DunDraCon 2018

February 20, 2018

Do I just keep saying the same things as if we are in a chronic hysteresis?

I don’t think I’m going to come across as chipper in this post.  I can’t be mister positivity 100% of the time [… uh …].

I’m not as engaged with local cons.  When you ponder which DDC’s were more memorable out of 20+, it’s not like there isn’t a been there, done that aspect to it.  Why don’t I feel the same way about Gen Con when I play HoR a lot and may end up playing the same systems over and over, like Four Colours Al Fresco for a while or Feng Shui or whatever?

Because in person play of HoR locally is very different from in person play of HoR at Gen Con, for instance.  At GC, you get the core players and people who put thought into metagaming the campaign, even if it’s just deciding how to form Battle Interactive tables.  I’ve never played any 4CAF outside of GC, nor any Babylon RPG, etc.

KublaCon is more interesting to me from a gaming standpoint because I get to play card game events that don’t exist outside of the con, e.g. Shadowfist tournaments.  Have to defend my title as Classic Champion for the sixth largest economy in the world this year, for instance.

But, let’s get back to DDC.

No hotel this year.  While I didn’t mind driving back and forth in the moment, I needed a break and DDC wasn’t much of a vacation.  Now, my first vacation of the year is coming up soon …  At some point, get on topic.

I skipped Friday because, sincerely, I’m not in the mood to game Friday nights at cons after being at work much of the day.  It’s just a desire for a mental break.  Now, I’m willing to game if there’s something I’m particularly interested in playing, but there are few things I’m particularly interested in playing.  Again, RPG events may sound good, but I’ve had the spectrum from amazing to atrocious, from excellent to bad, from solid to mediocre, unforgettable to forgettable.  I am more likely to enjoy playing than thinking about the possibility of playing.  It’s like how I have no problem working out but hate thinking about working out so I hardly ever initiate the exercise.

Also, I don’t think my friends and gaming associates realize how little I have always been interested in quick games or pick up games or whatever.  I invest in certain games (or types of games) and want to play those a lot, and I play what other people want to play that doesn’t feel like it will be a drag.  I’ll demo games I haven’t played, but I don’t go out of my way to do so unless they have a hook that is extra hooky for me.  I’d much rather talk about a game that interests me or even hear someone’s review of a game that doesn’t interest me than play filler games.

Saturday, I get in a bit after 7:30AM and find ample parking at the hotel.  I get my usual breakfast from Bagel Street Cafe of pastrami and swiss on a poppy seed bagel (because they don’t have the bread rolls baked yet) with a large peach smoothie with whip cream.

Bagel Street Cafe.  It’s a chain.  I don’t think I’ve ever been to one other than in San Ramon.  There’s one in the shopping center where I get my hair cut and I’m not entirely sure where it is.  Yet, conwise, I’d be happy to eat twice a day at the place with the occasional dinner somewhere outside of the adjacent shopping center where I can get a burger or fish and chips or whatever.

I show up like 8:30AM for my 10AM Traveller demo.  Try to work on my piracy deck for a Developer’s Corner article on travellerccg.com and fail to make much progress as people are already showing up to demo the game.  Demoing happens, with Jeff leading.  It’s only 2 hours for the event, but we continue demoing for another 2 hours.  Then, food, or, as I like to call it, smoothie number two, berry [blackberry?] smoothie this time.

Saturday night is V:TES, which is a couple of games.  We call the second game after my Hermana Mayor deck has gotten a VP from my prey’s Anarch Revolts and ousts a second player, while my grandpredator finally stealth bleeds out my predator.  The first game was a spin on Hatchling.dec where I had .5 VPs at time and 3 VPs playing the game out with Arika as my predator and my Aus/Pre/Vic bruise bleed deck as prey.  Sucked up a bunch of Starvations of Marena, but my prey decked.

Not home too late … if I wasn’t old and decrepit.

Sunday, roll in an hour later as I didn’t get out of bed at 5:20AM to build decks, like I did on Saturday.  Get the strawberry smoothie and am pleased with it, as well.  Which to get Monday?  Which?

Demo, similar structure, different people, at 10AM.  Then, tournament time.  Time for ruthless beats.  Time for glory, honor, status, and swag.  Except, I’m one of the guys who made the game, so like none of those apply.

Match 1:

I’m playing against a precon.  I’m not winning.  I then have a crazy complicated turn after having relatively straightforward turns earlier.  Oh, I’m playing my Prepared Scout deck from my website article, with a few adjustments to the crew and maybe one or two other cards.

I have a Body Pistol in play and shoot Rika Honami.  I Freelancer Flint into play and jettison her.  I have played a SureShot Missile Turret and Just a Little Longer … another SureShot Missile Turret and I Glitch one of my Turrets to reuse it so that I do 6 or whatever damage as a pirate to bankrupt my opponent.  May not sound that intense, but I think also Freelancered another crew in play for some reason and used my Starship Graveyard to get back one of those Turrets.

As usual, I was virtually bankrupt myself.  A Scout may always be prepared, but this Scout is always poor.

If I hadn’t taken out Rika, he might have completed his contract and won.

Now, I think I only won – not because my constructed deck was the wasp’s elbows – because I understood the game far better than someone who just started playing in the Sunday demo.

Match 2:

Paired off with another 1-0 player, some guy named Jeff who has played the game before.  This was a very casual event due to people kind of getting in late and not being quite sure who was playing.  He got out to a lead.  At a certain point, he was up 13-11 in VPs.  Then, his friend showed up who was planning on playing and took over.

On the penultimate round, I went for a big contract to try to get 6 VPs and win.  I got 5.  I had numerous ways to get 6, but I had two cards left in my hand and none in my deck and didn’t have the money to play both cards or play one and use my Luxury Suite for the 20th VP.  I was ready to concede as I thought that round was my only chance, as bankruptcy or my opponent getting to 20 seemed inevitable.  With one card left, we went to the next round.  I used my last card to jump to a cheap survey contract.  With zero cards in hand or deck, with two crew who would have been jettisoned if my opponent had not healed each for one damage for amusement value, I scored three more VPs and my opponent got stopped by my deck that doesn’t actually interact hardly at all with my opponent (except when I can pirate on the last round for the kill) because he didn’t choose to gain Survey with the Empress Marava Far Trader during the resource phase and my last complication play was Electro-Magnetic Interference.  Of course, if he had pirated me, I was dead.

In other words, if Jeff had played the game out entirely, he would have been 2-0 instead of me.

At this point can make a point by pointing out that knowledge of games is really helpful in games that aren’t luckfests of lucksackiness.  Many, many plays could have prevented me from winning, but, when you get dumped into the middle of a game that you aren’t particularly familiar with and are playing against someone who helped create the game, sometimes you don’t win.

Match 3:

During the second round, I had more than 30 cards in my discard pile.  In two rounds, I played or used about two-thirds of my deck.  That’s some two legit two spit right there.

I outraced my opponent who didn’t have enough ways to stop me from gaining VPs.  He had a slow start and was way behind and only because I do a great job of getting close to bankruptcy did I manage to get to 21 VPs with only a couple of cards left.

My intention is to write a “takeaways” article for our website.  An obvious takeaway is that knowledge of the game matters.  And, this is good.  It shows we came up with a game that rewards things that should be rewarded.

Another takeaway is that the precons are fairly playable.  Only one other player built a deck and he was 0-2 after two rounds of playing against precons, finally getting his piracy deck to work in the third round.

Went to dinner at a Cajun place and I got boring Cajun Burger since I was in the mood for a burger.

At one point, Brad and I were talking about FCGs versus VCGs.  We are VCG fans.  Do I go into a rant now?

I guess.  It seems gratuitous to rant in a separate post.

VCGs are better.  Here’s why.

