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Strife and Unmasking Article is up

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3 hours ago, AtoMaki said:

When you are fighting with an oni, swallow a lot of Strife with a check, then decide to Unmask with Inappropriate Remark, then the narrative kinda breaks. 

   I dunno, I'm imagining one of those "tense moments in an anime" scenes.  The Crab hero has been battling an Oni, and has just taken a vicious wound.  The camera slowly pans up his body, black gore drips from his katana. Close-up on his mouth, where he forces a grin through the pain.

  "I understand your fury, Akuma-san.  If my face looked like an ox's puckered behind, I would be angry as well.  Why don't I remove the source of your embarrassment?"

  Then he charges forward with a cry, the screen flashes red, and we see him standing behind the Oni. Slowly, it falls in two pieces, while the Crab sinks to his knees.  Struggling to speak, he whispers, "Oxbutt no Oni, you are welcome..."

 

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Strife is a resource management mechanic in its current form, that is also supposed to inform and limit roleplaying. That is its purpose. It places a cap on successful actions over time, by making Characters compromised, and as a player, you must weigh how much success you want immediately against how much Strife you can take to get there. 

Whether you like the depiction of samurai as people who bottle up the natural emotions they experience until they breakdown and explode, that is a matter of personal preference. Some people will find that a reductive interpretation of the source material, and that is fine. If you do not want a game where you are playing a person breaking down under the pressure of impossible demands created by society and the Celestial Order? New5R is not your game. 

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I have to say, I was hesitant about strife all through beta.  My gaming group has long since broken up, so I had wasn't able to really run through the paces, but I've been GMing L5R since late 1st edition. 

And then I played Wedding at Khotei at GenCon. And now I'm a believer.

So our group of five, one Utaku, one Kitsuki Magistrate, one monk, one Shugenja, and my Kakita duelist, finished, and I was the only one to unmask.  So I did it twice.  And both times, it fit the story and my character.  It didn't feel constraining, or forced, or limiting in any way.  I found it helped make the setting more immersive.  The second unmasking was actually one of the more memorably moments of the entire session.  The story ended with a duel, impromptu but one on which the honor of the bride and groom, and even their clans, depended on.  Due to the rushed nature, I was fighting with only my wakizashi, and my opponent was about equal.  In three passes, neither of us had landed a fatal stroke, but both badly injured.  I was taking ever success I could roll, and piling on strife, and the next pass would leave one of us dead.  Oops, have to unmask.  My Kakita, frustrated, unable to land a killing stroke, bleeding badly, cried out "just DIE already!"  I landed the shot, my opponent  died, I collapsed, the wedding went off, honor was satisfied.  I lost a few points of honor for the unseemly outburst, but a good amount of glory for winning the duel and settling the matter.  And it all felt right.

 

So my two zeni, I didn't like strife in beta.  At all.  But after seeing it run as a player, not the GM struggling with a new concept that wasn't there in the last four editions, it works, it fits, and it helps the theme and the setting.

 

Now, if I could just roll strife a little less often. . .  up the void, boys, up the void

 

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27 minutes ago, GrimmSqueeker said:

Now, if I could just roll strife a little less often. . .  up the void, boys, up the void

 

Water is the way to go. A Primary Water + Secondary Void build, other than being insanely powerful on its own right, can completely ignore Strife, especially if you have a plan with your Passion. 

Also, just sayin', but your experience has a slight botch from the GM's part: Unmasking in a duel triggers a Finishing Blow from your opponent, so you should have died on the spot because FB is no joke. Unless they changed it from the Beta and you can Unmask while your Strife is under your Composure, which would put Strife to a different position altogether. 

4 hours ago, sndwurks said:

If you do not want a game where you are playing a person breaking down under the pressure of impossible demands created by society and the Celestial Order? New5R is not your game. 

2

Alternatively, you can just go for the "soft" Unmaskings like Inappropriate Outburst, Challenge of Honor, or Compromise. Or get Void and Water, they are fitting for your cool-as-ice character anyway. Or choose a good Passion and dump Strife all day every day with it. Or get Tea Ceremony and calm your troubled heart with scalding-hot tea. 

Here is my Strife Avoiding build: Air 1, Earth 2, Fire 1, Water 3, Void 3; Playfulness Passion, Meditation 2. When Strife > Composure, go Inappropriate Outburst at someone with equal or lower Status and have Playfulness soak up the damage. If Strife < Composure but you want to burn Strife then either use Playfulness on everyone with equal or lower Status (the other PCs are excellent targets) or meditate on your poor life choices with Meditation (Water), don't keep any Strife, keep only Opps, and spend all kept Opps on reducing Strife. Other good Passions are Enlightenment (has synergy with Meditation Strife dumping), Fortune-Telling, Storytelling, and Tea (has synergy with Tea Ceremony), but I think Playfulness is the best because of its synergy with Inappropriate Outburst. 

Edited by AtoMaki

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Oh gosh this article ? I agree with @AtoMaki--feels patronizing.

As a reader, it feels like the article is trying to persuade a group that already has a belief--namely, it feels like the group is "people who believe roleplaying involves players feeling what their PCs feel", and the article doubles down on the emotional distance between player and character and how that can be fun and good and story. As a part of the group the article is trying to persuade, it seems like a misstep for two reasons:

1) trying to change a belief with argument/reason usually backfires--people just double down on their own beliefs and believe them harder.

