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tenchi2a

Final review of beta

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Well here it is the end.  I am Putting this out before the last update due to the fact that it will probably not fix anything I care about.

Bellow is a list I put up towards the beginning of the Beta. To see if anything had changed.

 

1.Character Creation.

a) Removal of Family and Clans Skills/Rings. The skills should be rolled into the schools and be awarded. example: Hida Defender School +1 Fitness, +1 Martial Arts [Melee], +1 Martial Arts [Ranged], +1 Martial Arts [Unarmed], +1 Meditation, +1 Survival, +1 Tactics, +1 Command. Where player gets them all.

Still for the most part the same.

b) Rings should be raised to 2, but keep starting cap at 3. This removes the need for Families and Clans to provide them (which was always an issues in 4th).

still the same.

c) Players need far more choices then agree/disagree on clan precepts, One on the choice itself and on the award if they disagree.

Some improvement, but far short of what is needed.

d) the Bushidō question needs to be reworked. The idea that I don't believe in Bushidō so I have Commerce skills makes no sense to me. This is the perfect place to setup a Samurais tenets. What does he believe about Bushidō.

still the same.

Does he follow his Clans beliefs openly, Does he strongly believe in a tenet opposed to his clan, ETC. This is a roleplaying element not a mechanical one so it should be up to him and the GM decide how it is handled not the game.

e) almost all instances of Advantages and Disadvantages need to be removed. These are roleplaying enhancement that should be left to the player. I do like the ideas of passions and anxiety but thats about it. anything else should be left to the player to decided.

still the same.

f) There should be a starting pool of XP for the players to customize their PCs as a standard part of Character Creation. Not a tacked on amount in the adventure.

still the same. The change it has doesn't improve starting characters it just makes them non starting characters. 

2. Advantages and Disadvantages

a) Disadvantages need to be divorced from Void gain. Void is centering oneself not over coming my missing finger.

still the same.

b) each Advantage and Disadvantage need to be reviewed and have their points addressed. They are in no way equal.

still the same.

3. Skills 

a)  Subskills need to be made part of the core rules as Emphases.

still the same.

b) Approaches need to be reworked to something less random and more structured. Right now players can run rough-shot over the system to powergame them.

still the same.

4. Techniques

a) a Kata is not a combat techniques. Kata a Japanese word, are detailed choreographed patterns of movements practiced either solo or in pairs. It would be better to call it a school/combat technique.

still the same.

b) Rituals need to be removed. The concept is nuts and doesn't fit the setting where bushi are not magical.

still the same.

5. Equipment

a) Replace Ceremonial with Honorable. it just makes more sense in what your trying to say.

still the same, but not all that important.

b) Razor-Edged: as written makes swords to fragile. I would suggest "If damage drops bellow -Damage level it would take effect.

still the same.

c)  Zanbatō/No-daichi: first range 2 is a bit much. why would I take a Naginata, or Yari over this. its a long sword not a pike.

still the same.

d) Naginata, Yari: with a range of 2 and how the movement system work. These weapons are pretty much useless. they need some kind of ability to hold a target at range two or (I can't believe I'm saying this) attack of opportunity. another option is to give them the stats of a staff at range 1.

still the same.

e) Chokutō: just to point out this is not a tachi, and this type of sword would not be made in the era that this game is set.

still the same.

f) Dao: again this is a Chinese weapon which was never used in Japan or Rokugan.

still the same.

g) Crossbows: should be removed as they have no place in Rokugan.

still the same.

h) The only way I would say keep these weapons is if you created add gaijin trait to the weapons that caused massive honor/glory loss to use.

still the same.

i) Poison(Noxious Poison) this is way to weak for what it represents.

still the same.

6. Scenes and Conflicts

a) this area is to hard to go over due to the many other issues I have that would need to be addressed first. see above and bellow.

7. Strife

a) the system is a hot mess. one of the biggest issues is no one seems to know what it is or what is for. ask a writer get one answer, ask a player/GM get another, read over the rules in the book and get still another.

b) let me say that removal is not out right necessary.  with a lot of changes this could be a working system. and NO FFG! I don't mean changing its names. I mean changes to how it works and why.

c) first there needs to be some kind of "drama level" that gets set at the start of the campaign. lets say Face: = composer x drama level. and have levels from 1-3. this way the GM/player can make the determination on how many "outburst" (or what ever they are going to be call) there will be.

d) there needs to be some way to resist outburst. example: when you strife exceeds your Face make an Honor roll (doesn't generate strife) against a TN of 1+1 per 5 points over. so at 2 over the TN would be 1 but at 6 over you would have a TN 2.

