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.

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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”.


The Best of … 2014

December 31, 2017

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

January

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

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

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

Might, Right, Or Contrite

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

February

Core-Tier

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

Finish Line

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

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

Orccon 2014

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

Mysterious

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

March

Review – Book of Water

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

Eject The Tape

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

Bushi Analysis – Extended

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

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

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

Generic Bushi School

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

Strong Sorrows?

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

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

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

April

HoR Strategy

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

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

May

June

July

BattleTech Scenario Building

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

August

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

September

October

Ambivantaged

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

The Road To Mana

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

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

November

Exploring Villainy

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

Lo, The Fun

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

L5R Campaigns

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

December

Clan Cards – Camarilla

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

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

RPG Fiction Guide

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


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


Imperial Sizing

December 24, 2017

So, I got my L5R Imperial Cycle cards.

I’m not going to rate them for playability in this post because:

  1. Some of them have been available for quite a while.
  2. People other than me have played with them.
  3. I haven’t.

I am also affected by groupthink.  On the other hand, there are some cards I think are better/worse than forumites have said.

So, if I’m not going to enlighten you, the reader who could be doing other things than reading a blog, on how to Porg [sic] your local meta.

Cards I want to play:

Yasuki Taka
Kakita Yoshi
Disdainful Remark
Implacable Magistrate
Guard Duty
Ikoma Ujiaki
Test of Courage
Seal of the Lion
Censure
Seppun Ishikawa
Miya Satoshi
Isawa Kaede
Prodigy of the Waves
Magnificent Lighthouse
Shrine Maiden
Henshin Disciple
Gaijin Customs
Windswept Yurt
Moto Juro
Public Forum
Frostbitten Crossing

Interesting thing about cards I want to play in this game, this two-player game.  Pony-beating – good cards are more fun when you actually are trying to win.  Oh, a couple of these I rate as 2’s, and Seal of the Lion is crap, but I have a specifically convoluted deck, I may someday post, in mind that may make use of it.

Five Lion, five Phoenix, two Crane, three Unicorn.  So, I’m usually the “Why not play everything?” guy.  Interesting thing about this game.  Where I’m all for trying everything in V:TES, generally a two hour game where other people have challenges building decks quickly, I’m not so excited at the idea of building tons of decks for this 1.5 hour game, even if throwing together some cards is actually quite easy.

In fact, I’ve mostly lost interest in playing Dragon, while Crane/Phoenix seem like boring/effort, respectively.  I love ponies, well … Jun did.  Lion are so overpowered that it’s difficult to play them until they are no longer “the crutch”.  Wait, that’s just groupthink.  Actually, they don’t easily play Cloud the Mind and Phoenix interactions are so convoluted maybe Phoenix have a good matchup somehow, while Crab seem to have a viable game plan.  I may want to feel Kachiko, but it’s unlikely that’s going to happen, and the other new stuff doesn’t pour my tea.

More neutrals, FFG, more neutrals.  Actually, I do think Phoenix needs to see some play when the 6/6 for 6 gets published.  But, I gurgitate.

In the “maybe” camp of what I want to play is another five Unicorn cards, four Crab, and four Lion.  Gee, it’s almost like I prefer some clans to other clans.  Maybe I’ll make a horrible beastmaster Lion deck for casual play.

By the way, here are some numbers because they amuse me.  Average point scores for:  Crab, 2.36; Crane, 2.29; Dragon, 2.15; Lion, 2.43 (only!!); Phoenix, 2.75(!!); Scorpion, 2.07; Unicorn, 2.07; Neutral, 2.75.  Of course, who cares about the low end of coasters and “casual” cards?  Top five of each:  Crab, 3.4; Crane, 3.2; Dragon, 2.8; Lion, 4; Phoenix, 3.6; Scorpion, 3.2; Unicorn, 3.4; Neutral, 3.8.  Whew!  Back to the norm of Lion brokenness.  Thank Amaterasu!

Holdings seem rather good, though some are clan specific so that reduces decisions.  Dynasty fare better than Conflict in general, which is good as conflict decks are already easy to vary and have an abundance of decisions, where dynasty really needs to see more divergent archetypes.

