Building L5R Characters – Disadvantages

Can’t use the same system used for advantages in my post I’m too lazy to link, so here’s my disad system of scoring:

Dead

Scan your character sheet in and move on.  This is a level many disads should hit in actual play but very few actually do because GMs either are nice, don’t realize you have deadifying disad, or don’t care enough about disads to have it deadify you.

Crippling

The pain I feel is pain.

Sure

What a disad should be.

Cheese

I’m just showing up so I don’t get fined.  Too nebulous a connection?  I exist on your character sheet just to give you more XP.

List

I like to throw out disclaimers because otherwise people think I’m less right than I always am.  But, then, hardly anyone ever comments on anything I say, anyway, so I can just assume everyone knows I’m always right, right?

Actually, let me get into an essential principle.  There are those who see disads as a way to have character arc.  I don’t mean the people who play up their lechery or whatever to give the character personality, which is why a lot of RPGs have disads – to promote roleplaying character traits.  I mean those people who see a character having some harsh disad to start out with as the way to produce character development by removing that disad at some point in the character’s future.  For these PCs, a lot of rather brutal disads make more sense and end up being more fair.

Antisocial (Sure/Crippling) – The -1k0 version is just a thing.  (If “A Thing” didn’t require extra typing, I might have used it as a rating.)  The 4pt. version is borderline dead.  I guess someone afflicted with an Awareness of 3 from family/school who doesn’t give a crap about socializing isn’t dead, just crippled.

Ascetic (Cheese) – This should be relevant in some way, but, just as Wealthy is awesome for no good reason, being broke doesn’t matter … um, hold on, that’s actually not alike at all.  Wealthy is awesome because money can matter, being broke is meaningless because money is glossed over when you aren’t flashing the cash, homey.

Bad Eyesight (Sure) – A go to disad for me.  I just relate to it.  Not a wise choice, as it’s crippling to the PC who has it.  Except, PCs don’t live in a vacuum and the rest of the party takes up the perceiving slack.  (If they don’t, you are all dead.)

Bad Fortune (all over the goddamn map) – This goes from complete irrelevancy to play to Sword of Damocles dead (in theory, again, GMs go out of their way to avoid killing PCs).  Bunch of these are so weird that I have no idea how people manage them.  How are Disfigurement and Evil Eye not Disturbing Countenance?  How is Allergy bad fortune?  Unknown Enemy is different from Sworn Enemy?  The irony of this smorgasbord of examples is that Bad Fortune thematically covers a lot of interesting possibilities that aren’t mentioned anywhere.

Bad Health (Dead) – Ha.  Ha ha.  Remember whippersnappers, we are looking at things from a PC perspective.  In reality, most L5R characters should just expect to be dead, not on arrival but not very long after arrival.  No reason to encourage someone to think “Gee, if you didn’t have this disad, I might feel bad about wasting you.  But, you brought this on yourself rather than just save 24xp by never buying your Earth Ring up, which totally justifies my going easy on you.”

Bitter Betrothal (Cheese) – Any time I see this, it’s flavor and matters not mechanically.

Blackmailed (n/a) – While I gave a rating to Blackmail in the other post, that was based on a PC being able to use a NPC.  I neither see the desire to take this nor understand how it ends up working in practice, though I’ve had a PC Blackmailed in one mod.

Black Sheep (Cheese) – Either you took this when you were going to Different School, anyway, or some story justification prevents this from actually hurting you, in so much as I understand how it has worked out for anyone – I’ve only had minimal contact with those who cheese this, I mean, take this.  I’ll go more into story stuff when I get to Dark Fate.

Blind (Dead) – Awfully popular trope.  Absurd mechanical impact.  Yes, I played a number of mods with a blind shugenja who had memorized all of her spells.  Still should have been dead in the first “Kill the shugenja first!” engagement.  If you defeat this with kiho or whatever, that just gets into the argument that a disad that isn’t a disad isn’t a disad, no matter how often the GM remembers that while you can perceive all of your enemies you still can’t read store signs (which some other PC will read for you).

Brash (Crippling) – In reality, lots of PCs take this and it’s not remotely crippling.  Meanwhile, this is dead, dead, dead if played correctly.  So, I just averaged things out.  You end up offending someone and duel and lose and take your meaningless Glory loss, maybe an Honor hit (god forbid someone give you Honor for playing this correctly) when you should be dead, dead, dead.

