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AndyDay303

First Read Review

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L5R Beta
 
Greetings! I have just finished my first overview of the rules for FFG’s edition of L5R, which I have taken to calling 5R5. While I concede this is not marketed nor perceived as a 5th edition, I just like the way that 5R5 looks onscreen.

TL/DR: I think the game has a lot of great potential, but a few nuanced problems.
 
INTRO
I typically don’t like reviews that start with a lot of biography about the writer, but I do feel you should know just a hint of my history. I have been playing L5R since the 3rd edition, though I haven’t been in any campaign that has lasted more than a few sessions. I have had a love and hate relationship with the setting for various reasons, and my group and I had many very immature conflicts over silly things like the definition of honor and… well, that’s it, just a lot of arguing about honor. Also, I don’t own any of the multitude of splat books for the game. The core books + google are my only resources.
 
When I heard that FFG had taken the license of L5R, my heart soared! I love FFGs board games, so I became extremely enthusiastic about the prospects of future L5R board games. It is no surprise that I am very excited about the upcoming Battle for Rokugan (though I’d rather spend double the price and get some righteous minis). I have an authentic Japanese saki set from the finest tourist shop in Tokyo, ready to pour libations while making references horrible stereotypes and cliché tropes. It’ll be great!
 
When I saw the announcement for the L5R beta, I was likewise excited. Timing also seems auspicious, since the GM of my current L5R4E game is flying from his home in Oregon to visit in just a few weeks. I look forward to trying this out with him… IN PERSON!!!!
 
5R5: INTRODUCING CHOICE
The game has custom dice. This is a well-documented point of contention amongst the L5R pundits, and I’m afraid I have to weigh in on the matter. In short: I am excited to try the new dice mechanic. Custom dice have kept me away from Genesis, but in this game there’s only 2 different kinds, and only 4 symbols to understand, so it is sort of the ‘lite’ version of the Genesis dice. Now, I’m not excited to BUY all these dice, especially if I have to buy them for various other people just to get the game played. However, the custom dice appear to provide some opportunities that my stacks of D10 simply cannot provide.
 
In the traditional roll and keep system, you get to choose the dice you keep, but the choice is a “false choice.” There’s almost never a situation where picking anything but the highest possible result is the thing to do. Yes yes yes, you could choose to take a lower result if you wanted. And everybody seems to go back to the example of not wanting to kill in a duel, so you take low damage dice… that’s the example from the book. Give me 10 examples of why you’d want to take the low numbers and I might re-consider my position here. 
 
In 5R5, you actually have a choice to make with your dice roll. Take the bonus successes, or take the opportunities? Take the strife? This means every die roll will be a mini-game of sacrifices that you have to make to achieve your tactical goals while also trying to avoid strategic catastrophe. This-in theory-will be awesome. This also might-in theory-cause analysis-paralysis prone players to take a long time rolling. There will be times when my players will negotiate with me about opportunities, before deciding to take opportunities vs. successes. This dynamic will vary from group to group of course. We will see how it goes. However, I’m pretty confident in saying that the new system will be UNIQUE, and that is something I’ve been looking for in an RPG for a while.
 
5R5, A NEW TAKE ON SKILLTRIBUTES
L5R has always struggled to find the right balance between skills and attributes. From what I gather, 2E is the evil stepchild of the franchise because it blundered in this aspect. 3E introduced skill masteries, and 4E changes them (I didn’t say refined/improved, I said changed). I think that using 2 different die types is a pretty genius way to strike a balance between these two aspects of character. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE skill masteries, and I will miss them. However, I also like trying something different, and I like using different kinds of dice.
 
I also LOVE that having high social attributes gives you (dis)advantages. This is awesome. Though I’m not too enamored about the fact that they retained the points/ranks division of the social attributes, I think removing the decimal will cause some confusion amongst less assiduous players. 
 
MECHANICS: NEVER FORGET, BUT FORGET
I was talking to Dan the other day about how much I like Advantages and Disadvantages in L5R4E. They stand out from boons in Savage Worlds, Traits in DND5E, or even BITs from Burning Wheel. To me, they give a roleplaying opportunity that is firmly anchored in a rich setting. This is great! Just picking (dis)advantages gives a player a feel for what the game is trying to achieve, a glimpse of the genre that you’re about to embark in.
 
Imagine that impression, spread over the rest of the mechanics. 
 
Imagine mechanics that deal with the consequences of being over-emphatic in a culture that wants you to be somber. Imagine mechanics that make it actually taboo to carry a 2 Handed Greataxe of Sharpness to a baby’s gender-reveal party. Samurai means “one who serves.” Imagine a game where your Samurai’s service is emphasized, and then intentionally thrown into juxtaposition with his heart’s desires. This is a story about Samurai, and I feel like 5R5’s mechanics and general game advice do a VASTLY better job of embracing these elements than prior editions of the game. Seriously, the book even says that closing to range 0 in a social context is a faux pas! That’s amazing!
 
In fact, if I didn’t know any better, I’d have guessed that John Wick himself had made a return to the design team. For those of you who don’t know, John Wick was one of the original creators of L5R (and he then went on to slaughter mafia guys, he’s got a broad range). He’s gone on to make other samurai games, one of which is called Blood and Honor. While I don’t much care for the game*, it has some really great GMing advice that is good for GMing in general, and for samurai games in specific. 5R5 looks like it was taken straight from Wick’s own thoughts, and then refined into what appears to be a game with decent mechanics.
 
One thing that Wick said in Blood and Honor, which I believe with all of my heart, goes something like this: ‘if there isn’t a mechanic, then it doesn’t exist.’ This is another tenet taken to heart in 5R5, nowhere more so than in the Strife rules. The Strife rules, in a stroke, associate a number value with a character’s emotional turmoil. This gives the amazing opportunity to actually make a character’s emotions matter. No more pragmatic deadpan murder-hobos, like the kind you find in most other games. In this game, your guy is going to have moments where he makes mistakes because he’s, well, human. “My samurai wouldn’t chop off a peasant’s head for no reason!” you might exclaim when your Strife runnith over and you have an outburst… but then you recall the fact that you just proverbially bit your spouse’s head off for no reason, last night at dinner, and you realize that it’s impossible for anybody to be good all the time, whether they are real people or fictional heroes. 
 
Strife is also a lever that the GM can and should use to help enforce the genre. When the heroes of my DND campaign encounter nobility, they never-not once-show an ounce of manners. This ticks me off, and has led me to some poor choices. Strife gives me a reasonable method to course-correct the game, simply by informing the players that if they don’t show proper respect, they’ll suffer for it. Granted, this specific example might be an honor or glory loss, I’ll need to study those tables…
 
5R5 is not the first game to have an emotional attribute. Far from it. I’ve played a few myself. And they’ve all failed. Lets take a popular one: Exalted 2nd Edition. Great game, until I grew up and ran out of time. In Exalted, if you act a specific way, you chuck some dice and add points to your ‘limit.’ If you go over your limit, you have a nasty temper tantrum. Sounds a lot like strife, except for one little difference: Strife is woven into the core mechanic of the game, while Exalted’s “strife” mechanic is tacked on. Strife will be a decision you make any time you take an action. Exalted, well, we forgot to apply its rules most of the time. 
 
If you haven’t gotten the impression yet, I like (the idea of) strife. Strife for Life.
 
5R5: THE GAIJIN INVAJIN
I suspect that part of the reason why 5R5 has met with mixed enthusiasm is because it has dared to be different from its predecessors. It is the spunky grandkid that has purple colored hair and wears a romper with boots while the old timers sit on the porch and hiss and boo. 
 
