[Classic] T-H Rating [3/27/2000]

July 4, 2018

I’m amazed I never bothered to hunt down the infamous … er … insidery … er … virtually unknown outside of a few B5 CCG folks T-H Rating questions.  This is why I hold on so preciously to my AOL personal filing cabinet – I can spew geniusness from yesterdecades upon my devoted readers (shout out Estonia).

T-H Rating, aka TH Rating, aka Turku-Helsinki Rating.

If I was to encapsulate my core nature’s essences, my creating T-H Rating in around March of 2000 would exemplify.

This is a crude way to calculate your local TH Rating – an indicator of the type of metagame you will likely find in an environment. Only answer based on tournament play. I would be amused to have someone keep track of this, but this is mainly for your own benefit. The implications of a high or low TH Rating follow the questions.

10 questions:
What percentage of games go to time?
A. 0-10% B. More than 10%.

In general, rate how useful cards are that allow you to use the wrong ability in a conflict – Level, Fleets on the Border, etc.
A. Not useful B. Useful

Does a player care what the other players are doing if the former is winning?
A. No B. Yes

Does anyone play Ill Fated Reverses?
A. Almost never/no B. Yes

If someone else is playing Growth in Chaos and you play against him or her a second time, do you …
A. Laugh at the player’s lame deck/play for second/reserve in Conscriptions B. reserve in all your Shadow hosers

Does anyone ever put Taunts and Games, Level, or NMTB in the opening hand without knowing what someone else’s deck does?
A. No B. Yes

Since the release of Psi Corps, have you seen any player play with Anti-Telepath Virus, Plague, or Strike at the Heart?
A. No B. Yes

Hidden Treasury:
A. Extra cheese for when one of your 3 STGs or 3 TWs gets hit with NMTB or LR B. Protection from Seeds of Anarchy, Ill Fated Reverses, or the like

How many weapons are normally found in a deck?
A. 0-1 B. 2+

Does anyone ever initiate war conflicts?
A. No B. Yes

Each B answer is worth 1 point. Each A answer is worth zero points. If you aren’t sure, count the answer as one half point.

A low TH Rating indicates a noninteractive environment. Speed is very important. Don’t expect help from other players to stop anyone, so if you want to win, try to win quicker.

A high TH Rating indicates a contentious environment. Both brute force and stealth are encouraged. As are table diplomacy and resilience. Try not to make too many enemies.

Again, this is only a crude way to calculate TH Rating. But, it isn’t easy to come up with a meaningful formula, so it is sort of what we are stuck with.

Why did I hunt this down now?  Well, I also am using this pure, physical geniusness in an article for Traveller where I talk a bit about “race” games, where I always think of B5 as another race game when I think of how we went with Traveller’s primary win condition of 20+ VPs.  (Well, arguably primary win condition until we see how tournament play goes with respect to bankruptcy decks.)

A game like Magic can be analyzed with some level of metagame predictability due to the large playerbase and quick turn around on stealing tech.  However, even with Magic, there are local metagames to consider.  Maybe Red Deck Wins is good at the moment due to lack of hosers, speed of other top decks, and whatever, but the tournament you are going to play in is full of sad, pathetic haters who don’t realize Magic is most fun when it’s a couple “4 to the dome” after some 2/1 beats followed by the uncounterable X burn spell for the kill.

With niche CCGs like … pretty much all of the games I’ve played seriously, regional metagames are far more extreme.  Turku was about the One-AIR decks:  decks that focused on pushing one ability – Diplomacy, Intrigue, Military, and probably not Leadership or Psi which lacked the same number of influence-gaining conflicts – to gobble influence as quickly as possible.  Helsinki was into interaction and throwing out obstacles to opponents rather than just playing your game.

Now, much of Traveller play is two-player, and “negative plays” in two-player games are not the same as negative plays in multiplayer games.  Still, there are plays in two-player games, especially a race game like Traveller, which are more inclined to pushing your victory condition regardless as to your opponent instead of trying to impede your opponent’s march towards second place.

Anyway, an independent creation from the Wayback Machine on an Independence Day.  Now, to go read some of my RPG books to steal session ideas for RPG play.


