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Isamu the Ronin

Shikigami mechanics. This is broken by RAW

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Posted (edited)

Hello guys, I wanted to know how do you rules the Craft Shikigami ritual because the rules isn't perfectly clear to me and my players group.

Lets get started with the rules coming from both books:

Imbued with power:
The more powerful the invocations invested into a shikigami, the higher its associated ring values become. If a shikigami is invested with one or more invocations of a particuliar element,  it treats that ring value as equal to the highest among the school rank prerequisites of these invocations. 

The example given just after makes it crystal clear in a regular usage. I sacrifice a Rank 3 invocation to power-up my Shikigami's ring to 3 in a given element and should give-up some more invocations to improve its other rings. The trade seems okay, you give up invocations to gain a minion which can use them. Nothing gained, nothing lost.

1- Nothing specifies that you can't learn an invocation you can never succeed to use.

For example, your character learns a Rank 3 Water invocation needing a Theology 3 (Water) check to succeed. With 1 in the water ring, your character's chances to cast successfully this invocation are rather low.  However, if you give it to your Shikigami, its Water ring will be 3 and its Theology rank will be equal to your Composition rank.

Going deeper in the concept, the infamous Water 1 character gives up two invocations from the same element, for example Path to Inner Peace (Rank 1 Water) and Hands of the Tide (Rank 3 Water). With the rituals, by the rules, its Shikigami can use its invocations with its own rings values but it is not all.

Restricted action
As a support Action (instead of its action because the Shikigami and the Shugenja still have only 1 action), the ritualist may have the shikigami perform an action with their assistance

Assistance

During Step 3: Assemble and Roll Dice Pool, if a character making a check receives assistance from one or more others, the character making the check rolls one additional "Skill Dice" per assisting character who has 1 or more ranks of the skill in use, and one additional "Ring Dice" per assisting character who has 0 ranks in the skill in use. 

If you consider your Composition rank equal to your Theology rank, the ring used to cast an invocation by your Shikigami superior or equal to your character ones, the game mechanics make it easier for your Shikigami to cast it.

If we also consider the other benefits, the Shikigami has its own Composure value limiting the Strife tax on the ritualist and the "living invocation rules", this rank 2 rituals value seems really over the top.

Living invocation
Once per scene as an action, a shikigami may perform one invocation invested in it without making a check. It counts as having 2 bonus successes and 2 opportunities.

2- Another case isn't covered by the example. What is happening in the case, of the "fast learning" of some invocations?

It is possible to learn faster some invocations marked with "a diamond" in the school curriculum. 

For example, my infamous Shugenja with 1 in Water ring from the Yogo Preserver School can learn Path to Inner Peace (Water 1) at rank 1 and can learn Hands of the Tide (Rank 3 Water) at rank 2. If he gives them to its Shikigami, its Shikigami can cast Path to Inner Peace with a 3 Water Ring making him a decent Healer at the cost of only 6 XP (the price of the improvement from ring value 1 to 2).

In case of the Kitsune Impersonator Tradition, the situation is even worse because it can learn "False Realm of the Fox Spirits" a Rank 4 (Air) invocation at Rank 2.

Imbued with power:
The more powerful the invocations invested into a shikigami, the higher its associated ring values become. If a shikigami is invested with one or more invocations of a particular element,  it treats that ring value as equal to the highest among the school rank prerequisites of these invocations

My question is about the text in bold. Which Rank is considered an invocation learned faster through the special School curriculum?

Two options: 

1- The first option is to consider the Rank as the one noted on the skill because of the text in bold in the following text from the core rulebook p173.

If a character must possess any school ranks, clan affiliations, role or schools, ring values, skill ranks, other techniques, or other qualifiers in order to purchase a technique with experience, these are listed to the right of its name. Note that prerequisites are waived if a character is directly granted a technique during character creation (or at another time), or if the technique appears on a character’s curriculum by name or as part of a listed group.  Such techniques and groups are marked with a "diamond" to denote their special status. 

2 - The second one is to consider the School rank of the ritualist and not the rank of the invocation itself to answer the part "the school rank prerequisites of these invocations".

So in the case of the example, the "Hands of the Tide" invocations is considered a Rank 2 invocations because it has been learned at the rank 2.

