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AtoMaki

AtoMaki's Beta Test Game(s)

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Thus the adventure begins!

Legend of the Five Rings has been a big thing in my gaming club. The CCG never really dusted off (ironically, it was drowned by Android Netrunner a few months after it had been introduced), but the RPG was/is huge around here. Not so much anymore, because Warhammer 40k surged up and we had other projects popping up, but the Beta would surely swing things back. So when I showed up in the club with the Beta PDF on my Google Drive, it took me roughly five minutes to recruit the best available GM and three of our most hardcore players for a test run. Sadly, one player dropped out when he read through the rules, but hey, collaterals happen I guess. 

Today, we had the character creation and a little playing-around with the rules. We also turned some normal dice into custom dice with color-coding. 

So... character creation. My character was first up because I had run the numbers the night before, but oh boy I missed the real problem! Namely, I dared to make up an original concept: a psychotic girl who has no specific ambitions or any kind of emotional sensitivity - she gets the job done, and can't be bothered by others' problems. She would be obviously an unsettling person to deal with, but I could see it being as much of a bug as a feature. Apparently, the game thought otherwise because I constantly ran into walls like determining Ninjo or choosing Passion. It felt like the game is strongly built around cardboard characters and has a rather hostile stance against the ones that differ from the expected norm. 

My conclusion for character creation was twofold:

  • Y'know guys, I don't think that pinning down the characters so hard is a good idea.  Let their personalities, goals, ambitions and such be fluff and not try to hard-wire them into the rules. The current approach pushes all sorts of expectations to the players (your character should be emotional / your character should be struggling / your character should have specific distinctions/adversities/passions/anxieties / etc.) that in turn creates a toxic environment right at the very beginning of the game. I don't feel like I'm creating an actual character, just bouncing between pre-defined points and filling up the blanks where the rules generously allow me to do so.
  • The editing is terribad. It actually wasn't that annoying once we had everything printed out and thus we could see multiple pages at once, but until then, the backtracking and the cross-referencing were really over the top. The 20 Questions game should be strictly fluff, and the mechanics should get their own section, at the very least.

Well, yeah, I wasn't very happy about character creation. It was messy and uncomfortable. At least for me. Seeing my misery, the other two players quickly reworked their concepts to get closer to the "norm" and thus had it a lot easier. 

 

Now comes the second part, my fling with the rules:

  • I'm pretty much in love with the dice mechanics. Roll&Keep really shoves the custom dice idea to the right direction. The randomness is in check, the results are useable as-is, and there is a lot of depth for the system to tinker around. As someone who likes homebrewing rules, the latter almost brought tears to my eyes. Overall I for one welcome my new special snowflake dice overlords!
  • The thing that soured my happiness was how limited the character stats are. With this system, I want to roll and keep lots of dice for all those interesting results, but the initial stats (and as far as I saw, even the late stats) wouldn't allow me to enjoy the system at its fullest. The base stats should increase, like Rings starting from 2, 3 being the average, and character starting with at least one 4 or 5. Skills should be ranked 1-10 with a starting character possessing multiple Skills at rank 3-5 and only a few at rank 0-1. 
  • Speaking of Skills, I'm not a big fan of the grouping, the conception, but mostly the naming. I think the current "reinventing the wheel" approach is superfluous and sometimes quite counterproductive. The old grouping, conceptions, and names were fine and would be fine even now. There are also some missed opportunities like Sentiment not being called Awareness (for ease of association and nostalgia feels). The Skills also feel bloated and some are kinda non-sensical (dunno if I want to smith a bow or meditate someone to death). More Skills would be better IMO, especially since the Skill Dice is pretty good, and Emphases should come back.
  • Combat... Uh... The weakest part in my opinion, but I can't pin down the problem yet (only had one match with a Bandit, a few turns of trying stances and stuff until I grew bored of it). It just feels... soulless.  I will most likely get a better idea later as my character will fight a lot as the only bushi in the party.

 

This is pretty much all I have right now. The system stands on solid legs, it is just in a dire need of refining and streamlining. I will write more once I gnaw through my thoughts on the Beta. Stay tuned until then, the real game starts next Saturday but I will post the characters too before that!

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To be fair, complaining that "emotionless psycho" is hard to make in  game about samurai torn by duty and human emotion is kind of like complaining that a game about support heroes doesn't support mundane serial killers in chargen :P. 

I would suggest going for a high Void for your character, as Void rolls ignore Strife results and are generally detached, so you will ignore the Strife part of the game.

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1 hour ago, WHW said:

To be fair, complaining that "emotionless psycho" is hard to make in  game about samurai torn by duty and human emotion is kind of like complaining that a game about support heroes doesn't support mundane serial killers in chargen :P. 

4

Yeah, the problem is that your character absolutely has to be a samurai torn by duty and human emotion. What if a character doesn't care about his/her duty? What if he/she willingly shed his/her humanity? What if the character doesn't care either way? This does not need a psycho, you can reach the same ends with a hedonist or a "nobody". Heck, you can get there with any character who generally chaffs at melodrama. 

It is just a terrible thematic focus IMO. I want my magical samurai back, because the game shrieking at me that my character should be deeply conflicted and provide enough emotional drama to fill a whole season of a Brazilian soap opera kinda depresses me. 

Edited by AtoMaki

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

Quote

Yeah, the problem is that your character absolutely has to be a samurai torn by duty and human emotion. What if a character doesn't care about his/her duty?

Well, it is where the game come from, so it is logical that, in the early stage of the game, the rules focus on that part.

It will be interesting to see if and how the designers will implement characters that doesn't neatly fit in the celestial wheel: monks, ronins, etc...

See you in the Sands.

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Not all games support all character ideas equally well.  Old l5r was just making a person and letting them loose on the setting. You could care about the cultural ideals, you could cast them to the side, whatever. It didn't care. 

 

This version is very focused on getting your table playing like your game IS an old samurai film full of violence, drama, and personal choice. This isn't bad, necessarily, but it certainly is a more FOCUSED idea than the previous versions. Kind of reminds me of the game Dogs in the Vineyard. 

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   A character who doesn't care about Duty is going to be dead or Ronin. That's gonna be its own disadvantage.

   And, I'm sorry, but "a psychotic girl who has no specific ambitions or any kind of emotional sensitivity - she gets the job done, and can't be bothered by others' problems" is not an original concept.  It's a boring trope that I don't allow at my table for any game that I'm running.  I got my fill of that character as a teenager, faced with an endless horde of dual-wielding halfling rogue murderhobos.

