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I came expecting to dislike the mechanics and end up using their setting with 4th Edition rules... on first inspection it appears I was mistaken.

First as I have said elsewhere, this is the best iteration of their custom dice to date. The filtering effect of roll/keep allows you to tailor outcomes and gets rid of the mass of overly random consequences that rolling a handful in something like Star Wars generated. Custom dice is a nice way to produce effects beyond pass/fail and therefore this interests me greatly as I feel it provides the best from custom dice while mitigating the worst.

The use of Rings as attributes is actually quite inspired. Generally in games it is the skill that alters to specific needs, a smith may specialise in repairing and be better at that for instance. However in these rules your skill in smithing is a fixed quantity and it is your natural aptitude at certain approaches that defines how good you are at repairing (is your Earth high). Sure this makes 'nature' more important than 'nurture' if you will, but for a game like this I approve of the emphasis being placed on something ephemeral like 'feeling' as opposed to something tangible like 'learning'.

These two core mechanical approaches have made me optimistic about the game and I am hoping that through testing and expansion it can grow to be the best Legend of the Five Rings yet.

Oh... and the time period is an obvious win.

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I can't really say much as far as first impressions go, to me their is a huge difference between reading rules and applying rules to a game.  I often think I'm not going to like a system and end up loving it and sometimes vice versus. A good example of that is 4e D&D, I really thought I was going to like the system as firmly believe the only place where really well defined rules are needed are combat, the rest is role-playing and some basic skills are sufficient.  Turned out that while I thought the combat system was great, it was so overcooked and took so long to resolve that the game ended up being a game of combat, aka, basically a miniatures game.  

In any case the one thing I have never liked about any of the L5R RPG's is the roll-keep system.  To me this just felt kind of pointless as its really not a roll keep system, its a roll and take best system.  I also don't like exploding dice, to me these two things combined create complexity without any real benefit.

Suffice to say this game requires testing and its made for fans, so I think FFG's approach to maintain some of the nuances of past systems is important (like roll-keep and exploding dice) even though I personally don't like it.  I think a beta test is a great idea, it worked for 5e D&D and produced a fantastic game so hopefully we will get the same result here, one the fans can be happy with.

I wish the developers good luck and hope the fans get what they want.

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So: First Impressions.

  • Setting out our stall - we have a smallish group of players who have played a lot of different RPGs (Dark Heresy & spin-offs, Edge Of The Empire & spin-offs, Paranoia, Warhammer Quest) but whilst they have an interest in Japanese and Chinese history, no specific experience with L5R aside from one player who has a vague exposure to the new card game.
  • We only did character creation for our first week - next week looking at doing a duel between the two bushi and an intrigue between the two other characters to get them used to the rough outline of the mechanics, then entering the starter adventure.
  • Our group found the Twenty Questions mechanic long-winded but interesting - a comparison was made with the Traveller character creation, in that you are essentially writing a backstory to your character and receiving stats based on that backstory rather than getting a bag of stats to throw into the meat grinder that some D&D characters tend to be. Not being stuck with randomly generated elements let you tweak the backstory of the character to fit the archetype you want. 
    • Whilst interesting to roleplayers who quite enjoy character creation, it might well be a bit heavy-duty for new players. I'd like to think FFG will follow their standard approach and have a starter box with 4-6 'premade' characters with a couple of simple character advancement options (say, to the end of the school rank they're on) that people can just pick up and use, replete with FFG artwork.
    • The Ancestry being the only random roll in character generation felt as bizzare as I thought it would in an otherwise non-random system (already made a thread on this).
    • We spotted a couple of errors (Raftspeople and Rink Rank) but both of these are already in the proofreeding section.
  • We got three characters done (plus one part-done as one person had to leave partway through) in a couple of hours with people who'd not used the system before and only one copy of the rules. 
    • Shiba Mishiko - A Phoenix clan elementalist Shujenga educated at the Isawa family school along with Shiba Kaname, her brother, who may be a deeply spiritual person and respect the Kami but also has ill-suppressed pyromanaical tendencies and is given to Painful Honesty despite being Famously Reliable and a Paragon of Justice where her actual duty is concerned. Kaname died pursuing his talents (he may or may not have succumbed to Shadowlands Taint) and she is seeking to outdo and surpass him, her Curiosity for dangerous and even forbidden lore quite likely to land her in trouble. To make matters worse, she is still Haunted by Kaname's shade, especially when at the contents of her scroll case, and occasionally her more trusted friends may be subjected to rather odd one-sided arguments where Kaname's shade is clearly criticising her intended method of invoking the spirits, she is pointing out that she's not the one who died as a result of an inelegantly botched invocation so she'll keep her own council, and he is apparently responding that as a result he's now stuck in the spirit world and can talk to the spirits directly so listening would be sensible. She accepts this somewhat odd state of affairs as perfectly normal - her family having been given to the supernatural ever since their ancestor, a powerful but low-born wise woman, was Elevated For Service to the ranks of the Phoenix Clan. She has been attached to the Emerald Magistrature as an aide - not exactly an expert - in the supernatural (and with the combination of a fixation on justice, low-born origins, medical skill - it seems that whatever character she generates always ends up as the medic! - and extremely inapprporiate honesty, she essentially sees her character as a sort of Rokugani analogue to Granny Weatherwax).
    • Hida Takeshi - Every RPG character is generally a (somewhat idealised) self-portrait, but Takeshi more so than most. As a character representing a prospective prison guard, current nightclub bouncer and defensive lineman for the county American football team, a Hida-born, Hida trained defender with a Large Stature and an Otsuchi hits every crab clan stereotype fairly hard, right down to the Bluntness, and his appreciation of brute force learned from his Ruthless Victor of an ancestor. Formerly assigned to garrison on the Kaiu wall (at a fortification inevitably now referred to as 'Takeshi's Castle'), he was both in the service of and largely raised by his uncle, the garrison commander, and his close drinking friends, which has lead to a passion for Sake and for Wordplay (somewhat more successful at the former than the latter given his blunt nature) and a tendancy to Irrepressible Flirtation. Raised on heroic (if slightly inebriated) boasts, his one break with Crab Clan traditions is that he has rather more of a hunger for glory than the classic Crab stereotype, and he hopes assignment as a yojimbo to a local Emerald Magistrate will offer that opportunity, whilst his uncle mostly hopes he'll become a bit more cultured from the experience (given the description of the wall, he seems to be aiming for a Rokugani version of Game Of Thrones' Tormund).
    • Akodo Tsubasa - a totally-not-illegitimate son of a minor branch of the Lion Clan's ruling family, Tsubasa's life choices have essentially been a raised middle finger to the Akodo family in general and his cousin (his Sworn Enemy, who conspired to deny him a place at the Akodo War College on the grounds of his tendancy to skulduggery) in particular , making no secret of his Intolerance for the lot of them. He sought entry to, and by the Compassion of one of the Senseis was able to study at, the Crane Clan's Kakita Duellist's School, where he acquired a fervent passion for Armament both as smith and wielder, his Quick Reflexes and is a Paragon of Mindfulness thanks to his mentor and trying to live up to the Wondrous Work of an ancestor. His Sashimono, given his name, has a Pixiu (a winged lion) as his Mon, with no 'proper' Lion clan heraldry, and whilst he has accepted his duty of acting as yojimbo to an Emerald Magistrate in the southlands, he somewhat resents being in the back end of nowhere given the limited chances for a truly glorious duel. He alone of the three of them has an attendant, who (due to Me, Mishiko's player (my wife), and Takeshi's player and his partner all having been to see Spamalot recently) has already been christened 'Patsy' and the question of acquiring him a pair of coconut shells has been raised.

