Bushi Analysis – Basic

Still catching up with various ideas from recent weeks.  This post was inspired by a thread on the AEG forums, where I mentioned something about bushi schools having dead ranks (i.e. ranks with terrible techniques) and someone asking which ones … which I never answered there.

Why not answer it here?

This is a very basic analysis to start out with.  No paths, no advanced schools, only the major clan bushi schools in the main book, no kata.  What is included is a non-quantified adjustment for things like:  superior Honor; superior equipment (mostly heavy armor); superior starting skills (as trivial as this sort of thing is).

Countdown …

12.  (tie) Kakita Bushi & Mirumoto Bushi

Yes, two of the most iconic bushi … no … schools period in the game are at the bottom. Unplayably bad?  No, of course not.  Just inferior to every other option.

Mirumoto Bushi got the big end of the nerf hammer from 3e to 4e, as most folks know.  What did it in was a dead rank 2 technique since dueling is not only nowhere near as common as people expect – it’s flat out rare in both my experience and based on responses in a thread I started asking how common dueling is in other people’s games.  Its rank 1 is often the subject of discussion.  It’s weak early, which is where most of campaigns are played at (which will get mentioned again).  The spell part is the best part, and that’s hard to quantify.  None of its techniques are actually that good – I don’t even rate the third attack at rank 5 that highly.

Kakita Bushi gets the dull side of the blade for being way too dueling oriented and its rank 1 (seemingly) being highly overrated.  It too gets no real special technique.  It’s really a school set up for archery, yet why not just play a Tsuruchi at that point?

11.  Moto Bushi

I thought Moto would do worse, to be honest.  Every time I read the school, I’m incredibly unimpressed.  But, unlike the Kakita, it gets simple attacks at rank 3, which is long before rank 4 in my experience.  Its rank 5 is actually good, unlike ranks 1, 2, and 4.

10.  Bayushi Bushi

A hard school for me to quantify … got to stop saying quantify … judge.  If you want to go strictly by combat ability, this could be put behind Moto.  But, I see this school as having a lot of play value beyond combat.  A Soshi Bayushi double stacks Intelligence to be a party brain.  The school skills include highly useful social skills.  The rank 1 is good, better IMO than Kakita rank 1.  Just hurt by poor rank 2, 3, and rank 5 and not getting simple attacks until rank 4.

9.  Yoritomo Bushi

The most “weak early, strong late” of the schools.  Unfortunate for it in my rankings, in point valuing all of the techniques and doing some averaging/summing, I only counted rank 4 and rank 5 techniques for half the number of points.  The double kama thing is really not worth it until you get up to rank 4, as kama just do less damage than swords.

8.  Utaku Battle Maiden

The opposite problem from Yoritomo.  The first two techniques are mighty.  Then, you get into the “must be mounted” punishment part of the school.  Only the Akodo and Iron Warrior compare in the first two ranks.  Because of my weighting toward early career, shiotome gets a break.  Also, choice of riding armor and you get a free bushi with your warhorse.  In a home campaign, one assumes that the GM will allow mounted combat a good amount of the time, so it’s not completely falling off a cliff after rank 2.  And, if I ever do more advanced analysis, pathing into Calm Heart Duelist or whatever is entirely viable.

7.  Hiruma Bushi

I really like the rank 1 ability as I’ve often enough been in situations without food, jade, or whatever.  I can’t, in good conscience, however, say that it’s a good technique.  However, every other technique is.  Only the Shiba Bushi is more consistent throughout all ranks.

6.  Shiba Bushi

Mister consistency.  While the rank 1’s Void Point thing is terrible for combat, it’s a SOP for key rolls outside of combat.  I make the assumption that there’s at least one shugenja in the party to rate the rank 2 tech, otherwise not a school out of the box I’d expect anyone to play.

5.  Tsuruchi Archer

Personally, I find this school to be the dullest in the game.  I just don’t “feel” a focused archery build in a game about katana carriers and doing stuff outside of combat.  Sure, there’s doing Perception related stuff and being manhunty …

Getting away from the point of this post.  Given that I don’t think that highly of the rank 1, and the rank 4 and 5 are, respectively, bad and mediocre, why so high?  Simple attacks at rank 3.  Simple attacks with a bow.  If you are going to take advantage of ranged combat, nothing says taking advantage like barrages of deadly missiles.  Strong rank 2, as well.

4.  Akodo Bushi

Everything is great, except for the awfulness that is rank 4.  By great, I mean excellent (4’s on my 1-5 rating scale).  The rank 2 is versatile.  The rank 5 is supercool.  Other schools have similarly good rank 1’s, but only one school has better.

