Posts Tagged ‘Legend of the Five Rings’

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.

Hey guys,

As you can tell, I’ve been eyebrows deep into the L5R Corebook Beta file that was generously released for free and as someone that’s been playing L5R since the first edition, I’m doing what I can to help me learn this brand new system better.

I’m afraid that this is a disorganized mess, but I’m still trying to put down my impressions of the game as I read along:

  • Raises are now Opportunities – Raises as a mechanic in the previous systems have always been a weird thing to teach, in my experience. In the old system, players don’t feel good about voluntarily increasing their TN to succeed and tend to avoid making Raises because of it. Instead, they’d rather roll high, then deduct Raises in increments of 5 from there.

    The new system addresses this by replacing Raises with Opportunities, which pop up from the roll separate from your successes. This feels more rewarding while retaining the same general structure,  you trade the value of the roll for a chance to do something else with it.

  • No two clan bushi are alike – There’s something to be said about the freedom to purchase kata and techniques according to preference. The linear progression of learning X technique at Rank 2 is eliminated in part by the fact that players just need to meet a a quota of required spends. In some ways it allows for different kinds of samurai to exist within the same family and school.
  • Duels are interesting – It’s different from the classic format, but one that also works within the context of duels as seen Chambara movies. The doubled deadliness of weapons in duels in particular has me cringing at the results of what a duel might be like. That might make for a good next post though. Maybe once I’m able to put together another sample character.
  • Mass Combat has changed – There’s a greater sense of leading a command in this edition, and while I’m still going over it, I remain positive that it will work out pretty well in this regard.

Since we’ve got a sample character already, let’s go on ahead and pit him against a Bandit and see how combat goes in the new L5R. L5R has traditionally been a fairly deadly system, with characters dying in 2 to 3 hits.

For this example, we’ll be taking a look at the Skirmish Rules. Tetsuya has chased down a bandit to a filthy dead-end alley in a small town, and the brigand prepares to fight for his life.



At this point, characters get their bearings, identify their foes and determinin initiative. This is done with an Assessment Check. Skirmishes use a TN 1 Tactics Check to gain a read on battlefield conditions and enemy.

Tetsuya chooses to get a read on his environs, and in doing so is considered to be taking a Water element approach. He rolls his 3 Water ring dice + 3 Tactics skill dice and gets the following:

2 Successes and 1 Opportunity

Tetsuya is then considered to be using the stance associated with the ring used in his Assessment roll, and is therefore in the Water Stance.

The Bandit is no pushover and rolls his 3 Fire ring dice + 2 Martial skill dice to get the following:

1 Success and 3 Opportunities

The Bandit is then considered to be in the Fire Stance.


Initiative is determined by adding either a character’s Focus or Vigilance attribute to the bonus successes of the Assessment roll.

This gives Tetsuya an Initiative of 4 (Focus 3 + 1 bonus success), while the Bandit has an Initiative of 6 (Focus 6 + 0 bonus successes)



We talked a bit about stances. Each element has a corresponding stance, which then bestows a different Effect to the combatants.


Tetsuya’s Water Stance allows him to remove 2 strife, ready or stow an item or move one range band after making a check. Meanwhile the Bandit’s Fire Stance makes each Strife result count as an additional bonus success on a successful check.

Perform Actions

At this point, the characters perform their respective Actions. The Bandit, seizing the opportunity, strikes first! He rolls his 3 Fire + 2 Martial skill dice vs a TN of 2 and gets:

3 Successes, 1 Opportunity and 1 Strife

This triggers his Dirty Tricks ability, that allows him to force Tetsuya to suffer the Disoriented condition, increasing Tetsuya’s TN for Movement and Support action checks by 2!

In addition, since the Bandit succeeded, he deals 5 Wounds (Katana 4 + 2 Extra Successes)! Thankfully, Tetsuya is wearing Ashigaru armor (Physical 3) and is able to reduce the damage to just 3 wounds.

