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NobleSeven

Creating an effective Iaijutsu Duelist

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Hi all! Very new to this edition of L5R and I’m hoping to make a capable and proficient Iaijutsu duelist. However, I’ve heard that there is some issue with building a new character due to some shortcomings with air and the Kakita stat offerings.

Does anyone have insights on building a solid starting character who goes this route? Do other builds, clans, schools, rings just do this better?

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go mirumoto duelist.

crank those fire and earth rings (fire for attacks/strife opponent and initiative, earth for raw stats) and spam that school ability.

profit.

 

kakita is trash (aside that he gets an iaijutsu technique for free hes no better than the majority of other bushis at duels, in fact, he's probably worst than many until much higher ranks when his school ability starts to become scary enough to pierce through a fire stance with relative ease. I'd say by rank 3, preferably 4, then a Kakita duellist can hold his own as a decent duellist but still far from being top 5 duel school in the core book)

 

there are other shenanigans, some characters with probably unintended broken abilities for duels. but lets disregard that for now.

 

edit: but honestly this whole game have cracks, typos, nonsense rules everywhere. it is not far from a beta state. if you decide to go with it, you either love it with its flaws or improve it how you see fit.

Edited by Avatar111

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Depends on how long you want to wait to be good. Kakita school is the only one to start with an Iai tech right out of the gate. Mirumuto gets an Iai tech with experience after 1-2 sessions (depending on how fast experience is given out). Any other school with access to Kata can buy them at Rank 2.  Iai tech is a big advantage in duels, as it lets you choose whichever approach (translation: any ring to add to your skill) to combat you want, while without them, you are forced to use Water approach in order to draw and strike in the same round. (Note you don't *need* to draw and strike in the same round to win a duel in this edition. But being able to do so means you don't telegraph your intent).

For skills, you want Meditation (that's your initiative) and Martial Arts (Melee).

For rings...as noted above, in order to draw and strike *without* an Iai tech, you'll want Water 3 to start. Once you have an Iai tech or if you don't mind waiting, I believe the general consensus is you want higher Fire and/or Earth rings. Fire approach is for offense, Earth approach prevents your opponent from doing anything more than base damage.

This edition is fairly forgiving in terms of long-term development. Pretty much any of the bushi (and even courtier!) schools can achieve the same duelling capability in Rank 2. It's just a question of putting your experience points towards the skills, rings and techs.  The specific school abilities are much less of a deciding factor in this edition.

[Later edit] You may also want to read the "How are you duels going?" thread for info on how duels have been going in at least a couple of games.

 

Edited by easl

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21 minutes ago, easl said:

The specific school abilities are much less of a deciding factor in this edition.

well, some schools are better for dueling (for iaijutsu duels, not crab duels...)

mirumoto is absolutely one of the better. but hes overall probably the best 1v1 character in the game.

ikoma can probably strife bomb most opponent. (but that ability should not work in duels, design oversight)

hiruma can strike with whatever stance they want and then switch to earth and be immune to crits. (but that ability should not work in duels, design oversight)

hida can eventually make those crits not able to reach the 5 severity, which makes him a pain to deal with if he gets an Iai tech becuase of his high composure. (but Hiruma is still probably better because hes literally always in earth stance when not attacking so he cannot be crit. and you cannot predict earth because it only works for the first time he choose a stance. so, hiruma can attack with whatever stance he wants then switch to earth without worries)

 

then you have other schools which are decent, like Kakita, Shiba, Akodo, Kaiu, Shosuro.

 

maybe i'm forgetting a few others, but thats like a basic rundown.

and for rings, yup: fire/earth (and void) is the best combo. and you NEED an iaijutsu tech eventually. no doubt.

Air does have its niche though, with Veiled Menace. But you need to build for it.

Edited by Avatar111

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So I think easl has it best here, a lot of it is how fast you want to be good (or want to be actually doing traditional iaijutsu dueling). Kakita is the only way to be able to execute the iaijutsu form right out the gate, and the actual Iaijutsu techniques are the most effective way to (properly) duel. Water lets you draw and cut, but when you do that you need to be darned sure you're gonna hit (though traditionally, in iaijutsu if you both whif the opening strike you can then just "fight" duel). There's a little over emphasis on Earth I think, but for iaijutsu that doesn't matter, Earth Stance only protects against opportunity spends, so the Finishing Blow skips it entirely, and you can ready and strike as a single Attack action (with Rising Cut being particularly effective at this point as the TN is their Vigilance which is 1 when compromised). Once they have some XP, Mirumoto school can jump into this, and their school ability can be quite useful for it. Otherwise, you have this case where you're drawing and striking with Water and need to get a couple opportunity to crit and are completely shut out if they do Earth then. 

