Building L5R Characters – Great Clans (Part Two)


Mantis Brawler (I’m down now, you’re down later.)

A complete punchmeister school.  Small weapons suck.  Punching in 4e does not.  Hands of Stone, race to Jiujutsu-7.  Never worry about someone taking your beatings away.

While already unexcited by unarmed experts in a samurai game, do we really need an entire school designed around being prone?

SR-1.  No longer penalized by being prone, except you have to squid your enemies.  I’m sure they will never just walk away from you.

SR-2.  If you know you are going to take someone out without 5 damage, always gain.  If you don’t know, probably not going to bother to use this.  Two star kind of ability.

SR-3.  This does hardly anything.  Around a zero point ability.

SR-4.  Get this late.

SR-5.  “Hey oni lord, let me roll near you and kapowie!”  Does something, just that the Tattooed Monk Fister gets to jump around and fist things, where you break dance to murder.  The former is somewhat more magic samurai, as sad as it is to say that a monk is more magic samurai.

Mechanically okay (because you totally run up to someone and roll around at their feet until you murder them), thematically just tiresome.  Actually, with low Honor, low money, some not terribly good skills, this is not a good PC choice.  It’s really a one shot session where the PCs have to deal with the pirate octopi.

Tsuruchi Bounty Hunter (Strangely courtierish.  Be a yoriki.)

Awfully focused, again, the theme of GC schools.  At least the skills and stuff are more generally useful than, say, a Mantis Brawler.  Actually, because this is reasonably suited to HoR play and (assumedly) home play, the abilities should get a lot of use.  In the Princess Police campaign, we were constantly going after someone specific.  As I find the Tsuruchi Archer School the most boring in existence as I cannot think of anything else to do but be good at murdering things with arrows (and dueling), at least this is somewhat less dull.

SR-1.  Limited.  Maybe two stars.

SR-2.  Isn’t this rather redundant to the SR-1 ability?

SR-3.  The amount of time you spend trying to get someone of higher authority to sanction beatdown could be quite funny.  Or, if you have an EM in the party, trivial.  Dazed is incredibly annoying, as is Knockdown – does push to a build with STR, AGI, and REF.

SR-4.  Good simple attacks.  Just think about a TBH that paths to Jade Legionnaire and hangs with an EM all of the time.  I fleshcutter/knockdown/daze you twice a turn.  Living a long row to hoe dream.

SR-5.  Even better is if your EM is a Bayushi Courtier.  How does this ability make any sense?  I study people, therefore I know your deepest secrets if I happen to recognize you?  Yeah, whatever.

Yoritomo Shugenja (It’s a shugenja … that isn’t totally bizarre.)

Tsuruchi/YS double stack for all of the sleezemeisters out there.  Don’t get Spellcraft natively.

Earth deficiency not good.  Can still heal and murder, still get Jade Strike at SR-2.  Slow to get Be the Mountain, though.  Thunder is not bad for FR.  Shifting weather is cool … or maybe hot … or unseasonally pleasant.

Moshi Guardian of the Sun (Almost not terrible.)

I really like the Moshi Family.  I actually kind of like the Yoritomo Family.  Despise, well, mildly despise the Tsuruchi.  Those are the only Mantis Families.  There are no others.

The technique is crap.  If it was just get +1k0 attacks or +1k1 ATN to Guardee, that would be sweet petunias.  To limit it to Moshi defense is just awful for play.  Shockingly, this is more of a NPC ability … almost like GC was intended to run a ton of weirdly specific and generally weird NPCs at parties.

Kitsune Ranger (Eh, okay.)

Hunting doesn’t suck.  Stealth in rural is not worthless.  Of course, this should be in the Lesser Clans supplement along with the Fox bushi school.

Son of Storms

See my kata analysis post about how awful this is.

Strength of the Mantis

What??  How about just moving away from the enemy and then shooting, like normal archers?  While I’ve seen the penalty occur, L5R is not up to handling tactical movement in such a way to coherently enforce the penalty.


This is one of those ancestors I’m all over.  I love strange abilities that might come up in play.  “Hold on, everybody, I’ll run into the burning building to rescue Timi-san while you murder Flaming no Oni.”  Unfortunately, I already did Moshi in HoR3 and the only ancestors I can imagine HoR ever using are the HoR2 type.

Osusuki & Akomachi

Pretty sweet, too.  I can see playing a Fox in a home game.


Void Versatility

It’s only 4 points.  You are a Greater God already, might as well be that much more broken.

Asako Henshin (Less broken than last edition.)

Ranks two and three are narrow.  It’s far, far less broken than the 3e/3r Asako Henshin.

I would be curious to see playing one in 4e just to see what it’s like, besides absurdly annoying in whether you can use a skill before the SR-1 ability expires.  I played one in Third.  That was some crazy shit.  I played in a mod with one in HoR2 and that was absurd – “I Earth zot you until you are fully healed.”  The only balanced thing about that edition’s version was that it made more sense to increase someone else’s Agility to 9 rather than my own, as I wasted too many rounds buffing before I 10k10+infinity attacked.  Anyway, off topic.

Asako Inquisitors (Too annoying to bother allowing.)

Requirements are annoying … not to achieve but to adjudicate.  Disruption is wacky, though stopping someone from a R-4 to R-6 spell is kind of worth doing.

SR-2.  Gee, encourage shugenja builds.

