Nowhere Near The Badlands

May 19, 2019

I’m not caught up on Into the Badlands.  I am binge watching to the extent that I have the time and energy to do so.

When season three began, I was interested.  So much of the old had finally been done away with by the time season two ended.  I watched and, then, waited.  When episodes finally came back on, I wasn’t that interested.

What was Into the Badlands supposed to be?

For some people, post apocalyptic, gratuitous wire fu scenes with relatively high amounts of gore appeals.  If anything, I’d say season one, maybe season two, didn’t have enough martial arts scenes.  So much talking involving Quinn.  It was something of a take on Journey to the West, except I don’t know what JttW is supposed to involve and MK was terrible.

Then, it seemed to go off in a different direction.  In many respects, a different direction was good as Sunny constantly not killing the people he should kill ASAP got really tiresome.

But, watching season three, what I mostly think about isn’t which characters I care about … because I don’t care about any of them much.  I keep thinking about what a muddled mess the show is with its mythology and with what is going on at any given time.

I like martial arts action, but I actually like wire fu less.  I like martial arts combat based around the combatants styles’ mattering.  Baron Chau using hook swords is a good idea.  It’s interesting when the Widow uses flails, but there’s a distinct lack of “You cannot hurt me due to my Mountain Style, you must learn Water Dragon style to defeat me.”

At first, the show is about Sunny and MK escaping a sucktastic world.  And, you could say the last episodes are about making the world less sucktastic, but it’s such a long, miserable exercise to get there.  It’s probably intentional to be hard to root for numerous characters, but that, to me, is flawed entertainment.

There’s nothing wrong with clear good vs. evil.  But, even if you don’t have black and white storytelling, you can still have clear protagonists rather than a bumbling ex-assassin who can’t stop killing people plus a bunch of people who keep changing allegiances all forced to inhabit the same miserable world.

If it were anime, might be more likeable.  Or, maybe just as frustrating because the characters are so unfun and the fighting would be less visceral.

Bajie was a necessary addition to lighten things up some.  Not enough.  His story is so unclear and what he’s trying to do is so unclear that even he isn’t the main character to root for.  MK should have been a lighter character if you want to compare to representations of the Monkey King I’ve seen.  Or, someone should have been.  But, everybody is murderrific or capturerrific all of the time, except of course for those characters that suffer the most.

Reading reviews, one review sounded like it was criticizing an episode before the end for having a bunch of exposition.  Here’s the thing.  Ditch all of the tedious Quinn, Ryder, whatever melodrama and replace it with “Azra was this.  Here’s where Sunny came from.  Here’s what MK’s power is.” in season one and I would have been far more interested in what was going on.  I watched this exposition heavy episode and I liked it, far more than I liked most of the other episodes.

So, gaming.

Into the Badlands – RPG setting?

Just doesn’t sound like a desirable one, to me.

Martial arts flicks – RPG setting?

Most martial arts flicks that impacted my psyche would make pretty bad RPG settings the way I think of them.  Most stuff when I was young was about an individual’s quest for revenge.  You get one PC.  You have a world that exists entirely to get beaten up followed by training in a new technique and defeating the villain after your latest love interest probably also died.

There are RPGs that focus on martial arts that are perfectly fine.  Yes, you can see movies in Swords of the Middle Kingdom or Ninja Crusade or Qin.  Ninja Hero is my favorite Hero System product of all time.  I have never had any interest in Exalted after the first time playing it, but it might be considered a martial arts RPG and has been fairly popular over the years.

It’s just that there’s a tremendous negativity to martial arts stuff in so many shows.  Now, what about more humorous martial arts movies?  Humor should arise from play not be forced into play.  I may find it humorous that in Conan we were actually the bad guys for a long time, constantly releasing demons on the world and, then, running away to escape them, but intentional humorous RPG play is often going to turn me off.  Not always.  But, in a serious genre.

Can have ghostbusting martial arts stuff.  Inuyasha, at its best, has this feel, though at a different power level and more supernatural supers than fantasy martial arts.  I guess.

So, I got to thinking about Westerns due to a game I signed up for at Gen Con, plus ItB is kind of Westerny.

Westerns – good RPG settings?

Here, I can see it being more group oriented, more fun.  I’ve thought about Wild Wild West as a RPG setting and it didn’t sound that good for the same reason that I have a hard time picturing how a James Bond campaign would work, even a lot of one-shots would work, though, I suppose, Mission Impossible is a better model for RPG play than something highly focused on one character.

Whether one shots or, even, campaign play, I can imagine a Western game so much more easily than a functional martial arts game.

I find that kind of interesting because I am drawn more heavily to martial arts entertainment than Westerns, though, to be fair, I have liked a number of Westerns.

Of course, Star Wars sounds like a great setting up until the point that you start play and half the players want to be jedi and the other have want to be scum.

Could be argued that 7th Sea is a martial arts setting, and I think 7th Sea works perfectly fine as a genre.  Combat is a big thing in lots of RPGs and different fighting styles shows up all over the place.

