Privilege

August 13, 2017

On August 5th, 2017, I was in Washington D.C., watching the premier screening of the Abaarso School movie at an event where cocktail attire was expected.  I borrowed a blazer, but otherwise I wore what I might wear to a game convention.

The piano bar after party had singing (by the pianist) so painful my musician brother and I desperately wanted to go get pizza elsewhere.

Let’s start with the first reason this has anything to do with gaming.  The students trying to get placed in US high schools, prep schools, universities are coming from a situation that I just can’t process.  The 60 Minutes (yes, the TV show) producer who did a panel after the screening asked Harry (my brother who made the movie with Ben and Kate) to contrast the opportunities available to someone who went to Thomas Jefferson High School in the NoVa area with what the Somaliland students had to deal with.

Role-playing games.  An opportunity to live out, to whatever dicechucking degree you wish, fantasies unrelated to your lifestyle.  For someone who has had it easy (that being me) by growing up in US suburbs, gloss over upbringings that involved true hardship as some characters may have had.  Economic position, educational prospects, ability to make choices, etc., etc. etc.  While RPGs are a great way to just “it’s clobberin’ time” some hours away each week like hitting a sports bar and pounding back some brewskis (I assume people call it that), it’s not a bad thing to take a moment and try to get into the headspace of what it’s like to live in a completely different milieu.

I did not play any games in my 1.5 days in Virginia/DC.  There were scenes in the movie of students playing cards and whatnot.  But, the second way this trip relates to (my) gaming is that I missed out on a V:TES tournament weekend.

I know Mark and Kenneth won tournaments.  Eric sent me a picture of a Sens. Depped Laecanus with Praxis Seizure: Stockholm, which is probably more than at least two injokes you may not get at all, but maybe you will.  But, I have little sense of how things went, probably because lots of people use Facebook and I don’t.

Given how rare V:TES play is, this is a significant lost opportunity.  Now, I obviously prioritize family stuff over gaming, but it’s an unfortunate result that I could have avoided if I had been more on the ball about suggesting when the tournaments should have taken place.  Actually, the weekend before Gen Con is usually going to be okay because it’s unlikely I would have travel I can control, knowing that back to back trips is suboptimal.

I am so disconnected from V:TES play, but, then, this year has been unusually heavy with travel and, er, with Traveller.  That’s … symbolic?

When in town, we usually get together for Thursday night Shadowfist.  In our last session, we played three games.  That’s not a good thing.  Our short games, well, our short four-player games, tend to be bad.  We had two games that felt like three-player games in that someone got out to a strong position, failed to get “regulated”, then won because people’s decks are way too big and inconsistent and/or lack character stoppage.

I completely failed from a metagame standpoint playing a deck full of edge hate in the first game, where no one had edges in play.  I really need to build some new decks.  I keep wanting to play more Final Brawls, but I just don’t own that many that I can find.

Speaking of failure, in the business trip leading up to hopping off to DC, there was no time for mahjong, my VR experience was lacking any actual play, and my friend’s phone cover of “Winter Is Coming” had pretty much no impact because I may be a nerd, but I’m an iconoclastic nerd who has never read Harry Potter nor A Song of Fire and Ice, nor made any effort to watch their visual media unless you count looking at a screen on a plane.  Nor did I hit Core Gaming Salon, as there were two other Americanos in Shanghai for me to have Italian food with, and I was only there for a week.

Been playing around with the True Dungeon phone app, discovering a real bug and a faux bug.  The faux bug is what I want to talk about.

What are the most contested equipment slots in TD?  For me?

Neck.  I was heavy Amulet of the Champion in my builds until I realized Charm Necklace probably does me more good, while Exalted Creeper Amulet is amusing, plus Amulet of Treasure Finding is necessary for our fourth and fifth characters, and a host of other stuff is irrelevant because it’s not as good but sounds cool.

Wrists.  I can’t even decide on wrists for my primary build.  Bracers of Fast Fitness is my preferece, but, if I have to burn stuff like in Grind or Hardcore/Nightmare, I guess I go Bracelets of the Cabal.  For other builds, Bracers of Supreme Archery, Charm Bracelets, Fast Fitness, other stuff all contend.

Feet.  I want to own a bunch of Boots of the Four Winds, but I’d rather play with Boots of Might or maybe even Boots of the Marauder.  All comes down to whether playing normal dungeon or not.  Not a lot of choices but ones that I constantly toy with.

Charms.  This is a recent phenomenon.  For the longest time, charms and ioun stones were two things my collection was really weak in.  Now, the three charm limit is impactful, as I frequently am happy to pump Dex at a cost of Str, yet Vicious Charm isn’t making the cut anymore.  Charm of Enlightenment is taking off as I realize just how bad non-healers want to not have embarrassing Will saves … just in case.

Least contended slots?

Fingers.  Sure, my wizard builds could do more ringing, but I struggle immensely with finding a second ring for ranged fighty builds even using first slot on Ring of Heroism.  It’s currently easy for me to level up builds as I can just Ring of Heroism up some build, except so many of my builds run the Charming Trio that RoH is unnecessary.  Obviously, if I had a certain Legendary ring or a certain Eldritch ring, things would be different, but I don’t.  I’d really like to see a ring that increases physical ranged damage by something reasonable, like 1 point, to avoid making ranged Ranger even more IO’sP (probable gross exaggeration as ranged Ranger gives up double attack Ranger).  I could, of course, pick up the rare saves boosters to have something that is theoretical good stuff – shows what sort of holes exist in my collection that I can trot out more URs than rares that do something.

