Bu Shi Bushi

Not a recent argument I’ve had, but looking at some threads I commented upon on the AEG forums, I feel like making my one-sided argument for how not good L5R 4e bushi can be.

Basically, I don’t have much respect for bushi.  But, more specifically, I don’t have much respect for bushi that don’t have simple attacks and in relation to other options.  Context being everything and all.

For instance, how much better is a bushi in combat than a courtier with high Reflexes, a bow, and armor?

Let’s look.

Removing armor from the equation (which really screws Hida Bushi) and looking only at common bushi techniques, what would a bushi archer (w/ yumi) do better at combat than a courtier archer (w/ yumi) at or below the level of simple attacks?

Hida Bushi

Reduction equal to Earth Ring.  Not a terribly fair comparison since heavy armor is a specific thing for Hida Bushi.

Hiruma Bushi

+1k0 attacks.  Increasing ATN as combat continues at rank 2.  Another ATN bonus.

Kakita Bushi

Initiative bonus.  Gaining more from taking half of their combat rounds doing nothing than other people who use the do nothing stance.  Possible +2k0 attack rolls.

Daidoji Iron Warrior

Wounds, +1k0 attacks.  Broken rank 2 tech.

Mirumoto Bushi

Heal 5 extra from Path to Inner Peace, +2 ATN per school rank.

Akodo Bushi

Ah, Lion.  Studly stuff.

Matsu Beserker

Best rank 1 bushi tech.  Tactical movement stuff.

Yoritomo Bushi

+1 ATN per rank, questionable terrain ability, +1k0 attacks.  Reduce ATN of something you hit.

Tsuruchi Archer

+3 Initiative, +1k0 attacks.  +2k0 damage.  Simple yumi attacks.

Shiba Bushi

Guard as Free Action (the other ability should have hardly any combat impact).  Spell manipulation.  Void recovery.

Bayushi Bushi

+1k1 Initiative, often +5 ATN.  Couple of points of damage bonus.  Fatigue.

Moto Bushi

+1k0 damage when mounted.  Highly unpredictable attack bonus.

Utaku Battle Maiden

Attack or damage bonus.  +5 Initiative or ATN.  If mounted, simple yumi attacks.

Commentary

That’s 13 schools for comparison.  One can argue that comparing at archerness is hardly fair since most of these schools do other fighting stuff.  Sure, but, if you consider an archer to be valuable in combat, then there’s a point to this.  If you don’t consider a high REF dude with Kyujutsu 3 valuable in combat, I don’t think you understand 4e combat very well.

Anyway, removing Hida Bushi as an unfair “test” when it comes to arguing about how important armor is to differentiating bushi from those who don’t get it in their starting kits, I’d say six of these schools are clearly superior at being a combatant:  Daidoji Iron Warrior, Akodo Bushi, Matsu Beserker, Tsuruchi Archer, Bayushi Bushi (!!), Utaku Battle Maiden.

A Hiruma will start creating separation at rank 2.  Kakita Bushi is actually pretty much an archery school and would have the attack bonus often enough to be distinct from being a courtier.  Two schools depend upon magic being cast to have much of a combat impact, though free Guarding can be more meaningful in certain parties and Shiba rank 3 is a separator.

But, is the separation for the other six that great?  If I have a REF 5, Earth 3, Kyujutsu 3 [blank] versus the same build courtier, am I going to feel outclassed playing the courtier?

The primary point is that there are a good number of not terribly important bushi abilities.

Armor is amazing in 4e for both pushing up already higher TNs than 3e and for reduction.  But, a courtier, shugenja, monk, artisan, ninja can wear armor, too, they just don’t normally have it.  If you internalize armor, then, sure, bushi all get a substantial combat effect for being bushi, but I hate equipment being important to how powerful a character is, and a dependence upon armor as a separator means that situations where you don’t have your armor get embarrassing.

But, y’know, if the separator is just +1k0 on attacks, +4 ATN, or the like, I’m not seeing the awesome that bushi are supposed to be at combat.  That bushi would tend to be built differently, spending more time with most schools on Agility and having 9’s explode on damage, the pure archer saves a ton of XP riding Reflexes to the promise land of combat relevance.  Not to say that courtier excel at combat, more that by the time the bushi is getting simple attacks, they finally start being meaningful vis-a-vis shugenja in combat, no longer being an also ran, like courtiers, et al, are.  After all, the air shugenja is going to have REF 5 and Kyujutsu 3 … unless the player hates efficiency.

The better bushi schools certainly outclass random Reflexes dudes at fighting, even without simple attacks.  But, only about half of the bushi schools actually qualify to be called better, in my view.  Rather, I have the sense that people make apples to oranges comparisons based on how they think characters from different schools will be built.  There’s no particular reason a courtier will have lower combat relevant traits or lower combat skills.  If kata were much more useful in general, that would be something, but a lot of them suck (as blogged about previously), if less and less a percentage of the total as newer ones get published.

Now, there’s certainly an argument that Reflexes is overpowered.  If all attack rolls went off of Agility, that would help combat balance.  But, I’ve been making arguments about how 4e is, not how it should be, when it comes to denigrating the value of bushi.  Not that I’d argue for the superiority of courtiers – half their techniques seem virtually worthless to me.  Nor am I even suggesting that shugenja being better than everyone else (besides things like Henshin) is a big problem, as efficiency isn’t a major problem in my L5R play, I just don’t get why people don’t think they are so much more powerful/versatile than other schools.  That lack of recognition offends my sensibilities.

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2 Responses to Bu Shi Bushi

  1. Andrew Haas says:

    I’m not going to argue with that low rank bushi are good but I think it is worth pointing out that I think there is a reversal when it comes to combat effectiveness as you approach rank 5. Shugenja have a harder and harder time casting high rank spells as they advance and their combat potential doesn’t grow as quickly as bushi. A shugenja’s casting roll becomes more and more expensive to increase relative to a bushi’s combat stats.

    • iclee says:

      Interesting point. While I don’t see higher rank spells being important, being more style than substance except for noncombat spells, because I see so little high rank play, it’s entirely possible that shugenja don’t progress evenly with bushi.

      It’s hard for me to see how they would fail to keep their lead, as shugenja can just buy up the same things bushi do and still be able to cast spells, but it is true that Fire is the least important Ring to a shugenja, which means bushi attack rolls are likely to get better and better while most shugenja will cap out at 10k3 or 11k4 for Kenjutsu/Heavy Weapons (assuming a shugenja wants to be a meleer). On the other hand, non-archer bushi are buying into something that isn’t Reflexes to get better at offensive combat, where the shugenja can just keep getting better at Air stuff (realistically, go to Air 5 and stop) without losing anything. Then, shugenja gain much more from Void than bushi, outside of Void 5 for Extra Attack.

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