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Hello everyone,

I just got the corebook and am about to start an adventure. I have not played this version of l5r before, but I'm very excited. The system is very interesting, and I'm a particular fan of the flexibility it allows.

However, some of the rules seem woefully unbalanced, and I'm wondering if anyone has found a particularly elegant solution. The biggest issue here is the earth ring with regards to combat. It seems so much better than all of the others it's hard to grasp how it happened. Firstly, it increases your endurance, which is effectively your health in this game. So a high earth+fire character can use their earth to fight and have more hp. This would be no issue at all, as the game has a built in system around this: critical strikes. Except that earth also makes you immune to random critical strikes until your endurance is drained. So it forces your opponent to deal with you in the way that you're strongest. The dueling system(and skirmishes by way of challenge) has a clever way around this in that you can get a free critical by compromising your opponent. Alright a little niche, but at least there's a way around the otherwise impregnable earth. Except wrong again, because earth also contributes to composure, so it also makes you one of the harder characters to compromise. Again I haven't actually gotten to play just yet, so maybe there are counters I haven't found to this, but this just seems insane to me. Add onto that that a hida defender can subtract their armor+school rank from crits that do get through and it makes other schools+rings look like a joke. (I've considered the predict action, but this requires you to give up your attack for the round. So you don't get to attack and the earth bushi gets to just use his second highest ring. Doesn't even have to take the 4 strife because he knows you're predicting earth).

On the other side of the spectrum there's the air ring. This seems woefully under-powered in combat. I wouldn't be bothered by this if the kakita duelists didn't lean so heavily air. Given they're supposed to be the best duelists, it's incredibly odd that their favored ring is so useless in duels. +1TN to hit is so much worse than other options like earth, specifically in duels. If your opponent has to land a crit on you then earth stance just forces that option away unless they can compromise you, plus you get more composure from the high earth ring. Air is open to random crits and has lower composure. The opponent just needs 1 extra success. This feels trivial compared to other rings. I could also get into the kakita academy school ability, but I think I'll just focus on the air ring here.

Finally, iaijutsu duels. If it isn't obvious yet, I'm a sucker for the classic one strike duels. The problem is that the current duel system is built to facilitate any sort of duel, and so it isn't balanced for iaijutsu. It appears the best strategy is draw immediately and begin swinging, hoping for that lucky crit. The strife system(per round, betting for initiative, and instant crit) is really interesting, but I don't see how it would actually work. There isn't a significant advantage to having the initiative inside of a duel, and there aren't enough avenues of applying strife to your opponent in the duel, so it ends up being a timer on the lower composure character. And, coming off the previous point, the crane are some of the worst in this area. They dont have earth or fire for their composure, they dont have earth to avoid the lucky crit, and they dont have fire to apply extra strife on their opponent. More importantly than all of that though, the problem is the rules incentivize the immediate draw and strike. This is woefully out of line with the lore. I was thinking of adding something like "the first person to strike does so with a +1 or +2TN, and if the attack fails to crit they suffer 4 strife and the opponent immediately gets an attempt at a counter strike with no increase to the TN. This would force players to use the focus action until they were confident they could land a hit, but not so soon that the opponent reaches that goal first. Also, seems like an obvious choice but I think rising blade should be allowed in place of the free finishing strike on compromised opponents. The way rising blade works is specifically to do this, it shouldn't be less helpful in duels.



tl;dr:
Earth too strong in combat. Beats crits, conventional damage, and strife.
Air too weak: +1TN to hit does not match up
Iaijutsu duels poorly facilitated by the current duel system


If anyone has any clever fixes to any or all of these problems I would be really happy to hear them. The core mechanics of this game are so riveting, I don't want it to fall apart because of some simple imbalances.

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First of all, this exact discussion has been done ad nauseam here at the forum, so be mindful of that if some people answer you in not so friendly a way (mostly because they are sick of having this discussion with @Avatar111 and in a minor intensity, with me as well).