It occurs to me that important to martial arts and supers and various other genres at the campaign level is losing fights.  That’s not going to appeal to a lot of people I’ve played RPGs with, as far as I can tell.  I guess that’s why L5R works so well for some – you always win … up until the point that you have a new character.

Another thing about martial arts and supers is not ganging up on opponents.  This PC squares off with this NPC while the others have their fights.  I haven’t mentioned Feng Shui, yet, which is kind of a sign of how much interest I’ve lost in Feng Shui after 2e got made, but my FS play tended to involve more typical RPG fights where PCs focus fire and have no specific rivalries with villains.

I have thought about martial arts campaign play.  Rival schools.  Something besides rival schools.  I haven’t thought much about Western play as I’ve never been into Deadlands and not much else is pushed as Western play.

Of course, I’m probably just gun [sic] shy.  I’ve seen so many failed attempts to capture what makes shows cool in various genres that I spend a lot of time thinking about why a genre won’t work rather than having some faith that anything can be made to work if the right people are doing the right kind of things.

Where’s the Ultimate Combat! wisdom in a post all about martial arts?

The oldest weapon – still eminently effective.

Not the oldest writing technique, but changing things up is a pretty old technique.

Imbued with righteousness, you are shielded from harm.

MK didn’t have enough righteousness.  Sunny was seemingly given righteousness but it didn’t change anything.

You are what you eat.

This hadn’t come up yet!  Well, I haven’t eaten a hawk, either.  People are exposed to things when they are young and often come to like those things.  On the other hand, when you eat disappointment, you become less enthused.

The pain of falling lessens with repetition.

Not fallen enough when it comes to RPG campaigns?  I don’t think so.  I think the pain increases with additional failures as one keeps asking the question “If I’ve had great RPG experiences, why is it so hard to have more great ones?”

Success earns repetition.

Ha.  Repeat good, don’t repeat bad.  That seems like sound advice.  This pack keeps getting more interesting.  Play Oak Staff, have it break, Instant Recall it back.

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

Maybe I don’t imitate enough when I GM/build decks/whatever.  I try to do things my way and it doesn’t work as well.  I was never terribly fond of this card, BTW, as it’s pretty expensive for what it does.  For sealed play, it makes this pack weirder, doesn’t synergize with Oak Staff, for instance.  For draft, it would be something to take if you saw a lot of beef.



December 18, 2018

As the most right-eous reviewer of all things Arrowverse, you gnome I was going to commentitate upon Elseworlds.

Not so great.

Yeah, had Supes, who is a better Supes than most, but it just seemed like Supes and LL to have Supes and LL.  Batwoman does nothing for me.  I mean, if you want to have an Yvonne Craig lookalike in a new spinoff, that might do something for me.  I’m not a Bats fan.  I was okay with him on Superfriends and am entertained by Adam’s adventures, probably more now where I pay more attention to the dialogue than I did back in the dim ages.

I chuckled at some part one stuff.

I felt like Melissa was wasted.  One thing I liked about Crisis was Melissa and Stephen getting to interact.  Here, felt like a buddy crossover with Supes and a bunch of others.  John Wesley Shipp also felt like a wasted opp.

Wasn’t funny enough.  Wasn’t spectacular enough.  Rushed.  Because of Gotham, felt like not a lot happened.  More Iris and Oliver, some Felicity and Barry, Kara and, uh, Diggle?  Ralph?  Everybody?

Then, Legends of To Meow Meow.  I agree with the comment that LoT essentially crossovered with itself.  I don’t usually rewatch LoT episodes (even though it is the best of the four shows), but I had to rewatch parts to relive SoS and DC’s Puppets of Tomorrow.

And, that brings us to our topic.

Giving the audience what it wants.

No, I’m not going to get rambled down into RPG GMing.

What do floppers want?

Art?  Can’t be art in and of itself.  There’s so much not good CCG art.

Mechanics?  Hell, nope.  I mean, look at what has done well over long spans of time.  Then, look at how forgotten and not so impactful a really fun to play game like Ultimate Combat! has been.

Theme?  Sire, yes sire.  Magic has fantasy.  Pokemon has poke.  Yu-Gi-Oh! has Exodia, Egyptian God Monsters, et al.  L5R is really cool.  Even V:TES and Shadowfist developed playerbases through theme (certainly not art).  Star Wars.  Lord of the Rings.  Buffy got made.  Doctor Who got made.  So, so many got made.

Competitive play?  I think so.  Even Babylon 5 did better than it might have due to tournaments.  No matter how much casual appeal there may be, and V:TES has had quite the casual appeal as I’ve run across numerous players who had no tournament interest, tournaments and prizes enhanced appeal.

Why would I pick up a CCG at this point?

Theme.  I’m not looking for a great mechanics CCG; a CCG with great mechanics would have to sell me on theme.

Analogizing, the problem with Elseworlds is that it didn’t theme well.  Crisis themed much better, giving supers all sorts of opps to superize, shippers opps to sail (Sara and Alex, e.g.).  Supes and LL were like art, fight scenes were like mechanics, Barry Queen and Oliver Allen training was like competitive play??  Well, it’s analogistic in the typical way that analogies don’t always work.

