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Masakiyo

Roleplaying vs. Roll Playing

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So I just finished reading through the core rule book and I thought I'd post a couple quick reflections and queries here.  Note that I have not played any L5R since a bit of 1st edition around 2000 or so.  What drew me to this edition was the impressive looking rule book and an interest in the setting since I'm a professor of Asian history with a strong interest in samurai culture, though my major specialty is Chinese military history.  I have been playing RPGs since 1981, mostly fantasy.

So after reading through the rules, I still love the setting and I'm very much looking forward to reading Emerald Empire, which I started last night, and the Shadowlands sourcebook, which arrived in the mail today, along with Mask of the Oni.  I also like the fact that there are so many character options with the different clans, schools, specialties, skills, and techniques.  It really seems to encourage lots of variation and customization and I look forward to making a few characters.

That being said, I will say that I found the rules a bit hard to follow at times, mostly because they are scattered throughout a pretty hefty book and there are not always clear examples.  I assume things will become clearer after I actually play a few times, preferably with some experienced players to start.  Additionally, it seems that there are many cases when they require dice rolling when simple roleplaying would be just as good, if not better.  To my grognard sensibilities, this is a feature of many newer games.  They create lots of mechanics to stimulate roleplaying, but in fact they often just bog things down and discourage creative roleplaying by using mechanics to determine outcomes.  I hate that aspect of Adventures in Middle Earth where the GM basically determines ahead of time how the party is supposed to feel after a journey and they have all kinds of dice rolls to determine the results of audiences with patrons and the like. 

In the case of L5R, I'm not crazy about the strife mechanic because it seems pretty arbitrary in the sense that it's basically a function of dice rolls.  Likewise, needing opportunities to find out additional information and such in certain situations seems a bit clunky.  So, for those of you who have played a bit, how does this actually shake out at the table?  My personal feeling is that I'd probably use fewer rolls for social situations and intrigues and just encourage my players to get into character, but will that detract too much from the intended feel?

Finally, if anyone is in the South Mississippi or New Orleans area, I'd love to join a face to face game to better learn the mechanics (and of course meet new people).  Love to hear feedback from those of you have played a bit.

Thanks!

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35 minutes ago, Masakiyo said:

So, for those of you who have played a bit, how does this actually shake out at the table?  My personal feeling is that I'd probably use fewer rolls for social situations and intrigues and just encourage my players to get into character, but will that detract too much from the intended feel?

Using as few rolls as necessary is fine - in fact, I encourage it. The only real effect it has is that it will also result in minimal strife. I can't say that that's the end of the world though, unless you really want the strife mechanic to be very meaningful. On the one hand that should be the goal, it's a core narrative element, but on the other hand players with sufficient knowledge of the relevant rules can usually avoid strife issues if they want to anyway.

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Posted (edited)

You can accrue strife a couple of ways - it's meant to be a trade-off for the player in the dice, you can take opportunity or success to do better and succeed, but you risk emotional investature or distress doing so. 5E is really trying to stress a lot of themes in this sort of drama where you're supposed to be perfect at all times, but to be successful and harmonious is actually really hard. If people can just roleplay their way through stuff, that's fine, but the mechanical framework is good to allow people who aren't necessarily able to kind of run their own interpersonal drama improv all the time to actually have the stuff they need in front of them to find emotional beats, see how they can direct a conversation, etc. The inverse of "stifling creativity" is "only creatives need apply", so I'm sure some people appreciate the effort. You can always say if you're getting really emotional while roleplaying a scene you take Strife or become compromised to reflect that, since that may matter to other characters in the scene. And, Getting hit repeatedly by a three-foot razor blade is really gonna limit your roleplaying options too. Not sure why people get so caught up on the social part. 

I'm not super familiar with 1E so I don't know how exactly it translates, but I've heard most people describe opportunity like raises, only you keep them after the roll rather than declare them ahead of time. Not everything needs an opp spend, but they exist so you can gain tangential effects or mitigate failure, etc without a binary pass/fail system. They make it so depending on the situation your in even if you roll technically the same check over and over again, different sorts of results can happen each time. And if gives players a bit of creative control and can also mean you have to arbitrate a little less without full blown paralysis of choice. If in general you feel like rolling less, that works because the game wants the dice rolls to be meaningful, there should be clear circumstances of success and failure so if nothing interesting will result (or even; if rolling the dice would grind the scene to a halt and do nothing productive) don't roll. Your table, your rules kind of thing. I don't think any game suffers from the GM going "ah, **** it, I maybe should ask you to roll but I don't care enough to get RNG involved". 