And just to bring this up Encase it was not noticed I'm not saying get rid of the custom dice. I don't like them but they seem to work alright here. minus the strife issues.

well that's what I would need to see fix.

The changes here where looking good then they went back to their never ending quest to tell us how to role-play.

 

Overall the system has made little to no real improvements. Aside from the dueling rules, and that's still under debate.

Most are cosmetic at best.

The game is still a train wreck.

The writers made it quite clear that this is the game they want, and they don't care what anyone else thinks.

That said my group and I will not be buying any of the new products for this line.

P.S. this is mine and my groups opinion on the game. I don't care to debate. Just giving my opinion.

 

Edited by tenchi2a

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I actually agree with the statement that the worst mechanics in this game are where they are telling both the GMs and the players HOW to roleplay. While I do not feel the Strife system HAS to be that, but it often can be used badly as that. I see it as a good mental / social HP system, which any good "social combat" game needs, and it serves as a "time limit" on how many actions you can feasibly take in a given non-conflict scene.

However, where this version of the RPG really falls down is how it uses its systems to force a certain roleplay, rather than using its systems as a METAPHOR for the type of experience they want the game to convey.

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The character creation one kinda bugs me...  I don't mind there being some cookie cutter aspects to character creation but why did they decide to give you a choice of 2 rings?  This doesn't relieve the actual issues of chargen which is that a character is forced to play a certain way based on their school, and thus must pick their school based on how they want to play.  If players want to hit that 3 ring value their choices for clan and school are done for them, if they go their own way then they miss out on that 3 ring value - which due to the xp spend is a pretty big advantage, especially with their lowered xp reward suggestion...

They should have simply given that ring to free choice.  If each player had 2 free ring choices during chargen then the rest can be cookie cutter and it doesn't matter because that is enough to make any ring of choice a 3 value so every character can have the approach the player wants, and no one is penalized in character growth for their clan / school choices.

- I don't agree with the rings all starting at 2.  The thing about the rings is that you don't need them all to be great.  In fact, having one be low is quite in character.  Having a low air means you're not good at tricking people - and that's fine.  Its not like ol5r where having 1 strength meant you were weak, this just means that isn't a way your character is going to approach obstacles.  I kinda think they should remove the barriers that force a player to be well rounded.  Investing too much into any 1 approach should be fine as your GM can simply pick on your weaknesses.

The biggest change I want to see is approaches being applied properly to combat.  As it sits right now when you perform any skill your approach means a lot as to how you do it.  Are you trying to trick someone or persuade them?  it makes a real difference in what the outcome can be.  Are you attacking with air or water?  Doesn't matter.  You get a stance bonus that tries to apply the approach, but the actual approaches of feint, withstand, ect are basically thrown out the window unless you're spending opportunities.  I think they should drop the stances and develop the actual approaches a player can use.  What does attacking with air mean?

All in all - I don't think the game is ready for a final write up...  If what we're seeing now is what comes out I'm likely to skip it.  I like approaches, ninjo/giri, damage and crits, strife, intrigue scenes, and the new dueling mechanics.  I don't like the imbalance of skill importance, limited opportunity options defined by the book, passive techniques that just add opportunity spend options, bland combat actions that gives a player little meaningful choice in approach to combat, and the clunky honor/glory track that is basically here because every game has had it previously, even though its the first thing I completely ignore when I play.

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To be frank with each iteration of the beta rules book the game got less and less exciting for me.
The major dissapointment in the last update was the proposed change to the character progression system.

The change was to try and get more freeform xp spending into the progression but these changes don´t do this.

Any purchase outside of your current school rank now contributes half of its experience value to your current school rank.
Rings are no longer included in school curriculums.
Experience to complete school ranks is going to be increased significantly.

These changes do not increase freeform xp spending. It is quiet the opposite now you get rings as mandatory non curiculum xp tax
and need tos pend even more xp in your curriculum tables to get to the next rank.
Since getting to the next rank is the goal of the chracter development this system is in direct opposition to the freeform xp spending
that people wanted.
But there is a very easy way to fix this. Just let go of the curriculum tables and stay with the xp values for the different ranks.
Keep the xp costs for the different aspects of character development and let the players choose freely where they want to spend their
xp.  You might want to add some school unqiue techniques that reflect the uniqueness of the teaching of the individual school but
the currciulum tables clearly hurt more than they help.
 

