[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.

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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.

4e

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

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.

Void

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.

Glory/Status

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.

Vants

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.

Spells

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.

Armor

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

Reflexes

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.

Count

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.


Ancestor Rate

January 14, 2018

While it may never come to pass that an all ancestor, all the time campaign is run, I might as well see what I think about the ancestors so that I can make decisions on any PCs/NPCs I create.

When I reviewed Great Clans, I did some ratings for those ancestors.  But, for the first time, I will put it all together and spew ancestor thoughts for the ancestors in the three books where they are concentrated:  core, GC, Secrets of the Empire.

Comments:  I’m not going to bother with Spider or clearly NPC ancestors, like monks.  My overall rating is kind of irrelevant, as it’s just an average (rounded down) of the other two, but it gives me something to think about.  Desirability, of course, is all that really matters.  You can come up with your own feelings on how much you like what an ancestor does.  More comments after.

Ancestor Cost (Pts.) Effective (Pts.)
Hida 14 10
Kuni 8 6
Doji 8 6
Kakita 12 3
Agasha Kitsuki 11 8
Mirumoto 9 10
Akodo 12 11
Ikoma 9 7
Kaimetsu-Uo 9 10
Gusai 5 0
Asako 5 0
Shiba 9 9
Bayushi 12 11
Shosuro 8 7
Moto 10 3
Shinjo 8 9
Hiruma 11 8
Kaiu 9 9
Asahina 9 8
Doji Hayaku 7 6
Agasha6 6 9
Agasha10 10 11
Togashi Yamatsu 7 6
Kitsu 6 6
Matsu Hitomi 7 5
Moshi Azami 6 3
Osusuki & Akomachi 5 6
Isawa 12 7
Naka Kaeteru 10 11
Yogo 6 12
Soshi Saibankan 5 3
Otaku 7 4
Iuchi 8 5
Otomo 6 5
Seppun 10 6
Miya 5 2
Ichiro Fureheshu 9 5
Komori Iongi 5 4
Hida Heichi 4 7
Tonbo Kuyuden 3 2
Usagi Reichin 7 4
Toku 3 5
Tsi 6 3
Morito Garin 5 2
Doji Suzume 4 6
Agasha Kasuga 5 3
Sun Tao 10 8
Chiroru 8 5
Miyuko 12 14

First up, what the ancestors cost versus my rough attempt to calculate more accurate point valuations.  Note that just because something might be worth more or less points doesn’t mean I equate that to a quality rating, though there should be high correlation.

The assumption is that campaigns make use of PC abilities.  If playing HoR or the like, where spirits and spirit realms may never appear [ha, ha ha], then sucks to be Miss Kitsu.

Ancestor Demands
Hida Low
Kuni Very Low
Doji Low
Kakita Very High
Agasha Kitsuki Very Low
Mirumoto Low
Akodo Low
Ikoma Very High
Kaimetsu-Uo High
Gusai Very High
Asako Very Low
Shiba Medium
Bayushi Low
Shosuro Low
Moto Low
Shinjo Very Low
Hiruma High
Kaiu Very Low
Asahina Very High
Doji Hayaku Low
Agasha6 Low
Agasha10 Low
Togashi Yamatsu Very Low
Kitsu Very Low
Matsu Hitomi Medium
Moshi Azami Low
Osusuki & Akomachi Very Low
Isawa Very Low
Naka Kaeteru Medium
Yogo High
Soshi Saibankan Very High
Otaku Very Low
Iuchi Low
Otomo Low
Seppun High
Miya Very Low
Ichiro Fureheshu Very Low
Komori Iongi Very High
Hida Heichi Very Low
Tonbo Kuyuden High
Usagi Reichin Very Low
Toku Low
Tsi Very Low
Morito Garin Low
Doji Suzume Low
Agasha Kasuga Low
Sun Tao Very Low
Chiroru Very Low
Miyuko Very Low

The whole concept of demands is fitting, but the whole concept of demands resulting in losing an ancestor is dumb.  The demands aren’t remotely nuanced enough and some are just crazy to deal with where others are trivial.