Legs.  I really don’t know what pants to run when not going Kilt of Tavernbane.  When I go with free action pants, I’m defeated by how Boots of the Marauder provides free action.

Head.  Either Templar Helmet, Defender Helmet, Redoubt Helm, Crown of Iron Will, or Charming Crown.  Charming trumps Iron will, but I only own one Charming.  Templar will normally trump Defender, but I own only one Templar set.  Blessed Redoubt might suffice, but Redoubt doesn’t really at the moment, especially since I won’t own one until Gen Con.  Charming and Templar don’t contend with each other.

Shirt.  I often don’t even know what to run unless it’s Linked Shirt of Healing for everyone.  Shirt of Blessed Strength for those rare STR based builds I do, of course.

Most binary slot?

Waist.  Belt of Blessed Constitution or Girdle of Frost Giant Strength.  That’s it.  That’s all I’m going to run, unless I end up with a Viper Strike Belt at some point.

So, you may have heard that Gen Con is in August.  I wonder if it’s going to be a zoo, given that it’s sold out.  Sold out.  Interesting comments as to why moving to Chicago wouldn’t be better.  I wonder what next year will be like.  Will some folks be so turned off by the excessive number of attendees this year that attendance would actually be lower than recent years?  Unlikely.  Probably get new blood who takes the place and everyone will hope hotel situation will ease when it won’t be GC50.

For most of our group, it’s lots of TD and HoR.  Will let you know how that turns out in a couple of weeks.

Privilege.  Play games.  Travel the world.  Question why people want Italian food when in China.  Get pizza in Georgetown at 1AM.  Afford my TD collection.  Just so fortunate and useful to remind myself that it could be so much worse.


HoR4 – Same But More

June 25, 2017

I skimmed through my earlier post about HoR4 – Early Read.

Is there anything to add?  In terms of how I feel about playing, no, not really.

So, what’s the point of posting a rehash?  Let’s try to newhash as much as possible.

I’ve played CIT00 to CIT04, CIT06, CIT07, CIT10.  I can’t recall any standout mod.  Early on in HoR3, I thought some of the mods were way underdeveloped – SoB02 and SoB03, with SoB04 being suddenly over as well.  But, I liked SoB00 quite a bit, SoB01 seemed like interesting things were afoot, like maybe the Phoenix would be relevant for a change.  Then, SoB07 was one of my favorites, with all sorts of points for originality even if running it was not as good as playing it.

Then, there was SoB09.  SoB09 was something I thought was really cool at first.  As time wore on, probably because there wasn’t the payoff on Nothing in the series mattering, I grew less enamored with it.  I also read the Fire side which I neither played nor ran and was less interested in that part.  Even late in the campaign, though, it was memorable for having engaging combat, having the fantasy aspects I am more interested in, and just flowing well … like water or some liquid that flows well.

Playing HoR4/CIT, I now look back on SoB09 with much more fondness.

I’ve run at least four of the mods I’ve played – 02, 03, 06, 10.  Maybe ran 00, but whatever.

02 and 03 are both okay.  Neither 06 nor 10 appeal to me.  Yet, 10 was precisely my sort of mod in HoR3.

What happened?

I can reiterate how disconnected I feel towards CIT not just because I go months without playing or because I lack personal goals but also just because I have no concept as to what the campaign is even hinting at.  SoB may have had themes that our group never felt were (properly) executed on, but, early on, at least there felt like themes.  Balishnimpur, tension with Ivinda (not Ivindi, which is the language, or Invindi which is who knows what).  Except, Balishnimpur as a setting hasn’t mattered at all, could just as easily substitute more common things and tension with peasant Ivinda feels just like tension with peasant Rokugani.

I hated the Second City Boxed Set, well, hated may be only slightly off, more felt was a waste of effort because it didn’t develop the setting into something that was “yeah, dude, Ivory Kingdoms safari, yo”.  I feel like the point of having a setting is to explore that setting.  L5R does an amazing job of developing its setting, well, its Rokugan setting, kind of terrible job of developing the other parts of the world or other worlds.  Somehow, it would seem to me that more effort could be put into scoping out what the Ivory Kingdoms is really about for a five year campaign that theoretically is going to be spending half the time in it.

But, there’s more to whine about.

I realize I could write mods.  I realize volunteers aren’t being paid to entertain me.  I realize that Rob Hobart and his crew were fantastic at putting together HoR.  I cut SoB some slack for being a first time for a lot of folks – the mods weren’t my major complaint or my second major complaint.  Nightmare War, in my limited experience with it, actually was very cool, far far more interesting and coherent than I expected it to be.

I just feel like there’s too much similarity in mod structure.  Where HoR3 had a huge advancement was in court mods.  Sure, some of the mechanics didn’t hold together at all once you GMed the mod, but you could see what they were trying to do and provided a new spin on playing through social stuff.  At some point during that campaign and in this campaign, I already feel like the same court well is over used.  There are mechanics that never pay off that may seem like they matter when playing but are just tedious when GMing and become extremely repetitive for certain players.

In general, there just comes across a feeling of sameness to mods.  Yes, HoR4 has had one mod that was very noticeably different, even if it may have had some similarities to a previous or two.  By sameness, I don’t mean “oh, here’s another travel to a fight mod” or “is the mod just about talking down a god/crazy/recalcitrant kuge/etc.?”.  I mean that within the half dozen or so common mod archetypes, there just feels like going through the motions.

