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BayushiCroy

Rpg vets help

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I love l5r and want to run the rpg. I have the 4th ed book. I have run the adventure at the back my my players had a pretty good time. My issue is that I find prepping for the game so daunting that the game died. I have been gming games for over a decade and the l5r rpg just feels like a different beast.

So I am asking for advice and tips.

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What in specific do you want help with?

 

For adventures - I actually don't recommend starting with that module in the back. On Kaze no Shiro, there is a Topaz Championship module which is a good, solid introduction to the systems of L5R and translates pretty well into 4th edition. Just update the NPCs provided using the new edition. Additionally, I highly recommend the City of Lies boxed set, with the Opium War module. It is, perhaps, the single best city-based campaign guide made.

 

What else would you like help with?

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Why do you recommend against the adventure in the back?

The thing is I am not totally sure. I've run basically every version of dnd I am completely aware that l5r runs very differently. I am currently running call of Cthulhu which is also not as dungeon crawly as dnd.

I guess I am wondering how other people prep for them. Create their adventures. I feel like the game lends itself to being pretty sand boxy. A big part of this I am willing to bet is I am just freaking myself out trying to "stay true to the setting"

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A big part of this I am willing to bet is I am just freaking myself out trying to "stay true to the setting"

 

You are right. This attitude should be the first thing to drop if you ask me. "Rokugan your way" and stuff. 

 

Also, there is this section in the Core Rulebook (GM section) that talk about the Challenge/Focus/Strike kind of storytelling, you should really read that.

 

Oh, and a collection of generic NPC stats and templates to turn the generic NPCs into specific ones. 

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Thanks for the resource!

Is there a giant document of just sample names for each family? I've had a hard time with that.

 

Here. Simple Interface -> Specialized Names (then choose one of the Japanese Names option or Chinese Names). 

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I guess I am wondering how other people prep for them. Create their adventures. I feel like the game lends itself to being pretty sand boxy. A big part of this I am willing to bet is I am just freaking myself out trying to "stay true to the setting"

 

I used to prepare my game really tight to the setting, but not anymore. Now, what I'm doing is the following:

 

- Pick a time where you find something great as a starting point and at this point. (At this point, if I want to change the timeline, I inform my player that at this point the timeline will not be the same);

- Keep the timeline a backstory where the players can have some info but doesn't participate directly into it. (This prevents the feeling that I'm not staying true with the setting);

- Create an overview of the campaign (Where do I want to start and where to I want to end and a quick idea for what's in the middle - this overview will have some changes based on the idea I get after a few game sessions)

- Pick up or create 1 Challenge / Focus / Strike as the main theme of the chapter and elaborate the main NPCs for this. (I tend to split my games in chapters and acts);

- Pick up or create a few but smaller Challenge / Focus / Strike as act to allow your players to gain more ground on the main chapter.

- Prepare the story on multiple paths that the players may pick, prepare some story driven rolls (with consequences based on the results).

- Finally prepare some individual backstory for each player (I tend to give these on a paper, so it doesn't slow down the pace of the game and this is something that my players enjoy the most because it's individual story that, even if they don't fully interact, they gain some stuffs or has some individual information on the current chapter or when I feel more twisted information on an upcoming chapter).

 

That's how I'm doing. I'll admit, it's a bit hardcore and it needs time to get used to it. My game sessions usually last 6 hours and I need at least 20 hours of preparation. Seems a lot but I just like doing it, so I don't mind. Is my way applicable for everyone, nope! It's one way of building a game and there's other way. Right now, my game is on pause, because one of my player just got a baby, so I want to let her some time to recover. But the hardest part for me is to make sure that I fill up my game session since I wanted an investigation based game, with a 1 battle each 3 game sessions. Knowing that a combat usually fills a lot of time in a game session, I have to fill it up with something else, like puzzles, enigmas, social intrigues, social "battle", etc.

 

That's being said, I have to admit that I'm doing a little too much preparation, but I just like doing it so I don't mind. My players like it just because they know that I'm well prepared and nothing is there for no reasons.

 

Now for the advices, because that was basically just answering to "How do I prepare my games?". The best advice I'll give is let the main story be a backstory. I used to think that letting the player live the main story is a good thing but after a while, I find out that it's not that fun.

