Of Sword Questions

Before my trip, I got asked some questions based on old posts:

What rating would you put in the 1000 years of steel series kata? Using the kata analysis as reference

How many points would gain a kakita and a dragon taking into acount their clan kata, and the fire book’s kata? Using bushi analysis as reference.

And how good is the kenku swordman school? (this is because im doing a character with that school and i dont now if im gonna trampler the other players bushi (bayushi and kakita) and i should tonne it down, or if is simply sigthly avobe average and its fine.

Start with the kata.

The two kata I gave four stars to in Kata Analysis were The Great Clans’ Strength of the Crab and Strength of the Phoenix.  Because kata are so minor (bad), there’s a huge curve.  In reality, +2 Reduction is so much more powerful than +3 ATN that it never made sense to put the two on the same level, but everything else was so much weaker.

I guess if you curve things and don’t leave room at the top, +2 Reduction becomes like a five star kata, while the reason I rate something as small as +3 ATN that high is because Shiba Bushi is likely guarding like crazy and every last drop of helping someone else … helps someone else.

The Empire Rests On Its Edge

This strikes me [ha, ha ha] as the default kata in the game.  Who isn’t thrilled to get +5 to attack rolls?  Well, anyone using no-dachi or tetsubo, but whatever.

Yes, it does require sinking a bunch of XP into a skill you probably weren’t going to take to R-5.  Still, taking Courtier or Etiquette or Medicine or Meditation or Sincerity or Tea Ceremony to 5 is not character suicide.  It’s actually somewhat interesting, though more so in the Medicine case, perhaps.

Would you ever go R-7?  If you have tons of XP and are amused by the Courtier/Etiquette mastery abilities or really, really are fond of Meditating.  But, that’s the biggest cost to this kata – not that you have to buy up your skill to an unusual level but that you buy it up before you ever get the kata, so it’s a delayed blast fireball.

On the curve, this is a five star kata.  Even without a curve, if you are using a junk weapon like the katana, is there any reason you wouldn’t take this?  Kind of sounds five starish all of the time.

Note that a Free Raise is technically better than +5 attack, but it’s not that much better.

The World Is Empty

I don’t personally care about this, but does that make it weak?  Why don’t I care about this?  Because what katana wielders need is damage.  Now, admittedly, I don’t value Agility that highly, either, and this compensates.  And, there’s Feint, calling more Raises, hitting more often.

Except, a big problem with this set of kata is that they are all kata.  Barring Lionisms (to my recollection the only way), going to have only one kata up at a time.  So, take your +xk0 attack rolls or take +5 attack rolls from the cheaper kata?

Sure, +4k0 is a higher bonus.  Not that you will have 4 Void Points sitting around all of the time, but let’s pretend you will.  Let’s make some other build assumptions.

Agility 4, Kenjutsu 7 (way more important than any kata), random +1k0 attack from somewhere.  At 12k4 -> 16k4 -> 10k7.  That’s two kept dice over where you were at.  Feint goes significantly up.  May or may not be able to call more raises than what you were going to do, though high ATN crap like supernatural stuff, Lost, and gaijin become easier to Feint/Knockdown/pump up the jams.

Meanwhile, to avoid losing a VP after your four rounds, you burn your VPs during that time.

Of course, you have Agility 4, Void 4, Kenjutsu 7 for this build, which is not cheap unless you don’t care much about advancement, though a non-K/M will have to have a Ring of 4 (Air is just better, but everyone should know this).

Let’s drop the +1k0 and the Agility, so you are Agility 3, Void 4, K-7.  14k3 goes to 10k5.  That’s respectable for higher end foes.

Or, Agility 4, Void 3, K-7.  14k4 to 10k6.  Even with a more normal Void, this is something.

To me, it’s a redundancy play, but, sometimes, you have to hit crap.  Sure, top level kata where you can turn attack roll bonuses into damage one way or another.

Btw, I’m not just hating on Iaijutsu by ignoring the impact on Iaijutsu.  Where Edge gives you bonuses to all rolls, which can help you in that duel, this only helps with attack rolls which should be largely irrelevant.  Would have to be in a death duel and not be so far ahead of your opponent in dueling prowess that you actually cared for attack bonuses.  That’s the big problem with buffing dueling stuff – only PCs generally make an effort to arms race dueling, so, if you never duel other PCs, just more overkill that could have been raising your Investigation or Stealth ranks.

