Building L5R Characters – Advantages

Disadvantages?  Next time.

Ancestors are the most character defining element I can think of to differentiate one character from another, though only those that actually do something interesting.

Next up are advantages and disadvantages.

This series isn’t about thematics, it’s really about the idea of building a character from the first 40xp on.  So, we gots to rate them thar extras.  One reason why advantages and disadvantages, heretofore to be called collectively vants to reduce my typing, matter so much at initial character creation is because of the weird idea that they should cost more to get or to get rid of after character creation.

Why weird?  Not how the rest of the game works.  Sure, WoD games and a bunch of other games work this way, and I think it’s awful.  It causes players to build weird characters that are extremely invested in things that would be prohibitively expensive later and miss basic stuff because it’s cheap to buy later, though, see my future post on skills for how some of that shows up with L5R characters outside of vants.

For example, my Shadowrun character has a Strength of 1 and Charisma and Quickness of 6.  That’s because it’s wasteful to go from 5 to 6 compared to going from 1 to 2 or 2 to 3.

Anyway, rating system:  Luck is “awesome” and TotS: Yomi is worse than “nope”.  “Okay” is okay and “good” is good.  I decided I couldn’t use stars as people would argue too much with how many zero star advantages I’d list.  Metagames differ, but I’ve played with a number of groups, so, hopefully, my biases are less biased.  Also, I can’t predict what extra goodness some GM might give to Chosen by the Oracles or whatever, so it’s what’s in the corebook.  And, yes, for now, just the corebook.

Absolute Direction (okay) – It’s cheap.  You might be less than one day into the Shadowlands.  Otherwise, I never see this do anything.  (It does happen to be the only advantage my IR-5 character started out with … it’s cheap.)

Allies (n/a) – Okay, I guess I need another rating.  I have never seen Allies work in L5R play.  Sure, I’ve crossed off Allies in HoR2 to deal with some mod thing.  That didn’t mean they “worked”, just that they weren’t completely irrelevant.  In my home play, Allies just don’t exist.  Oh, I paid a bunch of points for one, one time, but it never helped me, just acted as a prerequisite for a path, a horrible path that Different School would have been as relevant for.  In HoR play, this advantage is meaningless to character building, anyway, as you will gain a bunch during the campaign, so why spend points on them?

Balance (nope) – It’s not cheap, compare with Irreproachable for Imperials.  It will never come up since PCs don’t get Intimidated or Tempted.  It’s benefit is laughable, as anyone who should Intimidate or Tempt a PC should not be concerned with +1k0.  If your campaign sees these skills get used on you, well, whatever.  I played a City of Lies campaign with a character with Lechery and nobody every tried to Tempt him.  There’s what?  One mod in HoR3 where one of these skills gets used on you?  Two?

Blackmail (good) – I’m mostly guessing here.  I’ve seen Blackmail come up.  It had a big impact.  It’s less relevant when the party moves around.  It’s rather fuzzy.

Bland (nope) – Keep in mind that I’m rating based on PCs.  As the typical PC has Glory 10 at IR-3, this is meaningless.  And, when do PCs care whether a NPC knows how Honorable they are?  At 1xp, this might rate something.  It’s a whole lot better in a different setting, like LBS, where you have much sketchier characters who want to keep low profiles.

Blissful Betrothal (awesome) – This is just free XP for when you purchase the other advantages.  I don’t think it’s realistic for most starting characters, but I saved tons of points on a courtier character in a court campaign.

Blood of Osano-Wo (good) – So cool.  Comes up.  Just doesn’t come up that often or it would rate higher.  Can have a huge impact, in my experience.

Chosen by the Oracles (okay) – There are much better choices of which Oracle to be chosen by.  Earth is an obvious choice for those who hate Taint.  Void is interesting.  Air is for the Tempest of Air shugenja.  Actually, this is really much more of a shugenja advantage than anything else – hunt for every instance of “Roll X Ring” in spell descriptions, though note that DR = Ring doesn’t mean you are making a Ring Roll in my neck of the woods.  Might be a monk advantage, but that would require that there be such things as monk PCs.  This is just brutally expensive.

Clear Thinker (nope) – Way too expensive for the number of situations where this would apply, which is usually zero situations.  Maybe somewhere, NPCs try to use skills against PCs, but that’s something I might see twice in a campaign.  At 1xp, I’d rate this, as it might come up once.

Crab Hands (nope) – Key to my “showoff” characters.  Atrocious in play.  Like once in a campaign you may get some “you have to prove yourself as a warrior with two esoteric weapons” action.  I keep trying to engineer the “oh no, other PC, you have fallen, I will pick up your dai tsuchi and murder the enemy” situation.  Has yet to occur.

Crafty (good) – The PCs who take this will likely pay less for it.  At 3xp, it’s rather expensive, especially when you consider how good a skill Stealth is and how one rank in it isn’t that good.

Dangerous Beauty (nope) – Okay, this is one of the most commonly bought advantages in the game.  *Players* like thinking their characters are hot.  Exactly how often do you roll Temptation against others and how often is +1k0 going to matter?  It also has negative connotations that cause module writers to give your character more grief for having an advantage.

Daredevil (okay/good) – Athletics rolls are not rolls you want to fail at.  It’s not as insane as 3e’s Daredevil was, and it’s only relevant when spending one of your few VPs.  For a Mantis, it’s more gooder.

Dark Paragon: Control (good) – Honor is a resource.  One social roll per session is pretty hot, especially when you aren’t likely playing a character with a good Honor Roll.  Note that these advantages are once per session, I’ve seen someone reabuse it.

Dark Paragon: Determination (good)

Dark Paragon: Insight (good) – Huh?  So weird that this is so similar to Control.

Dark Paragon: Knowledge (okay) – Intelligence rolls are not as good as Social/Awareness rolls.

Dark Paragon: Perfection (good) – 6.11 versus 5.

Dark Paragon: Strength (good)

Dark Paragon: Will (good) – Will likely stop a lot of damage over the course of a campaign, not many ways in the game to defend when out of VPs or when a VP has already been spent in a round.

Darling of the Court (nope) – PCs travel too much.  Also, Status doesn’t really matter (see other posts on this, if you care).  That it’s 1xp for a courtier sounds about right, making one wonder why every NPC who hangs in one place doesn’t have this.

Different School (okay) – Should only cost 4xp, like it did in 3e, as it’s awesome for messing with people to have a school from another clan.  But, from a strict XP standpoint, this is a loser, less so if you double stack Traits, of course, where it’s virtually the same as someone inclan not double stacking.  Definitely a go to advantage for me but not as much as it used to be as I find other ways to screw with people’s ideas of PC builds.

Elemental Blessing (okay) – The new go to advantage for me, as I’m all about PCs who ramp to Ring 5 as quickly as possible, these days.  Not worth it if you only gain 1xp out of it and are starting with 40xp, as it’s too much of an upfront cost.

Enlightened (nope) – So, a Dragon (because monk PCs don’t exist) nets 1xp after buying Void up three times?  Oh, yeah.  That’s minimum Void 5 and Void 6 for a Tattooed Monk (because these PCs are ubiquitous).

Fame (nope) – Ha.  Ha ha.  Nope.

Forbidden Knowledge (nope) – Even when this is relevant, and I’ve rarely seen it be relevant, even then having to guess which forbidden area to know something about, this is incredibly expensive.  I’ve actually allowed someone to play a maho-tsukai – there’s really no reason to do so.

Friendly Kami (okay) – I would choose an element for a Ring I don’t plan on increasing, just so I’m not rolling 5k2 or whatever to Commune.

Friend of the Brotherhood (n/a) – I have never seen a PC use a kiho.  I know lots of other people have PCs running around with kiho, but I just can’t relate.

Friend of the Elements (okay/good) – Much better for shugenja, which sounds silly when you are talking about 1xp, but it’s actually really hard to squeeze points into a starting character, and I don’t just mean 40xp starting characters.  Earth is obvious for Fear.  Water is sexy for contested Strength rolls.  Yet another advantage I don’t see played correctly, as people seem to get Chosen by the Oracles and this conflated and start doing all sorts of weird things.

Gaijin Gear (either nope or good) – I’ve seen GMs let PCs get away with a lot with spyglasses.  Very expensive if you don’t get some good ability out of it.

Gentry (n/a) – I haven’t played every kind of campaign – see how I think monk mechanics are a waste of space.  One type I haven’t is the Gentry campaign.

Great Destiny (awesome) – If you could take this, why wouldn’t you?

Great Potential (good) – Very, very limited options for making this useful, but those options include the best skill in the game outside of Investigation – your primary weapon skill (or Jiujutsu).  I so keep thinking of taking this with Medicine.  Oh well, some day … or 5e will be out.

Hands of Stone (nope or necessary) – You either have to have this or it’s a crazy waste of 6xp.  I suppose there are those who would use this only some of the time, but that’s a sketchy plan.

Heart of Vengeance (okay) – Your duelist advantage.  Occasionally want to mess with Scorpion Courtier techniques.

Hero of the People (nope) – I have seen mods write in that this has additional effect because … it doesn’t do anything.

Higher Purpose (n/a) – Never seen this allowed.

