A-Void-ing Mistakes

September 16, 2017

Having a conversation at moment in comments section of last post on new Void shugenja build.  Thought we’d turn this into a post because there are some general character build comments I could make.

My first thought was that it would be hard to cripple yourself out of the gate since L5R has relatively few different buys and it’s not structured like a lot of games are structured (WoD, Shadowrun, Fading Suns, Mechwarrior, etc.) where initial buys are very different from advancement buys.  Think of how much you could [not] cripple yourself building a Champions character where everything is identical at starting and through advancement and … further realize Champions characters have radiation accidents where PCs get totally rebuilt to fix any pointless [ha] buys (COM 36 was more than sufficient, Mister COM 55; Power Defense when no one ever hits you with Power Attacks), while you are probably stuck with whatever advantages you overspent on in L5R.

My biggest mistake PC was a character who didn’t just plan for the future but that way overspent on non-Trait stuff early on where the present was significantly impacted, so I am concerned when the inclination is to overbuy on vants, ancestors, et al.

While I rate Luck as the best buy in the game and rate Wealthy as an amazing buy, I do want to clear up a bit that I’m not necessarily advocating Luck, for example, as the end all and be all of character creation.

My biggest mistake may have been a PC who wouldn’t make sense until 150xp into the campaign, but I find that I have a general tendency to prefer playing PCs who are who they are out of the gate.

Sure, my Isawa Mirumoto Bushi sailor was useless with an Agility of 2 and kind of an actual character with Agility 3 and two ranks of Kenjutsu.  But, the character was defined immediately by being a massive damage sponge to distract enemies long enough for others to eviscerate them.

Okay, enough about me.

JJ’s PC with Ishiken-do, Luck, Crafty, Great Destiny, Sage, and Benten’s Blessing concerns me as putting too much into situational payoffs and not enough into consistency.

Ishiken-do is required.  I would put Sage into required as well because the concept sounds like a Void/Air/Fire doer who won’t be a moron.  Only reason not to do Sage is because of thematic fail.

I would not bother with Crafty, as there are only five skills listed as low skills and I could imagine not needing Forgery nor Intimidation (any time soon, at least).  So, could have just taken one rank in the other three and be on the path to going above one rank as “needed” and spent the same number of points.  I would be unlikely to even spend those three points, taking probably one rank in Stealth and Temptation and buying Sleight later or maybe not even the first two if really pressed for points.

The ability to pump all Void into a roll along with the ability to recycle VPs means Luck is less crucial for the all important rolls that occur.  However, it depends upon how many other shugenja there are in the party.  The more other shugenja, the less crucial any one spell is, so the need to Luck a spell varies.

Great Destiny is something I often forget about because living campaigns don’t allow it.  I have a campaign idea that moves Great Destiny and Dark Fate into general rules rather than specific character features, but that’s neither here nor there for you all.  It does amuse me to try to figure out a thematic justification for Great Destiny rather than the mechanical view of “I don’t want to die right away”.

Sounds like the PC is a/the face of the party, so I get Benten’s Blessing.  Besides helps with personal … um … pursuits.

Ishiken-do, Sage.  then, I would rate the importance of the rest as Benten’s Blessing followed by maybe one rank of Luck followed by Great Destiny followed by second rank of Luck.  But, it’s not my character.  If inspired by the possibilities of Great Destiny, sure, go for it.

Just to move on, let’s say 16xp are put into advantages.  I don’t like assuming 10 points of disads, but, if you start with 40, kind of hard not to max out.  If there are 34 points left over, figure 12 for a trait, 18 for Void 3, 3 points in skills, and 1 in innating a spell.  Things get rough if more than 16xp go into advantages.

Spellcasting.  A R-1 spell needs a TN of 10.  3k2 can do 10.  However, a few things.  One, Path to Inner Peace is not really a 10.  Raise happy spells are not really 10’s.  May want to cast a R-2 spell in one round at TN20.  Some thought should be put into what spells need to be castable as a starting character.  Because most people want their characters to be functional, I would imagine this character would be Air 3, Void 3 out of the gate with a plan to get to Fire 3.

ATN.  With Reflexes 3, Air 3 in shugenja stance, minimum ATN of 23.  Probably want one rank in Defense just to move to 24.  Someday, really like Defense 5, but that’s so far away and combat doesn’t seem like a focus for the campaign.

