So, besides becoming fired up to run Rokugan 1600, I happened to have been reading some L5R forum posts wherein I was:
Surprised to see so much love for 3e/3r. Where were all of these people before?
Unsurprised but heartened to see the criticisms of the fine 3e/3r/4e games include such things as how contested rolls suck. I might steal the TN 15 idea someone posted.
On a related note, I continue to be bewildered by the attraction to narrative mechanics – the fail forwards of the world, the “yes, but”, the whatever plus extra. Maybe it’s having played plenty of great RPG sessions where success/failure was the norm where I see that narrative elements are something you always add to games as a GM and leave dice as a resolution mechanic rather than trying to get dice to tell you a story.
Anyway, got me to focusing or assessing or striking on what house rules to use in a home game of L5R.
First of all, going to use 4e. Not only is it far more familiar to players, but it’s more familiar to me at this point, as I’ve played more 4e and have run way more 4e than 3r.
So, let’s ponywhip for a while on what sucks about 4e.
Grappling, Void, stance declaration, wound chart, Feint, mastery abilities, Medicine doesn’t heal enough, Defense skill, numerous vants, dullness of school techniques, Glory does nothing, Honor Rolls, armor, Reflexes.
Okay, I don’t want an extensive list of house rules nor do I want ones that are hard to remember. So, have to suck up some of the crap and just accept that not everything is going to be optimal.
Grappling just takes you out of playing L5R and makes you think you are playing some POS system. Could just ban it, but I think I have in mind what would make it not obnoxious (and really not that good for PCs).
Fix: Your ATN is not affected by grappling.
I suppose could say your ATN is reduced by 5 when in a grapple, but screw it – let’s go simple to remember.
There are several problems with Void in 4e. Where do I want to draw the line?
Fix1: You may spend any number of VPs in a round. You may reduce incoming wounds multiple times if you wish.
Does this impact certain school/path abilities? Who cares?
Fix2: You may spend 2 VPs to ignore Wound Penalties, including Down and Out, for the round (kipping up as desired for free).
So, you may be thinking “This could be horrible for PCs as suddenly big bad just wrecks.” Except, not all enemies have Void Points, one, and, two, PCs should have more VPs and manage them better.
Fix3: Void costs 5x next rank to increase.
What about limiting max raises by higher of Void or Skill? Well, that works fine for side skills, but it strikes me as dangerous as hell with attack skills. I don’t want to completely redo skills in the game.
Why is it undefined? This isn’t difficult, people.
Fix: Everyone rolls initiative. Then, everyone declares stances in reverse initiative order if anyone gives a crap who is in what stance.
Leaving it alone. To change it may have unintended consequences and veteran players are used to it the way it is.
Feint is gone. 3e Feint was overly complicated for little benefit (why don’t I just kill my enemy with my first attack?). I think the potential for abuse of +0k1 damage increases exists in 4e, but I’m playing a character who can increase damage by +1k2 in HoR play, and I don’t find it all that. So, back to “2 Raises, +0k1 damage”, which is important for making Nk1 weapons remotely viable (well, in a world without Feint).
Bayushi get FR to damage. Usagi ability was beyond dumb to begin with and will become something that matters. HoR4 ditched Feint and maybe I use its ideas.
Fix: Reroll your original dice pool. Add your Honor rank as a static bonus to the roll. While not what I want mechanically as it doesn’t differentiate Honor ranks enough, it’s simple to remember.
Fix: If someone knows who you are, you add your Glory rank to social rolls. Straight out of 3e.
Fix2: If someone knows your Status, they get +/- the difference in Status to social rolls. Yes, this means 2x the difference when there are opposing rolls. Only matters for those who care about Status, of course.
Why create a Status rule? Because, as I’ve mentioned, Status doesn’t really work in L5R play. While it can just be a mark of achievement and I’ve actually written that down in my notes for the campaign, let’s keep adding house rules no one will remember to at least try to get L5R to respect what makes L5R different from other RPGs.
