[Tournament Report] Demented Directions

June 24, 2018

Turns out having V:TES tournaments near Origins is not the optimal way to get folks from Colorado to come out.  Well, lesson for next time.

A different question is whether having V:TES tournaments near Origins, when I’ve gone to Origins, is well-suited for me.  As all things in creation can be determined by single instances, clearly, it’s pain.  Suffering.  And, sleepiness.

So, I got a quick inspiration for a deck and built one on Friday night.  See, this is one of my problems.  I have all of these pent up deck ideas, some of which make sense for tournament play locally, some of which crossregionally, and some of which not ever.  Then, rather than focus on those ideas and knock out some cool, hard awesome, I see something and build a totally unrelated deck.

Saturday morning, I started working on what was needed for the new deck building methodology Andy and I talked about on the way to the airport.  It proved much more involved than what I first thought, much like building a cube is way more effort than I feel like putting in.

I threw together a deck in case we didn’t have 10+ players for the morning tournament.  So, I have two new decks post-Origins.  Both suffer from the same problem.  A problem I keep instilling in my decks.  A problem which will be addressed in a bit.

Carpool up to Berkeley.  Nine players for first tournament.  This is actually why having prize support for events matters – without the magical 10 players to get a deck in the TWDA and to build Hall of Fame resumes, why does it even matter what happens?  Could just be playing casual games.  Part of the reason I don’t push tournament play at conventions, where players appearing is unreliable and people show up late and leave early.

Tournament 1:

Round 1:

Ian (Preternatural Strength w/ Dom) -> Rick (Inconnu Tutelage Prince/Protean/Other) -> Alex (EuroBrujah) -> Mark (Toreador Nightmare Curse)

In both games, no one got ousted.  Welp, that’s NoCal V:TES.  Rick finally got Inconnu Tutelage and almost decked.  Between Alex and me, we got out something like five Preternatural Strengths.  Mark had a Nightmare Curse DIed, had a Will-o’-the-Wisp DIed by Rick that would have ousted me.  Had his final attempt to oust DTed by me.  I didn’t really put any pressure on Rick, with Alex having to do most of the work in the game.  It would have been awful for Alex and me to sit next to each other “Punch for 3.  Punch for 3.”

Round 2:

David (minions) -> Eric (Trem/!) -> Ian -> Mark (Samedi Rush) -> Brandon (Ventrue)

Multideck, where maybe only Mark bothered to change decks.  Mark and I didn’t fight much, but I did Horseshoes his guys some which led to a Fame dunk.  His own Dragonbound was doing two to him late in the game.  Brandon was cruising up until he ran out of combat ends against Mark, three were played in a single fight, for instance.  David got out Victoria, Lazar, Volker, Carlton, Muddled, Jake.  Carlton got Pentexed to give Mark a second VP.

Eric got beaten up some and never really threatened me, which was sort of sad as I did have bounce.

I was Potencely impotent.  See, this is what happens when I don’t think through my deck choices for tournaments.  Because I don’t play a lot of the standard offensive weapons, so many of my decks can’t really hurt anyone (by themselves).  This is a bad habit that I need to get out of as it impacts the experience for other players.

Finals:

Devin (Aus/Dem/Tha) -> Mark (Samedi rush) -> Eric (Trem/!) -> Jonathan (Shamblers) -> Ian

Devin put no meaningful pressure on and would have been ousted if I hadn’t been with a couple of minutes left.  Mark beat up Eric’s guys easily enough.  Eric didn’t have much of a game.  Jonathan had an interesting situation.  Shamblers are awesome sauce against Mark’s deck.  They punch, explode, more get made.  Actually, we saw zombie on zombie action with Reanimated Corpses and Shamblers.  At the very end of the game, Jonathan rushed my guys multiple times, which might have mattered if …

If Devin didn’t DI my third Deflection to get me ousted by The Baron.  I actually could have bounced to Mark as I needed two ousts to win and didn’t really care what happened if I didn’t get two.  Mark, as top seed, didn’t need to do anything after Eric got ousted.

Before moving on to the tournament that mattered, expounding time on not playing offense.

I keep thinking about how long it has been since I’ve played Dementation SB.  I enjoy all sorts of stealth bleed decks, but I think more about Dementation in part because I have no TWDA decks with Dementation, in part because I’ve played far more Dom SB over the course of the last 20+ years, in part because I so rarely play anything remotely normal for Dem SB even when I do come up with deck ideas for the TWDA.

There’s this massive struggle between feeling like I’m missing out in enjoyable play with my extensive banned list and feeling like I achieve nothing by winning with boring stuff.  I mean, sure, winning the NAC or the EC or the SAC or whatever would be an achievement as my resume is poor when it comes to major tournament wins, but I have my “code” and it amuses me to stick to it.

Jay actually said that to me when I was playing a pick up game:  “You have your code.”  Some people like to win more than anything else.  I like to amuse people more than anything else.  Though, to be fair, I do have a tournament winning deck with Protect Thine Own in it and another with Pentex in it.  But, that’s ancient history.  I become more and more restrictive over time and I’m not sure it’s the most fun way to go.

I really have to think about what sort of limitations I place on myself, though I doubt I’ll suddenly unban a lot of cards.  It is sort of absurd that I could play Gremlins and Murmur of the False Will in decks and not play Scouting Mission and Threats, but absurdity is all part of the game I play.

By the way, I was asked what card is my most banned card.  I think I mentioned Eyes of Argus.  I was really tired.  Actually, Deep Song would be more banned.  But, the obvious superban is Enkil Cog.  Gods, I hate out of turn actions.  It’s so obnoxious to suddenly be playing a different game just because of two stupid cards, one of which should have never been made and the other of which should have been banned a long time ago.

Yes, they reward skill.  Yes, helps you Shatter the Gates and achieve numerous other combos.  They are so dumb in terms of how they alter the natural flow of the game.  I would also ban Reversal of Fortunes as I’m not into effects that cause you to be playing a different game, but the need would decrease quite a bit if the Madness would go away.

Tournament 2:

Round 1:

Ian (CEL/PRE Fifth Tradition) -> Alex (Brujah group 34 P/J) -> Mark (Emerald Legionnaire) -> Devin (Valkyrie vote Undue Influence) -> Eric (!Ventrue intercept combat)

Crypt was three 10-caps and a 9-cap.  I had no masters to play for a while.  I brought out Andreas and had a hand full of wakes.  Andreas got a gun.  Anneke came out.  Anneke got Giant’s Blooded so that I pretended to be relevant.  I was irrelevant.  I had a dumb decision to make.  I could have contested the Brujah Justicar title to stop Alex from Second Traditioning with Jaroslav which would just shut me down.  I probably would have, but Eric had Owain in play and the correct thing would have been to feed Jaroslav until I give up, so I didn’t.

And, maybe Jaroslav can keep Mark under control.  He did.  Thing about Erlik and Erebus is that they are Sabbat and Jaroslav hates him some prey Sabbat.  Mark almost got Devin, but stuff happened including my using Anneke at the very end to block ELs.  Eric further shut down my game by getting Owain with a Sniper Rifle, The Rack.  I just couldn’t ever impact him and Devin had to defend too much to force Eric to use resources.

NoCal play – .5 VPs for all.

Round 2:

Devin -> Rick (Nos/! Horseshoes fight) -> Alex -> Brandon (Tupdog) -> Ian

I transferred to my two 10-caps for a long time, considering whether my 9-cap would have mattered and not considering my 8-cap.  The reason for one of the 10-caps was Justicar title.  The reason for the other was built in press.  Meanwhile, Brandon bled me for one a lot and used Tupdog rushes to fight the superfighty Brujah.

With no predator, Devin did stuff.  Only having Brunhilde advanced Archoned when she went for the five bleed kill stopped his ruthless bleeds of two at one stealth.  Amusingly, Devin could actually pass a vote past both Anneke and Alex’s four votes.

After I finally brought out minions, one of my 10-caps got diablerized, which I thought was weird.  I expected all of my minions to go to torpor even with a hand of six combat cards, but the diablerie slowed Brandon down, if anything.

There was a brief window when Devin needed to bring out another Brunhilde that I could have bled for 5 and probably gotten it through with him at 6 pool.  Nobody bled into my bounce during that window to reduce his pool to 5 (or, better, 2).  I’m sure I would have been Archoned, anyway, so it hardly mattered, but Devin got Rick finally, did heinous damage to Alex even after I gave Alex 13 pool with Golconda and Political Stranglehold, bled out Brandon who was at 1 pool, bled me out without effort after I Golcondaed my only minion.

The reason I didn’t encourage helping me to deprive Devin of round two existence is that I didn’t see how Brandon had any interest in my ousting him.  Devin did far more pool damage to Alex than we expected once Rick was out of the way, so it didn’t seem like he was going to sweep like he did.  The only window for me was when Rick was still around and Brandon was close to ousting me with my 2 pool, which would have been far better for him.  That’s the problem with suppressing players and not ousting them – their maximizing VPs means sitting around and surviving and putting no pressure forward.  All hail SB that won’t mess up people’s games but will eviscerate the players’ existences.

Those were two horrible games of V:TES in terms of my being remotely relevant to my prey.  Now, that’s not unusual in a lot of my games for reasons mentioned, but it furthers the idea of just going small and ousty.

See, in, say, EC play, my fat dudes people don’t typically see make me impotent because I get hit too hard too early from my right and get Pentexed by even the likes of my prey who I haven’t actually done pool damage to.  In local play, that’s not as likely, instead, the problem is having way too much combat for my not totally focused on combat decks to have to deal with.  Not because everything is combat – finals involved The unnamed, for instance, a deck that only hits for 2 with its 4-caps, and a deck with a horde of allies that hit for 2, beyond the two actual combat decks.

I was so tired on the way back, didn’t even have much to talk about on the ride back.

It was a decent experience.  Got to spend time with people I don’t see all of the time.  Got to wander around Berkeley some to find a place open at 11PM (not actually hard).  Just felt like my V:TES play was pointless.  Far more relevant in games I cared nothing about, while taking up space in games that will impact generations for millennia.

Congratulations to Mark for winning the second tournament.  Thanks to Mark for making stuff happen.  I’d be good with more tournaments.  Thanks to Brandon for driving.  Got to talk to people about stuff, which was nice.

Well, if this experience taught me anything, it taught me that my next Elixir of Distillation deck needs to be far more potent.  Actually, harkening back to yesterparagraph, the lesson may be to just play more stealth bleed.  It puts pressure forward and doesn’t do weird things to games like voting and combat and … weird stuff.

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Origins 2018

June 20, 2018

I hadn’t been to Columbus in 20 years.  And, that trip to Origins was as a Precedence volunteer where much of my time was spent demoing the Babylon 5 CCG.  The RPG schedule was so boring I didn’t even try.

This year was for two things:  V:TES, True Dungeon.

Even the TD was limited, so let’s start … with Tuesday.

Tuesday, I go to sofa around midnight, not really sleep, and get up at my 2AM alarm.  Quarter to 4AM, Athena and Andy pick me up and we are off to Oakland.

