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lologrelol

New GM. What's broken or OP?

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Hey. Looking for some advice on running RPG's in this system. Not new to RPG's, but haven't played L5R yet.

1. What are OP combos or builds players can create?

2. What are some combat/narrative situations that are too hard for players to handle?

3. What are things I should avoid in my first few sessions?

4. What are things I should prepare for?

5. What are things I may need to fix before going in?

Appreciate any advice. Very keen to enter the world of Rokugan! ūüôā

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I like having a "Session 0" for making characters and talking about expectations for RPGs anyway, and in my experience, it's especially useful for L5R. Not everyone is familiar with Japanese or other Asian cultures represented in L5R, and it can be nice to have an open conversation about what elements you plan on playing up. Also, as a GM, you're probably going to want to have a sense of players' giri and ninjo before the first session, so you can prepare for how you want to include them in the game.

I think it's also not always clear for new players what they can do with Opportunity. You might want to have the chart from the back of the book handy (or a homebrew version of it) during the game. It might also be good to talk through a few examples, including the critical strike option of the Strike action, some from the default chart, some from specific techniques, and some flavorful creative choices with more story impact than mechanical impact.

Others may disagree, but my experience is that the Mass Battle rules are the worst of the conflict types, especially compared to Mass Battles in previous editions. People are pretty critical of the base dueling rules too (though I think they actually get a little better with techniques from other books).

There are expanded character sheets that have a place to record experience point expenditures. For my group, these are SUPER useful. They're available HERE (both "printer-friendly" and full-color) if you scroll down a bit. In general, I think this game has a bit more bookkeeping than most (strife, fatigue, Void points, how much XP has been spent in-curriculum).

I'm glad you're trying out L5R! Welcome to the forums. Let us know how it goes!
 

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Posted (edited)
3 hours ago, lologrelol said:

Hey. Looking for some advice on running RPG's in this system. Not new to RPG's, but haven't played L5R yet.

1. What are OP combos or builds players can create?

2. What are some combat/narrative situations that are too hard for players to handle?

3. What are things I should avoid in my first few sessions?

4. What are things I should prepare for?

5. What are things I may need to fix before going in?

Appreciate any advice. Very keen to enter the world of Rokugan! ūüôā

Hihi, this sounds like a bait for Avatar... (This might not mean anything to you, but it will.)

1. Because there are way less Hit Points equivalent than in other systems, many techniques may come across as OP for a DM new to L5R. A combat where one opponent doesn't even get to act is not all that uncommon. Give it time, that is often not problematic. The Eastern setting lives from the one-strike-kill suspense.
That being said, e.g. a Hida Defender in heavy armor and Earth stance may come across as invulnerable to a new GM.

2. Water Stance especially needs a firm grasp of the rules, as you have two actions that cannot have the same keywords (Attack, Scheme, Movement, Support), and since quite some actions have multiple keywords, this can lead to "you cannot do Y, you did X already" "But I wanted to do Y, can we undo X?" The other three stances are relatively easier to play correctly. Also keep in mind the rules for spiritual backlash, otherwise your shugenja may seem incredible powerful.
Also, avoid pitting a group of PC against a single enemy, whether in skirmish or intrigue, at least at first. The side with more actons has an unfair advantage.

3. I agree that Mass Combat has design flaws that leads me to avoid it. I think skirmish and duels are sound, as are intigues if you avoid a many-vs-one scenario.

4. New players have sometimes troubles dealing with playing an honorable character, feeling either restricted like a D&D 3rd Ed paladin or alternatively trying to rationalize any despicable action as super-honorable.
Some players are confused that you literally cannot buy things and thus need no loot. But that is a feature, not a bug, it shows you that you entered a very different world.
Players tend to be confused what the school tables mean: They do NOT tell you which techniques you can learn, they tell you which ones are counted 100% towards progressions (and which ones you can learn early).

5. I have a few house-rules, but none I would consider mandatory.

Edited by Harzerkatze

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6 hours ago, lologrelol said:

1. What are OP combos or builds players can create?

There are really only two techniques that can be really OP: Coiling Serpent Style and Pelting Hail Style. Otherwise, there ain't much "OP" stuff in there, but some builds and options are obviously better than others, and it can be highly detrimental to gaming experience as the players with the "good" builds will constantly overshadow the players with the "weak" builds. 