Disads are another way to cripple oneself.  Overconfident, probably not a great idea for this PC (I’d argue a terrible idea for every PC, but whatever).  Weakness: Strength could be cheesemeisterishness or maybe the GM makes it actually hurt.  But, it’s unlikely to an “OMG, you killed my 40 point character” choice like some disads should be.  More than anything else, because disads often don’t have consistent mechanics like other things do, I’d work with the GM to have them be reasonable and more interesting than how many points they give you.

Now, what about advancement?  There are important considerations besides whether you get to take advantages after character creation.  As I blogged about before, rate of advancement changes things dramatically.  Do you really care how inept you are at 40, if you are at 60 after a couple of sessions?  You probably care whether you have another trait at 3 if you play like once a month and gain 2xp per session.

For this character, what’s essential?  Sounds like social ability, Acting, fixer abilities.

Plan would seem to be Awareness 4, multiple ranks in a variety of Awareness skills, Agility 3 for Stealth, with Void 4 at some point.  Seems like can mostly dump entirely on Earth and Water, eventually getting to Earth-3 only if the campaign proves more dangerous than expected.  While PER 2 is unhappinesses, have to not be good at something.  The single greatest problem with dumping on Water is that it makes Water spells rather terrible.

Fill out skills to support “Acting”, like Craft: Cooking Pot.  Commerce is an obvious skill to enhance disguises.

I don’t know if I got the idea of a ningenja, er, shuninja right or not.  Also, what is the rest of the party like?  Is there a lot of overlap in abilities?  Who are going to be the perceivers in a campaign that seems to badly need perceivers?  Is this PC a demibrain, the brain?  What sort of non-mechanical considerations are relevant, like clan interactions?  This sounds like a low Glory character, which probably doesn’t matter one way or the other, but what about Status?  How will the party interact with NPCs of different status?

As for spell selection, here are some ideas, including some I don’t normally see:

By the light of the Moon
Cloak of Night
Legacy of Kaze-no-Kami
Nature’s Touch
Token of Memory
Way of Deception
Benten’s Touch
The Kami’s Whisper
Secrets on the Wind

Fires of Purity

Path to Inner Peace
Reversal of Fortunes

Boundless Sight
Drawing the Void
See Through Lies
Sense Void
Touch the Emptiness
Altering the Course
Drink of Your Essence
Reach Through the Void

What’s interesting to me is that being ninjaesque means making use of some spells that I’ve never seen cast.  Still, limited options means most of these will never get chosen.  Some of these, mostly Air require being clever, too, which can be a burden.  Would be nice to be able to play a shugenja who does weird stuff rather than one who has to constantly save the party from TPKs.



Gen Con 2017 – The $8 Story

August 21, 2017

I am a Gen Con expert.  A limited one, of course.  I know RPGs and only a bit else gamingwise.  I don’t know a lot of food options that aren’t likely to interest me and a few that might.  I don’t know every ballroom name in every hotel and where they are in relation to each other.  I know nothing about industry events, parties, concerts, etc.  I know nothing about family events or the con puzzles, and I avoid the exhibit hall as much as possible.

But, I have had many years of incredibly smooth logistics because I knew precisely what I needed to do to fit my needs.

This year wasn’t smooth.  It certainly wasn’t efficient.  It wasn’t a cluster by any stretch, but it was a learning experience.

The single thing that had the biggest impact was True Dungeon, where it affected in many ways.  Rather than list those ways now, I’ll just move forward with something of a timeline.


Every travel day is a hassle.  In order to get our 6AMish flights, we do things like get up at 3AM and finish packing.  Already the sleep deprivation has begun.  When the four of us congregated, it turned out we planned on checking two suitcases.  Four of us, to Gen Con, flying Southwest(!!), checking two suitcases.  That was not remotely my understanding and it added unnecessary stress.  We had to move stuff around from a suitcase to carry on bags.  My carry on was already heavy due to Magic decks I never used (I think I just give up on the idea of playing Type P in airports or in the nonexistent deadtime because it’s just not a high priority, anymore) and TD tokens.

Tokens are heavy.  My suitcase was already around 46 pounds, though it had a good amount of space.