EDIT: Also, not as like a critique or anything, but I find the name of this topic very interesting. I've always heard and thought of rollplaying as the kind of basic "I hit it with my sword" and roll dice sort of situation - the type of stuff a lot of mechanics in L5R actually works to break out of because you have to think about how and why your character does stuff (approaches and stances) and detail your actions with Opportunity and the like, actually figure out what your character enjoys or dislikes (Passions, Anxieties), what their driving motivations are (Ninjo) and actually gives a "game" reason to interact with them besides the ol' "it's what my character would do" lip-service. It's supposed to be hard to play a stoic honor robot who just hits things with his katana and doesn't exist outside of that because you'll build up that emotional turmoil. 

Edited by UnitOmega

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First of all, pardon my abrupt, uninvited entrance; I'm about to check Courtesy for Bouyant Arrival. 

As did you, I just bought the books a week ago, looking for a new (old) setting to GM. I've been playing EotE/Genesys right from the beginning, and am completely convinced of narrative dice, especially of the streamlining they can provide. 

I can only reaffirm what nigh everybody else have said: If you wonder whether to have a player roll: Don't!  

I do concur that the rules are somewhat formalised, in the attempt of preventing misconception, I suppose; they're reading like a legal document, in parts. But, that's a mere technicality, to me at last. 

What bothers me, though, is how clunky action resolution is despite tailor-made narrative dice: Say what you will, one action two checks is just bad form!

Interestingly enough, the Strife mechanics are, at first glance, what I like best with the rules as are. They're the one reason restraining my just pasting Genesys Dice onto the lot; and the Roll'n'Keep, of course.

Now enough of the purely theoretical rambling; I might have more to say after a field test. Thank you for your attention and your patience!  

 

 

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7 hours ago, UnitOmega said:

You can accrue strife a couple of ways - it's meant to be a trade-off for the player in the dice, you can take opportunity or success to do better and succeed, but you risk emotional investature or distress doing so. 5E is really trying to stress a lot of themes in this sort of drama where you're supposed to be perfect at all times, but to be successful and harmonious is actually really hard. If people can just roleplay their way through stuff, that's fine, but the mechanical framework is good to allow people who aren't necessarily able to kind of run their own interpersonal drama improv all the time to actually have the stuff they need in front of them to find emotional beats, see how they can direct a conversation, etc. The inverse of "stifling creativity" is "only creatives need apply", so I'm sure some people appreciate the effort. You can always say if you're getting really emotional while roleplaying a scene you take Strife or become compromised to reflect that, since that may matter to other characters in the scene. And, Getting hit repeatedly by a three-foot razor blade is really gonna limit your roleplaying options too. Not sure why people get so caught up on the social part. 

I'm not super familiar with 1E so I don't know how exactly it translates, but I've heard most people describe opportunity like raises, only you keep them after the roll rather than declare them ahead of time. Not everything needs an opp spend, but they exist so you can gain tangential effects or mitigate failure, etc without a binary pass/fail system. They make it so depending on the situation your in even if you roll technically the same check over and over again, different sorts of results can happen each time. And if gives players a bit of creative control and can also mean you have to arbitrate a little less without full blown paralysis of choice. If in general you feel like rolling less, that works because the game wants the dice rolls to be meaningful, there should be clear circumstances of success and failure so if nothing interesting will result (or even; if rolling the dice would grind the scene to a halt and do nothing productive) don't roll. Your table, your rules kind of thing. I don't think any game suffers from the GM going "ah, **** it, I maybe should ask you to roll but I don't care enough to get RNG involved". 

EDIT: Also, not as like a critique or anything, but I find the name of this topic very interesting. I've always heard and thought of rollplaying as the kind of basic "I hit it with my sword" and roll dice sort of situation - the type of stuff a lot of mechanics in L5R actually works to break out of because you have to think about how and why your character does stuff (approaches and stances) and detail your actions with Opportunity and the like, actually figure out what your character enjoys or dislikes (Passions, Anxieties), what their driving motivations are (Ninjo) and actually gives a "game" reason to interact with them besides the ol' "it's what my character would do" lip-service. It's supposed to be hard to play a stoic honor robot who just hits things with his katana and doesn't exist outside of that because you'll build up that emotional turmoil. 

