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TheHobgoblyn

Are the Adversity Disadvantages Too Harsh?

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I didn't see a topic on this being discussed yet, but...

Given the fact that standard character creation requires every starting character to start with an adversity disadvantage.... I really have to wonder what the designers were thinking.

Almost every single one of them has to do with a maimed or crippled body part, literally corruption by jigoku or a supernatural curse. The standard starting character is generally meant to be a 15-16 year old who just became an adult, doesn't know much about the world and is diving into it with probably a naive mentality....

So why is it literally all of the adversity disadvantages in the book are ones that well... would pretty much destroy someone just starting out?

Where are all the normal adversities one would expect a major character to have?

I would expect to see things like addiction to a substance, obsession with a subject or kind of object, naivety, fool-hardiness, ignorance on a particular subject, culture shock, depression, arrogance, vanity, jealousness, competitiveness, etc.?

Or even ones that have to do with their background, like a shameful ancestor or 

I understand that during the course of an adventure that a character might incur a wound that would lead to being saddled with a now missing or useless part of their body and maybe what part matters or that they might get infected by shadowlands taint-- but, that's the thing... these disadvantages that a starting character is asked to choose from, they really seem more like "accumulation of results of adventuring" rather than "starting state of a basic beginner character".

Really, I need to wonder if I am seriously missing something because if I were to create a random chart for these disadvantages and create a bunch of fresh-faced young samurai from that random chart, I am going to come up with a bunch that look like they were the lucky survivors of being dumped into a shadowlands infected blender rather than a fresh batch of bright-eyed, bushy-tailed young samurai kids who just received their first real sword last week.

If I am not missing anything, has someone come up with a more reasonable adversity list for brand new characters that has considerably less missing or useless body parts and far more personality and character flaws?

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Having made a few test characters and now some Pregen PCs, I do think that generally FFG went a little deep on the Scars. It's very good and diverse for their Critical system, but for CC it definitely implies characters are getting beat up a lot. Sure, some can be congenital defects or result of childhood disease, and if you're a bushi there's all kinds of training accidents which could happen, but it definitely feels like it can easily lead to a lot of sameness in groups. 

Now, curses are a bit more interesting. While they are framed as a spiritual disadvantage, most of their descriptions are not inherently supernatural. I feel like those are more that characters just happen to be lucky/unlucky in a specific area, and because this is Rokugan that is due to the influence of a particular Fortune. Still can have saminess or relevance problems.

Some of the stuff you mention has been moved to Anxieties where it makes sense - those don't necessarily make you worse at certain actions, they cause you to suffer Strife when you interact with them. Materialism gives you strife when you try to accept letting go of a physical object or sacrificing your physical wealth because that's just not your nature. And I think the "random chart" is actually the  opposite of what FFG is aiming for here, I think the intent is for you to pick an adversity which makes the most sense for making an interesting character - the the section on how to create your own Advantages and Disadvantages gives you guidelines to make your specific ideas if the book doesn't cover them. I am still hopeful that Emerald Empire might lean more into some more social/mental stuff (since we know there are new Advantages/Disadvantages in it) since the book no longer has to spend space on covering core mechanics (Scars). 

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Then, did I screw up? Were the anxieties meant to be options for the beginning character instead of just the adversities category?

Or would it be appropriate to allow someone to pick an anxiety instead of a missing limb or a shadowlands taint or a supernatural curse?

To me at least, it makes more sense for the primary adversity for a main character just starting off in a story to be something about their personality that must be overcome rather than something that is clearly the result of worldly battle damage.

 

The reason I bring up random charts is because I need to run my campaign as a solo adventure, I hope to run a custom character through the beginning box adventure followed by the downloadable adventure followed by the GM screen adventure, and I want to randomly create the rest of the competitors in the topaz championship beyond the 1 per clan that were provided so that he can have a choice about who to meet and befriend or rival with and who will appear in the two subsequent adventures as this supporting cast while he takes the lead as the main character.

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Anxieties and adversities are not meant to be interchangeable categories. P. 99 does a good job of explaining what's what and tells us they're paired with different advantages. Obviously it feels like there's some overlap (and it's not like anxieties don't interfere with performing your duties, which is by definition what adversities are, or that some adversities don't really seem to have much to do with your duties - Benten's Curse definitely seems borderline, for instance), but I wouldn't let players pick anxieties instead of adversities mainly because their drawbacks result in fundamentally different mechanical effects. If you need more, create new ones. I could definitely see creating new adversities based on existing anxieties, but the mechanics should then refer to hindring you in being a good retainer for your lord: anxieties should increase strife, adversities should make checks more difficult.