Flights happen.  We arrive before 4PM in Columbus.  We wait a long time for the hotel shuttle, which is aggravating as I’m not sure I’ll make it to the 6PM V:TES tournament on time.  We check in.  We walk to Fabian’s, and we order a deep dish pizza.

V:TESing happens.  I may not have the starting players right in all of these rounds.  I knew some of the names when I was playing but have since forgotten.

Round 1:

Will (Sabbie 2 caps) -> ?? (Trem stuff) -> Mark (Summon History) -> Ian (HoS 3/4 toolbox) -> Jay (Nos prince/support)

As Mark said, I didn’t have much of a game.  I hung around for a while with potential answers to being rushed by Remnant of the Endless Storm, but it wasn’t like I was flowing cards.  Actually, I shouldn’t have gone in for the terrorism that is Outside the Hourglass and Domain of Evernight and just made some effort to block things, especially once I was never going to be a predator in the game.

Mark was not in a great position, but I got ousted and continued to eat pizza.

The pizza was not good.  I like Fabian’s well enough and they were good to us, but the crust was too dry, the cheese was overwhelming compared to the toppings, the toppings were very meh.  I’m willing to try thin crust, probably without cheese.  Then, Andy didn’t get a chance to eat any until it was coldish.

Round 2:

John (SB) -> Maria (Newjah) -> Ian -> Andy (borrowed FoS SB)

This was set up ludicrously well for me in that John kept continuous pressure on Maria, keeping her from dominating.  I got out a couple of Emerald Legionnaires, almost completely botched bleeding Andy for 3 with permanents on my HoS by playing Call of the Hungry Dead needlessly at superior rather than inferior emptying one of my dudes.  Drew a Blood Doll, pushed, killed Andy, ousted John after fending off attempts to keep him in the game, then raced Maria in the endgame where I played around Archon Investigation and could bleed for 11 or whatever on my turn with three HoS and Emeraldness.

Sometimes you sweep because it’s hard to mess up your position.

Finals:

Kelly (Pre/Obf vote) -> ?? (Mistress Fanchion doesn’t do it all) -> Ian -> Mark -> ??

I blanked on my predator’s name but should be obvious to anyone else being one of two women playing.  Grandprey was the same from round one, I read his name during the first round but forgot.

Kelly ran over the table as his prey didn’t have any game and his predator didn’t have enough intercept and Mark couldn’t get ally rush going fast enough.  I did survive longer than expected, but that just delaying tacticsed the inevitable.

Andy had already left since he wasn’t in the finals.

Wednesday

The day of more V:TESing.

Nobody expects …

Round 1:

Mark (Trem toolbox) -> Kelly (High cap Lasombra w/ Fort) -> Ian (Sea Pirates redux) -> Karl (Wolves Feed !Tor w/ Gerald FG)

Ambrosio takes an action, Mark blocks and ‘schrecks, I had an Anarch Convert out.  I debate what to do.  I mention the possibility of a deal, but I don’t know if Kelly was listening, so I eventually eat.  I play in the dark poorly by forgetting a way to reduce one of Mark’s bleeds and cycle a card and am ousted pretty easily and Mark eventually sweeps.

Just a not good game.

Round 2:

Ian -> Tom (Tunnel Runner) -> Jay (Samedi) -> John (THA close range combat)

I let Tom get a Tunnel Runner and Jay’s game sucks.  My Nadima does stuff but trying to police forwards and fight backwards and not be Pentexed does me in, eventually.

Next tournament, I decide to play the FoS SB deck with some slight changes because I was all about trying to simplify my tournaments.

Round 1:

?? (Una and DoC) -> Adam (!Brujah Undue Influence) -> Mark (5 discipline, including Dom, Nos-ish) -> Ian (FoS SB) -> Ben (borrowed Nos Anathema)

This was pure.  The sacred playing of numerous Delaying Tactics brought righteous glory to some involved.  Mark did hardly anything to me, Immortal Grapple twice in one fight and just hitting for one each time.  I kept getting vote damage aimed at me from other than my predator.

Adam and I dealt with the idea that Mark would go and I’d be unmolested until Ben was gone.  Ben was at 2 pool and had virtually no defense against my bleeding in his deck.  Angela Preston was Famed and in torpor.  Una tried to rescue, Anathemaed Una.  Ben gained 9 pool.  Adam and I talked about his going forward when he was near death and I was fine with it.  I did mention that I had enough bleed to reduce Ben to 1 in hand.  My top card would have been enough to remove Ben.  I played like two DT, Adam played like six.

Round 2:

Ian -> Karl (vote) -> Mark -> Ben -> Adam

My focus was on playing a table with four of the same players, so I didn’t care much about Karl’s deck.  More DTs.  More DTs.

I’m blanking on what happened besides more DTs, Ben calling KRC of 1 on himself and 3 on his predator and the only person displeased was his prey.  Seriously, I don’t remember how things shook out as I was just in DT nirvana.  I did DT, myself, to cycle.

Forgot my credit card at Fabian’s because I’ve never left my CC with restaurants before.  Ben helps me settle my “tab” (even though I got everything I wanted before tournament two) and holds my card for Thursday.  I should mention that my food was much better, in particular the tater tots from the sister restaurant were better than usual.

Thursday

Time to get serious … ly ousted.  While I had options for a tournament I couldn’t play the finals of due to True Dungeon scheduled for after the tournament is supposed to end (but won’t), I settled on HoS FoW as something fun that actually has any ousting power.

Then, I find out there’s going to be another hour taken up with a food break.  Burn.

Round 1:

John (Ass anarch vote) -> Kate (DoC vote) -> Karl (Art of Memory Dom/Obt) -> Darby (“fun” Bribes) -> Ian (Blessed Resilience pure HoS)

Darby kept referring to my bleed deck as an intercept deck.  Having no votes, I was not involved in the numerous discussions on whether to help Darby pass votes or not.  While Karl could theoretically bleed for 18 in one turn, his turns didn’t tend to be 18ish.  So, Darby often had lots of pool or gained back what he lost.  Kate is not all that experienced (we knew each other from NoCal) and probably overcomplicated playing Lily Preludes, as Darby didn’t get permavotes until late and John and Karl each had one (John’s one hurt him as his dude couldn’t anarch up).  John is low at some point, but a vote passes to give him lots of pool and that makes my game unlikely to proceed.

On turn two, Darby vote bled me for 7.  About 100 to 105 minutes into the game, John back ousts me with a vote as it also kills Kate and the game can properly time out at that point.

Round 2:

Ian -> Alex (IC stuff?) -> John (Trem stuff?) -> Alexandre (anarch) -> Karel (!Ventrue bleed)

I doubt my deck could ever play as smoothly as it did in this game.  I get out Erlik who gives me Mina on the same turn.  I bleed, I Rapid Heal, I Summon Soul, I Emerald, I … before the end, my prey brings out Rafael de Corazon, who becomes Legendary, calls Reins of Power, and votes 7 against … bring out Erebus to go to 2 pool.  Rafael gets by my two intercept with a vote and back ousts me to give a Dominate bleed deck a new prey.  Somehow, that worked for him.

Finally, we have True Dungeon happen.  I mean, sure, I had already done transmutes that morning and the transmute room folks were superhelpful for getting me out of the room.

Into the Shadowlands

So, I’m the one who used our patron code to sign up for this patron event.  No point in spoiling anything.  I did prove not useless with the first room puzzle.  I barbarianed to occasionally do damage, though not 60 at a shot like the rogue and there was one fight where I missed like every round with my +16 to hit.  Ah, high level play.

Respectfully, I didn’t find it that interesting.  One of the things that’s very clear is how really uninteresting TD combat is.  I want it to be challenging but also for there to be some context.  Challenging isn’t hard [foreshadowing alert, foreshadowing alert].  The problem I noticed more at Origins, maybe just because I hadn’t played in a while, is how you have no real concept of what’s going on in combat.  Did I contribute?  7% of the damage?  22% of the damage?  How do my choices matter?  At a certain point, if you win, the table just gets wiped clear of sliders and it feels oh so hollow most of the time.

I thought the event would feel more different.  Sure, there was metagamey stuff to rein in brokenness, but I couldn’t even tell whether that mattered.

Break time.

True Raid

While occasionally entertaining and probably much more so for those who 20ed their Death Dies, this became monotonous to me.  I liked what happened to spellcasters because it forced me to do something besides “Spellswap to Magic Missile, MEC, another 36 damage.”  I traitored and, thus, was the last to be slain.  I would have vastly preferred a different set up with more variety to the fights.  It just felt like an exercise after a certain point as victory was never going to happen.

I did something like 300 damage to Lorigorgon, 52 to PCs with my last two spells, 23 to all PCs with my last Burning Hands, had a bunch of spells rejected …, and it felt like it meant nothing.  Sure, I could have more efficiently used my Lightning Storms to do more damage, but it was more interesting filling out paperwork up until the point I was a traitor.  Actually, failing to hit in melee combat because my build was not built for anything besides casting and surviving was mildly amusing.

Andy had more to do as he didn’t have as many spells rejected and he survived a long time as a non-traitor.

We hit a pub near the hotel, which became the norm.  I had the stromboli, which was really a calzone, but I don’t terribly care.  Too cheesy for eating that late in the day, but it was good, otherwise.

Friday

Day one.  The proof is in the puddinghead plays.

Round 1:

Jay (ANI/THA) -> Ian (THA horde) -> Jesper (Nergal Beast) -> James (high cap Ventrue) -> ?? (POT/Dom)

I could have played this game really differently.  I could have played The Name Forgotten on Nergal before Unleash and Beast got out and could block it.  I let Jesper play his game.  He got the game win.  But, what confused me a lot was how little ability to survive James had.  I thought he would vote and fill up or bounce more or something so that he wasn’t taking constant bleeds from Nergal and Beast.

Jay was frustrated by my inability to go forward, but just because I brought out Hannigan and gave him DOM, then Muaziz and gave her DOM didn’t mean I could actually pressure my prey without Create Gargoyles, which Jay blocked.  Lot of bounce, not bounce, whatever at end.

Round 2:

Karl (!Tor anarch bleed) -> Will (AUS/Obf) -> Ian -> Martin (PRE bleed w/ AUS) -> Adam (ANI and …)

For a short time, this game was set up really well for me.  Martin had very little pool, Adam never got going.  But, as usual, I couldn’t finish and Martin got Adam, and Will got tapped out by Anarch Troublemaker and couldn’t use his bleed defense.  The endgame ground to a halt with Martin not wanting to go forward with my threat of bouncing, Karl somewhat spinning his wheels, and my being kind of impotent.  Karl contested Carlton and I should have bled for the edge rather than Blood Doll hunt.  Eventually, Karl double bounced and Archoned on the same action and I couldn’t deal with a load of minions.  Martin didn’t have any game by the time I was gone.

