Not All Chows

February 18, 2019

DunDraCon is done, but that’s my next post.

I was in Virginia the week before.  Before getting more into that, let’s see what today’s Ultimate Combat! flavor text provides us.

A tornado of power focused in the fist.

Um, not so relevant in any way I can think of.  C’est dommage.

Calling upon your inner reserves brings extra power to bear.

Two Mantra of Power in this pack.  So broken.  Though, I made some minimal effort to find a rulebook for how power is spent as I started wondering about the timing and correctness of playing the best card in the game.  In some way, I feel like rules consistency would dictate that I’ve been doing power spending wrong, but I just am not sure which way it is wrong.

Celestial aid purges pain.

Yup, call upon higher powers to win your martial arts match.  I may need to call upon some celestial aid.

In the blink of an eye an asset can become a liability.

Guess this card.  Come on.  Even though people aren’t into guessing like I’m into guessing.  Based on what I’ve written about UC!, this shouldn’t be impossible to figure out.

The berserker welcomes pain to inflict pain.

Got a pain theme going.  I could claim pain at the moment, though it’s pretty trivial in the grand scheme of things.

So, Virginia.  This was to celebrate the new Earth Pig.  Did dim sum at a Vietnamese place that was covering for my family’s usual dim sum place.

Got in Friday night around 11PM, got to sleep around 1AM.  My alarm went off at 5AM (I was partially awake), felt mostly fine up until I started on a long, boring ride South.  Now, when I drove to Raleigh last year, it wasn’t so boring, but I had more sleep and it was something novel.  This was same highwaying.

Got to Emporia, about 160 miles.  Ordered breakfast at the meetup spot and, after we ate, divvied up True Dungeon tokens.  Yup, this is a gaming blog.  Had to get to the all important gamingness of gamingiosity.  Far fewer tokens to deal with, more value.

Felt pretty good (had coffee which I hardly ever have because I didn’t want to die driving back) … up until the point that I started a long tedious drive back to Annandale.  Multiple playings of Joan Jett’s I Love Rock n’ Roll as I jumped constantly between stations for stimulation.

Took a bit of a shut eye, then headed over to my father’s place.

For a bunch of mahjong with some movie playing in the background.

I did really well in the lucky seat.  Both Saturday and Sunday, it was the seat of the big chip leader.  Whether that speaks to our skill or the feng shui of the Earth Pig year is not so terribly important.

Sunday, got up later than 5AM (I know, weird to not get up then while on vacation and going from Pacific to Eastern time zones), talked a bit about the SF Giants, Bryce Harper, and other things.  Went to dim sum.  Afterwards, to the father’s place for … mahjong and movies.

Speaking of movies, I don’t like watching parts of things.  To not only be playing something, but to be crashing tiles while actors are offering lines would drive me nuts if I actually wanted to watch the movies.  Big Trouble in Little China is a fine movie that others like way more than me.  Romancing the Stone was my idea and a movie I’d be happy to actually watch normally not having seen it in ages.

I did not sit in the Earth Pig Luck seat.  I was hurting blue time.  I got a couple hands at the end to recover blue and red chips to where I was down less than a thousand (points, out of five thousand).  But, my talking about playing mahjong isn’t to go into my supreme ability to not suck at the game.

Everyone my siblings play with play our family style, so it’s easy to play.  The young ‘uns just play for chips if they play for anything because, unlike me, they weren’t playing as an eight-year old with great uncles and great aunts for money.

Over the two days, I played two rounds of winds.  That was pretty normal when I was growing up for one session.  I found the play very Earth Pig unusual in certain ways.

At least four hands were won with all pungs.  I won twice with all pungs, my father at least once and my sister-in-law at least once.  I almost never win with all pungs playing our style, as our style heavily incentivizes speed and only gives all pungs one fan.

What put me way up on Saturday was one suit pure, pinghu clear.  I use pinghu because I’m not entirely sure what the best spelling would be as we always call all chows with no points gained from the eye phonetically punghu, but I can’t internet a spelling like that.  I’ve seen the Cantonese as peng woo, which is kind of close.  Mandarin pinghu works for the second syllable but totally not the first.

Anyway, five fans.  I may have gone many years with virtually no mahjong play, but I’ve played a fair heft amount, especially in that key 8-12 age range.  I’ve gone for all one suit hands many a time, including in silly cases for the challenge.  I even made what I consider a suboptimal decision in that hand and still Earth Pigged my way to victory.

Truly celestial aid purges pain … or whatever.

We didn’t play Codenames though my brother who was hosting me for the weekend talked about playing it a couple of times.  One of our Chinese cousins who hadn’t played before was shown how to play mahjong.

Just a wallbuildingfest of wallbuildingness.

Anything about TD?  I’d like to get some 2019 rares.  Quite a few are used for transmutes.  Some are just good.  I had some thought at some point about something related to reading the forums but lost that somewhat at sometime.

We head to the airport about 7AM Monday morning.

I read a book during the travel to and fro.  Pirate story.  Resonated reasonably well but not great.  Read some reviews that I thought pointed out the shortcomings of what’s a perfectly decent story.  The protagonists are underdeveloped.  One person did a good job of sarcastically pointing out the Mary Sueness of the puppeteer hero.  The fantasy aspects got anime level ridiculous – this is my original thought.  The ending dragged, partially because the love interest is so irrelevant.  Still, nice to read a book that I didn’t dislike.  It reminded me of my Solomon Kane GMing but didn’t particularly stimulate me to want to run something, play a piratey game, or even world build much.

