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alotapotato

Disappointed in the system after reading Genesys core rule book

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I recently got a copy of the Genesys rule book and finished reading the main parts last week. What struck me as interesting is how similar both systems are but L5R seems to add a lot of convoluted cruft on top of it:

  • The same concepts with different names: cool == focus, strain ~= strife, advantage ~= opportunity, void points ~= story points etc.
  • Too many use cases for each ring: You have ~20 skills now multiply that by 5 (rings) and you've got a whopping 100 different skills that you need to remember. Genesys' base attribute mechanic is much easier to remember.
  • The L5R rule book is splattered with exceptions in various places and looking up stuff is a pain (for instance try to find all ways to remove strife/fatigue in the rule book) and the GM screen isn't really useful since there is too much to cover. Genesys is well organized and mentions all important parts in the relevant section duplicating the relevant information (which is good!)
  • Lots of different uses for opportunity based on the used ring vs a single use of advantage and triumph in Genesys makes it very hard to teach it to players and remember
  • 4 types of conflicts vs just 1, all having very different actions, initiative checks (why?!) and structure (e.g. no order in intrigues)
  • Range bands are easier in Genesys
  • Critical strikes are easier to manage in Genesys
  • Lots of TN1 checks whereas roll dice and count the successes would have been easier (e.g. Initiative)

All in all pretty excited by how elegant and stream lined Genesys is. And it's pretty frustrating since both systems are very similar and yet still incompatible and were released around the same time. Kinda makes me hope for an official Genesys conversion.

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3 hours ago, alotapotato said:

I recently got a copy of the Genesys rule book and finished reading the main parts last week. What struck me as interesting is how similar both systems are but L5R seems to add a lot of convoluted cruft on top of it:

  • The same concepts with different names: cool == focus, strain ~= strife, advantage ~= opportunity, void points ~= story points etc.
  • Too many use cases for each ring: You have ~20 skills now multiply that by 5 (rings) and you've got a whopping 100 different skills that you need to remember. Genesys' base attribute mechanic is much easier to remember.
  • The L5R rule book is splattered with exceptions in various places and looking up stuff is a pain (for instance try to find all ways to remove strife/fatigue in the rule book) and the GM screen isn't really useful since there is too much to cover. Genesys is well organized and mentions all important parts in the relevant section duplicating the relevant information (which is good!)
  • Lots of different uses for opportunity based on the used ring vs a single use of advantage and triumph in Genesys makes it very hard to teach it to players and remember
  • 4 types of conflicts vs just 1, all having very different actions, initiative checks (why?!) and structure (e.g. no order in intrigues)
  • Range bands are easier in Genesys
  • Critical strikes are easier to manage in Genesys
  • Lots of TN1 checks whereas roll dice and count the successes would have been easier (e.g. Initiative)

All in all pretty excited by how elegant and stream lined Genesys is. And it's pretty frustrating since both systems are very similar and yet still incompatible and were released around the same time. Kinda makes me hope for an official Genesys conversion.

L5R does a few things better (advantages/disadvantages, stances, ring&skill approaches).

But I agree, L5R should have been a, moderately tweaked Genesys game from the get go. But what we have is what we have, the core idea is actually good, the setting and lore is awesome, it is pretty much only the mechanical crunch of the Conflict chapter which is to put it gently; very bad.

Edited by Avatar111

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28 minutes ago, Avatar111 said:

advantages/disadvantages

Genesys uses Strengths, Flaws, Desires and Fears for that right? Mechanically this adds 1 or 2 boost/setback dice depending on social check's arguments which is very simple. All that L5R changes is the naming (Fear == Anxiety, Passion == Desire, etc) and instead of adding dice you can re-roll dice and inflict/recover strife.

Genesys covers this in roughly 4 pages, L5R dedicates roughly 40! pages to it with no real mechanical difference. When building a character or NPC this requires me to go through all 40 pages to look up stuff that could have been described in way less. It's not like these are all feats with very different mechanics, it's mostly just permutations of skills.