 

The second advice is, be wild. Do not be afraid to create, to send your player into obscure part of Rokugan or even outside of Rokugan. It may seem weird but this will allow you to create without feel sandboxed. Pick a small village with very few information in the L5R Story and place your players in it, you'll feel the freedom that you seems to lack. Or even, pick the Exploration Era and send them as the very first team to explore the Ivory Kingdom and let them settle a campment in that, unknown region.

 

My third advice, have fun. It's useless to have a game where you don't have fun. Sure it's always better as a player, but don't be afraid to add a few stuffs. Something that I really enjoy and that my players like that too, is to stop using the TN system as a binary system. If they roll really low, make this a critical failure, they roll a little under the requested TN, let it pass but with a negative consequences, they roll really high, give them something more. This is a small thing to add, yet so easy and it will change the dynamic soo much.

 

My last advice is, start in your zone of confort. Don't start right away outside of your zone of confort, start to get out of it once you feel that you have full control on your game. Then you can get out of it, but little at a time. For example, if you're not good to create an investigation, don't start with a big investigation scenario... If you're not good with high honored character, create your game around low honored characters. Build around your strength and explain this to your player, specially if you limit their choice of characters.

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Good advice on this thread. Seriously.

 

Regarding why I recommend Topaz Championship over the module in the back of the Core book is because Topaz Championship literally serves as a tutorial for L5R RPG for players unfamiliar with the rules and the setting. It lets all the PCs interact with each of the Great Clans, gives you a reason to have a multi-clan group hang out, and runs you through the mechanics of the Roll & Keep system with several "Raise or Bust" situations.

 

Other than that, Crawd and AtoMaki have hit on all the major points I would have mentioned.

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I'm on my phone so forgive the formatting.

Thank you so much you guys. As I suspected, a large part of it is just taking control of the setting and running it. Not letting it run me, so to speak. I appreciate the advice and while it was stuff I had suspected, it's nice to have it affirmed by people who are clearly more comfortable with the system than I am. I was introduced to Rokugan through the card game first, and fictions and setting second.

I am going to give myself some time and prep for the game in a few weeks. My last question that I have now is this: I have started the rpg with 4th ed, so what should I keep an eye out for when converting old scenarios? I am certain I'll be able to do it, just wondering what I should keep in mind since I only know 4th.

I'll give the topaz championship a look. Oh, I guess I have another question. Do you guys tend to try to have your party all be bushi or courtiers or whatever depending on the campaign? I assume not and just let players be what they want but there seems to be very clear role deliniation, in at least what certain characters are generally capable of.

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I am going to give myself some time and prep for the game in a few weeks. My last question that I have now is this: I have started the rpg with 4th ed, so what should I keep an eye out for when converting old scenarios?

 

Luckily, the various editions differ relatively little. There is a little something around Honor (older editions had Honor Ranks between 0 and 5 rather than 0 and 10) and Status/Glory (these two had a single attribute for some time). Skills might be a problem because the various editions had different Skill lists, but the changes have a certain logic behind them, so conversion should be easy (or you can just keep the Skills as-is - it's gonna work just fine). 

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I'll give the topaz championship a look. Oh, I guess I have another question. Do you guys tend to try to have your party all be bushi or courtiers or whatever depending on the campaign? I assume not and just let players be what they want but there seems to be very clear role deliniation, in at least what certain characters are generally capable of.

 

I'd discuss it with your players and give them a general idea of what the campaign is going to be about (e.g. if it's a campaign centered around war, they'll know they shouldn't all choose courtiers and monks). But I wouldn't go so far as to forbid anything, unless you want something specific, like a single-clan party.

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For adventures - I actually don't recommend starting with that module in the back. On Kaze no Shiro, there is a Topaz Championship module which is a good, solid introduction to the systems of L5R and translates pretty well into 4th edition. Just update the NPCs provided using the new edition. Additionally, I highly recommend the City of Lies boxed set, with the Opium War module. It is, perhaps, the single best city-based campaign guide made.