Tetsuya feels the blade cut into flesh and tries to counter with a strike of his own with his Naginata! He rolls his 3 Water and 1 Martial Arts (Melee) vs a TN of 2 and gets:

3 Successes, 1 Opportunity and 3 Strife

Tetsuya counters with a Fierce assault of his own! He triggers his Striking As Water Kata into this attack, and spends his Opportunity to reduce the Bandit’s Resistance by 2 until the end of Tetsuya’s next turn!

A Naginata deals 6(!) wounds of damage, plus 1 more for Tetsuya’s extra success. Normally, the Bandit’s Ashigaru armor would protect against most of this damage, but Striking As Water reduces his armor to just 1 point. The Bandit suffers 6 Wounds from the vicious counterattack!

Due to a successful check, Tetsuya reduces his Strife by 2 thanks to his Water Stance.


The Bandit begins again, and shifts to an Air Stance, this allows him to increase the TN of attacks made against him by 1. He also moves to close the distance between him and Tetsuya, to make sure that Tetsuya is hard pressed to get away.

He attacks again, this time using his 2 Air and 2 Martial skill vs a TN of 2 to get:

1 Success, 1 Opportunity and 1 Strife.

He misses, but is able to spend his Opportunity die to activate his Dirty Tricks Ability once more! Tetsuya remains Disoriented.

Unwilling to back down, Tetsuya strikes again against a TN of 3 and rolls:

3 Successes, 1 Opportunity and 3 Strife

Tetsuya makes it, and spends the 1 opportunity to activate Striking As Water once more.

The Ronin takes 5 Wounds, pushing him past his Resilience of 9 by 2 points, and scoring a Critical Strike! The Bandit must now make a TN 1 Fitness Check. He scores:

2 successes and 1 Strife

This reduces the effect of the Critical Strike by 2. This means that the Injury is downgraded to a staggering strike, and the Bandit is knocked prone! Since the Bandit also took more wounds than he has Resilience, then he also suffers the Incapacitated Condition, taking him out of the fight.

Due to a successful check, Tetsuya reduces his Strife by 2 thanks to his Water Stance.

2 rounds is all it took for Tetsuya to take down an experienced Bandit. Thanks to Striking As Water paired with a very powerful weapon in the form of a Naginata made up for it. Add a few lucky rolls and he was able to bring the bandit down.

Combat feels a bit different from the usual L5R mechanic. I’m still getting used to attacking a static value of TN 2, but it’s pretty straightforward so far. I do like the dynamism brought out by the stances, and the extra effects bestowed by switching up in mid-battle. I would love to see how tactical the decisions get once people finally get to the point where they’re used to the system.

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.


Hey guys, I know it’s been a while since I’ve worked on an Actual Play report series but I figure since I’ve kicked off my Crane Clan campaign set in an alternate timeline for Rokugan, there should be enough material to make for an interesting read!

Before we proceed however, let’s take a look at the characters for this campaign:

Daidoji Kimiko / Dr. Kimberly Watson (Played by Silver Countess)

Once a young daughter to an illustrious Crane family, Daidoji Kimiko ran away from her home and boarded a Gaijin ship headed to the West to escape heartache.

After ten years of voyaging in the lands of the West and learning the ways of western medicine, Kimiko, now known as Dr. Kimberly Watson returns to the land of her birth upon receiving news that her father was suffering from a mysterious illness.

Kakita Misaki (Played by Rania)

A young shugenja recently assigned to Lonely Shore City as her biggest assignment yet, Misaki is looking forward to doing her best in her new duties and making her Clan proud. That said, her reassignment papers did mention something about an experimental new position she was supposed to fill…

Kakita Konan (Played by Hikkikomori)

If one was to ask for two words to describe Konan, they would be “spoiled” and “bored.” His parents were disappointed at his lack of motivation that they decided to demote him to a posting in Lonely Shore City until he can get himself together and be worthy of the family business… but is he destined to succeed, or to fail spectacularly?

Kakita Junko (Played by Hystrix)

As the daughter of Lonely Shore City’s Governor, Junko enjoys a few privileges afforded by her unique station. Trained as a duelist, she is a staunch supporter of the Reforms being brought in by learning from the Gaijin and isn’t afraid to use her quick draw skills to push for them.

And without further delay, let’s get to the events of the game from last weekend: