November 13, 2017


V:TES.  Berkeley.

We wander.  Victory Point Cafe.  Power outage.

Game 1

EuroBrujah -> Anarch Aus/For -> Anthology Anarch Instantaneous Transformation -> Mata Hari Chimerstry -> Saulot IC

Uninspired at deckbuilding.  Have Anthology reprints.  Instantaneous Transformation + new vampires.  Use piles of unsorted cards.  90 card deck.  No offense.

No pressure on prey.  No pressure from predator; steals Gas-Powered Chainsaw.  Saulot helpless.  Grandprey and predator ousted.  Field Training with Salvador Garcia “fun”.

Game 2

Trem Bleed -> Aus/Dem/Vic -> Vidal Jarbeaux -> Santa & Serenna -> Baali

Santa suddens.  Predator bleeds.  I bounce.  VJ go away.  Wall up.  Baali broken.  Luc blocked.  Ousted.  Endgame.  Santa wins.

Game 3

Borrowed +1 STR CEL wall -> AAIT -> HoS Temptation -> Gangrelish with Dom -> Prince Kaymakli

Giotto multiacts.  CEL murders predator.  Club Illusion.  Temptations?!  Bleed prey out.  Flesh of Marble predator.  Kaymakli readyless; ousted.


Food:  Decent.

Hot chocolate:  Expensive, not sweet.

Ambiance:  Good.

Drive:  Bad.


L5R tournament.  Castro Valley.

Brunch:  country fried steak (okay), seasonal vegetables (not good), spaghetti (bad).

10 players.

Pickup – Scorpion.  Unfinished.  Five completed LCG games.

Unicorn vs. Scorpion

3-costs.  Hiroue.  Yunako.  Defensive.  Time.  Concede.

Andy (Dragon) vs. Unicorn

Reduce hand.  One break first three rounds.  Andy recovers hand.  Raitsugu duels.  One Honor.  Void = three Keeper Initiates; Voidless.  Unicorn fall.

Dragon vs. Unicorn

Tilt?  Threatless.  Three rounds – three Doomed Shugenja.  Time.  Concede.  Eight completed games; tournament five.

Play:  Weak.  Slow.

Deck:  Fourless/fiveless!  Weak or ultraweak?

Prizes:  Not weak.

Nostalgia:  Talked to Ed of old days.

Mood:  Frustrated.  Unable break provinces.  Unable outwide Dragon.  Opponents’ hands full.

Enjoy cards:  Cavalry Reserves.

Unpleasant:  Dueling.  Defensive play.

Overall:  Fine.


Desire:  Deckbuilding, tournaments.

Skillfulness:  Lacking.  Improve?

Decklists:  Improbable.


Gamehole Con 2017

November 9, 2017

Where to begin?  Oh, probably with some unexciting stuff.  I do have some enthralling material later, but let’s get some minutia out of the way.

It sounds so simple.  Take two days off from work.  Fly out to Madison on Thursday, fly back on Sunday.  No commitments other than True Dungeon.  Take L5R to play when bored and take Traveller to show off.

I kind of forget what it’s like to fly East.  Set alarm for like 3AM to get up and finish packing before getting to airport and being delayed half an hour because of undownloaded paperwork.  Set alarm for 4:30AM after Daylight Saving Time ends, in the dark, at 2:30AM, to head back.  Sure, we could sleep in twice, but, then, there’s the “what the hell are we going to do with all of these tokens we just acquired?” phase of the con.

Everyone else, even Californians who flew out, seemed to really like GHC.  I didn’t.  Oh, I don’t think it’s the con’s fault.  I think it’s the city’s fault, in part.  The convention center is isolated, so you can’t just run over to a restaurant and run back between games.  The food trucks and stalls didn’t have bad food, just food I didn’t want (well, the smoothie that was $2 more than it should have been was desirable tasting).

The hotel was loud – first night seemed like a helicopter flew right over the building.  Okay, that’s unusual and hard to control for.  Next two nights could hear our neighbors talking clearly, and I’m sure they could hear us talking clearly.  Doesn’t it get cold in the North?  Would think sturdier buildings.

Our one opportunity to go out for food was okay (if expensive).  Always amusing to go to Wisconsin for your Laotian food.  I wonder if the pork tod mun would have been better as beef, and the beef Lao paradise meat would have been better as pork.  Might have fixed the texture oddities the two appetizers had.  The main dishes were good.  Who doesn’t like deep fried noodles?  I could get even further off topic by talking about ratings for food as I travel, but let’s get around to gaming at some point.

We played a game of L5R Thursday night.


Three True Dungeon runs and True Grind.  Since there were only two dungeons, a lot of stuff just runs together.

I think I played monk on the first run, cleric on the second, ranger on the third.  Did play ranger in Grind.

The first two runs weren’t terribly notable, except some general views on the changes from Gen Con.

I didn’t like Dancing at Gen Con.  I loved Moongate at Gen Con.  I actually wasn’t terribly fond of Moongate at GHC and thought Dancing was respectable at GHC.  Switching out one of the puzzles in Dancing improved it.  Sure, the fights were still not great, one of which was actually ridiculously pointless on normal and hardcore because of how little damage was dealt.  Moongate suffered from having too little combat.  And, while I understand why it was used and we even somehow solved it on our third run of Moongate, it had a puzzle I hate … not hated … hate.  Plus, it had a puzzle I was over with the second time I ran Moongate at Gen Con.

Then, came run three.  We played hardcore, with six players, three of which lacked much experience, and two of which didn’t have hardcore level builds.  What’s a hardcore level build?  Hard to quantify outside of my view that you should never play hardcore with less than 30 hit points and shouldn’t play nightmare with less than 40.  If we had a full party, probably would have been more enjoyable.

So, we got to the second fight and we got wrecked.  Two players were a round away from dying.  I took 42 damage.  I figured we were doomed at that point, even though we got through the room.  Look, the point of challenge level is to be challenging, not to be “well, you asked for it”.  The fight didn’t scale based on our party size, and I still contend that it should due to how it worked.  If it worked differently, then, sure, don’t adjust it for underadventurered parties.