 

 

TL: DR (actual beta test comments!)

  • We had a few observations on the rules from character creation:
    1. A samurai will be equipped in the way which best suits their skills and inclination, so receiving most of your gear from your choice of school makes sense. Your wealth, however, will come from either your personal estates or your families, so receiving your starting Koku from your choice of family, not school, would make sense. Tsubasa is meant to be a more-or-less penniless minor family member who got accepted by the Kakita school through a combination of his own skills and other's charity, but if he wants to be an Iaijutsu duellist, he ends up with twice the starting wealth of the next richest party member, which doesn't really fit the intent of the character.
    2. The travelling pack is an interesting catch-all of stuff the party might want, and by comparing notes and co-operating, the party can cover most things they might need. However, whilst we've got flint & tinder, a cooking pot, a pestle and mortar, some spices, a cooking knife, bottles of sake and liquer, rations, chopsticks, and flasks and cups for the drink....the travelling pack doesn't include any options for crockery (soshun rice bowls or similar) to actually eat out of.  
    3. Part of the Painful Honesty disdvantage mechanic seems wierd.
      • "You cannot lie directly, and though you can tell or abet indirect lies or lies of omission, you don’t enjoy it." is in the 'flavour text', and seems to encapsulate the idea well.
      • "When you have the chance to show off your cleverness or slyly insult someone, you take it, even if you gain nothing from it." doesn't seem to match this as a forced behaviour. If anything, the last sentance of the flavour text seems a better 'forced behaviour' bullet point. Why should someone who doesn't like dishonesty apparently default to being sly?
    4. Tsubasa's attendant could do with a corresponding NPC stat set, because if he's following this lot around he's going to be in danger sooner or later. He's not going to be an Ashigaru or other actual fighter, but nor does the 'peasant' seem to fit. If he's assigned to a graduate of the Duellist's school, some sort of skill at attending to the Akodo swordsman's weapons and armour might not be unreasonable - and at the very least 'shoddy farm equipment' is unlikely.
Edited by Magnus Grendel

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First impressions:

While some things appear to have been streamlined, others appear to have been convoluted. While all math seems to have been removed, simply making a die roll appears to be a 5 or 6 step process involving wu-xing and psychology, what with choosing your elemental approach and applying whether or not your inner anxiety adds or subtracts to your totals. The elemental approaches themselves appear to be almost too simplistic. (As a hypothetical, what element would you approach with to try to calm another player down through dialogue? Air implies a trick, and Earth implies reason, neither of which necessarily apply. Would you use Fire (incite) to un-incite? hmm.) The psychology as it relates to advantages and such has been mostly pretty streamlined in to types of bonuses or drawbacks, so, that seems nice at first. Hopefully not too much flavour is lost in the process.

Why on the Kami's green Earth you would discard the majestic perfection of the 10D10 Roll/Keep system (the single most elegant and controllable system I've ever encountered) with a bunch of wacky dice with wacky symbols is beyond me.

The Outburst and Strife system has me scratching my head. While conceptually very interesting as a mechanic, I found it almost insulting to the calibre of my PCs. My knee-jerk was "Don't try to make me tell my players how to act. They understand their own characters." Upon thinking about it, my reaction has cooled to "I like when I am playing a game, not when a game is playing me." Being told that your character is out of control can be a frustrating hoop to have to jump through - in addition to the rather complex psychology that the sheets can represent. More playtesting will determine whether or not my fears are justified, but for the moment the whole thing has got me cringing. Hopefully it winds up workable and fascinating rather than forceful and clunky.