To summarize, the Craft Shikigami ritual offers:

- Virtual free rings values => offer an insane flexibility to Shugenja character without a big investment. Shikigami can be a really good Spy, a good healer, a decent blaster and even a fighting character with the weapon invocation lines.

- Improved invocations for nearly no price => the assistance rules is the icing on the cake

-Absurd powerburst: Shikigamis can abuse the Living invocation rules for absurd results. For example, Auto +2 success// opportunities with Fury of Osano-wo is equivalent to keeping 9 Dices.

 

Is there anything I missed about the way to learn invocations or a better ruling of the school rank prerequisite of a "diamond" invocation?

An official rules would be obviously the best but any comment is welcomed 

Thank you in advance !

Edited by Isamu the Ronin
grammar

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yup, I didn't even read anything, but yes, it is too powerful. It needs some kind of limit/component or something.

anyway, this game doesn't care about that, just let your players be OP.

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5 hours ago, Isamu the Ronin said:

Which Rank is considered an invocation learned faster through the special School curriculum?

The way I read it, it’s the rank of the Invocation itself. A rank 3 tech is a rank 3 tech, even if you learnt it earlier thanks to your curriculum. 

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Rules as written you are correct, although there are a few considerations here. The "once per scene" limitation depends a lot on how long or short scenes are. A good example for this is the beginner box adventure, where an entire day worth of topaz championship competitions is essentially handled as one scene. It would probably be quite common for other GMs to rule that each single competition, or maybe even the sub-steps of each competition might constitute a separate scene, making scene-based abilities much better. The exact same problem exists in DnD 4th edition with "encounter" powers. 

For my game, I wouldnt consider it too drastic because my scenes tend to run long, similar to a set piece in an action movie - often the entire movie has about 2 or 3 of them in total, each running for 15-20 minutes of multiple action moments, fights or other dramatic events. 

Second is that Shikigami are extremely fragile. There are a non-trivial number of attacks able to target secondary targets near your primary, and assistance requires to be close. Just about any weapon will destroy a shikigami in a single hit, and there is nothing that says its rings affect its resistance or endurance at all. Its a 4 endurance minion with no defense! Given that it requires a downtime action and sanctified vessel to craft, both of which can be in short supply (and downtime actions are valuable. Acquiring the vessel alone is probably one, crafting a shikigami is another, not to mention you may have other things to do).

Last but not least, 6 XP investment for getting a single invocation at higher-than-suitable-at-current-rank levels is not a small investment - its the equivalent of 2 game sessions! 

As such, as a player I would be very worried that my expensive and carefully crafted shikigami, the result of all my downtime actions and some invested XP, is going to catch a stray arrow in the first fight of the day, and it might take multiple sessions to replace. All that for ONE , admittedly strong, cast of an invocation.

As a GM with a group of power-gaming inclined people, I am absolutely not worried about shikigami at all. Just like the infamous Max-Earth yoroi armor Hida that Avatar111 talked about, in actual play these things are not the problems. Its just theorycrafting.

 

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It is still a clunky, overpowered rule.

And it only cost 3xp. Not 6.

You basically get multiple actions per turn (tedious, long and boring for the other players).

Plus all the perks of having a familiar have.

It can cast an overcharged spell once per scene, or do whatever other action if the caster used a support action (that requires no check on the part of the caster)

I don't mind the concept of familiars, but the way they designed it is garbage, as per the usual quality of mechanical rule design in this edition.

There is NO reason whatsoever that a shugenja wouldnt take that technique, worst comes to worst you keep the ****** thing in your pocket and just use it to cast the spell or take it out when you need for other skill. It doesnt have to be vulnerable, but even IF it died, it requires a downtime and O ressource to rebuild.

Anyway, no point in saying anything more. It is bad, tedious, unbalanced design.

But as I've said many time, this game doesn't care about that.

So just let all your shugenja take it, the conflict scenes will take an eternity to play. And enjoy the game!

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Posted (edited)
2 hours ago, Kaiju said:

As a GM with a group of power-gaming inclined people, I am absolutely not worried about shikigami at all. Just like the infamous Max-Earth yoroi armor Hida that Avatar111 talked about, in actual play these things are not the problems. Its just theorycrafting.

 

First, it is obvious your group is not powergamer.