Round 3:

Elon (Baali vote) -> Pete (!Tor) -> ?? -> Ian -> Sam

This was odd.  I should have gotten 4 vps with how it played out as I could have saved Elon not once but twice, with the second time ousting Sam while Elon was at 1 pool with two tapped Baali.  My predator transferred low enough for Pete to oust him.  I had Carlton and Ponticulus right away and my predator’s first minion was … Stanislava.  But, I didn’t care.

Sam would bleed a lot for 1.  I bled a lot for 1.  Pete held on long enough for me to oust Sam but had little pool at that point and I had an impregnable wall with my ability to get to two intercept.

What made it odd?  Sam’s deck does like one thing.  Elon got into a position where he couldn’t do anything pretty quickly with just Nakhthorheb and Waters behind him.

N1 – Astral Bliss

Final TD event.  Even more important not to spoil this as many will be doing it for the first time at Gen Con.  There were good things about it.  I didn’t find it to be the best thing ever.  I preferred GC 2017’s Moongate combat.  A question, how interesting is up to the reader, is:  What do I actually enjoy about TD?  I enjoy other people being clever.  I enjoy the camaraderie.  I enjoy thinking about builds (but not so much writing them out as they tend to be very similar to each other).  I enjoy having certain tokens.

My build for this run, btw, was a ranged monk.  I went minimalist, even though my build was kind of more oriented to normal than hardcore.  My damage bonus was too low for hardcore.  I could fix that easily, but it would mess with the aesthetic of the build.  What wasn’t too low was my 39 hit points.  I liked feeling in danger and needing healing.  To play TD and be “Well, I’m down 40, but I’m okay.” is not enough tension.

I still had people use my melee stats, which were like +1/+1 vs. my ranged of +25/+2.  Part of the balance of playing at levels that aren’t that hard.  Fortunately, the six person group had a fighter who could consistently do 30+ to make up for my impotence and Andy’s druid was probably doing good damage.

Saturday

Day two.  Every cat has his day.

Round 1:

Kelly (Cybele and friends w/ Striga) -> Ian (my vampires have Obfuscate) -> Hugh (borrowed Summon History ally) -> Bob (!Ventrue Grinder?) -> Adam (Palla Grande)

The best thing about not having stealth in my first 31 cards is that I got to put out a bunch of permanents that nobody cared about and a couple of my Conceals got through due to the swarm factor.  I burned Ankara three times by the end.  One of those times was a horrible mistake, the kind of mistake that losers make, losers with blogs.  I burned a Renegade Garou with DBR.  I only really got beaten down by a Rock Cat after I failed to topdeck a third stealth card in the first 42 cards which would have ousted Hugh, though I could have swarm ousted Hugh with just my board if I didn’t trust in the heart of the cards.

Of course, my deck with all OBF vampires except one is barely running any stealth, only 22 stealth cards, so it’s understandable that I should have played smart and not like I just got embraced last week.  Not that I think I get Bob, but 1 VP is 1 VP more than 0 VPs.

Round 2:

Karl (FoS anarch vote) -> Jesper (Deep Song bleed) -> John (Trem toolbox) -> Ian -> Robert (Malgorzata and friends vote)

Karl survived longer than he should have, which got him a VP.  Jesper beat John down hard early to where John never had game.  John wasn’t expecting my deck to wake as much as it did, which meant he couldn’t lunge and I wasn’t terribly afraid of combat.  I got out lots of ranged weapons.  Anarch Troublemaker was rather important.

I Concealed Creepshow Casino in the endgame after Robert got 2 VPs, which Robert let through.  He also didn’t play around my weapons well.  Newer than most to the game, some better decisions and I wouldn’t have ousted him after I diablerized all of his guys right before time.  Also, earlier, probably could have played differently to get two easy VPs.  Learning experience.

Round 3:

Ian -> Alexandre (Vignes) -> Pete (Ventrue Grinder) -> Brad (FoS w/ Dom Corruption) -> Bill (PRO/Dom w/ intercept)

Even with my dispensing with cards that can provide stealth and with a Free States Rant crosstable, Vignes still took out Pete.  If not for that, I would have had two easy VPs as Alexandre wasn’t doing so great.  Meanwhile, I ignored Bill who tooled up with lots of intercept and Brad never felt confident going forward, so I eventually got worn down by bleeds in the endgame.

While I could be frustrated by how my Day One deck couldn’t lunge, what was different about these events is that I was actually capable of threatening my prey most of the time, with the one game of Nergal being a case where I think I just end my prey’s game on turn three if I choose to and end up ineffectual instead.  The plan of lowering crypt capacities and focusing on getting more minions in play seemed to work in general.  Now, the issue remains that with my banned list, there are a lot of ways to improve ousting power I don’t have access to, but that just means I embrace voting … because everyone loves voting.  Everyone.

For all intents and purposes, it’s pink lemonade time as I wasn’t going to play in the finals on Sunday and no more transmuting to do for TD.  To the pub for more lemonade.  I finally got the $4 double burger.  I was not surprised that it was a slider.  It was a very thick slider.  Certainly, I understand the price point.

Oh, speaking of food, didn’t mention my getting Tibetan dumplings (too chewy), brisket and rib tips (kind of overpriced for the quality in my mind), lamb curry with a lassi (lassi was quite good, rest was okay) from North Market, getting many smoothies from the convention center with my first Buckeye being really, really good and the other being kind of watered down, with the Strawberry Sunrise being just too pineappley.  Got food at the airport on the way back and it was pretty good and like $10 for a full size sandwich and a 20oz drink – I’m increasingly a fan of smaller airports.

Sunday

One more tournament I can’t win.

Round 1:

Ian (Indie Gargoyles) -> Mark (Nos Royalty Disarm) -> Peter (Baron something) -> Brad (Ani/Obt)

This was entertaining for how sad and pathetic we all were at ousting our prey.  Ferox rushed Sheldon.  Sheldon got torped.  Peter got Fee Stake: New York with Calebros in play.  Because of the recent forum post on vekn.net, I remembered the contestation penalty barons have, so Ferox had to empty Calebros in torpor.

While Mark and Peter got pool deprived to the point of it being laughable and more laughable, Brad just achieved infinite power.  I kept waiting for a crosstable Parity Shift, which got DTed.  Mark only ousted because Peter did a thing with a Famed vampire.  Mark and Brad stalled out in the endgame.

Round 2:

Darby (DoC vote) -> Robert (Malgorzata again) -> David (Summon History Inceptor) -> Alexandre (Malk anarch) -> Ian

“Darby, if I don’t oust you now, I don’t think I’ll ever oust you.  So, I’m done, go ahead.”  I, then, took a restroom break.  When I got back, Darby was ousted, so, as usual, I’m psychic … because I didn’t oust him.

David got a VP because somehow Alexandre just kept eating bleeds of four from Codex.  Robert got a VP because David’s game was impaired by Washes and Suddens.  I didn’t get ousted with four cards left and one untapped minion against Malgorzata, Oriandus, Polly.

Welp, that’s V:TES.  All things can be predicted at the beginning of every game and you’ll lose games because your grandprey tries to rescue a vampire from torpor.

On the way to the airport, Andy and I discussed my next deck construction method.  Let’s see how secret sauce works this weekend …

While no gaming event at Origins was great, I’d still say the overall experience was greatish.  The best part was hanging out with people better at winning V:TES than I am.  Better hotel next year would improve things.  Trying thin crust might be better, especially with no cheese.  Maybe I’ll even play a Dominate card besides Deflection in one of my decks, like, uh, Autonomic Mastery.

Andy really liked the size of the convention.  I really liked having a two minute walk between V:TES and TD, as opposed to rushing for a 15 minute hussle between hotels to make RPGs.  Still, Origins and Gen Con provide two very different opportunities for me, so I’d much rather have both be the norm.

Thanks to Black Chantry folks and Jay for V:TES events.  Thanks to Mongo for getting my transmutes done faster than they deserved to be.  Thanks to my fellow dungeonites for putting up with my dungeon demeanor.


KublaCon 2018

May 30, 2018

Kubla went about what I expected.  That’s not a superior thing.  I was committed to running five events.  I had done essentially zero prep for the con.  I was going to have to be there Friday and Monday, where I didn’t particularly want to be there Monday and didn’t want to be there Friday.

See, besides having a job where management doesn’t get specific ahead of time about leaving early going into holiday weekends, Memorial Day Weekend happens at the end of a month, which is right when I’m focusing on my primary reporting output.

Friday

I hope to get home early enough to nap because I’m old and I figured I would get less sleep than normal.  That didn’t work.  I picked up V:TES, Traveller, L5R 4e core book and headed up to Burlingame.

I ran my V:TES event which was talking to someone who had never played and probably still hasn’t and playing a couple of games with two people I don’t often see.  That’s actually a primary benefit of going to cons.  I may not game nearly as much as I used to, but I don’t have to con to game.  I do have to con to see a bunch of people I used to game with.

I forget to take my Black Chantry cards to the con, losing precious talking points for building brand new, heretofore discomprehended decks that will inspire our insect successors until the Sun reddens.

Saturday

I’m unsure I’m running something at 9AM.  I end up running a HoR mod for three people who know what HoR is plus a deadhead.  It’s okay.  The mod is amazingly lacking in material if you skip the inn.  It has an amusing monologue.

Anyway, food time afterwards.  By the time we get back, I have to run a 2PM mod for people who aren’t invested in HoR.  It seems to go reasonably well.  I eat some.  By the time I’m getting together with Jeff to get dinner, I have just finished lunch.  By the time I finished my Shanghai Dumpling Shop food, we drive over to Shanghai Dumpling Shop for food.  Why couldn’t the tan tan mian and lei sha tang wan be as good as they used to be?  Why?!?

Jeff wants me to play Lords of Hellas as a reference point for our designing a game we’ve talked about.

I understood the point.  Now, I didn’t want to play a 3 hour game at 8PM because I knew it would not go well the next day, but here are some pros and cons:

PROs

Turns can go quick.  It’s a game with a variety of things going on that you can play fast enough for people to keep engaged.  Multiple paths to victory does allow for interesting possibilities.  Players never seem out of the game and can come back.  Jeff has played a number of times and he finds that most players have a chance of winning.  While I prefer a pure mythological aesthetic, good aesthetics with pretty minis and play pieces.

Every game I’ve ever played of Lords of Hellas, I’ve ended the game with a Strength of 1, had multiple Blessings that rewarded hunting, and would have won off of the usurp action even if I didn’t win off of hoplite beatdown.

CONs

Your turns are kind of vaguely explained.  Your hero doesn’t have enough to do, though I ignored quests to the point that I don’t even know what the ones in play required, so maybe that was an option.  I don’t find hunting interesting mechanically.  Seems to be a game of lots of holding someone back from winning off of a third monster too much of the time.  Praying is not fun … when you don’t get to do it.

Every game I’ve ever played of Lords of Hellas, I started the game with no priest making, didn’t get a priest on my second turn, nor on my third turn.  Meant I could ignore injuries, of course.  I felt completely outclassed in terms of abilities, where my massive army didn’t assuage my ability envy.

