Shift

February 3, 2019

Not that I have any playcalling cred, but maybe use your two tailbacks at once, throw to a tight end, run some screens before the fourth quarter, bootleg, end around, jet sweep, quarterback draw, draw, play from the shotgun, run hurry up, or run anything remotely different.  Good D.  Not terribly entertaining.

Shift

So, I played my 7 Masterless deck Thursday.  I play Wudang Monks.  So much hate.  Now, 7 Masters + 5 Auramancers is something I’ve played in a tournament before, but, just because an opponent had an Auramancer in play as I played a second WM and a third WM, somehow WM is too OP to live.

Speaking of living, we almost had an Underworld Coronation played, except two hitters were unaffected by events, so we played around UC for the rest of the game up until the point that the Reascended player played every Reascended in his deck and powered through for the win with the UC having been discarded earlier.  At no point in the game did my OP Monks or any of my other characters reduce a site’s body to zero.

Of course, my “Mountain Hermit” deck doesn’t make much use of Mountain Hermit as WM can unturn a Hermit, but the Hermit can’t unturn a WM.  My Occult Kung Fus (picking Dark Traveler, of course) got me three Fighting.  My Bridge of Birds was used more effectively by the Reascended (Cabinet Minister) than by me.  I think the better version makes use of Auramancers, maybe Netherworld Tricksters, other good stuff, and probably drops the Mountain Hermits for more cards that provide magic.  I’m not sure how this deck plays as is, though, as I drew five WMs and no removal in a deck that runs some removal.

Sure, we all had to start counting power using dice rather than counters because of multiple Bull Markets, Tranquil Peaks use, and whatnot, but that only does something when you spend that power to affect the game state.

Shift

I finally got out to the local Groundhog Day event.  I thought I had been to one before, but I tend to travel a lot this time of year or have some commitment as it’s close to DunDraCon, so I can’t recall if I have.

I just think it’s a really well written/produced movie.  It has a really good tempo to it.  It stays true to its concept.

I played Blood Rage, Key Flow, and Elysium.  All for the first time.  Blood Rage played differently than I thought it would, where I screwed up the second age massively by trying to contest Yggdrasil burning out my Rage to where I couldn’t play my hand full of upgrades, then I was irrelevant in the third age.  Winner won by two, while I was 40 points or whatever behind.  I would play it again, but I didn’t like it that much.  The Yggdrasil location just annoys me.

Key Flow is the sort of game that knowing how games turn out helps a lot.  I ended up in second by accidentally playing lots of animals, which wasn’t remotely my plan.  The winner (also won Blood Rage for the standard twofer) crushed us with heavily upgraded late game structures.  I would probably find this fine to play about the same number of times as 7 Wonders, which is a few.

Elysium saw me get ahead early and get crushed late as I still don’t understand scoring based on the incredibly unhelpful help cards.  Because I like mythology, I thought the game was fine up until the point it was over.  I have no interest in this game at all.  It’s actually rather boring, plays slow with people who don’t know the cards, lacks effects that interest me, doesn’t make me feel like the chrome matters at all.  If everyone knows the cards, I imagine it’s an easy game to play for people who want something lighter, but one could just play something else.  I think I’d rather play Ticket to Ride.

Shift

I was reading some L5R 4e books partially because I’m playing in HoR4 where mechanics might matter to my character, though not really as courtiers don’t get anything like kata, kiho, spells.  And, there’s one path relevant to my character which I was well aware of before playing this character, since Imperials get dumb mechanics where ronin have far more options.  Brotherhood Monks may have more options, though one would only know if one cared.

I got to thinking about campaign ideas.  I know.  This is dumb.  But, it was interesting.  I have this thought of a Hengeyokai campaign.  All of the PCs would be Hengeyokai with some sort of task that binds them together.  It would be a campaign where the PCs should be faking being samurai (or non-samurai, after all, still a reason to party together no matter what you are, though a traveling geisha character may be a stretch).  Might make far more sense as a one-shot, but …

… Why would I want to play a L5R one-shot?  I mean, using 1e, 3e, or 4e.  Obviously, a 5e one-shot to learn the mechanics makes sense.  So many modules, not just HoR modules, and box sets I’ve played are like one-shots.  So I can play a Brotherhood Monk who used to be a ronin who has Dark Secret revealed and becomes a Lost Akutenshi?