Now, we did the exact opposite of what you are supposed to do in another room.  After that amusing fiasco, I knew we were going to get wiped fast in room seven.  In some ways, that was a good thing.  For, you see, in none of the other six runs were Andy and I challenged.  Now, some of that had to do with knowing the solutions to many of the puzzles from Gen Con.  A lot of that had to do with my whining about playing a loser paladin who only ran around with 60 hit points, unlike my 77 hit point monk.  Of the seven runs, I think three were normal and four hardcore.  When we played with nightmare level players, we also had party members who could never be relevant at nightmare except as victims.

So, we were challenged and end room wiped.  Something else happened during this run.  I used consumables.  I never use consumables because that’s like burning money, in a way.  Not only did I hand out potions, but I actually used a Mystic Mushroom to bring someone back to life.  That’s right.  I finally used a token to bring someone back to life.  That’s actually more like what TD should be when you play a combat run.

There’s an argument that the reason to rein in the Eldritch healing bonus is because it makes runs boring with how easily clerics/druids mass heal parties.  Having played various ultrarare builds on normal difficulty, I totally get the idea of not feeling like there’s anything at stake, anymore.

We went to play Grind.  Before I get into some facets of that experience, I’ll note that while talking to Andy about how the last run went, I realized that I had completely forgotten:  I was psychic and could heal 4 hit points; 5th level ranger has a healing spell; I was wearing both a Linked Shirt of Healing and Pants of Blisswalk to get bonuses from Andy’s healing spells.  I may also have forgotten Icecrag healing at times.

Then, I failed to murder a puppy.

In True Grind, we played with six players who didn’t know anything about what TG is like, which is reasonable as I didn’t know what TG was like until … until … I played it.  More problematic may have been that they really didn’t have the tokens to be playing Grind.

Though, our bigger problem wasn’t combat effectiveness … no matter how much the giant head and neck of the puppy evaded my +18 to hit with my +2 Keen Slayer Longbow.  Our biggest problem was indecisiveness.  At Gen Con, with a similar plot, the group made decisions, mostly to fight, and it was good.  With this group, we kept not knowing whether to fight or not.

It was amusing.  Besides missing every single attempt to put an arrow in a puppy’s head, I did get devoured by a Gazebo – the just punishment for not being a “I guess I Mad Evoker’s Charm my Lightning Storm and Ring of Spell Storing my Charm of Spell Swappinged Magic Missile” wizard.

Worst ranger ever.  I think it only fitting I never play ranger again.  “Oh, crap, I had spells!?!”  I didn’t even remember to cast Barkskin, which I talked about doing before we started playing.

If you’ve survived to this point, let’s say I’ll go over what I thought of playing different classes after I explain Saturday.


It is pretty sweet to have transmuting when you want to transmute.  We got 50 treasure pull bags and got mostly junk, which is to be expected.  We did finally get an ultrarare in like our sixth bag, maybe fifth bag.  We tried to put together trade item transmutes to cut weight.

For, you see, TD is really all about reducing how many tokens you have.  TD is all about cutting weight.  As Leftcoastians, we fly.  Now, if United or Southwest, we can get by with weight.  But, even so, I had to correct the counter person that I could have two overweight bags at my status level.  If you are kind of dim and fail to comprendez the problem, plastic tokens with metal inside of them weigh a lot, especially when their owners aren’t too organized and bring extra stuff to try to get rid of it only to realize that you constantly get more stuff you want to get rid of and don’t have time to because you need to get back home before work starts.

Four runs, including the last Dancing run.  I played paladin in our first run, our only run organized ahead of time through the forums – one of our better runs … hmmmmm … could there be a connection?  Then, I played monk, bard, and, finally, paladin.

Beginning with the ending, because save the best for last, our last run was so easy that I guarded someone squishy and never received any damage on a combat run at hardcore.  See below for more on playing a paladin.

Will get to playing a bard in a moment.

I found monk to be rather pleasant.  Of course, I was playing a ranged monk, as all “geniuses” do.  See … no, screw it, let me talk about ranged builds now.

Ranged Builds

I was told that in Kirk’s DMing class/seminar on Thursday night that the most common or one of the most common mistakes by room DMs is using melee stats for people using ranged weapons.  I believe, though I’m old and increasingly senile, on every single one of my seven TD runs (not my TG run, of course), there was at least one room that the DM used my melee stats when I never used a melee weapon.  Yup, in seven runs, including playing cleric(!!) and monk(!!), I played seven ranged builds.

I’m trying to get increasingly efficient with tokens and it’s just really easy to use the same high Dex builds for every class.

On some runs, it was particularly egregious how my attack mode was ignored.  In the only challenging run, my melee stats were used in the room that doomed us.  Look, I’m into being a sidekick.  I’m good with others murdering puppies better than I.  But, when I’m needed to impale fae spiders, I kind of want to be impaletastic.

I’m aware enough to call out that someone should use my ranged stats on a challenging run.  My bard can bury my strength so deep that I get -2 to hit and the DM realizes that can’t be right.  (Btw, when I played bard with a STR of 6, I was also hauling around a 30 pound backpack for 8 hours of upright gaming.)  But, what about other poor schleps who don’t scream bloody puppymurder?


It was not a bad experience.  It was a learning experience.  What we learned is that there’s not really any reason for us to go to GHC again.  We could have been at the L5R Worlds, at a HoR con.  All we really did was play True events and it was repetitive and below great.  Yeah, I’m cool with the idea of getting to know other forumites better, etc.  I just don’t need this particular setup to do more of the same.



I don’t want to play bard again.  Maybe it would work in a run where I knew everyone.  But, it’s not the awkwardness of singing that sapped my enthusiasm while I was playing, it was that bard has too many options.  I could lore, I could bardsong, I could attack, I could scroll, I could cast.  Just too many options where I’m not that into any one of the options.

Andy’s girlfriend did ask about highlights of the experience.  I did eventually remember that having like four attacks succeed … in one round … because of bardsong was a highlight.


I only played cleric on a run where challenge was so irrelevant that nobody even bothered skill checking me.  Hello, why do we play the game?  We play the game to pass skill checks through being suprageniusy at memorization.

I studied beads.  I never studied beads before.  I … I … *weep* … never got to prove I could identify a bead.  My soul has been crushed.

