HoR4 – Same But More

June 25, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What happened?

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

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

But, there’s more to whine about.

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

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

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

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

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

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


Crunchy Time

April 22, 2017

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

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

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

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

True Thalersink

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

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

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

+2 Deadly Drow Blood Mace

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

Boots of the West Wind

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

Bracers of Supreme Archery

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

Earcuff of Orbits

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

Gloves of the Brute

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

Widseth’s Mystical Lute

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

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

Switching equipment.

HoR4

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

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

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

V:TES

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

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

Shadowfist

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

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

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

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

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

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

 


Forgive And Remember

February 6, 2017

This is my 499th blog post.  I think I have an idea about the next one that makes sense as a milestone post.  But, when it comes to real world, this is more important.

My youngest brother is part of a team Kickstartering something that doesn’t have virtually anything to do with gaming.

Direct link to Kickstarter campaign: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/71323644/somaliland-the-abaarso-story

Link to Facebook post (then click to share): https://www.facebook.com/somalilandfilm/posts/1268242429935727

Expanding educational opportunities and developing the international community is something far more noble than anything I spend my time on.


I did have some thoughts on gaming.

I played three games of Second Edition A Game of Thrones LCG yesterday.  It got me thinking.

But, first, some comments on AGoT card games.  I played the CCG when it was new.  I was amazed at how similar it was structurally to Babylon 5 and looked at the designer credits only to not recognize the names.  Not to say it played anything like B5 or Wheel of Time, but it was e-e-rie.

I hardly played in the next 15 years.  I’ve not read any of A Song of Fire and Ice nor have I watched a complete episode.  Nothing I’ve ever heard enthused me (okay, one thing I’ve heard about the TV series might interest a dude …).

These games were far more comprehensible than anything I had played previously.  In part, that is likely due to each time I play I get more familiar with the strategies.  I think it also helped that I wasn’t just suddenly handed a deck for an impromptu beatdown but knew I would be playing and was handed relatively simple decks (limited card pool).

So, I got to thinking.  Not so much about AGoT.  I got to thinking about decisions.  Yup, decisions, again.  I don’t mean deckbuilding decisions, though I whined about a deck I played not having enough economy and cheap characters.

The impact of decisions on play.  Why do I find games like V:TES and Ultimate Combat! more fun than games like AGoT and L5R (card game)?  Why do I kind of hate Outpost, yet find The Scepter of Zavandor to be like my favorite EuroBG?

Probably for multiple reasons, but it occurred to me that a reason could be that mistakes are far more forgiving in the games I prefer.  Outpost is a game, in my experience, where, if you make one mistake, you are waiting for the game to end.  Defend that province?  Oh, sucks to be your lack of any characters.  Don’t defend that province?  Oh, economic shortfall ruins you.

Can put aside some of these games as not being terribly relevant to hardly anyone.  Let’s bring V:TES into the discussion.  You can lose a game by making a bad decision in the beginning.  You definitely lose games by making bad decisions at the end (by you, I mean, a lot of people and me, or I would have had the first Abominations win and couldn’t have put Conditioning on my personal banned list).  However, because there are so many players and the game isn’t a race (like B5), mistakes often not only go unpunished but provide advantages.  Get Kissed by Ra early on?  Hey, hang out in torpor for a bit and have people gang up on the table threat.

AGoT has always felt like a game where decisions mattered too much.  Not that it’s alone.  Magic makes me feel like decisions matter too much, which might not be the case if you drew more than one card a turn.

I don’t just look to be able to play odd decks (aka forgiving deck construction) but also look to be able to enjoy playing without the pressure of always having to make an optimal decision.  Oh, gee, note why I don’t like chess.  The randomness of card draw with hidden information feed the idea that you aren’t always going to make the correct decision.

Note how this angle on game features ties into how I’m not really that into playing Dragon Dice or CMGs, where there’s a lack of hidden information and the randomness is still calculable.

Branching off into RPGs, why I got so annoyed with Conan d20’s lack of viable character builds is that a poor decision just assigning attributes was crippling.  Meanwhile, the much less rigid [sic!!] character building of L5R has always appealed to me.  Yup, L5R less suicidal character creation than Conan – that’s molybdenumic.  Yes, Stamina 4, Willpower 2, with Intelligence 3, and Spears 4 is probably going to feel masochistic, but you can get out from under this awful by leveling off Earth and “remembering” that you are a Boar who Mai Chongs like mad.  Or, if not a bushi, can find some excuse to Multiple Schools into shugenjahood.