I'm sure that there are people that like more content but this just makes my life as a DM harder when I run the game and introduce new players to it. Other than that I agree with lore and setting being great.

Edited by alotapotato

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We played Genesys before L5R, and I like the latter better.

- The rings are less class-predicted than characteristics (druids take willpower, mage int, fighters brawn etc), offering way more variance.

- The rings can be used with any skill, making skills less class-predicted, too. A bushi with high Earth is good at remembering things. A fighter with high brawn is dumb as a brick. That, too, makes characters more individual. You do not get the generic bushi or shinobi the way you get the generic fighter or rogue.

- The Strife mechanics have interesting tactical implications, making combat more varied. Youcan thus fight conservatively or go all in. I like that.

- The characteristcs/skill mechanics made having one very high more effective than how it is done with rings/skills.

Also, of course, L5R is way more complex, since Genesys is a generic system for all settings. The magic system in Genesys is quite unbalanced (e.g. summoning multiple Babe Spiders is more powerful as the whole rest of the party), because it is a few pages tucked into the optional rules chapter. Compared to that, invocations is of course way more thought-through.

But bottom-line: Use what you like best. Tastes vary a lot. Avatar will tell you the L5R 5th is the worst that has ever happened to humanity, I will say that it is my favorite system of all.

Your mileage may vary.

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4 hours ago, Harzerkatze said:

We played Genesys before L5R, and I like the latter better.

- The rings are less class-predicted than characteristics (druids take willpower, mage int, fighters brawn etc), offering way more variance.

- The rings can be used with any skill, making skills less class-predicted, too. A bushi with high Earth is good at remembering things. A fighter with high brawn is dumb as a brick. That, too, makes characters more individual. You do not get the generic bushi or shinobi the way you get the generic fighter or rogue.

- The Strife mechanics have interesting tactical implications, making combat more varied. Youcan thus fight conservatively or go all in. I like that.

- The characteristcs/skill mechanics made having one very high more effective than how it is done with rings/skills.

Also, of course, L5R is way more complex, since Genesys is a generic system for all settings. The magic system in Genesys is quite unbalanced (e.g. summoning multiple Babe Spiders is more powerful as the whole rest of the party), because it is a few pages tucked into the optional rules chapter. Compared to that, invocations is of course way more thought-through.

But bottom-line: Use what you like best. Tastes vary a lot. Avatar will tell you the L5R 5th is the worst that has ever happened to humanity, I will say that it is my favorite system of all.

Your mileage may vary.

I never said l5r is the worst. I always said the core system is amazing.

I always said I am only, pretty much, extremely disappointed by the Conflict chapter, which I think is garbage design. Fix that whole chapter (clearer, more polish, less clunky) and you have a pretty good game! "Tiltles" are the only other thing that I find a bit hit and miss, and I would prefer more streamlined, simple, and balanced opportunity tables.

Saying that I think "the game is the worst" is not fair.

And IF you think the conflict chapter is well done, then we can agree to disagree for I think most issues for most players are found in those few clunky pages (critical hits, wound stacking, conditions, range system, unclear or bad rules for mass battles, duels and intrigues especially). I rarely heard complaints about other parts of the game (bloated opportunity tables being the other single problem for a lot of people).

Edited by Avatar111

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Do I think Genesys is "overall" a better system? Yes.

Doesn't mean I do not think L5R do some stuff better (Ring, approaches, stances. Among others).

I would have like a mix between both systems, to be fair. But without that being a thing, I'd rather stick to l5r to play, well, l5r.

Edited by Avatar111

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My mistake, I may have misinterpreted "It is messy (read; weak af), unless you disregard most rules, just eyeball everything, and play a more RP drama type of game."

Or perhaps it was "The rules are good if you like to unmask while kissing a girl you should not. Do not look further!"

