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I've been a fan of L5R since Imperial Edition came out and I will admit to more than my fair share of trepidation about the new version of a MUCH-beloved and top three favorite games.

So far I've only skimmed the Beta, reading some stuff at the front for the basic mechanics and skimming the details. I'll be doing an in-depth read in bits and pieces as even with a less than 300-page beta, there is a TON of data to read through and I don't retain info as well as I used to...8D 

Overall; I like it, mostly because it isn't the Star Wars/Geneysys system I feared it would be; more like a bastard-child of both. Roll and Keep + Symbols. So far the basics seem pretty simple. Only Play-test will tell for sure.

There is a LOT more Emphasis on Honor and maintaining ones On. I'm of two minds on this; one its forcing players to acting like samurai, on the other hand it maybe more helpful to some people. Newer players and those not as familiar with the setting and Culture as those of us who have been die-hard fans since the very beginning.

Two Suggestions for the Devs (assuming they are reading this);

1 - The Character advancement charts; only really need on page of charts then one page with the Rank 6 techniques. Save yourself a metric ton of pages that way and save on us having to dig through those sections in the actual core book.

2 - One useful player-encouragement tool I borrowed ages ago as a GM from an old Serenity Campaign; the 3x3x3. Its a list of 3friends/family, 3 Allies/Contacts and 3 Enemies/Rivals. Doesn't require full information; just some general details like name, Clan, family, School, Personality Quirk and how the Character knows them. As a player it encourages thinking about the background and 20 Questions, who and what shaped the characters as the grew. As a GM it provides useful plot-hooks as well as ways to help players buy-into the game by already knowing people in the game.

And thanks for not turning off of one of my favorite game settings.

Also thanks for the Dice-sheets at the end, once I find sticker paper I'll be making some use of those!

 

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Suppose I'll throw my first impressions into the mix as well.

First congrats on the work you guys have done. Lots of effort to get his far.

The following are my initial takes. Like live tweeting, but not live and not using twitter. Obviously not playing through it just yet so this is the picking it off the shelf at the local game shop impression.

 

Intro bits:

The fluffy bits at the beginning are good. Flavorful and concise.

 

The Dice:

Not really loving the mix of roll and keep with special dice. Looks like it might have scaling issues.

Not a fan of the blanks on the dice. I get mathematically why they are there, but it doesn’t sit right. For the d6 would rather the blank be replaced with an opportunity, opportunity and success, or an opportunity and a strife. Change the d12 to a d10 and forgo the blank sides or add at lest one more opportunity & success combo.

Not liking the symbols. Seems like you were going for something elemental then copped out at the last minute and called them other things. That strife symbol is a flame and we all know it. Seems like a last minute change to avoid giving the impression certain elements were bad.

 

Checks:

Step 2, part 3 Determine Approach – This seems like it should be what you’re doing in Step 1. How they are approaching the situation should determine the skill and ring used, not choose the skill then decide what to do.  Then pick a ring.

This section comes across as a very convoluted way of saying: “describe what you to do then pick the skill and attribute that best represent the action you described.”

Because it is coming across as “Tell me what you want to do. Okay use this skill and tell me how you’ll use this skill to do that thing you just said you wanted to do. Ok, then use this attribute.”

The way you’ve written it plays slower and is going to be ignored as people will describe then pick, then roll.

Might want to add a line in the section on applying disadvantages stating if they are applied even if there are no advantages applied. I could see the way it is currently written as people thinking an advantage must be applied for a disadvantage to be applied. Should be obvious, but you know people.

All the steps of making a check should have an in-game example. I’d expand the example scenario presented for advantages and disadvantages through all the steps, essentially walking the players through the process.

At this point into the document I’m getting the impression that Bull S***ing the GM is a core part of the mechanics.

The basics here seem to be roll ring and skill, keep ring number of dice.

 

Not loving that you have to fail to get void, hope more ways pop up later. Though is a nice consolation for failure. Curious if you are maxed on void, would earn void, can you spend a point before earning the point or have the point earned automatically apply?

