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Mal Luck

Help with Utaku Battle Maiden

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Posted (edited)

Greetings fellow Samurai, I am wondering if you would be able to help me with understanding the Utaku Battle Maiden school and making an effective character within it. 

Thematically they're an awesome school, and mechanically they seem at first glance to be relatively simple and effective. Move, ideally whilst mounted, before attacking and receive bonus successes. Or whilst mounted in a duel or mass battle you gain full benefits.. However, things aren't quite so easy as that, as movement options in this game are currently quite limited and indeed restrict the schools bonuses massively. The following will apply only to Skirmishes, which are quite probably the main form of conflict you're likely to experience. 

Ways to move, that I can see: 

1. Free shift every turn. 
2. Water Stance giving an extra action, which can be used for another one band move - as if you roll your movement it prevents attacking. Or using a technique in another stance such as heart piercing strike that has an option for a move with opportunity spends. 
3. If in Water Stance, can spend two opportunity for an additional range band of movement. 
4. The Utaku School Mastery Ability, allowing you to move if you defend against damage. 

So, theoretically speaking, you are able to gain four extra success on an attack roll in a skirmish if you are first attacked, use the water stance exclusively and spend two opportunity. Which are quite honestly massive restrictions. The Utaku Battle Maiden advancement table, family and school do nothing to promote the water ring at all (although the Clan does), and if you were in the water stance, then surely a better use of two opportunity would be to cause a critical hit or use a technique such as striking as water, rather than simply move one additional range band - outside of situations in which that would be necessary to engage.

Whilst I get that the bonus successes are pretty much 'free', if you aren't playing the above scenario you're limited to between one and three bonus successes per attack in a skirmish even at rank six, which seems pretty underwhelming. The primary factors or issues behind this seem to be that: 
1. You can not both roll to move and attack in the same turn, as water stance forbids the second action requiring a roll. 
2. Being mounted provides no additional movement unless you are rolling to do so. 
3. Limited techniques that offer additional movement, none of which are in the water stance. 

Is there something to this school I am missing, some rule I have misinterpreted or are the Utaku supposed to be primarily mounted duellists and mass battlers? My GM and I have discussed this in-depth and cannot find a way to truly make a Utaku shine. 

Help would be greatly appreciated, thank you! 

Edited by Mal Luck

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Heroic Charge:

When you succeed at an Attack action check, add bonus successes equal to the number of range bands you have moved this round, to a maximum of your school rank.
During a duel or mass battle, if you are mounted on your steed, you always count as having moved a number of range bands equal to your school rank this turn.

It's fair to say it's primarily a mass battle ability, because very few people in their right minds will challenge an Utaku Shiotome to a mounted duel, and frankly if they do they deserve everything they get. 😎

In a mass battle, extra bonus successes are very important, and go a long way to delivering enough bonus success to crack a defending cohort in a fortified position, which can massively reduce attrition even if your assault succeeds - and which isn't linked to a given ring, allowing you to launch a headlong charge in fire stance (and since you're probably leading a cavalry cohort, drop a shedload of panic on the enemy army too).

1 hour ago, Mal Luck said:

Whilst I get that the bonus successes are pretty much 'free', if you aren't playing the above scenario you're limited to between one and three bonus successes per attack in a skirmish even at rank six, which seems pretty underwhelming. The primary factors or issues behind this seem to be that: 

I think you've enunciated the options about right. I'm not sure why you think this is underwhelming, though. Remember this isn't a once-per-scene ability, it applies to every single attack action you make - even if you're not messing around with water stance and special abilities it's an extra point of damage on every single attack. In water stance it's an extra two damage with every swing (or arrow shot, since if you're continuously moving archery lets you keep hitting the same target), but that doesn't matter until you're at higher ranks anyway.

I agree you're rarely going to use 3+ 'levels' of the ability in a skirmish, but in a duel or mass battle it's great because it happens automatically (and a rank 3+ Utaku is the sort of character who should be expected to be commissioned as a cohort commander. 

 

1 hour ago, Mal Luck said:

Being mounted provides no additional movement unless you are rolling to do so. 