You know what is funny.

It is that I am nearly convinced that you never played the game. Because you have this idea of the system that I had before running it.

The thing is, it doesn't play like that, the mechanical rules are a mess and all those fancy ideas falls flat in their application.

(Edit; by either being totally forgotten a lot of the time because there are too many and they are conceited, or by being obtrusive and used only to get their mechanical benefits at the expense of good roleplaying)

Opportunities are there to remind you how to break the game too. No, they don't just add "flavor" or "mitigate failures" they are as good as successes if not better in many cases and a strong incentive to try to do a useless check just for their benefits.

And strife. Lol, what a gimmick. A lot of characters are basically immune to it (really) while some others need to cheese out their passion or become almost always compromised. When a character needs 20 checks to become compromised while another character will become compromosed in 3 checks, you know there is an issue.

And lets not talk about every details like duels always ending with an infirm character, and how broken water and earth stance are, how resist checks are totally grinding the game to a halt, how some techniques are broken etc.

Anyway.

The game is garbage... But I feel your enthusiasm as someone who never played, I too was like that. And I hope to one day discuss with you after you actually played this trainwreck with 4+ players and not just in your head.

For a system that is suppose to be about roleplaying, the rules are actually a detriment to roleplaying and rewards the players for making nonsense. You can always put your GM limits on it, but then whole game becomes that.

Edited by Avatar111

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What systems have you played that were less abusable/had less loopholes or broken builds? Of comparable rules ´quality - storytelling systems naturally just require arbitration and not mechanics (vampire, exalted)

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58 minutes ago, Kaiju said:

What systems have you played that were less abusable/had less loopholes or broken builds? Of comparable rules ´quality - storytelling systems naturally just require arbitration and not mechanics (vampire, exalted)

"abusable" is always there, but not as incentivized as in this game. Exalted 1st ed comes to mind as a total trainwreck similar to L5R.

games that had issues (normal), but overall we're good that I played;
Shadowrun 2nd and 3rd, D&D 5th, most old school white wolf games (werewolf and vampire), ffg's Star Wars.

all these games do have problems and unbalanced mechanics, but overall they are fun and intuitive.
latest L5R is honestly barely playable purely with its system, we're not talking a power a little too good or bad here, we're talking about the whole core mechanics being messy, not well designed, unintuitive, slow and tedious, bloated, abusable and do not provide for even such a fun experience (no critical successes or critical failures, triumphs etc, which are "wow" moments in other games), tedious opportunity calculation, imbalanced strife system.

I can go on, but it is very obvious once you play the game, how... little of the system you must actually use for the game to run "decently". the more systems you play with, the more the shite falls apart and becomes a tedious mess.

the setting and writting and art is top notch though.
 

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19 minutes ago, Avatar111 said:

"abusable" is always there, but not as incentivized as in this game. Exalted 1st ed comes to mind as a total trainwreck similar to L5R.

games that had issues (normal), but overall we're good that I played;
Shadowrun 2nd and 3rd, D&D 5th, most old school white wolf games (werewolf and vampire), ffg's Star Wars.

all these games do have problems and unbalanced mechanics, but overall they are fun and intuitive.
latest L5R is honestly barely playable purely with its system, we're not talking a power a little too good or bad here, we're talking about the whole core mechanics being messy, not well designed, unintuitive, slow and tedious, bloated, abusable and do not provide for even such a fun experience (no critical successes or critical failures, triumphs etc, which are "wow" moments in other games), tedious opportunity calculation, imbalanced strife system.

I can go on, but it is very obvious once you play the game, how... little of the system you must actually use for the game to run "decently". the more systems you play with, the more the shite falls apart and becomes a tedious mess.

the setting and writting and art is top notch though.
 

I dont consider white wolf systems RPGs. They are background worlds with minor dice concepts added. Shadowrun I cannot agree on either because the initiative system simply does not work at ALL, and the idea of spending hours with ONE player (decker) while the rest is waiting is worse design than anything i have ever played. It makes the entire class of characters unplayable, and its probably the central class concept of any sci-fi setting, the quintessential hacker. I ll grant you that FFGs  Star Wars plays smoother/better than L5R, especially because it doesnt really bother with roleplaying. Its an action system in a setting with the most infantile set of values (light side, dark side) ever conceived, and doesnt even do these, but the dice system is aces.

