Gen Con 2017 – The $8 Story

August 21, 2017

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


8:26AM Dancing Combat

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

True Grind (Noon)

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

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

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

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

HoR (Thursday 2PM)

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

HoR (Thursday 7PM)

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

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

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

True Dungeon Moongate Combat (11PM)

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

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

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

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

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

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



HoR CIT12 (Friday 9AM)

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

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

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

ODAM (Friday 2PM)

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

I almost played the entire session without doing anything magical.

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

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

HoR CIT14 (Friday 7PM)

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

TD Dancing Puzzle (Friday 11:03PM)

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

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


Battle Interactive (8AM!)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Political Interactive (3PM)

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

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

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

Andy could not do another TD run.

TD Moongate Puzzle (10:01PM)

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

True Takeaways

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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


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


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

Probably should be a next, but I forgot.


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

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

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

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

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



HoR4 – Same But More

June 25, 2017

I skimmed through my earlier post about HoR4 – Early Read.

Is there anything to add?  In terms of how I feel about playing, no, not really.

So, what’s the point of posting a rehash?  Let’s try to newhash as much as possible.

I’ve played CIT00 to CIT04, CIT06, CIT07, CIT10.  I can’t recall any standout mod.  Early on in HoR3, I thought some of the mods were way underdeveloped – SoB02 and SoB03, with SoB04 being suddenly over as well.  But, I liked SoB00 quite a bit, SoB01 seemed like interesting things were afoot, like maybe the Phoenix would be relevant for a change.  Then, SoB07 was one of my favorites, with all sorts of points for originality even if running it was not as good as playing it.

Then, there was SoB09.  SoB09 was something I thought was really cool at first.  As time wore on, probably because there wasn’t the payoff on Nothing in the series mattering, I grew less enamored with it.  I also read the Fire side which I neither played nor ran and was less interested in that part.  Even late in the campaign, though, it was memorable for having engaging combat, having the fantasy aspects I am more interested in, and just flowing well … like water or some liquid that flows well.

Playing HoR4/CIT, I now look back on SoB09 with much more fondness.

I’ve run at least four of the mods I’ve played – 02, 03, 06, 10.  Maybe ran 00, but whatever.

02 and 03 are both okay.  Neither 06 nor 10 appeal to me.  Yet, 10 was precisely my sort of mod in HoR3.

What happened?

I can reiterate how disconnected I feel towards CIT not just because I go months without playing or because I lack personal goals but also just because I have no concept as to what the campaign is even hinting at.  SoB may have had themes that our group never felt were (properly) executed on, but, early on, at least there felt like themes.  Balishnimpur, tension with Ivinda (not Ivindi, which is the language, or Invindi which is who knows what).  Except, Balishnimpur as a setting hasn’t mattered at all, could just as easily substitute more common things and tension with peasant Ivinda feels just like tension with peasant Rokugani.

I hated the Second City Boxed Set, well, hated may be only slightly off, more felt was a waste of effort because it didn’t develop the setting into something that was “yeah, dude, Ivory Kingdoms safari, yo”.  I feel like the point of having a setting is to explore that setting.  L5R does an amazing job of developing its setting, well, its Rokugan setting, kind of terrible job of developing the other parts of the world or other worlds.  Somehow, it would seem to me that more effort could be put into scoping out what the Ivory Kingdoms is really about for a five year campaign that theoretically is going to be spending half the time in it.

But, there’s more to whine about.

I realize I could write mods.  I realize volunteers aren’t being paid to entertain me.  I realize that Rob Hobart and his crew were fantastic at putting together HoR.  I cut SoB some slack for being a first time for a lot of folks – the mods weren’t my major complaint or my second major complaint.  Nightmare War, in my limited experience with it, actually was very cool, far far more interesting and coherent than I expected it to be.

I just feel like there’s too much similarity in mod structure.  Where HoR3 had a huge advancement was in court mods.  Sure, some of the mechanics didn’t hold together at all once you GMed the mod, but you could see what they were trying to do and provided a new spin on playing through social stuff.  At some point during that campaign and in this campaign, I already feel like the same court well is over used.  There are mechanics that never pay off that may seem like they matter when playing but are just tedious when GMing and become extremely repetitive for certain players.

In general, there just comes across a feeling of sameness to mods.  Yes, HoR4 has had one mod that was very noticeably different, even if it may have had some similarities to a previous or two.  By sameness, I don’t mean “oh, here’s another travel to a fight mod” or “is the mod just about talking down a god/crazy/recalcitrant kuge/etc.?”.  I mean that within the half dozen or so common mod archetypes, there just feels like going through the motions.

Yes, earlier stuff has the advantage of coming earlier.  Originality is going to generally fade.  But, that can be fought.  Engaging recurring NPCs like Daniel from HoR2 (not like cursed Toritaka) help.  What else?  I don’t know.  I’d have to think more about it.  I’m not saying it’s easy to be original and cool and cater to my tastes and whatever, though I thought some SoB mods that had way too much going on had some really cool things that I wish were expanded upon.

Oh, there is one thing.  Have what each and every PC do matter more often.  I’m tired of mods where, at the end, I realize that my efforts were pretty much irrelevant.  I also really dislike having mods where the crucial stuff doesn’t feel like a significant part of the mod, having been burnt on that in HoR2 once and still being irritated by that mod both for that and for having the most obnoxious NPC I recall.  Can’t have every mod be a “everyone is a special snowflake mod”, though Words and Deeds from HoR2 felt like that to me and I loved how that played for my character.  But, I feel so much like I’m tagging along in CIT not so much in an adventure but in an exercise to gain more XP.

I can try to fight this on my end.  I can try to finally figure out what to care about to where I can begin my character’s story arc.  I can actually put together my Bushido Tenet Ratings for this character.  What is going to be difficult, though, is being dedicated enough to complete a mod.  It doesn’t help that when I ask about whether one of my ideas should be followed up on, I don’t get any response.

Crunchy Time

April 22, 2017

I have been lax on posting anything.  Some of that is due to the Traveller CG needing me to do things right now.  But, mostly, I think it’s because I’m not in the habit and my game playing is often-impaired.