If I struggle to see playing L5R as a one-shot, what else?  Conan?  I think I do see where I stopped trying to get into con games of Conan because one-shots have the same problem of not providing anything I haven’t already done.

I can still see playing Feng Shui, which would probably only ever be one-shots given that 1e doesn’t work that great and 2e isn’t even trying to be a game for campaign play, but replaying Big Trouble in Little China for something like the fourth or fifth time isn’t really attractive.

Shift

I had opened an Ultimate Combat! booster before my last post and couldn’t fit in the flavor text I wanted to.  It still doesn’t fit.

Utter chaos blasts through the arena.

As a draft pack, the first pick is obvious, the second pick is less so.  As a sealed pack, while the technique is garbage, the pack is bountiful.

Strength X.  Warrior’s Helmet.  Strength 1.  Speed 1.  Gi Patch – Owl.  Combination 1.  Psychic Storm.

That’s a possible draft order, with Strength 1 being possibly better than Warrior’s Helmet if you can sligh your deck or have Adrenaline.  Of course, if you have Strength X, you would want Speed 1 more.  Why Strength 1 over Speed 1 everything else being irrelevant?  Banana Peel in Limited.  Combination 1 could even be the second pick, though highly unlikely.  Psychic Storm might be a first pick if you were playing a multiplayer variant.  Yup, UC! made cards for multiplayer play.  I’d still take Psychic Storm over bad cards or extra technique for the possible “get ahead and end the game” ability, especially if I knew someone else had Favorite Technique or a weapon (either is rather likely if I don’t get them) for the reach ability.  If I had drafted healing, healing, and more healing plus had some way to deal damage, could also see it maybe mattering, though far more likely a defensive draft deck would play a decking strategy where Psychic Storm would be awful.

The art of Psychic Storm may be UC! level art, but I do like the vivid red of action cards with the gold rarity symbol.  Plus, it has an awesome name.

Shift

The next time I post, I may have 2019 True Dungeon tokens.  Will that cause me to think of anything to say about TD?

I could write about how the change in plans for Origins is disappointing, but it’s not that big of a deal to me.  Affects others far more.

DunDraCon is coming.  I’ll be running Traveller events, look to play in the V:TES event, be commuting back and forth so I might not try to play a RPG after all.  Only expect to be there Saturday and Sunday.

Advertisements

Gyros Of Rokugan

January 30, 2019

Too good a title to forget about.

We headed to Fresno Saturday afternoon.  Didn’t stop, through the power of GPS found the clubhouse we were going to, getting there a bit before 6PM.

Eric ran a mod that Andy and I deadheaded (technically, we could have sat around doing nothing as it wasn’t that challenging).  We head over to the hotel making less use of GPS.

In the morning, go to breakfast, go over to clubhouse, Andy eats a mod and Bill eats a mod, then head home from Fresno about 6:30PM after talking for about half an hour.  At one point during the weekend, talked some about 5e, as I have so little grasp of it.

Not my intention to rant about how it’s unclear what HoR4 is actually about.  Nor my intention to blog about what the conversation during the ride home was mostly about.

Just some miscellaneous observations.

I hadn’t played in a RPG session since … … Gen Con?!?  Yeah, I think Gen Con.  Oh, by the way, we got a strange hotel for GC2019, so it should be quirky in my GC report.

It didn’t feel weird to be playing.  I was just very conscious of how much I want to be doing things.  I did things while deadheading.  I was the only one who pushed a part of a mod that meant nothing (haven’t decided yet whether to rant about this or not).  I was more involved than most in the other mod.  It helps when you aren’t playing with a bunch of strangers.  Online play of HoR is far less appealing to me than it was in the past because I don’t feel inclined to be as active.  Could have been pent up desire to do anything as a RPG player.

One of the mods felt like a “mod”, i.e. felt like it was reasonably crafted.  Another mod was just a vastly inferior version of a mod from HoR3.  The third mod had different features that were probably more interesting to others than to me, but it was completely a bait and switch.  Not in a good, “you are now playing a peasant” way, either.