Edited by Harzerkatze

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As someone who ran years of SWRPG (all game lines) and played around a bit with Genesys, I generally agree with Harzerkatze here. Genesys is basically a self-"serial numbers filed off" of the Star Wars RPG, it is written to be incredibly generic with very broad rules which are fine tuned by subsystems and themes and unique rules which appear only in a specific genre, setting and tone you pick. 

L5R on the other hand, is not generic in setting, genre or theme. Prior to the FFG purchase and reboot, it was a franchise with like 20 years of history and continuity, and now the L5R RPG is laser-focused on samurai drama style historical fiction, the philosophy of the five rings, and the setting of Rokugan. Genesys leans more narrative and pulp heavy (though they've got some notes about horror which should be expanded soon), but L5R has a history and a specific style it's working toward. Strife not Strain - this isn't about how taking that extra maneuver made your wrists tired, it's about your inner emotional turmoil you can't reveal in public. You're not "cool" when acting fast, you're "focused". And again, from SWRPG experience, Genesys will eventually grow to have it's own labyrinth of opp/triumph tables in time based on settings, FFG has to publish more first, but in L5R it helps emphasize the philosophical difference in the rings. They're also on a different dice system, using it's own variant of Roll and Keep because that's kind of the L5R thing. In a sense, L5R isn't supposed to be "streamlined", it is adapted to the specifics of it's setting and tone, Genesys is not, because it has no setting and tone by default, instead you adapt and bolt on new rules based on what you're running. 

I think you're also giving Genesys a bit too much credit, it also has different types of conflicts with different actions basically, like vehicles or digital intrusion. But most of those are optional - in L5R they are not because this is Rokugan, we know there can be duels, intrigues, mass combat, etc. It too can be a complex system with a lot of moving parts, you just have to put the parts in.

That said, I do think how L5R handled Range Bands is wrong, though I guess it makes for tighter tables. In a martial arts movie influenced setting which will probably never have "Strategic" range, the granularity between fist, sword and spear is actually important, but they should have kept the more narrative descriptions, and never bothered with the grid adaptation. The numbers make people think about it too much with Math, it's not about math, it's about theatre of the mind. Ran a single campaign of SWRPG for like two years, never had any problem looking at the description of the scene (no tacmap) and mind's eyeballing where somebody was. 

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The grid vs. narrative distance options both have their advantages and disadvantages, I like that they included both. We usually use narrative distance, but for a big battle, I used the grid. With a few minions and area attacks, actually seeing where everybody is feels fairer than having the GM say an arbitrary number of affected targets.

But yes, it has its limitations.

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5 hours ago, Harzerkatze said:

The grid vs. narrative distance options both have their advantages and disadvantages, I like that they included both. We usually use narrative distance, but for a big battle, I used the grid. With a few minions and area attacks, actually seeing where everybody is feels fairer than having the GM say an arbitrary number of affected targets.

But yes, it has its limitations.

Definitely agree, tactical combat has a time and place but can distract from the narrative focus (and tempo) of the game. In roll20 I sometimes use maps with "relative distance" so we all have a whiteboard to help keep track of complex combat. It's a good middle ground, while also tracking initiative and stances.

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8 hours ago, Harzerkatze said:

The grid vs. narrative distance options both have their advantages and disadvantages, I like that they included both. We usually use narrative distance, but for a big battle, I used the grid. With a few minions and area attacks, actually seeing where everybody is feels fairer than having the GM say an arbitrary number of affected targets.

But yes, it has its limitations.

See, now you've hit the thing about the system that bugs *me*: range bands. Range bands might just be the worst piece of game design I've ever seen, because they're not actually usable, except in a hand-wavy, eye-ball way. Which, at that point, there's no real need for a rule.

The range bands system glaringly incompetent compared to other narrative distance mechanics, like Zones from Fate (I house-ruled range bands to be more like zones). It takes a lot of text on the page, but A) the house rule generates consistent information, that B) still uses the range band values invoked by the rules. 