The problem in all of this is that the rules do not support fun gameplay, they always have to be tone down or interpreted or remembered among dozen of opportunity usage.

"A sanctified vessel" what is that? YOU decide it takes a downtime to find? Euh .. why ?

The max earth max armor IS a problem. Sure, YOU can decide to not put any physical fighters in your game against that PC and only put casters or other monsters with a way to bypass the armor. But that basically requires you to create a situation in which the armor is useless, and THAT is not fun for the player (or for the GM) if it needs to happen a lot.

Basically, this game will die out and be forgotten at the bottom left hand corner of the bookshelve at your gaming store sooner than later because it is a garbage design and the more they add to it the more they show they don't have the skill to handle it.

Oh and the adventure was trash. Compare it to something like "curse of stradh" or "tomb of horror" from d&d and you realise how much garbage is "mask of the oni". Super thin, no content, no depth, cheap story.

We can defend this game as much as we want, and yes, it probably have a place among some very specific group of gamers who want to roleplay the romanticized samurai style to various degree of relevance. But as a "game", as a "set of rules", if you dump the crazy good artstyle and the setting, it is, garbage.

They are not selling a game as much as they are selling art and production value.

And this my friend, is a bit sad.

 

Edited by Avatar111

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Look, I realize you draw a lot of satisfaction from your incessant whining, but other than you, I dont see anybody anywhere , including my own table and one I have friends in, having these problems and hating the game for it.

I dont know what you compare it to, we ve had this conversation elsewhere, but I am comparing it to other current RPG rulesets, and its pretty much in the middle of those. Some are mechanically more robust, some are less. Since you seem to be mostly entertained my whining about the same thing, for months now, in every possible thread, without actually ever offering much to the discussion but constant bashing of a product you do not enjoy, I am simply discarding your opinion at this point. You got the biggest chip on your shoulder of everyone here. Its not everyone ELSE being wrong by defending an indefensible product.

Or your GM is simply bad. Bad GMs create bad experiences. I am starting to suspect that might be the problem. For example, you still dont know how to handle Mr. High-Earth-Hida, and your answers have made it abundantly clear you dont really grasp how encounter design works, instead always going for the argumentative extreme. And if you care to recall, there are solutions to said Hida that have nothing to do with ignoring armor. Last but not least, you argue with a PvP perspective. Again, if your GM is big on PvP, he is probably not well suited for tabletop RPGs, and you d all be better off with the tighter rulesets of boardgames or tabletop strategy.

You want garbage rules? I present to you DnD 3.0, the entire WH40k line by FFG, Star Wars D20 and Iron Kingdoms. L5R problems PALE in comparison, as these systems produce overpowered insane combos by ACCIDENT, whereas in L5R you have to at least try.

But i am tiring of this. If you cant add anything to the discussion except "its OP, its trash, as is the entire game" for 50+ posts, it would be the wise thing to do and remain silent.

Btw, your answer shows you havent the grasp of the rules that you seem to think you have, AGAIN. Acquisition of items is a downtime action. Taking a shikigami out of your pocket is an action, meaning unless you are in water stance, thats the only thing you do, at which point everyone is free to shoot/burn/hit/spellcast on the shikigami for an entire round. Not to mention pocket-sized paper shikigami are quite limited in what they could do.

 

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Posted (edited)
1 hour ago, Kaiju said:

Btw, your answer shows you havent the grasp of the rules that you seem to think you have, AGAIN. Acquisition of items is a downtime action. Taking a shikigami out of your pocket is an action, meaning unless you are in water stance, thats the only thing you do, at which point everyone is free to shoot/burn/hit/spellcast on the shikigami for an entire round. Not to mention pocket-sized paper shikigami are quite limited in what they could do.

 

Oh, you want to go at it? :)

A "sanctified vessel" is not an item (doesnt have a rarity) it is basically what you want it to be. You can decide to make it a downtime check to find, another GM can allow a player to buy a book with 100pages, sanctify the book at a shrine, and get 100 origami uses. Again, you CAN nerf it and "control" it, if you want.

and no, it doesnt take an action to get out of your pocket, as it gets a free move every turn...

limited ? Can fly, communicate with you, listen, remember, see, carry small things.

and once per scene AUTO succeed at an invocation +2 bonus success and 2 opport. Thats probably a lot of kept dice. Otherwise it rolls the check with assistance.