   

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 On further thought: I think why I like this stuff so much is cause this is where the best Lion stories come to life. A whole societal structure built to nearly worship a code of behavior set down by a literal god, that no man can honestly uphold at all times, because that very code ignores the idea that the adherents of it are, in fact, human. With desires, drives, selfishness, and fears. 

Playing in that realm of TRYING to be the pinnacle of bushido, but knowing all your own little failures.  Obsessing over them because it was YOUR founder who set all this in motion, and that's why you put up the face of perfection. That's why you hold others to such high standards. That's why your clans public failings get treated so harshly, and why the failings that occur around your brothers and sisters of the clan are politely looked over. 

Its your job to uphold bushido perfectly, and you fail. And if you, a lion, have failed petfection, how bad must the others be? 

A true paragon of bushido is not human, they can't be. They can only be a monster. 

But I like tragedy.. And samurai stories in general, and Lion stories specifically, are the best tragedy around. 

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Don't forget is a Beta.  For the base of the game, It's samurai trying to make balance duty/feeling.  With time more option will be up... maybe....  Yes the creation system is very linear, but player/GM can speak with each other to come with new line of duty/feeling balance of not.  It's a game where you choose what you use for rule.

 

Rule number 1 of all rpg :  no rule are write in stone, be flexible.

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10 hours ago, The Grand Falloon said:

dual-wielding

 

Jokes on you, my character is wielding a naginata :lol: !

10 hours ago, mortthepirate said:

A true paragon of bushido is not human, they can't be. They can only be a monster. 

 

That's kinda like the whole appeal. The truest hero is the greatest monster. The brightest light casts the darkest shadow. You look into the heroism-framed mirror of Bushido and your reflection is an inhumane horror. Are you ballsy enough to go down in the rabbit hole? To abandon your very humanity and become something much greater but also much more terrifying? And what happens once you are there? 

10 hours ago, mortthepirate said:

Not all games support all character ideas equally well.  Old l5r was just making a person and letting them loose on the setting. You could care about the cultural ideals, you could cast them to the side, whatever. It didn't care. 

 

Yeah, I would prefer this again. Catering to a single specific thematic choice is a straight path to disaster. Especially if said thematic choice is L5R Standard Samurai Drama(tm). 

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On 10/7/2017 at 1:56 PM, Lord of the Seal said:

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

Well, it is where the game come from, so it is logical that, in the early stage of the game, the rules focus on that part.

It will be interesting to see if and how the designers will implement characters that doesn't neatly fit in the celestial wheel: monks, ronins, etc...

See you in the Sands.

Monks are already implemented to a great degree. 

Ji-samurai need no special rules, rōnin simply have low status, and limited glory.

Those below ji-samurai raise only to low ranks... ranks with no freedom, and no rights. Little better than slaves, unless they are cityfolk. Other games carry that load and do it well; L5R always has focussed on Samurai, between the chanbara and the realistic. In that space, peasants make poor choices. Not enough poetic freedom to make them matter; enough realism that they are at risk of being killed outright for any misstep.

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Time for characters!

It is gonna be very uncourteous from me, but I will start with mine. Reason: I only have the stats for my character, the other two must wait until I can contact the players.

Akodo Yue, Certifiable Commander

Part I: Core Identity (Clan and Family)

1. What clan does your character belong to? 

Lion Clan

Ring Increase: +1 Water

Skill Increase: +1 Tactics

Status: 35

2. What family does your character belong to?

Akodo

Ring Increase: +1 Earth

Skill Increases: +1 Command, +1 Government

Glory: 44

Part II: Role and School

3. What is your character’s role and school? 

Akodo Commander

Ring Increases: +1 Earth, +1 Water

Skill Increases: +1 Command, +1 Fitness, +1 Martial Arts (Melee), +1 Meditation, +1 Tactics

Techniques Available: Kata, Shuji, Rituals

Starting Techniques: Striking as Water, Lord Akodo's Roar

Honor: 50

School Ability: Way of the Lion

Starting Outfit: GM decided to handwave outfit. She has whatever she needs. Her usual equipment is a daisho, a naginata, ceremonial clothes, and lacquered armor. 

4. How does your character stand out within their school? 

As a child, Yue always had a natural curiosity towards te supernatural. As a student, her ability to stare beyond her human perceptions gradually expanded... until one day, what lurks beyond stared back. The experience changed Yue profoundly. A part of her mind was systematically purged, and filled up with something dark and inscrutable. Yue only wanted to know what lied beyond her humanity - in turn, she became a part of it.

Ring Increase: +1 Void

Part III: Honor and Glory

5. What is your character’s duty to their lord?

Normally, Yue is the right-hand (wo)man of the Karo and is tasked to enforce the Karo's will in whatever shape it is required. As of late, she was reassigned to personally deliver a letter to a certain Doji nobleman at the head of a delegation provided by her lord. 

6. What does your character long for?

Whatever died in Yue that fateful day also took away her desires and ambitions. Whatever took its place has no interest in giving them back. What Yue really longs for as of now is indescribable by mortal words... and it better stays that way.

7. What is your character’s opinion of their clan?

Yue has no specific opinion on her own clan. As with many things in her life, she considers it below her notice to form an opinion either way.

+5  glory

8. What does your character think of Bushidō?

Bushido was written by a god. Between its words, a divine insight lurks. Between its lines, the spirit of the Heavens shows itself. In its nature, it points beyond humanity. If there is one thing that catches the attention of Yue, Bushido is certainly it. 

+10  Honor

Part IV: Strengths and Weaknesses

9 What is your character’s greatest accomplishment so far?

Having only half your humanity definitely has its advantages. You can't bargain with her. You can't reason with her. She doesn't feel pity or remorse or fear. And she will not stop, ever, until the job is done. 

Distinction advantage: Famously Reliable

10. What holds your character back the most in life?

Missing half your humanity definitely has an effect on others. Some might feel unnerved in her presence. Others might be pushed onto the wrong footing when facing her. But all of them will whisper behind her back about her strange demeanor and they will all agree that she must be surely demented. 

Adversity disadvantage: Whispers of Insanity (should be obvious enough)

11. What activity makes your character feel at peace?

There is a certain kind of entertainment in watching people cling onto their humanity. It draws out Yue's lighter side, and she can't help but tease others for being so limited in their existence. she never pushes too far though... they don't deserve that much. 