Fix3: You don’t gain a rank of Glory when you go up in Insight Rank. You don’t gain Glory from Status gains.
The first is an important rein in factor to keep Glory from ten-ing. The latter is an idea for trying to rein in some of the ten-ing of Glory. HoR4 has done a job to keep Glory from automaxing, but it’s way too much bookkeeping for something that doesn’t matter.
Not going to go with my “Once per day, any rank technique.” idea as it isn’t simple and may be broken.
Tamori has to change. Maybe to make it the same as Agasha. I don’t know. But, no potion magic. That’s not L5R. I’m not excited by the 3e Tamori technique from a flavor standpoint.
Possible changes to correct bad editing/utter nonsense. Like clarify how Badger R-3 works. But, this is low priority.
Fix: If a skill has no R-3 mastery ability, then it gets “R-3: Gain +2 Insight”. If a skill has no R-5 mastery ability, then it gets “R-5: Free Raise”. I don’t really care about skills above 5 for things in 4e that lack mastery abilities, as no one would take that many ranks anyway.
Fix2: Each raise with Medicine increases wounds healed by +1k1.
I’d like to completely fix Medicine but this is simple.
Fix3: Defense rank is added to ATN at all times. Yes, this means Defense Stance doubles the benefit of Defense skill.
See Reflexes fix for preventing ATNs from getting out of hand.
Fix4: Jiujutsu and weapon skills gain “R-7: Your damage dice explode on 9’s”. Yes, this means No-Dachi-7 and Tetsubo-7 don’t change, but everything else is less irrelevant. Note that this includes Kyujutsu for the sake of simplicity if, maybe, not balance.
Fix5: Mastery abilities that remove/reduce offhand penalties actually remove offhand penalties not produce some goofy left-handed attack incentive.
Fix: Luck costs 7 points per rank.
Simpler than the better costing scheme of 8/6/4 or whatever.
Fix2: Magic Resistance only affects hostile magic and does affect Maho, gaijin magic, et al.
Because anything else is moronic.
Sage should be changed, but I don’t care enough. Servant is dumb in how it works, but nobody will have servants (who in a war campaign would die immediately), so it doesn’t matter. Touch of Yomi can remain irrelevant to play for all I care.
For disads, just going to police character creation to keep disads to a minimum rather than worry about ones nobody would want to take or ones I find annoying to play.
Fix: Fires of Purity does 1k1, not 2k2. Back to 3e damage (basically).
I know, Fire sucks relative to the other rings, which makes me open to the idea of making it somehow better in other ways with its spells, but I’m so tired of Fires of Purity. Tempest of Air is broken because GMs allow it to be. Jade Strike is necessary (well, maybe multiple targets can be reined in). Be the Mountain is not all upside. Plus, I’m not against defensive or survival spells being good. FoP is just broken.
No changes because this is a war campaign and armor is likely to be more of a PC survival aid than a NPC thing.
Fix: ATN = 5x Reflexes + Defense Rank.
On the other hand, ATNs do get unhappinesses in 4e play. As much as combat gets vicious at SR-3, it’s also possible to get out of control with ATNs, especially as a shugenja. To rein in the “Every PC has to have Reflexes 5.” problem in the game, well, maybe this will do that.
Theoretical lower ATNs (because I don’t see giving chumps Defense 5+) should mean that Agility gets somewhat better, as well. Spells only get better the harder it is to hit things due to autohitting, so maybe there’s some magic reining in with this change.
This is about 20 house rules. Some are intuitive, like declaring stances after rolling initiative and knowing where every combatant stands. Some are specific to certain schools and may not be made if no one bothers playing Tamori Shugenja.
A few are big deals. Reducing the cost to increase Void might be one of them.
Some, unfortunately, are going to be hard to remember, the Glory/Status in particular, but Glory has to do something and Status logically follows. In reality, Status difference shouldn’t be so minor a bonus/penalty. Should be like “Each rank of Status above opposing character grants a Free Raise.” if you want to make the thematics matter more.