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kpsmith

How to make L5R RPG Beta friendlier?

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What do you mean, "How to make L5R RPG Beta friendlier?"

I'm glad you asked, Bob.

A little background on myself: I first learned about the Legend of the Five Rings RPG at Origins Game Fair 2008 when I walked in on the Heroes of Rokugan Living Campaign. It was like Living Grayhawk or Pathfinder Society if that rings a bell and still has a cult following. I later joined Five Rings Online, an online community of L5R RPG players (100+). So, I have a lot of experience with very large games as I have served as a Game Master for both.

There has been a lot of talk around the online water cooler about how the new Beta works great for a home game, but it would fail to work for a large game like Five Rings Online. There is even skepticism on how well it would work for Heroes of Rokugan.

I believe this is all largely due in part to the nature of it being something new. The Beta is unlike anything we have seen before so it defies normal conventions and creates new ways to play the game.

However, I tend to be optimistic at the best of times.

How do you think the Beta can be adapted to accommodate a large scale game? If a Game Master was not present (like in many instances of Five Rings Online outside of scheduled adventures of "scenes") how do you best adjudicate interactions between characters as opposed to Non-Playable Characters? With the adventure provided with the Beta, how well does that work as a scripted adventure? That is the standard for a living campaign like Heroes of Rokugan. I'm trying to learn about how the new system can be adapted to work unless I'm overthinking what it can and cannot do.

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I have the exact opposite opinion so far. As of now, 5R5 is pretty much made for the best of the community. You either have years of experience with the game, above-average familiarity with the setting, and the tightest gaming group ever, or 5R5 will fail you sooner or later. The elitism in the game just shows. This is obviously no problem if you are playing at Five Rings Online, where you have hardcore veterans of the game in every bush, but a simple home game will definitely suffer. 

The only thing that will work against 5R5 is its annoyingly special snowflake "new" mechanics. I admit those are hard to digest for a veteran player. 

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2 hours ago, AtoMaki said:

I have the exact opposite opinion so far. As of now, 5R5 is pretty much made for the best of the community. You either have years of experience with the game, above-average familiarity with the setting, and the tightest gaming group ever, or 5R5 will fail you sooner or later. The elitism in the game just shows. This is obviously no problem if you are playing at Five Rings Online, where you have hardcore veterans of the game in every bush, but a simple home game will definitely suffer. 

The only thing that will work against 5R5 is its annoyingly special snowflake "new" mechanics. I admit those are hard to digest for a veteran player. 

What makes you say 5R5 is more elitist and geared towards players familiar with the setting and game as opposed to 4e? I'm not disagreeing, just in case, just curious to hear your thoughts.

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I wrote this in my beta test game topic:

Quote

 I kinda said this in the previous session report, but the feeling that this game heavily favors highly experienced players surfaced quite extensively during this session. With four veteran players around, the rule-bending and metagaming became too obvious to ignore but also too accessible and natural to not do it, and it kinda poisoned our game. We felt bad for abusing the game like this, but the game wanted us to abuse it, and it generated a weird feedback effect where we grew increasingly unsure how to play. I dunno, but the game feels... elitist? Is that a right word?

 

Basically, the mechanics and their fluff are so deeply ingrained with top-tier player experience and a throughout familiarity with the setting that they start to absolutely demand these things in order to work. For example, while a beginner player might look at the Approaches system and feel really dumb for not understanding and using it properly, a veteran player will grow used to the system in a few sessions and use it with the great confidence as well as squeeze the best out of it, because the possibilities scale with the experience, so to speak. The learning curve is steep, and it heavily favors people who start at a higher level via gaming experience and setting/meta knowledge. 

