Ancestor Rate

January 14, 2018

While it may never come to pass that an all ancestor, all the time campaign is run, I might as well see what I think about the ancestors so that I can make decisions on any PCs/NPCs I create.

When I reviewed Great Clans, I did some ratings for those ancestors.  But, for the first time, I will put it all together and spew ancestor thoughts for the ancestors in the three books where they are concentrated:  core, GC, Secrets of the Empire.

Comments:  I’m not going to bother with Spider or clearly NPC ancestors, like monks.  My overall rating is kind of irrelevant, as it’s just an average (rounded down) of the other two, but it gives me something to think about.  Desirability, of course, is all that really matters.  You can come up with your own feelings on how much you like what an ancestor does.  More comments after.

Ancestor Cost (Pts.) Effective (Pts.)
Hida 14 10
Kuni 8 6
Doji 8 6
Kakita 12 3
Agasha Kitsuki 11 8
Mirumoto 9 10
Akodo 12 11
Ikoma 9 7
Kaimetsu-Uo 9 10
Gusai 5 0
Asako 5 0
Shiba 9 9
Bayushi 12 11
Shosuro 8 7
Moto 10 3
Shinjo 8 9
Hiruma 11 8
Kaiu 9 9
Asahina 9 8
Doji Hayaku 7 6
Agasha6 6 9
Agasha10 10 11
Togashi Yamatsu 7 6
Kitsu 6 6
Matsu Hitomi 7 5
Moshi Azami 6 3
Osusuki & Akomachi 5 6
Isawa 12 7
Naka Kaeteru 10 11
Yogo 6 12
Soshi Saibankan 5 3
Otaku 7 4
Iuchi 8 5
Otomo 6 5
Seppun 10 6
Miya 5 2
Ichiro Fureheshu 9 5
Komori Iongi 5 4
Hida Heichi 4 7
Tonbo Kuyuden 3 2
Usagi Reichin 7 4
Toku 3 5
Tsi 6 3
Morito Garin 5 2
Doji Suzume 4 6
Agasha Kasuga 5 3
Sun Tao 10 8
Chiroru 8 5
Miyuko 12 14

First up, what the ancestors cost versus my rough attempt to calculate more accurate point valuations.  Note that just because something might be worth more or less points doesn’t mean I equate that to a quality rating, though there should be high correlation.

The assumption is that campaigns make use of PC abilities.  If playing HoR or the like, where spirits and spirit realms may never appear [ha, ha ha], then sucks to be Miss Kitsu.

Ancestor Demands
Hida Low
Kuni Very Low
Doji Low
Kakita Very High
Agasha Kitsuki Very Low
Mirumoto Low
Akodo Low
Ikoma Very High
Kaimetsu-Uo High
Gusai Very High
Asako Very Low
Shiba Medium
Bayushi Low
Shosuro Low
Moto Low
Shinjo Very Low
Hiruma High
Kaiu Very Low
Asahina Very High
Doji Hayaku Low
Agasha6 Low
Agasha10 Low
Togashi Yamatsu Very Low
Kitsu Very Low
Matsu Hitomi Medium
Moshi Azami Low
Osusuki & Akomachi Very Low
Isawa Very Low
Naka Kaeteru Medium
Yogo High
Soshi Saibankan Very High
Otaku Very Low
Iuchi Low
Otomo Low
Seppun High
Miya Very Low
Ichiro Fureheshu Very Low
Komori Iongi Very High
Hida Heichi Very Low
Tonbo Kuyuden High
Usagi Reichin Very Low
Toku Low
Tsi Very Low
Morito Garin Low
Doji Suzume Low
Agasha Kasuga Low
Sun Tao Very Low
Chiroru Very Low
Miyuko Very Low

The whole concept of demands is fitting, but the whole concept of demands resulting in losing an ancestor is dumb.  The demands aren’t remotely nuanced enough and some are just crazy to deal with where others are trivial.