The game isn’t afraid to take some of the best elements from other RPGs and paste them into the L5R framework in a bold way. The element  that comes to mind is the cooperative storytelling elements of the game. This is something Dan will love. Giving players the ability to change the setting to match their wants and needs is great. Granted, a lot of people aren’t into that, or don’t know how to do it. Well, 5R5 will help those folks, by putting cooperative storytelling into the dice mechanic. After all, that is what Opportunities are, in part. They allow a player to touch the setting and nudge it one way or the other. Yet, opportunities don’t REQUIRE a player to put on his GMing hat every time he rolls the bones, because many times they also have naked mechanical uses that the most ardent tactician can appreciate. In this way, Opportunities can walk on either side of that fine-line which separates the RP from the G in an RPG. 
 
Yet, I think that in some respects 5R5 might have gone too far into the realm of “Story Gaming.” Do you know what a Story Game is? Envision a time when you play action figures with your young nephew/sibling/kid you’re babysitting/sadly by yourself. You make up a story, the kid adds and modifies it (or more likely, overwrites it), and then you play around in the setting. A Story Game is like that, with a light sprinkle of mechanics added on top. You have probably heard of FATE, or Strands of FATE, or FATE Core, this is the seminal mainstream Story Game. 
 
And Story Games suck.
 
Let me rephrase, they don’t suck, they just aren’t for me. Or the people I play with. Some folks really like them. Which, unfortunately, is likely why those games have rubbed off on 5R5. 
 
Specifically, I am underwhelmed with “Approaches.” Approaches are just a long-winded, pagecount-heavy way for the game to allow you to use any attribute with any skill. Most other RPGs address this in a sidebar. Unfortunately, in 5R5, every single check will become a negotiation/narrative on how things get done. I enjoy this from time to time, but not all the time. Fortunately, my more modern GM theory (from the Angry GM, go read his blog) says… don’t roll the dice so much. I’ll start doing that even more than I already do, methinks.
 
Unfortunately, avoiding rolls is like avoiding a spouse after an argument: it won’t actually solve the problem. I have some very pragmatic tacticians in my group, and I can already see them churning every single check so that they use their best ring. While I’m 100% a fan of making Rokugan Samurai a little more thematically tied to their element, it won’t be satisfying if 80% of their rolls come from the same ring. I’ve been in this situation before with other story games, and I end up finding myself having to say “no” a lot. I don’t like saying “no” at the table, I think that is adversarial. Luke Crane, author of the excellent Burning Wheel RPG, says “say YES or roll the dice,” and that’s advice to live by. If I want to be an adversary and beat my players at a game, we’ll play Twilight Imperium. I know I know, the beta says that I can make different rings have different difficulties. I think this is a great solution… sometimes. Occasionally. But not with every roll. “Ah Steve, you’re going to use your Fire approach again I’m sure, so I’ll make this a Fire 5, Water 2 task.” That is just… petty. I fear that approaches will force such pettiness on me. And I am not convinced that stance bonuses will change how players roll in a conflict. This will vary from player to player though, I’m sure.  
 
I am also worried about said gamers slowing things down by milking Advantages all the time. I mean, I want advantages to count, and I want them to be BIG, don’t get me wrong. I really want to emphasize that this Samurai has a mean fiancé and that samurai is a beefcake. But I don’t want to have to negotiate their veracity on every-single-roll. And I know the game has advice to limit this. I plan to use it. Story games have advice about it too. Advice doesn’t always work.
 
I also worry that I am one of those gamers that I’m worried about, and if somebody else runs the game for me, they’ll get annoyed.
 
So as you can see, the Rings have caused me to gain some Strife. Fortunately, I’m not anywhere near my Composure yet, but unfortunately, I’ll likely blow up tonight when I’m at home asking my wife where she put the tequi… juice. 
 
All that said, Storytelling games have brought some positives to 5R5. I’ll note some of those in my list below.
 
5R5, THE TABLES HAVE TURNED… INTO MORE TABLES
I didn’t think it was possible for the new edition of 5R to be less complicated than its predecessor, yet still manage to have more tables. There are SO MANY tables, and they’re scattered all over the book. I dread the thought of handing a custom made cheat sheet to my players, saying ‘hey guys! Here is what you can spend your Opportunities on!’ only to see them instantly lose interest in the game because the handout is several pages long. Maybe I can fool them by putting all of the tables onto like a scroll, that they can roll through, so they’d get into a thematic mood long before they realize that they won’t be able to collate or pivot table these things.
 
Seriously though, I do like that there are mechanical differences between the rings when making Assessment rolls or taking different stances. I like that opportunities function a little different depending on what ring you’re using. I think this is an interesting way to discourage players from spamming their highest attribute. But there are a LOT of them, I sure hope the book comes with a handout that covers all of this stuff.
 
HONEYMOON TWILIGHT
I started writing this review a few days ago, then I got busy actually working. As I return to it, I find my enthusiasm waning a bit. I’ve read some forum posts that have left me saddened. Lets talk about a few of these little concerns.
 
Iaijutsu. It’s basically gone. I LOVE that duels are a little more open ended, and that warriors can fight their own way. In fact, I LOVE that warriors can use any weapon with their Martial Arts/Melee skill, this will add a lot more variety to the game. But I digress. Iaijutsu is a barely-noticeable technique now, rather than a genre-staple it once was. This doesn’t just make me sad, I think that it is problematic, if only from a story standpoint. Granted, players can still say they’re doing a fast-draw duel-even without the technique, mind you-but like John Wick said, ‘if there isn’t a mechanic, it doesn’t exist.’ I fear that Iaijutsu duels won’t exist in a game of 5R5.
 
Another topic that caught my eye is the apparent mortality in the game. Dan really likes that L5R is so lethal. I’m not quite in that boat. However, I’ve always liked that L5R conflicts have generally been fast. It doesn’t matter that the roll/keep system is a lot slower than other dice systems, because conflicts are so short, it doesn’t matter if your dice rolling takes a while. Well, that’s gone. If anything, it looks like conflicts will take a LONG time, and this is disconcerting.
 
I do want to say that I like the IDEA of the critical hit system. I like that each wound can have some character to it, you’ll long remember that fight when your leg got chop-saki’d. That is cool, so I hope some iteration makes it into the final design. I just hope that they also adjust the dials to ensure that conflicts don’t drag out.
 
I’m on the fence about another issue, which is that characters don’t have an sort of defense attribute. Every attack is made against TN 2. This has some advantages; players don’t have to ask a monster’s AC, they just roll and tell me how much damage they did. I like that, it is slick. You can also make the argument that in Rokugan, “defense” or “AC” in fact exists, its just called “initiative.” I think this is a valid perspective. You defend yourself by striking first. I also think that there is some nuance to the attack/damage system that may play out better than we think. Firstly, when you’re hit you DO roll dice to reduce the damage. This could be considered some sort of ‘dodge’ roll. Ergo, you’re defending yourself in combat actively, rather than with a passive score, which is empowering to the player (and lets you spend void on the roll). Also, if you take a light hit, it isn’t even do a wound at all, it gives you a temporary condition. This reminds me of the Staggered condition in Savage Worlds… which now that I think about it, I hate the Staggered condition in Savage Worlds, and that game also lacked a defense attribute (against guns, at least). Hmmm… 
 
I have this fear that the simple and alluring elegance of the 5R5 roll/keep system is going to be lost in the nuanced, sometimes fiddly subsystems. This terror has been increasing over the last few days. We will see how it goes.
 
SUMMARY
If you have stuck around to read this far, I am so appreciative. This quick review ended up being colossal. I hope you enjoyed it though.
 
Here is a quick list of the little details of the game that I LIKE. I’ll put an asterisk (*) next to the storygame-inspired elements. 
 