Flights were fine.  Lyft was fine to hotel.  Check in was fine.  Some tickets were will call, so we went to dinner first.  Dinner was fine.  I had trades or buys to complete for TD tokens that complicated the night.  Two of us waited around until after the Golden Ticket runs and it was rather tedious and inefficient.  We didn’t have all of the builds ready or tokens sleeved or whatever for …


8:26AM Dancing Combat

Our first game was TD, and it was the first combat run outside of the Golden Ticket runs.  I’m going to avoid as much as possible spoilers for rooms as I expect many of the same elements to exist at Gamehole Con and next year’s cons prior to Gen Con.

We broke four things in the first room.  We were not remotely close to figuring out the solution.

I suppose I should back up a little bit and, rather than wait until it was more noticeable, get this out of the way.  Having a collection means far more logistical concerns than not having one.  We were the only players with Charms of Avarice on three of our runs and I can only think of one other 5th level character on any of the four TD runs, though two players on the last run could have been, I’m sure, if they were playing at full strength.

So, I was much more stressed as I was worrying about:  do we have 5th level cards; what difficulty are we playing; does one of our group need tokens, maybe ones I just picked up the night before; does my app build match my album build; will the party card accurately show how many treasure pulls we get.

Learning experience.  I understood conceptually why people liked buying out runs and arranging parties ahead of time.  I now see how much practical impact it has, as it’s a huge pain in the back, shoulders, and calves to carry around a bunch of unnecessary tokens.  I’m thinking I go with a general build that applies to any class and switch out maybe a dozen tokens to cover class differences.

Second room, fight.  We got nowhere.  Eric was planned for bard but ended up ranger because the one other player with significant experience was playing bard.  I gave him a build with like a +16 to hit.  We were playing normal (we played normal in all four TD and in True Grind).  He missed every(?) time.  We think his melee stats were being used rather than ranged stats.  But, talking to an admin Saturday night and reading the forums, also believe the fights were just way too hard, at least early on.

I was telling my mother(!) today that the correct way to lead off TD runs is with a not difficult puzzle, followed by an easy combat, at least if you are running normal.  TD can be really hard for new players.  TD often involves groups who don’t know each other.  Give the party time to coalesce.  Give them time to adjust to what they suck at, like wasting time during combats.  Not only is it more fair to ramp up challenges as teams get into grooves, my personal feeling is that I enjoy runs far more where we are successful early and failing late rather than failing early and successful late.  TD has a ton of casual players at Gen Con, want players to feel good about spending $62 per run.

Third room, I mentally gave up immediately.  They made this easier later in the con, too.  Fourth room, fight with lockdown effects, i.e. spellcasters could not cast spells until something happened.  I’ll rant more about this later.  I could not believe how much damage was required to take out the enemy given we were playing normal.

Four rooms, four failures.  Fifth room, success.  Sixth room, is success even a thing?  Kind of a scenery room.  It was cool to look at but frustrating to play.  Last room, another fight where we accomplished nothing, as I was locked down the whole fight and couldn’t finally unleash my way OP build for normal difficulty.  Everyone did survive, which was something I guess, but it came across as a frustrating run.  I think I dropped below 60 hit points, which never happened on the three other runs.

Our OP builds didn’t really help.  I felt afterwards like I had to deal even more damage to make sure the group could get through fights, though this thinking is probably not the correct path.  If the fight is unfair, let it be unfair on the GM’s side.  Don’t make things even more unbalanced by being able to nuke any encounter at any time, as that just increases the perception problem.

We took treasure chips and went our various ways.  Eric H wasn’t going to do True Grind, so he got the privilege of standing 2.5 hours in line to get L5R LCG cards so that I could play Sunday’s tournament.

I had more transactions to do.  Here’s something I found really annoying – there was awful direction as to where things were.  I ended up in the wrong training room for the run because we didn’t go as a group (too long putting party cards together on three(?) of our runs).  I didn’t know where the dealers were as I didn’t realize there was other stuff inside.  I found out later where the transmute room was by accident since I was looking for the Grind room, that I didn’t realize was the left entrance rather than the right entrance.  Just awful guidance, where there was no specific information booth.

True Grind (Noon)

I try to get ahold of our True Grind patrons, as we were three replacements for their team.  I fail electronically but, fortunately, I run across one of their team hovering near TG and we figure out where we need to go.  Eventually, everyone is in the right place and Andy has no idea what tokens I forced on him because I didn’t think to print out our builds and nobody wrote anything down the night before when I had them pulled up on the screen.

