Review – Legend of the Five Rings RPG (Beta)

When Fantasy Flight announced Genesys, a generic version of the narrative dice system used in their Star Wars RPGs, I presumed that FFG’s Legend of the Five Rings RPG would be a setting book for Genesys. With the announcement of an open beta for a distinct Legend of the Five Rings RPG from FFG, it appears I was wrong about that. However, there is a lot of the narrative dice system in the new L5R RPG, along with elements from the old “Roll and Keep” system of prior editions, and some entirely new elements.

This review will, for the most part, assume that the reader is familiar with Rokugan.

The Core Mechanic

This blending starts with the core dice mechanic. In the narrative dice system, characters have characteristics and skills. When attempting a task, the player rolls a number of specialty dice equal to the higher of those two, but a number of dice equal to the lower of those two are upgraded to a better die (they may also be additional boost or setback dice rolled due to circumstances). In the RnK system, characters had traits and skills (each trait was paired with another trait, and the character had a ring value equal to the lower of those two traits, but the rings were not directly used in normal skill checks). When attempting a task, the player rolled a number of d10s equal to the sum of the trait and the skill, and kept a number of dice equal to the trait (usually the dice with the highest result). Result of 10 could ‘explode’ (repeatedly, if you got lucky). In the new L5R RPG, characters have rings and skills (there are no traits/characteristics that combine to determine a ring value; each ring is a value in and of itself). When attempting a check, the player rolls a number of specialty dice equal to the sum of the ring and the skill, but the ring dice are different from the skill dice. Out of the dice rolled, the character can keep a number of dice from 1 to their ring value (they may not want to keep more dice because they have negative results).

Like the narrative system, the specialty dice for Legend of the Five Rings have custom symbols (and, yes, those who hate RPGs that require, or semi-require, buying new dice will not like these dice). There are successes, explosive successes (a success that also lets the player roll an additional die, which they may keep or drop), opportunities, and strife. Multiple symbols may appear on one side of the die. Opportunities will be familiar to players of the narrative dice system, where they are essentially the same as advantages – used to purchase benefits that are distinct from the success or failure of the task. Rolling strife gives the character points of strife, which can accumulate and cause the character to lose emotional control.

The target number (TN) for a check is how many successes are needed to accomplish the task. Additional successes rolled are called “bonus successes” and typically have some extra effect. By default, the TN for a task is known to the player.

The average roll on the six-sided ring die is half a success, half a strife, and one-third of an opportunity (one of those success faces is an explosive success). The average roll on the 12-sided skill die is 7/12 of a success (with two of those being explosive successes), 1/3 of an opportunity, and 1/4 of a strife. The skill die is, accordingly, a stronger die than the ring die.

Since starting characters have a maximum ring of 3 and skill of 3, a starting character who is maximally skilled will usually be able to succeed at a TN3. Without exploding dice or modifiers, a starting character will typically not be able to succeed at a task of TN4.

In that part of the core mechanic we see the influence of both the narrative dice system and the roll and keep system. The new element is approaches to skills. Rings are not operate in the same way as attributes usually do in roleplaying games. Skills are not associated with particular rings, even in a general sense. Rather, every single skill can be used with every single ring. The ring being used represents an approach to the skill, or a different way of using the skill. The precise meaning of these approaches varies depending on the type of skill. For example, for artisan skills, the five approaches are restore (Earth), adapt (Water), invent (Fire), refine (Air), and attune (Void). Which approach is being used depends on what the character is attempting to do. Repairing a torn kimono would be an Earth/Design check. Creating a wholly new work of art would be a Fire/Aesthetics check. Honing the edge of a blade would be an Air/Smithing check. Translating a writing would be a Water/Composition check. And something have to do with the supernatural would be Void.