Ancestor Quality Desirability Overall
Hida ** ** **
Kuni *** **** ***
Doji *** * **
Kakita * * *
Agasha Kitsuki *** * **
Mirumoto ***** ** ***
Akodo **** *** ***
Ikoma ** * *
Kaimetsu-Uo **** ** ***
Gusai 0 0 0
Asako 0 0 0
Shiba ** ** **
Bayushi *** ** **
Shosuro *** * **
Moto * * *
Shinjo **** *** ***
Hiruma ** * *
Kaiu **** **** ****
Asahina **** ** ***
Doji Hayaku *** * **
Agasha6 ***** *** ****
Agasha10 **** **** ****
Togashi Yamatsu ** ***** ***
Kitsu **** ***** ****
Matsu Hitomi ** * *
Moshi Azami * ***** ***
Osusuki & Akomachi ***** ***** *****
Isawa *** ** **
Naka Kaeteru ***** *** ****
Yogo ***** * ***
Soshi Saibankan ** * *
Otaku * * *
Iuchi * ** *
Otomo **** * **
Seppun ** ** **
Miya * * *
Ichiro Fureheshu ** ** **
Komori Iongi *** * **
Hida Heichi ***** * ***
Tonbo Kuyuden *** * **
Usagi Reichin * ** *
Toku **** * **
Tsi ** * *
Morito Garin * * *
Doji Suzume ***** *** ****
Agasha Kasuga *** * **
Sun Tao *** * **
Chiroru * *** **
Miyuko ***** *** ****

Note the reason for the multiple tables is because I’m too lazy to format things better and haven’t bothered to download a plug-in, which might still require me to spend time formatting data, something I find routinely tedious if it involves more than a few clicks.  I know this makes it much harder to compare my point valuations against my quality stars, but I seem to struggle with the idea of making this blog easy to read.

Anyway, here we get to the entree portion of our meal.  Two stars is average.

Let’s get Gusai and Asako out of the way.  Neither does anything.  I’m thinking whoever wrote 4e thought that Allies are supposed to do something, but I have yet to see it be the case.  Why you would need to roll against an ally is even more bewildering.  Gusai is just dumb and is totally a NPC thing that would apply to like one NPC in the entire history of Rokugan.

Of the ancestors I chose to include … there are a lot for such a low yield mechanic, almost like the intent and the play of the game are at odds … Core average is 2.5 stars, GC average is 3.1 stars, and Secrets average is 2.8 stars.  Continues the trend that core book mechanics tend to be weaker than supplement mechanics, at least with the more esoteric stuff, like kata.  Of course, Core mechanics’ averages often get pulled down by nonsense mechanics that clearly weren’t created with actual use in mind.

Toku.  If Luck is worth about 7 points, why does he get 5?  Diminishing returns.  Since you never take Toku unless you already have three ranks of Luck, you just aren’t getting the Luck sleaze you would get otherwise.  Though, I suppose, there might be some campaign that required ancestors where you may not max out Luck …

Chiroru is, in theory, an easy calculation.  You get the benefit of 3-4 points of Kharmic Tie with previous edition danger sense power.  Maybe danger sense is worth more than 1.5 points.

By the way, trying to evaluate the abilities for these things is really hard.  Why are Seppun and Bat Clan not equivalent?  Psychology.  Sure, you could save a VP all game until you reduce damage by 10 or you could reduce damage by 10 when you need to without a VP.  Well, plus, in the Seppun case, you aren’t spending a VP, so you circumvent the once per round restriction (by any reasonable wording, plus note difference in ancestor cost).

Now, where things get messier is when an ancestor says you can spend a VP to do something because they don’t say you can avoid the once per round limit, a completely idiotic and unnecessary limit.  The exception for school techniques is specific.

It’s funny to me that Sparrow don’t really get shafted in 4e, other than the absurd path in Secrets.  Their stuff doesn’t sound good but is far better than a lot of other stuff.

Sure, Kaiu is only once per year you get to make magic items … you … get … to … make … magic … items!!

Talking to animals is the bee’s sleaze [TM].  There’s a reason Dr. Doolittle just owns.

Makes me sad that Ikoma is such a problematic ancestor.  Again, if you go by Greek God patronage rules, makes way more sense as he respects your partying self but doesn’t blow a gasket when you aren’t partying heartying.

Such a sucker for Foxes and … Centipedes.