Can’t Lie (Crippling) – *sigh*  I keep giving ratings to what something should be more like.  In 3e, this was pure cheese.  You just kept your mouth shut.  In 4e, this should wipe your party unless you happen to have the all paladin party.  But, this is only likely to be somewhat problematic … or, unlike some of these other ridiculous TNs for Trait rolls, you Void your Willpower roll and pass it.

Cast Out (n/a) – I would imagine it’s pure cheese, but I don’t recall ever seeing this rise to the point where someone may have had it (on cheese level, of course) but I never knew.  Also, okay, people don’t like you – so what?  There’s no specific mechanic to that.  Thematically, is the GM going to take a stance of “Well, one of you has Cast Out, so I guess the monks don’t tell you about the adventure, see you guys next week.”

Compulsion (Sure) – Choose wisely … or not.  This tends to be a flavor thing for players rather than plot relevant.  However, played correctly, this should be absolutely brutal.  (Compulsion: Say Nice Things To Higher Status Samurai and the like are obviously not real disads.)

Consumed: Control (Sure) – Etiquette isn’t actually important in most of my play, for reasons that somewhat escape me.  Sure, every once in a while a GM will be like “Roll INT/Etiquette TN 10 to remember to prostrate yourselves and not get executed.”, but that doesn’t matter a whole lot when the PC always makes the roll.  I find that most Etiquette TNs are so low as to be a waste of time.  On the other hand, Sincerity matters in my play.  It’s far more important than any other social skill for actually resolving major challenges.

Consumed: Determination (Crippling) – Losing the ability to +1k1 rolls is really, really harsh.  This is arguably dead due to failed Athletics rolls and other one, big “fail and die” style rolls.

Consumed: Insight (Cheese) – See Doubt.

Consumed: Knowledge (n/a) – This has come across to me as short term cheese for long term dead.  And, no, in FRPGs, we aren’t all dead in the long term.  Sometimes, three of our characters can play in a battle interactive and our Earth 3 Courtier cuts down multiple oni.  This just strikes me as a story effect rather than a mechanical effect, with so many unknown repercussions.

Consumed: Perfection (Dead) – I’ve seen this played … with a house rule to make it less horrendous.  Holy ay caramba!  I am willing to argue that this is worse than Momoku.  The most absurdly undercosted disad?

Consumed: Strength (Cheese) – While very cheesy due to being worth way more points than it should be, not using Feint kind of matters.  Can’t quite pull it into the realm of cheeseless, though.  Wouldn’t think it cheesy at only 2xp.

Contrary (n/a) – I hate this disad, even though I like the concept.  I recuse myself simply because I normally see this being cheese, but it can be all over the place.  Just so vague.

CbtR: Chikushudo (Cheese) – Oh no, a penalty to a skill hardly ever used.  That reminds me a lot of … Doubt.

CbtR: Gaki-do (Cheese/Dead) – Should be the latter.  I’ve seen this taken a lot, and I’m sure you will be shocked … shocked … to hear how often it didn’t autoslay the PC.

CbtR: Jigoku (Cheese) – I hate how Taint works.  It it horrorlike?  Sure, whatever, I’m not playing katana dude to play horror.  I’m playing katana dude to slice and dice.  The funny thing is that Taint largely doesn’t matter.  Oh, sure, thematically, it can be the end of your PC.  But, mechanically, you can sit in less than one rank forever, easily.

CbtR: Maigo no Musha (Crippling) – One hopes this comes up, otherwise, like any disad that doesn’t come up, it’s cheese.  I really do not like the idea of every roll being at penalty.  It would be insane in a campaign like HoR3, though I imagine someone has it and hasn’t been deadified.

CbtR: Meido (Cheese) – Like Consumed: Strength, way too many points for something that should have only a minor impact.  This would be a go to disad for antiperceivers if I didn’t find myself in campaigns where you couldn’t actually take this disad without having to talk to staff.

CbtR: Sakkaku (n/a) – Not my idea of fun.  This is for like anime samurai, even then, I have a very negative view towards cruelty and don’t need it in my gaming.