I was going to post on one thing, maybe Shadowfist, until I realized I’m at a confluence point.

  1. Playing Shadowfist regularly and last session I realized how long this group has been playing
  2. Need to build decks for upcoming V:TES tournaments
  3. Played new HoR4 mod in a long time
  4. True Dungeon transacting

Let’s work backwards as all right-thinking people do.

True Thalersink

I remain invested in investing in building a collection of tokens I don’t need.  If only gaming didn’t have numismatics in the form of things worth way more than the coins I used to numis, it would be less costly.  But, who cares besides my heirs?  No, I got to thinking about how my perception of token usefulness has evolved.

Oh, I don’t want to state what I think is better of the 2017 stuff than I used to, as someone may actually read this blog and I might have some influence on market valuations to my detriment.  After I finish getting what I want of 2017 tokens, I’ll look to post an analysis as I did with 2016 tokens.

Where I didn’t used to be into 2015 ultrarares, I now see how some are more relevant to someone who can’t restrain themselfs to just what amuses themselves.  So, let’s talk about something I won’t impact in a way that is meaningful to me.

+2 Deadly Drow Blood Mace

My non-wizard builds struggle mightily when it comes to choosing melee weapons, since melee combat hasn’t been a thing any of our group has cared about and, thus, we haven’t made any effort to acquire weapons.  Now, if I melee, my preference is Barbarian for obsidian cannonage.  So, one-handers are useless.  But, Ranger gets shafted by having to double one-hand and Paladin might be silly and run a shield in melee for set bonuses.  Still don’t actually care, but it would be an upgrade over +1.

Boots of the West Wind

Now, Boots of the Four Winds is just better (and only some $700 more expensive), but there really aren’t a ton of ways to increase ranged damage for non-Mighty ranged weapons.  I have various builds, some sillier than others, where I want more ranged damage and aren’t going to STR-blast with a +1 Mighty Sling.  Plus, everyone had to have this to make Four Winds.

Bracers of Supreme Archery

I actually want one of these, now, for, uh, increasing ranged damage while also getting a to hit bonus over Bracers of Archery.

Earcuff of Orbits

Before the news about treasure-enhancing Ioun Stones, this would not have been as all that.  Absolutely fascinating to all right-thinking people is that this still isn’t good for my builds.  I actually have significant competition on the ear slots … because that’s a totally normal statement in life.  I don’t have much in the way of quality Ioun Stones.  It’s also only two more slots, which means you are sort of netting one slot, which just seems bad.  Now, if my ideas for INT, WIS, CHA increasing Ioun Stones get made and those attributes did more than increase Will saves, then I might start to care.

Gloves of the Brute

Is this or Gauntlets of Linked Fury better for Barbarianhood?  I still tend to view stat bonuses over damage bonuses, though decreasing DEX isn’t trivial.  I own one of these, so I’ve satisfied my brutishness.

Widseth’s Mystical Lute

Why do I value this more highly?  Because someone who shall remain named Warrior bugged me about how this would be the best Bard instrument to pick up.  I refuse to yield.  I think a Bard airhockeying defeats the true reason anyone would want to Bard – hovering around other players and annoying them when combat is going on.

I didn’t realize til just now that it allows ranged attacks as well as melee attacks.  That’s somewhat more interesting.  Still, if I’m Barding, I want to be casting spells or, possibly, “abusing” my ability to cast more scrolls than any other class.  We also don’t need it because we will someday perfect the perfect party of perfectness and name our own special TD runs using a little token called … auugghhh, not in the neck, not in the neck.

Switching equipment.


With one exception, I still have no sense of what HoR4 is about.  The exception?  It is the Mantisliest Mantisfest of all Mantisdom in my play.

I feel like mods are self-contained and don’t really stretch into new territory.  So many of the mechanics changes have trivial impact to me, thus far, except that my Honor doesn’t really go up.  Sure, if Glory did something, not having Glory go up would be different.  I got an option to spend five favors to do something.  Except, now that I have some idea what favors can be used for, I fail to see the desire to spend five favors on something that doesn’t really do anything I care about.  Maybe if I was part of a group that found amusement in doing group mechanical things, I would feel differently.

I feel so much like I’m meandering.  I’m also sucking.  Yet again, I’ve played a mod with a bunch of INT rolls.  I love the irony of my playing a moron in an INT campaign.  Playing a non-Moshi in an INT, Mantis campaign.  I rule like a fool.


I need to both capture the quintessential meness of my deckbuilding ways while also understanding that I’ll be in a metagame where I can’t just hunt until my inevitable victory.  It can be something of a struggle as I seek to play a clan burdened with Dominate while trying to find a way to bleed effectively.  Guess I’ll have to Presenceless vote or whatever.  Graft Presence … wait, okay, solved my deckbuilding crisis!

I’m not expecting to play much in the way of pickup games, so there’s only so many decks I really need.  Will single box it of probably seven decks.


What’s impressive about the Shadowfist group isn’t that we’ve played for years, it’s that we are consistent about play when people are not traveling or lack specific events that interfere.  Weekly play is the tame of the game!  Never antiremember this.

Now, because we did lose a player who hated our house rules, we have been playing more three-player games.  Three player has been very different.  For one thing, we are burning for power.  Now, is that because people’s decks are not playing all of the standard power gen cards out of boredom or is it because you can’t keep your site structure as intact when only two people can stop you from successful attacks?

Then, games feel far more vicious.  You kind of have to either wall up or beat down, rather than just hunting until inevitable victory.  It’s a disturbing world of … of … aggression that violates all of my principles of game maiming.

We played three games Thursday.  I played my new 7 Masters deck and it lost, thus breaking the stricture of the omniverse that 7 Masters can only lose to 7 Masters.  I did cancel a Dance of the Centipede on my The Fox Outfoxed on a Haunted Forest duping a Mobius Gardens.  Then, I played an old Warriors deck, which has sucked a lot more than it did early on.  I just had dudes, which didn’t stop people who had other dudes but did prevent the player who didn’t dude much from winning.

