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Moglwi

Skills in charchter creation

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Hi just made my first character for the new game but I was a bit dissopnted at how few skills I got I think I ended up with 7 skills seems qitelow what does everyone think? 

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7 skill ranks is probably the minimum you can end up with... you have 1 for your clan, 2 for your family, 3 to 5 for your school (Shugenja get only 3 skills but they have more techniques as they need a handful of invocations to be useful from the get go). Then between 1 and 5 in some of the 20 questions: 1 is guaranteed in question 17, but the others are a choice between a skill and something else (extra Honor, Glory or an advantage), and there is a chance to get a skill via the heritage table roll. 

So if your character is a shugenja and you did not select any of the optional ways to get an extra skill rank (put it another way, you chose the other options), then 7 ranks makes sense. 

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Unless I missed a restriction somewhere, you can still make straight Ring rolls if you don't have any ranks in the skill that's called for. And the number of skill ranks is not very far off from what starting characters in previous editions had; I don't think it's really an issue, particularly since you also get a few techniques right off the bat. In terms of representing characters fresh from gempukku it's probably fair.

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yeah. there's not really an unskilled penalty in this game, other than the ring dice isn't as strong as the skill dice as far as symbols go. and skills only go to 5 instead of 10, so each skill point is technically more than it was in previous editions

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Yeah, if you're playing a shugenja, you should expect to be lower on skills (invocations are going to be bought up in quantities a bit higher than kata or shuji for bushi/courtiers, and you start with 3 instead of 5). You'd start with exactly 7 if you did the game of twenty questions, and always took the glory/honor/item/status options instead of skill options. Honestly, since shugenja start with more techniques than the other classes, they more than make up for it (techniques being 3 xp, rank 1 in a skill being 2 xp, the only way a bushi/courtier comes close is if they can stack at least two of their skills to rank 2, in which case they have a similar number to you, but are better). It's actually pretty reasonable. I haven't counted, but an estimate says there are only around 25 skills in total (give or take a couple), and starting with 7 means you know over 25% of them if you don't stack at the start (which I suggest you do actually, since it's more price efficient).

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6 hours ago, nameless ronin said:

Unless I missed a restriction somewhere, you can still make straight Ring rolls if you don't have any ranks in the skill that's called for. And the number of skill ranks is not very far off from what starting characters in previous editions had; I don't think it's really an issue, particularly since you also get a few techniques right off the bat. In terms of representing characters fresh from gempukku it's probably fair.

This. Don't think you can't do something effectively just because you have zero ranks in it. You'll struggle to manage high TNs, or to succeed whilst compromised, but between assistance, void points, and advantages it's surprising what you can manage without any native skill dice.

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Haven't got much under the belt for L5R, but let me tell you my SWRPG players have a long history of just lettin' it ride on Green dice, even in situations which should be life or death (like capturing TIE fighters and taking them on joyrides)

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11 minutes ago, AtoMaki said:

Well, there are only ~16 actual Skills if you think about it, so 7/16 is a pretty good ratio. 

More like 24 actually ;) Still good though. 

The max number of skill ranks you can get in char gen is just above half: 13 ranks if you play anything but Shug/Monk, pick all the options and luck out in the heritage roll. But of course you will want to try and cumulate to get one or two skills at 2...

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9 minutes ago, Franwax said:

More like 24 actually ;) Still good though. 

The 16 actual Skills are: <The Artisan Skill You Think You Want>, Command, Courtesy, <Your Other Social Skill>, Culture, Government, Medicine, Sentiment, Theology, Fitness, <Martial Arts Of Your Choice>, Meditation, Tactics, <Your Other Trade Skill>, Skulduggery, and Survival. 

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Every Samurai who is proficient at Court should want a rank or two (or more) in composition. That’s in addition to anything you want to be skilled at making....(certainly not everyone needs to be able to make stuff). Gaming and performance aren’t mutually exclusive in the social list...it might be nice to shoot a bow as well as weird a sword...

probably the “ultimate samurai” has ranks in more than 16 skills.

my opinion.

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I think it's rather setting-dependent for the campaign. A 'court' campaign is quite likely to make composition and performance actually really matter in a way beating up goblins on the wall really won't.

Martial Arts [Unarmed] is a bit situation-specific. Monks aside, theoretically you should never need it. A group of ronin on the road are far more likely to want it - either from a brawl in the inn or if captured or otherwise disarmed.

I don't think you need to aim to have everything on @AtoMaki's list yourself, but I think it's not an unreasonable goal that someone in your group should have a decent dice pool for each of them.