It's important to remember the duel is not just the mechanical rules on the page, it's also a thing that happens in the story. Iaijutsu duels are very ritualized, and form is supposed to be very important. If you draw and just sit with your weapon out waiting for the Finishing Blow, somebody is probably gonna be annoyed you're not doing it right. If you draw your sword and just start wailing on a guy, that's also probably improper form (though as noted above, I believe traditionally you just turn it into a normal kenjutsu fight if both parties fail to properly connect on the draw n' cut). Or, the GM might decide if both parties fail to execute a proper strike, the duel is a draw, no points. The draw text indicates that means you might set up for another round, for instance. 

Either way, it again really depends on how fast you want to be doing the dueling well. Kakita is the best intro, but is probably a bit middling from there until your School Ranks mean your ability can say, make or break a winning condition reliably. And then if you actually get to Rank 6, you don't even need Finishing Blows or Iaijutsu techniques, you can just turn one take out people if you can roll the dice right. 

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39 minutes ago, Avatar111 said:

(but that ability should not work in duels, design oversight)

Already shouldn't work in duels, the trigger is you need to make a social check. Social checks aren't a default action in the duel, so you have to justify what you're doing and none of their descriptions really make sense in a duel. 

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18 minutes ago, UnitOmega said:

Water lets you draw and cut, but when you do that you need to be darned sure you're gonna hit Its as easy to hit as Iai cuts, plus it can crit. The only purpose of Iai cut are: if you want to put fatigue on them with the ring you want in first turn, draw and intentionally miss but use lots of opportunity with the ring you want, or if your weapon is not drawn in a finishing blow.

but sure, if you water draw + strike, you have no defence against the opponent next strike if that was your meaning (unless you are hiruma, but that ability should not work in duels..)

still, if you are crazy enough to do an Iai duel without an Iai tech... this option can be decent.

There's a little over emphasis on Earth I think, but for iaijutsu that doesn't matter, Earth Stance only protects against opportunity spends, so the Finishing Blow skips it entirely, But Earth have good composure.

so the Finishing Blow skips it entirely, and you can ready and strike as a single Attack action. No you cannot, even in a finishing blow, unless you use an Iai tech that is. But the way I read your sentence is that you could draw and strike (without an Iai tech) during a finishing blow. disregard that comment if that is not what you meant.

Once they have some XP, Mirumoto school can jump into this, and their school ability can be quite useful for it. Otherwise, you have this case where you're drawing and striking with Water and need to get a couple opportunity to crit and are completely shut out if they do Earth then. You are always shut out if they do earth unless you compromise or incapacitate them. Fire also makes it relatively easy to avoid getting 5+sev crits in first blood duels, and you get to roll to resist and maybe get 1 opp to give 2 strife to the opponent...and other stuff... (it is broken that you can use opportunities on resist checks, failed rule)

It's important to remember the duel is not just the mechanical rules on the page, it's also a thing that happens in the story. Iaijutsu duels are very ritualized, and form is supposed to be very important. If you draw and just sit with your weapon out waiting for the Finishing Blow, somebody is probably gonna be annoyed you're not doing it right. If you draw your sword and just start wailing on a guy, that's also probably improper form (though as noted above, I believe traditionally you just turn it into a normal kenjutsu fight if both parties fail to properly connect on the draw n' cut). Or, the GM might decide if both parties fail to execute a proper strike, the duel is a draw, no points. The draw text indicates that means you might set up for another round, for instance. if you put "narrative" into it, everything "works", can't argue here.

 

Edited by Avatar111

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9 minutes ago, UnitOmega said:

Already shouldn't work in duels, the trigger is you need to make a social check. Social checks aren't a default action in the duel, so you have to justify what you're doing and none of their descriptions really make sense in a duel. 

you can do a social check (and shuji, lots of them are social checks) in duels. The default actions mentions "other".

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7 minutes ago, Avatar111 said:

if you put "narrative" into it, everything "works", can't argue here.

Golly gee willikers it's almost like that's what FFG's design trend has been for like the past three game systems. 

6 minutes ago, Avatar111 said:

you can do a social check (and shuji, lots of them are social checks) in duels. The default actions mentions "other".

As an action, you make a skill check to
attempt a task you have described to the GM.
Effects: If you succeed, you may use the skill for its
narrative effects
, for implementing any sample use that
can be completed in a single action, or for pursuing
another task that the GM deems appropriate.