ALL THE LITTLE THINGS I LIKE
    · Custom dice.
    · Rings are more about personality and nature than about actual physical/mental ability.*
    · Rings all play into derived values well, except Void, but it gives you void points.
    · Discord, another mechanic about ambiance, style and storytelling.*
    · Multiple pages about bushido, multiple tables about bushido, because that’s how important it is.
    · Meditation is a martial skill. This is totally Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, I love it.
    · The Mantis Clan isn’t a major clan. Returning to the auspicious number of 7 clans is good.
    · Bidding strife is cool. I like bidding mechanics. Esp since strife is so important in a duel.
    · Strife is important in a duel. That’s gnarly! If you want to beat your foe, jack around with him before the duel (taunting, murder his family, etc) to amp up his strife. Very action movie stuff.
    · Wargear trait: adds verisimilitude in one easy stroke.
    · The book focuses a lot on interacting with one’s Lord, though there aren’t specific mechanics for it…*
    · Nice campaign worksheet
    · Ninjas exist outside of the scorpion clan. But they don’t exist. Nice!
    · It is impolite to get to range 0 in a social setting.
    · Duels are more flexible, not just iaijutsu.
    · Knowing TN before you roll, and getting a void if it is secret! No more guessing games. Speaking of guessing games…
    · Raises are gone. I hate raises.
    · D12, the petty forgotten die, is finally getting some love. It’s been at home sad about its once famous career in Advanced Heroes Quest, wishing it had a better agent.
    · Get void when things go awry due to disadvantages. Even the bad stuff is good! This reminds me of Dungeon World. Good stuff.*
    · Players win ties.*
    · Staking honor/glory/status.* (though I wish you’d get a bonus after a successful stake)
    · Some samurai use a weapon other than a katana as part of their daisho. Apparently the authors did NOT consult Wick.
    · Get a void point for running low on ammo.
    · Forfeiting honor to act dishonorable. I like this one because I actually pondered it up for one of my homebrew L5R hacks.
    · Different clans views of bushido and how it affects honor game/loss.
    · NPC demeanor. Though it’s complicated…
 
ALL THE LITTLE THINGS I DON’T LIKE
    · Custom dice.
    · Low honor breaks several of the ties. 
    · Making difficulty different for each ring seems cumbersom. 
    · Iaijutsu is barely a thing
    · Saying “silhouette” instead of “size.” I mean it is more evocative and sounds cool, but… 
    · 2 sided character sheet.
    · Range bands. I appreciate simplifying range, but these are just weird since they’re incrementally different. Also, they seem meaningless since most characters can reposition to optimal range for their weapon with their standard 2 moves (avoid the reach of a spear, get to range 1 for your sword, move out of range to use a bow, etc). 
    · Intrigue conflicts. I’ve tried ‘social conflict’ rules so many times, they never work with my group.
    · A staff does more wounds than a katana, really????
 
THINGS I FIND WEIRD
    · Despite Approach, there are a few instances where specific rings are called out. Why can’t I approach these checks differently? And why is Water ring dominating? 
        o Water ring is your healing rate for wounds. 
        o Water ring is your healing rate for strife.
        o Water ring to sober up from a night of drinking.
        o Commerce (water) to locate an item at market. 
        o Fitness (Water/Air) to stop yourself from burning.
        o Medicine (air) to remove dying condition
        o Design or Smithing (Air) to see concealed armor.
        o Medicine (earth) to remove bleeding. “Sorry bud, I know you’re dying, but I can only bandage your wounds” says the earth guy.
        o Medicine (earth) to apply poison
        o Void to calm down from rage.
        o Fire ring to restore somebody to conciousness.
    · Minions. In most games I LOVE minions, and I’ve always wanted L5R to be more of an action movie genre than a gritty genre. But… it’s a gritty genre. I’m not sure minions fit.
 
THINGS I HOPE ARE IN THE BOOK
    · Advice on how to put together a play group that includes Bushi, Shugy, and Courtiers. As it stands, the game seems to have 2 modes of play, non-fighter talky talky types and fighting warring stuff. Courtiers aren’t expected to fight, and fighters aren’t expected in court. This is one of those divisions that bugs me about the setting. Fix it for me.
    · Make Iaijutsu great again… but leave wiggle room for other types of duels.
    · A cheat sheet for using opportunities, by Ring or by conflict type.
    · Some combination of gaining strife and losing glory if your katana/primary weapon is destroyed or lost. A samurai’s sword IS his soul, after all.
 
HOUSE RULES I’VE MUSED
I’m a house-ruler. There’s nary a game that I’ve touched that I don’t use them. I used to even modify the .ini files when playing computer games. Here are a handful of ill-conceived ideas I’ve had when reading through the book.
    · When you use a ring, “mark” it. You can un-mark 3 rings to gain 1 void. You can un-mark 5 rings to gain 2 void. Thanks to Christian Griffin, author of Anima Prime, for planting the seed of this idea.
    · Iaijutsu duels: Perhaps when you do an official iaijutsu duel, you gain a point of glory, since you’re dueling the “right” way. 
    · Iaijutsu duels: Maybe make a sub-system where you and your opponent mentally batter eachother until the other has an outburst, allowing you to do a finishing blow. That is basically the essence of the Iaij duel, and I love it… so long as it isn’t preceded by a bunch of sword fighting.
    · If somebody stakes a social attribute and succeed, give them +1 to that attribute.
    · No spamming stances, you cannot choose the same stance twice in a row.

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2 hours ago, AndyDay303 said:

Strife is also a lever that the GM can and should use to help enforce the genre. When the heroes of my DND campaign encounter nobility, they never-not once-show an ounce of manners. This ticks me off, and has led me to some poor choices. Strife gives me a reasonable method to course-correct the game, simply by informing the players that if they don’t show proper respect, they’ll suffer for it. Granted, this specific example might be an honor or glory loss, I’ll need to study those tables…

It would be an honour loss under Rei (Courtesy):

  • Cursing or using disrespectful language in the presence of someone of higher status - Lose 1 Honour
  • Directly insulting someone of equal or higher status - Lose Honour equal to honour rank x 2 (~8-10 for most starting characters!)

Not that strife won't matter, but it'll be the noble receiving the strife (or his bodyguards). And his 'outburst' is likely to be 'have them ejected from my presence and/or killed' or the players getting challenged. The difference from doing this in normal RPGs is that there's a tracked stat, they've seen the strife being added, and they can't say they were unaware of the consequences...

2 hours ago, AndyDay303 said:

Specifically, I am underwhelmed with “Approaches.” Approaches are just a long-winded, pagecount-heavy way for the game to allow you to use any attribute with any skill. Most other RPGs address this in a sidebar. Unfortunately, in 5R5, every single check will become a negotiation/narrative on how things get done. I enjoy this from time to time, but not all the time. Fortunately, my more modern GM theory (from the Angry GM, go read his blog) says… don’t roll the dice so much. I’ll start doing that even more than I already do, methink

You don't have to make it a negotiation.

Quote

When making a check, a player first states what their character wants to accomplish, which determines the skill group used for the check. Then, the GM and player determine which skill in that group is the most fitting for the task. Finally, the player describes the method their character uses, which the GM uses to determine their approach.

To wit; it's your say, as GM, what approach their planned course of action is. They don't get to insist on using earth for dancing nimbly through the spear-traps; they tell you "I want to dance nimbly through the spear-traps" and you say "that'll be water, then"; you have the final say.

Steve doesn't say "I'm using fire approach", he says "I'm going to inspect this closely and carefully" and you arbitrate what ring that is, just as if you'd decide whether something was an Intelligence or Perception check in a 40k RPG.