You probably wont use a spell many more than once, or twice, per scene. And even if you use it more than once per scene, still have assistance on it.

the technique is bad design and way too strong. Now, you can argue that it doesn't matter that it is too strong or clumsy design. In the end, a good GM will make ANY game good. And if you "control" the players strictly and they are fine with it, it can work.

but, a game should be still good without the need for a good GM, otherwise it is, badly designed.

Aside from that, ❤️

obviously you don't see many people having issue with the game, because, not many people play it or even discuss it.

 

 

Edited by Avatar111

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I agree with @Kaiju on this, @Avatar111. You do not help this thread or any others that I have read. This is not for you. You should move on to a game you like more. Move on to a community that you like more. Move on to help yourself have a better life. We will all be happier for it. 

As far as this thread is going, I personally think that the shikigami are just powerful enough. Shugenja should be able to do amazing things. Invoking the kami should also be able to do amazing things. And this is finally something that is starting to show a bit more strength for a shugenja that has to be at rank 2 to get. I am excited to be able to use a shikigami. Rank 1 techniques are not very impressive until your character is stronger and can keep more dice. Typically keeping an average of 2 dice, and getting lucky with exploding successes means you are only pulling off the basic invocations. You have finally spent some XP to raise a ring or two, got some skills, got more techniques, and perhaps you can finally do something amazing by rank 2. You will still most likely only have rank 2 invocations at the beginning. It will also develop stronger as your character progresses. 

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Posted (edited)
2 hours ago, Jymbeautuesday said:

I agree with @Kaiju on this, @Avatar111. You do not help this thread or any others that I have read. This is not for you. You should move on to a game you like more. Move on to a community that you like more. Move on to help yourself have a better life. We will all be happier for it. 

As far as this thread is going, I personally think that the shikigami are just powerful enough. Shugenja should be able to do amazing things. Invoking the kami should also be able to do amazing things. And this is finally something that is starting to show a bit more strength for a shugenja that has to be at rank 2 to get. I am excited to be able to use a shikigami. Rank 1 techniques are not very impressive until your character is stronger and can keep more dice. Typically keeping an average of 2 dice, and getting lucky with exploding successes means you are only pulling off the basic invocations. You have finally spent some XP to raise a ring or two, got some skills, got more techniques, and perhaps you can finally do something amazing by rank 2. You will still most likely only have rank 2 invocations at the beginning. It will also develop stronger as your character progresses. 

I know how to play the game how it is intended, and I do, even if that can surprise you or others. We go 5-6 hours sessions sometimes without combat at all. I am a very solid GM, you would be surprised, if I compare myself to GMs I have heard in podcasts.

But my answers here are strictly about the mechanics of the game. Getting this technique at rank 2 is uber strong and no shugenja will go without it if able to take it. It is like a "must have", no matter if you roleplay a lot, or fight a lot, or do whatever else you actually do. It is that good compared to whatever else a shugenja can get at rank 2. Auto success on a tn3-4 invocation, with 2 bonus success and 2 opportunities, and allowing you to take another action with a check if in water stance on top of it. Plus all the flavor and utility the pet itself brings. In all honesty, even if the technique did not have its once per scene auto success ability it would still be VERY good.

I find it hard to contradict the original poster on that. I think a technique so good that it is a no brainer is actually disrupting to the flavor of the game, or shugenja, in general.

But then again, it is workable. Just a bit fishy to have something that good with no drawback or limitation. Why would a shugenja not take it?

This is my issue with it.

Edit: and I was one defending the legitimacy of Death Thouch (a rank4 kiho) with the Taoist Blade school. So I am not "nerfing" everything just for the sake of it.. far from that. I just have an opinion on things that are so good, that even at relatively lower rank can disrupt the balance of the game in too many situations. When something is so strong as to basically be a must have unless you decide not to, I have an opinion, and this opinion in that case is that this technique is way too good and every shugenja will turn into a pet caster. And I am of the feeling that having this type of pet should not be a default shugenja thing, but something that requires hefty investment to have all the advantages it provides.

Edit2: About the community, well, only a few people really impress me as logical and creative thinkers and I enjoy discussing with them. I mostly come out as "wrong" or "negative" to the same select bunch over and over again no matter what I say (even when I'm right).