Meow Meow themed.  Singing.  Cat petting.  Amy in action.  Not perfect.  Ray, Mick, Ava not so well served.  But, Fairy Godmother did well.

Course, everyone knows the best themes involve space ships and aliens and economics, especially in a high tech digital version.

But, I digesticate.

On a related note, totally not enthralled with this season of Who.  I get that it’s stylistically much more like oldWho.  But, Pertwee and Tom were so much more interesting.  I liked Matt Smith’s and Capaldi’s Doctors more than most, even if their episodes weren’t always brilliant.  Jodi’s Doctor is too ordinary.  Too many companions, especially when you don’t have multipart episodes.  Just not all that interesting adventures.

BBC’s Doctor Puppet!!

Give the audience what it wants.  Wait.  What are my favorite episodes of a-l-l timeandspace?  Maybe another timeandspace I’ll have an answer.  I did really like parts of The Girl in the Fireplace of newWho.  I liked Tom on Gallifrey in oldWho.

Digital Travel

November 27, 2018

The plan has been in place for quite some time to have an electronic version of Traveller.

Yesterday, Horizon launched a Kickstarter to expand play beyond the rectangular cardboard into the world of zip zap that is the fu-ture …

Traveller CG Digital Edition

Posted about the KS on the VEKN forums, pointing out how our programmer is one of the most successful V:TES players in history.  I thought it was an interesting bit of trivia.

Only 28ish more days to back, back, back.  It could go all the way … with your help.  (Gratuitous sports jokes are all part of the payoff.)

I can, of course, be doing more to advertise the game.  So, with the theme of travel, I thought of how 2019’s convention schedule can be impacted now that cards are available in retail establishments and/or through their distributors.  If anyone has any suggestions outside of Origins and Gen Con, I’m interested in getting a better sense of which cons would have the most impact for exposing to people who don’t know the game is available.  International suggestions also welcome.

So, with the theme of digital, while Jeff and I were at GobbleCon Saturday to do some late notice demos, my Thanksgiving, besides being a blogging day, because one can be thankful of the opportunity to blog about gaming as well as write absurdly run on sentences, was a day of catching up on Rokugan 1600 fictions.  Not written with quill and squid but with the dread power of a keyboard while peering at a monitor.

I finally wrote something from a villain’s perspective.  I should just write those to begin with.  Though, thinking about it, are the villains really the villains or are they just antagonists to a messed up society of sword worshipers?

I wrote some other NPC stuff, too.  I could write all month (next month) and still not cover all of the NPC possibilities.

Yup, too many NPCs.  I knew there were from the start and, yet.  And, yet, you know what is fun for me?  More NPCs.  More stories that have nothing to do with the players or even really the campaign’s focus.  Well, rein it in, myself, rein it in.

Don’t rein in your end of year Kickstarter backing of the Digital Edition of the Traveller Card Game.

I know things I want to happen in the next installment of R.1600, I just foresee two problems.  One, too many things.  Two, how to adapt to player action.  Three … foresee three problems … everything is cooler in my brain than it normally ends up being in play.

It is funny, like when I read some reddit stuff on too many NPCs, how my problems aren’t special snowflake problems but rather mundane difficulties GMs routinely face.  It’s almost like there’s this human nature thing that happens that makes things suboptimal as, even though we know about a potential trap, we walk into the trap anyway.

Why is it so difficult?

You know who travels?  The Doctor travels.

I watched The Witchfinders and, then, hurriedly went to read reviews expecting to see comments supporting my one and only truth – that episode was atrocious.  Only to have people say they liked it.  Ye gods.  Hath Satan taketh controlleth of the interwebseth?  I kept wondering whether there was some clever audience manipulation thing going on that would make the tonal whipflash make sense.  It was like there was a parody running interlaced with the episode.

I’m not a fan of this season.  It does make me recall oldWho.  That’s not bad.  But, there was a lot of not so great oldWho, too.  And, there’s been plenty of newWho I haven’t thought highly of.  It’s like there’s untapped potential.

The Traveller Customizable Card Game is replete with untapped potential.  Potential that could be tapped … I mean … exerted with a few heroic actions.  All totally not pitching aside, there are some deep interactions in the card game, a lot of which have to do with how cards are money.  There were times I played complications on the contracts I was going to pursue just to be forced to bounce permanents back to my hand to use as money for going after more contracts.  It didn’t exactly work as I was far behind my opponent and had no way to really slow him down, but it was techy in a way that a lot of Magic puzzles want you to think.

Wow, haven’t mentioned Magic in a bit.  I guess that comes from not playing it or reading about it or having other people talk to me much about it while at the same time playing/running other games.  It’s almost like I’m stating something so keenly obvious that it has already sliced through the fabric of destiny.

Digital.  Travel.  Oh.  Nevermind.  For the one and only time in the history and future of this and every other creation, I managed to stray from my topic.

