.  I did not see Anson.  I did see Mariel, Lady Thunder but passed her.  I did draft Anneke … and didn’t play her, it was more of a hate draft in that I hate her ability.

Give a hint, Ventrue.

I drafted Nash but not first.  I drafted Bridges but not first.  I drafted Democritus as a second pick.

I had Jazz, Heather, Melissa (really tempted as I love the card even if I prefer other cards’ art).  Never saw Crowley.  I had Helena and Natasha since no one wanted her.  I played neither.

Yup, once you filter the list down, not a lot of other possibilities.  Oh, I also had Violette and Courtland and played neither.  Yup, I first picked a +1 Strengther.  Every time I see her, I think about how I’d like to play her.  Maybe, the art has something to do with it.  Maybe, I am nostalgic for the days when I played Dominate all of the time.

I second picked another 6-cap.  A Tremere.  I didn’t play Lydia.  See, it was fairly obvious that there was a fight for Dominate cards, and the Presence cards were often bleed cards.  So, I picked up a lot of Fortitude damage prevention relative to what I wanted to get.

I like that it was different.  But, what makes me more interested in limited play is seeing cards you don’t see in constructed.  I put a Meat Cleaver in my deck.  That’s cool.  What was not as cool was how many times I had to pass bleed cards because I had to get good stuff.

#1  Pool Gain

#2  Untaps

#3  Permahurt or permastealthbleed (permableed is good, permastealth is good, permastealthbleed is sick)

My first library pick was … Wake with Evening’s Freshness.  I had to pass good stuff to get Sudden Reversal (stopped Legendary Vampire on my predator’s Anson in the first game, stopped Frontal Assault by my predator in the second game), King’s Rising, a second King’s Rising.  Sure, I also ended up with one of the most powerful transient cards in limited play – Leverage.  And, a Bonding.  And, something like four Presence bleed actions.  I cut Restoration from my deck as I felt too action heavy.  I didn’t cut Mesmerize.

Ah, Mesmerize.  Shows how little I play with it (keep wanting to call it Memorize) that the first game I made three horrible mistakes on my prey’s first action.  I blocked The Crimson Sentinel with Nash and Second Tradition (only intercept card in the deck) … wait for it … with Memorize in my hand and the minion getting the card couldn’t generate intercept and my prey wasn’t going to bring out another minion that turn.  I had Minor Irritation in my hand and didn’t play it.  I used a disciplineless combat card to avoid being hand striked rather than take Anastasia’s hand strike when I had damage prevention in my hand and I had Delilah in play who couldn’t play any of my numerous damage prevention cards.

I swept that four player game.

I didn’t sweep the six player.  I ousted my prey just at time with a four bleed at two stealth because Leverage is broken.  Well, my prey didn’t have to bring out another minion late in the game.  I did have both King’s Risings in play.  I had Barrensed away one of them in the four player as I had too much pool to want to negate transfers.

It was not constructed play, but it was limited play with a lot of the common suspects.

Given how much players who aren’t good at draft complain about their decks, I can see this being more popular as a format as there’s much less fighting with one’s deck to do things.  I think it helps level the playing field.  I found that I had vastly superior decks to my opponents when I drafted challenging sets because I evaluated cards better and had a clearer vision of what sort of deck I was making.  I rarely had to pass cards of the power level that this draft had.  Anyone could get good cards, though here’s a tip – don’t pass King’s Rising, unless, of course, you have the choice of Failsafe or some similar pool gain bomb.

Anyway, we also did a constructed game, but that’s hardly unaccountable.

Oh, Gen Con events today.  Things seemed to have worked out for me and another, but I’m not sure if the third of our group that is going together got what he wanted.  As painful as hotel reg can be, event reg is light centuries ahead of what it used to be and actually rather efficient.  The wish list thing is magnifique.  I was done in the first 20 minutes of registration being open.

What did I go for?  A lot of supernatural stuff.  That’s really my thing.  Whether it’s mythological supernatural or modern supernatural or historical supernatural, it’s just my biggest draw.  No CCGs – Shadowfist is at the wrong time, which I mentioned last year; V:TES just isn’t fun enough during the con.  After the con, before the con, I’m happy to do whatever, maybe a pickup game late at night.  But, I have so very many things I want to do just in the RPG schedule.

And, that’s without any HoR.  What’s the point of my playing any Nightmare War at this stage?  I did look at some non-HoR L5R games, but there are just far too many things I want to try.


Cardflopping Like It’s 1999

February 21, 2016

I was going through a box of my stuff in a pathetic attempt to get the house more organized.  Besides some ornamental mementos, there was quite a bit of gaming related stuff from when I was a Precedence Publishing volunteer.