Finally, I won the last game off the brutal power of an Exorcist in a Long Black Hearse, an Imp, and a Jian.  I was dudechoked for when bids for victory could be made because I kept holding on to cards I never played, like Spirit Wrack, Poisoned Wound, and Underworld Coronation.

So, yeah, I do do things that are gamingishlyable.  They just are kind of coin-flippish in consistency.  Did I mention that I played Aztec Pyramid in one of those games and it supposedly influenced an opponent’s decision to play a card.  Rule like a fool.  Rule like a fool.


HoR4 – Early Read

January 11, 2017

While technically not caught up, I feel caught up on HoR4.

As a follow up to Courtier of the Ivory Throne, I’ve had various realizations.

First, I would have likely enjoyed my other most planned build early on in the campaign.  I’m really missing having an Intelligence of 3!  I guess it’s a good thing that I feel like Intelligence has been relatively useful so far in the campaign.  Plus, my other build is more efficient in XP expenditures.

I feel like I’m really scraping to do core things.  Now, after five mods, I have 18 skills, so that’s part of the issue.  I’ve enjoyed using various skills that I thought might be temporary, like Perform: Biwa.  That’s the thing I noticed when planning buys hundreds of points into the future, I was not allowing for doing fun things in the interims between major buys.

But, enough about my character, move on to characters in general, then move on to some thoughts on the mods generally.

In home play, I did great with Void 2 and Fire 2.  Some of that had to do with starting with 117xp.  But, a rather important difference between home play and living campaign play is that I know what my role is in home play.  In mods, I might be running with one group to be able to run for another group.  I feel very, very limited in functionality rolling Nk2 dice pools, having only two Void, and not knowing what skills I need to be better at for challenges.

Of course, the groups I’ve played with eschew Intelligence, so we are missing a brain.  Players don’t make obvious buys, like Investigation, which puts undue pressure on randomness or one PC.

Also, talking about largely starting characters and, often so far, small parties.  Sure, expertise is lacking, but so is versatility.  This will change to some extent.  But, it’s such a difference in feel from when I was rolling 8k5 or 8k4 in my core areas and leaving research to other party members.

Should I respect Void more?  My HoR3 characters had Void 3 right off or quick, so I never saw the Void 2 build in an unpredictable setting.  Void 2 might be far more challenging than I thought.  Also, my Void 2 play with a R-5 character was with someone whose highest ring was the Ka-Ching Ring, so I was abusing mechanics even while fighting the norms.

As I have my plans and I don’t know that V-3 will be more enjoyable for me, I’ll continue on with dumping on Void in HoR4 and see how it plays out.

As to the campaign …


I have no sense of combat in this campaign to this point.  In HoR3, I was surprised how much more fighty the campaign was than HoR2, which was massively investigative in my experience.  So far, couple token combats with one brutal mod and mods with nothing.


My lack of sense of the combat norm is in line with my lack of sense of what the campaign is about at all.  Seem to swing wildly from one thing to another, though I think it’s one of the mods that just seems like it would have fit better being around mod 20.  Couple of the mods are typical fare (also the mods I enjoyed more), highlighting different common concepts in Rokugan.

HoR3, for all that it eventually just stopped making any sense to me at all, early on, felt very coherent.  Early mods were underdeveloped, but they flowed reasonably well from one to another, and the campaign seemed to have themes.

I’m hoping the next mod establishes something about the character of the campaign, as, very much influenced by whom I’ve played with, this campaign seems to be the Yoritomo Campaign of Campaigns.

Getting back to my problems, I need to set my characters on paths to maximize enjoyment.  I may still find a hook to build around, but my previous “defining moments” tended to happen early on, even if Journey to the Burning Sands was Jun’s perfect mod, that was because he was already inclined to find it his perfect mod.

Being the only Honorable PC in my local group hasn’t really been interesting.  I’m also finding it hard to balance motivation to do particular things.

The other thing that helped HoR2 quite a bit with coherency was having mod series that were actually series.  I hope something is done to develop real series, like can have a Balishnimpur series where you actually accomplish something in Balishnimpur.


Because of the lack of consistent magic abuse, the need for combat efficiency is high, yet we still make terrible decisions.  As much as I’m not trying to build toward grappling, of the two fights that have mattered, one of them was an obvious “delay, Full Attack grapple” situation and I went for something else.

Window Shopping

Tatakisu is rich, yet I’ve hardly shopped at all.  That others I’m playing with are more into shopping than previous campaign parties may have something to do with my not getting as into it.  I even have in character interests and don’t look for trinkets related to them.


Certainly been funny.  I don’t know about the sustainability of humor over having some sort of goal.


Talking about campaign mechanics.  I don’t mind the Glory system, which helps prevent the “anyone not G-10?” problem.  I am not liking how Honor has worked so far, though, with too much encouragement to think in one particular way.  The favor system has yet to mean anything to me, so no opinion on it.  Crafting has been irrelevant to us.  Ronin survival was amusing but no longer relevant.  I do like how admin stuff is moved to the beginning of mods.

Don’t know what to think about certs that currently don’t do anything.  I found the sleeping swords of HoR3 just really annoying, as it seemed to promise something that only really mattered for core players.

At least it’s far easier to play things you want to play, like techniqueless schools.


I feel less clear on this campaign than either HoR2 or HoR3.  However, to be fair, I didn’t play HoR2 in anything like the release order, so some of the early mods weren’t so jarring as they may have been to other people.

I feel unclear on whether my main’s concept is going to pay off.  What I was seeing with all of my ideas was the need for kobuneloads of XP.  Probably a lot more fun to just start out closer to what you care about and be able to be freeform with XP, like was the case with all three of my HoR2 PCs.

Callout to Bill and Macy for hosting a weekend of Rokugan and providing oodles of Japanese food.  It’s a good thing to have a local group even if it’s also good to play living campaigns with a diversity of disreputables.