Complaint number one:  I don’t get all of the cards when I buy random packs.  If you want to get complete sets, go to eBay to get complete sets.  If eBay doesn’t have them, reach out to the publisher or the player base and offer to buy complete sets.  Meanwhile, without randomness, you lose sealed play outside of “duplicate”, draft play that is remotely interesting, and you even lose any interest in opening up any product since you know exactly what will be in there when you do.  Well, okay, *I* lose interest in opening any product.  As much as I often feel bad opening up boosters for games where I need copious numbers of certain cards, I also find it interesting to occasionally crack a booster, though more so with Magic where I don’t own all of the cards already.

Complaint number two:  VCGs are too expensive compared to FCGs.  If you are the type to buy three core sets of L5R and be satisfied, you aren’t playing a CCG, you are playing a boardgame with customization.  You may feel differently, but that’s the way I feel.  I consider the correct number of L5R core sets to be minimum 18.  Every three core sets allows for two decks (with extras, of course).  So, 18 core sets is 12 decks at once (in truth, slightly more because you will avoid splashing too much of the same thing because you crave variety).  I’m a card flopper, 12 decks is a norm.  I range from 7 decks to 22 decks built at once for most card games I play.  I think I have around 20 Shadowfist decks built at the moment, about 12 V:TES decks (not counting decks for my limited collection experiment and the like), and only 4-5 L5R decks because I’m not taking L5R seriously yet.  Not that it’s a fair comparison because my Magic decks are almost all Type P decks, but I have about a hundred of those built.  Amazingly enough, 18 core sets is like $600-$700 plus getting like three copies of each expansion pack so that you have nine copies of every expansion card costs more money, though only nine copies of cards sounds rather low to me as some of those cards may go in every deck.  Then, if you really aren’t into being able to build every deck possible for a game, like I am, pretty easy to play CCGs for free.  Want to play Magic for free?  Just ask people for their extra commons.  Want to play V:TES for free, find me and I can hand over a thousand cards.  Will you have exactly three copies of every card for a three card limit game?  No.  But, I imagine the only need to have such a collection is for tournament play, in which case can just borrow a deck.  CCGs are about infinite variety.  I embrace that.  Hard for me to get into the mindset of only wanting to have like a thousand cards for a game, even if I’m also willing to play card games with only like a thousand card collection … up until the point that I end up with 20,000-40,000 cards.

Now, obviously, not everyone approaches gaming like I do, which is probably why I have this blog and not everyone who plays games has this same blog.  I mean, look at the market – we never considered putting out Traveller as a VCG because I’m in some sort of minority based on visible opinion.

Get home early, watch some Olympics because freestyle skiing halfpipe qualification is interesting.  Land high – ooh, not that high.

Monday is the key day.  The day that doesn’t involve showing people how to play the greatest card game, no, the greatest game ever possibly thought of in all of the multiverses in all of time, even the funky nonlinear time(s).  Monday is the day I decide to go with the berry smoothie again.  Monday is the day I fail forwards …

Brad is running 2d20 Conan.  For most of us, this is the first attack, the Pictish Frontier of Conan play, the day that ole Ian forgets to bring the character sheets he has been carrying around all weekend.

Character creation is involved.  Already, the suffering.  Plus, certain people, who shall remain nameless until I out him, did not back the Kickstarter and, thus, we are trying to learn how to play with four players and two core books.

Spoiler:  we didn’t like the system.  Now, we (most of us) played Conan d20 for like 9 years.  Sure, it wasn’t perfect [see blog posts for mini rants], but it wasn’t hard to jump into.  This was just hard.  For some, the dicerolling wasn’t clear.

For me:


I read a long thread on rpg.net about Conan after I got home.  There were posters who talked about how antagonistic the game feels with Doom Pool uses.  I felt that in my half a session.  Em, we didn’t finish an adventure because Brad got tired of trying to run the system and it was close to the end of the con.  Now, I can’t say I’ve never felt like a GM was shutting me down when I wanted to do something, and maybe the adventure in the book just sucks, but I felt like there was way too much preventing us from doing things, which seems like the opposite of what narrative mechanics are intended for.


I grew so tired of these right quick.  Because geniusness also can include overlooktheobviousness, I didn’t realize until our postgame analysis that the reason rolling 20’s comes up so much more often than d20 is because … er, 2d20 is twice as much as d20, while 3d20 is like more than twice as much as d20.

Fail forward, “yes, but”, complications – all of these strike me as actually getting in the way of just playing a game.  They put more pressure on GMs and players to justify mechanics rather than just ad hocing on the fly as you are freewheeling … okay, okay, I’ll hinder myself.

Gamistier Than Thou

I’m going to pummel this live donkey in another classic gaming rant.

Narrativist mechanics aren’t narrativist – they are gamist.  Because, pssst, let you in on a secret that nobody else can possibly derive – mechanics are gamist.  “But, old, decrepit, get off my AD&D 1e lawn dude.  You don’t understand gamist/simulationist/narrativist.  You are going to be defeated once I enlighten you to the true RPG metaparadigm whatsit.”

The more you mechanize a game, the more the focus of the game shifts from story to mechanics.  This is why I don’t like crunchy systems.

Before I forget, let me tell a story, like old, cranky people are wont to do.  When Origins was in San Jose, I attended and I was introduced to Immortal: The Invisible War.

I played two sessions run by Ran Ackels, who some of you may know as the guy who created Immortal.  I retain, in my feeble memory, a recollection that the way he ran these games was “Roll a die [d10], and I’ll tell you what happens.”  That is narrativist play.  Dice exist to give some level of randomness to short term results; as the party succeeds or fails at things in the short term, the long term is adjusted.

They don’t exist to be an economic engine.  Momentum, Doom Points, Fortune, Complications are all mechanisms for having players and GM focus on and manipulate mechanics.

Do I hate Fortune?  No.  It’s obviously related to Bennies in Savage Worlds which I do pretty much hate (slightly).  It reminds me of Fate Points in d20 Conan, Hero Points, and their ilk, which I actually like.

You know what else I like?  When we played oConan, we got ladybugs (reroll for you) for writing fictions/session reports, spiders (+2 to roll) for bringing food, arrowheads (reroll for anyone, including NPCs and antagonists) for extra effort.  Are these gamist in the way trying to maximize Momentum or trying to build Fortune is?


They are modifications to existing rules, whereas Momentum is a subgame.  This was my problem when I was exposed to Fate.  I felt like Fate was far more gamey than d20.  You do things not because you want to but because the *mechanics* of the game reward you for doing them.  I’m now playing a game of manipulating mechanics rather than playing a game of seducing the immortal witch (“failed Diplomacy, reroll, reroll”).

Do I hate Doom/Momentum?  *shrug*  Maybe.


Fail forward is, in other words, succeeding.  If you can’t actually fail at whatever the adventure is supposed to be about, what sense of accomplishment do you get?

This is a tricky topic that I’ve touched on before – the topic of players feeling a sense of accomplishment.  I worry about this when running systems where you either succeed at die rolls or fail at die rolls.  Because I can’t escape the epiphany that what I enjoy as a player is feeling like failure was possible but not actually failing, so accomplishment is an illusion of perceived ability to be disaccomplishmentary.

In oConan, we failed.  Oh, we succeeded fairly often, at times because of pulling a reroll out of our gamebags, at times probably because we weren’t doing something all that difficult, it just seemed difficult.  But, we also straight up failed.  We ran away from demons loosened.  We ran away from Pict harriers.  We Fate Pointed to be found on some island beach or in wreckage at sea or whatever that I no longer remember.

And, in seven years of one campaign, things moved forward and stories were told and retold.  This is what the intent of these narrative mechanics is – stories move forward with setbacks until you climax [sic].  But, you don’t need that in any given session.  You can get that across sessions to where a campaign isn’t some exercise of fudging [ha] results.