I must admit that I almost wrote this entire edition off when I saw the Career Advancement section. While I loathe the Warhammer RPG dice and advancement system - as in my experience it lacks any type of control or flavour (If multiple characters play the same career it kills diversity and lends itself to multiple characters failing in the exact same way at all times) - it may work in this world where a sensei is literally testing you to make sure that you meet the requirements to advance in your school. Also, you can spend XP on things that aren't part of your school, so that's pretty decent. This could work.

Little bit of a rollercoaster ride here. L5R 4th ed is probably my favourite system of all time so any changes are scary at first. Some of this looks pretty neat, while I find a good handful very curious indeed.
 

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Personal reflections after a couple days to absorb the rules, create characters, and do a few simple roleplaying test-runs with friends online....

 

The Good

-The dice mechanics are actually really straight forward in practice. And it does feel that the system is balanced for beginning characters. That there are really only four symbols is good, though explosions, while traditional, do add to complexity. Still, when you're rolling you're just tallying rather than cancelling out (i.e. like in SWRPG). Also, I like controlling my choices and weighing my options with the dice. There have been times I took a suboptimal dice pool to keep just so I could avoid additional strife. It definitely is a wonderful reversal of the raise system. Instead of shooting for the moon with the chance of missing, now you hit and choose how much you're willing to suffer for the result you want. Very thematic.

-Clan/Family/School base mechanics. What I mean by this are those trait and skill options that form the core of the character. I know there's been some debate by people who don't like family giving preset skills. I personally like it as a representation of just generic knowledge that any member of that Clan/Family should know just by virtue of that culture. Like a more concrete version of the clan knowledge sidebars. These give a very definite feel to the Clans/Families, and then schools end up being more flexible (which they always have been since most had 1-3 skills you chose anyway).

-Preset school abilities. I like the feel of the preset abilities for Rank 1 and Rank 6 characters. They are thematic and give a good flavor to the school, and tend to manipulate the way techniques are utilized by the school, which is an interesting metasystem.

-Technique mechanics. Thus far I really love the mechanics that the techniques employ and their types. I love the concept of rough equivalents of bushi techniques (kata), courtier techniques (shuiji), monk techniques (kiho), shugenja techniques (invocations), and generic (spiritual) techniques (rituals). They do what I want them to do, but simultaneously don't feel like they overshadow any other. The shugenja can do some amazing things, but they also have to make checks in order to do them and may suffer backlash. Meanwhile monks can do very similar things, but only have 1 thing active at a time. Bushi are definitely the stars of combat. Even with offensive kiho and invocations, kata really manipulate the combat system and if clan specific kata like those shown are any indication of clan-specific kata we're not seeing, then bushi are going to be wonderful masters of martial arts.

-Speaking of which, combat. While there is some worry about the TN 2 to hit anyone, reading through the techniques has me believing that stagnant TNs to Hit will not be a concern. True, some schools start off better than others in that respect, but the openness of technique purchase seems to provide players with options to mitigate damage, avoid being hit, and apply tactics to deny your opponent attack options. And that's outside of the basic stances which themselves are small, but potent benefits that I believe are quite balanced amongst themselves.

 

The Iffy

- Number of Techniques. These are a mixed blessing, and are where I can see the dreaded parallels to 4e D&D. Unlike the easy talent trees of SWRPG that give us options to choose from to enhance our character, this system is a bit more open-ended. Freedom of choice is good, but I know for some it might be overwhelming. While I like the technique system personally, I can see it being difficult to grasp for new players to the game. The sheer volume of techniques, and each school getting access to 3 different kinds is a little daunting. Now the talents system is really no better in terms of sheer volume of abilities than the techniques system, but there's something about the tree structure that gave it a kind of orderliness. I dunno. I really can't make up my mind about which way I prefer or whether there's really no difference at all in terms of complexity.

 

The Bad

- Rules formatting. What I mean is the really quite convoluted way that the dice and character creation system are set up. Now they're inteligable enough, but the initial dice mechanics make the rolling system seem so complicated when it's not. Also, it does put the cart before the horse, so to speak. It really should be the players describing their approach and then the GM/Player together determining the appropriate Ring/Skill to roll for that approach. Rather than tailoring your approach to the dice pool.

But otherwise, it's just a complicated way of saying "Choose your ring. Choose your skill. Check advantages and disadvantages for modifiers to the pool. Then roll, and tally results." I get that rules lawyers exist, but even this seems excessive. It's, ironically, clarity to the point of confusion.

The same for character creation. As others have pointed out, a simple outline of the steps would be helpful for any new player, with the question and what it provides mechanically (if anything).  And the advancement tables should really be with their school. That way you have all of your school information (aside from technique specifics which really do need to be separated out into their own chapter) in one place.

Otherwise it's fairly straight-forward.

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First impressions - after just working through character creation:

  • The 20 Questions approach is good, but really needs a single sheet to streamline it.   4 pages of auxiliary character sheet just for Character creation is excessive.
    • Character creation as back-story is a fantastic tool.
    • The Adversities and disadvantages in particular are really not weighted well - there are some of considerable penalty compared to others.
    • Questions 9-13 would probably benefit from re-balancing the advantages and disadvantages, and requiring a certain number of (experience?) points be spent/accrued.
  • The skill options for families seem to be too constrained, and will lead to cookie cutter characters until some serious XP is spent.   Maybe chose 2 skills from a list of 3-4?
  • The layout is annoying - specifically:
    • working through questions 5 and 6 but having the sections on Giri and Ninjo more than 10 pages away;
    • working through questions 7 and 8 again more than 10 pages away from the clan descriptions
  • Question 7 - Fundamental disagreements with your clan's ethos should not result in one specific skill - surely not all misfit Dragons will go to sea?
  • Anxieties and Outbursts - from a role playing perspective look really cool.   But the mechanics need to be a lot clearer, and as others are saying, probably renamed.   
    • For novice players, the Anxieties really need to be more clearly explained in the context of the social fabric of the Rokugan setting.   Context is everything - and these look seriously debilitating.
    • The detail of Outbursts needs to be fleshed out some more - already on forums I've read some people interpret these as "a woo hoo at an inappropriate time" (which may have significant consequences) but I'm struggling to see how that is at all in the same spirit as p.19's "Compromise (or Flee)" - which always costs 3 Honour, and may see a PC exit a scene in terror!
  • Question 18 needs to be asked earlier - and table 2-1 needs work:
    • If heritage is going to have a significant contribution to your character, you either need to be able to full mould it yourself (choosing between two dice rolls doesn't count), or the random effects need to be known earlier in the character creation process.
    • There being one, and only one, random dice roll in the whole CC process seems out of step with the rest of it.
    • There being one, and only one, reference to rolling a d10 in the whole book is really weird.   If you are going to keep a dice roll, maybe stick to the custom d12 you are using everywhere else?

