Underpromotion

June 18, 2017

Since KublaCon, in terms of actual play, it has been pretty much Shadowfist.

But, let me digress for a while.

I finished the Last Chronicles of Thomas Covenant.  That was disappointing.  It was a slog to get through the books what with the constant verbiage taken up with “I can’t continue.  Someone else is better than I am.”  Just beaten over the head constantly with how awesome haruchai are, giants are, someone else is.  Sure, there was the gratuitous use of pretentious diction replete in the quadripertitus series.  I’m sure a staff could be found with lenitive properties to flush the experience.  Look, I’m sure it’s condign to make yourself hard to understand to the reader, your audience will grow properly chary.  But, when the first page of a new chapter is like 10 words you haven’t (over)used in book four, most of the way towards the end, that stick out like a sore pollex, feels like you are just trolling the reader.

But, here’s the ultimate problem – the ending was boring.  There were moments when things were cool.  There was potential, like the weird alliance that was crucial in book four.  But, it just seemed like after dragging and dragging, the ending was rushed just to get it over with.

Anyway, it’s not the only series where much more cool stuff could have happened.  So, how does this tie into gaming?

Satisfying endings aren’t easy.  I do find that con RPGs can often create the appropriate ending by simply having a very linear structure to the adventure.  This … does … not … bother … me.  You know, dungeon crawling has the feature of (typically) a linear path to the end.  I don’t dislike dungeon crawling.  I just view it different from role-playing.  One thing I don’t formulate in my mind well are endings.  And, I, too, fall into the “trap” of wanting players to have freedom to make terrible results.

Number second:  Don’t be repetitive.  Fights shouldn’t all feel the same.  NPCs shouldn’t feel the same.  Missions shouldn’t feel the same.  Unfortunately, when it comes to game mechanics, very often PC actions are highly repetitive.  Use same attacks or always try Diplomacy +26 roll or whatever.  Now, this is where having a player explain what they say or do can vary from just rolling dice.  Is this an argument for spell memorization with inability to duplicate overmuch spell choice?  Hmmm …

Number three:  Make your gods interesting.  Actually, one of the godlike powers in the series actually became interesting, though it didn’t get a story arc.  I’m a big fan of gods.  But, if they just do things the protagonists can’t or can’t affect, kind of not so exciting.  Then, if they just get owned by chumps, that’s kind of eh, too.  I should be more specific, since the point of Lord of the Rings is that a god gets owned by chumps.  If chumps are clever or cool in their ownage, okay, but it’s when chumps are just chumping and happy ending in the post-carnage world that it’s kind of chumptastic.

As you probably don’t recall, a recent Gen Con saw me playing yet another game where you play a god.  I complained about how the game was like two hours for something not actually billed as two hours.  But, I had relatively lots of pleasure in that brief period.  My god was cool.  My god licked blood off of folks.

Switching offhand weapons.  Back to thinking about True Dungeon.  We really don’t need more tokens at this point, well, except maybe one and only if we somehow play something besides normal level.  Didn’t get into Grind and probably don’t have to worry about it since my schedule is rather tight at Gen Con.

One question is whether to loan tokens to other players.  I actually did that last year when we had like nothing in the way of relevant collections, as class specific uncommons are still better than not.  I can see it to a degree – talking about PUGs where we actually have much more stuff than the others.  I mostly see it with class specific tokens below ultrarare rarity.  Masterwork Thieves’ Tools, Ring of Soothing Touch, instrument if Eric isn’t our Bard, whatever crap Monks use.  I don’t want to be in the position of being pushy in any way.  On the other hand, as unlikely as it seems based on comments on the forums that we would have a more beefed up group, sure, switch out your Redoubt Plate for this largely devalued Blessed Redoubt Plate.

I have even more tokens that make me want to vaguely try a different class just to see the token get used, though the problem is that it would encourage me to play a style that doesn’t interest me, with probable results that don’t interest me.  For example, I have a solid one-handed melee weapon.  In a PUG, playing normal, I might do something boring like play a Paladin that goes sword and board or, just to see how boring it is, a Fighter.  In this scenario, I’d likely be a prime damage dealer at air hockey shuffleboard.  I can’t see how this is a fun result.  I want other folks to be +2 Slayers.  They will enjoy murder.  I will be embarrassed or bored hitting or missing for average double digit damage.

