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Schmiegel

Complications

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I'm wondering if someone would be willing to post an example of a Complication that you thought worked particularly well, along with its context. I get the idea behind them, but it would be quite helpful to see how people bring them in to a story. Thanks!

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7 hours ago, Schmiegel said:

I'm wondering if someone would be willing to post an example of a Complication that you thought worked particularly well, along with its context. I get the idea behind them, but it would be quite helpful to see how people bring them in to a story. Thanks!

As an example? We had a group consisting of a Mantis-born Commander, Bayushi-born Infiltrator, Doji-born Diplomat and Iuchi-born Meishodo Master. The start of the campaign involved them being on the Mantis' ship (a heritage reward) and attacked by pirates. Dispatching them fairly efficiently, they proceeded to the mainland harbour and unloaded the ship's cargo - and attempted to find out who had attacked their ship.

The Bayushi's ninjo was....well, he was a bloodthirsty and vengeful so and so, and all for descending with great vengeance and furious anger on the scum who'd attacked their ship. The problem was, his Giri was essentially 'stay in character' - his character's adversity, Whispers of Failure, existed because various scorpion-paid gossips put the rumour about that he was a drunk and an incompetent, and the Scorpion Clan had assigned him to his current role (a liason to this particular Mantis Fleet family) to put him somewhere that he couldn't screw up anything important; the mantis being "only a minor clan after all, and fairly tolerant of the less decorous samurai to boot".

So his criminal contacts, and his own not inconsiderable skulduggery skills, could probably find out where the pirates had come from reasonably easily. However, he couldn't let anyone know how he'd done that - and thanks to the above adversity, the assurance "just leave me to it, don't ask for details, I know what I'm doing" would convince no-one whatsoever.

Therefore he had to come up with a sequence of contrived events where totally by accident other members of the party  and the local lord's karo just happened to meet people who by themselves had sufficiently small nuggets of information that they could be dismissed as easily overheard and unhelpful rumour but when heard all together in that specific order it became blatantly obvious that the answer was "it's this guy and he and his fleet are based in the small fishing port a few days south of here".

All whilst he was back in the inn getting wasted on Sake, obviously.

Edited by Magnus Grendel

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Thank you Magnus, that's a complicated Complication! But amazing! I'm betting you could teach the PhD course work in GM'ing. I like that one a lot, but as a novice GM myself, it feels a little out of my range to attempt something like that, at this point.. Do you have any quick and easy example Complications that a new GM could use as kind of a template, that have worked for you? 

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8 hours ago, Schmiegel said:

Do you have any quick and easy example Complications that a new GM could use as kind of a template, that have worked for you? 

Well, the chain of events wasn't my idea to generate - I just stuck the player with the problem, he (rather impressively) managed to resolve it without ignoring his ninjo or violating his giri, even if he had to tap-dance through a complicated sequence of events to make it all work. That is, after all, in theory what the players are ultimately trying to do - get through the adventure whilst violating as few of the mutually exclusive dictates of Bushido as possible.

Your job as GM is to put the problem in front of the players. Solving it - and dealing with the consequences of how they solve it (or fail to) is their problem.

 

Ultimately, you can't have a 'stock' complication because a complication is "your character naturally wants to do this" being presented at the same time as "your character knows they really ought to do this" and have the two things be to a greater or lesser extent mutually exclusive.

That's why defining ninjo and giri in character creation is important.

Ninjo is your character's default desire or passion. Maybe it's love (or just lust) for a specific individual, an unresolved angst, debt or perceived betrayal, or a general personal principle that your character refuses to compromise.

Giri is your duty. It's either something to do with your 'day job', the reason you're there for that specific adventure, or just naming the 'lord' to whom you answer by default.

Creating a situation where the two are in opposition depends on (a) the setting of the story and (b) the specific ninjo and giri of a given player.

Work-shopping some complications to have in your back pocket isn't a bad idea when you're doing character creation with each player.

 

If you want some examples, the fiction on Fantasy Flight Games' page has quite a few you can draw on as examples - most characters have a desire vs duty conflict you can see in assorted stories. Conflicts between duty and desire basically boil down to one of four things