Courtier Of The Ivory Throne

December 31, 2016

So, I played my first Champions of the Ivory Throne module.  Not 00 because I’m not special enough to rate playing mods in order.  Though, I vastly preferred HoR2 to HoR3, and I played mods way out of order, only playing the intro mod very, very late.

I was thinking about how HoR3 turned out.  I may have said this precise thing, but what was such a let down with HoR3 was how my characters had no meaningful arcs, not just irrelevant to the campaign but the campaign was irrelevant to them.  Now, my alt did have some minor arc by marrying into the Crane and was just generally more fun to play.  My main was just muscle for parties – a joke became an ironic joke.

There are reasons for the difference in experience that have nothing to do with the campaigns and their structures and everything to do with who I played mostly with.  The question is:  can I find paths to go down that entertain me more in the absence of helpful other players?

Was there some way to have Moshi Shigeo be fun?  Too forced.  Too much focus on mechanics, with his “No, not a shugenja.  Not a Yoritomo Bushi.  …”  Or, was it really more of not enough focus on finding a hook?  Ikoma Jun had a hook, then Isawa Ryota ended up with some related hooks, not all of which required other players.

Miya Tatakisu still needs time.  But, am I overly focused on mechanics again, or, shall we say, since Miya Heralds have no mechanics, the lack of them?

Where I thought HoR3 was far too much bait and switch to where trying to care about what was going on only was punished, maybe this time I’ll figure out what CIT means to my characters.  What one thing can I leverage into campaign long focus?

Sunday and Monday is planned for more play.  Maybe have more read in a few days.

One thing about not playing L5R of any sort for a while is that I really feel out of a groove.  There’s a cadence to playing mods and there’s being comfortable with your character sheet that you play to strengths and remember your role.

I forgot a bit of psychology with my character that could have enriched the experience – don’t avoid risk, it’s boring.  I did already have one of those “amusing if you pay attention to what amuses me but not so much if you don’t care” moments.  Let’s just say I rolled Initiative … and then didn’t roll after.

I suppose I should be encouraged that Intelligence was actually useful in the mod, though it also generally frustrates me as I’d like to increase INT but can’t remotely afford it forever or until I stop planning my buys hundreds of points into the future and just impulse buy.

One thing I’ve got to get away from is how when I look at the mechanics of 4e, I see repetition.  I see grappling and no-dachi and shugenjahood and Reflexes and all of the other good stuff and am just bored with it.  Yet, I’ve played a R-5 bushi with Agility 2 and Void 2.  There is fun to be had in not doing the good stuff.  Maybe that was part of the problem with Shigeo – fighting the bad stuff of his school with good stuff, instead of just being really weird all over the place.  Tatakisu does go in for mechanical “this is something different for me and should be fun”, even if the first mod completely defeated what he was supposed to be good at.

On a side note, my local group is shugenjaless.  That’s so scary.  We may have to actually use good combat tactics and not suck at Perception, er, be amazing at Perception (somehow, with Water being one of my dump Rings) to compensate for lack of gods.  Well, HoR2 wasn’t all about shugenja in my play, so maybe I’m overparanoiding.  OTOH, HoR2 used 3/3r, where everyone was bonkers powerful if they knew what they were doing.

I won’t be playing my alt, Kuni Johin, for a while, but I should flesh him out for those rare times when I expect to play him.

Getting back to something, good tactics, here’s the lesson for today so that you get something useful out of this post rather than listen to me whine.  Understand stances.

Lots of folks do Full Attack wrong.  Your action options are incredibly limited.  But, that’s less of a concern than knowing when you should adopt it and when you shouldn’t from a “I want enemies dead but remain alive” standpoint.

Know the Initiative order precisely, even when there’s a single enemy.  Factor in that even in FA, if you have enough ATN and your opponent has enough WP, you may just end up getting missed, as what happened yesterday, when the roll against a comrade was a 16, but the -10 ATN was nullified by the +10 WP.

Are you making much use out of FA?  Do you need it to hit?  If not, are you calling Raises that really matter?

On the flip side, is it any worse than Attack Stance for the situation?  If not, +2k1 is a big deal.

The issue with Attack Stance is knowing when not to be in it.  Sometimes, you have to adopt it on round one because you don’t know if you will attack or not.  I’m still at the point where I have to spend a simple action to draw a weapon (which, by the way, almost no one ever requires of people running around with large weapons, oh, and yes, I didn’t say string a bow, I said draw a weapon for … reasons).  So, right now, still a lot of default to Defense.

Full Defense is just awful.  Yet, I thought about it … and dismissed it when I realized I still would need to draw a weapon before attacking.  It exists for those rare occasions when doing nothing is productive.  I might use this some if I end up in parties that just overpower the opposition, like was common in HoR2.  Again, if we don’t run with real healing, taking damage is suicidal.

Speaking of doing nothing, if I play properly, I should be using Center Stance far more than I ever did in the past.  I still need XP to get to the point where I can do nothing and do something next round, but I’ve got to plan out the timing of Center, including factoring in the Initiative bonus, including considering the possibility of using the +1k1+Void bonus on things besides attack rolls and damage rolls.

Well, the thrust and parry of this post wasn’t supposed to be everything about stances, so let me throw out a second lesson for the day while talking about playing a courtier in a shugenjaless world and the need not to explode into a fine red mist.  I need to pay far more attention to Void Point reserves and spending VPs on ATN bonuses at the beginning of rounds.

My common tactic may become:  “Center Stance, Initiative N.  Spend VP on +10 ATN for the round.  That’s it, let me know when round two is up.”  Now, that’s in the short term, where my Reflexes of 3 and lack of sturdiness are more relevant.  Eventually, need to switch out of this mode of thinking.

Though, much like being flexible with stances, being flexible with VP spending and maneuvers is … is … is what makes L5R 4e actually a far superior combat system IMO to most RPG combat systems.

So, lesson three, think about these things before you roll Initiative and have plans in place for how to play out combat.  Or, hope someone drops Be the Mountain on you and Paths you when you are feeling a might peckish, and don’t worry about sound tactics at all.

Building L5R Characters – Great Clans (Part Two)

September 2, 2016


Mantis Brawler (I’m down now, you’re down later.)