Contrast with Barbarian.  I cannot actually see how you build a Barbarian that doesn’t just annihilate things.  Even when you aren’t using a +3 relic, damage output is so absurd when you make even a token effort [ha, ha ha] to not undermine what the class does.  I have a STR 14, level 5 Barbarian build written up, and it still is just gross.  Then, I decided to see what our best Grind, Barbarian build would be, and it averages 22.5 damage ranged and just under 38 damage melee.  Point of reference?  Last year, most of my spells did 6 damage.  Even now, with my normal build where I don’t worry about damage pumps much, looking at those spells doing 10 damage.  Sure, I could Mad Evoker’s Charm for some base doubling, but that’s not why you … I mean … why I play a Wizard.  I play a Wizard to point out planes of existence on a chart, not because I feel a need to polish off monsters.

It’s going to be really interesting to see how it will play out at GC, when we finally get a chance to use collections that didn’t exist prior and whether I want to regress into playing builds that are more green or red than purple or whether I’ll want to be even more violet end of the color spectrum.  Or, gasp, get orange.

I’m trying to find builds that are different yet still relevant.  Purple tokens have a habit of converging builds, at least for me and for my concerns.  Paladin retribution damage build is an interesting build, though not one we could do.  All Dex, all the time Wizardy builds (more Elf Wizard) may end up more interesting than it seems what with maybe having a decent AC somehow mattering.  Ranged damage builds with Bard or others is maybe a thing to do that’s different.  Unfortunately, there’s only so many ways to pump ranged damage not dependent upon STR, and I doubt there will be a lot more tokens to pump ranged damage given what Rangers can do.  Of course, just put it into a slot Rangers may care about, which is … uh, probably all of the slots I already care about, like wrist slot, feet slot, neck slot.

Haven’t tried to put together a V:TES session, haven’t even been able to make Berkeley sessions on the weekend – just too many things going on.  Do plan on playing next HoR mod tomorrow.  Expect to play Saturday, two weeks after, so may start talking about HoR again before Gen Con.

So, Shadowfist.  We have had short games and long games but less in the middle games.  In our last session, we actually failed to complete a game because the new rule at the store is you have to be out of there by 10PM.

It’s hard to hate in Shadowfist since everybody does obnoxious things.  Oh wait, I hate lots of stuff already, including non-Feng Shui Sites, monkeys, Lotus recursion, most edges people play, site removal (not site damage, though Orbital Laser Strike is essentially site removal).  I’ve tried not to hate the Jammers.  They have some non-monkey, non-nuke cards.  Unfortunately, they don’t have enough joy and only lend the world Pain.  I may have to just abandon any pretense of not being a hater and go full on hating with maximum metahate.

Then, there’s Ascended.  I struggle so hard to find things I want to do with Ascended.  For instance, I have a module of Ascended cards I want to play with another faction, but I can’t find another faction to put the module in.  Something like Syndicate might make sense, but it’s a Modern module.  To be fair, I do find Ascended cards I will play and even not hate long enough to play the decks multiple times.  But, I find that even then I’m discouraged, as the Ascended just can’t hold back.  I was sitting on a bunch of power and had two hitters in play that allowed me to do stuff, so I didn’t want to overcommit, yet by not dumping my hand to have four hitters in play, I lost a dude I didn’t want to lose and expected to not even make a bid for victory.

Of course, I might have tried harder to play the game if the three Nuked that successfully resolved didn’t Nuked my FSSs.  Jammers just make you want to stop doing anything.  Or, maybe, the only answer is to load a deck up with counterspells and go for hand size so that you can always counterspell when you try to do anything.  Yup, that’s how gagworthy Jammers play – I’m thinking of hand size increasing plays.

If you’ve read this far, you finally get an explanation for the post title.  What else have I been doing gamingwise?  Why, I’ve been reading my shogi book, taking the quizzes over and over and still not seeing the moves without memorization.  I have this huge problem with chess where I just don’t see the connections between pieces.  With shogi, I feel like I have a better sense because the ranges are more limited and the emphasis is less on gaining material.  But, I still think my brain that does some things so well does some things so poorly, like get spatial connections.  Of course, there’s a lack of experience element.  People get better by doing.  Since shogi isn’t like a thing that I’m likely to do and chess doesn’t interest me, seems like getting better isn’t going to happen.

Yup, still haven’t gotten to the point of talking about deckbuilding with Anthology Set cards.  Well, I do need to get back to all things Traveller for a while.