  1. Offer the samurai the chance to do something that they know they probably shouldn't:
    • Doji Hotaru's duty is "rule the Crane Clan and help it recover its political influence from the assorted problems (tsunami, loss of the Emerald Championate, Mantis clan pirates, Lion clan attacks)"  whilst her desire is "have a potentially scandal-causing affair with one of the Clan's major political rivals, who is (a) another man's wife and (b) infamously untrustworthy"
    • Matsu Tsuko is ordered to take her betrothed's corpse back for burial by the Lion clan champion, rather than heading off to the battle lines to avenge him by killing a lot of Cranes. Since he didn't specify a particular route or tell her to "go as fast as possible" she chooses to take a route which just happens to pass through Crane-contested lands.
  2. Order the samurai to do something they don't want to do (go and make nice with people you hate, keep to a diplomatic agreement which violates a personally-held tenet of Bushido by screwing over an innocent party, that sort of thing):
    • Doji Kunawan's duty is to obey his sister (the Clan champion) and accept the 'official' version of events surrounding Doji Satsume's death. What he wants to do is go investigate and prove exactly how the Scorpion clan did it, and has enough angst about him that he'll inevitably find a scorpion culprit even though (for once) they're actually telling the truth when they say they didn't do it.
    • Shinjo Altansarnai is stuck between desire and duty - duty says she's supposed to marry the Ikoma daimyo, giving up her lover and the Unicorn championate in favour of her son. She's pretty much resigned to this, until it comes out that the guy is already (lovingly) married and the Lion clan are forcing the two to break up, and the (soon to be ex) wife intends to kill herself in front of the Unicorn, because she doesn't want to live without her husband. This gets under the skin of her sense of compassion and independence (the two primary Unicorn traits), so she breaks the engagement and in the process brings a world of hurt down on the entire clan. .
  3. Put the samurai in a situation where the thing they want is right there but they can't have it:
    • Bayushi Aramoro is stuck in a classic situation - he's the Yojimbo to, and hence spends immense amounts of time with, a woman he loves, who is the wife of his lord (and brother). Of course, in this specific case she's an ambitious, manipulative so-and-so and he's a sadistic, egotistical git, and it's actually mostly lust rather than love, so there's perhaps less of the dreamy-eyed pining that one normally gets in chivalrous tales of this nature (Lancelot & Guinevere, for example).
  4. Make the Samurai make a straight choice between their personal happiness and the good of the clan/province/emerald magistrature/empire/whatever:
    • Akodo Matoko was happily married to a Crane bushi at the outbreak of the Lion clan conflict, and the two are forced to seperate, and (prior to Shinjo Altansarnai breaking her engagement) Matsu Mitsuko was betrothed to Shinjo Shono, Shinjo Altansarnai's son as part of the same treaty. That engagement gets broken too, and the two end up on opposite sides of the battlefield (ending with him killing her).

 

Exactly how to use these options varies depending on the 'backstory' of the player.  If a player's family has some past shame, for example, and their ninjo is to seek redemption, imagine if they discover that the shadow they've lived under their whole life isn't actually real - the dishonour happened, but it happened because their ancestor accepted the blame on behalf of someone else.......and they can prove it!

....By creating a scandal for their lord. Or worse, their lord's lord.

 

Do your players have Ninjos written already? Are you using the stock PCs from the beginner game?

Edited by Magnus Grendel

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I'm in awe of this answer. Thank you so much! But getting over that...last night we completed  the Topaz Championship adventure. For that, we were using stock PCs from the beginner game. (I kind of screwed up the final skirmish with Bayushi Sugai and the ruffians by incorrectly interpreting the dice results - counting Strife as Successes, using the Fire Ring, instead of as Bonus Successes, duh! One player caught the mistake, but by then it was late and we just ended it... I'll need to up my game as GM.) So next we are turning to creating new characters, not using the stock PCs any longer. The players have their lists of 20 questions, as homework. They have not written their Ninjos yet, presumably.

It didn't occur to me that the sequence you described in your earlier post was the reaction of a player's character to a complication you presented. That certainly casts it in a new light, of course. But if I had any uncertainty about how complications work before, I don't anymore! I've read some of the fiction you referenced. I wonder if GMs use that as inspiration/backdrop for their own adventures and campaigns. 

As a novice GM, I'm worried that I won't be able to provide an "adequate experience" for the players. (Making mistakes such as the one mentioned above was very frustrating.) But if players provide the sort of input to the story that you described in that fascinating Scorpion sequence, that takes a lot of pressure off the GM.. It's hard to get a good grip on the balance between what the GM provides and what the players "bring to the table", as a new GM. Part of me wants to really do a "deep dive" into this system and the lore and spend considerable time (and money) getting way into it - it's so fascinating. Then another part of me pops up with the thought, "what if the players don't really care that much or even like it.."? (Or if I suck..)

There are obviously some amazingly helpful people on these forums. Thank you again! I'll try not to abuse the privilege of getting help and guidance from you.     

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On ‎1‎/‎18‎/‎2019 at 8:08 PM, Schmiegel said:

I kind of screwed up the final skirmish with Bayushi Sugai and the ruffians by incorrectly interpreting the dice results - counting Strife as Successes, using the Fire Ring, instead of as Bonus Successes, duh! One player caught the mistake, but by then it was late and we just ended it... I'll need to up my game as GM

No worries. Beginner game is to introduce the system to everyone - players and GMs. Hope you enjoyed it!

I've seen enough people make that mistake. The other favourite mistake is assuming that strife=bonus success ability (or void's 'ignore strife') works when not in a conflict scene - it took me quite a while to get through to one player that stances only apply in a duel, battle, intrigue or skirmish.

On ‎1‎/‎18‎/‎2019 at 8:08 PM, Schmiegel said:

The players have their lists of 20 questions, as homework. They have not written their Ninjos yet, presumably.

I'd strongly recommend doing that co-operatively - not between players (though you can't and shouldn't stop them sharing cool ideas) but between them and you.

This is because if a player's ninjo is....... let's say "Avenge Bayushi Nefarious-Bugger's betrayal of my parents at the battle of Getting-Unexpectedly-Stabbed-In-The-Back-Mountain" then to not do that player a disservice, you're going to have to work that character into the campaign, somehow, at some point (whether they appear in person or not).

Which may or may not work with the story you plan to tell. If you know this before day 1, session 1, you or they have time to discuss and re-write and adapt either the character or the campaign.

On ‎1‎/‎18‎/‎2019 at 8:08 PM, Schmiegel said:

I've read some of the fiction you referenced. I wonder if GMs use that as inspiration/backdrop for their own adventures and campaigns. 

