1600 House Rules

February 15, 2018

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

Fix:  Your ATN is not affected by grappling.

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


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

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

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

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

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

Fix3:  Void costs 5x next rank to increase.

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

Stance Declaration

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

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

Wound Chart

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

Feint/Increased Damage

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

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

Honor Roll

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


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

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

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

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

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

School Techniques

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

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

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

Mastery Abilities/Skills

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Fix:  Luck costs 7 points per rank.

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

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

Because anything else is moronic.

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

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


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

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


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


Fix:  ATN = 5x Reflexes + Defense Rank.

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

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


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

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

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


Five Rings Chilled

February 13, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Crab failed for not protecting the Empire.

Crane failed for living in denial.

Dragon failed for sitting on their asses.

Lion failed for not showing Crab enough respect.

Mantis failed for being selfish and greedy.

Phoenix failed for being pacifists.

Scorpion failed for being inferior villains.

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Amulet of Hayat.

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

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

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

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

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

All About Miya

February 5, 2018

Played a couple of HoR4 mods recently to where I’m almost entirely caught up.

On the plus side, these mods felt more … normal, even if the second mod had crazy things going on.  The absence of Ivory Kingdoms as a setting was not noticeable largely because the Ivory Kingdoms haven’t really added anything to the campaign.

On the neutral side, I am getting close to needing to make a decision about character advancement.  Since there’s nothing more interesting than hearing about how someone else will advance a character, you are in for a treat.

I wrote up advancement plans through around 250xp.  I’m on track, about to hit another endgame achievement.  But, I’m bored.  See, the problem with planning these things is that almost all of the buys are large XP expenditures.  Large XP expenditures are boring.  Sure, I like having Agility 5.  Agility 5 is fun.  Agility 5 can continue to be fun.  But, work on Earth 4, like the plan?  So, so boring.

I want to spend 2xp at a time on things.  I want winners … at Horsemanship (Pony) rolls, at Stealth (Sneaking) rolls, at Athletics (Throwing) rolls.  I don’t want to make a buy every four sessions.

I thought about my HoR2 characters and how much more charactery they were and how much more fun advancement was.  It was simple – I hadn’t planned ludicrously far into the future.  I didn’t know what an IR-2 version was going to look like, nevermind IR-4.  I bought stuff that interested me at the time.  Some of those buys made my characters more effective … and some didn’t.

That’s the thing.  Our approach to HoR is completely different from my approach back when it was a casual affair.  Back then, it was about having a character who advanced.  Now, it’s about hitting certain milestones at certain points in the future.  “When everyone else is IR-3, I need to have Earth 4, 10k6 attack roll, explode 9’s on damage just to keep up.”  It’s just trying to keep up with some theoretical threshold of competitiveness with other PCs and/or mod difficulties.

And, that’s boring.  I want to be able to play mods with people I know, sure.  I don’t really care if I get any kills.  After all, the Miya have no heroes.  Of course, the thing is to stop worrying about effectiveness, get murdered by a peasant girl, then play a shugenja so that my godlike power is useful to any group.

Speaking of shugenja, while I played one of those two mods with four shugenja and life was sustained, our usual groups are godless.  It gets really annoying.  Not having Path to Inner Peace means PCs might actually have wounds after combats.  That’s horrendous.  It’s incredibly narratively disruptive.  I had to figure out a way, as I GMed one of those mods, to get things back to how the mod is supposed to play where you don’t have PCs hanging around Injured the day after they get Crippled.

As much as the most broken thing about shugenja is Commune, the most necessary thing is Path.  Wound Penalties outside of combat just make playing dumb.

Even in miya case, while I routinely called raises while Hurt, outside of the few rolls miya does well, miya is completely incompetent with -10 to skill rolls.  Investigation rolls are common after combat, and I forget that godless parties might have their perceivers at -15 or, even “better”, -40.

So back to talking about miya.  I see three paths for advancement after the requisite Kenjutsu 7.  The first path is to continue to push the “showoff” build.  This is my preference but not necessarily my inclination.  I want to buy a second rank in Horsemanship, get mastery abilities in Stealth and Athletics and, uh, even Horsemanship.  That means I go from glass cannonesque to full on glass cannon as everything else gets stronger.

The second path is to stay true to my absurd endgame plans.  This means being survivable in combat and getting better at pretty much nothing.  It’s the more humorous path that isn’t all that funny when you contribute little to mid/high rank parties.  I’m really losing interest in this because of what I wrote above where I just see planning for endgame builds to be a failure of having actual fun.

The third path is to undermine my stubborn fetish for focused builds and make goodstuff buys.  This, of course, is the way to be more relevant as a murdermate, but it has no thematic flavor and no mechanical spice.  Just sounds boring.  Btw, this path is the path of Reflexes.  Get Void to 3, maybe INT 3, work Air, and buy up social skills to be a parttime talker.  That sounds so dull and defeats the whole point to playing miya character.

Of course, there may be some way to balance between paths 1 and 3.  The problem with trying to balance with path 2 is path 2 is the path of insanely expensive buys and nothing but insanely expensive buys.