But... I really like what I've read.   I love doing Character creation as back-story, it just needs some tweaks.

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54 minutes ago, Jedirev said:

The Adversities and disadvantages in particular are really not weighted well - there are some of considerable penalty compared to others.

They are self-balancing the more often they come up the more often you gain void from them.

54 minutes ago, Jedirev said:

The detail of Outbursts needs to be fleshed out some more - already on forums I've read some people interpret these as "a woo hoo at an inappropriate time" (which may have significant consequences) but I'm struggling to see how that is at all in the same spirit as p.19's "Compromise (or Flee)" - which always costs 3 Honour, and may see a PC exit a scene in terror!

The flee part of "Compromise (or Flee)" is less exiting a scene in terror (unless that person is being overwhelmed) and more calling for a retreat in battle or exiting court before it ended.

"A woo hoo at an inappropriate time" type Outburst could have many different effects by drawing attention to the person doing it. Exposing a Weakness and Inappropriate Remark are fairly easy to explain. While Shut Down and Flee could both happen if everyone is now staring at you.

Edited by Ultimatecalibur

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I have not gotten to begin reading as yet.  How would you all say it compares to 1st. edition and 4th. edition so far? Those 2 were my fave editions of the game.  I am hoping the 5e version will be at least a bit lighter rules-wise than 4e.

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At this point its more like 4th impressions, but here we go

I have been through the book about 4 times and run character creation twice at this point, and the more I read the more issues seem to surface.

1. As has been stated elsewhere the range system needs work. its far to easy to close on an opponent.

2. character creation is to static. There is know way to create unique Characters they all just wind-up being carbon copies of each other. There needs to be some form of starting xp to customize your Character.

3. FFG is trying to hard to sell us custom dice. In truth the success symbols are just like rolling a 5 on the dice.

4. There are far to few advantages and disadvantages and the separation of the group types seems forced.

5. Hate to be blunt, but Dueling sucks.

6.the lack of baseline Bushi and Shugenja for each Clan makes it hard to judge the game correctly.

7. Weapons stats need lots of work.

8. With the way damage and resistances work samurai will be braking their katanas often.

9. School Skills need to be reworked. every samurai I have made has +1 in Martial Arts {Melee} which doesn't seem right.

10. Rings are to weak, The system is emulating the 4th ed R&K system, but with less then half the dice the rolls are pathetic. I would raise starting levels to 2.

11. The layout is horrendous. I have never in all my years of gaming had to jump around as much as this game to make a Characters or fight a battle.

12. The strife system is a bad idea. It adds nothing to the game that good role playing or a good GM could not. It adds an extra level of frustration to the game without ant benefits to the player.

13. opportunities should count as a success.

I will end by saying that the system has potential, but needs a lot of work to reach it. If the game releases in this form or close to it, I would recommend a pass on it. 

 

Edited by tenchi2a

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4 hours ago, tenchi2a said:

character creation is to static. There is know way to create unique Characters they all just wind-up being carbon copies of each other. There needs to be some form of starting xp to customize your Character.

I'm not sure about this. On the one hand, a  new graduate of the same school from the same family of the same clan having the same skillset makes sense. On the other, even brothers will have different personalities, interests and competencies.

Twin brothers at the same school do have the following ways to distinguish themselves:

  • A single ring increase from their aptitude at school
  • A - generally 2 die reroll - boost in a given niche field from one advantage
  • A - generally 2 die negative reroll - malus in another niche field
  • Either a second advantage or a diadvantage and skill
  • 1-2 Extra skills but only if you want to be a bit of a rebel to your clan stereotype (which wierdly are fixed)
  • Potentially an extra skill from the heritage roll (which wierdly is random)

So there are ways to distinguish. But are there enough? Should there be more ways to pick up non-school related skills in personality choices?

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Personally i feel that a couple of skill points to put on whatever you want are needed.

Dont like the heritage random roll, since more than a few of my character concepts started by thinking on his heritage (And here after you did everything else, that you discover his ancestry).

One adversity is kind of fine, having to start with two feels wrong. Specially if you want to follow other edition and use the starting character as a 13 year old who just came from genpuku.

Thats what i felt from character creation and anyway, yeah duels suck.

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Greetings from the Sands, Evil-Smelling Brother-in-Law of a Camel!

At first glance, the beta seems very interesting.

The new R&K looks fair, and the game mechanics are promising.

So far we are a bit low on advantages, disavantages, spells, etc... but it is just a beta so they can come up with more for the real thing.

It looks to me than we are somewhat low on skills but the subskills will probably correct this.

I do not know if they plan to introduce more school to give every clan a Bushi, a Courtier and a Shugenja school, but it might be interesting if all the clan did not have access to all the options. I might be a strong incentive for clan cooperation and will help differenciate the clans.

