Greetings Legend of the Five Rings Open Beta Testers,
We’re still gathering items for a substantial rules update, so we’re going to make our first big set of revisions a matter for next week. For today, here a summary of what we’re looking at, where you should expect major revisions next week, and some of our thoughts behind this!
After you read over these notes, please fill out our Week 3 survey to give us your feedback on some of the ideas here and weigh in on which minor clan you’d like to see previewed in the next content update!
There has been a lot of great feedback on Duels! Obviously, people are very passionate about dueling in Rokugan. As such, we’re making some pretty considerable changes, tying the rules for objectives much more directly into the lore surrounding duels in Rokugan.
Related to duels, Iaijutsu is another matter people care a lot about, and we want to get it right, so we’re going to flesh it out a bit more. Instead of being represented by single technique, Iaijutsu will be represented a number of techniques representing different draws, while the rules of the single-draw duel will be covered more deeply in duel rules themselves.
Outbursts (terminology and theme)
We’re not overhauling the fundamental mechanic of strife and outbursts just yet, but we’re going to continue massaging the language that surrounds them. Outbursts are intended to promote roleplaying rather than impede the story, but names often inform people’s roleplaying in subtle but influential ways. As such, we’re offering a number of alternatives to “Outburst” as the terminology in the survey (or you can vote for “Outburst,” if you’re in the camp that thinks it’s still the best fit).
Additionally, the sample options available for outbursts might be adjusted, simplified, or expanded in various ways. Are options you’d want to see missing? Are there other issues you’ve run into with the current options in play? If you have feedback on these options, either in presentation or content, please discuss them on the forums or email us your feedback directly!
Wounds (terminology and theme)
In the same vein, one idea that has been raised is that the theme of “wounds” might be better with a different name, reflecting a character growing more vulnerable to a serious injury (a critical strike) in battle. We’ve got a couple of alternatives that could substantially alter the theme of this mechanic, so take a look and tell us which of these you like the best!
We want to maintain the paradigm of “one action per turn” during conflicts, but weapon readiness and the related “action economy” needs some work. We’re going to give this a once-over to make it clearer and possibly revamp it entirely.
Numerous Small Omissions and Corrections
The update we’re currently compiling for release next week has an assortment of corrections, updates, and additions to address gaps in the text. We’ll continue to gather these throughout the Open Beta, so please point them out as you observe them!
Under Close Scrutiny
Stances (especially Earth)
A lot of people are worried about Earth stance, but we want a bit more play-session data before we make any major revisions. Right now, we’re hearing a lot of reports of various stances being too powerful compared to the others. This might be a sign that they’re all actually fairly balanced (ideally, we want every stance to feel “overpowered” when you’re using it, so that you have an incentive to shift rings), or it might just mean people need a bit more time to sift out where they actually fall. Air stance not scaling at all against dice pools that do scale is a bit concerning, so we’re keeping an eye on that.
Things We’re Sticking With for Now
Strife is core to Legend of the Five Rings as a game of samurai drama. There are a lot of specifics that can change, but this concept—the idea that pushing yourself requires emotional investment (the decision whether to keep dice with strife results to get the associated positive result)—is important. Rokugani samurai are supposed to be stoic and, to a certain degree, even detached. But humans are beings ruled by emotion at least as much as by reason, and that emotion can be a source of strength and a vulnerability at the same time. Strife is there to help Game Masters and players roleplay this important aspect of their characters, giving them a cue of when this state hits a tipping point. Like all RPG rules, strife is a tool.
Is strife serving in this role as a tool as well as it possibly can? We’d like to find that out during the Beta.
To those skeptical of strife and outbursts, one piece of advice: try letting outbursts happen. Instead of looking at them as something to prevent at all costs, see what happens when your character sheds tears into their sleeve publicly, cries out the name of their secret lover when they believe they are about to die, or shouts in jubilation after finally folding a paper crane properly. Remember, you (the player) get to choose where this goes. This is your character’s moment in the spotlight—what do their raw emotions reveal about them that others might not normally get to see? Where does this take the story?
In the same vein, GMs, don’t look to use outbursts as a way to entrap the characters—instead, use them to further the story. An outburst might allow a character to shed their mask long enough to truly connect with someone else even as it might jeopardize a character’s reputation. The results of an outburst should match the stakes of the scene and the tenor of the moment.
Of course, the name “outburst” seems to be evoking especially violent displays of emotion, so perhaps it’s not the most fitting name. The options provided mechanically might also need to be revised, expanded, or simplified in various ways. Take a look in the survey and give us your feedback directly on this matter!
TNs to be Hit
There are some calls for passive increases to TNs to be hit, but this is actually something we don’t want to implement based on the dice math. Simply put, the combat isn’t balanced around the assumption that characters will miss a majority of their attacks. We want defending to be a choice a character makes, with relevant costs and vulnerabilities. Earth stance protects against Opportunities. Water stance protects against strife. Air stance protects against being hit. Guard lets you protect yourself and others, but limits your offensive potential and flexiblity. The numbers might not all stack up evenly right now, and we’re evaluating those aspects, but we want defensive options to be just that: options, that have tradeoffs and create interesting choices.
With that said, there are a few things that do complicate the equation. Some NPCs may benefit from a passive modifier to be hit (usually under certain circumstances or by specific attacks, forcing players to be creative in their offensive strategies). Also, kata and other abilities can provide substantial defensive boosts.
Further, it seems like some people are mostly concerned with the theme that their characters can be “unhittable” rather than the mechanic that their characters never lose resources during combat as they approach a serious injury. As mentioned above, we’re by no means committed to damage turning into “wounds” if another theme is fits better, so please consider your survey answers carefully in this regard!