Sunday

I sleep in because I can.

I arrive before the 2PM HoR political interactive we are running and find out which NPC I’m playing.  It doesn’t have that many players, which might be a good thing, where there was good diversity of clans.  It went fine.  Andy’s borrowed wig worked well.

I remain convinced that LARPing isn’t my thing as I find them tiring.

Finally, I get to play in the only event I played in.  Shadowfist Modern.  We were going to play with time limits in such a way that we could play a bunch of rounds.

We played one game in the tournament.  One, 3.5 hour game with four players.  The winner left and we played two pickup games of three.

The tournament was a good game.  It wasn’t fun.  None of the games were, though the third game had an amusing ending for me.

In the tournament, I got characters beaten down constantly, with my first hitter getting toasted as it was coming into play and another hitter getting toasted, this was after I discarded multiple hitters at the beginning of the game in order to get the two mandatory resources required to play Shadowfist without the GK house rules.  I would have decked, after Earl decked, as I had zero characters left in my hand or deck when Ray won.  Sure, I had chances to win, but they were pretty terrible chances and my experience with tournament Shadowfist play is that it often involves removing someone’s ability to win without the remover winning, which is just all kinds of antifun.  It’s like playing against rush combat constantly.

In the second game, which was a “20 minute” game even if it probably lasted longer, I had my first hitter toasted as it was coming into play and never played a character with cost above 1.

In the third game, I discarded a bunch of cards on the first turn and passed.  I discarded a bunch on the second turn and passed.  I discarded a bunch on the third turn and passed.  Maybe the fourth turn, maybe the fifth, I played a FSS and an Arcanomoth.  In the end, I Information Warfared my predator’s Abysmal Wyrm into my Manufactured Island which got replaced with a Gambling House and intercepted the Wyrm with … (playing Architects) … CHAR.  I then attacked Eagle Mountain for the win.

See.  I think the L5R LCG helps show, if not conclusively showed, that I’m really a multiplayer CCG player at this point because I don’t care about results.  I care about card interactions and making good choices.  My two opponents both failed to have anything to do for a while in that third game, then ended up wrecking each other to stabilize the game long enough for me to even participate.  While I might have made a good decision or two, that’s about all I had time to do in a game where both opponents were spent because I didn’t play half the game.

Sure, having chances to win is crucial to playing an enjoyable game, but it should come about due to good decisions and interesting card plays, not just because you are so pathetic no one cares what you do.

Monday

Get in early for my Traveller demo.  Show a bit of Traveller to those who aren’t familiar.  Build a deck and play Andy’s piracy deck.  I’m at 15 VPs after three rounds.  On round four, before I go to 19 VPs, he bankrupts me.  Just vicious play along the lines of what I’d expect competitive play to be like, where the contract deck and the attrition deck race and race fast.  More comments about this in the Traveller forums when I get a chance to post there.

Hit the donut shop for a burger.  Burger is pretty good.  Well, the onion ring and bacon on it helped a lot.  Once upon a time, Burlingame had some of the best donuts I’ve ever had.  I’m not sure that’s true, anymore.

Watch the Rockets/Warriors game.  I should never gamble on sports (except NFL, where I’ve only ever won money in Vegas) as the Warriors didn’t win by 25, like I expected.  Well, at least we got the finals every middle-thinking person wanted.

As an aside, no, not about His Airness versus the King, even though I’m a fan of both, nor about superteams crushing when they bother to remember that they have far more talent than anyone else or whatever, this season has been terrible.  I don’t mean the results of the playoffs, which ended up exactly the matchup I wanted in the finals.  I mean the season has been terrible.  So many stars or key players going down with injuries, sometimes right in the middle of conference finals.  Horrible playoff games where one team eviscerates the other only to be counterviscerated in the next game.  Were some bright spots, like Utah and New Orleans.  Then you have what fans call “awful coaching”.  Because everyone knows fans know more about how to play and lead teams than players and coaches.  Still, just ugly ball much of the time I bothered to catch games.  The high scoring potential of modern play with the frequency of three-point shooting probably does lead to more variance of results, but it’s the “could you just run some offense instead of holding the ball?” that gets repetitive.

Aftermath

I ran two events for games I care about with sparse attendance.  I played all of one scheduled event.  I played a game that I’m probably fine with starting at nearly my bed time [la-…].  What used to be my favorite restaurant isn’t nearly as good as it once was.  The days of great donuts seem to now require getting them near work, where I’ve never bought a donut at the donut shop but have bought dozens of sandwiches.  I had to drive up to the con on two days I had little interest in attending.  My one play event involved three bad games.  I didn’t see one of my friends at all and seem to be growing more distant to people I used to game with often enough.

Was it awful?  No.  It was about what I expected.  Too busy with no time to prep or to appreciate anything.  I already knew SDS’s food quality had declined.  Casual Shadowfist is far more fun (when people don’t steal your power).  Positive thinking might have led to more positive results.

Of course, I could put this in perspective.  Memorial Day isn’t just about gaming and basketball.  If suboptimal gaming is the worst problem in one’s life, going strong at first world probleming.  The car engine didn’t explode even though I ran low on oil and had to top it off.  No speeding tickets.  No muggings.  Didn’t lose or break the laptop.  Still able to walk up and down stairs at my advanced age while carrying 35 pounds of gaming stuff in backpacks.


DunDraCon 2018

February 20, 2018

Do I just keep saying the same things as if we are in a chronic hysteresis?

I don’t think I’m going to come across as chipper in this post.  I can’t be mister positivity 100% of the time [… uh …].

I’m not as engaged with local cons.  When you ponder which DDC’s were more memorable out of 20+, it’s not like there isn’t a been there, done that aspect to it.  Why don’t I feel the same way about Gen Con when I play HoR a lot and may end up playing the same systems over and over, like Four Colours Al Fresco for a while or Feng Shui or whatever?

Because in person play of HoR locally is very different from in person play of HoR at Gen Con, for instance.  At GC, you get the core players and people who put thought into metagaming the campaign, even if it’s just deciding how to form Battle Interactive tables.  I’ve never played any 4CAF outside of GC, nor any Babylon RPG, etc.

KublaCon is more interesting to me from a gaming standpoint because I get to play card game events that don’t exist outside of the con, e.g. Shadowfist tournaments.  Have to defend my title as Classic Champion for the sixth largest economy in the world this year, for instance.

But, let’s get back to DDC.

No hotel this year.  While I didn’t mind driving back and forth in the moment, I needed a break and DDC wasn’t much of a vacation.  Now, my first vacation of the year is coming up soon …  At some point, get on topic.

I skipped Friday because, sincerely, I’m not in the mood to game Friday nights at cons after being at work much of the day.  It’s just a desire for a mental break.  Now, I’m willing to game if there’s something I’m particularly interested in playing, but there are few things I’m particularly interested in playing.  Again, RPG events may sound good, but I’ve had the spectrum from amazing to atrocious, from excellent to bad, from solid to mediocre, unforgettable to forgettable.  I am more likely to enjoy playing than thinking about the possibility of playing.  It’s like how I have no problem working out but hate thinking about working out so I hardly ever initiate the exercise.

Also, I don’t think my friends and gaming associates realize how little I have always been interested in quick games or pick up games or whatever.  I invest in certain games (or types of games) and want to play those a lot, and I play what other people want to play that doesn’t feel like it will be a drag.  I’ll demo games I haven’t played, but I don’t go out of my way to do so unless they have a hook that is extra hooky for me.  I’d much rather talk about a game that interests me or even hear someone’s review of a game that doesn’t interest me than play filler games.

Saturday, I get in a bit after 7:30AM and find ample parking at the hotel.  I get my usual breakfast from Bagel Street Cafe of pastrami and swiss on a poppy seed bagel (because they don’t have the bread rolls baked yet) with a large peach smoothie with whip cream.

Bagel Street Cafe.  It’s a chain.  I don’t think I’ve ever been to one other than in San Ramon.  There’s one in the shopping center where I get my hair cut and I’m not entirely sure where it is.  Yet, conwise, I’d be happy to eat twice a day at the place with the occasional dinner somewhere outside of the adjacent shopping center where I can get a burger or fish and chips or whatever.

I show up like 8:30AM for my 10AM Traveller demo.  Try to work on my piracy deck for a Developer’s Corner article on travellerccg.com and fail to make much progress as people are already showing up to demo the game.  Demoing happens, with Jeff leading.  It’s only 2 hours for the event, but we continue demoing for another 2 hours.  Then, food, or, as I like to call it, smoothie number two, berry [blackberry?] smoothie this time.

Saturday night is V:TES, which is a couple of games.  We call the second game after my Hermana Mayor deck has gotten a VP from my prey’s Anarch Revolts and ousts a second player, while my grandpredator finally stealth bleeds out my predator.  The first game was a spin on Hatchling.dec where I had .5 VPs at time and 3 VPs playing the game out with Arika as my predator and my Aus/Pre/Vic bruise bleed deck as prey.  Sucked up a bunch of Starvations of Marena, but my prey decked.

Not home too late … if I wasn’t old and decrepit.

Sunday, roll in an hour later as I didn’t get out of bed at 5:20AM to build decks, like I did on Saturday.  Get the strawberry smoothie and am pleased with it, as well.  Which to get Monday?  Which?

Demo, similar structure, different people, at 10AM.  Then, tournament time.  Time for ruthless beats.  Time for glory, honor, status, and swag.  Except, I’m one of the guys who made the game, so like none of those apply.

Match 1:

I’m playing against a precon.  I’m not winning.  I then have a crazy complicated turn after having relatively straightforward turns earlier.  Oh, I’m playing my Prepared Scout deck from my website article, with a few adjustments to the crew and maybe one or two other cards.

I have a Body Pistol in play and shoot Rika Honami.  I Freelancer Flint into play and jettison her.  I have played a SureShot Missile Turret and Just a Little Longer … another SureShot Missile Turret and I Glitch one of my Turrets to reuse it so that I do 6 or whatever damage as a pirate to bankrupt my opponent.  May not sound that intense, but I think also Freelancered another crew in play for some reason and used my Starship Graveyard to get back one of those Turrets.

As usual, I was virtually bankrupt myself.  A Scout may always be prepared, but this Scout is always poor.

If I hadn’t taken out Rika, he might have completed his contract and won.

Now, I think I only won – not because my constructed deck was the wasp’s elbows – because I understood the game far better than someone who just started playing in the Sunday demo.

Match 2:

Paired off with another 1-0 player, some guy named Jeff who has played the game before.  This was a very casual event due to people kind of getting in late and not being quite sure who was playing.  He got out to a lead.  At a certain point, he was up 13-11 in VPs.  Then, his friend showed up who was planning on playing and took over.