Imperial Spouse (nope) – People take this a lot, though it’s sometimes a reward after character creation, so that doesn’t count.  First, Status doesn’t matter.  Then, +1k1 on social rolls with Imperials is not worth 5xp, 2xp maybe.

Inari’s Blessing (nope) – Should be 1xp, then I’d consider it, as it’s cool.  Just ludicrous at 3xp.

Inheritance (good) – I hate this advantage as I hate any sort of abilities that come from stuff rather than the character.  However, people abuse this all of the time.

Inner Gift (n/a) – I say n/a even though I allowed a player to have Inner Gift – Maho.  Spirit Touch is huge.  But, this is hideously expensive and supervague, not something I’d expect GMs to want to see.

Irreproachable (nope) – Not even an Imp should waste 1xp on this.

Ishiken-do (broken) – Whatever.  It makes a lot more sense in home play, where only one character has it rather than HoR, where it’s rather common.

Kharmic Tie (good) – The benefit is way higher than 3e, but it lacks the sense danger ability.  It can be pretty nuts, as I have a character with this who suddenly is making 10k8 attack rolls.  It’s cheap.  Powergamers will take it with someone they are around all of the time, unlike my PC, who has only used it three times.  Once per session is interesting, as it means you can waste it on a less important fight, like I did during one session.

Languages (good) – Just got to pick the right one.  Cheap for human languages.

Large (okay) – +1k0 on damage is a lot better than +1k0 on some skill roll.  But, it’s expensive if you aren’t Crab and kind of forces going down a particular build path that I find boring.  I’ve also heard about or seen situations where it’s disadvantageous, which makes no sense, since it’s an expensive *advantage*.

Leadership (nope) – If you need this as a prereq, sure, take it.  It’s just insanely expensive for what impact it will have.  Initiative is too random for this to be consistently useful.

Luck (awesome) – The only reason it isn’t required is that it isn’t actually required.  I build lots of PCs without Luck because I hate being successful.

Magic Resistance (…) – This is a disadvantage.  If it worked on Maho, I could see it.  Since it doesn’t, it just makes your character worse.

Multiple Schools (n/a) – Another advantage I’ve never seen a PC have.

Paragon: Compassion (okay) – Expensive but Compassion does something.

Paragon: Courage (nope) – Too expensive for what it does.

Paragon: Courtesy (nope) – Doesn’t come up.

Paragon: Duty (okay) – Wound Penalties are really annoying, especially for shugenja.

Paragon: Honesty (nope) – Minor benefit, major cost.

Paragon: Honor (nope) – Ha.  Ha ha.

Paragon: Sincerity (nope) – Um, just the same as Honesty.

Perceived Honor (nope) – When do NPCs care what your Honor is?  I do think the correct use of this is to take someone of middling to high Honor and make everyone think the character is a paragon of Honor.  Only problem with that is it costs XP.

Precise Memory (nope) – Take notes when you play.

Prodigy (okay) – Surprisingly not awful.  I mean, sure, you have to have some sort of long game in mind, but I got a lot of use out of this with a PC.  Still overcosted, so it’s borderline “nope”, but it does do something.

Quick (nope) – Too expensive.  This may be exciting to all of those people who seem to think L5R is a series of one on one fights, but parties generally have someone high on Initiative and folks can be spending VPs to manipulate Initiative order.

Quick Healer (nope) – Healing is just really stupid in L5R.  Medicine should be way better, like it was in 3e.  Magic healing is the norm.  If you are sitting around in wounds at night on a normal basis, your life sucks.

Read Lips (nope) – I just don’t see it come up often enough to justify the cost.  However, if I was forced to take this advantage, I’d probably try to make use of it often.

Sacred Weapon (good) – Choose wisely.  See Inheritance for how I hate this advantage.

Sacrosanct (nope) – I could see this being broken.  I also see no GM actually allowing a starting PC to have it.

Sage (good or awesome) – INT 3+ and you have to take this as much as you have to take Luck.  Otherwise, if you are a moron, it’s only good.

Sensation (nope) – Expensive.  Having played a decent amount with this, though, I could find uses for it.  But, I only got it after character creation.  Only the “I don’t actually have skills” builds really need this.

Servant (nope) – Too expensive, insanely dumb rules for making your servant better.  The exception is an Eta, which is not going to do all that well on L: Anatomy rolls but deals with a lot of social nonsense.  At the point where you need to buy an Eta, though, there’s something flawed about the campaign.

SFB: Benten’s Blessing (awesome) – One of the core advantages in the game.  How often should it be applicable?  Lot of judgment calls.  But, big impact for an okay cost.  Much better way to express hotness than Dangerous Beauty, though taking both is rather common.