For me it works just fine though. Maybe there is something your group is doing fundamentally different. With the right prep, setups and a common plan on how we want to play the game/setting, i havent seen the problems you are describing. Interestingly, aside from you, I dont see any complaints of even remotely this level anywhere else. Its just you posting here or on reddit 10 times a day how its the worst RPG designed.

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2 hours ago, Kaiju said:

What systems have you played that were less abusable/had less loopholes or broken builds? Of comparable rules ´quality - storytelling systems naturally just require arbitration and not mechanics (vampire, exalted)

If you look at abuses and loopholes first and foremost to determine whether something is well-designed or not, I think you got it wrong. The first thing to look for is whether it's clear how everything is supposed to work normally (so when you come across something too uncommon to be handled exhaustively in the rules you have a good idea of what's meant to happen conceptually), the second is whether everything works well when done normally (so you don't feel the need to change the rules all the time). The abnormal stuff, the abuses, the niche interactions, those don't matter nearly as much as the core design. In terms of design I'll take pretty much any indie RPG I backed on Kickstarter, probably developed on a tenth of FFG's budget for this edition, over L5R 5th simply because they show me the key concepts for mechanics and apply them consistently in a way I can reproduce for interactions they don't cover in the book whereas FFG fails to do that.

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2 minutes ago, nameless ronin said:

If you look at abuses and loopholes first and foremost to determine whether something is well-designed or not, I think you got it wrong. The first thing to look for is whether it's clear how everything is supposed to work normally (so when you come across something too uncommon to be handled exhaustively in the rules you have a good idea of what's meant to happen conceptually), the second is whether everything works well when done normally (so you don't feel the need to change the rules all the time). The abnormal stuff, the abuses, the niche interactions, those don't matter nearly as much as the core design. In terms of design I'll take pretty much any indie RPG I backed on Kickstarter, probably developed on a tenth of FFG's budget for this edition, over L5R 5th simply because they show me the key concepts for mechanics and apply them consistently in a way I can reproduce for interactions they don't cover in the book whereas FFG fails to do that.

Ok, under that definition most minimalist rules systems work "better" in the scope they attempt to achieve. In fact, the more minimalist the better in this case. Incidentially, 2D20 is a pretty meaty system that works because its, at its core, soulless math and hard limits on a lot of things. Unfortunately, players all over feel its not flavorful enough. 

Be that as it may, we are shifting the goalposts here by a lot. First its about the niche abuses and weird interactions, now its about the simplest ruleset that works within itself. 

I judge differently: I judge whether a system is supporting the setting and intentions. Hence why I consider generic systems with no setting to be worthless most of the time. Deadlands Classic, while a bad rule set, is amazingly good at supporting the setting and style of roleplaying. Star Wars FFG too. Star Wars D20 was horrendous in that regard. L5R 5th is, to date, the best rule set that supports the samurai fantasy for L5R that I have seen. 4th was a mess in many areas that are specific to L5R and needed HEAVY adjucation or house ruling (taint, honor, glory, status, infamy .... none of these worked!), and 3rd and 2nd ... well, the less said the better.

To me, the mechanical system is inseparable from the kind of experience a particular roleplaying system wishes to provide. Hence why DnD doesnt have any support for actual roleplaying (or noncombat campaigns in general), its not meant to.

Exalted 3rd, as an example, fails horribly at trying to provide the "high power, high concept" playstyle in a manner where even a normal fight works as described. But the system would be fine in, say, a Vampire setting.

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Ultimately, you wan't a system that is flexible and allows for quick evaluation and fast gameplay.

While a system like D&D5th doesn't do "social enounter" justice by being nothing less than basically a "one check thing" it is, at its most barebone concept, "fine".

Running a social encounter in L5R is extremely tedious if you use the Intrigue rules. more than that, it makes the whole thing very mechanical and put numbers and rules in a more important spot than actual fun social roleplay.
I have yet to hear any podcast or see any streamed gameplay of new5R that plays out a good social encounter using the core rules. Really, please refer me to one if you heard about it.
So, while I do agree social encounters could be made slightly more mechanical than D&D, they never should be so tediously detailed and crunchy as to make the roleplay a secondary thing.