Why give power to the dice?  They already hold players’ pathetic little minds within their sway.  “These dice suck, I’ll go get other ones.”  “Don’t roll the GM’s dice.  They will curse you.”  “Look at how sparkly my dice are.”  “I always fail Honor Rolls.”


I don’t dislike the system (the part of the system that doesn’t involve Momentum, Doom, or Complications).  Though, I’m trying to figure out how you can build a functional sorcerer in the beginning, which I guess I could go to the forums and read about.  I just find it incredibly clunky and extremely gamey.  Just the fact that PCs get to decide what order to take actions in is itself gamier than rolling initiative.  Yes, it is.  It becomes a subgame, and the more subgames you have, the more game you have.

There’s also way too much emphasis on equipment, with a lot of equipment being obscenely expensive.  I bought a bow and that used up all but one of my gold.  A crappy bow, by the way.  This was something d20 did really well – outside of primary weapon, equipment was something you hardly paid any attention to.  Sure, armor could be good, but armor could also suck.

I might get used to the economics of the subsystems of Momentum and Doom that are built into the system.  I’m not sure I’ll ever think they add value to playing, but rewriting the game to take them out is a waste of time, when we could just go back to playing d20 or I could homebrew another Roll & Keep variant.

So, yeah, DunDraCon.  It was good.  Traveller isn’t perfect but playing Traveller gets me thinking more like a player of the game rather than being in developer/designer mode.  I think about how the game has all of these cards that you want to play but can’t at the same time, which seems positive.  Conan was something worth doing even if it wasn’t nearly as fun as our old convention sessions tended to be.  I got to talk to people.  I had four smoothies in three days, though the waistline impact is not a victory.

If only we could get more Traveller cards to the people who are enthused about playing.  If only I was a beam of sunlight reflecting off of a unicorn’s horn during a musical on Christmas Eve.  If only I remembered to pass the character sheets to Brad before Monday.  If only I could remember what else I wanted to write about so that I could get to 4000 words in this post.


1600 House Rules

February 15, 2018

So, besides becoming fired up to run Rokugan 1600, I happened to have been reading some L5R forum posts wherein I was:

Surprised to see so much love for 3e/3r.  Where were all of these people before?

Unsurprised but heartened to see the criticisms of the fine 3e/3r/4e games include such things as how contested rolls suck.  I might steal the TN 15 idea someone posted.

On a related note, I continue to be bewildered by the attraction to narrative mechanics – the fail forwards of the world, the “yes, but”, the whatever plus extra.  Maybe it’s having played plenty of great RPG sessions where success/failure was the norm where I see that narrative elements are something you always add to games as a GM and leave dice as a resolution mechanic rather than trying to get dice to tell you a story.

Anyway, got me to focusing or assessing or striking on what house rules to use in a home game of L5R.


First of all, going to use 4e.  Not only is it far more familiar to players, but it’s more familiar to me at this point, as I’ve played more 4e and have run way more 4e than 3r.

So, let’s ponywhip for a while on what sucks about 4e.

Grappling, Void, stance declaration, wound chart, Feint, mastery abilities, Medicine doesn’t heal enough, Defense skill, numerous vants, dullness of school techniques, Glory does nothing, Honor Rolls, armor, Reflexes.

Okay, I don’t want an extensive list of house rules nor do I want ones that are hard to remember.  So, have to suck up some of the crap and just accept that not everything is going to be optimal.


Grappling just takes you out of playing L5R and makes you think you are playing some POS system.  Could just ban it, but I think I have in mind what would make it not obnoxious (and really not that good for PCs).

Fix:  Your ATN is not affected by grappling.

I suppose could say your ATN is reduced by 5 when in a grapple, but screw it – let’s go simple to remember.


There are several problems with Void in 4e.  Where do I want to draw the line?

Fix1:  You may spend any number of VPs in a round.  You may reduce incoming wounds multiple times if you wish.

Does this impact certain school/path abilities?  Who cares?

Fix2:  You may spend 2 VPs to ignore Wound Penalties, including Down and Out, for the round (kipping up as desired for free).

So, you may be thinking “This could be horrible for PCs as suddenly big bad just wrecks.”  Except, not all enemies have Void Points, one, and, two, PCs should have more VPs and manage them better.

Fix3:  Void costs 5x next rank to increase.

What about limiting max raises by higher of Void or Skill?  Well, that works fine for side skills, but it strikes me as dangerous as hell with attack skills.  I don’t want to completely redo skills in the game.

Stance Declaration

Why is it undefined?  This isn’t difficult, people.

Fix:  Everyone rolls initiative.  Then, everyone declares stances in reverse initiative order if anyone gives a crap who is in what stance.

Wound Chart

Leaving it alone.  To change it may have unintended consequences and veteran players are used to it the way it is.

Feint/Increased Damage

Feint is gone.  3e Feint was overly complicated for little benefit (why don’t I just kill my enemy with my first attack?).  I think the potential for abuse of +0k1 damage increases exists in 4e, but I’m playing a character who can increase damage by +1k2 in HoR play, and I don’t find it all that.  So, back to “2 Raises, +0k1 damage”, which is important for making Nk1 weapons remotely viable (well, in a world without Feint).

Bayushi get FR to damage.  Usagi ability was beyond dumb to begin with and will become something that matters.  HoR4 ditched Feint and maybe I use its ideas.

Honor Roll

Fix:  Reroll your original dice pool.  Add your Honor rank as a static bonus to the roll.  While not what I want mechanically as it doesn’t differentiate Honor ranks enough, it’s simple to remember.


Fix:  If someone knows who you are, you add your Glory rank to social rolls.  Straight out of 3e.

Fix2:  If someone knows your Status, they get +/- the difference in Status to social rolls.  Yes, this means 2x the difference when there are opposing rolls.  Only matters for those who care about Status, of course.

Why create a Status rule?  Because, as I’ve mentioned, Status doesn’t really work in L5R play.  While it can just be a mark of achievement and I’ve actually written that down in my notes for the campaign, let’s keep adding house rules no one will remember to at least try to get L5R to respect what makes L5R different from other RPGs.

Fix3:  You don’t gain a rank of Glory when you go up in Insight Rank.  You don’t gain Glory from Status gains.

The first is an important rein in factor to keep Glory from ten-ing.  The latter is an idea for trying to rein in some of the ten-ing of Glory.  HoR4 has done a job to keep Glory from automaxing, but it’s way too much bookkeeping for something that doesn’t matter.

School Techniques

Not going to go with my “Once per day, any rank technique.” idea as it isn’t simple and may be broken.

Tamori has to change.  Maybe to make it the same as Agasha.  I don’t know.  But, no potion magic.  That’s not L5R.  I’m not excited by the 3e Tamori technique from a flavor standpoint.

Possible changes to correct bad editing/utter nonsense.  Like clarify how Badger R-3 works.  But, this is low priority.

Mastery Abilities/Skills

Fix:  If a skill has no R-3 mastery ability, then it gets “R-3:  Gain +2 Insight”.  If a skill has no R-5 mastery ability, then it gets “R-5:  Free Raise”.  I don’t really care about skills above 5 for things in 4e that lack mastery abilities, as no one would take that many ranks anyway.

Fix2:  Each raise with Medicine increases wounds healed by +1k1.

I’d like to completely fix Medicine but this is simple.

Fix3:  Defense rank is added to ATN at all times.  Yes, this means Defense Stance doubles the benefit of Defense skill.

See Reflexes fix for preventing ATNs from getting out of hand.

Fix4:  Jiujutsu and weapon skills gain “R-7:  Your damage dice explode on 9’s”.  Yes, this means No-Dachi-7 and Tetsubo-7 don’t change, but everything else is less irrelevant.  Note that this includes Kyujutsu for the sake of simplicity if, maybe, not balance.