Riffing

February 26, 2017

There’s something I’ve tried explaining in recent years a bit more to people I know.

I picked up some fantasy novels in an effort to use up an Amazon gift card.  Because of True Dungeon, I became aware of Patrick Rothfuss’s The Kingkiller Chronicle.  It occurs to me those two sentences would logically be switched in order, but, if you read my blog, you may grasp that I don’t always follow logical order.

I finished the first book last week and am a bit more than 750 pages into the second book.

I got into something of a discussion Thursday with the Shadowfist group, mostly around my view that the series purposefully endeavors to merge low fantasy and high fantasy.

And, so, the usual trying to explain what low fantasy is and what high fantasy is.  I was a bit surprised anyone would think Lord of the Rings wasn’t high fantasy.  To me, it’s a classic and illustrative example.

While it’s hard for me to argue against high magic being prevalent in high fantasy, there’s more to it than that.  D&D is not philosophically high fantasy.  It’s videogame fantasy.  You obsess over power, whether through stuff or levels.  You hope some random wheel of fate gives you +5 Strength.

But, I’ve said as much before.

I’m quite enjoying the series.  In fact, it’s addictive.

Movies aren’t.  TV can be.  I’ve said as much before, but let me try it a different way.

Movies are complete.  They are straightforward.  They are bombastic.  TV has more opportunities to twist and turn as there’s so much more content, and they are often incomplete.  At least, for me, they are incomplete, as I often don’t pay much attention to series when they end.  The threat of ending is why I am so reluctant to invest in series that sound interesting.

Books are different.

When I was in sixth grade, the teacher brought a box of books, put them in the side room (storage?, was there a sink?).  The box was full of fantasy and science fiction novels.  She was giving them away.  The other students may have taken more than I thought, but I remember only a casual interest.

I took an armful, a stack.

I may have read some of those books – I believe a few.  I’m fairly sure I didn’t read some.  I’m fairly sure I still own them and could read them at my leisure.

What have I been trying to explain?

Not yet.

I have an affinity to the Kingkiller Chronicle.  Oh, I don’t think highly of my abilities.  I found myself increasingly weary of the obsession over low fantasy concerns, like paying tuition or going hungry.  I don’t embrace entertainment for real world concerns.  I embrace entertainment for adventure, for drama, for melodrama, for another world.

I have fantasy novels that I have no affinity for.  Perhaps I didn’t read long enough.  But, my way of explanation for giving up on them is that they throw too many fantasy names of people and places at me too soon without my caring a jot about the characters or the plot.

I have some … criticisms isn’t the right word because writing is hard and different people have different tastes … hindrances to elevating the series to some lofty perch.

I said an addiction.  Books do that to me, even ones that aren’t so great.  I’ve read a good number of Xanth books, and they become much more childish over time.  One of those books I read when on vacation with family in Honolulu.  A day or maybe one and a half.

An addiction because stories do more then tell stories.  They inspire other stories.

RPG play is more like TV to me.  I don’t mean RPG campaign ideas or whatever, I mean the actual play.  The actual play lives beyond itself to a degree but not the same degree.  It’s too much one thing.  The value in the long running campaigns, with the PC development, is that they expand beyond one thing.  I still think of Usagi Kidai beyond the Princess Police.  Ty maybe not as much, anymore, but Ty and Rald and Hak and Smed and so on.

But, books, they inspire me to riff.

Being incompetent with music besides knowing what’s good, bad, and interesting better than anyone else who has ever lived, I imagine that musicians feel that way with music.  They want to riff.

I will stop reading.  I will peer into that other world and I will construct my own story.  The characters may be much the same or the scene may be much the same or the concept may be much the same.  Sometimes, it’s an idea for a novel but usually it’s dialogue.  I so love dialogue.

Eventually, I will return to reading.

The more I riff, the more entertainment I will get from a book.  Even bad books, which is why I continued with bad series long after they stopped being decent series.  I’ll forego naming names, as I can respect those who have abilities beyond my own.

I’ve been riffing a lot more with this series than I have in a long, long time.

I’m starting to remember something, something important, but that’s either going to sound ridiculous, pretentious, or will not elicit enough reaction to bother.  People don’t listen to me, but it’s not my job to force them.

I suppose one piece of that, though, may sound not so ridiculous.  I perceive the world differently at the moment.  Sure, Star Wars movies can do that, too, and music does that, and so can other things.  The mind is rather malleable when you let it be.