I spent a lot of effort into rating HoR3 mods.  Only one mod in HoR4 comes to mind as a “keeper”.  What does that even mean?  It means that the mod is sufficiently developed, which most early HoR3 mods weren’t and seemingly almost all non-court mods in HoR4 aren’t.  It means that the mod isn’t just a redux of another mod.  There are okay mods in HoR4 that just come across as a paint by numbers on some earlier HoR mod.  It means a mod that seems like it should be fun.  And, I guess, it also means a mod that fits.  CIT26 was perfectly pleasant to me and pretty interesting, but it was atrocious as an intro mod.  There is no way at all that you throw HoR specific stuff like the Owl Clan and zany features of L5R at people who don’t know what HoR is like (or may not even know what L5R is like, like two of the people I played the mod with).

Sure, the more one has played HoR/L5R, the more a new adventure is going to remind of an old adventure.  What I find interesting is that I look back on HoR3 not to complain about how incoherent the campaign was but with how much more memorable the mods were.  HoR3 really advanced in the area of court mods.  HoR3 had some mid campaign mods that had so many ideas that you couldn’t follow up on everything.  There were some pretty terrible mods that were at least trying to do something different.  There were mods that I appreciated for doing something different, in one case less than other players, in another case far more than the people I ran the mod for.  Not everyone likes the same things.  There were multiple mods I wished had no plot, that just let us shop and stuff.

While HoR3 didn’t do a good job with recurring NPCs, something HoR2 was far better at, even if you didn’t always want the Toritaka around, overall, it felt far denser than HoR4.  Balishnimpur has not been used effectively as a setting or a campaign element.  It’s hard to get an idea what any of the HoR4 mod series are trying to do.

The random inclusion of gaijin of various sorts in HoR4 is … well, part of the inspiration for the title of this post.  It’s such a random “wait, what did you just say?” that you could easily have Greekified Yodotai and it would make as much sense as some of the things that came out of the blue when I’ve been playing.

But, you know what?  Just because these living campaigns are called campaigns doesn’t mean I need to act like they are.  I didn’t start playing HoR2 because I was looking for a campaign.  I had plenty of enjoyable moments in HoR3 even though the metaplot stuff meant absolutely nothing to me or my characters.  I don’t currently look at the prospects of playing more HoR4 as a “gosh darn it, how do I gets into them thar story”.  I think I see more clearly that I just do my thing and roll with whatever.  Refocus back on my PC(s) and not worry about what others think may be going on.  True, it does create more character when you have things to bounce off of, like wiping out gaijin civilizations because they are annoying, but being more mechanically focused with L5R is still better than my D&D convention experiences.

Speaking of my character and mechanics, the most fascinating …

I took a closer look at crafting in the campaign since it gives a hook and has something to do with the campaign.  It amuses me the idea of getting to Void 6 just to make one special quality wakizashi before the campaign ends immediately afterwards.  Earth, which was part of the original plan, actually makes more sense if embracing the armor theme I’m doing.  Fire to make useless weapons strikes me as amusing and would mean no longer being a moron, thus inflicting myself with the punishment of not taking Sage.

What is the most absurd weapon to craft?  Bisento?  Probably not, but the idea of crafting massive polearms and heavy weapons while continuing to use a wakizashi in combat is groping me.  Of course, it helps to be making inexpensive weapons so that the TNs are low.

See, even though Noticed by _ has never mattered, crafting inane things is totally campaigny.

Combat has been highly inconsistent in HoR4, with the harshest combats being in earlier or lower rank mods.  HoR2 had some brutal early combats that I didn’t play until I was a more experienced character.  HoR3 was generally more combatty early on and would have the occasional heinous fight.  HoR4 seems to have even more editing problems where there are combats that should just rip parties apart due to being too early and/or too poorly set up.  What I found to be ironic is the one midrank mod wasn’t scarier to me.

I’m going to try to make more effort to find GM runs of mods so that we remove the mod eating that people have been doing.

And, I’m going to buy up Earth or Fire or Void to pretend to care about crafting.  And, Animal Handling because, for some reason, I don’t have Animal Handling.

There are no Miya heroes, but there may just be a Miya Gyros.


Dismay

January 21, 2019

This is just perfect.  I’m going to use an Ultimate Combat! booster to provide context to what I view as a failed RPG campaign.  See if you grasp the cleverness.

