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:


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.


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?


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.


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.”


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.


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!


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.


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 …


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.


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”.


Living Legends

October 28, 2017

I’m sure the most fascinating thing I could write about is how Arrowverse shows generally improved after the season openers, especially Flash.  No?  How about about how I’m catching up on season 10 of Doctor Who and I was quite interested in things up until the terrible parts 2 and 3 of the monk trilogy?  Nyet?

What about the Shadowfist Kickstarter that is moving slow?  I guess at some point, games just die.  I certainly feel like there aren’t enough people actually playing to generate enough backers to make it happen.

Okay, let’s talk about something that will stir your soul, well, at least if part of your soul is floppy.

Last Sunday, I played in a L5R LCG tournament.  Single core, which almost everyone is done with, so it’s kind of irrelevant how the decks were built.

I played Lion, not because I’m so into … [redacted].  But, because the first thing anyone should ever learn in card game play is aggro, beatdown, 3 to the dome – one.  Two, Kitsu Spiritcaller could have supplied brokenness in a single core environment to a degree higher than the benefit in a 3x core.  Yup, I was trying to build a good deck.

In preparation for the tournament, I had to deal with family stuff, so I didn’t prepare.

Round 1:


Round 2:

Play against Kenneth with Phoenix/Scorpion.  Single core tech?  Adept of Shadows is a body (not that kind of body, well, who knows?).  I had body problems in the end.  This proved rather important as, when we were getting short on time, I conceded to the overwhelming power of his two Wandering Ronin with fate on them.

I felt I learned some things.  In this game.  My first ever tournament game.  My second ever game.

I felt I learned that I’m not an expert at this game and not only made some serious decision mistakes but forgot card abilities at times, including the Imperial Favor pump.  Here’s the thing as the real world intrudes upon the better world of gaming – I said to our latest hire in my department “I don’t care if people are stupid.  I care if they don’t get less stupid.” or something similar.  Point being, I believe learning is important.  I still make terrible Shadowfist decisions, as evidenced by Thursday night’s play, but I think I make decent decisions within our meta a reasonable amount of time.

I learned that Wandering Ronin is like the best card ever … when the only two characters your opponent can play from their dynasty flop is two Miya Mystics.  Actually, given the format, admittedly an irrelevant format at this point, Wandering Ronin is actually a house.  It can deal with conflict type flipping, which, of course, I ran into playing against Phoenix under the stronghold.

I had 13 fate when I conceded.  It was an amusing game and a key part of my, yes, committing to L5R, so now I’m some fanatic who must pledge his reincarnatable spirit to a single clan as well as a weirdo dice chucker.  I was at 5 honor, with three broken provinces and two cards left in my dynasty deck, though, we could have theoretically survived the round … Kenneth was at 2 honor.  Yup, typical Lion vs. Phoenix – see if you can somehow not honor suicide yourself.  Btw, I never drew one of the Assassinations in this game.  I’ll get to honor more, soon.

Last two cards of my deck were Toturi and Matsu Berserker (useless due to playing against Phoenix).  My Spiritcaller got face down broken pretty early on.

Kenneth’s average card bid?  I figure about 1.2.  I lost honor multiple times bidding 2.  Welp, that’s Shadow- … er … L5R.

Round 3:

Erinn was also playing Lion but went with … hmmm … I should have written this earlier in the week, I actually can’t remember.

My intention when putting together the deck was to play the fate game.  Figure Lion lose on the conflict card side so just manage fate better and have more permanents with better abilities.  I somehow didn’t really play that game in my first tournament game ever.  I did in this game.  At the point where I could Stand Your Ground to keep Honored General in play with multiple other dudes or the round I started with like 5 dudes in play to his zero, I figured I had the game.

We were running low on time because this game plays slow, especially with people who – get this – play tournaments without dozens of games under their belt.  I set up to break third and attack stronghold in last round, Assassinationing his attempt to win a conflict on the round because, oddly, neither one of us was that low on honor.  His average bid?  Maybe about 1.2.

I did cheat to a degree in that I had two Favorite Grounds and a Spyglass on a dude and drew three cards, but I ended the game with like 9 cards in hand to his 3, where his two Ornate Fans didn’t help defend in my military conflict against his stronghold.

What did I learn?  Putting fate on Wandering Ronin is like totally broken …  I should try this play in triple core and see how it fares.  Sarcasm aside, I hated flopping Miya Mystics most of all.  Otomo and Seppun consistently screw me not just because I often don’t have the Favor but … new paragraph for emphasis time …

So much of what I read was how dashes were often better than zeroes as it meant people couldn’t hook you or duel you or whatever.  Well, dueling is not a thing in single core in that I don’t know if a single duel took place during the tournament.  What is a thing is conflict type swapping.  What is a thing is chumping to preserve honor.  I would love for the Imperials to have zeroes so that when I can’t attack with them, they can actually do something besides stand for Favor.

I’m now somewhat katana shy on dashers.  In fact, I’m more excited by 1/1’s for 1 due to dorkiness.  I can murder provinces if I can just get someone to attack.  I can chump block.  Is this relevant for triple core?  For real constructed next month or the month after when something besides a tiny card pool exists?

Maybe.  Actually, bunch of deck ideas already for me, including the all neutral, all the time deck, the Unicorn political honor runner, Dragon swarm, etc.

Round 4:

We didn’t have a round four.  We did have a raffle.  With three tickets in the raffle, I managed to fail to get any of 20 or so raffled prizes in a 15 player tournament.  I think one other player, with possibly a worse record, therefore fewer tickets, shared this honor.

That contributed to a general feeling I had.  I played all of two games.  I lost a game I felt like I could have won if I had made any of a number of decisions better.  I blew out my opponent in my only real win.  I got no meaningful participation prize.  It was just a generally disappointing and frustrating experience.