L5R Bonus Rules

May 19, 2018

I ran a session of Rokugan 1600 last Tuesday.  A side adventure as we only had two players.  For the Princess Police, we often did side adventures with three players, otherwise known as about half the party.  I have four players for 1600, and it’s typically going to be the situation that if one can’t play another can’t play.

The session went better than I expected in certain respects.  Rather than ignore my party NPC, the players made an effort to engage with her.  A lot more effort than I’m used to.  I’m sure there’s a lesson in not having so many NPCs who look a lot like Adriana Lima.

I could blow this off as a joke, but I think it is important.  Eventually, I’ll get back to my main subject.  As a player or a person, I don’t need every female around to be gorgeous.  It is even the truth that beauty isn’t always attractive, but that’s getting off topic.  Why be inclined to have a Buffyverse with RPGs?  Because that’s what literature is like.  Love/lust interests for fantasy protagonists tend to be … looking better than the norm.  Just picking out one example, which romantic interest in the the John Carter stories is not stunning (when in her own body)?

I choose Buffyverse as the term because … uh … TV tends to have attractive people, too.  Was talking recently about soap operas and, while a lot of the women aren’t my idea of sensational, some are.  Whether talking about Arabian Nights or Shakespeare, mental image I have of many a character is attractive, distinctly attractive, and looking better is something that correlates with attractiveness.

You also get distinctly unattractive, where ugliness correlates to that.  It’s a way to call out characters.  But, it’s not a great way to call out characters when the only difference between them is one has long hair and the other short or whatever.  And, it’s simplistic to rely upon such a device.

I don’t spend a ton of time on fleshing [hmmm … fleshing] out characters.  However, because I have a not small cast for 1600, I did try to go through and give every character, yes, even the male characters, multiple interests.  Well, Toku Rekku may not have broad interests, just intense interests in broads, but anyway.  This has, so far, helped, with the potential, perhaps, of continuing to give my players more to engage with.

Sound like banal observation?  Well, sure.  But, I find that L5R is particularly prone to creating large casts of NPCs.  I find this to be the case because L5R has a society.  When we played Conan, we were often on the move.  Have some young, hot noble in a session, next session raiding a tomb where the only living things are insects.  Sure, could be a L5R group often on the move, roving magistrate or whatever, but you have your Topaz/Emerald Championships, your Winter Courts, or whatever to ground the play in a fleshy world.

Large casts are troublesome.  I have some problems with L5R names in that people’s pronunciation is inconsistent and there can be very similar names and the names aren’t ones you hear all of the time, like distinguishing John from Sean or John from Joan.  But, I seem to have far fewer problems than others because Kitsu and Kitsuki mean very different things to me as do Kitsuki and Kitsune, so I’m listening for the distinctions.  Point being that it’s easy, in my experience, for players to get overwhelmed by NPC names.  In Princess Police, we had Hantei Hanahime and Shosuro Hanahime and I seemed to be the only one of the players who realized that until I pointed it out.  Have a family of Akodo, and may get Akodo Ichiro and Akodo Ichigo and Akodo Chisei and so on to where which NPC being talked about is not easy to track.  Obviously, if you run another game where Marcus Smith the Elder, Marcus Smith Jr., and Marcus Smith the Third are characters, that may not be so easy to track, either, but I haven’t played in a lot of those sorts of games.

By giving more attributes than “this is the incredibly handsome … uh … Yasuki”, may mean something in a player’s mind to where they bother remembering the name.  Just like how Topaz vs. Winter Court was completely different for me in PP after the WC folks got a few traits/interests.

But, anyway, kind of not why I wanted to talk about large casts.  Large casts are a problem for GMs because they require more work to make those distinctions.  I don’t care if the PCs are interested in five of my 20 NPCs or interested in two, but there’s a chicken and egg problem that I don’t know which two they will want to engage with and they don’t know which two they want to engage with until I fleshisize 20 out.

Got to move on to the point of my post before taking 1000 words on a common subject.

Another feature of that session was underwater combat.

Here are my house rules on underwater combat:  Scrolls aren’t so good if they are wet.  Don’t expect to swing a sword underwater.