Yacht Sea

October 28, 2018

Yacht See.  Yacht C.

Something of a follow up to my prior post.

Let’s talk about game design … and a not so obscure game that starts with a Y.  Actually, if you look at the Wikipedia entry for Yahtzee, you get some rather convenient background on the name.

Anyway, on that trip, Yahtzee came up twice.  Once when I played a bunch on the plane in lieu of playing other things (though I did play a few other things).  The other time when an Australian who didn’t know what CCGs are asked me why I thought Yahtzee was so popular.

I answered with reasons including:  visceral appeal of rolling dice; rerolling dice; gambling roots; scoring system is both understandable and varied.  Actually, maybe I didn’t mention that last one at the time.  But, it’s important to why this blog post exists.

But, let’s talk about rerolling.  Actually, because actually is the secret word for today … doh!  Actually, let’s get off on a tangent.

RPGs often use dice.  As everyone knows, the best dice rolling mechanic is a single d10, with explosions.  Yes, even better than 1e/3e/4e L5R R&K because it’s easy for people not into probability calculations while R&K is suited to people who can approximate TN probabilities in their head.

Then, there’s rerolling.  Rerolling dice is like, totally, the wasp’s elbows.  Every sane, normal, mundane personage wants to be able to reroll dice when they don’t like their initial results.

Gambling is frequently about random results.  Lot of games come out of gambling games.  I have discussed the contrast between poker and Yahtzee recently, but that’s a tangent.  And, if there’s one person who can’t stand tangents, that would be this bloke.  This not-blue eyed, not-blond bloke [there’s like three people who might get this reference … FTW!].

People enjoy bingo, keno, lotteries, bunch of other random stuff.  So, sure, dice.  But, then you have redicing.  It’s like draw poker over stud.

Where was I?

So, game design.  One thing about thinking like a designer/developer in a professional sense is evaluating the replay value of games.  There might be games that are cool/fun/entertaining at first blush and grow sickly right quick.

It gets back to Cards Against Humanity and its ilk.  I enjoyed playing Before I Kill You, Mr. Bond the first time, but I pretty quickly lost interest after that.  I was already losing interest in CAH just in a second session.  Sure, the thrust of these sorts of games is the social interaction rather than the mechanics, and there are plenty of games that are more popular that are hitting the social nerve rather than the quality mechanics nerve, but, in theory, can do both.

Yahtzee has replay value to me.  Now, I wouldn’t rate it as the greatest things since pound cake.  But, for someone who can play solitaire for hours yet has little tolerance for games like Through the Ages, Yahtzee is at least a starting point on simple mechanics with some level of replayability.

Funny.  How long does funny stay funny?  There are folks I’d be happy to play CAH with a lot, though I think that has a lot more to do with wanting to hang with those non-gamer folks and would imagine doing something besides CAH with them would be even better.  Jokes are better when you don’t see them coming.  In Valley speak, you are looking for disruptive verbalizations to sink venture capital into.

It’s not our goal to make perfect games.  It is one of our goals to make games that fit the source material.  It is one of our goals to make games people would want to buy.  Goal isn’t the right word, but it’s a lot better if we make games that we enjoy.

For gamer types, pulling something off the shelf is more likely when the mechanics of the game feel righteous, dude.

Now, I would not be into a Yahtzee variant.  The scoring system being fixed makes it easy, it also makes it limiting.  Consider American Mahjong, where you get new scoring cards every year.  While there could be a scenario based game that plays like Yahtzee, still not really achieving the replay-driving level of variance being looked for in a game that is not trying to compete with solitaire but trying to compete with whatever Eurogames and Ameritrash are happening in the open gaming room.

Nothing wrong with jokes, you there, in the woods.  I am in the woods.

But, note, so much of my entertainment in multiplayer CCGs comes not from eviscerating my victims but from the emergent humor when you “get” the mechanics or thematics of the game.  Hmmm … this paragraph seems rather tangential.  Well, who doesn’t love tangents?  Actually …

Maybe I should just reroll this blog post [don’t let them know that these posts are constructed just based off of a bunch of die rolls … okay, sure, the secret will never be revealed].

Appealing games are more appealing if they have replay value.  There are mainstream/classic games that can point to how to achieve replayability or to how there are really popular games with kind of terrible replayability.  Using the former, can think about how to achieve multiple goals with a new game, a fun game.

Actually, on a tangent, CCGs should have immense replayability.  When they don’t have l33t replayability is when they have a crucial flaw.  I find Ultimate Combat! very replayable even with its small and internally similar card pool.  V:TES, of course, has l33t replayability, but certain storyline events had unl33t replayability.

Dice can be appealing.  Rerolling dice can be pre-appealing [OMG, nobody will get this reference, not even her, as she would never read this blog, besides, this use doesn’t even make sense, anyway].

In other news, have had a couple more sessions of Rokugan 1600, where we learn how different gamers perceive …

Out Of The Shadows

September 19, 2018

So, Shadowfist has a new owner.  The impact of this is so slight in the interwebs that it’s not easy to find references to the new ownership company … even when I include Vetusta Games in my search.