CbtR: Tengoku (Cheese) – This seems like it should be epicly painful.  I expect this to matter for like one meaningful roll in a campaign.

CbtR: Toshigoku (Sure) – Why sure?  Unlike a host of disads, I can see the balance of the consequences against the TN for this.  Is it a hard TN to fail?  Yeah.  But, you probably care enough to make an effort not to fail it.

CbtR: Yomi (Cheese) – This is going to affect a PC how?

CbtR: Yume-do (Sure) – This should be crippling.  But, GMs will let you skate, a lot.  I have this with a character currently, and I am not thrilled, but there are plenty worse.

Dark Fate (Broken) – This is an advantage.  This is important, so pay attention.  Even if this had no mechanical effect at all, this is an advantage.  What actually matters in a noncompetitive game, like a RPG?  Spotlight time.  This gives you more spotlight time – your character arc is more important than other people’s.  Then, mechanically, you get the best effect you can get (other than like 3e Toku Bushi IR-1 technique!).  Great Destiny doesn’t bother me, even though it’s cheese.  Dark Fate is just moronic for a PC.

Dark Secret (Cheese) – Another atrocious disad.  In this case, it’s because this is binary – nothing or dead.  How is that remotely a good idea?  That works in fiction because a single hero is the focus of the story and it drives plot.

Dependant (n/a) – Recusing myself.  Too far away from those who have taken this.  I would consider it cheese, but, amusingly enough, I bought a Servant for a campaign and it was treated like a Dependant, never once being useful to me and being a source of grief.  I hate the Dependant disad in all games (e.g. Champions) because it’s just too disruptive to other PCs.  Like Dark Secret (Secret Identity in super games), it makes far more sense when there’s only one protagonist.

Dishonored (Cheese) – This is an advantage for anyone who wants to play a Deathseeker, but, for others, it’s just an irrelevant disad.  Let’s try to take a step back and think about character generation.  Players have goals.  Players have things they care about.  They often abuse, er, manipulate, um, adjust their characters to play towards those things they care about.  In a very philosophical way, every disad is actually an advantage because the player wanted the PC to have it, but let’s not step that far back.  If I care about Status in a campaign, would I ever take this?  I’m thinking I’m unlikely to do so.  (IOW, homey don’t play that.)  So, logically, I don’t care about Status, in which case this does nothing.

Disbeliever (Cheese) – How do you know cheese?  It’s ubiquitous.  I see this taken all of the time.  Sure, there can be times when you actually want to socialize with monks or shugenja.  I don’t see the penalty being why someone takes this, though.  Actually, it can be a thematic indictment of the Rokugani world, which is why I think some people take it.  So, in that way, it’s cheese but a different flavor that is “I like being katana dude, but this world can be annoying” that comes with bonus XP.

Disturbing Countenance (Crippling) – Should be dead, but, hey, whatever.  I would find it funny to take this with a courtier or AWA 4 dude, though it’s a pretty trite trope to be the “I had a promising career as a smooth operator, until this(!) happened.”

Doubt (Cheese) – How do you know cheese?  You see Doubt on a character sheet.  See my “Origins” post for more on Doubt.

Driven (Cheese) – This probably should be more like dead.  Yeah, if you play a PC who needs Honor for mechanics, this isn’t cheesy.  Are you playing that character or are you playing one who doesn’t care about anything besides your own selfish wants?  I typically see this taken to define more clearly what it is the PC plans on doing anyway.

Elemental Imbalance (Sure) – This requires a lot more thought than most chargen things.  You can cheese this to a high degree.  But, spells are so useful, that you have to make an effort to have this never come up.  I think this is just hilarious and is a way to rein in the godlike power of shugenja by taking it in an element you actually care about.  Now, that makes it more crippling than sure, but, hey, you are shugenja, so you already dominate the game, anyway.

Epilepsy (Sure) – While this gets forgotten constantly, when it isn’t, the TN is low enough that this is kind of like CbtR: Toshigoku.  For something that really shouldn’t work, I’ve seen this work not that badly.

Fascination (Sure) – By description this is crippling or dead, but nobody goes by the description as it’s a frickin’ 1xp disad.  Can be interesting.  Hit or miss, though, also worth so few points that it’s really a quirk.

