Building L5R Characters – Great Clans (Part One!?!)

… the supplement.

While I played Shadowfist twice recently after a considerable break due to travel, while I backed a failed Kickstarter and forgot to even promote it, while there’s other stuff, most visitors would rather read about L5R.  Plus, MTP wanted me to do this.

Great Clans is one of the better supplements for 4e.  It also happens to be far less annoying in finding mechanics than Emerald Empire.  I could start with EE to get into why Lion’s Shadow is not broken in 4e, but there’s more to do, here.

Speaking of broken, HoR4 came out with character creation rules and I was amused by the forum post about unbanning Lion’s Shadow after more consideration.  Some interesting choices.  I really don’t see the need to ban Feint.  If anything, I’d imagine the new Increased Damage rule to make combat more brutal, while also not helping k1 weapons.  It does help Strength builds but hurts Agility, where it’s really Reflexes that’s overpowered.  Anyway, a topic for another time.

So, the point isn’t to go over all new mechanics.  The point is to be oriented to building/advancing characters with GC mechanics.


Kaiu Engineer (Problematic – makes stuff.)

I’m going to be kind of loose about things, e.g. not insert Excel tables of point values.  But, point valuing or whatever is more relevant for something else.  Kaiu Engineer is tons of problems.

The skill list is nuts for typical play.  Really, only Battle would be something I’d see someone care much for in, say, HoR play.  Why does it even matter since one rank in skills is kind of just a thing?

Um, SR-1 technique.  Both effects only apply to school skills, which you had no control over.  Other than Battle, when would you use this ability?  How many Battle rolls are you planning to make?  Why is an engineer more focused on mass combat than Lion Bushi schools?

Sure, you would only play this school if you were planning to craft.  Making stuff is a pain in the ass.  Sure, HoR3 had crafting, which was meaningless to me since anything involving interacting with staff was off the table, but maybe it worked.  Still, requires more infrastructure to be relevant.

SR-2.  First ability is irrelevant to play.  Second ability should be nigh irrelevant to play – roll below your SR.  So, I get damage emphasis at this rank and it gets somewhat better as I rank up.  For my totally balanced siege weapons, like how the weak one does 4k4 damage and ignores 10 Reduction.  Now, admittedly, 4k4, 8k8, and 10k8 damage does tend to produce more low kept dice than, say, 7k2.

SR-3.  This is why I don’t see allowing this school, ever.  I’ve had a character with armor make by a Kaiu.  It was rather absurd.  Making stuff is typically either inconsequential or, like here, OP.

SR-4 is okay.  It’s rather funny, actually, with the ole Dai Tsuchi/War Fans build.

SR-5, see SR-3.

Kuni Witch-Hunter (Problematic – overspecialized.)

Solid skills.  I’m big on what this school is supposed to be good at, but let’s start with some of the problems.

SR-1.  The problem is the concept of detection.  If you aren’t likely to detect something, then this ability is a fail – it’s what your whole school is supposed to do thematically.  If you are likely to detect something, why have anything to detect as a challenge?  I just see balancing encounters/challenges being a huge problem with this sort of ability.  The saving grace, I suppose, is that it’s a contested roll.  You aren’t just trying to hit some TN but get to match rolls with something, where, as soon as a roll is called for, it becomes meta on whether something is Tainted or not.  It’s like how detect traps style abilities really need the GM to roll to avoid metagaming.

SR-2.  I like what the ability does, but this is an ability that gets used by other characters all of the time because not everybody sits there and goes “Oh, if I allow you to know something with that largely useless INT trait, then I step on the toes of this school nobody is playing.”

SR-3.  So uneven.  It’s like being an Utaku Battle Maiden – am I going to wreck you or am I going to pale against many other bushi?

SR-4.  I finally started trying to process kiho because of my Nezumi character, of course.  So many of them suck.  I’m sure a decent one will be found, but I don’t have the interest in thinking through the proper build to have the Ring requirements to get what you want.

SR-5.  I so love this ability.  But, it’s a R-5 technique, so it’s virtually meaningless.

The school is overly specific for most play, being rather terrible I imagine for HoR play.  For focused play, it has some relevant abilities, but it also produces something of a problem of balancing challenges.

Toritaka Exorcist (Problematic – overspecialized.)

I guess it’s the theme of the book to introduce mechanics that are way too specifically oriented to doing one thing.  This is just more of the same issue of the nature of challenges.  The thematics are there for this and the above, but, as I came to discover, L5R mechanics actually matter.

Strength of the Crab

I talked about this before, but it’s good.  Reduction is awesome.