We decide on normal but hardcore would have totally worked.  This group was really good at such things as sliding!  They pumped out tons of damage to where I could hold back on spells.  We cut a deal against one “room”.  The paladin and I were taken out for a while in room seven, to where my coming back led to a great storm of lightning.

At no time did I feel bad about throwing out 30+ point magic missiles.  Hail power!  I was the only one who took much damage, almost all of which was self-inflicted through Mad Evoker’s Charm.  Got to the point where nobody wanted to heal me until I had taken 42 or more damage just so someone could heal me for 42 damage.  I often spent time down around 24 points, leaving me at 57.  Dave got to successfully hit things with his +14 to hit fighter, dealing 30 points of damage at times, just like … not … when he played/plays cleric.

The best part of this may have been that Eric C was a room GM.  We hadn’t seen each other in years and we chatted a lot while the event was taking place.  I enjoyed my punishment for not metagaming harder.  The group was fun, sociable.  Thank Alek, et al, for giving us the opportunity.  The only thing I would have preferred is that there be more Fae to make more current year tokens relevant.

HoR (Thursday 2PM)

Start the other half of the con.  We get seated with John D as our GM for One Moment, One Encounter.  It goes well.  It’s a far better intro mod than any mod before it to Balishnimpur.  It runs well, with the main drawback being travel guide stuff that I already knew.  I really don’t remember a whole lot about the plot.

HoR (Thursday 7PM)

Can’t get into 5 or 8, so I try to get a table together for 9 or 12.  It’s just me, as Andy and Eric are at the concert and Dave isn’t doing HoR until Friday night.  I get into 9, Essence of Fire, with a GM coming in very late.  What proceeds is an incredibly tedious experience of dwelling on minutiae.  We aren’t into the plot until hours into the session.  I understand that some people want to experience their characters, again, a reason to play online when you aren’t sitting at a table and knowing how much of other people’s time you are wasting.

We finally get into plot, figure out what needs doing.  I have to run but get some rolls in to help the ritual.  Miss post ritual stuff completely.  I specifically wanted open library before late night TD runs to get short mods done early.  This was a fail, but I brought it on myself.

Find out the next day we were especially successful and I got a powerful sounding cert.  I actually want to run this mod as it seems like it could be enjoyable mechanically.

True Dungeon Moongate Combat (11PM)

I screwed up.  When TD was dropped from Sunday, I was annoyed because it meant having to play around my usual RPG schedule.  I worked out a way to have my triple steakburger and eat it too by scheduling late night TD sessions after my usual stuff.  Then, the reality of what this meant kicked in.

Thursday was harsh.  Thursday was brutal.  This schedule only contributed to Andy’s sickness problem.  We cannot do a schedule like this again.  What we talked about on the flight back was consolidating two TD runs into a single RPG slot.  Hopefully, Sunday TD is brought back.

This group was great.  We talked about stuff.  Came really close to playing hardcore.

I so vastly preferred this dungeon to Dancing.  Yes, everyone loves the first room.  But, I just found these rooms mechanically to be so much more pleasant, though maybe being successful at things helped.  The first room was beautiful in a few ways, but I just really enjoyed having a room with light.  It gets old constantly flashing your light around to see things.

Second room was what you want – low effort combat.  Surprisingly easy puzzle, though I now get that it’s only supereasy on normal.  Fight that didn’t seem hard as I mostly ignored it and we were fine.  Another fight that we succeeded at without being clever.  Fight that was awkward, as some TD fights get, and not remotely interesting to me where I still didn’t have to do a whole lot.  Final room puzzle that is fine but we didn’t figure out the second part at all, though there was an accident at the end that gave away what we were supposed to do.

Dave and Eric were playing RoSP classes because they were out of 5th level cleric and bard.  Neither took particular advantage of them.  Eric was an ill prepared troubadour.



HoR CIT12 (Friday 9AM)

We have limited options as we wanted Dave to not play a court mod, and we weren’t missing much, so we did open library.  It went well, it went efficient.  I failed to convince an Owl Clanner who is into Imperial relations with my Imperial which I found interesting for my character.  I discovered my campaign hook in this mod.  I am the Miya of balance, in that complete obliteration, annihilation, and devastation must be rained down upon my enemies.  Will I live up to the moniker of Herald of Destruction?  Time will tell.  Yup, court mods.