Was this length of trip the right length?  Felt like wasted days on traveling.  Half the trip was essentially traveling, whereas my December trip to hang with family where I used zero vacation days didn’t feel like I was wasting time traveling.  Of course, I had connecting flights on this trip and didn’t on that trip, so hanging out in Denver and eating twice at the same sports bar was time not spent explaining how True Dungeon works or getting snowed on.

Because it has little to do with DunDraCon, I should note that I played Shadowfist Thursday night.  We played two games.  I was incapable of playing any cards for several turns in the first game and it ended dumbly as I stopped a Reascended victory with Onslaught of the Turtle only to have the next player waltz in when little was left in play.  Second game, I played cards, enough hitters to get them taken out.  I didn’t actually do a whole lot with my Lotus/Dragon deck, but the game was less dumb.

I’m not always happy when I play mahjong, as losing sucks and hands that “should” win don’t while hands that shouldn’t win … also don’t, but it’s just such a pleasant thing to do.  I would compare with how playing V:TES for 20+ years is just doing something I enjoy doing that I have mental investment in.  Plus family bonding.

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The Best of … 2015

December 30, 2018

The thrill of the drill.

I don’t often comment on how the year went.  I did a couple of years ago because two unusual and major events happened, neither of which had anything to do with the election.

Maybe I’ll comment upon 2018 at the end.

January

Building L5R Characters – Origins

January 2015 seemed like a flopping heavy time, what with my reporting on Shadowfist sessions multiple times and V:TES tournaments.  While not great literature, if you want to see what playing V:TES is like for me as opposed to virtually anyone else in the history of the game {question mark, frowny face, birthday cake}, can read the tournament report post.

Meanwhile, in terms of “this is worth mentioning again after three years” posts, we finally get to this post.  Even as I was writing this post, I was getting off of what I wanted to write about.  However, intermixed with talking too much about mechanics, there’s a point made about finding the right character, even if that right character may be related to the right character sheet.

I know that HoR has been a problem for me because I’ve spent too much time on the character sheet and not enough on the character.  Nightmare War was actually better because I didn’t obsess with how the numbers would look, plus it was just more interesting than HoR3 was or HoR4 has been.

Sure, there’s a lot of stating the obvious, but, I guess, I feel like the obvious needs to be stated because people make questionable decisions constantly even when they have experience.  People.  People with blogs.  People with blogs who have written the best analysis of L5R 4e mechanics in the history of creation.

One hook is probably not sufficient to give a character enough to work with.  See my upcoming post on the dual hook-wielding build methodology for creating the most fun and most approaching absolute zero PCs ever.

February

Building L5R Characters – Traits

What happens when you get old is that you remember fewer details of your life.  Now, some of the reason for that makes logical sense – the older you are, the more details you have, thus any given detail is less of the memory pie.

I am shocked, shocked I say, that I wrote Origins before these other posts.  I think of Origins as something I did after hitting basics, though, to be fair, The Elemental Party was a prior run on talking about 4e Traits.

Does Void suck?  Well, I do find that my perspective does vary by metagame.  As mentioned somewhere, having a clearly defined role where you have Reflexes 5 is very different from playing with a bunch of strangers in a mod where nobody bothered to be a brain or a talker or a perceiver or whatever.  Still, Void would come after Awareness, Reflexes, Perception at a minimum and Earth-3 could be a higher priority.  I guess that’s not suck territory.

Kayfabeulous

People with blogs are not any one thing.  They may flop.  They may chuck.  They may criticize poetry from the early 20th Century and still may have watched like tons, one might even have said oodles, of “reaching back for something extra”, “what intestinal fortitude”, “Super-Crazy”.

’80s pro wrestling was often frustrating becomes it was so repetitive.  Modernistic sports entertainment has the … exact same problem.  Just changed from crushing jobbers to … whatever.

Somewhere, there is a great story to be had.  Of course, it’s all in the execution, which is why you favor mic gods like The Rock over … whoever.

DunDraCon 2015

I rarely call out convention reports.  I believe that I don’t feel that stating facts is as compelling as stating my perfecto o-pinions.

But, I feel like local cons and I are moving away from each other.  I just don’t feel the experience as I did a decade prior.  How mysterious and totally impossible in any way to figure out why.

So, here’s to 2015, when I reported a lot on Shadowfist casual play but also kept up with the scene in the ‘hood.

Better. Stronger. Faster.

Does anyone even get the joke of this post?  I don’t know that I do, anymore.  Old.  Let’s just say I’m superclever when I’m not on the spot to be clever – wait, isn’t that just a different word?

This is not that profound.  I just feel like calling it out.

Building L5R Characters – Advantages

Apparently, I ruled the blogosphere in February of 2015.  Because, obviously, nothing else matters more than L5R 4e mechanics analysis.

Formatting on this was kind of (nope), which I fixed to a degree later in my Disads post by using the power of bolding words.

Geez, Marie-Louise, I kind of see why my blog has gotten less popular in 2018.  I used to write useful stuff.

March

More Gooder Deck

Not a more gooder post, so why bother?  It’s long.  It mentions my “24” deck building methodology.

But, you know what?  I don’t do it as often I could, but I have posted deck lists.  Not tournament winning deck lists or here’s how to be furrier than the average bear deck lists, but sheer, unbridled insanity … to make a point.  No, to prove a point.  A thousand points.  A thousand points of CCG light.

It’s easy to have fun with CCGs.  Well, CCGs that don’t have Fate.  Build decks.  Identify other players who are fun to play with.  Play.

Building L5R Characters – Disadvantages

Yup, brilliant formatting makes this as easy to read as the make and model on Wonder Woman’s jet.

Sadly, I still follow my own advice.  I gravitate towards the cheese.  Not that I build a ton of PCs these days, so maybe I’ll learn to go back to when I liked my PCs.

