L5R 5e: A Ronin’s Path, Part 1 – First Impressions

Last weekend, I was able to round up a bunch of L5R players from my local gaming community’s massive 30-player “Living” Rokugan 4e campaign to sit down and take 5e for a spin.

The session was broken down into character creation, and the opening sections of the beta document’s free Adventure: A Ronin’s Path. If it isn’t clear by now, consider this a SPOILER WARNING for those who might end up playing this adventure.

Character Creation

Character Creation took about 2 hours overall, given the amount of reading and questions we had as the team had mostly not had a chance to really dig into the 5e beta rules yet. That said we were able to put together a crew of Emerald Magistrates consisting of:

  • Shosuro Infiltrator
  • Ikoma Bard
  • Akodo Commander
  • Togashi Tattooed Man
  • Shinjo Outrider


When I pitched the adventure, I told the team that they’d be Emerald Magistrates, and as such will have to put their inter-clan bickering aside for fighting crime. That was generally okay with them, given that they’ve been playing 3 months worth of crazy inter-clan politicking with the occasional duel.


Of course, when I read out the opening text and the players insisted to join the Magistrate for the chase after the Mahou-Tsukai, the boxed response was so awful that the players were all, “Holy cow. Alrighty then, you go enjoy getting tainted on your own!”

I suspect having a different response will have softened that particular moment. Something along the lines of:

“Your devotion is appreciated, but both criminals must be caught, and Michiru is a dangerous quarry. I am off to meet with a second team to handle her. However, her accomplice may know more information crucial to this investigation. As such, I entrust this duty to you. Do not fail me.” 

In any case, the team went on to check to see if they had missed any clues. This was where the game lets players do a low-risk series of investigation rolls in order to get a hang of the dice rolling and basic resolution system.


Of course the first thing that the team questioned is why would someone with a functioning establishment like the inn allow for a room to be left untouched for 2 weeks?

It was another moment which shook the players out of their suspension of disbelief, but they soldiered on. Here I had some difficulty pinning which Ring corresponds to a player’s approach, and for some players, they defaulted to saying “I investigate it with Earth” as opposed to giving a narrative description of what their character did, leaving it up to me to come up with how it’s done.

Clearly that’s not how it’s meant to work

We pinned it down as something that was influenced by the Character sheet. The column of boxes next to skills tended to influence players to express their approach in the game space by use of the Rings. I found myself either falling into the habit of retroactively describing their actions to accommodate the Ring somehow which added more mental load to me as a GM. I believe the intent was to relay everything narratively, then check to see which Approach matches.

The investigation itself was pretty straightforward, and my players felt a little silly afterwards after realising that there was nothing much left to find aside from the detail about how the characters were positioned during the time of the murder. With that, the team raced South towards the Kaiu Wall.

Part 1: To the Third Watchtower

The team made their way towards the Kaiu Wall, dreading what was going to happen given that the Ronin they were after had a three week lead on them. When they arrived, the reveal that the Ronin was now a Crab Samurai was not quite a big surprise but it was a welcome complication as it was the first real twist they’d encountered so far.

They made their inquiries and tried to take a softer approach rather than  making a direct accusation. I decided to have the former Ronin challenge them to a duel to first blood, and they nominated their Akodo Commander to be their champion. The match was an interesting one, where the Ronin was clearly winning, but at a crucial moment a counter-strike by the Akodo Commander left him bleeding out on the ground.


First off, it seems first blood basically means leaving your opponent dying but not dead as opposed to being the first to draw blood. This changed the dynamic of it, but the mechanics, which I’ll go over in another time and a different post.

That said, it took a bit of time before we were able to resolve the duel. Unlike in the original system where everything was decided in a single strike, this one is more like a Chambara duel with circling, stance changes, several strikes and then that one deciding moment when someone dies.

I liked how the Stances worked, how there were sub-actions that could be made to either improve your TN to be hit and to deal damage to the opponent. It was essentially a combat system of it’s own. Iaijutsu had a lot of spotlight in the previous edition, but now you had all sorts of duels, and it’s possible to have a Crab with a tetsubo face off with some Daidoji with a yari and still have it count as a duel.

That said, getting there was tough. Mechanically we didn’t exactly know what we were doing, and for most of the match, the Akodo was slowly losing Wounds from all the strikes that the Ronin was using. Unfortunately, the Ronin suffered an Outburst first, triggering a Finishing Blow from the Akodo, and leaving the Ronin dying on the floor.

This was where we left off. There’s a second part to this adventure but I needed time to study the rest of the Mass Combat system before I proceeded with it.

In the meantime, here’s a list of issues that the team noted from their experiences so far:

Character Creation

  • Layout concern, flipping back and forth during character creation
  • Font for Headers is difficult to read.
  • Starting Experience: 24 experience at the start of the adventure. Is this part of character creation? Game needs more means to customise a build after the lifepath. 24 exp feels about right but we need further playtesting to find out.


  • Shugenja starts only with 2 spells, feels a bit underpowered compared to the old 6 spell spread of the old game.
  • Spell Spamming is possible, and the Backlash is abusable by a creative Shugenja. Is this intentional?
  • Kiho feels a lot like Elemental Bending from Avatar: the Last Airbender
  • Skill advancement feels very restricting, is there an option to make generic exp purchases that count towards the advancement?
  • Ring Guide up front feels confusing because it limits people to approaches. While it wasn’t the intent, players suddenly consider only those approaches. Perhaps it would be best to hide that chart and give that to the GMs instead?
  • Rings allow for flexibility, feels much more liberating.


  1. Warenhari says:

    “Skill advancement feels very restricting” – you mean that because not enough of skills count in for school level advancement? If I recall correctly all Rings count for most schools at least in early levels. Also it’s quite close to 4ed where most of Insight score came from Rings.
    I haven’t advanced pass Lvl1 now, but I found no problem with spending exp on things that are not school releated, by improved personaly by character for his own improvement – I read it that character can by whatever he wishes, just not all exp spend counts for school level advancement.
    It was something else you ment and I missread your comment or rules themselves?

    • I think you read it pretty much how I meant. While there was 24 experience given out in the playtest, players felt restricted to making purchases that counted towards the next rank. I’m trying to figure out how to best point out that it’s worth spending to get stuff you feel is “right” rather than just what the list of purchases in the school say you should buy.

  2. Warenhari says:

    I played my first two sessions recently (not the Path adventure) and some questions arised. I hope you don’t mind I steal your post for some of them.

    1. Custom dice and new implementation of roll and keep gone quite well, except for all kind of reroll (advantage/disadvantage) or exploding success situations that slowed down roll resolutions – somehow it’s even more an issue now, that it was in exploding ‘0’ in 4ed. I wonder if it’s player specific issue or you have similar feelings?

    2. How to keep the strife stacked for longer? There is a rule, that 3 strife is cleared at the end of the scene. I assume that if there is any downtime, like non-intense break between scenes few hours long, some ‘pseudo scenes’ might occur the effectively clear the strife down to ‘0’ – denying that would probably encourage players to initiate minor scenes just to count for ‘scene end’.
    Did I missed something? How many outbursts you got in time of adventure, except one mentioned in a duel?

    • Hi there,

      1) Rerolls didn’t seem to come up so much in my team so there wasn’t so much of an issue with it. Will be running this as a playtest for a different group to see if it becomes confusing

      2) Strife for us was a decent mechanic, and aside from that duel we didn’t really encounter any other Outbursts. I’m okay with this frequency, as I expect that in more intense scenarios that don’t leave much time for multiple “empty” scenes, the tension will build until an Outburst occurs.

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