Yes, earlier stuff has the advantage of coming earlier.  Originality is going to generally fade.  But, that can be fought.  Engaging recurring NPCs like Daniel from HoR2 (not like cursed Toritaka) help.  What else?  I don’t know.  I’d have to think more about it.  I’m not saying it’s easy to be original and cool and cater to my tastes and whatever, though I thought some SoB mods that had way too much going on had some really cool things that I wish were expanded upon.

Oh, there is one thing.  Have what each and every PC do matter more often.  I’m tired of mods where, at the end, I realize that my efforts were pretty much irrelevant.  I also really dislike having mods where the crucial stuff doesn’t feel like a significant part of the mod, having been burnt on that in HoR2 once and still being irritated by that mod both for that and for having the most obnoxious NPC I recall.  Can’t have every mod be a “everyone is a special snowflake mod”, though Words and Deeds from HoR2 felt like that to me and I loved how that played for my character.  But, I feel so much like I’m tagging along in CIT not so much in an adventure but in an exercise to gain more XP.

I can try to fight this on my end.  I can try to finally figure out what to care about to where I can begin my character’s story arc.  I can actually put together my Bushido Tenet Ratings for this character.  What is going to be difficult, though, is being dedicated enough to complete a mod.  It doesn’t help that when I ask about whether one of my ideas should be followed up on, I don’t get any response.


Underpromotion

June 18, 2017

Since KublaCon, in terms of actual play, it has been pretty much Shadowfist.

But, let me digress for a while.

I finished the Last Chronicles of Thomas Covenant.  That was disappointing.  It was a slog to get through the books what with the constant verbiage taken up with “I can’t continue.  Someone else is better than I am.”  Just beaten over the head constantly with how awesome haruchai are, giants are, someone else is.  Sure, there was the gratuitous use of pretentious diction replete in the quadripertitus series.  I’m sure a staff could be found with lenitive properties to flush the experience.  Look, I’m sure it’s condign to make yourself hard to understand to the reader, your audience will grow properly chary.  But, when the first page of a new chapter is like 10 words you haven’t (over)used in book four, most of the way towards the end, that stick out like a sore pollex, feels like you are just trolling the reader.

But, here’s the ultimate problem – the ending was boring.  There were moments when things were cool.  There was potential, like the weird alliance that was crucial in book four.  But, it just seemed like after dragging and dragging, the ending was rushed just to get it over with.

Anyway, it’s not the only series where much more cool stuff could have happened.  So, how does this tie into gaming?

Satisfying endings aren’t easy.  I do find that con RPGs can often create the appropriate ending by simply having a very linear structure to the adventure.  This … does … not … bother … me.  You know, dungeon crawling has the feature of (typically) a linear path to the end.  I don’t dislike dungeon crawling.  I just view it different from role-playing.  One thing I don’t formulate in my mind well are endings.  And, I, too, fall into the “trap” of wanting players to have freedom to make terrible results.

Number second:  Don’t be repetitive.  Fights shouldn’t all feel the same.  NPCs shouldn’t feel the same.  Missions shouldn’t feel the same.  Unfortunately, when it comes to game mechanics, very often PC actions are highly repetitive.  Use same attacks or always try Diplomacy +26 roll or whatever.  Now, this is where having a player explain what they say or do can vary from just rolling dice.  Is this an argument for spell memorization with inability to duplicate overmuch spell choice?  Hmmm …

Number three:  Make your gods interesting.  Actually, one of the godlike powers in the series actually became interesting, though it didn’t get a story arc.  I’m a big fan of gods.  But, if they just do things the protagonists can’t or can’t affect, kind of not so exciting.  Then, if they just get owned by chumps, that’s kind of eh, too.  I should be more specific, since the point of Lord of the Rings is that a god gets owned by chumps.  If chumps are clever or cool in their ownage, okay, but it’s when chumps are just chumping and happy ending in the post-carnage world that it’s kind of chumptastic.

As you probably don’t recall, a recent Gen Con saw me playing yet another game where you play a god.  I complained about how the game was like two hours for something not actually billed as two hours.  But, I had relatively lots of pleasure in that brief period.  My god was cool.  My god licked blood off of folks.

Switching offhand weapons.  Back to thinking about True Dungeon.  We really don’t need more tokens at this point, well, except maybe one and only if we somehow play something besides normal level.  Didn’t get into Grind and probably don’t have to worry about it since my schedule is rather tight at Gen Con.

One question is whether to loan tokens to other players.  I actually did that last year when we had like nothing in the way of relevant collections, as class specific uncommons are still better than not.  I can see it to a degree – talking about PUGs where we actually have much more stuff than the others.  I mostly see it with class specific tokens below ultrarare rarity.  Masterwork Thieves’ Tools, Ring of Soothing Touch, instrument if Eric isn’t our Bard, whatever crap Monks use.  I don’t want to be in the position of being pushy in any way.  On the other hand, as unlikely as it seems based on comments on the forums that we would have a more beefed up group, sure, switch out your Redoubt Plate for this largely devalued Blessed Redoubt Plate.