First of all, because even though I explain little as a GM, I will explain references I use in this blog, Dismay was a pretty popular card.  I am inclined to run Shake Up more than Dismay as killing two cards in play has … wait for it … a bigger effect than killing one.

I considered various flavor text from this booster as defining themes of this post.

So much pain from such a small twist.

No, not a small twist.

To kick twice before returning to mother earth is devastating.

Well, this should be the theme of every post.

The school of experience is a great teacher, though the tuition is often quite high.

Two problems with this.  One, it’s not actually on theme, once I get to the point.  Two, boring.

Early attacks oft repeated add up.

Of all of the flavor text in the 13 options (there are cards with the same flavor text) available to me in this pack, I think this sums things up best.

Or, put another way, early mistakes repeated oft add up.  Or, put another way, repeated mistakes oft add up early.

My current assessment is that I committed a well known, rather egregious, and one would think easily avoided sin given that I know more than the average coati.  I didn’t allow the PCs to be the stars.  While I often have pieces of a metaplot going into a campaign that I build as I go along, in this case, I had a metaplot from the start due to having written the basis for Rokugan 1600 over five years ago.  Rather than have the PCs have their piece of the action, the PCs got dragged around from idea to idea.

Let various deconstruction that won’t encompass everything continue.

Ideas 

My assessment is that I do well with ideas.  Ideas are easy.  As I’ve said before, the problem is execution on those ideas.  Here’s the other problem that was a core problem with R.1600 – you can’t just keep coming up with more and more ideas.  Besides the obvious of providing more resolution, I can understand how players get frustrated when there feels like too many things to care about.  And, even if they focus on something, there are wasted ideas that the party never has time for.

A thought came to me.  Ideas as a player can be helpful.  Should be helpful to GMs.  Rather than having the GM have the burden of being responsible for everything involving characters, the world, play, the player coming up with ideas provides direction and personal engagement for the player (assuming the ideas ever get used).  I keep thinking that I’m completely different as a GM and a player, which is true in a way but probably not true in another way.  I keep considering possibilities as a player to engage me and my PC, and that’s good.  Whether it was fictions written for campaigns, characters referenced in those fictions that didn’t even exist prior, activities for my character(s) to pursue – that’s stuff to build on a campaign.  As a GM, I’m not disciplined.  I can’t just run with something to a straightforward conclusion but keep riffing on ideas with more ideas.

Structure

Having a preconceived story that set up the campaign only likely made things worse than usual with taking an idea and trying to make PC activity fit around it in ways the players weren’t interested in.  I made a comment after yesterday’s session where I felt like trying to reset or reboot on R.1600 was not a good idea with this group due to there being too much baggage.  In a way, due to not being better at GMing, this campaign started with baggage.

If you look in the 4e corebook for L5R, you will see a number of adventure styles listed.  Location-Based, Open World, Character-Driven, Episodic, The Epic, Relationship Mapping.

While listed as adventure types, let’s take them as campaign types for this exercise.  Which style was R.1600?

I, the GM, am not sure.  Drops glaive-guisarme.

I’m very accommodating.  As a player, that makes it easy for me to play in things, even if I don’t like them.  As a GM, that means I lack a coherent campaign vision.  Odyssey talks about writing things down.  We did write some things down early on but didn’t maintain a manifesto.

The players were perfectly happy to play nobodies in a war setting set in Rokugan.  Playing a nobody doesn’t interest me, so I didn’t realize that and how that would inform play.  By nobody, by the way, I don’t mean playing a peasant or something, I mean that there’s no recognition from on high as to who the PCs are.  BTBTW, it occurs to me that this is yet another reason I don’t engage much with dungeon crawling nor do I find random death remotely interesting – I want my PCs to matter to the greater world.

Getting sidetracked, I wonder how I would feel about my PC being locally important but unimportant in the grander scheme of things.  For instance, let’s take a Vampire game where my PC is a primogen or whatever but that nobody beyond the city gives a double eagle.  Would that interest me?  I don’t think so.  Not to say I would actively be annoyed by such a setup, I just don’t think I would care as much about what goes on if that’s the grandest ambition.  Of course, not everything is about Glory/Fame/recognition/whatever, just that I would find it less interesting if the world didn’t extend beyond me more greatly.