2) you can very easily and reasonably ignore strife in the moment. @jmoschner's assessment seems spot on, that strife feels more like resource management than roleplay tool/mechanic. Strife, as described in this article and the b box rulebook, is supposed to be "feel something now", but then the game doesn't do anything with that feeling. Plus, the b box only says to interpret the strife when the roll is important to the character; RAW, you don't assign emotions/meaning to every strife result. So it's easy to say "focus now, feel later", which is something people do in real life all the time. Perhaps that's not what the designers intended, but it's doable, and a viable option for those who feel like strife on every roll removes player agency. 

@sndwurks said some stuff in the thread for the character creation article that I'd like to respond to here, because my reply is more OT in this thread. Snipped and numbered to make replying easy:

23 hours ago, sndwurks said:

1) [snip] You cannot, by the system, play a genuinely unphased, hyper competent expert, who always succeeds and never loses their cool. As in the above example, you can theoretically choose to never get Strife, but that WILL come at the cost of either choosing to fail a lot of rolls, or just not taking Actions to begin with. 

2) [snip] It is inherently unpredictable (as Strife will come primarily from rolling dice), and a “negative play” mechanic as it offers no reward to the character and only punishment.

[snip]

3) Strife removes player control and agency over their character’s emotional state, just as Fatigue removes player control and agency over their character’s physical state.

1) Well, kinda. Since the game uses a randomizer (dice) for assessing success, it's unlikely you'll succeed on every single roll. But you don't ever have to lose your cool. Strife itself doesn't represent losing your cool; the b box description of what strife represents is VERY broad. The trick is to never unmask or become compromised... which is possible... technically... (good luck).

2) Since strife from dice is always paired with a positive symbol, some interpret it as "punished for succeeding", but "rewarded for accepting difficulty" is equally valid. Seems to me like it's really "punished and rewarded" than either one alone. 

3) It removes a little agency, but not much. It's just a prompt to "feel something now" on important rolls, leaving it entirely up to the player what that feeling is. The compromised and unmasking rules provide mechanical and narrative consequences to which emotional states players choose for their characters, but they don't dictate emotional state outright. Certainly, it's less of an infringement on player agency than persuasion being reduced dice rolls (which I wouldn't do, but some do, and it's an argument for another thread ?)

 

Edited by sidescroller
Underestimated the tenacity of bats

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1 hour ago, sidescroller said:

Oh gosh this article ? I agree with @AtoMaki--feels patronizing.

As a reader, it feels like the article is trying to persuade a group that already has a belief--namely, it feels like the group is "people who believe roleplaying involves players feeling what their PCs feel", and the article doubles down on the emotional distance between player and character and how that can be fun and good and story.

The hard line the designers are taking in the game against the concept of "bleed" (a form of role playing where the intention of the experience is for you, the player, to genuinely empathize, or feel the feelings of, your character) is interesting.

If Strife is meant as a Resource Management mechanic, to create a dynamic environment of Risk vs Reward where the player has to judge immediate success (keeping dice with Strife icons to get Successes, Explosive Successes, and Opportunities) against long term vulnerability (becoming Compromised and being unable to keep Strife icons, Unmasking and losing Honor / Glory / Status / Your Life), then it is actually successful.

However, the article proposes the intention of Strife is to deliberately prevent "bleed" by introducing a mechanic to keep you, the player, emotionally separated from your character's emotional state. It is an interesting choice, but perhaps one that will not resonate with all players. I, for example, consider players experiencing "bleed" to be a sign I have succeeded as a GM, and if I can get you immersed enough in your character's thoughts that you are literally feeling what they are feeling? Then that is an amazing experience.

1 hour ago, sidescroller said:

3) It removes a little agency, but not much. It's just a prompt to "feel something now" on important rolls, leaving it entirely up to the player what that feeling is. The compromised and unmasking rules provide mechanical and narrative consequences to which emotional states players choose for their characters, but they don't dictate emotional state outright. Certainly, it's less of an infringement on player agency than persuasion being reduced dice rolls (which I wouldn't do, but some do, and it's an argument for another thread ?)

I will agree that Strife as a system is less impactful on player agency than the "Mind Control Courtier Techniques" of certain other editions and games, but it is a more present and immediate one. Every time you pick up dice, you are probably going to get Strife. That can weigh on a player. You need players who buy into the idea that Strife is not a punishment mechanic, but is instead a "heat" mechanic.

Every Strife icon is a bit of "heat" your character gets when they keep that dice. You have to figure out a way to manage how to keep your "heat" low, or you will become Compromised. Become Compromised at the wrong time, and you could die. Unmask, and you clear out the Compromised state, but it's going to cost you. And for those who comment that Inappropriate Remark or Compromise are fine Unmaskings without compromising player agency, I will point out that losing Honor and Glory does actually weaken your character mechanically, as having too low Honor or Glory gives you Disadvantages. 

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7 hours ago, sndwurks said:

I will point out that losing Honor and Glory does actually weaken your character mechanically, as having too low Honor or Glory gives you Disadvantages. 

Also, some effects trigger off your honour and glory rank.

