4e Funlessness

So, I’ve been using L5R 4e for a few months, and I’ve noted that some of the things that sounded inferior to 3e are, indeed, less enjoyable to me than 3e.  I thought I’d complain about them.

#1  Honor Rolls

Possibly not the most egregious change, but one that I keep thinking about.  Yes, 3e Honor Roll/Test of Honor rules were a disaster of complexity and confusion.  They were fairly easily abused, but, then, the whole system was easily abused.

4e is all about “L5R Your Way”, but I don’t play it my way, I play it HoR’s way (mostly).  I houserule for my group of HoR2ers that a spent Void Point on a role carries over to the HR, but I don’t think that’s how HoR3 does things.  Anyway, while that’s a narrow bit of unfairness, the main issue is that only certain characters can really HR in 4e, at least for anything major.

A root problem might be that 4e has much greater variance in Honor, going up to 10 instead of 3e’s 5.  It’s particularly bad at initial character creation where many schools start below rank 4.  Rolling 5k5 or 6k6 might make for a reasonable “I really need to succeed” reroll, but 4k4 is sketchy and less isn’t worth it.

Or, more precisely, it’s only worth it to HR with a low Honor character if the role failed was easy, which is just dumb from a flavor standpoint even if it does have uses, such as taint rolls, basic etiquette, or whatever.

Beyond the cost/benefit, HRs in 4e just aren’t interesting.  You don’t think about how to do them and results are easily predictable, unlike when replacing in 3e where the dice pool could change radically.  It’s another mechanic in the game that I think became dry in the name of balance, though I don’t think it’s terribly balanced as I’m more and more thinking high Honor schools have a huge unaccounted for advantage and there’s the tyranny of Luck …

#2  Luck

The complaint about Luck isn’t that 4e did it any worse than 3e, it’s that 4e didn’t fix what was a horribly undercosted advantage in 3e.  Because of the change in HRs, Luck is even more important to making that one key roll during an adventure, and it’s so absurdly undercosted that it makes no sense not to take it.  In turn, it then becomes a crutch to where you want more of it, even though you can’t Luck a reroll.  Luck should have cost something like 7 points per rank rather than 3.  Of course, if Void Points weren’t so “precious” …

#3  Void

The whole idea of making Void more precious strikes me as a theoretical belief rather than anything that arose from a real need.  Void was not too common 3e in my play.  I didn’t have issues with those who correctly bought up Void to a high level.

For one thing, Void is what generally separates PCs from their enemies.  Whether bandit scum who have 1 (or 2) Void or monsters with none, PCs had an edge because they could pull more tricks out of their kimono sleeves.  By making Void more costly and less flexible and making it more difficult to recover, PCs become more like their enemies.

Was Void undercosted in 3e?  Sure, that it cost half as much as increasing another ring was kind of absurd as it meant that the path to greater rank ran through Void increases.  Does that justify increasing its cost by 50%?  Homey don’t think so.  25% increase (4x to 5x) would have made me happier.  I’m fine with retarding ranking up by some degree, but I’m against making starting characters weaker.

If Void weren’t so necessary, it might not be as bad.  But, having raises tied only to Void is a major step backwards in my mind.  It doesn’t even make any sense.  A master artist can’t make a better piece of art than a lucky novice (i.e. can’t call more raises)?  What about things without Void?  I ran a HoR2 mod recently and realized just how brutal it was that gaijin don’t have Void (though, I expect some rule to replace Void in such cases that arise in HoR3).  Then, I’m trying out Momoku in 4e, and it’s a lot harsher than I expected, as suicidal as 3e Momoku seemingly.  I thought I had a build to work around it, but the need to spend Void all of the time is just so great.

Yes, the three explosion rule to recover Void was kind of cheesy – any midrank character was likely rolling 10 dice on any important roll.  I could go into how I like the extreme results, now, but I can go into that in a moment.  But, now, everybody has to have Meditation and sit around and meditate during any downtime.

In theory, reducing the number of uses for Void Points would have decreased Void’s importance, but in reality, that only one VP can be spent on enhancement per round means that characters struggle more, leading to needing more help.  I also really dislike how characters are essentially useless when Down in 4e.

#4  Wound Inversion

I got into an argument about whether wound inversion is actually worse for PCs.  Regardless as to whether it is, it’s less fun as it makes L5R combat more like D&D, et al.