Not only did I not have a clear idea on which type of campaign this was, but, obviously, how would the players if the GM wasn’t even clear?  And, why didn’t we clear this up to begin with?

I keep thinking about how one of my players in a previous campaign viewed that campaign as a sandbox when I didn’t and how I may be inclined to play that is more player driven than either I or the players expect.  This is a repeated error.  That’s kind of the point of this post – I keep repeating errors, which I’ll come back to.

Speaking of structure, I just blogged about how the season structure was an attempt to provide more discipline and more ability to rechart course.  It didn’t help because …

What Does A Campaign Mean To You?

This was a question asked after the session as we had talked for quite a while about what the go forward plan is.

That highlighted something.  Very few of my campaigns have gone on very long and even fewer have had endings.  When I look at campaigns that were most meaningful to me, it was longer ones, generally, and, in particular, two that had endings even if one of the endings was scripted out.

No, that wasn’t what got highlighted.  What got highlighted is that I think of campaigns as something that persist indefinitely.  I may intellectually understand that campaigns are intended to have a resolution, but endings aren’t my thing.  I noted that I prefer TV to movies.  TV has more sessions and has no clear end.  I really enjoyed book series like the Spellsinger series because it didn’t have to end.  Even Chronicles of Thomas Covenant trilogies left open the possibility for more.  Elric may have had an end, but, then, there were more stories.

So, having a plan to end a campaign with points where a campaign could end is anathema to what I am actually interested in.  Does it bother me when, say, HoR campaigns end?  Not really, but, then, HoR is something odd, and, even when the campaigns do end, I don’t feel much resolution.  In my mind, The Princess Police doesn’t feel like it ended, and, by using material from it, I extended its life through R.1600, seemingly to the detriment of my players.

So, this may be another reason I enjoy convention one-offs more than much of my campaign play – no expectation of a campaign.  The focus isn’t on my PC or my storytelling.  The focus is on doing stuff in the moment.

So, would I be interested in a seven part series of adventures?  A 20 part?  If I didn’t think of it as a campaign (ironic given that military or political campaigns do kind of need to end).  A significant problem, methinks, with fixed length campaigning is that I don’t have any reason to care about my character.  Oh, just like a one-shot, I may care about what I do with my PCs  or what happens, but I don’t feel linked to a particular character.  So, I won’t care about character advancement (see my Ide Courtier in the marriage campaign we played) and I won’t care about having a personal story arc.

Now, how important is advancement?  I’m not sure.  I know for many that it’s hugely important, and I’ve played HoR at times where all the campaign meant was mechanically advancing a character sheet.

But, what I really enjoy is having a personal story arc.  Of course that’s possible with fixed length campaigns.  That’s possible with any number of sessions including a single session, as I’ve had a number of cases of feeling like my PC (that I didn’t create) had a story arc in a one-off.  It’s just that I view the focus on limited duration RPing to be elsewhere to where I don’t expect to be able to feel the character in the same way.  For example, it can take a varying number of sessions to feel a PC, and, in some cases, you need to change PCs to have a proper campaign fit.  If you don’t have a fixed number of sessions, you may never get anywhere as the campaign just stops being played, but a known length to a campaign means you have to plan something that doesn’t necessarily make sense to plan.  In other words, you can be forcing something that maybe shouldn’t be forced.

Better groups probably handle these things better than worse groups.  I don’t know.  I guess I forced a story arc at the end of HoR3 (for my alt character!), and that made that campaign more satisfying (since it was not remotely satisfying with regards to my main character).

Then, I haven’t been involved in much fixed length campaigning, so ignorance may lead to unfounded concerns.  Yet, I know that when I play home games of limited sessions, I tend not to care about my characters at all.  The last such venture, with Savage Worlds Spelljammer, I know I didn’t advance my PC for ages and don’t even recall whether I ever advanced my PC, though my githyanki did get to help murder a mind flayer who was also his employer, so there was some personal achievement.

Hobgoblinism

Wisdom is making good decisions.  To keep repeating the same mistakes of firing up a new RPG campaign only to get frustrated by how things don’t work out as envisioned, even with initial character creation where I can see that my players aren’t on the same wavelength I am before we actually start playing, is making bad decisions.