I still feel like there isn’t much variety in deck construction, but that could be because I’m used to playing games with large card pools.  However, then there’s Traveller, where I feel like you can make a lot of different sorts of decks.  Of course, Traveller has no factionalism in deck construction like L5R, V:TES, and Shadowfist do.  If you want to make a Scout Cargo deck with 58 crew cards, you can make a Scout Cargo deck with 58 crew cards.  Subsidized Merchant with zero crew may not be good, but, hey, maybe it could function off of just upgrades and events.  Would be techy against crew control decks.

Keeper/Seeker and “[element] only” just further reduce available card pool.  More minor clans FFG, more minor clans!  Then, maybe I’ll be actually enthusiastic about building a few decks, whereas …

…  I feel like my latest rant about FCG vs. VCG deserves … stay on target … an entire blog post!  Because everyone likes a little whip action to their ponies, er, …

Merry Christmas, missed Hanukkah, Winter Solstice passed, later on New Year’s as I indulge in the Best Of …


Weighing The Options

December 12, 2017

“After you push the door open, six goblins standing near a chest charge, roll initiative …”

“As you turn the corner, six orcs see you, scream something, and charge.  Roll initiative …”

I got to thinking about scale.  At a point in our Conan campaign, Brad and I talked about the point of playing higher level characters.  If all we were going to do was just face tougher enemies, why not just reboot the campaign and play at a more manageable level?

There’s a reason Gorgriffspidrascorps exist.  People crave variety.  Just increasing hit points, improving AC, increasing damage output is repetitive.  Different special abilities allow for playing essentially the same videogame over and over and still having a varied experience.

Then, I started thinking about several other things.

One, people may crave variety, but so, so many players crave doing the same sorts of things over and over as evidenced by how many players will play functionally similar or identical PCs.  I’m even prone to doing something along these lines in that my first two HoR PCs were the same character, at least up until the point where my second PC had some sort of personality and goals.  Gamehole Con wasn’t great, but it gave me important insight into which classes I enjoy and which I don’t in True Dungeon, while giving me more variety than what most seem interested in in terms of mechanical variance.

Two, I got to thinking about L5R in contrast to D&D style games.  It occurred to me that leveling up didn’t produce the same experience, that mechanics change as you rank up.  Combat goes from interesting at rank 1, rank 2ish in 4e to … vicious … above that.

Sure, it’s possible to adjust challenges to try to scale them, but offense so outstrips defense outside of certain spells that it’s a lot of effort to find the right numbers to make combat feel similar to lower levels.

Now, the D&D player, used to magical abilities and whatnot is going to bring up that “save or die”, et al, change the nature of combat.  Conan had a built in save or die mechanic, though that seems rather similar to just dealing enough damage with a bardiche to one shot some dude with 8hp, anyway.  If anything, Conan might have done a good job of maintaining the feel of low level combat.

Anyway, back to L5R.  Higher rank play does feel different.  The mechanics of brutality align(?) with the focus on culture to encourage less mechanical play.  What’s the most common challenge that is actually challenging in my experience?  Trying to prove someone did something wrong who has higher status than the party and/or trying to conduct an investigation with someone of higher status impeding it.

Do other sorts of games scale?  Putting aside dungeon crawl boardgames, obviously videogames scale – see Tetris.  But, do CCGs scale?  The players are generally better the larger the event, but the game itself isn’t providing greater challenges unless you make up your own in solitaire play.

Is there a reason to get (mechanically) stronger?

A challenge fight anime has is that the power jumps are so massive that you lose any sense of character abilities.  If you go by dubbed Dragonball Z comments, whatever the official stats may be, Super Saiyan Goku has a power level of one billion.  Compare that with the 180,000 that he reads at earlier in the same arc, nevermind what a wuss everyone is when Vegeta first arrives on Earth.  Bleach’s Ichigo’s fights become far less interesting because it’s just massive energy attack after massive energy attack.

Stronger has issues.  It’s prone to “fighting ogres instead of orcs”.  Now, more interesting applications of abilities is interesting in the moment, but how often do characters “forget” their own abilities because they need to be challenged in their stories?

Is higher level play more fun?  I certainly never found higher rank play more fun in L5R, though I got into a discussion with one HoR player who said that higher rank play was what appealed to her.

From a mechanical perspective, I have the sense that when we were in the 8th level range in Conan, we had the best adventures, but was that because of the level or some other factor?  Low level felt too much like you lacked a variety of abilities or anything that distinguished you from another bardiche wielder.  High level was prone to ability paralysis by analysis because of more Feats.

