Friday, November 10, 2017

Gorgon Archer - Legend of Five Rings 4th Edition - Character Advancement

As with Hero System and Strands of Fate, characters in The Legend of Five Rings gain experience points as they progress. The standard metric for awarding experience is 1 XP for the session, 1 XP for roleplaying well, 1 to 2 XP for accomplishments in game, and 1 XP for each session where they roleplayed out their weaknesses well on top of general roleplaying. These XP spend exactly like they do in character creation. Glory, Honor, and Status will also fluctuate over the course of the game and it is possible that players might acquire some Advantages and Disadvantages through play as well. 

As you spend experience, your Ring ranks and Skill Ranks will increase as well, which will result in the Insight Rank improving. Once your Insight Rank improves you gain benefits as your school improves. (Shugenja gain new spells, Bushi, Courtiers, Monks, and Ninja gain new techniques). This produces a curious situation in that I cannot just pool the XP together and spend it all at once as I did on Hero System and Strands of Fate, because at a certain point something else improves. As such, I will be spending on a per session basis, admittedly something I likely should have done with Hero System and Strands of Fate. I am going to assume the fourteen sessions that I gave Hero System and 4 XP per session.

Starting Stats


Session 1 - 4 XP
Etiquette 1 (1)
Willpower (2/12)
Sincerity (1)
Insight: 126

Session 2 - 4 XP
Hunting (1/4)
Willpower (3/12)
Kyujutsu (1/12)
Defense (1/3)
Insight: 126

Session 3 - 4 XP
Sincerity 2 (2)
Hunting (2/4)
Willpower (3/12)
Awareness (1/12)
Kyujutsu (1/4)
Defense (1/3)
Insight: 127

Session 4 - 4 XP
Hunting (3/4)
Willpower (4/12)
Awareness (3/12)
Kyujutsu (1/4)
Defense (1/3)
Insight: 127

Session 5 - 4 XP
Hunting 4 (4)
Kyujutsu 4 (4)
Willpower (4/12)
Awareness (3/12)
Defense (1/3)
Insight: 129

Session 6 - 4 XP
Willpower (6/12)
Awareness (5/12)
Defense (1/3)
Insight: 129

Session 7 - 4 XP
Defense 3 (3)
Etiquette 2 (2)
Willpower (6/12)
Awareness (5/12)
Insight: 131

Session 8 - 4 XP
Willpower (10/12)
Awareness (5/12)
Insight: 131

Session 9 - 4 XP
Willpower 3 (12)
Awareness (7/12)
Insight: 131

Session 10 - 4 XP
Awareness (11/12)
Insight: 131

Session 11 - 4 XP
Awareness 3 (12)
Air Ring 3
Stamina (3/12)
Insight: 141

Session 12 - 4 XP
Stamina (7/12)
Insight: 141

Session 13 - 4 XP
Stamina (11/12)
Insight: 141

Session 14 - 4 XP
Stamina 3 (12)
Earth Ring 3
Wounds Improved
Kyujutsu (3/5)
Insight: 151
Insight Rank: 2

The Gorgon Archer

Snake Clan, Chuda Family, Tsuruchi Archer School
Air: 3
Reflexes: 3
Awareness: 3
Earth: 3
Stamina: 3
Willpower: 3
Fire: 2
Agility: 2
Intelligence: 2
Water: 3
Strength: 3
Perception: 3 (12)
Void: 2
Honor: ?
Glory: ?
Status: ?

Insight: 151
Insight Rank: 2

Healthy - 15
Nicked - 3
Grazed - 3
Hurt - 3
Injured - 3
Crippled - 3
Down -3
Out - 3

Athletics 1
Defense 3
Etiquette 2
Hunting (Survival) 4
Investigation 2
Kyujutsu (Yumi, Han-Kyu) 4
Sincerity 2
Spears 1
Stealth 2

Mastery Abilities
Kyujutsu 3 - Stringing a bow is a Simple Action rather than a Complex Action. 
Defense 3 - You may retain a previous Defense/Reflexes roll rather than make a new roll if the Full Defense stance is maintained in subsequent rounds. 