Correct. But being mounted on an Utaku steed does provide skilled assistance to the attack check, which is valuable in and of itself (since any other mounted samurai are probably just on rokugani ponies),

 

2 hours ago, Mal Luck said:

4. The Utaku School Mastery Ability, allowing you to move if you defend against damage. 

Sensing The Breeze  is nice (because it triggers Heroic Charge), but by far the bigger benefit is the benefit of (a) moving - to avoid being attacked by a second and subsequent opponent  - and (b) letting you change stance. Being able to tank an attack in earth or air then switching to Fire Stance for the counterattack (or water stance if your opponent is slightly further away) is a huge deal; don't fixate on trying to use it to power Heroic Charge,.

 

Essentially, an Utaku playing heavy cavalrywoman gets a lot of seperate benefits, all of which are powerful and easy to trigger (are you mounted, did you move, did someone try to attack you), but which aren't mutually reinforcing to any great extent.

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Posted (edited)

Thank you for your prompt reply and insight! Always good to get a fresh perspective. 
 

1 hour ago, Magnus Grendel said:

Essentially, an Utaku playing heavy cavalrywoman gets a lot of seperate benefits, all of which are powerful and easy to trigger (are you mounted, did you move, did someone try to attack you), but which aren't mutually reinforcing to any great extent.

Agreeing with everything you've said, I feel you've hit the nail on the head here. The issue seems to be with my perception of the school, and my desire to create interesting and effective synergy within builds. Each power is individually very useful and open to synergy with other techniques, as Heroic Charge works supremely well with a Yari and Iron Forest Style for incredible range control (especially at low levels), and Sensing The Breeze offers interesting possibilities with Crescent Moon Style. But the focus shouldn't necessarily be on using them all in unison for a single devastating idea, as with other classes. 

As a quick aside, related to the above, what is the normal ruling on using two handed weapons from horseback? Feel in general it shouldn't be allowed, but also feel Yari (which are 2-hand only) make sense. 

 

1 hour ago, Magnus Grendel said:

I think you've enunciated the options about right. I'm not sure why you think this is underwhelming, though. Remember this isn't a once-per-scene ability, it applies to every single attack action you make - even if you're not messing around with water stance and special abilities it's an extra point of damage on every single attack. In water stance it's an extra two damage with every swing (or arrow shot, since if you're continuously moving archery lets you keep hitting the same target), but that doesn't matter until you're at higher ranks anyway.

To explain, I feel it seems underwhelming at level six compared to say, a Shinjo Outrider using Born in the Saddle with Pin the Fan or an Akodo using a combination of Striking as Fire, Akodo's Final Lesson and Way of the Lion to deliver 20+ severity critical strikes. Naturally both these abilities are once per scene, but they are both going to change an outcome of a skirmish much more than an extra success or three per strike. Or even to a lesser extent at mid tier levels, a Mirumoto or Kakita with Heart Piercing Strike, as the former makes it easy to pull off even at level two, whilst the latter makes it extra deadly. The Utaku Battle Maiden is undeniably strong as low levels, and 1-3 extra successes with minimal penalty is still a large boon all the way through. 

It seems that as you say, the Utaku Battle Maiden is consistently great in multiple regards and fields, rather than a singular specialist. 

Another issue I have is in part due to how Heroic Charge is worded: 

1 hour ago, Magnus Grendel said:

Heroic Charge:

When you succeed at an Attack action check, add bonus successes equal to the number of range bands you have moved this round, to a maximum of your school rank.
During a duel or mass battle, if you are mounted on your steed, you always count as having moved a number of range bands equal to your school rank this turn.

It leaves it open to the possibility that you should be able to achieve the maximum of your school rank, even in a skirmish. Which is technically true, if you have the right support from Shuji or Evocations, it just feels frustrating that the rules themselves prohibit the possibility without expressly forbidding it. Although I guess I should consider it a bonus that they leave it open to the possibility of outside help, or new techniques appearing later on. 
 

