[Let’s Study] Adventures in Rokugan, Part 5: Character Motivations

Disclaimer: This Let’s Study series is made possible by the generosity of Edge Studio, who provided an advanced review copy of the PDF.

The original Legend of the Five Rings setting was described as a place “Where Honor was a force more powerful than steel.” This was a guiding mantra through all the earlier editions, though admittedly sometimes venturing into rather racist portrayals that people have learned to move on without.

That said, the opposing dynamic between Duty versus Personal Desires was a core concept in L5R, and I was hoping that it would still be somewhere in Adventures in Rokugan.

While I didn’t get an Honor stat, AiR goes on to introduce a different sort of trait: Character Motivations.

What’s my Motivation?

Motivation mechanics serve as both a means of defining a character, and as an additional means of gaining Inspiration. At the end of Character Creation, the players chooses (or comes up with) two Motivations for their Character. These Motivations fall under the following categories:

  • Bonds
  • Desires
  • Duties
  • Fears
  • Ideals
  • Regrets

It’s possible for a character to have two Motivations from the same Category. What’s important is that the two Motivations must be chosen in a way where they will sometimes come into conflict with each other. The DM, in turn, gets to add complications into the game that pits these Motivations against one another, in exchange for the player getting a point of Inspiration when it happens.

Motivations are also mutable. If a cruel betrayal shakes the foundations of a Samurai’s commitment to their Lord (Duty), they might abandon loyalty and instead swear vengeance upon their former liege (Desire).

This section of the book presents itself very well, with each of the categories having a full writeup and examples to choose from if your players are looking for inspiration. There’s even a handy table that presents examples for how each motivation category might conflict with another.

In a way, this section sort of addresses my primary concern: How would you represent the conflicts between Motivations inherent to the people of Rokugan that adds the L5R drama into a game? While it doesn’t count Honor or Glory points, and Dishonor is no longer a legitimate means of removing a threat, Adventures in Rokugan still maintains a means to at least highlight what makes the heroes of Rokugan interesting.

That said, I’m still going to miss the backstabbing politics and double-speak in Winter Court without enough social mechanics to engage with.

Next up, well be moving on to a very quick run through of the Setting Resources, which tackles specific such as Dueling mechanics, the History of Rokugan, and the Atlas of the Empire before we wrap up with a final review of Adventures in Rokugan.

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