And, yet, I still decided to go get more cards.

I find that neither V:TES nor Shadowfist metagames matter to me.  Not that V:TES doesn’t have metagames for various tournaments, they just aren’t predictable enough for me to take advantage of them.

Trying to be competitive, trying to build good decks, having card analysis and metagame analysis theoretically give me an edge, playing more games with more people – these are good things.

Okay, so what’s wrong with L5R?

Already went into how easy it is to get honored out of the game.  My concern is that honor will continue to suck, possibly becoming even worse.  Think about it.  In order for a deck to win with 25 honor, not currently realistic, it has to be able to deal with taking at least some honor hits.  In order for a deck to honor murder you, you have to not be rising towards 25 honor.  Sure, FFG can print swingy honor effects so that honor murder and honor happytimes can fight with each other and somehow have a meaningful game, though I doubt it will happen – I think one or the other has no chance.  But, that’s not the biggest problem.  The biggest problem is what happens when one of these extremes fights the middle.  If I can gain like 5 honor a round to make 25 plausible, the deck in the middle which is playing enough honor gain to fight the lose 3 honor a round decks can’t really do anything.  Well, that’s overstating.  They may not be able to do anything.  It is possible to create card pools where players can metagame.

But, how does the middle deck deal with both extremes in a meta?  An honor murder deck isn’t viable unless it can murder an honor runner.  Natural meta reaction is to give up on honor murder if everyone becomes enamored with running, which is its own problem.  But, let’s say that honor murder remains viable.  Then middlers have to deal with even more race to the bottom.

It might have been interesting if the range for honor was like 0 to 15 and clans started at like 8.  The range from 0 to 25 is vast and calls for especially swingy effects.  I guess this is a serious, ultracompetitive CCG, so players adapt and run enough cards to not have the extremes win before you can break dance, plus the extremeys run enough break dancing to have game.

Other than the honor thing, and the offensive tournament rules (apparently standard for FFG because … I have no idea why companies hate so much on players playing things that are supposed to be fun), I don’t really have a problem with the game, based on my vast and near infinite play experience.  Maybe I’ll hate more later.

Because other topics aren’t likely to generate enough inspiration for their own posts because somebody is the antipithy master, a quick comment about RPG modules.

I keep looking at my D&D, AD&D modules from like the 80s, and I am mostly pained.  I realized I despise the layout.  Contrast with HoR mods.  HoR mods have a story with admittedly limited rails.  These old mods have dungeons with treasure and monsters just incomprehensibly allocated to provide challenges largely of three types:  traps, beef fights, special ability fights.  I guess I can comment more on things like UK1 some day, but I just wanted to throw out that I actually kind of like I2, Tomb of the Lizard King.  Oh, I have no idea whether it works mechanically, but it feels like there’s something more than rolling on random dungeon tables for monsters and treasures.  Ironically, for the serious dungeon crawling group, it has a major fail in that it isn’t remotely clear how you move to the end of the adventure.  I suppose a real DM will notice and put stairs on level 2 going down.

May have been something else, but I think that’s good for now.  Got to finish up my Dragon deck, figure out what splash to do for the third of my test decks.  Of course, if those three are my test decks, what’s “my” deck going to be?  Crab?  Crane is too … Craney.  Phoenix may be too Phoenixy.  You know, Unicorn does actually have a few cards I like.  Courtier/monk, honor runner it is.


Gen Con 2017 – The $8 Story

August 21, 2017

I am a Gen Con expert.  A limited one, of course.  I know RPGs and only a bit else gamingwise.  I don’t know a lot of food options that aren’t likely to interest me and a few that might.  I don’t know every ballroom name in every hotel and where they are in relation to each other.  I know nothing about industry events, parties, concerts, etc.  I know nothing about family events or the con puzzles, and I avoid the exhibit hall as much as possible.

But, I have had many years of incredibly smooth logistics because I knew precisely what I needed to do to fit my needs.

This year wasn’t smooth.  It certainly wasn’t efficient.  It wasn’t a cluster by any stretch, but it was a learning experience.

The single thing that had the biggest impact was True Dungeon, where it affected in many ways.  Rather than list those ways now, I’ll just move forward with something of a timeline.


Every travel day is a hassle.  In order to get our 6AMish flights, we do things like get up at 3AM and finish packing.  Already the sleep deprivation has begun.  When the four of us congregated, it turned out we planned on checking two suitcases.  Four of us, to Gen Con, flying Southwest(!!), checking two suitcases.  That was not remotely my understanding and it added unnecessary stress.  We had to move stuff around from a suitcase to carry on bags.  My carry on was already heavy due to Magic decks I never used (I think I just give up on the idea of playing Type P in airports or in the nonexistent deadtime because it’s just not a high priority, anymore) and TD tokens.

Tokens are heavy.  My suitcase was already around 46 pounds, though it had a good amount of space.

Flights were fine.  Lyft was fine to hotel.  Check in was fine.  Some tickets were will call, so we went to dinner first.  Dinner was fine.  I had trades or buys to complete for TD tokens that complicated the night.  Two of us waited around until after the Golden Ticket runs and it was rather tedious and inefficient.  We didn’t have all of the builds ready or tokens sleeved or whatever for …


8:26AM Dancing Combat

Our first game was TD, and it was the first combat run outside of the Golden Ticket runs.  I’m going to avoid as much as possible spoilers for rooms as I expect many of the same elements to exist at Gamehole Con and next year’s cons prior to Gen Con.

We broke four things in the first room.  We were not remotely close to figuring out the solution.

I suppose I should back up a little bit and, rather than wait until it was more noticeable, get this out of the way.  Having a collection means far more logistical concerns than not having one.  We were the only players with Charms of Avarice on three of our runs and I can only think of one other 5th level character on any of the four TD runs, though two players on the last run could have been, I’m sure, if they were playing at full strength.