I hated playing cleric, anyway.  As I figured would happen, I was just constantly in “do you need any healing?” mode, which is tiresome.  I want spells that can burn any puppies who blink at me.


Good times.  Originally, I pegged monk as one of the classes I would never want to play.  Then, I won an auction for a crossbow, and I realized it would be perfect to be a crossbowing monk with saves greater than that of God.  I didn’t go full overboard saves with my GHC build, but I was pleased with my +14/+5 ranged monk build, playing either normal or hardcore.  On hardcore, maybe I switch into Bracers of Supreme Archery for more damage, but whatever.  I’m not sure how, but I was doing like 21 damage with some shots.  Not sure where bonuses were coming from that would have got me there.

Maybe I create some sort of thematic monk character to get into character.  Or, I just impale things with bolts instead of useless puppymurderfailing arrows.


Two runs, two not remotely in danger scenarios.  But, I did learn one thing.  Every DM I had avoided attacking me or my ward(s).  I’m pretty senilesure that nobody I guarded and not my own personage were ever targeted for attacks.  That’s something that maybe someone can abuse in a meta way.  It’s also a bunch of crap.  The point of having abilities is using them.

The irony was that I was playing a paladin build that didn’t have an unusually good AC and had relatively poor hit points.  I was guarding the ranger on one of the runs, too.


Dead to me.  Devoured and fertilized in the great gazebo planes.


Not a single wizard or elf wizard play.  That was good.  Fighters are mindnumbing to me, rogue would only be tolerable in Grind, druid was so close but I didn’t have a build built because I don’t expect to be able to play druid, barbarian is just too brutal for sensibilities except maybe on nightmare where I can unleash.


Finally, I can get someone to go to Origins.  Now, I can play in the V:TES NAC with TD as … a time competitor?!?

Living Legends

October 28, 2017

I’m sure the most fascinating thing I could write about is how Arrowverse shows generally improved after the season openers, especially Flash.  No?  How about about how I’m catching up on season 10 of Doctor Who and I was quite interested in things up until the terrible parts 2 and 3 of the monk trilogy?  Nyet?

What about the Shadowfist Kickstarter that is moving slow?  I guess at some point, games just die.  I certainly feel like there aren’t enough people actually playing to generate enough backers to make it happen.

Okay, let’s talk about something that will stir your soul, well, at least if part of your soul is floppy.

Last Sunday, I played in a L5R LCG tournament.  Single core, which almost everyone is done with, so it’s kind of irrelevant how the decks were built.

I played Lion, not because I’m so into … [redacted].  But, because the first thing anyone should ever learn in card game play is aggro, beatdown, 3 to the dome – one.  Two, Kitsu Spiritcaller could have supplied brokenness in a single core environment to a degree higher than the benefit in a 3x core.  Yup, I was trying to build a good deck.

In preparation for the tournament, I had to deal with family stuff, so I didn’t prepare.

Round 1:


Round 2:

Play against Kenneth with Phoenix/Scorpion.  Single core tech?  Adept of Shadows is a body (not that kind of body, well, who knows?).  I had body problems in the end.  This proved rather important as, when we were getting short on time, I conceded to the overwhelming power of his two Wandering Ronin with fate on them.

I felt I learned some things.  In this game.  My first ever tournament game.  My second ever game.

I felt I learned that I’m not an expert at this game and not only made some serious decision mistakes but forgot card abilities at times, including the Imperial Favor pump.  Here’s the thing as the real world intrudes upon the better world of gaming – I said to our latest hire in my department “I don’t care if people are stupid.  I care if they don’t get less stupid.” or something similar.  Point being, I believe learning is important.  I still make terrible Shadowfist decisions, as evidenced by Thursday night’s play, but I think I make decent decisions within our meta a reasonable amount of time.

I learned that Wandering Ronin is like the best card ever … when the only two characters your opponent can play from their dynasty flop is two Miya Mystics.  Actually, given the format, admittedly an irrelevant format at this point, Wandering Ronin is actually a house.  It can deal with conflict type flipping, which, of course, I ran into playing against Phoenix under the stronghold.

I had 13 fate when I conceded.  It was an amusing game and a key part of my, yes, committing to L5R, so now I’m some fanatic who must pledge his reincarnatable spirit to a single clan as well as a weirdo dice chucker.  I was at 5 honor, with three broken provinces and two cards left in my dynasty deck, though, we could have theoretically survived the round … Kenneth was at 2 honor.  Yup, typical Lion vs. Phoenix – see if you can somehow not honor suicide yourself.  Btw, I never drew one of the Assassinations in this game.  I’ll get to honor more, soon.

Last two cards of my deck were Toturi and Matsu Berserker (useless due to playing against Phoenix).  My Spiritcaller got face down broken pretty early on.

Kenneth’s average card bid?  I figure about 1.2.  I lost honor multiple times bidding 2.  Welp, that’s Shadow- … er … L5R.

Round 3:

Erinn was also playing Lion but went with … hmmm … I should have written this earlier in the week, I actually can’t remember.

My intention when putting together the deck was to play the fate game.  Figure Lion lose on the conflict card side so just manage fate better and have more permanents with better abilities.  I somehow didn’t really play that game in my first tournament game ever.  I did in this game.  At the point where I could Stand Your Ground to keep Honored General in play with multiple other dudes or the round I started with like 5 dudes in play to his zero, I figured I had the game.

We were running low on time because this game plays slow, especially with people who – get this – play tournaments without dozens of games under their belt.  I set up to break third and attack stronghold in last round, Assassinationing his attempt to win a conflict on the round because, oddly, neither one of us was that low on honor.  His average bid?  Maybe about 1.2.

I did cheat to a degree in that I had two Favorite Grounds and a Spyglass on a dude and drew three cards, but I ended the game with like 9 cards in hand to his 3, where his two Ornate Fans didn’t help defend in my military conflict against his stronghold.

What did I learn?  Putting fate on Wandering Ronin is like totally broken …  I should try this play in triple core and see how it fares.  Sarcasm aside, I hated flopping Miya Mystics most of all.  Otomo and Seppun consistently screw me not just because I often don’t have the Favor but … new paragraph for emphasis time …

So much of what I read was how dashes were often better than zeroes as it meant people couldn’t hook you or duel you or whatever.  Well, dueling is not a thing in single core in that I don’t know if a single duel took place during the tournament.  What is a thing is conflict type swapping.  What is a thing is chumping to preserve honor.  I would love for the Imperials to have zeroes so that when I can’t attack with them, they can actually do something besides stand for Favor.