Then, the whole strife mechanic, being on every roll, should have been something much more global than just another "stat" related to only 2 rings that you can "heal" with opportunities and roleplaying "passions".
You are basically telling the PC; "well, just go do a check related to your "passion" to reduce your strife. Or stick to water stance this round and do a random check, like guard or maneuvre and fish for opportunities to heal your strife".
This in unecessary, imposed, awful gameplay. sure you can Unmask, but that is a choice that you can avoid by gaming the system (not even cheesing it, just.. gaming).
I have nothing against the Concept of Strife being part of a samurai setting, but it should never have been done so.. mechanically.

Also, opportunities are not brining much to the gameplay for how tedious and broken they can be. The book throws multiples "examples" on how they can be used, each one more mechanical than the other. To add insult to the injury, they even "invent" new example of opportunities in the Shadowland sourcebook. At some point, are there going to be 50 ways to spend "opportunities" in the game? Star Wars makes that much more streamlined (though it could have been better, but L5R basically makes it worst!!)
And lets not mention the fact that you can spend opportunities on Resist checks (bring the system to a slow and tedious thing) and failed rolls (opportunities a lot of the time being more wanted than successes themselves).
The whole game loses its luster and simplicity inherent to roleplaying games; success or failure, by including some form of possibility to "game the system" if you know the 50 ways you can spend opportunities on.
I have nothing against opportunities used for narrative effect and slight flavor/edge. But when it is itself the biggest mechanic in the game... how many tables and handout do you need to give to your players to play that stuff up? in addition to all their techniques that have ways to spend opportunities!

And, the whole advantages/disadvantages system, being so malleable to the point of having no form. Like, I agree, it can be fun to say; "your character likes flowers, so if you do something with flowers you reduce strife" but when it becomes the driving process in your thoughts, basically; "how am I going to fit this flower passion into my check because I need to heal strife" the system is yet again making roleplaying futile and secondary to the mechanical effects.

And then, conflict designs...
Skirmishes are well done (aside the movement rule which is, yet again, Star Wars but worst)

Duels are busted, having unique actions that are useless, always ending up with an infirm character. The strife building mechanic is cool, but then there is not way to add to that strife aside using "fire oportunities" which is gamey as ***.

Intrigues are just turning social scenes into a disastrous thing that become a mechanical juggling instead of great roleplay.

Mass Battle... don't even get me started.

Anyway, we can go on.
To finish on a positive note, the system does have a few strong ideas;
-It creates extremely fleshed out characters (playing the character creation is a blast!)
-The idea of fatigue vs critical strikes is a good idea. (badly designed mostly because of how the critical strike table and conditions, especially the wounded condition, fail to escalate in a natural way.
-The stance idea is also a good idea. (atrociously executed, in part because of the opportunity usage mechanics I think)

So, yeah, will this game be remembered as a good game? played by many? time will tell, but my bet is that it will die out, become nearly unplayed, and probably laughed upon as a mess.
But, they will keep selling products to their core fan base who just want the books to read about their favorite setting.

Just an opinion after spending quite a lot of time with the game;

end score (as if score matters in 2019)
5/10
Great setting, presentation, and heart, held down by atrocious and tedious gameplay.
Is atually more fun to play if you forget about most of the rules and play what they call "story focused group mode" in their how to GM section.

Edited by Avatar111

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9 minutes ago, Kaiju said:

Ok, under that definition most minimalist rules systems work "better" in the scope they attempt to achieve. In fact, the more minimalist the better in this case.

Not necessarily. Again, first criterium: is it clear how everything is supposed to work? If you have to figure that out for yourself, it's not good design. That said, most systems are pretty minimal at their core. 95% of most rulebooks is filled with instances of rules and mechanics, not with how the rules (are meant to) work.

 

18 minutes ago, Kaiju said:

Be that as it may, we are shifting the goalposts here by a lot. First its about the niche abuses and weird interactions, now its about the simplest ruleset that works within itself. 

 I don't think we are. I'll happily discuss specific issues, but I'll usually check where they're coming from too. Opportunity abuse with certain techs or stances is a problem with the opportunity mechanic not being applied properly and consistently more than with individual instances. TN choices seeming weird is the result of there not being clear guidelines on how to set TNs in the first place. Strife is a mess all over the place because its core concept isn't defined well enough and it pops up everywhere, not always for good reason.

