Rokugani spells are actually prayers and invocations to the kami, spoken in a mystical tongue which the kami can understand. All shugenja study this speech as part of their schooling. These prayers are complex, and most shugenja must read them from scrolls in order to cast them properly. This is why shugenja normally must have their spell-scroll in hand while they cast, so that they can read off the prayers correctly. A skilled shugenja, however can memorize the incantations by spending a number of Experience Points equal to the Mastery Level of the spell. This allows them to cast without a scroll.
Because the kami must hear the prayers, spells are normally spoken aloud. It is possible to conceal a spell, however, by muttering the prayers under one’s breath, using the Stealth Skill.
- 1 Spell Casting Rolls & Spell Target Numbers
- 2 Actions & Casting Time
- 3 Affinities & Deficiencies
- 4 Counterspelling
- 5 Taryu-Jiai Dueling
Spell Casting Rolls & Spell Target Numbers
The Spell Casting Roll is a unique roll used by shugenja to entreat the kami and cast a spell. When casting a spell, a shugenja rolls a number of dice equal to his rank in the relevant Ring plus his Shugenja School Rank, and keeps a number of dice equal to his Ring. The result is compared to the spell’s TN, which is equal to 5 plus (5x the spell’s Mastery Level).
A shugenja may cast only a finite number of spells per day. A shugenja character has “spell slots” equal to his Ring in question. For example, a shugenja with Fire 3 can only cast up to 3 Fire spells per day. All shugenja have bonus spell slots equal to their Void Ring, however, and these can be used to cast additional spells in any element of their choice. If the shugenja described above had Fire 3 and Void 2, for example, he could theoretically cast up to 5 Fire spells in one day if he used both of his bonus spell slots to cast additional Fire spells.
A shugenja who fails a Spell Casting Roll is still considered to have used up the appropriate spell slot, as the kami are angered by his failure. However, a shugenja who succeeds in the Spell Casting Roll but then is interrupted before the spell is completed does not lose a spell slot.
Actions & Casting Time
A spell requires a number of Complex Actions equal to its Mastery Level to cast. The first of these is spent when the caster successfully makes the Spell Casting Roll against the normal TN, which is equal to 5 plus the spell’s Master Level x 5. Each round thereafter, the shugenja must spend a Complex Action to continue the spell. For example, a spell of Mastery Level 3 would require three Complex Actions to complete. A shugenja casting such a spell would make his Spell Casting Roll in the first round, expend another Complex Action the second round to maintain the casting process, and complete the spell in the third round with a third and final Complex Action. A spell takes effect immediately upon the completion of the last Complex Action required o cast it, unless otherwise specified in the spell description.
A character may reduce the number of Complex Actions required to cast a spell by one for every Raise made specifically for that purpose on the Spell Casting Roll. However, this cannot reduce the casting time to less than one Complex Action.
Characters who are attempting to complete a spell can be interrupted if they suffer damage or are significantly distracted during the casting process. A shugenja who is interrupted must succeed at a Willpower Trait Roll (TN 10) to overcome the distraction. If the shugenja suffers damage, the TN for the Willpower roll is 5 plus the amount of damage suffered. A spell that is disrupted in this manner cannot be completed, but the shugenja does not lose a spell slot.
Banishing and Importuning the Spirits
Powerful shugenja have the ability to dismiss or “banish” the elemental kami from an area, replacing them with new spirits who have no prior knowledge of what has happened in the area. This is most frequently done to prevent other shugenja from uncovering their activities with a Commune spell. To banish the spirits from an area, a shugenja must cast Sense with three Raises (to identify all the spirits in the area) and then cast Commune with five Raises (to persuade those spirits to leave). This must be done separately for each Element, of course.
All Rokugani spells, from the simplest to the most powerful, are actually prayers to the spirits, entreating them to produce an effect for the shugenja. This means that an especially devout shugenja can, in theory, cast almost any spell (whether or not he has the scroll) simply by asking the spirits with sufficient devotion and piety. This process is known as “importuning” the spirits, and it uses the Spellcraft skill. To importune a spell, a shugenja must cast Commune and spend a considerable time in speech with the kami: five minutes for each Mastery Rank of the desired spell. At the end of that time, the caster must roll Spellcraft (Importune) / (Ring for the appropriate Element), at a TN of 15 +5 per Mastery Level of the spell. With a success, the spirits will grant him the ability to try to cast the spell, once, within the next hour, at a TN of 15 plus the spell’s Mastery Level x 5. The shugenja cannot importune for a spell of higher Mastery Level than he could normally cast.
Affinities & Deficiencies
Virtually all shugenja Schools ahve an Affinity for one element and a Deficiency for another. Most often, Affinities and Deficiencies are of opposing elements (Air and Eart are opposed, as are Fire and Water; Void has no opposing element). This represents both the ritualized teachings of the Great Clans and the inherently oppositional nature of the elements. A shugenja with an Affinity for an element casts spells of that element as if his Shugenja School Rank were one higher. Conversely, a shugenja Deficient in an element casts spells of that element as if his Shugenja School Rank were one lower. If this reduces the shugenja’s effective School Rank to zero, he cannot cast spells of that element.
In some RPG systems, it is possible for spellcasters to counteract opposing spells. Some earlier editions of the L5R RPG have also explored this idea, but due to the timing issues involved with “interrupting” another person’s action, these mechanics can often become problematic. Accordingly, L5R 4th Edition did not include a “Counterspell” option in its basic rules.
However, given the nature of Rokugani magic as prayers which entreat the kami into action, it does seem logical that a skillful shugenja could use his own prayers to disrupt another shugenja’s spell-casting, either by disrupting opposing kami with his own or by persuading opposing kami not to listen to the enemy spellcaster. If GMs wish to explore this possibility, the following optional rules are suggested.
Who can Counterspell, and When
A shugenja who has at least 5 Ranks in the Spellcraft Skill may attempt to Counterspell any normal Rokugani spell being cast by another shugenja. (Maho, Nothing spells, and gaijin magic of all kinds cannot normally be Counterspelled.) The would-be Counterspeller must be aware that a spell is being cast (GM’s judgment, but in general any shugenja can recognize the sights and sounds of spellcasting) and must be within a reasonable distance (suggested maximum range is 50’ x School Rank).
If the enemy spell takes more than one Complex Action to cast, the Counterspelling shugenja may always make the attempt to Counterspell so long as the Initiative order allows him to take a Turn in between the start and end of the spellcasting process (this will almost always be the case). However, if the spell only takes one Complex Action to cast (either due to being a Mastery Rank One spell, or due to the caster taking Raises to cast it in only one Action), or if for some reason the Counterspelling shugenja does not have a Turn between the start and end of the spell-casting process, then a Counterspell may only be attempted under the following conditions:
- The Counterspelling shugenja is acting before the casting shugenja in the Initiative order, and chooses to delay his Turn for the purpose of potentially Counterspelling.
- The Counterspelling shugenja is tied with the casting shugenja in the Initiative order.
- A specific shugenja may only attempt to Counterspell each enemy spell once, even if he has multiple Turns during the time when the spell is being cast.
If multiple shugenja have the ability to attempt a Counterspell against the same enemy spell, they may make their Counterspell attempts separately or they can combine their efforts (see below).
A shugenja who is attempting a Counterspell takes a Complex Action and expends a spell slot in the Element which is opposed to the Element of the spell being cast (any shugenja who has Spellcraft of 3 or higher will be able to sense the Element being used in a spell). Fire opposes Water, Air opposes Earth, and Void opposes itself.
The Counterspelling shugenja then makes a Spell Casting Roll using the opposing Element (applying Affinity/Deficiency if appropriate). If the total of his roll is higher than the Spell Casting Roll of the shugenja casting the spell, the Counterspell is a success and the spell fails to take effect. (Observant GMs may note there is a potential timing issue here – if the Counterspelling shugenja is acting “in the middle” of a spell that takes more than one Complex Action to cast, the caster has not made his Spell Casting Roll yet. In this case, it is recommended that the caster make his Spell Casting Roll immediately but the final effects not be seen until the time when the spell would normally be cast.)
