Tuesday, March 8, 2011

L5R Spotlight - System

L5R uses a very simple system for most situation in the game. The Roll and Keep system, as used in L5R, requires the player to roll a number of ten sided die, and keep a certain number of those die rolls; the total of all of the “kept” dice is added together and then compared to a Target Number (TN). If the total of all the kept ice meets or beats the TN, then the roll succeeds. This system is used for everything in the game, including attacks, skill rolls, damage, spells, etc. It is a very easy system to understand and is also very simple to use. You always know exactly what die you’re rolling, since you only need d10’s to play the game.

One of the other awesome things about the system is that all dice “explode”. Whenever you roll a 10 on a die, you roll the die again and add the next result as well. L5R is one system, among many, that uses exploding dice and I really like most all of them. Exploding dice certainly adds a lot of excitement to the game and means that virtually any character can do anything. With the right amount of luck, even the lowliest commoner can bring down the greatest samurai (well, you might need a LOT of luck for that actually).

In my last post in this L5R spotlight, I showed one of the characters that I made for a theoretical game. If I ever get a chance to play L5R, I will definitely be interested in using a couple of the characters that I have rolled up. The Character creation system is pretty simple, so I’ll walk you through the basics.

L5R is a quasi class based game. Although your character class isn’t as strict and confining as it would be in games such as D&D 4e, you do have a pretty clear cut idea of what your role is based on the “class” you’re taking. Of course, they don’t really refer to them as classes, but Bushi, Courtier, Shugenja, Ninja, and Monk are pretty much classes in L5R.

After you pick your class, you next pick your clan/family/school. This combination determines your character’s basic starting package and gives you a bunch of mechanical powers all at once; in addition, your clan/family/school combination gives you some awesome fluffy background to help start generating a story for your character. I think that this combination is really great. A Crab clan Bushi does not feel the same as a Lion Clan Bushi from a fluff or mechanic perspective. In fact, playing as a Bushi from the same clan, but from a different school, can also be a very different experience from both a story and game point of view.

After you pick your starting package, the rest of character generation is based on a point buy system where you can pick a number of attributes, skills, spells, advantages, and disadvantages (which refund points back to you). The disadvantages and advantages in particular stand out as giving your character a lot of story – the mechanics and fluff here are very heavily bonded. Some advantage/disadvantages give you point discounts (bonuses in the case of disadvantages) which make a particular mechanic more appealing to take based on what type of character you are playing. For example, Crab clan Bushi can be “Large” more easily than other character.

The game system and the character system in this game combine to make for a very easy game to handle. Though the game could be called “rules heavy” it doesn’t really feel so cumbersome. Give the system a try and you’ll probably feel the same way.

1 comment:

  1. A strong point of L5R as a system, mechanically, is that two identical characters (let's say, two Lion bushi) can be extremely different in their skill customization. A battle commander will function differently than a scout, and the only difference might be a few extra points in stealth and archery (kyujutsu). There are also a lot of other mechanics, like Glory, Honor, Infamy, and Status which will make the gaming experience different.

    The part part is with exploding dice, the danger level in a game can escalate very quickly. A peasant with a spear might take out your character, but a monster that would be easy for a Crab bushi will wipe the floor with someone more squishy.

    A strong part of L5R, thematically, is that you can play a completely non-violent character if you wish and still succeed (the courtier class). Social challenges are inherent in the game because there is immediate context for your adventuring party- you're not alone in the wilderness, you have a daimyo and a clan and an Emperor and an entire civilization to work with. Where an army might fight and fail, one well-placed social roll can win the day.