[Classic] TR Vampire Ratings [6/1/2008]

This used to be my thing.  Arguing about stars for cards is fun like getting to ride in Wonder Woman’s jet.

It’s not just that fewer cards come out for CCGs I play.  It’s that I’m much more interested in just getting to play some daft Punks rather than worrying about if something is less gooder.

L5R Party Combat Guide

The original combat guide was more profound for bringing up common mistakes players make.  Neither is the definitive work on the subject.  In my upcoming post, I will …

Actually, it was a discouraging revelation to me that controlling a Unicorn Riding Horse in combat is much harder than I thought.  I don’t know why I got different rolls mixed up.

Anyway, I used examples.  Therefore, most goodest.

Flash VS Arrow

I no longer read comic books.  So, here’s my comicing outlet.  Besides knowing more than the substandard chipmunk, I happen to be the most entertaining reviewer of all things Arrowverse this side of Paradise Island.

Faster than a speeding locomotive, on to the next month …

April

Same Phat Channel, Same Phat Time …

Oh, the bronze-knees.

I was looking at our session tracker for Rokugan 1600.

Do you, wait, do I realize that each season has only been three main sessions long?  Well, yes, blog writer, I do realize that each season has been only three main sessions long.  It just doesn’t feel remotely like that.  I feel like I’m running a campaign that jumps around but still keeps building on what has transpired before (or introduces new stuff that makes the foundation of the campaign a mess).

I was trying to do three session story arcs to get more of an episodic feel with the ability to pivot faster.  Let’s see if I can wrap up season 4 in a way that doesn’t irritate the players and we can pivot for season 5 into something weird, like non-time travel, non-romance war stories.

May

Building L5R Characters – Skills

If it wasn’t for the fact that some people actually are playing FFG’s L5R, maybe I could spread out my geniusness over a longer stretch to not get everyone’s hopes up and, then, give them 2018’s travelogue.

Remember the single most important thing about this post:  I own the rights to factotumness, the rights of righteousosity.

June

July

Princess Police – Episode Guide

I’m used to short campaigns that don’t end as much as they cease to exist.  I’m fighting to try to avoid having me be the GM for such campaigns, while I haven’t played in anything for quite a while that wasn’t HoR.

What made The Princess Police interesting was how much the campaign took off long after it started.  I mean, sure, campaigns just seem to get richer as they go along until they stop, but this campaign survived long enough to have the depth of play that I hope for.

I think you can see how events became more meaningful to me later in the campaign.  This and HoR2 were the two L5R campaigns that I played that really satisfied in terms of L5R play.

August

Gen Con 2015

You know how I constantly call out convention reports.  Well, here’s another mundane, ho hum, hum drum convention report where I get into everyone’s favorite topic – food reviews.

September

Babylon 5 Request

Looking back is not so easy for the old.  There are so many B5 thoughts that I can probably only access by looking at old emails.  I don’t remember cards off the top of my head, anymore.

The B5 era was a hugely important era for me.  I became a playtester.  I became a designer.  I crusaded (but rarely Crusaded) for a game hard.  I played in the first Worlds.  I volunteered at major cons rather than just playing RPGs the whole time.

I got a foundation in CCGing that just being a V:TES player or UC! player or Magic judge didn’t.

I do realize that certain types of posts are more likely to get likes, it’s kind of interesting that this one didn’t, but, maybe, talking B5 long after the game died wasn’t a way to rapturize the masses.

RPG Yarn

I like some things.  Because I don’t really enjoy activities unless other people enjoy them, I subordinate my interests a great deal to enable groups to enjoy playing stuff.  Sure, meetup.com exists, etc., so I could find other people with more similar interests, but that requires a level of effort I’ve avoided.

I could probably write ten, twenty more words about what sort of RPGs I like.  Occurs to me that style of play isn’t something I talked much about in this post.  In my upcoming blog post on style of play I prefer, I will …  But, here’s what gets me looking for that Ring of Three Wishes so that I can blow a wish on the important stuff.

L5R Questions

I know.  It’s hard to provide commentary when everything the writer writes is pure, unadulterated geniusness.

Actually, I have an extremely reactive personality, which is why it can be challenging for me to get inspired to blog or to write more for Traveller.  So, if you want more geniusness spewed rather than the week’s latest ramble, maybe better to actually ask for what you want to hear about.

And, then, you will know everything there is to know about core book shugenjahood.  Every little thing.

October

Double-Striking, Swampwalking Squirrel Pumpers

This was a surprising hit to me.  I played a lot of Type P.  I built a lot more Type P then goldfished those builds.

Most of my Magic play, in the entire history of the cosmos, was, I’m sure, Type P.

Why don’t I talk about Type P more?  Well, I don’t play anymore and more recent efforts to play didn’t capture the Magic.

One hopes that blogging since 2009 would give readers a bit of insight into how my mind works.  This post should be one that gives pretty goodier insight.

If you ever want good sigs, like how I used to use good sigs on a regular basis, can take some quotes from this post.

Want: Land destruction, good way to blow up my own critters over multiple turns, maybe zombies

November

Brought By The Number 7

When gaming is a way of life, and I’d argue that it is for someone who has only ever been to England because of card tournaments in Germany, life is the shapemeister, baron von shape of gaming.  Sure, fiction is not quite so experiencey as, er, doing things that require physically moving more than the eyes and hands.

If staleness is a frequent problem with so many things, more posts like these might be the antistale needed.

Goat Droppings

Need more of this, somehow.

Ratings were too high on average.

This post actually take a lot of time to write, so I’m not that motivated to point out where I changed my mind, but I’d be happy to argue the rating of a card.