A complete punchmeister school.  Small weapons suck.  Punching in 4e does not.  Hands of Stone, race to Jiujutsu-7.  Never worry about someone taking your beatings away.

While already unexcited by unarmed experts in a samurai game, do we really need an entire school designed around being prone?

SR-1.  No longer penalized by being prone, except you have to squid your enemies.  I’m sure they will never just walk away from you.

SR-2.  If you know you are going to take someone out without 5 damage, always gain.  If you don’t know, probably not going to bother to use this.  Two star kind of ability.

SR-3.  This does hardly anything.  Around a zero point ability.

SR-4.  Get this late.

SR-5.  “Hey oni lord, let me roll near you and kapowie!”  Does something, just that the Tattooed Monk Fister gets to jump around and fist things, where you break dance to murder.  The former is somewhat more magic samurai, as sad as it is to say that a monk is more magic samurai.

Mechanically okay (because you totally run up to someone and roll around at their feet until you murder them), thematically just tiresome.  Actually, with low Honor, low money, some not terribly good skills, this is not a good PC choice.  It’s really a one shot session where the PCs have to deal with the pirate octopi.

Tsuruchi Bounty Hunter (Strangely courtierish.  Be a yoriki.)

Awfully focused, again, the theme of GC schools.  At least the skills and stuff are more generally useful than, say, a Mantis Brawler.  Actually, because this is reasonably suited to HoR play and (assumedly) home play, the abilities should get a lot of use.  In the Princess Police campaign, we were constantly going after someone specific.  As I find the Tsuruchi Archer School the most boring in existence as I cannot think of anything else to do but be good at murdering things with arrows (and dueling), at least this is somewhat less dull.

SR-1.  Limited.  Maybe two stars.

SR-2.  Isn’t this rather redundant to the SR-1 ability?

SR-3.  The amount of time you spend trying to get someone of higher authority to sanction beatdown could be quite funny.  Or, if you have an EM in the party, trivial.  Dazed is incredibly annoying, as is Knockdown – does push to a build with STR, AGI, and REF.

SR-4.  Good simple attacks.  Just think about a TBH that paths to Jade Legionnaire and hangs with an EM all of the time.  I fleshcutter/knockdown/daze you twice a turn.  Living a long row to hoe dream.

SR-5.  Even better is if your EM is a Bayushi Courtier.  How does this ability make any sense?  I study people, therefore I know your deepest secrets if I happen to recognize you?  Yeah, whatever.

Yoritomo Shugenja (It’s a shugenja … that isn’t totally bizarre.)

Tsuruchi/YS double stack for all of the sleezemeisters out there.  Don’t get Spellcraft natively.

Earth deficiency not good.  Can still heal and murder, still get Jade Strike at SR-2.  Slow to get Be the Mountain, though.  Thunder is not bad for FR.  Shifting weather is cool … or maybe hot … or unseasonally pleasant.

Moshi Guardian of the Sun (Almost not terrible.)

I really like the Moshi Family.  I actually kind of like the Yoritomo Family.  Despise, well, mildly despise the Tsuruchi.  Those are the only Mantis Families.  There are no others.

The technique is crap.  If it was just get +1k0 attacks or +1k1 ATN to Guardee, that would be sweet petunias.  To limit it to Moshi defense is just awful for play.  Shockingly, this is more of a NPC ability … almost like GC was intended to run a ton of weirdly specific and generally weird NPCs at parties.

Kitsune Ranger (Eh, okay.)

Hunting doesn’t suck.  Stealth in rural is not worthless.  Of course, this should be in the Lesser Clans supplement along with the Fox bushi school.

Son of Storms

See my kata analysis post about how awful this is.

Strength of the Mantis

What??  How about just moving away from the enemy and then shooting, like normal archers?  While I’ve seen the penalty occur, L5R is not up to handling tactical movement in such a way to coherently enforce the penalty.


This is one of those ancestors I’m all over.  I love strange abilities that might come up in play.  “Hold on, everybody, I’ll run into the burning building to rescue Timi-san while you murder Flaming no Oni.”  Unfortunately, I already did Moshi in HoR3 and the only ancestors I can imagine HoR ever using are the HoR2 type.

Osusuki & Akomachi

Pretty sweet, too.  I can see playing a Fox in a home game.


Void Versatility

It’s only 4 points.  You are a Greater God already, might as well be that much more broken.

Asako Henshin (Less broken than last edition.)

Ranks two and three are narrow.  It’s far, far less broken than the 3e/3r Asako Henshin.

I would be curious to see playing one in 4e just to see what it’s like, besides absurdly annoying in whether you can use a skill before the SR-1 ability expires.  I played one in Third.  That was some crazy shit.  I played in a mod with one in HoR2 and that was absurd – “I Earth zot you until you are fully healed.”  The only balanced thing about that edition’s version was that it made more sense to increase someone else’s Agility to 9 rather than my own, as I wasted too many rounds buffing before I 10k10+infinity attacked.  Anyway, off topic.

Asako Inquisitors (Too annoying to bother allowing.)

Requirements are annoying … not to achieve but to adjudicate.  Disruption is wacky, though stopping someone from a R-4 to R-6 spell is kind of worth doing.

SR-2.  Gee, encourage shugenja builds.

I don’t know that gaining one kiho for a rank is really all that.  I suppose that so many kiho suck means you don’t need a lot of them, just abusive stuff.

Elemental Legions (Am I gaining over normal Shiba-3?)

Sounds interesting, but is it?  Isn’t it a lot like the normal tech, except there’s strange nonfighting uses of gaining a rank in a skill?  It does say end of skirmish, so it doesn’t appear to work outside of combat.

Order of Chikai (Really, how much of this is necessary?)

More of the same.  Very, very sameish.  Just seems like I want to do cooler things than do the cool thing better.

Dance of the Winds

No.  Trivial.

Strength of the Phoenix

Yes.  See kata post.


So, two abilities kind of work against each other.  Really a matter of how restricted spells are in your campaign, where it’s probably never worth 12 points, but, maybe, you really want to overload on spells.