Secondly, you have two tools at your disposal - firstly you get to translate their (narrative) instructions into (mechanical) effects, but you do the same for the test. The difficulty of a test (TN) is also variable based on approach, so if someone really wants to insist that they are somehow using slow brute force to achieve zen acrobatics, you are at liberty to clock up the difficulty of doing so. Compare with (for example) demeanours for NPCs:

Quote

 

Gruff: This character has a rough exterior and a no-nonsense attitude, and has little tolerance for frivolity, niceties, or trickery. A direct, honest approach generally garners the best results with such a person.

Social Skill Check TN Modifiers: Air +2, Earth –2

 

In a conflict scene, by comparison, let them use whatever stance/ring they like - it's self-limiting, because of things like criticals hitting the stat you're using at the time, or centre actions in a duel punishing someone who predictably only uses one stance.

2 hours ago, AndyDay303 said:

There are SO MANY tables, and they’re scattered all over the book. I dread the thought of handing a custom made cheat sheet to my players, saying ‘hey guys! Here is what you can spend your Opportunities on!’ only to see them instantly lose interest in the game because the handout is several pages long. Maybe I can fool them by putting all of the tables onto like a scroll, that they can roll through, so they’d get into a thematic mood long before they realize that they won’t be able to collate or pivot table these things.

My personal aim is a 'gaming mat' to go on the dining room table. If it's A3 or similar, similar to the star wars one, you could fit on it:

a '5-ringed wheel' in one corner where people can put a token for their current stance and initiative, so everyone can see it at a glance (and you can do the same with NPCs).

opportunity tables round the border (there are about half a dozen, so it'll be easier to see). But pair them up by ring, not by function, so that Steve knows to look at the fire bit (and would naturally sit there)

Maybe a map of rokugan as 'background art'?

 

2 hours ago, AndyDay303 said:

Iaijutsu. It’s basically gone. I LOVE that duels are a little more open ended, and that warriors can fight their own way. In fact, I LOVE that warriors can use any weapon with their Martial Arts/Melee skill, this will add a lot more variety to the game. But I digress. Iaijutsu is a barely-noticeable technique now, rather than a genre-staple it once was. This doesn’t just make me sad, I think that it is problematic, if only from a story standpoint. Granted, players can still say they’re doing a fast-draw duel-even without the technique, mind you-but like John Wick said, ‘if there isn’t a mechanic, it doesn’t exist.’ I fear that Iaijutsu duels won’t exist in a game of 5R5.

Hmm..

I'll grant you this. Not that Iaijutsu is useless but that it's not dramatically useful in a duel (as a technique its very good in a skirmish because it essentially turns a sword into a high-deadliness naginata). With drawing a weapon coming for free, there's no real reason to use iaijutsu over strike.

On the other hand, there's also no real reason to use strike over centre, because the best result is the finishing blow.

2 hours ago, AndyDay303 said:

Another topic that caught my eye is the apparent mortality in the game. Dan really likes that L5R is so lethal. I’m not quite in that boat. However, I’ve always liked that L5R conflicts have generally been fast. It doesn’t matter that the roll/keep system is a lot slower than other dice systems, because conflicts are so short, it doesn’t matter if your dice rolling takes a while. Well, that’s gone. If anything, it looks like conflicts will take a LONG time, and this is disconcerting.
 
I do want to say that I like the IDEA of the critical hit system. I like that each wound can have some character to it, you’ll long remember that fight when your leg got chop-saki’d. That is cool, so I hope some iteration makes it into the final design. I just hope that they also adjust the dials to ensure that conflicts don’t drag out.

I don't know about that. It'll depend on the situation, of course, but it generally only takes three or four successful strike actions (not quite the same thing to me as 'hits with a sword' to incapacitate an equivalent adversary (arguably less when delivering something nasty or laden with bonus success). Striking with your preferred ring, a bonus success is quite likely (3 dice plus a skill die is going to probably be 'the norm'), so even a guy in lacquered armour is taking damage.

2 hours ago, AndyDay303 said:

I’m on the fence about another issue, which is that characters don’t have an sort of defense attribute. Every attack is made against TN 2. This has some advantages; players don’t have to ask a monster’s AC, they just roll and tell me how much damage they did. I like that, it is slick. You can also make the argument that in Rokugan, “defense” or “AC” in fact exists, its just called “initiative.” I think this is a valid perspective. You defend yourself by striking first. I also think that there is some nuance to the attack/damage system that may play out better than we think

This is true, but there's a second string to that; you can 'defend yourself', but you do it by doing things deliberately. TN2 is the difficulty of hitting "a man-sized target that's not effectively evading or dodging" - you can increase it by doing stuff. Either actively (by actions) or more passively  (as the byproduct of actions, opportunities and stances).

In extreme cases, air stance, a centre action, and a single opportunity dropped into the striking-as-air kata pushes you to TN6 to be hit with a strike action, and that's without a single bonus success on a TN1 check.

Yes, you need to actually have a turn first to do this, but in a skirmish you should have a turn (because your opponent doesn't just appear at range 0 and do a strike action unless you're in the sort of ambush where you shouldn't be benefitting from this stuff!) and in a duel that's the point of the staredown; you can go first against a higher initiative foe if you're prepared to risk the strife cost.

 

2 hours ago, AndyDay303 said:

ALL THE LITTLE THINGS I LIKE
    · Custom dice.
    · Rings are more about personality and nature than about actual physical/mental ability.*
    · Rings all play into derived values well, except Void, but it gives you void points.
    · Discord, another mechanic about ambiance, style and storytelling.*
    · Multiple pages about bushido, multiple tables about bushido, because that’s how important it is.
    · Meditation is a martial skill. This is totally Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, I love it.
    · The Mantis Clan isn’t a major clan. Returning to the auspicious number of 7 clans is good.
    · Bidding strife is cool. I like bidding mechanics. Esp since strife is so important in a duel.
    · Strife is important in a duel. That’s gnarly! If you want to beat your foe, jack around with him before the duel (taunting, murder his family, etc) to amp up his strife. Very action movie stuff.
    · Wargear trait: adds verisimilitude in one easy stroke.
    · The book focuses a lot on interacting with one’s Lord, though there aren’t specific mechanics for it…*
    · Nice campaign worksheet
    · Ninjas exist outside of the scorpion clan. But they don’t exist. Nice!
    · It is impolite to get to range 0 in a social setting.
    · Duels are more flexible, not just iaijutsu.
    · Knowing TN before you roll, and getting a void if it is secret! No more guessing games. Speaking of guessing games…
    · Raises are gone. I hate raises.
    · D12, the petty forgotten die, is finally getting some love. It’s been at home sad about its once famous career in Advanced Heroes Quest, wishing it had a better agent.
    · Get void when things go awry due to disadvantages. Even the bad stuff is good! This reminds me of Dungeon World. Good stuff.*
    · Players win ties.*
    · Staking honor/glory/status.* (though I wish you’d get a bonus after a successful stake)
    · Some samurai use a weapon other than a katana as part of their daisho. Apparently the authors did NOT consult Wick.
    · Get a void point for running low on ammo.
    · Forfeiting honor to act dishonorable. I like this one because I actually pondered it up for one of my homebrew L5R hacks.
    · Different clans views of bushido and how it affects honor game/loss.
    · NPC demeanor. Though it’s complicated…

Indeed. I agree with pretty much all of these. 