  • Glory Rank
    • The difficulty of persuading your daimyo to turf over shiny wargear, for example, is a courtesy check with a TN equal to the difference between the rarity and your glory rank.
    • The fearless army ability  (default for a samurai army) removes panic equal to the commander's glory rank
  • Honour Rank
    • Lady's Grace (Doji Diplomat) removes strife equal to half your honour rank from your allies
    • Warrior's Resolve puts you [honour rank] fatigue below your endurance
    • Courtier's Resolve does the same with strife/composure

 

 

On ‎9‎/‎2‎/‎2018 at 9:25 AM, AtoMaki said:

Playfulness on everyone with equal or lower Status (the other PCs are excellent targets)

Depends on the consequences of failing to justify a check. Of course, I agree the other PCs are probably your best case here as you can out-of-character agree a 'meaningful' but not catastrophic consequence for failure, since (unlike NPCs in the vicinity) the players can control their respective character's reactions.

Playfulness/Inappropriate Outburst are a nice narrative fit together, but they don't have to work together mechanically, though; the latter is unmasking, which means you'll be at strife 0 anyway.

 

 

Edited by Magnus Grendel

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On 9/2/2018 at 4:25 AM, AtoMaki said:

Alternatively, you can just go for the "soft" Unmaskings like Inappropriate Outburst, Challenge of Honor, or Compromise. Or get Void and Water, they are fitting for your cool-as-ice character anyway. Or choose a good Passion and dump Strife all day every day with it. Or get Tea Ceremony and calm your troubled heart with scalding-hot tea. 

i really feel like you're under-selling the faux pas of Inappropriate Remark here. Unless there was a change I missed, the remark was of the extreme sort, that made onlookers gasp in horror and cost you honor/glory to make.

Further, a 'Challenge of Honor' is literally an illegal duel, which can come at a huge cost. As a samurai, your life is not yours to throw away. You can get in some real oni-manure from your Lord for taking that step.

I mean, I suppose it's all up to the GM how to spin it, but "Crab makes Inappropriate Remark to Oni" to me would be along the lines of "Welp, he's pretty strong, maybe I'm fighting on the wrong side!" which results in being reported to the Kuni Witch Hunters and some investigation. But if you'd rather just 'insert laugh track,' then as the GM, that's your call that the Unmasking is meaningless (or "soft" in your words). I run it very differently.

Topic Two:

To get a grasp on mechanics to better explain the Duel to my players, I had a couple of NPCs fight an Unarmed match last night. I was initially horrified to see how quickly Strife can build up: one contestant rolled 5 success due to explosions, but every exploding and regular success was the one paired with a strife, so 5 strife towards her 8 composure. Next round moved her into fire stance, rolled 1 regular success and 1 opportunity, and otherwise blank faces. The swings of fate were just really funny to me.

But in the end of the duel, I only had that one NPC get Compromised, but she shifted into Water stance, used Predict, and didn't roll any strife, so she moved back from the edge without an Unmasking. Felt a little tense, but enjoyable.

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2 hours ago, Hida Jitenno said:

i really feel like you're under-selling the faux pas of Inappropriate Remark here. Unless there was a change I missed, the remark was of the extreme sort, that made onlookers gasp in horror and cost you honor/glory to make.

Yep. There was a change. Inappropriate Remark =/= Inappropriate Outburst. The latter is pretty soft, to the point where its Glory loss is entirely optional, so you can Unmask like this and suffer no Honor/Glory loss whatsoever. 

2 hours ago, Hida Jitenno said:

Further, a 'Challenge of Honor' is literally an illegal duel, which can come at a huge cost. As a samurai, your life is not yours to throw away. You can get in some real oni-manure from your Lord for taking that step.

Nope. It is a completely normal duel. It requires all the usual duel gimmicks, and the challenged character can even turn it down on the spot. In fact, it doesn't even have to be serious. Yes, it is a bit impromptu, but most "normal" duels should be like this too. 

2 hours ago, Hida Jitenno said:

I mean, I suppose it's all up to the GM how to spin it

This is not true either. The GM has very little input to how a character Unmasks, they can only set the aftermath and the consequences. The GM can't "shut down" an Unmasking, it goes however the player desires. Similarly, the GM can't say "no" to an Unmasking because it is too "soft" - that's the Skill Checks you are thinking about (where the GM can say "no" if the Skill Check is not meaningful enough).

It is also worth mentioning that Unmasking does not specify that it absolutely must be a big deal. It can be a barely noticeable slip-up, something obscure or indirect, or largely superficial. A smug smile is an Unmasking. A sarcastic comment is an Unmasking. The only point is that you must show raw, honest emotion. If nobody cares about you or your chosen emotion hits a good spot, then the Unmasking flukes - the rules specifically state that this can be a case. 

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35 minutes ago, AtoMaki said:

Yep. There was a change. Inappropriate Remark =/= Inappropriate Outburst. The latter is pretty soft, to the point where its Glory loss is entirely optional, so you can Unmask like this and suffer no Honor/Glory loss whatsoever. 

Nope. It is a completely normal duel. It requires all the usual duel gimmicks, and the challenged character can even turn it down on the spot. In fact, it doesn't even have to be serious. Yes, it is a bit impromptu, but most "normal" duels should be like this too. 

This is not true either. The GM has very little input to how a character Unmasks, they can only set the aftermath and the consequences. The GM can't "shut down" an Unmasking, it goes however the player desires. Similarly, the GM can't say "no" to an Unmasking because it is too "soft" - that's the Skill Checks you are thinking about (where the GM can say "no" if the Skill Check is not meaningful enough).

