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selderane

4th Ed. Question - A Courtier in Combat

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I didn't know where else to post this, so here I am.

I'm playing an Ikoma Bard in a 4th Edition L5R game along with a Togashi monk, a Kuni shugenja, an Utaku Battle Maiden, an archer, and another bushi character. So, combat is a thing. I generally play courtiers but I struggle to find a way to make them meaningfully contribute to a fight. Unfortunately, I can't easily find anything in any of the 4th Edition books that talk about this. Is there material out there that does? Buying ranks in kenjutsu is boring to me. If the school was supposed to swing sharpened metal bars it would be a school ability.

There's also the problem of me then carrying a katana, people thinking I'm a bushi, challenging me to a duel, and I lose badly...

I like the idea of characters specializing, not being proficient at everything and having to work creatively when out of their element. But I'm struggling to do that here. Suggestions?

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Let me start by saying this is my opinions on the subject.

I have had players handle this in many ways.

First just because you have ranks in kenjutsu doesn't mean you have to carry a katana. Most courtier including the Ikoma Bard come with a wakizashi. Carrying a wakizashi is the sign that you are a Samurai, but doesn't imply that you duel. And most shugenja and courtiers do carry or have their wakizashi when traveling.

The problem with the Ikoma Bard is the fact that they are very lion specific, And their only really combat helpful ability is rank 3 and only works for lion characters, though the GM can always change this to included the party.

The first option is IMHO the most common and requires an experienced players to pull-off. As it is not uncommon for a courtier to have a yojimbo, one option is two make a Bushi character to act as your characters yojimbo. This can be a NPC controlled by the GM most of the time that you take control of during combat, or just a PC that you control along with your courtier.

As a second option you have the Ikoma Lion's Shadow found on page 109 of Emerald empire. This is a hybrid school, that works as both a courtier and a bushi. Its descriptor is Bushi so you may lose some of the courtier freebies, but most of its abilities work for both the battlefield and the courts.

Another option is to really play-up the courtier aspect of your PC, and try to negotiate your way out of most combats. While this can be fun for you, it can cause issues with the more combat oriented members of your party.

Another option is to play a Shugenja as a courtier. This way you have the ability to help in combat and with the right skills can work just fine as a courtier. Remember that a courtier is a job, and the descriptor is just a game mechanic. You don't have to have the courtier descriptor to be able to do the job. You just need the courtier and etiquette skills. Its just that schools with the descriptor sometimes have abilities more geared to it.

Lastly you could sit back and watch during combat. Truth be told you are a courtier not a bushi. If you teammates are expecting you to contribute to combat then they are sorely mistaken. While bard is in the name it has nothing to do with the bards of D&D or other such game. You are the face of the party, they are the meat. When you are negotiating or singing their praises in the courts they get to sit back and do nothing so why do you have to help in combat. I get it you are bored during combat and there is not as much court action as combat in most games.  

That said there are many ways to handle this and probably some I have not even thought of. So it all depends on you as the player. 

 

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Everything said up here is a good option. Also, kyujutsu is considered a sport for courtiers. They use it for hunting and displays of their martial talents, to show they're still proud warriors of the samurai caste etc. Buying some reflexes to match your awareness can't possibly hurt, and a point or two in kyujutsu doesn't really hurt your courtly ways.

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50 minutes ago, tenchi2a said:

I get it you are bored during combat and there is not as much court action as combat in most games. 

 

I'm actually not bored at all! I get that there are roles and not everyone will be able to do everything; I completely embrace that and dig it. I just want to make sure I'm not missing something I could be doing from an in-setting perspective.

So no one is expecting me to contribute in a meaningful way. I grabbed 'Battle' as a skill so I could maybe give tactical in a conflict advice based upon my PC's reading of historical accounts.

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3 hours ago, selderane said:

If the school was supposed to swing sharpened metal bars it would be a school ability.

I'm fairly sure that the Ikoma Bard does have a school ability for swinging sharpened metal bars. Rank 3 if I remember correctly, when you can inspire yourself to SWING HONORABLY or something like that. 

