Disclaimer: This Let’s Study series is made possible by the generosity of Edge Studio, who provided an advanced review copy of the PDF.
Today we continue our look at the playable Character Classes in Adventures in Rokugan. These last three Classes are those who are Spiritual in nature, and whom have the most “supernatural” abilities.
Possessed of the rare ability to speak with the Elemental Spirits of Rokugan, the Ritualist is a highly respected and crucial part of Rokugani society. Each of the Great Clans prizes their Ritualist Traditions, and seeks to preserve their own relationship with the Spirits as this allows the Ritualist to serve the Clan in ways that mere skill cannot.
Ritualists gain the ability to cast Invocations, which allow the Ritualist to call upon the Spirits to perform a task or execute a feat of supernatural nature. This is made possible thanks to Favor, which is a mechanical representation of how much the Ritualist is able to coerce the spirits of the Elements to perform the task requested of them.
Favor acts like magic points, in a sense, but is also spent in order to push an Invocation to do greater effects. Invocations themselves have a Favor Cost, but also benefit from being cast in places or circumstances that are Resonant to the nature of the request.
I really like the Ritualist and how it’s executed mechanically in Adventures in Rokugan. It’s mechanically easy to understand, and Favor and Resonance mechanics in Invocations add an opportunity to add flavor to spellcasting. Add the fact that Ritualists can specialize as Artisans, Elementalists and Mediums by the second level, there’s a broad spectrum of character concepts that this Class can support.
Not exactly the kind of Class name to inspire images of heroism, but the Pilgrim Class is perhaps the most unique of the Classes in Adventures in Rokugan. Conceptually the Pilgrims are enlightened martial artists and are better known in L5R as the Monk archetype.
Mechanically speaking, the Pilgrim has access to Yin and Yang energies that they can then externalize to perform special abilities. The Yin and Yang mechanics kick in at 2nd Level, where the Pilgrim gets a special Ying and Yang Balance track that measures whether the Pilgrim is Centered state or favoring either Yin or Yang. In combat, the Pilgrim actually shifts from one state to another as they use their Externalizations.
Externalizations are the special techniques that manifest the Pilgrim’s Yin and Yang energies. An example would be the Impetus of Rejuvenation Externalization which allows the Pilgrim to let a creature they touch to recover hit points. The use of this Externalization pushes the Pilgrim towards a Yang Ascendant state.
It’s a fiddly system, with a state tracking measure that bestows different mechanical effects. I personally like it, but like I mentioned with the Bushi writeup, I greatly enjoy tactical decisions of this nature.
Another Class that is unique to Rokugan’s legends are the Acolytes. Originally conceptualized as the Tattooed Man of the Dragon Clan, this has been greatly expanded. Acolytes are physical bearers of divine or supernatural essence, which manifest in the form of markings. As such, they are capable of magical feats that originate from their divine connection. Adventures in Rokugan details two Traditions of Acolytes: The Togashi Order and the Acolytes of Shadow.
Unlike most of the other Classes, the Acolytes are very specific to their Traditions. The Togashi Order, for example gets mystical tattoos such as the Dragon Tattoo, which in Adventures in Rokugan now comes in 5 elemental flavors depending on what Element Dragon is tattooed on you. Meanwhile the Acolytes of Shadow manifest the sinister Shadow Brands like the Brand of Dire Might, which lets you materialize limbs of shadow that you can use to climb or fight and grapple with.
As far as this particular Class goes, it helps a lot if you know the general lore behind each of these Traditions. The Togashi Order in particular has a very special place in the Dragon Clan, and there’s a lot of nuance to playing an Acolyte that might be missed if you just read through this as just another Class.
Thoughts on Classes
Adventures in Rokugan starts to really shine the moment the mechanics come in, and the Classes showcase this brilliantly. Each one offers a unique way to engage in the tactical combat of 5e in ways that go beyond the basics of “I hit it” or “I cast magic missile.”
With the addition of these tactical options, you’re often not in a state where you can just sit back to a “default” mode of combat. Instead you’re encouraged to remain engaged, and looking for opportunities to be in the right place at the right time to pull off your next brilliant move.
That said, I do with that the Classes engaged in things outside of combat more, but again, this wasn’t what AiR was intended to do. But I’m sure we’ll see more when we get to the section on Character Motivations.
Next up, we’ll be taking a look at the Backgrounds, which form the next part of the character equation. We already know the what the character is with Species, what they do with Classes, and now we’re looking at their cultural context.
This is what I feel will make or break it for me. I’m impressed with the mechanics thus far, but if the Backgrounds can convey what makes Rokugan unique, then I think we’re in for some very interesting games ahead.