On the penultimate round, I went for a big contract to try to get 6 VPs and win.  I got 5.  I had numerous ways to get 6, but I had two cards left in my hand and none in my deck and didn’t have the money to play both cards or play one and use my Luxury Suite for the 20th VP.  I was ready to concede as I thought that round was my only chance, as bankruptcy or my opponent getting to 20 seemed inevitable.  With one card left, we went to the next round.  I used my last card to jump to a cheap survey contract.  With zero cards in hand or deck, with two crew who would have been jettisoned if my opponent had not healed each for one damage for amusement value, I scored three more VPs and my opponent got stopped by my deck that doesn’t actually interact hardly at all with my opponent (except when I can pirate on the last round for the kill) because he didn’t choose to gain Survey with the Empress Marava Far Trader during the resource phase and my last complication play was Electro-Magnetic Interference.  Of course, if he had pirated me, I was dead.

In other words, if Jeff had played the game out entirely, he would have been 2-0 instead of me.

At this point can make a point by pointing out that knowledge of games is really helpful in games that aren’t luckfests of lucksackiness.  Many, many plays could have prevented me from winning, but, when you get dumped into the middle of a game that you aren’t particularly familiar with and are playing against someone who helped create the game, sometimes you don’t win.

Match 3:

During the second round, I had more than 30 cards in my discard pile.  In two rounds, I played or used about two-thirds of my deck.  That’s some two legit two spit right there.

I outraced my opponent who didn’t have enough ways to stop me from gaining VPs.  He had a slow start and was way behind and only because I do a great job of getting close to bankruptcy did I manage to get to 21 VPs with only a couple of cards left.

My intention is to write a “takeaways” article for our website.  An obvious takeaway is that knowledge of the game matters.  And, this is good.  It shows we came up with a game that rewards things that should be rewarded.

Another takeaway is that the precons are fairly playable.  Only one other player built a deck and he was 0-2 after two rounds of playing against precons, finally getting his piracy deck to work in the third round.

Went to dinner at a Cajun place and I got boring Cajun Burger since I was in the mood for a burger.

At one point, Brad and I were talking about FCGs versus VCGs.  We are VCG fans.  Do I go into a rant now?

I guess.  It seems gratuitous to rant in a separate post.

VCGs are better.  Here’s why.

Complaint number one:  I don’t get all of the cards when I buy random packs.  If you want to get complete sets, go to eBay to get complete sets.  If eBay doesn’t have them, reach out to the publisher or the player base and offer to buy complete sets.  Meanwhile, without randomness, you lose sealed play outside of “duplicate”, draft play that is remotely interesting, and you even lose any interest in opening up any product since you know exactly what will be in there when you do.  Well, okay, *I* lose interest in opening any product.  As much as I often feel bad opening up boosters for games where I need copious numbers of certain cards, I also find it interesting to occasionally crack a booster, though more so with Magic where I don’t own all of the cards already.

Complaint number two:  VCGs are too expensive compared to FCGs.  If you are the type to buy three core sets of L5R and be satisfied, you aren’t playing a CCG, you are playing a boardgame with customization.  You may feel differently, but that’s the way I feel.  I consider the correct number of L5R core sets to be minimum 18.  Every three core sets allows for two decks (with extras, of course).  So, 18 core sets is 12 decks at once (in truth, slightly more because you will avoid splashing too much of the same thing because you crave variety).  I’m a card flopper, 12 decks is a norm.  I range from 7 decks to 22 decks built at once for most card games I play.  I think I have around 20 Shadowfist decks built at the moment, about 12 V:TES decks (not counting decks for my limited collection experiment and the like), and only 4-5 L5R decks because I’m not taking L5R seriously yet.  Not that it’s a fair comparison because my Magic decks are almost all Type P decks, but I have about a hundred of those built.  Amazingly enough, 18 core sets is like $600-$700 plus getting like three copies of each expansion pack so that you have nine copies of every expansion card costs more money, though only nine copies of cards sounds rather low to me as some of those cards may go in every deck.  Then, if you really aren’t into being able to build every deck possible for a game, like I am, pretty easy to play CCGs for free.  Want to play Magic for free?  Just ask people for their extra commons.  Want to play V:TES for free, find me and I can hand over a thousand cards.  Will you have exactly three copies of every card for a three card limit game?  No.  But, I imagine the only need to have such a collection is for tournament play, in which case can just borrow a deck.  CCGs are about infinite variety.  I embrace that.  Hard for me to get into the mindset of only wanting to have like a thousand cards for a game, even if I’m also willing to play card games with only like a thousand card collection … up until the point that I end up with 20,000-40,000 cards.

Now, obviously, not everyone approaches gaming like I do, which is probably why I have this blog and not everyone who plays games has this same blog.  I mean, look at the market – we never considered putting out Traveller as a VCG because I’m in some sort of minority based on visible opinion.

Get home early, watch some Olympics because freestyle skiing halfpipe qualification is interesting.  Land high – ooh, not that high.

Monday is the key day.  The day that doesn’t involve showing people how to play the greatest card game, no, the greatest game ever possibly thought of in all of the multiverses in all of time, even the funky nonlinear time(s).  Monday is the day I decide to go with the berry smoothie again.  Monday is the day I fail forwards …

Brad is running 2d20 Conan.  For most of us, this is the first attack, the Pictish Frontier of Conan play, the day that ole Ian forgets to bring the character sheets he has been carrying around all weekend.

Character creation is involved.  Already, the suffering.  Plus, certain people, who shall remain nameless until I out him, did not back the Kickstarter and, thus, we are trying to learn how to play with four players and two core books.

Spoiler:  we didn’t like the system.  Now, we (most of us) played Conan d20 for like 9 years.  Sure, it wasn’t perfect [see blog posts for mini rants], but it wasn’t hard to jump into.  This was just hard.  For some, the dicerolling wasn’t clear.

For me:

Antagonism

I read a long thread on rpg.net about Conan after I got home.  There were posters who talked about how antagonistic the game feels with Doom Pool uses.  I felt that in my half a session.  Em, we didn’t finish an adventure because Brad got tired of trying to run the system and it was close to the end of the con.  Now, I can’t say I’ve never felt like a GM was shutting me down when I wanted to do something, and maybe the adventure in the book just sucks, but I felt like there was way too much preventing us from doing things, which seems like the opposite of what narrative mechanics are intended for.

Complications

I grew so tired of these right quick.  Because geniusness also can include overlooktheobviousness, I didn’t realize until our postgame analysis that the reason rolling 20’s comes up so much more often than d20 is because … er, 2d20 is twice as much as d20, while 3d20 is like more than twice as much as d20.

Fail forward, “yes, but”, complications – all of these strike me as actually getting in the way of just playing a game.  They put more pressure on GMs and players to justify mechanics rather than just ad hocing on the fly as you are freewheeling … okay, okay, I’ll hinder myself.

Gamistier Than Thou

I’m going to pummel this live donkey in another classic gaming rant.

Narrativist mechanics aren’t narrativist – they are gamist.  Because, pssst, let you in on a secret that nobody else can possibly derive – mechanics are gamist.  “But, old, decrepit, get off my AD&D 1e lawn dude.  You don’t understand gamist/simulationist/narrativist.  You are going to be defeated once I enlighten you to the true RPG metaparadigm whatsit.”

The more you mechanize a game, the more the focus of the game shifts from story to mechanics.  This is why I don’t like crunchy systems.

Before I forget, let me tell a story, like old, cranky people are wont to do.  When Origins was in San Jose, I attended and I was introduced to Immortal: The Invisible War.

I played two sessions run by Ran Ackels, who some of you may know as the guy who created Immortal.  I retain, in my feeble memory, a recollection that the way he ran these games was “Roll a die [d10], and I’ll tell you what happens.”  That is narrativist play.  Dice exist to give some level of randomness to short term results; as the party succeeds or fails at things in the short term, the long term is adjusted.

They don’t exist to be an economic engine.  Momentum, Doom Points, Fortune, Complications are all mechanisms for having players and GM focus on and manipulate mechanics.

Do I hate Fortune?  No.  It’s obviously related to Bennies in Savage Worlds which I do pretty much hate (slightly).  It reminds me of Fate Points in d20 Conan, Hero Points, and their ilk, which I actually like.

You know what else I like?  When we played oConan, we got ladybugs (reroll for you) for writing fictions/session reports, spiders (+2 to roll) for bringing food, arrowheads (reroll for anyone, including NPCs and antagonists) for extra effort.  Are these gamist in the way trying to maximize Momentum or trying to build Fortune is?

No.

They are modifications to existing rules, whereas Momentum is a subgame.  This was my problem when I was exposed to Fate.  I felt like Fate was far more gamey than d20.  You do things not because you want to but because the *mechanics* of the game reward you for doing them.  I’m now playing a game of manipulating mechanics rather than playing a game of seducing the immortal witch (“failed Diplomacy, reroll, reroll”).

Do I hate Doom/Momentum?  *shrug*  Maybe.

Accomplishment

Fail forward is, in other words, succeeding.  If you can’t actually fail at whatever the adventure is supposed to be about, what sense of accomplishment do you get?

This is a tricky topic that I’ve touched on before – the topic of players feeling a sense of accomplishment.  I worry about this when running systems where you either succeed at die rolls or fail at die rolls.  Because I can’t escape the epiphany that what I enjoy as a player is feeling like failure was possible but not actually failing, so accomplishment is an illusion of perceived ability to be disaccomplishmentary.

In oConan, we failed.  Oh, we succeeded fairly often, at times because of pulling a reroll out of our gamebags, at times probably because we weren’t doing something all that difficult, it just seemed difficult.  But, we also straight up failed.  We ran away from demons loosened.  We ran away from Pict harriers.  We Fate Pointed to be found on some island beach or in wreckage at sea or whatever that I no longer remember.

And, in seven years of one campaign, things moved forward and stories were told and retold.  This is what the intent of these narrative mechanics is – stories move forward with setbacks until you climax [sic].  But, you don’t need that in any given session.  You can get that across sessions to where a campaign isn’t some exercise of fudging [ha] results.

Why give power to the dice?  They already hold players’ pathetic little minds within their sway.  “These dice suck, I’ll go get other ones.”  “Don’t roll the GM’s dice.  They will curse you.”  “Look at how sparkly my dice are.”  “I always fail Honor Rolls.”

2d20

I don’t dislike the system (the part of the system that doesn’t involve Momentum, Doom, or Complications).  Though, I’m trying to figure out how you can build a functional sorcerer in the beginning, which I guess I could go to the forums and read about.  I just find it incredibly clunky and extremely gamey.  Just the fact that PCs get to decide what order to take actions in is itself gamier than rolling initiative.  Yes, it is.  It becomes a subgame, and the more subgames you have, the more game you have.

There’s also way too much emphasis on equipment, with a lot of equipment being obscenely expensive.  I bought a bow and that used up all but one of my gold.  A crappy bow, by the way.  This was something d20 did really well – outside of primary weapon, equipment was something you hardly paid any attention to.  Sure, armor could be good, but armor could also suck.

I might get used to the economics of the subsystems of Momentum and Doom that are built into the system.  I’m not sure I’ll ever think they add value to playing, but rewriting the game to take them out is a waste of time, when we could just go back to playing d20 or I could homebrew another Roll & Keep variant.