Book ’em Danaan

Ah, elitism, superiority complexion.  I can’t seem to escape pointing out that D&D is not remotely high fantasy.  While shopping for Christmas presents, I looked at possibilities of books I could get myself.  I’m sure no one else in the history of the multiverse has ever done that, ere now.  I didn’t shoot the wallaby.  Again, pretty much got myself a reference book for Aztec/Mayan society, which I still haven’t gotten anything out of.

December

A Mouse’s Donkey

Some things matter more to me than others.  Plus, I included an image.

Flaw Wars

Certain truths are self evident.  Btw, I don’t have high hopes that part three will redeem the problems of parts one and, especially, part two.

**  **  **  **  **

So, looking back on 2015, I can clearly see why 2015 had better stats than 2018.  I had the L5R character build posts and even more to say about 4e mechanics.  I had more original posts when it came to personal stuff or interests outside of gaming that I could pretend related to gaming.

Yup, 2015 looked mighty.  This was in the pre-True Dungeon period with lots of casual card play reports.  I even talked about Ultimate Combat!.  I wonder.  I wonder if because I changed jobs in 2015 and started traveling fairly often to Shanghai that I was more fired up even without the gaming five days a week thing I once had.

Leaving 2018 with what will inspire any and all to flood this blog with views, likes, and comments to prove that this blog has been made great again, here are some flavor texts from the best two-player CCG of them all:

  • Learned early, soon perfected – always a lance of destruction.
  • Denied the blood of life, first brain then body fail.
  • A good sweep takes you down like a patch of ice – without warning.
  • Draining speed and vitality, sand slows us all.
  • With the speed of a cobra, this whip to the head strikes true.
  • Flying enhances penetration.

Post Of Eves Past

December 24, 2018

In a way, it does matter that it’s Christmas Eve at the moment.  Matters because I have the day off from work, of course, but also because the timing of recent events.

Speaking of recent events, I thought our official announcement for the reasons for canceling the Kickstarter were spot on.  We think digitizing the game has value for making it easier to play, but that only helps when there is either a larger playerbase or an awareness of the card game combined with a preference for e-play.  Coming out of the holidays, I’m going to see what I can do about expanding awareness and getting together with other players in the area and when I have time on trips I make outside the area.

For a timing example, one of my friends picked up Ultimate Combat! boosters for me.  This provided an opportunity not only to talk about draft value of different cards but to just talk about aspects of the game as well as to read some of the flavor text I haven’t read in a long time.  See, almost all cards have flavor text.  Not good flavor text.  But, if you already are amused by real world martial artists in funny poses, then the flavor text will only add to that.

The “karate chop” of old movies, deadly against the throat.

The thing about Ultimate Combat! is that it provokes so many fond memories of being an UC! player, even if it was a time in my life that wasn’t so great for other reasons.

I played Terra Mystica yesterday.  It was a get together of a group of us who don’t get together that often as … what happens when you don’t do something regularly is that you let it slide.  I played Giants.  I chose not to Stronghold on round one and was, therefore, out of the game.  That was not terribly fun.  Not that I was sure I was out of the game, but when someone had eight dwellings in play and I had trouble making any (by the time I Strongholded to generate consistent spades, I was surrounded), figured the game wasn’t going so well.  Reading some, it would be interesting to try shipping to build dwellings apart from each other.  Still, the Giants’ ability is a disadvantage as far as I’m concerned and the Stronghold ability just counters the disadvantage, whereas other factions get useful abilities.  Five player game took about 5.5 hours, so we played just the one game.

It was kind of like yesteryearishness.  But, in many ways, not.  We went out to eat together, for instance, which isn’t something we used to do.  The location was an area close to my work, so I knew plenty of food places around.

I’ve run a couple side sessions of Rokugan 1600 and … I’m not sure I really have any new takeaways, though I have a better sense of what I think works, I just don’t necessarily execute on what I know, a consistent problem outside of gaming.

One thing I did think might happen was a Tahaddi Duel.  But, of course, that would have been more likely with different players.  Anyway, I wrote homebrew rules for Tahaddi Dueling as I’ve run a LBS 3e Tahaddi Duel and it was atrocious.  The mechanics were just painfully boring.  Unlike 3e Iaijutsu, which could be interesting.  4e Tahaddi is an awful copy of 4e Iaijutsu Dueling – awful because the two aren’t really similar thematically.  I considered doing something similar to 4e Iaijutsu, but Tahaddi is all about back and forth, not staring at someone until they explode.

Revel in the completely coherent and in every way fully thought out rules mechanics awesome:

Tahaddi Rules – Art of the Thrust and Parry
Each duelist has a number of thrusts and parries equal to Void. Each additional of one or the other requires a VP. Can change to normal skirmish after both are out of free thrusts/parries, before that is half rank Integrity/Honor loss.
Assessment: As usual, one time bonus to either Thrust or Parry. Uses Knives (Tahaddi), -5 for not having Tahaddi. Winner goes first.
Thrust/Parry: AGI/Knives (Tahaddi) vs REF/Defense (Knives if Tahaddi skill). Winning by 5 or more is a strike. Each additional 5 is a FR to damage.

The session I ran Saturday was a very special holiday session, which I didn’t think about until a player mentioned it as a possibility and I liked it as I’m trying to wrap up a story arc and thought it could be risky to run on the 23rd.  One player didn’t play the previous session so had less sense than usual what was going on.  The holiday break meant splitting up the story arc ending session into two was going to be more painful than usual.  As it turned out, one of the players had to cancel, so having another side session made sense, even if it was a missed opportunity for her to be involved in time travel – the single most common thing in L5R, ever, as “everyone” knows.  Actually, in this case, made a bit more sense.  The prevalence of time travel outside of a Fortune of Shinseimas Past/Present/Future makes far more sense to me because the players don’t know things I know.