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Thats not what will happen.
Rings are stil the most effcient way to spend xp. Just bc they can be applied to any skill.
So you still go and grab the rings.
Also I don´´t say the exsistent exp system is a good one. But if I have the choice I rather go without the
change but also without the school spending tables.
 

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On 22/12/2017 at 8:32 AM, tenchi2a said:

they went back to their never ending quest to tell us how to role-play.

My principal source of disappointment on this beta. 

They missed the mark here indeed by constantly shoehorning elements that are rather abstract and that should bloom naturally from the interaction between GM story and player choices (the samurai drama) into forced mechanics. 

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I wouldn’t even say they’re trying to tell us how to roleplay. It’s more what we’re supposed to roleplay and that we need to roleplay in the first place in order to get the system to work. Without properly rewarding roleplaying, other than that it makes the system work (kinda). It’s putting the cart before the horse. The system shouldn’t be based on roleplaying, roleplaying should follow organically from the system.

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4 hours ago, nameless ronin said:

I wouldn’t even say they’re trying to tell us how to roleplay. It’s more what we’re supposed to roleplay and that we need to roleplay in the first place in order to get the system to work. Without properly rewarding roleplaying, other than that it makes the system work (kinda). It’s putting the cart before the horse. The system shouldn’t be based on roleplaying, roleplaying should follow organically from the system.

I've never met a system that does this. I've seen ones that reward it, but none that have it organically flow from applying the rules.

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I think you're just misunderstanding what he is getting at. The rules are just supposed to be the framework.  Pretty much every roleplaying game does this.  You have a character who has defined abilities, perhaps advantages or disadvantages and other characteristics, which gives the player the idea of what the character can and can't do, and then they roleplay accordingly.  All he is saying is that the players should roleplay based on what they understand of the character and the system, rather than what the system is instructing them to do for best effect.

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14 hours ago, AK_Aramis said:

I've never met a system that does this. I've seen ones that reward it, but none that have it organically flow from applying the rules.

I’d be pretty happy with a proper incentive built into the system, to be honest. The little there is is wonky, and there’s plain not enough of it to matter. If players are incentivized to roleplay particular characteristics or motivations, they will naturally do so. What is this narrative system suggesting we roleplay, and what reasons does it give us to do it?

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@nameless ronin I think the issue is one of reinforcement type.

Think back to Psych-101 (or Ed-101), the 4 kinds of reinforcement (Skinnerian Psych):
reward/Positive reinforcement: do X, Y results and is happy.
Punishment: Do X, and Y results and is unhappy
Negative reinforcement: Y happens until X occurs, and Y is unhappy
Extinction: When X happens, Y stops, while Y is happy.

Let's examine the reinforcement cycles (Circa Update 4):

  • Honor 
    • Positive reinforcement: Play the virtues, earn more points
    • Punishment: violate the virtues, lose points
    • Punishment: hitting low honor levels creates honor disads
    • Negative reinforcement: honor disadvantages go away when honor raises above threshold
    • Positive reinforcement: hitting high honor levels adds honor advantages
    • Extinction: when honor drops below threshold, honor advantages are lost
  • Glory: exactly the same as for Honor, but for the specific behaviors triggering up/down
  • Giri
    • Punishment: When you choose not to follow, you take strife
  • Ninjo
    • Punishment: when you choose not to follow, you take strife
  • School Rank
    • Positive Reinforcement: access to more techniques
    • Negative reinforcement: tracking advancement is a continuing hassle
  • Conflict Types
    • Reward or extinction: minigame style process.
      • For some, this is an extinction as they feel it intrusive
      • For others, the mechanical engagement is itself a reward
    • Learning Curve
      • Positive Reinforcement: learn the system, and it rewards with better success rates
      • negative reinforcement: not knowing the subsystem results in subotimal play
    • Extinction: conflict stops the narrative for a mechanical resolution
    • Social Conflict 
      • Positive Reinforcement: successful play results in NPC's doing what they desire
      • absent reinforcement: playing the effects of losing.
    • Duels
      • Positive: honor gains
      • Punishment: lasting injuries
    • Skirmish
      • Mixed: mechanical complexity (for some, positive, for others, negative
      • punishment lasting injuries
      • positive: trigger for honor and glory gains.
  • Advancement
    • Rings
      • Positive Reinforcement: Buying rings is rewarded with more dice rolled and kept
      • Positive Reinforcement: Buying rings in sufficient number is rewarded with school rank gains
    • Skills
      • Positive Reinforcement: Buying skills is rewarded with more dice rolled
      • Positive Reinforcement: buying skills in sufficient number is rewarded with school rank gain.
      • Some are rewarded more than others
    • Techniques
      • Positive reinforcement: adding new techniques adds new powers
      • Punishment: Adding new techniques adds more to remember in play
      • Reward: Some are rewarded with contributing to school rank gains
  • Disadvantages
    • Reward for use at appropriate and meaningful times: earn a void point. Note that they only reward when they matter - when they cause a failure or breakdown.
  • Advantages
    • Positive reinforcement: Mechanical benefits
  • Void Points
    • source: Gained by playing disads
    • Positive Reinforcement: use to gain an advantage on a roll (flip a disad or use opponent's disad
    • Positive reinforcement: use to avoid loss of character.