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Considering the mechanical effects of disadvantages, rerolling two successes on certain rolls related to a specific ring, I feel that the adversities are just mislabeled. It seems like blind is really just nearsighted, missing a leg is just having a limp, etc. 

For example, I’m playing a reluctant shugenja and decided that momoku worked mechanically for someone who isn’t completely comfortable opening themself up to the spirits around them. We just toned down the description of the adversity and kept the mechanical effect. 

Edited by coljrigg

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It’s true that at character creation, I would tend to avoid Adversities in the following categories: Scars, Flaws and Infamy - these seem more like things a character is supposed to pick up during play - and Shadowland Taint (unless you really want to play an... overly ambitious Isawa or overzealous Kuni...). 

It does leave us with a precious few examples. Scorn of one group and Haunting are serviceable and can be declined in various ways; momoku and the various Fortunes’ curses; bitter betrothal, blackmail, bluntness, clumsiness and discomfiting countenance, gaijin name and incurable illness are about all that’s left. 

So this definitely leaves place to create some new ones ! Fortunately, that isn’t too much work since they all work the same way: something that hinders you in your duties, pick a ring, have it reroll some of your successes from time to time and gain Void Points when you fail. 

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I expect people with real life disabilities actually appreciate the implication that they're perfectly functional people except in the very specific circumstance (which can still apply frequently - think of Toph from Avatar. She can tell where people and objects are pretty easy, but she can't read).

Also @Franwax don't forget "Sworn Enemy" a great adversity if your GM is flexible enough to work it into the narrative. 

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I also think that these are very much unreflective of the setting itself.

How many of the characters in the fiction so far are missing or have useless limbs? How many have supernatural curses set upon them? How many are tainted by the Shadowlands? How many clearly have no soul?

Why are these the options that the designers of the RPG felt that every single brand new player to the game should choose between as their characters main flaw?

Saying that we have to come up with our own is no answer at all-- surely the primary, main book itself should have provided a list that was far more reasonable rather than categorizing every flaw that the writers themselves would actually assign to a character they are going to be using in their stories as an entirely separate category that can't be the flaws of created PCs.

Are we really to understand that every single last samurai who has grown up in Rokugan except conveniently the ones the writers are using in their stories have had an arm chopped off or both their eyes gouged out? Is shadowlands corruption so common in Rokugan that no one reaches gempukku without having it happen exception, conveniently for the official writers for the setting, any person they decide to use in their stories?

So far we have exactly one example of a mute character and she was not mute at her introduction, she was in fact indicated as having a wonderful singing voice and was not mute until 90% of her current story was over. So why exactly did the makers of the RPG feel like this should be a flaw that 5% of all created characters in the RPG should have?

 

I can't be the first person to realize this, so how has anyone been dealing with this? That every single created character for the RPG is expected to have some major crippling effect that the very professional writers of the setting absolutely would not give to any character they are actually going to tell a story with, and have players who might be brand new to RPGs spending a lot more time playing these characters than the writers are going to spend writing their own characters?

It is a massive mistake in game design and I am baffled that given this is a step in the character creation process that no one else has noted this.

Edited by TheHobgoblyn

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30 minutes ago, coljrigg said:

Considering the mechanical effects of disadvantages, rerolling two successes on certain rolls related to a specific ring, I feel that the adversities are just mislabeled. It seems like blind is really just nearsighted, missing a leg is just having a limp, etc. 

For example, I’m playing a reluctant shugenja and decided that momoku worked mechanically for someone who isn’t completely comfortable opening themself up to the spirits around them. We just toned down the description of the adversity and kept the mechanical effect. 

This is a good point. It's the mechanics that matter, not the name or the description. The curses in particular - it really doesn't (have to) matter whether these stem from the whim of a Fortune, are the result of some oddly specific bad luck or are really physical flaws. Just roll with what makes sense for you.

 

19 minutes ago, Franwax said:

It’s true that at character creation, I would tend to avoid Adversities in the following categories: Scars, Flaws and Infamy - these seem more like things a character is supposed to pick up during play - and Shadowland Taint (unless you really want to play an... overly ambitious Isawa or overzealous Kuni...)

To each their own, but flaws generally seem fine for character creation (are there any other than the disdains?) and scars can be ok in moderation - an entire party of amputees isn't very plausible unless you come up with an extraneous reason, but I have no problem with one PC hobbling around on a gimp leg or having a bad back from a riding accident or something.