3.  Hida Bushi

I found it tough to decide between Akodo, Hida, and #2.  Hida gets the edge over Akodo by virtue of much better simple attacks (Akodo is limited to samurai weapons, ruling out k3 or k4 weapons), heavy armor, and having no dead rank.

2.  Matsu Beserker

The best rank 1.  Tied for the best rank 3.  Excellent rank 4 and 5.  Terrible rank 2.  Now, I don’t play in games where tactical movement is that important, nor would I run one.  It’s just too situational given that a Matsu is usually going to inflict so much damage with any successful attack that the victim isn’t likely to be all that important.  Or, if it’s something like a spirit or big bad or something terrifying like a bear, why is freezing it in place important?  Might not even matter due to the die roll to break out of it.

1.  Daidoji Iron Warrior

Sure, its rank 5 is crap, just a dead rank.  By then, one figures you found something better to do than go to rank 5 in this school.  Utterly broken rank 2.  Heavy armor, high Honor, high money.  Just the sweetest early career bushi school.


Daidoji Iron Warrior 1
Matsu Beserker 2
Hida Bushi 3
Akodo Bushi 4
Tsuruchi Archer 5
Shiba Bushi 6
Hiruma Bushi 7
Utaku Battle Maiden 8
Yoritomo Bushi 9
Bayushi Bushi 10
Moto Bushi 11
Mirumoto Bushi 12
Kakita Bushi 12

By rating (1 to 5):

School Rating
Daidoji Iron Warrior 5
Matsu Beserker 4
Hida Bushi 4
Akodo Bushi 4
Tsuruchi Archer 3
Shiba Bushi 3
Hiruma Bushi 3
Utaku Battle Maiden 3
Yoritomo Bushi 3
Bayushi Bushi 3
Moto Bushi 2
Kakita Bushi 2
Mirumoto Bushi 2

Each school rank (1-5):

School Rank 1 Rank 2 Rank 3 Rank 4 Rank 5
Daidoji Iron Warrior 4 5 4 3 0
Matsu Beserker 5 1 5 4 4
Hida Bushi 3 4 5 2 3
Akodo Bushi 4 4 4 0 4
Tsuruchi Archer 2 4 5 1 2
Shiba Bushi 3 3 3 4 4
Hiruma Bushi 2 4 3 4 4
Utaku Battle Maiden 4 4 2 2 2
Yoritomo Bushi 2 2 4 4 4
Bayushi Bushi 4 2 1 5 2
Moto Bushi 2 1 5 2 4
Kakita Bushi 2 3 0 4 2
Mirumoto Bushi 2 0 4 2 3

Obviously, there are paths to avoid the most egregious techniques.  Jade Legionnaire is a fantastic path to sub at rank 2 for those that don’t have a specific clan option.  But, that’s analysis for another day.


14 Responses to Bushi Analysis – Basic

  1. Craig Houston says:

    Do you have an active L5R group in the Houston area? Just moved here.., would love to play!


  2. baratacom says:

    Hi, great analysis, it’s something I had noticed, especially regarding the Mirumoto (an old thematic favorite due to Musashi…).

    Real shame that the school now has so much dissonance between fluff and crunch; can’t truly battle for crap and can’t really duel for crap (at least not against a Kakita).

    Do you happen to have any tips on lowering the gap?

    So far my plan is to really work my Agility and grab Spinning Blades Style kata, but that seems to only bring the Mirumoto up to “ok” levels.

    • iclee says:

      I didn’t include kata, paths, ancestors, etc. in my analysis. So, those are all areas to look into. I find Spinning Blades to be ridiculous, myself, as I don’t see characters go to 5 in Rings, but whatever. Mountaineer path is generally more useful than base Mirumoto 2. Jade Legionnaire path is awesome.

      But, the thing about RPGs is that this sort of analysis doesn’t necessarily matter. Okay, one school or class or whatever is worse than another, but, if no one takes the other, then you still might be the best.

      Or, you might be the best at something because you spent differently in Traits, skills, etc.

      For instance, dueling is a common topic on the forums. People get all excited by crunching whether 10k8 vs. 10k10+6 is better or whatever. It’s meaningless. I have never seen a real PC that was 100% focused on being the best at something. For the most part, people don’t build hyperfocused characters because they are boring and/or are ineffective too much of the time.

      To be the best duelist might be as simple as having Void 4 and 3 ranks of Iaijutsu not because there isn’t a vast range of ability above that but because the opponent is Void 3.

      To leverage Mirumoto abilities, go up in School Ranks as fast as possible to get more use out of the rank 1, build up your attack roll to get more out of Feint as your damage will suck, being forced to use the inferior katana as your main weapon. Can take Magic Resistance, though that’s almost always a bad idea, depends upon the campaign. Path at rank 2 unless you actually care about dueling for some reason. Have a good Reflexes to make your ATN really high.