I have actually played Kitsu.  It was pleasant but didn’t come up that much.  It did inform certain aspects of the campaign that were pleasant up until I replaced the PC with a better one.

I don’t get Kakita.  It seems like dueling is supposed to be more core to the game, yet, the problem with doing that even if you wanted to is that dueling is grossly, grossly unfair unless your GM has a serious handle on it.  Also, lots of schools don’t duel, which means it’s not a core mechanic for lots of PCs.

I’m getting a bit more interested in the Ancestor Campaign.  Even as a GM, I can make NPCs with ancestors the players don’t care about.  Though, I need to be wary about trying to “play” my characters during games, an often painful activity GMs will fall into when they cherish their creations more than letting players play.

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The Best of … 2014

December 31, 2017

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

January

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

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

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

Might, Right, Or Contrite

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

February

Core-Tier

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

Finish Line

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

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

Orccon 2014

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

Mysterious

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

March

Review – Book of Water

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

Eject The Tape

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

Bushi Analysis – Extended

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

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

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

Generic Bushi School

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

Strong Sorrows?

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

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

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

April

HoR Strategy

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

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

May

June

July

BattleTech Scenario Building

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

August

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

September

October

Ambivantaged

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

The Road To Mana

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

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

November

Exploring Villainy

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

Lo, The Fun

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

L5R Campaigns

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

December

Clan Cards – Camarilla

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

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

RPG Fiction Guide

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


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


Imperial Sizing

December 24, 2017

So, I got my L5R Imperial Cycle cards.

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

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

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

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

Cards I want to play:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


The Last-est Review

December 23, 2017

Of course, I need to comment on The Last Jedi.  And, of course, I’ll come up with some flimsy justification for how this has anything to do with gaming.

2.5 stars

People keep asking me “Out of how many?”  Um, four, like normal critics use, as opposed to the enormity of what happens in the interwebs.

I’m sure I’ll spoil in some manner, so I’ll drone for a while before getting into specifics.

I was traveling and didn’t have a lot I needed to do, so my father and I decided we would use some of our time together to see the movie.  On Saturday.  Not today Saturday, a whole week ago.  I was worried about lines.  Nope.  There was a line for some group event, but there was no one in line to get into the theaters normally.  I estimate about 20% full in the theater.

So, I rarely see movies any time close to when they come out because I don’t much like movies.  But, for adventure movies, comedies, whatever, you kind of like audience reaction.

Still droning.  Resaw it again today and had no new reactions.  Sure, was less surprising, but it didn’t reveal anything different.

I enjoyed Force Awakens more.  Now, you can hear the screaming of the tortured souls of people I know who were incredibly offended by Force Awakens for reasons I don’t exactly get.  I was somewhat offended by John Carter for getting the main character wrong, not having impactful book events be all that impactful, and generally messing with the setting.  But, one, whatever medium I experience something in is going to cause me to have some level of disdain for another medium’s offering.  Two, Lynn Collins was entirely respectable.

Force Awakens was not perfect.  While I may have already reviewed it, what worked for me was that I found Rey and Finn likable.

So, let’s get into where The Last Jedi didn’t Zahn me.  Rey and Finn weren’t on screen enough.  Oh, I’m sure someone else could have worked for taking up more of Poe’s screen time or Porg screen time.  Problem with Poe is that he seems so artificial, so much like a caricature trying to be passed off as a character.  If he was Wedge’s kid, then maybe he would be likable.  As is, just a space bro.

The humor was sometimes humorous.  Other times, forced.  In general, the movie just seemed kind of cheesy.  Like it was trying to get away with what Return of the Jedi got away with (argued about how Ewoks were not that offensive at the time, recently).

Stuff with Luke and Leia neither bothered me nor fired my ion cannons.  I did like the animesque scene.  I didn’t think Luke’s character was assassinated.  Nor was I bothered by what the Force can do.

I didn’t think there were too many subplots, as some did, as the most complained about subplot has reasons for existing besides special effects.  I didn’t have a problem with the new characters, per se, though how badly would you want Billy Dee to show up?

Sure, it was long and slowish.  After the fact, you realize that there’s an inherent weakness to primary plot number one.