Ancestor Quality Desirability Overall
Hida ** ** **
Kuni *** **** ***
Doji *** * **
Kakita * * *
Agasha Kitsuki *** * **
Mirumoto ***** ** ***
Akodo **** *** ***
Ikoma ** * *
Kaimetsu-Uo **** ** ***
Gusai 0 0 0
Asako 0 0 0
Shiba ** ** **
Bayushi *** ** **
Shosuro *** * **
Moto * * *
Shinjo **** *** ***
Hiruma ** * *
Kaiu **** **** ****
Asahina **** ** ***
Doji Hayaku *** * **
Agasha6 ***** *** ****
Agasha10 **** **** ****
Togashi Yamatsu ** ***** ***
Kitsu **** ***** ****
Matsu Hitomi ** * *
Moshi Azami * ***** ***
Osusuki & Akomachi ***** ***** *****
Isawa *** ** **
Naka Kaeteru ***** *** ****
Yogo ***** * ***
Soshi Saibankan ** * *
Otaku * * *
Iuchi * ** *
Otomo **** * **
Seppun ** ** **
Miya * * *
Ichiro Fureheshu ** ** **
Komori Iongi *** * **
Hida Heichi ***** * ***
Tonbo Kuyuden *** * **
Usagi Reichin * ** *
Toku **** * **
Tsi ** * *
Morito Garin * * *
Doji Suzume ***** *** ****
Agasha Kasuga *** * **
Sun Tao *** * **
Chiroru * *** **
Miyuko ***** *** ****

Note the reason for the multiple tables is because I’m too lazy to format things better and haven’t bothered to download a plug-in, which might still require me to spend time formatting data, something I find routinely tedious if it involves more than a few clicks.  I know this makes it much harder to compare my point valuations against my quality stars, but I seem to struggle with the idea of making this blog easy to read.

Anyway, here we get to the entree portion of our meal.  Two stars is average.

Let’s get Gusai and Asako out of the way.  Neither does anything.  I’m thinking whoever wrote 4e thought that Allies are supposed to do something, but I have yet to see it be the case.  Why you would need to roll against an ally is even more bewildering.  Gusai is just dumb and is totally a NPC thing that would apply to like one NPC in the entire history of Rokugan.

Of the ancestors I chose to include … there are a lot for such a low yield mechanic, almost like the intent and the play of the game are at odds … Core average is 2.5 stars, GC average is 3.1 stars, and Secrets average is 2.8 stars.  Continues the trend that core book mechanics tend to be weaker than supplement mechanics, at least with the more esoteric stuff, like kata.  Of course, Core mechanics’ averages often get pulled down by nonsense mechanics that clearly weren’t created with actual use in mind.

Toku.  If Luck is worth about 7 points, why does he get 5?  Diminishing returns.  Since you never take Toku unless you already have three ranks of Luck, you just aren’t getting the Luck sleaze you would get otherwise.  Though, I suppose, there might be some campaign that required ancestors where you may not max out Luck …

Chiroru is, in theory, an easy calculation.  You get the benefit of 3-4 points of Kharmic Tie with previous edition danger sense power.  Maybe danger sense is worth more than 1.5 points.

By the way, trying to evaluate the abilities for these things is really hard.  Why are Seppun and Bat Clan not equivalent?  Psychology.  Sure, you could save a VP all game until you reduce damage by 10 or you could reduce damage by 10 when you need to without a VP.  Well, plus, in the Seppun case, you aren’t spending a VP, so you circumvent the once per round restriction (by any reasonable wording, plus note difference in ancestor cost).

Now, where things get messier is when an ancestor says you can spend a VP to do something because they don’t say you can avoid the once per round limit, a completely idiotic and unnecessary limit.  The exception for school techniques is specific.

It’s funny to me that Sparrow don’t really get shafted in 4e, other than the absurd path in Secrets.  Their stuff doesn’t sound good but is far better than a lot of other stuff.

Sure, Kaiu is only once per year you get to make magic items … you … get … to … make … magic … items!!

Talking to animals is the bee’s sleaze [TM].  There’s a reason Dr. Doolittle just owns.