The community needs its villain. Probably.

Edit3; go check it the thread about the togashi monk, when it goes into discussion about the taoist school. It is a perfect example of me getting dumpstered despite being 100% right.

At this point, it is like trying to say the earth isn't flat to some people who truly believe it.

Edited by Avatar111

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Posted (edited)

It goes in the same direction as allowing the Hiruma to use its school ability in duels. It totally breaks duel to first strike/blood at earlier rank by allowing to always pick earth stance after attacking (it even bypasses the predict action).

I mean, in a rule discussion sub forums, these are the type of talks we have (or that I enjoy having). But I won't break anybody's leg for allowing this in their games if they find it cool.

Use those shikigami as written if you so wishes, to the original poster I say; don't. Put some restriction on it, make "sanctified vessels" something hard to aquire, or nerf the ability. Because yes, I think it is way too powerful as written, and badly designed because it is too strong and versatile and takes out the uniqueness of having a "pet" if every shugenjas feel like the technique brings a lot to their character and thus will obviously take it (it also removes the "risk of failure" which is in itself something that I feel is interesting in a trpg.)

Nobody "needs" to agree though.

Edited by Avatar111

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You can also add; and the player never take strife from a shikigami casting invocations.

The cherry on top.

I find it extremely difficult to put that technique even remotely close in power level to anything else. This is better than a lot of school abilities simply "as is".

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Posted (edited)

Two things:

1) to the question posed in the original post,

On 4/26/2019 at 2:35 PM, Isamu the Ronin said:

Which Rank is considered an invocation learned faster through the special School curriculum?

 

I concur with the above assessment that the Rank of the Invocation is discreet from the Rank at which it is learned.  The basis of this viewpoint is that having special access to a technique by virtue of a curriculum (the diamond icon) bypasses the requirement - it doesn't modify it, as per the below that was posted as well.

On 4/26/2019 at 2:35 PM, Isamu the Ronin said:

Note that prerequisites are waived if a character is directly granted a technique during character creation (or at another time), or if the technique appears on a character’s curriculum by name or as part of a listed group.  Such techniques and groups are marked with a "diamond" to denote their special status. 

So a technique with a requirement of Rank 3, doesn't become a requirement of Rank 2 just because it appeared in your curriculum at Rank 2.  Rather, the requirement is still Rank 3, but that requirement is waived due to that curriculum's specifics.

 

2) All other aspects aside, mechanics that create absolute results (always, never, etc) tend to be the most prone to creating issues in systems.  An invocation that has its power balanced by being extremely hard to achieve, will automatically create an issue when combined with a technique that allows for automatic success.  It is in the same vein as Earth Stance - automatically preventing crits and conditions from opp. creates issues with the rest of the related systems.  Air stance, in contrast, is an example of an incremented approach that works with the systems.  It makes it harder to do a thing, but not the absolute of "never", and scales to remain relevant as power levels increase.

For this portion of the Shikigami technique, I would suggest house-ruling / modifying that reading to be more akin to the Kiho burst effects - you must achieve success first, but once you do, once per scene you can add 2 bonus successes and 2 Opp.

Edited by Worloch
Grammar

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2 hours ago, Worloch said:

Two things:

1) to the question posed in the original post,

 

I concur with the above assessment that the Rank of the Invocation is discreet from the Rank at which it is learned.  The basis of this viewpoint is that having special access to a technique by virtue of a curriculum (the diamond icon) bypasses the requirement - it doesn't modify it, as per the below that was posted as well.

So a technique with a requirement of Rank 3, doesn't become a requirement of Rank 2 just because it appeared in your curriculum at Rank 2.  Rather, the requirement is still Rank 3, but that requirement is waived due to that curriculum's specifics.

 

2) All other aspects aside, mechanics that create absolute results (always, never, etc) tend to be the most prone to creating issues in systems.  An invocation that has its power balanced by being extremely hard to achieve, will automatically create an issue when combined with a technique that allows for automatic success.  It is in the same vein as Earth Stance - automatically preventing crits and conditions from opp. creates issues with the rest of the related systems.  Air stance, in contrast, is an example of an incremented approach that works with the systems.  It makes it harder to do a thing, but not the absolute of "never", and scales to remain relevant as power levels increase.