So, yeah, DunDraCon.  It was good.  Traveller isn’t perfect but playing Traveller gets me thinking more like a player of the game rather than being in developer/designer mode.  I think about how the game has all of these cards that you want to play but can’t at the same time, which seems positive.  Conan was something worth doing even if it wasn’t nearly as fun as our old convention sessions tended to be.  I got to talk to people.  I had four smoothies in three days, though the waistline impact is not a victory.

If only we could get more Traveller cards to the people who are enthused about playing.  If only I was a beam of sunlight reflecting off of a unicorn’s horn during a musical on Christmas Eve.  If only I remembered to pass the character sheets to Brad before Monday.  If only I could remember what else I wanted to write about so that I could get to 4000 words in this post.


Submit To Fate

January 22, 2018

Saturday, had two V:TES tournaments.  It shows how I am so much more into things when I play them regularly that I only built one new deck for the events and didn’t really have any idea what I would play in the second tournament.

Tournament 1 (12)

Round 1:

Ian (Akunanse bleed) -> Mark (Lucian, The Perfect Bleeder) -> Eric (Brujah vote) -> Rick (Forestal, Agaitas Brinksmanship)

As I see Mark working on some fattie and with Eric bringing out quick Rake and going through vote stuff, I consider Nkule useful for my second dude.  That proved pointless.  My first dude is Socrate.  Mark, Eric, Rick all play first turn good stuff masters – Dreams, Info, … something else.

Mark avoids blocking due to the threat of combat.  Rick Slaughters me some revealing a bunch of Dodges.  My turn three Tunnel Runner is blocked.  I eventually have Obaluaye and Jubal in play.

Eric fails to block some important stuff forward early on and has no bounce for when Lucian gets around to doing his thing.  He votes a bit, but it has minimal impact.  Rick keeps taking my cards and plays more than half of them, including Predator’s Communion with Forestal.

I bleeds.  Mark gets Eric.  I don’t fear Lucian much as I’m sitting on an Archon, but I decide to bleed out Mark with Strange Day, having few of my bleeds bounced even though Mark has Black Lotus and Louis Fortier Advanced to assist in the realm of bouncing.

In the endgame, I am out of library.  Can’t stealth anymore and concede after Brinksmanship as, even if I get all of my other actions through, I’m one pool short of ousting.  Yup, 2/1/1 scoop to Brinksmanship.

I played poorly in this game with some early decisions, but I don’t recall specifically what they were.  Getting so old.

Round 2:

Eric -> David CK (Victoria and friends) -> Brandon (Stickish Men Under Siege) -> Ian

Since I pulled the cards for Brandon’s deck, I lamented how much we failed to block early Governs.  I don’t remember Eric doing much, though he passed a couple of Con Boons, neither of which were for Akunanse.

I did get an early Tunnel Runner, along with Aisata, Nestor, Uchenna.  Very interesting to have both Aisata and Uchenna in play, as I was trying to churn into bleed/stealth to finish off Eric.  He was at 10 pool, I bled him for 9, including using a Daring the Dawn to cycle and … the card after my replacement was plus bleed.

I fended Brandon off for a while, Dodge being pretty useful at not allowing him to cycle Hidden Strengths.  But, the problem is that any bleed that goes through is unfriendly.  David was rather impotent until I was ousted.  Brandon unnecessarily bled for 4 against Eric, which got a bleeder burned, greatly slowing down his assault on David’s weaponless region.

Again, I made mistakes.  I played Predator’s Communion twice when Brandon had Anarch Troublemaker in play, rather than wait until he starts acting, which was incredibly stupid, yet, oddly, didn’t hurt me given how things turned out.  I did something dumb early on.

But, mostly, the tournament was all about being one card away.  In a 12 player tournament, 2 VPs was a shot at making the finals.  In fact, there was only one GW from the first round as one table timed out with 1.5/1.5 and another table split – the Brinksmanship GW, of course.

The Fates were not Cheated.

Finals:

Brandon wins.

Pickup Game (5)

I played my Anthology Instantaneous Transformation deck, where I was all like “But, how do I get by his dude?”, then realized my turn one Anarch Railroad made me unblockable as I stole two pool from Powerbase: Washington D.C. [yup, P:WDC], burned counters off of Powerbase: Barranquilla, both my predator’s cards.  Nevermind that IT has an inferior version.

I had my Fangs Pulled and got Famed and got ousted by bleeds because my grandpredator’s Nergal deck, for some reason, didn’t bleed one more time to oust my predator.  I did Minor Boon when my grandprey’s Ahrimane got ‘schrecked by my prey’s Tzimisce deck.  Lambach did his usual thing of stealthing by Muricia and friends.

Tournament 2 (10)

Round 1:

Ian (Palla Grande/Soul Painting) -> Rick (Shatter the Gate) -> John (Kiasyd) -> Devin (borrowed Toreador Scorn) -> Mark (Capuchin Soul Gem)

Rick:  Zillah’s Valley, followed by Annazir, followed by StG, followed by StG, followed by two players getting the Edge and trying to burn a StG and my trying to get the Edge … and all failing, including Devin failing twice in one turn, followed by StG three.

After we got our shattered counters, I ousted Rick.  Then, our long national nightmare lasted a few rounds.  Devin seemed good since he had vote bloat, but he poofed.  Mark bled me for a lot when my deck refused to give me intercept or bounce after I spent three intercept trying to block Rick’s first StG.  I got bled a bit more and was shattered.

Mark had a huge edge in the endgame and still was in trouble because it’s hard to play the game when you are guaranteed to lose 3 pool every turn.

I played horribly.  I could have Washed Rick’s Secure Haven on Annazir … when I had a Soul Painting in hand.  I let The Capuchin block my Carlton because I actually have very little idea what unprinted cards do relative to my card knowledge of printed cards.  I didn’t play my bleed cards correctly to give myself a chance at ousting John, though he had wake/bounce, so it didn’t matter as much.  But, probably the worst thing was getting cute with transfers.  Rather than bringing Sheila Mezarin up third, I brought out Ian Wallingford, which meant one less possible bleed every turn.

Round 2:

Mark -> Kenneth (Caitiff vote) -> David A (Petaniqua Night Moves) -> John -> Ian

David got depleted quickly, unsurprisingly, but he brought out Muddled and Ossian and Caitiff got much beat down.  Mark had an incredibly awkward game, at one point getting a Samedi off of The Capuchin burning with Soul Gem.  Kenneth had Creepshow Casino to get one action by Capuchin (who was still in play most of the time), and there was much talking about how to have a game when he could lose two minions per turn and get Obedienced by his predator.

Eventually, David got ousted after the game got stale.  John bled me for 5 and I bounced to Mark and ousted Mark late to get the all important second VP.

Finals (4th seed):

Alex was fifth seed.  Brandon chose to be behind me.  Mark chose to be behind Brandon.  Kenneth chose to be my prey.  In thinking about what people brought out (as opposed to how Brandon’s deck was supposed to play), for Kenneth, he would have been better as Alex’s prey.

Kenneth -> Alex (!Ventrue anarch block) -> Mark -> Brandon (Toreadorish toolbox) -> Ian

Kenneth could barely do anything forward and I dealt with him to let him get a Prince if I could move the Edge regularly.  I got early Carlton.  Brandon got some bleeds through on me as I slowed Kenneth very early, then got lots of minions in play, where I had only Remilliard, Sheila, Creamy, and Carlton to defend myself.  So, I would bleed Kenneth for 2-3 each round with one action, and Brandon and I would fight Toreador style with dodge defeating my possible Catatonic Fear/Target Vitals plays.

Alex did pretty much nothing forward and never tried dealing with Kenneth.  Mark finally got his combo online and started bleeding.  Brandon’s big problem was his first four vampires did not have Auspex.  He finally got one of his five superior Auspex dudes into play.  I ousted Kenneth as time was running down.  My only hope was Brandon lived, due to seeding.  Brandon did not have enough bounce to live.  I reduced Alex’s pool some, but the timing wasn’t right to finish him off … except, I did get him to 2 pool and probably could have cycled more in the game, needing an Aire to finish him off.  Not that I deserved to win.  Alex never should have been in trouble and time was on Mark’s side, plus he was unoustable due to his bloat, and Mark played well to stop bleeding me as time was running out as my hand was full of bounce at the end of the game.

Even if I help Alex do pool damage forward, not enough time to go through Mark’s pool, and he could try just walling up as I win if I oust Alex or if Alex ousts Mark.  A pretty boring game for me as I barely interacted with predator or prey after the first few turns.

Considering that I either discarded my Soul Paintings or had them get blocked during my games, and that’s the only thing remotely interesting about the deck, Fate decreed that someone who played better and built a more interesting deck won.

Problem was my other decks were rather janky or boring or one was a deck I had already won a tournament with.  While the last is really fun to play, no, seriously, I have a deck that’s fun to play and it somehow won a tournament, though even more seriously, I have enjoyed replaying some of my other tournament winning decks, I considered how completely uninteresting it would be to have two tournament wins with the same deck archetype.  After all, if I did win with that deck again, it would radically increase my Blessing of the Name count in my TWD card counts.

Thanks to Mark for organizing, to the players who dragged themselves out to play a game I quite enjoy playing, to my carmates for making the trek more pleasant than just driving for hours while tired.  The locale is good.

What I did suggest, since two tournaments in one day is quite tiring, was doing tournaments more often, having one in a day, and doing casual play around it.  As Devin just moved to the South Bay, we may also regenerate a South Bay play group!  Like a phoenix rising from an ash heap and sucking blood in the city after dark … or something like that.


Shake Out

January 13, 2018

There are rather a number of thoughts on diverse subjects I have had recently.  I’m sure I will forget half of them.

Before I forget:  John Carter Kickstarter is going on right now!  Finally, the Dotar Sojat has returned to Jasoom!

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/modiphius/john-carter-of-mars-the-roleplaying-game?ref=nav_search&result=project&term=john%20carter

Steak and Shake in Campbell closed recently.  It was open four months.  It was designated to be opened for far longer.  Its closure was sufficiently notable to not only be in the paper (that would be newspaper for you young ‘uns) but also be on the radio (that would be … um … radio for you young ‘uns).

We went to it.  I’m not remotely surprised it closed.  First, the location was terrible in that it was just East of the upscale-ish downtown.  Second, it was not Steak and Shake.  Well, it was not S&S a la Indianapolis’s S&S is.  One in Indy is a fast food place that’s slow, somewhere along the lines of being at a more focused Denny’s in terms of ambiance.  This S&S was pretentiousized for the hood.

Now, I don’t live in downtown Frisco or NYC or whatever, but we get plenty of pretension in the San Jose Bay Area.  Whole Paycheck is ubiquitous, et al.  Why have another burger chain that competes with Five Guys, The Counter, The Habit, Smashburger, or whatever?  It wasn’t trying to?  Well, then where is the audience?  Best milkshake I can recall, which, admittedly, is not something I think a ton about since it’s kind of effort to screw up a milkshake, I got at Fuddruckers of all places.  5-Way?  Well, sure, not a lot of places to get 5-Ways in the Silicon.  (That’s what all the kewl kids call this milieu, n’est-ce pas?)