Passion Advantage: Playfulness

12. What concern, fear, or foible troubles your character the most?

Human suffering is below Yue's notice. She is so much more than them... Or is she?

Anxiety disadvantage: Delusions of Grandeur 

13 Who has your character learned the most from during their life?

The Thing that lurks beyond the mortal senses was a harsh teacher, but it taught Yue well, and its lesson will never be forgotten.

Mentor Advantage: Indomitable Will

14. What detail do others find most striking about your character?

Her curious state of mind radiates out of her like a chill aura. Her smile, the way she is never sad or distressed, or her casually swapping between playful teasing and cold indifference can leave anyone unsettled in a short order. 

15. How does your character react to stressful situations?

Stress is not something that can catch up with her. However, she finds it greatly enjoyable to watch others expect her to do it. The teasing remark that surely follows has never failed her so far. 

16. What are your character’s preexisting relationships with other clans, families, organizations, and traditions?

No real relationships. As with many things, those are below her precious attention. 

Part VI: Ancestry and Family

17. How would your character’s parents describe them?

For her parents, she will forever remain the curious and innocent little girl. Yes, something has changed in her, but she just grew up. That's all. 

18. Who was your character named to honor?

Akodo Yue, the heroine Yue was named after, died on the Kaiu Wall, reportedly while protecting one of the watchtowers from a daemonic onslaught. Her diasho is still with the Kuni who constantly deny to hand it back despite repeated demands. 

Glorious Sacrifice (daisho) +5 Honor, +5 Glory

19. What is your character’s personal name?

Yue means "moon". 

Part VII: Death

20. How should your character die?

Death is the concern of the chained. Those who are free shall never die. 

 

Akodo Yue,  Lion Clan, Akodo Commander, Certifiable Commander

Rings: Air 1, Earth 3, Fire 1, Water 3, Void 2

Skills: Command 2, Government 1, Fitness 1, Martial Arts (Melee) 1, Meditation 1, Tactics 2

Techniques available: Kata, Shuji, Rituals

Starting Techniques: Striking as Water, Lord Akodo's Roar

School Ability: Way of the Lion

Glory: 54

Honor: 65 (Paragon of Truth)

Status: 35

Equipment: N/A

Distinction Advantage: Famously Reliable

Passion Advantage: Playfulness

Adversity Disadvantage: Whispers of Insanity

Anxiety Disadvantage: Delusions of Grandeur 

Mentor Advantage: Indomitable Will

Derived Attributes: 

Resilience (Water Ring + Earth Ring) x 2: 12

Focus (Fire Ring + Air Ring): 2

Composure (Earth Ring + Fire Ring) x 2: 8

Vigilance (Air Ring + Water Ring) / 2: 2

Void Points: 2

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Doji Kitara, Accursed Innocent

Part I: Core Identity (Clan and Family)

1. What clan does your character belong to? 

Crane Clan

Ring Increase: +1 Air

Skill Increase: +1 Culture

Status: 35

2. What family does your character belong to?

Doji

Ring Increase: +1 Air

Skill Increases: +1 Courtesy, +1 Design

Glory: 44

Part II: Role and School

3. What is your character’s role and school? 

Doji Diplomat

Ring Increases: +1 Air (exchanged for +1 Fire), +1 Water

Skill Increases: +1 Composition, +1 Courtesy, +1 Culture, +1 Design

Techniques Available: Kata, Shuji, Rituals

Starting Techniques: Shallow Waters, Lady Doji's Decree

Honor: 50

School Ability: Speaking in Silence

Starting Outfit: GM decided to handwave outfit. She has whatever she needs. Her usual equipment is a daisho, ceremonial robes, and a calligraphy set. She is always accompanied by two (female) attendants.

4. How does your character stand out within their school? 

Kitara was an outstanding student of her school, learning with passion and mastering the aspects with an unmatchable drive. 

Ring Increase: +1 Fire

Part III: Honor and Glory

5. What is your character’s duty to their lord?

Kitara acts as an emissary to distant courts, where she represents her lord's interests as well as maintain the network of allies her predecessors built up. Her newest assignment, however, makes her stay at home to negotiate a complex non-aggression pack with the delegation from the neighboring Lion province. 

6. What does your character long for?

Deep in her heart, Kitara wants to quit for good. She has no desire to live the harsh life of a samurai, and she is tired and sick of her duty. She harbors a deep contempt towards Rokugan, the Emerald Empire, and everything in it - she wants to leave it all behind and go somewhere distant and become a nobody. Obviously, she would never, ever, tell this to anyone. 

7. What is your character’s opinion of their clan?

Kitara dislikes her clan with the same wind she dislikes Rokugan as a whole.

+1 Commerce

8. What does your character think of Bushidō?

It is everything that is wrong with the world. She hates it but sticks to it on the surface. When she feels her masquerade falling apart, she often produces some sort of an excuse to run off to the wilderness for a few days - so far so good, it works. 

+1 Survival

Part IV: Strengths and Weaknesses

9 What is your character’s greatest accomplishment so far?

Kitara's single greatest accomplishment is the friendship of a merchant prince from the Burning Sands, acquired during one of her stays with the Unicorn Clan. Kosal Al-duran might be the escape door for her, but it is a connection of questionable reliability. 

Distinction advantage: Ally (Kosal Ah-duran)

10. What holds your character back the most in life?

As Kitara deep desire to abandon Rokugan took hold in her soul, the Heavens themselves turned their back on her. 

Adversity disadvantage: Momoku

11. What activity makes your character feel at peace?

Kitara wants to go, no matter where and into what kind of culture or people... just as far away from Rokugan as it is humanly possible. 

Passion Advantage: Travel

12. What concern, fear, or foible troubles your character the most?

Well... What to say here at this point?

Anxiety disadvantage: Dark Secret

13 Who has your character learned the most from during their life?

Section pending. 

Mentor Disadvantage: Disdain for Honor

Mentor Skill: +1 Sentiment

14. What detail do others find most striking about your character?

Section pending. 

15. How does your character react to stressful situations?

Section pending. 

16. What are your character’s preexisting relationships with other clans, families, organizations, and traditions?

Section pending. 

Part VI: Ancestry and Family

17. How would your character’s parents describe them?

Section pending. 

18. Who was your character named to honor?

Section pending. 