My favourites:

  • Wargear/ceremonial trait specifically - persuading players "no, you can't wear battle-plate to go to tea with lord Asano just in case" actually has some rules support now!
  • Your downsides/character drawbacks are how you get your fate points/destiny points/luck back. Which means the players will actually want them to matter, not come up with a ten-minute specious argument about how a fear of the dark doesn't apply because he's got his eyes closed so he can't see it and doesn't technically know it's dark.
2 hours ago, AndyDay303 said:

ALL THE LITTLE THINGS I DON’T LIKE
    · Custom dice.
    · Low honor breaks several of the ties. 
    · Making difficulty different for each ring seems cumbersom. 
    · Iaijutsu is barely a thing
    · Saying “silhouette” instead of “size.” I mean it is more evocative and sounds cool, but… 
    · 2 sided character sheet.
    · Range bands. I appreciate simplifying range, but these are just weird since they’re incrementally different. Also, they seem meaningless since most characters can reposition to optimal range for their weapon with their standard 2 moves (avoid the reach of a spear, get to range 1 for your sword, move out of range to use a bow, etc). 
    · Intrigue conflicts. I’ve tried ‘social conflict’ rules so many times, they never work with my group.
    · A staff does more wounds than a katana, really????

Fair enough.

The comment with the wounds - a staff (or any blunt force trauma weapon) tends to be high damage, low deadliness. Which makes it great for hurting someone - even someone in lacquered armour - and stunning and incapacitating, but pretty naff at actually killing them. When we did a bit of test rolling for the two bushi in our group, this was very apparent; they both took the same time to kill an opponent (a shadowlands goblin chieftain) but Hida Takeshi took only two swings with a warhammer to incapacitate him and then about three more increasingly squishy-sounding blows on the goblin to actually kill him, whilst Akodo Tsubasa took three rounds to do any meaningful damage with his katana against the goblin's armour, but then delivered an Agonising Death result in a single critical with a double-handed katana and essentially  just had to sit and wait for the goblin to expire..

I agree that moving 2 range bands feels too much without a dedicated 'move' action, because it makes a spear or jitte's range difference (which is cool to have in game) feel pointless.

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THINGS I FIND WEIRD
    · Despite Approach, there are a few instances where specific rings are called out. Why can’t I approach these checks differently? And why is Water ring dominating? 
        o Fitness (Water/Air) to stop yourself from burning.

It's a TN2 fitness check. You can use any ring for it. But it's noticeably harder to remove with air (because speed and agility doesn't really help) whilst easier with water (because flexibility to tamp it down, I guess, plus the inevitable water-beats-fire thing). Earth (grit your teeth and bear it) or Void (be all zen and stuff and ignore the pain) would still be useable at TN2.

Bleeding and Dying checks are fixed, though, which I agree is weird. Any broad effect - as I've said before - should be achievable with more than one approach - what varies is the difficulty; some approaches should be a blatantly bad idea (I will use aggression and fast movement for this delicate life-saving procedure) but I'm not a fan of it being impossible.

2 hours ago, AndyDay303 said:

 · Iaijutsu duels: Maybe make a sub-system where you and your opponent mentally batter eachother until the other has an outburst, allowing you to do a finishing blow. That is basically the essence of the Iaij duel, and I love it… so long as it isn’t preceded by a bunch of sword fighting.
       · No spamming stances, you cannot choose the same stance twice in a row

Try using centre in duels rather than actually attacking - it does exactly this; making the party doing so nigh impossible to hit and lobbing a big whack of strife onto your opponent if they use the stance you (secretly) predict for their next action.

centre/centre/centre/outburst/finishing blow is a much better tactical approach for a duellist than strike/strike/strike, precisely because a wakizashi is amazing at doing limb-removing criticals but comparatively naff at causing raw wounds.

By comparison, a dude with an otsuchi warhammer might as well whale on you - the odds of him hitting a centred opponent are very slim, but he only needs one blow through to stand a chance of incapacitating a lightly armoured samurai.

 

Edited by Magnus Grendel

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In the traditional roll and keep system, you get to choose the dice you keep, but the choice is a “false choice.”

In 5R5, you actually have a choice to make with your dice roll. Take the bonus successes, or take the opportunities? Take the strife?

 

Well, D10 RnK was never about "choice." It was merely presenting a power balance between Skills and Rings.  Rings were more powerful, but harder to level up.  But there's a vast difference in value between the +1k0 of leveling a skill and the value of +1k1 by leveling up a Ring (and thus both traits).   On the flip side, just Water Stance everything in an uncontested rolling situation, and taking Strife will be meaningless on the die rolls. Especially characters who can soak a fair amount of Strife with a high Composure.  A Matsu Bushi could easily start the game with 10 Composure (3 Earth, 2 Fire) and has 3 Water meaning he can use Water Stance for pretty much all his checks (minimum 4k3 on skilled rolls), stripping 2 strife every time he checks. A character with high Void can just avoid taking Strife altogether on uncontested rolls.  Strife is a mini-game, not a real choice once players figure out how it works.  

Which touches on your other point on how the game will become a monotonous exercise in every character using their best Rings for the overwhelming majority of checks, and the only way to disincentivize that behavior is to be a jerk and raise the TNs against those traits. It's an utter failure of a mechanic, especially since TNs primarily vary by +/- 1. Your Rank 4 Ring is significantly better than your Rank 2 Ring that even on a disadvantaged check where you used the "wrong" approach, that you're still not going to be facing much tougher odds. Players are very quickly going to figure out how to make the "best" characters in this game by maxing out Rings as quickly as possible, and it'll be even less balanced than some of the Ninja-Archer-Courtiers from 4E, lol. Because these characters will just be great at everything instead of some very specific things.

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    but then you recall the fact that you just proverbially bit your spouse’s head off for no reason, last night at dinner, and you realize that it’s impossible for anybody to be good all the time, whether they are real people or fictional heroes.

That's just because you should have driven home from work in Water Stance and eaten dinner in Void Stance.  The stresses you're describing are long-term, building psychological effects for everyone but the most hot-headed of people. Nobody "snaps" at their spouse because they rolled poorly at work all day. It's because they have underlying issues that have been unresolved for long periods of time. The Strife mechanic is, as written, supremely hot/cold, with easy ways to go from 0 to near-outburst and back fairly quickly, and it makes the characters temperamental nutcases, not more believable regular human beings under pressure. I don't hate the idea of a Strife mechanic (I love Call of Cthulhu and Insanity, for example), but the way it exists in the Beta is bad.

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    I am also worried about said gamers slowing things down by milking Advantages all the time. I mean, I want advantages to count, and I want them to be BIG, don’t get me wrong. I really want to emphasize that this Samurai has a mean fiancé and that samurai is a beefcake. But I don’t want to have to negotiate their veracity on every-single-roll. And I know the game has advice to limit this. I plan to use it. Story games have advice about it too. Advice doesn’t always work.

Advantages are almost meaningless in a lot of this game. Very few of them really feel overpowered. Wait until it fully dawns on you jut how much obnoxious work the Disadvantages are going to be for a GM since they are intrinsically linked to recovering Void Points, lol.  You're going to have to constantly keep them in mind and plan situations for them to come into play, or your players are going to be whining there haven't been any chances to embarrass themselves flirting at court or opportunities to throw out his bad back straining himself.  Anybody excited about that mechanic is clearly not a GM, or enjoys inserting repetitive, meaningless scenes into their games so the players can regenerate one of their core mechanical pools. 4E: "Did you rest last night? Okay, have some Void Points back." 5E: "Did you have a crisis of conscience, a mental breakdown or otherwise suffer adversity in the last couple hours? No? Guess not."  Or, conversely, somebody posted up a character who figured out that their Ninja character could use an Adversity as a Void-Point generating Advantage by simply selecting one that gets Void points from failing things the character isn't trying to succeed at, lol.  Not sure if cheesy, or a genius demonstration of how flawed that whole system is because the game wants players to be Noble Samurai but also includes plenty of character types who don't care about being Noble Samurai.

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    Wargear/ceremonial trait specifically - persuading players "no, you can't wear battle-plate to go to tea with lord Asano    just in case" actually has some rules support now!

 


You needed a mechanic for this? Not sure whether to be amused, or feel sorry that you've had to play with people like that.