L5R was a system, unlike most, where spreading damage made a lot of sense, at least against certain threats, because it was relatively easy to put things into wound penalties.  With the wound box chart inversion, now everyone fights near full strength until they are one hit from being taken out of combat.

If I were solutions-oriented, I would say that the wound chart should be more of an hourglass with a bit of padding at the top to prevent automatic wound penalties and a bit of padding at the end to leave people incapacitated along a wider range.  That may sound strange since I was just complaining about being useless at Down and putting more boxes at the end means being less useful in combat, but there’s a strong psychological element to combat strategy and changing things affects enemies as well as PCs.

#5  Failure

Okay, I can’t argue with reining in combat, since my poorly built character in HoR2 one-shotted everything he attacked with his war fan.  So, I basically get not allowing raises to add kept dice and removing static bonuses, etc.  And, some of this applies outside of combat, like characters who auto-seduced characters due to static bonuses.

But, to me, L5R is a system of extraordinary successes and rare failures.  Failures (on important things) were rare enough that they felt like critical failures, just as triple explosions on random rolls felt like critical successes.  4e sees a lot more failure.  I actually am already tired of PCs failing basic Lore rolls for info they don’t even really need but that helps move things along.

The amount of missing in combat is so prevalent that I think combat is actually far more dangerous *to PCs* in 4e than in 3e.  Sure, a 3e baddie of any real threat probably took out a PC with one good hit, but they rarely got that chance as the PCs would win initiative and smoke them first.  Yeah, that sounds like dumb combat, but I actually found 3e combat very tactical, and I’m a big fan of combat being over in 3 rounds.  What I’m seeing in 4e, not in HoR3 where the combats have been easy but in my running HoR2, is that bad guys don’t go down and they swing back and they hurt when they swing back.  Should I make HoR2 mod combats easier?  Perhaps.  But, I don’t think the problem goes away if you reduce the number of hits you need on a baddie from 3 to 2.  There were plenty of combats I got through with 3e because the PCs devastated the baddies.  A party NPC bushi for my HoR2 group routinely takes 50+ wounds in combats because baddies take forever to die.  Admittedly, the problem lessons as the PCs get more combat capable, but … see next paragraph.

Also, increased failure also probably isn’t as much of a problem as characters develop.  Why is that a problem?  Because I’m a fan of starting characters being competent with increases in power being controlled (if not exactly flat).  If failure is just a newb issue in 4e, then it just means that experience is that much more important to having fun.  Might as well succeed often at every stage of character life.

#6  Advantages/Disadvantages

They still make little sense.  Sure, different campaigns are different.

I still despise how Sage works.  Got into a discussion on it and the metagame answer is to require multiple ranks of Lore skills to beat the cheesiness of good INT + Sage.  Sure, I could abolish uses of Sage like rolling L: Doors or L: Seaweed or the other silly things I’ve allowed, but that’s actually how Sage works – you know something about e-ver-y-thing.

Too many disads never come up.  Those that do, in contrast, often come up so often that they should be worth far more than they are.  I have a personal problem with L5R disads in that I see too many require building a character specifically around them, but the existence of cheese disads like Doubt and Gullible mean character convergence.  Yes, 4e encourages having someone play a disad lead to an extra XP, but that doesn’t work in HoR.

#7  Magic

Sure, magic tends to be broken in every system that has it.  However, the reduction in combat efficacy of bushi in my games means that the shugenja dominate combat and do so directly.  At least, before, they might have to buff somebody or something.  Now, I have a hard time calling raises with my bushi with Kenjutsu 7 while the shugenja just blast things with lightning bolts every round or drop autodamage through Fires of Purity.

Because Down is basically Out in 4e, healing magic becomes even more important with how my combats are resolving.

#8  Skills

Actually, to be fair, I haven’t seen enough with higher rank skills to go off the deep end.  But, it’s obvious to me that skills are far less important than in 3e due to decreased Insight and lack of free raises at rank 5.  To a degree, it’s relative as everything got weakened, but I fail to see how making skills worse improved balance when 3e made me actually care about ranks above 2 (and, I only care about rank 2 in 4e because of the HoR Insight rules).  So, this is really something to rant more about later.  On the other hand, Kenjutsu 7 is as ridiculous as I thought.

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