Fix5:  Mastery abilities that remove/reduce offhand penalties actually remove offhand penalties not produce some goofy left-handed attack incentive.


Fix:  Luck costs 7 points per rank.

Simpler than the better costing scheme of 8/6/4 or whatever.

Fix2:  Magic Resistance only affects hostile magic and does affect Maho, gaijin magic, et al.

Because anything else is moronic.

Sage should be changed, but I don’t care enough.  Servant is dumb in how it works, but nobody will have servants (who in a war campaign would die immediately), so it doesn’t matter.  Touch of Yomi can remain irrelevant to play for all I care.

For disads, just going to police character creation to keep disads to a minimum rather than worry about ones nobody would want to take or ones I find annoying to play.


Fix:  Fires of Purity does 1k1, not 2k2.  Back to 3e damage (basically).

I know, Fire sucks relative to the other rings, which makes me open to the idea of making it somehow better in other ways with its spells, but I’m so tired of Fires of Purity.  Tempest of Air is broken because GMs allow it to be.  Jade Strike is necessary (well, maybe multiple targets can be reined in).  Be the Mountain is not all upside.  Plus, I’m not against defensive or survival spells being good.  FoP is just broken.


No changes because this is a war campaign and armor is likely to be more of a PC survival aid than a NPC thing.


Fix:  ATN = 5x Reflexes + Defense Rank.

On the other hand, ATNs do get unhappinesses in 4e play.  As much as combat gets vicious at SR-3, it’s also possible to get out of control with ATNs, especially as a shugenja.  To rein in the “Every PC has to have Reflexes 5.” problem in the game, well, maybe this will do that.

Theoretical lower ATNs (because I don’t see giving chumps Defense 5+) should mean that Agility gets somewhat better, as well.  Spells only get better the harder it is to hit things due to autohitting, so maybe there’s some magic reining in with this change.


This is about 20 house rules.  Some are intuitive, like declaring stances after rolling initiative and knowing where every combatant stands.  Some are specific to certain schools and may not be made if no one bothers playing Tamori Shugenja.

A few are big deals.  Reducing the cost to increase Void might be one of them.

Some, unfortunately, are going to be hard to remember, the Glory/Status in particular, but Glory has to do something and Status logically follows.  In reality, Status difference shouldn’t be so minor a bonus/penalty.  Should be like “Each rank of Status above opposing character grants a Free Raise.” if you want to make the thematics matter more.

Five Rings Chilled

February 13, 2018

What’s the most five ringsy thing to talk about right now?

So, of course, the reason we watch the Olympics is for curling.  That women’s slopestyle was painful, a lot like watching figure skating, if anyone still watches that.  Can see the wind most visually in various events.

I haven’t watched as much as I could because this is a time of year in which I need to do some other things, like Traveller things/DunDraCon things/Traveller at DDC things, which I’m making slow progress on.

I got to thinking about biathlon, since it was one of the early events.  There are sports I watch, sports I would like to be good at, and sports I can see myself having done if I had some sort of more athletic background.

That model is eerily similar to how I see myself with CCG cards or RPG characters.

When we were in a “make yourself as a card” phase for V:TES, I couldn’t quite decide between:  what would I be; what would I want to be; what would I be as a player of the game.  Then, there was what others thought.

I find it interesting to this day that True Brujah was something that my friend thought made sense.  I kind of see Malk as easy for many a gamer, but I am inclined to think Tremere is a better fit than Malk just as I no longer think Dragon is anywhere near as good a fit in L5R for me as other clans.  Sure, there are aspects in other things, but one has a tendency to exaggerate individual aspects of themselves, which is fine when you are making a character/card you wish to be.  I feel some affinity for Tzimisce and generally enjoy playing the clan, but is that as good a fit as Tremere?  antiTrem?  Caitiff?

With V:TES, CCG and RPG ideas naturally crossover.  Less so with something like Wheel of Time or Babylon 5, where the characters already exist.  In Ultimate Combat!, would I be the “Takes A Beating” action, “Your Kung Fu Is Weak” advantage, “Who Is … Not The Master?” coach card?

So, biathlon.  I couldn’t deal with the pressure for accuracy.  I would beat myself up for failure far too much.  Oh, sure, I could somewhat imagine archery for me since I’ve done archery and it’s more of a “well, that sucked” rather than a “if I miss this shot, off the podium” feel.

Numerous other sports would be the same way.  Even if I knew how to ski or snowboard, I wouldn’t be trickin’.

No, I realized that what I could see myself doing is cross country skiing.  Or, something else that was based more on exertion.  Not saying technique wouldn’t matter, but it wouldn’t be a one off “did the entire experience come down to achieving this one action” technique but more “extend your follow through more, crouch lower, …” technique.

Which got me thinking to the L5R RPG and how much I like Earth and how generally weak Stamina is.  I am playing a high Agility character, otherwise known as a showoff build.  While there are certain things that fit me in such a build, such as a natural stealthiness, though that would be better represented with the Stealthy advantage, displays of coolness are not my thing.  Now, to be fair(?), I don’t have great endurance [ladies, wait, ignore this paragraph].  But, I think I could build endurance.  I could get more precise with ranged weapons, but the pressure would drive me nuts.

I thought about reporting on my recent Shadowfist play, as we got back on track for playing that.  But, it seems a stretch to tie any of that into my crystal clear theme.

Speaking of five rings and cool, I have gotten more enthused about my Rokugan 1600 campaign idea.  Set about 100 years after HoR2, it always took elements of HoR2.  Rokugan is at war, on the Southern front is what happens when you try to make certain clans interesting.  On the Northern front, which seems to be of more interest to potential players, is a gaijin assault.

I wrote up most of the material five years ago.  Five.  Wait, is that my theme?

A major, multi-part theme to the campaign is the failure of the clans.

Crab failed for not protecting the Empire.

Crane failed for living in denial.

Dragon failed for sitting on their asses.

Lion failed for not showing Crab enough respect.

Mantis failed for being selfish and greedy.

Phoenix failed for being pacifists.

Scorpion failed for being inferior villains.

Unicorn failed for not fighting gaijin with gaijin but for fighting gaijin with Empire and Empire with gaijin.

As part of the idea that the clans pretty much sucked, certain clans have to, you know, do something.  The Phoenix are on the front lines in the South (and, then, there are more gaijin from the East).  The Lion are using their military to actually fight an enemy of the Empire.  The Dragon are supporting the Northern front.  The Crane are right there with their Lion soldier buddies fighting the hopenottogetTainted fight.

Now, I haven’t added a lot, yet, to what I wrote five years ago.  However, because of the interest in the Northern front, aka the gaijin front, I got to thinking about how legacies of my LBS campaign could be incorporated.  So, rather than redo LBS, I can just pull everything together into one perfect campaign.  Because nothing ever goes wrong when you try to do it all.

So, curling.  Curling is what I would like to do casually.  It’s more what I’d like to watch.  Would drive me nuts to actually compete because I can visualize what I want to do in sports like curling, billiards, golf, but I can’t get my body to make the shot.  Who wants to be constantly frustrated?  Hockey goalie, not that hockey has anything to do with the Winter Olympics.  That’s something I loved as a kid when we played on cement with hollow plastic pucks.  Kind of late to *start* using skates.

Downhill?  Not unless I learn to deal with my fear of heights and disinterest in slipping.  Short track – too slippery and too contentious, where long track seems too repetitive.  Maybe luge.  Bobsled requires too much getting into the sled.

Another thing I thought about as blog material was content …  Uh, that is, I mean, RPG content.  Like, instead of talking about playing, post actual material I’ve come up with as a GM, kind of like my Story of O … -tomo Junhime post, only less about trying to get into a widow’s kimono and more like …

The Amulet of Hayat.