FoB: Compassion (Sure) – Would be dead if you weren’t part of a party.  Hmmm, all the PCs are not lower Status than I am, but missus “I am essential to resolving this challenge” is.  Good thing you have a party and you aren’t playing a shugenja, so that others can keep the losers, I mean, nobodies alive.  I wonder how much somebody would have to jump through hoops to avoid gaining Status to make sure the other PCs aren’t lower.  That random Emerald Magistrate thing is great for this being funny.  Or, you play with people you don’t give a crap about and let them die.  Or, the real reason this actually works, you just hang on to extra Void Points.

FoB: Courage (Dead) – I gave this to a character, a NPC.  I like the thematic idea of playing a coward.  That doesn’t actually work when one PC not pulling weight can doom the party.

FoB: Courtesy (Cheese) – If this came up, it would be reasonable.  When does this come up?

FoB: Duty (Sure/Cheese?) – This I want to play so badly because I think it will make me make better decisions in combat and give 6xp.  On the other hand, will I make bad decisions and get slammed when I shouldn’t get slammed?  One problem with this is that the thematics can be bad for a particular concept I have in mind.

FoB: Honesty (Sure) – Play a liar, not care.  Play someone else, and the interesting thing is the cost to penalty math.  It actually seems about right.  Again, Sincerity may not be the most commonly rolled social skill in my play, but it’s the one I concern myself with the most.

FoB: Honor (Cheese) – Ha.  Ha ha.  See advantages post for how often this will come up.  Not the biggest XP boost, but it’s something for nothing and all of those Dangerous Beauties for free (since you might not resist them without your “honor”).

FoB: Sincerity (Sure) – It’s bad, but it’s not the end of the world.  Decent amount of XP.  Math doesn’t seem quite right, this should be at least 5xp, but it’s close enough for me to give it a pass and not dwell on how consistent I’m being with other social disads.

Forced Retirement (n/a) – What is this?  This isn’t a disad; it’s a story arc.  I’m sure someone has ended up with this because it exists, but, if it didn’t exist, no one would think it needed to.

Frail Mind (Sure) – I’m not a fan of this even though it should come very rarely.  I just don’t like things related to the Earth Ring or its Traits that hurt, as the hurt might be permanently painful.  But, that’s just being cautious.

Gaijin Name (Cheese) – The ubiquitous (well, overly common) Unicorn cheese.  Not really worth that much to others to go out of the way.  Seriously, my maximum on any one die is only 20.  Egads!  I be smoted.  At least it does something in 4e, unlike 3e.

Greedy (Cheese) – Once.  Once I saw this come up for a PC.  I have never taken this for a PC.  Biases.

Gullible (Cheese) – Even if the opponent succeeds, why do you care?  Then, you may be momentarily perplexed until Peter Perceiver susses out the truth.  This is, of course, one of the problems with disads like this.  Do I believe strange person who sounds truthful or do I believe my party?  Trust but verify … shouldn’t apply to someone Gullible, but, I don’t believe in party conflict, so what do you do?  You continue to play rather than argue, and you wish disads like this didn’t exist.

Haunted (Cheese) – This is primarily cheese because who can be bothered to have Haunted actually affect play?  I hate this disad, as it’s just disruptive or irrelevant.  Another overly taken disad, though I’d prefer that it didn’t exist at all.

Hostage (n/a) – Not a PC disad.

Idealistic (Sure) – On balance, this might be okay.  This is one of the least strange disads in nature that produces the strangest incentives.  This is the disad every honorless scum should take as it’s a speedy way to bury your Honor.  Of course, that’s only if you never want any Honor.  In reality, it’s way more complicated, as Honor 5 has some value for Honor Rolls and Honor above that has significantly more value.  This is also certainly a case where the clan benefit makes sense as Lion schools so often use Honor, so losing it hurts.  I think this is taken too often by those who don’t understand how much losing Honor can mess up mechanics, but whatever.  It’s not a crazy Honor loss.

Infamous (Cheese) – Glory has no actual benefit in the game.  What does Infamy even do … in play?

Insensitive (Sure) – Kind of cheesy, but it’s not worth that much, and, assumedly, it will matter at some point, though rarely.  This is the less messy version of FoB: Compassion.

