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Monday, July 23, 2012

I Zigged When You All Thought I Was Gonna Zag

Purely not by design, but rather through a twist of fate, rather than start my 43 AD game this past week, I ended up starting a Legend of the Five Rings 1st edition RPG campaign. I had a bad feeling that 43 AD/Warband was going to suffer when Big Darryl informed me he was going to Virginia to visit his other son and grandchildren the morning of the day I wanted to start the campaign, but I figured we could switch out and play Lady Blackbird. Little Darryl has run that a number of times and he'd have an entirely new group of players willing to try it out.

It was only then that the comedy of errors really set in, my wife Mona got an infection in her leg through a cut on her foot and had to go to the Emergency Room on Sunday, the 15th*, and had a follow up with her doctor on Thursday morning, the day we were supposed to play. Her doctor was alarmed at the infection and sent us to another medical facility, in Syracuse, for some other tests, which kept us away all day. Thursday was the only weekday I had open for gaming, so that eliminated gaming during the week for my group. I'd also like to point out that Mona's tests came back fine, it's a minor infection at this point and she has another follow up appointment next Tuesday, I realized I was coming across there as something of a callous bastard, and just wanted to clear that up. Plus I took her to the Comix Zone that day, although she didn't find anything she wanted.

That left Saturday or Sunday, I needed to go with Saturday, because my dad tore his rotator-cuff in his right arm and he's right handed and we're still not done with all the finishing work on his garage that we started last summer, but he won't work or allow us to work on Saturdays because my parents are Seventh Day Adventists. Unfortunately, Dalton had a job interview that day and Mona and I needed to go grocery shopping. Darryl had also mentioned he was having trouble with both his car and his back, so I started rereading the L5R core rulebook, because that was one of the games I had put on the table as an option for a one-shot, just because Dalton and I particularly, were interested in checking the game system out.

So, we didn't end up getting a start on things until fairly late in the afternoon on Saturday, Dalton and I figured out character generation with relatively few hiccups along the way, since we're the "rules guys" in the group. To my surprise, my son John wanted to play, and he wanted to play a Shugenja, a Phoenix. My wife Mona also decided to play a Shugenja, a Dragon, and Dalton made two characters, a Unicorn Bushi and a Scorpion Shugenja, just so he'd know how to make both, he played the Bushi though. My daughter Ashli made a Crab Bushi. I tried to entice Darryl to come out and play, but it was to no avail.

We got about half way through the introductory adventure in the book with only one major problem and one minor mistake. The major problem, which stopped the game for something like twenty minutes and I still haven't figured out the answer to, is - What exactly constitutes a fumble? That came up during the drinking contest when John's Shugenja Isawa Haku rolled a one when he was down to one die in the contest with Hida Fujizaka; that was one of the "sidebar add-ons" I thought would be fun to use, I didn't think it would turn out to be a game stopper where everyone started looking for the fumble rule for twenty minutes. I even looked through later editions of the game, because I assumed they would at least be similar and probably about the same place in their respective books, fumble is not in the index for 1st-3rd editions and it's not readily seen under the "using skills" sections either, I didn't see an example of a fumble anywhere, or any reference except in the text of the adventure. I actually thought fumbles might have been removed from the game, but then I checked and saw references to them in a couple of modules that date as late as "Living Rokugan" era.

So anyone reading this who is familiar with the Legend of the Five Rings RPG, especially the 1st edition, but any will do, please point me to a rules reference.

The second minor rules glitch was one I caught myself part way through, I was just running opposed rolls against each other instead of against the opposing character's Trait. My bad, I don't think it really affected the outcome of anything in the Topaz Championship Tournament. As it stands, we finished day one before we had to quit and Dalton had to go home, the two Bushi each have 3 out of the 5 necessary points to complete their Gempukku, the Shugenja are both sweating it at 1. John's character should have had 2, but he ended up losing the footrace because of the wasp trap.

Now, I think the adventure itself is super railroad-ey, but I guess you'll get that in an adventure that's specifically designed to do the things it does - teach you the setting and the rules. Now, it was my intention, if I ever ran an L5R RPG campaign, to make use of my "City of Lies" boxed set and run the traditional "Imperial Magistrates" campaign, so they'd get to be detectives and clean up the city, all the while getting manipulated by wily Scorpions and outmaneuvered by the horror element, the Maho-Tsukai. The drug smugglers and and everything else are just so much more corrupt background there. I haven't read through it extensively though, more like skimmed it and liked what I saw.

So now I am hoping that all of the pre-prepared modules and campaign supplements for L5R are NOT as big a railroad as the introductory adventure, because prior to play, I had only skimmed it too and thought it looked like a good introduction to the system without noticing that it was completely on rails. Nothing the PCs do will alter the flow of events, they're just along for the ride. Sure, they're entered in the championship, and the "sidequests" are available to give some variety to the adventure, but a lot of it is like a travelogue with the occasional skill check thrown in. I don't think it needed to be that way.