The amulet has a blue-green chrysocolla stone set in silver and hangs by a silver chain. Three pod-shaped pieces of volcanic stone banded by brass hang from the primary piece.

Why don’t I explain what it does or its back story or how it got named?  The first two because I am waffling on the spoilerness of spoiling in case it appears in Rokugan 1600.  The last because the person who inspired it didn’t die a long time ago.

My take on fantasy Mada’in Saleh would probably be fine as a writeup.  Actually, I could probably do a summary of my LBS campaign session by session as inspiration for all of those folks living to run LBS.  I might even remember what sort of research I felt I needed to do for the horribly underdeveloped setting.

Speaking of which, the whole L5R greater world is a real opportunity for someone to create and develop.  Why has there been so little interest in having a Senpet Empire supplement?  Doesn’t seem that challenging.  Rereading the history of the Yodotai, there are all sorts of references that could be fleshed out into something.  Of course, how the continent remotely works when you have the Yodotai just march across it and ignore the Ivory Kingdoms or like anything else about the layout and how it would reasonably function is a mystery.

Besides, I’m not competitive enough to be an Olympic athlete, professional athlete, high school athlete.  But, I could coach!  “Now, remember, that target stole your lunch money, kill it dead with extreme airgun prejudice.  Once you’ve murdered all five of those lunch money stealers, viciously trod over the packed down snow for it is laughing at you and your B- in high school Trigonometry.”  Yup, I’d be on the podium of coaches.

Ancestor Rate

January 14, 2018

While it may never come to pass that an all ancestor, all the time campaign is run, I might as well see what I think about the ancestors so that I can make decisions on any PCs/NPCs I create.

When I reviewed Great Clans, I did some ratings for those ancestors.  But, for the first time, I will put it all together and spew ancestor thoughts for the ancestors in the three books where they are concentrated:  core, GC, Secrets of the Empire.

Comments:  I’m not going to bother with Spider or clearly NPC ancestors, like monks.  My overall rating is kind of irrelevant, as it’s just an average (rounded down) of the other two, but it gives me something to think about.  Desirability, of course, is all that really matters.  You can come up with your own feelings on how much you like what an ancestor does.  More comments after.

Ancestor Cost (Pts.) Effective (Pts.)
Hida 14 10
Kuni 8 6
Doji 8 6
Kakita 12 3
Agasha Kitsuki 11 8
Mirumoto 9 10
Akodo 12 11
Ikoma 9 7
Kaimetsu-Uo 9 10
Gusai 5 0
Asako 5 0
Shiba 9 9
Bayushi 12 11
Shosuro 8 7
Moto 10 3
Shinjo 8 9
Hiruma 11 8
Kaiu 9 9
Asahina 9 8
Doji Hayaku 7 6
Agasha6 6 9
Agasha10 10 11
Togashi Yamatsu 7 6
Kitsu 6 6
Matsu Hitomi 7 5
Moshi Azami 6 3
Osusuki & Akomachi 5 6
Isawa 12 7
Naka Kaeteru 10 11
Yogo 6 12
Soshi Saibankan 5 3
Otaku 7 4
Iuchi 8 5
Otomo 6 5
Seppun 10 6
Miya 5 2
Ichiro Fureheshu 9 5
Komori Iongi 5 4
Hida Heichi 4 7
Tonbo Kuyuden 3 2
Usagi Reichin 7 4
Toku 3 5
Tsi 6 3
Morito Garin 5 2
Doji Suzume 4 6
Agasha Kasuga 5 3
Sun Tao 10 8
Chiroru 8 5
Miyuko 12 14

First up, what the ancestors cost versus my rough attempt to calculate more accurate point valuations.  Note that just because something might be worth more or less points doesn’t mean I equate that to a quality rating, though there should be high correlation.

The assumption is that campaigns make use of PC abilities.  If playing HoR or the like, where spirits and spirit realms may never appear [ha, ha ha], then sucks to be Miss Kitsu.

Ancestor Demands
Hida Low
Kuni Very Low
Doji Low
Kakita Very High
Agasha Kitsuki Very Low
Mirumoto Low
Akodo Low
Ikoma Very High
Kaimetsu-Uo High
Gusai Very High
Asako Very Low
Shiba Medium
Bayushi Low
Shosuro Low
Moto Low
Shinjo Very Low
Hiruma High
Kaiu Very Low
Asahina Very High
Doji Hayaku Low
Agasha6 Low
Agasha10 Low
Togashi Yamatsu Very Low
Kitsu Very Low
Matsu Hitomi Medium
Moshi Azami Low
Osusuki & Akomachi Very Low
Isawa Very Low
Naka Kaeteru Medium
Yogo High
Soshi Saibankan Very High
Otaku Very Low
Iuchi Low
Otomo Low
Seppun High
Miya Very Low
Ichiro Fureheshu Very Low
Komori Iongi Very High
Hida Heichi Very Low
Tonbo Kuyuden High
Usagi Reichin Very Low
Toku Low
Tsi Very Low
Morito Garin Low
Doji Suzume Low
Agasha Kasuga Low
Sun Tao Very Low
Chiroru Very Low
Miyuko Very Low

The whole concept of demands is fitting, but the whole concept of demands resulting in losing an ancestor is dumb.  The demands aren’t remotely nuanced enough and some are just crazy to deal with where others are trivial.

Ancestor Quality Desirability Overall
Hida ** ** **
Kuni *** **** ***
Doji *** * **
Kakita * * *
Agasha Kitsuki *** * **
Mirumoto ***** ** ***
Akodo **** *** ***
Ikoma ** * *
Kaimetsu-Uo **** ** ***
Gusai 0 0 0
Asako 0 0 0
Shiba ** ** **
Bayushi *** ** **
Shosuro *** * **
Moto * * *
Shinjo **** *** ***
Hiruma ** * *
Kaiu **** **** ****
Asahina **** ** ***
Doji Hayaku *** * **
Agasha6 ***** *** ****
Agasha10 **** **** ****
Togashi Yamatsu ** ***** ***
Kitsu **** ***** ****
Matsu Hitomi ** * *
Moshi Azami * ***** ***
Osusuki & Akomachi ***** ***** *****
Isawa *** ** **
Naka Kaeteru ***** *** ****
Yogo ***** * ***
Soshi Saibankan ** * *
Otaku * * *
Iuchi * ** *
Otomo **** * **
Seppun ** ** **
Miya * * *
Ichiro Fureheshu ** ** **
Komori Iongi *** * **
Hida Heichi ***** * ***
Tonbo Kuyuden *** * **
Usagi Reichin * ** *
Toku **** * **
Tsi ** * *
Morito Garin * * *
Doji Suzume ***** *** ****
Agasha Kasuga *** * **
Sun Tao *** * **
Chiroru * *** **
Miyuko ***** *** ****

Note the reason for the multiple tables is because I’m too lazy to format things better and haven’t bothered to download a plug-in, which might still require me to spend time formatting data, something I find routinely tedious if it involves more than a few clicks.  I know this makes it much harder to compare my point valuations against my quality stars, but I seem to struggle with the idea of making this blog easy to read.

Anyway, here we get to the entree portion of our meal.  Two stars is average.

Let’s get Gusai and Asako out of the way.  Neither does anything.  I’m thinking whoever wrote 4e thought that Allies are supposed to do something, but I have yet to see it be the case.  Why you would need to roll against an ally is even more bewildering.  Gusai is just dumb and is totally a NPC thing that would apply to like one NPC in the entire history of Rokugan.

Of the ancestors I chose to include … there are a lot for such a low yield mechanic, almost like the intent and the play of the game are at odds … Core average is 2.5 stars, GC average is 3.1 stars, and Secrets average is 2.8 stars.  Continues the trend that core book mechanics tend to be weaker than supplement mechanics, at least with the more esoteric stuff, like kata.  Of course, Core mechanics’ averages often get pulled down by nonsense mechanics that clearly weren’t created with actual use in mind.