SFB: Bishamon’s Blessing (nope) – Actually, the +1k0 to STR rolls is why you want this.  Just too expensive for that.

SFB: Daikoku’s Blessing (nope/okay) – +1k1 on a roll really depends upon the roll.  For spellcasting, that’s worth like 12xp or something.  For Commerce?  Like 2xp.  Mantis comes in a bit over, which is tolerable.  Could see a Yasuki take it.

SFB: Ebisu’s Blessing (nope) – Better than Hero of the People.  Far too infrequent.

SFB: Fukurokujin’s Blessing (nope) – Less useful than Daikoku’s.  I could maybe see an exception in a Shadowlands campaign or something similarly focused on one Lore skill.

SFB: Hotei’s Blessing (nope) – The rule of cool says you have to consider this … for when you have way too many starting XP.

SFB: Jurojin’s Blessing (nope) – Another thing that doesn’t happen – getting poisoned.

Silent (nope) – Just buy up Stealth.

Social Position (n/a) – Generally meaningless as Status doesn’t matter, but certain campaigns seem to require it to unlock … whatever.

Soul of Artistry (good) – I get a lot of use out of this.  Not worth taking both versions.  Craft probably comes up less but may have more impact.

Strength of the Earth (good) – As annoying as WPs are, just try to avoid acquiring them.  I see this being more of a shugenja thing, as +3 healing from Path to Inner Peace is a lot more important than most things.  Cheap enough for bushi that it’s tempting as just good stuff that will come up outside of combat.  My PCs don’t tend to bother, though, as I don’t obsess over combat prowess.

Tactician (okay) – Narrow.  Expensive.  Kind of weird what effect it has when you get to use it.  But, I see it being a justifiable thing.

TotSR: Chikushudo (nope) – Just not a skill important enough.  Also, all of these are really more shugenja advantages.

TotSR: Gaki-do (awesome) – Cheese.  Well, unless you manage to have a party where you rarely get the kills.

TotSR: Jigoku (n/a) – Never expect a PC to ever have this.

TotSR: Maigo no Musha (nope) – Ha.  Ha ha.

TotSR: Meido (nope) – Okay effect, too expensive.

TotSR: Sakkaku (nope) – Close to being the right break point for the skill involved.

TotSR: Tengoku (nope) – As with many things in 4e, the benefit should be more like +2k2 to justify the rarity of the occurrence and the cost of the ability.  I played in a Shadowlands campaign – I took this advantage.  It didn’t matter.

TotSR: Toshigoku (nope) – Situational movement is not so important I’m going to give up buying other stuff.  There’s no justification for this being more expensive than the others, worth maybe 2xp.

TotSR: Yomi (joke) – This is the most offensively overcosted ability in the game.  If you don’t see why, please do the math on how much it costs to increase skills.

TotSR: Yume-do (okay) – An interesting ability.  Yet again, I fail to see why shugenja get a cost break when shugenja don’t need any help.  I like this a lot, but I can rarely justify it.

Virtuous (okay) – It’s reasonably costed for those schools that have techs that use Honor.

Voice (okay) – This will rarely come up, unless the character is like an Omoidasu or something.  It’s pretty annoying how nonsynergistic it can be with other bonuses as it only affects low tier skills.

Wary (nope) – Out of the book, ambushes aren’t particularly important.  And, they are rare.  If this cost 1xp, it would be worth considering.

Way of the Land (nope) – What does this do?  It’s so vague.

Wealthy (awesome) – The fun you can have with Wealthy is fun.  Embrace the idea that a moneyless society (samurai society) totally gets into situations where cash is awesome.


“Monks don’t exist?”  “Status doesn’t matter?”  “Movement doesn’t matter?”  “Cash is awesome?”

My play is what it is.  Your play is what it is.  I’ve played a good amount of HoR and I’ve played a lot with two home play groups.  Wealthy should be worthless, but it’s actually extremely useful in some of that play.  Etc.

People want advice.  First thing they should do is talk to their GMs and the other players and find out what matters and what doesn’t in the campaign.  If they don’t get the guidance, well, here’s my advice.


2 Responses to Building L5R Characters – Advantages

  1. Fiendish says:

    ICLee, just to say thanks for the awesome run down on vants, and your other posts on bushi schools as well, they’ve helped me adjust from 3e to 4e and are a blast to read as well :)

    Would you consider doing a run down on ancestors or shugenja techniques?

    Keep up the good work with the blog, it’s enjoyable reading!

  2. iclee says:

    Ancestors might be tricky as HoR doesn’t allow them and the chances of seeing most of them are remote and I think a lot of them are dumb. In general, ancestors should work either more like 1e L5R or more like HoR2.

    Shugenja techniques could be something, though do they really require that much analysis?

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