It is also worth mentioning that Unmasking does not specify that it absolutely must be a big deal. It can be a barely noticeable slip-up, something obscure or indirect, or largely superficial. A smug smile is an Unmasking. A sarcastic comment is an Unmasking. The only point is that you must show raw, honest emotion. If nobody cares about you or your chosen emotion hits a good spot, then the Unmasking flukes - the rules specifically state that this can be a case. 

Re: Inappropriate Outburst: the character commits a "deep breach of etiquette, shocking onlookers" does not, to me, say "pretty soft." If you could point me to the former, the Inappropriate Remark, I would appreciate it, because I can't seem to find it.

Re: 'Optional' glory/honor loss, from my understanding in the Beta, the 'optional' part meant "the player can change their mind and not do it" to avoid the loss.

Re: Challenge of Honor being a 'normal' challenge: So, the character, to Unmask, immediately leaves the scene, drafts a letter to their daimyo requesting permission to challenge the other party to a duel? Okay, being forced to exit a scene unfinished does not sound "soft" to me.

Re: GM can't "shut down" and Unmasking: I was referring to how the aftermath and consequences are viewed. You call the Imperial Herald's hatamoto a ninny because he won't give you the date you want for a meeting, and you strife'd out trying to convince him, well, hatamoto doesn't chuckle and let it go, he he suddenly sees the calendar is full for the next year and a half, and drafts a letter to your daimyo about how unfortunate it is that he cannot train his samurai in basic etiquette.

 

P.S. I haven't figure out how to snip the quotes into chunks, so I apologize for the format of my response.

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On 9/1/2018 at 2:08 PM, llamaman88 said:

"I don't want to die!" could fit there. 

I was just thinking this. Seems like an inappropriate outburst for a samurai in a fight with a monster could be a cry of fear or frustration, a curse at his or her allies for not contributing enough to killing the thing, even laughing out loud at the absurdity of fighting a ninja in one's fundoshi after barely waking in time to avoid being skewered whilst sleeping.

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12 minutes ago, Hida Jitenno said:

Re: Inappropriate Outburst: the character commits a "deep breach of etiquette, shocking onlookers" does not, to me, say "pretty soft." If you could point me to the former, the Inappropriate Remark, I would appreciate it, because I can't seem to find it.

The full sentence is "The character says something out of line OR commits a deep breach of etiquette, shocking onlookers." You don't have to commit a deep breach of etiquette, only to shock onlookers (if any). It is entirely possible to put a nobody into shock because he was the only one listening or he was the only one who actually cared. The Inappropriate Remark was essentially the same, but the Glory loss was fixated.

The optional part specifies a scenario, so yes, the player can choose to not do it and go with a different kind of Inappropriate Outburst, in which case the listed Glory loss is also gone.

20 minutes ago, Hida Jitenno said:

Re: Challenge of Honor being a 'normal' challenge: So, the character, to Unmask, immediately leaves the scene, drafts a letter to their daimyo requesting permission to challenge the other party to a duel? Okay, being forced to exit a scene unfinished does not sound "soft" to me.

He does not have to leave immediately. In fact, he does not even have to bother with the whole issue for years to come or even in his whole lifetime. The Unmasking does not put the character in a hurry, it doesn't even state that the duel must happen, only that the character must issue it. The rest is entirely up to the player (how seriously the character takes the whole thing) and the GM (how seriously the challenged character takes the incident). It is also possible to challenge the other to a mock duel, a non-standard duel, or anything like that. 

25 minutes ago, Hida Jitenno said:

Re: GM can't "shut down" and Unmasking: I was referring to how the aftermath and consequences are viewed. You call the Imperial Herald's hatamoto a ninny because he won't give you the date you want for a meeting, and you strife'd out trying to convince him, well, hatamoto doesn't chuckle and let it go, he he suddenly sees the calendar is full for the next year and a half, and drafts a letter to your daimyo about how unfortunate it is that he cannot train his samurai in basic etiquette.

The point is that the player cannot be forced to mock the hatamoto. If their character vents their steam on verbally assaulting the kitchen boy, then it is a proper Unmasking. As a GM, you can't make the character pick a fight with the hatamoto and leave the kitchen boy alone because "it is not proper" or anything like that. If the player does choose the hatamoto then it is their problem, they would most likely do it without the Unmasking mechanic too.  

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Regarding the duels - I don’t have easy access to my beta book right now, but is that whole rigamarole with needing to call home for a duel even still present? I mainly ask because I had noticed, to my delight, that the Kick *** Or Don’t Come Home rule for mass combat was gone. And really, if a samurai game doesn’t have plentiful duels, something is wrong.

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15 minutes ago, AtoMaki said:

The full sentence is "The character says something out of line OR commits a deep breach of etiquette, shocking onlookers." You don't have to commit a deep breach of etiquette, only to shock onlookers (if any). It is entirely possible to put a nobody into shock because he was the only one listening or he was the only one who actually cared. The Inappropriate Remark was essentially the same, but the Glory loss was fixated.

The optional part specifies a scenario, so yes, the player can choose to not do it and go with a different kind of Inappropriate Outburst, in which case the listed Glory loss is also gone.

He does not have to leave immediately. In fact, he does not even have to bother with the whole issue for years to come or even in his whole lifetime. The Unmasking does not put the character in a hurry, it doesn't even state that the duel must happen, only that the character must issue it. The rest is entirely up to the player (how seriously the character takes the whole thing) and the GM (how seriously the challenged character takes the incident). It is also possible to challenge the other to a mock duel, a non-standard duel, or anything like that. 