Toku.  If Luck is worth about 7 points, why does he get 5?  Diminishing returns.  Since you never take Toku unless you already have three ranks of Luck, you just aren’t getting the Luck sleaze you would get otherwise.  Though, I suppose, there might be some campaign that required ancestors where you may not max out Luck …

Chiroru is, in theory, an easy calculation.  You get the benefit of 3-4 points of Kharmic Tie with previous edition danger sense power.  Maybe danger sense is worth more than 1.5 points.

By the way, trying to evaluate the abilities for these things is really hard.  Why are Seppun and Bat Clan not equivalent?  Psychology.  Sure, you could save a VP all game until you reduce damage by 10 or you could reduce damage by 10 when you need to without a VP.  Well, plus, in the Seppun case, you aren’t spending a VP, so you circumvent the once per round restriction (by any reasonable wording, plus note difference in ancestor cost).

Now, where things get messier is when an ancestor says you can spend a VP to do something because they don’t say you can avoid the once per round limit, a completely idiotic and unnecessary limit.  The exception for school techniques is specific.

It’s funny to me that Sparrow don’t really get shafted in 4e, other than the absurd path in Secrets.  Their stuff doesn’t sound good but is far better than a lot of other stuff.

Sure, Kaiu is only once per year you get to make magic items … you … get … to … make … magic … items!!

Talking to animals is the bee’s sleaze [TM].  There’s a reason Dr. Doolittle just owns.

Makes me sad that Ikoma is such a problematic ancestor.  Again, if you go by Greek God patronage rules, makes way more sense as he respects your partying self but doesn’t blow a gasket when you aren’t partying heartying.

Such a sucker for Foxes and … Centipedes.

I have actually played Kitsu.  It was pleasant but didn’t come up that much.  It did inform certain aspects of the campaign that were pleasant up until I replaced the PC with a better one.

I don’t get Kakita.  It seems like dueling is supposed to be more core to the game, yet, the problem with doing that even if you wanted to is that dueling is grossly, grossly unfair unless your GM has a serious handle on it.  Also, lots of schools don’t duel, which means it’s not a core mechanic for lots of PCs.

I’m getting a bit more interested in the Ancestor Campaign.  Even as a GM, I can make NPCs with ancestors the players don’t care about.  Though, I need to be wary about trying to “play” my characters during games, an often painful activity GMs will fall into when they cherish their creations more than letting players play.

The Best of … 2014

December 31, 2017

Our annual exercise in calling out what was notable from three years prior.


[Classic] Yu-Gi-Oh! meets V:TES [10/19/2002]

I never got much response to this as an email or as a blog post.  Every time I read it I’m reminded that sometimes I entertain myself in profound ways.  Lot of times I only write somewhat along the lines of what I want to; this is a case of writing just the way I wanted to.  This and old tournament reports help justify the [Classic] posts.

Is it better to watch episodes of YGO! first or read this first?  Note that I don’t think you need to know anything about V:TES besides that it’s a card game for this to have some level of meaning.

Might, Right, Or Contrite

I don’t feel strongly about this post, but, given how popular my L5R mechanics posts are, this seems like one that the 4e players might want to take a look at if they haven’t.



Profound?  Not so much.  I didn’t analyze courtier schools as much as analyzed them for my own interests, which has little application to others.  However, I did settle on my two HoR4 possibilities being a Miya Herald and an Asako Loremaster, with the latter maybe being a better choice in hindsight and the former working adequately.

Finish Line

A callout because I don’t think this got a lot of attention, though I may have lost so much of my old V:TES audience that anything V:TES is not going to get as much attention.  While I didn’t aim for solutions to other people’s problems, I thought I did a good job of pointing out reasons card floppers seem to struggle building V:TES decks more than they do other CCG decks.

Btw, while I’m fine with V:TES continuing as was, if I were going to reboot it, card limits.  Card limits produce a far more digestible game.

Orccon 2014

I was really getting to like how California decided to play with each other.  The reason to highlight this post was not only because it was a last hurrah of sorts but because it’s good balance for me to point out when I suck, even when it doesn’t involve wandering around Berlin.


That I may read Xanth novels or watch Inuyasha or whatever may not be touchstoney enough for my audience, but one hopes the audience knows something about Sherlock Holmes.  I thought this did tie together something important about gaming with an important observation about more mainstream entertainment.


Review – Book of Water

It’s long, therefore it must be good.  Insert banal joke.  Why call this out and not Book of Fire review in the previous Best of …?  Well, I did kind of call out Book of Fire by not calling it out.  My frustration with the rather poor series got me motivated to explain why I thought early 4e supplements were superior supplements.

Eject The Tape

If you understand why this report of casual V:TES play is … important? … interesting? … entertaining?, then I think you get more value out of my blog.  If you think this was dumb, especially the play reporting, then I’m going to disappoint at times.  If I beat a zombie pony with certain comments in various posts, this sort of post cuts to the heart of the matter (in a far more subtle and therefore geniusy way).

Bushi Analysis – Extended

Is it heartening or disheartening that so much of what gets read in my blog are posts like these?  Did I ask this question before?  I used to have an audience for V:TES, and I get why that doesn’t seem to be as important because I don’t play as much and, thus, spend less time talking about the game and people I used to play with don’t and, maybe, there are fewer people playing in general.  I wonder what V:TES players do consume.  Regional forums?

Anyway, I rated stuff.  I’m not aware of anyone else rating this sort of stuff, therefore I win the blogosphere?  I could try to clickbait by putting this sentence in my preview – Kim K. or Haifa Wehbe hotter in her prime?  I’ve never used a picture of the former for a NPC, I did use the latter (also Adriana Lima in a very different campaign).  All I got was comments about how HW wasn’t what people thought of as a “girl next door”.

I haven’t really changed my opinions on how bushi rank.  Maybe I’d get more argument from folks if I posted on forums instead of in a place where I can control the message.

Generic Bushi School

Speaking of winning.  Look, everybody has bad ideas and a lot of people have good ideas.  I just happen to have good ideas that occasionally get shared (when I’m not sharing bad ideas).  And, no, I don’t think the R-5 technique is overpowered compared to other R-5 techniques in 4e.

Strong Sorrows?

I had a coworker note that I was dead inside (recently).  Is that better than being dead outside?  Seems like it.  I enjoyed putting together this post.  Again, I got really, really tired of doing the Zodiac posts back in the day.  I should have fun on rare occasions.  Harkening back to yesteryear pleasures me (well, when it’s about things like gaming).

That aside, what’s the importance of this post?  Look, I have done things others haven’t.  Sure, I’m not likely to be a Hatamoto in the L5R LCG and I was never a World Champion at any CCG I was ranked in the top 10 in the world for and I’ve never been credited with breaking a non-playtest play environment and I have lots of opinions on things I don’t know jack and diane about.  But, I’ve also taken a number of CCGs seriously.  There’s some probability I may know something rather than just blogging made up words.

On another note, I stopped reading Magic articles because they became hard to read.  Why do people do that?  I may not particularly want to play Magic, but I find Magic interesting.


HoR Strategy

Is HoR important to me?  Right this last day of 2017?  Today, no.  Yesterday, no.  Day before that, no.  Pretty much since Gen Con 2017 ended, no.  And, that’s become the norm.  This post addresses why it’s so easy to lose the plasma on HoR play.

That being said, I’ve gotten a lot out of HoR.  I really like 3e/3r/4e basic mechanics.  I’ve had some great play experiences.  I’ve met some people I really enjoy doing things with.  I played in an epic home game because of HoR.  So, at some point, I’ll look to ramp up, again.  We might be able to play some missed mods next weekend.  It’s just brutal how disengaged I become during the months when there isn’t anything going on.