Sure, I have enjoyed world building for campaigns like FSTH or R.1600 or even Gaki Mura, which players have praised after it petered out.  But, my experiences with repeated problems only remind me as I try anew of past frustrations, and I get really prone, entangled, dazed, and fatigued when players are noticeably unhappy.

Gaming is about fun activities.  Now, those activities aren’t limited to play and not every single activity is going to be fun, but there should be net fun.  Just like there are nigh infinite deck building options with CCGs, there are nigh infinite possibilities for electing to do fun things over doing things that aren’t the fun.

I stopped haranguing card floppers to flop more because I realized that not everyone enjoys flopping as much as I.  I think I stop trying to run campaigns.  That I mostly want to world build/expand works when I’m a player and is too little of what players need out of a GM.  I can see running one-offs at various times for various possible reasons.  I can see running someone else’s game (that’s what HoR GMing is), though guest GMing in campaigns has worked out really badly when I made up my own adventures, so I need to make sure I’m running someone else’s adventure.

Meanwhile, what I should do is be a player more often.  Get back to playing in local convention RPG sessions, for instance.  I can see how HoR structure has had influences on me that could be limiting my perspective.


Seasonality – Winter

January 19, 2019

Winter is … is … wait, Cali doesn’t have Winters, just cooler times where water may occasionally fall out of the sky or may not.

Last weekend, I ran season four’s finale for Rokugan 1600.  I’m not sure what you have in mind when you hear that, but every season so far has had three core narrative sessions, and a complete randomfest of additional side sessions due to having only two players at times.

Season one had one side session.  Season two had a tack on session for one player.  Season three had one side session that may have not been intended as a side session, certainly intended to include one of the players who didn’t play.  Season four has had three side sessions and is going to have a fourth set after the finale.

I didn’t realize how unlikely side sessions were earlier on.  I kept thinking of how players couldn’t make every session, but I ran two sessions from season two without all of the players.  Season two was kind of another intro season, as season one was supposed to be, but it was a stranger intro because I inserted the new players into a different part of the world and had them doing stuff that didn’t intersect with season one virtually at all.

So, R.1600 has been disjointed.  But, when I think about its history, makes a lot more sense to me why.  So, we get to season three and the campaign seems to finally feel like a war campaign, with warry things going on and less focus on the romantic adventures of NPCs.

And, then, season four went in a different direction.  Rather than sticking with the field ops of season three, where the party was much more on its own and focused on counteracting enemy army movements, season four was all about “The Meeting”.  The Meeting meant something to me in the grand scope of the war effort, but it just felt like getting pulled into some not terribly relevant to the PCs stuff, with some Hare-brained schemes.  I think having the many side sessions helped with distracting the players from the war efforts, though I would say the first side session feels grossly underexamined by the players.

Anyway, we talked after the finale and it became much clearer that the group interest was having more campaign like season three, at least in terms of types of activities and feel, especially fewer NPCs everywhere.  Also, there’s a player decided direction for what season five will be about.

I’m hardly surprised that people’s expectations differ from the reality; that’s pretty normal in my experiences.  What was more notable to me was how little time there was to actually establish a “normal” for the campaign.  There still isn’t a normal, where I tend to be interested in epic fantasy where volcanoes erupting wipe out enemy bases off stage or romantic fantasy.  My remembrances of Princess Police side sessions was more “someone shows up claiming that a village is under attack by bandits” where there was limited narrative relevance.  It was more about straightforward investigations or combats, and I liked those sessions, in general, quite a bit.  My side sessions often try to expand upon the setting and/or relate in some important way with what’s going on without there being a major confrontation with the noble invaders, er, I mean the non-human abominations that are invading Rokugan.

Maybe the better thing would have been to have a discussion after season three where I would have been clearer with how the players thought that was the norm that we should be striving for.

The thing is is that Rokugan is diverse and finely detailed.  I actually like the setting even given some things I really dislike about it, and one of the things I like most about the setting is that places are defined.  So, I want to have the party visit different locations that aren’t just some village out in the boonies as that forces me to at least a half-assed degree to come up with details about where the party is.