For this portion of the Shikigami technique, I would suggest house-ruling / modifying that reading to be more akin to the Kiho burst effects - you must achieve success first, but once you do, once per scene you can add 2 bonus successes and 2 Opp.

voice of reason.

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10 hours ago, Worloch said:

2) All other aspects aside, mechanics that create absolute results (always, never, etc) tend to be the most prone to creating issues in systems.  An invocation that has its power balanced by being extremely hard to achieve, will automatically create an issue when combined with a technique that allows for automatic success.  It is in the same vein as Earth Stance - automatically preventing crits and conditions from opp. creates issues with the rest of the related systems.  Air stance, in contrast, is an example of an incremented approach that works with the systems.  It makes it harder to do a thing, but not the absolute of "never", and scales to remain relevant as power levels increase.

agreed. One of the most sensible house-rule ideas @Avatar111 has mentioned (in my view) is making Earth Stance increase the 1211841275_OpportunitySmall.png.acf41343 cost of effects (in exactly  the same way Air Stance increases the TN and hence the 792424631_SuccessSmall.png.f580b7641c8c8/1521230551_ExplosiveSuccessSmall.png.2cc cost of success) rather than flat-out prohibiting them.

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Posted (edited)
19 minutes ago, AK_Aramis said:

There's no such thing as a technique you can never use...

Open ending allows (at really long odds) even a ring 1 to trigger a TN 6...

unlikely, but doable.

...

he/she was talking about effects that are binary. meaning "on or off". Saying that these designs that create absolute results (auto-successes or impossiblities) are not good for ttrpg systems and that he/she prefer incremental as they always allow for the chance of failure or success no matter how small the probabilities are.

edit: as in the case of earth stance (should be like air stance, +1opp to trigger a condition or critical strike instead of "impossible to") and shikigami (should be +2 bonus success and +2 opportunities if you succeed on the check, instead of auto-success)

 

Edited by Avatar111

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Posted (edited)
10 hours ago, Avatar111 said:

edit: as in the case of earth stance (should be like air stance, +1opp to trigger a condition or critical strike instead of "impossible to") and shikigami (should be +2 bonus success and +2 opportunities if you succeed on the check, instead of auto-success)

That's what I meant.

Taking a specific example, the 'best' NPC samurai bushi character I can think of off-hand is Moto Rurame - a rank 7 military adversary with Fire 4 and Martial Skills 5. 

Since Minions still benefit from stance effects, even when using his void point to Sieze the Moment and using his Steppe Warrior distinction for rerolls for a nominal 12 dice rolled and 5 kept, it is still impossible under any circumstances for Rurame to inflict a critical strike on a threat 1 Nezumi Pup in a single strike action. 

This discussion (if not the specific concept for earth stance) came up in the beta a few times - whilst you can argue how hard it should be to do it, it should be possible in theory to deliver enough chained 1521230551_ExplosiveSuccessSmall.png.2cc to reach any TN, and to have them roll over into one 1211841275_OpportunitySmall.png.acf41343 for every initial kept dice.  

 

I know in practice, you'd just go "Fatigue > Endurance = Defeated" - this is deliberately a ridiculous situation - but it is more important when dealing with PCs and near-peer adversaries in duel-to-first-strike or intrigues where 1211841275_OpportunitySmall.png.acf41343 shuji can (or should!) throw out a lot of deeply unpleasant conditions. 

Edited by Magnus Grendel

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Indeed, that is what i meant.  Extreme results lie at either end of the spectrum, but are balanced overall by the associated probabilities.  Yes,  1r0s can potentially hit TN6, but likewise 5r5s can fail to hit TN1.  An Isawa Elementalist at Rank 5 could reduce the TN6 for any of the Rise, [Elemental] invocations to TN1 once per scene, and have 5r5s for the roll and still fail, or succeed but with no opp or some such.  The Shikigami by RAW can auto-succeed once per scene, with 2 bonus success and 2 opp.  As pointed out above that's the equivalent of keeping at least 8 dice with successes (assuming some of those kept dice would be success+opp).

 

While I do believe the intention is there in this system, and specifically with this technique, to use the vague outline of requirements (such as access to "sanctified vessel", or potentially having to stake Glory/Honor for actions)  as a GM narrative tool to shape the game at their table, I also believe this technique needs more than that.

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