I would strongly recommend it. They're all short stories, making them easy reads for a lunch break or bus journey, but they are very good at giving you a feel for the setting. More significantly, the L5R RPG does have you interact with these people - Agasha Sumiko from Wildcats & Dragon's Teeth and Doji Hotaru from Her Father's Daughter both appear in In The Palace Of The Emerald Champion, Doji Kunozobu from A Call For Diplomacy is in The Wedding At Kyotei Castle, and Hida Tonomatsu from Dark Hands Of Heaven appears in A Ronin's Path.

Using the (impressive) list of established dramatis personae helps populate the world and the fictions let you know what they're doing when they're 'off-camera' of your adventure.

On ‎1‎/‎18‎/‎2019 at 8:08 PM, Schmiegel said:

As a novice GM, I'm worried that I won't be able to provide an "adequate experience" for the players. (Making mistakes such as the one mentioned above was very frustrating.) But if players provide the sort of input to the story that you described in that fascinating Scorpion sequence, that takes a lot of pressure off the GM..

This. L5R is very much intended to be a 'co-operative' game - D&D, especially, often comes across as 'players versus the GM' with relatively strict rules, and encounters balanced by XP and the game focused on an almost board-game-esque combat and exploration system. L5R feels much more narrative, and players coming up with cool descriptions and ideas is a key part of it - note the opportunity options which allow players to add details (like disadvantages to an adversary or qualities to terrain) to the game - this is where, mid sword-fight, the player should be offering up a * result from a check and asking "is there a convenient chandelier rope for Errol Flynn-esque swinging to the other balcony?". This doesn't mean it just pops into existence, but rather it was always there, it's just now become a relevant object as the dashing bushi engages in a daring escape.

Much the same thing can be applied to most opportunities.

A water stance * allows you to ignore some of the target's resistance (armour) but the player should come up with the 'how' - are they dropping to their knees, rolling behind them and cutting at the back of their legs? Knocking their opponent's weapon aside and grabbing a pan of boiling water from the campfire and throwing it, scalding them through the joints in their armour? The water ring generally reflects situational awareness, flexibility and using your environment - so there's no shortage of things that it could actually be, regardless of the effect. Let the players narrate the results of their own roles - and maybe offer a few benefits for especially cool ones (something really impressive or clever might be worth a point of glory on odd occasions)

On ‎1‎/‎18‎/‎2019 at 8:08 PM, Schmiegel said:

It's hard to get a good grip on the balance between what the GM provides and what the players "bring to the table", as a new GM. Part of me wants to really do a "deep dive" into this system and the lore and spend considerable time (and money) getting way into it - it's so fascinating. Then another part of me pops up with the thought, "what if the players don't really care that much or even like it.."?

That's a question between you and your players. I always say the job of a GM is to provide a 'positive gaming experience' but you need to agree with your table what a 'positive gaming experience' actually is. Ultimately, you have an unlimited manpower and special effects 'budget', and if the story is best served by including a thirty-foot-high Oni made of flaming magma, I believe A Ronin's Path includes stats for one. Whether the other players are interested enough to read a few short stories of their respective clans is something only they can answer. Don't force-feed them exposition, but be prepared to explain things that 'obviously you should know'.

(A key element here - be prepared to throw honour and glory increases and decreases at the players on a regular basis based on their actions. Make them understand stuff has social and spiritual consequences. BUT - don't 'lock in' a decision if it's going to have a major effect - if someone is making a choice, if you plan to hit them with an Honour penalty for doing so, make sure they know that and understand that - they don't have to like it, but you shouldn't put them in a situation where they're not informed that they're going to lose honour before doing so*)

On ‎1‎/‎18‎/‎2019 at 8:08 PM, Schmiegel said:

There are obviously some amazingly helpful people on these forums

I would agree. There are plenty of people who've been great helps and sounding boards, both since the 'proper' release and during the beta.

I would also suggest - if wanting to poke around the lore - that you look at the L5R Card Game forum, further up the FFG community page. There are a lot of well-informed types in there, and a few very useful sticky threads - not least (a) a list of ALL the L5R fictions, critically in Chronological order, and (b) an 'Imperial Census' listing all the Rokugani characters appearing in the fictions, card game and RPG to date!

 

 

* The exception would be "here are two options and I'm not telling you which is the honourable one" - in which case, it's entirely appropriate for the game to break down into a mini-ethics-101 class as the various characters try and figure out which option they should go with. Note further that the same option may not be the honourable one for different characters - see the bit about different clan's views on the various tenets of Bushido - Some clans would consider lying in the name of courtesy or compassion honourable, others would think the exact opposite.

Edited by Magnus Grendel

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Thank you for another crazy good response/commentary Magnus! I'm saving this one as a general reference. Amazingly helpful! Your comment about spending opportunity results was perfectly timed, for me, as I was about to post a question regarding that in the Rules Questions thread..

I was reading page 262 of the core rule book where it mentions that characters can "spend * from an initiative check to get additional information about their surroundings or undertake small tasks such as readying weapons or diving for cover (see Table 8-1: Examples of * on page 328"). So when I referred to page 328, there was no mention anywhere about readying a weapon or diving for cover...