Imperial Heritage +10 Status, Blessed Lineage

19. What is your character’s personal name?

'Kitara' is a musical instrument of sorts.

Part VII: Death

20. How should your character die?

Being put in the situation where she could save the Empire at the cost of her life. She would overcome her selfish dream and accept her duty in the final moment, dying to save the world she did not like. 

 

Doji Kitara,  Crane Clan, Doji Diplomat, Accursed Innocent

Rings: Air 3, Earth 1, Fire 3, Water 2, Void 1

Skills: Commerce 1, Composition 1, Courtesy 2, Culture 2, Design 2, Sentiment 1, Survival 1

Techniques available: Kata, Shuji, Rituals

Starting Techniques: Shallow Waters, Lady Doji's Decree

School Ability: Speaking in Silence

Glory: 44

Honor: 50

Status: 35

Equipment: N/A

Distinction Advantage: Ally

Passion Advantage: Travel

Adversity Disadvantage: Momoku

Anxiety Disadvantage: Dark Secret

Mentor Disadvantage: Disdain for Honor

Derived Attributes: 

Resilience (Water Ring + Earth Ring) x 2: 6

Focus (Fire Ring + Air Ring): 6

Composure (Earth Ring + Fire Ring) x 2: 8

Vigilance (Air Ring + Water Ring) / 2: 3

Void Points: 1

 

 

Note: Where it reads "section pending", those parts are supposed to be a big surprise during character introduction. Apparently, Kitara has a good reason to feel about Rokugan the way she does. 

 

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Isawa Macha, Inquisitor's Seer

Part I: Core Identity (Clan and Family)

1. What clan does your character belong to? 

Phoenix Clan

Ring Increase: +1 Void

Skill Increase: +1 Theology

Status: 30

2. What family does your character belong to?

Isawa

Ring Increase: +1 Fire

Skill Increases: +1 Meditation, +1 Theology

Glory: 44

Part II: Role and School

3. What is your character’s role and school? 

Isawa Elementalist

Ring Increases: +1 Fire, +1 Water

Skill Increases: +1 Courtesy, +1 Medicine, +1 Theology

Techniques Available: Invocations, Shuji, Rituals

Starting Techniques: Grasp of Earth, Path to Inner Peace, Tempest of Air, Commune with Spirits, Divination

Honor: 40

School Ability: One with the Elements

Starting Outfit: GM decided to handwave outfit. She has whatever she needs. Her usual equipment is sanctified robes, a scroll satchel, and a sanctified staff.

4. How does your character stand out within their school? 

During her apprenticeship, Macha grew into a highly talented diviner under the care of her mistress and later lord, an Asako Inquisitor. She also happened to acquire most of her superior's characteristic cold-headedness and implacable demeanor. 

Ring Increase: +1 Earth

Part III: Honor and Glory

5. What is your character’s duty to their lord?

Macha is the diviner of an Asako Inquisitor and acts as her eye and ear in the time of need. As of now, she was sent to oversee a diplomatic negotiation between a Crane and a Lion province. Her divinations showed that sinister forces are at work behind the curtains, and her lord wants to know what.

6. What does your character long for?

Macha is struggling for approval and she wants to be the best at what she does. Failure is not an option.

7. What is your character’s opinion of their clan?

Her Asako Inquisitor has a certain disdain for the Phoenix pacifism, and Macha shares her views. When fighting the darkness, peace quickly becomes a hollow word.

+1 Tactics

8. What does your character think of Bushidō?

Similarly to pacifism, bushido is also not for those who have to fight corruption. It is nice to have, but when the time comes, you gotta do what you gotta do. 

+1 Medicine

Part IV: Strengths and Weaknesses

9 What is your character’s greatest accomplishment so far?

As her Inquisitor's personal seer, Macha has sharpened supernatural senses to sniff out her lord's prey. 

Distinction advantage: Sixth Sense

10. What holds your character back the most in life?

Serving the Asako Inquisition has left a mark on Macha in the shape of a terrible scar running across her otherwise lovely face.

Adversity disadvantage: Maimed Visage

11. What activity makes your character feel at peace?

Working with an Inquisitor is not for the faint heart. 

Passion Advantage: Daredevil

12. What concern, fear, or foible troubles your character the most?

The practitioners of maho are the greatest threat to the Empire and they must be exterminated by whatever means necessary. 

Anxiety disadvantage: Intolerance (mahotsukai)

13 Who has your character learned the most from during their life?

Duty well done is its own reward. 

Mentor Advantage: Subtle Observer

14. What detail do others find most striking about your character?

Other than her facial scar, others might notice how Macha is seemingly one step ahead of the moment: she avoids accidents, comes prepared for unexpected turn of events, and casually ends the sentence of others. 

15. How does your character react to stressful situations?

When under stress, Macha shuts down, staying still and quiet, watching and predicting until the time comes to act again.

16. What are your character’s preexisting relationships with other clans, families, organizations, and traditions?

She has a good relationship with the family of her Inquisitor. There are plans in motion so that Macha marries the Inquisitor's cousin, who is an Inquisitor himself. she is deeply integrated into the Asako Inquisitors, but the organization at large tends to overlook her as a simple (if useful) retainer. 

Part VI: Ancestry and Family

17. How would your character’s parents describe them?

Macha is the pride of her parents, their masterpiece, the love of their life. She is their greatest creation, and she has still such a long way to go...

18. Who was your character named to honor?

While not something related to her ancestry, Macha did steal a powerful invocation from the family library early in her career.  She needed it to perform her duty to her Inquisitor more efficiently. That's all. 

Stolen Knowledge: -5 Honor, Bind the Shadow The Fires that Cleanse (remembered wrong here) The Fires from Within

19. What is your character’s personal name?

Yes, she was named after that particular Farseer :lol: .

Part VII: Death

20. How should your character die?

She would see it coming, prepare for it, and bring down all of them with her. 