In PP, our party shugenja got to choose any spells they wanted around IR-4.


This.  This, on the other hand, is broken stuff.  Find the shuggie with this ancestor and go Shadowlandsing.


Shosuro Actors (I disbelieve.)

I could easily recuse myself from the whole chapter, being far more inclined to play a Spider* Clan character.  Let’s keep moving and see if I find something to comment upon.

  • Even though I find the Spider even more ridiculous than the Scorpion.

Yogo Wardmaster (Wait, this is kind of cool.)

First problem – messing around with overpowered stuff doesn’t tend to produce less overpowered stuff.  Simple spells is so broken, see the D&D Alchemist that is the Tamori.

Second – forcing touch attacks is something, something possibly very frustrating, though buffs are easy.

Third – adjudicating removal of wards is annoying.

Otherwise, an interesting shugenja.  Not interesting enough for me to play a Scorpion or DS to Scorpion Schools, but whatever.

Kuroiban (Shrug.)

So specific.  Not that interesting.  See last post about problems with witchhunter detection power.

Strength of the Scorpion

Plus three!  Assumedly isn’t limited as Feint damage is limited (everyone remembers this restriction, right?).


Um, absurdly good mechanics for thematics you were going to embrace anyway?  I get the Yogo thing.  I just don’t care about it.


Okay bonus.  Investigation rolls are key rolls.  I don’t like ancestors that are easy to lose and this one strikes me as too easy to lose.


Meishodo Shugenja (Not broken?)

Be wary of any messing with magic system.  On the other hand, I just don’t find the brokenness in this school like in Tamori and Yogo (both of which, btw, I’ve GMed for – maybe I should mention these things earlier to give me some credibility).

Sure, it’s an autosucceed on R-3 spells in one round.  It’s really R-4 and higher spells that are dicey in the middle of combat.  No matter the wound penalties, your Path will go off on you.  Of course, this brings up the problem of how to handle Path with this technique.

Moto Vindicator (Too balanced?)

I am constantly forgetting how much I want to play this school.  I just have higher priorities, like my priority of playing a courtier in HoR4.  I did have a backup written up for HoR3, or something.

This school is just pulled into too many directions.  You want REF for the SR-1, PER (and probably AWA) for the SR-2, Earth to mess with Shadowlands stuff (plus double stack Horiuchi Willpower), AGI to hit stuff, INT for L: Shadowlands.

I tried several builds and none of them made me that happy.

Ide Trader (What does this do?)

What does this do?  It involves ally rules, which I’ve never seen work.  It involves Way of the Daimyo rules, which need massive clarification.  It involves pursuing a career as a merchant patron, which is kind of arbitrary.  Can’t we just have a technique that gets you more cash that doesn’t require running a trade vessel?

Moto Fanatic (I guess?)

Full Attack – situational.  Reduction – always good.  I just don’t feel strongly about this.

Utaku Horse Master (Yeah, gender equineness.)

I think this is actually pretty studly.  Oh, sure, you don’t get the Shiotome awesomeness (at low ranks), but a shugenja can get by with one path, covers any terrible bushi techniques at SR-2, gives courtiers something useful.

While Hunting is way better than the other two, Horsemanship can help you win that race, and who doesn’t love handling animals?

Strength of the Unicorn

See kata post, probably useless.


Pretty boring and weak.


Kind of questionable benefit, in that shugenja normally function in a godly way even with a deficiency.  Suicidal sounding demand.


I just can’t take this seriously for PCs other than the kata, and I already talked about them in my kata post.

Heritage Tables

More not really caring.  I don’t completely eschew randomness in character creation, in fact having used random rolls to determine lifepath stuff or whatever.  I don’t care that they aren’t balanced.  I don’t hate these tables.  Just don’t really care.

Part Two

After going through part one, I really wasn’t feeling that I was providing a lot of value add.  Lot of things are obvious.  Some things I’ll miss because I just won’t bother figuring out how to build an Inquisitor or will never be allowed to play a Henshin or will never want to play most of the GC things.  Then, stuff I do like – some of the ancestors, requires specific campaigns and very specific characters.  Then, Kitsune stuff should be in a minor book, should be more extensive, and other minors should get some actual mechanics, like kata.

So, why do I like the supplement so much?  Good nonmechanical content.  Moto Vindicator, Lion Paragon, Kensai, some ancestors are things I’m interested in.  Kitsu, Strength of the Spider, maybe something else are things I’ve played.

Some stuff actually works.  Way too much stuff is really NPC mechanics.

Building L5R Characters – Great Clans (Part One!?!)

August 30, 2016

… the supplement.

While I played Shadowfist twice recently after a considerable break due to travel, while I backed a failed Kickstarter and forgot to even promote it, while there’s other stuff, most visitors would rather read about L5R.  Plus, MTP wanted me to do this.

Great Clans is one of the better supplements for 4e.  It also happens to be far less annoying in finding mechanics than Emerald Empire.  I could start with EE to get into why Lion’s Shadow is not broken in 4e, but there’s more to do, here.

Speaking of broken, HoR4 came out with character creation rules and I was amused by the forum post about unbanning Lion’s Shadow after more consideration.  Some interesting choices.  I really don’t see the need to ban Feint.  If anything, I’d imagine the new Increased Damage rule to make combat more brutal, while also not helping k1 weapons.  It does help Strength builds but hurts Agility, where it’s really Reflexes that’s overpowered.  Anyway, a topic for another time.

So, the point isn’t to go over all new mechanics.  The point is to be oriented to building/advancing characters with GC mechanics.


Kaiu Engineer (Problematic – makes stuff.)

I’m going to be kind of loose about things, e.g. not insert Excel tables of point values.  But, point valuing or whatever is more relevant for something else.  Kaiu Engineer is tons of problems.

The skill list is nuts for typical play.  Really, only Battle would be something I’d see someone care much for in, say, HoR play.  Why does it even matter since one rank in skills is kind of just a thing?

