Another instant classic, this time from a post to the Alderac L5R forum.
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I started responding on the thread about Mirumoto Bushi when I realized I would have just been threadjacking, so here goes my concern.
So far, I feel like every school (even shugenja) is an Air school in 4e play. I’m not entirely sure why 4e feels so Air heavy, but it may be due to:
1. Inversion of wound chart, making even low Earth characters unlikely to be in wound penalties.
2. Lower attack bonuses (Free Raises, static) combined with higher base ATNs making it harder to hit, not only reducing damage which the lower Earth characters enjoy but also leading to high Reflexes making hitting much, much harder than in 3e (3e being when missing was never expected).
3. Less reason to buy up skills, leading to more points devoted to traits with the best bang for the buck with skill use being Awareness. Increased Void cost of 4e can siphon off points, but that still doesn’t encourage Earth above 3, Water, or even Fire (as important as Agility generally is, see 4. for more on Reflexes) for bushi and courtiers.
4. Far more tactical movement use, leading to combats that start further away, leading to more ranged combat.
5. Three key Awareness skills, generating increased value out of Awareness increases.
6. Agility no longer mattering for dueling.
All of this can be undermined, of course. Magic and special attacks are a great way to ignore ATN and make Willpower more relevant. Successful Fear is incredibly harsh. Cover or restricted combat setups and forcing characters to string bows (which I wouldn’t as it’s just annoying and shafts Tsuruchi, et al) would reduce the value of bows. Making Investigation, Hunting, Intelligence skills more essential to success reduces focus on Awareness skills.
But, still, given that the Awareness skills can’t just be ignored and Reflexes didn’t lose anything from 3e to 4e, while my sense is that Earth did and Agility has a harder time keeping up with Reflexes while losing dueling relevance, I’m weary of how important I see the Air Ring being. Only likely to be exacerbated when The Book of Air comes out.
While I probably disdain the Water Ring the most, I’m fond of Perception. I just find the Air Ring a bore and try to ignore it when my characters aren’t forced into it. This is quite detrimental, of course. Putting aside how important Awareness is for dealing with people, by ignoring Reflexes, I’m hurting initiative, which was essential in 3e, the game of whoever strikes first wins, and Armor TN, essential in 4e, the game of grinding away where someone might actually miss with an attack.
I had a 3e character who sucked, hard, relative to the 3e standard. But, I enjoyed him for his unkillability. He could hit people, especially with Full Attack stance, which he could survive due to Earth 4.
I have a somewhat similar build with 4e and it’s obnoxious how dependent he is upon armor (for not getting hit and reducing damage). Sure, I see all 4e bushi being largely screwed when not allowed to use armor, but at least a Reflexes character can dodge attack after attack and still isn’t that likely to be in wound penalties if someone rolls unusually well. At least initiative is not as important as it used to be, though that does depend upon not facing a bunch of spellcasters who can make a mess of combat before you act. On the flip side, those spellcasters do ignore ATN, so at least Reflexes doesn’t help as much defensively.
Maybe, it’s just that I play in less investigative adventures and more social + combat adventures where Intelligence and Perception become less relevant.