Because this topic isn’t well rooted in my mindspace, I’m going to just keep bouncing around.  L5R combat – is it memorable to me?  I remember fights, but do I remember them because of what I did or because of how they fit in the narrative.  I generally believe the latter.  Sure, the time I did more than 100 wounds in one round using a war fan against oni was memorable from a mechanical standpoint, but that’s because it should be.  I don’t remember much in terms of how many enemies I slew or how much damage I generated in most L5R play.  Kidai finished off a variety of things because he often guarded for a while until there was a reason to finish something off.  But, that’s a general style of combat and not a measure of growing stronger.  If anything, Kidai got weaker over time relative to the rest of the party and the challenges they faced because I didn’t create an advanced school that let me do two attacks a round with a yumi.

The point, perhaps, of this post is that powering up doesn’t seem to have a lot of payoff.  Whether you just up the numbers for everything or just have sillier and sillier monsters to fight, the payoff of a good story so far outweighs the payoff of being more badass.

With Kidai, gaining 5 ranks of status was far less interesting than hanging out with a widow.  With the vaguely courtierish Jun, losing a rank of status to run off to Unicorn Lands was far more interesting than having two oni consider him the greatest threat in a party with rank 4/5/6 bushi and shugenja.  Ty captured some magic with a Shot In The Dark, while rarely having much murder-impact, except that one time the priest was behind a bunch of followers and really needed to fail a massive damage save.

I think this is where D&D style modules often lose me – the focus is on mechanical challenge.  I like the ones the most that have a town of NPCs.  I want to harp on this.  Even Stormbringer adventures felt more like there was something going on rather than a series of “rooms”.  L5R modules/adventures are much more about the plot than they are the mechanical challenges … in general.  (OTOH, I have gotten into the problem of mechanics not really mattering, and I’m sure I’ll go into it again.)

Is it optimal to just hover around low levels all of the time?  In L5R 3e/3r, I’d say absolutely.  But, I can see a progression in other games.  I just don’t see the progression in combat effectiveness mattering a whole lot.  Far more important for Jun to pick up two ranks of Cooking and two ranks of Shogi than in “If I activate this kata and spend a VP, then spend a VP on my attack in the full attack stance, then Honor Roll after I call 11 raises and fail, I should be attacking at 10k10+42 with 5 free raises on damage …”

Unlocking abilities is a thing.  Vampire has the huge problem that the most interesting abilities are insanely expensive, though it’s hardly the only game inflicted with such progressions.  It’s obvious my lack of experience actually playing campaign Champions, as you can always come up with the weirdest abilities right off the bat if you want, though PC progression does seem to tend towards expanding skills since they are so expensive and don’t tend to increase your 8d6 EB’s effectiveness.

To avoid the L5R well and to give some love to Conan play, I did a lot of things with Ty to try to broaden his abilities rather than just hack … and slash … better.  I felt like it had payoff, though I would have preferred not falling further and further behind on the kill-ometer by not just focusing on high yield abilities.

Anyway, does any of this matter?  I have my doubts.  The powergamers and buttkickers enjoy powering up, and I often play with their kind.  I’m certainly pro “spend XP to gain XYZ” and not opposed to “I’ll take this Feat at this level”.


Skullduggery

December 3, 2017

No, not a card of the weak entry.

Friday, played two games of L5R in like 3.5 hours.  That was not thrilling.  In fact, after we were done, the question was asked, “Do we enjoy playing this game?”

It’s unclear whether we do.  I continue to compare the game to chess.  Everything you do is a “move”.  While not impossible to come back from being behind, it can be draining to try to come back from behind – more so than the game already is.  A significant difference is that it’s not so clear when the game is essentially unwinnable, for one thing when is a game essentially unwinnable?  10% chance of winning?  5% chance?

I played Crab in the first game and my opponent conceded with something like one province broken.  I don’t think we broke a single province in Lion vs Crab in the first three rounds.  My first round Hida Kisada was still in play at the end, with both of us down to one card in hand at one point.  He sent three Lion, including Matsu Berserker and a dude with a Fine Katana in against my revealed province, Charged Toturi in, and I still won the conflict.  I got down to 5 Honor and, then, had like twice as much Honor as the Lion not long after, being around 14.