Yes, what you said is true, Earth is quite powerful for being the Ring that increases both Endurance and Composure and that's its main strength, really. The fact that you are immune to Conditions and Critical Strikes used by opportunities is also a strong ability but not really the problem at Rank 1 (Remember, you need to keep 2 successes and 2 opportunities to pull a critical strike). And you are right, it is predictable. Regarding that, I forgot now who it was that propose a change to the prediction action to work like this:

Activation: As an Attack and Scheme action, you may make a TN 1 Sentiment check and secretly select Air, Earth, Fire, or Water plus another Ring for every 2 bonus successes and record it.
Effects: The next time your opponent chooses their stance, you may reveal your selection; if it matches the stance they chose, your opponent receives 4 strife and must choose a different stance. This effect persists until the end of your next turn.

This way, you have a better chance of out predict the Earth opponent.

And you are also right that the way duels now work, the Kakita are awfully equipped to deal with them. Believe me, I had this discussion as well before. Pretty much every other bushi school looks better to do it, specially the Crab.

Now, Iaijutsu Cut: Rising Blade, can be used for the Finishing Blow, do notice the rule says you must use an Attack action (not the Strike option) and if you read IC: RB, you will see it is indeed an attack action.

Now, the staredown part of the duel most of the time, it will be bidding zero Strife until you reach that moment that either one of the duelists is one strike away of becoming Incapacitated, so that's where it shows up.

Finally, if you want to build an optimum Crane trained at the Kakita Academy, here is my suggestion:

+1 Air for being Crane
+1 Air from the Family (most likely Doji or Kakita)
+2 Earth from the School (because you already have Air 3, you can't rise it to 4, so you have a free pick)
+1 Water free pick

That takes you to 10 Composure at Rank 1, which is the highest a Kakita Duelist can get (the Daidoji Iron Warrior can get to 12). Then, as an Advantage, you pick Quick Reflexes and you roll Fire (I know, it's just 1 at the beginning) for the Initiative roll of a duel, you will get high chances of picking opportunities and use them to cause Strife on your opponent.

In the end, what I can tell you is that a Kakita Duelist starts out rather weak for being a duelist (I agree, it's bizarre) and will increase its potential by the time it reaches Rank 3 (assuming you increased your Fire Ring to 4).

Just remember, though, that a duel is not over until the end of a round. So even if one of the opponents dealt a critical strike, if the other opponent hasn't acted yet, then they may strike as well and with any luck, cause more damage than the first one and win by points.

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On 7/3/2020 at 5:39 PM, VinolyRavioli said:

Hello everyone,

I just got the corebook and am about to start an adventure. I have not played this version of l5r before, but I'm very excited. The system is very interesting, and I'm a particular fan of the flexibility it allows.

However, some of the rules seem woefully unbalanced, and I'm wondering if anyone has found a particularly elegant solution. The biggest issue here is the earth ring with regards to combat. It seems so much better than all of the others it's hard to grasp how it happened. Firstly, it increases your endurance, which is effectively your health in this game. So a high earth+fire character can use their earth to fight and have more hp. This would be no issue at all, as the game has a built in system around this: critical strikes. Except that earth also makes you immune to random critical strikes until your endurance is drained. So it forces your opponent to deal with you in the way that you're strongest. The dueling system(and skirmishes by way of challenge) has a clever way around this in that you can get a free critical by compromising your opponent. Alright a little niche, but at least there's a way around the otherwise impregnable earth. Except wrong again, because earth also contributes to composure, so it also makes you one of the harder characters to compromise. Again I haven't actually gotten to play just yet, so maybe there are counters I haven't found to this, but this just seems insane to me. Add onto that that a hida defender can subtract their armor+school rank from crits that do get through and it makes other schools+rings look like a joke. (I've considered the predict action, but this requires you to give up your attack for the round. So you don't get to attack and the earth bushi gets to just use his second highest ring. Doesn't even have to take the 4 strife because he knows you're predicting earth).

On the other side of the spectrum there's the air ring. This seems woefully under-powered in combat. I wouldn't be bothered by this if the kakita duelists didn't lean so heavily air. Given they're supposed to be the best duelists, it's incredibly odd that their favored ring is so useless in duels. +1TN to hit is so much worse than other options like earth, specifically in duels. If your opponent has to land a crit on you then earth stance just forces that option away unless they can compromise you, plus you get more composure from the high earth ring. Air is open to random crits and has lower composure. The opponent just needs 1 extra success. This feels trivial compared to other rings. I could also get into the kakita academy school ability, but I think I'll just focus on the air ring here.

