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A Lordless Life - Path of Waves Preview

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So, I had a chance to go through Paths of Waves.

Overall a very fine book, I would say. Sure there is some filler in there: There are complete descriptions of a village and a small town with maps and most important NPCs with stats and all, and I do not really see what they are good for, as they are run-of-the-mill Rokugan places without any relevance. But the book is big enough that there is a lot of more relevant stuff in there, so I'll excuse that.

- The rules and options for Ronin and Gaijin are enough to allow a campaign for them. There is not enough detailed background information to run a campaign in the Ivory Kingdoms or the Qamarist Caliphate, and I would have liked more information on the latter, but it is enough to run a character from there in Rokugan, which is what the book is about.

- There are 29 new kata plus 16 Shuji (plus rituals primarily for Qamarists). The kata are well done insofar as they give a lot of options, but none screamed to me "TAKE THIS NOW". So most are not overly powerful, which is a danger with new material. There are kata for Judo Throws and the Partial Maneuver for mounted archery (riding or running away and still shooting the bow), and while the latter is powerful, that makes sense, as it was a cornerstone of the Mongols conquering the world. Sure, 4 PCs with this kata and daikyu can easily shoot down an Oni while riding out of his reach. But will your group really have that setup? So I was quite OK with the kata. I also appreaciate that there are no new invocations, as there are plenty of those already, and shugenja do not need further boni right now.

- There is a complex mechanism for summoning heavenly artefacts, which is a magical tradition from the Ivory Kingdoms. The artefacts are VERY powerful, but difficult to get, so it seems balanced to me, the GM having the last word. The only omission I could see was that they seem to have forgotten to include the TNs to summon the artifacts.

- The new schools look fine to me. Of course some are better than others. The Ivory KIngdom Dancing Blades gets an Artefact at Rank 2, which sounds too early to me. But the GM can say which, so that should be manageable.

- There is a list of improvised weapons now. Since fighting with improvised weapons uses Martial Arms (Unarmed), they are especially interesting to monks, and finally having a list is thus welcome.

- There are new adversaries: NPC, animals and 13 new monsters. Those were lacking in Courts of Stoneand Emerald Empire, so I appreciate it.

 

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59 minutes ago, Harzerkatze said:

There are 29 new kata plus 16 Shuji (plus rituals primarily for Qamarists). The kata are well done insofar as they give a lot of options, but none screamed to me "TAKE THIS NOW". So most are not overly powerful, which is a danger with new material.

Thank you for this great review. 29 kata is really significant, good to know they don't seem OP. Could you give more details about those Who relate to iaijutsu? Wondering if they're complementary with the existing ones or if they make them useless now. Are they also rank 2 kata?

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2 hours ago, Doji Makiko said:

Thank you for this great review. 29 kata is really significant, good to know they don't seem OP. Could you give more details about those Who relate to iaijutsu? Wondering if they're complementary with the existing ones or if they make them useless now. Are they also rank 2 kata?

I do not want to go into details too much. There are 2 Iaijutzu kata, one Rang 2 and one 4. The Rank 2 one seems stylish and effectively draws 2 weapons (and may Daze), so it has its own niche. The level 4 seems not that useful, or I do not understand its purpose.

There is a non-Iaijutzu kata, though, that uses an off-hand weapon to increase CRit deadliness. That's is surely useful against those pesky Hida Defenders...

Edited by Harzerkatze

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1 hour ago, Horvagab said:

So what kind of gaijin optiosn are there? Quamarits, Ujik and Ivory Kingdoms? As a big fan of gaijin, I'm quite curious about the schools and regions.

First there are options to determine the equivalent of Clan and Family for those not of the Great Clans. And then there are schools: Wandering Blade (Ronin), Student of the Talon (archer), Treasure Hunter, School of Leaves (low-class shinobi), Voice of the Wild (self-taught shugenja), Artisan of the Roads, Mystic of the Mountain (monk), Ujik Diviner, Qamarist Shield Bearer, Qamarist Alchemist, Ivory KIngdom Sage, Ivory KIngdom Dancing Blade.