So, I was much more stressed as I was worrying about:  do we have 5th level cards; what difficulty are we playing; does one of our group need tokens, maybe ones I just picked up the night before; does my app build match my album build; will the party card accurately show how many treasure pulls we get.

Learning experience.  I understood conceptually why people liked buying out runs and arranging parties ahead of time.  I now see how much practical impact it has, as it’s a huge pain in the back, shoulders, and calves to carry around a bunch of unnecessary tokens.  I’m thinking I go with a general build that applies to any class and switch out maybe a dozen tokens to cover class differences.

Second room, fight.  We got nowhere.  Eric was planned for bard but ended up ranger because the one other player with significant experience was playing bard.  I gave him a build with like a +16 to hit.  We were playing normal (we played normal in all four TD and in True Grind).  He missed every(?) time.  We think his melee stats were being used rather than ranged stats.  But, talking to an admin Saturday night and reading the forums, also believe the fights were just way too hard, at least early on.

I was telling my mother(!) today that the correct way to lead off TD runs is with a not difficult puzzle, followed by an easy combat, at least if you are running normal.  TD can be really hard for new players.  TD often involves groups who don’t know each other.  Give the party time to coalesce.  Give them time to adjust to what they suck at, like wasting time during combats.  Not only is it more fair to ramp up challenges as teams get into grooves, my personal feeling is that I enjoy runs far more where we are successful early and failing late rather than failing early and successful late.  TD has a ton of casual players at Gen Con, want players to feel good about spending $62 per run.

Third room, I mentally gave up immediately.  They made this easier later in the con, too.  Fourth room, fight with lockdown effects, i.e. spellcasters could not cast spells until something happened.  I’ll rant more about this later.  I could not believe how much damage was required to take out the enemy given we were playing normal.

Four rooms, four failures.  Fifth room, success.  Sixth room, is success even a thing?  Kind of a scenery room.  It was cool to look at but frustrating to play.  Last room, another fight where we accomplished nothing, as I was locked down the whole fight and couldn’t finally unleash my way OP build for normal difficulty.  Everyone did survive, which was something I guess, but it came across as a frustrating run.  I think I dropped below 60 hit points, which never happened on the three other runs.

Our OP builds didn’t really help.  I felt afterwards like I had to deal even more damage to make sure the group could get through fights, though this thinking is probably not the correct path.  If the fight is unfair, let it be unfair on the GM’s side.  Don’t make things even more unbalanced by being able to nuke any encounter at any time, as that just increases the perception problem.

We took treasure chips and went our various ways.  Eric H wasn’t going to do True Grind, so he got the privilege of standing 2.5 hours in line to get L5R LCG cards so that I could play Sunday’s tournament.

I had more transactions to do.  Here’s something I found really annoying – there was awful direction as to where things were.  I ended up in the wrong training room for the run because we didn’t go as a group (too long putting party cards together on three(?) of our runs).  I didn’t know where the dealers were as I didn’t realize there was other stuff inside.  I found out later where the transmute room was by accident since I was looking for the Grind room, that I didn’t realize was the left entrance rather than the right entrance.  Just awful guidance, where there was no specific information booth.

True Grind (Noon)

I try to get ahold of our True Grind patrons, as we were three replacements for their team.  I fail electronically but, fortunately, I run across one of their team hovering near TG and we figure out where we need to go.  Eventually, everyone is in the right place and Andy has no idea what tokens I forced on him because I didn’t think to print out our builds and nobody wrote anything down the night before when I had them pulled up on the screen.

We decide on normal but hardcore would have totally worked.  This group was really good at such things as sliding!  They pumped out tons of damage to where I could hold back on spells.  We cut a deal against one “room”.  The paladin and I were taken out for a while in room seven, to where my coming back led to a great storm of lightning.

At no time did I feel bad about throwing out 30+ point magic missiles.  Hail power!  I was the only one who took much damage, almost all of which was self-inflicted through Mad Evoker’s Charm.  Got to the point where nobody wanted to heal me until I had taken 42 or more damage just so someone could heal me for 42 damage.  I often spent time down around 24 points, leaving me at 57.  Dave got to successfully hit things with his +14 to hit fighter, dealing 30 points of damage at times, just like … not … when he played/plays cleric.

The best part of this may have been that Eric C was a room GM.  We hadn’t seen each other in years and we chatted a lot while the event was taking place.  I enjoyed my punishment for not metagaming harder.  The group was fun, sociable.  Thank Alek, et al, for giving us the opportunity.  The only thing I would have preferred is that there be more Fae to make more current year tokens relevant.

HoR (Thursday 2PM)

Start the other half of the con.  We get seated with John D as our GM for One Moment, One Encounter.  It goes well.  It’s a far better intro mod than any mod before it to Balishnimpur.  It runs well, with the main drawback being travel guide stuff that I already knew.  I really don’t remember a whole lot about the plot.

HoR (Thursday 7PM)

Can’t get into 5 or 8, so I try to get a table together for 9 or 12.  It’s just me, as Andy and Eric are at the concert and Dave isn’t doing HoR until Friday night.  I get into 9, Essence of Fire, with a GM coming in very late.  What proceeds is an incredibly tedious experience of dwelling on minutiae.  We aren’t into the plot until hours into the session.  I understand that some people want to experience their characters, again, a reason to play online when you aren’t sitting at a table and knowing how much of other people’s time you are wasting.

We finally get into plot, figure out what needs doing.  I have to run but get some rolls in to help the ritual.  Miss post ritual stuff completely.  I specifically wanted open library before late night TD runs to get short mods done early.  This was a fail, but I brought it on myself.

Find out the next day we were especially successful and I got a powerful sounding cert.  I actually want to run this mod as it seems like it could be enjoyable mechanically.