Not digging that the dice are dictating the character’s emotions and composure. While and interesting concept, this is going to cause people walk away.

I both like and dislike the opportunity uses based on the element used.

I like how it describes the various approaches to the different types of skills. Good job here.

Composure seems like it should be Earth and Water instead of earth and fire

As a player there feels like there too many things to track for the character. Might be better in play, but it doesn’t read that well and feels a bit off putting.

 

Character Creation:

Would really like a one page outline early on in character creation that acts as a cheat sheet or quick guide for putting together a character. Having that reference helps in setting expectations and in making sure you didn’t skip a set as character creation feels like it could become very time consuming for someone unfamiliar with the system/world.

For heritage, seems like rolling should be an option that is up to the player or GM. Seems like the naming and famous ancestor comes a little late in creating a character, as those should have a bit more impact on a character.

Clans, families, and schools will need more time and time in game to properly evaluate.

Not a fan of awarding XP per hours of play. This feels like it is punishing those who can’t game for long periods of time or that resolve and situation quickly. It is begging GMs to house rule. Awarding XP per adventure/game session/etc. And given not for messing around for 5 hours, but for playing the characters and completing goals. This just rubbed me the wrong way.  

It seems like it takes around 70hrs of game play to reach rank 6 (140xp at 2xp per hour) depending on school choice and where you spend the xp. So assume 4hrs a session, 1 session a week, that’s 18 session/weeks (rounded up) to hit rank 6 if everything you spend xp on applies to raising your rank. Get the impression that unless going for a specific build it will take a lot longer to hit rank 6.  Not sure if intentional but was just looking at the numbers. Also that may impact living campaign if there is one.

Need to more clearly spell out how many advantages and disadvantages a character takes and in what combo. It reads as vague and doesn’t indicate if need to take disadvantages it you take an advantage or if you can just take a disadvantage or just an advantage. It reads like the number of each is kinda up to the GM. It is inferred, but not really spelled out in one spot that the default should be you pick two advantage and two disadvantages at character creation plus gain any given by honor/glory/etc. Some clarification in the text here would help. As would that one page character creation cheat sheet.

Hard to really analyze advantages and disadvantages outside game play.

I like that there are guidelines for creating custom advantages and disadvantages.

 

Skills:

Not sure sub skills are needed as a thing. Feels like too many skills as it is. Part of me would like to see the same number of skills per group by reducing each group to 4 skills.

I like that the skills are thoroughly explained, however it feels really clunky. The skills come across as more cumbersome than they need to be given the narrative nature of the core mechanic.

 

Techniques:

Might want to address using action techniques during downtime and what if any limits the GM may want to impose.

Some of these are pretty crunchy. I get the impression that a player will need to map out their character or do some heavy prep to make sure they invest in the right things at the right time to advance their techniques or for many of them to be mechanically useful.

Talents that require you both get a high TN and use opportunities to be effective look like they are going to be tricky to pull off. At most you get to keep 5 dice. There is only one face that is a success and an opportunity, so odds are success and opportunities will be from separate dice. So with a TN of 3 the most you can hope for is 2 opportunities and with a TN of 4, you’re probably only going to get one opportunity.

 

Equipment:

This section feels either too long for a brief overview of gear or too short for a more detailed account.  For example the description for Finger of Jade feels off. Other things have more crunch in the book, but his doesn’t. Is it story based on how much taint it absorbs, is there some guideline. Other places the rules spell out stuff, but here (and other places) it just kinda leaves things. Hard to tell if unfinished or other sections just have too much crunch.

 

Combat:

The various sections for each type of scenario and the slightly modified rules for each gives the impression that you’re cobbling together different rules and that the core mechanics are lacking. Seems like all such instances should function the same mechanically, but they don’t. Even for a duel, it should be the exact same with the rules of duel set out by the circumstance and setting, with the amount of glory awarded for a victory determined by the story, not some chart.

I really hope it plays better than it reads.

 

GM Stuff:

Nothing stood out right away, but I just glossed over this section.

