Friday, November 10, 2017

Gorgon Archer - Legend of Five Rings 4th Edition - Character Creation Analysis

Character Creation and the Gorgon Archer

Legend of Five Rings is decidedly focused on the activities of humans. There is a species of rather reserved snake-people that are, more or less, recognized as good spirits, but I do not have statistics for them and while some have married into humanity, this has resulted in having humans with a little bit extra to explain some clan benefit. All that said, there is an analogous situation that we could draw on for the character concept as there was a minor clan referred to as the Snake Clan which was focused on hunting creatures of blood magic until they were infiltrated and corrupted so thoroughly that the Phoenix Clan had to step in and destroy them all. The survivors of the Snake Clan have been trouble-makers ever sense. An uncorrupted scion of the Snake Clan would present an analogous situation to the isolated gorgon of the other examples.

This is a character creation examinations where the term "gorgon" is going to amount to an epitaph rather than an actual species. It is likely not to be the last such situation as there are some games where the concept of a gorgon simply doesn't fit within the narrative. I could homebrew a gorgon for this and other games, but I tend to have a harder time going against the narrative circumstances than I do bending mechanics to match what I'm looking for. For example, Medusa are a facet of the D&D settings and are sentient beings which thus makes them an acceptable character concept for me in that game. The basic rule of thumb I follow is that if such a character would fit in a novel for the setting, then there's no reason not to build stats around it. And gorgons simply don't fit in Legend of Five Rings.

There are five steps to character creation in Legend of Five Rings: pick your clan, pick your family, pick your school, customize your character, and then figure derived attributes. In this case, the first two are rather simple because the Snake Clan is a minor clan with only one family to speak of, the Chuda family. The Great Clans each have four families by comparison and the Rabbit Clan has two families. The school is an issue however as the only Chuda school is a shugenja one and we're going to be looking for a ninja or bushi school instead. This means we will have to spend some of the points we get from customization on taking a foreign school. Alternately, I might be looking at the rules for ronin schools, regardless you will see which direction I eventually chose below. (Hint: its the one closest to the default character creation for the game)

The choice of Clan mostly serves to direct you to a particular selection of families and schools. Each family provides a bonus to a particular attribute. Schools provide bonuses to attributes, a list of initial skills, and some other benefits based on the type of school. There are five types of school: bushi, shugenja, monk, courtier, and ninja. Bushi, shugenja, and courtiers are all samurai in terms of social class, though the bushi are warriors, the shugenja are priests and sorcerers, and the courtiers are diplimats. Some monk schools might still be considered samurai, but most monks are considered to have retired and be outside the normal social structures. Ninjas are similarly outside the social structure but are reviled and hated though most are still technically considered samurai. 

Your school determines your initial Honor and equipment. Honor is a representation of how your confidence and righteousness and basically how clean your conscience is. As such, your Honor can fall even if no one witnesses you doing the thing that causes the fall though public failures tend to be more severe drops. Glory is a public reputation and all Samurai start at the same level.

As stated, outside the Great Clans are the Minor Clans. There are also the Imperial families and the Ronin options. Imperial Clans and Minor Clans function similarly to the Great Clans with the caveat that they sometimes won't have options for types of schools, as we have already seen. Ronin can be either Clan Ronin in which case they start out like a normal character but in order to advance a bushi, ninja, or courtier school will have to seek out a teacher of a secret technique appropriate to their level. True Ronin gain bonus starting character points but gain no school or family bonuses. There are two versions of the True Ronin option, one gains a bonus 25 points while the other gains a bonus 10 and starts with one of the Rank 1 ronin techniques in the book. As of writing this, I possess none of the supplements that include Rank 2, 3, 4, or 5 techniques.

Once you have chosen your Clan, Family, and School, and noted down all the things you get from that, you are given 40 experience points with which to further customize your character. These can be spent further increasing your attributes, adding skills, or taking merits. You can also gain extra points by taking disadvantages up to a total of 10 extra points. You may take more than 10 points of disadvantages if you want to for character reasons, but you will not gain extra points for those that go past 10. In general, I find that disadvantages are worth taking for the story elements alone, but taking too many both creates a narratively cumbersome character and overall hurts your ability to perform in the game.