Some people are into the intensity that can come with gaming.  I’m not.  I want to be able to guess what to do and, while that may mean I lose, at least I still have a chance to come from 25 points down in the second half while not having shown the ability to stop the run.


Of Sword Questions

January 28, 2017

Before my trip, I got asked some questions based on old posts:

What rating would you put in the 1000 years of steel series kata? Using the kata analysis as reference

How many points would gain a kakita and a dragon taking into acount their clan kata, and the fire book’s kata? Using bushi analysis as reference.

And how good is the kenku swordman school? (this is because im doing a character with that school and i dont now if im gonna trampler the other players bushi (bayushi and kakita) and i should tonne it down, or if is simply sigthly avobe average and its fine.

Start with the kata.

The two kata I gave four stars to in Kata Analysis were The Great Clans’ Strength of the Crab and Strength of the Phoenix.  Because kata are so minor (bad), there’s a huge curve.  In reality, +2 Reduction is so much more powerful than +3 ATN that it never made sense to put the two on the same level, but everything else was so much weaker.

I guess if you curve things and don’t leave room at the top, +2 Reduction becomes like a five star kata, while the reason I rate something as small as +3 ATN that high is because Shiba Bushi is likely guarding like crazy and every last drop of helping someone else … helps someone else.

The Empire Rests On Its Edge

This strikes me [ha, ha ha] as the default kata in the game.  Who isn’t thrilled to get +5 to attack rolls?  Well, anyone using no-dachi or tetsubo, but whatever.

Yes, it does require sinking a bunch of XP into a skill you probably weren’t going to take to R-5.  Still, taking Courtier or Etiquette or Medicine or Meditation or Sincerity or Tea Ceremony to 5 is not character suicide.  It’s actually somewhat interesting, though more so in the Medicine case, perhaps.

Would you ever go R-7?  If you have tons of XP and are amused by the Courtier/Etiquette mastery abilities or really, really are fond of Meditating.  But, that’s the biggest cost to this kata – not that you have to buy up your skill to an unusual level but that you buy it up before you ever get the kata, so it’s a delayed blast fireball.

On the curve, this is a five star kata.  Even without a curve, if you are using a junk weapon like the katana, is there any reason you wouldn’t take this?  Kind of sounds five starish all of the time.

Note that a Free Raise is technically better than +5 attack, but it’s not that much better.

The World Is Empty

I don’t personally care about this, but does that make it weak?  Why don’t I care about this?  Because what katana wielders need is damage.  Now, admittedly, I don’t value Agility that highly, either, and this compensates.  And, there’s Feint, calling more Raises, hitting more often.

Except, a big problem with this set of kata is that they are all kata.  Barring Lionisms (to my recollection the only way), going to have only one kata up at a time.  So, take your +xk0 attack rolls or take +5 attack rolls from the cheaper kata?

Sure, +4k0 is a higher bonus.  Not that you will have 4 Void Points sitting around all of the time, but let’s pretend you will.  Let’s make some other build assumptions.

Agility 4, Kenjutsu 7 (way more important than any kata), random +1k0 attack from somewhere.  At 12k4 -> 16k4 -> 10k7.  That’s two kept dice over where you were at.  Feint goes significantly up.  May or may not be able to call more raises than what you were going to do, though high ATN crap like supernatural stuff, Lost, and gaijin become easier to Feint/Knockdown/pump up the jams.

Meanwhile, to avoid losing a VP after your four rounds, you burn your VPs during that time.

Of course, you have Agility 4, Void 4, Kenjutsu 7 for this build, which is not cheap unless you don’t care much about advancement, though a non-K/M will have to have a Ring of 4 (Air is just better, but everyone should know this).

Let’s drop the +1k0 and the Agility, so you are Agility 3, Void 4, K-7.  14k3 goes to 10k5.  That’s respectable for higher end foes.

Or, Agility 4, Void 3, K-7.  14k4 to 10k6.  Even with a more normal Void, this is something.

To me, it’s a redundancy play, but, sometimes, you have to hit crap.  Sure, top level kata where you can turn attack roll bonuses into damage one way or another.

Btw, I’m not just hating on Iaijutsu by ignoring the impact on Iaijutsu.  Where Edge gives you bonuses to all rolls, which can help you in that duel, this only helps with attack rolls which should be largely irrelevant.  Would have to be in a death duel and not be so far ahead of your opponent in dueling prowess that you actually cared for attack bonuses.  That’s the big problem with buffing dueling stuff – only PCs generally make an effort to arms race dueling, so, if you never duel other PCs, just more overkill that could have been raising your Investigation or Stealth ranks.

