[Legend of the Five Rings] dueling example

Today we’ll be taking a quick example of the dueling rules for Fantasy Flight Games’ Legend of the Five Rings RPG. It’s an intriguing minigame to look at and I’m curious to see how it plays out with actual dice rolls and between two player characters. All rolls have been simulated with the L5R Dice Roller App on my Android Phone.

The Characters

Our first contender should be pretty familiar, as we’re reusing Kitsuki Yuyan. While she’s technically a courtier, her job as a magistrate / investigator means she’ll end up in a duel sooner than later.

Kitsuki Yuyan, Driven Investigator

Rings: Air 3, Earth 2, Fire 2, Water 2, Void 1

Skills: Meditation 1, Government 1, Sentiment 2, Culture 1, Martial Arts [Melee] 1, Medicine 1, Skulduggery 3, Commerce 1

Techniques available: Kata, Shuji and Rituals

Starting Techniques:

  • Tactical Assessment (Kata)
  • Shallow Waters (Shuji)

Kitsuki’s Method: Treat skills used on an investigation check as being equal to her school rank. Should the ranks in the skill be equal to or higher than her school rank, then she may add a a kept Ring Die set to an Opportunity result instead.

Outfit: Traveling clothes, wakizashi, knife, calligraphy set, jian (straight sword), traveling pack, journal of observations

  • Glory: 49
  • Honor: 45
  • Status: 30

Distinctions: Subtle Observer, Precise Memory
Passions: Brushwork
Adversities: Scorn of the Bayushi Magistrates
Anxieties: Jealousy

Derived Attributes:

  • Endurance: 8
  • Composure: 8
  • Focus: 5
  • Vigilance: 3

Void Points: 1

Yuyan’s opponent today will be Shinjo Tamura, a suspect in her investigation, who has taken offense at her insinuations that he’d been involved in petty theft. With his honor slighted, he’s challenged her to a duel.

Shinjo Tamura, Impatient Outrider

Rings: Air 2, Earth 2, Fire 3, Water 2, Void 1

Skills: Survival 3, Sentiment 1, Martial Arts [Melee] 1, Martial Arts [Ranged] 1, Medi-cine, 1, Skulduggery 1, Tactics 1

Techniques available: Kata, Shuji and Rituals

Starting Techniques:

  • Striking as Fire (Kata)
  • Lady Shinjo’s Speed (Kata)

Born in the Saddle: Once per scene, before rolling dice, you may declare that you are directing your horse (who must be present) to aid in a task and describe how its efforts help in those circumstances. Reduce the TN of the check by your school rank.

Starting Outfit: Ashigaru armor, traveling clothes, daishō (scimitar, wakizashi), yumi (bow), quiver of arrows, knife, traveling pack, Unicorn warhorse

  • Glory: 49
  • Honor: 50
  • Status: 30

Distinctions: Quick Reflexes
Passions: Curiosity
Adversities: Gaijin Appearance
Anxieties: Impatience

Derived Attributes:

  • Endurance: 10
  • Composure: 8
  • Focus: 5
  • Vigilance:2

Void Points: 1

The Duel

With our characters in conflict, the terms of the duel are set by the lord of the estate where both Yuyan and Tamura are currently staying as guests. As a matter of honor, the duel shall be one to First Blood (meaning someone has to land a Critical Strike of Deadliness 5 or more), and both combatants may use their unique choice of weaponry: Yuyan with her jian and Tamura with his scimitar, and both of them agree to begin with weapons drawn.

Initiative check

At this point both combatants roll a TN 1 Meditation check to determine their starting initiative values.

Wary of her opponent, Yuyan opts to adopt the Air Stance and scores 3 Successes, and 2 Strife.

Tamura on the other hand decides to go with the Earth Stance and scores no Successes and 1 Opportunity.

Strife Count: Yuyan 2, Tamura 1

Staredown, Round 1

During the special staredown section, Yuyan and Tamura both have an opportunity to secretly bid Strife up to their Focus Attribute to modify their initiative scores at the cost of increasing their Strife.

Yuyan, confident that Tamura wouldn’t bid high enough to match her, goes for 0.
Tamura decides that the Strife isn’t worth it yet and also bids 0.

Both bids are revealed and the Initiative is set at Yuyan 3, Tamura 0

As part of the Staredown, both samurai gain 1 Strife.

Strife Count: Yuyan 3, Tamura 1

Yuyan, Round 1

Yuyan is well aware that she’s slightly disadvantaged given her Strife count. Banking on the additional protection afforded by the Air Stance, she decides to go for a Predict action.