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1 hour ago, AtoMaki said:

I wrote this in my beta test game topic:

Basically, the mechanics and their fluff are so deeply ingrained with top-tier player experience and a throughout familiarity with the setting that they start to absolutely demand these things in order to work. For example, while a beginner player might look at the Approaches system and feel really dumb for not understanding and using it properly, a veteran player will grow used to the system in a few sessions and use it with the great confidence as well as squeeze the best out of it, because the possibilities scale with the experience, so to speak. The learning curve is steep, and it heavily favors people who start at a higher level via gaming experience and setting/meta knowledge. 

Yeah, I agree. Out of my table, three players are completely new to L5R and one is an experienced 4e player - the way she's using Opportunities and interacting with the NPCs is leaps and bounds ahead of what the others can (and I'm being way more permissive than I'd like to with stuff like etiquette and expectations so I don't overwhelm them)

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4 hours ago, MaoYoruichi said:

Yeah, I agree. Out of my table, three players are completely new to L5R and one is an experienced 4e player - the way she's using Opportunities and interacting with the NPCs is leaps and bounds ahead of what the others can (and I'm being way more permissive than I'd like to with stuff like etiquette and expectations so I don't overwhelm them)

Could that be more the result of just plain more experience with the genre (both thematic and system) rather than more experience with L5R specifically?

To someone more widely familiar with Jidaigeki, Chanbara, Rakugo and general Japanese culture is going to do things much different than someone who only knows of Samurai as "Katana wielding warriors."

Someone coming from the only hack and slash D&D style of games is going to play completely different from those more familiar with the very political WoD games or more narrative systems such as FFG's Star Wars or FATE.

Edited by Ultimatecalibur

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I agree.  That sounds more like "familiar with RPGs" rather than "familiar with L5R."  Just speaking as somebody with around 20 years of familiarity with the setting, I get very little "setting elitism."  In fact, the Beta doesn't seem to understand the setting all that well at all, and is instead the version of L5R written by somebody who doesn't know a lot about L5R, or the previous editions of the game, and is trying to make an L5R game based on a summary of what an L5R game is supposed to be about.  Kinda like the Buffalo Bills defense looks like 1 competent player and ten German tourists who had been told what American football was, but hadn't ever actually played it.

For somebody with more than 20 years familiarity with RPGs, the mechanics aren't confusing at all.  They look clunky and poorly designed, but not confusing.  Unless you mean the times I look at them and get confused about "Why would they think that was a good idea for a rule?"

 

I mean, of course anybody familiar with L5R or even just samurai settings will have a leg up. But that was every edition of L5R. And, honestly, any game based on an existing license.  If you know Star Wars, you'll be better at a Star Wars RPG.  If you know 40K, you'll be better at a 40K RPG.

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Maybe @kpsmith can provide some details about these water cooler talks? Assuming it’s not the novelty of the system, why do people think this edition is harder to use for large scale games? I don’t see much reason to assume this, unless the expectation is that more GM adjudication is needed with the new mechanics and that this can’t be mitigated equally well with arrangements for the campaign. 

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16 hours ago, MaoYoruichi said:

Yeah, I agree. Out of my table, three players are completely new to L5R and one is an experienced 4e player - the way she's using Opportunities and interacting with the NPCs is leaps and bounds ahead of what the others can (and I'm being way more permissive than I'd like to with stuff like etiquette and expectations so I don't overwhelm them)

At my tables, the players doing the best with opportunities are NOT the old guard, but the very rank newbs. Once it's explained, they grasp the opportunity system easier, and the approaches easier.
One of my players, L5R 5 Beta is pretty much her first RPG experience.  Noting that, in that group, the player ages are 51, 18, 16, 16, and I'm 48.  The old guard is bringing too little setting knowledge and too much D&D ... expecting people to not react when his Isawa's hand drops to his wakizashi... 
the 18YO had no issues with mechanics. My skype group is all in their early 20's, save for me. Their issue with opportunity is that the tables are by category, not by ring.