I have even more tokens that make me want to vaguely try a different class just to see the token get used, though the problem is that it would encourage me to play a style that doesn’t interest me, with probable results that don’t interest me.  For example, I have a solid one-handed melee weapon.  In a PUG, playing normal, I might do something boring like play a Paladin that goes sword and board or, just to see how boring it is, a Fighter.  In this scenario, I’d likely be a prime damage dealer at air hockey shuffleboard.  I can’t see how this is a fun result.  I want other folks to be +2 Slayers.  They will enjoy murder.  I will be embarrassed or bored hitting or missing for average double digit damage.

Contrast with Barbarian.  I cannot actually see how you build a Barbarian that doesn’t just annihilate things.  Even when you aren’t using a +3 relic, damage output is so absurd when you make even a token effort [ha, ha ha] to not undermine what the class does.  I have a STR 14, level 5 Barbarian build written up, and it still is just gross.  Then, I decided to see what our best Grind, Barbarian build would be, and it averages 22.5 damage ranged and just under 38 damage melee.  Point of reference?  Last year, most of my spells did 6 damage.  Even now, with my normal build where I don’t worry about damage pumps much, looking at those spells doing 10 damage.  Sure, I could Mad Evoker’s Charm for some base doubling, but that’s not why you … I mean … why I play a Wizard.  I play a Wizard to point out planes of existence on a chart, not because I feel a need to polish off monsters.

It’s going to be really interesting to see how it will play out at GC, when we finally get a chance to use collections that didn’t exist prior and whether I want to regress into playing builds that are more green or red than purple or whether I’ll want to be even more violet end of the color spectrum.  Or, gasp, get orange.

I’m trying to find builds that are different yet still relevant.  Purple tokens have a habit of converging builds, at least for me and for my concerns.  Paladin retribution damage build is an interesting build, though not one we could do.  All Dex, all the time Wizardy builds (more Elf Wizard) may end up more interesting than it seems what with maybe having a decent AC somehow mattering.  Ranged damage builds with Bard or others is maybe a thing to do that’s different.  Unfortunately, there’s only so many ways to pump ranged damage not dependent upon STR, and I doubt there will be a lot more tokens to pump ranged damage given what Rangers can do.  Of course, just put it into a slot Rangers may care about, which is … uh, probably all of the slots I already care about, like wrist slot, feet slot, neck slot.

Haven’t tried to put together a V:TES session, haven’t even been able to make Berkeley sessions on the weekend – just too many things going on.  Do plan on playing next HoR mod tomorrow.  Expect to play Saturday, two weeks after, so may start talking about HoR again before Gen Con.

So, Shadowfist.  We have had short games and long games but less in the middle games.  In our last session, we actually failed to complete a game because the new rule at the store is you have to be out of there by 10PM.

It’s hard to hate in Shadowfist since everybody does obnoxious things.  Oh wait, I hate lots of stuff already, including non-Feng Shui Sites, monkeys, Lotus recursion, most edges people play, site removal (not site damage, though Orbital Laser Strike is essentially site removal).  I’ve tried not to hate the Jammers.  They have some non-monkey, non-nuke cards.  Unfortunately, they don’t have enough joy and only lend the world Pain.  I may have to just abandon any pretense of not being a hater and go full on hating with maximum metahate.

Then, there’s Ascended.  I struggle so hard to find things I want to do with Ascended.  For instance, I have a module of Ascended cards I want to play with another faction, but I can’t find another faction to put the module in.  Something like Syndicate might make sense, but it’s a Modern module.  To be fair, I do find Ascended cards I will play and even not hate long enough to play the decks multiple times.  But, I find that even then I’m discouraged, as the Ascended just can’t hold back.  I was sitting on a bunch of power and had two hitters in play that allowed me to do stuff, so I didn’t want to overcommit, yet by not dumping my hand to have four hitters in play, I lost a dude I didn’t want to lose and expected to not even make a bid for victory.

Of course, I might have tried harder to play the game if the three Nuked that successfully resolved didn’t Nuked my FSSs.  Jammers just make you want to stop doing anything.  Or, maybe, the only answer is to load a deck up with counterspells and go for hand size so that you can always counterspell when you try to do anything.  Yup, that’s how gagworthy Jammers play – I’m thinking of hand size increasing plays.

If you’ve read this far, you finally get an explanation for the post title.  What else have I been doing gamingwise?  Why, I’ve been reading my shogi book, taking the quizzes over and over and still not seeing the moves without memorization.  I have this huge problem with chess where I just don’t see the connections between pieces.  With shogi, I feel like I have a better sense because the ranges are more limited and the emphasis is less on gaining material.  But, I still think my brain that does some things so well does some things so poorly, like get spatial connections.  Of course, there’s a lack of experience element.  People get better by doing.  Since shogi isn’t like a thing that I’m likely to do and chess doesn’t interest me, seems like getting better isn’t going to happen.

Yup, still haven’t gotten to the point of talking about deckbuilding with Anthology Set cards.  Well, I do need to get back to all things Traveller for a while.


Crunchy Time

April 22, 2017

I have been lax on posting anything.  Some of that is due to the Traveller CG needing me to do things right now.  But, mostly, I think it’s because I’m not in the habit and my game playing is often-impaired.

I was going to post on one thing, maybe Shadowfist, until I realized I’m at a confluence point.

  1. Playing Shadowfist regularly and last session I realized how long this group has been playing
  2. Need to build decks for upcoming V:TES tournaments
  3. Played new HoR4 mod in a long time
  4. True Dungeon transacting

Let’s work backwards as all right-thinking people do.