 

100% with you on this one man. Every campaign I've ran since 2006 has started with the Topaz Championship. In my opinion it's the best Module to kick things off with. Though I always fluff up the rewards for those who don't actually win the Coveted Title and I tend to run the 2E version, I just think it is cooler to have a Fortune bless the Party. But onto Cray's questions. 

 

Disclaimer, I know some of the things i'll suggest have been suggested already but they're good solid things to do so bringing them up again isn't a bad thing. 

 

1: Figure out the Game you want to run and communicate with your players on that end. I tend to run Mixed Clan Emerald Magistrates as I love the interclan roleplay opportunities it brings about. But you have to make sure everyone is on board with what you're wanting to do. Also, might be a hard one to figure out, but also decide how long term of a game you want to do and adjust Awards appropriately otherwise they'll end up over/under powered. 

 

2: Do what you're doing right now, ask other GM's for help, never underestimate peer support and never ever feel bad about needing to reach out for assistance. 

 

3: Keep some crib notes on your PC's. Health, Armor TN/DR. Attack and Damage rolls. I also suggest listing some of their more important Advantages and Disadvantages. 

 

4: Develop or steal some basic Challenge/Focus/Strike scenarios to fill in downtime. 

 

5: Don't over work yourself on planning and preparation, if you find yourself stuck go and check out some Modules and see if there's one you can work into the plot with minimal work. 

 

6: Steal Everything you can. Maps, Plots, NPCs. EVERYTHING. Every little thing you don't have to build and design on your own frees up your brain to concentrate on other things. 

 

7: Plan scenes that showcase individual players, ideally revolving around a skill they specialize in or something major with their clan. 

 

8: Use the Canon as guidelines, not hard and fast rules. Let the players be able to change the course of history (if it's reasonable). 

 

9: Resist the urge to say no, let the Dice decide whenever possible. 

 

That's about all I got at the moment. 

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Others have already given some great advice, so I'll just chime in with a couple of things:

 

1) In addition to the one AtoMaki gave, there are a couple of links to help with coming up with personal names in this thread. I'd especially recommend the Sengoku one for NPCs since it has tables you can straight-up roll a D100 on.

 

2) The L5R games I've run haven't ever been "sandboxy," per se, but I like to start out with a set of NPCs who have problems/puzzles/secrets (the "challenge"), plus a vague sense of how these will advance over time ("focus"), and then tailor the specifics to the ways the PCs dig into it and what they seem interested in ("strike"). That doesn't mean making the NPCs the stars of the show, of course, but one thing I like about L5R is that the setting feels concrete enough to support NPCs whose motives for helping the PCs or getting in their way are easy to flesh out.

 

Like CoC, L5R can also lend itself quite well to solving mysteries with a supernatural element, so GM tricks and habits that work for you in CoC might translate over well.

 

TBH I often haven't done a lot of concrete prep for GMing L5R--think for a while and scribble some notes about what's going on this week and what the NPCs want, make sure I have the statlines for anyone/thing the PCs might likely decide to rumble with, make sure I've got my improv hat on, and that's about it. But if you want an example of a GM who does more detailed prep you might search for Kinzen's GM threads on this forum. (Sadly, the old AEG forums took a lot of other people's campaign chronicles and GM notes down when they were perma-locked last year. This blog has another one that I know of, though!)

 

3) Keep us posted! I'm sure I'm not the only one here who'd be interested to hear how your first session goes, and happy to chime in with further advice/brainstorming help if you want it.

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Do you happen to know who the original author of that document is?

 

It's me  ;)

 

 

What the...? How did I miss that document? It's a great template to have a starting point for some very generic NPCs!

 

Great stuffs, however, may I suggest to add some neutral karma in the Ninja section? Unless I misinterpret the way you wrote the Karma, of course. I'm kinda thinking about Ikoma Lion's Shadow as an example, where I don't feel like they should fall in the dark karma.

 

I'll surely use that document now though!

 

On a different note, I wonder how's the OP is doing with his stuffs...

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Do you happen to know who the original author of that document is?

 

It's me  ;)

 

 

What the...? How did I miss that document? It's a great template to have a starting point for some very generic NPCs!

 

Thanks! 