Edited by TheVeteranSergeant

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4 hours ago, AndyDay303 said:

No more pragmatic deadpan murder-hobos, like the kind you find in most other games. 

The Strife mechanic actually makes a perfect environment for pragmatic deadpan murder-hobos. There is literally a rule (Outburst) that justifies being a murder-hobo and even indirectly congratulates the player for "doing samurai drama". 

In this regard, I agree that the Beta might as well be written by the Wick :rolleyes:.

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Well, D10 RnK was never about "choice." It was merely presenting a power balance between Skills and Rings.  Rings were more powerful, but harder to level up.  But there's a vast difference in value between the +1k0 of leveling a skill and the value of +1k1 by leveling up a Ring (and thus both traits).   On the flip side, just Water Stance everything in an uncontested rolling situation, and taking Strife will be meaningless on the die rolls. Especially characters who can soak a fair amount of Strife with a high Composure.  A Matsu Bushi could easily start the game with 10 Composure (3 Earth, 2 Fire) and has 3 Water meaning he can use Water Stance for pretty much all his checks (minimum 4k3 on skilled rolls), stripping 2 strife every time he checks. A character with high Void can just avoid taking Strife altogether on uncontested rolls.  Strife is a mini-game, not a real choice once players figure out how it works.  

Which touches on your other point on how the game will become a monotonous exercise in every character using their best Rings for the overwhelming majority of checks, and the only way to disincentivize that behavior is to be a jerk and raise the TNs against those traits. It's an utter failure of a mechanic, especially since TNs primarily vary by +/- 1. Your Rank 4 Ring is significantly better than your Rank 2 Ring that even on a disadvantaged check where you used the "wrong" approach, that you're still not going to be facing much tougher odds. Players are very quickly going to figure out how to make the "best" characters in this game by maxing out Rings as quickly as possible, and it'll be even less balanced than some of the Ninja-Archer-Courtiers from 4E, lol. Because these characters will just be great at everything instead of some very specific things.

Eh, certainly did not have that problem, but then again our group plays a lot of PbtA games. Just apply the principle of 'Fiction first' and let that determine what ring is used. Furthermore, the skills for a large part also determine what rings must be used. Finally, in combat staying in one stance can be a huge mistake.

That said, if your players can roleplay their way into using their highest ring a lot, that is not a bad thing. They paid the xp after all, but I don't see how it's possible to use it ALL the time.

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That's just because you should have driven home from work in Water Stance and eaten dinner in Void Stance.  The stresses you're describing are long-term, building psychological effects for everyone but the most hot-headed of people. Nobody "snaps" at their spouse because they rolled poorly at work all day. It's because they have underlying issues that have been unresolved for long periods of time. The Strife mechanic is, as written, supremely hot/cold, with easy ways to got from 0 to near-outburst and back fairly quickly, and it makes the characters temperamental nutcases, not more believable regular human beings under pressure. I don't hate the idea of a Strife mechanic (I love Call of Cthulhu and Insanity, for example), but the way it exists in the Beta is bad.

An outburst is not throwing a tantrum or snapping. Can also be complaining about that ******** samurai bob always taking your stapler and not putting it back on your desk at work. You're in control and your character will only be a temperamental nutcase if you portray him or her like that.

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Advantages are almost meaningless in a lot of this game. Very few of them really feel overpowered. Wait until it fully dawns on you jut how much obnoxious work the Disadvantages are going to be for a GM since they are intrinsically linked to recovering Void Points, lol.  You're going to have to constantly keep them in mind and plan situations for them to come into play, or your players are going to be whining there haven't been any chances to embarrass themselves flirting at court or opportunities to throw out his bad back straining himself.  Anybody excited about that mechanic is clearly not a GM, or enjoys inserting repetitive, meaningless scenes into their games so the players can regenerate one of their core mechanical pools. 4E: "Did you rest last night? Okay, have some Void Points back." 5E: "Did you have a crisis of conscience, a mental breakdown or otherwise suffer adversity in the last couple hours? No? Guess not."  Or, conversely, somebody posted up a character who figured out that their Ninja character could use an Adversity as a Void-Point generating Advantage by simply selecting one that gets Void points from failing things the character isn't trying to succeed at, lol.  Not sure if cheesy, or a genius demonstration of how flawed that whole system is because the game wants players to be Noble Samurai but also includes plenty of character types who don't care about being Noble Samurai.

Not really worried about that, actually. Void is not so necessary to character survival as in 4e. Also, do not insert repetitive, meaningless scenes? Shuts down the possibility to 'game the system' as well. The onus of coming up with real scenes where there disads come into play is not solely on the GM, actually.

That said, I would allow downtime meditation or tea ceremony actions to get the occasional void.

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You needed a mechanic for this? Not sure whether to be amused, or feel sorry that you've had to play with people like that.

Well, at least he is not worried that his players will go out of their way to go against the spirit of the system to powerplay!;)

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Finally, in combat staying in one stance can be a huge mistake.

Yeah, that's going to be crippling for that entry level Matsu Bushi with his Composure 10, Resilience 12, Fitness 2, Water 3 and Earth 3, lol.

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The onus of coming up with real scenes where there disads come into play is not solely on the GM, actually.

Having players running around looking for ways to fail at their bizarre situational Disadvantages isn't any more desirable of a situation, lol. The GM is still having to GM that scenario, only this time he's not prepared for it.  Have you ever GMed a game, actually?

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your character will only be a temperamental nutcase if you portray him or her like that.

True, because in a lot of cases, as I demonstrated, the Strife minigame is so gamey many players won't even be affected by it because they'll just metagame its clumsy mechanics. If I played myself smart and drove home in Water Stance and I dealt with my wife in Void Stance, I'd never have any problems snapping at her, lol.

But also, simultaneously, false, because temperamental doesn't mean "angry."  It just means "liable to unreasonable changes of mood." That can be transitions to being unreasonably happy or unreasonably mad, but in almost all cases under the Strife system as it is written, it will be unreasonable, hence being a nutcase.  The problem isn't the character's type of reaction, as you seem to think I'm saying. It's that they're reacting in these ways at all.

Well, at least he is not worried that his players will go out of their way to go against the spirit of the system to powerplay

My players wouldn't because we long-since excised those people from the group and set clear expectations for newjoins of how we play. But, being older and wiser and having written game material freelance, I know that a Beta is about playtesting how the lowest to average denominator of players will receive, interpret, and exploit rules, not how the best ones do.  I'm making observations about mechanics problems to help other people, not just myself.   Clearly, from my given example in the first week of testing (lol), players are already figuring out how to get around the Disadvantages and exploit them. Not a lot of balance in a system where Crane and Lion characters are going to be emotional cripples struggling to balance bizarre adversities and anxieties, and Scorpion ninjas are going to be James Bond because they can wave their hands in the air and just don't care.

Edited by TheVeteranSergeant

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Yeah, that's going to be crippling for that entry level Matsu Bushi with his Composure 10, Resilience 12, Fitness 2, Water 3 and Earth 3, lol.

Yes it will be. He won't be immune to criticals.

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Having players running around looking for ways to fail at their bizarre situational Disadvantages isn't any more desirable of a situation, lol. The GM is still having to GM that scenario, only this time he's not prepared for it.  Have you ever GMed a game, actually?

I have yes. Many actually, including this one. Going from D&D4e and Burning Wheel, over WoD and FFG SW to many narrative games such as AW, DW, Monsterhearts, Firefly, etc... Preparation is overrated.

Anyway, no, if players want to take bizarre situational disadvantages which will be hard to engage with instead of using disadvantages to flag something which will be fun and interesting to struggle against, advise against it and tell them it won't net them much spotlight time. Establish the social contract explicitly and don't indulge a player which doesn't adhere to it.