It feels like we are some of the few players left (by players I mean people who play).  Had a couple comments about missing out on the opportunity for our game company to own Shadowfist, but that was rather unlikely.

Yet, why not muse about what it would be like to own a game with a long history rather than a game we are hoping builds some history?

What would I do if I suddenly became in charge of Shadowfist?

Bring back Architects right away and get some control over effects Lotus get?  Probably not.  I like playing Architects (zero interest in RPG, though as a villain they are okay).  Abominations are often cute.  I play the goofy removal rather than the staple removal.  I just don’t care nearly as much as others do.

Bring back Syndicate or 7 Masters or do more faction stuff?  No.

Ban Netherworld Trickster and other ridiculous Modern cards that don’t need to exist?  Hmmm …

What does Shadowfist need besides more players?

Better conclusion to games, of course.  One could say that requiring two resources to play the game and being able to get stone aged on power during play is what makes games the most unpleasant, but the lack of clear endgame is something I find increasingly offputting.

Have I seen the game at its best?  What is the best Shadowfist?  I’ve been playing for years more often than most and I still don’t have a great sense of what the game sold itself on.  Theme?  What do really good players playing each other get out of games?

V:TES doesn’t sell me on theme.  It sells me on the lunge.  It sells me on the comebacks.  On a zero intercept deck holding the Edge in a five-player game multiple turns.  It sells me on winning tournaments with Ghouled Street Thug in a vote deck, Mercury’s Arrow in, uh, a Mercury’s Arrow deck, Chalice of Kinship in a vaguely !Gangrel deck.

Daughter of Nu Gua with Butterfly Knives and Blade Palm for my first tournament win.  That’s what may sell me on Shadowfist.  More than a game focused on WoD vampires and numerous allies, Shadowfist is open, in some ways far more open than Magic, in others not so much.

There are plenty of rarely seen cards that amuse me.  I had five Cobra Clan Stalkers in play at the same time.

So, besides hoping someone comes up with a great way to market the game and run bunches of demos and tournaments across the planet (almost like every CCG needs this, almost …), I want interesting.  Shadowfist is wildly diverse.  Netherworld and pop up junctions can do anything.  70’s, Wild West, whatever.

I’d make “my” card.  Lotus magistrate because someone needs to be the Lotus good guy.  I’m not a punmaster, Baron von Pun, but I’d greenlight card ideas that sounded funny more than sounded good.

Would I adopt our house rules?  Specifically, the new location cost reduction?  It’s so good for the game in so many ways that I’d want to sanction it as a format and see if people could break it.  Choose a FSS and non-unique foundation for opening hand?  Yeah, probably.

I was talking about Traveller recently to a non-gamer.  I think it’s a good game.  I think you can try a variety of other games and note that there are usually problems in every CCG because CCGs are complicated and openended.  Sure, Ultimate Combat! may be more fun to play than anything else, but that’s mostly out of a starter box and the card pool is rather limited and some people care that the art isn’t spectacular.

Shadowfist has Difficulty at the Beginning and Difficulty at the End of Things.  Lot of the old time players want to play games that are much faster than what I want to play for multiplayer CCGs, so the game is not going to be that amazing for one or both of us.

But, I enjoy it.  I even enjoy games with obnoxious cards played, like monkeys.

I think Modern doesn’t do it any favors and maybe the concept of Modern needs to be rethought.  Modern has way overpowered cards in isolation with what feels like a pretty limited environment.  Maybe that’s not that different from when the game was new.  How often do I see the Queen of the Ice Pagoda in classic play?  A lot of cards just aren’t that good in your typical CCG and players gravitate towards the best cards.

I’d try to make the Ascended more interesting.  There’s just something about their characters that tends to grate on me.

I’d try to find a way to even out power because there’s just insane levels of alt power generation and … Möbius Gardens needs to be nerfed.  Is Jury-Rigged Dynamo a necessary play in your meta?  It’s pretty much a single card reason to play Jammers in our meta as it’s infinite power.  Of course, you are also playing Monarchs so that you can Twin Thunders your Wrath of the Monarchs to double nuke Gardens.

Is Superleap fun?  Just gets constant complaints in our play even though the reason it so often works is because there isn’t a lot of character/attack screw.

Should Loyalty be more common?

On the one hand, I think I’d struggle with making cards for the game as I don’t have a great sense of the mechanical balance in the game.  On the other, I might design cards that aren’t intended to address a mechanical need but just ooze flavor.

Would I hose Lotus recursion yet not Dragon recursion?  Maybe just reprint The Crucible with another name so that you can run ten cards that toast all demons in play.

Monarchs faction probably has the most potential for interesting cards as factions like Hand and Lotus are pretty focused on their thing.  Yet, I’ve become pretty bored with Modern Monarchs characters.  Actually, I’ve just generally become less enamored with Modern play, with my main way of keeping engaged with Modern decks being going multiple factions.