Also, what is the timing of activating this for dueling?  Note that kata normally last until you turn them off, but a round restricted kata can’t work that way, which, by the way, may mean you waste a simple action other kata users don’t need to.  As a GM, because this kind of needs to do something, I’d allow someone to kata right before assessment.  I’d also treat the duel as using up exactly one of the rounds it applies.

Still would take Edge over this because Edge just strikes me as more interesting, but, if you really need the hit bonus, I can see why people would take this.  I guess I’m arguing myself into 5 stars, as it’s not a no-brainer to use Edge over this.

Victory of the River

Redundancy is redundant.  Why would you ever take this over Empty?  Because the math crunches slightly higher?  Don’t think it does as I’d rather have two more kept dice than 10 better to hit.  Because you don’t lose a VP at the end, so you aren’t incentivized to burn all of your Void in the current combat?  Because you run around with Fires of Purity on you all of the time and want a lower ATN?

The requirements become meaningful at this point, though not that meaningful for K/M.

Just strikes me [ha, ha ha] as nothing remotely different from what you can already do, while costing one more XP than Empty and two more than Edge.

Like 2 stars, where it just pales next to other stuff.  Very possibly higher if there weren’t close substitutes.

Standing on the Heavens

This is your Air 5 K/M build, as requiring a ring of 6 is … not even that likely for someone who loves the idea of Air 6.  Note how long you will adventure without this kata.

So, you want to maximize ATN just so that you occasionally cost someone an attack at the cost of a VP, which, btw, you could have used to increase your ATN by 10, something likely to be far better in tough fights.  I don’t know, maybe don’t want some oni or Maho-Bujin to eviscerate you but getting increasingly cornercase.

I don’t think people who write mechanics understand rules very clearly.  When in any other case can you take Free Actions on other people’s turns?  So, you use a Free to activate this, how does that impact your next turn?  GM ruling tedium.  Or, you just say “You can spend a VP to force a reroll, once per round.” rather than introducing confusing action verbiage.

It’s just limited to me.  Stars-2 for having some sort of theoretical build, but I’m not seeing much application and this will come so late in a PC’s life that the number of uses of it just seems so small.

Middle Line

One thing the kata do is further encourage Air builds, either through compensating for lower Agility or for interacting with your own ATN.  I like Edge for encouraging someone to skill up something they wouldn’t have done otherwise.  I just can’t get that enthused by the others, though so many kata not in this series suck, that you might as well have one that does something.  First two aren’t hard for non-K/M, but last two are very K/Mish, which helps with low damage schools.

The problem with saying K/M get better from these kata is that Hida get better from Strength of the Crab and Ichiro get better from Strength in Arms Style (until they get simple attacks, but Ichiro is not a school you go into because you want to be an Ichiro at IR-4) and Bayushi and Daigotsu.  Also, katana schools can take these, too, and the better ones are the easier ones to take.  Now, non-katana schools get jack from these existing, so it does help level the playing field somewhat.  Your Moto build isn’t going to buy Sincerity 5 because of a kata … though, I have a new idea for a character build …

The schools I placed above K/M begin with Suzume.  Suzume naturally goes no-dachi in combat, but, maybe, you katana in which case you may also take Edge or Empty, anyway.  Given that minors and imps get screwed on kata, even more likely the Suzume is going to Edge and take some goofy Lore skill to 5 or something for thematic reasons, though the better way is ignore Lores with the school and maybe go Meditation 5 or even 7!!  Given how fast Suzume burn VPs, an actual reason to do the Meditation-7 build … oh, I so wasted my time with my Moshi.

Then, Moto, Toritaka, Bayushi.  Moto obviously not going to take these as they already get to keep 3 on damage doing other stuff.  Moto do have Indomitable and SiAS as kata options that aren’t absurd, but neither of those is as good as Edge/Empty.  Toritaka may take these or may go Crab if in a Crabby era.  Bayushi is another natural no-dachi school, but can use the same argument as Suzume – if you katanaize, can buy up Sincerity 5 or whatever and feel less bad about it.

I may have been harsh on K/M in my analysis, but the reason why is because they waste time in a dueling arms race.  Give them anything to do at their dueling ranks that’s actually useful and they jump at least a couple of points, anyway.  If you ever actually think you will lose a duel, then, sure, you may care about dueling bonuses and value them more highly than I do.

Kenku Swordsman

I’ve read this a lot but never get a great feel for it.

Wing of Thunder

Solid since Reflexes is the premier combat Trait.  Not hard to get to SR-2, so looking at +6 ATN pretty quick, something Mirumoto get at SR-3, which may be a long time away or not in your play, with this school probably +8 ATN at SR-3.  Even at SR-1, +5 ATN which is comparable to Usagi and Suzume.  Now, you may not always have higher Initiative, though Initiative manipulation is a thing.