6 hours ago, lologrelol said:

2. What are some combat/narrative situations that are too hard for players to handle?ūüôā

In my experience, being outnumbered is a huge deal because the game system has a certain "quantity over quality" tingle in it. A part of 4 can wreck pretty much anything that has 1-3 opponents in it; 4 opponents will be difficult, 5-6 will be punishing, and 7+ will require top play or the party is screwed. However, what is even worse than being outnumbered is having multiple conflict scenes without resting and recovering resources (Strife, Void Points) between them - getting resource-starved is what kills the PC in this game.

6 hours ago, lologrelol said:

3. What are things I should avoid in my first few sessions?

You shouldn't delve too deep into the setting at first. Some arbitrary elements like the caste system and the workings of hierarchy can be a huge turn-off and are difficult to tackle properly as a GM too. Just leave it at "heroic samurai doing honor and stuff" and disregard the rest, for the time being. 

6 hours ago, lologrelol said:

4. What are things I should prepare for?

Shenanigans. A LOT of them. The game system is such that it actively encourages "creative solutions" via Approaches and Opportunities, and it shamelessly rewards players making up outlandish "PC Plans" and accomplishing their objectives in some of the most bizarre ways imaginable. 

6 hours ago, lologrelol said:

5. What are things I may need to fix before going in?

You might want to look into range bands, that rule is pretty darn clunky. In our gaming group we also have two minor houserules: the Matsu Berserker can activate their School Ability at will without getting crit'd or unmask first, and the naginata does not have the Cumbersome quality.  

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Posted (edited)

As others have said but going deeper. The conflict chapter is flawed, to say the least.

  1. The intrigue section doesn’t cover many options and if you assume that many PCs can contribute to the same momentum pool, your NPCs will be overwhelmed easily. Track different pools for each player.
  2. If you are not familiar with previous editions then you won’t notice the lack of easily pulling the feel of an iaijutsu duel of previous editions. Duel offers subpar options (center and predict) and people have come up with house rules to make them more relevant.
    Also, the game tries to make a tactical narrative system that is neither tactical nor narrative, so positioning (which could be relevant in a duel) means nothing because doesn’t matter where each character are located, they can hit each other just fine.
  3. The mass combat sucks, in part because only two stances benefit from their special power (Fire and Void) also because of the same flaw of duel, trying to be a tactical and narrative system and failing at both.
  4. Finally, Range Bands are horrible, again because of the whole narrative/tactical stuff. You can make it work, but it’s going to take time for your group and you to find your bearings.

As others have said, the setting can be overwhelming for new players, specially of they come from D&D, my suggestion, pick some of the fictions and put your players to read them, they might get a feel of the world. 
Also, that’s just me, but I prefer a campaign with everyone being of the same clan, it might be hard if you have players with different taste and no compromise, but it makes it easier to concentrate in a single part of the world.

Edited by Diogo Salazar

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Posted (edited)
On 3/29/2020 at 5:08 AM, lologrelol said:

4. What are things I should prepare for?

5. What are things I may need to fix before going in?

I can't understate the importance of both 'session zero' and the world-building. 

It's very easy to try and rush past character creation, but things like ninjo, giri, and advantages & disadvantages are huge. Creating characters really needs to be done cooperatively with the GM because they're not just 'I take weak eyesight to have more points to spend on melee skills', they cause major in-world plot elements: who is your Lord? What is your reason for being there? Do you have any allies - Because for those to matter, they have to feature in the story!

Disadvantages are the same. D&D munchkins will reflexively try to pick adversities and anxieties they'll never encounter in play. Make sure they understand that encountering them is how you get void points!

Honour, glory and - especially- status are a huge deal. An imperial family samurai can deliver huge benefits from what can be a day 1, mission 1 status of 50+, and you need to figure out how to actually give 'quests' to someone who can quite realistically socially outrank most normal 'patron' npcs.

That's not to say 'don't'. High-status characters are cool and interesting. But you don't want to find out after you've written your first session's plot in a backwater village that the party is three peasant-born worldly ronin and a Seppun Daimyo...agree this sort of thing as a group.

