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Bazakahuna

Observations From First Session: Strife and Approaches

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Ok, so first session out of the way, and apart from the introductory adventure being a railroad (understandably) the system showed a ton of potential and we had a lot of fun. I came across two issues however I wanted to raise:

Strife - First scene, I examined the 'crime scene'. I made the appropriate checks. By the end of the scene I was 1 strife from suffering an outburst (Composure 8). Now this can be down to a few factors. Firstly I was mostly rolling Ring+1 skill dice at best, which means I cannot filter strife out as much, secondly I was a little unlucky on just 3 rolls. However, the fact that my character started the session just an inch off Outburst for doing something relatively innocuous is poor as it prevented me from wanting to roll anymore dice and so actively disengaged me from the game (my character took a breather, as he, as the Bushi, was apparently stressed out at the sight of blood I guess). I get you can't take breaks in conflict (social or martial), and I actually think the rules seemed well balanced around that. I do however think that in non-stressful or non-adversarial situations Strife just shouldn't be that much of a concern. Maybe you have two types of conflict, stressful and non-stressful, in non-stressful where you can take your time and you aren't under pressure you ignore the first strife on any roll or some-such (rather like being able to 'take 10/20' in D20). Ultimately I think any game where you are afraid to roll dice is problematic (I know Star Wars had that effect on me), I was hoping R+K would mitigate that, but it seems like is a LOT of strife on those dice and until skill levels are increased you run risk of suffering an outburst anywhere you need to make a few checks.

Perhaps this could open up a whole new avenue of advantage/disadvantage - an area traditionally stressful or not stressful that your character feels differently: 'Antisocial - you find all instances of social interaction even those that are 'non-stressful' 'stressful' or 'Game-player - you enjoy the challenge of games of skill and do not find even the tensest of situations 'non-stressful' (this is just idle musing on my part and I have put little thought into them, obviously I do not suggest combat ever get this treatment as that is finely balanced around Strife)

Approaches: Prior to playing I thought this innovation was incredible. Subsequent to our first session I still believe that, I just feel there are elements of their realisation that could be improved. Foremost is the fact that certain approaches are tied to skills. We found many times that the approaches attached to skills made little sense whereas other approaches in other skill groups were perfect (it turned out these are generally the same Ring which is nice design). I will use the following example:

Repairing a ship is Seafaring via Produce. Now produce for repairing? I didn't make that instant leap of logic, in fact I saw nothing under Trade Approaches to suggest repairing a ship would fit there (unless Innovation maybe if juryrigging). However, Seafaring via Restore (the artisan Approach) makes a ton of sense. Ultimately there is no difference between that and rolling produce as they are both Earth, but there is a problem when logic is that antagonistic to the game design. By having skills linked Approaches you cause a logical disconnect, where if they weren't connected you have a seamless and intuitive system.

During the first scene we were asked to make Survival checks with an approach outside of the Trade approaches when checking out the crime scene, and in the second scene a similar situation occurred when following the Ronin. If rolling approaches not attached to their respective skills is this frequent, then why attach them in the first place? By dissociating them from their respective skill-blocks you actually end up with a much more elegant system as you cease with the weird justifying that takes place in trying to attach a skill to an approach in that skill's group. Presenting approaches without skill group I feel makes the game much more intuitive and makes the most of what is a great mechanic in my mind.

By just removing the skills from the approaches and presenting them in relation to their Ring (as below) I think you get a much more intuitive inspiration for the construction of dice pools.

Air: Refine, Feint, Trick, Analyze, Con

Earth: Restore, Withstand, Reason, Recall, Produce

Fire: Invent, Overwhelm, Incite, Theorize, Innovate

Water: Adapt, Shift, Charm, Survey, Exchange

Void: Attune, Sacrifice, Enlighten, Sense, Subsist

Edited by Bazakahuna

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About the filtering out Strife, you will find in page 14 of the beta rules that you're not obligated to keep [Ring] amount of dice.