One of the big differences for me with playing this game versus the multiplayer CCGs I’ve been playing is that I enjoy far more when I’m doing well.  As long as I can do amusing things in multiplayer CCGs like … well, see below … I don’t need to be winning or end up winning to enjoy the game.  But, I find that L5R isn’t much fun when you feel like you are losing.  So, I’m not surprised that we called the game where his board would be clear and I’d still have Kisada in play for another round.

Second game, I played Unicorn vs Dragon.  This was very entertaining to me as it’s obvious that Unicorn should have a board of four characters – two courtiers, a shugenja, and a monk, with no cavalry.  That Unicorn should have three out of four guys honored.  That the attack on the stronghold can be 24 military with Cavalry Reserves in hand because a one cost dude is a 6/6 and because hardcasting Moto Horde is totally normal.  I am down on Ide Trader.  Just inclines me to jump through a bunch of hoops to trigger ability, though that’s what Unicorn is mostly like – spend lots of effort just to get back the cards and fate you spent trying to get cards and fate, while your smallish dudes can be easily stopped.

Still, I have cards coming, so I might find deck construction interesting enough.  Actually, thinking about it, L5R is being a lot like constructed Magic to me – fascinating from a deck construction standpoint, relatively unpleasant to actually play.

I don’t like chess.  I don’t like agonizing over decisions.

Saturday, we drove to Berkeley for a couple of games of V:TES.

Game 1:

Rick (POT/Pro high cap Amaranth) -> Ian (Mimir Will Survive) -> Mark (Lydia and Aus friends) -> Carol (!Malk SB) -> Alex (Ahrimanes) -> Brandon (Cube Toreador)

Brandon brought out Anneke, which led to Mark and Brandon “talking”.  I had lots of ways to deal with agg, so I often was blocking Baron Dieudonne, Adana, or Lydia.  Mimir did eventually get Disarmed as did Aksinya, but time ran out by the time the latter happened and Mimir came back to agg hands someone after being Disarmed.

I couldn’t put any forward pressure on, but that was a function of lacking ousting power in the deck.  I did Theft of Vitae someone, though.  Carol was doing fine until Mark got Talbot’s out and just murdered everyone.  Brandon lost a dude because of Adana and Mark wouldn’t help bloodhunt her, so Brandon blocked Lydia getting Preternatural Strength, and Anneke got diablerized.  Brandon got ousted.  And, that was it for the three hour game.

Game 2:

Brandon (as above) -> Ian (New Anarchs) -> Mark (Mata Hari does it all) -> Rick (Shatter the Gate/Parity Shift) -> Alex (as above)

Mark played Vaticination, looked at five players’ hands and discarded my Skullduggery.  You can have a lot more fun playing in NorCal.

I repeatedly blocked with Monica Chang because she was my most effective defense, playing Diversion at Thaum and being able to play Crawling Chamber.  I got out The Medic and Laura Goldman reasonably early.  Yes, that was my board.  Three vampires in play with a total of eight disciplines, where no two vampires shared a discipline.

Rick Shattered two Gates and got hit with Sensory Deprivation and, later, Pentex.  I called Reckless Agitation and ousted Mark, going to 20 pool.  Rick gave us shattered counters because nobody once tried to remove a Shatter the Gate.  Alex died.  I brought out Alabastrom, who in this deck Forced March.  We ran out of time, but, after time, I got Rick low and Brandon caused me to go to zero pool, where Rick Life Booned me and I tried to oust Rick which made it impossible for him to Parity Shift Brandon.  In a replay, if we were going to play it out, Rick and I probably talk about how to play out the endgame so that Brandon doesn’t just win.

I also Free States Ranted with a 3-cap to reduce two vampires to zero blood.  My Diversity got blocked when we all had shattered counters by not my predator.

So, V:TES can be played a number of different ways.  I was commenting to Brandon on the drive back that I enjoy it most when it avoids being completely noncompetitive and when it’s too competitive.  Would I ever play this deck in a tournament?  Of course not.  I’m just trying to play cards I’ve never played, like my entire Anthology Set crypt.

I had fun.  As I said recently, V:TES is something I can look forward to because it is so often enjoyable the way I play it.  The question is whether L5R can be played in a way where it’s actually fun for everyone.

If I didn’t have to do something soon, I’d probably post my decks since it’s unlikely I’d ever play either again.  Both decks need more ousting power, and the latter’s crypt may be funny, but it isn’t that interesting to me.  The Medic also needs way more Freak Drives than what I was running.  I should have played Skullduggery with him before it got discarded, but oh well.