Maybe I should have put forward “Hey, keep in mind that this is the third side session this season and that I’m trying something different than what I view main sessions to be about, so get ready to … dance, dance, dance.”  Or, maybe I should lengthen seasons so that side sessions don’t overwhelm a season.  Though, I like planning for three sessions each season as it pushes me to be more focused and more concise, something I at no time ever have any problem with in my life due to my core conciseisityness, but also means we can refresh the campaign and send it in a different direction faster rather than get lost in something no one wants to play.

So, why doesn’t this post have a L5Rish title?

Well, I also have been playing Shadowfist recently, and I would make mention of how we actually got two full games in last Thursday in our threeish hour block.  Actually, the week before, we played a five player and a four player and finished two games, but I was borrowing decks from another player as I had the wrong deck boxes in my bag, so I was playing far more threatening decks.

This session, I played an Architects/Hand deck that tries to combo something.  Instead of comboing, which would have been entertaining, I put out two Anomaly Spirits (yes, Architects/Hand with Anomaly Spirits) and it was deemed I was “weaponizing” our house rules (that encourage additional columns heavily).  Someday, I may reveal the intrinsic brilliance of this deck that apparently has no way to generate power so can’t afford to do much more than play a 2 or 3 cost character once a turn.

So, that brings me to yet another perfect deck.

Name: Iron Gift
Faction: Dragon/Guiding Hand
Size: 45

Dragon Cards (8)
Characters (6)
4x Junkyard Boys
1x Khofesh
1x Seamus

Events (2)
1x Golden Comeback
1x Never Surrender

Guiding Hand Cards (10)
Characters (8)
1x Bao Ling
2x Buddhist Bellringer
1x Rosalee Leung
2x Shaolin Supplicants
2x White Crosus Society

Events (2)
1x Journey’s Reward
1x Rigorous Discipline

Combo Cards (7)
Events (5)
5x Eagle’s Gift

States (2)
2x Iron Fists

Generic Cards (20)
Edges (2)
1x Martial Focus
1x Shared Interests

Events (2)
2x Scrounging

Feng Shui Sites (10)
5x Dockyard
5x Möbius Gardens

States (6)
1x .44 Kincaid Magnum
2x Butterfly Swords
3x Fortune of the Turtle

This just oozes perfection.  My only winning deck at Merlin’s place a couple of weeks ago.  Then, proof of perfection Thursday.  After all, bringing out Junkyard Boys and Shaolin Supplicants is exactly what every deck needs to beatdown with.  With White Crocus Society as backup to heal those F-1 characters when they may get conflicted.

Joren was playing Monarchs Netherworld Returns, Justin Dragons, Don Architects with Black Helicopter Squads for Bite of the Jellyfish.  Don [Chi] Suck[er]ed with little effort to stop the Sucking.  I used an Eagle’s Gift to get back Six Demon Bag to stop a bid for Sucktastic victory.  Justin got Jenny Zhang in play but was kind of defensive with her.  Three of us were at four FSSs, when I went over the top and nonstop with Boys, Supplicants, and Bellringers.

I could have played Iron Fists, but I wanted that for a character with fighting greater than two.  I also had Khofesh in play, pointlessly, as I’m terrible at Shadowfist math.  Whoa, that’s a great article for someone to write – Shadowfist math.

Yup, Iron Gift is retired undefeated.  In no way will I plan on building a less effective version for play in the future … unless, perhaps, I can find a way to squeeze a higher percentage of F-1 foundation characters in play.  I will consider, however, keeping it together to lend out to others who want to win major tournaments.

And, so, I literally literally provide a gift to you, my devoted audience.  Happy almost Martin Luther King Day.


The Best of … 2015

December 30, 2018

The thrill of the drill.

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

Maybe I’ll comment upon 2018 at the end.

January

Building L5R Characters – Origins

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

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

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

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

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

February

Building L5R Characters – Traits

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

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

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

Kayfabeulous

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

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

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

DunDraCon 2015

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

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

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

Better. Stronger. Faster.

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

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

Building L5R Characters – Advantages

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

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

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

March

More Gooder Deck

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

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

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

Building L5R Characters – Disadvantages

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

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

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

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

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

L5R Party Combat Guide

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

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

Anyway, I used examples.  Therefore, most goodest.

Flash VS Arrow

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

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

April

Same Phat Channel, Same Phat Time …

Oh, the bronze-knees.