You need to keep from 1 to [Ring] dice in your roll. So that means your high-Ring low-Skill roll won't necessarily be about keeping [Ring] dice you don't want right now, you can actually just keep fewer rolled dice if you're getting too Strifey for your taste. Gaining Strife is pretty much a personal choice in a lot of cases. You'll keep dice showing lil' flames because you want the other symbols on the same side of the die, and that's greedy, and that's the point. But you can also not keep them and get less successes and/or less opportunities. And that's cool too (especially when playing a low Composure dude if you really want to avoid Outbursts).

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Strife is actually quite manageable. If there is another PC in the scene then have him "check out" and keep only Opportunities to burn off Strife from you (either use Earth for best effect or any non-Air for buying the Earth Opportunity), or have him provide Assistance and drain Strife from your roll (this is the best way to go at it in my experience). Alternatively, do something with your Passion and negate 3+ Strife right there. 

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6 hours ago, Bazakahuna said:

However, the fact that my character started the session just an inch off Outburst for doing something relatively innocuous is poor as it prevented me from wanting to roll anymore dice and so actively disengaged me from the game (my character took a breather, as he, as the Bushi, was apparently stressed out at the sight of blood I guess). I get you can't take breaks in conflict (social or martial), and I actually think the rules seemed well balanced around that. I do however think that in non-stressful or non-adversarial situations Strife just shouldn't be that much of a concern.

That's part of the GM/Player discussion, to me. Firstly you can - as noted - keep only 1 die to filter out strife, and just take multiple attempts.

Also, since you essentially determine between yourselves what the Outburst will actually be, then in a low-intensity, irrelevant situation, then the outburst will matter less.

I like that way of presenting approaches, by the way.

Edited by Magnus Grendel

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Since my players had no prior play experience with L5R (tho' one, being my eldest daughter, has listened in to several campaigns), so the 1-4E "requirement" to keep them all was not an impulse.

I also was careful to word the instruction to them as "Pick which ones to keep; No more than the ring used, and then roll the explosions."

I do like the precision of the rolling process description.

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21 hours ago, Bazakahuna said:

Presenting approaches without skill group I feel makes the game much more intuitive and makes the most of what is a great mechanic in my mind.

By just removing the skills from the approaches and presenting them in relation to their Ring (as below) I think you get a much more intuitive inspiration for the construction of dice pools.

Air: Refine, Feint, Trick, Analyze, Con

Earth: Restore, Withstand, Reason, Recall, Produce

Fire: Invent, Overwhelm, Incite, Theorize, Innovate

Water: Adapt, Shift, Charm, Survey, Exchange

Void: Attune, Sacrifice, Enlighten, Sense, Subsist

^^^ THIS.

I've been trying to articulate my issue with the Rings as Approaches and you hit the nail right on the head. Please L5R RPG Devs, implement this approach to approaches.

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@shizumaru@AtoMaki@Magnus Grendel you all make good points regarding Strife. I do feel that as we progress I'll get a better handle on it. I do worry that managing strife is a little too close to meta gaming, letting others do rolls that I as the analytical/rational (air/earth) oriented party member would be most inclined and interested in doing. That said, engaging with Passions is a way of doing it in character (as you mention), I actually did this on two occasions, as I have a passion for history. I actually like this aspect of the game as it rewards people reinforcing the defining aspects of their character... Also I have to note: water was my lowest ring (1) and therefore only getting one back every scene made me hyper aware of my strife, it's at 2 now and this should help considerably.

@pointyman2000 I think the only real downside is that the list looks a little more intimidatingly large. I do think however that the Rings themselves are very intuitive and it's generally obviously where you want to be looking for an appropriate approach.

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Thanks for the overview! Can you mentioned one or two things that worked really well in the system? Just to give us some balance?
 
I appreciate you explaining your perspective on approaches. As presented in the book, I didn’t fully understand how one would use a different skill with an approach. You have helped clear things up.
 
