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Daramere

"Min-Maxing" in Character Creation

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Let's assume that I've written a lengthy and heartfelt essay on the importance of story and background and such in character creation, how that should take precedence over mechanics, and all that ...

But given that, what would a player do if trying to "min-max" a character at creation? Not in the "which family/school is best" sort of way, but in a "I'm making this sort of character, how can I make them better" sort of way.

I've written up my current thoughts on selection of rings, skills, ring/skill combinations, and advantages/disadvantages over on the Strange Assembly website. But I'm curious what others' thoughts are on ways to mechanically optimize a character concept. Do you think any of the suggestions I've made are off the mark? Is there anything you would recommend?

Thanks.

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Let's see...

For Rings, I wouldn't hold my breath for a starting Void 1. Not just because Seize the Moment is pretty big and you want to spam it all day every day, but because the Void Approaches are really darn good for starting characters because they allow the character to play safe. Also, a well-timed Void Initiative or Void Stance can be the difference between life and death when -1 TN is still a big deal and you can't soak six-gorillion Strife like a pro. Air or Fire are probably better at being dumb stats unless you have a very specific idea in mind or your Ring bonuses are off. Water has tons of versatility, Earth is kinda necessary, so if you want to min/max it then you should aim for Air 1 / Earth 3 / Fire 1 / Water 3 / Void 2 - I have some very good experience with this setup. 

For Skills, I have yet to see a Culture Skill Check that actually matters. Sentiment, on the other hand, is absolutely necessary. Dunno about Government, never had it or used it. Fitness is an essential Skill. Meditation is also important. A barebones min-maxed Skill list for me would be Sentiment 2-3, Fitness 2-3, Martial Arts (your choice) 1-2, Tactics 1-2, Meditation 1-3, Courtesy or Command 1-2, Medicine / Skulduggery / Survival in any combination you can, and maybe one redundant Skill for special occasions (Commerce, Performance, Smithing are all good picks here). 

For Advantages and Disadvantages I mostly agree with your list. Personally, I think Secrets and Wordplay are OK. Discomfiting Countenance and Whispers of X are both great for Void mining because you can trigger them voluntary - they are also easy to reverse and apply as a bonus. But the real Min-Max option here is to make up your own stuff and go crazy. here note that Adversities are the character's main source of regaining those precious Void Points, so you really want an Adversity that can be "brought up" when you need Void Points.  

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^ similar to what the above guy is saying.

a good starting setup for me would be; Water 3, Fire 3, Earth 1, Air 1, Void 2.

unless you are a duelist, then I'd go Fire 3, Earth 3, Water 1, Air 1, Void 2.

skils and advantages/disadvantages, it depends on the GM and the game... i'm really not comment about advantages/disadvantages because even the perception of them will greatly vary depending on play groups.
for skills though, some are "generally" considerable as trash; aesthetic/design/composition (you don't need them, even for an artisan you can easily juste take one of these) and games and labor.

 

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I think it's very much a matter of campaign setting.

We've had an "establish a new clan" mini-campaign, and Government and Labour (which covers how-to-organise as well as just how-to-do building and farming) was pretty key.

Culture can be useful, but I think @Avatar111 is right - a lot of skills overlap. If you're looking at someone at court and trying to find out about them  from their appearance and clothing, then - for example - Culture and Design both kind of seem appropriate.

One 'arts' skill is probably sufficient, but remember that - specifically for shujenga - it's probably composition as it has the secondary use of creating prepared invocations.

 

The rings suggested makes sense - my one observation is re air: it's not great in duels but pretty decent in skirmishes (It's bloody awesome in skirmishes for archers) but in most campaigns it has one specific but annoyingly crucial application: if you've got a non-conflict scene where rings and approaches are used properly, Sentiment [Air] is the check used for "are they lying to me?" - now obviously, there's no way a courtier could ever need that one....

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Also look at the skills you are going to roll a lot... if you’re a Shugenja, trying for Theology 3 is not a bad idea. Or upping Meditation if you’re a Monk and have Kihos that depend on it. Performance for an Ikoma bard (or a Kitsune impersonator who does not want to be noticed), etc. 

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RINGS: I agree strongly that you want to get your rings to 3,3,2,1,1 at creation.

Unlike some of the posters I do not think the choice of Rings is as critical as some people have said. When I get to play a PC I have a Daidoji Iron Warrior and my starting Rings were 3 Earth, 3 Air, 2 Fire and 1 in Water and Void. I concede that Void 1 creates some problems with gaining and holding Void points. But Void doesn't help any derived stats...so I think it's a decent trade off at creation. Raising my Void to 2 was the very first thing I advanced after creation. I also raised my Water to 2 before eventually finished Tier 1 and moved on to Tier 2.