Makes me sad that Ikoma is such a problematic ancestor.  Again, if you go by Greek God patronage rules, makes way more sense as he respects your partying self but doesn’t blow a gasket when you aren’t partying heartying.

Such a sucker for Foxes and … Centipedes.

I have actually played Kitsu.  It was pleasant but didn’t come up that much.  It did inform certain aspects of the campaign that were pleasant up until I replaced the PC with a better one.

I don’t get Kakita.  It seems like dueling is supposed to be more core to the game, yet, the problem with doing that even if you wanted to is that dueling is grossly, grossly unfair unless your GM has a serious handle on it.  Also, lots of schools don’t duel, which means it’s not a core mechanic for lots of PCs.

I’m getting a bit more interested in the Ancestor Campaign.  Even as a GM, I can make NPCs with ancestors the players don’t care about.  Though, I need to be wary about trying to “play” my characters during games, an often painful activity GMs will fall into when they cherish their creations more than letting players play.


Shake Out

January 13, 2018

There are rather a number of thoughts on diverse subjects I have had recently.  I’m sure I will forget half of them.

Before I forget:  John Carter Kickstarter is going on right now!  Finally, the Dotar Sojat has returned to Jasoom!

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/modiphius/john-carter-of-mars-the-roleplaying-game?ref=nav_search&result=project&term=john%20carter

Steak and Shake in Campbell closed recently.  It was open four months.  It was designated to be opened for far longer.  Its closure was sufficiently notable to not only be in the paper (that would be newspaper for you young ‘uns) but also be on the radio (that would be … um … radio for you young ‘uns).

We went to it.  I’m not remotely surprised it closed.  First, the location was terrible in that it was just East of the upscale-ish downtown.  Second, it was not Steak and Shake.  Well, it was not S&S a la Indianapolis’s S&S is.  One in Indy is a fast food place that’s slow, somewhere along the lines of being at a more focused Denny’s in terms of ambiance.  This S&S was pretentiousized for the hood.

Now, I don’t live in downtown Frisco or NYC or whatever, but we get plenty of pretension in the San Jose Bay Area.  Whole Paycheck is ubiquitous, et al.  Why have another burger chain that competes with Five Guys, The Counter, The Habit, Smashburger, or whatever?  It wasn’t trying to?  Well, then where is the audience?  Best milkshake I can recall, which, admittedly, is not something I think a ton about since it’s kind of effort to screw up a milkshake, I got at Fuddruckers of all places.  5-Way?  Well, sure, not a lot of places to get 5-Ways in the Silicon.  (That’s what all the kewl kids call this milieu, n’est-ce pas?)

Bad fits.

That’s a topic for today.

I’m going to talk about L5R.  At some point, I’ll switch to the LCG.  But, before I forget, I had some RPG thoughts.

Campaign Ideas:

Greek Mythology convention meets L5R.  Everyone has an ancestor from one of the 4e books because they hardly ever see play.  Rather than lose your ancestor over something black and white and rather arbitrary, you incur the ancestor’s displeasure for a time until you get your act together.  Great idea, people.  Make it so number one.

Welcome to the kuge, minorlings.  Widowed emperor decides he’s good to go without a word to say on marriage number two to some minor clan yumyum.  Guess how many PCs are not related to the minor empress?

Not Campaign Ideas:

One of the Friday night LCG players is someone who would much rather be playing the RPG.  Actually, that’s how I met him years ago.  He’s hot for getting into HoR4 or like anything else RPG related but especially L5R R&K.  So, we’ve been talking.

I mentioned Odyssey, TCGMGtCM, and how it related to my running stuff for him and the rest of our local RPG group that dispersed.  We talked about old campaigns.  We talked about how our interest in the LCG is strongly based on the world and not the game [foreshadowing alert, foreshadowing alert].

I may have problems with aspects of Rokugan, but it’s so, so easy to think about playing more L5R.  It’s so easy to think of campaign ideas.  I found my mod attempt for HoR3 that I ran a couple of times and got unenthused by due to my just not having the ability to polish efforts up to the level that makes them acceptable.  Well, also, staff consistently ignored me, so I stopped bothering trying to contact anyone.