  • For social skills, the approaches are reason (Earth), charm (Water), incite (Fire), trick (air), and enlighten (void);
  • For scholar skills, the approaches are recall (Earth), survey (Water), theorize (Fire), analyze (Air), and sense (Void);
  • For martial skills, the approaches are withstand (Earth), shift (Water), overwhelm (Fire), feint (Air), and sacrifice (Void);
  • For trade skills, the approaches are produce (Earth), exchange (Water), innovate (Fire), con (Air), and subsist (Void).

Put another way, the approaches for each of the rings are:

  • Air: refine, analyze, trick, feint, con
  • Earth: restore, recall, reason, withstand, prepare
  • Fire: invent, theorize, overwhelm, incite, innovate
  • Water: adapt, survey, shift, charm, exchange
  • Void: attune, sense, enlighten, sacrifice, subsist

This produces a significantly different approach to character-building than most roleplaying games. There is no simple “dump stat” for a character who wants to be really good at one kind of skill but not another – the same stat used for aggressive attacks is used for creating new art. Instead, which stats are lower represents a broader philosophical bent. A character who is overly forthright might ‘dump’ air, which includes approaches such as feint, trick, and con, but this will limit them in other ways. Notably, because a character’s elemental stance dictates the ring that they use during skill checks in conflict, a character’s tactical options will be limited by their rings – a character with a low Fire not have the same ability to be aggressive in conflicts when needed, and a character with low Water will not be able to recover strife well when they need to.

Character Creation and Advancement

Character creation in the new L5R RPG is based on a game of “twenty questions.” This is something that the L5R RPG has traditionally done, although I don’t think I have ever made a character using it – in no small part because the “twenty questions” in past editions typically had no mechanical relevance (beyond basics like “what clan are you?“). They were, instead, ways of fleshing out the character’s background, beliefs, and motivations. This time around, however, there are more questions with mechanical impact.

Characters begin with rank 1 in all rings. No ring or skill can go above a 3 during character creation.

Question 1: Pick a Clan: Choose from the “original seven” – Crab, Crane, Dragon, Lion, Phoenix, Scorpion, Unicorn (Mantis and Tortoise are confirmed as existing minor clans in new L5R, but there are no mechanics for them here). Each clan gives +1 to a specific ring and +1 to a specific skill. Clan also provides an initial Status value (higher for Crane/Lion/Scorpion).

Question 2: Pick a Family: Family gives +1 to a specific ring and +1 each to two specific skills. Pretty much all of the families that you would expect for this time frame in Rokugan are present (although the Horiuchi, originally created due to a clerical error in the original CCG, are absent, and the Utaku just start as the Utaku). Note that, because of the time frame, the Agasha are Dragon (and the Tamori do not exist), the Togashi are the only Dragon monk order, and the Yasuki are purely Crab. Family defines starting Glory.

Question 3: Pick a School: Only two schools per Clan are listed in the beta book, but there is a note that there will be more in the actual core book. Schools are tagged as bushi, courtier, shugenja, monk, or ninja. Each school provides a +1 bonus each to two specific rings, a +1 to five skills chosen from a list of about 7, two or more starting techniques (which may be specifically defined or may provide a choice), a starting outfit, and a school ability. School also defines starting Honor. Characters with high or low Honor will gain virtue advantages or flaw disadvantages, but characters will not start at these levels. During character advancement, school will also dictate what techniques the character can buy and what the character needs to do to rank up in the school (note: unlike prior editions of L5R, there are no new techniques/abilities provided by increasing school rank, except for a capstone ability at level 6).

Question 4: Choose a ring to increase by 1 (“How does your character stand out within their school?”).

Question 5: What is your character’s duty to their lord? This duty is known as the character’s Giri, one of two motivating factors that should play a role in their story. It is recorded on the character sheet, and whether or not the character fulfills their Giri can influence their Glory. Characters with very high or low glory gain fame advantages or infamy disadvantages, but characters will not start at these levels.

Question 6: Here the character’s Ninjō, or personal desire, is determined. Like Giri, Ninjō is recorded on the character sheet. Expect there to sometimes be tension between Giri and Ninjō, in order to create classic samurai drama.