The balance of battlefield, investigation, exploration and court is important too. Skills like design and aesthetics sound pointless to someone who just wants to dungeon-crawl, and frankly, kind of are.... Even Hida McBluntInstrument should have to have their day playing politics, and players ignoring social skills will come around pretty quickly when they realise courtesy checks with their Lord, rather than murderhobo-ing, is how they get better stuff, but a courtier will feel a spare wheel in a shadowlands campaign and a ronin bushi may not find a game set 90% at winter court very fun. Makes sure players know what type of game you want to run. Ideally, a balance one where intrigues, skirmishes, battles, duels and investigations all turn up in relatively balanced proportions!

 

Make sure players understand the idea of 'approaches' for downtime and narrative scenes. A lot of players will argue blue in the face to be allowed to use their best ring for something it's totally unsuited for (trying to use water like it's Charisma for every social interaction regardless of tone is a common one).

Make sure the players understand strife and unmasking, too. Managing strife - especially in narrative scenes where it's hard to get rid of - and duels (where too much can be instantly fatal), and getting a feel for what unmasking means and the sort of drawbacks that should be attached.

Conflict scenes are okay - skirmishes work well - but the distinction between  fatigue and critical strikes can confuse players just used to 'hit points'. Fatigue is a combination of exhaustion, bruises, pain, and minor 'shaving cuts' which might eventually render you exhausted or unconscious but won't kill you. Critical Strikes are the 'oh, I've been stabbed.' Hits. 

That's why duels-to-first-strike are to the first critical strike, not the first successful attack action, and that's what the distinction about 'defending' is all about.

If you've not played L5R before, I strongly, strongly advocate the Topaz Championship and In the Palace of the Emerald Champion adventures - theyre deliberately designed to hand you the game mechanics one at a time, and also a great introduction to the setting for a new players as the players characters are essentially just graduating from their respective schools, then dragged (discretely) into an investigation involving some of the most important people and factions in the setting...

As far as specific warnings...one NPC people often reach for As a bad guy (be they samurai-turned-bandit, mercenary heavy, or just wandering rival) is the Skillful Ronin. They're a great NPC but be sure to read their Path of the Wolf ability and try not to spring that on a PC by surprise. Pulling of an awesome attack then finding you've unexpectedly stabbed your friend instead with neither you nor they getting a check to avoid it can breed ill-feeling if it's something the PCs don't know the ronin can do!

Most importantly- enjoy! I think it's a great game and a superb setting...

 

Edited by Magnus Grendel

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Posted (edited)

As @Magnus Grendel said, session zero is pretty much a must have. Even if it's just for the whole group come together and discuss what they would like from the game and set the relationship between themselves and whatever NPC you name drop already (besides their lord).

Regarding approaches, I would consider this: there's a best ring to do something and then there's a worst ring and then everything else.

So, let's say a bushi wants to repair its armor and instead of using Earth (because it has a value of one) they decide to use Void because it is their best value (3), then I would say that instead of being TN 1, I would say it would be TN 3, probably 4, any other ring could be TN 2 or 3 for a task like this. Make sure to tell your players that. Also, to emphasize that whenever you purposely withhold the TN of a check, they get a Void Point for that. There shouldn't be many moments like this though, the main source of Void Points should be Adversities, Anxieties and Tea Ceremonies.

If all your players really want to do is dungeon crawling, the closest you have to that would be Crab expeditions into the Shadowlands and I mean, these should be more like a Arkham Horror game where the characters try to keep their sanity (and honor) than just murdering Orcs and Goblins because someone paid you money for that.

Edited by Diogo Salazar

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Posted (edited)
13 minutes ago, Diogo Salazar said:

So, let's say a bushi wants to repair its armor and instead of using Earth (because it has a value of one) they decide to use Void because it is their best value (3), then I would say that instead of being TN 1, I would say it would be TN 3, probably 4, any other ring could be TN 2 or 3 for a task like this.

I'd both agree and disagree.

If you're trying to restore your damaged armour, that's an earth approach. You don't get to use a different ring for a specific task.

What you may be able to do is use a different ring to achieve a specific outcome, which is not quite the same thing. 

Water is adapt - modifying some other suit of armour to fit you - or exchange or charm - buying (Or begging) a new set of armour. The TN may be higher or lower, you'd need different skills and you can use your better water ring - and, of course, there is a presupposition that there's an armourer somewhere who has more armour available (The amount and quality of which would drive the TN).

Fire - if you have suitable material bits - would let you forge new 'proper' armour from scratch.

In each case, the end result is the same - I have a suit if undamaged armour - but the skill AND TN and prerequisites are likely different in each case.