I haven’t done any analysis on ancestors.  Guess I start as I really like a few in this book.  Eleven is too expensive.  Sure, at some point pretty quick, may be rolling 11k4 attack rolls and love the rollover dice, and all of the skills are high tier, but I just can’t generate the love for the +1k0 disease that afflicts 4e.


Danger, danger, … making stuff.


Daidoji Scout School (Problematic – side mechanics.)

Oh look, another school that introduces “NPC” stuff.  It’s almost like this book is trying to give the GM options, when the GM can always hand wave siege weapons masters or whatever.

I have basically no concept of this school in play other than that one mod I didn’t play but ran that had these sorts of dudes.  Okay, my one comment on this school is that I see it being even less oriented to play because it’s set up really well to be a loner school that focuses on ranged combat.  Lonering = bad.  Ranged combat is already kind of OP, then you add in simple attacks and combining range with traps to make combat only interesting for those who find this sort of heavily tactical combat interesting.  I can see cool setups, but they would likely involve these guys as antagonists.

Kakita Artisan (Sure, why not?)

Maybe I’m biased because I realized my last Tattooed Monk was really a Kakita Artisan.  Maybe it’s because only the SR-5 technique involves much in the way of making stuff.  But, I can see this working.  I see it working about as well as corebook courtiers, which means not all that great for most play but with potential for the clever/dedicated player.

Kakita Jester (Is this a … joke?)

Who cares?  I’ve run a Jester from 3r.  It was entertaining for a bit, but I lost my ability to think of things to do.  I just expect the act to get tired.  My opinion is that it sounds better than it works in practice to play “oh, L5R is so funny with jesters who can mock the rigid social conventions the rest of us … like”.

Kakita Master Artisan (Problematic – interpretation.)

So, so different in my mind from normal Artisan.  Where normal Artisan I can see having that swaying effect schtick being manageable, if vague, this gets into too much interpretation for the final technique, too much boring for the penultimate technique, and still rather NPC-ey for the first technique.

Strength of the Crane

Completely reasonable.  Kakita Bushi desperately need ATN bonuses for when they take rounds off doing nothing.  Daidoji Iron Warrior is so busted that I don’t know if I get too excited by the potential to get an ATN high enough to be more problematic.


I admit that with how much ground I need to cover, I’m not all that keen on looking up all of the spells covered by this, but +1k1 on spellcasting is really, really powerful.  One of the ways that non-gods catch up to gods is that spellcasting rolls don’t scale the same way tetsubo/no-dachi rolls do.  Bonus to Meditation is actually rather not bad.  Meditation is all about hitting TN20.  Given limited XP, as much as you want Meditation-5, it’s not all that likely.  Often have to scrape by on Meditation-1 or 2, where +1k0 helps get you the … wait for it … magic.


Spears suck.  Where 4e really screwed over people was mastery abilities on skills.  OTOH, if you have to be different, and I think I admitted to playing an Usagi Bushi who used a nagamaki as his main (melee) weapon, 7 is not that many points for a FR.


Enlightened Madness

Yeah, good luck with this.  Right there with how I regretted trying to get staff to approve my Lord Moon’s Curse character concept.

Mirumoto Master Sensei (If you think you can ever qualify.)

Insane requirements.  By the time you hit them, how much longer is this campaign going?  Defender of the Wall, for example, can be hit fast if you really want to, like take it at IR-3 and lose simple attacks if you really want to.  Why ever do something like that?  Because you have to be playing a long ass campaign to go from zero to superhero.  Sure, you can get there, but do you get to revel in it for long enough to fulfill all of your fantasies?

At least it does cool things.  Probably not broken enough, though.

Tamori Master of the Mountain (Who am I?  Vice presidential candidate?)

Meanwhile, incredibly easy requirements.  I find some thematic weirdness with this school, taking away an Agasha schtick.  The SR-2 technique is really oriented to those folks who like to build fighty Tamori, which is fine but not really consistent with the other techniques.  The SR-3 is interesting if rather gamey, but it’s also a SR-3 of an advanced school.  Best I ever got in an advancie was SR-1.

Kitsuki Debater (Just don’t bother.)

This sort of thing is why I largely ignore courtier mechanics.  It’s so dependent upon the game play supporting it.

The Dragon’s Flame (Are you sure you wanted to play a Dragon Bushi?)

Just seems mediocre.  Attack bonuses are not what is needed with bows.  Simple attacks, simple attacks, simple attacks.  That’s always what you are looking for.  If you can’t get that, damage bonuses.  Now, sure, Feint or more raises for damage are things, as is Great Potential Kyujutsu, call 5 raises for extra attack.  I just don’t remember missing much with my 8ke5 attack rolls, not even when I got past IR-1 with that character.