I’m now somewhat katana shy on dashers.  In fact, I’m more excited by 1/1’s for 1 due to dorkiness.  I can murder provinces if I can just get someone to attack.  I can chump block.  Is this relevant for triple core?  For real constructed next month or the month after when something besides a tiny card pool exists?

Maybe.  Actually, bunch of deck ideas already for me, including the all neutral, all the time deck, the Unicorn political honor runner, Dragon swarm, etc.

Round 4:

We didn’t have a round four.  We did have a raffle.  With three tickets in the raffle, I managed to fail to get any of 20 or so raffled prizes in a 15 player tournament.  I think one other player, with possibly a worse record, therefore fewer tickets, shared this honor.

That contributed to a general feeling I had.  I played all of two games.  I lost a game I felt like I could have won if I had made any of a number of decisions better.  I blew out my opponent in my only real win.  I got no meaningful participation prize.  It was just a generally disappointing and frustrating experience.

And, yet, I still decided to go get more cards.

I find that neither V:TES nor Shadowfist metagames matter to me.  Not that V:TES doesn’t have metagames for various tournaments, they just aren’t predictable enough for me to take advantage of them.

Trying to be competitive, trying to build good decks, having card analysis and metagame analysis theoretically give me an edge, playing more games with more people – these are good things.

Okay, so what’s wrong with L5R?

Already went into how easy it is to get honored out of the game.  My concern is that honor will continue to suck, possibly becoming even worse.  Think about it.  In order for a deck to win with 25 honor, not currently realistic, it has to be able to deal with taking at least some honor hits.  In order for a deck to honor murder you, you have to not be rising towards 25 honor.  Sure, FFG can print swingy honor effects so that honor murder and honor happytimes can fight with each other and somehow have a meaningful game, though I doubt it will happen – I think one or the other has no chance.  But, that’s not the biggest problem.  The biggest problem is what happens when one of these extremes fights the middle.  If I can gain like 5 honor a round to make 25 plausible, the deck in the middle which is playing enough honor gain to fight the lose 3 honor a round decks can’t really do anything.  Well, that’s overstating.  They may not be able to do anything.  It is possible to create card pools where players can metagame.

But, how does the middle deck deal with both extremes in a meta?  An honor murder deck isn’t viable unless it can murder an honor runner.  Natural meta reaction is to give up on honor murder if everyone becomes enamored with running, which is its own problem.  But, let’s say that honor murder remains viable.  Then middlers have to deal with even more race to the bottom.

It might have been interesting if the range for honor was like 0 to 15 and clans started at like 8.  The range from 0 to 25 is vast and calls for especially swingy effects.  I guess this is a serious, ultracompetitive CCG, so players adapt and run enough cards to not have the extremes win before you can break dance, plus the extremeys run enough break dancing to have game.

Other than the honor thing, and the offensive tournament rules (apparently standard for FFG because … I have no idea why companies hate so much on players playing things that are supposed to be fun), I don’t really have a problem with the game, based on my vast and near infinite play experience.  Maybe I’ll hate more later.

Because other topics aren’t likely to generate enough inspiration for their own posts because somebody is the antipithy master, a quick comment about RPG modules.

I keep looking at my D&D, AD&D modules from like the 80s, and I am mostly pained.  I realized I despise the layout.  Contrast with HoR mods.  HoR mods have a story with admittedly limited rails.  These old mods have dungeons with treasure and monsters just incomprehensibly allocated to provide challenges largely of three types:  traps, beef fights, special ability fights.  I guess I can comment more on things like UK1 some day, but I just wanted to throw out that I actually kind of like I2, Tomb of the Lizard King.  Oh, I have no idea whether it works mechanically, but it feels like there’s something more than rolling on random dungeon tables for monsters and treasures.  Ironically, for the serious dungeon crawling group, it has a major fail in that it isn’t remotely clear how you move to the end of the adventure.  I suppose a real DM will notice and put stairs on level 2 going down.

May have been something else, but I think that’s good for now.  Got to finish up my Dragon deck, figure out what splash to do for the third of my test decks.  Of course, if those three are my test decks, what’s “my” deck going to be?  Crab?  Crane is too … Craney.  Phoenix may be too Phoenixy.  You know, Unicorn does actually have a few cards I like.  Courtier/monk, honor runner it is.


October 21, 2017

I’m not sure why it’s surprising given that I’ve been on the periphery of L5R VCG play to a degree.  I guess not to enough of a degree to be impacted.

L5R CCG players are way, way, ultraway more devoted to their clans than anything I’ve ever seen with the RPG.  Sure, there are people who play the same clan all of the time, though even people I know who love to play the same clan over and over still play other clans.  But, I have never seen the obsession with a clan, where someone feels a personal stake in their clan.

But, then, while I may have said that having players have impact in the storyline was something that set L5R apart, I only ever heard about results much later.  V:TES storyline events were often disappointing as people chose poorly in what clans they wanted to do even better.  I’d imagine I would have hated the oL5R environment not just for how much people didn’t care about the big picture but also because of the bounties, the miscellaneous FUing to others, and whatnot.

Why doesn’t the RPG see the same thing?  Of course, some players play both.  Is it the lack of ability to impact storyline?  Is there more of it in the HoR LARPs that I rarely play in?  Even in HoR political interactives, I don’t feel the obsession with a particular clan, though, of course, there’s the hatred of clans.

Being a hater, I get that.

I have done some development on a Failures of the Five Rings campaign where multiple clans get obliterated.  If this sounds worrisome to you, embrace tranquility as the families survive to join other clans in ways that I’m sure will grossly offend fanatics.  Don’t worry, this paragraph is getting to the point.  The only clan I see having any purpose in Rokugan is the Crab, yet Crab is one of the clans that cease to exist … because logic.  I increasingly am cognizant of how much I like Crab … since they have the only job in Rokugan of the various clans that needs doing.  But, I’m not so attached that I would feel put out by them getting what they deserve for being such incredible failures (any time drama is needed in history).