 

Doji Kitara,  Phoenix Clan, Isawa Elementalist, Inquisitor's Seer

Rings: Air 1, Earth 2, Fire 3, Water 2, Void 2

Skills: Courtesy 1, Medicine 2, Meditation 1, Tactics 1, Theology 3

Techniques available: Invocations, Shuji, Rituals

Starting Techniques: Grasp of Earth, The Fires from Within, Path to Inner Peace, Tempest of Air, Commune with Spirits, Divination

School Ability: 

Glory: 44

Honor: 35

Status: 30

Equipment: N/A

Distinction Advantage: Sixth Sense

Passion Advantage: Daredevil

Adversity Disadvantage: Maimed Visage

Anxiety Disadvantage: Intolerance (mahotsukai)

Mentor Advantage: Subtle Observer

Derived Attributes: 

Resilience (Water Ring + Earth Ring) x 2: 8

Focus (Fire Ring + Air Ring): 4

Composure (Earth Ring + Fire Ring) x 2: 10

Vigilance (Air Ring + Water Ring) / 2: 2

Void Points: 2

 

First session is starting within 4 hours ;) . 

Edited by AtoMaki

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Wooohooo... So the first session was a big success, the game went on largely without a hitch, and we had something, like a dozen observers. Looks like L5R is back on the menu in my gaming club! 

Let's start with the biggest thing: we all agreed that the Beta really has only one problem - it tries too hard to reinvent the game, but 90% of the changes are sidegrades and not upgrades. Things play almost the exact same as in 4th edition, one will only feel the difference if he actively looks for it. After the first few hours, even the custom dice lost its magic. We found ourselves playing the extravagant twin brother of 4th Edition, who looks like his sibling, acts like his sibling, thinks like his sibling, but tries really-really hard to prove the opposite. 

The session was 9 hours long by the way.

So, the adventure itself. It was about two provinces (a Crane and a Lion) trying to forge a big non-aggression pact because of the rising inter-clan tensions and historical codependence (the Crane province supplies the Lion province with food, while the Lion province keeps the surrounding wildland in check for the Crane province - neither of them would last long without the other). Doji Kitara represented the Crane province, while Akodo Yue represented the Lion province. Isawa Macha acted as a mediator/observer. We also had Miya Koshan, the Imperial delegate, Bayushi Kishiro, another mediator/observer in Scorpion colors, and Ide Iyoshi, a legal advisor. It was spelled out right at the beginning that none of the provinces trusted their Clans with overseeing the deal, fearing that the war hawks would ruin the negotiation.  The time is between the tsunami and Toshi Ranbo, so the Crane province (untouched by the disaster) is hard-pressed to provide resources to the Crane Clan rather than its neighbor, and the Lion province finds it increasingly harder to patrol the wildlands because of the general military mobilization in the Lion Clan. They also fear that if war does break out, it will happen on the borders of the two provinces, ruining everything. a non-aggression pact with Imperial sanctioning and the nominal backing of the Twins would most likely defuse the situation and enforce peace for the time being. 

The first etap was uneventful. Macha and Yue arrived at the Crane castle, met at the gates, and established a strained and uncomfortable relationship right out of the gate (pun intended). These "always-active" Advantages/Disadvantages create some interesting situations: Macha's Sixth Sense almost prematurely revealed the plot, and Yue killed a fairly significant sub-plot with Playfulness and Whispers of Insanity - both women were welcomed by Koshan and Kishiro, Macha felt that something is off with these two and produced an excuse to leave (luckily to the GM, the player rolled very poorly, so the Plot Tweast was not revealed this early on), then there was a blackmail attempt on Yue but she knocked the two off with Playfulness and left them in the dust with Whispers of Insanity. 

The second etap was Doji Kitara introducing herself. And oh boy, that section was indeed pending! As it turned out, she is a gaijin of sorts (her real Disadvantages are Gaijin Appearance and Dark Secret), the daughter of a prominent dude from the Tortoise Clan (a Merenae merchant prince spending quality time in Rokugan), with olive skin, wavy auburn hair, warm green eyes, and a matching attitude. But we were all liberals, so the odd character turned out to be Yue with her weirdness (spotted by Macha via Sixth Sense and Subtle Observer, revealed by Kitara with Shallow Waters). Then Indomitable Will struck and Yue pretty much bullied the other two into cooperation - ah, Lions, never change! At this point we noticed that the only check made until this point was Kitara's Shallow Waters, and without Strife/Outburst, the L5R Standard Samurai Drama(tm) was kinda missing. In fact, thankfully to the Advantage/Disadvantage interactions exploited by the players to the fullest, we were reaching sitcom levels of merrymaking. I guess I could only blame myself for running a playful psycho, but still, we could feel a certain presence of disruption because of the Advantages/Disadvantages.  We agreed that limitations on these would be a good idea. Maybe the Advantages/Disadvantages should take a step back and focus on conferring mechanical bonuses rather than offer defining narrative. 

The third etap was a small Intrigue scene, the beginning negotiations that quickly turned into a pitched battle between the party and the Koshan/Kishiro duo (with poor Iyoshi caught in the crossfire). So those two rats tried to push their own agenda, and we didn't let them. But hey, their intervention at least prevented Yue to make Kitara her personal pet (yes, things were deteriorating that badly between the two ladies, tho at least we dodged the lesbian undertones). So. Intrigue. My fears became reality, Conflict resolution is bleak and flows like gelatin. But at least everyone played, and it wasn't like in 4th Ed where the bushi would sit this one out. It was a massive Persuade exchange until Macha grew bored and used Assist on Kitara... and with that, the power of Assist was brought to light. Oh boy. Ooooohhhhhh booooooy... Assist is overpowered. It is like boost dice gifting in SW turned up to eleven. It doesn't sound that much on paper, but considering how tight the dice economy is in this game, it is absolutely huge in play. Not just the dice, but the Strife drain also pushes the rolling player to keep results more boldly. That single Assistance allowed Kitara to break the back of the opposition and let Yue finish the job and purge Strain with Command / Earth (I no longer needed to make a Water check as it was all ogre, I could fly with a more utilitarian option). 

The fourth etap was a hunting game, where the three ladies successfully left their escorts behind while arguing between themselves. In turn, they ran into a pack of three wolves. Skirmish happened to be as uninteresting as Intrigue, but at least it was funny because Macha boo'd a wolf away from Fire Assessment (put six strife onto the poor beast and it fled). The remaining two wolves fell rather quickly to Yue's naginata, but not before giving her a Tendon Rip. Bleeding would have been nasty, if not for staying at zero Strife with Yue for pretty much the whole duration of the session. Really, it looks like being an Earth+Water character makes you immune to Strife because you can waste so much it takes a very specific effort to accumulate even a few points. 

