Spoilers! (Rant)

I hate spoilers. Not having things spoiled for me, that I don’t mind, I hate the concept of spoilers. The idea that learning something essential about a storyline ‘spoils’ the experience doesn’t make sense to me. In a lot of cases, learning something extra about a story can actually enhance my enjoyment of it. For me, my mind constantly guesses what is going to happen. Not accurately mind you, but I’m constantly thinking of potential future events in a story. Knowing what happens switches the guessing part of my mind off and instead I can more easily pay attention to what is actually happening in front of me. My mind becomes quiet and ready for entertainment! I can look for foreshadowing, watch the actors (or characters) more closely, and just get more engrossed in the events on screen. I can lose myself in the world. I can put myself in the characters shoes and ask “what events lead to that ending which I now specifically know about?” Already knowing the ending can be empowering to a viewer.

Having watched The 6th Sense, Fight Club, Seven, and Game of Thrones after knowing the ‘big reveals’ in each I can say that the stories are still really well crafted. The big reveals are implied throughout the story so they feel like they’re part of it (for most of them anyway). It’s not the stereotypical ‘What a Twist!” kinds of ending which sometimes get tacked on to otherwise good stories (I realize the irony of saying an M. Night Shamallonollon movie does not have one). The 6th Sense has been referenced as one of the first spoiler warning movies, which may have played a part in starting this craze. Afterwards there was the story of someone buying that one Harry Potter book at midnight, speed reading it, then shouting “Dumbledore dies!” to the rest of the people in line. To me, the craze became specifically annoying when Game of Thrones took off. All of a sudden I couldn’t talk about the book anymore, I couldn’t mention anything about the episode I just watched in public, any time I said “Game of Thrones” I’d hear a number of voices shout from the store I was in saying “WAIT! I haven’t seen it yet!” It sucks. The Marvel movies have propagated the same hysteria. I worked at a comic book store and as such was fairly broke. I usually couldn’t go to the movie on release weekend, so I’d be at work and would listen to all the people telling me essentially the entire movies plot in one breath. Hailing it as the next masterpiece of Marvel cinema, or condemning it to the cesspool of ‘non-cannon’ garbage.

If I really like a movie I’ll watch it 3 or 4 times. If I really like an anime series or TV series, I’ll watch it through at least twice over. The first time viewing experience is usually the least enjoyable. I don’t have the full context of the show, or movie, yet so I miss a lot of the little things. After seeing how it all comes together I love going back and checking it out again to see how well the ending is hinted at. On the second and greater viewings I can look at the backgrounds, listen to the music, or pay attention to how the director framed each shot. I can appreciate the finer points of the medium, which only become available to me after I know what the plot is about.

“Its not the destination, its the journey.” – Some wise dude, I think

Rules VS Setting

A lot of RPGs have their own painstakingly detailed setting and core adventures which the players are intended to at least read through beforehand. I have never run a pre-generated encounter. To me, over half of the fun of GM-ing is world building. So using someone else’s world is just not as engaging to me. On top of that, using a premade world usually means I have to learn about that world. I tend to make up the characters, plots, encounters, and most other things on the spot tailored to what the group seems like they want to do. Doing that in a set world always concerns me, because I don’t want to contradict an established piece of lore, or character. I use general settings as a basis for the stories I tell, but usually change what appears on the map.The players may be on a different continent than any that are listed in the book.

Everything I just mentioned falls under the setting of a game. Separating the rules from the setting can be fairly difficult, or incredibly easy. In the case of Dungeons and Dragons or Pathfinder, as long as the world you make is in a fantasy-esq setting then you are pretty much good to go. What if you wanted to run a modern era game with the Pathfinder rules? That is also fairly easy. Make up the stats for guns and other technology, decide if magic is present, then limit some of the gear (walking around in a full plate suit of armor is not normal in the modern era… usually). Dungeons and Dragons usually has its rules slightly separated from the setting, at least enough so that it is easy to fudge them to fit into a new world.

The interesting challenges come up when you’re dealing with a game where the setting influences nearly every rule used. Eclipse Phase, Shadowrun, and (to a lesser extent) Numenera come to mind for me. In the first two games the setting is a post human society either with technology (Eclipse Phase) or magic and technology (Shadowrun) having a huge impact on the world. In these cases, the rules are what I wanted to lose. The settings were ones which I actually wanted to make stories for.