1 hour ago, Magnus Grendel said:

It's fair to say it's primarily a mass battle ability, because very few people in their right minds will challenge an Utaku Shiotome to a mounted duel, and frankly if they do they deserve everything they get. 😎

 

This makes a lot of sense. Have yet to experience a mass battle yet, so I suspect that in that field of battle you are right, and a Battle Maiden can shine in the same way as the above Akodo or Shinjo do in a Skirmish. Which is very thematic and awesome, a heavy cavalry charge should be devastating in the lands of Rokugan. 

Edited by Mal Luck

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Posted (edited)

I doubt many people play until rank6.
actually, at rank 4+ it starts to get boring/broken.

otherwise, if you really wan't to play at these levels (I doubt your campaign will last long at this point as the players can basically one shot everything be it a skirmish or an intrigue and one player turn last forever) teammates might have techniques to make you move more, and at these ranks; 4,5,6, I'm pretty certain a teammate can make you move 3 range bands or more.

Edited by Avatar111

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Posted (edited)
15 hours ago, Mal Luck said:

As a quick aside, related to the above, what is the normal ruling on using two handed weapons from horseback? Feel in general it shouldn't be allowed, but also feel Yari (which are 2-hand only) make sense. 

No problem with this. A Yari from horseback becomes a short lance rather than a polearm, but you can definitely use it. Similarly, a Naginata is pretty much 'brace in both hands and charge past opponent with blade extended'......

More to the point, we're specifically discussing an Utaku Shiotome. Utaku Steeds are intelligent to near-human levels, more akin to David Webber's Coursers, Stephen Donaldson's Ranyhyn, or Tolkein's Mearas than anything deserving the mundane label 'horse'. They're supposed to share a not-quite-mystic bond with their riders and you emphatically 1) will not need a hand on the reins to let it know which way to go, and 2) will not fall off unless someone actively knocks you off.

15 hours ago, Mal Luck said:

To explain, I feel it seems underwhelming at level six compared to say, a Shinjo Outrider using Born in the Saddle with Pin the Fan or an Akodo using a combination of Striking as Fire, Akodo's Final Lesson and Way of the Lion to deliver 20+ severity critical strikes.

 The Akodo can deliver a heck of a wallop - if you can arrange to miss once (by deliberately keeping only one result) and trigger Akodo's final lesson, then you make the strike TN1, and can add 6 bonus successes from Way of the Lion, and potentially another three or four from 1518491343_StrifeSmall.png.6434e11e967f0 symbols kept in fire stance. With a heavy weapon - something like an otsuchi - I can realistically see nearly 20 fatigue inflicted in a blow - one-hit-incapacitation of a single big enemy is a big deal. I'm less sure how you see that level of critical strike severity aside from a finishing blow - and frankly, if you've got a finishing blow in the first place with a decent blade, you have (or should have) basically won the duel, regardless of your school.

Part of it is dependent on the enemy you face. A couple of extra damage on each shot means the difference between each bow-shot taking out a shadowlands goblin in ashigaru armour in one hit and needing a second shot per minion - which is a problem because whenever Bakemono pop up, there's always a lot of them.

By comparison, the Kakita-trained archer gets high deadliness shots - enough to inflict genuinely concerning criticals with a low-deadliness Yumi and potentially cripple a single heavily armoured opponent before they can reach melee range*.

15 hours ago, Mal Luck said:

Although I guess I should consider it a bonus that they leave it open to the possibility of outside help, or new techniques appearing later on. 

The beta did include a specific "charge" action, which was taken out on grounds of it bypassing a lot of other rules mechanics (the original version had it only as a move action, not an attack action, so it ignored Air Stance's TN penalty to hit, for example). There's no reason a future technique in a sourcebook couldn't add a slightly better written version of something like it back in, though. 

 

14 hours ago, Avatar111 said:

teammates might have techniques to make you move more, and at these ranks; 4,5,6, I'm pretty certain a teammate can make you move 3 range bands or more.

I think there's at least one invocation which lets you do this. Rushing Waves, maybe?

 

* Oh, hello, Akodo Arasou. Didn't see you down there.