Rather than come up with a bunch of mechanics to make ATNs lower for PCs and affect weapons differently and alter the effectiveness of spells, I just finned it.  I just scaled sea creature attacks and whatnot to the PCs normal stats, though it was kind of fortuitous, I mean totally intentionally planned [yeah], that the one NPC that joined the party that included a knifer was also a knifer.  I handwaved speaking with the breathing spell cast on the party.  The shugenja had memorized enough combat spells to do combat things.  Memorize spells, cheesemeisters, memorize spells – always Jade Strike, Path to Inner Peace, and some aggro combat spell (probably not ones that require being outside to cast).

Here are my house rules on climbing out of pit traps, something that is of great concern to one of the PCs:  “L5R doesn’t concern itself with elevation.” – some precious gift of a hu-man.

It’s almost like L5R is like some ancient RPGs that didn’t feel a need to mechanize everything in existence.  How much falling damage do you take for jumping into a 20′ pit?  30′ pit?  Depends upon my mood.

Ironically, I consider it a strength of mine (whether anyone else does is unknown) that I whip up ad hoc mechanics for specific scenes in specific sessions that strike me as balanced and of exceeding joy to the world.  Or, well, joy to me to see whether the PCs encounter the horned fish that stares at them or not.  I have rather elaborate Lore results tables for the amulet that the party was sent to retrieve in that session.  Sure, they are just longer versions of gossip results in HoR mods, but this is just an example of something I was looking at recently.

Roll Void

< 10 = You are cursed! You have one less Void Point to spend until the curse is lifted.
10-19 = Just another day in the desert ruins.
20-24 = As long as you are in Mada’in Saleh, you have one extra Void Point per day.
25-29 = You gain a rank of Luck while in Mada’in Saleh.
30-39 = You gain a rank of Luck.
40+ = You gain Great Destiny.

This is more my sort of special rules tables.  Is it balanced?  Worked, and one knows that all analysis of goodness can be determined by results.

By the way, I think I mentioned Mada’in Saleh before, but maybe not.  This is the sort of thing that gets me fired up when GMing – taking interesting stuff from a real world and using it in a sort-of-real world.

Yodotai decorations also figured on the troglodytic tombs when the territory traded with the Yodotai. In contrast to the elaborate exteriors, the interiors of the rock-cut structures are severe and plain.

I’m sure you can figure out how this description came about if you cared, which I’m also sure you don’t.

At some point, you may have considered giving up on this post because I hadn’t given you something to steal for your own play.  But, then, you made your Willpower roll and are going to be rewarded with the greatest thing since adding cashews to your pork stew, which only ended us as stew instead of pot roast because you had never used your Instant Pot before.

“What does Battle (Skirmish) do?”  “Nothing, but I give an Initiative bonus …”

Skirmish Battle Rules

PER/Battle (Skirmish) TN 15 “contested”, rolled at the beginning of each round

Choose one combatant of consequence, that combatant cannot act this round (includes no Full Defense).

Free 10’ movement for one combatant that is not limited by Water.

Raises > Enemy:
Each Raise can be used to increase one Initiative by 5 or for 10’ movement.

Geniusness?  Jigoku, no!  But, it’s a start and maybe I’ll use some of my precious nap time this weekend to, instead, write up even more extensive rules that are completely untested.

Geniusness-of-a-sort?  Tengoku, yes!  Every time I read 4e mass combat rules I come away with “What is the point of this?  How would any PC survive most of these heroic actions?”  They are garbage.  In that, what is remotely appealing about using them?  Gen Con Battle Interactives may not always work well mechanically, but they have interesting stuff going on either thematically, mechanically, or both – probably some brilliant stuff.

Take garbage mass combat rules, take that while I wanted mass combat to be a thing in this war campaign I realized that the upcoming encounter isn’t really mass combat but is … wait for it … not normal combat … stay on target … red, red, red!! … Skirmish Battle!?!  Take that I like creating my own mechanics.  And, you get the single most defining thing in any campaign in the history of the hu-man races – the introduction, adoption, and total rewriting/dropping after they don’t work as intended Skirmish Battle Rules!?!