If multiple shugenja are making a combined attempt to Counterspell a single enemy spell, the combined effort uses the highest Ring Rank and the highest School Rank among all the shugenja, and adds a +1k1 bonus to the roll for each shugenja beyond the first.
Instances where Counterspelling is Impossible
In order to be effective, Counterspelling must be able to disrupt the kami at the moment they are being invoked through prayer. This means there are a number of instances in which it is not possible to Counterspell.
Any effect which “stores” a spell for later discharge, such as the spell Silent Waters, the Agasha and Tamori alchemical potions, or the Yogo paper wards, cannot be Counterspelled.
The Unicorn Clan’s Meishodo magic, which is a blend of Rokugani and gaijin techniques, does not involve a Spell Casting Roll to use and thus cannot be Counterspelled.
Additional Counterspelling Options
If the GM wishes to add more depth to Counterspelling
some or all of the following additional options may be added to the Counterspelling rules. Note, however, that the more such rules are added, the more complex and time-consuming Counterspelling will become.
- School Bonuses: Certain schools and magical traditions within Rokugan are better at Counterspelling. Any shugenja who is enrolled in the Phoenix Inquisitor Advanced School gains a +1k1 bonus to Counterspelling attempts. Any shugenja trained in the Yogo Wardmaster School or the Seppun Shugenja School gains a +1k0 bonus to Counterspelling attempts.
- Powerful Spells: It can be more challenging for a shugenja to Counterspell magic which is beyond his own capacity to cast. If the spell which is being Counterspelled is a higher Mastery Rank than the Counterspelling shugenja could normally cast, he must call one Raise on the Contested Roll for each Mastery Rank by which the spell exceeds his capacities.
Duels of magical power between shugenja have been around since the early days of the Empire, when the Isawa used them to settle differences between themselves. Over the centuries the practice has slowly spread to other shugenja families and schools, and social conventions have risen up around such duels in much the same way as with iaijutsu dueling. Taryu-Jiai remains a rare practice overall, since it is quite unusual for shugenja to be willing to fight a duel of honor for themselves rather than following social convention and letting their yojimbo fight for them.
However, it does play an important role in any tournament involving shugenja – especially the Tournament of the Jade Champion in those eras when the Jade Champion is an active office. Such tournaments usually end in a contest of Taryu-Jiai in much the same way as bushi tournaments such as the Topaz Championship and the Emerald Championship end in a contest of iaijutsu. Socially, a Taryu-Jiai duel is treated in much the same way as any other “alternate” form of dueling: that is, it is considered an acceptable substitute for iaijutsu if both parties agree to use it to resolve their differences.
As mentioned, this is a popular choice among the Isawa, but much rarer elsewhere. Like an iaijutsu duel, a Taryu-Jiai duel can be conducted to first blood (usually judged by whoever inflicted the heavier injury on the opponent) or to the death. The more peaceful shugenja families and schools generally refuse to fight lethal Taryu-Jiai, viewing them as an improper use of the spirits.
A duel of Taryu-Jiai uses a loosely similar overall structure to an iaijutsu duel, but there are significant mechanical differences since the shugenja are calling on the power of the kami directly rather than fighting with weapons. The exact length of a Taryu-Jiai duel varies – matches between powerful shugenja have been known to last several minutes – but GMs who wish a more standardized feel can rule that a Taryu-Jiai duel happens in three Rounds in the same manner as an iaijutsu duel, and the steps outlined below assume this to be the case. Taryu-Jiai does not use the Center Stance. (If the duel is taking place in Rounds, the duelists are typically in the Attack Stance throughout.)