That actually leads to another question. I'm not clear on whether a character's weapon is already readied at the beginning of a skirmish scene/duel etc., or if an action first has to be spent to ready the weapon. Now I'm seeing the suggestion just referenced that a * during initiative checking can be spent to ready a weapon. So I guess it's obvious that the "default" is that weapons are NOT readied at the start of combat. There may be individual exceptions to that, from various special abilities etc. 

But anyway, my takeaway from your comments about spending * is that why should I worry about it? It seems the GM (and the players) are invited to make it up as they go (while using the rule book examples for reference, but not absolute black and white constraints on how * can be spent exclusively..). That is certainly a liberating concept! A question on the Errol Flynn example... Should the player have to announce that intent PRIOR to the dice roll, or would they be allowed to state that's what they are doing AFTER a * has come up on a die..?

One last thing, if I may....(which I was also going to post under Rules Questions, but if you don't mind..). About Critical Strikes.. My understanding is that a Critical Strike is administered if a character is unable to DEFEND an attack (meaning unable to offset  the damage with fatigue, or resistance - or both), OR if the attacker spends ** (two opportunity results) to accomplish it.  It doesn't seem like the core rule book makes that totally clear, or perhaps I'm just dense (or both, lol).

Excellent suggestion about making character creation a cooperative process, by the way. It appears that's where we're headed this Thursday night (tomorrow), whether fully by design, or by simple procrastination (which may end up accidentally working out perfectly). Thank you once again!

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5 hours ago, Schmiegel said:

So when I referred to page 328, there was no mention anywhere about readying a weapon or diving for cover...

That's an issue (i.e. error) from the Beta rulebook - in the L5R beta last year, there was a different list of 'pportunity spends' which has sinced been massaged a bit (and I think improved).

The ability to ready a weapon was one of them, which was (justifiably) binned as it made iaijutsu duels and the iaijustsu cut techniques kind of pointless.

5 hours ago, Schmiegel said:

That actually leads to another question. I'm not clear on whether a character's weapon is already readied at the beginning of a skirmish scene/duel etc., or if an action first has to be spent to ready the weapon. Now I'm seeing the suggestion just referenced that a * during initiative checking can be spent to ready a weapon. So I guess it's obvious that the "default" is that weapons are NOT readied at the start of combat. There may be individual exceptions to that, from various special abilities etc. 

Very much depends on a situation.

  • In a narrative scene, players can easily say they've got their weapons out but there's no really good reason for them to do so most of the time, and this being a Samurai setting, "you really shouldn't be doing that" comes with big wodges of honour and glory penalties if you start doing it anyway. The same argument applies to people wanting to wear lacquered or plated armour on a day-to-day basis - unless you're specifically someone's bodyguard or guard and are on duty, or heading for a battle, or trying to look militaristic to make a political point, what you're doing by wearing it is insulting whoever it is whose lands you're currently on by implying they're incapable of keeping you safe
  • If they're a patrol specifically out looking for the enemy, or they're knowingly on their way to a battle, maybe, but they're hardly going to be wandering round town with swords drawn. Equally, if they are out hunting, I'd have no problem with them claiming to have their Yumi bows readied if they were to suddenly find themselves being hunted back by something much larger than planned.
  • If a skirmish scene starts, then normally they'd need a prepare action to draw their weapons (although unless the enemy somehow start within stabbing range, that's no biggy).
  • In a duel - depends on the duel; Iaijutsu duels means "both players start with weapons sheathed". A sparring match or warrior's duel might well both start with weapons readied.
  • A mass battle allows you to ready a weapon of your choice as a freebie each round. Normally you won't have much use for it (you're a commander, not an infantryman) but that's the weapon you use if you end up fighting a clash.
5 hours ago, Schmiegel said:

But anyway, my takeaway from your comments about spending * is that why should I worry about it? It seems the GM (and the players) are invited to make it up as they go (while using the rule book examples for reference, but not absolute black and white constraints on how * can be spent exclusively..). That is certainly a liberating concept! A question on the Errol Flynn example... Should the player have to announce that intent PRIOR to the dice roll, or would they be allowed to state that's what they are doing AFTER a * has come up on a die..?

No. Opportunites are very much a 'what can I do with the results I rolled'. You can state your intent if you like, but it's not binding.

Making a check (outside a conflict scene) is essentially:

  • The player describes (narratively) what they want to do (or you describe narratively the situation you're putting them in if it's a 'forced to react' or 'did you spot it' situation)
  • To translate into rules mechanics, my rule of thumb is to phrase what's happening as "My character [action]'s the [target]". No extra descriptors such as "whilst also" or "without" - that's key and is to do with opportunities.
    • The [target] defines the skill, to a greater or lesser extent. So regardless of whether you're deceiving or influencing or charming, if it's a higher status samurai it's probably courtesy. If it's a peasant it's probably sentiment. If you're interacting with a sword it's probably martial arts melee or smithing. If you're interacting with 'the environment in general' then it's whatever skill best suits the environment - government or culture in a palace, commerce or labour in a market village, survival in the wilderness.
    • The [action] defines the ring - compare the one-word description to the assorted approaches (refine, scrutinise, inspire, reason, con, produce, that sort of thing) to figure out which ring is used. In a conflict scene, of course, it's always the ring whose stance the character is in.
    • These are a debate between GM and player but ultimately it's always GM getting the final say (or fixed by stance in a conflict).
    • The GM also sets the TN - which is a second handle to prevent illogical insistence on 'my best ring' - yes, you might have fire as your best ring, but you'll have a much better chance of deceiving or charming a Matsu Bushi than intimidating one. Nothing stops you trying, though.
  • Roll the check, and then figure out opportunities, success/failure, strife, etc.
    • This is when opportunities are spent, and you can chose 'on the fly' what to spend them on - so spending ** for a critical strike, for example, is only an option if a strike action actually succeeded, so if you missed, you're going to have ** to spend on something else. Maybe handing the target some strife for a near miss, for example, or assisting the next player's attack action.
    • Obviously sometimes * can be a might-as-well-be-mandatory part of success. If you're using * to alter the range of a ranged weapon or invocation, for example, that's presumably because your target isn't inside its default range - so no matter how many successes you get, if you roll no * you miss by default.
    • Note that opportunities are also how you do "whilst" or "without" mentioned above. This is where the debate with a player comes in.
      • Imagine you're trying to find evidence of nefarious doings at a secure shipyard. The approach - and hence what you get from success or failure - might vary.
      • Survey (Water) is the approach for searching the shipyard to find stuff that's out of place. Success or failure determines whether you find the evidence, whilst opportunities spent would determine whether you get spotted whilst doing so.  
      • Charm (Water) is the approach for talking your way past a friend you have amongst the guards. Success or failure gets you into the yard unremarked, but it's then spending opportunities on the check to notice anything useful as a result of doing so.
      • Which way you go - and the TN for the resulting check - would be driven by which thing is more important to the player; finding the evidence or not getting noticed.
6 hours ago, Schmiegel said:

One last thing, if I may....(which I was also going to post under Rules Questions, but if you don't mind..). About Critical Strikes.. My understanding is that a Critical Strike is administered if a character is unable to DEFEND an attack (meaning unable to offset  the damage with fatigue, or resistance - or both), OR if the attacker spends ** (two opportunity results) to accomplish it.  It doesn't seem like the core rule book makes that totally clear, or perhaps I'm just dense (or both, lol).

Yes.

Defending against a strike means "taking fatigue equal to the damage (which may be 0 if your resistance is high enough)".

Any time you take damage, you suffer a critical strike unless you defend.

You don't defend - and hence suffer a critical strike automatically - if:

  • The rule (** on a strike action*, heartpiercing strike, finishing blows) specifically say "suffer a critical strike"
  • You're incapacitated
  • The rules say you may not defend (one of the iaijutsu cuts says you may not defend if compromised)
  • the target spends a void point to voluntarily not defend (good if being hit with a high damage, low deadliness weapon to avoid being incapacitated).

 

 

* Note that that only applies to the strike action - not any other attack action unless its rules specifically say they do.

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Thank you so much for the incredibly clear clarifications! Almost alliterative.. 

We're on the verge of actually getting this next adventure started started, of all things. Thursday night was spent (nearly) getting character creation concluded. It was a productive session, and it was definitely a positive that it was done cooperatively. What we have is a Crab bushi, Hida Defender school; a Crab shugenja, Kuni Purifier school, a Crane courtier, Doji Diplomat school, and a Scorpion shugenja; Soshi Illusionist school. They were each given a bonus 10 xp to spend, to reflect the time that had been put into playing the Topaz championship, even though these are all new characters..

The guy playing the Crab shugenja would have preferred a Crab Witch Hunter school, as he'd prefer to hunt users of Maho. But there appears to be no such thing, so he will settle for the Kuni Purifier school. He didn't make a big deal out of it. Still, I'm wondering if there might be a way to somehow substitute a Witch Hunter school for the purifier school, by a house ruling machination..

The Crane courtier has a couple of interesting character aspects....extremely flirtatious and loves saki. There should be some opportunity to create some complications from that. Any clever ideas are welcome. Also, and even more interesting...he stated that he has a secret desire to track down a forbidden Maho tome. That desire synergizes rather well with an idea I had for a side adventure. Previously, my idea was to have the characters embark on a quest to recover an ancestral sword from a sinister and barely accessible shrine location, possibly deep in the mountains, and where they would need to undertake an Indiana Jones- like foray into a cave or underground labyrinth beneath the shrine itself. I'm actually kind of excited about that prospect, as corny and cliched as it may sound. However I can change the object of the quest easily to the forbidden tome that the courtier seeks. 


  

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2 hours ago, Schmiegel said:

The guy playing the Crab shugenja would have preferred a Crab Witch Hunter school, as he'd prefer to hunt users of Maho. But there appears to be no such thing, so he will settle for the Kuni Purifier school. He didn't make a big deal out of it. Still, I'm wondering if there might be a way to somehow substitute a Witch Hunter school for the purifier school, by a house ruling machination..

Kuni Purifiers will be trained to hunt both spiritual horrors and the ones who summon and bind them. We might see a non-shujenga Kuni school at some point, but there's absolutely nothing wrong with using the Purifier for the kind of character you're describing.

2 hours ago, Schmiegel said:

The Crane courtier has a couple of interesting character aspects....extremely flirtatious and loves saki.

Excellent. I can see anything set in a Geisha tea-house ending "well", especially if at the time the character knows something that under no circumstances should he find himself telling someone else.

2 hours ago, Schmiegel said:

Also, and even more interesting...he stated that he has a secret desire to track down a forbidden Maho tome.

A specific one that he knows exists? One he or his family are somehow connected to? Or just "wants to learn Maho"?