I have his children’s(?) book to read after day two.  I have a series my sister had on her Christmas list that I decided to try out for myself afterwards.

So many distractions.  So much time.


Page Of Myth

April 28, 2012

Funny, sometimes I struggle with what to write about.  Recently, I had several ideas, but my mind has kept moving on.

I’m a heroic high fantasy kind of guy.  I like epic.  I like dramatic scenes, pronouncements, etc.  I like the idea that heroes affect the world.  I even find epic levels of power interesting (see also interest in anime and superheroes).

I’m also someone who struggles incessantly with trying to figure out what sort of RPG campaign he wants to be in or run.  I both want and don’t want to world build.  If there was some world that I thought would work well for gaming, I wouldn’t feel as much desire to build my own, but I keep coming up with reasons why worlds, in particular fantasy worlds, just won’t cut it.

For instance, L5R would be easy to run but is not a world I actually care a lot for.  Young Kingdoms and other Moorcock worlds are interesting in that I think they can be highly appealing to read about but are actually missing enough detail in how they actually work that it would require making too much stuff up.  Wheel of Time, The Land (Thomas Covenant), Spellsinger’s world, etc. all either have limitations when it comes to gaming or require a bunch of work to develop for game play or both.

Of course, we have obvious high fantasy worlds to work with – historical mythology.  Not that this helps trying to make a decision since different mythologies have different appeals.

Greek Mythology

Pros:  Tons of material.  Heroes (demigods) are extremely important.  I own the  Hero supplement for it as well as GURPS Greece.  The world is open to adventure with a variety of challenges that can arise.  There’s an element of good and evil but also factionism, with each god/goddess being a faction.  Locations are often detailed.

Cons:  Lack of structure in what PCs should do.  In particular, there’s not a clear evil to oppose.  All of the deities seem to be equal parts beneficial and harmful.  Just because – one of my issues with BattleTech is that there are no clear good guys or bad guys, which is fine for a more gritty, realistic setting but ends up being less heroic than what I’m often looking for.  I’m not sure if the players will realize that being a demigod is not all mead and Helens.

Bottom Line:  I’m not really sure what my problem is with choosing this besides that I find it hard to imagine people I play with being into any high fantasy setting.  Probably just laziness on my part for how to structure a campaign.

Norse Mythology

Pros:  There’s a coolness to Norse.  I find the cosmology really interesting.  There are evocative monsters.  There’s a gravitas that comes with how much more serious Norse is then, say, Greek.  Valkyries are hot, and they would make a reasonable demigod level of hero.

Cons:  Probably just that I haven’t read enough, but I feel like so much of what happens is at the god level rather than the hero level, which is a problem for people who like to have their own characters.  Siegfried is a better PC concept than Thor, but I actually don’t have much idea of what other characters would fall into that level other than valkyries, even if names of other heroes show up on Wikipedia.  Even if you create your mortal heroes, what sort of adventures do mortals go on?  Thor, Loki, et al are messing with giants and the like.  Is that that plausible for mortals in a Norse world?  Admittedly, when playing Conan, we had adventures in essentially a Norse world and it worked well, if at a sword and sorcery rather than high fantasy level.

Bottom Line:  If I had a better idea what PCs would look like and what they would do that would capture the same elements of the adventures of the well known gods, then this would be more appealing.  A campaign of all valkyries would be hilarious (if played by guys) or awesome (if played by gals).

Egyptian Mythology

Pros:  Weird stuff going on.  A sophisticated culture, which contrasts with both Greek (pastoral) and Norse (barbaric).  Plenty of terrible things to deal with.  I can picture heroes below the god level.  Detailed locations.  Gary Gygax wrote some books where his protagonist was an Egyptian wizard who solved mysteries, who also happened to run across other mythologies.  While not the best written stuff ever, I really liked the concepts and enjoyed the adventures well enough.  I have the right supplement for it.

Cons:  Magic always struck me as complicated.  Maybe, it’s a boon that people have gone to so much effort to define how Egyptian magic works rather than a chore, but there’s just something offputting about the numerous parts of the soul and whatnot.  Maybe, it’s just a flavor thing that doesn’t appeal to me all that much.  Maybe my lack of interest in the science of magic rears its head.  Greece I can see being fun often.  Scandinavia has some buttkicking joy.  Egypt may not seem like that much of a joy to players.  I find the gods more appealing than the human world, which is a similar problem that the Norse world has.