Btw, the clans that don’t do anything besides make things worse – Dragon and Phoenix – are freed up to have to actually be responsible for providing value to the Empire, but I’m sure the Failures of the Five Rings idea is a topic for another time.

I’m obviously not clan loyal.  I’m willing to various degrees to play anything besides Scorpion.  In the RPG, I’ll even play Spider just for the absurdity.  I don’t care which of the six clans I splash in my conflict deck.  Speaking of which, for tomorrow’s single core tournament at Game Kastle, I ran through all of the five options for what splash to make in my deck trying to see if I could find something I thought was better than what I ran in the one game I’ve ever played of the LCG.

There are actually minor clans I’m not in favor of.  Boar-ing.  Fly away Dragonfly.  Back in the box Ox.  Forsake the Snake (though, this is more because I feel they have so little development that it’s hard to feel like they ever existed).  I’m no go on Otomo most of the time, which is why Otomo Kidai was that much funnier.  So, so fun-ny.

On the other hand, I’m game loyal.  I don’t die on games, they die on me.  I never invested in Netrunner or Dragonball Z (or 7th Sea or Buffy or Hyborian Gates, Tempest of the Gods, Guardians, Highlander, etc.), so my having dispensed with my meager card totals for those games didn’t strike me as giving up.  At this point, I’m not committed to the LCG.  I’m really curious as to whether tomorrow will be fun or not.  Also, where single core makes for awful deckbuilding, since there isn’t any for Dynasty Decks, triple core now also looks to me to be awful, as the choices are far, far too marginal.

Now, there is such a thing as subtle mindblowing, like having your courtier run around with a weapon skill of 10 at, um, Rank 1.  But, the current cardpool just forces so many Dynasty choices where people are still running Wandering Ronin and Miya Mystic, that the whole point of CCGs – customization – feels like it’s waiting until the long, long … wait, correction, erelong of November.

There are good reasons for me to get into the LCG.  I don’t think I’ve played a two-player CCG competitively in the last 15 years.  I know the genre.  I have opinions on the IP.  The game seems pretty well designed at this point.  I might be way more enthusiastic about deckbuilding for a game where deckbuilding matters more than it does in your typical multiplayer CCG affair.

There are two reasons I haven’t already preordered six copies of every card, which is what I consider a basic buy in to a 3CL CCG.  One, I’m not sure I will enjoy playing the game.  Two, I get concerned about the fanatical “loyalty” that the game seems to engender, not because everyone is as myopic in person as some people sound on forums, but because there’s an element of repetitiveness in play that concerns me.  Also, will the management of the game suffer from players caring too much about factions?

More than anything else, to me, CCGs are about variety.  I manage to somehow even find it in Ultimate Combat!, which had all of one expansion.  If you know you are just going to play against Scorp Dishonor, Crab Dishonor, Crane Dishonor, Phoenix Dishonor, … [okay, maybe the game is a bit off in terms of design at this time, hopefully not be so easy to win through a mechanic that is so negative] … every time, bor-r-r-ing.

Maybe, my doubts are overstated.  Didn’t I achieve enlightenment when it came to Shadowfist?

Just play it, Willamette!

I don’t care that Shadowfist has all sorts of problems.  Why should I care about L5R?  Can’t I just be in it for the groupies, the free airfares to Chiang Mai, and the gold medal when it becomes an Olympic event?

I’m hunting you, Black Widow.  If you get this reference, well, maybe you game too much.

Art doesn’t offend me.  Some of the mechanics are really, really similar to Traveller, which I’m not surprised by.  Just like many early CCGs were similar to Magic, veteran floppers have experienced a lot of the same mechanics and draw upon that experience.

Bidding may get tiresome over time.  I said in a post “I think I mentioned something about auction games in a post this year.  If I haven’t, I need to.”  That was 2015, by the way.  What I may have never said is that I like auction boardgames.  I’m not sure why.  I don’t love every auction boardgame and I’m sure there are ones I don’t like.  Ra is an auction game that I don’t care for, for instance.  But, the big problem with auction games is that some people are really, really bad at them.  Now, in a two-player game, if you bid better than your opponent, you win and move on.  Wait, that’s not better.  Bad games are bad games.

So, I guess I’ll see how bidding works out.  It may be enjoyable.  I have some doubts, though, because one of the aspects of the LCG that I feel presently is that it’s too harsh a game.  Just like how every single move in chess matters, I feel like every decision in the LCG is important, and that’s not appealing to me.

I like goofing off when I play games.  Multiplayer CCGs are inherently forgiving in that you have other players to beat down the clear leader.  Two-player CCGs are all about deck construction and/or in play decisions.  That’s not a bad thing, but, curiously, perhaps, I actually care about deck construction.  Curious because I think it’s relatively unimportant in the two CCGs I play the most often these days – V:TES and Shadowfist.  This is why not playing a two-player CCG is so counteryeah for me – I like building decks.  I like seeing how my decks play.

If I can gain a substantial advantage through deck construction, then the pressure to play optimally is reduced.  Yet, L5R might be so balanced at the moment (outside of Unicorn) that all of the pressure is in guiding the deck to victory through *gasp* decisions.  So many decisions.  No “Hmmm.  My 16/4 triple striker attacks your soul.” but lots of “Gee, I really want this ring, but I need another Fate from that ring, and I have to account for conflict type switching or Display of Power BS.”

So, in a way, the LCG isn’t ready for what will appeal to me.  I’m really interested in deckbuilding and care far, far less about managing the play.  This isn’t something new.  I kind of approach Magic this way, Babylon 5 could be this way, Wheel of Time (especially building Children of the Light decks versus playing their neg-game) might have been rather this way, though I did enjoy playing my decks.

So, sometime in the near future, probably hear about me pulling the trigger on getting into the LCG or not.  I mean, pretty much as soon as I have three copies of every November expansion pack, I’m pretty much going to be a lifer, as that’s what happened with every CCG besides, arguably, Magic, though I never had complete Magic sets.

In some side news, we played two, five-player Shadowfist games Thursday and five-player is losing its appeal to me.  The correct way to play, in my mind, is to take someone out of the game and go hard with collaboration with an ally.  Instead, I tend to screw around because it’s more fun to let people actually play the game, but it’s still likely to get unbalanced situations where our four-player games usually have more interesting interaction.  I guess it’s not worse than three-player play or other possibilities, but it seems to have become too … vicious.