 

Overall:

My initial impression is “meh.” Overall it feels like any enjoyment from playing this game will be had despite the mechanics and large chunks of the book are just going to be ignored.  There is also a sense of desperation to the system. I can’t put my finger on it, but it reads like there is this undertone of fear of losing players and it can’t decide if it wants to be about the story or the crunch so it ends up lacking focus and feeling rather “meh” to me. This is even evident in the Narrative and Combat versions of the character sheets.

One thing that got old was the feeling that every section was referring to at least on other section and that you had to scour the book to really get a sense of how things work.

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Since I've only really had time to study character creation so far, some initial thoughts.

 

Families -  The pigeon-holing of families in the earlier versions of the game was one of the weak points, creating strange optimization issues (a well-balanced Matsu in 4E went to Akodo bushi school, while a Kitsu or Akodo was a far better-balanced starting Matsu Berzerker, for example).  This game actually turns it up a notch, which is bad.  For example, an Ikoma is going to make a pretty good courtier, but if he's a bushi, then he's starting in a hole unless the player wants his bushi writing haiku or singing songs. If Families are going to offer Skill upgrades, they should probably be in a "Pick Two" format, with perhaps 4-5 choices.  Otherwise, there's just going to be a lot of "Stock Characters" at the table, because certain families just put starting characters in the hole.  L5R has such broad scoped families, and this system punishes players who try to play even remotely against type, considering just how scarce Skill points are at character creation.  Who's going to try to duplicate Ikoma Tsanuri if she's starting in such a hole with her Performance and Composition, when you're far better off trying to replicate Akodo Toturi if you want to go that route?  I had a total of 7 skill points at the end, and saw places you might get 2-4 more but only one of those is actually a true choice of allocation.  Those two "Family" skill points are thus almost 29% of my character's starting allotment of skills. That's a lot of points to throw at skills your character might not be geared towards using.

 

Anxieties - Jebus, these are brutal. The characters are apparently all neurotic, and the balance between them is quite off. 

Adversities - Not quite as bad as Anxieties, but at least 50% of these aren't going to ever see the table unless at the hands of the hardest of roleplayers. I'm a guy who likes making off-type, non-optimized characters.  Even I would balk at some of these, which means the average player is going to "Nope" most of these, and there are going to be a lot of repetition. I mean, nobody expects too many players to take "Blind" as a disadvantage, even for a ton of bonus points. Taking it with no offset?  Missing legs. Fractured spines. Yikes.  Disdain for Compassion... or "Can't talk." Bitchy wife... or "constantly dropping things."

Who the Character Learned From - This section offers players very little guidance on how the mechanics work, which is ironic considering it's one of the longest sections text-wise. As it can be reasonably interpreted, it's pretty weak with limited options and will, again, lead to a lot of repetition between starting characters or bizarre combinations.

Gear: I noticed some characters start with gear they don't even have the opportunity to have skill with.  Akodo Commanders and Shosuro Infiltrators, for example, start with a bow.  Martial Arts: Ranged isn't even one of their skills. Also, bow doesn't technically exist in the equipment chart, though one would assume this is the yumi, which is listed for the Unicorn bushi (though amusingly the guy doesn't have any arrows or a quiver apparently. Maybe he can borrow them from the Lion).

Gear: It is fair to add that I actually think the diversity and detail in the starting kits is pretty cool, as opposed to the fairly cookie-cutter way gear was handed out in previous editions.

 

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So now that I have had time to look over the book, and give it nice first read here are the issues I found.

1. Initiative need to be free flowing, a static system was one of the major issues with 4th. It led to players turtling.

2. Character creating seems to be way to one note. Choose this option get this Skill, choose this one get this Ring. Need to add some starting xp to allow for more customizing.

3. Noxious Poison seems to be very weak for what it describes.

4. Have been playing with the die app. Seems that opportunities will be in short supply till you get to at least ring 3 with 2 skill or more. You roll them but don't get to keep them is you want to successed.