Question 7: What does the character think of their clan? Heartily believing in the clan provides a Glory bonus, while disapproving of some fundamental aspect of the clan grants a skill point in something at odds with what the clan usually does. For example, a character from the mountain-dwelling, landlocked Dragon Clan will gain a rank in Seafaring, while a character from the honorable Lion Clan will gain a rank in Skullduggery.

Question 8: What does your character think of Bushidō? A typical samurai will believe in Bushidō and gain a bonus to Honor, while less traditional sorts will gain a rank in a ‘low’ skill like commerce or labor.

Question 9-12: These four questions that defines a character’s starting advantages and disadvantages. Asking for the character’s greatest accomplishment, what holds them back, what makes them feel at peace, and what troubles them, these questions will define a specific distinction, adversity, passion, and anxiety. Distinctions allow and adversities force re-rolls, making the character more or less likely to succeed within the area covered by the advantage/disadvantage. Passion and anxiety remove or add strife, respectively, but have no effect on whether the character succeeds at a check. The disadvantages provide void points whenever they cause a roll to fail or cause an outburst.

Question 13: Here the character picks a mentor (whoever they have learned the most from in life), and then one advantage, one disadvantage, and one skill rank related to this relationship.

Question 14: The first question with no mechanical implication, the player here is simply asked to write down some striking aspects of their character that might be noticed by others.

Question 15: How does your character react to stressful situations? Here the player chooses the form of emotional “outburst” their character favors when under too much stress.

Question 16: Another question with no mechanical implications, this is a place for the player to define existing relationships that their character might have.

Question 17: Again, non-mechanical. This is basically a more specific version of question 16, pertaining to parents and other close family. Yawn.

Question 18: This is a random role on a heritage table. Let me take this moment to note that I really do not like randomness in character creation. The player (working with the GM and other players) should get to define their character’s interests, history, etc., not some die roll. This is one is mostly not too bad, since it is mostly defining things about ancestors (rather than the character directly), and mostly provides a small bump (up or down) to glory/honor/status, along with an item or a point in a skill. The Imperial Heritage roll, however, seems particularly potent, providing a big boost to status and a powerful advantage. And the Stolen Knowledge roll can make a character a maho user (spiritually evil magic), which isn’t that far off of Traveler’s random result of killing the character during character creation – making a character a maho user due to a random roll during character creation is just dumb. Yes, I know it will only come up for 1% of characters, but even if this table has to be here (and it shouldn’t be), that possible result should be removed. I know most players/GMs will simply re-roll when that one comes up, rather than effectively ruin the character, but that doesn’t justify its inclusion either (note that this random result is different from a player/GM choosing to have a character with this sort of stain). /rant

Question 19: Give the character a name.

Question 20: How do you want your character to die? A question that will probably never matter, but you never know.

The character also has several derived attributes. Resilience is based on the Water and Earth rings. Focus is based on Fire and Air. Composure (used to resist strife) is based on Earth and Fire. Vigilance (sort of a static perception/sense motive value) is based on Air and Water. So each of those four rings contributes to two of the values. The Void ring defines maximum Void points (it doesn’t give you any extra, just somewhere to put extra when you gain it). Void points can be spent to add additional rolled/kept ring dice, or activate some techniques.

Character Advancement

After play begins, characters can use xp to increase rings, increase skills, acquire new techniques, and (with GM permission) acquire new advantages and buy off existing disadvantages. Techniques cost 2-3 XP, skills cost double the new rank, rings cost triple the new rank (and have to be advanced somewhat evenly). It is recommended that characters earn about 2XP per hour of play.

A character advances in rank by spending XP on advancements off of a list, defined by the specific school and the character’s current rank in the school. The character does not have to buy any specific one of those advancements, but has to spend a certain about of XP on the things on that list (higher amounts at higher levels). Characters can spend XP on things that are not on the list, but such expenses do not count towards increasing in school rank. For example, for a Kitsuki Investigator hoping to advance from rank 1 to rank 2, they would need to spend 16XP on skills from the scholar skill group, the fitness skill, the martial arts [melee] skill, the skullduggery skill, any rank 1 Fire Shūji (see below), the Honest Assessment technique, the Slippery Maneuvers technique, or increasing rings.