Shadowfist can have stories.  I know stories can annoy players who don’t like their factions changing, but it is an opportunity to shake up the environment.  “All apes/monkeys/gorillas have been wiped out through time, but mermaids and golems are appearing everywhere.”

I don’t know.  Is there a different CCG I’d rather have control over?  Well, Wheel of Time would be interesting but only if it somehow sold, which I think is unlikely at this point.  I wouldn’t want to control Magic, Pokemon, or their ilk.  L5R might be interesting if I could say “Forgot that unpleasant game that was put out, I’ll take the cool of the IP and come up with passable mechanics so that the game is actually fun.”  But, then, would I want to hear endlessly about adding Spider or some such?  I wonder if I could make the Scorpion fun in the CCG while it remains the opposite in the RPG, much like how Dominate works in V:TES or Architects in Shadowfist.

The irony of my current situation is that I have control over a card game and could, theoretically, have more, yet what I’ve always wanted with the CCGs I’ve played is influence, not control.  I guess going into what it’s like to be a designer/developer/manager versus being a player would make for a good topic some day, but today is more about giving Shadowfist some exposure.

Oh, reprint Shadowfist, the card.  That’s the top priority.

Subtraction By Addition

July 22, 2018

While my current thoughts are more on Rokugan 1600 since I just ran a session and we had three sessions in three weeks, I was thinking about V:TES and adding cards versus removing cards from the card pool due to the recent threads on the forums.

I got to thinking about what expansions actually made V:TES a better game.  Not a more fun game, since that’s incredibly subjective, but something not remotely subjective since I know all and see all and think all that is what made the game play better.

Dark Sovereigns

Ha.  Ha ha.  Terrible balance with incredibly obnoxious cards like Thoughts Betrayed.

Ancient Hearts

Worse balance.  Note that Giovanni and Ravnos are still awful (more so the one without a lot of Dominate), Ass are more awful than either of those (close with Ravnos), and Serpentis is incredibly top … focused with cards not like Temptation and Form of Corruption tending towards gar-bage.


Finally, a set that seems to be trying to address the game mechanically and may have been playtested a reasonable amount.  Sure, wild imbalances in clans, but this is a step in the right direction even if the path of producing crappier versions of Deflection and Telepathic Misdirection isn’t really the path of making a better game.

Sabbat War

For this post, I don’t see this being significantly different, but it did put cards into the precons that weren’t in the boosters.  My appreciation for this set has grown considerably since I tend to forget how the !Trem got slighted.  Some good additions cryptwise.

Final Nights

Full of gar-bage.  Made Giovanni Shamble.  Made Ravnos Nightmarish.  Not remotely my idea of a good set, but it did make the game better in some ways.  Having indies not be so terrible is better even if I find Shambling tiresome.


No.  Bloodlines may be superpopular and superinteresting, but I see it only taking away from the game as it expanded the game in a way that made it far far harder to grok and away from core concepts.  For one thing, hardly any of the bloodlines are votey, which means increased variance in how votish tables are.  Plus, just trying to expose someone to a game with a ton more disciplines, outferiors, disciplines that hardly any vampires have, weirdly non-synergistic crossover possibilities that caused many bloodlines decks to ignore mixing with non-bloodlines is not happy times.

Camarilla Edition

Nerf hammer unleashed.  Did that make the game better?  It’s kind of hard to remember how insane free Majesty and always free Second Tradition is.  Ton of new vampires that weren’t out of control powerwise even if some are superobnoxious.  Sure, CE made the game better.  I would have liked The Embrace to be changed in a different way, but some good clarity and nerfing.


Frowny face.

Black Hand

More frowny.  This might have been more welcome if it didn’t come on the heels of Anarchs.  Both suffer from not giving so much interesting spins on what is already possible but pushing towards low yield mechanics in the name of expansion.  The idea of introducing new things weak does not make games play better.  It makes tables more unbalanced as the experimenters get Dominated.


The end times.  Variety of normal cards that are pretty good balancewise.  Saddled with the most obnoxious stuff in existence.  So many games with a bunch of Events in play as people tried out Fall of the Camarilla, et al.

10th Anniversary

Atrocious new cards.  Get 10 cards where at least three never should have been printed (as written).  After initial efforts, I don’t see five played by anyone besides me.  Channel 10 is borderline in my mind as to whether it should exist.  Powerbase: Los Angeles is the one card that, if you think anarchs should be part of the game, deserved being published.

Pretty much a set of unique promos beyond the reprints and I never think that’s a way to make games better.  OTOH, a bunch of important reprints.

Kindred Most Wanted

Where Anarchs and BH led to “Something different, I’ll build bad decks!”, KMW led to “I’m going to permarush you with this incredibly bad deck until I can murder your dude!”  Also think it made draft significantly worse by putting out way too much unnecessary draft text.  Reminds me of Gehenna in that there are various normal cards with the set saddled with awful, but are all of the normal cards good ideas?  The Embrace got turned into a pure swarm card, so we get Tumnimos as another version?!?  Waters of Duat?!?  How about just fixing The Embrace to get a skill card if put into play by a 5+ cap?

