I took Thursday and Friday off this week. Unlike at GDS, the leave year here is the same as the calendar year, rather than running from when I joined. I had 5 days left, which I could have carried forward to next year, but I decided to take a couple of them sooner rather than later.
I should really work out the optimal distribution of days off: maybe the last Friday or first Monday of every month, so I always start / end with a three-day weekend, would be nice. But longer periods, like a week or more, are good too! It’s hard to decide what the balance should be.
This week I read:
The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison
It’s a book about an unexpected heir to the throne of the elflands suddenly becoming emperor, as everyone ahead of him in the line of succession gets wiped out in an airship crash. The focus is on navigating politics and plots, and I really enjoyed it. Except for one thing: the timescale just didn’t feel right.
There’s a lot of action, including events which take multiple weeks to complete, and then someone remarks that a lot has happened since the protagonist became emperor a month ago. It’s supposed to reinforce how hectic and fast-paced everything is, but it just didn’t feel right. The protagonist is supposed to be really busy with governing, has several weekly appointments (and multiple instances of those appointments are described, so multiple weeks have definitely passed), and also attends two or three parties and many dinners… I’m still not convinced that if I were to count the days it would actually add up to no more than a month.
Volumes 6, 7, and 8 of That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime by Fuse
The anime goes up to the end of volume 6, so I’m now ahead in the story. Starting to get into the stuff I’ve until now only gleaned from the (not very good) wiki. Things are making more sense in the books.
The story is, like all isekai, kind of trash. It’s just the “white saviour” trope (except the savior is Japanese) crossed with portal fantasy in a world which runs under video game logic (for some reason), but it’s fun. This, Overlord, and Spider, are definitely amongst the better crop of isekai stories: there’s so much trash out there, but there’s also cream which rises to the top.
I don’t really do reading goals any more (since I found it was making me prioritise books for their length, rather than just reading whatever I wanted to), but I’ve now passed 52 books this year, which is a nice milestone.
Another week, another session. This time one of the major factions completed a scheme to launch an attack on the player’s dungeon, so they spent the first half of the session fighting that off.
Frankly, I was surprised they got through it without any characters dying. When I planned it I thought “this is it, this is the potential campaign-ending threat”, and yet they survived with one character getting knocked out and nobody killed.
I quite like the faction system, it’s very simple, and ensures that stuff gradually happens behind the scenes beyond what the players directly influence. I do wonder if it’s a bit too simple though, as e.g. there’s no way for one faction to resist the goals of another faction.
Though, I’m starting to get a little tired of only having player-facing rolls.
Powerful foes get three “moves”, things they can do to temporarily seize the initiative. Without a move, NPCs can only act in response to what the players do. Which has some problems:
- I have much less ability to influence the narrative: I can only react, not act.
- The NPCs become weaker for no in-game reason (I also dislike “once per rest” style abilities for exactly the same reason).
- The players start optimising their choices for “what is safest if I fail?” since they know that’s the only way in which an NPC could try to harm them.
- If a player fails a roll and the NPC hurts them (or whatever), it doesn’t feel like that happened because the NPC is a powerful foe they need to be wary of: it feels like that happened for out-of-game-reasons, because it did.
The 2nd and 4th problems are the biggest ones, but they’re also impossible to resolve. In FitD and PbtA games, PCs and NPCs are asymmetrical like that by design. In today’s big dungeon invasion, as soon as the moves were used up, it felt like the threat disappeared, and it just became a matter of time before the PCs won: which they did. The PCs all have their own specialisms, and NPCs can’t resist their attacks, so if a PC is rolling three or four dice and needs just one 4+ to hurt the NPC, they’re likely going to get it. And if they get anything below a 6, and so take some consequences, they can roll to resist those consequences as well.
I could power up all the obstacles they face, so everything takes more hits (and so there’s more opportunity for the players to fail rolls) before being taken out, but that risks turning the game into a slog. It does feel like for most obstacles, we’re just rolling to see how long and at what price the inevitable victory comes.
Eight sessions in, it’s starting to grate a little.