Eric also got some character development.  The Flower Champion may have gotten bigger things to worry about after later events, but this is why you go to Gen Con.  Sure, he could have made rolls anywhere, but there are more opportunities to gain character hooks because you aren’t just playing with the same old, same old.

This ran so smoothly, we had time to go back to the room and nap.  Yeah, not a good sign.

ODAM (Friday 2PM)

My only non-HoR/non-True event (foreshadowing).  Of Dreams and Magic.  Sweet.  I get to play a self-help guru, that I attempt to roleplay, sweet.  We take forever to get things done and I have to leave before the game is over to make 7PM HoR even though I know it’s going to start late.  Tiresome.

I almost played the entire session without doing anything magical.

So, here’s something I intellectually know and try to incorporate into games I run.  If you have characters with cool powers, they must use those cool powers and they should use them as fast as possible in games.  Do you know why I loved Immortal: The Invisible War?  It wasn’t the incomprehensible and unplayable RAW.  It was Ran Ackels running my first couple of games and “just roll a die” and awesome special effects explanations of your powers.

Plus, this game was in the JW.  JW is a nice environment, but, as I say every year, it’s a pain to have games in it as it’s a far cry from everything else most of the time that matters to me.

HoR CIT14 (Friday 7PM)

Let’s get ready to rumble in the jungle.  Dave had already decided to play a combat character.  He strides boldly forth and is not punished for it.  Actually, he reminded me of my Daigotsu Bushi.  We learn the true power of the Tortoise.  We get a nice fast game in so that we can wander over to TD.  Solid action where I fail to hit calling 5 raises for extra attack.

TD Dancing Puzzle (Friday 11:03PM)

Solid group, again fun to interact with.  You could tell Andy was struggling with illness.  We were way OP for the one fight that mattered.  I was almost nonexistent on this run, even though we had failed two of the puzzles before.  This group got the workshop.  Got the forge.  Got path at last moment, where I mostly talked to the priest.  Last puzzle looked nice but so not my thing and we weren’t coordinated enough to make anything happen.  The only death.

Talked some more after the run.  Fun stuff.  I did some treasure pulls, got a bunch of junk, gave away a rare.  One of the two late night groups, I don’t remember which one at this time, I lent a Defender Helm to.  I should have just sold it for a $1, as it’s completely extra to us.


Battle Interactive (8AM!)

Couldn’t miss this, even though I was getting sick and Andy was hurting.

The Flower Champion wilted and didn’t run with our assault team.  Andy and I found other Crab and the glorious killing machine that is Kasuga Ieyasu.  We almost had a Lion commander, but he moved to an extra table, so here’s the lineup for our assault table.

Hida Bushi, Hiruma Scout, Kuni Shugenja, Kuni Witchhunter(!!), Kasuga Smuggler(!!), Miya Herald …

I was living the dream.  The dream of evisceration.  I asked about a bow or armor.  Nope.  Miya Herald with a daisho and no ranged or armor.  Living the dream.

We start tier 2.  We have to keep up with Matsu Berserkers.  We kind of understand what that means.  We hack and slash.  I quickly realize the Smuggler build is essentially my build only further down the path of eradication, plus better in pretty much every other way.

We do reasonably well.  I make a mistake of spending a VP on ATN on round one only to have it end up mattering.  I’m out of VPs around round 3 of this combat.  Kuni Shugenja Medicines me after fight to full heal.  We had really good rolls early.

Tier 2.  We have to clear a building of archers.  Since the door is barricaded, I do the obvious and go to climb to the second story window.  I take 32 wounds, pull myself into the room, and face 12 enemies.  I’m thinking “it’s a good thing I can free action draw my sword”.  The rest of the team follows me, the Miya Herald, into the boss room.  The GM thinks we are nuts.  I think it’s dumb to have a barricade that a tetsubo can effortlessly break down and be punished for trying to do something interesting.