Techniques, whether gained during character creation or later on, fall into six categories:

  • Kata: Mostly your standard combat techniques;
  • Kihō: Philosophical and spiritual techniques, primarily practiced by monks and shugenja;
  • Invocations: Standard spells;
  • Mahō: Evil spells;
  • Rituals: Lengthy religious ceremonies (not limited to shugenja and monks);
  • Shūj: Verbal and social techniques (kata for courtiers).

Kata, Kihō, Invocations, and Shūj also have elemental identifiers. Most techniques are divided by school rank, and access to more powerful techniques is one of the prime benefits of advancing in school rank. Techniques may also have other prerequisites, such as skill ranks, ring values, or other techniques. There are about 35 pages of techniques.

Conflicts

There are three sorts of scenes in the L5R RPG – downtime, narrative, and conflict. Conflict is, of course, where most of the action is. Rules are presented for four kinds of conflict – intrigues (social conflict), duels, skirmishes (normal combat), and mass battle.

Every conflict begins with an assessment check, although the information is not necessarily useful. It can, however, be used to negate a disadvantage. The type of information the character seeks determines the ring used for the assessment check, and the character than begins the conflict in the stance associated with that ring. Characters can also skip making an assessment check to recover strife, and then start in the Void stance. Stance can be changed every turn, so this initial stance is only in effect until the character’s first turn in the first round of the conflict. If the conflict involves initiative (usually everything but intrigues), it is determined in here as well. Initiative is determined by focus when the character is prepared for the conflict, or vigilance when not.

What ring the character uses for checks is dictated by their stance. Additionally, each stance provides a benefit. Characters in earth stance are immune to many of the negative effects that can be generated using opportunity when the character is attacked or targeted by a scheme (the social equivalent of an attack). Characters in water stance can remove strife every time they make a check (or ready/stow and item, or move one range band).

Intrigue conflicts are fairly mechanically straightforward. The GM sets a target number of “rhetorical points” that the characters must accumulate to achieve their goal (usually getting someone or some group to agree with you, but possibly more direct ‘attacks’ such as spreading gossip or provoking an outburst). The primary action available is to persuade, which is just making an appropriate social skill check, accumulating a rhetorical point plus one extra point for each bonus success. Character’s can also assist each other.

Duels can be to first strike, first blood, or to the death. Each round, characters can bid strife (up to their composure) to increase their initiative value for that round (this is known as the staredown phase). The most basic action is, of course, to strike, making a TN2 check with the appropriate weapon. Alternatively, a character may center themselves, increasing their TN to be hit for the round, and possibly inflicting strife on their foe. A character who successfully centers will have a TN to be hit of 4+, making them a difficult target. On the other hand, a character may take a provoke action, which baits the enemy and thus reduces the TN of the character’s next attack (although not by as much as center increases it). Strife is significant in the duel due to the ‘finishing blow’ – the first time each duel that a character’s strife exceeds their composure, the opponent immediately get to make an attack. And instead of dealing damage as normal, if the finishing blow is a hit it is automatically a critical strike (see below for discussion of damage). Since strife is gained from a check before the primary consequences of the check, this means that the finishing blow occurs before the action – so if a character accumulates strife making a center or attack check, the finishing blow will occur before the TN increase or the original attack.

Skirmishes are your standard combats, with characters primarily moving and attacking. Movement and position are abstracted through range bands. These bands are Touch, Sword, Spear, Throw, Bow, Volley, and Sight (numbered 0 to 6). Characters can, for free, move two range bands at the start of their turn or one range band at the end. The charge action allows additional movement, but is not by default a move-and-attack action. There doesn’t seem to be anything that stops a character at range with a bow from perpetually moving away and shooting. There are rules for several kinds of terrain (dangerous, defiled, entangling, hallowed, imbalanced (elemental), obscuring) and a bunch of conditions (afflicted, bleeding, burning, dazed, disoriented, dying, enraged, fatigued, immobilized, incapacitated, injured body part, intoxicated, prone unconscious).