Running an Eclipse Phase game in a custom setting is nearly impossible. One of the key features is that your mind can be separated from your body in the form of a digital back up (think Ghost in the Shell), when you die you wake up in a temporary body somewhere at the last time you backed up you memories. It becomes incredibly paranoia driven as you try to find out how much time you are missing and how exactly you died. The setting is one of the coolest I have ever read about, and just writing this now makes me want to play it again. The downside, because of course there’s one, I’m not a huge fan of the rules. Well, I nearly completely hate the rules. It uses a percentile system, something I already don’t like very much, which is varied in slight ways that I don’t fully understand. It’s essentially entirely my own fault I don’t like the rules, but still… percentile systems are lame! The creators have good heads on their shoulders, but my personal dislike of percentile systems makes this game not as appealing to me as others. Though I think I’m going to convert the setting to a D20 system simply because it’s so incredibly cool.

Shadowrun has a similar issue to me. The setting is also super incredibly cool. Essentially, technology has reached new heights and corporations own the world. On top of that, dragons returned to the world bringing Mana with them and re-infusing magic with the Earth. Technology and magic play off of each other in interesting ways throughout the world. You have some pretty cool interactions as a character may pilot a laser tank into a hail of gunfire, fireballs, and magic missiles trying to commit corporate espionage (gone wrong, in this case). Again, I love the setting, but the rules leave much to be desired. This is a dice pool system. Say you attempted to shoot a gun, for instance, you total up the value of the ‘shooting’ skill (we’ll say 4), the value of the ‘aiming’ stat (2, maybe he’s got crappy eyesight),and any additional modifiers (-1, it’s raining. Probably acid rain because it’s the future) to get the total for that skill (5 in this case). You roll that many d6s and total up the ‘hits’ you receive. Hits are usually 5s and 6s, though sometimes they can be 4s, 5s, and 6s. You then total up the ‘misses’ you roll, which are usually only 1s. Then the number of hits minus the number of misses determines if you are successful, and the degree of your success. This system is better than percentile to me, but it can be very punishing. it sucks having a total of over 10 and still rolling 8 1s. In a D20 system you usually only have a 1 in 20 chance of automatically failing (rolling a natural 1), so adding modifiers to your roll has a much more noticeable effect on the game.

The cypher system (used in Numenera and The Strange) is great, they have done a fabulous job making the rules just vague enough to enhance play more than hamper it. There are very few things which actually alter the D20 roll, instead you alter the number you have to match. As the difficulty decrease (because of training or having your character focus on the task) the target number decreases in turn. This makes each encounter much faster to make and run as you essentially pick a bunch of numbers instead of looking up stats and variant rules. In the cypher system character creation is streamlined into writing a sentence about your character. I won’t go in depth into what that means, but just know that it’s really super easy. Making different options for characters in the Cypher system is simple, just follow the power level given by the other options and try not to make the characters incredibly OP (but, again, OP in Numenera is kind of hard to determine). The more challenging part of adapting the rules in Numenera to a new world is all the equipment. It’s not so much a challenge as it is a disappointment. The little items that you can randomly find throughout the world are one of the more fun parts of the experience. Removing the setting from them takes away some of the character they have. Throughout the game characters are intended to find small objects, fittingly called Numenera, which usually have 1 and done effects. Grenades, pills, and single shot guns come up frequently, but sometimes you find something more interesting. Gloves that accelerate someone along a surface, a belt which prevents ALL metal from coming within 5 feet of you, and an emitter which gives everyone around it hallucinations are just the ones which I can remember off hand.

Some RPGs have great settings and poor rules, while some have cruddy settings with fabulous rules. Some have both! To me the setting is more important than the rules for a game. I like learning new rule sets and seeing what different designers come up with for common issues, but what’s most important to me is that the players are having fun. If they are engaged in the setting then, to me, its good enough. It is also important to note that nothing is going to be perfect. There is no ‘quintessential’ RPG world, just as there is no pinnacle of RPG rules. There doesn’t need to be though. The rules just need to be good enough and the setting needs to be interesting enough. The rest is up to the players and the GM.

Abzan Tokens, or Dark Mentor’s Spirits! (Modern)

Main Deck

Creatures (7)
Monastery Mentor
Dark Confidant

Sorcery (11)
Thoughtseize
Lingering Souls
Maelstrom Pulse

Instant (13)
Raise the Alarm
Abrupt Decay
Path to Exile
Surgical Extraction

Enchantment (2)
Intangible Virtue

Planeswalkers (3)
Sorin, Lord of Innistrad
Lands (24)
Plains
Swamp
Forest
Windswept Heath
Godless Shrine
Temple Garden
Overgrown Tomb
Murmuring Bosk
Isolated Chapel
Sunpetal Grove
Woodland Cemetary
Vault of the Archangel

When I first started getting into Modern this is the deck I came up with. This was a Standard deck during Innistrad block and I was absolutely blown away by the new Sorin. He was my favorite character in the lore at the time, and I really wanted a BW Planeswalker for my Teysa, Orzhov Scion EDH deck. He was perfect for me. I made a deck using him and Lingering Souls to swarm the board. I had Garruk Relentless backing them up with spot removal and death touch wolves. It was a lot of fun to play, and this deck is similar. It is much more of a control deck though. When Monastery Mentor was printed I wanted to abuse the crap out of it. This shell was still around, so I stuck him in there and have never been happier with how it turned out.