Bottom Line:  I can see it.  It would require more work than Greek but would also have a more sophisticated tone.

Celtic Mythology

Pros:  There’s a lot of untapped heroic fantasy available.  I’ve even tapped some of it by making Ireland my land of adventure for my old Camelot campaign.  There’s an individualistic element, a la Greek.  As well, heroes are frequently at the fore.  The environs feel good, unlike maybe Norse or Egypt.

Cons:  Name pronunciation – seriously, these sort of things can be annoying.  Establishing specifics with the myths – I was part of a team who gave a presentation in high school on Celtic mythology, we had very different explanations for what it was about.  Having enough scope, which might not be an issue if I’m too inclined to go for too broad of a scope for adventuring.  I actually started getting repetitive in my Camelot campaign, though I shouldn’t have – probably due to not feeling the world as strongly as I should have.

Bottom Line:  Kind of a cross between Greek and Norse in my mind, which seems a good thing.  I’ve already incorporated elements in a previous campaign.  So, why not?

Oriental Mythologies

Yeah, oriental seems a word on the outs these days, though I find it’s really useful for describing East Asia rather than having to specifically exclude Russia, India, et al when speaking of something being Asian.  Anyway, I mostly mean Chinese and Japanese, since I’m so much less familiar with other East Asian myths.

Pros:  So many things that can be mined.  So many opportunities to surprise people by correcting existing beliefs.  Should be able to do a wide variety of adventures.  Non-gods are important.

Cons:  Deciding what to use.  Names being hard to follow.  I’m just getting tired of oriental stuff with all of the L5R I’m involved in as it even taints my appreciation for Chinese fantasy.  I have supplements for oriental fantasy, but they don’t necessarily help with a mythological level of fantasy.

Bottom Line:  Just not the right time as I’m not inclined towards even more oriental fantasy.  Also, I think there are better options.

Indian Mythology

Pros:  Untapped.  Demigods matter.  Should be open to the style of adventures I’m looking for.

Cons:  How much work do I have to put in?  I was searching today to see if someone had done Indian mythology as a RPG supplement.  Apparently, not a lot out there.  Devastra, if it gets translated from French, might be what I’m looking for.  I’m not sure that players would find India as cool as other worlds.

Bottom Line:  Something I’m currently intrigued by as I don’t think I have given it enough thought in the past.  I also think there’s too much work for me to do until there’s more RPG supplements I can use to help define the world.

Native American Mythologies

By which I really mean North American mythologies.

Pros:  I like the spirituality.  I can totally see adapting concepts of Glory and Honor from L5R, so I could use a system I like.  There are rich mythologies that I don’t know enough about.  Heroes matter.  I feel like North America should get more use for adventuring.

Cons:  I don’t know nearly enough about the myths.  I don’t know how I would choose which tribe’s (or tribes’) myths to use.  Scope may be an issue, where I find it hard to keep coming up with different things to do.

Bottom Line:  I think I’ll never put the effort in to understand one set of Native American myths strongly enough to use.

Aztec & Incan Mythologies

Pros:  Material is readily available, especially for Aztec.

Cons:  Don’t know what sort of stories I would want to tell.  Just not feeling the draw of the worlds.

Bottom Line:  Aztec, I have used for Solomon Kane as antagonists and can continue to use.  That wasn’t high fantasy (well, I did wander into high fantasy at times), and I struggle to see what I’d want to do with a pure campaign of either.

Finnish Mythology

Pros:  Finnish mythology is awesome.  Heroes matter.  Untapped.

Cons:  I don’t know enough about it.  Names are challenging.

Bottom Line:  I want to know more about Finnish mythology.  I really need to own a good RPG supplement for it, so I can digest it in a partially mechanical form.

Other

Did I leave important things out?  Russian mythology is interesting.  Various African could work well.  Pacific Island mythologies strike me as being Native American like, if much more water oriented.  I just don’t know enough to craft a coherent campaign.  Then, there are the mythologies I know so little about I couldn’t even think of them.  What of Spain and Portugal?  Etc.

I’m really not sure what my reluctance with Greek is.  Nor am I sure why Egyptian or Celtic wouldn’t be top choices.  Maybe, it’s having an interest in incorporating multiple mythologies, like Gygax did or Conan essentially does if as sword and sorcery rather than high fantasy, that distracts me from focusing on a single one.