The point is that the player cannot be forced to mock the hatamoto. If their character vents their steam on verbally assaulting the kitchen boy, then it is a proper Unmasking. As a GM, you can't make the character pick a fight with the hatamoto and leave the kitchen boy alone because "it is not proper" or anything like that. If the player does choose the hatamoto then it is their problem, they would most likely do it without the Unmasking mechanic too.  

Re: Outburt/Remark: Yes he "says something out of line" or "commits a deep breach of etiquette," either of which "shock onlookers."

Re: duels: If he has to issue the challenge, must do so, then he either 1) needs permission from his lord to do so, or 2) is issuing a challenge to an illegal duel. So if he off-the-cuff issues a duel, then it's to an illegal due unless he gets ex-post-facto permission from his lord. And as GM, I personally would never have the NPC brush it off. A fiery Crab or Matsu would probably take him on right there, whereas a more tradition and honor character would properly inform their own lord of the challenge and let it proceed from there. If the PC then chooses to ignore it for the rest of their life, their daimyo would of course know by the communication from the challenged party's daimyo (Hey, your samurai demanded satisfaction by duel... When can we put that on the books?), and that leads to further repercussions (daimyo: what... did... you... do... Ronin-san?) But that's me as GM, YMMV.

Re: hatamoto: Correct, I was assuming the character was going to Unmask in the presence of the hatamoto, instead of walking out. If they walk out and unleash on the dishboy, we have a Compassion and Courtesy honor cost naturally, and likely a rumor going around about how PC cannot fight his own battles, and needs to bully the wee-folk to feel better about himself. Maybe I'm just a more consequences-oriented GM than you/yours, but I just don't agree that a breach of protocol and etiquette to that degree is a freebie for mechanical effects. Then again, I also love The Witcher, because your decisions have major impacts later to come, even if in the moment it feels not so bad.

7 minutes ago, Lindhrive said:

Regarding the duels - I don’t have easy access to my beta book right now, but is that whole rigamarole with needing to call home for a duel even still present? I mainly ask because I had noticed, to my delight, that the Kick *** Or Don’t Come Home rule for mass combat was gone. And really, if a samurai game doesn’t have plentiful duels, something is wrong.

I don't know if they had that much culture/setting information in the Beta. As for mass combat, if you're already in a battle to the death, a duel on the battlefield is implicitly covered, because you've already got your daimyo's permission to represent/die for him.

Edited by Hida Jitenno

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Fair, about not having enough setting information. To clarify my point, though, in previous editions of the RPG, everyone who survived on the losing end of a conflict was to open up and spill their guts (while a friend makes sure they don’t completely lose their head!). In the Beta, that looked to be gone, which is good, because it was kind of dumb. Given that, should we assume that the rules for duelling (i.e. don’t) will stay the same?

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@AtoMaki: I figured where our difference comes out. You look at it as the "says something out of line" is fully independent from "commits a deep breach of etiquette, shocking onlookers." Ergo, your conclusion is "says something out of line" does not even need to be noticed.

Under my reading, "says something out of line" or "commits a deep breach of etiquette" are both distributed by the comma to "shocking onlookers,"which by definition can't "go unnoticed."

I'll give you that it's ambiguous as written. Your interpretation is reasonable, but minds may differ on the exact meaning of the phrase.

2 minutes ago, Lindhrive said:

Fair, about not having enough setting information. To clarify my point, though, in previous editions of the RPG, everyone who survived on the losing end of a conflict was to open up and spill their guts (while a friend makes sure they don’t completely lose their head!). In the Beta, that looked to be gone, which is good, because it was kind of dumb. Given that, should we assume that the rules for duelling (i.e. don’t) will stay the same?

There was a mention in the Beta duel rules that if the losing person loses a duel to the death, they were expected to end their life, or lose something like 20 glory and 30 honor to instead live. A non-lethal duel, though, it doesn't say that.

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This came up in another thread, and I am posting it here as well as it is relevant to this discussion.

Say, for example, a player has had enough of a courtier NPC's moral equivocation, two-faced rhetoric and charming insults directed at another character in the party. This player has their character throw decorum to the side, and flat out challenge the courtier to a duel.

Is this Unmasking?

It sounds a LOT like an Unmasking, doesn't it? But does it count? If the character is not Compromised, can they Unmask? Or is that cheating, because the rules CLEARLY STATE your character is not that emotionally invested? Is that player lying when they say their character has had enough of that courtier's words?

Let us say that this player has a character with a high Composure, or has only taken a few tangential Strife due to the insults all going towards a friend and not them. If this is not Unmasking, is the player who is choosing to stand up for their friend now roleplaying their character incorrectly?

This is the problem at the root of the Strife mechanic. It is a rules system which, at its core, is meant to represent how emotionally charged a character is, and by tying that to dice rather than player choice, the system limits player agency. Again, this is not BAD, nor any worse than no system at all (old L5R) or "Mind Control Courtier Techniques" (also old L5R). It is simply an aspect of the system that needs to be examined and addressed.

15 hours ago, llamaman88 said:

I would assume those things still exist. But seriously, the penalty for an illegal duel is like a day of house arrest and or a beating. It's the rokugani equivalent of Jay walking.

As we all know, the most serious crime in Rokugan, after all, is tax evasion.

Edited by sndwurks
Cleaning up language.