 

32 minutes ago, Kaiju said:

I judge differently: I judge whether a system is supporting the setting and intentions. Hence why I consider generic systems with no setting to be worthless most of the time. Deadlands Classic, while a bad rule set, is amazingly good at supporting the setting and style of roleplaying. Star Wars FFG too. Star Wars D20 was horrendous in that regard. L5R 5th is, to date, the best rule set that supports the samurai fantasy for L5R that I have seen. 4th was a mess in many areas that are specific to L5R and needed HEAVY adjucation or house ruling (taint, honor, glory, status, infamy .... none of these worked!), and 3rd and 2nd ... well, the less said the better.

Third's biggest problem is bloat. Which is even simpler to fix than powergamer ruleslawyering.

What about 5th supports the setting and intentions? I assume you mean things like strife, but the problem there is that that's largely a good idea with bad execution. Same with approaches: flavorful to connect them to the five rings, but the skill mechanics built on approaches are poor. I do not give credit for good ideas if they only result in flawed rules.

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13 hours ago, Masakiyo said:

In the case of L5R, I'm not crazy about the strife mechanic because it seems pretty arbitrary in the sense that it's basically a function of dice rolls.  Likewise, needing opportunities to find out additional information and such in certain situations seems a bit clunky.  So, for those of you who have played a bit, how does this actually shake out at the table?

It is really 'meh' - lots of smoke but not a whole lot of fire. Strife is kind of a thing in the first few games and will produce some really hilarious situations later on but it becomes nigh negligible later on (School Rank 3+ or even at 2 if your players like their Rings and Skills). Don't bother, it looks considerably scarier than it really is and its dangers are not for general playing but for very specific situations. 

13 hours ago, Masakiyo said:

I also like the fact that there are so many character options with the different clans, schools, specialties, skills, and techniques.  It really seems to encourage lots of variation and customization and I look forward to making a few characters.

Friendly warning: the cookie cutting in character creation is real. You gotta hand out some starting xp (we usually get 30-40) to make the characters with similar Ring setups (a very easy thing to achieve) feel different at the table. 

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As far as character generation is concerned, we're looking at having 2 Dragons (Mirumoto bushi and Tattooed monk), a Kuni Crab Purifier, and a Toritaka Phantom Hunter, though that may change once I read through the Shadowlands book.  This presumes we go with a ghostbusting campaign along the lines of the Chinese wuxia film Vampire Hunters.  So I think the PCs will feel different enough.

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48 minutes ago, Masakiyo said:

As far as character generation is concerned, we're looking at having 2 Dragons (Mirumoto bushi and Tattooed monk), a Kuni Crab Purifier

This is not a very good lineup because it locks the party into Earth/Fire/(Void). Thing is, because of how the Rings/Approaches work, every character with similar enough Ring setup will play the exact same way unless the players are up to crazy stuff like using weak Rings. The Mirumoto will Reason and Incite, the Tattooed Monk will Reason and Incite (sometimes Enlighten), the Kuni will Reason and Incite (sometimes Enlighten), that's all they will ever do, nobody will really stand out at the table because everyone will be Reasoning and Inciting and sometimes Enlightening. There will be like one narrow aspect of the game when they will suddenly become different: in skirmish the Mirumoto will chop, the Tattooed Monk will kiho, and the Kuni will spam spells until he causes a TPK with a Spiritual Backlash. If you know what I mean. 

Skills are not an immediate concern but they are a bit worse off because there are so few of them and everyone needs the exact same set of Skills for what they must do. Everyone who dares to enter Skirmish will pump Fitness, Tactics, and Martial Arts, everyone who wants to socialize will pump Courtesy/Command and maybe Culture, and everyone ever will pump Sentiment. For example, I can see the four characters in your party sharing the exact same core Skill set (Fitness, Martial Arts, Meditation, Tactics, Command, Theology) out of the gate with maybe two additional "free space" Skills worth of difference. Everyone will do the same thing (mostly), roll the same dice, I think you should know where this is all leading...

Some wildly different Advantages and Disadvantages might save the situation tho. Or if the Mirumoto goes Water instead of Earth (I think the Toritaka is a Water/Void School so this one might not work). 

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Having not actually played or rolled up characters, this is interesting advice.  We were thinking purely along the lines of folks who would be good at fighting spirits and would have an innate reason for doing so.  I'll certainly read the whole Shadowlands book and meditate more upon these things when thinking about party builds.  One potential player did express an interest in a Phoenix clan character.