In the fifth etap, the plot thickened. Koshan (the Imperial representative) initiated another Intrigue against the party, not knowing that we unlocked our secret potential in the previous Intrigue. As such, he was Opportunity-nuked so hard from a double-assisted check from Kitara, even his favorite color was revealed. Also, he was working to undermine the negotiations, and Kishiro was helping him. Koshan tried to save the situation, but we never learnt how because he Strife'd up and suffered an Outburst, ordering his bodyguard to kill us. Poor Veteran Bushi never had a chance, Assisted Grasp of Earth spam kept him immobilized long enough for help to arrive. At this point, it started to beckon us that shuggies are no joke. And they ain't. 

The sixth etap was chasing down Kishiro. We played around with the different Ring / Skill configurations this time, but sadly, the limited amount of Skills really hampered us. In the end, everyone stuck to doing their best, and forget about the other options. We agreed that some more starting Skills would be nice, and the number of Skills themselves should increase. So far, Skills come rather limited but confusingly broad with what they do for the character. It is too much of a temptation to just shrug away all the nice options and just go with what the character has.

The seventh etap was finding the real source of the problem and eliminate it. Turned out that both Koshan and Kishiro were manipulated by a third party: a Lost Samurai with a mission of pouring oil onto the fire by screwing up the deal between the two provinces. We faced the Lost and his two henchmen (Skeletal Bushi) at a small ruin, and despite the Lost Samurai having the Warlike template, the skirmish ended quickly with Macha nuking the enemy with The Fire from Within, a very good roll, and Kitara's Assistance. Yue only had to mop up, but no kills for her as Macha unleashed another barrage of fireballs and burnt all the evil guys into crisp. Wow. Just wow. At this point, we thought that Assistance shouldn't work on spellcasting and shugenja needs some sort of restriction for casting spells. As of now, they feel a little bit too much to handle. 

The closure was just making the pact and patting each others' shoulder. The big happiness was broken by news brought by a castle guard: Ide Iyoshi was kidnapped while we celebrated our victory, so our next adventure will be retrieving him! 

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So I had a 5-hours short story today. Yue had to deal with some newbie Emerald Magistrates not being able to kill a bunch of bandits. Not many new insights, other than Assistance ain't so hot if everyone has something to do, and that the Togashi Tattoos are kinda 'meh', but... We started using the Honor Tables from the GM section, and I must say, we had tons of fun with them. Good job there. 

Also, I'm watching now a session that forfeited the Strife/Outburst mechanic. Surprise (or not so), but the game is going on without a bump, and there are some pretty darn awesome things happening at the table. 

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Character development report!

We acquired 24 xp from the session on Saturday, and it was time to spend 'em. This is how the characters ended up (changes are bolded and underlined):

Akodo Yue,  Lion Clan, Akodo Commander, Certifiable Commander

Rings: Air 1, Earth 3, Fire 1, Water 3, Void 3

Skills: Command 2, Courtesy 1, Government 1, Fitness 1, Martial Arts (Melee) 2, Martial Arts (Unarmed) 1, Meditation 1, Tactics 2, Theology 1

Techniques available: Kata, Shuji, Rituals

Techniques: Striking as Water, Lord Akodo's Roar, Commune with the Spirits

School Ability: Way of the Lion

Glory: 58

Honor: 66 (Paragon of Truth)

Status: 35

Equipment: N/A

Distinction Advantage: Famously Reliable

Passion Advantage: Playfulness

Adversity Disadvantage: Whispers of Insanity

Anxiety Disadvantage: Delusions of Grandeur 

Mentor Advantage: Indomitable Will

Derived Attributes: 

Resilience (Water Ring + Earth Ring) x 2: 12

Focus (Fire Ring + Air Ring): 2

Composure (Earth Ring + Fire Ring) x 2: 8

Vigilance (Air Ring + Water Ring) / 2: 2

Void Points: 3

 

Doji Kitara,  Crane Clan, Doji Diplomat, Accursed Innocent

Rings: Air 3, Earth 2, Fire 3, Water 2, Void 2

Skills: Commerce 1, Composition 1, Courtesy 2, Culture 2, Design 2, Sentiment 2, Survival 1, Theology 1

Techniques available: Kata, Shuji, Rituals

Starting Techniques: Shallow Waters, Lady Doji's Decree, Truth Burns Through Lies, Well of Desire

School Ability: Speaking in Silence

Glory: 45

Honor: 52

Status: 36

Equipment: N/A

Distinction Advantage: Ally

Passion Advantage: Travel

Adversity Disadvantage: Gaijin Appearance

Anxiety Disadvantage: Dark Secret

Mentor Disadvantage: Disdain for Honor

Derived Attributes: 

Resilience (Water Ring + Earth Ring) x 2: 8

Focus (Fire Ring + Air Ring): 6

Composure (Earth Ring + Fire Ring) x 2: 10

Vigilance (Air Ring + Water Ring) / 2: 3

Void Points: 2

 

Isawa Macha,  Phoenix Clan, Isawa Elementalist, Inquisitor's Seer

Rings: Air 1, Earth 2, Fire 3, Water 2, Void 2

Skills: Courtesy 2, Medicine 2, Meditation 2, Tactics 1, Theology 4

Techniques available: Invocations, Shuji, Rituals

Starting Techniques: Grasp of Earth, The Fires from Within, Path to Inner Peace, Tempest of Air, Commune with Spirits, Divination, Purification Rites, Threshold Barrier

School Ability: 

Glory: 49

Honor: 35

Status: 30

Equipment: N/A

Distinction Advantage: Sixth Sense

Passion Advantage: Daredevil

Adversity Disadvantage: Maimed Visage

Anxiety Disadvantage: Intolerance (mahotsukai)

Mentor Advantage: Subtle Observer

Derived Attributes: 

Resilience (Water Ring + Earth Ring) x 2: 8

Focus (Fire Ring + Air Ring): 4

Composure (Earth Ring + Fire Ring) x 2: 10

Vigilance (Air Ring + Water Ring) / 2: 2

Void Points: 2

 

This Saturday is another full session day, and this time, we will roll with the Beta Update advice and go all-out on Outburst and Strife :) !

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Yay, the second game is thru! 

This time, as I said in my previous post, we were eating all the Strife. No Strife-negating Opportunities, no Strife siphoning via Assistance, and no keeping-less-than-your-Ring to avoid Strife (btw, we all agreed that this method of avoiding Strife is BS). 