It’s such a fleshed out *game* world.  Sure, if everyone knows some book/TV/movie series, you can grok possibilities, but, for us veteran Rokuganites, L5R is just so meaningful.  For instance, I was looking stuff up in Strongholds of the Empire.  I’m perfectly willing to read about towns and cities I don’t plan on using as settings.

LCG

Back to the topic of whether the game is any fun.  First, it is.  As long as you are winning.

My experience of going back to playing a two-player CCG  is utterly fascinating to all multi-celled organisms.  I get so much enjoyment out of multiplayer CCGs when the results are inconclusive.  It’s this bizarrely mundane feeling of liking doing better than my opponents in L5R, the LCG, that is palpable.

Or, maybe, it’s just that I hate playing Unicorn, and the fact that I often suck while playing them is incidental.  Except, I played at least one game of Unicorn where I was feasting on my opponent’s soul and it was tasty.

It is “funny” how switching to Crab is perpetually like “Huh, my cards do stuff.  They do good stuff.”

For the others, it also seems to be a game that is enjoyed when you are crushing throats and tearing off limbs.

I read forums.  Multiple forums, in fact.  No, I don’t read Discord.  Not a fan of the interface and I have better things to do, like read the newspaper.  Seems to be a certain level of disenchantment.

Then, I ‘fist with a L5R player, and he’s telling me his group is losing interest.

It’s this like really interestingly designed, very possibly well designed, game that is just so not as fun as we-folk want it to be.  I’m finding that I’m already reverting to my random-game-element meets minimum-threshold-of-viability tendencies with what interests me in L5R.  I’m struggling with the idea of trying to develop superior decks in what’s a very limited environment.  I’m more interested in happy, friendly Scorpion, Lion wall, Cautious Scout.dec, and/or whatever.

I thought of an idea umbrella for trying to put the casual back into causality.  League.  You must play a role that is not the official tournament role for your deck’s clan.  You may, of course, change decks, including changing clans.  Or, some variation thereof.

I played a game last night.  I played Crab, and I had fun.  My first turn Kaiu never left play, having Reprieve that also never left play.  I flopped three Iron Mines in the game, put another Reprieve in play that also never got used.  I Way of the Crabbed once.  Now, my opponent was playing Lion, so his military sucked, and he wasn’t running Feast or Famine, which I kept trying to play around.  Nor was he playing the required 3x Policy Debates.

See, forumites are bitching a bunch.  I think for good reason.  I don’t think it’s a particularly fun game to play, though it’s also not terrible.  The card pool sucks.  Oh, a lot of it doesn’t.  Provinces are mostly the problem.  That Unicorn have so many subpar or oddly narrow cards is kind of antifun.  That Voltroning is such a thing is problematic.  That Iron Mine got added to the mix, so that Crab Voltrons never die seems like poor development.

Part of the problem with the card pool is that it’s not a multiplayer game (yet).  In a multiplayer game, I’d be beastmastering and war dogging all over the place because it would be entertaining.  In a throatcutter game, you just do the same old, same old of top tier stuff, with the occasional Miya combo deck or try to do your own spin on Drop Bears, Switchycorn, or whatever.  With Wheel of Time, because so few people actually played, when you ran with an idea, you might have been like one of one posters.  With a game that’s actually kind of popular, just another clone deck with maybe a few cards changed.

If the card pool were bigger, then maybe there would be more interesting variation.  But, I don’t think the card pool needs to be bigger to have fun.  Just to have fun as a throatcutter game.

Would banning Policy Debate make me happier?  Um, no.  I don’t presently care about Policy Debate, except that I do think that the one area of the LCG that is just bad mechanics is dueling.  Dueling is hecka boring and full of NPEness.  Sure, it’s not a guarantee that everyone always chooses 1 in every single game.  It’s just a guarantee that I have so little interest in resolving duels that I’m okay with mentally seeing tables being flipped.

But, wait, that’s actually kind of like the RPG.  In that, duels aren’t guaranteed to go one direction, but the whole concept of resolving anything important with a subgame that’s grossly uneven so much of the time is not strong in the PPE side of the Force.