Emphasis mine. So first and foremost, you have to justify the check to the GM and aim for an intended effect, which most of use of social skills don't really apply to a duel. You can't just make a social skill check incidentally to also drop your Ikoma bomb on. There are some shuji which can work in a duel (I know, yes, it says you can use all shuji in a duel but not all of them apply or make sense), but now you are kind of making a specific weird niche build to make it work, and you'd technically be going against your school's design (because in order to make the strife matter you probably want an iai technique). That might be fun if a player has a reason to make an Ikoma school member who is a straight up duelist, but I'm of the philosophy that if he's just doing it to minmax you politely tell him to come back with a real character who makes sense in the world - BUT I know we've had similar discussions before and will have to agree to disagree on that point. 

Edited by UnitOmega

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6 minutes ago, UnitOmega said:

Golly gee willikers it's almost like that's what FFG's design trend has been for like the past three game systems. 

yeah, i suppose. this is a valid point.

i would still have preferred a bit more thought in fleshing out the mechanical rules since they are there anyway. i'm totally cool with narrative rules too though (stuff like narrative effects of triumph in star wars etc). l5r just kind of end up in a weird spot, being more mechanical than star wars, but because of all those rules (star wars almost doesn't have any rules) the system becomes slightly abusable sometimes. at this point, if they wanted something more narrative, they should have made the rules even more blurry as they did with star wars.

edit: tdlr, i don't really see the point of having a mechanical heavy system like l5r but then brushing off the inconsistencies or abusable part with narrative butter.

for example, at some point in the conflict chapter they mention you can use Opportunities in initiative to draw a weapon during initiative and then go look on p.328.

and you realise p.328-9 doesnt mention that at all. is it something you allow as a GM or not ? and if yes, what stance can do it ? 

it just gets weeeeird.

Edited by Avatar111

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20 minutes ago, UnitOmega said:

Golly gee willikers it's almost like that's what FFG's design trend has been for like the past three game systems. 

As an action, you make a skill check to
attempt a task you have described to the GM.
Effects: If you succeed, you may use the skill for its
narrative effects
, for implementing any sample use that
can be completed in a single action, or for pursuing
another task that the GM deems appropriate.

Emphasis mine. So first and foremost, you have to justify the check to the GM and aim for an intended effect, which most of use of social skills don't really apply to a duel. You can't just make a social skill check incidentally to also drop your Ikoma bomb on. There are some shuji which can work in a duel (I know, yes, it says you can use all shuji in a duel but not all of them apply or make sense), but now you are kind of making a specific weird niche build to make it work, and you'd technically be going against your school's design (because in order to make the strife matter you probably want an iai technique). That might be fun if a player has a reason to make an Ikoma school member who is a straight up duelist, but I'm of the philosophy that if he's just doing it to minmax you politely tell him to come back with a real character who makes sense in the world - BUT I know we've had similar discussions before and will have to agree to disagree on that point. 

so, you wouldn't allow the use of Shujis in Duels ? stuff like Courtier's resolve etc?

or taunts, fanning the flame etc ?

 

i'd be ok with it, i'm just wondering.

 

edit: oh, ok, i see you allow shuji in duels. and yeah, you can tell your ikoma player to not take iai tech because it doesn't make sense. but i wouldn't stop them from taking it, so i'd rather say that ikoma's ability doesn't work in duels.

problem is, in both situtations (yours and mine) we have to come up with a REASON or a RULE to disallow that cheese. 

that is a design problem. i'm not saying there are no fixes or narrative way to fix it. but little things like that are numerous in that game. the Hiruma ability is another example of "why does that work in duels again?".

Edited by Avatar111

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27 minutes ago, UnitOmega said:

Already shouldn't work in duels, the trigger is you need to make a social check. Social checks aren't a default action in the duel, so you have to justify what you're doing and none of their descriptions really make sense in a duel. 

Like a third of Shuji techniques are combat techniques. Of course they are supposed to be usable in melee combat.  Well, at least many of them.

Now, yes, talking  trash or chatting your opponent up might be socially unacceptable in truly formal duel. That's just supposed to "stand silently, unmoving, with no armor...until someone strikes" right? But if you're duelling in any more relaxed sort of situation, I think shuji should be perfectly fine. "I notice you're favoring your right leg, Tokito-san...would you prefer we continue this at a later time?" could be a shuji use, and very appropriate for more extended duels.