5. The books layout is horrid. You have to jump all over just to figure how to play.

6. Rule need some examples. Overall a lot of areas are hard to follow. 

7. Needs a Character Creation cheat sheet.

8. Weapon mod :

Naginata

Martial Arts [Melee]

1/2

6/6

2/6

2-handed: –

Cumbersome, Razor- Edged, Wargear

7

10 koku

Range 1/ Range 2 : The fact that the Naginata becomes useless at sword range was bothering me. As I have seem many demonstrations of a Naginata vs. a Katana, and the Naginata user would flip it around and use it as a BO if they got in close. So my suggestion would be to use Staff stats at range one as above.

8. system has lost a lot of its deadliness.

9. Need more disadvantages. The selection is really small.

I'm sure there is more but I post it later.

 

Edited by tenchi2a

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1. Why not just have each family with the glory bit, and only have the rings/skills defined in each school? 

2. I like how Rituals can be done by anyone, and the book makes it clear that most priests are not shugenja.

3. I like how spells are essentially just the same as kata|kiho|etc. And that some are specific to a school or clan.

4. I feel the need to want to test this with mid-tier and higher level characters, too many systems are built around selling the first adventure, but the real problems crop up in how it scales upward.

5. I dislike the soak roll. 

6. There should be a narrative combat option, especially for games where less than half will be able to fight. Like something where the bushi roll tactics, the other players might assist. Strife in this sense might deal critical damage to the players. But the entire combat is handled in one roll.

7. I dislike the fitness (cough soak) roll. Combat in general can just bog a game down.

8. I'd half the thresholds for the critical wounds table, L5R was meant to be lethal, a single attack should be able to kill anyone. (Let the GM decide on scaling it back if they want to)

Edited by bloodycelt

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1 minute ago, bloodycelt said:

Why not just have each family with the glory bit, and only have the rings/skills defined in each school? 

Families have always given trait bonuses, abandoning that entirely would be abandoning that entirely. It represents the group of people have similar characteristics, perhaps due to upbringing or perhaps due to genetics. I'm all for removing the Clan bonus to rings though, and giving a small amount of starting exp.

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I'm only about half way through but my main concern is with the dice.  There are too many non-success results that I would be concerned a 5k3 might fail TN 2 too often.  I see in the advantages that you can have a chance to re-roll up to 2 dice, but I don't think advantages should be every roll...  I'm just worried that skill checks are going to be horribly bad right out the gate.  Only a few sides are totally blank, but opportunities are not successes...

The other thing that kinda stuck out to me (mind you, I'm only about half way through) but a lot of the combat checks from techniques and such seemed to just give a static number TN as if every target is going to have the same TN...  Not "roll against your opponent's X ring" but just TN 2 or 3.  Does my character not get a say in someone else walking up and slicing me in half because they only have a TN 2 to kill me with an iaijutsu strike?

Edited by shosuko

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40 minutes ago, shosuko said:

The other thing that kinda stuck out to me (mind you, I'm only about half way through) but a lot of the combat checks from techniques and such seemed to just give a static number TN as if every target is going to have the same TN...  Not "roll against your opponent's X ring" but just TN 2 or 3.  Does my character not get a say in someone else walking up and slicing me in half because they only have a TN 2 to kill me with an iaijutsu strike?

That is just the base TN that gets modified by things such as Guard and various Kata.

 

Edited by Ultimatecalibur

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I'm not sold on this so far.

the Strife mechanics sucks. Don't tell me or my players how they should play their characters. Random outburst in Rokugan may lead you to a Kaiu Wall appointment or a white kimono , a Wakizashi and three cuts.

I share the concerns about combat, defense and TN raised so far.

weapons are weird. Range makes some useless. And wtf with Wushu weapons and Crossbow. Kaiu wall aint China's great wall. If it was for better range weapons, just turn the setting on its head and add Teppo.

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Exploding dice happens after choosing what to Keep, therefore adding to the number of success you can have beyond your Ring number.