We get wrecked.  I’m about to go full defense when the GM has me notice the fight next door.  I pick up a spear, hurl it through the window and get +1 Devotion to my Matsu gunso ally.  With empty hands, I get reduced to down.  Only Andy’s tank is not ravaged.  The first level enemies are coming up and the Kasuga barricades the path!  The Kuni summons oil!!  The enemies get owned in a contested strength roll.  While Down, the GM lets me cast the best spell in the game:  DIPLOMACY, which summons a higher rank Matsu Berserker from improbablewhere.

By the way, the whole time we were fighting, I was exclaiming “COURTIERS” and “DIPLOMACY” as we cut down warriors and peasants.  Living the dream.

I get healed for a ton and we finally decide to swap with someone in the reserves and go tier 1.  We should have gone higher tier as our new shugenja healed us a ton and dropped Fires of Purity left and right.

The Maharajah’s Banner.  We took one of them.  Andy kicked fiery kicks of death while holding it.  I kept trying calling 5 raises for extra attack and … finally! … got off multiple attacks.  I came up one short one time, three short another, both times rolling 10 dice and having none explode.

While the last round was beneath us and the second round was poor play, this was a vastly better battle interactive to most of the HoR3 ones.  I felt like something was happening even though I probably did more interesting things in the early HoR3 BIs and the enemies were rather dull in our fights.  We could have faced cultists, which would have been different.

I just need to up my power so that I can be like my hero, Kasuga Ieyasu, then we start tier 3ing stuff.

Andy was at my table and got the banner.  Eric got his character defining moment of totally stealing from the Scorpion.  He wanted to wuss out on the political interactive, figuring the Scorpion would just kill him at their court, but I kept trying to get through that that’s not how it works.  Killing isn’t punishment in L5R.

Political Interactive (3PM)

And, so I switch to a political character, the natural switch from Miya Herald to Kuni Shugenja.  Team Crab!

I won’t get too much into clan politics.  I tried to focus on those groups the clan didn’t seem to care much about – Imperials, minors, Owl.  I felt like I did something.  It was interesting to see the real power brokers negotiate.  The Lion declaring war on the Crab was hilarious.  The insults to the Crane were hilarious.

I accomplished nothing.  I have no reward for taking a social character into a social setting.  But, I enjoyed myself.  Didn’t get burned out after an hour as I usually do at political interactives.  Eric got to lie to the Scorpion Champion, so he’s loving being the only Mantis left who is “when you come at the Flower Champion, you best not miss”.

Andy could not do another TD run.

TD Moongate Puzzle (10:01PM)

We had agreed beforehand that if we did normal, we would do 5th level sealed greedy, i.e. use only our 10 packs with +1 level and treasure enhancers.  This was not a boon.  Dave had to run to refund Andy’s ticket.  I still had my entire binder collection in case we weren’t doing normal.  Eric had Andy’s token wooden chest, with a padlock we couldn’t open.

We ran with someone who knew the dungeon well.  I was very much into observer mode on the run.  We didn’t succeed at everything, but it felt like it wasn’t really necessary to do so.  The two new rooms were good and not so good.  I liked the flower room because it looked nice and it was different.  I can distinguish that smells are different, but I don’t distinguish what smells are.  I just can’t articulate what I know.  The dark room was just really boring to me.

We just missed treasure pulls up front, which irritated me as I need at least one bag to not have to do tedious stuff.

We got back to the room and I started in on thoughts on TD.


Collectively, we gave up on the one commitment of the day.

I was signed up for the L5R LCG tournament.  I had lost interest during the con pretty quick.  Andy had interest.  Eric got product so that one of us could actually play.  We couldn’t even generate the effort to return the seemingly highly prized $8 ticket given how out of it we were Sunday morning.  Plus, we had to check out (this is one reason I like returning Mondays).

In the past, I got pissed off by forgetting to return generics, which is why I never buy them.  I plan my schedule meticulously and force myself to do everything I sign up for.  It usually works quite well logistically.

I want to hold on to this $8 ticket to remind myself of something.  First of all, I’m not a poor gamer.  Nobody who can afford TD ultrarare builds is.  The money lost was trivial compared to the physical trials I put us through.  Second, it was a lesson in greediness.  TD is very prone to greediness which I’ll go into more in a bit.  I was greedy to play not only a normal schedule of 3/3/3/Sunday event but to add two more events on top of that.  To some extent, I just overlooked how important not only 2 hours is but that a lot of HoR play ends early and it’s far more than 2 hours saved by not running from HoR to TD late at night and that Lucas Oil is a huge drag to run over to.