After reading the rules for the game, my initial impression is that approaches just aren’t necessary. There are tons of RPGs that use Attribute + Skill dice pools, wherein you have to describe what you’re doing, then roll the appropriate skilltribute. This is exactly what 5R5 is doing as well. However, using the term “approach” and describing the many different interpretations of the approaches is… over-complicating what should be a simple issue. IMO. I really dread giving the character sheet to my players and then having to explain why each section of skills is broken down different. It seems like information that would be valuable in the book, but… I don’t know, maybe I’m over-worrying. 
 
As for Strife, there’s some good advice here on how to handle it well, and I’ll add just a little bit more. It is possible that your GM is asking his players to roll the dice too often. This happens a lot with scenes outside of combat. The GM should distill the details of the scene down into a single roll, for most out of combat stuff. If you’re familiar with Burning Wheel, the author speaks a lot about a rule called “Let it Ride.” This guideline basically says: don’t roll too much. I think it’s a great guideline that should be applied to all RPGs. 

 

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22 minutes ago, AndyDay303 said:

If you’re familiar with Burning Wheel, the author speaks a lot about a rule called “Let it Ride.” This guideline basically says: don’t roll too much. I think it’s a great guideline that should be applied to all RPGs.

I positively love the idea of rolling as little as possible. But some systems just don't work well that way.

Say, pretty much all games powered by the Apocalypse give you xp on failed rolls. That means an MC that makes you roll a lot will induce faster growth.

I believe the only thing that limits rolls (and that's a good thing in my book) in L5R 5th ed is their definition of when to roll: When there is a chance that you fail, when there is a chance that you succeed and when it would be interesting to fail and to succeed.

So, you won't be rolling for basic stuff or impossible stuff. You won't be rolling for things that bring nothing to the story. You will only roll when cool things happen in consequence of the roll no matter how you roll. The rest is roleplay and autosuccess/autofail.

That being said, I suspect OP was in a combat, and there's no skipping those rolls, and if they incur too much Strife to make the game playable, it is a thing to consider at that stage.

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@AndyDay303 it isn't actually too hard for me to find good things to say, which is nice! I picked these two point as they stood out for me, in the instance of approaches as a more intuitive way to implement them, in the case of Strife as an initial concern (based on admittedly little data). I'll address your questions in stages:

Approaches

I ultimately found approaches to be a VERY good mechanic. The rings are incredibly intuitive to use and your first instinct is generally spot on when it comes to formulating the dice pool, indeed, I feel the realisation of the rings is so good that it should form the first point of contact when looking to make a pool (that and the fact its the kept stat and often the majority of the pool). Therefore I think approaches should be ordered by ring. I furthermore believe this as while skills offer examples, there are many times when the most intuitive approach is found outside of the approaches for the appropriate skill. Ultimately I really think approaches are a fantastic mechanic, and the only issue I had was giving too much primacy to skills and trying to shoehorn ring + skill approach together when ring + approach from different skill group was much more reasonable.

As regards them seeming complicated, as mentioned I feel they are well thought out and intuitively grouped and I suspect you will surprised by how many times your instinctive feeling on a dice pool is vindicated when you refer to the rules. It is also a very good guide to your character's personality, while strength, dexterity etc. help little when determining personality etc. Rings act not only as attributed, but as all-encompassing defining characteristics. Earth dominant for instance will solve problems very differently to earth.

(In the recent Survey I voted for sorted by ring but with skills as well. My reason being, that I feel that while ring should be the first point of contact, having skill at least helps honing in on the matrix. I feel, however, the rules should be very clear that the skill approaches are a guide to chose and not an exclusive list)

Strife

19 hours ago, AndyDay303 said:

As for Strife, there’s some good advice here on how to handle it well, and I’ll add just a little bit more. It is possible that your GM is asking his players to roll the dice too often. This happens a lot with scenes outside of combat. The GM should distill the details of the scene down into a single roll, for most out of combat stuff. If you’re familiar with Burning Wheel, the author speaks a lot about a rule called “Let it Ride.” This guideline basically says: don’t roll too much. I think it’s a great guideline that should be applied to all RPGs.