I played a game the week before where my opponent won when I broke his third province, as he went to 25 Honor.  If he doesn’t win, then, I break his stronghold as my first conflict the next round with my unstoppable Imperials and their Unicorn flunkies.  30 minute game.  Takeaway #1 – it was how CCGs should play in that it was close with decks doing different things and there was interaction.  Takeaway #2 – because I felt I did so little in the game, it felt rather unsatisfying even while I was playing, nevermind the end result.  Would I have enjoyed that game if he only got to 24 Honor and I shred his soul on the next round?  I don’t think so.  Would I have enjoyed that game if he got to 24, I went after his stronghold, he stops me from breaking with all sorts of cards getting played, he does something clever to get to 25 (instead of just declare an Air Ring conflict)?  Poss-i-bly …

Shadowfist

We ‘fisted for the first time in months last Thursday.  The first game was terrible.  I spent a number of turns not being able to play a site, then had no characters to do anything when I got sites and a Test Subjects out.  The second game I won in a game where everyone was hanging around at four FSSs, and I used superleap cheese and recurring counterspells.  Because, who is the … Master?  Sho’nuff.  Check Youtube if this exceeds the vertical elevation of your brain.  Some parts are cringeworthy, but I really like that movie.

Third game went to third player.  My Salarymans kept killing unimportant things, and got killed when real characters showed up.

Given how prevalent superleap is and buffs are, I’m surprised Hand isn’t more popular.  Now, there is a weakness against site effects, evidenced by how I got stopped by a site effect in one bid for victory, but there are antisite plays to deal with that.  Character removal from events is countered by, uh, Hand counterspells.  Of course, 7 Masters exists for the classic players, and that’s another level of sleaze.

I enjoyed playing.  Shadowfist is usually fun.  Sure, it has some terrible design, pretty messed up card pool (especially if you play Modern), requires making extremely complicated decisions even if you don’t realize they are extremely complicated.  But, it’s not chess.  You do stuff and stuff happens.  You don’t wonder if you made a mistake putting two fate on some dude.  Now, normal ‘fist does have the problem that you may very well not be able to play anything, which is where it did an even worse job than Magic with forcing requirement cards to be in play to play the game.  But, you might be able to come back because it’s not a one v. one game.

Well, I may have forgotten a few other things that would have made my bad fits topic fit less badder.

Wait.  I had a topic?

Let’s see.  L5R LCG appeals to people who like theme, want to play game where they get to enjoy playing beastmasters.  Difficult and highly “mechanical” card game may be good for some, but it doesn’t end up being most goodest for others.

RPG is a decent fit for those of my ilk.  On the other hand, campaigns like our 20 Goblin Winter campaign were bad fits because we didn’t really get to enjoy anything about L5R while also being unclear on what we were supposed to be doing.  Second City sucked as a campaign; I would say part of that is that you remove the familiar world of Rokugan and fail to replace with something as rich or interesting because you just didn’t develop the Second setting.

Trying to take throatcutting seriously is a bad fit for me, while offgoofing is good fit.  It occurs to me that WoT was a case where I didn’t end up throatcutting that much, as most of my play was playtesting rather than striving for prizes.  So, I’ve never been a master throatcutter, with my two-player tournament wins usually being in sealed deck play, where I focus more on building better decks rather than tier 1 decks.  I’m the guy who played one copy of Necropotence in his Essence Drain deck, rather than the other way around, yet beat a Magic world champion in a sealed deck game with repeated use of Capsize and with a Rolling Thunder with zero cards in my library.

Doh!  That’s what I need to do to get my competitive fix on – only seriously compete in CCGs where sealed deck tournaments occur and have decent prizes.  Octa-libra!  That means I have to take up Magic, again …

Speaking of bad fits, the John Carter movie was a bad fit because it failed to explain why Jesus C-, um, JC is a fun dude to hang with or why sword and planet is a compelling genre or explain how you can do a 21st century movie with a bunch of races defined by their skin color.  Read the books.  Compared to a lot of other stuff, they are better.

Now, will the setting be a good fit for RPG play?  Will it be a good fit for people I play with?