True Thalersink

I remain invested in investing in building a collection of tokens I don’t need.  If only gaming didn’t have numismatics in the form of things worth way more than the coins I used to numis, it would be less costly.  But, who cares besides my heirs?  No, I got to thinking about how my perception of token usefulness has evolved.

Oh, I don’t want to state what I think is better of the 2017 stuff than I used to, as someone may actually read this blog and I might have some influence on market valuations to my detriment.  After I finish getting what I want of 2017 tokens, I’ll look to post an analysis as I did with 2016 tokens.

Where I didn’t used to be into 2015 ultrarares, I now see how some are more relevant to someone who can’t restrain themselfs to just what amuses themselves.  So, let’s talk about something I won’t impact in a way that is meaningful to me.

+2 Deadly Drow Blood Mace

My non-wizard builds struggle mightily when it comes to choosing melee weapons, since melee combat hasn’t been a thing any of our group has cared about and, thus, we haven’t made any effort to acquire weapons.  Now, if I melee, my preference is Barbarian for obsidian cannonage.  So, one-handers are useless.  But, Ranger gets shafted by having to double one-hand and Paladin might be silly and run a shield in melee for set bonuses.  Still don’t actually care, but it would be an upgrade over +1.

Boots of the West Wind

Now, Boots of the Four Winds is just better (and only some $700 more expensive), but there really aren’t a ton of ways to increase ranged damage for non-Mighty ranged weapons.  I have various builds, some sillier than others, where I want more ranged damage and aren’t going to STR-blast with a +1 Mighty Sling.  Plus, everyone had to have this to make Four Winds.

Bracers of Supreme Archery

I actually want one of these, now, for, uh, increasing ranged damage while also getting a to hit bonus over Bracers of Archery.

Earcuff of Orbits

Before the news about treasure-enhancing Ioun Stones, this would not have been as all that.  Absolutely fascinating to all right-thinking people is that this still isn’t good for my builds.  I actually have significant competition on the ear slots … because that’s a totally normal statement in life.  I don’t have much in the way of quality Ioun Stones.  It’s also only two more slots, which means you are sort of netting one slot, which just seems bad.  Now, if my ideas for INT, WIS, CHA increasing Ioun Stones get made and those attributes did more than increase Will saves, then I might start to care.

Gloves of the Brute

Is this or Gauntlets of Linked Fury better for Barbarianhood?  I still tend to view stat bonuses over damage bonuses, though decreasing DEX isn’t trivial.  I own one of these, so I’ve satisfied my brutishness.

Widseth’s Mystical Lute

Why do I value this more highly?  Because someone who shall remain named Warrior bugged me about how this would be the best Bard instrument to pick up.  I refuse to yield.  I think a Bard airhockeying defeats the true reason anyone would want to Bard – hovering around other players and annoying them when combat is going on.

I didn’t realize til just now that it allows ranged attacks as well as melee attacks.  That’s somewhat more interesting.  Still, if I’m Barding, I want to be casting spells or, possibly, “abusing” my ability to cast more scrolls than any other class.  We also don’t need it because we will someday perfect the perfect party of perfectness and name our own special TD runs using a little token called … auugghhh, not in the neck, not in the neck.

Switching equipment.

HoR4

With one exception, I still have no sense of what HoR4 is about.  The exception?  It is the Mantisliest Mantisfest of all Mantisdom in my play.

I feel like mods are self-contained and don’t really stretch into new territory.  So many of the mechanics changes have trivial impact to me, thus far, except that my Honor doesn’t really go up.  Sure, if Glory did something, not having Glory go up would be different.  I got an option to spend five favors to do something.  Except, now that I have some idea what favors can be used for, I fail to see the desire to spend five favors on something that doesn’t really do anything I care about.  Maybe if I was part of a group that found amusement in doing group mechanical things, I would feel differently.

I feel so much like I’m meandering.  I’m also sucking.  Yet again, I’ve played a mod with a bunch of INT rolls.  I love the irony of my playing a moron in an INT campaign.  Playing a non-Moshi in an INT, Mantis campaign.  I rule like a fool.

V:TES

I need to both capture the quintessential meness of my deckbuilding ways while also understanding that I’ll be in a metagame where I can’t just hunt until my inevitable victory.  It can be something of a struggle as I seek to play a clan burdened with Dominate while trying to find a way to bleed effectively.  Guess I’ll have to Presenceless vote or whatever.  Graft Presence … wait, okay, solved my deckbuilding crisis!

I’m not expecting to play much in the way of pickup games, so there’s only so many decks I really need.  Will single box it of probably seven decks.

Shadowfist

What’s impressive about the Shadowfist group isn’t that we’ve played for years, it’s that we are consistent about play when people are not traveling or lack specific events that interfere.  Weekly play is the tame of the game!  Never antiremember this.

Now, because we did lose a player who hated our house rules, we have been playing more three-player games.  Three player has been very different.  For one thing, we are burning for power.  Now, is that because people’s decks are not playing all of the standard power gen cards out of boredom or is it because you can’t keep your site structure as intact when only two people can stop you from successful attacks?

Then, games feel far more vicious.  You kind of have to either wall up or beat down, rather than just hunting until inevitable victory.  It’s a disturbing world of … of … aggression that violates all of my principles of game maiming.

We played three games Thursday.  I played my new 7 Masters deck and it lost, thus breaking the stricture of the omniverse that 7 Masters can only lose to 7 Masters.  I did cancel a Dance of the Centipede on my The Fox Outfoxed on a Haunted Forest duping a Mobius Gardens.  Then, I played an old Warriors deck, which has sucked a lot more than it did early on.  I just had dudes, which didn’t stop people who had other dudes but did prevent the player who didn’t dude much from winning.