Anyway, you want Jiujutsu for funny times or Heavy Weapons if you want to be a bushi without actually being a bushi. Polearms is also cool because it has a lot of versatility (Bisento for damage or Sasumata for gimmicks). But really, if you can't use your katana like a real warrior then chances are high that you are ashaming your ancestors , and you are double shramefur dispray for a Lion - not even sudoku-worthy because you would just cause a mess with your clumsy swordsmanship and accidentally kill your lord's cat instead of gutting yourself. 

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34 minutes ago, AtoMaki said:

I'm fairly sure that the Ikoma Bard does have a school ability for swinging sharpened metal bars. Rank 3 if I remember correctly, when you can inspire yourself to SWING HONORABLY or something like that. 

1

Nope. Ikoma Bard school abilities only target allies. 

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Anyway, you want Jiujutsu for funny times or Heavy Weapons if you want to be a bushi without actually being a bushi. 

I have jiujutsu. I flipped a merchant onto his backside for thinking he could bribe me last session.

Quote

 kill your lord's cat instead of gutting yourself. 

Why is the cat even there? I don't know how that can be blamed on me at all! We all know I don't know how to use a sword.

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1 hour ago, selderane said:

I'm actually not bored at all! I get that there are roles and not everyone will be able to do everything; I completely embrace that and dig it. I just want to make sure I'm not missing something I could be doing from an in-setting perspective.

So no one is expecting me to contribute in a meaningful way. I grabbed 'Battle' as a skill so I could maybe give tactical in a conflict advice based upon my PC's reading of historical accounts.

Sorry just kind of assumed, my fault. No your not missing anything except what I pointed out above. So if you and your group are good with what you are and have no issues then you should be fine.

Edited by tenchi2a

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5 minutes ago, selderane said:

Nope. Ikoma Bard school abilities only target allies. 

Truth be told I personal feel that the Ikoma Lion's Shadow makes for a better courtier then the  Ikoma Bard school anyway, but that just my two cents. 

5 minutes ago, selderane said:

I have jiujutsu. I flipped a merchant onto his backside for thinking he could bribe me last session.

Always fun.

5 minutes ago, selderane said:

Why is the cat even there? I don't know how that can be blamed on me at all! We all know I don't know how to use a sword.

Felicide, you bad person. 

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I second kyujutsu. Raising your reflexes helps with insight, initiative, and (IIRC) Armor TN or AC or w/e (haven’t played 4e in a year). Bows can be MEAN, esp. if you don’t use a grid and worry about line of sight. 

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you are a samourai, thus you can do :)

At least you can help you group as a target for foes, and die to give your friends a chance to win the fight :)

Btw, take a look on your technics, some can support your friends or disturb your foes, eventually take a weapon to delay the ones foes that will support your friends' adversaries...

you can also try to protect the shugenja, delaying the ones that could reach him.

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6 hours ago, llamaman88 said:

Everything said up here is a good option. Also, kyujutsu is considered a sport for courtiers. They use it for hunting and displays of their martial talents, to show they're still proud warriors of the samurai caste etc. Buying some reflexes to match your awareness can't possibly hurt, and a point or two in kyujutsu doesn't really hurt your courtly ways.

Air is honestly king in 4th ed anyway. Not that the other Rings aren’t useful, but Air is what you want for initiative, for defense, for offense with ranged weapons and for using your words. Grabbing a bow is pretty much a no-brainer for courtiers who want some combat ability, and I’ve seen quite a few  shugenja pick up some archery to counter running out of spells too quickly as well.

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Honestly, Ikoma Bards with high Jiujutsu is almost an in-canon trope. And grappling is one of the most potent and powerful combat abilities in the game.

Unfortunately, there is nothing in the Ikoma Bard school in particular that will help you be a more effective character in combat. Quite frankly, their ability to give Glory out like hotcakes is also questionably good (depends on game and GM). If you want to go for something more combat effective, my recommendation is to focus on that Battle skill, and go into the Akodo Tactical Master Advanced School, or look into picking up Multiple Schools and adding Ikoma's Lion Shadow to your repertoire.

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