Also, what is the timing of activating this for dueling?  Note that kata normally last until you turn them off, but a round restricted kata can’t work that way, which, by the way, may mean you waste a simple action other kata users don’t need to.  As a GM, because this kind of needs to do something, I’d allow someone to kata right before assessment.  I’d also treat the duel as using up exactly one of the rounds it applies.

Still would take Edge over this because Edge just strikes me as more interesting, but, if you really need the hit bonus, I can see why people would take this.  I guess I’m arguing myself into 5 stars, as it’s not a no-brainer to use Edge over this.

Victory of the River

Redundancy is redundant.  Why would you ever take this over Empty?  Because the math crunches slightly higher?  Don’t think it does as I’d rather have two more kept dice than 10 better to hit.  Because you don’t lose a VP at the end, so you aren’t incentivized to burn all of your Void in the current combat?  Because you run around with Fires of Purity on you all of the time and want a lower ATN?

The requirements become meaningful at this point, though not that meaningful for K/M.

Just strikes me [ha, ha ha] as nothing remotely different from what you can already do, while costing one more XP than Empty and two more than Edge.

Like 2 stars, where it just pales next to other stuff.  Very possibly higher if there weren’t close substitutes.

Standing on the Heavens

This is your Air 5 K/M build, as requiring a ring of 6 is … not even that likely for someone who loves the idea of Air 6.  Note how long you will adventure without this kata.

So, you want to maximize ATN just so that you occasionally cost someone an attack at the cost of a VP, which, btw, you could have used to increase your ATN by 10, something likely to be far better in tough fights.  I don’t know, maybe don’t want some oni or Maho-Bujin to eviscerate you but getting increasingly cornercase.

I don’t think people who write mechanics understand rules very clearly.  When in any other case can you take Free Actions on other people’s turns?  So, you use a Free to activate this, how does that impact your next turn?  GM ruling tedium.  Or, you just say “You can spend a VP to force a reroll, once per round.” rather than introducing confusing action verbiage.

It’s just limited to me.  Stars-2 for having some sort of theoretical build, but I’m not seeing much application and this will come so late in a PC’s life that the number of uses of it just seems so small.

Middle Line

One thing the kata do is further encourage Air builds, either through compensating for lower Agility or for interacting with your own ATN.  I like Edge for encouraging someone to skill up something they wouldn’t have done otherwise.  I just can’t get that enthused by the others, though so many kata not in this series suck, that you might as well have one that does something.  First two aren’t hard for non-K/M, but last two are very K/Mish, which helps with low damage schools.

The problem with saying K/M get better from these kata is that Hida get better from Strength of the Crab and Ichiro get better from Strength in Arms Style (until they get simple attacks, but Ichiro is not a school you go into because you want to be an Ichiro at IR-4) and Bayushi and Daigotsu.  Also, katana schools can take these, too, and the better ones are the easier ones to take.  Now, non-katana schools get jack from these existing, so it does help level the playing field somewhat.  Your Moto build isn’t going to buy Sincerity 5 because of a kata … though, I have a new idea for a character build …

The schools I placed above K/M begin with Suzume.  Suzume naturally goes no-dachi in combat, but, maybe, you katana in which case you may also take Edge or Empty, anyway.  Given that minors and imps get screwed on kata, even more likely the Suzume is going to Edge and take some goofy Lore skill to 5 or something for thematic reasons, though the better way is ignore Lores with the school and maybe go Meditation 5 or even 7!!  Given how fast Suzume burn VPs, an actual reason to do the Meditation-7 build … oh, I so wasted my time with my Moshi.

Then, Moto, Toritaka, Bayushi.  Moto obviously not going to take these as they already get to keep 3 on damage doing other stuff.  Moto do have Indomitable and SiAS as kata options that aren’t absurd, but neither of those is as good as Edge/Empty.  Toritaka may take these or may go Crab if in a Crabby era.  Bayushi is another natural no-dachi school, but can use the same argument as Suzume – if you katanaize, can buy up Sincerity 5 or whatever and feel less bad about it.

I may have been harsh on K/M in my analysis, but the reason why is because they waste time in a dueling arms race.  Give them anything to do at their dueling ranks that’s actually useful and they jump at least a couple of points, anyway.  If you ever actually think you will lose a duel, then, sure, you may care about dueling bonuses and value them more highly than I do.

Kenku Swordsman

I’ve read this a lot but never get a great feel for it.

Wing of Thunder

Solid since Reflexes is the premier combat Trait.  Not hard to get to SR-2, so looking at +6 ATN pretty quick, something Mirumoto get at SR-3, which may be a long time away or not in your play, with this school probably +8 ATN at SR-3.  Even at SR-1, +5 ATN which is comparable to Usagi and Suzume.  Now, you may not always have higher Initiative, though Initiative manipulation is a thing.