BattleTech Scenario Building

I did post stuff in May and June, in case you want to relive more of my 2014.  This post has to be great … cuz I’ve seen it get some continuous reads in 2017.  BattleTech is such an interesting game in that it’s often awful to play yet is so evocative.  Well, it can be fun … and I tell you how.


Sure, my Gen Con 2014 post was long.  They usually are.




Ah, a rant about gear.  Or, is it?  Maybe I just feel like calling out one of the easiest to read pieces of Statesish, ever.

The Road To Mana

This has very little to do with gaming.  But, it hints at something that I’ll mention because I doubt other people would make the same connections.  I’m quite fortunate to be able to have a variety of first-world problems.  Gaming in the form I consume it is a first-world activity.  Gaming can be really easy.  Bust out Advanced Squad Leader and make up some homebrew rules for simultaneous turns and you are platinum.  But, sometimes, you can run into problems of people having other things they need to do besides play games, like raise children or work.  Here, my problem was that I was getting closer to living an adventure yet couldn’t make a connection to improving my gaming experiences, something so ridiculously first-worldy that I get … amused.  Now, that’s not all downside since I get to Beware of Invisible Cows, keep it real, et al.  This is not the post to get much out of, unless you want something from this blog besides gaming thoughts, like tourist suggestions on the Islands.

I do seem to have some portion of audience who finds travel log stuff more interesting.  Btw, would you be shocked to hear that my ideal lifestyle would be “travel the world and play games”?


Exploring Villainy

It has been said that actors prefer villains because those are meatier roles.  While this post isn’t likely to be helpful to others, it does clarify why I’m a villain vegan.

Lo, The Fun

Do you play CCGs?  Do you enjoy them?  Why are CCGs the best form of competitive gaming ever?  The Fun.

L5R Campaigns

I believe there’s plenty of room for other types of L5R campaigns.  Now, I don’t see the people I play with being into some of the types, but they exist.  Where this has maybe a touch more value than it seems is that it was before I started running LBS – Black Water Lake [sigh], and it helped inform things I tried in that campaign, a campaign I was actually more happy with than most.  I’m still into the idea of LBS as a setting (well, part of a setting) because it addresses some of the problems Rokugan has a setting.  (Topic for another time?)


Clan Cards – Camarilla

I do try to use my analytical awesomeosity to be helpful, even if nobody cares.  *weep*

Note that there are two other posts in this series, but I don’t feel energetic enough to link them.

RPG Fiction Guide

You know what else my two long-running campaigns had?  My writing fics for them.  It adds so much to the experience.  So much of game time is spent on combat, rolling dice outside of combat, arguing about what to do, arguing about treasure splits [not really but sadly this has actually happened], looking up rules, etc.

Well, that was a lot of posts.  As much as I feel like I’ve lost some of the magic early on with more profundity, I also can see where I can keep going far, far into the future.  As long as I throw numbers into more posts.


December 30, 2017

So, I finished O, TCGMGtCM.  If that doesn’t make any sense, well there’s a blog post yesterday.

Some takeaways.


I don’t want to manage a campaign.  I’m perfectly happy to come up with ideas, whether settings, plots, NPCs, mechanics, scenes, treasure.  But, I know enough about myself that having to manage a campaign just leaves me cold.

I’ve done a terrible job of completing any campaign I started, as I lose interest quickly.  Part of it is that I’m not big on laboring for hours unless I’m inspired.  There are definitely stretches where posting here feels like work and it’s hard to generate the plasma to post something, but I’ve managed to muddle through for more than eight years because it doesn’t feel like a chore all of the time to spew geniusness, et al.  Of course, I’m not a 1400 character type of blogger, so spew-plasma needs to hit a minimum threshold.

As much as there are aspects of GMing I enjoy a great deal, the role is just not what I prefer, with campaigns being even more of what I don’t prefer because they require constant application.  I want to be a player, and I can help world build as a player without having all of the responsibilities the campaign GM has.


I consider myself to have played in two long campaigns.  Both had endings.  One ending was narrated, but it was an ending.  I didn’t think about how well Brad managed that campaign.  He talked to us when things were fading.  He came up with an ending.  It’s not something I’ve done, and I now realize …

I now realize that I’ve really done a disservice to my players by not having a plan for ending campaigns.  I’ve been in so many failed or incomplete campaigns that I’ve never thought about how much better it is to have some sort of ending.  Odyssey has persuaded me that there should have been more effort put into some sort of resolution when it was obvious a campaign was going to end.

The other long running campaign was The Princess Police and while that struggled at times, more so early on, it accomplished what we actually want out of a campaign that seems so rare – a satisfying ending.  While I never thought it shouldn’t end when it did, I still think about stories with the same characters.  That’s what a campaign should be like.


On my bucket list is writing a novel.  Now, I have a hard time seeing my accomplishing that given my tendency to jump from idea to idea constantly.  I’ve had so many ideas for short stories or books or series where I have made pritnear zero progress on turning into a product.  Helping with Another Stupid Demon got me more enthused with the idea of creating my own stories, but, as is typically the case, enthusiasm faded.

Now, best I can tell, no one pitches a novel.  (I’m talking about fantasy novels as that’s what I care about.)  They pitch trilogies.  Of course, I would look to create a trilogy if I could get to the point even deciding what a novel would look like because, while my greater interest is in just publishing anything that people appreciate (myself included), it would be a bit odd for someone such as myself who is a fan of continuity and enduring characters to only look to produce a single novel, nevermind the economics of being such a nonprolific author.

So, trilogies.  GMing but not GMing campaigns.  Hot machete!

Run a trilogy.  Then, there’s an ending.  Well, I did manage to fail to even finish running a two-session attempt at Against the Dark Yogi, so a trilogy may be stretching my meager capabilities.  But, I have run more than three sessions in various campaigns – campaigns I had various levels of affinity for before I gave up:  Solomon Kane, Feng Shui Tu Huo, Legend of the Burning Sands.

To avoid what I find to be the biggest challenge to getting any RPG play in – getting everyone to show up at the same time, can plan three (or six, since adventures may take more than one session) blocks of time on a calendarish device.

If it worked to plan out a trilogy and execute on said trilogy, maybe I could do it more than once.  I know how rare it is for people to be into trilogies in the entertainment world, but maybe it can work in the gaming milieu.

So, Greek/Norse/Egyptian/Celtic/Native American Mythology campaign might happen.  Historical fantasy/supernatural might happen.  FSTH2 might happen.  LBS, Black Water Lake2 (even though the party never took any interest in the Black Water Lake) might happen.  Supers might … well, no, unlikely to ever happen as I don’t really know anyone who is into superhero RPing besides guys I haven’t gamed with in years.

They say put things in writing to have them more likely to happen.  Well, only two hundred more words and I’ll hit my MWQ (minimum writing quantity).

On this computer, I have little sense of how many Solomon Kane adventures there were.  Feels like it was around six.  LBS had eight, with my writing up the ninth session.  FSTH was like six.  Given that an adventure may carry over to multiple sessions, maybe I’ve been writing trilogies all along and forgot to tell myself.  OTOH, Gaki Mura had 17 sessions, ending on an “adventure” that was completely out of character with the campaign, which was likely both a sign that I wasn’t that enthused by how things were going and a contributor to it ending inconclusively.

Gaki Mura would probably make a productive case study on campaign management.  I had one (or two) players tell me that they didn’t understand the campaign after the portal to Gaki-do got closed.  If the campaign had just been to get the portal closed, with the Unicorn weirdness on the other side, that might have been a really cool campaign, though it would have failed a pillar.  I tried something that I think has possibilities, but I didn’t manage it well from the beginning and got tired of it during the during.  I had one player say that he thought the campaign was supposed to be a sandbox and I didn’t see it that way, which sounds like another clear failure to manage things.