In other words, from 1998 to 2000, the heyday of Babylon 5, Wheel of Time, and Tomb Raider CCGs.

There are so many miscellaneous things in that pile.

gencon ’99 and origins ’99 duty roster [sic]

I’ve only ever been to one Origins in Columbus.  It was because I was so deep in the volunteering thing that I had as my volunteer blocks:  Open Demos, Friday, July 2nd, 12AM-6AM; Open Demos, Saturday, July 3rd, 12AM-6AM; Open Demos, Sunday, July 4th, 12AM-6AM!!

I occasionally need to remind myself just how absurd my life has been, at times.  I worked in San Francisco for a while.  On Van Ness.  Where we had parking!?!  I was doing currency speculation in the ForEx market for a company long gone from that site.  I didn’t have much of a commute when I was getting in at midnight and leaving at 6AM.

Apparently, at some point, the idea of being up in the middle of the night didn’t really bother me.  Oh, how times change.

It doesn’t get any less weird for Gen Con:  Friday, August 6th, 12AM-6AM; Saturday, August 7th, 12AM-6AM; Sunday, August 8th, 12AM-6AM.

While I recognize a bunch of names on the duty roster, there are also a lot of names I don’t recognize.

An email I sent after Origins ’99:

Disgraceful. Sam wins the West Regionals. Mike Calhoon wins the Midwest Regionals. Where were you all at the East and Southeast Regionals?

Origins: the other con. Attendance was probably light due to Dragon Con being the same weekend. I only played in the social tournament. Someone was actually surprised that Adira got up to 11 intrigue. Don’t know much about the constructed. The sealed deck final was one of the longest finals ever. It sounded incredibly amusing with We Can’t Allow Thats flying around. Eventually, the Minbari won?! Just shows you can’t expect everyone to be an expert. Lots more starters given away. Jeff Conaway and Walter Koenig were at the con. Walter was his usual cool self about autographs. The lines were very short because he wasn’t in the booklet. Psi Corps uncut sheets were available for viewing. Nice looking art.

Non-B5, Precedence, Origins stuff: Tomb Raider was on hand for demos. Wheel of Time is still being worked on. The 2nd edition Immortal booklet had suitably eyecatching art on the cover.

Gen Con preview: Walter will be back. He will be joined by Robin Atkin Downes (Byron) and Julie Caitlan Brown (who was born in SF and has been very cool). There will also be the official Lara Croft model. All the Precedence games will get a push, except Gridiron.

Question: Of the B5 stars, who would be most desirable as a Precedence guest at events?

Oh, not much from Gen Con ’99, except one of our local players won US Nationals to qualify to play Worlds in Germany.  I might not crossregionally achieve at my CCGs, but there’s an argument I can make others better.

I found articles written by a couple of Babylon 5 players.  Mike was local.  I have his “The Fine Art of Murder:  Winning With the Narn Seizing Advantage Deck” article.  I have Merric’s “Understanding the Vorlons”, “Delenn Transformed and Ambassador Kosh”, “Winning with Diplomacy”, and other articles.

Why?

Well, at some point, I was an editor for a B5 CCG site.  I didn’t try to edit Merric’s content too much, as one of the things with niche CCGs is that metagames are very different, plus he was writing to the beginner player, not for someone like me.  A virtual pro, briefly ranked in the top 10 in the world before being crushed by serious players at the first Worlds.  (Of the three CCGs I have been ranked in the top 10 in the world, … ah, nobody cares.)

Anyway, the main criticism I’d have of Merric’s articles is that his starting hands are so not what the metagame was like at that point.  His starting hand choices were the sort of thing you’d see before Shadows only using cards printed long after.  They would have been like 3 turns too slow, lacking starting agenda and influence gainers (Corporate Connections, Airlock Mishap) to accelerate to “let’s actually play the game” time around turn 5.  What is the point of my bringing this up?  Maybe I should do a post on B5 deck construction that is pretty useless to pritnear everyone.

I have draft versions of the Tomb Raider and Wheel of Time Rulebooks.  I could go into this in more depth some other time, though why anyone would care is a good question.  But, the single most memorable thing to me about the WoT Rulebook is what a total pain in the ass it is to put into writing how damage works at reducing abilities.  It’s just so ambiguous in the English language unless you word it right, yet it’s the easiest thing to show someone.  I could see how Shadowfist words damage and attributes, as it works like that.