What’s different and what’s the same.  Time, something I feel like I have less of even though I actually have plenty of time, I just don’t use it effectively, gives an opportunity to reflect.  To nostalgiasize.

One thing I haven’t done a lot of this time of year is read fiction/reference/RPGs, even though it’s something I think I do more often when days are their shortest because of lack of TV shows, more time, and because I can’t seem to stop buying relatives books for Christmas.  I tried reading something I bought myself about Aztec and Mayan Mythology/Anthropology, but I couldn’t get into it.  Tried to play more music rather than have the same old sports talk shows on and haven’t felt that strongly about actually listening to the CDs I used to listen to.  Realized I need to hook back up a DVD player to play some Garth Brooks DVDs.

I’m sure that’s the first thing the audience of this blog thinks of when thinking of musical interests pour moi.  Yup, poppish country, melodramatic piano rock, Christmas carols, and good songs outside of those genres.

Well, I may have had some other thought, but I need to do some other things tonight.


Subtraction By Addition

July 22, 2018

While my current thoughts are more on Rokugan 1600 since I just ran a session and we had three sessions in three weeks, I was thinking about V:TES and adding cards versus removing cards from the card pool due to the recent threads on the forums.

I got to thinking about what expansions actually made V:TES a better game.  Not a more fun game, since that’s incredibly subjective, but something not remotely subjective since I know all and see all and think all that is what made the game play better.

Dark Sovereigns

Ha.  Ha ha.  Terrible balance with incredibly obnoxious cards like Thoughts Betrayed.

Ancient Hearts

Worse balance.  Note that Giovanni and Ravnos are still awful (more so the one without a lot of Dominate), Ass are more awful than either of those (close with Ravnos), and Serpentis is incredibly top … focused with cards not like Temptation and Form of Corruption tending towards gar-bage.

Sabbat

Finally, a set that seems to be trying to address the game mechanically and may have been playtested a reasonable amount.  Sure, wild imbalances in clans, but this is a step in the right direction even if the path of producing crappier versions of Deflection and Telepathic Misdirection isn’t really the path of making a better game.

Sabbat War

For this post, I don’t see this being significantly different, but it did put cards into the precons that weren’t in the boosters.  My appreciation for this set has grown considerably since I tend to forget how the !Trem got slighted.  Some good additions cryptwise.

Final Nights

Full of gar-bage.  Made Giovanni Shamble.  Made Ravnos Nightmarish.  Not remotely my idea of a good set, but it did make the game better in some ways.  Having indies not be so terrible is better even if I find Shambling tiresome.

Bloodlines

No.  Bloodlines may be superpopular and superinteresting, but I see it only taking away from the game as it expanded the game in a way that made it far far harder to grok and away from core concepts.  For one thing, hardly any of the bloodlines are votey, which means increased variance in how votish tables are.  Plus, just trying to expose someone to a game with a ton more disciplines, outferiors, disciplines that hardly any vampires have, weirdly non-synergistic crossover possibilities that caused many bloodlines decks to ignore mixing with non-bloodlines is not happy times.

Camarilla Edition

Nerf hammer unleashed.  Did that make the game better?  It’s kind of hard to remember how insane free Majesty and always free Second Tradition is.  Ton of new vampires that weren’t out of control powerwise even if some are superobnoxious.  Sure, CE made the game better.  I would have liked The Embrace to be changed in a different way, but some good clarity and nerfing.

Anarchs

Frowny face.

Black Hand

More frowny.  This might have been more welcome if it didn’t come on the heels of Anarchs.  Both suffer from not giving so much interesting spins on what is already possible but pushing towards low yield mechanics in the name of expansion.  The idea of introducing new things weak does not make games play better.  It makes tables more unbalanced as the experimenters get Dominated.

Gehenna

The end times.  Variety of normal cards that are pretty good balancewise.  Saddled with the most obnoxious stuff in existence.  So many games with a bunch of Events in play as people tried out Fall of the Camarilla, et al.

10th Anniversary

Atrocious new cards.  Get 10 cards where at least three never should have been printed (as written).  After initial efforts, I don’t see five played by anyone besides me.  Channel 10 is borderline in my mind as to whether it should exist.  Powerbase: Los Angeles is the one card that, if you think anarchs should be part of the game, deserved being published.

Pretty much a set of unique promos beyond the reprints and I never think that’s a way to make games better.  OTOH, a bunch of important reprints.

Kindred Most Wanted

Where Anarchs and BH led to “Something different, I’ll build bad decks!”, KMW led to “I’m going to permarush you with this incredibly bad deck until I can murder your dude!”  Also think it made draft significantly worse by putting out way too much unnecessary draft text.  Reminds me of Gehenna in that there are various normal cards with the set saddled with awful, but are all of the normal cards good ideas?  The Embrace got turned into a pure swarm card, so we get Tumnimos as another version?!?  Waters of Duat?!?  How about just fixing The Embrace to get a skill card if put into play by a 5+ cap?

Legacies of Blood

More bloodlines.  Tupdog.  Plus, let’s add Abombwe to the game.  At least Bloodlines seemed to have a plan.  This just smacked of “How do we sell the next set?”

Mixed bag on crypt cards.  Samedi in this set are just atrocious.  Far more Laibon options if you have to have Laibon even part of the game, something I used to be in favor of but now am not, at least not how it was done.  More Laibon in Tzimisce and Lasombra help open up varied crypts in a way I think the game would be benefited by.