Air and void.....don't really help in this situation. The former might either let you con someone else out of their armour or trick someone into thinking your armour is fixed (but without restoring the protection). Void.....pray, I guess?

Edited by Magnus Grendel

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I can accept the disagreement. Me and my group came up with that given the many examples of kata that have a different TN depending on the Ring and we felt the same could be said with normal check skills.

I mean, for the examples that you gave about using a different Ring to "repair" a suit of armor, even the skill would be different, it wouldn't be Smithing anymore, but rather Commerce.

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26 minutes ago, Diogo Salazar said:

mean, for the examples that you gave about using a different Ring to "repair" a suit of armor, even the skill would be different, it wouldn't be Smithing anymore, but rather Commerce.

Exactly.

Whilst there may be multiple ways of achieving the same effect, though, for a specific action you never get a choice of ring - in a narrative scene it's defined by your approach and in a conflict scene by your stance (which is why kata need a TN for resist rolls for every possible ring).

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2 hours ago, Diogo Salazar said:

I can accept the disagreement. Me and my group came up with that given the many examples of kata that have a different TN depending on the Ring and we felt the same could be said with normal check skills.

Most kata have different TNs to resist, not to activate, and when resisting an attack, you do NOT get to choose your ring.  You have to use the Ring of whatever stance  you're in.  So if you used Water to make your attack last round, any rolls you make before your next turn have to use Water.

That said, there are many times that different rings could be used for the same action, especially if the GM doesn't want to waste time on multiple rolls.  We played yesterday and had to move a boulder in a cave, the GM called for a Fitness check, saying Earth, Fire or Water would all be fine.  Someone could probably argue why one Ring would be better than another in that case, but any of those make thematic sense, and we just wanted to keep things moving.

Of course, the Isawa shugenja really wanted to try to ask the spirit of the boulder to step aside, so the GM said that could only be done with Earth.

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4 hours ago, Magnus Grendel said:

Air and void.....don't really help in this situation. The former might either let you con someone else out of their armour or trick someone into thinking your armour is fixed (but without restoring the protection). Void.....pray, I guess?

Air (Refine) would allow you to file away the damage and then just cover it up with a few extra pieces. Void (Attune) is (temporarily) awakening the armor so it magically repairs itself. 

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Like I said, the argument can be made that any approach can be used to get anything, some are harder than others.

You could get a new friend by charming people. You could also make a new friend by having a drink and cursing contest with them. In this case, the NPCs demeanor has a huge influence on the TN as well.

The problem I usually see in conflicts is that sometimes the players choose a ring because of the potential opportunities to spend on them, because of the special ability of the ring or because of how they want to narrate their action.

And that is all fine. If you want to try to make friends with someone by reasoning with them, or by having  a discussion about the finer points of a philosophical conundrum. Let them.

Same thing if they want to sacrifice your troops to grab a strategic position. If that is acquired with Fire, Air or Void is really a matter of semantics as well as a description AFTER the rolls. You could say that you feinted a weaker squad that got obliterated but created the opportunity for the rest to take the position and that was an Air approach. You could argue that you just sent your troops and hoped for the best, was a Void approach. Or you just charged head on, with all your might and many of your soldiers died and that was the Fire approach.

 

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Regarding the discussion about substituting rings: We do not do that at our table. While which skill is used is sometimes debated (when you look if someone spies on you, that could be Survival or Skulduggery or Sentiment), the Ring is usually determined by the GM (Survey is Water, for example). If your PC is bad at that Ring, you don't get to use another.

(Except in combat, of course, where the stance defines all rings.)

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41 minutes ago, Harzerkatze said:

Regarding the discussion about substituting rings: We do not do that at our table. While which skill is used is sometimes debated (when you look if someone spies on you, that could be Survival or Skulduggery or Sentiment), the Ring is usually determined by the GM (Survey is Water, for example). If your PC is bad at that Ring, you don't get to use another.

Per definition, Approaches are a lot more complicated than that. For example, Survey is actually not the Approach to detect spies because it cannot identify, just perceive: you will not spot the spies with it, only realize that somebody, somewhere, maybe now or maybe not, is really spying on you.  To identify he actual spy you would have to use Analyze (Air) or Sense (Void). Or Recall (Earth) if you know the guy from earlier. Or Theorize (Fire) if you have an idea who is spying and why. So in the end it will come down what the player says on the character's method, the GM can only work from that - if they say they want to determine whether an old friend is spying on them by spotting uncharacteristic behavior, then it is obviously Recall and not Survey. And since the player says whatever they want... 