But the main thing you’re probably interesting in for combat is how hitting something and damage works. A standard attack is a TN 2 Martial Arts skill check. The attack causes damage equal to the damage value of the weapon plus any bonus successes. For reference, damage (deadliness) for a katana is 4 (5), yumi is 5 (3), naginata is 6 (6), tetsubō is 8 (3). Damage is reduced by armor, which will mostly commonly be a reduction of 3 (ashigaru armor). The character takes wounds equal to the amount of damage left. When a character accumulates wounds in excess of their resilience, they suffer a critical strike (and a character who reaches resilience + 10 in wounds drops unconscious). Resilience is (Water + Earth) x2, so an average of 8 or so. All told, that means most of the damage on a successful attack (before the application of opportunity, stances, and techniques) comes from the difference between the damage of the weapon and the reduction of the armor. An unmodified hit with a katana with no bonus successes against an opponent wearing lacquered armor does 1 damage. But some of those modifiers can be significant. Being in Fire stance turns strife rolls into more successes (making die faces with [Success] [Strife] into double successes). School abilities like Way of the Lion (Akodo Commander School) can add bonus successes or damage. A tetsubō, on the other hand, will do 5 damage in those unmodified circumstances (and that isn’t the highest-damage weapon). And, significantly, if an attack is a success, and the character can generate 2 opportunity, then there is automatically a critical strike.

So, a critical strike has been generated, what happens? The severity of the critical strike represents the worst possible outcome for the character being hit. A severity of 8 or higher permanently mauls the character (lost eye, lost fingers, etc). A severity of 12 or hire kills the character, although some of the ‘lower level’ deaths take time and can potentially be healed (oddly, this can make it better for a character to suffer an agonizing death, since the Dying condition can be removed by a Medicine check, but scar disadvantages like Fractured Spine are permanent). The default severity of a critical strike is equal to the deadliness of the weapon, whether that critical strike was generated by wound accumulation or an opportunity. The struck character rolls a TN1 Fitness check using the same ring as their stance, reducing severity by 1 plus bonus successes. What this means in practice is that most critical strikes will end up as staggering blows, since that’s the result for a severity of 1-4. This imposes the immobilized, dazed, prone, disoriented, or bleeding condition (depending on the ring of the attack).

These conditions are real, but not huge deals. I think this means that combat will be heavily decided by wounds inflicted, because of something I left out above. When wounds exceeds resilience, regardless of the consequences of the critical strike, then the character suffers the incapacitated condition. This prevents the character from taking actions until they are healed, and increases the severity of any critical strikes against the character by 5. This means that two typical blows from a tetsubō will drop a character. They are unlikely to suffer any permanent harm at that point (there are longer-term wounds inflicted by severity 5-7, but they can be healed), making the system not terribly lethal (a good thing, in my mind). Continued strikes will eventually kill the incapacitated character due to accumulation of injuries, but it shouldn’t be a surprise that an incapacitated character can be killed. It does, however, seem to make weapon deadliness not that big a deal unless enhanced – and means that the high-damage weapons are mostly just better than katana for actual combat purposes, unless using specific techniques that requires razor-edged weapons (or two weapons). I think that’s unfortunate, given that the katana is the iconic weapon of the system – hitting somebody with a club, in my opinion, shouldn’t usually be the better strategy.

The final type of conflict is mass battle. Mass battle is used instead of skirmish when the PCs are leading military units (as opposed to undertaking a mission as a group during a battle). Typically, each PC will lead a “cohort” of the army (and a PC can also be the commander of the army, if an NPC isn’t in that role). A battle can end in one of three ways – one army routs, one army suffers a morale collapse, or one army achieves a strategic victory. In the latter case, the losing army is able to make an ordered retreat. In the former two, the losing army is destroyed, with individuals in it killed or scattered. So, how do these things happen?