True Dungeon Moongate Combat (11PM)

I screwed up.  When TD was dropped from Sunday, I was annoyed because it meant having to play around my usual RPG schedule.  I worked out a way to have my triple steakburger and eat it too by scheduling late night TD sessions after my usual stuff.  Then, the reality of what this meant kicked in.

Thursday was harsh.  Thursday was brutal.  This schedule only contributed to Andy’s sickness problem.  We cannot do a schedule like this again.  What we talked about on the flight back was consolidating two TD runs into a single RPG slot.  Hopefully, Sunday TD is brought back.

This group was great.  We talked about stuff.  Came really close to playing hardcore.

I so vastly preferred this dungeon to Dancing.  Yes, everyone loves the first room.  But, I just found these rooms mechanically to be so much more pleasant, though maybe being successful at things helped.  The first room was beautiful in a few ways, but I just really enjoyed having a room with light.  It gets old constantly flashing your light around to see things.

Second room was what you want – low effort combat.  Surprisingly easy puzzle, though I now get that it’s only supereasy on normal.  Fight that didn’t seem hard as I mostly ignored it and we were fine.  Another fight that we succeeded at without being clever.  Fight that was awkward, as some TD fights get, and not remotely interesting to me where I still didn’t have to do a whole lot.  Final room puzzle that is fine but we didn’t figure out the second part at all, though there was an accident at the end that gave away what we were supposed to do.

Dave and Eric were playing RoSP classes because they were out of 5th level cleric and bard.  Neither took particular advantage of them.  Eric was an ill prepared troubadour.



HoR CIT12 (Friday 9AM)

We have limited options as we wanted Dave to not play a court mod, and we weren’t missing much, so we did open library.  It went well, it went efficient.  I failed to convince an Owl Clanner who is into Imperial relations with my Imperial which I found interesting for my character.  I discovered my campaign hook in this mod.  I am the Miya of balance, in that complete obliteration, annihilation, and devastation must be rained down upon my enemies.  Will I live up to the moniker of Herald of Destruction?  Time will tell.  Yup, court mods.

Eric also got some character development.  The Flower Champion may have gotten bigger things to worry about after later events, but this is why you go to Gen Con.  Sure, he could have made rolls anywhere, but there are more opportunities to gain character hooks because you aren’t just playing with the same old, same old.

This ran so smoothly, we had time to go back to the room and nap.  Yeah, not a good sign.

ODAM (Friday 2PM)

My only non-HoR/non-True event (foreshadowing).  Of Dreams and Magic.  Sweet.  I get to play a self-help guru, that I attempt to roleplay, sweet.  We take forever to get things done and I have to leave before the game is over to make 7PM HoR even though I know it’s going to start late.  Tiresome.

I almost played the entire session without doing anything magical.

So, here’s something I intellectually know and try to incorporate into games I run.  If you have characters with cool powers, they must use those cool powers and they should use them as fast as possible in games.  Do you know why I loved Immortal: The Invisible War?  It wasn’t the incomprehensible and unplayable RAW.  It was Ran Ackels running my first couple of games and “just roll a die” and awesome special effects explanations of your powers.

Plus, this game was in the JW.  JW is a nice environment, but, as I say every year, it’s a pain to have games in it as it’s a far cry from everything else most of the time that matters to me.

HoR CIT14 (Friday 7PM)

Let’s get ready to rumble in the jungle.  Dave had already decided to play a combat character.  He strides boldly forth and is not punished for it.  Actually, he reminded me of my Daigotsu Bushi.  We learn the true power of the Tortoise.  We get a nice fast game in so that we can wander over to TD.  Solid action where I fail to hit calling 5 raises for extra attack.

TD Dancing Puzzle (Friday 11:03PM)

Solid group, again fun to interact with.  You could tell Andy was struggling with illness.  We were way OP for the one fight that mattered.  I was almost nonexistent on this run, even though we had failed two of the puzzles before.  This group got the workshop.  Got the forge.  Got path at last moment, where I mostly talked to the priest.  Last puzzle looked nice but so not my thing and we weren’t coordinated enough to make anything happen.  The only death.

Talked some more after the run.  Fun stuff.  I did some treasure pulls, got a bunch of junk, gave away a rare.  One of the two late night groups, I don’t remember which one at this time, I lent a Defender Helm to.  I should have just sold it for a $1, as it’s completely extra to us.


Battle Interactive (8AM!)

Couldn’t miss this, even though I was getting sick and Andy was hurting.

The Flower Champion wilted and didn’t run with our assault team.  Andy and I found other Crab and the glorious killing machine that is Kasuga Ieyasu.  We almost had a Lion commander, but he moved to an extra table, so here’s the lineup for our assault table.

Hida Bushi, Hiruma Scout, Kuni Shugenja, Kuni Witchhunter(!!), Kasuga Smuggler(!!), Miya Herald …

I was living the dream.  The dream of evisceration.  I asked about a bow or armor.  Nope.  Miya Herald with a daisho and no ranged or armor.  Living the dream.

We start tier 2.  We have to keep up with Matsu Berserkers.  We kind of understand what that means.  We hack and slash.  I quickly realize the Smuggler build is essentially my build only further down the path of eradication, plus better in pretty much every other way.

We do reasonably well.  I make a mistake of spending a VP on ATN on round one only to have it end up mattering.  I’m out of VPs around round 3 of this combat.  Kuni Shugenja Medicines me after fight to full heal.  We had really good rolls early.

Tier 2.  We have to clear a building of archers.  Since the door is barricaded, I do the obvious and go to climb to the second story window.  I take 32 wounds, pull myself into the room, and face 12 enemies.  I’m thinking “it’s a good thing I can free action draw my sword”.  The rest of the team follows me, the Miya Herald, into the boss room.  The GM thinks we are nuts.  I think it’s dumb to have a barricade that a tetsubo can effortlessly break down and be punished for trying to do something interesting.