Finally, I won the last game off the brutal power of an Exorcist in a Long Black Hearse, an Imp, and a Jian.  I was dudechoked for when bids for victory could be made because I kept holding on to cards I never played, like Spirit Wrack, Poisoned Wound, and Underworld Coronation.

So, yeah, I do do things that are gamingishlyable.  They just are kind of coin-flippish in consistency.  Did I mention that I played Aztec Pyramid in one of those games and it supposedly influenced an opponent’s decision to play a card.  Rule like a fool.  Rule like a fool.

 


Lost Opportunities

April 2, 2017

Been traveling, work conference, then vacation immediately after.  That was poorly planned, as a lot of early mornings, with travel, with time zone changes, with 50 degree (F) temperature changes leads to health suboptimality.  But, that has little to do with gaming.

Work conferences and family vacations do not lend themselves to much in the way of gaming.  However, I have books to read, so I read on flights, something I should do more often as it really does reduce the discomfort of flying.

I read the first Grisha Trilogy book on one of the flights and most of another on another flight.  I have since finished the trilogy.

Wins.  Losses.

These are necessary things for drama.  Literature is replete with such.  Gaming?

As an aside, women’s college basketball is interesting for the first time in a long time.  Friday is why sports is sports.  As wagerable as it is, weird stuff happens, and that drives the future interest.

You have to both lose and win or gaming is boring.  Even competitive gaming.  Why do I value some of my achievements?  Because I lose often enough.  Why do I disdain certain achievements?  Because the challenge wasn’t there, the win didn’t come from doing anything more than showing up.

Losses can sting, but they build (player) characters.  If all you do is “17, hit, 6 damage, any more orcs, open chest”, well, I guess that is a videogame and videogames and videogame RPing have appeal, but it’s not the same level of appealing.

I like reviews.  I prefer movie reviews to movies.  I read reviews of TV shows I watch.  I read reviews of the Grisha books.  Why?

When I finished Wise Man’s Fear and got bored reading Auri’s book, I decided to start in on the Grisha Trilogy.  It seemed goth.  I was expecting dark fantasy.  I was not expecting young adult.  Not even romantic fantasy, though maybe I could have made a bit more effort reading blurbs.

Tonal whipflash.  What is romantic fantasy, btw?  I was thinking about it.  I differentiate a romance story with fantasy elements from a fantasy story with romance elements (aka all fantasy I am aware of).  To me, Grisha is in the former, but, then, I’ve read very little young adult.

I was not fond of the first book.  The rest of the series felt more pleasant, but that could be because I reset expectations.  Low expectations – enjoy life.

Wait, what’s the point of all of this again?  Well, I’m going to continue reviewing the series and maybe include something spoileriffic, but let’s take a moment to get back to wins and losses.

Kingkiller has wins and losses, as one might expect.  Grisha just feels like endless losses.  It’s morose.  That’s a turn off to me.  I don’t just want happy endings, I want “this is pleasant” at other times.

Which brings me to Arrow.  Arrow is better.  Prometheus is better.  It’s still way too dark.  Just stop.  Superheroes should have fun.  I know.  That seems weird when everyone thinks the only way to have drama is to be dark and when comics do get into bad stuff.  But, you don’t dwell on the bad stuff in my comics like TV shows love to dwell on bad stuff.  For all that soap operas are a model for superhero shows, I often found soap operas to be less dark.

I’ve played in campaigns that were just misery after misery.  That wasn’t fun.

Challenges, setbacks, losses – they don’t have to be a murderfest of murderyness.  They don’t need to involve torture and imprisonment and disfigurement.  Actually, if you think about quite a bit of fiction, the loss is just not getting a lot of money.  Having the potential love interest hook up with someone else, not scoring a big haul, getting assigned escort missions, having the regional map borders redrawn – these can be losses.

So, interesting reviews for Grisha3.  Some people absolutely hated it for how it resolved.  For many (I presume), the Darkling is the favorite character.  The complex bad boy who is oh so sexy.  Except, he’s neither complex nor bad boy.

Deeds Not Words.

More than anything else, L5R’s value to society is that.  Not a new concept, but it needs to be a mantra.  This is why I get so frustrated with sports talk shows.  I like sports talk shows.  Some of them are the most relaxing thing I usually do.  But, they obsess over comments athletes, coaches, and owners make.

Why?  I mean, why bother?

People say untactful things.  Politicians get crucified for it in many cases, though I don’t know why we are so concerned about what people say.  Is it insight into their souls?  Perhaps.  But, people aren’t paragons of virtue, nevermind that people don’t agree on what is virtuous.  I, for example, am not enthralled by sales tax increases, but I have no problem with gas tax increases (with credits or whatever for the trucking industry because, you know, the country is dependent upon trucking).

What’s important in sports is numbers.  Focus on numbers.  111-1 is a number that should have been a bigger story.  There should have been all sorts of sociology analysis on how losing saved the sport.

Darkling’s deeds – murder, torture, mind control.  That’s it.  Can say stuff, but that’s it.  There’s nothing complex there.  There’s no bad boy, just an awful man.

Sure, the series wasn’t suited to me.  I’m not opposed to romance being the primary driver … or am I?