      • baratacom says:

        Thanks for the info, glad to see things aren’t as anal as I was perceiving them to be.

        Reason I asked was more an attempt to lower the gap between fluff and crunch, after all, it gets rather infuriating to be announced as from the “great warrior Mirumoto school” and only be as good as the local Bayushi in battle or “the Kakita’s rival” when I can barely hold my own against the local Hida in duels.

        Indeed, Fire 5 looks awfully steep and pointless (as Int isn’t that amazing and half the table is knowledgeable enough in the setting to know pretty much everything), especially for an expensive bonus that will only put me on equal terms to an Akodo vs. armored opponents.

        Will probably make the switch to the Mountaineer path, already got Void&Iaijutsu 3, which indeed should serve me well against all but a Kakita.

        By the way, considering we’re an all bushi party, other than party face (that spot is already the Bayushi’s) and hunter (Hida’s doing that, though a second one wouldn’t be all bad), what other interesting skill-related paths are there?

        Is crafting worth investing in at all? Can’t really make up my mind as everyone at the table says it sucks and I’m still too new to the system to truly be able to evaluate the more advanced mechanics.

  3. iclee says:

    The natural way to go outside of combat is party brain. There are a ton of skills that use Intelligence, not just Lores. Merchant skills, by themselves, includes Commerce (not thematic but funny), Engineering, Sailing, in addition to crafting. Crafting is as useful as the GM makes it. Water Hammer Dragon stuff out of Strongholds book is a Dragony way to be craft-y.

    Then, there’s Divination, Medicine, Calligraphy, alt Trait uses of various skills. Agility helps you throw weapons (wakizashi is throwable), should get some Horsemanship (when you need to roll it, you want to be skilled), and can get into flavor stuff, like Performs.

    My “The Elemental Party” post is probably the best for getting down into where a PC can specialize Ringwise.

    But, so much of having useful abilities is campaign dependent. One of my campaigns sees little social skill use, completely different from the ubiquitous social skill use in HoR.

  4. […] on misconceptions about L5R mechanical analysis, and I decided to expand my previous article Bushi Analysis – Basic with minors, Spider, and Seppun corebook […]

  5. Garenne says:

    I don’t understand why rank 2 Daidoji is so powerful.
    To me, it’s just “my mate gets +15 ATN and I can’t attack cause Guarding is a simple action”.
    Of course, 2 rank 3 Daidoji Bushis fighting together look better.

  6. Watson Crick says:

    Let me do a little necromancy:
    If a kakita for any reason starts late (can happen) he is gonna center stance first round.
    Or if its clear that the enemy is gonna waste its action only to move near him ,he can center stance.
    Or if not he is gonna Full Guard first round.
    Or if not sure Defense stance and provoque that the enemy waste an action (by moving), Or to activate empire rest at its edge.

    Then in the second round retrain action to the last enemy turn, and then center stance -> +10 initiative (+16 if quick) Act first in the third round. And obliterate the enemy by attacking in full attack stance -> 10g8+ school rank during two rounds.

    Sure not as good a daidoji or crab or matsu berserker. But what i like about kakita is:
    -You have to anticipate the enemy to do that perfect strike outside of a duel.
    -IS posibly the clan who make the most of the katas, fuck they are the only clan that have an use to striking as water. And they have, to squeeze their stances.
    And that is fucking fun.

    • iclee says:

      I could be argumentative, but, really, we are talking about a system where pretty much everything is playable if you make reasonable decisions on Trait buys.

      I’ve played with a R-5 Kakita Bushi, and he seemed to be perfectly happy with how the school worked.

      Thanks for the comment!

      • Watson Crick says:

        Oh you replied so quick! thanks
        “I could be argumentative” yeah my dm for example thinks that you should always attack no matter what bushi do you have, because the dice of the enemy could always explode, so is better to kill them as fast as you can.

        Seeing that you reply to comments i have some questions:

        What rating would you put in the 1000 years of steel series kata? Using the kata analysis as reference

        How many points would gain a kakita and a dragon taking into acount their clan kata, and the fire book’s kata? Using bushi analysis as reference.

        And how good is the kenku swordman school? (this is because im doing a character with that school and i dont now if im gonna trampler the other players bushi (bayushi and kakita) and i should tonne it down, or if is simply sigthly avobe average and its fine.

        • iclee says:

          I’m not going to have access to L5R books for a while and I want to refresh my memory on the details of what you asked about. Give me about 10 days to respond.

  7. Watson Crick says:

    Hi iclee althoug i didnt replied im still lurking this blog.

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