Jealousy (n/a) – I have no idea how this would work.  Is it cheese because it should never hurt you?  I don’t know about that.  I just see it being too much thematics, where Fascination and other nonmechanical disads can skate on being not so … involving.

Lame (Dead) – Can’t move, can’t fight.  Not entirely true, as you can just shugenja your way to combat victory, except that you will fall down the chasm with your failed Agility/Athletics roll unless your GM lets you get away with flying over every chasm.

Lechery (Cheese) – Are you sure you don’t want to Temptation me?  Oh, come on.  I’ll pretend to resist.  Oh, I failed.  Such a shame.  That’s like the 50th time this month I failed resisting.  And, no, all of my PCs don’t have this.  Only one ever did … and no one ever tried to seduce him.  Well, what can you expect?  Ryoko Owari only has paragons of virtue as inhabitants …

Lord Moon’s Curse (n/a) – I tried having a character with this.  Got shot down.  I eventually agreed that campaign play isn’t all about me and my desire to play something incredibly problematic.

Lost Love (Sure) – I haven’t seen it that often, which is kind of strange, as it comes across as one of the few balanced disads.  That is probably the problem.  People either choose disads poorly or they cheese the system.

Low Pain Threshold (Sure) – Can take Strength of the Earth to mitigate the pain and still net points (and Wound Penalty increases).  Spells or whatever can mitigate.  When it hurts, it hurts, and, when it doesn’t, it doesn’t.  Much more fair than 3e.

Missing Limb (n/a) – It’s not so much that I think this is out of line, as I would never take this disad, ever.  I have an idealized view of heroic adventuring where this just fails my vision.

Momoku (Dead) – Better than 3e’s version, but it’s still like a 20 point disad.  Is it an interesting challenge?  In theory.  In practice, the fun of playing the game drops immensely when you lose access to a basic mechanic of the game.

Obligation (n/a) – Conceptually just like Blackmailed.  In practice, what does it harm you to fulfill your obligations?  Again, think meta.  There are adventures.  Do you ignore them because you don’t have an Obligation?  Of course not.  In practice, all adventurers have “Obligation – Seek Adventure” at the infinite point level.  Most of the time, it”s cheese.  When it’s not, mechanics just can’t handle what it means.

Obtuse (Crippling) – This is a really, really terrible idea unless you don’t want to have fun (or have a very different idea of what’s fun than I do).  I have never found myself in a situation where I thought I had extra XP that had no use.  I always find myself in situations buying up High Skills.  Can you work around this if you really want?  Sure, that’s why it isn’t dead.

Overconfident (Dead) – Of course this isn’t likely to kill you because GMs don’t do that.  It just should kill you.  Every time.  Let’s meta this puppy, too.  Okay, you only roll this when outclassed.  You also only roll this if you want to stand down or run.  Samurai don’t run … unless the choice comes down to “fail my lord by dying”.  You might make this roll.  When you don’t, death’s a bore.  Even the court campaign is going to end badly, but I assume some sort of average campaign that involves a significant amount of combat.

Permanent Wound (Dead) – Where Overconfident kills you when a trigger fires.  This just means you start out dead.  I find the idea hilarious that there are mechanics to prevent a PC from dying by giving them this, instead.  Oh, sure, the concept of that is great, it should be a sidebar optional rule to give out disads instead of death.  Except, this disad is death, whether Meido death or “look, I’m a monk now who doesn’t do combat anymore” death.

Phobia (Crippling) – This is a really problematic disad.  If your fear factor comes up often, you are getting like 20% of the points you should be getting for this disad.  Really not a fan of this as there’s no concept of frequency built into it, unlike Hero System disads that combine level of effect and frequency.

Rumormonger (n/a) – I don’t rate this because I can see it being irrelevant, being suicidal, or even something a bit more towards the middle.  I would not like to GM this.

SFC: Benten’s Curse (Sure) – I never take this.  It sounds horrendous.  But, I’m the one who points out that my experience with Etiquette rolls is that the TNs are typically so low as to make the roll rather pointless, or it’s something tiresome, like eating spicy food, that gives a minor Glory hit.

SFC: Bishamon’s Curse (Sure) – Almost cheese, just not worth enough XP to be cheese considering that it does do something you don’t tend to want to be the case.