IME Earth and Fire are usually the rings that are most useful in combat at lower levels. Earth for defense. Fire for offense. If you really want to shine in combat at creation then load up there. BUT!  You can theoretically attack thugs and enemies with any ring. I think the rings you need the most are probably the ones that access and activate the shuji and invocations you want. That varies a lot by what your school gives you, and what you want to do.

If you really want to shine when you are being a lying deceptive sneak then Air will obviously be your more important as a ring than either Earth or Fire.

SKILLS: Not all skills are equal. The primary skill you attack with is probably the most important skill you have overall. It is certainly the the most important skill you will use in combat. Fitness is also extremely important. Command and Meditation can also have important roles in Combat. In a court setting, Courtesy is almost certainly the foundation skill you must have. Sentiment is also important. There are a ton of secondary and tertiary skills that can also be important. I think Games gets short shrift. Games should be a the primary skill used to interact with strange samurai who are roughly of the same rank as you. It's like the real world office politics skill of going out to happy hour with your coworkers. Investigations cover a huge amount of ground. Commerce, Command, Culture, Government, Medicine, and Skullduggery seem to come up consistently. Aesthetics & Design...? Not so much in our group. 

That broadly lines up with what Daramere posted over on strange assembly.

ADVANTAGES: I disagree with many of Daramere's assessments for Advantages and Disadvantages. In a world where status is uber important i think Blessed Lineage is sexy. I also think Blissful betrothal is pretty cool. They both help you interactions outside of dice rolling. Having an in with the Imperial Family or multiple potential allies outside your clan is to me, a very big deal. Consider: The adventure is turning on obscure event in history that has been "neglected" in the official scrolls we have easy access to. Hey wait...I am blissfully betrothed to Asoko Annie. I be she can help us meet a friendly Loremaster!

 

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On 2/9/2019 at 1:21 AM, Avatar111 said:

for skills though, some are "generally" considerable as trash; aesthetic/design/composition (you don't need them, even for an artisan you can easily juste take one of these) and games and labor.

If no one in your group has Aesthetic, Design or Composition, you're either playing a Scouting party in the Shadowlands or a D&D campaign.

Joke aside, I don't think there is a specific setting for min-max. If everyone in your group has Water 3, Fire 3, Earth 1, Air 1, Void 2 (because it's so OP, I read it on some forum, trust me!), then you'll get a hard time when it comes to be subtle (Air) or use logic (Earth). My guess would be "what attitude would you mostly use ?" and then try to max out the according ring. Having a good composure is indeed a good point, but if it forces you to play always on Fire or Water, is it usefull ?

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3 minutes ago, eScoub said:

you'll get a hard time when it comes to be subtle (Air) or use logic (Earth)

You can be subtle with Water or Void and logic in Rokugan tends to be anomalous if you know what I mean.

By the way Earth 1 is a terrible pick IMO. 

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13 minutes ago, eScoub said:

If no one in your group has Aesthetic, Design or Composition, you're either playing a Scouting party in the Shadowlands or a D&D campaign.

Joke aside, I don't think there is a specific setting for min-max. If everyone in your group has Water 3, Fire 3, Earth 1, Air 1, Void 2 (because it's so OP, I read it on some forum, trust me!), then you'll get a hard time when it comes to be subtle (Air) or use logic (Earth). My guess would be "what attitude would you mostly use ?" and then try to max out the according ring. Having a good composure is indeed a good point, but if it forces you to play always on Fire or Water, is it usefull ?

 We talk about min-maxing.

If everybody was playing a paladin-sorcerer in a D&D party. Would it be more fun or viable? Would they have an easy time to make stealth checks? No. In the end the GM can do whatever he wants. And you totally underestimate D&D, the game is as tactical or narrative as you want it to be for the most part. Look at the new campaign from Deborah Ann Woll, it is probably more narrative than 99% of the players who play ffg L5R.

The starting setup we mention are setups we consider useful in most situation and without big drawbacks. Nothing is perfect though!

Also, more than many times I decided to play a non-optimal character because I felt like it.

This thread is about min-maxing though. And the tips they give; rings at 3, skills at max possible rank, fitness skill overly useful etc are all valid points in this context.

Edited by Avatar111

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Just now, AtoMaki said:

You can be subtle with Water or Void and logic in Rokugan tends to be anomalous if you know what I mean.

By the way Earth 1 is a terrible pick IMO. 

I think Earth 1 is fine unless you are a duelist. Plus as a bushi, you won't have earth 1 by design anyway. In a conflict the mileage you get out of Water/Fire is better early on in my opinion (but no opinion is perfect, aside that Air is probably the easiest ring to dump).