Yuyan’s player believes that Tamura will try to take her down quickly rather than wear her out and writes “Fire” as her prediction without showing it to Tamura’s player.

Strife Count: 3

Tamura, Round 1

Tamura’s player, enjoying a lead in terms of Strife decides to further aggravate Yuyan’s player by choosing to take the Calming Breath action. This allows him to reduce his Strife by 1.

Strife Count: 0

Staredown, Round 2

Both characters receive 2 Strife.

Yuyan bids 0
Impatient Tamura bids 4!

In a surprise move, Tamura’s player decides to go on the offensive, snatching the Initiative from Yuyan.

Strife Count: Yuyan 5 , Tamura 6

Tamura, Round 2

Tamura declares, that he’s switching to the Fire Stance, triggering Yuyan’s Prediction! Yuyan shows Tamura her prediction with a smirk. This sets off the following: Tamura must switch out to a different Stance, and gains 4 Strife. Yuyan chooses the Air stance to keep himself safer as the 4 Strife he gained means that Tamura is Compromised. This triggers Yuyan’s opportunity to inflict a Finishing Blow!

Yuyan’s Finishing Blow

This being a special interrupt action, Yuyan is still assumed to be in the Air Stance and makes a TN 3 Air + Martial Arts [Melee] attack with her jian! Unwilling to take chances, she also decides to spend a Void Point to make sure she gets to roll and keep an additional Ring die.

She rolls 4 Successes and 2 Strife!

Finishing Blows automatically inflict Critical Strikes at double the Deadliness rating. Taking into account Yuyan’s jian’s Deadliness of 8, plus 1 more for her extra success over the TN, that means that her attack comes to a total Deadliness of 9.

Tamura’s Resistance

In order to degrade the damage done by the hit, Tamura gets a chance to roll a TN 1 Fitness check to resist and reduce the Deadliness of the strike. Stuck to the Air stance and without any ranks in Fitness, he rolls 0 Successes!

Without armor on, he takes the full brunt of a Deadliness 9 strike, and takes the Bleeding Condition, and is rendered mute! (Perhaps by a strike across the neck?)

scoring and rewards

With the strike landed, the duel is ended.

Dueling scores are calculated in accordance to actions executed. As Yuyan not only achieved the objective of First Blood, as well as being the one who struck the enemy first, she handily wins the contest in the eyes of the assembled witnesses and gains 5 glory!


Overall the duel is a pretty exciting minigame. With a lot of interesting back and forth and tactical decisions across the entire process, there’s plenty of things to like about this version without abstracting it. That said I would definitely spend more time studying and practicing it if I intend to play a duelist.

For those that would like to read along, you can get a copy of the Legend of the Five Rings RPG on PDF over at DrivethruRPG for only $24.95

7 thoughts on “[Legend of the Five Rings] dueling example

  1. Is Yuyan’s finishing blow a iaijutsu technique? Probably because the TN is 3 🙂 but maybe make it clear in the text. Also: “the finishing blow inflicts a critical strike with severity –equal to two times– the deadliness of the weapon or Attack action used,plus the attacker’s bonus successes.” Otherwise, a great example, thanks!

    1. Hi, Janek, thanks for pointing out that the finishing blow is twice the deadliness of the weapon. Looks like the Unicorn is in a world of pain. Will edit accordingly.

      Also no, I just established that both agreed to fight with weapons drawn already for this duel since neither of them were proficient in iaijutsu. The +1 TN was from Tamura’s Air Stance.

  2. It looks like “First Blood” duels are a lot more dangerous in this edition than in previous ones considering that for a simple slight of honor it seems this Unicorn is now no longer able to talk and that’s just fine with everyone else.

    I’ll have to look to see how Critical Strikes are healed since in a previous write up you indicated that before Deadliness 9 you could also end up slicing a hand off. Which…well, that’s basically a dead PC since a PC that can’t use their hands will probably be retired really fast.

    1. Admittedly the First Blood win condition could have been settled with a simple Strike with a weapon of Deadliness 5 (like a katana), but given that the jian only has a Deadliness of 4, Yuyan would have had to score pretty high on her less than optimal dicepool to win.

    1. Hey there, the Strike action is an option for this kind of duel. The only condition for First Blood is to hit with a Deadliness 5 attack, which is doable with a standard attack with 2 Opportunities spent to inflict a Critical Strike.

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