Hey there,

I’m still a bit busy but I wanted to let people know my thoughts on the L5R 5e Beta as far as Character Creation goes.

  • Twenty Questions – This has been a tradition of L5R books since the first edition, and I’m glad that they found a way to tie it into character creation itself as you make the choices that define each stage of your character.
  • Clan Profiles in chargen – Great stuff! Adding cultural, knowledge and philosophy notes in chargen help cement what kind of people tend to come from the various Clans.
  • Ninjo and Giri – The conflicting forces of Ninjo and Giri are an interesting addition to the L5R character, and adds mechanical weight to what was originally all very “setting” detail that was hard to communicate to newbies.
  • Honor, Glory and Status – Good to see all three of these made it through, with some interesting new rules! Tying advantages and flaws to high and low scores of these attributes is a neat way to reward different styles of play. Also, I’d be remiss if I didn’t call out the Staking Honor rules here. The fact that you’re putting your honor, status or glory on the line to convince someone to take a course of action you feel is best is a great moment that deserves even a slight mechanical nod.
  • Strife – Here’s a new mechanic that I’m a little worried about. I like Ninjo and Giri but I worry about how Strife might end up like Exalted’s limit break, and if my fiddling around with the dice roller is any indication, Strife can build up really fast. Will need to find out more as I actually playtest.

To try and get my bearings on the new L5R RPG from Fantasy Flight Games, I’ve decided to try and put together a quick character. The Beta document doesn’t have a full set of schools but there’s enough to make a decent spread of characters.

Part 1: Core Identity

Characters begin with 1 rank in each ring and 0 ranks in each skill. Ring and skills cannot be raised beyond 3 during character creation.

  1. What Clan does your character belong to?

    I’m rebuilding an old character of mine, a Shiba Yojimbo (bodyguard) by the name of Shiba Tetsuya. He belongs to the mystical Phoenix Clan as a warrior sworn to protect the Clan’s shugenja.

    This gives him a +1 to his Void Ring, +1 to the Theology Skill, and a starting Status of 30.

    The character creation section here gives a quick snapshot of the various things inherent to those raised in the Clan. This includes Culture, Specialised Knowledge and the Clan’s Interpretation of Bushido.

    I find that this is a GREAT way to give people an idea of what kind of knowledges they have and how they’re generally expected to behave.

  2. What Family does your character belong to?

    As noted in his name above, Shiba Tetsuya belongs to the Shiba Family.

    This gives him a +1 to his Water Ring, +1 to the Courtesy and Tactics Skills, and a starting Glory of 40.

Part 2: Role and School

  1. What is your character’s role and school?

    Shiba Tetsuya is a warrior, so I’m assigning him the Shiba Guardian School.

    This grants him a +1 to Earth and Water Rings, and a +1 to 5 picks from this list: Courtesy, Fitness, Martial Arts [Melee], Meditation, Survival, Tactics, Theology.

    Techniques available to him are: Kata, Shoji and Rituals

    His starting Techniques are: A choice between Striking as Water, or Striking as Earth, as well as the Lord Shiba’s Selflessness Kata.

    He begins play with 45 Honor

    His School ability is Way of the Phoenix: This allows him to help a nearby character by negating a number of Strife results from a check they perform equal to his school rank.

    His starting Outfit includes: Ashigaru amor, travel clothing, dash, spear OR naginata, traveling pack and 5 koku.

  2. How does your character stand out in their school?

    Tetsuya has always been innovative, willing to take risks and use new ideas to get the job done. As such, I’m giving him a +1 to his Fire Ring.

Part 3: Honor and Glory

  1. What is your character’s duty to their lord?

    Tetsuya is a Yojimbo, a bodyguard assigned to protect one of the Isawa shugenja. This functions as his primary Giri, or duty, and is the primary way by which Tetsuya gains and loses Honor and Glory.

  2. What does your character long for?

    On the flip side of Giri is Ninjo, or personal goals. Tetsuya’s Ninjo is his fatherly devotion for his charge, Isawa Yuri. She was the daughter of his lost unrequited love, a Yuki no Onna who fell in love for Tetsuya’s best friend instead.

  3. What is your character’s opinion of their Clan?

    Tetsuya is a pragmatic sort, and while he understands the nature of the Phoenix, he does not see harm in being prepared. Because of this, he benefits from having a +1 to his Tactics skill.

  4. What does your character think of Bushido?

    Tetsuya’s Ninjo holds sway over him far more than his Giri. As such, he is prepared to take great risks to his Honor to do what he feels is right. As such, he gains a +1 to the Skulduggery skill.