That being said, back in the day, one of the best parties I ever played in with D&D was a group that lacked both a mage and a true cleric.  We had a druid, an illusionist/thief, a paladin, and a barbarian.  But everybody was really creative.  Though I guess that still offers a range of abilities and powers and D&D is certainly not the same as L5R.  But I think good, creative play can counter mechanical limitations.

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Shadowlands does have some pretty varied options for people who are tangentially related to ghost punching. 

I will also say, a lot of this "sameness" is RP related to. Maybe in a fight where you're trying to find optimal positioning (though also you have to consider the stance bonuses), but in general play while rolling, don't let a player declare approach and skill and role before they say what they're doing and how they do it. The first step is to declare their intention and what they want, then the GM and/or player figures out which skill group and skill it is, the player describes how they intend to perform the action and the GM decides which approach they are using, and then figures out TN (since ring can affect this). You do not get to say "I roll Earth" every time, if you're not doing something related to Earth philosophically you don't get to roll Earth. so even if they have the same ring values, they'll have to be playing their characters exactly the same to actually roll the same rings all the time. 

If skill same-i-ness is a problem, you can use subskills if you are particularly focused in an area and it may matter. For general purposes I like to avoid the skill bloat but it may actually matter if your campaign is focused on a central theme. 

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I subdivide the martial skills into a subskills-like system, to allow for a variance in fighting skill, especially as it pertains to dueling. I would sub-divide other skills if 2 player character were focused and had similar rings, but that isnt the case.

I really enjoy the fact that multiple weapons and tactics are viable, and that combat requires quite a bit of tactical skill, something which only DnD 4th managed so far (a great system for fighting, bad for immersion). It has lead to multiple discussions with players trying, and failing, to find "the right way" of fighting under all circumstances, as mistakes made in selection of stance and weapon can lead to bad results vs. the wrong opponents. I personally like that, but I suppose normal RPGs work differently, and this may not be to everyones liking.

Once I ve gathered more experience at rank 4+, I ll probably have a better picture of whether the system breaks at higher levels as every other RPG does.

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Posted (edited)
13 minutes ago, Kaiju said:

I subdivide the martial skills into a subskills-like system, to allow for a variance in fighting skill, especially as it pertains to dueling. I would sub-divide other skills if 2 player character were focused and had similar rings, but that isnt the case.

I really enjoy the fact that multiple weapons and tactics are viable, and that combat requires quite a bit of tactical skill, something which only DnD 4th managed so far (a great system for fighting, bad for immersion). It has lead to multiple discussions with players trying, and failing, to find "the right way" of fighting under all circumstances, as mistakes made in selection of stance and weapon can lead to bad results vs. the wrong opponents. I personally like that, but I suppose normal RPGs work differently, and this may not be to everyones liking.

Once I ve gathered more experience at rank 4+, I ll probably have a better picture of whether the system breaks at higher levels as every other RPG does.

what do you do as a bushi against an opponent with a big earth ring, a full plate, and a weapon with lots of damage who turtle up in earth stance with striking as earth while hitting you with a tetsubo ?

edit: and yeah, D&D 4th ed had amazing grid combat.

Edited by Avatar111

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Posted (edited)
1 hour ago, Avatar111 said:

what do you do as a bushi against an opponent with a big earth ring, a full plate, and a weapon with lots of damage who turtle up in earth stance with striking as earth while hitting you with a tetsubo ?

edit: and yeah, D&D 4th ed had amazing grid combat.

If I was a bushi and my GM is throwing a big earth ring, yoroi armor, tetsubo wielding earth kata using opponent at me, I would either use my own, hopefully even bigger Hida buddy, or I would look for supernatural damage (maybe I have a monk friend, or a shugenja, or even some maho). If I am the GM and my player is a decked-out Hida camping in earth stance etc., I ll certainly go with a shugenja of some sort ,or a monster with the ability to destroy armor. In general, destroying armor is achievable if you know whats coming.

In either case, the player should consider whether combat is really the avenue to solve this.