Nights of Reckoning

If Gehenna had never been made, would this set be so hate-worthy?  Could argue that it forced people to build decks differently and punished people playing sketchy strategies.  Except, this isn’t Magic.  This is a multiplayer CCG where a lot of play is not for tournament preparation/competition and the balance was way out of whack when this got published.  Now, what is the balance now?  Is it boring to play Imbued?  Generates too much table hate?  Or, did the better players learn how to cause Imbued not to turn into swarms with permastealth, permacept, permableed, permafreak?

3rd Edition

Heart of Nizchetus.  Did On the Qui Vive make for a better game or just a more powerful game?  Is having a wake for Carlton and friends a good idea or an “Allies are even more annoying” idea?  It did put a bunch of cards into people’s hands, a bunch of misprinted, marked, smelly cards, but that’s not germaine to whether it makes for a better game.  Some good.  I consider Mirror Walk good.  Abbot is arguably good for the game.  I question whether Helicopter is, being mostly a buff to three-bleeders with four votes.

Cryptwise, I’d say pretty good adds to the game.  Overall, then, I’m wishy washy about it, but I guess I’d go with good for the game.

Sword of Caine

Ignoring expanding on BH, something I don’t think substantially added to the game and only became more and more annoying as it got better and better cards to support the trait, what did this add?

Biothaumaturgical Experiment continued to make Thaum more diverse, which it needed.  Epiphany was huge for making a terrible mechanic less terrible.  Nocturn is another ally that strikes me as being too good and can warp the environment, though this gets into a different argument about what role allies are supposed to play in the game.  The Uncoiling was an attempt to counteract a terrible card type, and it does a pretty bad job of it in my experience.  Unexpected Coalition was something to throw at one of the worst clans in the game, possibly the worst at the time.  Veil the Legions is such an unneeded effect for Obfuscate and can contribute to the Aus/Obf arms race.

Sometimes you make overly good cards, but SoC had so few cards in it and the greatest need was far a ton more Sabbie vampires.

Lords of the Night

A bunch of alt wakes, well, that’s not terrible.  I could get into details on cards, but I’d say generally that more help for Ass/Quietus is positive where helping things that didn’t really need it to better at what it already does – Leverage, Murmur of the False Will – is maybe not the best way to go.  Then, there are cards that very well may have made the game better by adding value to weaker disciplines (Celerity, by this time Potence).

It’s less clear to me whether this set made the game better.  If unclear, then tend to side with “Have to add something to the game or it isn’t a CCG.”

Twilight Rebellion

Given anarchdom, sure, this made the game better.  This is a set that I seem to appreciate far, far more than other people outside of Anarch Convert, Club Illusion, Constant Revolution, and Revolutionary Council.

This is the one small set I think was worth publishing.  I’m sure others will complain about how weak most of the cards are and how that doesn’t make a game better when you won’t play the cards, which is as valid as my pointing out how full of gar-bage Final Nights is.

Keepers of Tradition, Ebony Kingdom, Heirs to the Blood

Why group these three together?  Given that I think the game has suffered from getting away from core clans and core disciplines, the latter two wouldn’t be a surprise on my list of “bad for ball”.  KoT is on my list for reasons mentioned in another post – grossly unneeded power jumps in library cards, plus the likes of Lutz and Santaleous.

There do seem to be certain eras to expansion of the game.  The first era is obviously the introduce more clans era, though often leaving clans exceptionally weak against the OGs.  The SW/FN era of making stuff better was logical, though FN suffered immensely from so many bad cards.  Then, you get the “V:TES weirder” era with bloodlines, anarchy, BHness, Events, Red List, Laibon where I get that the game was going down a path of trying to broaden its mechanics.  At the time, I was into the idea of bloodlines.  I was into the idea of Laibon.  BH and anarchy both seem somewhat innocuous and don’t require more disciplines.  But, I just don’t see how the game got better, just more diverse.  Then, you get a power up era with KoT and HttB.

Given that you have to expand the game somehow, what would have made more sense?  Really, Camarilla could use more expansion to do things besides P/J plays.  Vampire expansion was generally good, but each grouping could use more options, especially for certain clans.  Core clans – Cam, Sabbie, Indie – could do with more clan cards, though indies have gotten a ton of love over the years.  More multidiscipline, especially for weaker discipline combinations.  More vampires that share out of clan disciplines for the likes of Lasombra and Tzimisce (besides Dominate and Presence, like the indie disciplines).

Add one new mechanic and it seems like a minor increase in complexity.  Keep adding and you get not only a far more difficult game to teach newbs but a game that becomes even harder for existing players and turns off more casual groups that remember what it was like in prior eras and preferred that.  Then, how many of these mechanics are actually positive additions to the game.  Can say anarchy and BHness are now good additions, but they were terrible additions when they came out.  Events remain a pox on the game.  Aus/Obf arms race was not my idea of making stealth/intercept work better but had the tendency to squeeze out a lot of middle ground plays (though the evidence for this doesn’t seem to exist).

So, V:TES thoughts while in another pretty dry period for V:TES play.  I’m sure negative views on other things will surface, or I’ll have something the same/different to talk about after Gen Con.


[Classic] T-H Rating [3/27/2000]

July 4, 2018

I’m amazed I never bothered to hunt down the infamous … er … insidery … er … virtually unknown outside of a few B5 CCG folks T-H Rating questions.  This is why I hold on so preciously to my AOL personal filing cabinet – I can spew geniusness from yesterdecades upon my devoted readers (shout out Estonia).

T-H Rating, aka TH Rating, aka Turku-Helsinki Rating.

If I was to encapsulate my core nature’s essences, my creating T-H Rating in around March of 2000 would exemplify.

This is a crude way to calculate your local TH Rating – an indicator of the type of metagame you will likely find in an environment. Only answer based on tournament play. I would be amused to have someone keep track of this, but this is mainly for your own benefit. The implications of a high or low TH Rating follow the questions.