SFC: Daikoku’s Curse (Cheese) – Ah, dollar dollar bills.  All upside and no downside with how wealth works in my play.

SFC: Ebisu’s Curse (Sure) – This may actually come up often enough to matter.  How much it matters, well, somewhere in the 3xp range might be right.

SFC: Fukurokujin’s Curse (Crippling) – As I like to know stuff, I would never, e-e-e-v-e-r take this.  But, suppose you are a moron (by you, I mean your PC, I don’t think a moron could have put up with 4000 words to read this line).  Since knowledge rarely matters, why does it matter that you are even more stupid?  I just put crippling because I would find it crippling, even though I play a moron character currently, if not for much longer.

SFC: Hotei’s Curse (Cheese) – Supercheese.  Don’t choose a dumb school and take your free 6xp.

SFC: Jurojin’s Curse (Cheese) – I may like the idea of being more reckless while gaming to make up for not being at all reckless outside of gaming.  But, I still end up being rather cautious.  So, I never take this even though it would be relevant maybe once in a campaign.  Note how sucky -2k0 is compared to the benefits of +2k0.  With Trait rolls, -2k0 is essentially -2k2, where +2k0 is still only +2k0.  The costing and levels of effect in 4e are so screwed up.  Advantages often give you +1k0 and disads give you -1k1.  “But, d-u-u-u-d-e, advantages come up all of the time and disads don’t, like you even spell out.”  Some advantages come up all of the time.

Shadowlands Taint (Cheese) – Time to go meta.  If you don’t mind having Taint, then you don’t mind having Taint.  Until you get a rank of Taint, Taint doesn’t do anything except accrue, anyway (with some possible exceptions that I don’t care enough to look up, but you aren’t “Tainted” until you have a rank).  Meanwhile, as I consider having Taint to having a dead character due to the social limitations it should cause for the player to play the PC, I see no reason to allow this disad.

Small (Sure) – I saw this so often, maybe that was in 3e.  Get a horse.  But, then, you are getting 3xp to do -1k0 damage, which is kind of like SFC: Bishamon’s Curse.  See how SFC: Bishamon’s Curse gets awfully close to cheese?  You do not want this disad in campaigns where PCs actually run away, though, I suppose, someone else will just carry you because GMs don’t try to kill PCs.

Social Disadvantage (Cheese) – I’m ready to play this.  The idea of being sidekicky is just so appealing.  Remember, Status doesn’t matter.  (Do I have to explain this?  Just go read some post I made a long time ago about how Glory/Honor/Status fail to work correctly in L5R.)

Soft-Hearted (Crippling) – This is taken way too often.  Look, if we don’t kill them, they will Meido us, so get to murdering, especially you shugenja types with your superior murder powers.  On the other hand, you do have a party so that you can pretend that you aren’t full of murderous intent with your low dice or “soften them up with a boulder” tactics or whatever.

Sworn Enemy (n/a) – I just don’t think this works.  Either enemies are par for the course since, you know, you are playing a game that has challenges to be overcome.  Or, you have some dude who will annihilate you.  The Hunted disad in Hero sounded like it made sense to me, at first, but I eventually got to the point where it was absurd, as enemies showing up is a plot device, not a mechanic.

Touch of the Void (Dead) – This disad is so poorly understood and so often incorrectly played.  It is certainly vague as to the timing of things.  Anyway, with official clarification, this is one of the worst disads in the game, being comparable to Momoku (the obvious play is to take both, even though you exceed the 10 point limit on disads).  See, having the option to screw yourself over is not actually a gain over having no options.  Yes, this is far worse for those who need to be able to melee attack … in theory.  In reality, shugenja have to get off their spells, where the weak and pathetic nonshugenja can afford to miss or can spend a round Guarding or whatever.  This should be a minimum 15 point disad when played correctly, no matter how much you want to try to game the system (outside of also taking Momoku).

True Love (n/a) – I see this on character sheets on rare occasions.  I’ve never seen it come up in play.  It’s a highly problematic disad to incorporate into play if the love wouldn’t logically be hanging with the party.  It is defeated by a VP, interestingly, I think the game does equate a VP to about 3xp worth of disad, providing some sort of benchmark.