Edited by AK_Aramis

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The "water cooler talk" is the concern about how the game can managed without the presence of a Game Master. With Strife and Outbursts, can that be managed without a Game Master? How can two players adjudicate player versus player interactions, like duels or social interactions? Right now there is a lot of uncertainty since by comparison, 4th Edition is pretty streamlined and user friendly. As someone who wants the Beta to succeed, I want to make sure it can be used in any venue: around the kitchen table, around the digital table, in an online chat, or at a convention.

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2 hours ago, kpsmith said:

The "water cooler talk" is the concern about how the game can managed without the presence of a Game Master. With Strife and Outbursts, can that be managed without a Game Master? How can two players adjudicate player versus player interactions, like duels or social interactions? Right now there is a lot of uncertainty since by comparison, 4th Edition is pretty streamlined and user friendly. As someone who wants the Beta to succeed, I want to make sure it can be used in any venue: around the kitchen table, around the digital table, in an online chat, or at a convention.

Strife (and Outbursts) comes from dice being rolled. There’s all sorts of mechanics to inflict Strife or to mitigate it, but as part of player interaction it’s all underpinned by things that require rolling. I would expect that if you can deal with situations requiring dice rolls using 4th edition (or older) rules, you can do the same with this one.

Edit: does Tales of Rokugan use online dice rollers? That might require someone working up something to accomodate the new dice.

Edited by nameless ronin

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13 hours ago, kpsmith said:

The "water cooler talk" is the concern about how the game can managed without the presence of a Game Master. With Strife and Outbursts, can that be managed without a Game Master? How can two players adjudicate player versus player interactions, like duels or social interactions? Right now there is a lot of uncertainty since by comparison, 4th Edition is pretty streamlined and user friendly. As someone who wants the Beta to succeed, I want to make sure it can be used in any venue: around the kitchen table, around the digital table, in an online chat, or at a convention.

4th (and 1st, 2nd, and 3rd) are only user friendly IF you already know traditional RPG mechanics.  Total newbs won't have that; the hardest sell is the Simulationist-Traditionalist crowd, for whom this edition is almost totally alien. Most true newbs will find it no more difficult than D&D, any classic edition of L5R... usually a cognitive hurdle, then after a little play, sinks in and good to go. Individuals, of course, will vary in tastes, and in capabilities. 

I'm not certain, however, why no-GM should be a problem. It is table heavy, but it's also intended for tabletop FTF play, as well, and clearly intended for GM-centric play, but the only issue is selection of ring, and that's really pretty straightforward if players are honest - both with others and themselves.

The biggest bugaboo will be invoking disads - which, if players are self-honest, shouldn't be any worse than application of negative modifiers from tables , but does entail a second roll. Just establish the table-/forum-rule hierarchy of which is rerolled first EG:  White Explosive, White Succeess & Opportunity, White Explosive & Stife, Black Explosive and Strife, White Success, Black success, white success and strife, black success and strife,... And, if the ring and type match, and you aren't full void, automatic allowed.

Next biggest is knowledge of disads, but, like most storygames, the presumption is pretty well present that player knowledge will not be used unless the character would also know. 

Third biggest I can see is setting TN's for PVP social. For single action, minor effect, Vigilance ±1 as set by the target. For extended, individual rolls TN=Vigilance, RhP = Focus ×½ to ×2 ... ×½ if clearly in line with stated goals or psych lim adversities, distinctions, passions, or aversions, ×2 if clearly opposed, ×1 if both or neither. PVP martial is already fairly well defined. For PVP other, the TN's should be TN 2 default, or the used technique. Then modify as appropriate for stance (if relevant), conditions (mostly TN+1 per each)...

Ignore, for the moment, the massive list of Techniques. Just focus on ring/skill/basic TN. as of Update 3, almost all negative conditions are TN+1. And they stack. Several simply make strife also do damage.  Adding conditions to a scene sounds like a water opportunity spend (in fact, the rules state that said water spend can be used to define things into being, at the GM's option, so in GM-less, it's subject to group veto. 

Doesn't look that hard to implement, other than the mindset change, and the extra post(s) to handle the rerolls.

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