Flopping – Part One

October 14, 2017

I don’t do pithy posts.  It’s not just having something gaming related to think about, it’s about having enough to drone on for an hour plus about.  I had two stronger ideas inspired by recent events that lack any mechanical connection but have a thematic connection that may not be obvious, so my intent is to follow up with the second post soon, while I’m still inspired.

First up, let’s talk CCGs.

Shadowfist Kickstarter is live:

Am I excited?  No, not really.  Seems like it should have come out last year, when you could have had a Fire Monkey theme and appeal to all of those icky people who like monkeys.  [Should be noted that I only hate monkeys in Shadowfist and possibly other places, like RL.  L5R Monkeys are win.]

But, I like playing Shadowfist.  Building decks has gotten harder because I only get inspired after playing and don’t immediately start building decks after our Thursday night sessions.  When I go through cards before Thursday night sessions, I’m like “Where are all of the cards I thought of building decks around after last time?”

I think there’s some good in how the KS was done – always offer a high end option.  I think there’s some lack – offer more than one high end option.  I’m also not interested in any of the cards on the main page.  I have no particular feelings about resource edges.  I guess it encourages more Thunder on Thunder plays, a not so well designed card that nevertheless fills an important hoser function.

Speaking of Shadowfist, we played Thursday as we often do, and we had one reasonably entertaining game.

Ian (Squad Faceoff) -> Joren (Monarch States) -> Don (Ascended Discard w/ Punishments) -> Justin (Hand Swords)

I bring out Black Helicopter Squad and Hit Squad after putting Waterfall Sanctuary in play.  On turn two, I put “broken” Gardens in play behind Waterfall Sanctuary.  On turn three, I put Weeping Willows out.

Over an hour later, the Mobius Gardens never received any damage.  *shrug*

The Waterfall Sanctuary was never revealed the entire game!!

The Hit Squad I played on turn one was hanging around on the turn I won!!!

Miguel!?!  See, I use cards responsibly and people don’t go insane no matter how much they complain about Hit Squad being used against them.

Even though my Jan Zvireci got used multiple times, mostly against Don’s discard deck, never took damage or left play.  My Sacred Wigwam did get seized!!  I considered this a key to my victory.

I could not keep a second location in play as every attempt to have multiple columns ended up with people attacking me and every turn of sitting on one location saw other people getting attacked because they had lots of Fighting in play and could often win on their turns.  Justin had like three NFSSs out for quite a while.  His Rice Paddies got seized by Joren, then by Don.  I never got my Sacred Wigwam back.  By not being close to victory and not having much of a site structure or anything particularly threatening offensively in play, I had the ability to regulate towards victory then pick up the pieces after hitters kept getting stopped.

I, of course, could retire this deck undefeated.  Or, I could play it again and hope to play the various cards that never saw play.

CCGs.  So, there’s this new FCG based on magic samurai.  There’s a tournament coming up, single core with roles, I plan on playing in.  Single core just seems awful with how you have no real ability to customize your 30 Dynasty Deck, defeating what I am excited about – deck construction for a CCG.

I love Influence (not Shadowfist Influence, which is terrible).  Given the tiny card pool, it still has me thinking about stuff.  I don’t love the tiny card pool for Dynasty cards.  Now, I hear people may “quit” [internet verbiage for whine about nothing in a way that just calls attention to how more important you are than people who make their financial decisions without saying “look at me”] because of the release schedule to have more cards to work with, but more cards kind of necessary or the game play is going to be really stale.

Am I committed to getting into this version, unlike the version I thought was a terrible game?  Nope.  But, I may end up committed soon.  I almost got into the VCG.  Now, I have read a review of the LCG that sounded very relevant – I’m not interested in “chess”.  I enjoy slam, bam, thank you ma’am two-player play like UC!.  I enjoy two hour dice-rolling fests of two-player play like WoT.  I enjoy a variety of multiplayer CCGs for their humorously inconclusive interactions.  Do I really want to get owned repeatedly by people who think harder than I do at card games?

On the other hand, if I can afford buying True Dungeon ultrarares, a new CCG is hardly going to be much of a financial drain, and it does give me options for things to do at cons or even maybe get back to having more regular card nights at game stores.

I’ve already created my personal ban list …  Oh, by the way, I’ve yet to actually play a single game of L5R LCG.  I haven’t even watched people play.  I’m knowledgeing myself entirely by [gag] reading rules and play guide and by reading from the interwebs.

Of course, at this point, it might be a tentative ban list.  I might sacrifice my personal honor.

Actually, I can only think of two clans I’d want to play at this time – Crab and Lion.  Crab, of course, is the only clan that has any reason to exist in Rokugan.  Lion appeals to my interest in aggro.  Oh, sure, I like Lion in the RPG, but that doesn’t translate well in my experience, i.e. what I like in RPGs and CCGs tends to diverge quite a bit.  Take Dominate – hate it in the RPG, only eschew it in the CCG because it’s a crutch.

Dragon has lame attachment theme, maybe get interesting when monkage expands.  Phoenix has lost interest to me due to RPG play …  I mean, I guess there’s some connection.  Just not interested in shugenja.  Would be interesting to have a Phoenix focused RPG campaign to make Phoenix less extreme between the boring and the psychotic.

Crane may be acceptable in CCG play where they are unacceptable in RPG play.  Unicorn suffers in CCG play from being terrible.  In theme.  In play, sounds like they suck, but I haven’t played the game, yet, so that’s just hearsay.  Unicorn reminds me of Jammers.  They will probably have cards I want to play, but I will need to dodge what they are intended to do because what they intend to do is antifun.

Imperials may have some possibilities.  I’m a hopin’ FFG doesn’t screw minor clans.  If anything could keep me wanting to play the CCG, it’s minor clan play.  Besides, gots to do what everyone does and make broken Monkey Clan stuff.  What might kill me is what they do with Shadowlands.  Shadowlands is both a great boon to the L5R world and a huge bane to rationality.