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2 minutes ago, TheHobgoblyn said:

It is a massive mistake in game design and I am baffled that given this is a step in the character creation process that no one else has noted this.

most of us know this game needed a second round in beta and/or a bit more time in the oven. r/rokugan mentions it quite often also.

but.. as sad as it is. the core concept is solid enough that if you really want to play the game, you can always tweak it enough so that it becomes enjoyable for your group.

the game is salvageable, it just have a very harsh disadvantage. (got it? i mean, my joke?).

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14 minutes ago, TheHobgoblyn said:

I also think that these are very much unreflective of the setting itself.

How many of the characters in the fiction so far are missing or have useless limbs? How many have supernatural curses set upon them? How many are tainted by the Shadowlands? How many clearly have no soul?

Why are these the options that the designers of the RPG felt that every single brand new player to the game should choose between as their characters main flaw?

Saying that we have to come up with our own is no answer at all-- surely the primary, main book itself should have provided a list that was far more reasonable rather than categorizing every flaw that the writers themselves would actually assign to a character they are going to be using in their stories.

Are we really to understand that every single last samurai who has grown up in Rokugan except conveniently the ones the writers are using in their stories have had an arm chopped off or both their eyes gouged out? It shadowlands corruption so common in Rokugan that no one reaches gempukku without having it happen exception, conveniently for the official writers for the setting, any person they decide to use in their stories?

So far we have exactly one example of a mute character and she was not mute at her introduction, she was in fact indicated as having a wonderful singing voice and was not mute until 90% of her current story was over. So why exactly did the makers of the RPG feel like this should be a flaw that 5% of all created characters in the RPG should have?

 

I can't be the first person to realize this, so how has anyone been dealing with this? That every single created character for the RPG is expected to have some major crippling effect that the very professional writers of the setting absolutely would not give to any character they are actually going to tell a story with, and have players who might be brand new to RPGs spending a lot more time playing these characters than the writers are going to spend writing their own characters?

It is a massive mistake in game design and I am baffled that given this is a step in the character creation process that no one else has noted this.

I've been dealing with this by not even thinking it's a problem, I guess? I've seen about two dozen PCs made by others in this edition so far (created, not necessarily all played extensively) and the overall impression I got is certainly not one of an unending slew of accident-prone oddjobs who all lost a few pounds in unfortunate meatgrinder-related incidents. You don't want some kind of physical deformity, just don't take one. Plenty of other options to choose from or to create. And it's certainly not the intention that all disadvantages occur equally frequently.

 

9 minutes ago, Avatar111 said:

most of us know this game needed a second round in beta and/or a bit more time in the oven. r/rokugan mentions it quite often also.

but.. as sad as it is. the core concept is solid enough that if you really want to play the game, you can always tweak it enough so that it becomes enjoyable for your group.

the game is salvageable, it just have a very harsh disadvantage. (got it? i mean, my joke?).

There are certainly flaws to this edition, but I honestly don't see how this is supposed to be one of them.

Edited by nameless ronin

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14 minutes ago, TheHobgoblyn said:

So why exactly did the makers of the RPG feel like this should be a flaw that 5% of all created characters in the RPG should have?

I do not think one should allocate the same "probabilistic" weight to each adversity equally. It's not because 5 out of the 43 listed adversities are "Whispers of ..." that 12% of all samurai in Rokugan actually have one of those.

Again, Scars, Flaws and Infamy disadvantages were inserted into the list to reflect mechanical impacts from other parts of the rule, respectively, critical strikes causing permanent injuries, automatic flaws coming from low Honor and automatic infamies coming from low Glory. They just happen to be listed in the same chapter for convenience sake, and some of them are actually even fine to take at creation if there is a good rationale for them (and yes, as Nameless Ronin says, in moderation).

Could there have been more other examples? Sure. But there is already plenty to work with from the other ones - the more mundane ones. It's true that in general, this core rulebook really has us make do with the strict minimum. At least we have the tools to flesh it out.

Edited by Franwax

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5 minutes ago, Franwax said:

I do not think one should allocate the same "probabilistic" weight to each adversity equally. It's not because 5 out of the 43 listed adversities are "Whispers of ..." that 12% of all samurai in Rokugan actually have one of those.

Again, Scars, Flaws and Infamy disadvantages were inserted into the list to reflect mechanical impacts from other parts of the rule, respectively, critical strikes causing permanent injuries, automatic flaws coming from low Honor and automatic infamies coming from low Glory. They just happen to be listed in the same chapter for convenience sake, and some of them are actually even fine to take at creation if there is a good rationale for them (and yes, as Nameless Ronin says, in moderation).

Could there have been more other examples? Sure. But there is already plenty to work with from the other ones - the more mundane ones. It's true that in general, this core rulebook really has us make do with the strict minimum. At least we have the tools to flesh it out.