I really like the new courtier, courtier technique and composture will probably make court adventures far more risky and more interesting.

 

All in all, quite good. I hope to playtest it soon to confirm it.

See you in the Sands

 

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19 hours ago, daddystabz said:

I have not gotten to begin reading as yet.  How would you all say it compares to 1st. edition and 4th. edition so far? Those 2 were my fave editions of the game.  I am hoping the 5e version will be at least a bit lighter rules-wise than 4e.

It's a very different animal, though the current lack of school options for PCs and focus on Major Clans probably has it hew closer to 1e than 4e.  It also skews more towards 1e in that PCs are rarely going to have more than 1 rank in the bulk of their skills, although to help offset this skills are much, much broader in range than in 1e or even 4e.

My own take, the FFG version feels a bit crunchier in terms of rules, since it adds what is akin to the advantage/threat mechanic from Star Wars, so rolls are no longer just pass/fail like there were in prior L5R games, although the the aspect of calling Raises is gone, and extra successes above what you need just means you do better at the task.

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I'm really happy with what I've read so far. My first impression is highly positive. 

The way the custom dice work with R&K is great, and it forces the players to make choices. Do I succeed but risk losing Face? Do I fail but keep Face? That sort of questions should be central to a samurai story.

 

I can't wait to gather some players and give it a test.

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15 hours ago, Mobiusllls said:

Personally i feel that a couple of skill points to put on whatever you want are needed.

Dont like the heritage random roll, since more than a few of my character concepts started by thinking on his heritage (And here after you did everything else, that you discover his ancestry).

One adversity is kind of fine, having to start with two feels wrong. Specially if you want to follow other edition and use the starting character as a 13 year old who just came from genpuku.

Thats what i felt from character creation and anyway, yeah duels suck.

Yeah the heritage roll is weird...  L5R 1st ed had them, but they were something I never used.  Its a good thing to have as an OPTION if someone wants some ideas, but I'd like to see this either changed to be more controlled, or renamed from heritage to some kind of karma / fortune table - so the extra random effects don't change what you might already have for your character.  Some characters have a very well defined backstory and character creation shouldn't break that.

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16 hours ago, Donovan Morningfire said:

My own take, the FFG version feels a bit crunchier in terms of rules, since it adds what is akin to the advantage/threat mechanic from Star Wars, so rolls are no longer just pass/fail like there were in prior L5R games, although the the aspect of calling Raises is gone, and extra successes above what you need just means you do better at the task.

You COULD look at advantages as 'wow, I rolled really high over the TN, and will noe retroactively apply raise bonuses'... even though, yeah, that's not quite how raises worked.

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I think dueling doesn't quite work right now.  It's not near elegant enough. Feels like a skirmish with no movement.

Character generation needs a little something else. Just ditch the weird d10 roll and allow the player to pick it.

Weapons kinda suck right now. They need to fix how bad katanas are. It's like they are made of glass.

I think the new dice and the stress systems are the best things about the game. They add a lot of neat elements to the experience.

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First impressions: combat

  • We ran a quick mock combat between Hida Takeshi and a bunch of Shadowlands Goblins (two regular goblins and a chieftain) who had snuck into a garrison and were setting spring-spear traps when he literally blundered into them)
  • The initiative was fairly simple - Takeshi drew with the chieftain (we correctly had him go first, subsequently finding out that the tiebreaker should be honour, so we did it right) and beat the two regular goblins.
  • Since he wasn't on duty and was in travelling clothes, not armour (but had his otsuchi with him because 'you can pry it from my cold dead hands when I'm within ten miles of the Kaiu wall') he only had a low resistance, but the combination of resistance 2 plus Way of the Crab meant that the goblins still needed fire stance and strife to hurt him. Since regular goblins only required 4 strife to make them try and flee, this meant they ended up out of the fight fairly quickly (a couple of stabs and some light wounds later, the fact that he wasn't falling over dead clearly unnerved them).
  • You rack up strife very quickly. Hida Takeshi's martial arts [Melee] (Earth) roll is 4 ring [EDIT: yes, you can't raise a ring above 3. Just noticed this today - will sadly have to correct this with him next time!] and 1 skill, and he was eating a point or two of strife every round, plus the point or two the fire stance goblins were dumping on him. Of course, becoming enraged when you're by far the tougher and better fighter is not actually a bad thing, especially since inflicting meaningful criticals with an otsuchi is actually quite hard, and the goblin chieftain is armed with a low deadliness weapon (a spikey club) as well.
  • Criticals are fairly brutal, but fitness checks do seem to cut the worst of them; the chieftain took one hit from the otsuchi and was left 1 wound short of his resilience 7 (6 wounds). The second incapacitated him and knocked him prone (14 wounds), the third hit left him unconscious with a fractured spine (about 20 odd wounds), and the fourth (which is some serious overkill at this point) bleeding and dying. That sounds like a suitably brutal series of blunt force trauma impacts.
  • I like the fact that a level 0 critical still damages the target's armour (and since goblin armour starts damaged, destroys it!); causing "a critical strike" feels like it should still achieve something, even if the target gets a good fitness roll.
  • We'll probably try a straight duel between the Hida Defender and the Kakita duellist later this week.
  • Also - missed minions not being able to use stances or opportunities. Yeah...goblins are really going to need to be in big squads to matter!