Savage Thoughts

January 7, 2018

We played two mods of HoR4 yesterday, backfilling with the help of our allies in Fresno (well, Bill, who spent a whole day just GMing for us).  Prior to that, talked to some local L5R players about RPing.  I’ve had a number of thoughts run through my mind as I tried to think about what would end up in this post.

Get to talking about my HoR4 character last because I’m guessing that’s the least interesting thing I could talk about, but I may need to refer to our three-PC core group to hit on certain things … at any time.

Dungeon Crawling – Rokugani Style

This was a topic, as both mods were relatively dungeon crawlesque.  In my experience, doesn’t happen much.

Should it?

I don’t know.  I don’t mind the idea of being indoors as something is going on, but that in itself doesn’t make for a dungeon crawl experience.  A dungeon crawl is more of a room by room experience, which the second mod was in golden spades.  Room challenges, whether of the trap sort, the puzzle sort, or the monster sort.

I don’t hate traps.  I hate certain traps whether because they inflict some crippling condition randomly, fine red mist characters randomly, or just seem like anyone with any sense would bypass them effortlessly.  By sense, I mean adventurers.  Do people who have experience with quicksand ever end up in quicksand?  I don’t know.  If you see a gas or smell something funny, do you not:  hold your breath; cover your nose; retreat away from it?

Puzzles are not all that satisfying to me.  Either you gnome it or you dgnome’t.  When you dgnome’t, you roll some dice and either you succeed or you fail.  Or, you trial and error.  In pretty much every case, I don’t find it interesting challenge.  I do acquire puzzle books.  I find acrostics and cryptograms interesting, sudoku can be time filling, Scrabblegrams can be really good or really terrible.  But, these are solitary experiences where time is not really a concern and my personal welfare isn’t much at stake.  Then, for another take on puzzles – True Dungeon – I don’t normally feel anything about those, either.  I’m curious as to what the solutions are, but I don’t feel invested in finding them.

In RPG play, puzzles have often been incredibly tedious.  I appreciate some clever (rhyming) poetry, but that doesn’t mean I’m into the solving, as, again, tends to be too easy or too hard.  Plus, figuring things out as a group doesn’t hold much appeal to me.

An inherent issue with puzzles and, often, with traps is no choice.  See some blog post about how combat is such a compelling challenge because it offers, among other things, options.

Less plausible to me for L5R is having dungeon monsters.  Whether humans or not, in the normal theater of the mind play of L5R, you fight things because they are in the same vicinity as you, not because they are waiting for a door to open.  HoR2 did have a mod where you had dudes attack you as you progressed, but, still, it’s a completely different paradigm from the many D&D dungeons I’ve seen that expect you to rest for a while somewhere in the dungeon or just outside and keep incrementally progressing to the payoff.

Given that I find legal challenges tiresome in L5R as well as many similar social challenges, what challenges do I like in L5R?

One of the mods almost had something I would have really liked.  It was quite humorous to realize that our core group of two bushi and essentially a third bushi are really well advantage to pursue careers in opium harvesting.  Projects with multiple tasks where you check tasks off a list using obscure skills with possibly amusing trait combinations is generally favorable.  Harsh Lessons was great for that, though my players may have gotten tired of having to full attack bamboo.

I like combat, at times.  I tend to like more the fights where the party fights 2 or 3 big bads.  But, there have been bandit fights or zombie fights that I’ve enjoyed.  I just think it’s hard to structure combat challenges due to the randomness potential in damage output and the significance of good tactics versus poor tactics.  Yes, the more you learn of 4e (or prior editions), the more you can control for the party.  But, a few things are spanners in the works for such.  One, maybe the PCs you thought were going to show up for a session didn’t.  Two, PC combat prowess can change a lot with advancement and you may not have developed the calibration skills for such changes.

For example, PCs gain simple attacks.  You don’t upgrade your opposition, it gets ripped apart.  You give your opposition simple attacks and … so not good for PCs.  In the Princess Police campaign, when we were R-3 or R-4 or something, we fought like six Mantis bushi, six … R-3 … Mantis bushi.  Um, that’s like fighting six bears with better attack rolls.  If.  If the shugenja know what to do, then you may have an edge.