10 questions:
What percentage of games go to time?
A. 0-10% B. More than 10%.

In general, rate how useful cards are that allow you to use the wrong ability in a conflict – Level, Fleets on the Border, etc.
A. Not useful B. Useful

Does a player care what the other players are doing if the former is winning?
A. No B. Yes

Does anyone play Ill Fated Reverses?
A. Almost never/no B. Yes

If someone else is playing Growth in Chaos and you play against him or her a second time, do you …
A. Laugh at the player’s lame deck/play for second/reserve in Conscriptions B. reserve in all your Shadow hosers

Does anyone ever put Taunts and Games, Level, or NMTB in the opening hand without knowing what someone else’s deck does?
A. No B. Yes

Since the release of Psi Corps, have you seen any player play with Anti-Telepath Virus, Plague, or Strike at the Heart?
A. No B. Yes

Hidden Treasury:
A. Extra cheese for when one of your 3 STGs or 3 TWs gets hit with NMTB or LR B. Protection from Seeds of Anarchy, Ill Fated Reverses, or the like

How many weapons are normally found in a deck?
A. 0-1 B. 2+

Does anyone ever initiate war conflicts?
A. No B. Yes

Each B answer is worth 1 point. Each A answer is worth zero points. If you aren’t sure, count the answer as one half point.

A low TH Rating indicates a noninteractive environment. Speed is very important. Don’t expect help from other players to stop anyone, so if you want to win, try to win quicker.

A high TH Rating indicates a contentious environment. Both brute force and stealth are encouraged. As are table diplomacy and resilience. Try not to make too many enemies.

Again, this is only a crude way to calculate TH Rating. But, it isn’t easy to come up with a meaningful formula, so it is sort of what we are stuck with.

Why did I hunt this down now?  Well, I also am using this pure, physical geniusness in an article for Traveller where I talk a bit about “race” games, where I always think of B5 as another race game when I think of how we went with Traveller’s primary win condition of 20+ VPs.  (Well, arguably primary win condition until we see how tournament play goes with respect to bankruptcy decks.)

A game like Magic can be analyzed with some level of metagame predictability due to the large playerbase and quick turn around on stealing tech.  However, even with Magic, there are local metagames to consider.  Maybe Red Deck Wins is good at the moment due to lack of hosers, speed of other top decks, and whatever, but the tournament you are going to play in is full of sad, pathetic haters who don’t realize Magic is most fun when it’s a couple “4 to the dome” after some 2/1 beats followed by the uncounterable X burn spell for the kill.

With niche CCGs like … pretty much all of the games I’ve played seriously, regional metagames are far more extreme.  Turku was about the One-AIR decks:  decks that focused on pushing one ability – Diplomacy, Intrigue, Military, and probably not Leadership or Psi which lacked the same number of influence-gaining conflicts – to gobble influence as quickly as possible.  Helsinki was into interaction and throwing out obstacles to opponents rather than just playing your game.

Now, much of Traveller play is two-player, and “negative plays” in two-player games are not the same as negative plays in multiplayer games.  Still, there are plays in two-player games, especially a race game like Traveller, which are more inclined to pushing your victory condition regardless as to your opponent instead of trying to impede your opponent’s march towards second place.

Anyway, an independent creation from the Wayback Machine on an Independence Day.  Now, to go read some of my RPG books to steal session ideas for RPG play.


Jinn Con

May 6, 2018

Gen Con event registration was earlier today.  I got into everything I signed up for, which is pretty normal as my wish lists are Heroes of Rokugan heavy, even more so this year, with my esoteric RPGs not even as popular as previous years.  According to my friend, we got into all of the True Dungeon events we wanted, which involved lots of late night sessions, which is probably how that worked out.

Speaking of previous years, I was doing some house cleaning and found miscellaneous items from Gen Con 2005 and 2006, including a disturbing number of Steak & Shake receipts for the same transaction (#258, not to be confused with the receipts I found for something like three other transactions that year).  I have both program booklets.  One year, we stayed at the Omni and it was like a total of $160 a night after taxes.

In 2006, I played:

Puritan Dogs in the Vineyard

Brawny Thews (Conan d20)

Rescuing the Dead (Armageddon RPG)

Bonfire of the Vanities (Four Colors al Fresco)

Work Sucks (Hunter: The Reckoning, probably the hotel game where a vampire convention was going on and I was playing a chef)

The City of Lies (HoR2)

HoR Open

Serenity 003: It’s Been a Pleasure (Serenity RPG)

Escape the Spider Cult (not writing the whole title, True Dungeon) x3 (three tickets, think that was the year Bernie went)

Escape the Spider Cult x3 (I don’t think we did the same adventure twice …)

Ten events.  That makes sense as I think of Gen Con having 11 slots, 3 on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, 2 on Sunday.  In recent years, I no longer leave a hole in my schedule as there are far more things I’d like to do than I can schedule in the paltry four days of gaming that GC provides.  Would need like six days to have a leisurely schedule of three games four days and two games the other two days.

Speaking of 2006, I also found my invitation to an April 1st birthday party.  A birthday party for a 90 year old Japanese woman.  I went to it.

I found other amusing things.

I seek the ninth level of power and, maybe, an inexpensive hairbrush.

I say this as an elf.  I have worked with reindeer for years.  I’ve driven a reindeer sled to work for the last eleven years.  They are the dolphins of land animals.  They speak English!

After all, you can’t spell slaughter without laughter.

You think you the first barely legal chick to tie me up and try to eat my friend right in front of me?

Ah, the good ole days, when I used to gather quotes to use as email sigs.