Edited by Magnus Grendel

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15 hours ago, Avatar111 said:

I doubt many people play until rank6.
actually, at rank 4+ it starts to get boring/broken.


Thanks for the reply! Sorry to hear that. Whilst I certainly hope that our group doesn't find that to be the case, if it is I still feel that from a theoretical stand point every class should level and feel relatively balanced even at higher tiers of play. Although every five ring system so far has been pretty rife with imbalance, this one seems a lot tighter. 

 

15 hours ago, Avatar111 said:

teammates might have techniques to make you move more, and at these ranks; 4,5,6, I'm pretty certain a teammate can make you move 3 range bands or more.

Absolutely. There are definitely a few Shuji and Invocations that provide teammates extra movement! Great when you'd likely be using them anyway, but I feel at higher levels, where the Utaku can not naturally generate all the range bands themselves, a Shugenja can have far more impact with their magic than providing 3 extra bonus successes to a friend. Definitely something to consider though.

 

36 minutes ago, Magnus Grendel said:

No problem with this. A Yari from horseback becomes a short lance rather than a polearm, but you can definitely use it. Similarly, a Naginata is pretty much 'brace in both hands and charge past opponent with blade extended'......

More to the point, we're specifically discussing an Utaku Shiotome. Utaku Steeds are intelligent to near-human levels, more akin to David Webber's Coursers, Stephen Donaldson's Ranyhyn, or Tolkein's Mearas than anything deserving the mundane label 'horse'. They're supposed to share a not-quite-mystic bond with their riders and you emphatically 1) will not need a hand on the reins to let it know which way to go, and 2) will not fall off unless someone actively knocks you off.

Okay, that makes a lot of sense and is wonderful to know. Wish I could have one in real life!

 

39 minutes ago, Magnus Grendel said:

The Akodo can deliver a heck of a wallop - if you can arrange to miss once (by deliberately keeping only one result) and trigger Akodo's final lesson, then you make the strike TN1, and can add 6 bonus successes from Way of the Lion, and potentially another three or four from 1518491343_StrifeSmall.png.6434e11e967f0 symbols kept in fire stance. With a heavy weapon - something like an otsuchi - I can realistically see nearly 20 fatigue inflicted in a blow - one-hit-incapacitation of a single big enemy is a big deal. I'm less sure how you see that level of critical strike severity aside from a finishing blow - and frankly, if you've got a finishing blow in the first place with a decent blade, you have (or should have) basically won the duel, regardless of your school.

That is probably because I missed out the key component, heart piercing strike. You roll your first heart piercing strike, and as above arrange to miss (which is easy, as it is TN 4), keeping opportunity spends to power striking as fire (making the next critical strike against them have extra severity). My simulations have been with four ring and skill (which is low-balling it for a rank 6 character), and it is easy to gain 3-4 opportunity this way. You then use Akodo's Final Lesson to try again at a TN of 1. So that first success gains you, with a two handed Katana, a 10-11 critical severity strike on the enemy. Because you're using a razor-edged Katana and heart piercing strike, any further successes or opportunity generate additional crit severity, and as you're in the fire stance so do strife symbols - which with Way of the Lion, you can double up into 2 extra successes per strife symbol (to a max of six dice). It is entirely reasonable to assume all four of the dice you choose to keep will contain at least an opportunity or success and a strife, thus being worth essentially 3 bonus severity each. So, ignoring the original one that you need to pass the TN1, you've generated 11 additional severity on top of the 10-11 the Katana was already dealing. Thus 20+. Naturally it isn't a perfect science as dice induced randomness can limit it, or spike it, but with explosions factored in as well as less perfect die results, I have found it reliably achieves these numbers in much the same way your above suggestion does via fatigue.

Naturally this is once per scene, and a high level Kakita can, with fire stance, heart piercing strike and their technique, hit close enough to these numbers anyway every attack, but it is a particular powerful combo I found that required multiple synergies to pull off. 

The Kakita archer example is brilliant, proving that all Samurai should be versed in multiple fields and attempt to achieve perfection in them all.