Legacies of Blood

More bloodlines.  Tupdog.  Plus, let’s add Abombwe to the game.  At least Bloodlines seemed to have a plan.  This just smacked of “How do we sell the next set?”

Mixed bag on crypt cards.  Samedi in this set are just atrocious.  Far more Laibon options if you have to have Laibon even part of the game, something I used to be in favor of but now am not, at least not how it was done.  More Laibon in Tzimisce and Lasombra help open up varied crypts in a way I think the game would be benefited by.

Nights of Reckoning

If Gehenna had never been made, would this set be so hate-worthy?  Could argue that it forced people to build decks differently and punished people playing sketchy strategies.  Except, this isn’t Magic.  This is a multiplayer CCG where a lot of play is not for tournament preparation/competition and the balance was way out of whack when this got published.  Now, what is the balance now?  Is it boring to play Imbued?  Generates too much table hate?  Or, did the better players learn how to cause Imbued not to turn into swarms with permastealth, permacept, permableed, permafreak?

3rd Edition

Heart of Nizchetus.  Did On the Qui Vive make for a better game or just a more powerful game?  Is having a wake for Carlton and friends a good idea or an “Allies are even more annoying” idea?  It did put a bunch of cards into people’s hands, a bunch of misprinted, marked, smelly cards, but that’s not germaine to whether it makes for a better game.  Some good.  I consider Mirror Walk good.  Abbot is arguably good for the game.  I question whether Helicopter is, being mostly a buff to three-bleeders with four votes.

Cryptwise, I’d say pretty good adds to the game.  Overall, then, I’m wishy washy about it, but I guess I’d go with good for the game.

Sword of Caine

Ignoring expanding on BH, something I don’t think substantially added to the game and only became more and more annoying as it got better and better cards to support the trait, what did this add?

Biothaumaturgical Experiment continued to make Thaum more diverse, which it needed.  Epiphany was huge for making a terrible mechanic less terrible.  Nocturn is another ally that strikes me as being too good and can warp the environment, though this gets into a different argument about what role allies are supposed to play in the game.  The Uncoiling was an attempt to counteract a terrible card type, and it does a pretty bad job of it in my experience.  Unexpected Coalition was something to throw at one of the worst clans in the game, possibly the worst at the time.  Veil the Legions is such an unneeded effect for Obfuscate and can contribute to the Aus/Obf arms race.

Sometimes you make overly good cards, but SoC had so few cards in it and the greatest need was far a ton more Sabbie vampires.

Lords of the Night

A bunch of alt wakes, well, that’s not terrible.  I could get into details on cards, but I’d say generally that more help for Ass/Quietus is positive where helping things that didn’t really need it to better at what it already does – Leverage, Murmur of the False Will – is maybe not the best way to go.  Then, there are cards that very well may have made the game better by adding value to weaker disciplines (Celerity, by this time Potence).

It’s less clear to me whether this set made the game better.  If unclear, then tend to side with “Have to add something to the game or it isn’t a CCG.”

Twilight Rebellion

Given anarchdom, sure, this made the game better.  This is a set that I seem to appreciate far, far more than other people outside of Anarch Convert, Club Illusion, Constant Revolution, and Revolutionary Council.

This is the one small set I think was worth publishing.  I’m sure others will complain about how weak most of the cards are and how that doesn’t make a game better when you won’t play the cards, which is as valid as my pointing out how full of gar-bage Final Nights is.

Keepers of Tradition, Ebony Kingdom, Heirs to the Blood

Why group these three together?  Given that I think the game has suffered from getting away from core clans and core disciplines, the latter two wouldn’t be a surprise on my list of “bad for ball”.  KoT is on my list for reasons mentioned in another post – grossly unneeded power jumps in library cards, plus the likes of Lutz and Santaleous.

There do seem to be certain eras to expansion of the game.  The first era is obviously the introduce more clans era, though often leaving clans exceptionally weak against the OGs.  The SW/FN era of making stuff better was logical, though FN suffered immensely from so many bad cards.  Then, you get the “V:TES weirder” era with bloodlines, anarchy, BHness, Events, Red List, Laibon where I get that the game was going down a path of trying to broaden its mechanics.  At the time, I was into the idea of bloodlines.  I was into the idea of Laibon.  BH and anarchy both seem somewhat innocuous and don’t require more disciplines.  But, I just don’t see how the game got better, just more diverse.  Then, you get a power up era with KoT and HttB.

Given that you have to expand the game somehow, what would have made more sense?  Really, Camarilla could use more expansion to do things besides P/J plays.  Vampire expansion was generally good, but each grouping could use more options, especially for certain clans.  Core clans – Cam, Sabbie, Indie – could do with more clan cards, though indies have gotten a ton of love over the years.  More multidiscipline, especially for weaker discipline combinations.  More vampires that share out of clan disciplines for the likes of Lasombra and Tzimisce (besides Dominate and Presence, like the indie disciplines).