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8 minutes ago, Magnus Grendel said:

What does it do?

I am not comfortable with writing all the details, since that is proprietary information.

But in general: It seems to do the same as Crossing Blade, only it has a worse TN, does less damage, is also Scheme for some reason and makes you Disoriented.

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pfft. You can be uncomfortable if you like, but it's silly. The book is out, we are the forums for the book, it's not a trade secret. If the PDF existed I could paste straight from there. 

Reverse draw uses a razor-edged weapon at Range 1, TN is Vigilance (which is 1 if they are Compromised). You draw the weapon and become disoriented for using it, but if you succeed the check you do physical damage equal to deadliness + bonus successes, and can pay two Opportunity if the target is incapacitated by this they take a crit equal to deadliness plus bonus successes. It seems like it combines both Rising and Crossing, your damage scales, your attack is easier if they're compromised, etc. Seems like the thing you do if you're a real billy badass duelist trying to show people how cool you are, and if you aren't cool, you'll look like a doofus. 

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12 hours ago, UnitOmega said:

Seems like the thing you do if you're a real billy badass duelist trying to show people how cool you are, and if you aren't cool, you'll look like a doofus. 

Heartpiercing strike is much the same - if you screw up, you're going to do far worse than just missing with a generic strike.

15 hours ago, Harzerkatze said:

I am not comfortable with writing all the details, since that is proprietary information.

Honestly wasn't asking for full details.

The key thing - given what @UnitOmega says - is that you can inflict a critical strike with it - which other Iaijutsu techniques can't.

The big restriction is that you can do so but only if you can incapacitate your opponent with the strike.

Which means it's not great for battlefield fights (where your opponent is probably in armour) but against a low-endurance courtier or duellist in flimsy formal robes it's not impossible, and lets you deliver the iconic 'one cut' that people obsess over being able to do (or not) in samurai-setting duels.

 

By comparison, crossing cut is best for a skirmish or duel-to-incapacitation because it massively amps up the damage a sword inflicts, and lets you throw out an opening strike at spear range.

Rising blade is best as a finishing blow technique in a duel to the death - if you get a finishing blow the opponent must be compromised therefore   it's TN1 (unlike the TN2 of crossing cut), and it has no downside (unlike reverse draw) if you miss.

 

 

There might be some interactions with it being a scheme action as well as an attack action - this will mostly be an advantage for particular schools, such as the Bayushi Manipulator's Weakness is my Strength, which works on Scheme actions specifically, and maybe unlocking some Shuji which specify 'scheme actions' rather than checks with specific skills (can't think of any off the top of my head but no doubt someone will dig up an example).

Edited by Magnus Grendel

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5 hours ago, Magnus Grendel said:

Heartpiercing strike is much the same - if you screw up, you're going to do far worse than just missing with a generic strike.

Honestly wasn't asking for full details.

The key thing - given what @UnitOmega says - is that you can inflict a critical strike with it - which other Iaijutsu techniques can't.

The big restriction is that you can do so but only if you can incapacitate your opponent with the strike.

Which means it's not great for battlefield fights (where your opponent is probably in armour) but against a low-endurance courtier or duellist in flimsy formal robes it's not impossible, and lets you deliver the iconic 'one cut' that people obsess over being able to do (or not) in samurai-setting duels.

 

By comparison, crossing cut is best for a skirmish or duel-to-incapacitation because it massively amps up the damage a sword inflicts, and lets you throw out an opening strike at spear range.

Rising blade is best as a finishing blow technique in a duel to the death - if you get a finishing blow the opponent must be compromised therefore   it's TN1 (unlike the TN2 of crossing cut), and it has no downside (unlike reverse draw) if you miss.

 

 

There might be some interactions with it being a scheme action as well as an attack action - this will mostly be an advantage for particular schools, such as the Bayushi Manipulator's Weakness is my Strength, which works on Scheme actions specifically, and maybe unlocking some Shuji which specify 'scheme actions' rather than checks with specific skills (can't think of any off the top of my head but no doubt someone will dig up an example).