I had a bunch of printouts for playtesting B5, TR, WoT.  Was starting to toss them into recycle when I came across some for WoT and realized that they were for the unreleased Aes Sedai set.  I don’t know where the files are for these playtest sheets, but I gots to reveal to the world the ancient mystery foretold by the prophecy and suppressed by the Illuminites.  I mean, has anyone else who knew anything about the unpublished WoT CCG set ever provided any info on it?  I don’t even recall much, as I think we were very early in playtesting for it and/or were playtesting other things at the same time such that it wasn’t as much of a priority.  Well, and I was designing for B5 at that point.

I have a shocking number of tournament forms from B5 tournaments between 1998-2000.  Again, the game wasn’t actually around that long.  The intensity of my engagement made up for the brevity of it all.

I have Zeta Squadron/Legends membership newsletters.  Looks like I only ever was ranked in B5 in one of them.

I tossed some checklists where I noted how many copies of cards I got.  I have promotional brochures.

Just a very different experience than my current one, yet, it’s entirely possible that someone else is currently in that kind of world.

I certainly miss things from those days, though I could be so involved because I wasn’t as employed, so I certainly don’t want to go back to that sort of thing.  Even if CCGs make money, that doesn’t translate into big bucks for people.

Should I rummage through and find my signed, embossed B5 cards and stare wistfully at the stars?  Probably not.  But, maybe, I’ll go hunt down some emails from those days and look to post more antediluvian mysteries.

However, next up in my plans is to talk about NPCs, maybe get into some !Nosferatu decks.  Who knows?  Some day, I might even get back to posting something about the L5R RPG, since that’s mostly what people read about on my blog.  Actually, I tried finding out some info about the Saturday campaign and it doesn’t look like I’ll get anything more, so I have something I’ve been thinking of posting from that campaign, even though it won’t help anyone to build better characters, murder enemies faster, et al.  Does tie into talking about NPCs, though …


On Key

February 2, 2016

Not yet time to insert an M.  Not on Fire, either.

January was a time of doing fun things with great people.  But, it wasn’t much of a month for gaming.

While I was flying back to the US recently, I spent a bit of time thinking about gaming.  Sure, RPG thoughts came to mind.  But, unlike the norm of thinking primarily about RPGs, I actually spent some time thinking about CCGs.  In particular, I thought about V:TES.

For quite some time, I haven’t been playing much.  This led, of course, to not spending much time thinking about the game.  But, for some reason, while I haven’t done much to organize cards and haven’t done much deckbuilding, I’ve still found something more enjoyable about thinking about deckbuilding.

We played last Sunday.  I was still jet lagged and didn’t do anything new, so I played Hatchlings, Pre/Vic bruise bleed, and Jyhad Pre bleed.  In other words, my kind of decks.

I often don’t play my kind of decks.  To stretch, I’ll play decks ridiculously bad for me, like the most recent deck I think I made, which is Tzimisce rush.  Sure, without Bill around or people like him to keep coming up with combo deck ideas, I don’t get around to combo decks, but …

What makes those decks my kind of decks?

They bleed.  Yes, I know I hardly ever bleed anymore.  But, I used to.  Two out of the three hunt reasonably well, by which I mean I can afford actions hunting.  The third even hunts because it really can’t do anything besides bleed or hunt.

And, that’s the thing.  They don’t complicate my game.  Hatchlings has, generally, three different actions to take – Hatchling, hunt, bleed.  The other two just two actions.  Two of the decks bounce.  The third plays cards that both reduce bleeds and give intercept.  They don’t obsess over screwing vote decks.  Two of the decks play combat ends.  They don’t obsess over screwing combat decks, though one of them is a combat deck.

Yes, bruise bleed isn’t my thing, which makes the Pre/Vic deck kind of odd.  But, it does its superior three disciplines thing.  The other two have relatively simple discipline needs.

I don’t try to stop stuff crosstable.  I can’t shut down jack.  But, there are silver bullets.  I won one game due to Sudden Reversal on Palla Grande, though I had my Hostile Takeover on Jost with Ivory Bow Washed.

There’s just something pleasant about how all three function, though they are hardly close substitutes for each other.

I was thinking about how I hadn’t blogged in a while.  By the way, way to go WordPress, right up there with Yahoogroups and others on making your own product annoying to use.  I was thinking and started a line of thought that I don’t remember all that clearly, just that it ran through RPG and CCG stuff.

I invented a card when playing Sunday.  “Master.  Put this card in play.  You may burn this card to give a vampire of capacity five or higher +2 bleed for the current action.  This bleed action may not resolve for more than three pool damage.”  No, this paragraph has nothing to do with anything.