Yeah I was really happy with the responses from the guys, they were really helpful in putting some perspective on the issue and offering solutions. I don't think it'll really prove too much of a problem. But I have seen others feel that its a little too prone to swings and that remains a concern for me in non-stressful situations where losing your cool seems a little weird.

Perhaps there should be 2 Strife attributes. One which vacillates frequently (and is tied into the currently finely balanced mechanics) and one which is slow and inevitable. Perhaps for every 5 strife you ever get you get 1 permanent strife, the former being strife as we know it (but that culminates in a minor effect) and the second being something you cannot remove easily and  results in a full on 'outburst'

Edited by Bazakahuna

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On ‎16‎/‎10‎/‎2017 at 8:57 AM, Bazakahuna said:

I get you can't take breaks in conflict (social or martial), and I actually think the rules seemed well balanced around that.

Actually you sort of can; spending a round or two doing assist actions (which don't require a check and hence can't give you further strife) in water stance is essentially 'taking a breather to recover strife' during a conflict.

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1 hour ago, Magnus Grendel said:

Actually you sort of can; spending a round or two doing assist actions (which don't require a check and hence can't give you further strife) in water stance is essentially 'taking a breather to recover strife' during a conflict.

Well yes, I meant you can't stop in the middle of a fight or political debate and say 'hang on lads, I'm just going to write a haiku, I'll be back in a minute'.

Edited by Bazakahuna

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2 minutes ago, Bazakahuna said:

Well yes, I meant you can't stop in the middle of a fight or political debate and say 'hang on lads, I'm just going to write a haiku, I'll be back in a minute'.

What was @TheVeteranSergeant's version - "Concentrate on nothingness and puppies?" or some such?

Obviously, yes, taking a breather doesn't divorce you from the action unless you actively disengage, so whilst you're not acting and recovering strife, you still have to deal with someone attacking you with a pithy comment and/or several feet of razor-sharp steel.

 

Edited by Magnus Grendel

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5 minutes ago, Magnus Grendel said:

 

Actually you sort of can; spending a round or two doing assist actions (which don't require a check and hence can't give you further strife) in water stance is essentially 'taking a breather to recover strife' during a conflict.

Assistance is an action that does not involve a check. Water stance only triggers after you perform a check. 

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2 minutes ago, WHW said:

Assistance is an action that does not involve a check. Water stance only triggers after you perform a check. 

Ah, fair enough. I thought it was an action, not a check. Then no, barring school techniques and the like, you cannot remove strife in a conflict without doing something that theoretically risks you receiving more except a void action and hoping for multiple * results (to cash in as water or earth *)

Edited by Magnus Grendel

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The safest bet is an action in Water Stance, and then keeping only results that offer no Strife. You keep UP to your Ring, so you can keep only one or two dice. These dice can be Opportunities, which might enable you to Assist and maybe even get extra strife off your chest.

You *can* Assist spam, but Asisst spamming is mostly for Minion Groups. Players have very little reason to use up their turn not trying to make a roll. 

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25 minutes ago, WHW said:

You *can* Assist spam, but Asisst spamming is mostly for Minion Groups. Players have very little reason to use up their turn not trying to make a roll. 

1

I disagree. Assistance is really good when provided to an already competent character. The extra rolled and kept dice is just one thing, but the Strife drain is also very useful, especially when assisting a shuggie.

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Just now, WHW said:

Why would you spam Assist action if you can spend an Opportunity on a failed check to provide the Assistance?

Becuase you can only give that Assistance to a "similar" check. So unless the courtier is firing out invocations too or making random Theology checks, the shugenja is left in the dirt. Don't worry, my playing group was there, we actually tried to fire off Assistance from Assessment, but it ain't working. Obviously, if there are two or more competent characters then assisting each other with actions is a no-go, but cross-Assistance with Opportunities is cool, they just all have to use the same Ring or something. 

