[L5R Hearts and Souls] Social Mechanics Tweaks (Inspired by Fiasco and nWoD GMC)

Posted: January 25, 2013 by pointyman2000 in Articles, Legend of the Five Rings, Roleplaying Games
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I’ve already been tweaking things with regards to the social mechanics of L5R with the Glory houserule in a previous post  but I think I can go just a little further.

I’ve been checking out some of the other games lately and one of the new games that have gained my attention is Fiasco. It’s an interesting game with an entirely different structure from the one I’m used to, but I can see a few elements that can actually come into play and be used in L5R.

The mechanic in particular is the idea of isolating two (or more) players to roleplay a scene with each one gunning for stakes. It’s a neat way of setting goals for a scene, and makes sure that social scenes are less about empty dialogue and more about someone trying to get something out of someone else.

The second is the upcoming social conflict rules of the new World of Darkness from the God Machine Chronicles book. I’ll not go into full detail on the mechanics, but essentially it does establish a goal number of successful rolls in order to finally convince a target to adopt a given idea or behavior. The frequency of the rolls is determined by the initial impression made by the character, and there’s some talk that each “encounter” can swing this impression score up or down to make the next possible roll sooner or later than usual.

Putting these two in a Large Hadron Collider and mixing it with the basic L5R system basically comes up to this:

Sway Value

In order to be convince another character to a given opinion or course of action, the acting character must find a way to overcome their default frame of mind. In order to do this, they must succeed in a number of contested social rolls against their target equal to the target’s Insight Rank plus the lower of their Willpower or Awareness. This is what I’m calling a Sway Value for the purposes of clarity on this hack.

In the case of Temptation or Intimidation, the target may choose to calculate their Sway Value with their Insight Rank plus the higher of their Willpower or Honor instead.

There’s a question of why Insight Rank should count in this calculation, but I figured that for L5R, it’s harder to influence someone of higher rank than you due to the nature of Rokugan’s rigid social structure. As such, higher ranking individuals might not have more than average willpower, but the fact that they’re higher ranking insulates them from easily taking the advice of someone who is lower in the scheme of things.

Needless to say, trying to sway someone like the Crab Clan Champion into doing something is probably going to be a long term project, even for the Scorpion or the Crane.


The frequency of each attempt to Sway the target is determined by the impression that the acting character has made on the target upon their meeting. A good impression increases the frequency, while a bad impression decreases the rate at which the acting character can roll. The Impression rating may go up or down and is determined in every time that the acting character engages with the target.

For example, inviting the target to attend a tea ceremony might be a good way to make a good impression, improving your chances of being able to speak to them again sooner. Meanwhile barging into their quarters at night will most defintely affect your chances of ever being able to set an appointment with them again in the future.

The encounter itself is played out normally. Upon the conclusion of the scene, the GM determines if there are any further bonuses or penalties applied to the acting character or the target. The two characters then make their rolls.

On a success, the acting character makes one Strike against the character’s sway value, and moves one step closer to convincing them to take a particular course of action or change their opinion or belief about something. A character that has made raises on their roll count as having taken more steps.

For example, if Haruko manages to successfully roll to convince her target with a roll that she has made a single raise on, then she counts as having 2 successes gainst the target’s sway value.

Take note that it is entirely possible for the two characters involved in a scene to be acting upon each other, working on separate agendas.


Leverage is a catch-all phrase for all the little things that can be done to improve ones chances in a social encounter. Gifts, favors, a pleasant meal, a stunning performance, blackmail, obligations and torture… all of these can be used to boost an acting character’s chances in a social conflict.

This is a very soft mechanic as it relies on the GM to determine their effect. That said, the use of leverage can help in one of two ways: Improving the Impression, or Reducing sway value.

Most of the time, leverage is best used to improve Impressions for early encounters with the target, and then used to reduce the sway value when trying to seal a deal.

Of course, this is a lot of random mechanics musing without any tests. Perhaps I’ll be able to get a better feel of it by running a short scenario using my NPCs. Haruko is a prime candidate, but let’s see if I can’t find someone else for her to exercise her influence on.

  1. Hikkikomori says:

    My Crane Ronin, Ragan, has an Awareness and Willpower of 2.
    His Insight Rank is 2.

    Which gives him a total Sway Value of 4.

    Ragan sees through your lies, courtier!

    (裸眼, Ragan, means ‘naked eye’.)

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