So what does this all mean?

The game is encouraging playing up Bushidō, regardless of clan.
The game is encouraging sticking to school tropes by increased reward for sticking to school-favored advancements
Disadvantages are minimally rewarded
The game is punishing deviation from Ninjō or Giri.

That last is the big problem - there's no reward for it, only punishment. It needs something. Choosing to follow should be rewarded - a Void Point and/or an experience point are the most obvious. There are other options, tho'... such as an extra die kept, or a TN reduction when pursuing one's Giri or Ninjō.

Likewise, Social Conflict is weak - PC's are not at present gaining anything but story for playing their losses in social conflicts (physical ones have clear ongoing influences and reward cycles). We need a reward for playing the loss - one XP is probably adequate, and/or a punishment for not playing it. I had to add 1 point of strife per counter-loss-effect action to enforce  playing the loss of control that a loss in social combat has.

Without teeth, social conflict vs PCs is one sided.

 

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@AK_Aramis, the lack of positive reinforcement regarding roleplaying ninjo and giri is an issue, yes. I would however suggest that encouraging playing up bushido is something of a problem as well. I keep coming back to this. Sure, all samurai should adhere to bushido to a minimal extent, and certainly at least pretend to adhere to bushido to an even larger extent. But encouraging every character, regardless of concept, to be as honorable as possible for me does not fit the setting.

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2 hours ago, nameless ronin said:

@AK_Aramis, the lack of positive reinforcement regarding roleplaying ninjo and giri is an issue, yes. I would however suggest that encouraging playing up bushido is something of a problem as well. I keep coming back to this. Sure, all samurai should adhere to bushido to a minimal extent, and certainly at least pretend to adhere to bushido to an even larger extent. But encouraging every character, regardless of concept, to be as honorable as possible for me does not fit the setting.

That reward cycle is part of all editions. Sufficiently so that I'd say it's part of the setting.  So also is the Glory cycle. 

Those two define a large part of the mechanical reinforcement cycles in all editions.

I'm really more concerned that School rank is underused.

 

 

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3 hours ago, AK_Aramis said:

That reward cycle is part of all editions. Sufficiently so that I'd say it's part of the setting.  So also is the Glory cycle. 

Those two define a large part of the mechanical reinforcement cycles in all editions.

But they can also be ignored or used to a lesser extent in earlier editions, they were never the sole focus of the game and they allowed far more flexibility as to how and when to reward/punish.

This edition tries to force one very cliched and trope ridden version of Rokugan, and that gets boring very quickly, and in my experience that leads to games either being abandoned mid adventure, or severely reduces the actual narrative role play as people just min/max the system as their is no point doing otherwise.

Thats the problem here, there is no way to positively reinforce good role playing if it falls outside of a very narrow and restrictive view on what each character should or shouldn't be.  L5R lore has been filled and even dominated to some extent by characters who didn't do exactly what was expected of them, who didn't fit the school/family mould perfectly.  This system means you don't get to play those characters, you just essentially get some meaningless background character to play with.

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32 minutes ago, Toku Askanidog said:

But they can also be ignored or used to a lesser extent in earlier editions, they were never the sole focus of the game and they allowed far more flexibility as to how and when to reward/punish.

This edition tries to force one very cliched and trope ridden version of Rokugan, and that gets boring very quickly, and in my experience that leads to games either being abandoned mid adventure, or severely reduces the actual narrative role play as people just min/max the system as their is no point doing otherwise.

