The Card Game Disclaimer

It’s late one night and I looked at how many drafts I had here and balked. So we’re going to do this one differently: The post is going live but I’m going to keep coming back and updating this one instead of hiding it until it’s perfect.

Storm Count 1: Rant

I have lots of complicated feelings about this card game I’ve played for nearly 30 years and the various corporate owners and the level of chicanery and often downright monopolistic evil they engage in. I am the killjoy asshole who reads the mega toy corps investor communications to try and show people how this giant goddamn company actually feels in aggregate about people’s beloved hobbies. They literally put the monopoly guy raining cash on their investor slideshows.

I keep trying to completely shut off these hobbies dependent on unhealthy capitalist shitheads and all it ends up doing is isolating me from people with different tolerances for capitalist malfeasance, and since my tolerance is, I guess, much lower than most folks, I just repeatedly end up being the overlooked dead canary in the coal mine of a customer a few years before other people finally go “Wow, this company is fucking evil and I am not going to support it anymore.”

I’ve tried not to buy new product for this game for the last 5 years, and tried to build experiences that don’t need new input to manage my interest while giving as little money as possible to anyone that is not a local game store. But, it’s become a key point of social interaction with a lot of people and scratches some itches in my brain, so I just try to limit my involvement these days and not support it directly – Because it’s extremely isolating and exacerbates my baseline level of loneliness to opt-out or try and explain things every time it comes up instead of just playing with people.

Storm Count 2: State Based Actions

This is a placeholder for where to put all of the shitty things that Hasbro has done with their brands.

Honestly a good start is probably Tolarian Community College, and it almost doesn’t matter which product video you pick from the last 5 years… And the professor is a fan who wants the game to continue.

30 years: The Mock(s) Anniversary

Long past my own limit for tolerating Hasbro, one of the more recent flare-ups has been the 30th Anniversary product. The key sins here are:

  • $1000 price tag for 4 x 15 card boosters
  • Not even “tournament” cards just proxies
  • Randomized packs, extremes of the uneven ‘Lotto ticket’ booster mentality

100% agree with Prof here. If they’d just let people draft beta proxies at normal prices it would have been an incredible product. Even if they’d gone with Masters-level prices this would have worked probably. Well, worked from a PR perspective, I’m sure WOTC sells enough of these to make bank.

Worlds Beyond Reasonably Priced

A lot of issues with these crossovers. The premium priced cards at unique events thing was kind of tolerable. Secret Lairs getting new, Eternal legal cards was really too far. Shoving crossovers into your basic products is just really stupid.

Storm Count 3: Removal

Here’s the shit I’ve tried to do to not give Wizards money and how it ends up happening to me.

1. Going Infinite.

I recently combed through my (at the time quite meager, contained) collection and pulled out things with moderate value to sell. The idea was that I’d do some upgrades, only buy singles, and use this to moderate spending by forcing myself to liquidate ever more obscure and inexpensive pieces to expand at all. I got about 60 bucks in credit, after spending about that much to play with some friends.

However, I recently took in a much larger collection of cards from another local friend. I ignorantly thought that huge heaps of cards to peruse would be enticing for several new players I knew and might replace some of the excitement of new sealed product. That hasn’t happened, but I did luck into a cache of Antiquities cards. I plan to sell about half of these for store credit, and the other half for cash…. and only purchase singles, from the local store, using that pool of funds.

2. Build self-contained experiences.

I’m pulling cards for my third cube now, but I’ve only ever convinced people to draft a cube I own once.

I tried to create a “Deserts” cube for Amonkhet and Hour of Devastation, but spent more time writing some automated tooling to try and measure the cube and guide additions or changes the way one might use metrics for a code repository.

Then I tried playing Arena and realized how awful it was and how it was almost solely a gambit to destroy the ownership of digital cards that MTGO offered. In response I started a Ravnica themed cube, which we actually drafted once, and it was really fun. I just couldn’t reliably get enough people together to draft.

So then I started my Commander Pod – Four up-powered starter commander decks under 200$ that I’d balance and curate, so people could play some cards without having to go out and buy anything. So far I think this fuckup has been responsible for the sale of about 7 commander precons, which I guess seems obvious in hindsight but still makes me just…. extremely angry with myself.

And now I’m trying to build a Pauper Cube. We’ll see where that leads, but it is at least encouraging people to engage with the least expensive format and seems like it might not have the same failings as my other efforts. It’s also just cheap and eminently trashable instead of being an expensive and curated object I get attached to.

The Dead Games Pile Part 1 – Intro + Heroic Fantasy

I’ve spoken in several different places about my various RPG design efforts, and I’ve got something like two decades of experiences facilitating RPGs, including demos at GenCon and a smidge of published writing for games. I wanted to gather together the slush pile of games I have sitting on a shelf somewhere in a single space so I don’t end up revisiting this every time a discord adds a ‘tabletop’ channel.

My RPG Background

I started playing That Fantasy Game 2nd Edition with family friends right before the 3rd released, then played, ran, and hacked various games, largely those based around Icosahedrons, on and off, for about 15 years. I took a detour into Live-Action games somewhere in there, and put in about five years in local troupe play and had extremely unsatisfying experience in connected games after that.