 

TL:DR Thoughts

  • Goblin wargear starts with the damaged quality. "If armor becomes Damaged, reduce the resistance it provides by 2 (to a minimum of 0)." surely can't apply, because goblin scrap armour only has 1 point of armour (so it'd be armour 0). But if it has it already included, then the scavenged ashigaru armour the chieftain wears shouldn't be armour 3, it should be armour 1.
    • We assumed the condition is mechanically meaningless and is just there to make the item easier to destroy (because a single 'damaged' result destroys it instead of two). It'd be nice to have a comment to this effect in the NPC section, though.
  • It might be nice to have a space on the character sheet for 'all the things you can spend opportunity on' in a single easy-to-refer to cheat sheet. Page 18 covers most of them, but there's also a table on page 98 that's relevant, plus any opportunities on the action (like triggering a critical with Strike) and any other opportunities from a specific Kata (like striking as fire). That's a lot of flicking back and forth, so a 'cheat sheet' (in the same way the effects of stances are listed on character sheets) might be good.
  • Remembering the order things occur in is important. It's resolve explosive successes, then strife, then opportunity, then success or failure of the check. This is important because they triggers can affect subsequent things. Imagine a fire-stance attack:
    • Explosive success generates more strife than you originally rolled.
    • The extra strife causes an outburst (in this case, becoming enraged)
    • The opportunity could be spent on striking as fire, to increase the severity of the next critical. Since the target might be about to be pushed over their resilience by the damage you're going to do when you resolve success, the "next critical" is the one you're about to do with this strike action.
    • Damage (plus bonus damage for strife) is resolved, and since it pushes the target over their resilience, they take a critical with the bonus severity for both you being enraged and striking-as-fire, which means 'missing extremity time'.
Edited by Magnus Grendel

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19 hours ago, daddystabz said:

Is anyone looking to run a beta campaign online? My friend and I would love to play and test the new rules.

I am desperately trying to figure out how to code the basics of it for a MUSH, because I am that sort of nerd.

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8 hours ago, Jennkryst said:

I am desperately trying to figure out how to code the basics of it for a MUSH, because I am that sort of nerd.

I've built MUSHes before, the dice make it trickier than normal but its not insurmountable at all as that can still be simulated. Otherwise it'd be pretty simply... character generation writes itself!

Edited by Bazakahuna

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So, I downloaded these last week, but decided to hold off on my thoughts until I'd played and tested at least a little bit. Big thanks to MuttonchopMac published the die-roller program they wrote. Much easier than having to memorize a conversion chart and the symbol effects of custom dice. Forgive me for being long-winded. I kinda kept notes as I went along and translated those notes to a post.

Custom Dice: Not sure what I think of these quite yet. Fixed probabilities seem like they won't scale well. You can already see scaling issues at the "entry level" game (more on that elsewhere). There's a reason that for thirty years, many very good games just used dice with numbers on them. It's not that you can't have custom dice, but you know what they say about things that ain't broke. I won't let this derail my opinion of the whole system yet.

Character Creation:

Step 2: Have to echo the Families shouldn't give Skills, or the skills should be selected from a grouping in the same manner as Schools. A PC can start with as few as 7 total skill points. Families providing 2 out of those 7 means family choice is far too important to the character creation process, when it shouldn't really be anything more than a minor aesthetic choice. 1-4E had the problem of making Family choice a little too important by even giving just one Trait increase, but this edition just makes it worse by investing even more "value" on that choice by tying it into one of the game's most scarce assets (starting skill points). While the "grouping" suggestion is a fix, the ideal final outcome is getting rid of the skills-allocation by Family altogether. Give those skills back in the process somewhere with more choice. Perhaps even just as "choose anything" the way XP worked in the old system.

Step 3: These are the best part of the system. I like the starting Outfits despite there being some proofreading errors in them. The differentiation kinda makes the Kakita duelist look different from the Akodo Commander. Not a lot, but the little touches are nice. I'm guessing that the final product will add a couple extra Schools and that will differentiate different types of Clan bushi.

Step 6: I was most interested in the ninjo and giri mechanics. But there aren't any. This section is very under-defined, and it will be problematic for entry-level players or GMs with power-gamer players. We'd all love to not have those people exist (powergamers, not newbies), but they do. But even for roleplayers and not rollplayers, the section creates a lot of ambiguity. It also doesn't really even make sense. Everybody has things they want to do balanced against things they have to do. It isn't something unique to samurai, and the system as written doesn't do much to represent ninjo and giri in a manner that makes it feel "more samurai" I want to go surfing all day, but I have to go to work. I don't have any real personal crises or outbursts at work because of this. Hoped this aspect of the game would truly observe some monumental and important aspects of the characters' lives. But instead it's basically vague and toothless, and doesn't seem to much resemble any kind of normal human struggle, samurai or otherwise.

Step 7: Have to agree with those who have called this section poorly thought out. It's fine in theory, but the final draft needs a complete re-work. I understand the intention and what the designers were thinking, but again, like with Family skill choices, the lack of option here makes it feel really silly. Every Dragon sails a boat if he's unhappy being a Dragon meditating in the mountains. Every Scorpion... gets a job? Maybe make it like Step 8, or just give every clan multiple options for the selected skill. This part just seems... wasted. Especially this far along in the process, since the player has ostensibly already chosen their Clan.