Bad fits.

That’s a topic for today.

I’m going to talk about L5R.  At some point, I’ll switch to the LCG.  But, before I forget, I had some RPG thoughts.

Campaign Ideas:

Greek Mythology convention meets L5R.  Everyone has an ancestor from one of the 4e books because they hardly ever see play.  Rather than lose your ancestor over something black and white and rather arbitrary, you incur the ancestor’s displeasure for a time until you get your act together.  Great idea, people.  Make it so number one.

Welcome to the kuge, minorlings.  Widowed emperor decides he’s good to go without a word to say on marriage number two to some minor clan yumyum.  Guess how many PCs are not related to the minor empress?

Not Campaign Ideas:

One of the Friday night LCG players is someone who would much rather be playing the RPG.  Actually, that’s how I met him years ago.  He’s hot for getting into HoR4 or like anything else RPG related but especially L5R R&K.  So, we’ve been talking.

I mentioned Odyssey, TCGMGtCM, and how it related to my running stuff for him and the rest of our local RPG group that dispersed.  We talked about old campaigns.  We talked about how our interest in the LCG is strongly based on the world and not the game [foreshadowing alert, foreshadowing alert].

I may have problems with aspects of Rokugan, but it’s so, so easy to think about playing more L5R.  It’s so easy to think of campaign ideas.  I found my mod attempt for HoR3 that I ran a couple of times and got unenthused by due to my just not having the ability to polish efforts up to the level that makes them acceptable.  Well, also, staff consistently ignored me, so I stopped bothering trying to contact anyone.

It’s such a fleshed out *game* world.  Sure, if everyone knows some book/TV/movie series, you can grok possibilities, but, for us veteran Rokuganites, L5R is just so meaningful.  For instance, I was looking stuff up in Strongholds of the Empire.  I’m perfectly willing to read about towns and cities I don’t plan on using as settings.

LCG

Back to the topic of whether the game is any fun.  First, it is.  As long as you are winning.

My experience of going back to playing a two-player CCG  is utterly fascinating to all multi-celled organisms.  I get so much enjoyment out of multiplayer CCGs when the results are inconclusive.  It’s this bizarrely mundane feeling of liking doing better than my opponents in L5R, the LCG, that is palpable.

Or, maybe, it’s just that I hate playing Unicorn, and the fact that I often suck while playing them is incidental.  Except, I played at least one game of Unicorn where I was feasting on my opponent’s soul and it was tasty.

It is “funny” how switching to Crab is perpetually like “Huh, my cards do stuff.  They do good stuff.”

For the others, it also seems to be a game that is enjoyed when you are crushing throats and tearing off limbs.

I read forums.  Multiple forums, in fact.  No, I don’t read Discord.  Not a fan of the interface and I have better things to do, like read the newspaper.  Seems to be a certain level of disenchantment.

Then, I ‘fist with a L5R player, and he’s telling me his group is losing interest.

It’s this like really interestingly designed, very possibly well designed, game that is just so not as fun as we-folk want it to be.  I’m finding that I’m already reverting to my random-game-element meets minimum-threshold-of-viability tendencies with what interests me in L5R.  I’m struggling with the idea of trying to develop superior decks in what’s a very limited environment.  I’m more interested in happy, friendly Scorpion, Lion wall, Cautious Scout.dec, and/or whatever.

I thought of an idea umbrella for trying to put the casual back into causality.  League.  You must play a role that is not the official tournament role for your deck’s clan.  You may, of course, change decks, including changing clans.  Or, some variation thereof.

I played a game last night.  I played Crab, and I had fun.  My first turn Kaiu never left play, having Reprieve that also never left play.  I flopped three Iron Mines in the game, put another Reprieve in play that also never got used.  I Way of the Crabbed once.  Now, my opponent was playing Lion, so his military sucked, and he wasn’t running Feast or Famine, which I kept trying to play around.  Nor was he playing the required 3x Policy Debates.

See, forumites are bitching a bunch.  I think for good reason.  I don’t think it’s a particularly fun game to play, though it’s also not terrible.  The card pool sucks.  Oh, a lot of it doesn’t.  Provinces are mostly the problem.  That Unicorn have so many subpar or oddly narrow cards is kind of antifun.  That Voltroning is such a thing is problematic.  That Iron Mine got added to the mix, so that Crab Voltrons never die seems like poor development.

Part of the problem with the card pool is that it’s not a multiplayer game (yet).  In a multiplayer game, I’d be beastmastering and war dogging all over the place because it would be entertaining.  In a throatcutter game, you just do the same old, same old of top tier stuff, with the occasional Miya combo deck or try to do your own spin on Drop Bears, Switchycorn, or whatever.  With Wheel of Time, because so few people actually played, when you ran with an idea, you might have been like one of one posters.  With a game that’s actually kind of popular, just another clone deck with maybe a few cards changed.

If the card pool were bigger, then maybe there would be more interesting variation.  But, I don’t think the card pool needs to be bigger to have fun.  Just to have fun as a throatcutter game.

Would banning Policy Debate make me happier?  Um, no.  I don’t presently care about Policy Debate, except that I do think that the one area of the LCG that is just bad mechanics is dueling.  Dueling is hecka boring and full of NPEness.  Sure, it’s not a guarantee that everyone always chooses 1 in every single game.  It’s just a guarantee that I have so little interest in resolving duels that I’m okay with mentally seeing tables being flipped.

But, wait, that’s actually kind of like the RPG.  In that, duels aren’t guaranteed to go one direction, but the whole concept of resolving anything important with a subgame that’s grossly uneven so much of the time is not strong in the PPE side of the Force.

I played a game the week before where my opponent won when I broke his third province, as he went to 25 Honor.  If he doesn’t win, then, I break his stronghold as my first conflict the next round with my unstoppable Imperials and their Unicorn flunkies.  30 minute game.  Takeaway #1 – it was how CCGs should play in that it was close with decks doing different things and there was interaction.  Takeaway #2 – because I felt I did so little in the game, it felt rather unsatisfying even while I was playing, nevermind the end result.  Would I have enjoyed that game if he only got to 24 Honor and I shred his soul on the next round?  I don’t think so.  Would I have enjoyed that game if he got to 24, I went after his stronghold, he stops me from breaking with all sorts of cards getting played, he does something clever to get to 25 (instead of just declare an Air Ring conflict)?  Poss-i-bly …

Shadowfist

We ‘fisted for the first time in months last Thursday.  The first game was terrible.  I spent a number of turns not being able to play a site, then had no characters to do anything when I got sites and a Test Subjects out.  The second game I won in a game where everyone was hanging around at four FSSs, and I used superleap cheese and recurring counterspells.  Because, who is the … Master?  Sho’nuff.  Check Youtube if this exceeds the vertical elevation of your brain.  Some parts are cringeworthy, but I really like that movie.

Third game went to third player.  My Salarymans kept killing unimportant things, and got killed when real characters showed up.

Given how prevalent superleap is and buffs are, I’m surprised Hand isn’t more popular.  Now, there is a weakness against site effects, evidenced by how I got stopped by a site effect in one bid for victory, but there are antisite plays to deal with that.  Character removal from events is countered by, uh, Hand counterspells.  Of course, 7 Masters exists for the classic players, and that’s another level of sleaze.

I enjoyed playing.  Shadowfist is usually fun.  Sure, it has some terrible design, pretty messed up card pool (especially if you play Modern), requires making extremely complicated decisions even if you don’t realize they are extremely complicated.  But, it’s not chess.  You do stuff and stuff happens.  You don’t wonder if you made a mistake putting two fate on some dude.  Now, normal ‘fist does have the problem that you may very well not be able to play anything, which is where it did an even worse job than Magic with forcing requirement cards to be in play to play the game.  But, you might be able to come back because it’s not a one v. one game.

Well, I may have forgotten a few other things that would have made my bad fits topic fit less badder.

Wait.  I had a topic?

Let’s see.  L5R LCG appeals to people who like theme, want to play game where they get to enjoy playing beastmasters.  Difficult and highly “mechanical” card game may be good for some, but it doesn’t end up being most goodest for others.

RPG is a decent fit for those of my ilk.  On the other hand, campaigns like our 20 Goblin Winter campaign were bad fits because we didn’t really get to enjoy anything about L5R while also being unclear on what we were supposed to be doing.  Second City sucked as a campaign; I would say part of that is that you remove the familiar world of Rokugan and fail to replace with something as rich or interesting because you just didn’t develop the Second setting.

Trying to take throatcutting seriously is a bad fit for me, while offgoofing is good fit.  It occurs to me that WoT was a case where I didn’t end up throatcutting that much, as most of my play was playtesting rather than striving for prizes.  So, I’ve never been a master throatcutter, with my two-player tournament wins usually being in sealed deck play, where I focus more on building better decks rather than tier 1 decks.  I’m the guy who played one copy of Necropotence in his Essence Drain deck, rather than the other way around, yet beat a Magic world champion in a sealed deck game with repeated use of Capsize and with a Rolling Thunder with zero cards in my library.

Doh!  That’s what I need to do to get my competitive fix on – only seriously compete in CCGs where sealed deck tournaments occur and have decent prizes.  Octa-libra!  That means I have to take up Magic, again …

Speaking of bad fits, the John Carter movie was a bad fit because it failed to explain why Jesus C-, um, JC is a fun dude to hang with or why sword and planet is a compelling genre or explain how you can do a 21st century movie with a bunch of races defined by their skin color.  Read the books.  Compared to a lot of other stuff, they are better.

Now, will the setting be a good fit for RPG play?  Will it be a good fit for people I play with?


Savage Thoughts

January 7, 2018

We played two mods of HoR4 yesterday, backfilling with the help of our allies in Fresno (well, Bill, who spent a whole day just GMing for us).  Prior to that, talked to some local L5R players about RPing.  I’ve had a number of thoughts run through my mind as I tried to think about what would end up in this post.

Get to talking about my HoR4 character last because I’m guessing that’s the least interesting thing I could talk about, but I may need to refer to our three-PC core group to hit on certain things … at any time.

Dungeon Crawling – Rokugani Style

This was a topic, as both mods were relatively dungeon crawlesque.  In my experience, doesn’t happen much.

Should it?

I don’t know.  I don’t mind the idea of being indoors as something is going on, but that in itself doesn’t make for a dungeon crawl experience.  A dungeon crawl is more of a room by room experience, which the second mod was in golden spades.  Room challenges, whether of the trap sort, the puzzle sort, or the monster sort.

I don’t hate traps.  I hate certain traps whether because they inflict some crippling condition randomly, fine red mist characters randomly, or just seem like anyone with any sense would bypass them effortlessly.  By sense, I mean adventurers.  Do people who have experience with quicksand ever end up in quicksand?  I don’t know.  If you see a gas or smell something funny, do you not:  hold your breath; cover your nose; retreat away from it?

