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.

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[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.


The Best of … 2014

December 31, 2017

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

January

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

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

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

Might, Right, Or Contrite

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

February

Core-Tier

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

Finish Line

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

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

Orccon 2014

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

Mysterious

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

March

Review – Book of Water

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

Eject The Tape

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

Bushi Analysis – Extended

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

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

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

Generic Bushi School

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

Strong Sorrows?

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

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

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

April

HoR Strategy

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

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

May

June

July

BattleTech Scenario Building

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

August

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

September

October

Ambivantaged

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

The Road To Mana

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

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

November

Exploring Villainy

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

Lo, The Fun

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

L5R Campaigns

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

December

Clan Cards – Camarilla

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

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

RPG Fiction Guide

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


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


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 …

 


Riffing

February 26, 2017

There’s something I’ve tried explaining in recent years a bit more to people I know.

I picked up some fantasy novels in an effort to use up an Amazon gift card.  Because of True Dungeon, I became aware of Patrick Rothfuss’s The Kingkiller Chronicle.  It occurs to me those two sentences would logically be switched in order, but, if you read my blog, you may grasp that I don’t always follow logical order.

I finished the first book last week and am a bit more than 750 pages into the second book.

I got into something of a discussion Thursday with the Shadowfist group, mostly around my view that the series purposefully endeavors to merge low fantasy and high fantasy.

And, so, the usual trying to explain what low fantasy is and what high fantasy is.  I was a bit surprised anyone would think Lord of the Rings wasn’t high fantasy.  To me, it’s a classic and illustrative example.

While it’s hard for me to argue against high magic being prevalent in high fantasy, there’s more to it than that.  D&D is not philosophically high fantasy.  It’s videogame fantasy.  You obsess over power, whether through stuff or levels.  You hope some random wheel of fate gives you +5 Strength.

But, I’ve said as much before.

I’m quite enjoying the series.  In fact, it’s addictive.

Movies aren’t.  TV can be.  I’ve said as much before, but let me try it a different way.

Movies are complete.  They are straightforward.  They are bombastic.  TV has more opportunities to twist and turn as there’s so much more content, and they are often incomplete.  At least, for me, they are incomplete, as I often don’t pay much attention to series when they end.  The threat of ending is why I am so reluctant to invest in series that sound interesting.

Books are different.

When I was in sixth grade, the teacher brought a box of books, put them in the side room (storage?, was there a sink?).  The box was full of fantasy and science fiction novels.  She was giving them away.  The other students may have taken more than I thought, but I remember only a casual interest.

I took an armful, a stack.

I may have read some of those books – I believe a few.  I’m fairly sure I didn’t read some.  I’m fairly sure I still own them and could read them at my leisure.

What have I been trying to explain?

Not yet.

I have an affinity to the Kingkiller Chronicle.  Oh, I don’t think highly of my abilities.  I found myself increasingly weary of the obsession over low fantasy concerns, like paying tuition or going hungry.  I don’t embrace entertainment for real world concerns.  I embrace entertainment for adventure, for drama, for melodrama, for another world.

I have fantasy novels that I have no affinity for.  Perhaps I didn’t read long enough.  But, my way of explanation for giving up on them is that they throw too many fantasy names of people and places at me too soon without my caring a jot about the characters or the plot.

I have some … criticisms isn’t the right word because writing is hard and different people have different tastes … hindrances to elevating the series to some lofty perch.

I said an addiction.  Books do that to me, even ones that aren’t so great.  I’ve read a good number of Xanth books, and they become much more childish over time.  One of those books I read when on vacation with family in Honolulu.  A day or maybe one and a half.

An addiction because stories do more then tell stories.  They inspire other stories.

RPG play is more like TV to me.  I don’t mean RPG campaign ideas or whatever, I mean the actual play.  The actual play lives beyond itself to a degree but not the same degree.  It’s too much one thing.  The value in the long running campaigns, with the PC development, is that they expand beyond one thing.  I still think of Usagi Kidai beyond the Princess Police.  Ty maybe not as much, anymore, but Ty and Rald and Hak and Smed and so on.

But, books, they inspire me to riff.

Being incompetent with music besides knowing what’s good, bad, and interesting better than anyone else who has ever lived, I imagine that musicians feel that way with music.  They want to riff.

I will stop reading.  I will peer into that other world and I will construct my own story.  The characters may be much the same or the scene may be much the same or the concept may be much the same.  Sometimes, it’s an idea for a novel but usually it’s dialogue.  I so love dialogue.

Eventually, I will return to reading.

The more I riff, the more entertainment I will get from a book.  Even bad books, which is why I continued with bad series long after they stopped being decent series.  I’ll forego naming names, as I can respect those who have abilities beyond my own.

I’ve been riffing a lot more with this series than I have in a long, long time.

I’m starting to remember something, something important, but that’s either going to sound ridiculous, pretentious, or will not elicit enough reaction to bother.  People don’t listen to me, but it’s not my job to force them.

I suppose one piece of that, though, may sound not so ridiculous.  I perceive the world differently at the moment.  Sure, Star Wars movies can do that, too, and music does that, and so can other things.  The mind is rather malleable when you let it be.

I have his children’s(?) book to read after day two.  I have a series my sister had on her Christmas list that I decided to try out for myself afterwards.

So many distractions.  So much time.