Steps 9-12: These aren't well-balanced, and the inherent tie of the Adversities and Anxieties to the Void Point regeneration seem like they will be distracting to the game, and cumbersome to the GM. Plus, I have to agree that the wording on some of the Anxieties is really poor. These don't seem like realistic problems for people to have, especially at the severity that the game writes them in at. A lot of the Advantages are hilariously useless. Compare Large from 4E: " You are significantly larger than the average Rokugani, ranging in height from 6'0" to 6'3" in height. You fain a bonus of +1k0 to the total of all Damage Rolls for any large melee weapon." and Large Stature from 5E: You can easily reach objects on high shelves, are easy to spot in a crowd, can see over other people, and tend to hit your head on doorways. • When performing a check for which you can take advantage of your size (such as a Fitness [Earth] check to hold up a heavy object or a Labor [Earth] check to build the frame of a house), you may reroll up to two dice during Step 3: Assemble and Roll Dice Pool. So, being Large lets me hold up heavy objects. Or, using my imagination, perform a comedy routine about wearing a coat that is too small. Advantages not being bought for a "point value" means they are all worth the same amount, and this clearly isn't true. Quick Reflexes might save my character's life on a regular basis or give them a leg-up in many encounters. Blissful Betrothal is heavily situational for the vast majority of campaigns. Amusingly enough, being Small Stature is incredibly useful with very relevant mechanical effects, while being Large Stature is mostly useless, lol. Disadvantages are similarly poorly weighted. Many will almost never be used since their mechanical benefit is questionable, and their roleplaying opportunity or mechanical penalty aren't worth the practical cost. Others seem remarkably constraining in how they are written, which will annoy a lot of players as they spend the most amount of time during character creation trying to optimize their Disadvantages. This section needs a massive, comprehensive overhaul in wording, clarity and mechanics.

Step 13: This section is not very clearly worded. It's possible to discern the intention of the section, but this needs to be spelled out. What advantages and disadvantages apply? If all of them, how is this applied? Mostly to help out new players, but also to stop potential abuse.

Step 18: Some people have problems with random generation of heritage. I don't. None of these are character-breaking either. At worst you're losing a handful of Honor or Glory. Some of the combinations will create characters that don't wholly fit in the lore, but maybe that's not so bad and the lore can be flexible. Agree that since so much of the system is already arbitrary (refer back to Family skills, for example) having to roll a couple D10s isn't a problem. If the randomness is taken out, obviously this whole table needs to be heavily rebalanced because some options are really good and others are really bad or simply largely irrelevant to some kinds of characters. Players may wonder why it uses a D10 though. If we're using custom dice for the whole system, for the sake of new players, conversion to a D66 table might be better. Normal 6-sided dice are common and most people, even new RPGers are likely to have them, even if they're just borrowing them from an old board game. Seems trivial, but if we're assuming "Everybody already owns a set of D&D dice" then the question comes back to "Why aren't we using D&D dice for this game?" Amusingly enough, my test character got a set of Heirloom Armor. Cool. I get to pick a trait and my GM gets to pick a trait for it. Wait, there are only like five applicable traits for armor and the armor I chose already has two of them. Unless we're getting silly or my GM is a jerk, the choices are kinda slim. Sacred Subtle Plated Armor it is!

Whole Process: Characters are a little weak. Suggested fix even helps one of my other problems. Start Ring Ranks at 2, get rid of Family and Clan Bonuses. This will result in a net of +3 Ring points. Characters will still get their Pluses from School and Step 4. This makes characters a little better at start, and gives them more variation and customization. Skills are a little sparse and variation is very low. This system is going to create a lot of "PC Templates." There will be a lot of them, but it's illusory diversity since most of the variation comes from choosing Clan and Family. An Akodo Bushi is going to look remarkably like all the rest of them, and the game kind of actively discourages you from playing an Ide or Kaiu one, simply by virtue of starving those characters of relevant skill points. A Doji Duelist, for example, can theoretically be better at putting together his outfit than at swordplay. And at the least, equally competent in both skills, lol. Even trying to play "Against Type" seems pretty limited, especially the aforementioned problem with Step 7. The "variety" in this game will be amusing in seeing how weird you can make characters, but probably be annoying to players trying to actually create a character concept they come up with for an "Against Type" samurai. Unless, I guess, their concept is the same one the designers had in mind.

Void Points: The way these are spent and regained puts a lot of onus on the GM to create situations for the PCs to constantly test their disadvantages. Will be cumbersome in midsized to large groups to say the least. Probably not a problem for 2-3 PCs. Groups with larger tables are going to create some overworked GMs, and GMs by nature are already the hardest-working people at the table both before and during the session. The end result will be a very limited use of Void points because they're such a pain to get back. That's not necessarily a bad thing (Void seemed an overused crutch at times in 4E) but the mechanic to fix that (assuming you perceived it to be a fault in 4E) in this edition is not good. Tying negative outcomes to Void Point recovery doesn't even really make sense, contextually to what Void is described as. This seems to only exist in the game to make the Disadvantages relevant.

Skills: So much abstraction. Not completely sure if this is good or bad, but it's rife for abuse and arguments. Skills tying into any Ring is just bound to be problematic in some groups. Like I've mentioned multiple times (and this isn't a good sign), this puts even more work on the GM. As somebody who GMs a lot, I want the game's mechanics to be an aid for me in performing the story I've written for the players, not a time-consuming obstacle to doing it. The more interpretation the rules involve, the less we're roleplaying, and the more we're storygaming. Clear rules for when we roll role dice are a tool for the GM. Anything else is just creating ambiguity for everyone. Some of these skills have descriptions almost two pages long, lol, and aren't even clear at the end. Some of these skills are really, really good, making Clans/Families/Schools that get free points in them highly desirable. Other skills aren't, devaluing the Clans/Families/Schools that get stuck with them. Throwing a few XP at Lore: Shugenja for your nerdy Hida Bushi is fun. Your Bushi being stuck with Performance and Composition is going to make that Ikoma Commander pretty weak compared to his Akodo cousin unless they get in a Slam Poetry contest.

Techniques: Like with skills, some of these are really good. Some of them are not. This again creates situations where some Family/Clan/School combinations are markedly inferior to others. Or, only good at very specific things, which defeats attempts at variety because the disincentive is coming at character creation. I know some people disliked the clear dividing line between Shugenja and Bushi/Courtier in terms of a lack of "multi-classing" but I think that line was good in the original versions, if only to keep shugenja character power-levels somewhat in check. I'll have to see what the blurring lines for Rituals and such do in practicality. I will say, a lot of the Techniques have punishingly high target numbers for beginner characters (possibly mitigated with my suggested fix for Character Weakness above). Entry-level characters are going to fail more than they succeed, even at Rank 1 techniques. I can imagine that will frustrate players of those characters.