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17 hours ago, AtoMaki said:

The point is that the player cannot be forced to mock the hatamoto. If their character vents their steam on verbally assaulting the kitchen boy, then it is a proper Unmasking. As a GM, you can't make the character pick a fight with the hatamoto and leave the kitchen boy alone because "it is not proper" or anything like that. If the player does choose the hatamoto then it is their problem, they would most likely do it without the Unmasking mechanic too.  

Correct. Unlike a check, the form of an outburst/unmasking is for the player to define. The GM's 'handle' is the consequences - so the Hatamoto might well still send the letter to your daimyo, but at least you won't be leaving the palace with a  naginata embedded in your face.

17 hours ago, Hida Jitenno said:

Re: hatamoto: Correct, I was assuming the character was going to Unmask in the presence of the hatamoto, instead of walking out. If they walk out and unleash on the dishboy, we have a Compassion and Courtesy honor cost naturally, and likely a rumor going around about how PC cannot fight his own battles, and needs to bully the wee-folk to feel better about himself. Maybe I'm just a more consequences-oriented GM than you/yours, but I just don't agree that a breach of protocol and etiquette to that degree is a freebie for mechanical effects. Then again, I also love The Witcher, because your decisions have major impacts later to come, even if in the moment it feels not so bad.

Well, that's a different issue. Because if you're picking on the dishboy, you're by definition going to talk to (read: yell at) him, which means you're pretty much done talking to the Hatamoto. Or you can stay and keep arguing your case - which is where the compromised mechanic comes in, because now you're stuck with only the strife-free faces of your dice.

Essentially, you have 3 choices:

  • Unmask in the presence of the Hatamoto (however you like) and take the consequences
  • Leave the 'meeting' and unmask at someone else (however you like) - frankly I'd probably consider this an 'end scene' anyway so it's likely you don't need to unmask per se.
  • Keep on going and try to succeed with compromised dice and/or reduce your strife back below your composure.

As the GM, I can't police those decisions. I can only assign consequences. You can complain if a proposed unmasking is a bit trivial, but ultimately it's the player's choice; if they consistently try for 'no-consequence' unmaskings, remember that you set the consequences, and there is always at least one witness - the player themselves (which is where Honour hits are most appropriate, since they've shamed themselves in their own eyes, no matter how trivial the 'blip' might have been to an outside observer.

 

 

17 hours ago, Hida Jitenno said:

There was a mention in the Beta duel rules that if the losing person loses a duel to the death, they were expected to end their life, or lose something like 20 glory and 30 honor to instead live. A non-lethal duel, though, it doesn't say that.

Indeed. You can expect a glory hit for losing a duel (because, you know.....you lost) but if you comport yourself well by the terms of the duel, there's no reason you should lose honour (arguably you could come out of a losing duel with an honour increase - "Accepting a challenge from a foe you know to be a superior warrior").

Theoretically, for that matter, you can be killed in a duel and still "win", if you were to strike an opponent first, and inflict 9 fatigue and/or critical severity on them, and they unmasked before killing you.

A duel to the death implicitly includes death for the loser by whatever means, so not doing so is breaking those rules, and you can expect an honour hit just like any other instance of breaking formally agreed rules.

 

16 hours ago, llamaman88 said:

I would assume those things still exist. But seriously, the penalty for an illegal duel is like a day of house arrest and or a beating. It's the rokugani equivalent of Jay walking.

There's no mention of permission in the (admittedly reduced) background section of the beta. Since your life belongs to your lord, by definition risking it without permission is disobedience and dishonourable, but so is ignoring an insult, so I would image that nine times out of ten your lord would grant you retroactive permission where an insult is too offensive to be allowed to stand.

 

 

48 minutes ago, sndwurks said:

This came up in another thread, and I am posting it here as well as it is relevant to this discussion.

Say, for example, a player has had enough of a courtier NPC's moral equivocation, two-faced rhetoric and charming insults directed at another character in the party. This player has their character throw decorum to the side, and flat out challenge the courtier to a duel.

Is this Unmasking?

It sounds a LOT like an Unmasking, doesn't it? But does it count? If the character is not Compromised, can they Unmask? Or is that cheating, because the rules CLEARLY STATE your character is not that emotionally invested?

No, it's not. Because they're not compromised, so they're not (mechanically) unmasking. It is not, however, cheating, because nothing (aside from social convention) stops you challenging someone.

What they are doing, therefore, is deliberately acting as if they were losing their rag (probably not far in advance of actually doing so, given the courtier's behaviour).

The consequences will probably be the same (because the phrase "I challenge you to a duel" is pretty hard to ignore), but a suitably canny observer (I'd probably say Analyse (Air)/Sentiment) would be able to tell that you're nowhere near as angry as your public outburst implies you are.

 

 

"Fake Diplomatic Outrage" is a standard courtier approach.

 

So, what's different?

A 'true' unmasking has genuine (character) emotion behind it. Which means potentially it has more emotional resonance for the observer.

The (Beta Update) actually talks about this specific situation: "A character who challenges a social superior in anger might get that person to accept a duel they would normally refuse without consideration" 

If you choose to issue a challenge as your action in an intrigue, or during a non-conflict scene, and people can tell you're not really feeling it, then the courtier (if your social superior) is likely to tell you to wind your neck in and stop playing diplomatic games, you'll take an honour hit for rudeness, and nothing more will happen.

If it's a genuine Challenge of Honour unmasking because you've been compromised, by comparison, the courtier might let it stand because he realises he has genuinely offended you, and accept.