Finally, iaijutsu duels. If it isn't obvious yet, I'm a sucker for the classic one strike duels. The problem is that the current duel system is built to facilitate any sort of duel, and so it isn't balanced for iaijutsu. It appears the best strategy is draw immediately and begin swinging, hoping for that lucky crit. The strife system(per round, betting for initiative, and instant crit) is really interesting, but I don't see how it would actually work. There isn't a significant advantage to having the initiative inside of a duel, and there aren't enough avenues of applying strife to your opponent in the duel, so it ends up being a timer on the lower composure character. And, coming off the previous point, the crane are some of the worst in this area. They dont have earth or fire for their composure, they dont have earth to avoid the lucky crit, and they dont have fire to apply extra strife on their opponent. More importantly than all of that though, the problem is the rules incentivize the immediate draw and strike. This is woefully out of line with the lore. I was thinking of adding something like "the first person to strike does so with a +1 or +2TN, and if the attack fails to crit they suffer 4 strife and the opponent immediately gets an attempt at a counter strike with no increase to the TN. This would force players to use the focus action until they were confident they could land a hit, but not so soon that the opponent reaches that goal first. Also, seems like an obvious choice but I think rising blade should be allowed in place of the free finishing strike on compromised opponents. The way rising blade works is specifically to do this, it shouldn't be less helpful in duels.



tl;dr:
Earth too strong in combat. Beats crits, conventional damage, and strife.
Air too weak: +1TN to hit does not match up
Iaijutsu duels poorly facilitated by the current duel system


If anyone has any clever fixes to any or all of these problems I would be really happy to hear them. The core mechanics of this game are so riveting, I don't want it to fall apart because of some simple imbalances.

It's a beautiful and well written and illustrated game when it comes to narrative and general rule concepts. But unfortunately, its quite bad, unwieldy and bloated when it comes to details.
Just don't sweat it too much... play the game, tell stories, chill out :D
 

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Last visited Sunday, apparently. We can hope.

I don't mind a delay on new user's posts to prevent spambots but I wish they made it clearer what the rules were.

 

@Diogo Salazar is correct. Yes, Earth is one of the best rings for duels for the reason specified - immunity to most 'dirty tricks' combined with a high composure and endurance. As noted, @Avatar111 has discussed this a lot over time - one recommended house rule for you to consider is to have Earth stance not prevent critical strikes, conditions and persistent effects but to force you to spend an extra opportunity to trigger them (much like increasing the TN of success with air stance).

Things worth noting - it's not all quite as bleak as first impression:

On ‎7‎/‎3‎/‎2020 at 10:39 PM, VinolyRavioli said:

The problem is that the current duel system is built to facilitate any sort of duel, and so it isn't balanced for iaijutsu. It appears the best strategy is draw immediately and begin swinging, hoping for that lucky crit. The strife system(per round, betting for initiative, and instant crit) is really interesting, but I don't see how it would actually work.

There are some specific rules for 'court protocol' duels in Courts of Stone, which (for example) imposes penalties for taking multiple strikes to win, and prevent someone rocking up to a duel in anything better than resistance 1 formal robes.

High initiative can be useful - it depends on your plan, but in theory having a point higher focus saves you a point of strife a turn on the staredown to stay level in initiative*, and the TN+1 to hit from air effectively means each strike is doing one less damage (because the same roll gets you one less bonus success).

I should underscore that TN+1 is actually a pretty big deal for a low-level character or NPC. Someone rolling 3 ring and 2 skill dice (not unreasonable) has an average of about two-and-a-bit success results (give or take rerolls and explosive successes). Going from needing two successes to needing three is not something to disregard lightly, because it's taking you from less than your average roll to more.

 

* Being 'first' doesn't matter too much (initiative in a duel is binary and you win or you don't), but 'keeping up' (so that it's all about the staredown) does. That's because one useful trick in a duel is being able to 'lose' the staredown one round and then 'win' it the next, effectively giving you two turns in a row.

Conceding first turn....matters if being 'one strike' behind your opponent in a potato-sack-stabbing contest means you'll get incapacitated first. Otherwise probably not.  