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True, because in a lot of cases, as I demonstrated, the Strife minigame is so gamey many players won't even be affected by it because they'll just metagame its clumsy mechanics. If I played myself smart and drove home in Water Stance and I dealt with my wife in Void Stance, I'd never have any problems snapping at her, lol.

But also, simultaneously, false, because temperamental doesn't mean "angry."  It just means "liable to unreasonable changes of mood." That can be transitions to being unreasonably happy or unreasonably mad, but in almost all cases under the Strife system as it is written, it will be unreasonable, hence being a nutcase.  The problem isn't the character's type of reaction, as you seem to think I'm saying. It's that they're reacting in these ways at all.

I'm not going to engage the argument that a roleplaying system can be gamed. That is true for every single game written and ever more so for the more narrative ones which require a certain level of buy-in. That is hardly new.

Outburst is dropping your On. Again, your reaction does not have to be unreasonable unless you want it to be, you just have to show emotion. Make it as extreme as you choose, but all that is necessary is showing your true self.

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My players wouldn't because we long-since excised those people from the group and set clear expectations for newjoins of how we play. But, being older and wiser and having written game material freelance, I know that a Beta is about playtesting how the lowest to average denominator of players will receive, interpret, and exploit rules, not how the best ones do.  I'm making observations about mechanics problems to help other people, not just myself.   Clearly, from my given example in the first week of testing (lol), players are already figuring out how to get around the Disadvantages and exploit them. Not a lot of balance in a system where Crane and Lion characters are going to be emotional cripples struggling to balance bizarre adversities and anxieties, and Scorpion ninjas are going to be James Bond because they can wave their hands in the air and just don't care.

Again, a rulebook has never in the history of our hobby stopped players from exploiting or going against the spirit of the rules. Oh, I readily agree these particular rules do an atrocious job of adequately communicating their intent and if this would have been my first rpg with a narrative bent I wouldn't have gotten it.

And therefore I still don't agree about the emotional cripples with bizarre adversities and anxieties. Just don't make those characters if you don't want to, or allow them as the gm if you don't want them at the table. It's a choice and really is not the automatic end-result of this system and in fact I call such a statement ridiculously hyperbolic.

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1 hour ago, Doji Namika said:

Preparation is overrated.

This is what sets apart systems like this. Come into a session with a piece of paper of dot points, a collection of scenes that could link in different ways, a final destination without a railroad to get there. Then have some cards with NPC stats on them for quick reference, and perhaps some environments or "sets" on other cards for quick reference. 

Then let the Players do all the work, telling a story with 5 people coming up with ideas is much easier than one person writing a script and it then being read out. Set TN's as they are required, go with your gut and ride the wave. If a set piece or encounter doesn't get used this session then take 5 minutes to reskin it for next. Turn a day or prep into an hour, perhaps two.

Obviosly that's not for everyone, but it's a GMing style that works very well with these systems.

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Preparation is overrated.

Well, I guess we can be done then. Clearly we don't have anywhere remotely similar ideas of what a good roleplaying game is.   As it stands, this system sucks for the kind of game I want to play. It's just a lot of mechanical chores, incongruous events and and wasted time doing things that aren't advancing the story, or really even providing anything valuable for the players and GM to spend time on unless they like games that are repetitive and time-consuming.  To be quite blunt, even if you disagree with me that the GM shouldn't have to prepare and the players can take some of that onus on themselves in a cooperative manner, the Void Point replenishment mechanic is a gigantic waste of time spent attempting to fail repeatedly at similar, oddly specific types of tasks because characters can only fail at those specific tasks/situations to achieve their desired end results..  That's bad game design, no matter what king of game you're playing.

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I can only suggest playing a couple of short sessions using systems which support the low-prep game style. It will make you understand this game's intent so much better than it manages to explain itself.

As I've said, I would include other ways of regaining void, but the core game system of gaining bennie points when your character is negatively impacted by his disadvantages is used in many rpg's and doesn't automatically result what you describe. It really is not a new concept and this way of handling them has a proven track record.

That said, it does require that more care should be taken in picking them. For example don't take bitter betrothal if you are playing a campaign of  traveling magistrates and your spouse is on the other side of the Empire. That marriage must be a core part of the character's story so that scenes struggling against them are advancing the overall story. If you look at them in this way, after character creation, combined with your own overarching story-line, you have a ready-made campaign which your players have a strong incentive to engage with.

Edited by Doji Namika

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So then, the setting might become static.

As I like to send my players to travel sometime on the spur of moment, will I need to forbid the taking of bitter betrothal? Or will this annoying spouse need to be part of every scenario? It's kind of limiting.

example, "guys, I have made a great conversion of Tomb of Iuchiban, but we wont be able to play it because it will take your players 300 Li from Kakita whatshisface's unhappy home and so he will be penalized on void recovery".

in 4th ed, while bitter bethrotal was interesting as a way to oppose adversity to a player when in his familiar setting, it could also be a justification for him often leaving home to run around the country. It needed not be so centric to the character and impact consistently all other players. And it was ok, because in the end it mostly added flavor to the character while bringing a few extra points to customize character. Customization that is now completely gone in favor of a broken void recovery mechanic.

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23 minutes ago, Nitenman said:

example, "guys, I have made a great conversion of Tomb of Iuchiban, but we wont be able to play it because it will take your players 300 Li from Kakita whatshisface's unhappy home and so he will be penalized on void recovery".

Not necessarily. Because it only requires a [Water] check where "Her Indoors" can mess things up in a way that makes narrative sense:

  1. Her being physically present and argumentative is the obvious one
  2. Even if she's not, her family sharing her dislike of you means you potentially have a poor reputation with a particular bloodline, a whole noble family or even an entire clan.
  3. Depending on how extreme the dislike is, she might actively attempt to sabotage your 'quest' by...I dunno? Paying off someone whose help she knows you need to be as awkward as possible? Making sure the equipment the household servants packed for you is 'accidentally' of low quality or secretly damaged in the hopes you'll get killed relying on it?
Edited by Magnus Grendel

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2 minutes ago, Magnus Grendel said:

Not necessarily. Because it only requires a [Water] check where "Her Indoors" can mess things up in a way that makes narrative sense

1: Well, this one is obvious indeed.

2: Enmity of another faction is already the "scorn of" disadvantage.

3: So telling the player " the cords holding your plates just broke, and your armor now works at 50% efficiency. You suspect your spouse sabotaged them. But hey, you got one void point back!"

 

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If I was going to do a campaign with such a focus I would indeed suggest the player take some other disadvantage to represent his bitter betrothal. The 'Scorn of..." disadvantage is a good idea and could represent his marital issues when far from home. If like in your example the bitter betrothal is just the background reason the character is present in the first place and not supposed to impact his life during the campaign, it is not an actual disadvantage is it? 

Anyway, you also get more than one disadvantage, so having one that doesn't trigger all that often is not a disaster, but yes, players and gm have to put some thought in picking those that can provide actual meaningful screentime and storyfodder. No picking Phobia (The Sea) when the campaign pitch puts you inland, or at least, don't expect to gain much void from it. 

Also, this is not 4e. A tough combat without void points to reduce damage was an almost certain death sentence, but not anymore. You could change the techniques which require void to activate to once/scene and give the very concept of void points the boot and not note the loss. 

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2 hours ago, Nitenman said:

2: Enmity of another faction is already the "scorn of" disadvantage.

True, but Bitter Betrothal, Sworn Enemy, Scorn Of [Group] and Intolerance [Group] all have a certain degree of overlap given that they are all to some extent "you hate them and/or they hate you", and any individual important enough to register is likely to have some influence within a family or clan.

