Optional Rules

The Court Battle System [EE: 279]

A verbal battle in court can be a wild affair, with the conversation drifting from topic to topic as characters attempt to
pounce on any weaknesses in their opponents’ arguments. The length of such a battle of wills can vary wildly, as the conversation can last as long as all sides can maintain their focus on the discussion.

Court Battle takes place in a series of Turns, each representing an indeterminate period of time most likely several minutes. “Damage” sustained during a Court Battle is represented with a new mechanic called Willpower Wounds. Physical damage obviously does not occur in court (unless things go very badly), but courtiers may feel exhausted and defeated when they lose too many conversations. Willpower Wounds represent the character’s ability to continue on even when he is losing arguments. A character’s total Willpower Wounds are equal to his Willpower Trait x 10. Damage to a character’s Willpower Wounds disappears as soon as a specific Court Battle is over such abstract “injuries” are not permanent in any way.

Each Turn in a Court Battle consists of four stages: Declaration, Determination, Conflict, and Resolution.

Stage One: Declaration

During the Declaration Stage, all characters participating in the battle of words should determine their level of involvement. Each character may choose to be in one of the following levels: Passive, Engaged, or Heavily Engaged. A Passive character is disengaged from the fiery back and forth of the discussion, while a Heavily Engaged character has decided to throw himself into the very heart of the argument. Committing to one or the other side of an argument allows the character to greatly affect the discussion, but makes him an easy target if he loses the dispute. During this Stage of a subsequent Turn, a character may choose to change to any other level of engagement in the conversation.

Characters at the Passive level suffer less Willpower damage if they are defeated, but they are required to call a Raise for no effect on their roll during Stage Three. Characters in the Engaged level suffer no penalties and gain no bonuses. Characters in the Heavily Engaged level gain a +5 bonus to their rolls during Stage Two and Three, but suffer more Willpower Wounds if they are defeated.

Stage Two: Determination

With the characters’ involvement determined, each player rolls one die (this die can explode as normal) and adds it to the total of his character’s Awareness and his Etiquette Skill Rank, if any. He gains +2 to this roll if he has the Conversation Emphasis and +5 if he is in the Heavily Engaged level.

The characters with the highest total roll on each side are the Leads of the conversation. The Lead with the highest total chooses the topic of conversation (an assortment of sample topics are offered in the sidebar below), which serves as the battlefield for all the characters in the Court Battle. His side is considered the attacking side and uses the Courtier Skill for the rest of this Battle Turn where indicated. Those who oppose him automatically become the defending side and use the Etiquette Skill for the rest of this Battle Turn.

Note that in Rokugan, courtiers tend to follow their clan’s position and support their side in almost all situations, regardless of personal belief. Thus, courtiers may often find themselves arguing a position they do not truly believe because their enemy Great Clan has taken the other role, or because they must support one of their allies. This is why characters must choose sides before the topic of conversation has been chosen.

Stage Three: Conflict

All characters have the opportunity to take a dramatic role in the dispute by role-playing their contributions to the discussion. Each character may speak his piece and attempt to change the flow of conversation into his point of view. The Lead from the attacking side speaks first. The Lead from the defensive side retorts, and the conversation proceeds in descending order of the rolls from Step Two.

If there are more combatants on one side than the other, the GM may choose to allow characters from the smaller side to speak multiple times (in order) to continue to rebut the opposing arguments. Each character who speaks must make a Skill roll after his speech to see if he has swayed audience opinion. Each speaker should make a Skill roll appropriate to the argument or tactic applied. For example, a poignant poem would use a Perform: Poetry roll, while a lie would call for Sincerity (Deceit). If no skill recommends itself, Courtier is the default skill for attacks and Etiquette the default skill for defense. Anyone may use the Lore skill applicable to the current subject.

The TN for these rolls should be set by the GM, choosing as appropriate for the difficulty of the argument, the skill of the role-play, or the attitude of the audience. Each character who succeeds in the Skill roll adds a +1 bonus to the Resolution Roll (Step Four) for his side.

Stage Four: Resolution

The Turn concludes with the Leads on each side making a Resolution Roll. This is again one die rolled and added to the Lead’s Air Ring and his Ranks in either the Courtier or Etiquette Skill, as appropriate. Any modifiers garnered from the previous Steps are added as well, and this roll can explode as usual. The higher roll determines the victor for this Turn of the battle. 

Victorious characters do not suffer any penalties for losing. The losers suffer 10 Willpower Wounds. (Characters at the Passive level of conversation suffer only 5 Willpower Wounds, while characters at Heavily Engaged suffer 15 Willpower Wounds.) Characters who do not have Willpower Wounds left are forced to withdraw from further Turns of the Court Battle, but if there are characters on both sides ready and able to continue, the Battle proceeds for another Turn and begins once more at Stage One.

Once the battle is completely finished, all victorious characters gain 1 point of Glory, and all defeated characters lose 1 point of Glory. The GM may increase these awards and penalties for an especially prominent discussion, or one held in a very important court (such as the Imperial Court)

 Basic Spell/Kiho Creation rules [EE 285]

Many of the Features in the following section refer to Kiho Creation, but this system can also be used for creating new
spells, and a shugenja Keeper of the Temple will probably prefer to create spells instead. The rules listed here are intended as a basic guideline for utilizing the Station mechanics to create new kiho and spells, but the GM should be prepared to adjust them as needed. Cooperation between players and GM is vital for creating functional, fun, and balanced character abilities.