 

Then I suppose what I am asking for is the list of "these are the adversities that a starting character should reasonably expect to choose from" that cuts out all of the things that are the results of bad luck or bad decision during game play.

Because I really don't see many options at all among the list that a standard, run-of-the-mill pre or just post gempukku samurai would likely be starting with unless they were the victims of some extraordinarily unlikely incident prior to that point. Everything I see there is the result of a character either fighting recklessly with large razors, really screwing up in their interactions with other clans, being infected by a horrific magical disease, or having pissed off some spirits, none of which they would have had the chance to do by the age of 15-16.

 

So where exactly are the adversity flaws that a character that the writers for the setting would actually write about would have and not the 1/10,000 rare childhood deformities or curses that basically no character that the writers of the setting would insert into any of their stories would be saddled with?

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1 minute ago, TheHobgoblyn said:

 

Then I suppose what I am asking for is the list of "these are the adversities that a starting character should reasonably expect to choose from" that cuts out all of the things that are the results of bad luck or bad decision during game play.

Because I really don't see many options at all among the list that a standard, run-of-the-mill pre or just post gempukku samurai would likely be starting with unless they were the victims of some extraordinarily unlikely incident prior to that point. Everything I see there is the result of a character either fighting recklessly with large razors, really screwing up in their interactions with other clans, being infected by a horrific magical disease, or having pissed off some spirits, none of which they would have had the chance to do by the age of 15-16.

 

So where exactly are the adversity flaws that a character that the writers for the setting would actually write about would have and not the 1/10,000 rare childhood deformities or curses that basically no character that the writers of the setting would insert into any of their stories would be saddled with?

Player characters are typically not run-of-the-mill ordinary specimens. They are exceptional - and that cuts both ways. Interesting characters have flaws, have problems, are definitely not perfect. Every single disadvantage is one a PC can reasonably be expected to choose. Every single one.

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Bayushi Shoju has a bad arm, that's a pretty prominent character (who is still Clan Champion).

Also, I don't know how unlikely some of these accidents are. This is a pre-industrial setting, mind, and "magical" healing isn't really that "healing", there's no real way to remove scars and it's not like they have X-rays, modern antibiotics, etc. You fall and crack or break a bone, you better get a real good doctor (keeping in mind some aspects of Medicine is something some traditional samurai find distasteful) to make sure it's set right. Improperly treated, that could be Fractured Spine, Maimed Arm, Nerve Damage. Blow to the head? Cognitive Lapses or Lost Memory. Training accident while learning how to fight with large razors? any number of injuries. Obviously, if you use these a lot, you run into the issue I've talked about where characters seem like they all end up with similar problems - this is alleviated by homebrew and further publications. But on their own, none of these are uncalled for. 

Adversity is "if you could pick a single thing holding you back, what is it?", and that answer could be "I was born blind", "I'm scorned by some group for something dumb I did", "I'm noticeably clumsy" or "I'm terrible with children" or anywhere in between.  Adversity does not imply that you must "remove" it to overcome it, just that it is the thing you have to deal with and overcome to be functional in your samurai life. 

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13 minutes ago, TheHobgoblyn said:

So where exactly are the adversity flaws that a character that the writers for the setting would actually write about would have

I think I kind of listed them two posts back... keep in mind that the fortunes' curses are not that bad a handicap; you could even see them as a purely social/interpersonal disadvantage (e.g. Ebisu's curse should be pretty common in some circles: it basically means that your noble samurai is passes for an arrogant snob and that the common folks aren't comfortable in his presence). These are also things that can pretty much be in play from the cradle. Another way to think of them is as astrological signs (in a world where superstitions are sometimes all too real): the character was born under bad auspices and children don't like him (Kisshoten). Or he is plagued with a total lack of creative imagination (Fukurokujin)...

Having an enemy or some group that dislikes you is also not that uncommon, especially in a very formal society where these things usually come as a family business. The pre-gempuku samurai did not necessarily do anything to piss a high ranking Matsu general off, but she happens to be the daughter of the Kakita duelist who humiliated said general 20 years ago. No the Matsu will go out of her way to make the daughter pay...

As for blackmail, let's just say that if you had any dealings with the Scorpion, this could be part of the package. Everyone has a skeleton in the closet ;). Basically it's all about the spin.

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1 hour ago, nameless ronin said:

There are certainly flaws to this edition, but I honestly don't see how this is supposed to be one of them.

it is not one of them! hence the joke. if it isn't in my houserules, it is "acceptable" 😛 

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Not to get all Rule Zero here - the list is kinda harsh and you oughtn’t be obligated to make your own - but there’s a two-page spread with examples for custom traits. They aren’t exactly complex, just ‘a narrative thorn in your side and a few ideas for where it might apply to rolls,’ which is easily done if you answer the question without looking at the list at all. 