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1 hour ago, Mal Luck said:

Okay, that makes a lot of sense and is wonderful to know. Wish I could have one in real life!

You're not the only one. My wife is very much a Unicorn Clan devotee, not least because of the Utaku Shiotome subverting the whole "princess with a pet unicorn" meme. 

 

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If you are playing FOR TEH POWAH then the Thunderclap Strike Catapult maneuver is not a stupid idea at all. You can power up from the resist check and go all-out on the enemy with the +2 Range if you have a buddy to safely Thunderclap Strike you. It is crazy ridiculous, but it does work. 

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On ‎4‎/‎23‎/‎2019 at 12:23 PM, Mal Luck said:

To explain, I feel it seems underwhelming at level six compared to say, a Shinjo Outrider using Born in the Saddle with Pin the Fan or an Akodo using a combination of Striking as Fire, Akodo's Final Lesson and Way of the Lion to deliver 20+ severity critical strikes. Naturally both these abilities are once per scene, but they are both going to change an outcome of a skirmish much more than an extra success or three per strike. Or even to a lesser extent at mid tier levels, a Mirumoto or Kakita with Heart Piercing Strike, as the former makes it easy to pull off even at level two, whilst the latter makes it extra deadly. The Utaku Battle Maiden is undeniably strong as low levels, and 1-3 extra successes with minimal penalty is still a large boon all the way through. 

  The Utaku doesn't need to change the outcome of the battle, she's going to win it from beginning to end.

  Consider the school from a narrative perspective though, and keep in mind standard unicorn tactics. 

 While the flashy invocations used by other clans might summon fireballs from the heavens that could kill a goblin army before the fight even begins, The flashy Magic of the Iuchi summons armies of berserking Moto and disciplined Utaku to defeat their enemies.  Other than this, the Iuchi have to consider that their allies are likely to be right next to their enemies, mixing it up, so fireballs aren't actually the best idea (they can't be sure their roll enough opportunities to leave their friends out of the AoE.).  This means that using their magic to augment the allied forces is actually a really good option for them.

  The Shinjo are mostly skirmishers.  sure they'll get in and mix up like any other bushi, but they're most effective when using their excellent speed and their gaijin archery technique of Ai-ming to wear armies down from a distance.  This style of fighting can't last forever, but for one volley (probably before the real engagement starts.) The Shinjo outriders will be incredibly effective.

  As much as people talk about the Otaku charge, the Moto are actually the ones who tend to make the first charge into combat.  The Moto will do something that most Unicorn consider unthinkable, by charging their steeds into the waiting pikes (or whatever pole-arms) of their enemy.  Their technique is defensive, and allows them to stay alive longer while waiting for support from their allies.  Because the Moto have probably lost their horses during the fighting, they also tend to be the last Unicorn out of a fight.

  Finally the Otaku charge into whatever holes the Moto are able to open up, performing non-stop ride-by-attacks and being far out of reach before anyone can even think to counter attack.

  Then you get back to the shinjo who mop up enemy survivors.

 

  Mechanically though, it really seems to me like the Unicorn schools are more about working with your allies than most of the other schools are (although the Daidoji and Shiba are certainly team players).  They also have small, but consistent bonuses.

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15 hours ago, Magnus Grendel said:

I think there's at least one invocation which lets you do this. Rushing Waves, maybe?

You would  want Grasp of the air dragon (  air invocation rank 3) Or Rushing wave (Water invocation, rank 1). Rushing wave requires a large body of water nearby though.  Slippery maneuvers (water shuji rank 2) and creative use of some other techniques could also move the Utaku..  interestingly (and importantly), the ability works based on how much she moves in the round, not necessarily in her turn.

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7 hours ago, Black_Rabbit_Inle said:

 Mechanically though, it really seems to me like the Unicorn schools are more about working with your allies than most of the other schools are (although the Daidoji and Shiba are certainly team players).  They also have small, but consistent bonuses.

That's not a bad observation. The Daidoji school ability does literally nothing for a warrior on their own, but they're priceless in a big skirmish. 

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