Sometime around 2012 is when I started to branch out much more into the “Indy” RPG space. I would say Nobilis and Penny for your Thoughts were early brushes with this idea, and I was resistant at first but came to love Swords without Master as well. but I fell rather hard for Spirit of the Century and really FATE core in general, so a lot of my design space for making games “from the ground” after I discarded the twenty-sided systems build from there.

While part of me feels like the “Technology” of games has moved past FATE (See: Apocalypse World, Blades in the Dark) I have not really wrapped my head around the design side of those technologies to where I feel comfortable freewheeling in it. I have also not had the impetus to rebuild the games I designed during that FATE heavy period with newer tools, even though I do think they’re pretty good fits for these ideas.

Long-form Heroic Fantasy Campaigns

I have two high fantasy campaign concepts which I can’t shake off my attachment to. I have not really found a place to put them – They were conceived of and run in That Fantasy Game and Pathfinder, and while those were adequate toolkits, the things those games focus on always felt like a distraction from the stories I wanted those worlds to be about, and the choices I wanted to spend time on. But at the same time, the limitations and crunch of those games informed many of the decisions I made.

Both games shamelessly stole my friend’s concept for a supplemental system called Destinies – The GM created a pile of characters, about two per player, who each had a background hooked into the world, a series of secret-but-rarely-antagonistic goals that would grant new and unique capabilities, and usually some kind of central choice, with benefits for leaning one way or the other when asked to make decisions.

Both games also leaned heavily on different survival challenges, and followed a ratcheting difficulty – Players found new tools and created new procedures to survive either ever colder climes or more arid, hostile wastes as they journeyed across the world seeking out a mysterious antagonistic force. In both cases, once the party’s procedures got good enough, their competence was assumed and the challenge handwaved until conditions changed.

Dreams of Ice and Madness

As part of a team of heroes gathered from across worlds, my friend outlined the tale of a barbarian who escaped from a world trapped in an ice age by confronting the supernatural power which sought to freeze the world. However, the freezing power lurked as a memetic hazard, and was rebuilt when the hero left to travel to other worlds.

The party were adventurers who lived in the last unfrozen lands near the world’s pole, who grew up during the “thaw” created by the hero’s victory, and as they come of age, and ice sets in once more, set off to follow in his footsteps and see the task completed.

The cold is the enemy here of course, but along the way each character gets chances to shine and get pulled between their two poles –

  • A barbarian caught between tribal traditions of animist worship and disciplined martial arts,
  • A sorcerer deciding whether to study the elements or follow the dominating footsteps of the Fae
  • A druid who worships a fiend of ice for survival but dreams of freeing nature from its grasp

Forsaken Sands

Heroic Fantasy worlds seem to exist on a continuum of abundance. You can see that some of them are full of great magic and others struggle to subsist, so Forsaken Sands asks what happens when those with powerful magic start to make the same observations, and find their own world wanting. This world is arid and life struggles, so a cabal of mages, who have seen other worlds with vast resources facing terrible threats, decide to join that fight – And seek to gather the resources of their ‘Dying’ world together, abandoning it to take the fight elsewhere.

Except they didn’t think much about everyone else. The player characters are the champions of those the mages seek to leave behind. They were away saving their city when the cabal came and harvested everything, and have to follow, learn about, and somehow deal with the cabal, all while deciding whether their harsh world is worth saving or not.

Heat, but more specifically, access to water, is the limiting survival challenge in this world. There is also a bigger emphasis on traversal and travel, and having to deal with extreme terrain as an ongoing challenge rather than just an endless slog through frost. Similar to Dreams, characters are faced with tough choices pulling them apart;

  • A priest tasked with performing last rites for dying gods, but tempted to collect their power instead
  • A deserter trying to learn the wisdom of the waste’s cultures, even if it undermines their own code.
  • A ranger may take strength from the land with them, but knows those left behind will suffer for it

Moving Forward

For now, these games are mostly just reflections – I look back and think about how I structured them and how far they got towards their conclusions and some of the choices I made along the way, and wonder what form they’ll return in.

I’m starting to think I might’ve found the perfect game for them to return in however…

More, Shorter posts.

Since I expect that this will become a more common way to find my content in the near future, I’m going to start posting a lot more short pieces instead of expecting everything to become a long-form essay.

Partly this is an acknowledgement that most of the places I’d normally post ‘short form’ are some flavor of fractured audience hellscape I don’t have control over, partly it’s just to keep perfectionism and ADHD from joining forces and creating months long content droughts.

FFXIV – Raids, Patch 5.5, Extended Vacation

It’s been awhile but I’m inspired by Recent Events to talk about Final Fantasy XIV again. I’ve been raiding for almost two months, Patch 5.5 released yesterday (4/13/21) and I’ve spent a day or two as a Wanderer on another server, unable to get home to my Free Company and retainers.

I have, of course, also taken lots of screenshots.

Some of them might contain spoilers for 5.5, alongside Bara Cat Dad, Shadow Mountain.

Eden’s Promise – Savage Raid Tier

A few weeks ago, I was invited to help fill for a static that a friend was playing with. I ended up dropping into E9S, and trying to Main Tank. I didn’t do… awful, but still generally made a fool of myself, but that was kind of the point – The static group is a mix of people new to raiding, some more serious than others, and members of other statics stopping by to help with clears. I’d done some on-level EX content (Mainly Titania Extreme and Memoria Misera EX) but not savage raids.

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