 

 

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It really depends on the shuji, and it's important to remember what actually prompts it. Not just melee combat, but also has to be viable for duels (Feigned Opening can't, for instance, and while Lightning Raid doesn't say it can only be used in skirmish or mass combat, it's effect only applies in those conflicts), and a couple of them technically serve to stop it from being a duel. Quite a few support abilities can be used in a duel, but they tend to target allies. The best that works on it's own is Ebb & Flow, I think. Many other abilities which technically apply need you to make a Social skill check first. 

Even if you might be in a situation where you can speak, you still need to justify the underlying skill use first, which looking at the sample uses and approaches for most Social skills do not always fit in a duel context. Now if players can make their actions justified, that's fine but it's on them to figure out how it's applied first and then they can work in many shuji effects after. Like, just taunting somebody isn't even a check to me, you can just say it. If you wanted to say, use Courtesy to phrase it in a way so the judges don't think it's impolite, that's probably a check (though probably with Air). Command is noted as working best on subordinates or people in a command structure, so just wanting to roll Command (Fire) to go "grr, I am a scary lion" against an enemy probably of roughly equal social standing should be not-insignificant check (and I'd also want the player to kind of give me an angle on such intimidation, since usually you do Command to get people to do things, so they have to have a goal in mind). 

EDIT: and also context is important. This starts as a thread about Iaijutsu, a very specific format of dueling. A hida or hiruma would probably favor a warrior's duel, for instance. If you really want a Courtier to be engaging in a "duel", they maybe you should play a game of Sadane instead. 

Edited by UnitOmega

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28 minutes ago, UnitOmega said:

Like, just taunting somebody isn't even a check to me, you can just say it. If you wanted to say, use Courtesy to phrase it in a way so the judges don't think it's impolite, that's probably a check (though probably with Air). Command is noted as working best on subordinates or people in a command structure, so just wanting to roll Command (Fire) to go "grr, I am a scary lion" against an enemy probably of roughly equal social standing should be not-insignificant check (and I'd also want the player to kind of give me an angle on such intimidation, since usually you do Command to get people to do things, so they have to have a goal in mind). 

fanning the flame p.218

 

edit: my bad.

 

Edited by Avatar111

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2 hours ago, UnitOmega said:

EDIT: and also context is important. This starts as a thread about Iaijutsu, a very specific format of dueling. A hida or hiruma would probably favor a warrior's duel, for instance.

yes to: "probably favor".

no to: "will always favor".

there is no reason that mechanically, a hiruma or hida who chooses to be a good duellist (ok, it isnt classic, but that is often what creating a character is all about) gets to have an arguably better school ability than a kakita for duels to first blood.

 

again, i am not arguing here. i'm just finding the design decision a bit weird. my point of view is not going to change anything at all for somebody who just say to his player "nah, your hiruma shouldn't really be a duelist so don't get that iaijutsu technique". my point of view is strictly comparing rules to rules in a rule defined duel system. if you narratively want to say that each duellist should only have only one strike and/or that they cannot use a shuji because they wouldn't be allowed to talk in a duel etc. this is all fair.

the only people who win here are FFG. they set the rules.

everybody else just do what they want with them. and this is a discussion forums, on a topic about "Creating an effective Iaijutsu Duelist".

i'm not going to answer to the original poster "well my dude, go kakita because the description text is saying they are the best duelist. so your GM will just deal with it".

Edited by Avatar111

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23 hours ago, easl said:

It's just a question of putting your experience points towards the skills, rings and techs.  The specific school abilities are much less of a deciding factor in this edition.

Ehh... It's true that school abilities matter less. On the other hand, there's several things that matter a bit and they add up. Not to keep heaping scorn on the Kakita, but since they're supposed to be the poster boys of iai dueling: their starting skills are as good as anyone's (and better than most), but Meditation is not part of their curriculum at rank 2 (or 4, but that might not be much of an issue); their starting rings are decent, but not great; their school ability is largely irrelevant in first strike or first blood duels, which should be the majority of duels a PC fights (and ones to the death can, obviously, only be lost once). Rising Blade at rank one (and for free) is a big deal, but that advantage only lasts one rank. As far as I can tell the Kakita are meant to be one strike win duelists design-wise: that's fitting for the setting, but doesn't quite pan out in practice - and their school ability mattering most in lethal contests is not great for PCs in particular and isn't really plausible.

A Mirumoto or Shiba is mechanically better for dueling than a Kakita, and thematically it makes sense for them to be competent duelists. Arguably, a worldly ronin can be too if he picks his bonus skills right (and it's not a bad idea for a ronin to be able to handle himself in single combat, though it's likely they'll engage less in formal iai duels than in anything goes one-on-ones). As of rank 2, the only real advantage the Kakita has left is XP spent, and 3 XP for an Iaijutsu Cut is not going to outweigh the other factors. Even disregarding the incidental "shouldn't be duelists, but if they were they'd have an edge over a Kakita" schools, the Kakita are lagging behind. I highly doubt dueling was playtested properly in terms of how the different schools match up against one another, and if it was the feedback can't have been given enough weight.