We also discovered a few previously missed rules: Parrying, only Earth Spiritual Backlash shutting down Invocations, Wards and Potions for every Shugenja, or Shuji being useable in skirmish too.

So let's start with the most important part: Strife and Outbursts. After giving it a honest try, I think my opinion on the mechanic changed from 'negative meh' to 'simple meh'. It actually did not affect our game in any way or form, other than strange genre shifts like Yue quipping at her enemies like in a Marvel superhero movie one time, then Kitara giving a scene fitting for a South American soap opera in the next scene. We also had some problems with the "gaming lag" Outbursts produce, with players being caught flat-footed by Outbursts and not being able to come up with anything good enough for quite some time. We are not even sure if the mechanics are off or the whole concept is misaligned with the game - we are more up to the latter because while the game tends to be quite slow, Strife happens really fast in comparison. 

Overall, during the roughly 10 hours long session, we had 12(13) Outbursts, 7 from Yue, 2 from Kitara, and 3(4) from Macha. I will talk about that special Outburst later. By the way, Yue's abnormally high Outburst number comes from my extremely poor luck with the session. 

Then the story: the last time we left off, the party was preparing to track down the kidnapped Ide Iyoshi, the Unicorn courtier who helped to forge the non-aggression pact in the last session. As part of the preparations, Yue helped out a team of Emerald Magistrates (a forming playgroup) to defeat some bandits and acquired a lead that pointed her to the south. The first etap was us following the lead, and this included Kitara suffering the first Outburst between accumulating quite a lot of Strife from her checks and Yue constantly teasing her (note that Yue's Playfulness was no longer in effect because Kitara has higher Status). Oddly enough, we were traveling, and that was Kitara's Passion, so the game stopped for a long moment while we figured out what had just happened. In the end, Kitara exploded into an "I hate this place and its people!" kind of tirade with Exposing Weakness, revealing her Dark Secret Disadvantage. Not like it mattered, because the peasants around us flee from the scene asap, Yue didn't really care, and Macha knew it all along. 

Okay guys, ready your bodies: once Kitara's scene was over, Yue tried to calm down the party by reminding them that they were all dutiful samurai on a mission. This triggered her Delusion of Grandeur, and I suffered 6(!) Strife on the check, so Kitara's Outburst was followed by Yue successfully defusing the situation... and then Yue suffering an Inappropriate Remark Outburst herself, telling the two other girls that even if they weren't dutiful samurai on a mission, the other two were really just her pet companions, so they should suck it up and carry on. At this point, the GM called a break because we couldn't continue playing from all that laughing. 

This obviously poisoned the team mechanics, with Kitara falling into depression, Yue riding the high horse, and Macha wondering what had gone wrong. Because of this, the second etap, arriving at Not-So-Abandoned Castle (NSAC from now on), was somewhat slippery. So the party approached NSAC, a supposedly Scorpion holding, to resupply and ask around. The place was in a rather poor condition like it was recently besieged, but the welcoming committee was spot-on: Bayushi Suten, the lord of the castle, and his wife-to-be Kitsune Umari, as well as a ragtag court of some sort, many in armor and with weapons, ready for battle. Something was up in the air, but we were courteous enough (and too embroiled in intraparty conflicts) to not ask the obvious question. The party split up: Kitara started asking around, Macha communed with the local spirits for information, and Yue managed the resupplying while keeping her eyes open. At this point, Yue suffered another Outburst, now sharpening her tongue on the quartermaster, but Playfulness saved the situation, and we decided to not go with Inappropriate Remark but with Expose Weakness for Whispers of Insanity. 

You know guys, I think this is the way with Strife and Outburst: be extremely flexible (and intuitive!) about it. The Outburst options should be handled a lot more loosely, and I think the rulebook should spell this out. Instead of "your character becomes emotional" the Outburst should be approached as "your character pulls a weight", and include some neutral/positive outcomes for the Outbursts. Especially since Outbursts happen so rarely during moments of real consequence. I now see where the developers wanted to go with the mechanic, but their approach with it is... interesting, so to speak. 

Ah, and the players were asked to leave for the duration of another character's actions. So I don't know what happened with Kitara other than she failed to gather information. I also don't know what happened with Macha, other than she had an Outburst. We decided to stay for a few days, as we were low on leads and the supplies weren't coming. We did a little investigation, and Kitsune Umari started to approach our party with all kinds of minor tasks. It took another Frantic Yue Outburst (the third!) to make Umari open up and admit that she doesn't want to be Suten's wife at all. She also might or might not have an army of manifested kami and wild animals in the nearby forest, ready to take on the castle again. Following Kitara's advice, we initiated an Intrigue against Suten and his court, trying to squeeze out some info in return of our newfound knowledge. We failed, and Yue suffered her fourth Outburst from Suten Strife Nuking her (she did reveal Umari's unhappiness for all to hear, but at least she kept her mouth shut about the army). At which point we were asked to leave the castle asap. 

 

The GM started to lose the thread of the story because the intraparty tension stepped up. Surprisingly enough, the final match was Yue vs Macha, as the latter tried to wrench control from the (at that point semi-obviously crazy) Akodo Commander. They both suffered an Outburst, and after a little OoC talk, we doubled down on Become Enraged. Kitara tried to calm down the two, but this triggered her Dark Secret Disadvantage, and she too suffered an Outburst

We had to take another break because of the unceasing laughter :lol: .

After working out our differences, Yue remained in charge, but under the close supervision of Macha. Kitara was pretty much written down by both as a whiny half-gaijin, but the courtier was thankful for that. We entered the forest to check out Umari's army, where we had quite an extensive skirmish with a bunch of animals and even tried our luck with a Manifested Earth Kami. So yeah, it did not work out very well. Yue had her fifth Outburst, quipping at the Earth Kami and getting her face wrecked in return. Macha got lost in our... uhm... tactical withdraw, and while alone in the forest, enjoying the middle of nowhere and trying to find her way out, she suffered a random Outburst. She Shut Down and rebooted, like some sort of a robot that gets Blue Screen of Death'd. There was literally nothing else to do for her, but the Outburst did occur, so we had to roll with it. It was a special moment but we doubted that it was up to being samurai drama, if you know what I mean. 