We get wrecked.  I’m about to go full defense when the GM has me notice the fight next door.  I pick up a spear, hurl it through the window and get +1 Devotion to my Matsu gunso ally.  With empty hands, I get reduced to down.  Only Andy’s tank is not ravaged.  The first level enemies are coming up and the Kasuga barricades the path!  The Kuni summons oil!!  The enemies get owned in a contested strength roll.  While Down, the GM lets me cast the best spell in the game:  DIPLOMACY, which summons a higher rank Matsu Berserker from improbablewhere.

By the way, the whole time we were fighting, I was exclaiming “COURTIERS” and “DIPLOMACY” as we cut down warriors and peasants.  Living the dream.

I get healed for a ton and we finally decide to swap with someone in the reserves and go tier 1.  We should have gone higher tier as our new shugenja healed us a ton and dropped Fires of Purity left and right.

The Maharajah’s Banner.  We took one of them.  Andy kicked fiery kicks of death while holding it.  I kept trying calling 5 raises for extra attack and … finally! … got off multiple attacks.  I came up one short one time, three short another, both times rolling 10 dice and having none explode.

While the last round was beneath us and the second round was poor play, this was a vastly better battle interactive to most of the HoR3 ones.  I felt like something was happening even though I probably did more interesting things in the early HoR3 BIs and the enemies were rather dull in our fights.  We could have faced cultists, which would have been different.

I just need to up my power so that I can be like my hero, Kasuga Ieyasu, then we start tier 3ing stuff.

Andy was at my table and got the banner.  Eric got his character defining moment of totally stealing from the Scorpion.  He wanted to wuss out on the political interactive, figuring the Scorpion would just kill him at their court, but I kept trying to get through that that’s not how it works.  Killing isn’t punishment in L5R.

Political Interactive (3PM)

And, so I switch to a political character, the natural switch from Miya Herald to Kuni Shugenja.  Team Crab!

I won’t get too much into clan politics.  I tried to focus on those groups the clan didn’t seem to care much about – Imperials, minors, Owl.  I felt like I did something.  It was interesting to see the real power brokers negotiate.  The Lion declaring war on the Crab was hilarious.  The insults to the Crane were hilarious.

I accomplished nothing.  I have no reward for taking a social character into a social setting.  But, I enjoyed myself.  Didn’t get burned out after an hour as I usually do at political interactives.  Eric got to lie to the Scorpion Champion, so he’s loving being the only Mantis left who is “when you come at the Flower Champion, you best not miss”.

Andy could not do another TD run.

TD Moongate Puzzle (10:01PM)

We had agreed beforehand that if we did normal, we would do 5th level sealed greedy, i.e. use only our 10 packs with +1 level and treasure enhancers.  This was not a boon.  Dave had to run to refund Andy’s ticket.  I still had my entire binder collection in case we weren’t doing normal.  Eric had Andy’s token wooden chest, with a padlock we couldn’t open.

We ran with someone who knew the dungeon well.  I was very much into observer mode on the run.  We didn’t succeed at everything, but it felt like it wasn’t really necessary to do so.  The two new rooms were good and not so good.  I liked the flower room because it looked nice and it was different.  I can distinguish that smells are different, but I don’t distinguish what smells are.  I just can’t articulate what I know.  The dark room was just really boring to me.

We just missed treasure pulls up front, which irritated me as I need at least one bag to not have to do tedious stuff.

We got back to the room and I started in on thoughts on TD.


Collectively, we gave up on the one commitment of the day.

I was signed up for the L5R LCG tournament.  I had lost interest during the con pretty quick.  Andy had interest.  Eric got product so that one of us could actually play.  We couldn’t even generate the effort to return the seemingly highly prized $8 ticket given how out of it we were Sunday morning.  Plus, we had to check out (this is one reason I like returning Mondays).

In the past, I got pissed off by forgetting to return generics, which is why I never buy them.  I plan my schedule meticulously and force myself to do everything I sign up for.  It usually works quite well logistically.

I want to hold on to this $8 ticket to remind myself of something.  First of all, I’m not a poor gamer.  Nobody who can afford TD ultrarare builds is.  The money lost was trivial compared to the physical trials I put us through.  Second, it was a lesson in greediness.  TD is very prone to greediness which I’ll go into more in a bit.  I was greedy to play not only a normal schedule of 3/3/3/Sunday event but to add two more events on top of that.  To some extent, I just overlooked how important not only 2 hours is but that a lot of HoR play ends early and it’s far more than 2 hours saved by not running from HoR to TD late at night and that Lucas Oil is a huge drag to run over to.

Btw, if we hadn’t stayed at the Hyatt, this con would have been that much more brutal, as HoR, at least, was convenient.

I so hope TD returns to Sundays.  If it doesn’t, we have a thought on how to do GC next year, but it’s not great and highly dependent upon getting into precisely the TD/TG slots we want.

One of us could have played in a premier event at Gen Con.  We slept or lay in bed thinking about how time was passing and didn’t care.

The lesson wasn’t just that I overdid it, that I didn’t prepare enough, that we didn’t prepare enough.  It’s that I got complacent.  I am so used to having my Gen Con be molded to my interests that it’s easy, only being fraught with peril because I’m a worrywart.  TD at this level rocked my easy – 10 RPG plus something else with triple steakburger every morning at 7AM, 7:30AM, or 8AM and again later in the day between clearly defined RPG slots – world.

Went to the exhibit hall for a bit but didn’t care.  Watched L5R demos and was shocked at how slow they were.  Missed out on swag that could have been gotten Thursday if I had thought through how things were going to go.

True Takeaways

We played with PUGs (pick up groups).  We were grossly OP for normal play.  I got down to like 68 hit points in one run and only took damage in another run from the final room.  I have huge concerns about making a run fun for groups without ultrarare level collections.