Speaking of sigs …, er, speaking of L5R home campaigns, I ran session two of Rokugan 1600, The Northern Front.

Session zero was March Unto Death.  Session one was Briefing, the heavy in what’s going on session before a quick rescue mission.  Session two was Tonic & Jinn, a vignette heavy session to give more opportunity to engage individually with NPCs, where an assassination attempt was foiled by two non-blind PCs.  Though, Jinn Toxic or a variety of other variants would have also worked.

Our window to play is short, as we use weeknights.  That means I need to prepare to only cover sections of an overall narrative.  Still heavy on explaining and light on activity, but we will see if next session, which involves mass combat, will feel more vigorous.


[Classic] Summary 4/5 session [4/6/2014]

March 28, 2018

I started running Rokugan 1600 (by running a session set in about 1504).  There are certain things I continue to find odd when I run stuff, but I don’t know if this the time to beat that expired pony.

Instead, let me cover a few things and then post my recap of what happened back when I was having lots of fun playing a bushi with an Awareness of 5.

In our Conan play, Brad would reward session writeups, fictions, bringing food, etc.  This group agrees that this sort of encouragement to write about the campaign or otherwise contribute should be done.  My current idea is to give people Destiny Marks (TM) [uh, sure, the game is out of print …].  These Destiny act as Void Points that can only be spent when a PC is out of Void.  They are one-use in case that wasn’t obvious.  I’m already thinking that I should clarify that they can be used as VPs for any character, including other PCs and NPCs.

Why this mechanic and not, say, a Destiny Mark is worth a Free Raise on a roll or a reroll?

Success versus survival.  L5R is not strong on ways to save your character when the explosions go off.  Typically, it’s the GM who saves you by just not keeping high damage dice.  VPs are a temporary defense through ATN increase or damage reduction that doesn’t break the game like having a 51 ATN in 4e breaks the game.  Meanwhile, FRs on rolls do jack on defense, being “offensive” in nature.  And, I’m pretty tired of rerolls luck and right.

Of course, I could do both, rewarding different contributions in different ways.

Of some possible interest to GMs is that I started this campaign off with a prologue session.  Rokugan 1600 is a sequel of sorts to all sorts of stuff but most directly to Heroes of Rokugan 2.  The first session was March Unto Death, one of the last mods in HoR2 and one that fed into the final battle interactive.  Not only am I a fan of MUD for some interesting mechanics and for incentivizing things I like doing (and, yet, things that my players don’t like doing for some reason that escapes me … let it go, dude … let it go), but it fits the theme of Rokugan 1600 really well with the Crab being screwed, Tattooed Folks getting in the action, et al.

Obviously, the players would not be playing the same characters in the prologue and the main campaign.  The intent was that their PCs in the past would through their actions or inaction or whatever inform some aspect of their real PCs.  For instance, a simple way to go would be that the past PC would be the ancestor to the 1600 PC.  But, all sorts of things could have been possible.  I thought it went okay, where a group more comfortable with the idea could get more out of such narrative tricks.

More to come on 1600, but let’s get to why this is a classic post.  I was trying to find a description of a Bayushi NPC from the Princess Police when I came across this session recap:

**     **     **     **     **

Players: Michele, Jackie, Ian

Because we had only the three players, it was a question whether to do some personal social stuff or reconvene 4/12. With Michele/Izumi enthusiastic about helping Shosuro Nanami get ball-and-chained, we were off.

According to Izumi, Nanami wanted Isawa Masusuke to breed with Hiruma Masami (rather than her), and Izumi thought Nanami and Seppun Nana would make a cute couple. To promote Nanami for tying the knot with the Emperor’s youngest son, Izumi went to the Lion Champion and called him out for ducking the far superior go player, Nanami. Kidai was hanging around some imperial types and marketed the match, which got the ole Compassionate One to witness this friendly between the Lion and the Scorpion. Nanami beat Akodo Kurojin 32 to 29 and Mirumoto Tomo backed up the carrot gallery’s comment about wondering what other hidden talents Nanami possessed.

Next up was showing off Nanami’s samisen skill. No, the rock duet with Bengi didn’t happen, but there was a tea party to reflect upon the ending of Winter and more Amaterasuish days ahead. Hantei got invited and knowing that it was the place to be for all of the cool folks, they showed up. Daniwa did the tea thing with a bunch of Hantei, the Master of Fire, and some other folks watching. Nanami nailed the muzak. End result? Nanami has some momentum for locking up Nana.

To get the two swimsuit models to notice each other, Kidai made a call out for models to help him work on painting humanoids. In a shocking coincidence, Masusuke and Masami happened to be at the same session and it was noted by someone how smoking hot their kids would end up being. A bit of work on the Crab and Phoenix followed up on the “pretty people deserve the pain that comes with being together” concept. End result? Progress but unknown how much.

Crab and Phoenix were kind of inclined to be helpful as the EC got this Hare-raising idea to create a special maho-hating taskforce within the Emerald Magistrates. The idea to call them Diamond Magistrates (PR move to make Unicorn happy) went over less well. Well, whether they get called Pearl Magistrates, Opal Magistrates, Crystal Magistrates, or whatever, who cares? The important thing was opening up some positions well-suited to Crab and Phoenix (also, maybe it gets Yasumi and Izumi and maybe even us nobodies a promotion). Now, the Phoenix were already right-thinking, but the Crab were persuaded to think about how suitable Bayushi Saya would be as 1st Imperial Legion Commander, seeing as how so many Crab would be busy being imperial magistrates. If someone could have come up with a good angle for getting the Unicorn to abandon Yoshi and go with Saya, that would have locked things up for Team Floppy Arthropods. But, Kidai needed some “nap” time.

We were done in a bit less than 3 hours.