Um, SR-1 technique.  Both effects only apply to school skills, which you had no control over.  Other than Battle, when would you use this ability?  How many Battle rolls are you planning to make?  Why is an engineer more focused on mass combat than Lion Bushi schools?

Sure, you would only play this school if you were planning to craft.  Making stuff is a pain in the ass.  Sure, HoR3 had crafting, which was meaningless to me since anything involving interacting with staff was off the table, but maybe it worked.  Still, requires more infrastructure to be relevant.

SR-2.  First ability is irrelevant to play.  Second ability should be nigh irrelevant to play – roll below your SR.  So, I get damage emphasis at this rank and it gets somewhat better as I rank up.  For my totally balanced siege weapons, like how the weak one does 4k4 damage and ignores 10 Reduction.  Now, admittedly, 4k4, 8k8, and 10k8 damage does tend to produce more low kept dice than, say, 7k2.

SR-3.  This is why I don’t see allowing this school, ever.  I’ve had a character with armor make by a Kaiu.  It was rather absurd.  Making stuff is typically either inconsequential or, like here, OP.

SR-4 is okay.  It’s rather funny, actually, with the ole Dai Tsuchi/War Fans build.

SR-5, see SR-3.

Kuni Witch-Hunter (Problematic – overspecialized.)

Solid skills.  I’m big on what this school is supposed to be good at, but let’s start with some of the problems.

SR-1.  The problem is the concept of detection.  If you aren’t likely to detect something, then this ability is a fail – it’s what your whole school is supposed to do thematically.  If you are likely to detect something, why have anything to detect as a challenge?  I just see balancing encounters/challenges being a huge problem with this sort of ability.  The saving grace, I suppose, is that it’s a contested roll.  You aren’t just trying to hit some TN but get to match rolls with something, where, as soon as a roll is called for, it becomes meta on whether something is Tainted or not.  It’s like how detect traps style abilities really need the GM to roll to avoid metagaming.

SR-2.  I like what the ability does, but this is an ability that gets used by other characters all of the time because not everybody sits there and goes “Oh, if I allow you to know something with that largely useless INT trait, then I step on the toes of this school nobody is playing.”

SR-3.  So uneven.  It’s like being an Utaku Battle Maiden – am I going to wreck you or am I going to pale against many other bushi?

SR-4.  I finally started trying to process kiho because of my Nezumi character, of course.  So many of them suck.  I’m sure a decent one will be found, but I don’t have the interest in thinking through the proper build to have the Ring requirements to get what you want.

SR-5.  I so love this ability.  But, it’s a R-5 technique, so it’s virtually meaningless.

The school is overly specific for most play, being rather terrible I imagine for HoR play.  For focused play, it has some relevant abilities, but it also produces something of a problem of balancing challenges.

Toritaka Exorcist (Problematic – overspecialized.)

I guess it’s the theme of the book to introduce mechanics that are way too specifically oriented to doing one thing.  This is just more of the same issue of the nature of challenges.  The thematics are there for this and the above, but, as I came to discover, L5R mechanics actually matter.

Strength of the Crab

I talked about this before, but it’s good.  Reduction is awesome.


I haven’t done any analysis on ancestors.  Guess I start as I really like a few in this book.  Eleven is too expensive.  Sure, at some point pretty quick, may be rolling 11k4 attack rolls and love the rollover dice, and all of the skills are high tier, but I just can’t generate the love for the +1k0 disease that afflicts 4e.


Danger, danger, … making stuff.


Daidoji Scout School (Problematic – side mechanics.)

Oh look, another school that introduces “NPC” stuff.  It’s almost like this book is trying to give the GM options, when the GM can always hand wave siege weapons masters or whatever.

I have basically no concept of this school in play other than that one mod I didn’t play but ran that had these sorts of dudes.  Okay, my one comment on this school is that I see it being even less oriented to play because it’s set up really well to be a loner school that focuses on ranged combat.  Lonering = bad.  Ranged combat is already kind of OP, then you add in simple attacks and combining range with traps to make combat only interesting for those who find this sort of heavily tactical combat interesting.  I can see cool setups, but they would likely involve these guys as antagonists.

Kakita Artisan (Sure, why not?)

Maybe I’m biased because I realized my last Tattooed Monk was really a Kakita Artisan.  Maybe it’s because only the SR-5 technique involves much in the way of making stuff.  But, I can see this working.  I see it working about as well as corebook courtiers, which means not all that great for most play but with potential for the clever/dedicated player.

Kakita Jester (Is this a … joke?)

Who cares?  I’ve run a Jester from 3r.  It was entertaining for a bit, but I lost my ability to think of things to do.  I just expect the act to get tired.  My opinion is that it sounds better than it works in practice to play “oh, L5R is so funny with jesters who can mock the rigid social conventions the rest of us … like”.

Kakita Master Artisan (Problematic – interpretation.)

So, so different in my mind from normal Artisan.  Where normal Artisan I can see having that swaying effect schtick being manageable, if vague, this gets into too much interpretation for the final technique, too much boring for the penultimate technique, and still rather NPC-ey for the first technique.

Strength of the Crane

Completely reasonable.  Kakita Bushi desperately need ATN bonuses for when they take rounds off doing nothing.  Daidoji Iron Warrior is so busted that I don’t know if I get too excited by the potential to get an ATN high enough to be more problematic.


I admit that with how much ground I need to cover, I’m not all that keen on looking up all of the spells covered by this, but +1k1 on spellcasting is really, really powerful.  One of the ways that non-gods catch up to gods is that spellcasting rolls don’t scale the same way tetsubo/no-dachi rolls do.  Bonus to Meditation is actually rather not bad.  Meditation is all about hitting TN20.  Given limited XP, as much as you want Meditation-5, it’s not all that likely.  Often have to scrape by on Meditation-1 or 2, where +1k0 helps get you the … wait for it … magic.


Spears suck.  Where 4e really screwed over people was mastery abilities on skills.  OTOH, if you have to be different, and I think I admitted to playing an Usagi Bushi who used a nagamaki as his main (melee) weapon, 7 is not that many points for a FR.