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The Kakita ability might not matter for First Strike (since landing any hit counts, unless the GM says a judge doesn't think it counts), but it should matter to First Blood as unless I'm mistaken somewhere, the target still rolls Fitness to take the crit (this is seperate from your ability to defend) and if they, in fact, reduce it below drawing blood that means you don't complete the objective. 

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8 minutes ago, UnitOmega said:

The Kakita ability might not matter for First Strike (since landing any hit counts, unless the GM says a judge doesn't think it counts), but it should matter to First Blood as unless I'm mistaken somewhere, the target still rolls Fitness to take the crit (this is seperate from your ability to defend) and if they, in fact, reduce it below drawing blood that means you don't complete the objective. 

Just be a hida or hiruma.

Nobody is going to land that crit 5+ on you.

Ez win first blood duel.

 

The game needs polishing that they did not have time to do, or, the beta testers were people who don't understand mechanical rpg design.

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Honestly, Hida tanking the **** out of duels is very on point in lore, they just don't usually give a flip about the whole ritual of it.

There's a character appearing in the next LCG set who is a Hida tagged "Berserker" and "Duelist". I believe he normally duels with a tetsubo. 

Edited by UnitOmega

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4 minutes ago, UnitOmega said:

Honestly, Hida tanking the **** out of duels is very on point in lore, they just don't usually give a flip about the whole ritual of it.

There's a character appearing in the next LCG set who is a Hida tagged "Berserker" and "Duelist". I believe he normally duels with a tetsubo. 

All good.

Doesnt make Kakita any less of a relatively useless duellist though.

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3 hours ago, nameless ronin said:

 I highly doubt dueling was playtested properly in terms of how the different schools match up against one another, and if it was the feedback can't have been given enough weight.

I somewhat agree with this. In the case of simultaneous finishing blows, the person with the lowest honor gets the advantage. Thematically, it would fit the setting better IMO if it was the reverse.

In terms of the Kakita's ability, I expect the designers thought the ability to increase critical strike severity lets them get to 5 (i.e. first blood) easier than other schools.  It also allows them to not kill their opponents accidentally in duels to first blood - which is not super useful if you were looking for a pure combat tech, but I think it's very thematic in that it gives the Crane clan a 'win without causing serious social problems' tech. IOW it's a tech that's half combat, half social.  Still, I could see changing the 'increase severity' benefit to an increase in initiative or a 'goes first in ties' sort of benefit instead.

 

Edited by easl

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I feel like the intent is scummiest person goes first because they're most likely to be a dirty cheater, but yeah, that doesn't really work out when say, you've got a guy at like 42 vs 45.

EDIT: Alternatively, as most samurai NPCs tend to have quite high honor and it's not likely to flex as much as PCs, it may be to help PCs win out in that sort of scenario, rather than get bullied by say, NPC duelists with Ring 3-4 and Martial 3 getting first chance to drop you. 

Edited by UnitOmega

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I quite like the “lower Honor goes first on ties” rule. One of the few perks of being a Scorpion!! (Who incidentally, in the lore, are not inconsequential duelists, so this at least is consistent ;) )

I too interpret this as the higher honor character feeling bound to let their opponent have a fair shot. 

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for the Honor versus Initiative rules, I also find it weird, but not weird enough to houserule it. Basically "Honor" is an hindrance. It is something that is codified and that doesn't really make sense in a modern western society (or modern eastern society for that matter).

so when they say "honor is stronger than steel" that isn't really true.... at least not in a combat term.

Honor is to control people. It is a form of manipulation and rules so the top people stay at top in their little "system".

anyway... that is how I see it.

So if you want to play the highly honorable samurai, you will have a chance at achieving high in the samurai society, especially in imperial areas, but that's it. If you want to just kick some arses in an utilitarian way, Honor is no good. Well you do have a good "resolve" I guess.

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for the kakita school ability, I see what they wanted to achieve. it makes the kakita "precise".

that is fancy and all, but the problem is not as much with their school ability as it is with the duel system.

1st: earth (and also fire) stance makes critical impossible (fire just makes it harder to achieve the 5+ needed for first blood).

2nd: iaijutsu techniques cannot crit

 

so you end up with hard counters to the "kakita style".

 

personally, I tweaked some rules to allow for more interesting iaijutsu duels. and it works great.

 

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