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1 hour ago, sidescroller said:

Zones from Fate (I house-ruled range bands to be more like zones). It takes a lot of text on the page, but A) the house rule generates consistent information, that B) still uses the range band values invoked by the rules. 

Would you mind elaborating a bit more? Or sharing a link with a description? I see range bands as invisible circles around characters, which is usually fine, but I'm not asking for tactical/grid combat from my L5R.

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On 10/15/2019 at 8:46 AM, T_Kageyasu said:

Would you mind elaborating a bit more? Or sharing a link with a description? I see range bands as invisible circles around characters, which is usually fine, but I'm not asking for tactical/grid combat from my L5R.

It's about making 'large' abstract zones, so instead of measuring where people are in the acuall physical space, it is more about where they are for certain effects, we dont track that your behind tree number 5, but that you are in the zones with the 'tag' trees/dense forrest.

A small blog on Fate and Zones

zonemap.png
 

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3 hours ago, Tenebrae said:

So... similar to how (as far as I understand) locations are supposed to work in Mass Combat?

Must be weird with how techniques and weapons work.

I prefer to almost fully abstract the environment and do fights JRPG mode. For me, it is about simplifying the game and trimming the bloating.

Terrains will take care of giving penalties for the environment. Otherwise, environment is only used narratively in my game.

I watched a session of a one shot rpg called "Shinobigami" and it gave me ideas about how to run L5R. L5R cannot do tactical gameplay very well, imo.

Edited by Avatar111

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7 hours ago, Avatar111 said:

L5R cannot do tactical gameplay very well

It's funny, if there was anywhere tactical could conceivably work in L5R it would be in duels, but the rules make them effectively rangeless. ~(",)~

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31 minutes ago, T_Kageyasu said:

It's funny, if there was anywhere tactical could conceivably work in L5R it would be in duels, but the rules make them effectively rangeless. ~(",)~

I still use range bands (not in duel) but very loosely, using theatre of the mind and terrains for general bonuses/penalties instead of strict tactical movement which becomes a bit tedious.

I am ok with more tactical gameplay for games that are meant to handle it (like d&d as an easy example). But l5r, all spells and techniques do not even have directions, so it can become weird to have grid or tactical positioning.

Edited by Avatar111

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On 10/19/2019 at 11:12 AM, Tenebrae said:

So... similar to how (as far as I understand) locations are supposed to work in Mass Combat?

Yes, though the aspect of fate are more nebulous than the qualities of the L5R zones.

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Some observations having just wrapped up a short L5R campaign, and currently running a SWRPG campaign and having read the Genesys rules:

  • I find the dice results MUCH easier to resolve in L5R than in SWRPG. The various outcomes from a single die roll in SWRPG do seem cool, but in effect I find myself frequently struggling on how to make a specific result _interesting_. This may be a case of 'just ask for less rolls', but I don't think it is just that. I do like the mechanism for difficulty dice rather than a target number - but it does take some time to figure out which dice all end up cancelling eachother.
  • The skill rolls in L5R actually seem pretty straight forward. I like the brief discussion 'sounds like you're being tricksy here - air?' and think that adds a dimension. We hardly ever fall back to the skill descriptions to parse it out in detail, so it doesn't _feel_ like it grew 20 skills to 100 skills. I was initially worried players would just game the system and try to always describe an action as 'their strongest ring die' but in actual practice found this a rare occurrence.
  • The duelling system is clunky and it seems almost impossible to kill someone. Even allowing the use of 2 opportunity to crit with an iajitsu kata duels still took far too long and felt like a slogging match - reducing the other players to spectators. We may have played it wrong, but I expected it to be 'game over' when the first participant got compromised - instead they took a severe wound and the fight continued. I don't want to resolve duels with a single die roll, but this is too far in the opposite direction.
  • Range bands... They are fine for a theatre of the mind approach or with a 'loose' map based approach. I didn't really see a problem there - in either L5R or SWRPG.
  • SWRPG drives me nuts with how rules are spread out between the main book and splat books. Less of an issue in L5R.
  • Roll & keep mechanism in L5R: I like it, and it is a clear nod to the past editions of the game.
  • Genesys: I found the rulebook very bland and uninspiring. Perhaps to be expected for a generic system, but there is nothing there that has me excited to use it for any campaign I am currently considering.
  • None of these systems strike me as particularly elegant solutions, which I originally had high hopes for them to be. Maybe they just haven't started to sing for me yet, but...