Maybe I can learn something.  I talk about managing player expectations, but I have missed some areas that Odyssey gets into, such as how long the campaign is supposed to last and what the PCs are supposed to be doing in the campaign.  I keep wondering why players aren’t motivated to do things, which is clearly not managing expectations.

Should be interesting to sit down with various folks and discuss what the book brings up, as it does cover ground I don’t see play groups work out.

I reread my Gen Con 2009 post because I take a look at what readers read and find it interesting to look at old posts that have recently been read that don’t have to do with L5R character creation or combat strategy.  I had a takeaway from reading it and the comments to it, but that might make plasma for a different spewing.


December 29, 2017

In honor of my first topic, I will keep the wordplay in thrall.

I’ve been rereading Xanth novels.  For all of the cringeworthiness of certain things (not talking about the puns) or the repetitiveness of certain themes, I enjoy the stories, even the ones that become more and more juvenile.  Even though every male protagonist is cut from the same chivalrous cloth, there are likable male protagonists.  I should mention I haven’t come close to reading all of the books.  I’ve read at least 15 and possibly not more than 17.  The female protagonists are not as common, and the human ones tend to obsess a bit much on their appearance and men and whatnot, so they are generally less appealing as characters.

Now, you may be wondering why I’m bringing this up.  Keep wondering.

I really like the concept of magician level talents.  Xanth is like a superhero world in certain ways.  Jordan has a ridiculously overpowered talent, and, yet, just like it stretches credulity how much impact Wolverine has in cosmic adventures, you get that the magicians are cosmic powered and Jordan’s just one tough hombre.

I’ve mentioned multiple times liking the horrendously named Bink as a character.  I certainly would have liked to see him be a bit more … interesting in later books than “he sure is lucky”.

I tried a web search for a countdown of most powerful magicians in the Xanth series.  I only found a Reddit thread and it didn’t go very far, though it did argue for someone I would not have considered at the top of the heap.

I don’t know if I can put together a top 10 list (based on the books I’ve read), but it would be weak not to number things.



Given how Piers Anthony has written the series, I don’t know how you don’t consider a character with a power greater than that of …


Murphy (the elder)

He took on three magicians and kind of a neo-sorceress and he made it rough.  The collateral damage he caused had impact centuries later.  I keep thinking the obvious fan fic is to have Bink and Murphy talk about contending with each other given the nature of their abilities but the mature and wise Murphy concluding “But, after all, you already defeated me through Dor’s victory back in the day.”  I may have forgotten a reference, but Murphy could also supply a badass reference for Bink “The Brain Coral was prepping to take him on …”


Murphy (the younger)

Why not Humfrey higher?  Well, as much as he dominates the world, it does come across like he can get owned if you actually try to oppose him.  I credit younger Murphy for inhibiting Ivy and for having a talent along the lines of Bink’s, though Bink is just in another class due to there essentially being no off switch for the Binkmeister.



Okay, as a teen looking for romance, she only showed hints of how insane her talent is.  But, as a three year old, she just said “I want a happy ending.” and the world had no real other option.  To varying extents, the magicians don’t exploit their abilities to the fullest.  The Reddit poster argued for Iris because she effectively rewrites reality to a degree on a constant basis.  But, Iris didn’t come close to maxing out on what was possible.  Unconscious use of Ivy’s talent just tells reality how it’s going to be, but older Ivy gets dragged down by how little she works it.

I have considered the team of Ivy, her husband, her father in law, and her grandpa against some menace and it would just be unending “I don’t think it’s wise to fight creation” level beatdown … with virtually no obvious effects of any of their abilities in play.


Humfrey?  Dolph?  Iris?

Dolph was argued for due to the fact that he can will new things into existence as part of his talent.  That’s not a bad argument.  Trent or Dolph?  Trent is a great character who plateaued below where his ability should be able to take him.  As Reddit argues, if Dolph can make stuff up, Trent should be able to do the same.  Dolph seemed to keep unlocking a new power level.  I guess that’s another limiting factor – when you already win against everything, you don’t need to go Super Saiyan God Transformation anymore.

Again, Humfrey doesn’t seem to “win” a lot.  Just be the magician with the biggest impact on history.

Poor Dor.  Actually, there are hints (or blunt force trauma callouts) to how powerful Dor’s ability actually can be, but it’s really not used beyond “ho hum, magician-level talent” level.

Is there an argument for Irene being a magician?  Other than the pragmatic argument Arnolde makes, I don’t see it.  But, consider.  Instead of thinking of her as grow girl, think of her as Goddess of Flora.  If she has the ability to tap into that and has never shown it (in the first N number of books), then that’s totally magician level.  To detail a bit what the difference would be:  if she could do things besides grow and control (which I think has been shown a wee bit); if she could affect a larger area (if you can control all vegetation in Xanth when the plants are scarier than the monsters, you just created the strongest army in your milieu).

Is Com-Pewter a magician?

Still wondering?  *shrug*

So, Xanth seems like a terrible setting for gaming.  Just trying to keep up with enough puns requires so much prep work as to be offputting.  The nature of the books is to be highly scripted to produce designated endings, more so than you might feel in various high fantasy (for instance).  Now, the Jordan/Threnody flashback was interesting in that it really seemed like a different tone, closer to the early books feeling grittier (to the extent that comedic high fantasy can get gritty).

But, is there something that can be used from the Xanth model for a more gaming friendly setting?  Again, the talents are like superpowers, so one could argue the setting already exists.  If you just did a mutant setting where you have Magneto, Prof X, Apocalypse, et al, as “magician” level, what’s Xanth going to offer beyond that?  I do like its history.  Super settings don’t normally have “Then, King blah blah blah was replaced by King bleh bleh bleh.”  There’s an interconnectedness at times.

For instance, I really liked how Piers had Dolph keep running across shifters.  It didn’t bother me that he pointed it out.  Admittedly, this is similar to how Wolverine fights a bunch of other supers with healing factors or … many other examples including Supes fighting enemies that have powers similar to his.  Book three is really cool for how relevant the time travel is and sets up so many references, some of which are amusing.

The setting doesn’t do a lot for me in certain ways, yet the setting is strongly established.  The Gap is good setting.  Gourdworld doesn’t appeal to me.

A setting where every female is more buxom than the last, all with amazing “legs”, is … Gor-ian?  You know, I actually have far more Gor books than I thought I did.  I should get around to rereading some of them, but I think I go backwards with Gor because it’s rough to go from some seeming of female empowerment (no, really, read the first book) to just another pleasure-slave.  Not that I have a particularly coherent group of titles.

Well, I’m sure you, the “wonderer” will continue to be fascinated by my views on Xanth, but it’s time to switch to my “real” topic.

I was going through emails earlier this year to try to manage them after I let them get out of control.  I found an email to myself wherein I suggest taking a look at Odyssey, The Complete Game Master’s Guide to Campaign Management.  A book.  Because I.  I can read (when I feel like it).

I mentioned this to my sister prior to Winter Solstice.  See, where I never had anyone want me to create present lists when I was young and was interested in receiving presents, for some reason, it’s something the family does to this day, though I rarely see other people’s lists (or see them so late it’s no longer relevant).  Of course, Amazon provides an easy way to build a wish list.

So, she got me O, TCGMGtC.  I have been reading it.  It’s not dense.  Actually, I find it kind of light.  Also, while I’ve only blogged about some of the topics covered, the topics covered mostly feel like things that aren’t obscure to anyone who has tried GMing with different folks.

But, I’m not done yet.  I might get inspired to comment more.  I’m not getting inspired to GM more.  I do fit the profile of not having the same amount of time I used to, even if other folks have way better excuses for where their time goes.

Yup, a non-review of a book on Game Mastering – that’s the thrust of this post.