Step One: Selection
Before the duel begins, each duelist chooses which Element he will call upon for the duel. This will usually be the Element in which he has Affinity, though this is not required. Also, in some instances the duelists will specifically agree to fight using a particular Element – for example, two pacifistic shugenja might choose to fight a Duel of Air. The choice must be made from one of the four normal Elements – there are no duels of Void, not even between Ishiken.
Step Two : Assessment
On the first Round of the duel, each shugenja attempts to sense the Elemental power and capability of his opponent. This is a Contested Roll of Spellcraft / Void. The shugenja who wins the Contested Roll learns the Ring his opponent has selected and the opponent’s Rank in that Ring. If he wins the Contested Roll by at least 10, he also learns either the opponent’s School Rank or his Void Rank (player’s choice).
After the Assessment step, either shugenja may opt to acknowledge defeat and thereby end the duel. If neither shugenja concedes, the duel proceeds.
Step Three: Empower
On the second Round of the duel, both shugenja begin praying to the kami and gathering the energy of the Elements around them. This will often produce very impressive visual effects as the kami gather and swirl around the two shugenja, whose eyes glow with the power of the kami in the same manner as when casting spells. This stage of the duel is considered to be “full concentration,” meaning the shugenja may only perform Free Actions and can potentially be disrupted by outside distractions, enemy attacks, etc.
Step Four: Strike
On the third and final Round of the duel, both shugenja unleash their gathered Elemental power, attempting to overwhelm their opponent. This is often a quite spectacular event as massive numbers of kami swirl and clash, stones and flames erupt from the ground, whirlwinds sweep out of nowhere, and so forth.
Mechanically, this is represented by the shugenja performing a Contested Spell Casting Roll using the Element of their choice. Affinity/Deficiency apply as normal, and spell slots are likewise used as though the shugenja cast a spell of that Element. Other aspects of School Techniques generally do not apply (since the shugenja are unleashing raw Elemental power rather than using specific types of prayers such as Illusion or Jade) but the GM may opt to let them apply if it seems appropriate.
The shugenja who wins the Contested Roll inflicts 2k2 damage on his opponent, plus an additional 1k1 damage for every differential of 5 by which he beat the opponent’s total Spell Casting Roll. The shugenja who lost the Contested Roll inflicts half as many dice (rounded down) of damage on the winner.
If the duel is non-lethal, the winner is whoever inflicts more Wounds in the Strike. If it is a duel to the death, the shugenja will continue to repeat the Empower and Strike steps until one opponent falls – any duelist who is reduced to Down or Out in a lethal Taryu-Jiai duel will be immediately overwhelmed and slain by the opponent’s kami.
GMs who wish to add more depth to Taryu-Jiai duels may wish to explore the following options:
- Disruption – The GM may add depth to the Empower step by allowing the shugenja to try to disrupt their opponents’ control over the kami and thereby gain an advantage in the subsequent Strike. This is resolved as a Contested Roll of Spellcraft / [Element] (where Element is each duelist’s chosen Element for the duel). If one duelist beats the other’s roll by at least 10, the winner gains a +1k1 bonus to the Strike roll.
- Specific Elemental Effects – The GM may opt to add specific effects to the duel to reflect the Elements chosen for the duel. For example, Air is a less violent Element, so the GM could let half the damage inflicted by Air in a duel be “non-lethal” buffeting/smothering damage that has no lasting or lethal effect. Conversely, Fire is more violent and destructive, which could be represented by adding +1k0 to the duelist’s damage; Water is the Element of clarity and could award a +1k0 bonus to Assessment rolls; and the weight of Earth could reduce an opponent’s mobility and stamina, represented by the opposing duelist becoming Fatigued.
Certain high-powered shugenja duels involve the duelists summoning forth powerful Elemental avatars and using these avatars to wage battle against each other by proxy. In game terms, this is accomplished by casting the various Rank 6 “Rise” spells (Rise Earth, Rise Water, etc) and using these powerful summoned kami to fight a skirmish combat. Since the summoned avatars are infused completely with the energy of the kami, they are able to damage each other (ignoring Invulnerability). The fight continues until one of the avatars is reduced to zero Wounds and thereby dispelled.