My plan is to redo all of my normal builds to focus on saves and to run not so great weapons on normal runs.  No more +2 Keen Slayer on normal, it’s just dumb.  No +3 Deathcleaver, not that I ever gave that out, but, maybe, no +2 Slayer.  No 30+ STR builds.  Sure, I’ll run Mad Evoker’s Charm, but I just won’t use it as I think I used it like once in four True Dungeon runs and not every single spell on Grind.

I may have to break down and go with builds with hit points under 60.  Sigh.

Not only was I unhappy with our builds, I was unhappy with our presentation.  Sure, you can let people know that you know the puzzles or that your builds are stronger.  Don’t make a big deal out of it.  Downplay everything.  Last year, we played with someone who knew stuff and it worked well, but, then, I prefer observing people play rather than doing hardly anything myself, so I don’t care about being challenged.

My biggest failing was more subtle.  I cast very few spells to let others murder stuff.  I didn’t give away puzzles, though in many cases we didn’t know the answers.  But, I just didn’t participate much.  I tried talking to NPCs to pass the time and to be into the events, as I can embrace the role-playing aspects of playing more (not that embracing is anything the NPCs would go for).  But, I think I overdid it and may have come across like “I’m so powerful I don’t need to do anything”, which isn’t contributing to other people’s fun.


Silence is moronic.  All the rage at Gen Con HoR was throatpunching.  Throatpunching is moronic.  Do not prevent people from being able to do the one thing they care about doing.  For HoR, give a TN penalty to spellcasting non-innated spells or something.  In TD, just get rid of silence on normal difficulty.  Screw over people on hardcore and, especially, nightmare as much as you want, but let the newb or the casual player who plays once a year actually get to participate in what’s going on.  Combat matters in TD or the token economy wouldn’t exist (or would look incredibly different).  Let people do their 6 damage or their 11 damage.  I’ll accept being locked out of Lightning Storm with Mad Evoker’s Charm and a +13 damage stat, but I hated when I couldn’t cast an 11 point Magic Missile, and I’m sure others feel the same.

I know.  Meleers get screwed by fights with no melee, and rangies get screwed by antirange effects, and blah, blah, blah failed saves equal being removed from combat.  But, the casual player isn’t prepared for being taken completely out of fights.  Make them suffer one round of impotence is fine, then let them feel like they are playing.


We cannot be that disorganized about tokens again.  It was obnoxious as hell, and I think we lost one of our more prized tokens though our only particularly good treasure draw replaced it.  I am not interested in hauling multiple binders around all of the time and making adjustments to things on the fly.  Now, my coin album set up for my wizard build did work well for me, though I don’t know if it worked well for the party card maker.  And, the binders I got right before Gen Con were a way I liked storing stuff I didn’t need on the run.

The Android app was essential.  True Grind, where we worked out things ahead of time was awesome for how simple it was for me, though Dave and Andy had problems because I didn’t know their builds.

I do not want to haul a bunch of stuff to Lucas Oil.  Quip was kind enough to meet me on Sunday at the Hyatt for one last deal, as I did not want to run over there one more time.

I think I know what to do.  It may very well mean beginning to divest of some of the alt build tokens I’ve picked up in the last year.

Treasure pulls.  I actually kind of hate these.  I had completely forgotten about bags until too late in the con.  I did 26 of my pulls for no reason.  I don’t just hate the wands.  I always hated pulling from treasure chests at the end of runs, only liking those treasure pulls that used to happen during runs in the long, long ago.  Give me bags or give me … cash? … friends who don’t mind doing pulls?

I hate doing pulls after runs.  There are so many things going on after runs, like making sure I didn’t lose any tokens and making sure I got my XP card and my completion token, that I just want to get my stuff, get into a well lit, open area, and deal with logistics.

Should be interesting to get to Gamehole Con and do a bag and 11 pulls right away to get caught up or maybe I hold my 11 pulls.  I’ll have to do the math on how many pulls we are going to get from our runs, there.


True Grind was especially good for me, as it was a first time, I got to hang with someone I knew, I liked the other people in our party, and it’s well lit.  But, I think one of the great benefits of TG is that it’s different from the dungeons.  It’s just good to get away from the repetitive nature of wordplay and darkness and whether your group is balanced.

Doing one of each run was good.  But, it has to be better timed.  I’m old and decrepit.  I can force myself awake at 6:30AM to play games because games infuse me with chi, but it’s just not good that I’m now getting tired at Gen Con midday Thursdays.


We still no jack and _ about what hardcore and nightmare are like.  We have to do hardcore, at a minimum, for the XP.  I would imagine parties intending to do these things are better fits from a token collection aspect for our UR heavy collections.  I’m not clever, but I might fit into organized parties better as one thing I don’t like is a lot of people arguing about what to do, and I’d imagine hardcore and nightmare inclined parties tend to be more organized just from an experience standpoint.


To me, TD is like 50% good, 25% eh, and 25% below not good with numbers I’m totally making up.  That’s just the nature of it.  Some runs will be much more fun than others.  I like talking with other players, which I should have done more of instead of talk to NPCs or be baffled by the coaching room logistics.


Gamehole Con will be another learning experience.  I expect I still have some important things to learn.  For instance, I never slid once the entire con, playing wizard four times and elf wizard once.  I am likely an awful slider, but, mostly, I just don’t care about sliding.  I’d enjoy sliding if it was only people I knew in the party and we talked through strategy/tactics.

Probably should be a next, but I forgot.


I only had triple steakburgers like twice.  That’s not enough.  Full meals at night are hard on me in my sleep deprived, jet lagged, eating at weird times, snacking on weird stuff, maybe having a milkshake without taking Lactaid first self.  This is something the others don’t get.  It’s not like my diet of triple steakburger combos is good for me or all that delicious, it’s that it’s what I need when I need it and does not introduce variance that leads to my body being further wrecked.  I could sub in Subway for every meal and achieve a similar effect, but Subway isn’t open at the hours I need food and it’s boring.