Kylo is still hard to take seriously as a villain, but I would agree that he was less painful this time around.

Okay, bigger problems for this movie, then bigger problems for the trilogy.

There’s a subtle problem with the movie that I think various viewers feel but may not articulate in the typical brilliant way that I’m about to.  Star Wars is space opera.  It captured people’s souls by being mythical.  A quintessential element to Star Wars that you saw in even not so great Extended Universe books but was clearly evident in the better books, like the first Zahn trilogy, was that “try” becomes “do”.  In other words, if you attempt to fight the good fight, there is a reward for doing so, even if lots of people die and lots of other people remain subjugated.  TLJ has this underlying problem that there was no reward for doing the right thing.

The villains in the trilogy suck.  Was there a decent villain in Force Awakens?  I can’t think of any other villains of consequence besides the losers we are saddled with in this movie.  Vader was a good villain.  The Emperor was an okay villain.  Okay, some of the others weren’t all that.  The Jar Jar Trilogy had some incredibly forgettable villains in that I only know they were in the movies but don’t remember them doing anything besides he-who-does-not-speak-while-doublebladed-fighting.

One of the scenes that some reviewers went gaga over actually offended me.  Let’s just say that doing the obvious after lots of people die is not nearly as cool as doing the obvious before lots of people die.

Okay, moving on to general trilogy problems featured in this movie.  WTF is going on?  Force Awakens made no sense with the political situation, this movie doesn’t help, throwing a bone to why The First Order is suddenly that much more powerful.  Totally unsatisfying why the situation is what it is.  Related and part of this problem is one of the villains.  Well, kind of two of the villains, but at least one has a background.

I fully expect an attempt at some payoff on certain threads that felt like they were abandoned in this movie in Episode 9, but it still comes across as “wait, you have a 2.5 hour movie and can’t follow up on this thing that could have been cool?”

I could have mentioned before the ship in the water, which I don’t expect to go anywhere, but it kind of falls into the “setup with no payoff” problem.

There were pretty scenes that didn’t distract me but enhanced the experience.  This is totally unlike the Jar Jar Trilogy, where special effects seemed to exist to just get people to look at special effects.

It was okay.  It was worth watching.  It just wasn’t a great movie and didn’t have even the entertainment value that Force Awakens had.

So, gaming.

We played like one or two sessions of a Star Wars d20 campaign that maybe would have worked because I was playing with people I already knew who were more cognizant of genre play.  Other than that, my recollections are all terrible games set in the SW universe that had nothing to do with SW.

The Last Jedi actually does a pretty good job of presenting examples of reasons why SW RPG play doesn’t end up working.  The codebreaker is much more along the lines of what a lot of PCs are.  Now, I expect the next movie to do something with the character, but where A New Hope and Empire Strikes Back did it right by having the characters have some sort of arc, this was just a dude in this movie.  And, that’s a general problem with a ton of RPG play – why do people want to play games where PCs are just dudes?

Next, the pacing is too slow.  The original movies mostly moved at lightspeed.

Is there silly in SW from the original days?  Perhaps.  There was certainly some slapsticky humor.  But, there are times when this movie feels like a parody, and that’s not what provides the experience people seem to want out of a genre.  I don’t want parody of Eternal Champion or parody of Lord of the Rings or parody of supers.  I want to capture what attracted me to the genre in the first place.  RPG play so often dips into the realm of parody.

There isn’t enough Force except when there’s too much.  A huge problem with RPG play is that people want to be Jedi or their ilk, yet the good movies have a balance of Jedi and … no, not edge of the Empire scum, sealife aliens, etc … heroic types good at things actually relevant in RPG play.  Han, Lando, Chewbacca, Wedge, Ackbar … okay, Ackbar’s skills don’t translate great to adventures at least not his movie skills.  And, R2 is completely overpowered, just as BB8 is.  Anyway, the Force.  There are scenes that I just think to myself “Here’s where the PC spends a Force Point.”  So, there’s that.  But, the Force as something more than a mechanic feels missing from SW play.  Space opera.  It’s just high fantasy or comic book supers in another form.  Destiny, interconnection of events, soap opera aspects are not what I’ve gotten out of gaming.