Now, there is a way for me to get more combat effective without advancing at all.  See, one reason I’m not a great fighty type for someone who has almost all fighty XP expenditures is that I don’t have any armor or a bow or a no-dachi.  The way the campaign works, I can just get those by burning my otherwise irrelevant favors.  So, sure, I could run around in heavy armor with a no-dachi, 10ke6-5 attack roll with 6km3 base damage and be something the enemy has to pay attention to.

That doesn’t necessarily interest me.  It amuses me to be heavy infantry with no armor and fast drawing a wakizashi.  But, that’s not the problem so much as the problem is that anyone who can load up on armor and run around with a no-dachi should be doing that, and that’s just monotonous.  Nevermind that everyone should be yumi-ing it up with their Reflexes 5 builds.  It’s so, so 4e banality.

Every character should do something different.  Moshi Shigeo was a no-dachiist who loved heavy armor.  Snore.

I miyan sure, there’s the concept of playing a character rather than a character sheet, so whether you no-dachi or no-no-dachi, you can still have a 1.5 dimensional personality.  I just find that it’s easier to have a character when the character sheet has something distinctive mechanically to it, which brings me back to how path 1 with maybe a bit of path 3 sounds like what will make me more enjoy playing this character.  After all, I didn’t enjoy playing Shigeo much from a character standpoint.  He was mostly just a tsurugi-chucker along for the ride.



January 28, 2018

In recent days, it’s been mostly about Traveller.  My friends and associates have been getting their Kickstarter rewards.  Coworker showed me his stuff.  Went up to Oakland the day after the Berkeley tournaments to help explain how Traveller works.

Then, we realized the printing issue where the crew skills lack clear silver and gold borders.  That’s unfortunate.  We had a summit to go over the plan for making things right and I would expect an update from Jeff on what Horizon Games is planning to do.

See, I may not be able to see things at a distance so well, especially writing on flat surfaces, as I didn’t wear glasses in college except when I was trying to read blackboards (yes, that old).  But, I can still perceive small details, so I wasn’t that perturbed until a couple of things.  One, the realization that I have a huge advantage over people seeing the cards for the first time because I largely know what the cards already do, including what levels of skills the crew have.  Two, internal comments have been that the lack of clarity on the skills is a monumental deal.

Anyway, I didn’t post just to dwell on how many things can go wrong with publishing material.  I’ve been building decks now that I have real cards and not just samples – something that only happened yesterday, days after other people got real cards.  I’ve been answering questions on travellerccg.com‘s forums because I’m actually not just an authority but a “designer intent is this and since I’m a …” type person thingy.  I usually eschew answering rules questions for card games because, as a player of those games, I never wanted some random playtester to tell me how something worked but wanted someone who decided what the rules are to tell me how something worked.  Of course, I also happened to often be a random playtester myself.

Every once in a while I remind myself that:  we put out a game.  Yes, there are some miscellaneous things that didn’t go as planned, but it looks good.  I think it plays as intended, though it is not a simple game to get down right away.

And, we hope to keep making it better – expanding the card pool, addressing any production issues, addressing rules questions and concerns.

Shifting gears.  The John Carter KS continues on in a similar way to various other RPG [sic] KS’s that I’ve seen where the original threshold is just something to blow through for the stretch goals.

Now, what doesn’t get me as excited is that it’s not just a RPG KS but a minis KS as well.  I don’t hate minis.  I, in fact, backed a KS that was all about a board game with lots of minis.  But, I also have essentially no use for them.  I don’t know how to store them (and, I have way too much stuff already).  I’m a theater of the mind style player/GM.  I don’t hardly ever play games that require minis.  I also don’t see how more “different dice” is actually a goal of any sort or worth anything.  I want winners … er … I want content.

I got to thinking about content.  First, JC content.  There are nine books published based on various compiled magazine stories or whatever.  Decent number of locations are used or referred to.  Various cultures, as defined by races with different skin colors … uh … yeah, exist.  Some monsters.  Some tech.  Some weird psionic style powers exist.  There’s material.  Now, how you finesse putting a book out that goes into the differences between the black martians, the white martians, the red martians, the yellow martians, and, maybe, someone very PC will also find the green martians a problem is not entirely clear to me.  At least some of these have other names besides what color their skin is, but we live in a precarious age, which is no doubt some of the problem with pushing JC 100 years after it was written.

Putting aside the potential for getting people who don’t understand the source material riled up, I was just wondering why more RPG books weren’t part of the early stretch goals.  Because, I think about how insane the material is for both Conan and L5R.  Now, L5R is a game world, so you can expand it as much as you want.  But, I’ve read a good amount of Conan and I don’t recall there being that many locations and cultures and whatever well defined to where you can write an entire book about Aquilonia or, even more ridiculous, Cimmeria or Khitai and somehow find it challenging to write an atlas of Barsoom.  Maybe it isn’t challenging.  Maybe it’s just not a priority compared to having ship to ship combat rules or whatever.