Every army has a strength value and a discipline value. The army routs when it has taken casualties in excess of its strength. The army suffers a morale collapse when it has panic in excess of its discipline. Most units will tend to flee before being destroyed, but dedicated samurai units may fight to the death (most Rokugani armies are primarily ashigaru, not samurai). Achieving a strategic victory is more complicated.

Mass battle is conducted in rounds, much like a skirmish, although each round is much longer (six rounds represents a battle that lasts all day; fighting for longer than six rounds requires the commanders to make TN 4 checks to avoid panic being inflicted on their army each round). At the start of the round, each commander much choose a strategic objective for their army – capture a position, assault the enemy commander, inflict casualties on the enemy, or draw the enemy into a weak position. The individual cohort leaders will then issue orders to their cohorts. The assault command seeks to inflict casualties. The challenge command seeks to provoke a duel with an enemy leader (winning a clash with an enemy leader inflicts panic). The rally command removes panic from a cohort. And the reinforce command makes a cohort more difficult to assault. Whether the army achieves its strategic objective for the round will depend on the results of these actions. Once the army has accomplished enough strategic objectives, the commander can declare the seize victory objective, which is accomplished by inflicting enough casualties on the enemy that round – the enemy army retreats in good order, but they retreat.

Other Mechanics

The overall equipment list is what you might expect – lots and lots of weapons, some armor, and odds and ends. L5R presents some distinctive mechanisms due to the setting. In theory, samurai are not concerned with money, and their lord provides them with the equipment they need. FFG has included a formal mechanic for the player characters to suggest to their lords that maybe there’s something else they need. There is also a formal designation, the “wargear” tag, to represent equipment that would not be permitted in polite company. Characters in fire stance get bonus successes on checks equal to the number of strife they rolled. Characters in the air stance increase the TN of attacks and schemes against them. And characters in Void stance do not receive strife from rolling strife symbols on their dice.

The GM section includes a lot of helpful tables to adjudicate gains and losses for honor and glory. Note that the English translations of the Bushidō virtues are different this time around, eliminating the Honesty/Sincerity confusion (they are now Righteousness and Sincerity), and using “Duty and Loyalty” instead of just “Duty” (so those Scorpion who prize loyalty are finally directly in line with a virtue).

NPCs are divided into minions and adversaries. Minions are not necessarily weak, but they tend to be weaker, and as ‘throwaway’ characters they do not bother tracking critical strikes – they’re either knocked out, killed, or just take more wounds.

Other Thoughts

The opportunity system requires a lot of tracking. The effects of advantage and threat in the narrative dice system can get fiddly, and that might be more of a problem here. There are generic opportunity tables, skill group opportunity tables, techniques that provide uses for opportunity, conflict actions that provide uses for opportunity, an opportunity table in the mass battle section, and so forth. It will be a lot to keep track of for many players, and I think a ‘cheat sheet’ will be necessary for smooth functioning of most groups.

I like the approach of the strife system. Social/mental are often underrepresented in roleplaying games, often to the detriment of actual roleplaying (because the lack of mechanics means that the area can simply be ignored, or the character concept deviated from when not convenient). The strife/outburst mechanic forces players to contend with their character’s emotional state, and characters from simply always being in total control. Making this a mechanic also emphasizes that it matters. Rokugan is a society that values face and control. Losing emotional control matters. And it pushes players towards exploring one of the tensions that their characters will face, between their expected behavior and how they emotionally want to respond.

I hope the FFG revisits some of the graphic design/layout in the book. This is a beta book, not a finished product, but I in particular have an issue with the blocks for things like techniques and spells. Specifically, the heading for “new opportunities” for each one is centered and has a line across  the column. This stands out far more than the actual title of the technique/spell, which is left-justified with a slightly darker box around it. This makes it difficult to find the beginning of an entry on the page, because when I read through the pages the much more prominent header, and therefore what draws my eye, is the “new opportunities” sub-heading within the overall entry.