I was looking at our session tracker for Rokugan 1600.

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

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

May

Building L5R Characters – Skills

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

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

June

July

Princess Police – Episode Guide

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

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

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

August

Gen Con 2015

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

September

Babylon 5 Request

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

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

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

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

RPG Yarn

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

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

L5R Questions

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

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

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

October

Double-Striking, Swampwalking Squirrel Pumpers

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

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

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

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

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

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

November

Brought By The Number 7

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

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

Goat Droppings

Need more of this, somehow.

Ratings were too high on average.

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

Book ’em Danaan

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

December

A Mouse’s Donkey

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

Flaw Wars

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

**  **  **  **  **

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

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

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

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

Post Of Eves Past

December 24, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Open To Interpretation

December 16, 2018

There once was a man with the name of Lee
who spoke with his pa bout poetry.
They sat long in a car,
not going very far.
He quoted Stevens uneasily.

Trip ended back in Nuuanu,
the internet for research in lieu.
Limerick to study,
Wallace not his buddy,
Lee wanting to listen to rhymes true.

In the past, Lee wrote a bunch of beats.
Not the most challenging of his feats.
No mention of peacocks
or cause to fear hemlocks,
what value for these various treats?

The stresses are on the wrong syllables.  But, you get the point.

No?

Shocking.

If it isn’t obvious, and, what I consider obvious often isn’t, there’s something like a response to the body of poetry of one Wallace Stevens, here.

Response?

I’m not what one would call young.  That means my parents are less young.  Apparently, in college, they shared a class in poetry that had something to do with Wallace Stevens.  I found out about this in the long, long ago – last weekend.

I’m not a fan … of WS’s poetry, least that which I’ve read.  First of all, I like rhymes, unbusted rhymes.  Even more any sort of poetry that can be recited in a singsong manner.

Emperor of Ice Cream, Anecdote of the Jar, et al, are not anything like, say, George Herbert’s Virtue.

Now, in theory, this is a gaming blog.  While not a fan of the poems as poems, one thing I was feeling with WS’s works was how much RPG gamingishness they possessed.

Peacocks.

Peacocks!!

And, of course, hemlocks.

I have yet to build a serious peacock deck for Shadowfist, there being two Peacock cards, one of which would be the container on the hill, one might even call a Summit, a Peacock Summit.

Peacocks, of course, appear elsewhere.  Mythology.  Etc.

Poetic.  Nope, not the topic for today.

History.  Revelations.  There is a lot I don’t know about my parents’ histories.

Sure, NPCs with backgrounds.  An easy equine to pummel.  So, let’s get beyond that.

History isn’t just about a GM writing backstories.  There’s on stage history built by players.  That history is the most evocative history in our Conan d20 play.  I created a bunch of backstory for my PC and for NPCs important to him, which entertained me, but it is the shared history that our group may still speak of.

Yes, that has been addressed prior, one might say readdressed.

And, as evident as it is to say, RPG play is the gaming form where the story’s elements emerge.  I’m ignoring LARPing or whatever because I’m not much of a LARPer.  CCGs may be outside the box in terms of the play experience, but it’s not where elements of the play experience are brought into existence from the minds of the participants to fuel a narrative.

I didn’t play games when visiting with my father.  We watched some (football) games.  I tried to shop (seasonal reasons) and largely failed, as usual.  Had brunch with my father’s friend with details that led me to tell coworkers about the event, so ask me about it sometime if we cross paths.

Living.  Living without gaming is something common amongst other folks.

To a lesser extent with CCGs, manifestly, but, then, there’s imagination.  RPGs are a medium for sharing imagination.  Bringing life to something more than experience.

I had heard the name Wallace Stevens, methinks.  I knew nothing.  I read … some.

Peacocks.  Hemlocks.

Unenthused but inspired – possible.

Living with gaming to where one can be stuck in traffic and lensify poetry to see gaming potential.  Not terribly unlike how one of my friends has been creating V:TES cards recently related to his life that he has shared with some of us.

There was a point.  Experience becomes description.  Experience becomes resource.  Narrative of the actor, narrative of the character.  Oh, and, if hearing about someone’s PC is pain, try reading poetry interpretation.  Sometimes, a peacock is just a multi-layered archetype.

Jabberwocky.