Puzzles are not all that satisfying to me.  Either you gnome it or you dgnome’t.  When you dgnome’t, you roll some dice and either you succeed or you fail.  Or, you trial and error.  In pretty much every case, I don’t find it interesting challenge.  I do acquire puzzle books.  I find acrostics and cryptograms interesting, sudoku can be time filling, Scrabblegrams can be really good or really terrible.  But, these are solitary experiences where time is not really a concern and my personal welfare isn’t much at stake.  Then, for another take on puzzles – True Dungeon – I don’t normally feel anything about those, either.  I’m curious as to what the solutions are, but I don’t feel invested in finding them.

In RPG play, puzzles have often been incredibly tedious.  I appreciate some clever (rhyming) poetry, but that doesn’t mean I’m into the solving, as, again, tends to be too easy or too hard.  Plus, figuring things out as a group doesn’t hold much appeal to me.

An inherent issue with puzzles and, often, with traps is no choice.  See some blog post about how combat is such a compelling challenge because it offers, among other things, options.

Less plausible to me for L5R is having dungeon monsters.  Whether humans or not, in the normal theater of the mind play of L5R, you fight things because they are in the same vicinity as you, not because they are waiting for a door to open.  HoR2 did have a mod where you had dudes attack you as you progressed, but, still, it’s a completely different paradigm from the many D&D dungeons I’ve seen that expect you to rest for a while somewhere in the dungeon or just outside and keep incrementally progressing to the payoff.

Given that I find legal challenges tiresome in L5R as well as many similar social challenges, what challenges do I like in L5R?

One of the mods almost had something I would have really liked.  It was quite humorous to realize that our core group of two bushi and essentially a third bushi are really well advantage to pursue careers in opium harvesting.  Projects with multiple tasks where you check tasks off a list using obscure skills with possibly amusing trait combinations is generally favorable.  Harsh Lessons was great for that, though my players may have gotten tired of having to full attack bamboo.

I like combat, at times.  I tend to like more the fights where the party fights 2 or 3 big bads.  But, there have been bandit fights or zombie fights that I’ve enjoyed.  I just think it’s hard to structure combat challenges due to the randomness potential in damage output and the significance of good tactics versus poor tactics.  Yes, the more you learn of 4e (or prior editions), the more you can control for the party.  But, a few things are spanners in the works for such.  One, maybe the PCs you thought were going to show up for a session didn’t.  Two, PC combat prowess can change a lot with advancement and you may not have developed the calibration skills for such changes.

For example, PCs gain simple attacks.  You don’t upgrade your opposition, it gets ripped apart.  You give your opposition simple attacks and … so not good for PCs.  In the Princess Police campaign, when we were R-3 or R-4 or something, we fought like six Mantis bushi, six … R-3 … Mantis bushi.  Um, that’s like fighting six bears with better attack rolls.  If.  If the shugenja know what to do, then you may have an edge.

I like some social challenges, when the rolls work out or when you can try things that involve lesser used skills, like your perform skill(s) to help convince some cutie pie to go for someone.  I’m into clever ideas for social challenges, I’m not into clever arguments for social challenges – too much pressure on the spot.

I have had some good experiences with contests but also lots of not good experiences with contests as R&K is not a fantastic system for PvP or PCvNPC.  Curiously, duel tournaments actually seem to work better than a lot of contests, perhaps because more die rolls are involved.  But, contests with lots of die rolls become tedious, especially to people not involved or not competitive.  Races don’t often work, but sometimes they are fun.

Anyway, got off track.  Besides the dungeon crawl just to do something different, I don’t know that a dungeon crawl is going to be something I look at as all that for L5R or any sort of RPG that isn’t designed for dungeon crawls.  Just too narrowly focused on what’s sort of a weird paradigm.  On the other hand, True Dungeon is fine to me as a dungeon crawl with all of the aspects of self-contained challenges and managing resources across rooms, though I haven’t found the right balance with it, either – challenge balance that is.

L5R Combat

I really like 3e/3r/4e’s combat system.  I find that they have the right number of options and that they feel exciting much of the time (sure, there are grindfests that suck).  It occurred to me yesterday that I also just find L5R a really, really easy system to understand and play.

I’m pretty sure there are other people who don’t.  But, it’s just so intuitive and so … straightforward.  You aren’t burdened with tons of math [yeah, I said that … about R&K].  Should be easy to learn.  Don’t have to track too many abilities.  And, yet, somehow, other people struggle with the system(s).

I’m increasingly perplexed.  Sure, if you struggle with all systems.  If you struggle with systems beyond just “roll your attack roll”, I guess.  I just don’t see how playing L5R after a couple of fights or outside of combat resolution is anything but one of the more basic resolution systems.  Hero may be easy for people who understand maneuvers or when to recover REC or whatever, but I find its options far more intimidating, though I also haven’t played much Hero.  A lot of D&D style play just seems like you have no real choices as to what to do, though Conan could be the opposite when you had the Feats or when grappling reared its painful tentacles.

Now, good tactics is something more.  I often fail good tactics, as I’ve repeatedly mentioned, forgetting Center Stance, forgetting Knockdown (though it’s almost always a bad play for my low STR PCs), not playing shugenja hardly ever also probably means I would make poor spell choices when put on the spot.  How many raises to call is always a question, which is a facet of a deeper system than if raises didn’t exist.

So, with our three-men team of fighty sorts, we didn’t feel like our combat tactics were all that bad yesterday.  But, again, no gods in this party.  So, when we take wounds, we take them and dislike them.  We also are three fighty sorts with approximately to the absolute degree zero ranged attacks outside of funky stuff like the good ole wak throw.

Yup, like three PCs with REF 3 and not a single bow between us.  My Miya actually has Kyujutsu but doesn’t have access to a bow, which is kind of incredibly dumb and kind of incredibly distinctive.  How many games enforce social restrictions on equipment (though, this particular social restriction could be obviated if I tried)?

Team Opium Harvesters

Our team has mostly the same strengths and mostly the same weaknesses.  That is not what one might call … optimal.  We are all morons, for instance, which seems to actually matter in HoR4.  We have one perceiver, who has Void 2.  We have two-thirds Void 2 PCs.  Sure, we all Earth reasonably well.  I have a good attack roll.  Damage rolls are decent.  ATNs range from solid-high to pretty suck (same way I can get a yumi and ya, I could get light armor).

We aren’t amazing at social or perceiving.  We have zero Medicine.

What would be the fix?

Replace my PC, as mine is the least relevant in many ways no matter how much I just broke a mod with an awful school technique.  Replace with a god (shugenja) who does brains and brawny-Path-to-Inner-Peace.  My replace idea is half that, just being yet another moron.  Hiruma-san is the sponge and half-perceiver.  Yoritomo-san is the socialite and Void recoverer.  I become half-perceiver and …  Well, one of those two could have been the brains, as, after all, bushi are much better oriented to being brains than courtier/shugenja, as only bushi might care about Agility.  Everyone is a food taster.  I become the ranger with my mud build as I walk fast and carry a big Grasp of Earth’s Stagnation.  Any of us could grapple.  Any of us could murder.

As is, we have two demi-talkers, no brains, demi-ranger, all possible grapplers, all murderers to some degree, no chasm crosser (well, maybe I am), two shoppers (and an anti-shopper), and three possible food tasters.

I guess I need to add more roles to my list of L5R PC roles as one of our biggest problems is the lack of Healers, plus there’s an argument that Buffer is a fully real role, even if you are like a Void Shugenja who just buffs yourself – Improver may be a more appropriate name for the role, as a key aspect of playing to the dice system is figuring out ways to improve rolls.  On the other hand, if you think about it, we all have Luck and I have a solid Honor Roll, so we do have a fair amount of die results improving at hand, which is possibly the only way we got through either of those mods or any of the other mods that were challenging.

And, of course, I left off Sneak from the list.  But, my Miya has that covered and I think our party is actually reasonably sneaky, though the others being afflicted with armor impairs that.

Herald of Annihilation

Was so long between Gen Con and yesterday I didn’t remember much about choosing to serve Galactus/Onnotangu/whoever.  I’ll have to review my notes.

My experience with my character is that I’ve enjoyed what the character has done, I just don’t find much of interest in the character’s sheet.  Buys are slow and add little value.  Tons of weak areas.  The Showoff archetype is already a poor party member and we’ve only got three and are godless.

I have no goals (unless I check my notes and refresh some goal I may have had besides “they all need to burn”).  I didn’t even find horizontal dancing with a sailor to be as captivating as it may have been for another character.  I’m rich and find shopping rather dull.

I’m sitting on exactly the XP to make a critical mechanical buy for what my intent was and I’m torn.  I could brain up, though I wouldn’t have Sage.  I could, hmmm, almost every idea involved braining up.  I would probably enjoy having a reasonably sized brain.  It’s not even anathema to my concept.  If I had infinite XP, I would have an INT above 2.  I just don’t have that on my buy list until around the 212 XP mark.  Of course, being one with the soil isn’t absolutely essential.  It’s just that I defeat my own concept by not making the 20 XP buy I can make right now.  Small buys don’t change the character hardly at all – it’s all whether I go to three in a Ring or not.

Btw, if I did 3 a Ring, I’d get my next broken school technique.  Can’t wait until someone tries to influence me and I get to roll Etiquette with a +7 (currently) bonus.  That will be the ultiproof that the future has already happened.

A bigger brain is just so XP crippling, and it doesn’t really solve the healing problem given how crap Medicine is, though it would be funny to completely rethink the character and make that ultidoctor PC.  Aiya!  Is that what the omniverse is trying to tell me?  Can I actually … achieve … enjoyment … through the power of nuclear accident and become the biggest brain of them all?  Oh, except, problem with going brain surgeon path – I failed to take Great Potential Medicine, so I’m still horrid at actually restoring the beaten down bushi.

Still, it’s almost a half-baked idea.  One that can involve browning and braising.

HoR4

My feeling about the campaign at this juncture?

Still have no idea what matters.  Have a hard time hooking a character into anything because there doesn’t feel like anything to engage with.

But, that’s not terribly different from HoR3.  What is different is that I haven’t really considered any mod so far a superior mod.  There are some decent ones.  But, two of the ones that come to mind as decent would have been largely forgotten in the other campaigns.  There are some ideas I see that try to be novel, but I’m just not feeling payoff to those.  Lack of meaningful NPCs, lack of the Ivory Kingdoms mattering at all (part of our discussion on the drive back was how the Ivinda lack any recognizable NPCs), lack of even such things as the Nightingales or getting a cert for encouraging a ronin.

Maybe it’s a meta thing, where it’s just become old hat.  Or, maybe it’s just the difference between HoR2 and 3/4, where people felt like something was going on early on in the campaign and people discussed it, and … and … it actually mattered what was going on not that far into the campaign!  Unlike HoR3, where the end is just a whipsaw of “um, sure, cool conspiracy, bro, I have, uh, demon cats to murder so I can awaken this sword, yeah”.