I was introduced to Pearings.  I liked my smoothie.  My panini was fine but not much food, which, in some ways, is good.  But, I don’t like their menu, too limited for what I want … says the person who orders the exact same thing every time to where I have a sense of how much it will cost to the penny at his usual depot.

The sandwich place across the street from the usual depot is not to my liking.  I would so much enjoy my sandwich more without french fries and cole slaw on it.  Plus, take away soft fries and cole slaw (something I don’t usually like to begin with) and I feel like I should be paying less money because I may not be poor but I do not like wasting money on food … says the man who can live off of triple steakburgers for a con.

My food truck noodles weren’t bad, but they needed to be poured out of the container into like a bowl.  They were too bland at first and too salty later.  I would have used less soy sauce in the sauce, but whatever.  My hatred of food trucks has only something to do with how bad I think foodtruck food is on average.

Again, Indianapolis Airport is one of the few airports I don’t feel bad about paying overpriced prices at.  I got a huge Pom Beach smoothie.  I got a burger with not awful fries.  It was overpriced, but the airport is just so pleasant in the hub.



Classful Society

July 23, 2017

If I were to attempt to rank my topics from most popular to less popular, the list would be something like:

L5R RPG mechanics

V:TES tournament reports or more serious analysis

RPG general analysis

Food options when traveling to play games?  I don’t think Shadowfist has terribly broad appeal, maybe general CCG analysis has some.  What of the oddity that is True Dungeon, something only in extreme limited availability and where analysis is really more the province of an even more limited playerbase?

Well, I haven’t been playing much besides Shadowfist and haven’t been buying much besides True Dungeon tokens.  I didn’t get any gaming in when visiting family recently.  I need to leave some topics on Traveller for our website, where my column should be going up soon.

So, True Dungeon it is.  But, not tokens.  Tokens are a rabbit hole that I think I’ll maybe talk about after Gen Con, when I see our collections at work.

Oh, I suppose I could have tried to talk about the Wonder Woman movie and try to tie it into gaming, but I just thought that would be repetitive to my various DC TV show posts and gaming.

Classes.  In many ways, classes don’t matter.  Amazingly enough, I don’t find combat to be all that relevant to the experience when you are the casual player.  Is this ironicful given how much token tycoons relish being better at combat?  Let me expound.

First of all, half the time or so we are doing puzzle rooms.  How do the classes matter when doing puzzle rooms?  Well, there are saving throws sometimes, there are situations where free action may matter, and, of course, there’s hit points.  The cleric, followed by the druid, followed by the paladin are too legit to knit for their abilities to restore hit points.  Possibly, a spell may do something but who knows?  Then, there’s the almighty rogue.  Go rogue, go rogue, go rogue.  I totally get the appeal of the rogue even if you pretty much ignore combat, though it has mighty antiappeal pour moi, as mentioned previously.  Being immune to disease or feather falling or whatever might be relevant once every X number of years.

Can find the class details here:

True Dungeon Classes

So, combat. Oh, not Nightmare combat where memorization just wastes time murdering.  Still talking about the casual experience, the Normal of normals, the “I don’t own any URs” fest that we have been used to over the years of casual play.

Barbarian needs a 2h-er to unleash excessive beats.  Comes with healthy hit points.  Fighter hits most often, I guess.  Ranger can ranged fight if someone has a ranged weapon, where double sliding is something I don’t think advantages the inexperienced.  Monk seems to be the least desirable class IME, though bard doesn’t get a lot of love either.  Paladin can absorb damage for the hit point handicapped to some degree.

Though, mostly what I see with people who basically have random equipment is the inability to murder stuff, not so much the being murdered, until you hit room seven and, if you fight something, routinely get butchered because it will deal out substantial damage.

If I’m a barbarian, fighter, dwarf fighter, ranger, monk, or paladin, how much difference do I feel when I just have some random stuff?  Meanwhile, cleric, druid, wizards all have clear needs to figure out what they are going to do.  I’m usually a wizard, and I blast things til they die … or not.  I’ve been in fights where everyone just kept missing and I used up a ton of spells to finish some monster off because might as well do something and worry about the consequences later (plus, in theory, I have scrolls and wands if I run out of spells, not that I end up using them).  Clerics are often busy as hell unless the party is efficient both in combat and at puzzles.  Druids have plenty of things to worry about, having arguably the toughest decisions on what to do round by round.

Sure, classes matter.  I’d say healers matter the most often.  But, this is mundane analysis.  Where’s the rule of cool, the harm of warm, the thought of hot?

Let’s talk 5th level classes.  I don’t have any designs on a Rod of Seven Parts, nor do I find the variant classes all that compelling, even less interesting in some cases, like the sorcerer who is like the most boring caster ever in that all it does is blast, blast, blast.  On the other hand, we have graduated from playing 4th-ies.  Just too many interesting things to do at 5th plus the number of tokens that uplevel you at this point is so vast that you can only sink a couple hundred into TD and play varsity.

What’s the coolest thing a barbarian does?  Because puzzle damage seems to be Eldritch, the damage reduction is really just another combat ability, though it’s not entirely clear whether all puzzle damage is Eldritch or not.  I love me my damage reduction, but nope.  Greater Rage?  Um, well, since the damage bonus ability is the same as the 4th level dude, you could make this argument.  I just don’t see how a barbarian doesn’t do lots and lots of pain.  But, the barbarian needs to hit things and, while a +4 to hit/damage from STR is fine, just hitting in combat defeats many an adventurer.  Of course, if you are 5th level, you can probably jack your STR to obscene levels or, at least, use the recent synergistic tokens that give hit/damage bonuses at like the uncommon/common level.