Add one new mechanic and it seems like a minor increase in complexity.  Keep adding and you get not only a far more difficult game to teach newbs but a game that becomes even harder for existing players and turns off more casual groups that remember what it was like in prior eras and preferred that.  Then, how many of these mechanics are actually positive additions to the game.  Can say anarchy and BHness are now good additions, but they were terrible additions when they came out.  Events remain a pox on the game.  Aus/Obf arms race was not my idea of making stealth/intercept work better but had the tendency to squeeze out a lot of middle ground plays (though the evidence for this doesn’t seem to exist).

So, V:TES thoughts while in another pretty dry period for V:TES play.  I’m sure negative views on other things will surface, or I’ll have something the same/different to talk about after Gen Con.

Part Time GM

June 8, 2018

I am trying to find a Kickstarter that’s supposed to run in June, and I came across a Kickstarter for a RPG.

Part Time Gods Kickstarter

Considering that I’ve been largely disappointed with RPG Kickstarters and rather happy with the one boardgame KS I backed and fine with the Shadowfist KSs I backed, why back this game?

I’ve played it.

I enjoyed it.

A two-hour game (not billed as a two-hour game), and I enjoyed it.

I’m particularly down on foreign KSs where I get hit with international fees and shipping is quite expensive, but I just find what I end up with from RPG KSs so uncaptivating.  Now, this could be because the concept of trying to play anything besides L5R is challenging given the nature of who I play games with these days.

It’s a low buy in for the level I’m backing.  Amazingly enough, I’m not so into a game I’ve played once and don’t have on my mind-list of things to play that I’m looking to mortalize myself as a NPC in the game.  Or, whatever.

I really like Kickstarter because I can influence whether someone even makes something, rather than discovering something already made, and it seems like it gives way more capital to RPG publishers.

So, my PTG experience was mentioned in Gen Con 2016.  Saturday, if you want to skip down a few thousand words.

It’s just my kind of thing and the game played much like my early Ran Ackels Immortal: The Invisible War games which got me fired up about modern supernatural RPGing and made me a CCG designer.  Immortal greatly helped push me towards Precedence Games/Publishing/Entertainment, who put out the Babylon 5 CCG, where I ended up doing design for that CCG and Wheel of Time CCG and offered Tomb Raider CCG ideas which probably didn’t get used.

Part-Time Gods, though, gets me thinking about something.  The games I run are missing something.  I don’t feel like my players get to have the experiences that I, as a player, enjoy the most.  They don’t get the “How about I look into the future and keep what happens to myself so that it doesn’t necessarily happen?” moments.  The “I’ll lick the blood off of the dude’s face to sense where the enemy will strike next.” moments.

Or, maybe they do and I don’t know, but let’s assume they don’t.  Is it because I’m not a player in my own games?  Do I set up situations that enable the players to do the things I like doing, but they don’t jump through those hoops?

I don’t think that’s the main reason.  I think the main reason is that I’m not including an important hook that gives the players the clear enough openings.  Meanwhile, in trying to give players opportunities to do certain things, I also allow some things to happen that don’t make a lot of sense.

I don’t talk much about simulationist play because it always just sounds like not my glass of extremely sweet tea, but it occurred to me after the last Rokugan 1600 session when we talked about stuff for a long time that a weakness I have is accounting for simulationism.  I allow worlds, even ones I didn’t make, to go in directions that aren’t the right feel because I have this conscious or unconscious high fantasy agenda.  Oh, I’m not saying I make everything into some form of coherent high fantasy.  I’m saying that having a high tolerance for reality warping events leads me to come up with reality warping events that are incongruous with the setting.

To the extent that I understand simulationism, it’s about the play experience being consistent with a provided world.  Where I can see an example is that gamist play will tolerate out of character actions that are successful and narrative play will tolerate out of character actions that make for a more coherent story, simulationist actions should be in character to make the play experience more realistic and more meaningful at the character level.  Saying something similar, gamist is for players, narrative is for the plot, and simulationist is for the characters (to be thematic constructs and not just mechanical ones).

If I put more effort into my games, I could probably get a more consistent experience.  Though, as I said, I think rather recently, I often put effort into the wrong direction.  Somehow, I need to better understand the players’ perspectives and what actually matters to them.  For one thing, I need to have a better sense of how plot intersects with player activity.  I have things in my mind that are going on behind the scenes, but they just don’t matter to the players.  So, that’s not an area to focus on.  The area to focus on is “You did this, now the world is going to react in this perceptible way rather than being a convoluted series of impossible to notice adjustments in the grand scheme of creation.”

I think I think too widely.  Grand conspiracies don’t lend themselves to building a foundation for a campaign that can end on a high note with the resolution of some grand conspiracy.  Sometimes, Wolverine just needs to punch Sabretooth rather than understanding what the ultimate goal of the Weapon X program is intended to be and how that has to do with magic-using aliens.

When I ran Solomon Kane, I started with adventures from the core book.  Those seemed to go over better.  Again, personal, limited in scope, and consistent with the setting.  Why is this so hard for me to stick to until a campaign really calls for something else?