How is rising blade a finish blow technique? The strategy is to get hit all the time and hope the opponent compromise first? Or maybe draw a secondary weapon in a duel to the death like a wakisashi to perform the finish blow?

Rising blade is awful. It just is.

The new Iaijutsu cut is actually interesting and a welcome addition.

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8 minutes ago, Avatar111 said:

How is rising blade a finish blow technique?

TN1 versus TN2 when attacking a compromised opponent. That's basically its only real advantage, but a TN1 reduction isn't trivial, especially for a 'pass to win the scene' check.

9 minutes ago, Avatar111 said:

The strategy is to get hit all the time and hope the opponent compromise first?

I'm assuming you wouldn't be going down this approach if you didn't have a way in mind to make sure the opponent gets compromised before you do (them starting the scene on half strife, you using shuji or known anxieties to play on, fire opportunities, etc).

But, yeah - you can either draw one sword and flail at them or not, but if you plan on winning by finishing blow, the preceding rounds are kind of irrelevant from your perspective as long as you're confident the odds are low of you getting wounded or incapacitated before you get a finishing blow.

Plus, in a formal duel, you have the advantage that you're not using multiple 'wasteful' strikes - though to be honest the duel scoring is a bit shonky (most things about duels are a bit shonky, as you've noted!) so if you win a serious duel you should probably win by a big enough margin for the extra glory bonus anyway.

8 minutes ago, Avatar111 said:

Or maybe draw a secondary weapon in a duel to the death like a wakisashi to perform the finish blow?

The option is always there, since even with a weapon in one hand you can use your wakizashi to draw and strike an iai finishing blow (and potentially even trigger the Ambidextrous distinction if you have it). If you have a daisho, even if you've already drawn your Katana, you can use a one-handed iai technique with your wakizashi rather than using a generic 'strike' with your katana.

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34 minutes ago, Magnus Grendel said:

TN1 versus TN2 when attacking a compromised opponent. That's basically its only real advantage, but a TN1 reduction isn't trivial, especially for a 'pass to win the scene' check.

I'm assuming you wouldn't be going down this approach if you didn't have a way in mind to make sure the opponent gets compromised before you do (them starting the scene on half strife, you using shuji or known anxieties to play on, fire opportunities, etc).

But, yeah - you can either draw one sword and flail at them or not, but if you plan on winning by finishing blow, the preceding rounds are kind of irrelevant from your perspective as long as you're confident the odds are low of you getting wounded or incapacitated before you get a finishing blow.

Plus, in a formal duel, you have the advantage that you're not using multiple 'wasteful' strikes - though to be honest the duel scoring is a bit shonky (most things about duels are a bit shonky, as you've noted!) so if you win a serious duel you should probably win by a big enough margin for the extra glory bonus anyway.

The option is always there, since even with a weapon in one hand you can use your wakizashi to draw and strike an iai finishing blow (and potentially even trigger the Ambidextrous distinction if you have it). If you have a daisho, even if you've already drawn your Katana, you can use a one-handed iai technique with your wakizashi rather than using a generic 'strike' with your katana.

And the new Iai cut in PotW also doesn't go through Earth Stance. Still, I like the kata, very "cool and thematic" if only that.

Rising Blade is very trivial, if you have the guts to wait until the opponent compromise while he probably is striking you. The -1TN is probably a no issue for the skill level you are at to hit a TN2. I mean "sure" it is a -1tn, but will you really go out of your way to get this technique if you have crossing cut? I mean, maybe, it is only 3xp. STILL, lol.

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48 minutes ago, Avatar111 said:

How is rising blade a finish blow technique? The strategy is to get hit all the time and hope the opponent compromise first? Or maybe draw a secondary weapon in a duel to the death like a wakisashi to perform the finish blow?

Rising blade is awful. It just is.

The new Iaijutsu cut is actually interesting and a welcome addition.

Rising Blade is, in my eyes, a skirmish technique. It is less useful in a duel, as it replicates something duels do anyway (crits on becoming Compromized).
But it allows to replicate that in a regular skirmish, which is pretty nice if you play a iaijutzu samurai.