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On 10/16/2017 at 1:57 AM, Bazakahuna said:

Ok, so first session out of the way, and apart from the introductory adventure being a railroad (understandably) the system showed a ton of potential and we had a lot of fun. I came across two issues however I wanted to raise:

Strife - First scene, I examined the 'crime scene'. I made the appropriate checks. By the end of the scene I was 1 strife from suffering an outburst (Composure 8). Now this can be down to a few factors. Firstly I was mostly rolling Ring+1 skill dice at best, which means I cannot filter strife out as much, secondly I was a little unlucky on just 3 rolls. However, the fact that my character started the session just an inch off Outburst for doing something relatively innocuous is poor as it prevented me from wanting to roll anymore dice and so actively disengaged me from the game (my character took a breather, as he, as the Bushi, was apparently stressed out at the sight of blood I guess). I get you can't take breaks in conflict (social or martial), and I actually think the rules seemed well balanced around that. I do however think that in non-stressful or non-adversarial situations Strife just shouldn't be that much of a concern. Maybe you have two types of conflict, stressful and non-stressful, in non-stressful where you can take your time and you aren't under pressure you ignore the first strife on any roll or some-such (rather like being able to 'take 10/20' in D20). Ultimately I think any game where you are afraid to roll dice is problematic (I know Star Wars had that effect on me), I was hoping R+K would mitigate that, but it seems like is a LOT of strife on those dice and until skill levels are increased you run risk of suffering an outburst anywhere you need to make a few checks.

Perhaps this could open up a whole new avenue of advantage/disadvantage - an area traditionally stressful or not stressful that your character feels differently: 'Antisocial - you find all instances of social interaction even those that are 'non-stressful' 'stressful' or 'Game-player - you enjoy the challenge of games of skill and do not find even the tensest of situations 'non-stressful' (this is just idle musing on my part and I have put little thought into them, obviously I do not suggest combat ever get this treatment as that is finely balanced around Strife)

 

I think a lot of people are afraid of Outbursts when they shouldn't be.  What would have happened if your character had an Outburst?  They could use Expose Weakness (my actress has Incurable Illness, so I would just cough into my hanky exposing the blood stains on it) and then reduced the TN of Scheme checks by 1 for the rest of the scene, making it easier to succeed.  This is going to be my most common Outburst for social scenes as it is both in character for my character and aids me in completing my task.  Granted some people knowing I have an Incurable Illness may become a problem, but that is Future-Me's problem.

Edited by shosuko

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4 hours ago, SideshowLucifer said:

How many strife faces are on each die? Changing those amounts see.s the best way of controlling strife.

Three on both, which is, I imagine, the game's incentive to get players to raise Skill dice.  There are "3 success" results on the D6 (Success, Strife+Success, Strife+Explosive) and 7 on the D12 (2x Success, 1x Explosive, 2xStrife+Success, 1x Strife+Explosive, 1x Success+Opportunity) meaning the chance of success is 50% on the D6 and 58% on the D12, plus a lower chance of Strife and the possibility of Success+Opportunity and Explosive without Strife.

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8 hours ago, Magnus Grendel said:

That's a fair point; 'similar' could do with a definition - is it the same ring, the same skill, either, both, or whatever the GM feels like at the time?

I'd interpreted it to mean same action-named.So kunikeiko's invoke falis, and she aids Soshi hiko's later invoke.  Meanwhile, Hida tamura cannot aid either in casting with his failed attack... but he can assist them by echoing the names of the kami they invoke  (costing his action).

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12 hours ago, shosuko said:

I think a lot of people are afraid of Outbursts when they shouldn't be.  What would have happened if your character had an Outburst?  They could use Expose Weakness (my actress has Incurable Illness, so I would just cough into my hanky exposing the blood stains on it) and then reduced the TN of Scheme checks by 1 for the rest of the scene, making it easier to succeed.  This is going to be my most common Outburst for social scenes as it is both in character for my character and aids me in completing my task.  Granted some people knowing I have an Incurable Illness may become a problem, but that is Future-Me's problem.

I think that's VERY good advice to be honest. Avoiding Outburst is certainly something I've been guilty of doing and I'm going to try and embrace that a little more and see how it effects my experience. The last email FFG sent out suggested doing this in fact.

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