I like some social challenges, when the rolls work out or when you can try things that involve lesser used skills, like your perform skill(s) to help convince some cutie pie to go for someone.  I’m into clever ideas for social challenges, I’m not into clever arguments for social challenges – too much pressure on the spot.

I have had some good experiences with contests but also lots of not good experiences with contests as R&K is not a fantastic system for PvP or PCvNPC.  Curiously, duel tournaments actually seem to work better than a lot of contests, perhaps because more die rolls are involved.  But, contests with lots of die rolls become tedious, especially to people not involved or not competitive.  Races don’t often work, but sometimes they are fun.

Anyway, got off track.  Besides the dungeon crawl just to do something different, I don’t know that a dungeon crawl is going to be something I look at as all that for L5R or any sort of RPG that isn’t designed for dungeon crawls.  Just too narrowly focused on what’s sort of a weird paradigm.  On the other hand, True Dungeon is fine to me as a dungeon crawl with all of the aspects of self-contained challenges and managing resources across rooms, though I haven’t found the right balance with it, either – challenge balance that is.

L5R Combat

I really like 3e/3r/4e’s combat system.  I find that they have the right number of options and that they feel exciting much of the time (sure, there are grindfests that suck).  It occurred to me yesterday that I also just find L5R a really, really easy system to understand and play.

I’m pretty sure there are other people who don’t.  But, it’s just so intuitive and so … straightforward.  You aren’t burdened with tons of math [yeah, I said that … about R&K].  Should be easy to learn.  Don’t have to track too many abilities.  And, yet, somehow, other people struggle with the system(s).

I’m increasingly perplexed.  Sure, if you struggle with all systems.  If you struggle with systems beyond just “roll your attack roll”, I guess.  I just don’t see how playing L5R after a couple of fights or outside of combat resolution is anything but one of the more basic resolution systems.  Hero may be easy for people who understand maneuvers or when to recover REC or whatever, but I find its options far more intimidating, though I also haven’t played much Hero.  A lot of D&D style play just seems like you have no real choices as to what to do, though Conan could be the opposite when you had the Feats or when grappling reared its painful tentacles.

Now, good tactics is something more.  I often fail good tactics, as I’ve repeatedly mentioned, forgetting Center Stance, forgetting Knockdown (though it’s almost always a bad play for my low STR PCs), not playing shugenja hardly ever also probably means I would make poor spell choices when put on the spot.  How many raises to call is always a question, which is a facet of a deeper system than if raises didn’t exist.

So, with our three-men team of fighty sorts, we didn’t feel like our combat tactics were all that bad yesterday.  But, again, no gods in this party.  So, when we take wounds, we take them and dislike them.  We also are three fighty sorts with approximately to the absolute degree zero ranged attacks outside of funky stuff like the good ole wak throw.

Yup, like three PCs with REF 3 and not a single bow between us.  My Miya actually has Kyujutsu but doesn’t have access to a bow, which is kind of incredibly dumb and kind of incredibly distinctive.  How many games enforce social restrictions on equipment (though, this particular social restriction could be obviated if I tried)?

Team Opium Harvesters

Our team has mostly the same strengths and mostly the same weaknesses.  That is not what one might call … optimal.  We are all morons, for instance, which seems to actually matter in HoR4.  We have one perceiver, who has Void 2.  We have two-thirds Void 2 PCs.  Sure, we all Earth reasonably well.  I have a good attack roll.  Damage rolls are decent.  ATNs range from solid-high to pretty suck (same way I can get a yumi and ya, I could get light armor).

We aren’t amazing at social or perceiving.  We have zero Medicine.

What would be the fix?

Replace my PC, as mine is the least relevant in many ways no matter how much I just broke a mod with an awful school technique.  Replace with a god (shugenja) who does brains and brawny-Path-to-Inner-Peace.  My replace idea is half that, just being yet another moron.  Hiruma-san is the sponge and half-perceiver.  Yoritomo-san is the socialite and Void recoverer.  I become half-perceiver and …  Well, one of those two could have been the brains, as, after all, bushi are much better oriented to being brains than courtier/shugenja, as only bushi might care about Agility.  Everyone is a food taster.  I become the ranger with my mud build as I walk fast and carry a big Grasp of Earth’s Stagnation.  Any of us could grapple.  Any of us could murder.