Well, I could find something else to mine from one, kind of 2.5 hour session, but I’m all for terse pithiness …

Egg On

April 7, 2018

Once again, Easter V:TES happened.

Then, Thursday night played Shadowfist, where two of the local players played with the current owner of Shadowfist.

But, what you really want to hear about is my experiences recently with solitaire play.

So, let’s dwell on that for a while.

Flower Garden Solitaire.  Deal six columns of six cards and can use the rest of the cards to build up from aces to kings.  This was terrible.  Barring a lucky tableau, I fail to see how it’s possible to win and decisions are, therefore, largely meaningless.  I hate solitaire games that are hard to win and where decisions don’t tend to matter.

Eight Off Solitaire.  Deal eight columns (have no idea why the book’s author keeps talking about rows when dealing out cards in columns) of six cards, remaining four are in a card pool.  Build up from aces to kings where you can move cards from the tableau to your pool as long as you don’t have more than eight cards in your pool.

This was interesting.  Then, I realized it was way too easy.  Then, I tried six columns of eight and found that too hard.  Then, because I’m full of geniusness, I went 7×7 with a 7 card pool.

I give you 77-7, the latest solitaire game in no way created by anyone else and totally unlike any game someone may call Seven Off Solitaire.

It’s still kind of easy, but, then, so is the best solitaire game I’ve ever played (if you care about a game of skill that has a binary result of win/lose, unlike my solitaire bridge game which I play more often at airports).  While there’s a luck component to be sure, that’s true of all solitaire card games otherwise they would be pointless.  What I have been liking, before I get bored with it, is that there appear to be key decisions to be made at certain points.  Actually, it’s probably similar to FreeCell only this game doesn’t have a 99.99% win rate as FreeCell has.

It’s not entirely intuitive, but neither are other solitaire games.  Once you get that you don’t want long chains and have to build up from aces ASAP to clear tableau chains, get the gist of it.  When to clear a column to place a king is what I’m working on, while the possibility of replacing a king with another king in a column was an “a ha” moment for one sweet, sweet victory.

So, Easter V:TES.

Played two games as we only had four and someone had to go around 2PM.

Ian (POT/Obf) -> Rob (borrowed Hatchling) -> Devin (Shamblers) -> Brandon (cube Tremere)

I lent Rob a deck with prevent.  In our fights, not a whole lot happened.  In Shambler fights, he got beaten down a lot.  I held on to Horseshoes a lot as I don’t philosophically understand rush decks or pseudo rush decks.  Brandon went from in trouble to sweeping.

Ian (Aus/Tha/Vic) -> Devin (Thucimia mostly bleeds) -> Rob (borrowed Tzimisce) -> Brandon (Akunanse)

Rob got wrecked by Brandon.  Brandon constantly intercepted both of us, but I generally avoided a lot of flak through the power of Blood Rage, maneuver, Read Intentions, Rego.

Thucimia kept bleeding and Rob couldn’t really defend given that he lacked a ready minion with AUS.  A My Enemy’s Enemy came my way, which would have ousted me, I bounced to Brandon, who could have DI2ed it but didn’t.  He Rat’s Warninged only to have that DIed by Rob for the kill.  Then, Devin bled us out.

My deck amused me.  Standard plan of getting Sasha Vykos Advanced out and getting a Veneficorum Artum Sanguis.  Then, bring out Forestal and have him get a Vicissitude skill card.  Then, finally bring out Quira, who takes the VAS and gets two Vicissitude skills.  Now, it was typical in that I had zero offense for the first hour or so as I was busy tooling up and getting blocked by my predator.


Looks much the same at Gen Con.

So, we have six because, of course, we are a group who still actually plays Shadowfist.

Rather than the much talked about possibilities for a six player game, we do three-player games.

Because gaming, like sports, isn’t predictable, Daniel, Joren, and Earl played one 2.5 hour game where Earl won because the other two decked.  Earl played a mostly Lotus deck with Monarchs, Daniel played Monarchs, and Joren borrowed Daniel’s monkey deck because monkeys don’t fly in our meta.

Meanwhile, Don, Justin, and I played 3.5 games.