So we fled back to the castle and warned everyone about the army. Luckily, Suten suspected it and immediately ordered the party to seize his betrothed. We had a small battle with Umari as she resisted us quite effectively, and the resulting chase made Macha Outburst again while slipping through the closing castle gate, but again Shutting Down did not add much to the situation - she chased Umari quietly, duh. Of course the woman slipped out of our hands. Yue quipped after her with a sixth Outburst, but it didn't matter at that point. We also noticed that Outbursts cutting Strife only to half was rather meager, and it was the prime source of the series of Outbursts - with Opportunities it would have been better, so we did not mind our newest revelation too much. 

The final etap was, of course, the big siege of the castle, with Umari leading her army against Suten and us. We finally tried out the Mass Battle, and we were not impressed. It felt chaotic in a bad way as we worked out Cohort actions, attrition, panic, strategic objectives, and character changes. We could only catch our breath when we initiated a Clash with Umari and the scene finally changed into a simple Skirmish. A simple Skirmish with a Hideous Oni (Umari turned herself into one rather than face defeat), but at least we knew where we were standing. By the way, we won the fight with some Narrative Opportunities (I used Water Opportunities to draw the fight into a smashed shrine/sacred ground), but not before Suten died at the hands of the oni. With his dying breath, the Scorpion told us that Ide Iyoshi was in his castle, escorted by a ronin called Keinosuke! Wow! We are tying into 'A Ronin's Path'! We couldn't see that one coming!

 

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Just a heads up: tomorrow, we are going to have a short adventure where we try out an idea: we replace the Strife result with the Threat result from the Star Wars RPG while Strife is replaced by Strain (Outbursts stay). 

I will give a short report on our experiences, so stay tuned if you are interested!

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On 10/7/2017 at 10:29 AM, AtoMaki said:

Namely, I dared to make up an original concept: a psychotic girl who has no specific ambitions or any kind of emotional sensitivity - she gets the job done, and can't be bothered by others' problems. She would be obviously an unsettling person to deal with, but I could see it being as much of a bug as a feature. Apparently, the game thought otherwise because I constantly ran into walls like determining Ninjo or choosing Passion. It felt like the game is strongly built around cardboard characters and has a rather hostile stance against the ones that differ from the expected norm. 

 

I think Giri and Ninjo are not properly described in the book - these do support your type of character, but you have to understand the concepts better.

Giri is not your "job," it is your obligation.  Its the part you play because someone else needs you to.

Surely your character owes something to someone, or else their life would be purely selfish.  So they have to support a family?  Are they loyal to their Lord?  Does their lord have their own ambitions that this character must uphold?  Maybe their Giri is to attend social functions, smile and be polite.  This is an obligation because the character themselves cares little for other people, or the niceties of court.  They are obligated to go through the motions because they must fulfill their Lord's needs which is "an effective warrior who is also civil, and fun at parties."

Ninjo is not your "personal drive."  Think about Ninjo as if it were the part of the system your character disagreed with.  If they are a heartless killer who has no problem killing anyone, and they are asked to kill by their lord, they might have another element that they don't care about.  Maybe they don't like when common criminals are freed after some time of lashes and hard labor.  Maybe they think we should short-cut the system and just end any life that proves unworthy.

Their Ninjo could be "No crime is too petty to be punished."  When they see someone stealing an apple, they see it no different then if that person killed the vendor - both can be solved by killing a criminal.

This character's Giri can become drama because they may be at a social function and find an opportunity to challenge a rival Samurai to a duel.  An easy kill which will make other matters much easier going forward.  Your Lord wants the party to go off without a hitch though...  Do you appease your Lord and put your own mechanization on the back burner?

The Ninjo can be similarly challenged - your character is guarding a Samurai's house.  The Samurai was witness and party to a crime, but won't give testimony.  Your Lord has offered him absolution if he gives testimony.  You are tasked with delivering this letter personally to the Samurai...  You receive his signature on the testimony letter, and there you stand... signed letter in one hand... sword ready to be drawn with the other... do you finish the job?

Edited by shosuko

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10 hours ago, shosuko said:

Giri is not your "job," it is your obligation.  Its the part you play because someone else needs you to.

Surely your character owes something to someone, or else their life would be purely selfish.  So they have to support a family?  Are they loyal to their Lord?  Does their lord have their own ambitions that this character must uphold?  Maybe their Giri is to attend social functions, smile and be polite.  This is an obligation because the character themselves cares little for other people, or the niceties of court.  They are obligated to go through the motions because they must fulfill their Lord's needs which is "an effective warrior who is also civil, and fun at parties."

Ninjo is not your "personal drive."  Think about Ninjo as if it were the part of the system your character disagreed with.  If they are a heartless killer who has no problem killing anyone, and they are asked to kill by their lord, they might have another element that they don't care about.  Maybe they don't like when common criminals are freed after some time of lashes and hard labor.  Maybe they think we should short-cut the system and just end any life that proves unworthy.

Their Ninjo could be "No crime is too petty to be punished."  When they see someone stealing an apple, they see it no different then if that person killed the vendor - both can be solved by killing a criminal.

This character's Giri can become drama because they may be at a social function and find an opportunity to challenge a rival Samurai to a duel.  An easy kill which will make other matters much easier going forward.  Your Lord wants the party to go off without a hitch though...  Do you appease your Lord and put your own mechanization on the back burner?

The Ninjo can be similarly challenged - your character is guarding a Samurai's house.  The Samurai was witness and party to a crime, but won't give testimony.  Your Lord has offered him absolution if he gives testimony.  You are tasked with delivering this letter personally to the Samurai...  You receive his signature on the testimony letter, and there you stand... signed letter in one hand... sword ready to be drawn with the other... do you finish the job?

Very well writted. Think of it like attributes in FATE; if you can't come up with a situation which puts the two in conflict, one of them needs rewording, but it's surprising how easy that is to do with a bit of poking.

 

Very much like the write-up. Yes, outbursts, advantages and disadvantages can be pretty funny to watch in action (when it's not a duel resulting in bugger-where-did-my-arm-go finishing blows). I think our best issues to date have involved a test character a friend created with the unfortunate combination of Bluntness/Irrepressible Flirtation/Painful Honest.

Making him compelled to flirt but also really, really, really bad at it

 

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We chose to not mind Giri and Ninjo in our games. There were more complex write-ups in the works, but they were all discarded because our GM couldn't find a way to make them relevant in the current campaign. Kitara was the only one with an obvious and generally applicable Giri/Ninjo conflict, but we didn't want her to stick out, so even she was put on a backburner. We will return to the issue later I guess. 

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