I don’t know that gaining one kiho for a rank is really all that.  I suppose that so many kiho suck means you don’t need a lot of them, just abusive stuff.

Elemental Legions (Am I gaining over normal Shiba-3?)

Sounds interesting, but is it?  Isn’t it a lot like the normal tech, except there’s strange nonfighting uses of gaining a rank in a skill?  It does say end of skirmish, so it doesn’t appear to work outside of combat.

Order of Chikai (Really, how much of this is necessary?)

More of the same.  Very, very sameish.  Just seems like I want to do cooler things than do the cool thing better.

Dance of the Winds

No.  Trivial.

Strength of the Phoenix

Yes.  See kata post.


So, two abilities kind of work against each other.  Really a matter of how restricted spells are in your campaign, where it’s probably never worth 12 points, but, maybe, you really want to overload on spells.

In PP, our party shugenja got to choose any spells they wanted around IR-4.


This.  This, on the other hand, is broken stuff.  Find the shuggie with this ancestor and go Shadowlandsing.


Shosuro Actors (I disbelieve.)

I could easily recuse myself from the whole chapter, being far more inclined to play a Spider* Clan character.  Let’s keep moving and see if I find something to comment upon.

  • Even though I find the Spider even more ridiculous than the Scorpion.

Yogo Wardmaster (Wait, this is kind of cool.)

First problem – messing around with overpowered stuff doesn’t tend to produce less overpowered stuff.  Simple spells is so broken, see the D&D Alchemist that is the Tamori.

Second – forcing touch attacks is something, something possibly very frustrating, though buffs are easy.

Third – adjudicating removal of wards is annoying.

Otherwise, an interesting shugenja.  Not interesting enough for me to play a Scorpion or DS to Scorpion Schools, but whatever.

Kuroiban (Shrug.)

So specific.  Not that interesting.  See last post about problems with witchhunter detection power.

Strength of the Scorpion

Plus three!  Assumedly isn’t limited as Feint damage is limited (everyone remembers this restriction, right?).


Um, absurdly good mechanics for thematics you were going to embrace anyway?  I get the Yogo thing.  I just don’t care about it.


Okay bonus.  Investigation rolls are key rolls.  I don’t like ancestors that are easy to lose and this one strikes me as too easy to lose.


Meishodo Shugenja (Not broken?)

Be wary of any messing with magic system.  On the other hand, I just don’t find the brokenness in this school like in Tamori and Yogo (both of which, btw, I’ve GMed for – maybe I should mention these things earlier to give me some credibility).

Sure, it’s an autosucceed on R-3 spells in one round.  It’s really R-4 and higher spells that are dicey in the middle of combat.  No matter the wound penalties, your Path will go off on you.  Of course, this brings up the problem of how to handle Path with this technique.

Moto Vindicator (Too balanced?)

I am constantly forgetting how much I want to play this school.  I just have higher priorities, like my priority of playing a courtier in HoR4.  I did have a backup written up for HoR3, or something.

This school is just pulled into too many directions.  You want REF for the SR-1, PER (and probably AWA) for the SR-2, Earth to mess with Shadowlands stuff (plus double stack Horiuchi Willpower), AGI to hit stuff, INT for L: Shadowlands.

I tried several builds and none of them made me that happy.

Ide Trader (What does this do?)

What does this do?  It involves ally rules, which I’ve never seen work.  It involves Way of the Daimyo rules, which need massive clarification.  It involves pursuing a career as a merchant patron, which is kind of arbitrary.  Can’t we just have a technique that gets you more cash that doesn’t require running a trade vessel?

Moto Fanatic (I guess?)

Full Attack – situational.  Reduction – always good.  I just don’t feel strongly about this.

Utaku Horse Master (Yeah, gender equineness.)

I think this is actually pretty studly.  Oh, sure, you don’t get the Shiotome awesomeness (at low ranks), but a shugenja can get by with one path, covers any terrible bushi techniques at SR-2, gives courtiers something useful.

While Hunting is way better than the other two, Horsemanship can help you win that race, and who doesn’t love handling animals?

Strength of the Unicorn

See kata post, probably useless.


Pretty boring and weak.


Kind of questionable benefit, in that shugenja normally function in a godly way even with a deficiency.  Suicidal sounding demand.


I just can’t take this seriously for PCs other than the kata, and I already talked about them in my kata post.

Heritage Tables

More not really caring.  I don’t completely eschew randomness in character creation, in fact having used random rolls to determine lifepath stuff or whatever.  I don’t care that they aren’t balanced.  I don’t hate these tables.  Just don’t really care.

Part Two

After going through part one, I really wasn’t feeling that I was providing a lot of value add.  Lot of things are obvious.  Some things I’ll miss because I just won’t bother figuring out how to build an Inquisitor or will never be allowed to play a Henshin or will never want to play most of the GC things.  Then, stuff I do like – some of the ancestors, requires specific campaigns and very specific characters.  Then, Kitsune stuff should be in a minor book, should be more extensive, and other minors should get some actual mechanics, like kata.

So, why do I like the supplement so much?  Good nonmechanical content.  Moto Vindicator, Lion Paragon, Kensai, some ancestors are things I’m interested in.  Kitsu, Strength of the Spider, maybe something else are things I’ve played.

Some stuff actually works.  Way too much stuff is really NPC mechanics.

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