 

I can certainly see that when you have a high Skill you will feel more flexible with your Ring choices, but at lower Skill levels you will want to stick closely to your strong Rings

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Nitenman, calm down bro, I think you're missing the point. The game isn't trying to tell you how to play your characters, it's trying to inspire and envourage you to fuse roleplay and rollplay. All over is splattered how to make your own this and your own that, that isn't just because it's a beta.

Likewise, the rules for things like weapons aren't there to make odd restrictions, they're there to make more ambiguous distinctions to leave things up to the group. When playing, I don't ask how far an enemy is and if I can throw something a specific amount of feet, I ask if I can hit the foe if I throw my honor. Throw range fits perfectly.

The fusion is what the developers were and are trying to foster.

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19 minutes ago, BrambleLamb said:

Nitenman, calm down bro, I think you're missing the ...

 

 

I'm very calm mate :) and missing no point. Also I have enough exp as a GM to know I can "make things my own".

maybe I'm not over familiar with narrative systems trying to "push" emotions on you. It feels... Forced... And I'm talking as a GM, not a player... I don't feel it okay to imply: Now your character is upset and you shout at the sky... If player wants to shout, he does, if he is keeping composure, he does. The scenario and the situations should provoke outburst, not results of dice. Reading the beta book I see some tech that works on or around strife (lion's it was I think). Seems beyond "emotional stuff" strife is a currency.

Also my point on range is about effective range of a weapon not throwing stuff. like the Naginata or spear at 2 only, so useless in close quarters. Otherwise I like the abstraction of distance and had already homebrewed something similar.

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Well here's the first run a Character creation.

Shiba Shoju

Clan: Phoenix

Family: Shiba

School: Shiba Guardian

EARTH: 2 FIRE: 2 AIR: 1 WATER: 3 VOID: 2

RESILIENCE: 10 COMPOSURE: 8 FOCUS: 3 VIGILANCE: 2

Skills: Fitness: 1, Martial Arts[Melee]: 1, Meditation: 1, Tactics: 3, Courtesy: 2, Theology: 1

Advantages: Keen Sight, Karmic Tie (Brother), Animal Bond

Disadvantages: Bluntness, Bitter Betrothal.

Typical Outburst: Trembling hands

Honor: 60 Glory: 45 Status: 30

Ninjō: Spending Time with his Cat (Makoto)

Giri: To protect his charge no matter the cost.

Abilities: Way of the Phoenix

Gear (equipped): Katana, wakizashi, Ashigaru armor, travel clothing, naginata, traveling pack, 5 koku

Techniques

Striking as Water

Lord Shiba’s Selflessness

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3 minutes ago, Nitenman said:

Also my point on range is about effective range of a weapon not throwing stuff. like the Naginata or spear at 2 only, so useless in close quarters. Otherwise I like the abstraction of distance and had already homebrewed something similar.

Made a commit on this with what I though needed to be changed above.

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10 minutes ago, Nitenman said:

I'm very calm mate :) and missing no point. Also I have enough exp as a GM to know I can "make things my own".

maybe I'm not over familiar with narrative systems trying to "push" emotions on you. It feels... Forced... And I'm talking as a GM, not a player... I don't feel it okay to imply: Now your character is upset and you shout at the sky... If player wants to shout, he does, if he is keeping composure, he does. The scenario and the situations should provoke outburst, not results of dice. Reading the beta book I see some tech that works on or around strife (lion's it was I think). Seems beyond "emotional stuff" strife is a currency.

Also my point on range is about effective range of a weapon not throwing stuff. like the Naginata or spear at 2 only, so useless in close quarters. Otherwise I like the abstraction of distance and had already homebrewed something similar.

I think the problem is in practice no one usually picks a sub-optimal or even downright negative action for their character to do where the Strife system forces that. In a way it makes it more realistic and makes your character feel...Alive. 
 

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Just now, Vutall said:

I think the problem is in practice no one usually picks a sub-optimal or even downright negative action for their character to do

Wow, do you play with different kinds of people than I do.

In the games I run and play in, we're always egging each other on to do that kind of thing, when the right situation arises.

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Players generally speaking will always take the actions to preserve their character.