2 hours ago, Schmiegel said:

Previously, my idea was to have the characters embark on a quest to recover an ancestral sword from a sinister and barely accessible shrine location, possibly deep in the mountains, and where they would need to undertake an Indiana Jones- like foray into a cave or underground labyrinth beneath the shrine itself. I'm actually kind of excited about that prospect, as corny and cliched as it may sound. However I can change the object of the quest easily to the forbidden tome that the courtier seeks. 

I'd probably not go with that; the problem isn't the book, it's making the object of a multiplayer quest the subject of one specific player's ninjo. Going on that sort of mission requires time, provisions, travel permissions and a leave of absence from whatever the heck they should be doing, potentially from multiple lords (since they're not all the same clan). That requires telling someone something.

"We've done some research and believe we've found the resting place of The Sacred Sword of Stabbing Things Really Well" is the sort of thing which will get multiple clans working together; it might be in disputed lands or on a border (bringing two in), a third might have whatever maps and records exist of the shrine's inside, and a fourth might have pretensions of being the 'rightful' owner (a descendent of the original owner).

By comparison "we've done some research and found a deeply illegal book of maho" is the sort of pronouncement that gets you set on fire by phoenix inquisitors.

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That's excellent advice about a multiplayer quest making little sense when only one character's ninjo is involved. You're absolutely right, thank you! Good to head that mistake off at the pass.

Magnus, my son and I were playing L5R the card game by cell phone last night, and I described the tremendous assistance you provide people, including me, on this forum. He commented that you could be considered a bodhisattva on this particular plane of existence, which sounds pretty accurate to me.

Our group is playing again tonight, just starting the Palace of the Emerald Champion second beginner adventure. I'm reasonably confident when it comes to handling the encounters, but much less so in the area of "what do you do for eight days while on the way to the palace"? Encounters will take up a few moments in time. How do GM's deal with the in-between time? Do you just skip over it narratively until the next encounter. I really have no clue how to bridge those gaps. Do I let the players drive that part of the story? What happens when they come up with something that I'm absolutely unprepared for..?

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58 minutes ago, Schmiegel said:

Our group is playing again tonight, just starting the Palace of the Emerald Champion second beginner adventure. I'm reasonably confident when it comes to handling the encounters, but much less so in the area of "what do you do for eight days while on the way to the palace"? Encounters will take up a few moments in time. How do GM's deal with the in-between time? Do you just skip over it narratively until the next encounter. I really have no clue how to bridge those gaps. Do I let the players drive that part of the story? What happens when they come up with something that I'm absolutely unprepared for..?

If I may offer my perspective:

This is a good "downtime" arena between encounters. What would your players like to do? Would they like to run a campfire scene, where they all sit around and chit-chat, getting to know their traveling companions?

Given the importance of making it to the Palace ASAP, outside of the encounters the PCs probably shouldn't be making any detours, but feel free to give them that option (with the resulting consequences).

I'd suggest that any day in which there's an encounter, offer them a chance to 'wind down' after. On the other hand, if your players just want to make it to the Palace and start the adventure, then just skip on ahead. One hard lesson I've learned through trial and error is you're telling part of a story for them, but it has to be a story they're enjoying. Give them some input on how thorough they'd like the between-encounters journey to be.

If nothing important is going to happen, there probably isn't need for the scene. But that's not limited to what the GM feels is important; maybe the players feel its important to have that fireside chat. If so, by all means, let them do it. You don't need a bandit ambush to have a scene.

Edit: Players doing things I'm unprepared for seems to be the specialty of my players. If they want to go off and wander through the nearby woods, you don't need to make anything important happen in the woods. But, it does eat up time when they're supposed to be traveling from A to B as fast as they can, and the scenario provides consequences already for that.

Alternatively, grab the profile for the Oni and have a new encounter...

Edited by Hida Jitenno

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13 hours ago, Hida Jitenno said:

This is a good "downtime" arena between encounters. What would your players like to do? Would they like to run a campfire scene, where they all sit around and chit-chat, getting to know their traveling companions?

Given the importance of making it to the Palace ASAP, outside of the encounters the PCs probably shouldn't be making any detours, but feel free to give them that option (with the resulting consequences).

This. The suggested use for 'downtime scenes' is that each player gets to do one thing, with a skill check involved if required. If an intervening encounter involved a fight, for example, then a smithing check to maintain one's weapons or armour might be justified (if using the full rules, armour can be damaged quite often, and razor-edged weapons can end up damaged when fighting a well-armoured opponent.

Equally, some of the players might have a passion which can easily be pursued of an evening on the road - painting, or meditation, or whatever, whilst at least one player should be encouraged to make a survival check to hunt, or a check on commerce, command, or courtesy to obtain food off villagers as you pass.

 

 

Whilst there's some travelling involved, feel free to "...later that afternoon" if no-one has anything interesting to do.  You could, of course, spend some time doing the 'get to know you' conversations, but if the players are going to the Emerald Fortress from Tsuma, I'd like to think they got to know one another during the Emerald Championship.

 

That said, doing a sort of 'Canterbury tales' set of scenes where each night each player gives a bit more of a description of their character and whatever details of their backstory, lineage, or personal beliefs they're happy to share (so possibly not "I'm on a quest for a book of forbidden blood magic"). If you want to make it a bit more RPG-esque, this can be accompanied by a Performance check on an appropriate ring.