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42 minutes ago, Magnus Grendel said:

Last visited Sunday, apparently. We can hope.

I don't mind a delay on new user's posts to prevent spambots but I wish they made it clearer what the rules were.

Well, yes, it doesn't tell you for how long you are kept in moderation limbo. When I joined, back in March, I had to wait 10 days for my posts to finally be visible and at that point I started spamming every moderator I could find to unlock me. I shouldn't have to do this...

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Unless you are planning on a heavy PvP game, Earth Stance will rarely - if ever - come up as particularly strong because NPCs are pretty crap at critting you and their Opp debuffs are either just mildly annoying or completely bypass Earth Stance anyway. Switching to Earth simply doesn't worth it 80-90% of the time. 

Air Stance, on the other hand, is a fixed +1(2) TN penalty for all attacks, all the time, all the way. That's harsh because +1 TN in this game is a big deal. The real problem with the Air Ring is that its techniques are kind of crap. 

Duels are only weird with starting characters. Things become considerably hairier when the characters have the Rings, Skills, and techniques to dish out the pain.

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Agreed.

This is one thing always worth underlining - obviously it's campaign-specific but assuming you're not just having PCs fight all the time for [reasons], 90% of the conflicts will be PCs (plus possible allied NPCs) versus NPCs.

The limitations of Minons (can't spend opportunities except on their own profile-specific options, and can be one-hit-killed with a high deadliness weapon) and Adversaries (get one - and only one - void point) are always worth considering, as is the fact that NPCs who have, say, Martial 3, will generally have the initiative advantage on fighty PCs who will generally buy a Martial Arts skill as a priority, then Fitness, and then finally use leftover XP on Tactics or Meditation under protest.

As a result, stances will vary in quality by opponent and situation.

 

In a skirmish against mobs of weak minions, for example:

  • Fire Stance and Earth Stance are largely useless
    • Fire stance does tonnes of bonus damage but if you already one-shot kill a single minion then extra damage is kind of irrelevant - there are few 'splash damage' abilities available with a sword and most use opportunity not bonus success. 
    • Earth stance prevents them spending opportunities but unless their profile contains something horrifying like "1211841275_OpportunitySmall.png.acf41343: the target gains the Bleeding condition", big whoop - they already can't inflict criticals without incapacitating you first and most of their techniques suck.
  • By comparison, Air and Water are a lot better
    • Air actively reduces bonus successes (i.e. the damage you take) and may cause them to miss entirely, especially paired with a Guard action.
    • Water gives you calming breaths to manage fatigue and strife, or - probably more usefully - an extra move so you're only facing part of a minion group at once.

Against one bigger adversary, it reverses:

  • Air's TN+1 is nice but if facing something like a Warrior Venerable Provincial Daimyo your opponent's dice pool is not going to be fazed by one extra 792424631_SuccessSmall.png.f580b7641c8c8
  • Water's ability to manoeuvre is kind of irrelevant when there's only one opponent, and the amount of fatigue being slung back and forth is going to be too much for the odd calming breath to matter
  • Earth really comes into its own here because high-deadliness critical strikes early in the fight are a real risk
  • Fire's guaranteed 'every result matters' plays into trying to 'charge up' a single overpowered hit (fire stance iaijutsu strike with all the trimmings) to do maximum damage past a high resistance.

 

 

 

 

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2 hours ago, Magnus Grendel said:

Agreed.

This is one thing always worth underlining - obviously it's campaign-specific but assuming you're not just having PCs fight all the time for [reasons], 90% of the conflicts will be PCs (plus possible allied NPCs) versus NPCs.

The limitations of Minons (can't spend opportunities except on their own profile-specific options, and can be one-hit-killed with a high deadliness weapon) and Adversaries (get one - and only one - void point) are always worth considering, as is the fact that NPCs who have, say, Martial 3, will generally have the initiative advantage on fighty PCs who will generally buy a Martial Arts skill as a priority, then Fitness, and then finally use leftover XP on Tactics or Meditation under protest.