Let's use Fear as an example instead of Strife.

How many players do you know would WILLINGLY take the fear penalty if it wasn't required to do so by failing a roll? If there was no rule about fear, I don't think any player would suddenly start picking less dice to roll and keep, even if thematically it made sense.

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well. Lets think about general gaming, not just what apply to our group. Indeed even with strife outburst "forced" no one might pick an option to insult a Daimyo, or lose it and run naked jacking it off in san Diego, sorry Otosan Uchi. So if its just to materialize an angry "Ksa!" Or wave your fist at an enemy to shout "Kisama!!!" RPers will do it already. Will it forces non RPers to RP? I doubt it.

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Elemental approach and special dices looks… hard, at the very least. No problem with symbols, but all this huge tables with “recommendations” for opportunity symbols, and then schools special ways to use them make me feel like “So, what I actually can do with them while NOT looking in the tables?” It was quite hard mechanic to play nice in SW, and it’s much harder here. Like some devs wanted opportunity uses to be totally clear, like “you can do that and this, and nothing else”, and others were for the players to do what they want. It will be good if in final version only one of this approaches stay, not something in the middle.

 

Also, some techniques look odd to be, well, technique. Can’t I throw my weapon without special training? Or I’m gonna do it, but with some penalty? Little more out there, but mostly ok.

 

Would like to agree with people who say that it’ll be better to forfeit some clan/family/school crunch-bonuses for actual experience.

 

In the end, I think that elemental approach feature will bring a great havoc to the groups that do not exist in complete unity and samurai-level loyalty to each other. But maybe it feels better in actual gameplay, duh.

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I'm just saying I think it is a clever way to get players to have to have negative things happen to their character without feeling like the GM is forcing something on them.

If over the course of the game they don't manage their Strife, eventually they will have to choose what bad thing happens as their character comes to the breaking point.

Lots of options to choose from too so you can have a healthy amount of choice. It will guide players to think about how their character would react. And at the end of the day if you don't like any of the options, you can make up your own (with GM approval of course)

P. 16-17
"The first time a character’s strife exceeds their composure each scene, the upswell of emotion causes the character to have an outburst. Importantly, the player does not lose control of their character during an outburst - instead, the player chooses the shape the character’s outburst takes. The outburst lasts until the end of the scene. The following are a number of example outbursts, but players can also invent their own outbursts based on their character’s personality (such as the personal outburst they determine during character creation), the circumstances, or both. No matter the outburst the player chooses, there should be narrative consequences, usually both for good and for ill"
 

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The Outburst mechanic may be poorly named. It clearly states it doesn't have to be shouting and screaming. It could be an excited "woo hoo" at the wrong moment, or it could be letting slip your desire to hunt your fathers killer. It is intended that the player and Gm come up with an appropriate action to fit the situation.

The threshold will be manageable too, just as Wounds are in any other system. 

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First impression - it looks good. I like the 'consolidation' of the loads of different dice types in EotE down to just two. 

The mechanics - will have to wait and see in practice. Certainly, it looks interesting, and I'm glad duels are a specificly denoted element rather than just one-on-one melee fights.

Glad that armies can get Battle Fatigue as a standard element - would have liked to see some guidance for PCs ending up fatigued themselves in an extended battle (one of my main bugbears about extended battles in RPGs)

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1 hour ago, Nitenman said:

well. Lets think about general gaming, not just what apply to our group. Indeed even with strife outburst "forced" no one might pick an option to insult a Daimyo, or lose it and run naked jacking it off in san Diego, sorry Otosan Uchi. So if its just to materialize an angry "Ksa!" Or wave your fist at an enemy to shout "Kisama!!!" RPers will do it already. Will it forces non RPers to RP? I doubt it.

It should also be mentioned that YOU get to pick which dice you keep.  So you choose if you get strife or not.  Someone else pointed out somewhere this gives you the hilarious option to sometimes have to pick between saving face and succeeding at a task.  And if that isn't a thematic L5R dilemma, I don't know what is.

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