Aside, since it was mentioned upthread: I thought in the beta that the critical hit system’s generosity with Scars was a little too Warhammer for my liking, but the fiction bits in the disadvantage list went a long way toward mollifying me!

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12 hours ago, TheHobgoblyn said:

Almost every single one of them has to do with a maimed or crippled body part, literally corruption by jigoku or a supernatural curse. The standard starting character is generally meant to be a 15-16 year old who just became an adult, doesn't know much about the world and is diving into it with probably a naive mentality....

So why is it literally all of the adversity disadvantages in the book are ones that well... would pretty much destroy someone just starting out?

Where are all the normal adversities one would expect a major character to have?

Disadvantages which aren't too bad or fine for a starting character.

  • Most of the Fortune's Curses - they're not curses in the same way as the taint.
    • Benten's Curse - "unlucky in love"
    • Bishamon's Curse - "takes a long time to recover from exertion"
    • Daikoku's Curse - "bad luck with money"
    • Ebisu's Curse - "the peasant's dislike you" - good for a spoiled brat.
    • Fukurokujin's Curse - "studying things is hard"
    • Jurojin's Curse - "not especially healthy"
    • Kisshoten's Curse - "Really bad with children"
  • Bitter Betrothal
  • Blackmail - okay, that one could be bad, but it depends who and why.
  • Bluntness - perfect for a Crab
  • Clumsiness
  • Gaijin name/appearance - perfect for a unicorn (Or a mantis, I guess)
  • Scorn of/Sworn Enemy - how serious this is for the campaign depends on who the group is. 
  • "Whispers of" could work, but a new character would have to work to explain how they've picked up a negative reputation for this aspect when they shouldn't have much of a reputation at all.

 

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One can represent behavioral quirks like bloodlust and addictions as Ninjō - either one quickly comes to counter the Giri.

Ninjō as addiction: 

  • Get High
  • avoid sobriety
  • forget the world

Ninjō as bloodlust:

  • have no one alive who is willing to be my enemy
  • Kill all (insert some category of opponent)
  • prevent my enemies from breeding (doesn't always lead to death, but does so often, sometimes mutilation works.
  • Never have to draw my sword again because all think I'm too deadly to challenge. (the last half is the fun part - "I want to become a pacifist, so I'll scare the * out of everyone by being twitchier than a tree branch in an earthquake.")

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3 hours ago, AK_Aramis said:

One can represent behavioral quirks like bloodlust and addictions as Ninjō - either one quickly comes to counter the Giri.

Ninjō as addiction: 

  • Get High
  • avoid sobriety
  • forget the world

Ninjō as bloodlust:

  • have no one alive who is willing to be my enemy
  • Kill all (insert some category of opponent)
  • prevent my enemies from breeding (doesn't always lead to death, but does so often, sometimes mutilation works.
  • Never have to draw my sword again because all think I'm too deadly to challenge. (the last half is the fun part - "I want to become a pacifist, so I'll scare the * out of everyone by being twitchier than a tree branch in an earthquake.")

A good idea (and a very good point that no-one said your Ninjo had to be healthy, honourable and/or legal) - although since you've got to have at least one adversity and one anxiety as well, it's an issue if you're trying not to have your samurai have too many psychological issues straight out of the dojo.

 

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With Adversities one should also consider that the more "invasive" your Adversity is, the more Void Points you will inevitably recover. So a creatively picked Adversity can be a huge advantage because the +1k1 from Seize the Moment is kinda like a big deal in 5R5. Hence I think Adversities should be a big deal so that they can't be abused so effectively. 

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21 minutes ago, AtoMaki said:

With Adversities one should also consider that the more "invasive" your Adversity is, the more Void Points you will inevitably recover. So a creatively picked Adversity can be a huge advantage because the +1k1 from Seize the Moment is kinda like a big deal in 5R5. Hence I think Adversities should be a big deal so that they can't be abused so effectively. 

It's a balancing act between "being worse at what you're bad at" and "being better at what you're better at" with Seize the Moment

(and don't forget Void Point triggered abilities and techniques, and inverted or exploited disadvantages, too)

 

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14 hours ago, Magnus Grendel said:

 

  • "Whispers of" could work, but a new character would have to work to explain how they've picked up a negative reputation for this aspect when they shouldn't have much of a reputation at all.

 

From their parents/grandparents/etc.  Sins of your Fathers is a big concept in this setting/culture.  

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