So, Shadowfist is chuggin’ to some degree.  I like that I can still play it and new cards may not be bad (unlike V:TES, where I think new sets generally make the game worse since they don’t expand on what should be expanded upon and expand on stuff that gets more annoying over time).  L5R is a possible into the 違反.

Flop, flop, flop.  Maybe I can get some V:TES play in some time.  Oh, and, of course, Traveller is the best FCG I have actually played.

As Otomo Kidai may have said a time or two back when he was Usagi Kidai, “I’ll keep my ears floppy.”

Anti Death And Dismemberment

October 7, 2017

Well, dismemberment isn’t really the likely result.  Disintegration is probably more likely.

So, it’s not that I haven’t looked at, skimmed, and even read my AD&D 1e books and modules in the last 35+ years.  It’s that they have low penetration because I’ve used so little of the game besides Polymorph Self followed by Invisibility in order to polymorph into a Storm Giant and backstab other giants.  You know, compared to what you see in mods for optimal PC play, that actually seems reasonable.

The material is inspiring to some degree.  Oh, not much of it.  Most of it is boring as hell.  Some of it is amusing if not quite to the same level as Temple of Set lunacy.  Treasure locations and types are particularly bizarre.

Just to be positive because everyone knows I’m all about the positive, monsters, magic items, and locations are what I find most inspiring.  I realize the intent of towns in mods is to provide adventure, which is why half of every town seems to be evil rather than just being people trying to live their lives in worlds where monsters can attack at any time from any direction.  Still, towns are just so much more interesting than dungeons.  Even when towns are treated like dungeons, where every location has stats and treasure notes.

While lots of monsters are absurd/silly, there are actually evocative monsters.  Something about ghouls.  I can’t stand level drain (should be attribute loss of some sort), but other undead are also more interesting.  Not so much liches, at least not when a mod just throws a lich into a side passage.

Almost all DMG magic items just come across as insanely gamey, but, that’s probably because AD&D is a gamistfest of gamistness.  Meanwhile, mod magic items or the odd stuff NPCs might have are more akin to the distinctive items folks in books might actually have.

Segue time …

I tried to think of what magic items book characters run in series I have taken seriously.  Stormbringer is a special case, but, sure, magic swords are a thing.  Elric even runs around with a magic ring, gets a magic shield at some point, and whatever.  Actually, magic items are rather important in Moorcock’s other stuff.

I can think of cases where characters have special equipment that isn’t magical but is, uh, special.  Jon-Tom has his staff and his cape.  Actually, when trying to think of what sort of magic items are more likely (ignoring stuff like Arabian Nights’ style stories which tend more towards fairy tale style), cloaks are it.  Cloaks totally get play.  Corum had a magic cloak.  Invisibility is super relatively common.

I have ideas I’m putting down for an adventure.  Magic cloak for PC totally works for me in ways that so many other things don’t.  I could buy a staff (not a wand or a rod, unless it was Egyptian style scepter or the like), I guess.  Weapons, to a degree.  Sting was fine because it fit, even though how the party got those swords was grade A dungeon crawl stuff.  The big problem with weapons is that someone else can just take it from you and be that much more badass, whether someone who downs you in a fight or another party member who would use it better.

For example, you have two N level fighters.  One has a higher STR to hit/damage bonus, otherwise their stats are essentially identical.  One has a +1 shortsword and the other a +2 broadsword.  Who should wield which weapon?  It’s not like Mudge uses a shortsword because he’s compact and all about speed and Jon-Tom uses a long staff that gets longer because he’s unusually tall and not much of a weapons expert.  In terms of team optimization, either balance things by giving better weapon to lower STR lass or unbalance things and make stronger lass just better.  Same with armor.  I was looking at one module where a multiclass character had much lower HP but had a Ring of Regeneration.  Sure, that makes sense, but doesn’t it make more sense to just pass around the Ring tactically?

RuneQuest has you bind magic items a lot of the time.  I find it to be a terrible mechanic, but it does address the problem that equipment is just, er, equipment.  This is why I hate equipment that matters.  My style of FRPG would see fighters do more damage based on things like level or based on skill level, with STR following, finally maybe care about your stuff (well, obviously, magic stuff is going to be better than non-magical stuff).  I know games have done something like this.  L5R, to an extent, does this sort of thing with techniques that add damage or attacks, though a k3 katana is way better than a k2 katana.  Power Attack, et al, in d20 works this way, but, then, every fighter is going to have Power Attack, so back to being dependent upon equipment for differentiation.

Of course, it’s not just non-spellcasters.  Even magic-users are frequently going to focus on using things like wands to supplement how few spells they cast.  “I’ll whip out my Wand of Annoyances and do 1d2 damage.  Hey, Gindalf, you have any charges left on your Rod of Explosive Decompression?”

Speaking of death … oh, I wasn’t?

Speaking of death, I didn’t use to pay much attention to HP for pregen PCs or monsters.  I’m focusing more on that sort of thing because I realize that when you have a 12hp PC, it’s going to die young, unless it’s Neutral or Evil.  Get it?  Not just a joke, more likely the N or E PCs are going to split when the going gets dangerous.  But, I’m also paying more attention to how many attacks it will take a PC to off a monster, which is basic stuff, I know, but I gloss over the dull ubiquity that is numbers in mods.

Speaking of deadliness, I do find it humorous when the module calls out how dumb highly intelligent monsters are for using weapons when their natural attacks are far more dangerous.  But, go with it because you want to give the PCs some hope of surviving.

I’m anti-death.  Oh, sure, there are compelling arguments around how it destroys any sense of narrative when you just replace one victim with another victim.  But, that’s not my problem so much.  I just don’t see the point of not caring about your characters and that’s what random death does.  I’ve heard people talk about how much they loved certain characters for how they survived the massacrefest that is oD&D.  Sure, but that’s in the style of playing something more akin to a boardgame (one might even say a … wargame).  I’ve played way more RuneQuest than oD&D and I really couldn’t care less about any of my characters or anything they do because they are just waiting to die.  Oh, I did more enjoy the troll I played because he wasn’t guaranteed to die in half the fights, though he still never lived beyond one dungeon (in campaign play that was mostly wilderness encounters).  Even with ubiquitous resurrection so that you can keep playing the same PC, it’s just some numbers on a sheet of paper that gets murdered by numbers in a book.