Unlucky (Sure) – Shouldn’t have been made cheaper in 4e, even though I maintain that this is a meta play.  You take this disad when you believe GMs will be easy on you.  You don’t take this disad when failure is really important or you don’t trust your GM.  With a kindly soul, what happens is that the GM makes you fail rolls that amuse the GM but don’t really hurt or makes you reroll things that aren’t all that important to succeed at in terms of survival (may cost you Kenshinzen requirements, but, whatever) or that you will roll just as well on with the reroll.

Weakness (Cheese/Sure/Crippling/Dead) – Stamina = Cheese.  Reflexes = Dead.  Well, I did the latter in a court campaign where it was cheese instead.  This is definitely a consideration for any PC I need points for, as Strength is also an option for having minimal impact (just give up on the idea of grappling anything).  Willpower = Crippling.  Strength = Sure.  Perception = Crippling.  Agility = Sure.  Intelligence = Sure.  Awareness = Crippling.  Of course, don’t expect these ratings to be applicable to all characters – melee bushi and archer are way different builds, for instance.

Wrath of the Kami (Cheese) – I tried to make this less cheesy by choosing Fire with my PC.  Even making up mechanics to represent this disad in play, it has never mattered.

Deadly Cheese

If you read through all of that and didn’t come away thinking “This guy really hates the corebook’s disads.  He thinks a bunch of them are cheese, a bunch others are scan your dead character’s sheet into an archive file, or a bunch others are crippling.”, then I didn’t do a particularly good job.

While it’s a truism that the first thing you should do with chargen is figure out your disads (or equivalent mechanic), nevertheless, I find so many of L5R’s disads to be so harsh or so irrelevant that it just frustrates me every time I go through the list.  Epilepsy might “work” as a disad, but that doesn’t mean I want to have an epileptic PC.

I’m increasingly going to disadless characters.  That doesn’t work when you start with a 40xp pathetic loser, as many a campaign does, but it does work pretty well when you start with 120xp.  I just don’t see how I can build a newb HoR character with 0-2 points of disads, which is more like what characters should be, rather than the 10 that forum posters just assume every character has.

As a GM for home play, I try to heavily discourage more than 1-2 disads, as I just can’t track them for an entire group.  Now, there are major differences between mechanical disads that players can manage and story disads the GM has to deal with, but, still, this isn’t Champions where the assumption is 150 points of disads just so that you can build a functional superhero.

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2 Responses to Building L5R Characters – Disadvantages

  1. Eric H. says:

    I’ve yet to see a system that does “get more chargen points by taking disadvantages” effectively; it’s a game design dead-end. Having disadvantages that you work off by completing a character arc is something that can be accomplished entirely outside of the game’s mechanics, aside from when the GM incorporates it into the story. I like the idea of a game like L5R presenting disadvantages as suggestions for possible ideas for character flaws and how you might work with/around them, rather than the current way the game handles them.

    • iclee says:

      I see the value in personality traits being called out as it helps players make characters distinct from each other. Now, should a system not actually assign a value to your personality trait? I don’t know. Certainly, Champions offends me much more than L5R, as you cannot possibly build the character you want to build without a boatload of disads taken only to get more points. L5R is worse than V:TM or the like in terms of relative value of disads to character creation points, but it varies immensely. You feel the extra points less as you get past being in the newb loser stage.

      I’ve played campaigns where characters had not disads, and they weren’t any worse, and I eventually fleshed out personality for my characters (or didn’t because the campaign was just a tactical wargame), so I guess the idea of disads is rather unnecessary.

      Disads that require no effort on the GM’s part, like Momomku, I can see having a place. But, the point costing for quantifiable disads in L5R is so ridiculous that they don’t work, either. Certainly, it’s hard to balance -1k1 to Animal Handling against -1k1 to Etiquette against -1k0 to damage. Maybe generalizing more would work, so you have disads like:

      Earth Loser: -1k0 to Earth Rolls, Stamina Rolls, and Willpower Rolls.

      Water Loser: -1k0 to …

      Etc.

      Even then, can totally game the system, but, then, players game the system on the positive side, too. There’s a reason Reflexes 5 is the go to buy in 4e, where Void 4 was an obvious thing in 3e.

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