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8 minutes ago, Avatar111 said:

I think Earth 1 is fine unless you are a duelist. Plus as a bushi, you won't have earth 1 by design anyway. In a conflict the mileage you get out of Water/Fire is better early on in my opinion (but no opinion is perfect, aside that Air is probably the easiest ring to dump).

I dunno but in my experience, Fire is pretty meh as a Ring early one. Its Approaches are nothing overtly special (Invent is the only noteworthy) and Fire Stance is usually overkill with a chance to shoot yourself in the foot via taking too much Strife. Earth is a safer bet, you can't really go wrong with it. 

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1 hour ago, Daramere said:

Note: I am reading and considering all of the suggestions here, I'm just avoiding getting into any sort of back-and-forth about what I do or don't agree with.

Don't sweat it, there is no min-maxing aside; start with two rings at 3 and min-max your skill ranks.

And the purpose is only for xp cost efficiency.

Sure, if you have an air3 void3 build with 4 endurance and 6 composure it won't be easy early on and you WILL have to raise other rings real fast.

Dumping air is the easiest to min-max for the long run because air is not a "mandatory" ring for conflicts.

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13 hours ago, AtoMaki said:

I dunno but in my experience, Fire is pretty meh as a Ring early one. Its Approaches are nothing overtly special (Invent is the only noteworthy) and Fire Stance is usually overkill with a chance to shoot yourself in the foot via taking too much Strife. Earth is a safer bet, you can't really go wrong with it. 

It’s funny, I feel like my players are using Fire approaches all the friggin time!

Browbeating a mook into spilling the beans on their master? Check. Inspiring speech to bolster defenders against an assault? Check. Deliberate provocation, intimidation or display of showmanship? Check, check, check. It also helps that there are some fun and useful Shuji with that Ring, and the opportunity to dump Strife on a target. 

Then again, the main offender is an Ikoma bard who’s not afraid of unmasking and whose school ability literally feeds itself on accumulated Strife. But even the Hida uses it more often than his Earth, and in non conflict scenes no less, where Stance bonuses aren’t a factor. 

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7 hours ago, Franwax said:

Then again, the main offender is an Ikoma bard who’s not afraid of unmasking and whose school ability literally feeds itself on accumulated Strife. 

Oh, yes, having an Ikoma Bard around is a game changer, I'm not gonna argue against that :D!

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7 hours ago, Franwax said:

It’s funny, I feel like my players are using Fire approaches all the friggin time!

Browbeating a mook into spilling the beans on their master? Check. Inspiring speech to bolster defenders against an assault? Check. Deliberate provocation, intimidation or display of showmanship? Check, check, check. It also helps that there are some fun and useful Shuji with that Ring, and the opportunity to dump Strife on a target. 

Then again, the main offender is an Ikoma bard who’s not afraid of unmasking and whose school ability literally feeds itself on accumulated Strife. But even the Hida uses it more often than his Earth, and in non conflict scenes no less, where Stance bonuses aren’t a factor. 

Fire and Air are the two "get things done now" approaches, Air being the smart/cunning of the two and Fire being the aggressive one. For most players these are the ones that come most naturally. Void's detached, Earth is deliberate/slow, Water is cautious. None of them are bad or useless, but if I look at my players and how they have their characters act in general (regardless of the game or system) they typically go for the cunning plan or the power through.  In L5R 5th they might consider their approach more because of the mechanical implications, but the spontaneous idea will tend towards one of these two.

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I've updated the article, although I think the biggest change is the tone of the opening (as the most vociferous feedback was an objection to trying to optimize a character at all ... which to me is fairly humorous, given the years and years of discussions that have taken place on L5R forums on topics such as mathematical analysis of which school was best at dueling, or how to make archers capable of running away and shooting every turn so that melee characters could never hit them). I also added some discussion of Ring preference for Bushi.

Edited by Daramere

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17 minutes ago, Daramere said:

I've updated the article, although I think the biggest change is the tone of the opening (as the most vociferous feedback was an objection to trying to optimize a character at all ... which to me is fairly, given the years and years of discussions that have taken place on L5R forums on topics such as mathematical analysis of which school was best at dueling, or how to make archers capable of running away and shooting every turn so that melee characters could never hit them). I also added some discussion of Ring preference for Bushi.

In my humble opinion, this system is strangely enough hard to break by "stacking numbers" compared to most other rpgs. It instead breaks by itself in the weirdest ways that are mostly not related to min-maxing.

Some of your points are undeniably valid though, like min-maxing rings and skills at character creation. Which I guess comes down to a moderate XP discount for later.

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