I’ve gotten – we have to smuggle stuff, how do we make credits from this job, alien mechanics, interpreting Force rules.  There’s a dearth of epic.  I realize that the scale of going X-Wing versus Star Destroyer gets to be an issue and that even Tie-Fighter vs. X-Wing leaves out PCs who aren’t flygals.  But, that’s SW.  You have to have epic space battles.  Wars in the Stars.  I have no recollection of ever feeling like one of the good guys in a SW RPG session.  Not to say it never happened, but it’s a sign that I never recall it.

Of course, it’s not like SW has the only problem failing to hit the genre feel/conventions.  Supers, high fantasy are both genres I don’t recall playing where I felt it often enough.  Actually, a few times with supers it may have felt right.  Martial arts gaming also has some issues, though I haven’t had that many opportunities to play that.

So, I have a long weekend.  I hope to bang out some posts, including a post about what new cards (maybe even new decks) I’m interested in for L5R.


Crisis Of Blog Why

November 29, 2017

The beauty of having a blog is that it allows one to be as self indulgent as one is wont to be … as someone wants to be.

How can I pass on commenting on Crisis on Earth-X?

Is it better than Justice League?  I don’t know.  I have no plans to watch Justice League.

Is it perfect?  Of course not.  Is any TV perfect (anymore, ever)?

Talking about four flawed shows, at least in my supremely brilliant opinion.

It is the pinnacle of what the Arrowverse has done.

Sure, one can say some of the early Arrow flashbacks or early Flash season one or particular scenes in Legends or moments with Superman or the early Arrow/Flash interactions were better in isolation.  But, this is what all right-thinking and left-thinking and centrist-thinking fans of superheroics wanted – a real crossover of an absurd number of supers.

It also gave Ollie and Kara “relating”, though not in the optimal way.  Nitpicking is easy.

But, let me counternitpick for a moment before we get closer to talking about gaming.

Olicity has been a thing for many a year.  As a thing, doing the comicbooky thing with it is the proper genre convention.  While I doubt the special effects could get better, though the fight choreography perhaps could, as much as the relationship drama could be better, it fit.

I don’t mark out for much.  And, I couldn’t help but think I’d want more interaction between Sara and Oliver, who, like, were a couple, and Palmer and Oliver, etc.  But, every minute held my attention because it was doing a solid job of servicing fans.  I even laughed at the sticking to things really well.

Better to try and service others than never get into servicing.  Compare what has been bequeathed upon us today versus Smallville, old Flash (had its moments), shows of yestery years.  I don’t recall Shazam! very well from the ’70s, but I somehow doubt it produced anywhere near the comicbook feel that this miniseries and these shows can achieve.

Maybe next year, they have a Green Lantern to show that the small screen can do that better, too.

So, what does this have to do with gaming?

No, it’s not time to say the same thing said around three times before.

Fun.  Gaming is supposed to be fun.  Looking forward to something.  I looked forward to night one, then to night two.

Do I look forward to playing L5R?  Shadowfist?  Heroes of Rokugan?  Attending Gen Con?

Not really, at least not in the same way of there being anticipation.  For most of the gaming I do, I hope to avoid disappointment.  V:TES would be the one thing I still do that I look forward to.  Now, more so when I know the other players as, for me, it’s a casual game to be savored for the entertainment factor.

The other aspect of the event, though it does tend to get into RPG commentary, is “pull out the stops”.  Gaming shouldn’t be mundane, repetitive.  This is why I can’t generate much enthusiasm for a lot of games I’m willing to play – there’s no spectacular.  It may be harder for games that live inside the box, like boardgames, but there can be the “holy ay caramba!” moments in games.  CoE-X was epic.  Games can be epic.

Sure, much easier for RPGs to be epic, which is why I gravitate towards an inclination to prefer and/or favor theoretical RPG play.  But, sometimes Jake Washington ousts two players.

Finally, CoE-X gets into reasons for wanting to play a superhero RPG, even if just a one-shot.  I do think comics still have an advantage in that actors can’t always come across as badass as drawings can, but live actiony, special effects flavored entertainment gets closer and closer to rendering the images that have made people care about supers.