Thats the problem here, there is no way to positively reinforce good role playing if it falls outside of a very narrow and restrictive view on what each character should or shouldn't be.  L5R lore has been filled and even dominated to some extent by characters who didn't do exactly what was expected of them, who didn't fit the school/family mould perfectly.  This system means you don't get to play those characters, you just essentially get some meaningless background character to play with.

You've made a logic fallacy..  Lack of reward is not the same as punishment. 

Further, one can ignore honor and glory just as easily in this edition as the others. Perhaps even more so, since so few things tie into HR and GR.

In no way does it mean you can't play those types, nor no means of reward - that's what goal XP is for. And void points, for the lesser things. And Void Points can make those disads into advantages for a bit.

 

Edited by AK_Aramis

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I didn’t make a logical fallacy, you assumed I did (or purposefully misinterpreted my post) so as to make your point seem more valid.

Either way, this system doesn’t manage to succeed in doing anything it sets out to do unless you play in a very narrow fashion.  

@AK_Aramis, you and I will never agree on this system and we both come from very different gaming experiences (how people play and what they expect or want).  

My final thoughts for this beta (and I know I haven’t posted much but I have read posts daily and answered every survey) is that it has been a huge missed opportunity and think FFG have really dropped the ball in terms of the license.  I’ll keep up to date on the story via the LCG but I will keep playing 1st and 4th otherwise.

 

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3 hours ago, AK_Aramis said:

Further, one can ignore honor and glory just as easily in this edition as the others.

 

It is actually a little harder than that because the Unmasking mechanic runs on Glory/Honor loss. Ignoring Glory and Honor is a quick way to trivialize Unmasking and thus Strife. This is already a concern in my ronin test game with only two sessions into the campaign. 

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9 hours ago, AK_Aramis said:

That reward cycle is part of all editions. Sufficiently so that I'd say it's part of the setting.  So also is the Glory cycle. 

Those two define a large part of the mechanical reinforcement cycles in all editions.

I'm really more concerned that School rank is underused.

The Honor reward cycle, insofar as it applies to everyone, is rather limited in previous editions. Pretty much just  stronger Honor rolls and a bonus on a few contested rolls. Arguably being constrained by honor outweighs this even, but the positive effects of being honorable when interacting with others is hard to quantify. Certain schools and techniques benefit from high honor, but that’s not a universal motivator. My Bayushi doesn’t want to be more honorable just because your Matsu is honorable and gets a nice school tech bonus from it.

In this edition though, every character is supposed to be highly motivated not just to act honorably but to actually be honorable. All because otherwise the samurai drama mechanics don’t work properly.

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The game definitely needs the Giri/Ninjo and honor concept re-written.  The system should by no means assume a character is supposed to be completely honorable, but it is a fact that honor is a strong theme even for criminals and ronin.  It should be a system where you sorta pick your own honor code.  Rather than modifying honor gains and losses by clans the gains and losses should be filtered through what your character actually cares about.  If your character doesn't care about X situation then they really shouldn't considere themselves to be dishonorable, as honor is an internal virtue.  What makes a character feel bad or dishonorable is when they do something they feel is dishonorable.  Glory is the external standard.  Also - honor needs to be more clearly defined as an internal struggle and perception while glory is an external struggle and progression.

I'm not a big fan of the 0-100 honor / glory track though, and would rather it was traded out for a more narrative system where you gain traits which have no intrinsic value but may become rp triggers or spent / called out in certain situations similar to (dis)ads.

Edited by shosuko

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1 hour ago, shosuko said:

honor needs to be more clearly defined as an internal struggle and perception while glory is an external struggle and progression.

This is spot on, and mostly where the mark was missed. 

instead of giving us a toolbox for handling Ninjo and Girl,  they are imposing their concepts of them, sometimes clumsily weaving them into narrative and mechanics. It's L5R THEIR way. 

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Not a big fan of any of this myself really. Things my group talk about the most is probably how much we dislike strife. We don't like how it's implemented, we don't like how it tells us how to play our characters, we just don't like it. The methods for performing skills we're kinda torn on. We like having more than one way to do things, we just don't like how it doesn't really define what your doing and how very well. We feel like it works better in combat than it does for searching, spotting, or most other skills. Giri and Nijo pretty much seems backwards to us, feels like something that should be defined after you determine your characters background and should be more for flavor than a hard core this is how we do it thing. And the dice, we don't like them, saying we hate them is an understatement. nothing in the game  that these custom dice do that can't be resolved with normal dice.  

Edited by Mirumoto Seiichiro
forgot to mention

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