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.
Rank 2 - The Arrow Knows the Way - A Tsuruchi must not aim, but simply allows the arrow to follow its own path. You gain one Free Raise that can only be used to make the Called Shot maneuver. Additionally, you gain a bonus of +2k0 to the total of all damage rolls while using a bow.

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)

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)

Further Notes

Legend of the Five Rings creates a curious hybrid of level based and point buy progression. You improve your stats and skills and at a certain threshold you advance to the next level or Insight Rank. It is a curious mid-way point between the two oldest methods character design and advancement. It does create some odd behaviors as you note that I started dumping all my points into the Traits so that I could get the points I needed to advance an Insight rank within my established fourteen session simulation.

You also see something of how I handle advancement in these point buy games as I started dedicating points to several stats rather than spend everything on one stat until later. This is generally informal as most games don't really consider a point spent until you can buy the stat. Doing it this way just keeps me aware of my plans and helps me prioritize. I tend to find it easier to do it this way than to simply keep the XP noted in one bundle. There are times where I will take points from other pools and dump them into something that I think has gotten to the point of definite need.

There is some level of multi-classing available as you can take the Advantage "Multiple Schools". Your second school can be of the same sort you currently have, such as studying two bushi schools, or else can be from a different sort of school. Though a bushi can never learn shugenja schools and a shugenja can never learn bushi schools. A bushi can learn courtier and ninja schools however. One thing to note regarding this, however, is that once you begin advancing in the new school you can never go back to your original school. As an example, I played a Ninja who became a Courtier, once starting the Courtier schools, she lost all ability to advance in her Ninja school though she kept the techniques she already had.

By consequence of the way Insight ranks and social skills work, it is possibly that a Courtier will advance much faster than a Bushi or other school. Dependent, of course, on whether or not the Bushi invests heavily in the social skills. A further note, which is common in experience point based systems, especially those modeled on the Storyteller system as L5R seems to be, is the way that the costs of improvements scale. Improving a skill requires a number of points equal to the new rank while improving Traits requires experience points equal to four times the new rank and improving Void costs six times the value of the new rank. By contrast, the Insight Rank improves at every 25 points of Insight. This creates a progressive slow down for reaching new Insight Ranks.

Update: It occurred to me later that I had almost missed an interesting facet of the advancement in this game. In Hero System and Strands of Fate advancement is largely lateral because you generally start out in position where your basic power and skill is enough for most situations, but you might come across situations that require solutions that are not within your arsenal. Legend of  the Five Rings is sort of split between lateral and vertical advancement by contrast. I did not think much of this at first because there are several point-based games that are similarly split between lateral and vertical advancement. What is interesting to me here is that the lateral and vertical advancement are partially intertwined.

It's more accurate to say that lateral advancement in L5R will cause you to climb Insight Ranks faster than if you focus on an increasing the things you are already good at. This is obviously something I missed given that toward the end I was putting XP into Traits as a way to reach the Insight Rank 2 quicker. On further examination, gaining ten new skills at Rank 1 would be more efficient that raising a Ring from 2 to 3, even if one of the Traits under that Ring is already 3.

Raising a Trait from 2 to 3 requires 12 XP. If that Trait is the lowest of that Ring, then the Ring advances. If not, you will have to spend another 12 XP to raise the other Trait at which point your Insight will increase by 10. By comparison taking ten Rank 1 skills increases your Insight by 10 for a cost of 10 XP. In fact, increasing ten skills from Rank 1 to Rank 2 is also more efficient than raising two Traits from 2 to 3. As such, the more your character broadens their knowledge and skills, the quicker they rise in Insight and the quicker they advance in Insight Rank.

However, this is not a game like Hero System where the power levels of the characters and their opponents remains roughly the same with only occasionally significant increases. As you continue in a story, opponents and monsters will be increasingly built with higher Traits and higher ranks. A samurai who got to Insight Rank 3 through almost entirely skills would likely not have the level of strength and skill needed to take on some monsters, for example. As such there is a delicate balance between learning of many things and mastering one thing in particular. The most effective character falls somewhere in that balance.

This is very appropriate given the nature of samurai characters in that the legendary samurai are renowned for being masters of a particular skill or craft but are best respected when they can support that mastery in one task with a broad base of knowledge and education in many matters. The same sort of system might also work for other cultures where mastery and broad-knowledge are both praised.

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