Long-time L5R players will probably note that iaijutsu, as such, isn’t really meaningful anymore. Duels are simply conducted with the Martial Arts skill (and possibly on forcing the opponent to gain enough strife to prompt a finishing blow). There’s a technique called Iaijutsu, but it’s something you could use in a skirmish.

I think that how players respond to the new Legend of the Five Rings Roleplaying Game will focus on a few key elements (well, plus whether they have a knee-jerk reaction to the system moving further away from the first four editions of the game). First, whether they like the narrative dice system, as used in Star Wars and Genesys. There are a lot of things that are different about the L5R RPG, but that core aspect of rolling custom dice and having the two kinds of ‘success’ on the dice is, I think, the heart of the narrative dice system, and that’s still here in L5R. Players who really like the narrative dice system will go a long way towards liking L5R 5E. Players who really dislike the narrative dice system will have a hard time learning to love L5R 5E (especially since there are even more tables of ways to spend advantage/opportunity).

Second, the elemental approach system. I, personally, think it’s a great way of doing something different that really plugs into the world and permeates the mechanics with it (much as I like how the rings are pervasive in the L5R LCG). But if a group doesn’t like that somewhat more fluid (although rigid in other ways) system, or just doesn’t take to the non-traditional traits, there’s no escaping it in this game.

The third element will be how combat works out, something that is probably in a lot more flux since this is in beta. There’s very little lethality. I think that’s great, but some L5R players want there to be a risk of death with every blow. I think that’s a vocal, but pretty small, minority – but it doesn’t matter how small if you’re in it. I don’t think that’s going to change. But, while lethality is low, characters do seem to drop pretty easily once they get hit with a big club – so they don’t die quickly, but they do get taken out of fights pretty quickly. The critical strike table also, at present, seems to add a lot of work for not always a ton of effect. There can be a lot of rolling just to maybe end up with a condition, and then that probably doesn’t matter because you just get dropped from wounds anyway. Combat is only one of three primary modes of play for L5R (along with investigation and social interaction), but it’s the most mechanically detailed of them, so getting it right is important. I hope they can smooth it out a bit (or, if I’m missing something about how combat works, smooth the presentation out so it’s easier to grok).

 

 

One thought on “Review – Legend of the Five Rings RPG (Beta)

  1. Thank you for the article. I think that damgerous combat is liked by more than i minority, and perhaps you are reflecting your own views on others. In 4th ed. You could chose many things to make you very hard to kill, high earth, high reduction, an advantage and disadvantage that saved you once a session, maho, void reduction. The difference being is you could choose to be glass if you like to, you just had to play carefully. Besides you get very little social “health” meaning you were more vulnerable to being forced into seppuku than actually dying in combat. Also, dying is not a problem in l5r, though i guess it depends on your gm. There are 101 ways to come back from the dead. Possessing another body, being summoned from the anscestral realm, reincarnation (look at the phoenix, easy to keep lots of sugenja if they never leave), more maho, void dragon dbz style, you can be pulled back from the void in near infinite ways, if someone wants you. Practically everything comes back from the dead in l5r so why does the system need to protect you so? The rules also gave different health midifoers depending on how deadly you wanred the game if everyone hated the mortality why did everyone play with the minimum health values?

    Also i feel the ring system is way worse, it does not really make sense. Look at it the opposite way. Why should your aggressive attacker have to be good at art? Or your artist attack aggressively? How do you represent getting physically stronger or more understanding of others? My character lifts x weight each day. What stat can i put up? Starts eating healthier? Reads more litterature? Why does only the personality shift not the body? Perhaps i am getting all this wrong, it does not make sense to me. Person’s capability broken down into physical and mental attributes makes sense to me. A person good at fighting with a sword would be able to use most other weapons well due to physical chacteristics, in any style, and not be better at painting at all. Also, how boring that clan amd family dictates your personality. Oh i cant be cunning because i went to the wrong school etc?

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