Enlightened Madness

Yeah, good luck with this.  Right there with how I regretted trying to get staff to approve my Lord Moon’s Curse character concept.

Mirumoto Master Sensei (If you think you can ever qualify.)

Insane requirements.  By the time you hit them, how much longer is this campaign going?  Defender of the Wall, for example, can be hit fast if you really want to, like take it at IR-3 and lose simple attacks if you really want to.  Why ever do something like that?  Because you have to be playing a long ass campaign to go from zero to superhero.  Sure, you can get there, but do you get to revel in it for long enough to fulfill all of your fantasies?

At least it does cool things.  Probably not broken enough, though.

Tamori Master of the Mountain (Who am I?  Vice presidential candidate?)

Meanwhile, incredibly easy requirements.  I find some thematic weirdness with this school, taking away an Agasha schtick.  The SR-2 technique is really oriented to those folks who like to build fighty Tamori, which is fine but not really consistent with the other techniques.  The SR-3 is interesting if rather gamey, but it’s also a SR-3 of an advanced school.  Best I ever got in an advancie was SR-1.

Kitsuki Debater (Just don’t bother.)

This sort of thing is why I largely ignore courtier mechanics.  It’s so dependent upon the game play supporting it.

The Dragon’s Flame (Are you sure you wanted to play a Dragon Bushi?)

Just seems mediocre.  Attack bonuses are not what is needed with bows.  Simple attacks, simple attacks, simple attacks.  That’s always what you are looking for.  If you can’t get that, damage bonuses.  Now, sure, Feint or more raises for damage are things, as is Great Potential Kyujutsu, call 5 raises for extra attack.  I just don’t remember missing much with my 8ke5 attack rolls, not even when I got past IR-1 with that character.

Togashi Defender (No, the opposite of this.)

I would never consider this path.  The point of playing a TM is to tattoo the world, not get better mechanics by being tattoo-impaired.  As nice as Hoshi/Hoshi cheeses double stacked Void, I want more tattoos, not less.  I want there to be the all tattoo, all of the time option, not the “I punch through vanadium steel like a hot knife through butter” option that is what Togashis are really good at.  It’s a perfectly decent technique, it’s just more of the martial arts fighty nonsense.

Strength of the Dragon

Okay bonus.  Dumb requirements.  So, this is really just a Mirumoto Bushi kata, why bother pretending anyone else would take it?


Spellcasting bonus.  Spellcraft is not terrible, either, as you get to break the game with Importune.  Transmute requires thinking.  One thing I’m not strong at is, er, thinking?


I so want this ancestor.  This is rule of cool.  Magic Resistance done correctly.  Fit perfectly with my Tattooed Artisan, who was supposed to be a Shadowlands murderer but got sidetracked by poetry.



See my post on disads for how unregardable this is.

Matsu Beastmaster (Problematic – pets and social.)

Ah, the request.  We had one or more of these as a NPC.  I enjoyed that, too much.  So many innuendo.

Akodo/Beastmaster for the double stack, justify whatever your sleazy cheesemeister ways will allow you to.  Okay Honor.  Any weapon.

SR-1.  Free defense.  But, really, still just stylin’ and profilin’.  I’m in the camp that Beastmaster mechanics are probably never going to work and the thematics are problematic, so you are really doing this because you look hot surrounded by great p-… predators.

SR-2.  Swift is awesome.  Even if you don’t get all tactical, you can totally justify stuff by your “but, I’m as fast as an Utaku Battle Steed” argument.

SR-3.  Magari-yari.  Yes.  Because when you are this king of the beastsy, who needs exploding 9’s on damage?

SR-4.  +2k1 on damage.  Imagine a Reflexes build that sits around in Defense-5 Stance directing lions.  Okay, that is kind of boring.

SR-5.  While you get weird lions who don’t like attacking as much as their wilder kin, ATN 30 is decent, right up there with stags and stuff.

Akodo Tactical Master (Problematic – overspecialized.)

Reasonable requirements, though it produces quite an odd PC build as INT is such a dump stat.  Only SR-3 really does anything normal, which makes it seem kind of out of place, as +2k2 on Athletics, Horsemanship, Iaijutsu, or whatever is rather general (also rather interesting).

Akodo Kensai (I tried.)

GC messed me up.  I tried to go Paragon/Kensai and just ended up making an awful IR-1 character.

Taught me that Prodigy wasn’t nearly as overcosted as I thought.  This technique is terrible, btw.  How many people require PCs to spend a simple action activating a kata?  ATN bonus is rather pedestrian.

Lion Scout (Sneaky Matsu)

People seem to overlook that movement while Stealthing is incredibly slow unless you get the mastery abilities, which is kind of why the mastery abilities are so good.  This is actually quite an amazing replacement for the (IMO) bad SR-2 for Matsu Berserker.

Lion Paragon (It tries to make up for the loss.)

Worth it?  I found that move/shoot (or move/slash) just put me so far behind the damage output curve with my Hare.  But, the doubling effect is pretty.  Jade Legionnaire, baby.  At least, I think of path techniques as school techniques.  That was kind of my build – Akodo, Jade, Paragon, Kensai.  Instead, went Akodo, Jade, I have to stop playing this pathetic build.  Multiple attacks should be doing more damage.  Matsu is going to k3 you to death with something.  Akodo techniques do more than just fight, though.  Can double up on your break grapple roll or whatever.  I don’t know.  Matsu and Akodo are strong enough that maybe you crackers a bit to not get out of line with your loser Mirumoto buddy.

Strength of the Lion

Okay.  Push that shugenja up.  +3 isn’t all that, but it’s a kata and most 4e kata are no better.


I played with this.  If I wasn’t trying to do Paragon/Kensai, 6 pts. might not have been that harsh.  This is the sort of thing that I find cool in L5R no matter how many social Nezumi I end up playing.


+1k1 to Fear is not worth 7 pts.

Part One

As much as I’d rather do only one post on this topic, since I do do other things that deserve wordage, I just can’t get to everything today.  In all likelihood, Friday or Sunday, I’ll follow up.