Togashi Defender (No, the opposite of this.)

I would never consider this path.  The point of playing a TM is to tattoo the world, not get better mechanics by being tattoo-impaired.  As nice as Hoshi/Hoshi cheeses double stacked Void, I want more tattoos, not less.  I want there to be the all tattoo, all of the time option, not the “I punch through vanadium steel like a hot knife through butter” option that is what Togashis are really good at.  It’s a perfectly decent technique, it’s just more of the martial arts fighty nonsense.

Strength of the Dragon

Okay bonus.  Dumb requirements.  So, this is really just a Mirumoto Bushi kata, why bother pretending anyone else would take it?


Spellcasting bonus.  Spellcraft is not terrible, either, as you get to break the game with Importune.  Transmute requires thinking.  One thing I’m not strong at is, er, thinking?


I so want this ancestor.  This is rule of cool.  Magic Resistance done correctly.  Fit perfectly with my Tattooed Artisan, who was supposed to be a Shadowlands murderer but got sidetracked by poetry.



See my post on disads for how unregardable this is.

Matsu Beastmaster (Problematic – pets and social.)

Ah, the request.  We had one or more of these as a NPC.  I enjoyed that, too much.  So many innuendo.

Akodo/Beastmaster for the double stack, justify whatever your sleazy cheesemeister ways will allow you to.  Okay Honor.  Any weapon.

SR-1.  Free defense.  But, really, still just stylin’ and profilin’.  I’m in the camp that Beastmaster mechanics are probably never going to work and the thematics are problematic, so you are really doing this because you look hot surrounded by great p-… predators.

SR-2.  Swift is awesome.  Even if you don’t get all tactical, you can totally justify stuff by your “but, I’m as fast as an Utaku Battle Steed” argument.

SR-3.  Magari-yari.  Yes.  Because when you are this king of the beastsy, who needs exploding 9’s on damage?

SR-4.  +2k1 on damage.  Imagine a Reflexes build that sits around in Defense-5 Stance directing lions.  Okay, that is kind of boring.

SR-5.  While you get weird lions who don’t like attacking as much as their wilder kin, ATN 30 is decent, right up there with stags and stuff.

Akodo Tactical Master (Problematic – overspecialized.)

Reasonable requirements, though it produces quite an odd PC build as INT is such a dump stat.  Only SR-3 really does anything normal, which makes it seem kind of out of place, as +2k2 on Athletics, Horsemanship, Iaijutsu, or whatever is rather general (also rather interesting).

Akodo Kensai (I tried.)

GC messed me up.  I tried to go Paragon/Kensai and just ended up making an awful IR-1 character.

Taught me that Prodigy wasn’t nearly as overcosted as I thought.  This technique is terrible, btw.  How many people require PCs to spend a simple action activating a kata?  ATN bonus is rather pedestrian.

Lion Scout (Sneaky Matsu)

People seem to overlook that movement while Stealthing is incredibly slow unless you get the mastery abilities, which is kind of why the mastery abilities are so good.  This is actually quite an amazing replacement for the (IMO) bad SR-2 for Matsu Berserker.

Lion Paragon (It tries to make up for the loss.)

Worth it?  I found that move/shoot (or move/slash) just put me so far behind the damage output curve with my Hare.  But, the doubling effect is pretty.  Jade Legionnaire, baby.  At least, I think of path techniques as school techniques.  That was kind of my build – Akodo, Jade, Paragon, Kensai.  Instead, went Akodo, Jade, I have to stop playing this pathetic build.  Multiple attacks should be doing more damage.  Matsu is going to k3 you to death with something.  Akodo techniques do more than just fight, though.  Can double up on your break grapple roll or whatever.  I don’t know.  Matsu and Akodo are strong enough that maybe you crackers a bit to not get out of line with your loser Mirumoto buddy.

Strength of the Lion

Okay.  Push that shugenja up.  +3 isn’t all that, but it’s a kata and most 4e kata are no better.


I played with this.  If I wasn’t trying to do Paragon/Kensai, 6 pts. might not have been that harsh.  This is the sort of thing that I find cool in L5R no matter how many social Nezumi I end up playing.


+1k1 to Fear is not worth 7 pts.

Part One

As much as I’d rather do only one post on this topic, since I do do other things that deserve wordage, I just can’t get to everything today.  In all likelihood, Friday or Sunday, I’ll follow up.


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