On the other hand, if you play a game where death is as common as Rot Grubs, you are depriving people of the experience by allowing them to avoid falling for 20d6 damage.  It’s like a different game.  A weird game where monsters don’t devour you or turn your skin slimy … and then take your place in the party only to betray it later.

Maybe that’s the thing.  Forget campaign play.  It’s all about one-shots-in-the-head.  Play it tournament style where you score points for how successful team looter is.  Yes, that’s the model for various boardgames these days, but what sort of campaign do you have when the only continuity is Grog17, cousin to Grog16?

I still find parts of AD&D charming.  It still entertains me to stat up a group of teenage “gang” members even if I have no idea whether any of their thief skill percentages are good enough to matter.

One way I’m different is I find Deities & Demigods to be quite inspiring.  But, then, I like mythology.  I’m not going to have PCs fight gods so I’m not terribly worried about what spells a god can cast 1/day, but somewhere, between the numerical nonsense, you get something.  The art helps.  I like AD&D 1e art, when it’s serious, and am not bothered when it’s cartoonish.  I guess so does having some idea about who the various deities are besides what AC they have, what their Magic Resistances are, etc.

So, one can run something any which way but Chaotic Neutral.  …  What I meant to say was that it’s possible to steal small amounts of 1e and run something that interests me, 100% storyteller, more.  In theory.

In practice, well, maybe I’ll generate enough interest to try it.  And, if it doesn’t work, just switch systems to Fantasy Hero … then Stormbringer 1e … then The Fantasy Trip … then Weapons of the Gods … then Maelstrom … then 7th Sea 2e …


Hazard Play

October 1, 2017

I built two Commander decks.  Both use the same Commander because it’s a three color legend I can find.  Coincidentally(?), one of my decks has a warrior thing going on and the Commander is a warrior.

I almost got a new V:TES deck done yesterday … for a session that never happened.  I suffered injury before I could complete the deck.  Old age?  Stricken down by higher powers?  Don’t try to move around heavy boxes of cards in cramped spaces without care for one’s back?  That the deck runs at least three cards on my personal banned list would suggest higher powers, but, since my back still hurts, maybe not everything can be blamed on malevolent spirits.

I am in the process of reading AD&D 1e materials.  Clearly, True Dungeon got me thinking about oD&D, while there’s this recurring question as to whether oD&D materials are actually useful for anything except humor.

I have an inkling of a goal.  Maybe I abandon it before it becomes a second stage inkle.  I’m actually thinking of using AD&D mechanics for a non-VRPG (videogame RPG) experience.  First thing to do is strip out things that I don’t consider relevant, like races.  Then, put back in racial modifiers for different tribes of humans; just kidding, possibly, or not.  One questions why not just use Conan d20, a system known to be playable, unlike the highly questionable system where a PC might have 9 hit points at level 5 (using max HP at first level for this magic-user).

Already arbitrary to start PCs at 38,000 XP (or so), rather than have players enjoy moving up through levels in the old school, Survivor-style play. Then, I have a vague idea for how to roll attributes that will lead to superiorites rather than loserites, like how the DMG offers up a variety of ways to not start out with a loserite.

Far less weird to play something else, like Fantasy Hero with 150 point characters or whatever, though as much as I’m curious about playing a basic FH campaign or a mythological FH game, part of the idea was to take only that which I find charming in AD&D and rip out a bunch of mechanics that mean nothing to me, like weapon to hit modifiers based on opposing armor type.  Or, do I rip out those mechanics …?

How to deal with magic items?

My view on magic items is that they should always be personal and specific.  Sure, once upon a time, I thought in terms of +3 Frostbrands and whatnot, but no more.  A magic item is special and not just something you will to your replacement PC for when you are guaranteed to fail your disintegrate save while your magic items pass.

That requires work.  See, that’s the thing.  You can play anything anyways you want given enough work.  But, the more work, the less it makes sense to bother since there’s, like, a lot of alternatives and one or two alternatives are better.

What’s really going on?

Lack of something to focus around.  I’m looking for something different because I don’t have V:TES or Shadowfist or HoR or “other” to keep my brain energies channeled.  I’m mentally wandering, looking to be entertained.

If I play Commander or run AD&D or find something else to latch on to for a bit until Gamehole Con pushes TD to the fore again, well, that’s fine.  This is why I’m a gamer and not elsenkind.

How to deal with spells in a less gamist experience?  No idea.  Sure, memorize that Feather Fall when the likelihood of it doing anything is:  implausible.  It’s not like Dungeon-451, part 8, wherein the party has gotten to level 5 of the dungeon and discovered a mighty waterfall guarded by owlbears and xorn.  Sorry, I played some AD&D but not enough ever to see Feather Fall or a host of other spells cast.  My magic-user/thief would just Polymorph Self all of the time, anyway, so I could always fly while scouting/fighting.

Maybe abandon the charm of AD&D as written with tons of expurgations.  Have clerics and magic-users (I’m thinking avoid druids for the moment and illusionists seem bizarrely pointless) just cast whatever they like up to their spell slot limits each day to allow for flexibility.  Well, whatever they like except limits on known spells and deity approval.

What sort of armor do PCs wear?  Etc.  Etc.  Etc.

I don’t really like the D&D paradigm in the first place.  I just want to use classes because I suddenly have this enthusiasm for classes and distinct abilities.  Actually, I was hoping to have rangers and paladins cast spells, but I forgot how high level they need to be to do that.  Definitely not dealing with 9th+ level characters in systems I’m less familiar with.

It is amusing to pay more attention to the ridiculous.  Sure, I have Best of Dragon Magazine I, II, and III, so I have consolidated articles on why monks and bards are absurd mechanically and could be done differently.  Nope.  Monks and bards don’t exist.  Now, psionics …  If you ignore psionic attacks/defenses and just looked at the powers, those are almost a functional magic system.  Not really, as some are just completely over the top, but Cell Adjustment is like how healing should kinda sorta work.

People played the game.  A lot.  Not sure how.  But, they did.

Anyway, the preference would be more V:TES, more Shadowfist deckbuilding, and finding some way to get more RPG play in either my running or someone else running.  It’s time to flame on, er, game on.