I was thinking about events, though I don’t really care about Anthelios, I only see Anthelios matter when I play out of my region.  Even then, it’s not Anthelios I care about.

I haven’t played any HoR: Nightmare War.  I was up at 1AM China time (well, earlier) waiting for my Gen Con housing slot, which was an hour later, which turned out to be a strong slot, where I got a room, though I think I maybe needed to try a bit harder to get a better one.

If I keep throwing out random comments, what will be unlocked?

I played mahjong on my trip, though only one format – the variant popular in China according to my coworkers I mentioned last time.  We didn’t play the Shanghainese style of all one suit or all pungs, but we talked about doing that next time.  Only one player won.  She seems very lucky in my small sample size of playing games with her, but I’d certainly also say she’s a good player.  Could be better than I.

I need to learn a couple of boardgames for the weekend after this, when I’ll be running convention sessions of stuff that isn’t either a RPG or CCG.

I need a new Fading Suns character, as I still haven’t replaced my dead monk.

Thinking.

I was thinking about card limits.  I was thinking about how I may not give other people enough credit for seeing why card limits are so awesome.  As every right-thinking gamer knows, card limits have nothing to do with the playability of a CCG.  It’s all about the collectibility and collection management advantages of needing fewer copies of cards.  Sure, for Wheel of Time, where I may only have 10 decks built at one time, I still need some 15 Lucky Finds and 15 Invasions.  But, I only need six recruitable Rahvins.  With V:TES, I need 60+ On the Qui Vive just to get by.  Anything less than 20 Villeins, which, by the way, I don’t own 20 Villeins, is a struggle.

I gave away extra Jyhad copies of commons.  I only held on to 40 copies of Jyhad Majesty, as that’s enough to scrape by.  Were there Babylon 5 cards I had problems having sufficient quantities of?  Must have been the case, though I don’t really recall it.  Annex Neutral World was something I could probably live on nine copies of.  Not Meant To Be around the same number.  Wasn’t like I had 20 decks at once for the game.  More of a 12 deck kind of game.  I think only V:TES (ignoring such things as Type P Magic) has ever seen me have 20+ decks built at once, and I haven’t done that in ages (ignoring “experiment” decks).

I still haven’t run part two of Against the Dark Yogi.  I’m beat during the week, though inertia helps me with getting out to do Thursday Shadowfist.  Every week in the month of January was consultants in town, coworkers from out of town, or my being in another country.

Carolina 41, Denver 3.  Why not?  I don’t care.  Whenever I’ve had other things to do, I’ve skipped the Big Bowl.  Plus, Seattle produced two awful results in recent years, just making it that much less worth my engagement.

We didn’t play for money.  We did have chips, though, to make it easier to track how people did in our mahjong session.  I still find it interesting.  I also found it interesting how many times I said to myself “yo, dudicle, you aren’t paying that much attention to people’s discards, like is kind of much of the skill in the game”.  I realized later why the format is so fast.  When every dragon is a flower, the tile pool is vastly decreased, which makes connections in hands and from discards form much faster.  There’s a lot of thought I could put into the format, especially around the payoff calculations of declaring ready versus playing not to lose.

I’ve talked about what I enjoy out of RPGs.  I don’t know if I’ve covered what sort of PCs I like playing enough.  Too good a topic not to save for a more laser sharp blog post.

How come in Legends of Tomorrow, the fire gun never causes fires and the cold gun never freezes things?

Merged Ferox with Tremere demo deck as predator.  Grandpredator wins the game.  But, that’s so unmeta.

There are rarity indicators on Shadowfist cards?  According to an article on drafting there are (or were).  Probably should do a Shadowfist draft some day.  I almost miss V:TES drafting, just because everyone should be forced to learn more about limited play with CCGs other than Magic.

There are a lot of things that don’t enthuse me about making RPG characters.  I’ve talked about my disdain for equipment, and I’m sure I mentioned something about not being into playing magic-users.  That kind of covers Theurgy and Psychics.  But, what about Cybernetics?  I think they come across as equipment to me.  I’m also not a tech guy, except when I’m a software consultant, software developer, technical architect, or the like.  So, what sort of Fading Suns character should I play?  I think I should stretch and actually go with one of these things I normally wouldn’t choose because they don’t sound appealing.

Why aren’t games better?  Another great topic for another time.

I still haven’t posted another solitaire variant I created.  One I created years ago as yet another solitaire game to use a small amount of space but to have meaningful decisions.  I’ll have to get around to this some day.

But, today.  Today is just a day to make a mess before getting back on track with geniusness.