A completely constructed example: Two PCs, both Rank 2, one a Kakita samurai whose player wants to represent the one-strike image of the samurai movies, the other a Kuni Purifier, wielding a Daikyu, in a skirmish against two Trained Ashigaru in Earth stance.

Kuni wins initiative and spends an Oppportunity to deal 3 Strife to one Ashigaru. He casts Biting Steel on his bow and spends an Opportunity to Strike immediately. He hits the other Ashigaru for 9 damage (with armor piercing 2 from his arrows), taking him down and uses Pelting Hail Style to deal the other 9 Strife. That one is now at 12 Strife. Kakita acts, uses Iaijutzu cut in fire stance, deals 2 Strife with an Opp, making the opponent Compromized, which turns the attack into a critical hit, killing the minion. Mission accomplished, Kakita looked like in the movies.

Is it the best kata ever? No, which is good, because we do not need more trump cards. A kata that has a useful niche is the best, in my estimation. Heartpiercing Strike, by comparison, is too good. I do not want more katas on the power level of Heartpiercing Strike.

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16 minutes ago, Harzerkatze said:

Rising Blade is, in my eyes, a skirmish technique. It is less useful in a duel, as it replicates something duels do anyway (crits on becoming Compromized).
But it allows to replicate that in a regular skirmish, which is pretty nice if you play a iaijutzu samurai.

Indeed. Both techniques are very nice in a skirmish. Crossing Cut because it's good in a skirmish where range matters and a samurai determined to fight 'iai fashion' won't have a polearm, and rising blade to perform 'fake' finishing blows in the same situation and land 'cannot defend' strikes on a heavily armoured opponent.

Edited by Magnus Grendel

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36 minutes ago, Magnus Grendel said:

 and land 'cannot defend' strikes on a heavily armoured opponent.

Which mean you didn't have your weapon ready before that happens, or you use a backup weapon, or use water stance.
I am simply not a fan of the flavor of it all maybe. It seems gimmicky, and doesn't make sense for a Iaijutsu technique.
The only cool thing about rising Blade is the range 0, imo. Which allow someone to draw a sword even if either immobilized, constrained, or stuck in a brawl and unable to move away etc.

It isn't "total garbage", but it is the worst of the Iaijutsu techniques, and, just a weird design that doesn't seem to provide the intent it was suppose to (be a good duel technique).

As it is written, it is mostly a gimmicky, sneaky technique that you use with a dagger in your boot at an opportune moment. Almost Shinobi-like in flavor.

 

Edited by Avatar111

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On 3/3/2020 at 6:11 PM, swammeyjoe said:

What is the new Monk like? Any new schools/titles that grant Kiho? Does this book enable something closer in tone to Jin Yong Wuxia? 

It is an interesting design: He can quote mystic words of inspiration that he or others can use to lower TNs and avoid Strife. So a bit like a D&D Bard.
Bad thing is, he can only get predetermined kiho, as kiho are not in his Techniques Available.
For me, that is usually a deal breaker.

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On ‎2‎/‎5‎/‎2020 at 11:06 AM, Magnus Grendel said:

Starts daily ritual of checking DriveThruRPG....

Well, we're a touch over a month since the physical copies went out....

 

On ‎3‎/‎7‎/‎2020 at 12:52 PM, Harzerkatze said:

It is an interesting design: He can quote mystic words of inspiration that he or others can use to lower TNs and avoid Strife. So a bit like a D&D Bard.
Bad thing is, he can only get predetermined kiho, as kiho are not in his Techniques Available.
For me, that is usually a deal breaker.

I can understand it being slightly more annoying for a monk. This normally happens with Ninjitsu (since at the time the core book and Mantis DLC came out, there weren't enough Ninjitsu techniques to justify it being one of your three 'technique classes') or Invocations (but access to one grants access to all via importune invocation, so it's not so bad).

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Posted (edited)
On 3/8/2020 at 10:02 PM, Tonbo Karasu said:

Which kiho is it that you particularly want for your monks, then?  There's only so many and some of the monk-tagged schools without full kiho get access to most of them.

A monk without Breaking Blow or Flame Fist is no monk of mine.

Edited by Harzerkatze

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