 

 

Edited by Magnus Grendel

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23 hours ago, Hida Jitenno said:

Re: duels: If he has to issue the challenge, must do so, then he either 1) needs permission from his lord to do so,

You only need your lord's permission to fight a duel, not to issue it, and it is only for lethal duels and is largely a formality (your lord not allowing the duel is in no way affects its legal status). You are thinking about sanctioning a duel that can be done by pretty much anyone of some authority and is not necessary required if the duel is, say, fought with bokkens. 

23 hours ago, Hida Jitenno said:

Re: hatamoto: Correct, I was assuming the character was going to Unmask in the presence of the hatamoto, instead of walking out. If they walk out and unleash on the dishboy, we have a Compassion and Courtesy honor cost naturally, and likely a rumor going around about how PC cannot fight his own battles, and needs to bully the wee-folk to feel better about himself. 

Well, of course, you can GM it any way you want, but I think this might be way too much fuss over way too little. Unmasking is not a very good mechanic for dramatic events IMO, but it is pretty great for a Risk Resource mechanic, and I think it should be treated like that. I know, the writers of the game are implying otherwise, but... yeah, there is a reason I did not withhold that first comment, and it is not me having too much Strife ;).

Edited by AtoMaki

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7 hours ago, Magnus Grendel said:

No, it's not. Because they're not compromised, so they're not (mechanically) unmasking. It is not, however, cheating, because nothing (aside from social convention) stops you challenging someone.

What they are doing, therefore, is deliberately acting as if they were losing their rag (probably not far in advance of actually doing so, given the courtier's behaviour).

The consequences will probably be the same (because the phrase "I challenge you to a duel" is pretty hard to ignore), but a suitably canny observer (I'd probably say Analyse (Air)/Sentiment) would be able to tell that you're nowhere near as angry as your public outburst implies you are.

"Fake Diplomatic Outrage" is a standard courtier approach.

So, what's different?

A 'true' unmasking has genuine (character) emotion behind it. Which means potentially it has more emotional resonance for the observer.

The (Beta Update) actually talks about this specific situation: "A character who challenges a social superior in anger might get that person to accept a duel they would normally refuse without consideration" 

If you choose to issue a challenge as your action in an intrigue, or during a non-conflict scene, and people can tell you're not really feeling it, then the courtier (if your social superior) is likely to tell you to wind your neck in and stop playing diplomatic games, you'll take an honour hit for rudeness, and nothing more will happen.

If it's a genuine Challenge of Honour unmasking because you've been compromised, by comparison, the courtier might let it stand because he realises he has genuinely offended you, and accept.

Again, just to make this clear, you are saying that the PC in the above situation is not emotionally invested enough in the situation for the emotional outburst that the player has chosen for their character, and it is instead a calculated political move, "fake diplomatic outrage" as you put it.

And so, this player is, in fact, CHEATING when they say that their character IS emotionally invested enough in the situation to throw decorum aside, because that PC does not have enough Strife to actually, genuinely care about the situation.

Now, it is theoretically possible within the system that this PC has made several rolls already in the situation, and just has not had any Strife icons come up (luckily or unluckily, however you wish to interpret the whimsy of dice). It is also theoretically possible that the Courtier has been making several Earth rolls, and spending Opportunities to keep said PC's Strife down (the Opportunity Table does not say that the person having their Strife reduced must be willing). The latter option is then a valid strategy in an Intrigue scene, as it keeps the Bushi from being Compromised and thus being mechanically ALLOWED to Unmask and genuinely call the Courtier out on their insults, and we are again attacking player agency from another angle now.

Strife, at its core, is designed to limit player agency over their PC's emotional state, and to separate a player from their character's emotions. This is the designer's intent with the system. 

It does not matter that the PLAYER has had enough of the Courtier's lies and insults, because their PC does not have enough Strife to justify calling the Courtier out on it, and any attempt to do so is, INHERENTLY, that PC lying or faking outrage.

This is a valid criticism of the Strife system, and a reason for people to dislike it. If you want control over your PC's emotions? Do not play the new L5R RPG.

Edited by sndwurks

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47 minutes ago, sndwurks said:

Strife, at its core, is designed to limit player agency over their PC's emotional state, and to separate a player from their character's emotions. This is the designer's intent with the system. 

It does not matter that the PLAYER has had enough of the Courtier's lies and insults, because their PC does not have enough Strife to justify calling the Courtier out on it, and any attempt to do so is, INHERENTLY, that PC lying or faking outrage.

I hope I don't offend here.

Strife is not necessarily designed to limit player agency (a concept I have issues with fundamentally, but that's another topic for another day), though I can see why it is viewed that way. To me, it's simply a game component designed to showcase how the designers feel social interactions should be complicated at the table. This is not dissimilar to how combat mechanics work (and yes, I am aware Strife builds and breaks in combat). In this game, without something like that, it is very easy for a player to dictate that they never lose their cool, are always paragons of honor, and are never out-maneuvered verbally by that Otomo courtier they are wrangling with. It's been described as a heat-sink system by others, but maybe it would also help to describe it as a pacing mechanism. That's not fundamentally different, to be sure, but what that means is that it helps drive and complicate social interactions similar to how combat rolls move, complicate, and resolve violence. It helps social interactions have structure, complication, and setback that the GM may not be prepared to provide on their own.