There are five rings, as expected from the name of the game: Air, Earth, Fire, Water, and Void. Air, Earth, Fire, and Water each have two attributes, or traits, associated with them, one physical and one mental. Void is a special Ring that is used to power special abilities among other uses. The value of a Ring is equal to the value of the lowest attribute included with in it. All Rings start at 2 and, as stated, the various schools and families each add a bonus to one of the eight traits. It is thus possible to start out with a Ring at 3. However, no starting character can start with either a Trait or a Skill higher than 4.

Skills start out at zero save for those associated with your school which start out at 1. When a character is called on to use a skill they add together their Skill and their Trait to figure out how many dice they roll. They then keep a number of dice equal to their Trait. For example, if you have Agility 3 and Stealth 2, you would roll 5 dice for stealth and keep the three highest rolls. Skills can have emphases which are specializations. Your maximum number of emphases for a skill is determined by its rank. Once per roll that involves an emphases you may reroll any 1s produced by the roll. As a further note, some skills provide additional benefits called Mastery Abilities as you increase in rank.

Advantages and disadvantages are similar to merits and flaws in White Wolf games. They are interesting benefits you get related to some specific activity. Some indicate a supernatural background or blessing while others imply a social standing, physical characteristic, or something similar.

Derived characteristics include Insight and Wounds. Insight is based on your total ranks in the five Rings and the total number of Skill ranks you have. Wounds is based on your Earth Ring and some Advantages.

There is also a set of twenty questions you can ask which can be used to narrow down your character's personality and place in the world. I do like these questions, but they are optional and most useful for one you have some uncertainty on what sort of character you want to make or else haven't yet figured out a situation for it.

The Gorgon Archer


Snake Clan, Chuda Family, Tsuruchi Archer School

Air: 2
Reflexes: 3
Awareness: 2
Earth: 2
Stamina: 2
Willpower: 2
Fire: 2
Agility: 2
Intelligence: 2
Water: 3
Strength: 3
Perception: 3 (12)
Void: 2

Honor: 3.5
Glory: 1
Status: 1

Insight: 124
Insight Rank: 1

Wounds:
Healthy - 10
Nicked - 2
Grazed - 2
Hurt - 2
Injured - 2
Crippled - 2
Down -2
Out - 2
Dead

Skills
Athletics 1
Defense 2
Hunting (Survival) 3 (7)
Investigation 2 (2)
Kyujutsu (Yumi, Han-Kyu) 3 (5)
Spears 1
Stealth 2 (3)

Mastery Abilities
Kyujutsu 3 - Stringing a bow is a Simple Action rather than a Complex Action.

Tsuruchi Archer School
Rank 1 - Always Be Ready - The Tsuruchi Archer must be prepared to fight against his foes with little warning. You gain a bonus of +1k0 (Plus 1 die rolled but not kept) to the total of all attack rolls while using a bow. Additionally, you gain a +3 bonus to your initiative.

Advantages
Different School - Tsuruchi Archer School (5)
Prodigy - Whenever you make a roll with a school skill gain a bonus of +1k0. (12)
Way of the Land - You are intimately familiar with a particular region and cannot get lost there. (2)


Disadvantages
Disturbing Countenance - Something about your appearance causes others to respond to you with caution and concern. You are not necessarily unattractive, merely disturbing in someway. The Target Number of all Social tests increases by 5. (3)

Cast-Out - Your entire line has been denounced by an order of monks. Monks of this sect treat you as if your Glory rank were Infamy. (3)

Gaijin Name - Either due to your lineage or your parents' fascination with another culture, you clearly have a foreign name. Your individual dice may only explode once on a Social Skill Roll. (1)

Haunted - One of your ancestors has chosen to bestow personal attention on you. They will offer unwanted advice and make demands. Failing to live up to this spirit will cause them to harass you further. While the ancestor is angry, once per session one of your rolls will be -1k1 (lose 1 rolled die and keep 1 less die from the final roll) due to the distraction. (3)

Character Advancement
Character Creation and the Gorgon Archer

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