Now, I know what you REALLY wanted to ask me is how to beat the maxed out bushi in a PvP situation (that never occurs) with no GM around and just a maxed out Hida sitting there. While it ll never come up in a normal group (i ve had these questions asked for various maxed-out jedi/marauder variants in SWRPG), if we get cheesy, I would go for the following:

Moto in air stance with decent air, the shield/shortspear combo from the Mantis book and firebiter poison for when he finally tires of never hitting me and me just moving around doing whatever I came here to do. I can target whatever I need to out of range and thus apply my school technique to him. Alternatively, I just get a friendly shugenja (or some oil + fire) to apply the burning condition. Or I take a high water char with, say, a bow and arrows and just kite him endlessly. Also works with high water, range 2 weapon and the water kata that allows me to add water ring to the damage, which is more than his armor can absorb. Then use extra move + opportunity move + free step as needed to stay out of range. Or if we want to continue the cheese, I can cast maho. All of this isnt even figuring in the possibility of racking up his Strife till he unmasks and retreats. 

The thing is, you are looking at a situation that only happens if both GM and players force it to happen. You played the SW RPG, right? Characters in that game cannot reasonably fight each other, because whoever goes first just oneshots their opponent most of the time. The same goes for many other games, not the least of them DnD 4th. PCs are made with rules that arent intended to fight against each other.

I have honestly not had a situation where any player (or me as a player) had no recourse but fight a maxed out tank NPC made by applying player rules, having the best gear, and there not being any alternative to this course of action. 

L5R is, at least in my groups interpretation of the setting, much more about avoiding combat, or manipulating the circumstances of the combat encounter, than it is about grid-based tactical fighting. I just like the fact that if it comes to combat, its not just a series of rolls.

EDIT: What I mean when I say I love the tactical nature is that once I understood the system, I can create encounters, fights, opponents or situations which reward clever tactics, confront players with new circumstances and problems, and I can intentionally play smarter or less smart for atmosphere, balance or just fun purposes. And all that without needing to even get into monsters, supernatural beings or outright NPC-only mechanics. Players can feel they outsmarted, outfought and outthought their opponents, and didnt just throw their DPS build against the stat-block of the monster and it turned out to be enough.

Edited by Kaiju

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On 3/29/2019 at 3:46 AM, Kaiju said:

Moto in air stance with decent air, the shield/shortspear combo from the Mantis book and firebiter poison for when he finally tires of never hitting me and me just moving around doing whatever I came here to do.

Jeez, you have just activated @Avatar111's trap card: the Hida is turtling, so he is using Guard to increase his to-hit TN to six-gorillion (not attacking you), so you ain't hitting him, ever, and he can just play the resource attrition game until you tap out (ha has advantage here from his high Earth and playing safer with Guard). 

Also, here note that the Hida turtler is a build you should be realistically encountering with the Crab as an NPC because the Hida Defender School has all its parts (except the Plate Armor) straight out of the gate. 

And yes, I did run into this guy in one of our games, with my Air+Void Wandering Ronin... and won because the Wandering Ronin can play the resource attrition game better :lol:

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On 3/30/2019 at 5:38 PM, AtoMaki said:

the Hida is turtling, so he is using Guard to increase his to-hit TN to six-gorillion (not attacking you), so you ain't hitting him, ever, and he can just play the resource attrition game until you tap out (ha has advantage here from his high Earth and playing safer with Guard). 

No, because he's specifically said to be attacking you with a tetsubo. If he's using guard to protect himself, then frankly the correct answer is "ignore him" - if your opponent has an impenetrable fortress, see that they stay there.  If your oppoenent is actively trying to thump you, you need to do somethign about them.

"Turtling up" in this case refers to upping the resistance of the plate armour even more with striking-as-earth, which essentially means you'll never cause fatigue with physical damage because resistance lots, and you can't inflict conditions or criticals because earth stance. 

Which is almost, but not quite, true. As noted, supernatural damage will bypass physical armour, which gives a lot of Kiho and Invocations the means to hurt it. Techniques which inflict conditions or critical on success still work (so Deadly Sting, Heartpiercing Strike, Flowing Water Strike, etc). 

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8 hours ago, Magnus Grendel said:

No, because he's specifically said to be attacking you with a tetsubo. If he's using guard to protect himself, then frankly the correct answer is "ignore him" - if your opponent has an impenetrable fortress, see that they stay there.  If your oppoenent is actively trying to thump you, you need to do somethign about them.

Well, yes, there will be striking, just not immediately. This impenetrable fortress is not an unmoving one, so to speak. 

Also, if you don't have to actually defeat the Hida then there is no need for a Skirmish in the first place, so I assume that Hida must die.

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