Btw, if we hadn’t stayed at the Hyatt, this con would have been that much more brutal, as HoR, at least, was convenient.

I so hope TD returns to Sundays.  If it doesn’t, we have a thought on how to do GC next year, but it’s not great and highly dependent upon getting into precisely the TD/TG slots we want.

One of us could have played in a premier event at Gen Con.  We slept or lay in bed thinking about how time was passing and didn’t care.

The lesson wasn’t just that I overdid it, that I didn’t prepare enough, that we didn’t prepare enough.  It’s that I got complacent.  I am so used to having my Gen Con be molded to my interests that it’s easy, only being fraught with peril because I’m a worrywart.  TD at this level rocked my easy – 10 RPG plus something else with triple steakburger every morning at 7AM, 7:30AM, or 8AM and again later in the day between clearly defined RPG slots – world.

Went to the exhibit hall for a bit but didn’t care.  Watched L5R demos and was shocked at how slow they were.  Missed out on swag that could have been gotten Thursday if I had thought through how things were going to go.

True Takeaways

We played with PUGs (pick up groups).  We were grossly OP for normal play.  I got down to like 68 hit points in one run and only took damage in another run from the final room.  I have huge concerns about making a run fun for groups without ultrarare level collections.

My plan is to redo all of my normal builds to focus on saves and to run not so great weapons on normal runs.  No more +2 Keen Slayer on normal, it’s just dumb.  No +3 Deathcleaver, not that I ever gave that out, but, maybe, no +2 Slayer.  No 30+ STR builds.  Sure, I’ll run Mad Evoker’s Charm, but I just won’t use it as I think I used it like once in four True Dungeon runs and not every single spell on Grind.

I may have to break down and go with builds with hit points under 60.  Sigh.

Not only was I unhappy with our builds, I was unhappy with our presentation.  Sure, you can let people know that you know the puzzles or that your builds are stronger.  Don’t make a big deal out of it.  Downplay everything.  Last year, we played with someone who knew stuff and it worked well, but, then, I prefer observing people play rather than doing hardly anything myself, so I don’t care about being challenged.

My biggest failing was more subtle.  I cast very few spells to let others murder stuff.  I didn’t give away puzzles, though in many cases we didn’t know the answers.  But, I just didn’t participate much.  I tried talking to NPCs to pass the time and to be into the events, as I can embrace the role-playing aspects of playing more (not that embracing is anything the NPCs would go for).  But, I think I overdid it and may have come across like “I’m so powerful I don’t need to do anything”, which isn’t contributing to other people’s fun.


Silence is moronic.  All the rage at Gen Con HoR was throatpunching.  Throatpunching is moronic.  Do not prevent people from being able to do the one thing they care about doing.  For HoR, give a TN penalty to spellcasting non-innated spells or something.  In TD, just get rid of silence on normal difficulty.  Screw over people on hardcore and, especially, nightmare as much as you want, but let the newb or the casual player who plays once a year actually get to participate in what’s going on.  Combat matters in TD or the token economy wouldn’t exist (or would look incredibly different).  Let people do their 6 damage or their 11 damage.  I’ll accept being locked out of Lightning Storm with Mad Evoker’s Charm and a +13 damage stat, but I hated when I couldn’t cast an 11 point Magic Missile, and I’m sure others feel the same.

I know.  Meleers get screwed by fights with no melee, and rangies get screwed by antirange effects, and blah, blah, blah failed saves equal being removed from combat.  But, the casual player isn’t prepared for being taken completely out of fights.  Make them suffer one round of impotence is fine, then let them feel like they are playing.


We cannot be that disorganized about tokens again.  It was obnoxious as hell, and I think we lost one of our more prized tokens though our only particularly good treasure draw replaced it.  I am not interested in hauling multiple binders around all of the time and making adjustments to things on the fly.  Now, my coin album set up for my wizard build did work well for me, though I don’t know if it worked well for the party card maker.  And, the binders I got right before Gen Con were a way I liked storing stuff I didn’t need on the run.

The Android app was essential.  True Grind, where we worked out things ahead of time was awesome for how simple it was for me, though Dave and Andy had problems because I didn’t know their builds.