Strife: This seems to waver between pointless, and annoying. I can empathize with players who don't like the idea of "forced roleplaying." Some game systems have similar mechanics (Call of Cthulhu's Insanity, for example), but those systems also feel more holistically planned out and the effect natural to the game. Like with ninjo and giri, there's no real logical connection with samurai to these mechanics. I learn about Cthulhu, I go a little insane. If I'm a Rokugani samurai, the same things happens on a regular basis just doing things. Strife seems sorta haphazard in this game, and it takes effect in weird or off-putting ways (Looking at you, Dueling mechanics). Outburst is clumsily named, even though it is semantically correct. Too many players are going to have contextual issues with that name that leads to confusion. Either way, I'm not a fan of this on first read. It seems reasonable to expect samurai, trained from childhood, to be able to do samurai things on a day to day basis without risking Outbursts. The old system handled this fine. If your character was provoked by another character, or by a difficult situation, they could potentially fail at mechanics like Honor Tests. Here, the character just has ambiguous Mental Health Hit Points (which is what Composure basically is) and the things that affect how many you have are kinda haphazardly applied or trivial.


Equipment: Kinda cool that it isn't "All Katana All The Time" (with the exception of bushi who could get 2nd attacks with other weapons and were thus perhaps "All Tetsubo All The Time" or "All Nodachi All The Time"). Glad some of 4Es overpowered weapons got nerfed (scimitars, looking at you) and some of 4E's nerfed weapons (yari) actually have some apparent value. Some of the name changes and inclusions seem out of place. 1-hand vs 2 hand distinction for some weapons is kinda cool. Some of the equipment distinctions are unclear if they do anything and where in the book to find out what those things do. I'd need to play some more to really decide what I think of this section. So much stuff there.

Scenes and Conflict: Some of these are outright bad (already mentioned Duels). Others are unfortunately vague. Some stances are really good, others are not, which, in turn comes back around to character creation and some Clan/Family/School choices being better than others. Layout is cumbersome. What does Range mean and how do characters move about in them? The answer is spread across about 4 non-consecutive pages. And boy is it abstract and largely meaningless under most circumstances after you've read that far. Weapons usable at Range 0 and Range 4+ are meaningful for having those distinctions, I think, though I can't find any mechanics for grappling, which would be the up-side to having a Range 0 weapon outside of a handful of situational-induced circumstances. Weapons usable at ranges 1-3? Pretty much identical since characters can bounce up to two range bands per turn. If there are any abilities that let you move faster than 2 range bands per turn, range will suddenly be almost completely meaningless to that character. Too much abstraction there. Again, a system putting a lot of onus on the already-overworked GM where the rules are not helping them. Defense does not scale well, and neither do Target Numbers, meaning the game will be swingy at low level and about damage absorption at higher level. Some parts of this game seem like they were balanced for entry level characters and not tested with higher level characters. Others (looking at you, TN3 Rank 1 Kihos and Invocations) like they weren't tested at all. Or the designers hate low-level characters. The Mass Battle section seems the most thought-out and well-defined part of the Conflict rules. Which is nice. Except a lot of people play L5R in styles where it might not even be used. Wish Skirmishes had that kind of attention to detail. Still, the Mass Battle section is almost too complex in some places, and too abstract in others. Basically a set of rules that won't please most people in some way or another. Not simple enough for the storygamers, not crunchy enough for the simulators.

GM: Wait, what? "For instance, when attempting to get to the other side of a river (the Fitness skill), a character might be able to leap over it (Overwhelm, the Fire approach of a Martial skill) or swim across it (Shift, the
Water approach of a Martial skill). A character might even be able to use another skill entirely (such as Labor, to build a bridge, or Theology, to persuade the water kami to grant passage). So if a player ranks up his Theology high enough, he can just convince rivers to let him cross them? Suck it, Moses. Good lord, the game wants me to track Strife and Composure for cats and horses.

Discord: A lot of words in this section, and not a lot gained by the game because of them due to the fairly middling value of ninjo and giri. Well, unless you like, once again, creating more work for the GM, or having to write adventures that tailor to a specific game mechanic rather than because they are, you know, interesting. For a game that's always been a lot about story, there's so much to this game that seems designed to get in the way of the story to facilitate improvisational game... chores... masquerading as story and roleplaying.

Clan Views on Bushido: These seem arbitrary, forced, and very pigeonholing. There's way too much of this in this game.

Ronin's Path: This adventure is laughably bad in parts. No chance I'd run it. It's not even humorously bad like Food Fight was in Shadowrun. Where are Hida Tsukiko's NCOs? What is going on with the chain of command here? Poor stupid Crab Clan. It's a shock the Wall doesn't fall once a week, given how inflated the stakes are in this adventure and how incompetent the Crab armies are depicted as being. Good thing my entry level Crane Courtier is here to unfuck this place with my Courtesy of 5k3. Kinda makes one worry about the design philosophy behind this game if this is the sample adventure they had in mind when coming up with all the ideas.

In short, the Beta for this game is very fiddly, and a lot of the fiddly-bits don't actually add a whole lot to the gaming experience. Choosing sub-optimal results to gain mechanical advantages in other areas isn't roleplaying, lol. It's just a different kind of meta-gaming. And that's basically what the Disadvantages are at this point, especially when it comes to recovering Void Points. Strife and its eventual cause of Outbursts is pretty much the same thing too. Character creation is novel in its approach using the 20 questions, but ridiculously gamey in its execution.

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