Funny you say that, considering our group pretty much haven't paid for a single point of Fitness (I have one point because of the Kakita School, but not the other Kakita Duelist), because, as I had mentioned in another thread, we had so few skirmishes that we figure hitting first (and last) is more important than surviving a hit. Of course, that strategy wasn't good enough when my character fought single handedly 3 Rõnin and got hit by a critical strike from the Boss, now he has a nice scar that Doji Satsume would be proud of.

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Or duels to the death or incapacitation. Anything where either a certain level of crit is required or where crits will get you a significant advantage.

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Also, something that hasn't been picked up on, I think:

Rising Blade, or in fact many other techs can indeed be used on the Finishing Blow. Since it has a low TN against compromised targets, it is in fact a particularly good choice for it!

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Yes. Indeed, playing as a Kakita Duelist, I "pulled a Mirumoto" once during a skirmish when fighting 3 rõnin and the boss became compromised. Because I had already my katana readied, I stroke him down with the wakizashi. 

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On 7/9/2020 at 3:24 PM, Diogo Salazar said:

we had so few skirmishes that we figure hitting first (and last) is more important than surviving a hit. 

I take Fitness so that my character can jump through a ditch (been there... been there), pass through a crowd quickly (very useful), and shadow people like a pro. Soaking hits is a nice bonus tho.

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Sorry for hijacking this thread but as it concerns low-level characters and duels... My campaign is running with the speed of an asthmatic snail, the PC are finally getting into the duel part of the Topaz Tournament.

I did not want them to just roll a dice to see who's winning the bloody thing, and they are pretty involved in it (yes, we played it for 6 sessions and we're still there). So I gave real stats to all participants, because the finest of the Empire could not suffer to be just minions, there will be no challenge in it. And ****, playing this scenario with the rules of the finished book is a pain.

First-hit duel should be resolved when one of the contestants achieve a critical strike of severity 5. Achieving this with a DMG 3 / DLS3 bokken is a nightmare (especially when PC and NPC have one ring at 3 and maybe Martials Arts 2 at best) and the only reasonnable way is to sore the enemy and unleash a critical strike.

Was anyone confronted to the same problem ? I thought about putting the goal to "score a critical hit" without any Severity rating. Or maybe decreasing the Severity to 3. So people might have a chance to win with a strike if the other fails to resist.

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1 hour ago, eScoub said:

Sorry for hijacking this thread but as it concerns low-level characters and duels... My campaign is running with the speed of an asthmatic snail, the PC are finally getting into the duel part of the Topaz Tournament.

I did not want them to just roll a dice to see who's winning the bloody thing, and they are pretty involved in it (yes, we played it for 6 sessions and we're still there). So I gave real stats to all participants, because the finest of the Empire could not suffer to be just minions, there will be no challenge in it. And ****, playing this scenario with the rules of the finished book is a pain.

First-hit duel should be resolved when one of the contestants achieve a critical strike of severity 5. Achieving this with a DMG 3 / DLS3 bokken is a nightmare (especially when PC and NPC have one ring at 3 and maybe Martials Arts 2 at best) and the only reasonnable way is to sore the enemy and unleash a critical strike.

Was anyone confronted to the same problem ? I thought about putting the goal to "score a critical hit" without any Severity rating. Or maybe decreasing the Severity to 3. So people might have a chance to win with a strike if the other fails to resist.

Granted, in our games, we consider that a duel to first blood means applying the Bleeding Condition on your opponent (which can be reached with a Light Wound if striking with a Razor Edge blade).
Now, a duel to first strike is something completely different and it's just to hit a Critical Strike, period. So the use of bokkens do not affect at all the tournament. (There will be lots of damaged ceremonial kimonos, though).

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1 hour ago, Diogo Salazar said:

Granted, in our games, we consider that a duel to first blood means applying the Bleeding Condition on your opponent (which can be reached with a Light Wound if striking with a Razor Edge blade).
Now, a duel to first strike is something completely different and it's just to hit a Critical Strike, period. So the use of bokkens do not affect at all the tournament. (There will be lots of damaged ceremonial kimonos, though).

Oh my. I read that too fast. Thanks mate!

As for the ceremonial kimonos, PCs won't use it on the field, I see them as highly decorative, but not practical for duels.

They will wear fine kimono, for sure, but simple ones.

They WILL wear them when receiving their gifts.

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