As is, we have two demi-talkers, no brains, demi-ranger, all possible grapplers, all murderers to some degree, no chasm crosser (well, maybe I am), two shoppers (and an anti-shopper), and three possible food tasters.

I guess I need to add more roles to my list of L5R PC roles as one of our biggest problems is the lack of Healers, plus there’s an argument that Buffer is a fully real role, even if you are like a Void Shugenja who just buffs yourself – Improver may be a more appropriate name for the role, as a key aspect of playing to the dice system is figuring out ways to improve rolls.  On the other hand, if you think about it, we all have Luck and I have a solid Honor Roll, so we do have a fair amount of die results improving at hand, which is possibly the only way we got through either of those mods or any of the other mods that were challenging.

And, of course, I left off Sneak from the list.  But, my Miya has that covered and I think our party is actually reasonably sneaky, though the others being afflicted with armor impairs that.

Herald of Annihilation

Was so long between Gen Con and yesterday I didn’t remember much about choosing to serve Galactus/Onnotangu/whoever.  I’ll have to review my notes.

My experience with my character is that I’ve enjoyed what the character has done, I just don’t find much of interest in the character’s sheet.  Buys are slow and add little value.  Tons of weak areas.  The Showoff archetype is already a poor party member and we’ve only got three and are godless.

I have no goals (unless I check my notes and refresh some goal I may have had besides “they all need to burn”).  I didn’t even find horizontal dancing with a sailor to be as captivating as it may have been for another character.  I’m rich and find shopping rather dull.

I’m sitting on exactly the XP to make a critical mechanical buy for what my intent was and I’m torn.  I could brain up, though I wouldn’t have Sage.  I could, hmmm, almost every idea involved braining up.  I would probably enjoy having a reasonably sized brain.  It’s not even anathema to my concept.  If I had infinite XP, I would have an INT above 2.  I just don’t have that on my buy list until around the 212 XP mark.  Of course, being one with the soil isn’t absolutely essential.  It’s just that I defeat my own concept by not making the 20 XP buy I can make right now.  Small buys don’t change the character hardly at all – it’s all whether I go to three in a Ring or not.

Btw, if I did 3 a Ring, I’d get my next broken school technique.  Can’t wait until someone tries to influence me and I get to roll Etiquette with a +7 (currently) bonus.  That will be the ultiproof that the future has already happened.

A bigger brain is just so XP crippling, and it doesn’t really solve the healing problem given how crap Medicine is, though it would be funny to completely rethink the character and make that ultidoctor PC.  Aiya!  Is that what the omniverse is trying to tell me?  Can I actually … achieve … enjoyment … through the power of nuclear accident and become the biggest brain of them all?  Oh, except, problem with going brain surgeon path – I failed to take Great Potential Medicine, so I’m still horrid at actually restoring the beaten down bushi.

Still, it’s almost a half-baked idea.  One that can involve browning and braising.

HoR4

My feeling about the campaign at this juncture?

Still have no idea what matters.  Have a hard time hooking a character into anything because there doesn’t feel like anything to engage with.

But, that’s not terribly different from HoR3.  What is different is that I haven’t really considered any mod so far a superior mod.  There are some decent ones.  But, two of the ones that come to mind as decent would have been largely forgotten in the other campaigns.  There are some ideas I see that try to be novel, but I’m just not feeling payoff to those.  Lack of meaningful NPCs, lack of the Ivory Kingdoms mattering at all (part of our discussion on the drive back was how the Ivinda lack any recognizable NPCs), lack of even such things as the Nightingales or getting a cert for encouraging a ronin.

Maybe it’s a meta thing, where it’s just become old hat.  Or, maybe it’s just the difference between HoR2 and 3/4, where people felt like something was going on early on in the campaign and people discussed it, and … and … it actually mattered what was going on not that far into the campaign!  Unlike HoR3, where the end is just a whipsaw of “um, sure, cool conspiracy, bro, I have, uh, demon cats to murder so I can awaken this sword, yeah”.