The last game I wasn’t paying a lot of attention to because of time and so my Accupressure Masters didn’t really do a whole lot by the time we had to pack up with Justin winning.  Amazingly enough, when you don’t defend them with Hand counterspells, they are kind of terrible.

The game before that, I won off of Blossoms of the Black Lotus that didn’t get murdered like they often do.

The game before that, Justin won with cops because Don didn’t have another Nuked in hand after playing two earlier in the game.  I had four Cobra Clan Stalkers in play and was going to play a fifth before one got Imprisoned and I ran out of turns.  Don’s Project Apocalypse almost got stolen for the win with Locksley Station!!  That was when Nukeds happened.  We smoked it after that bid for victory failed.

In our first game, it was quick and lame as Justin kept putting out FSSs and made some lame bid for victory we couldn’t stop, as I was playing an Architect/Syndicate ambush deck where Don attacked right instead of left at a certain point, softening up one of my two Moebius Gardens to make any sort of damage enough.

I showed the Prince and Earl our actual Traveller product, as Earl hadn’t seen real product.

I probably should mention that they played standard Shadowfist, while we played all of our usual house rules.

What is the point of this point?  OKA, why did I start off with solitaire, when only ancient dinosaurs born in the 20th century, like myself, even touch decks of normal playing cards?

Rules changes.  They aren’t always a bad thing.

Sure, you eschew house rules for tournament CCGs because you want to play the game that’s going to see play when groupies are on the line.  But, I’m the only one who competes (and succeeds) at becoming the Champion of the Six Largest Economy in the World at Shadowfist out of our weekly group.

Shadowfist is perfectly fine to me played straight.  I think it’s more fun, on average, played with at least one of our house rules.  Shadowfist is a dual resource requirement game where players can end up doing nothing and never get into the game.  With our house rules, that’s really hard.  Now, we don’t abuse them.  Sure, you probably could just win off of superleap constantly with some events because there are so many sites to attack and it’s so easy to just run out a site whenever you want to make a bid for victory.  Plus, I’ve considered that our high power games could have decks built where there are far more hitters and less other stuff because you could consistently get them out.

In 20+ years of playing V:TES, I’ve played under a variety of house rules, as I’ve mentioned.  I’ve also played a variety of variants, including all of the meaningful storyline events, including Prophecies of Gehenna.  I’ve enjoyed variant V:TES, routinely not any less than straight V:TES.  I didn’t care that I needed to build 4cl decks for Pleasanton or couldn’t play normal vote decks in what I can only think to call the Bertram Group without expecting a rain of pain.

I already play house rules on deck construction in every European Championship I’ve ever played in with my extensive personal banned list.  And, I’ll do the same in the North American Championships coming up.

I’ll try Prehensile Tail, Ancilla Antics, Distinct Directive, or all sorts of other formats.  And, maybe, one of those formats is a better game.  Actually, maybe just Jyhad is a better game for some because it’s faster, more streamlined, and more action focused with a lower potential power level but a much higher power level than my usual casual play.

Sure, Battle For Earth, the Babylon 5 CCG format we only played to get promo cards was crap.  But, hey, CCGs are complicated and messing with the rules is even more complicated with all sorts of unintended effects, so the only way you figure out what’s fun and what isn’t is to play … a lot.

[Classic] Summary 4/5 session [4/6/2014]

March 28, 2018

I started running Rokugan 1600 (by running a session set in about 1504).  There are certain things I continue to find odd when I run stuff, but I don’t know if this the time to beat that expired pony.

Instead, let me cover a few things and then post my recap of what happened back when I was having lots of fun playing a bushi with an Awareness of 5.

In our Conan play, Brad would reward session writeups, fictions, bringing food, etc.  This group agrees that this sort of encouragement to write about the campaign or otherwise contribute should be done.  My current idea is to give people Destiny Marks (TM) [uh, sure, the game is out of print …].  These Destiny act as Void Points that can only be spent when a PC is out of Void.  They are one-use in case that wasn’t obvious.  I’m already thinking that I should clarify that they can be used as VPs for any character, including other PCs and NPCs.

Why this mechanic and not, say, a Destiny Mark is worth a Free Raise on a roll or a reroll?