OTOH, that’s all you get.  For a SR-1 ability, feel like should get more.  Stars? 2 or 3.

Heaven’s Claw

Sucking out opponents’ VPs is fun.  It means fights go faster when they can’t Void off damage and it means maho-tsukai have a harder time casting broken stuff.  The damage reroll thing is not as exciting to me, but it’s damage and everyone loves more damage.  Probably a 3 star.  Compared to a lot SR-2 abilities, better than the norm where Wing feels kind of worse than typical SR-1 abilities, so feeling pretty balanced at this point.

Lightning Kiss

5 stars, of course.  Emphasis requirement is all of 2xp to just blow people up.  Got to love that this is another no-dachi school or tetsubo school if you want to get fancy.  Why would you bother learning anything about tetsubo?  There may be some SR-5 combo thing you could pull off that would be hilarious, though I’m too lazy to find school techniques specifically around heavy weapons that isn’t the boring +1k0 of the Hida.

Churning Skies

Sadly will never play a PC with this ability as I’m all for going last in rounds.  I could get so much mileage out of this ability.  “Round 1, Full Defense.  Round 2, Full Defense.  Round 3, delay, no-dachi on first dude with 2VPs for damage, no-dachi on second dude with 2VPs for damage.”  This assumes that you can spend VPs for +1k1 on any damage rolls, which is not defined anywhere.  Katana special rule doesn’t even address, as it’s a specific rule that has been specifically referenced somewhere with some ability.

Of course, VPs are precious and you aren’t a Shiba Bushi (or are you an IR-8 character … in which case you are so broken who cares anymore what you can do?), so it’s more about ignoring WPs, which also feeds into my sort of builds, though, since you are Reflexes 5 and may be running around in heavy armor (got to love your school kit), not terribly likely you have a bunch of WPs unless you got maho-ed.

Going last is not bad – I do it all of the time.  May get some extra punch through on a big bad or avoid hurting.  As I’m biased though, I’ll be cautious and say 2 stars.  If you think it’s 3 stars, go for it.  To get to 4 stars, that seems unlikely as you really shouldn’t be feeling much in the way of WPs and VPs are often more useful in general use.

The Same Breeze

VP.  You don’t get the best techniques ever for free.  What’s the scariest you could do?  Let’s put aside SR-5 abilities for a moment, as that’s maybe unreliable (except for whatever your fellow bushi PC is playing).

The Shield of Faith is too expensive to bother with except in desperate times, plus I’m thinking it’s a PC who has force field powers to make combats a joke.  Spell manipulation?  Funny.  FR and +1k0 attack?  That school is so good early on.  Simple archery attacks?  Yes!  Regain VPs by spending VPs?  More yes!  Additional attacks?  Sure!!  Aura of Blood?  I should probably have pointed Aura as a 5pt ability, though 2VPs is rather expensive.  Strength of the Badger?  This party is awesome.  Entangle?  Don’t confuse me, with your Kenku Mai Chong build.  Monkey brokenness?  Boring.  Detect spirits, spend VPs on Perform/Lore, go Berserk, “Jade power” (assuming you count this as a bushi technique), and that’s not even getting into non-core schools!!

Yet, just copying someone else’s ability at a higher cost.  If you figure the ability is five points worth, then that’s at least down to four points worth.  OTOH, flexibility.  You could Shield of Faith one round and Berserk another, in theory.  Stack up all of the lasting abilities like Aura of Blood (because Shirley the party is going to have a R-5 Kenku and a Daigotsu in it … you certainly don’t want to be fighting SR-2 Daigotsus, that would be kind of ugly).

Conservatively, 4 stars/points.

Bottom Line

Do get damage bonus and best simple attacks, which is what you most want out of bushi schools outside of weird abilities that break the game, like force fields.  But, you don’t get force field like powers until SR-5.  SR-1 is actually kind of mundane mechanically.

I doubt I’ll ever play one of these and have never seen someone else play one, except when you get monsters abusing rules, so it’s hard to say how right I am.  Figure an Air/Void/Earth build, though maybe break down and go Water 3 just to get some use out of Hunting and for a bit more damage with your Mai Chong build.

The main reason you might end up overpowered is you might go Reflexes 5 long before other characters, which isn’t a school issue so much as the school extra incentivizes, though Kakita does that too.  In a K/K/M party, I’d imagine the Iaijutsu tournaments will end up rather silly.

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