(so a Togashi monk who starts philosophising from The Big Book Of Ancient-Sounding Semi-Coherent Wisdom* would be expected to use Performance [Void], whilst a Lion recounting a stirring account of a battle where - of course! - they or their ancestor were pivotal to victory would be using Performance [Fire], and so on)

There's no real consequence to the check, so you don't really have to do it, but it's a good way to get the players comfortable with the system, and establishing that their characters feel well-disposed to/intimidated by/whatever the others might be relevant at some point, especially since the Crane probably has an attendant in tow, so the check(s) would let you determine his or her disposition to the other players. Plus, passions and anxieties related to storytelling and public speaking come into play.

14 hours ago, Schmiegel said:

What happens when they come up with something that I'm absolutely unprepared for..?

Improvise like heck.

Ultimately, they know where they should be going, so they shouldn't be setting off on weeks-long quests to the wild blue yonder, but at the same time, if they want to go visit a shrine they can see further up the hill to pray, or go into a village, let them. Maybe throw something at them in terms of a minor ethics problem - they're always good for making the players get into character.

Some stock examples can be found in classic ethics thought experiments - e.g. "The Trolley Problem"

"Suppose that a judge or magistrate is faced with rioters demanding that a culprit be found for a certain crime and threatening otherwise to take their own bloody revenge on a particular section of the community. The real culprit being unknown, the judge sees himself as able to prevent the bloodshed only by framing some innocent person and having him executed."

[In this case, it's not hard to imagine the possibility of riots and a massacre of Bunrakumin in a small town if one of them is rumoured to be behind....I dunno. Mass Thefts? Murder? ****?]

Basically, pick two Bushido virtues and figure out how to get a situation where they're mutually exclusive.

e.g. do you lie to cover up someone's embarrassing secret you've accidentally become party to?

  • Compassion & Courtesy say "Yes"
  • Sincerity & Honour say "No"
  • Duty could weigh in on either side, depending on who you're lying to and who you're lying about, as does Not-A-Bushido-Virtue-But-Never-To-Be-Ignored "political advantage"

 

* AKA The Tao Of Shinsei

Edited by Magnus Grendel

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Thank you, once again! Reading your commentary, I can't help but wonder...where did you learn all this exactly? Not that I could ever hope to possess such a level of knowledge. It's amazingly helpful. 

We played our introductory session of In the Palace of the Emerald Champion, and covered the encounters with the farmer/bandits, tengu and the goblin attack on the merchants. My overriding takeaway from the experience was that, as GM, I was way too slow and clunky in managing the conflicts. The players were patient, and when I apologized, replied that they could have "spent more time learning the game themselves". (Not sure exactly how they're going to do that without buying the books...). Compared to other role playing games I've participated in, this was much slower moving since I felt very inefficient in managing the various details of conflicts. I thought it was still fun, but...I need to figure out a way to get better. I'm thinking I'll create kind of a crude "flow chart" document to list each step in the skirmish process, from rolling for initiative, to administering critical strikes, and everything in between that I can think of, all on one sheet, and distribute it to the players as well. Maybe that will help.

One detail that I need to administer better is spending opportunity for NPCs. It was challenge enough to interpret the dice in a system that is still new to me. I ended up just ignoring the opportunity results that the NPCs rolled. Investigating that further, I see that many of the NPCs listed at the back of the core rule book don't have any mechanisms for spending opportunity, while others do have that feature specified in black and white. (I realize that spending opportunity can be an open ended proposition, but as the GM running NPCs, I kind of had my hands full without worrying about how I'm going to apply that aspect of it - which felt like I was kind of "wasting opportunity", pun intended...because I, well, WAS.) I'm considering preparing some ways for NPCs to spend opportunity ahead of time, as part of my pre-game preparations. Do GMs do that? Since some of the listed NPCs do have means of spending their opportunity results already specified, perhaps it's not appropriate to alter the game further by making up my own. (And I realize I can use the examples of opportunity table on page 328 of the core rule book for further guidance as well.)

At the end of the day, I'm just hoping that continued repetitions will have a positive effect on my ability to manage conflict scenes. 

The other aspect that jumps out is unmasking. I get the concept behind it, it's a means for PCs to rid themselves of all strife, all at once, when they've become compromised. I was considering the way that I would explain this mechanic to the players, and I didn't find the examples provided in the core rule book to be all that helpful, so to this point, I've avoided that part of the game. So much to learn..

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On ‎2‎/‎4‎/‎2019 at 7:14 PM, Schmiegel said:

I thought it was still fun, but...I need to figure out a way to get better. I'm thinking I'll create kind of a crude "flow chart" document to list each step in the skirmish process, from rolling for initiative, to administering critical strikes, and everything in between that I can think of, all on one sheet, and distribute it to the players as well. Maybe that will help.

I'm sure I've seen something similar. Have a look around these forums or the beta forums, and you might find something.