I tried to think of what I read that was more romantic fantasy than not.  Spell for Chameleon?  Nope.  That’s somewhat comedic fantasy.  Anita Blake?  Now, here’s romantic horror … in classification.  But, I think the better description of the series when I enjoyed it was hard boiled detective novel meets supernatural romance.  There was a balance.  And, btw, if you want a real dark, sexy bad boy, Jean-Claude is that archetype.

I got to thinking about how you can identify romatic fantasy from fantasy with romance.  The romantic object in the latter is often underdeveloped.  John Carter/Barsoom books are romantic.  They are driven by the need to rescue love interests.  Hardly unusual when they were written.  But, still, the love interests are objects, something that reflects character rather than being interesting characters in their own right.

Spellsinger.  Love interests are bit players.  What of second Covenant series?  Better balance, for sure, but I don’t put the romance at the heart of the story, though there’s a relationship at the heart of the story.  The two lovers who struggle to just be happy together is so common that even when it’s huge, it doesn’t necessarily strike me as the point.  Well, maybe that’s more Covenant, which can be a burdensome psychological examination of victimhood rather than “I’m so jealous slutty empress batted her eyelashes at you, boyfriend material”.

Anime I often watch has similar balance, of it being more about fights or humor or whatever than true love.  Magic girlfriend shows so often are episodic humor.

Anyway, I enjoyed aspects of Grisha.  I would agree that it was a pageturner.  That doesn’t speak well of the term pageturner, though, as I was mostly waiting for some sort of resolution rather than looking forward to the next chapter.

I wasn’t bothered by the faux Russia culture.  I would agree that the worldbuilding was off.  It was neither overly missing nor done well.  I would say the problem is that the worldbuilding had the wrong focus.  I have no sense of one place versus another.  I don’t know why the various cultural elements are the way they are.  I didn’t care about NPCs (nor most of the PCs).  The politics wasn’t given room to develop.  And, everything was miserable, which might be a stereotype for Russia, but fantasy is about living in a world you prefer to live in to this one.

There was an opportunity to do something far more appealing to me, even given tropes that may get overplayed.  But, was I supposed to be the audience?

Reviewers hated Mal.  I didn’t.  I thought he was okay.  Third love interest?  Okay.  Neither OMG, so sexy.  Nor, seems a little marysue.  But, I’m not into guys, so maybe those characters were more appealing to those who are.

Pacing.  Having stuff happen is good.  Dwelling on certain narrative building things, like Covenant’s wife, is not enjoyable.  Grisha had maybe even a good pace.  I’m trying to tie back learning something from this series to gaming – give me more rope.

Anyway, I’ve talked about wins and losses before, but it’s my main takeaway from the series – it could have been so much more appealing if the PCs won more often.

Meanwhile, challenges in any sort of gaming don’t need to be torturefests.  They can be “I just realized if I dropped my lance on C-5 instead, I could have promoted it next turn and feasted upon your soul”.

Also, keeping love interests constantly fighting is not necessarily.  You know what’s great about soap operas?  Everyone hooks up with a ludicrous number of partners over time.  Who doesn’t want to see Kara and Oliver date?  Thea and HR?  The appeal?  Humor.  Soap operas are at their best when they are funny.  True love can survive until the show’s finale.

Well, the next series to work on is last Covenant series.  It’s a drag just trying to reread Runes of the Earth, which I hadn’t read in years.  I’m sure that will manage to prevent me from writing more about L5R character builds and combat strategies.


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.


DunDraCon 2017

February 20, 2017

Should be reasonably quick.

Friday, head from work and get to con at 5:30PM, which is not long but felt long in the rain and with a missed turn.

No dinner plan.  Jeff and I do two hours of Traveller CG play.

Saturday morning, I did my usual pastrami (unfortunately on a bagel) and peach smoothie.  Ran my Rio Grande games.  I taught Cardcassonne, Assyria (which ran surprisingly long).  The Assyria game was incredible for how close it was.  At times, it looked like someone was behind only to develop in a way that allowed for catch up.  The game ended with the winner being one point ahead of second (140-something to 140-something) and last place only being maybe 6 points behind.

I show Loch Ness to one player, when we sit around waiting to see if more people show up.  He’s not enthused.  We play two player Assyria, which I hadn’t done before.

Then, V:TES.  So, I’m all in favor of new players or returning players, but it’s not fair to anyone to throw people who don’t know how to play into a five player game.  In hindsight, quick hindsight as I realized when the game ended, the way to teach someone is with three player games.  The more time other players take, the less the learning player spends doing things and seeing what happens.  Also, never give a new player “toolbox” Gangrel or Brujah or Nosferatu or any of the other clans that don’t bleed for a bunch.  It’s incredibly frustrating to be trying to bring out allies and retainers or to bruise bleed or to rush or whatever when a player could have been learning Govern/Conditioning.

It’s not just being a simple deck.  My +1 STR deck with Sport Bikes that I played wasn’t complicated in what it was trying to do.  An inexperienced player needs to see and learn bleed.

We really need more demos and casual learning games to recruit.  Alternatively, throwing someone into a fire can work … if they are not at a con.  If it’s all V:TES, all of the time, only people who attend such things are likely to be motivated to learn all sorts of challenging rules.

Sunday morning, I actually played a RPG.  I put my priority into Feng Shui.  The game was enjoyable, but a few things.