Part 4: Strengths and Weaknesses

  1. What is your character’s greatest accomplishment so far?

    In one legendary incident, Tetsuya was able to track down his charge when she was kidnapped by bandits in the midst of a snowstorm.

    I’m giving Tetsuya the Specific Distinction: Karmic Tie to his charge.

  2. What holds your character back the most in life?

    Ever since the loss of both his best friend, and the only woman he ever loved. Tetsuya has always felt on edge, and secretly fears that the Fortunes only have the worst in store for him.

    Tetsuya gains the Specific Adversity: Paranoia

  3. What activity makes your character feel at peace?

    To centre himself, Tetsuya exercises Meditation to overcome the anxieties and worries of his life.

    Tetsuya gains the Specific Passion: Enlightenment

  4. What concern, fear or foible troubles your character the most?

    Tetsuya has difficulty holding back when he is committed to battle.

    Tetsuya gains the Specific Anxiety: Ferocity

  5. Who has your character learned the most from during their life?

    Given his colourful history, Tetsuya isn’t among the young hopefuls that have just completed their gempukku. His experiences with his comrade, falling in love with the Yuki no Onna, and raising Yuri has forged him into a formidable soul.

    Tetsuya gains the Seasoned Advantage.

Part 5: Personality and Behaviour

  1. What detail do others find most striking about your character?

    Tetsuya’s intense gaze is one born of having seen the supernatural, and suffered through great emotional pain.

  2. How does your character react to stressful situations?

    Tetsuya’s wrath is a thing to behold, but something that many others would rather avoid. Tetsuya lashes out physically in moments of intense stress.

  3. What are your character’s preexisting relationships with other clans, families, organisations and traditions?

    Shiba Tetsuya is a samurai with some dealings with the Dragon, and see them as strange, if kindred spirits with their ties to Theology. He has not truly interacted with Scorpions, but he shares their willingness to abandon Honor to get the job done.

Part 6: Ancestry and Family

  1. How would your character’s parents describe them?

    Tetsuya would be described by his parents as quiet and stubborn. He has a strong sense of justice and would always stand up for the underdog even if it meant getting beaten up by bullies, until such time that he grew strong enough to overcome them.

  2. Who was your character named to honour?

    At this point Tetsuya was named after a revered ancestor who was a Dynasty Builder.

    His Glory is reduced by 3, but he gains a +1 to his Performance skill.

  3. What is your character’s personal name?

    Tetsuya, which stands for “Devoted,” or “To be like iron.”

  4. How should your character die?

    Shiba Tetsuya is a character of unyielding devotion. If he should die, then he should do so in order to protect that which he loves.

Summary of Stats:

Shiba Tetsuya, Veteran Yojimbo

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

Skills: Theology +1, Courtesy +1, Tactics +3, Fitness +1, Martial Arts [Melee] +1, Meditation +1, Survival +1, Performance +1, Skulduggery +1

Techniques available to him are: Kata, Shoji and Rituals

His starting Techniques are:

  • Striking as Water (Kata)
  • Lord Shiba’s Selflessness (Kata)

Way of the Phoenix: This allows him to help a nearby character by negating a number of Strife results from a check they perform equal to his school rank.

Outfit: Ashigaru armor, travel clothing, daisho, Naginata, traveling pack and 5 koku.

  • Glory: 37
  • Honor: 45
  • Status: 30

Advantages: Karmic Tie (Isawa Yuri), Seasoned

Passions: Enlightenment

Disadvantages: Paranoia

Anxieties: Ferocity

Derived Attributes:

  • Resilience: 5
  • Focus: 3
  • Composure: 8
  • Vigilance: 2

Void Points: 1

Excuse me while I hyperventilate.


Anyway, New L5R. With what looks like a new system integrating things like the classic conflict between Ninjo (Personal Feelings) and Giri (Social Duties). It’s too early to say anything about the system, but I am very eager to see the beta test document and may participate in the playtest program for this to see if I can’t swing it to be the best it can be!


I’ve been absent from the blog for a bit of time due to sheer work, but I’ve had a little time to myself and I’d like to take a moment to put my thoughts to paper with regards to something my wife and I were talking about the other night.

She’d mentioned that ever since she’d given birth to our (now 2 and a half year old ) little boy, I seem to have lost my enthusiasm for certain games that I long considered my specialties. Among these would be Mage: the Awakening and perhaps to a lesser extent games like Exalted.