Sideboard

(15)
Timely Reinforcements
Rootborn Defenses
Sundering Growth
Nihil Spellbomb
Intangible Virtue
Beast Within

The sideboard kinda sucks unfortunately. I really like Timely Reinforcements against aggro and burn decks. Taping three in this deck makes people assume it’s Lingering Souls but then to get three creatures off the bat plus a huge life swing feels great. With Thoughtseize, Surgical Extraction, and fetch lands it can be fairly easy to get 1 or 2 points below your opponent to trigger the life gain. The rest of the Sideboard is not terribly exciting to me. I don’t use this deck in tournaments very often, so I don’t get to test out different cards.

GW Hatebears (Modern)

Main Deck

Creatures (27)
Noble Hierarch
Birds of Paradise
Leonin Arbiter
Thalia, Guardian of Thraben
Scavenging Ooze
Mirran Crusader
Loxodon Smiter
Aven Mindcensor

Planeswalkers (2)
Elspeth Knight Errant

Artifacts (2)
Sword of War and Peace

Instants (4)
Path to Exile
Lands (25)
Forest
Plains
Temple Guarden
Canopy Vista
Razorverge Thicket
Windswept Heath
Gavony Township
Ghost Quarter

This is my primary competitive Modern deck. While I don’t get to tournaments very often, this is usually what I pilot. I built the deck over the course of a year and some change. Trading for bits and pieces at a time. I wrote the list myself, but I used This article to find which cards I wanted to use. The list went through many versions before I decided on this particular build. The one before this actually ran Sun Titan and a fourth copy of Ghost Quarter as a land destruction package. I took it out because it was super slow and not terribly effective. If I could cast a 6 drop and have an untapped land ready to go, then chances are either destroying their mana base won’t do much or I’m already ahead and it is just rubbing salt in the wounds.

Sideboard

(15)
Voice of Resurgence
Kataki, War’s Wage
Leyline of Sanctity
Spellskite
Qasali Pridemage
Sword of Fire and Ice
Vryn Wingmare

This is the latest iteration of the sideboard. I’m not crazy about the single copy of Vryn Wingmare, but nothing else came to mind for that slot and it was the night before a GPt at a local shop. I may run a fourth Loxodon Smiter to go against control decks, but I’m already fairly well positioned against them. If I can get my hands on a second copy of Sword of Fire and Ice then I think I’d run that instead. The swords work really well with Mirran Crusader, so I may end up putting the one of in the main deck and running additional tech in the sideboard. Spellskite{/mtg_card] is quite good against Twin and Infect, so I may get a third copy of that.

Druid Ramp! (So original)

2x Innervate
2x Living Roots
2x Dragon Egg
1x Mark of the Wild
2x Power of the Wild
2x Wild Growth
2x Wrath
2x Savage Roar
1x Grove Tender
1x Silver Hand Regent
1x Soul of the Forest
1x Swipe
1x Keeper of the Grove
2x Violet Teacher
2x Nourish
1x Loatheb
2x Sludge Belcher
2x Force of Nature
1x Emperor Thaurissan

I don’t think there is anything super special about this deck, but man is it fun to play. While it is an original list it is inspired by Day[9]’s deck which he used a number of weeks ago. I don’t play too often, but this deck gives me a pretty good win percentage as well as being super fun. Violet Teacher is a more recent addition to my collection and she fits right into this deck. She makes every spell better because each [Violet Apprentice] enters play before the spell resolves. Soul of the Forest isn’t a terribly good card, but it is a favorite of mine and Violet Teacher makes it playable.

I don’t know what changes I’ll make when I get more cards, but I’m thinking of either adding more cards to activate the [Dargon Egg]s or removing them in favor of another 1 drop. This is my favorite deck to play right now though, at least until I pull a Justicar Trueheart and make a truly ‘inspirational’ deck.

Mauler Fiend

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*Mauler Fiend Noises?*

This model took me over a year to finish. Its still not technically done because the tendrils are magnetized and I haven’t finished painting the other weapon option. I painted a large portion of it, didn’t like how it turned out, then I just let it sit for a year. I finished it when I decided that having a painted model was better than having an unpainted model, even if the paint job doesn’t look good. While the painting itself isn’t my best, I really like the way the base turned out. This was my first attempt at using cork board and I think that it looks fairly convincing as stone in some areas.

This model is still fun to field in an army list and it really ties the army together. I don’t have all the models I use painted, so its nice to have an intimidating daemon-y vehicle thing to run at your enemies face.