[L5R: Never a Dull Blade] Tailoring the Game to My Players

Posted: September 28, 2011 by pointyman2000 in Articles, Legend of the Five Rings, Roleplaying Games

Given my habit of trying to profile my players and their play styles, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that I spend a story arc or two getting information on their habits and preferences before I start actually customizing the game towards the characters.  I don’t really know when I started doing this, but it has been my methodology for a while now, and many of my players are already savvy enough to understand that I often take a bit to finally warm up and start pulling personal plot hooks, after I’ve finally grown comfortable with their character’s foibles.

Now that I’ve been running my current L5R campaign “Never a Dull Blade” for three sessions now, I think I’ve got some handle on my players right now.  So, without going too far into spoiler territory, let’s go and take a look at what I’ve discovered:

  • Hikkikomori – Enjoys getting into trouble, and taking risks to make his way out of it.  His character Akodo Kenji has a boatload of disadvantages, and is uniquely suited to solo actions.  He’s not much of a fan of investigation, so it’s often better to take the “A man enters the room with a gun in his hand” approach to move things along with him.
  • Silver Countess – Has a preference for introspective plot hooks.  Her Sodan-Senzo, Kitsu Tetsumi is also the type to excel in solo situations as she is the only one with access to the Spirit Realms.  She’s like to see her disadvantages come into play and perhaps a romance subplot as well.
  • Tarathiel23 – Is currently in charge of the Duelist Berserker, Matsu Broly.  He’s not exactly completely emotionally invested in his character, but does have a strong knowledge of the nuances of Lion Clan social posturing.  His character was built to Duel, so having a subplot about a Lion Clan Kensai story arc might be just the thing to let him shine.
  • Mappy – Has a Matsu Shugenja with a nearly crippling gullible streak.  While possibly a joke, his character does have a chance at being those once in a million types like Kitsu Motso.  As such it might be a good idea to toss him up against other Shugenja, or to deal with a situation that deals more closely to the Elemental Kami than the Ancestors (which is Tetsumi’s purview).
  • Paulo – Is relatively new to my gaming group, and is perhaps the player that I’m still trying to get a handle on.  So far he’s pretty willing to do anything, but I don’t get the sense that he’s excited.  If anything it seems like he’s playing at a casual level, just get a few laughs in and call it a night.  Nothing wrong with that, but perhaps I can still find the right hook to get him really involved.  His character is a stereotypical Akodo, and perhaps that what I have to work with.  I just have to give his character a solid sense of purpose.
So far I’m happy with how the game is going, but I think that things may slow down now that I’m going to be introducing subplots for every character.  Then again, given that I only run once a week, this is probably going to be a challenge for me to make sure that I don’t lose player interest by taking too long.
  1. jatori says:

    I’m curious. How consistent are your players between games and characters? Could you, for example, tailor a game to your ‘usual’ play group before the first session?

    • Hi Jatori,

      My players tend to be fairly consistent, but do occasionally like throwing me a curveball now and then just to keep things interesting. I could tailor once specific to player, but I tend do an extra little more just for the specific character that they’re playing.

  2. Anthony says:

    I often do the same thing with my group. Before the first session I’ll make rough guidelines for what is going to happen/start things going, and then I sit back and watch how the PCs interact with it. A few sessions in I can usually start turning the rough sketch into a solid plot as I’ve seen where the PCs have focused. It is where details start getting hammered in and things like “female villain” becomes something more firm like “PC Taler’s girlfriend is a gifted psychic that uses her abilities of foresight to rob armored cars.” Or things of that nature.

    For Paulo, is he knew to Rokugan as well? If so, something very stereotypically Akodo might work for him. Have him contacted by one of his grandfather’s old friends needing help with some embarrassing matter that Grandpa was involved in years ago. It gives him something personal to work on, ties him in to the “family is all” aspect of Akodo, and gives him a chance to define how he’ll work in those constraints. Also, if he is knew to Rokugan, will give him a good feel for how Akodo can work.

    • Hi Anthony,

      Paulo used to be a big L5R CCG fan until he stopped CCGs altogether, so he’s aware of the broad stuff regarding L5R, but not so caught up on the nuances of the Lion Clan. I like the hook you gave, and I might just use it for the next session, given that I can think of something interesting enough for him to consider participating in (given potential honor loss) without dismissing it outright.

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