I think it could be helpful to see it as a guide to the events in a debate, while flirting, or negotiating the validity of a land grab in the courts. As with the real world, these conversations almost never play out the way they do in your head, and that adds complications to the events that build drama and interest.

Granted, I am new to using Strife.

As for the example, I don't think a PC needs to be driven by that emotional buildup to call out an NPC. Doing so before being compromised can easily represent a calculated decision and is independent of Strife. That's just a role-playing decision with no impetus other than what the Player wants. Though it could be the Player getting riled up too, but in a case like that, the GM should really be pausing and verifying that's what the Character wants.

Maybe the disconnect I sense (and I could be wholly wrong about what I am sensing) is the idea that because there is Strife, players can only make rash or bold decisions when Compromised. On the contrary, I believe that Strife simply adds. A player can have their character do things without being driven by Strife. These are times when the Character does those things that the Player feels are in the Character's best interest. Strife simply mandates that they occasionally do something that may not help them along the path to their goals because they are humans and we often act contrary to our own best interests. It muddies the waters certainly, but it doesn't seem to curtail much.

I may revise once I've played more than a single session.

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Not sure this bit survived the beta, but note that in the beta PCs can get strife for narrative reasons and the GM can slap them with strife if they see fit:

Quote

Characters can also acquire strife for other reasons, such as facing their
Anxieties (see page 60), neglecting their Ninjō (see page 22) or Giri
(see page 24), being affected by abilities used by other characters, and
for narrative reasons. Players should feel free to suggest times that their
characters should suffer strife to the GM, and the GM can inflict strife on
characters as circumstances dictate.

In a  situation where a player feels their character would take on strife and unmask the player should inform the GM and the GM should probably give them strife and let them unmask if it is appropriate to the character and the situation. This is where dialogue between players and GM comes in.

 

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11 hours ago, sndwurks said:

Again, just to make this clear, you are saying that the PC in the above situation is not emotionally invested enough in the situation for the emotional outburst that the player has chosen for their character, and it is instead a calculated political move, "fake diplomatic outrage" as you put it.

And so, this player is, in fact, CHEATING when they say that their character IS emotionally invested enough in the situation to throw decorum aside, because that PC does not have enough Strife to actually, genuinely care about the situation.

Now, it is theoretically possible within the system that this PC has made several rolls already in the situation, and just has not had any Strife icons come up (luckily or unluckily, however you wish to interpret the whimsy of dice). It is also theoretically possible that the Courtier has been making several Earth rolls, and spending Opportunities to keep said PC's Strife down (the Opportunity Table does not say that the person having their Strife reduced must be willing). The latter option is then a valid strategy in an Intrigue scene, as it keeps the Bushi from being Compromised and thus being mechanically ALLOWED to Unmask and genuinely call the Courtier out on their insults, and we are again attacking player agency from another angle now.

Strife, at its core, is designed to limit player agency over their PC's emotional state, and to separate a player from their character's emotions. This is the designer's intent with the system. 

It does not matter that the PLAYER has had enough of the Courtier's lies and insults, because their PC does not have enough Strife to justify calling the Courtier out on it, and any attempt to do so is, INHERENTLY, that PC lying or faking outrage.

This is a valid criticism of the Strife system, and a reason for people to dislike it. If you want control over your PC's emotions? Do not play the new L5R RPG.

Ultimately, yes, with a degree of caveat.

I don't see it as cheating; you are entitled to issue the challenge and you do, and your/your character's frustration is the cause.

A player - and their character - can be frustrated without suffering an outburst. I'm not saying the PC is not irritated when clearly the player is.

But there is a distinction between "I am annoyed" and the depth of emotion of a  true unmasking/outburst, just the same as (when dealing with fatigue rather than strife) there is a mechanical difference between stopping figthing for several calming breaths to keep fatigue down and stopping fighting because you're incapacitated. And that emotional difference is a component of the rules, and that is what the rules for unmasking are talking about where in the former case a social superior won't feel they need to accept your challenge and in the latter case they might.

I recall an extended thread in the Black Crusade forums about PvP (black crusade can often get a bit game of thrones) fellowship tests, and what was - to me - the logical argument was "If I can employ my combat skills against another character (by hitting them), why can I not use my social skills (by convincing them in character of something)?", which, by definition, allows for a dissociation of PC/Player emotional state when the player wants to flatly mandate 'I don't agree/believe you'; you don't get to ignore failing to resist a social interaction just on your own say-so any more than you get to ignore a combat interaction.

As far as I know, that logic (if you replace 'other PC' with 'social-focused NPC') applies to pretty much any RPG published, there is always the potential for that disconnect in the rules.

Limiting agency to me means "I cannot do a specific thing" or "I cannot not do a specific thing".

Nothing stops you issuing the challenge when not compromised, and nothing forces you to unmask (at all) or to choose to unmask by issuing the challenge if you do. What accumulated strife drives in these cases is how other characters perceive or respond to the challenge.

 

10 hours ago, jmoschner said:

Not sure this bit survived the beta, but note that in the beta PCs can get strife for narrative reasons and the GM can slap them with strife if they see fit:

In a  situation where a player feels their character would take on strife and unmask the player should inform the GM and the GM should probably give them strife and let them unmask if it is appropriate to the character and the situation. This is where dialogue between players and GM comes in.

 

Correct. It's...sort of emotional fatigue, I guess, and if a scene or effect demands it, the GM should consider awarding/mandating it.

Edited by Magnus Grendel

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