 

The Ninja entry is for "full-time" ninja like Shosuro and Goju operatives. Special "ninja-like" offshots like the Lion's Shadow would be Dark Kharma Bushi (with Veteran and/or Scorpion Templates). But yeah, the document is kinda incomplete because its entries and stuff need some explanation. 

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Do you happen to know who the original author of that document is?

 

It's me  ;)

 

I hoped you'd say that! This is great material. Very useful, so thank you for sharing it.

 

I was hoping you could provide some of the explanation you mentioned in another post, such as the "Rank 2 Trait Advancements". I assume that's just what is necessary to quickly bump the NPC to Rank 2?

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Do you happen to know who the original author of that document is?

 

It's me  ;)

 

I hoped you'd say that! This is great material. Very useful, so thank you for sharing it.

 

I was hoping you could provide some of the explanation you mentioned in another post, such as the "Rank 2 Trait Advancements". I assume that's just what is necessary to quickly bump the NPC to Rank 2?

 

Thanks!

 

Most entries in the document are meant to be challenging for a Rank 1 PC. Apply the Rank 2 Trait Advancements with a Template to make them challenging for a Rank 2 PC. Otherwise... uh... well, the only other clarification I remember is that the Geisha is only named Geisha because I was too lazy to make up a proper entry name - it is actually meant to represent every kind of "high" commoner like palace servants. Maybe I should return to his project and complete it  :P ... 

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I'd like to add my compliments to AtoMaki.  Your NPCs have kept my game going many a week when I didn't have time to fully prep something for myself.  Work being what it is, having a quick resource to pull in is a godsend.

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Another great thing about starting with the topaz championship is that of gives you a roster of npcs with stats and personalities that you can keep going back to! Rivalries, friendships, enemies, it lens a great feeling of a constant world and encourages emotional investment by your players once they realize they have a chance of meeting the same npcs more than once!

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Hey again all,

So I am running the topaz championship this Saturday with my group. May transition from that into legacy of disaster. Then from there to our own home brew. I assume by then we will know plenty of npcs and have a lot to do.

Wanted to say thanks again for the advice and resources. They have been very very helpful. To try make it easier on me, since last time I had a tremendously difficult time justifying why all these different clans were working together, I asked what clan, or at most 2 clans, would they like to be. I have 3 phoenix and a scorpion. Because he really, really loved his infiltrator.

Other than checking in and saying thanks again, wanted to ask if people had any advice for the topaz championship specifically. Oh, we are likely starting rank 0 too. I think that's cool, and I think giving them their katana for actually becoming samurai will be neat. I'm also doing it because so many of my players are a little scarred of the system and all that, so I want to introduce as much as I can very piecemeal.

Forgive grammar and spelling. On phone on bus at work.

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I've run Topaz a number of times with different groups, usually not only newbies to L5R, but frequently newbies to RPG in general.  One technique that has always worked for me is to tell them we want to concentrate on character first, then worry about the mechanics.  I have them tell me what they think their characters would do, then tell them what to roll until they gradually get used to what sort of rolls to call for under what circumstances.

 

In terms of the Topaz in particular, I've always had it run pretty smoothly.  And, if you play up the included NPCs, the players will get really attached to them.  (The last time, they got so attached that they started playing matchmaker for several of them along the way.)

 

As a setting note, though, it would be really unusual for a clan to send so many folks to the Topaz as representing the clan.  (It is supposed to be the BEST student or students from a particular clan after all.)  However, there's a way around that:  Have one (or maybe two) from the clan, then have another one or two sponsored by NPCs for some reason.  Maybe the NPC owes a debt to the player's family or wants to get a debt from the player's family.  And, maybe the NPC won't even admit he/she did the sponsoring until later.

 

That way, you can plant an NPC you can use later in the game rather organically. I sometimes find it hard to verify why important people would pay attention to low-ranking samurai, so putting them into the bigger context of their familial relations can work wonders.

Edited by Azamiko

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I used the very first version, and played it three times with different groups. We never actually had room for the official story because my players always went completely in character and roleplay gave the topaz championship plenty enough to do without the actual Boar murder. 

Was it Boar, I think it is. But the Scorpion envoy always made enemies of the PCs.

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