I do not want to haul a bunch of stuff to Lucas Oil.  Quip was kind enough to meet me on Sunday at the Hyatt for one last deal, as I did not want to run over there one more time.

I think I know what to do.  It may very well mean beginning to divest of some of the alt build tokens I’ve picked up in the last year.

Treasure pulls.  I actually kind of hate these.  I had completely forgotten about bags until too late in the con.  I did 26 of my pulls for no reason.  I don’t just hate the wands.  I always hated pulling from treasure chests at the end of runs, only liking those treasure pulls that used to happen during runs in the long, long ago.  Give me bags or give me … cash? … friends who don’t mind doing pulls?

I hate doing pulls after runs.  There are so many things going on after runs, like making sure I didn’t lose any tokens and making sure I got my XP card and my completion token, that I just want to get my stuff, get into a well lit, open area, and deal with logistics.

Should be interesting to get to Gamehole Con and do a bag and 11 pulls right away to get caught up or maybe I hold my 11 pulls.  I’ll have to do the math on how many pulls we are going to get from our runs, there.


True Grind was especially good for me, as it was a first time, I got to hang with someone I knew, I liked the other people in our party, and it’s well lit.  But, I think one of the great benefits of TG is that it’s different from the dungeons.  It’s just good to get away from the repetitive nature of wordplay and darkness and whether your group is balanced.

Doing one of each run was good.  But, it has to be better timed.  I’m old and decrepit.  I can force myself awake at 6:30AM to play games because games infuse me with chi, but it’s just not good that I’m now getting tired at Gen Con midday Thursdays.


We still no jack and _ about what hardcore and nightmare are like.  We have to do hardcore, at a minimum, for the XP.  I would imagine parties intending to do these things are better fits from a token collection aspect for our UR heavy collections.  I’m not clever, but I might fit into organized parties better as one thing I don’t like is a lot of people arguing about what to do, and I’d imagine hardcore and nightmare inclined parties tend to be more organized just from an experience standpoint.


To me, TD is like 50% good, 25% eh, and 25% below not good with numbers I’m totally making up.  That’s just the nature of it.  Some runs will be much more fun than others.  I like talking with other players, which I should have done more of instead of talk to NPCs or be baffled by the coaching room logistics.


Gamehole Con will be another learning experience.  I expect I still have some important things to learn.  For instance, I never slid once the entire con, playing wizard four times and elf wizard once.  I am likely an awful slider, but, mostly, I just don’t care about sliding.  I’d enjoy sliding if it was only people I knew in the party and we talked through strategy/tactics.

Probably should be a next, but I forgot.


I only had triple steakburgers like twice.  That’s not enough.  Full meals at night are hard on me in my sleep deprived, jet lagged, eating at weird times, snacking on weird stuff, maybe having a milkshake without taking Lactaid first self.  This is something the others don’t get.  It’s not like my diet of triple steakburger combos is good for me or all that delicious, it’s that it’s what I need when I need it and does not introduce variance that leads to my body being further wrecked.  I could sub in Subway for every meal and achieve a similar effect, but Subway isn’t open at the hours I need food and it’s boring.

I was introduced to Pearings.  I liked my smoothie.  My panini was fine but not much food, which, in some ways, is good.  But, I don’t like their menu, too limited for what I want … says the person who orders the exact same thing every time to where I have a sense of how much it will cost to the penny at his usual depot.

The sandwich place across the street from the usual depot is not to my liking.  I would so much enjoy my sandwich more without french fries and cole slaw on it.  Plus, take away soft fries and cole slaw (something I don’t usually like to begin with) and I feel like I should be paying less money because I may not be poor but I do not like wasting money on food … says the man who can live off of triple steakburgers for a con.

My food truck noodles weren’t bad, but they needed to be poured out of the container into like a bowl.  They were too bland at first and too salty later.  I would have used less soy sauce in the sauce, but whatever.  My hatred of food trucks has only something to do with how bad I think foodtruck food is on average.

Again, Indianapolis Airport is one of the few airports I don’t feel bad about paying overpriced prices at.  I got a huge Pom Beach smoothie.  I got a burger with not awful fries.  It was overpriced, but the airport is just so pleasant in the hub.


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.


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.


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.


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 …


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.


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.


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.


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


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.


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.