I happen to have Savage World’s Lankhmar book handy and I have repeatedly wondered why there’s so little material in it and/or the property.  I haven’t read many stories, but I know there are a number, and I’m pretty sure they are more vivid than the game supplement.

But, then, I thought of a few things.  One, not every estate is as eager to expand on material that isn’t in stories written by the original author or official authors.  Two, Conan is different.  Barsoom is a made up world.  Lankhmar is in a made up world.  Conan’s world is a world of historical cultures mashed together.  You can expand on the societal norms of Shemites by just opening up an anthropological book.  Want to get Hyrkanians?  Well, not super challenging.  Brythunia was a bit of an uncertain match, but I interpreted as kind of like Ireland and kind of like Poland and maybe something else.

Conan’s world so good.  I can bring in famous Yemeni poets into my LBS gaming or Saudi festivals or whatever to flesh out that underdeveloped setting and find that entertains me as a worldbuilder.  But, with Conan, you can choose any corner of the continent you want and draw inspiration from this world.

I just haven’t been as enthused with KS as the end/intended results of things I’ve backed or tried to back haven’t been to my tastes.  Sure, I want to have PDFs for supplements rather than not, but what I really want are printed versions, and, yet, where would I even put more books?  I can’t fit what I have in terms of either books or cards.

Speaking of Savage Worlds, we have started playing a Spelljammer game using SW mechanics.  Still early.  Not what I would pick as a person’s first RPG experience, but that’s the case.  New setting for others.  We have intentionally not proclaimed “this is our new RPG campaign” to see if it works for people.  Is kind of interesting to me that my gaming seems to be expanding again, what with trying to play L5R LCG, Traveller, trying to have RPG play on a regular basis, plus Shadowfist getting back on track, the potential to get V:TES in the South Bay back on track.

It’s almost like everything new is old again.  How wanderful.


The Best of … 2014

December 31, 2017

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


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

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

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

Might, Right, Or Contrite

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



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

Finish Line

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

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

Orccon 2014

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


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


Review – Book of Water

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

Eject The Tape

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

Bushi Analysis – Extended

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

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

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

Generic Bushi School

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

Strong Sorrows?

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

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

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


HoR Strategy

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

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




BattleTech Scenario Building

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


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




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

The Road To Mana

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

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


Exploring Villainy

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

Lo, The Fun

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

L5R Campaigns

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


Clan Cards – Camarilla

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

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

RPG Fiction Guide

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

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



December 30, 2017

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

Some takeaways.


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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



November 13, 2017


V:TES.  Berkeley.

We wander.  Victory Point Cafe.  Power outage.

Game 1

EuroBrujah -> Anarch Aus/For -> Anthology Anarch Instantaneous Transformation -> Mata Hari Chimerstry -> Saulot IC

Uninspired at deckbuilding.  Have Anthology reprints.  Instantaneous Transformation + new vampires.  Use piles of unsorted cards.  90 card deck.  No offense.

No pressure on prey.  No pressure from predator; steals Gas-Powered Chainsaw.  Saulot helpless.  Grandprey and predator ousted.  Field Training with Salvador Garcia “fun”.

Game 2

Trem Bleed -> Aus/Dem/Vic -> Vidal Jarbeaux -> Santa & Serenna -> Baali

Santa suddens.  Predator bleeds.  I bounce.  VJ go away.  Wall up.  Baali broken.  Luc blocked.  Ousted.  Endgame.  Santa wins.

Game 3

Borrowed +1 STR CEL wall -> AAIT -> HoS Temptation -> Gangrelish with Dom -> Prince Kaymakli

Giotto multiacts.  CEL murders predator.  Club Illusion.  Temptations?!  Bleed prey out.  Flesh of Marble predator.  Kaymakli readyless; ousted.


Food:  Decent.

Hot chocolate:  Expensive, not sweet.

Ambiance:  Good.

Drive:  Bad.


L5R tournament.  Castro Valley.

Brunch:  country fried steak (okay), seasonal vegetables (not good), spaghetti (bad).

10 players.

Pickup – Scorpion.  Unfinished.  Five completed LCG games.

Unicorn vs. Scorpion

3-costs.  Hiroue.  Yunako.  Defensive.  Time.  Concede.

Andy (Dragon) vs. Unicorn

Reduce hand.  One break first three rounds.  Andy recovers hand.  Raitsugu duels.  One Honor.  Void = three Keeper Initiates; Voidless.  Unicorn fall.

Dragon vs. Unicorn

Tilt?  Threatless.  Three rounds – three Doomed Shugenja.  Time.  Concede.  Eight completed games; tournament five.

Play:  Weak.  Slow.

Deck:  Fourless/fiveless!  Weak or ultraweak?

Prizes:  Not weak.

Nostalgia:  Talked to Ed of old days.

Mood:  Frustrated.  Unable break provinces.  Unable outwide Dragon.  Opponents’ hands full.

Enjoy cards:  Cavalry Reserves.

Unpleasant:  Dueling.  Defensive play.

Overall:  Fine.


Desire:  Deckbuilding, tournaments.

Skillfulness:  Lacking.  Improve?

Decklists:  Improbable.