A-Void-ing Mistakes

September 16, 2017

Having a conversation at moment in comments section of last post on new Void shugenja build.  Thought we’d turn this into a post because there are some general character build comments I could make.

My first thought was that it would be hard to cripple yourself out of the gate since L5R has relatively few different buys and it’s not structured like a lot of games are structured (WoD, Shadowrun, Fading Suns, Mechwarrior, etc.) where initial buys are very different from advancement buys.  Think of how much you could [not] cripple yourself building a Champions character where everything is identical at starting and through advancement and … further realize Champions characters have radiation accidents where PCs get totally rebuilt to fix any pointless [ha] buys (COM 36 was more than sufficient, Mister COM 55; Power Defense when no one ever hits you with Power Attacks), while you are probably stuck with whatever advantages you overspent on in L5R.

My biggest mistake PC was a character who didn’t just plan for the future but that way overspent on non-Trait stuff early on where the present was significantly impacted, so I am concerned when the inclination is to overbuy on vants, ancestors, et al.

While I rate Luck as the best buy in the game and rate Wealthy as an amazing buy, I do want to clear up a bit that I’m not necessarily advocating Luck, for example, as the end all and be all of character creation.

My biggest mistake may have been a PC who wouldn’t make sense until 150xp into the campaign, but I find that I have a general tendency to prefer playing PCs who are who they are out of the gate.

Sure, my Isawa Mirumoto Bushi sailor was useless with an Agility of 2 and kind of an actual character with Agility 3 and two ranks of Kenjutsu.  But, the character was defined immediately by being a massive damage sponge to distract enemies long enough for others to eviscerate them.

Okay, enough about me.

JJ’s PC with Ishiken-do, Luck, Crafty, Great Destiny, Sage, and Benten’s Blessing concerns me as putting too much into situational payoffs and not enough into consistency.

Ishiken-do is required.  I would put Sage into required as well because the concept sounds like a Void/Air/Fire doer who won’t be a moron.  Only reason not to do Sage is because of thematic fail.

I would not bother with Crafty, as there are only five skills listed as low skills and I could imagine not needing Forgery nor Intimidation (any time soon, at least).  So, could have just taken one rank in the other three and be on the path to going above one rank as “needed” and spent the same number of points.  I would be unlikely to even spend those three points, taking probably one rank in Stealth and Temptation and buying Sleight later or maybe not even the first two if really pressed for points.

The ability to pump all Void into a roll along with the ability to recycle VPs means Luck is less crucial for the all important rolls that occur.  However, it depends upon how many other shugenja there are in the party.  The more other shugenja, the less crucial any one spell is, so the need to Luck a spell varies.

Great Destiny is something I often forget about because living campaigns don’t allow it.  I have a campaign idea that moves Great Destiny and Dark Fate into general rules rather than specific character features, but that’s neither here nor there for you all.  It does amuse me to try to figure out a thematic justification for Great Destiny rather than the mechanical view of “I don’t want to die right away”.

Sounds like the PC is a/the face of the party, so I get Benten’s Blessing.  Besides helps with personal … um … pursuits.

Ishiken-do, Sage.  then, I would rate the importance of the rest as Benten’s Blessing followed by maybe one rank of Luck followed by Great Destiny followed by second rank of Luck.  But, it’s not my character.  If inspired by the possibilities of Great Destiny, sure, go for it.

Just to move on, let’s say 16xp are put into advantages.  I don’t like assuming 10 points of disads, but, if you start with 40, kind of hard not to max out.  If there are 34 points left over, figure 12 for a trait, 18 for Void 3, 3 points in skills, and 1 in innating a spell.  Things get rough if more than 16xp go into advantages.

Spellcasting.  A R-1 spell needs a TN of 10.  3k2 can do 10.  However, a few things.  One, Path to Inner Peace is not really a 10.  Raise happy spells are not really 10’s.  May want to cast a R-2 spell in one round at TN20.  Some thought should be put into what spells need to be castable as a starting character.  Because most people want their characters to be functional, I would imagine this character would be Air 3, Void 3 out of the gate with a plan to get to Fire 3.

ATN.  With Reflexes 3, Air 3 in shugenja stance, minimum ATN of 23.  Probably want one rank in Defense just to move to 24.  Someday, really like Defense 5, but that’s so far away and combat doesn’t seem like a focus for the campaign.

Disads are another way to cripple oneself.  Overconfident, probably not a great idea for this PC (I’d argue a terrible idea for every PC, but whatever).  Weakness: Strength could be cheesemeisterishness or maybe the GM makes it actually hurt.  But, it’s unlikely to an “OMG, you killed my 40 point character” choice like some disads should be.  More than anything else, because disads often don’t have consistent mechanics like other things do, I’d work with the GM to have them be reasonable and more interesting than how many points they give you.

Now, what about advancement?  There are important considerations besides whether you get to take advantages after character creation.  As I blogged about before, rate of advancement changes things dramatically.  Do you really care how inept you are at 40, if you are at 60 after a couple of sessions?  You probably care whether you have another trait at 3 if you play like once a month and gain 2xp per session.

For this character, what’s essential?  Sounds like social ability, Acting, fixer abilities.

Plan would seem to be Awareness 4, multiple ranks in a variety of Awareness skills, Agility 3 for Stealth, with Void 4 at some point.  Seems like can mostly dump entirely on Earth and Water, eventually getting to Earth-3 only if the campaign proves more dangerous than expected.  While PER 2 is unhappinesses, have to not be good at something.  The single greatest problem with dumping on Water is that it makes Water spells rather terrible.

Fill out skills to support “Acting”, like Craft: Cooking Pot.  Commerce is an obvious skill to enhance disguises.

I don’t know if I got the idea of a ningenja, er, shuninja right or not.  Also, what is the rest of the party like?  Is there a lot of overlap in abilities?  Who are going to be the perceivers in a campaign that seems to badly need perceivers?  Is this PC a demibrain, the brain?  What sort of non-mechanical considerations are relevant, like clan interactions?  This sounds like a low Glory character, which probably doesn’t matter one way or the other, but what about Status?  How will the party interact with NPCs of different status?

As for spell selection, here are some ideas, including some I don’t normally see:

By the light of the Moon
Cloak of Night
Legacy of Kaze-no-Kami
Nature’s Touch
Token of Memory
Way of Deception
Benten’s Touch
The Kami’s Whisper
Secrets on the Wind

Fires of Purity

Path to Inner Peace
Reversal of Fortunes

Boundless Sight
Drawing the Void
See Through Lies
Sense Void
Touch the Emptiness
Altering the Course
Drink of Your Essence
Reach Through the Void

What’s interesting to me is that being ninjaesque means making use of some spells that I’ve never seen cast.  Still, limited options means most of these will never get chosen.  Some of these, mostly Air require being clever, too, which can be a burden.  Would be nice to be able to play a shugenja who does weird stuff rather than one who has to constantly save the party from TPKs.