Success versus survival.  L5R is not strong on ways to save your character when the explosions go off.  Typically, it’s the GM who saves you by just not keeping high damage dice.  VPs are a temporary defense through ATN increase or damage reduction that doesn’t break the game like having a 51 ATN in 4e breaks the game.  Meanwhile, FRs on rolls do jack on defense, being “offensive” in nature.  And, I’m pretty tired of rerolls luck and right.

Of course, I could do both, rewarding different contributions in different ways.

Of some possible interest to GMs is that I started this campaign off with a prologue session.  Rokugan 1600 is a sequel of sorts to all sorts of stuff but most directly to Heroes of Rokugan 2.  The first session was March Unto Death, one of the last mods in HoR2 and one that fed into the final battle interactive.  Not only am I a fan of MUD for some interesting mechanics and for incentivizing things I like doing (and, yet, things that my players don’t like doing for some reason that escapes me … let it go, dude … let it go), but it fits the theme of Rokugan 1600 really well with the Crab being screwed, Tattooed Folks getting in the action, et al.

Obviously, the players would not be playing the same characters in the prologue and the main campaign.  The intent was that their PCs in the past would through their actions or inaction or whatever inform some aspect of their real PCs.  For instance, a simple way to go would be that the past PC would be the ancestor to the 1600 PC.  But, all sorts of things could have been possible.  I thought it went okay, where a group more comfortable with the idea could get more out of such narrative tricks.

More to come on 1600, but let’s get to why this is a classic post.  I was trying to find a description of a Bayushi NPC from the Princess Police when I came across this session recap:

**     **     **     **     **

Players: Michele, Jackie, Ian

Because we had only the three players, it was a question whether to do some personal social stuff or reconvene 4/12. With Michele/Izumi enthusiastic about helping Shosuro Nanami get ball-and-chained, we were off.

According to Izumi, Nanami wanted Isawa Masusuke to breed with Hiruma Masami (rather than her), and Izumi thought Nanami and Seppun Nana would make a cute couple. To promote Nanami for tying the knot with the Emperor’s youngest son, Izumi went to the Lion Champion and called him out for ducking the far superior go player, Nanami. Kidai was hanging around some imperial types and marketed the match, which got the ole Compassionate One to witness this friendly between the Lion and the Scorpion. Nanami beat Akodo Kurojin 32 to 29 and Mirumoto Tomo backed up the carrot gallery’s comment about wondering what other hidden talents Nanami possessed.

Next up was showing off Nanami’s samisen skill. No, the rock duet with Bengi didn’t happen, but there was a tea party to reflect upon the ending of Winter and more Amaterasuish days ahead. Hantei got invited and knowing that it was the place to be for all of the cool folks, they showed up. Daniwa did the tea thing with a bunch of Hantei, the Master of Fire, and some other folks watching. Nanami nailed the muzak. End result? Nanami has some momentum for locking up Nana.

To get the two swimsuit models to notice each other, Kidai made a call out for models to help him work on painting humanoids. In a shocking coincidence, Masusuke and Masami happened to be at the same session and it was noted by someone how smoking hot their kids would end up being. A bit of work on the Crab and Phoenix followed up on the “pretty people deserve the pain that comes with being together” concept. End result? Progress but unknown how much.

Crab and Phoenix were kind of inclined to be helpful as the EC got this Hare-raising idea to create a special maho-hating taskforce within the Emerald Magistrates. The idea to call them Diamond Magistrates (PR move to make Unicorn happy) went over less well. Well, whether they get called Pearl Magistrates, Opal Magistrates, Crystal Magistrates, or whatever, who cares? The important thing was opening up some positions well-suited to Crab and Phoenix (also, maybe it gets Yasumi and Izumi and maybe even us nobodies a promotion). Now, the Phoenix were already right-thinking, but the Crab were persuaded to think about how suitable Bayushi Saya would be as 1st Imperial Legion Commander, seeing as how so many Crab would be busy being imperial magistrates. If someone could have come up with a good angle for getting the Unicorn to abandon Yoshi and go with Saya, that would have locked things up for Team Floppy Arthropods. But, Kidai needed some “nap” time.

We were done in a bit less than 3 hours.

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.