You don’t just have powers, you have a place in a world as an ultrabeing.  You live a huger than life … er … life.  The fate of the “world” is in your hands.  I probably mentioned playing Wasp in a convention game.  I may have mentioned looking in the Destroyer’s visor and pulling Surtur’s sword (Twilight Sword?) free because Iron Man failed his saves.  Supers embody ideals.  They aren’t realistic for good reasons.  Wolverine’s popularity can be in part attributed to calling forth the ideals of being the ultimate survivor, of being the ultimate tough (not strong) guy.  Green Lantern’s oath doesn’t sound all that cool when you say it … unless of course the Sun is being consumed by space darkness.

Now, next crossover should have Jay Garrick, Supes, Nyssa (because everything is better with Nyssa), Deathstroke?, Legionnaires, and a green ring.


Gobble-in’

November 26, 2017

Thanksgiving I spent with old friends I met through gaming – V:TES (not an unusual reason for my knowing someone).  My most relevant contribution was telling people about my friend Bill Ricardi’s book series.  Another Stupid Demon is coming out soon as a sequel to Another Stupid Spell.  Promotion pricing on Amazon for book one in a couple of weeks.

Friday, I played two games of L5R.  We played three games in under four hours.  Tournaments, here we come.  I played Crane both times, meaning I’m up to five clans played and up to seven non-tournament games to five tournament games.  Because of travel, I will miss the next two tournaments, thus defeating a possible raison d’être.

I forgot to gain fate twice in the first game, never had an air province revealed in the second.

I didn’t find my games terribly interesting.  Doji Hotaru did lots of work in the second game – round one, two fate on DH, Andy two fate on Togashi Yokuni, and I double Voided him.  I need more cards, so that I can cut the likes of Kakita Kaezin.  In the game I didn’t play, Crane won through honor victory!!  Welp, that’s …

So, maybe Crane isn’t my thing.  As I said, every clan has cards I like, so it’s not like I’m dying to play certain Crane dynasty cards I find appealing.  I definitely need to play similar decks repeatedly, though.  I feel paralyzed constantly by the decision trees available, even when winning.  Actually, it may be easier to play when losing, which makes me wonder if the reason so many people lose so often at the game is that it is easier to stop caring about making good decisions than to create an advantage or keep pressing an advantage.

Saturday, I went to GobbleCon.  It’s not my sort of con.  What I want out of cons … well, these days, for local cons, I seem to want hanging out with people I rarely see, but, gamingwise … are scheduled events that allow me to play things I want to play.  GobbleCon is all about not scheduling much in the way of events.  It is interesting how casual and family oriented it is, and there are some benefits to it.

One benefit is that there are people wandering around looking to try things out.  The reason I was at Gobble was to demo Traveller and we had our most successful demo experience at the con.

After dinner, which involved Shanghai Dumpling Shop not going back to the old, better tan tan mian that was spicier and less chewy but involved a return to more like the old, better sesame dumplings, hung out for hours talking to one of those friends I don’t often see.

The Burlingame cons are interesting in that I like being in the Burlingame area, where there are food options that interest me and where I lived for more than a decade, but I don’t much like the drive, as it’s very repetitively not short, though I may have gotten over how it used to remind me of driving to work in South San Francisco.

Thankful for having a reasonable commute in this area, thankful for having the ability to finance tokens, thankful for other stuff.  Now, I just need to figure out how to get through the remaining strawberry shortcake.  Speaking of which, now that I’ve been involved in the creation of such, as much as I hate baking for the massive amount of extra effort it requires over single pot/skillet/wok dishes, I have ideas for making my own shortcakey/biscuity dish with excessive amounts of whipped cream.  Gobble gobble.


Gamehole Con 2017

November 9, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

We played a game of L5R Thursday night.

Friday

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Then, I failed to murder a puppy.

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday

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

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

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

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

Will get to playing a bard in a moment.

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

Ranged Builds

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

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

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

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

Rating

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

Ratings

Bard

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

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

Cleric

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

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

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

Monk

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

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

Paladin

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

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

Ranger

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

Wizard

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

Next

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