I'll be honest, this is one reason I'm happy I bought soft copies of the rulebooks - so the players can have their own printed copies of chunks of the rulebook they might need during play (like the 'uses of opportunities' page)

On ‎2‎/‎4‎/‎2019 at 7:14 PM, Schmiegel said:

One detail that I need to administer better is spending opportunity for NPCs. It was challenge enough to interpret the dice in a system that is still new to me. I ended up just ignoring the opportunity results that the NPCs rolled. Investigating that further, I see that many of the NPCs listed at the back of the core rule book don't have any mechanisms for spending opportunity, while others do have that feature specified in black and white

That's an NPC-specific thing. To (a) simplify your job, and (b) reduce the power of minion NPCs without giving them dramatically different statlines, minions are by and large unable to use opportunity results, unless they have a way to use them specifically name-checked in their entry. See "minions" on page 310:

"The game runs most smoothly if minions only spend * on options listed in their abilities, but the GM may waive this at their discretion."

The big thing reason for this is to stop minion mobs spending ** to get a critical strike - so they have to batter through your endurance (and armour) first, which is the main thing which allows a heavily armoured samurai to take on a half-dozen goblins with sharpened sticks

On ‎2‎/‎4‎/‎2019 at 7:14 PM, Schmiegel said:

I'm considering preparing some ways for NPCs to spend opportunity ahead of time, as part of my pre-game preparations. Do GMs do that?

Quite possibly. If you're planning to field an Adversary, or a plot-critical minion, then having a few ideas up your sleeve relevant to either their character or the environment the fight is going to be in (rickety bridge, kicked dirt from the road, a shower of cherry blossoms from a tree, a hidden knife, whatever).

By and large I'd stick to the default uses of opportunity on page 329, but come up with narrative things they might represent.

On ‎2‎/‎4‎/‎2019 at 7:14 PM, Schmiegel said:

The other aspect that jumps out is unmasking. I get the concept behind it, it's a means for PCs to rid themselves of all strife, all at once, when they've become compromised. I was considering the way that I would explain this mechanic to the players, and I didn't find the examples provided in the core rule book to be all that helpful, so to this point, I've avoided that part of the game. So much to learn..

Basically, strife is an emotional build-up. It might be rage, grief, exhaustion, whatever.

When you are compromised, you're at a state of barely-able-to-function, which is why you stop being able to use the dice with strife results on them.

At this point, you have two choices:

  • Muddle through the rest of the scene whilst (mechanically) your dice are messed up and (narratively) you're basically stood their twitching and mentally counting to extremely high numbers, whilst telling anyone who asks "I'm Fine..." in a very level montone.
  • Stop pretending everything is fine and just let go emotionally. Exactly what this is depends on what it is that's stressing you. Maybe you start crying, just snarl with rage, snap and challenge someone to a duel or throw out an insult so unforgivable  they do that to you, maybe you tell your Lord to her face exactly what you really think of her stupid-arsed husband and his stupid-arsed plan...whatever seems appropriate for the scene.

Giving you an example from the L5R fiction - the most recent one includes a spectacular unmasking - by the Imperial Heirs, no less!

Essentially, it's a 'figure it out on the fly' thing, but the player should be helping you figure it out. Unmasking is a case of "doing what the character wants to do despite knowing they really shouldn't" - which is the player's decision, but (to really count as an unmasking) should be something with a negative impact on the player in some way*, but often also with a  positive side-effect. Translating the player's narrative decision into a mechanical effect is your choice, and that's where the examples on page 32 come in.

Look at what the player is doing for the unmasking. Are they running? Raging? Breaking down into tears in public? Letting their carefully trained oratorical accent slip to reveal their peasant upbringing? Breaking their sworn word to do something because they've realised they're in an impossible situation? Try and fit the player's narrative description into one of the 'effect' categories, like 'Bend Principles' or 'Inappropriate Outburst'.

 

 

 

* as a universal fall-back - loss of a point or two of honour. Even if no-one sees a samurai shame themselves, they themselves know they did it.

Edited by Magnus Grendel

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Thank you for more excellent information! We missed our session last Thursday night, due to bad weather, and I'm heading out of town tomorrow so we'll miss that session too. When we're back, it will be a continuation of Palace of the Emerald Champion.  One encouraging thing, for me, was that one of the players has bought the core rule book, so he apparently has "bought in". So now we have three of four players with a core rule book at home, and the fourth with a pdf copy.

I've read the entire adventure over. I'm not totally clear on how much I should leave the players on their own when they're investigating the death of Satsume, and how much I should reveal to them of the text in black. That's been an area where I've struggled somewhat in both adventures we've played so far. Also, oftentimes a TN with a specific check will be listed. For example, in the last paragraph on page 25 of In the Palace of the Emerald Champion, it says "any PC who makes a TN 3 Courtesy or Games check (Water 2, Earth 2, Fire 5) correctly places the blame on the least politically connected individual involved, solving the matter and gaining a smile..."

Should I be revealing the exact details of the check that is required in this case, or wait for the players to correctly identify that a TN Courtesy or Games check is the option they need to select without any help from me? I'm not sure they would get that if I didn't give them an assist..

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4 hours ago, Schmiegel said:

Should I be revealing the exact details of the check that is required in this case, or wait for the players to correctly identify that a TN Courtesy or Games check is the option they need to select without any help from me? I'm not sure they would get that if I didn't give them an assist..

I would wait for a player to ask something like "I'd like to place the blame on someone to avoid dishonor" or "how can we sort this out without shame for Satsume-dono ?" then make them roll Courtesy or Games.

-I'll roll Courtesy! Ok, TN is 2

-I'll roll Games, and I'd like to figure whom I can blame for this story to be forgotten soon enough. Ok, this is deduction or logic, so roll Water or Earth, TN is 2.

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