OTOH, that’s all you get.  For a SR-1 ability, feel like should get more.  Stars? 2 or 3.

Heaven’s Claw

Sucking out opponents’ VPs is fun.  It means fights go faster when they can’t Void off damage and it means maho-tsukai have a harder time casting broken stuff.  The damage reroll thing is not as exciting to me, but it’s damage and everyone loves more damage.  Probably a 3 star.  Compared to a lot SR-2 abilities, better than the norm where Wing feels kind of worse than typical SR-1 abilities, so feeling pretty balanced at this point.

Lightning Kiss

5 stars, of course.  Emphasis requirement is all of 2xp to just blow people up.  Got to love that this is another no-dachi school or tetsubo school if you want to get fancy.  Why would you bother learning anything about tetsubo?  There may be some SR-5 combo thing you could pull off that would be hilarious, though I’m too lazy to find school techniques specifically around heavy weapons that isn’t the boring +1k0 of the Hida.

Churning Skies

Sadly will never play a PC with this ability as I’m all for going last in rounds.  I could get so much mileage out of this ability.  “Round 1, Full Defense.  Round 2, Full Defense.  Round 3, delay, no-dachi on first dude with 2VPs for damage, no-dachi on second dude with 2VPs for damage.”  This assumes that you can spend VPs for +1k1 on any damage rolls, which is not defined anywhere.  Katana special rule doesn’t even address, as it’s a specific rule that has been specifically referenced somewhere with some ability.

Of course, VPs are precious and you aren’t a Shiba Bushi (or are you an IR-8 character … in which case you are so broken who cares anymore what you can do?), so it’s more about ignoring WPs, which also feeds into my sort of builds, though, since you are Reflexes 5 and may be running around in heavy armor (got to love your school kit), not terribly likely you have a bunch of WPs unless you got maho-ed.

Going last is not bad – I do it all of the time.  May get some extra punch through on a big bad or avoid hurting.  As I’m biased though, I’ll be cautious and say 2 stars.  If you think it’s 3 stars, go for it.  To get to 4 stars, that seems unlikely as you really shouldn’t be feeling much in the way of WPs and VPs are often more useful in general use.

The Same Breeze

VP.  You don’t get the best techniques ever for free.  What’s the scariest you could do?  Let’s put aside SR-5 abilities for a moment, as that’s maybe unreliable (except for whatever your fellow bushi PC is playing).

The Shield of Faith is too expensive to bother with except in desperate times, plus I’m thinking it’s a PC who has force field powers to make combats a joke.  Spell manipulation?  Funny.  FR and +1k0 attack?  That school is so good early on.  Simple archery attacks?  Yes!  Regain VPs by spending VPs?  More yes!  Additional attacks?  Sure!!  Aura of Blood?  I should probably have pointed Aura as a 5pt ability, though 2VPs is rather expensive.  Strength of the Badger?  This party is awesome.  Entangle?  Don’t confuse me, with your Kenku Mai Chong build.  Monkey brokenness?  Boring.  Detect spirits, spend VPs on Perform/Lore, go Berserk, “Jade power” (assuming you count this as a bushi technique), and that’s not even getting into non-core schools!!

Yet, just copying someone else’s ability at a higher cost.  If you figure the ability is five points worth, then that’s at least down to four points worth.  OTOH, flexibility.  You could Shield of Faith one round and Berserk another, in theory.  Stack up all of the lasting abilities like Aura of Blood (because Shirley the party is going to have a R-5 Kenku and a Daigotsu in it … you certainly don’t want to be fighting SR-2 Daigotsus, that would be kind of ugly).

Conservatively, 4 stars/points.

Bottom Line

Do get damage bonus and best simple attacks, which is what you most want out of bushi schools outside of weird abilities that break the game, like force fields.  But, you don’t get force field like powers until SR-5.  SR-1 is actually kind of mundane mechanically.

I doubt I’ll ever play one of these and have never seen someone else play one, except when you get monsters abusing rules, so it’s hard to say how right I am.  Figure an Air/Void/Earth build, though maybe break down and go Water 3 just to get some use out of Hunting and for a bit more damage with your Mai Chong build.

The main reason you might end up overpowered is you might go Reflexes 5 long before other characters, which isn’t a school issue so much as the school extra incentivizes, though Kakita does that too.  In a K/K/M party, I’d imagine the Iaijutsu tournaments will end up rather silly.