Still love this image, though

As with most things, she’s right. It was a strange phase in my gaming career as a GM where I couldn’t really get my head in the game. And it was only a few nights ago, over dinner that we were able to determine why.

I’m currently running two campaigns: an all-Scorpion Clan game of Legend of the Five Rings, and the stellar Masks of Nyarlathotep campaign for Call of Cthulhu. And in both of these, my wife felt that I was much more my old self. That got us thinking about why that was.

Ultimately, we settled on the fact that my outlook on life has been altered somewhat by the birth of our son. Before then, I was perfectly happy to run games that was full of darkness and vain hope. John Constantine’s Hellblazer was a big thing for me, and a part of me actually enjoyed the fact that the Exalts were doomed to repeat the mistakes of their past in Exalted.

It finally dawned on me as to what made playing these games (CoD, WoD, Scion and Exalted) so difficult now: The player characters are essentially their own worst enemy. Each one of the characters are fundamentally flawed to the point that they are doomed to sabotage their own efforts at finding happiness.

And I can’t subscribe to that mindset anymore.

But now that I’m caring for a little version of myself, I find it much for more difficult for me to get into that headspace. Instead, I’m gravitating towards games where the player character motives are ultimately better than those of the bad guys.


Prettier too

So where does this leave me with regards to those other games then? Well, for now, they’ve earned their place on my shelf, and I’ve made many, many good memories from running Mage and Exalted. But that said, I think it’s time for me to retire them from my rotation for now, and focus on learning (and running) other games, like Modiphius’ stellar lineup of games like Star Trek Adventures, Conan and Achtung! Cthulhu.

I’m also looking into learning games I’ve skipped before during the haze that was my wife’s pregnancy and the first year of my son’s life. I’ve been reading up on 7th Sea in hopes of being able to run it, and Shadowrun 5th Edition has been something of a personal challenge to figure out.

In any case, all of this thinking has left me somewhat more optimistic. There’s a huge amount of RPGs out there that are worth checking out, and if anything I’ve found a new kind of freedom in this new state of mine.

Onward, and upward we go!


Dinosaurs, time travel and weird science! With a combination like that, how could you possibly go wrong? Monte Cook Games’ latest Cypher System game, Predation has all three of these in crazy amounts, and author Shanna Germain tackles it with gleeful enthusiasm.

I’ve been lucky to have been given a Review Copy of the game, and I’m digging into it now to see if this will become my new favorite Cypher System setting.

In this series, we’ll be taking a look at the game, and see if it lives up to the hype. I appreciated Numenera and The Strange before, so I remain optimistic that Predation will be a great product that will appeal to anyone looking to fire lasers while riding bioengineered dinosaurs.

So, what are we in for? Let’s take a look at the marketing blurb:

Welcome to the Cretaceous. Our ancestors won’t climb down from the trees for another 66 million years, but here we are now. Time travel seemed like a good idea. Exploring the ancient world. Building. Creating an entire society here in the jungles of our primordial Earth. Until those SATI guys messed it all up.

We’ve got gear. We’ve got guns. We’ve even bioengineered a few dinos to our liking. And that’s good, because we’ll need it all to survive. History says there’s an asteroid headed our way, and there’s no one left alive who knows how to get back to the future.

Welp. Certainly sounds like a crazy time (and place) but I do like the fact that there’s already a self-imposed apocalypse in place in the form of said asteroid impact.


Thankfully the opening chapters of the book tell us exactly what SATI is. An international conglomerate, Space and Time, Intg. sent a group of bioengineers and paleontologists and other specialists back to the late Cretaceous period on top-secret missions.

The problem was, that within a decade, something went terribly wrong, and the time-travel process broke down, leaving the commuters (as they were called) stranded in time.

Now (or Then, but you get the picture)

That was a hundred years ago. The early commuters had to survive, and so they adapted to the harsh world, using their sciences to build communities, breed bioengineered dinosaurs, raised families and tried to find a way to get back home.

But with so much time passing, a new generation of humanity is coming to take over. Those born in this era, never having belonged to the future. This is home to them, and it is among them that your characters belong.

It’s quite a setup for a game, and I’m honestly intrigued. I’m hoping that Predation is able to do something new with the Cypher System, and isn’t just a reskin of Numenera. There’s a lot of promise to the setting as is, and I’m hopeful that we’ll be in for quite an adventure.

If you’re looking to join in and study along, you can grab a PDF of Predation over a DriveThruRPG for only $17.99!