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Because of the new way Skills are applied and some... uhm... questionable choices, there are actually quite a lot of "bloat" in the Skill List in my experience. There are Skills that are so narrow in use they are more akin of special abilities (Artisan Skills), there are Skills that carter for very specific (and very different) character archetypes (Martial Arts (Unarmed/Ranged/Melee), Games, Performance, Commerce, and Labor), and then there is Seafaring. The reasons you want to multiple up on these Skills fall so out of the norm you might as well treat them like Techniques. 

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3 hours ago, AtoMaki said:

Because of the new way Skills are applied and some... uhm... questionable choices, there are actually quite a lot of "bloat" in the Skill List in my experience. There are Skills that are so narrow in use they are more akin of special abilities (Artisan Skills), there are Skills that carter for very specific (and very different) character archetypes (Martial Arts (Unarmed/Ranged/Melee), Games, Performance, Commerce, and Labor), and then there is Seafaring. The reasons you want to multiple up on these Skills fall so out of the norm you might as well treat them like Techniques. 

I don't know. Seafaring is very specific, but it applies to river boats as well. It's probably the most overly specific in my opinion though, I can agree with that. Survival is the most overly broad, covering making traps, horse-back riding, foraging AND hunting for food, and even making shelter in the wilderness. Horse-back riding, and maybe an engineering skill for traps (with shelters being able to be done with engineering, or survival, depending on complexity). It was necessary to separate the Martial Arts (and I'm still flirting with the idea of splitting Melee in 2 or 3, because being equally good with a tetsubo, sword, spear, and naginata, doesn't sit right with me and the archetype of samurai society where they all learn the sword, and also tend to specialize in one or two other weapons).

Games, Performance, Commerce, and Labor all have broad applications, without being too broad (except maybe Labor, who could also lose some of its qualities to Engineering), and Performance, if a player decides to use it for things as broad as playing a flute, a biwa, singing, and dancing. Don't see any bloat here (and keep in mind samurai are supposed to be well-rounded, a bushi can refuse to take Games or Performance, but they're going to suffer when it's time to share music/dances from their clan, or play Shogi with a Crab commander to determine if their tactics are solid: similarly, courtiers and even shugenja may find it hard to survive a PCs life without at least one Martial skill, and they certainly can't participate in court games of archery, or swordsmanship, or whatever, stuck just watching).

Artisan skills are hardly special abilities/overly narrow. Composition is ALL writing (poetry, novels, business letters, pleas for aid, commercial notes, ciphers, written prayers including shugenja preparations) and writing is a skill that represents samurai education (much of the rest of the populace is illiterate), and every samurai is expected to be able to write and appreciate literature. Aesthetics is basically any visual work of art, from bonsai and rock gardens, to painting, sculpture, vase-making, beautiful chopsticks, etc... AND appreciating/analyzing the same (if anything, it's too broad). Smithing is making, repairing, upgrading, things like weapons and armour, but also any other metal work that has use (anything you could use Aesthetics for, but with the goal of usefulness over beauty basically). Design is a bit specific imho, though it applies to weaving, maximizing effects of clothing (and making statements), accessorizing, it could also stand to include the things Aesthetics cover now, but which are not primarily works of art, like making beautiful chopsticks, hair pieces, etc. . .

I don't see any real bloat, except Seafaring (which I don't see a way out of, with overlap like Survival has horse-back riding, so I can't exactly call it bloat). I see overly general skills though, and the game lends itself to making them more specific (it's a side note and everything). Maybe they could have taken out Government and just use Culture (with the option to broaden it if it fits your game, as normal), and maybe Sentiment could be lumped as 'use the proper skill to interpret peoples feelings/attitude based on situation' (Composition for reading tone, Courtesy for experiencing attitude, Performance for interpreting it in art performances, etc...), Meditation could also be replaced somewhat by a ritual, and the idea that you can meditate while committing repetitive/introspective actions (writing poetry from instinct, running through kata), but the monk-like meditation, or praying at shrine meditation, isn't really reflected by that. Commerce may not matter to many characters, but it's important to have it for the character types it WILL matter to, and that's true of a lot of the skills.

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19 minutes ago, Isawa Miyu said:

I don't know. Seafaring is very specific, but it applies to river boats as well. 

Seafaring can be applied to a lot of stuff from sneaking through a port to socialize with sailors, but that's not the point. There is a lot of leeway in Skill application, there is even a separate special rule (Art of Investigation) that allows all kinds of applications. The problem is with the character using the Skill, not just how many times they do that, but for what ends. For your average character, having both Aesthetics and Composition will rarely (if ever) feel necessary - both Skills fulfill the exact same role of "do art stuff" and despite doing vastly different things, taking both will simply create redundancy. Of course, redundancy might be your thing, but at that point your other pick is for "special uses". 