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4 hours ago, AtoMaki said:

an old friend is spying on them by spotting uncharacteristic behavior, then it is obviously Recall and not Survey

I would disagree that that's obvious. You might recall their previous behaviour, but doing so is irrelevant if you don't notice the difference: 'spotting stuff' by non-supernatural means is either analyse or survey, depending on how wide or specific you are casting  your gaze.

Earth checks might be useful, but not if you can't pass the survey (Or have a high enough vigilance to have them fail) in the first place 

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38 minutes ago, Magnus Grendel said:

I would disagree that that's obvious. You might recall their previous behaviour, but doing so is irrelevant if you don't notice the difference

Akshually, Recall does allow to notice the difference as per the example given in the Sentiment Skill: "Detecting inconsistencies between someone's current and
past behavior"
should cover it just fine. You don't necessarily "spot" that someone is a spy, this is not D&D, after all. You sometimes rely on your memories to make a conclusion. Sometimes you just sniff it out instinctively, using your sixth sense (that should be a pretty huge deal in your average samurai-themed game). Sometimes you just employ honest-to-goodness logic and figure out who is the spy purely from circumstantial evidence (aka the Sherlock Method). Anything can go, that's the beauty of the Approaches system. Limiting checks to a single Ring is like playing only one-fifth of the game. 

 

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On 3/29/2020 at 1:03 PM, AtoMaki said:

There are really only two techniques that can be really OP: Coiling Serpent Style and Pelting Hail Style. Otherwise, there ain't much "OP" stuff in there, but some builds and options are obviously better than others, and it can be highly detrimental to gaming experience as the players with the "good" builds will constantly overshadow the players with the "weak" builds. 

What do you think about modifying those Techniques so that they require an extra Advantage for each one of their effects (2 for entail the weapon, 3 for immobilize in Coiling Serpent; 2 the Strife attack for Peltling Hail Style)?

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On 4/9/2020 at 12:21 PM, Sedda said:

What do you think about modifying those Techniques so that they require an extra Advantage for each one of their effects (2 for entail the weapon, 3 for immobilize in Coiling Serpent; 2 the Strife attack for Peltling Hail Style)?

For Coiling Serpent, I would say that each * spent increases the TN on actions using the weapon, rather than saying it can't be used. That way there's still a chance to hit, and the target still has opportunity options.

Pelting Hail, on the other hand, is just ridiculous, especially if you use the whole thing about Wargear causing extra Strife.  That means a Daikyu would just dump 7 Strife per shot, ignoring TN, to as many targets as you have *. Unfortunately, I'm kinda clueless how to fix it.

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After testing it, I didn't find the Coiling Serpent style too strong. The opponent can always switch weapons (with water ring) or switch to Void ring and use opportunities for cancelling the conditions affecting them.

 

With respect the Pelting Hail combined with wargear, doesn't make any sense to be more afraid of the arrows if you have armor than if you don't... I'd just rule out that it affects less the targets, not more...

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Posted (edited)
28 minutes ago, Sedda said:

With respect the Pelting Hail combined with wargear, doesn't make any sense to be more afraid of the arrows if you have armor than if you don't... I'd just rule out that it affects less the targets, not more...

The Daikyu itself has wargear. It's brutally effective with pelting hail. 

Unfortunately, I'm kinda clueless how to fix it.

part of me suggests making it an "if you succeed" - that makes it harder to pull off because it demands 2+ successes as well as the opportunities. Watching someone hit between the eyes with a crossbow bolt is intimidating. Watching someone miss isn't.

Edited by Magnus Grendel

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1 hour ago, Magnus Grendel said:

part of me suggests making it an "if you succeed" - that makes it harder to pull off because it demands 2+ successes as well as the opportunities. Watching someone hit between the eyes with a crossbow bolt is intimidating. Watching someone miss isn't.

According to its fluff, Pelting Hail is supposed to be a form of "suppressive fire", so it should work by not hitting opponents.

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Yeah, I'd be more tempted to say it doesn't work if it makes a hit.

Also, note that the opportunity can only target people within range 2 of the initial target, which isn't going to be many, unless the enemy are in a close formation.

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