Bitter Betrothal shouldn't trigger as often as Scorn Of - because it's only going to be those individuals she influenced - but there's no reason it shouldn't trigger occasionally.

2 hours ago, Nitenman said:

3: So telling the player " the cords holding your plates just broke, and your armor now works at 50% efficiency. You suspect your spouse sabotaged them. But hey, you got one void point back!"

More like forcing you to make a reroll on a check (since that's the normal mechanical effect of a disadvantage. I doubt a Samurai would trust his steel or armour to the attentions of someone he loathes, but you might easily find the rope and grapnel is cheap and not as sound as first inspection implied....discovering this halfway up a cliff might be problematic even if it's not a deliberate attempt at assassination. Even providing only the minimum effort to fund your attendants, providing poor quality horses, or cheap, tasteless rations might affect a check if items provided by your household are key to it (survival check, or a fitness check to climb, oe whatever)

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22 hours ago, AtoMaki said:

The Strife mechanic actually makes a perfect environment for pragmatic deadpan murder-hobos. There is literally a rule (Outburst) that justifies being a murder-hobo and even indirectly congratulates the player for "doing samurai drama". 

In this regard, I agree that the Beta might as well be written by the Wick :rolleyes:.

I think I can understand the concept the designers were going for with the strife mechanic, an attempt to make characters less one dimensional and promote interesting situations within the story.

The only problem is most of my players want to come over to play their characters the way that they envision them and not how a roll and a stat dictate them to. Granted, I understand that the stats and other character creation options set the parameters of how a character acts in a story environment, but these are mainly in the hands of the player. When presented with a mechanic like outburst most of my players are going to take the path of least resistance, or possibly out of spite, the most chaotic. 

For instance, if the player of the Matsu Berserker is in a situation (out of combat) that forces him to suffer an outburst and he automatically defaults to becoming Enraged. This isn't because the player is trying to interject himself into the story, but simply it is the best, desired, or easiest option for them. The problem is that this will likely disrupt a majority of the story and planning a GM has spent time working on. Possibly upsets the rest of the party who do not excel at combat, or a multitude of other issues.

Players are already human and prone to interesting choices, I have to wonder if "forcing" their characters to try and emulate this isn't a struggle in futility.

I would suggest a larger pool of outbursts and have them tied to specific conflict types at the very least.

Edited by Silverfox13

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11 hours ago, Doji Namika said:

I can only suggest playing a couple of short sessions using systems which support the low-prep game style. It will make you understand this game's intent so much better than it manages to explain itself.

 

Given the fact that it doesn't sound like a game I'd ever be interested in playing even if it is doing what it "intends" to do very well, I can only think of Anthony Kiedis's brief acting career.

 

For instance, if the player of the Matsu Berserker is in a situation (out of combat) that forces him to suffer an outburst and he automatically defaults to becoming Enraged. This isn't because the player is trying to interject himself into the story, but simply it is the best, desired, or easiest option for them. The problem is that this will likely disrupt a majority of the story and planning a GM has spent time working on. Possibly upsets the rest of the party who do not excel at combat, or a multitude of other issues.



On the upside, with his Water 3, Earth 3, Resilience 12, and Composure 10, that Matsu Bushi should never actually suffer from Strife because he'll just be Water Stancing ever single roll outside of combat, and switching to it every once in a while in combat to shed stress.   Or, if he really wants to go Berzerker, he'll be Water 3, Fire 3, Composure 12, soaking just enough Strife with his Fire Stance to wreck shop, then Water Stancing it away.

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2 hours ago, Silverfox13 said:

 

The only problem is most of my players want to come over to play their characters the way that they envision them and not how a roll and a stat dictate them to. Granted, I understand that the stats and other character creation options set the parameters of how a character acts in a story environment, but these are mainly in the hands of the player. When presented with a mechanic like outburst most of my players are going to take the path of least resistance, or possibly out of spite, the most chaotic. 

Creativity is born from constraints. Or so they say. Saddling a player with strife might make the game suck. Or it might make the player struggle to portray a samurai despite the mechanical setback of an outburst. 

Interesting, perhaps, that your players won’t wear heavy armor to social events but will chaff against the strife system. They’ll accept setting appropriate social constraints but not mechanically induced constraints. 

Every single edition of L5R let’s players act however they want with almost no recourse that the DM doesn’t dream up. For some GMs-like me-punishing players in game with appropriate discipline can be difficult. I see the strife system as a potential tool to turn that conversation from antagonistic to affable, by putting the onus as much on the rules as on the GM himself. 

 

And of course, if there is no rule then it doesn’t exist. 

 

 

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30 minutes ago, AndyDay303 said:

Creativity is born from constraints. Or so they say. Saddling a player with strife might make the game suck. Or it might make the player struggle to portray a samurai despite the mechanical setback of an outburst. 

Interesting, perhaps, that your players won’t wear heavy armor to social events but will chaff against the strife system. They’ll accept setting appropriate social constraints but not mechanically induced constraints. 

Every single edition of L5R let’s players act however they want with almost no recourse that the DM doesn’t dream up. For some GMs-like me-punishing players in game with appropriate discipline can be difficult. I see the strife system as a potential tool to turn that conversation from antagonistic to affable, by putting the onus as much on the rules as on the GM himself. 

And of course, if there is no rule then it doesn’t exist. 

The biggest difference is that it is a conscious choice versus the luck of the dice. Plus, they'll live with the consequences, the main issue is everyone else at the table having to also.

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1 hour ago, AndyDay303 said:

Creativity is born from constraints. Or so they say. Saddling a player with strife might make the game suck. Or it might make the player struggle to portray a samurai despite the mechanical setback of an outburst. 

 

As I keep rolling for my Water-focused character, I'm more and more inclined to see the third option take precedent: Strife makes no difference at all because it is easy to dump with "non-essential" Water or Earth checks. 

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8 minutes ago, AtoMaki said:

As I keep rolling for my Water-focused character, I'm more and more inclined to see the third option take precedent: Strife makes no difference at all because it is easy to dump with "non-essential" Water or Earth checks. 

 How many are there? With a system like this you should only be rolling if success and failure are both important possible outcomes. You don't roll athletics to see if you can cross the log, we assume base competency. 

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11 minutes ago, mortthepirate said:

 How many are there? With a system like this you should only be rolling if success and failure are both important possible outcomes. You don't roll athletics to see if you can cross the log, we assume base competency. 

You go around pestering the Ashigaru with various commands. You try to paint a nice picture or compose a tricky haiku. Maybe forge a dagger if you are at it. Neither of these are essential, but demand a roll because you do have an intent - you will just not care to fulfill it and bank in on Opportunities to waste Strife. There isn't even many arguments against this roleplaying-wise because your character is venting steam and it is completely normal to do that. With an Earth character, the PCs can even set up a therapy group and get rid of that pesky Strife together. 

The samurai drama is real: after a day of Samurai Stress(tm), the party gathers around Hida Hickup to listen to his terrible stories and calm down from his rocky voice or something :lol: .

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54 minutes ago, AtoMaki said:

You go around pestering the Ashigaru with various commands. You try to paint a nice picture or compose a tricky haiku. Maybe forge a dagger if you are at it. Neither of these are essential, but demand a roll because you do have an intent - you will just not care to fulfill it and bank in on Opportunities to waste Strife. There isn't even many arguments against this roleplaying-wise because your character is venting steam and it is completely normal to do that. With an Earth character, the PCs can even set up a therapy group and get rid of that pesky Strife together. 

The samurai drama is real: after a day of Samurai Stress(tm), the party gathers around Hida Hickup to listen to his terrible stories and calm down from his rocky voice or something :lol: .

If this is the case, then the game has a wholly different problem, and a mechanic that never has an impact probably shouldn't be there.

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