Bard.  The coolest thing about being a bard is, of course, distracting everyone with your banjoharp/other.  But, suppose you want to do something besides generate static bonuses.  I know nothing of the lore skill test, since I think bard didn’t exist back in the long, long ago, and, for some reason, there’s discouragement to practicing a class’s tests that you aren’t playing.  That it takes an action just seems incredibly wrong.  Like, why do you need a special instrument to use both your abilities at the same time?  That’s mean.  Of course, this is the quintessential bard issue – without a special instrument, you can do lots of different things but only one of them at a time.  What’s the point of having spells if you don’t cast them because Bardsong is so badass?  Some bards even like to fight, though I don’t know why given that the class offers so many other things to do that someone who likes swinging knouts would go for a knoutswinger class.  You get heal, possibly more efficient than paladin heal, as well.  We don’t have one, but the instrument I rate the most me, myself, and I relevant is Briano’s Blessed Bodhrán.  But, then, why don’t I just play a wizard?

I’m not enthusiastic about playing cleric.  I like protecting folks much and I like healing well enough, but the cleric is just far too busy in my play and gets into weird situations of waiting to see if someone gets hurt.  While the abilities to restore power and restore spell are strong like mule, I’d rather be on the receiving end of restoration rather than the giving end.  Cleric has too much coordination to do between finding out who needs what level of healing and when to “do it again” on some tactical nuke.

Druid is like the best of all worlds.  You can continue to ignore AC while getting good saves, blasts, and heals.  I played druid a couple of times once upon a time (or maybe it was just once), which seems odd given how much time I’ve spent studying the wizard planar charts.  Polymorph?  Sounds cool, but, then, don’t you just become another fighter?  Coolest thing about a druid?  Versatile spellcasting.

Dwarf fighter is for people who love the idea of taunting monsters or for folks who are really good at sliding.  ’nuff said.

Elf wizard ever going to polymorph?  I haven’t seen it.  Do high end parties love the elf for the ability to Alertness every combat?  Well, I guess it’s “fun” to always murder the monster before it gets to act.  I find Ironskin to be the sort of spell I’d like to see cast more, but I somehow doubt it.  I don’t believe it affects puzzles, again Eldritch pierces damage reduction to my knowledge, which is unfortunate for making spellcasting more versatile.

Fighter doesn’t even have taunting.  If you are really into sliding, being able to knock around pucks is I guess a thing.

Monk is where I think the TD experience differs much from a more varied experience.  You get a ton of abilities, but you pretty much end up being fighterlike in what you actually do.  I like the idea of weird abilities and great saves to the point where I actually picked up a token for a monk build, a monk build just for funsies as it will be terrible compared to real purple monks.  Should you be the one to fiddle around during puzzles, trying stuff out?  Perhaps, so this is another strike against the class for me as I’m cowardly by nature.

We finally get to the inspiration for this here particular post.  Ah, the paladin.  Sure, somebody expects you to fight.  Pshaw, grandpa.  The paladin’s real purpose in the world is to Shiba Bushi.  No, not guard.  Well, yes guard but not as the point of your existence.  Nope, the point of your existence is sacrifice.  Who doesn’t want abilities that just say “you don’t die”?  Okay, maybe I’m far into dramatic rescues.  Yup, I could paladin.  I could even go serious defense paladin, in theory.  Btw, an interesting thing about sacrifice is that it disincentivizes high HP.  That’s rather interesting to me, as, suddenly, my obsession with CON in builds doesn’t need to cookiecutter my character building, and, it starts making “don’t nuke me after sacrifice” plays, like sudden HP gains or whatever far more interesting.  Are damage reduction builds optimized with paladin, who is fine losing HP since any serious threat will leave pally at 5, anyway, but wants to lose slowly and not deadfully?  Pretty strong saves, too, plus random weirdness, plus healing.

Ranged ranger is the only build that interests me as I want to do less sliding not more.  May even go to the point of not bothering with melee weapons or wielding idiotic ones for the humor value.  At 5th level, get spells!  So funny.  Who doesn’t like casual spell use?  Decent saves.  It would be interesting to see if I could generate interest in trying to crit repeatedly without sliding 20s.

There’s a surprising amount, to me anyway, references to sneak attack being a thing.  Neither flank nor sneak seem to me to be relevant to the rogue experience, but, hey, whatever, gives some bonus combat utility.  If I were to rogue, I’d sadly need to pick up all of the rogue cheats so that I could fail miserably and still defeat chests.  Rather than do that, I will stay far, far away from this class.  Pretty terrible saves.  Too much effort to flank/sneak.  Well, I rogue enough in my RPG play, where the mechanics are usually less challenging.

Finally, the roc has come back to Greyhawk.  I still don’t get how Lesser Maze is supposed to work since there’s a really simple way to rule on it that, apparently, is not how it actually works.  You don’t get to Alertness cheese combat.  Saves are kind of crap.  Lightning only makes some monsters bigger or electrifies entire parties.  Yet, this is comfy for me.  I can be a kind of sucky bro who cares more about getting memorization right than actually murderfesting the enemy.  I can pretend I’ll use a wand someday without ever actually using one since they pretty well suck compared to what you can do with spell damage bonus tokens.  I like how builds are free of the sort of dull options that others find interesting.  I can ignore armor.  I can wear whichever crown I want.  My hands are just going to play with my staff or maybe my flute, if I’m feeling frisky.  I can run around with no STR, though Elf is pretty much the same.  I’m not some goofy elf, unless someone forces me to option into elfdom.  Sure, wizard isn’t as hot as druid or as Shiba as paladin.  But, hey, I’ll blast you, you’ll fang me.  We will just murder each other like two ships in the night on a collision course, or someone else will murder you and I’ll be pondering the last puzzle we couldn’t figure out.

True Dungeon – it’s not remotely about class … up until the point that it’s all about class.