I'm not entirely sure I'd run L5R with the rules as written again. I may even look at Blood and Honor as an alternative.

Star Wars/Genesys... I probably will not run that system again unless I suffer a real change of heart over the coming sessions.

 

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35 minutes ago, Derk_g said:
  • The skill rolls in L5R actually seem pretty straight forward. I like the brief discussion 'sounds like you're being tricksy here - air?' and think that adds a dimension. We hardly ever fall back to the skill descriptions to parse it out in detail, so it doesn't _feel_ like it grew 20 skills to 100 skills. I was initially worried players would just game the system and try to always describe an action as 'their strongest ring die' but in actual practice found this a rare occurrence.

This was pretty much what sold me on the system.

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2 hours ago, Derk_g said:
  • The duelling system is clunky and it seems almost impossible to kill someone. Even allowing the use of 2 opportunity to crit with an iajitsu kata duels still took far too long and felt like a slogging match - reducing the other players to spectators. We may have played it wrong, but I expected it to be 'game over' when the first participant got compromised - instead they took a severe wound and the fight continued. I don't want to resolve duels with a single die roll, but this is too far in the opposite direction.

You definitely missed the "finishing blow" rule. Because im my experience players avoid duels like plague because the chances of wrecking your character is too high. When one bad roll means your character lose an arm, you usually just avoid it unless it is one of those moments. So, if anything, duels need to be less deadly.

Overall though, duels are definitely clunky. But to be fair, I personally find all conflicts quite clunky in this game. It is very swingy and plays a bit like a card game; do you have the right counter to what is happening? Because if you don't you cannot do nothing. Some weapons are useless for critical hits and just that makes them so much more boring. Actually, critical strikes as a whole could use some tweaking.

The narrative checks, the ring/approach system, are really interesting. So is the strife mechanic.

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44 minutes ago, Avatar111 said:

You definitely missed the "finishing blow" rule. Because im my experience players avoid duels like plague because the chances of wrecking your character is too high. When one bad roll means your character lose an arm, you usually just avoid it unless it is one of those moments. So, if anything, duels need to be less deadly.

Overall though, duels are definitely clunky. But to be fair, I personally find all conflicts quite clunky in this game. It is very swingy and plays a bit like a card game; do you have the right counter to what is happening? Because if you don't you cannot do nothing. Some weapons are useless for critical hits and just that makes them so much more boring. Actually, critical strikes as a whole could use some tweaking.

The narrative checks, the ring/approach system, are really interesting. So is the strife mechanic.

I definitely did not miss the finishing blow rule. But to my surprise the 'finishing blows' turned out to be not very finishing. Wounding - yes. Finishing? Not at all. And that was with a katana. So the finishing blow inflicted grievous injuries on the opponent, but by merely switching to another ring they could happily keep fighting. And inflicted horrible wounds on the player we all expected would already have won by then...  'Ahaha! I will bite you to death!' ??? Note that this was in a duel with no armour. I hesitate to think how bad that would get if armour is worn.

It really rained on the parade of the player who really aced the game to get the opponent to enter the battle with as much strife as possible, did not reward the good RP. Not what I'd like to see as a GM.

Edited by Derk_g

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3 minutes ago, Derk_g said:

I definitely did not miss the finishing blow rule. But to my surprise the 'finishing blows' turned out to be not very finishing. Wounding - yes. Finishing? Not at all.

My gaming group ran into the same issue, but only at higher levels when critical soaking gets big. Finishing Blows are pretty "finishing" at Rank 1 tho. 

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