HoR4 – Early Read

January 11, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As to the campaign …

Combat

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

Coherency

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mundanes

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

Window Shopping

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

Amusement

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

Mechanics

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

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

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

So

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

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

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


The Best of … 2013

December 31, 2016

I almost forgot about the need to post my annual look back three years.

Sadly, with my poor timing, I’ll have two posts on the same day, which I feel like doesn’t give the other post enough visibility.

Here we go, the callouts I want to make from 3 years ago.

January

Deck Choice

This post is relevant to me now, as I expect to have far fewer tournaments unless V:TES goes back in print, even maybe if it does, as the local, local group has fallen apart, failing to replenish the people who have basically stopped playing.

Chunin Exams

Wow, I was so much more fire style back three years ago.  Maybe I’ll get back some of that gaming passion.  True Dungeon, for the wind style?

Anyway, advancement is … hmmmmm … relevant again.  What I like about this post was I used examples.  Examples are meatriffic.

Review – Book of Earth

Relevant not in that this book was ever relevant to my play but relevant in that most of the 4e books aren’t relevant to my play.  I was mentioning how for our upcoming mod playing trip, I don’t see why I need anything besides the core book and largely don’t even need that, anymore, because I know enough about the game.

February

Roll With It

If January had lots of “hey, this is still important to me” posts, the beginning of 2013 was very heavy on my challenges being better at GMing.  I tend to not be mechanically inclined as a GM and, in my feeble efforts to promote campaign play, started learning some nonobvious things about how to provide for players.

Kata Analysis

Just because tons of people view my L5R crunch posts doesn’t mean that I should skip over calling some of them out.  Do I, as of today, know everything about 4e kata?  Oh, yeah, totally, I’m the kata king, the master of the maneuvernot, the lord of lechery … wait, ignore that.

I crunched numbers.  When someone crunches RPG numbers, pat them on the head and tell them they are pretty and will make a good homespouse.  After all, how many people even bother?

Of course, it’s still largely opinion.  Not like I crunched numbers on how much +3 ATN will reduce damage in 1000 fights or whatever.

Book of Fire for more exciting kata, Book of Fire.

March

Squished

This sounds like a pretty terrible post … up until the point where I use numbers.  Numbers, the only true way to play RPGs.  There are so many ways to quantify RPG play that I just don’t see done, though maybe I’m just overlooking other people’s contributions to mathing your way to storytelling.

RPG death seems to be a topic I talk a lot about given how infrequently it happens in my games besides the Friday group’s slaughterfest.  Studying death so that it can be managed in a reasonable way, therefore, became an interesting topic to me.

May

Challenge 4 – Zayyat

I had to pick one of the Challenge posts.  Why?  Because I don’t interact much with my audience and this series actually saw some interaction.  While I may not have come up with brilliant decks, especially given that my inclinations tend towards things other people find difficult to play (e.g. hardly any ousting power), perhaps the series allowed me to share a bit about how I range through different possibilities, mostly coming up with junk, occasionally winning too many tournaments.

This post saw comments, which felt like I was doing a bit more service than sermonizing.

June

Kicks

And, so it begins …  Shadowfist, Kickstarter, wait, I was part of five gaming groups back then?  Oh how I need to get out and socialize through the playing of … anything.  I’m part of like one gaming group at the moment, with maybe some potential for a HoR group coalescing.

August

The Elemental Party

Besides being brilliant comedy and a pure example of all that is right with the world, this post has colored my thinking on characters ever since.  I’m all about exploring the extreme in Ring/Trait.  I’ve done Air 5/Water4/Earth 3/Fire 2/Void 2.  At some point, I’ve got to stop dumping on Water and do a Water 5/whatever build.

September

Deconstruction 01

Fascinating?  Not likely.  But, I think there’s things I could say that aren’t boring, repetitive, or repetitively boring about deckbuilding, and this was some of them.  Strategic commitment, comrades, strategic commitment.

November

My Samuraimichi

Play with your magic tsurugi.  Okay, maybe there is more to L5R than this.

Set-tling Matters

I think this is still an interesting subject, the idea that sets can be good when full of bad cards and sets can be bad when full of good cards.


I suppose I could have included my Book of Fire review.  It was very long, thus it must have been awesome.  But, it was Book of Earth where I think began the rantfest on the series being pretty weak.

While my 2016 wasn’t as bad as many other people’s, saw a friend I hadn’t seen in 8 years and close family got married and, oddly, pretty much every major US sports championship was won by the team I wanted to win, I can understand the hope that 2017 is better.  Happy New Year!  Already there on the East Coast and much of the world.


Courtier Of The Ivory Throne

December 31, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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