Feng Shui’s mechanics just seem suckier and suckier as I endure them.  Skill rolls are boring because you either have an insane skill that should make rolling meaningless or you have a target number so high that it’s far too unlikely you make the roll.  But, that’s not the big problem.  The big problem is that FS combat sucks.

I loved our home campaign of FS back in the day, and I enjoyed combats where we would all whip out our AK-47s, so it’s not impossible for combat to be fun.  It’s just unlikely.  Mook murder is incredibly unsatisfying.  Named battles are tedious grindfests.

Sure, the set up for the combat can be made to where there’s more to do than blast away over and over again.  But, the thematics of FS lend themselves to mechanical monotony.  See, the action flick is typically about beat down.  But, it’s beat down that doesn’t particularly work.  Named characters take way too long to take out.  Everyone is doing their own thing rather than “ritual rending” big bads into oblivion.

I used a homebrew for Feng Shui Tu Huo precisely because I knew combat was a weak point with FS and not a weak point with L5R.

The GM did have cool cinematic combat that didn’t involve mechanics at all, based on playing cut scene music.  Meanwhile, normal combat just dragged on interminably.

The other thing is that both my RPGs put action-y stuff after breaks.  That’s not the end of the world, but I think it’s suboptimal.  Players who want to use their combat abilities are going to wonder if they ever get to use them.  Players in general are going to get whipsawed by how much the game changes in nature between character interaction and dicefesting.

I keep thinking that the games I should run should be high action, like FS thematically, with an opening of dicefesting and more dicefesting after a reflection point, second reflection point, final dicefesting.

Finally, the party did some really weird stuff.  One group got thrown out of the police station for trying to convince the sheriff that we were in town to help in ways that didn’t lead to constructive discourse.  The other group choked out a forest ranger for unclear reasons.  It was hilarious.  When two PCs got arrested and one of them called our monster hunter team boss to get help getting out, his response was “Just two?”

I had nothing afterwards, so I walked over to try to get curry only for the place to be closed (even though internet said it was open), so I got a burger at the Hopyard, which was okay foodwise but going to restaurants by yourself tends to be rather boring.  So many of the places I wanted to go to or try just had awful hours, being oriented towards breakfast/lunch, which I don’t have time to run around to get.

I played some turns of Paths of Glory with Jeff because he wanted to talk about wargame mechanics.  We played a three player A Game of Thrones LCG 2e game, which had all of the usual elements of what does not enthuse me about the game – inability to play cards, getting annihilated by things I can’t do anything about, having no way to hold on to gains and just getting rolled with no comeback ability.  Now, we were not playing real decks.  But, real decks make me often feel the same way, which maybe is more due to how I wasn’t involved in building something with the economy and permanents I want.

Monday, I played in a Changeling game.  It’s a recurring con game where many of the players were used to playing specific PCs.  I had little choice and took the leader.  Oh my … it actually worked out fine.  While I hate being party leader, I could play a somewhat subdued leader who mainly stepped in when there was a reason to step in.

It was really good in certain ways early on – both my RPGs had really good role-players in them.  Hilarious, meaningful feeling.  But, when we left town, too much worrying about trivial things, like whether to eat a restaurant or a fast food place.

I didn’t feel a lot of Changeling to the game.  I hadn’t played Changeling in a long time, plus I haven’t played Changeling much, so the mechanics of how your powers work were mostly lost on me.  While there’s the struggle between growing up and wonder in the ethos of the game, there wasn’t much of that conflict in this game.  This was far more about interpersonal relationships, which I don’t have a problem with, as I like soap operas, but I can see someone wondering why there isn’t more magic.

Admittedly, if you have 10 player games, you kind of need the players to interact with each other a lot to give everyone time to do stuff.  Apparently, I played my character the way he is normally envisioned.

Getting back to mechanics for a moment.  In both games, there were lots of things on the character sheets that never ended up mattering, including a bunch of “this is what sets you apart” stuff.  Even if the stress is on character interaction, still seems to me that it’s good to make use of abilities characters have.  My PC had True Faith, which is supposed to be rather rare, and at no point was it mechanically relevant, as an example.  Of course, in the FS game, a couple of my abilities were used at the end in what was far more of a cut scene than actually resolving things, so that made the abilities irrelevant (to play).

Or, choose a different system that doesn’t give PCs these abilities.  Now, I guess it’s a lot of work to mix and match systems, plus the GM may really like part of the system and just not care about other parts.

Score

Amusingly enough, it was my mother who asked what score I’d give the con.  I’d give it a 6 out of 10, as something pleasant but close to mediocre.  I’d give the gaming a lower score because of the non-RPG stuff.  The RPGs were enjoyable but could have been more so if there was a faster tempo and/or more plot.

I got into both RPGs I tried to get into.  As both were series, I find the parties interesting.  But, I just don’t really care about playing con RPGs at local cons, anymore, because I’ve had the awful games, I’ve had the amazing games, I’ve had a bunch in the middle.  I’m just not engaged at the level that I can get engaged with trying out something new at Gen Con, playing HoR, playing certain home games.

Nostalgia kicked in to some degree.  What I miss with gaming is more the small group V:TM game, Conan, doing research for FSTH/LBS/Solomon Kane.  I don’t think it’s because I was wrong about con games being on average better, but it’s that I’ve done enough of them that there’s not the same level of resonance that sets in.  They are increasingly blurring together, might even get that way with Gen Con games at this rate, though 2017 is a big HoR/TD year (in theory), so I won’t have as many miscellaneous RPG sessions.