Next, today is my birthday. I am 43 years old, meaning this is the last year I can legitimately claim to be in my early 40s and I'll be moving into my mid 40s. My birthday often makes me reflect on what I've done, what I've accomplished over the last year, or at least see what goals I have achieved or New Years resolutions I've lived up to; that often leaves me a little depressed after my contemplation, because, for very good reasons, I have often given up on a goal I set or whatever. I am sick of doing that, that's kind of a defeatist attitude, beating myself up for whatever I didn't get done rather than concentrating on what I DID get done or what I made significant progress on.

I am older now, I am out of shape and I did this to myself; I am OK with that. The road back is harder than road here was, and a lot less fun. I don't heal as fast as I did when I was 30, much less 20, and I still occasionally overindulge out of habit or pride** or something. Don't get me started on the "growing up poor - competitive eating"*** thing, that made for some interesting habits that stuck with me for a long time too. I occasionally still find myself fighting the urge to eat as fast as I can so I can get seconds, even though I know there will be enough food for me to have seconds (and probably thirds) if I want them.

On top of that, I don't really like to limit my food intake or exercise all that much. I have bad knees and a bad back, I am overweight and I hate being outside when it's too hot; which is pretty much all the time since we broke the weather. I remember being a kid and playing outside all day during the Summer here in upstate NY, the hottest days were in the 80s, you might break 90 once or twice a year. Now we get entire months of 80s and weeks at a time of 90s and it starts pretty much as soon as Winter ends. We used to have four seasons, now we're down to just the two suckiest; too damn hot and too damned cold, with about a week of transition in between. We're also experiencing a drought in upstate NY. That never used to happen. My lawn is brown and dead. Fields of corn are dead. I wish I could say this is the first time I'd seen this but over the last decade and a half or so, it's actually become a fairly frequent sight. I have to wonder if this is a factor in why all the orchards where I had my first jobs as a kid picking apples and cherries are gone now too.

Anyway, enough about global climate change, you either believe in it and the fact that it's caused by man or you are an idiot who has allowed himself to be manipulated by the people who have everything to gain by maintaining the status quo. I just got an email from Darryl the younger and his dad is back in town and wants to play a game this week, probably Dawn Patrol. I am going to push for starting the 43 AD game too though, because I am afraid that if I don't get it started all of my prep work and buying all those extra source materials and miniatures will have been wasted because we will never get around to it. When it comes right down to it the L5R RPG game was supposed to be a one-shot, just to try the system out and see if we liked it, like we suspected we would. We do, and everyone who played wants to continue playing, despite the railroading of the adventure they are in right now.

I think I can run two distinctly different campaigns using two very different game systems and it will be a challenge because neither of them is in my comfort zone of being old school (A)D&D, so that'll keep me sharp too, right? Do I lose OSR cred if I am not currently running or playing in an old school (A)D&D game? Honestly, I am just looking forward to when Darryl the younger takes over and starts running the Warband half of the Dual 43AD/Warband campaign we've talked a little bit about the set up; but mainly I like the idea of getting to play instead of DM all the time. Don't get me wrong, I love to DM, but sometimes it's nice to only be one person too; to throw all of your creative energies into one single character, eh? Am I right?

*The same day I had to put down our beloved and elderly English Mastiff Harmony because she tripped and fell off the porch going down the stairs and broke her right foreleg. There's no way a 12 year old Mastiff was coming back from that injury, particularly with the arthritis she already had in her hips, she already had trouble standing on bad days. Sunday the 15th was a rough day for me and my family, and it was the day of my niece Savana's graduation party, which we missed entirely, so I also missed seeing my brother and sister and my nieces and nephew, whom I rarely see since they all moved so far away.

**When you are literally bigger than everyone else, like you are a different scale, people just expect that you are going to eat more or drink more. Sometimes they'll be insulted if you don't, sometimes they'll challenge your manhood if you don't. I am a sucker for a challenge to my pride/honor.

***My dad was a Longshoreman. He got hurt unloading a ship in November of 1978, less than two years after he and my grandfather had finished building my parent's house. That would have made me 9 years old and was 2 months before my brother was born. My dad couldn't walk for almost a year, the injury was caused by a fall when a crane knocked him from the deck into the hold when the load shifted that it was lifting. The fall crushed three disks in his back and cracked two of the vertebrae, but the Social Security Administration and Workers Compensation Board here in NY still held up his getting any benefits until 1983, fortunately, his union had his back, and supported us through those dark times. My grandfather, a retired Longshoreman himself, also helped us with his pension as much as he could. I was young, so the details were not really apparent to me at the time, but I am pretty sure if it hadn't been for the Union and my grandfather, my parents would have lost their house.  

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