It is like how if you make a melee bushi then Martial Arts (Ranged) is just an interesting option for rounding out your character but it might as well not exist and you would be still fine. There is no pressure on taking both MA (Melee) and MA (Ranged), you can get away with taking only one of them.

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i do have to agree, in a game in which wielding a Testsubo or a Dagger is the same skill, having aesthetic and design as two different skills is pushing it.

though, not the end of the world for me, i don't mind this as much as unbalanced or shaky core mechanics.

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I don’t know... I find the skill list pretty compact as it is (anybody remembers the open ended gazillions of Lore: something, Games: whatever and other skills?). Not much need to trim it further. 

Now of course, one character will not have ranks in all of them; not even in 16 of them actually. But it’s a bit restrictive to wave their existence as redundancy. The Artisan skills in particular are each very specific and having  only 4 skills to cover everything ‘arts and crafts’ related does not strike me as overkill nor bloated. 

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I think it's very campaign-specific, more than anything. Something set at Court is going to genuinely care about the artisan skills - Design, for example, isn't just "check me out, I'm fffffabulous!" but it's also a second-stringer to Culture for picking up on someone's history or allegiances from their clothing.

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12 hours ago, AtoMaki said:

Seafaring can be applied to a lot of stuff from sneaking through a port to socialize with sailors, but that's not the point. There is a lot of leeway in Skill application, there is even a separate special rule (Art of Investigation) that allows all kinds of applications. The problem is with the character using the Skill, not just how many times they do that, but for what ends. For your average character, having both Aesthetics and Composition will rarely (if ever) feel necessary - both Skills fulfill the exact same role of "do art stuff" and despite doing vastly different things, taking both will simply create redundancy. Of course, redundancy might be your thing, but at that point your other pick is for "special uses". 

It is like how if you make a melee bushi then Martial Arts (Ranged) is just an interesting option for rounding out your character but it might as well not exist and you would be still fine. There is no pressure on taking both MA (Melee) and MA (Ranged), you can get away with taking only one of them.

I agree that there are no explicit in-game, mechanical, pressures for you to branch out. Varying your actions from game to game is a slight encouragement though, lore-wise there's a motivation in that samurai are expected to be well rounded, and of course the application of that in a game is huge encouragement as soon as you're thrown into a scenario where one skill or another just won't do (you can hardly write love poetry with aesthetics, or paint a sun rise for a patron of the arts to infiltrate his castle with composition; you can hardly impress an arrogant young archer during a competition at court if you don't have Martial Arts [Ranged]). For courtiers one Martial art will do, and likewise a bushi could often get away with one scholar OR social skill, and all samurai can get away with only one trade skill (survival for horse folks, commerce for merchants, skulduggery for shinobi), but you'll be overly specialized if your approach is to take a single skill in each category you care about, and mostly ignore the bulk of the skills available.

Basically, if your conflicts are broadly defined (fight some dudes, compete in an art contest, convince some folks in an Intrigue), then you are on point, because any approach that solves the broad problem will do. If your conflicts are a bit more specific (lead troops in mass combat, pick one of three art patrons specialized in different techniques to sponsor your presence at a court, calm the dependents of your ad-hoc ashigaru conscripts so that they don't run or riot), then some skills in a category just won't work (or more often, some rings won't do anything for you, but that's a different conversation). Most importantly, I think, if the semi-redundant skills were further cut, then characters would feel very samey (an archer and a warrior-monk approach combat differently, and have different weaknesses during a scene, but can at least do a halfway decent attempt at resolving most combats their way: which requires different tactics, and even different teamwork).

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1 hour ago, Isawa Miyu said:

you can hardly write love poetry with aesthetics, or paint a sun rise for a patron of the arts to infiltrate his castle with composition

One day, I want to play a hyper sensitive Kaiu whose ninjo is to use Smithing to do Ikebana-like creations... hammering flower patterns out of wrought iron 😛 !

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2 hours ago, Isawa Miyu said:

I agree that there are no explicit in-game, mechanical, pressures for you to branch out.

Oh, there are, but only for the 16 choices I listed above. As you pointed out, there is a huge difference between having Martial Arts (Melee) and Tactics or Command, but between having Aesthetics and Composition... not so much. 

2 hours ago, Isawa Miyu said:

 Most importantly, I think, if the semi-redundant skills were further cut, then characters would feel very samey 

I would rather like them to be not semi-redundant to be honest. 

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Aesthetics and Composition are only "semi-redundant" in certain campaign styles - I am ready to believe that - but that is certainly not a universal conclusion. You won't be able to perform the same tasks with each Artisan skill - not only for their initial purpose (to create art) but also for the information you can learn from the knowledge of those disciplines.

Oh, and special props to Design, which also helps you spot concealed weapons ;)

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