Step One: Features

You must purchase the following Keeper of the Temple Level 1 Features before you can create a new spell or kiho: Kiho Creation: Element, Kiho Creation: Mastery, Kiho Creation: Effect. If you are creating a kiho, the Kiho Creation: Special
Feature is also mandatory. You may only create one spell/kiho; in order to create another one, you must purchase the Library Feature, then buy the creation Features again for the second spell/kiho. (GMs may choose to allow you to create more spells/ kihos based on your in-game accomplishments, of course.)

Step Two: Determining The Effect

Any spell or kiho must be created in conjunction with the GM. The powerful aspects of a spell or kiho effect are obvious damage rolls, enhancements, etc. To determine the Mastery Level of a new spell or kiho, the simplest method is to look up
existing ones of the same element and similar effect. An effect can be strengthened without increasing the Mastery Level by
putting a restriction on when or how the power can be used. Some of the following restrictions may be considered for such
balancing effects:

1. Limited Area of Effect (such as radius of 5’)
2. Duration: Concentration
3. Harms allies as well as opponents
4. Raises have little effect
5. Requires difficult Range (touch only, or at least 50’
6. Requires Void Point use

Step Three: Determining The Cost

Creating a new spell or kiho costs additional Experience Points equal to its Mastery Level.

Step Four: Research

To successfully a spell, you must make a Skill roll of Spellcraft (Spell Research) / Intelligence with a TN equal to 10 plus the
new spell’s Mastery Level x 10. Researching a new kiho instead requires a roll of Lore: Theology (Shintao) / Intelligence, with a TN equal to 10 plus the new kiho’s Mastery Level x 5. In both cases, making this roll requires a number of weeks
of uninterrupted study equal to the new spell/kiho’s Mastery Level. If the Skill roll fails, the GM may allow the character to try
again (spending more weeks in study), or may rule that this new discovery is beyond the PC’s powers.

Basic Kata Creation [EE 286]

The rules listed below are a basic guideline on how to utilize the Station mechanics to create new kata for bushi. Master Sensei of non-bushi schools do not have the option of teaching Kata, since they are strictly a bushi mechanic, but Sensei players can easily adapt these rules to the creation of new Alternate Paths, or even new Schools or new Advanced Schools. As always, cooperation and discussion between player and GM is mandatory to create functional, fun, and balanced abilities that will work within your game. Normally, you may only create one kata, but if you purchase the Additional Kata Feature you may create more. The GM may also permit the creation of additional kata based on in-character accomplishments.

Step One: Features

You must purchase the following Level One Features before you can create and teach a kata: Kata Creation: Ring, Kata Creation: School, Kata Creation: Effect. The other Kata Creation Features are optional, though each Feature enhances the design in some way. The new kata begins with a Mastery of 3, unless other Features are purchased to increase this amount.

Step Two: Determining The Effect

The most crucial portion of the Kata is, of course, its effect. The following is a guideline: to have a balanced kata effect, you should reach a neutral total after adding together the values of all the attributes (based on the values listed below). Any positive points remaining increase the Kata’s Experience Point cost by five times the excess.

+1: +1k0 to a specific Skill or attack roll
+2: +1k0 or +3 to Initiative or damage
+3: An effect equivalent to a Raise, or minor Reduction in limited situations
-1: Stance limitation on the effect
-1: Mastery 4
-2: Harsher limitation: for example, cannot make Raises while the kata is active
-3: Mastery 5

Step Three: Determining The Cost

Unless Features are used to directly reduce the cost, creating the new kata costs Experience Points equal to double its
Mastery Level. Add any extra cost from the previous step (if any) to determine the final cost of the Kata.

Step Four: Teaching

Once you have spent the Experience Points to create the kata, you may begin teaching it to other bushi, who may purchase
it in the normal manner

Appeasing the Air Kami [BoA 93]

Most shugenja make a point of taking time to entice, appease, and otherwise propitiate the kami they rely on when casting their spells. This sort of thing is not normally depicted in L5R play, since it is assumed to take place during “downtime” between adventures, or to be subsumed into the general prayers and devotions which shugenja undertake every day. However, some GMs and players may wish to incorporate this sort of activity into their regular game-play, and if this sort of effort is undertaken the GM should be willing to reward it by making the kami more cooperative and helpful to the PC.

The easiest way to do this is through Free Raises. The GM may award a certain number of Free Raises per game session based on how much effort the shugenja PC puts into appeasing the kami, and how much success he attains in such efforts. Each type of kami can be pleased in a different manner. Here with a few suggestions for ways to entice and appease the Air kami, along with mechanical effects and suggested rewards for GMs to bestow on PCs who succeed:
Spend time amusing the Air kami with a performance, such as song or dance. This will require a Perform (or similar) Skill Roll, with a TN of at least 20 and probably 25 to impress the spirits. 1 Free Raise.

Impress the Air kami with an emotionally stirring tale of love, devotion, betrayal, or tragedy. This requires a suitable Perform Skill Roll (Storytelling and Oratory could both be appropriate Perform Skills for this) at a TN of at least 30. 2 Free Raises.

Share a tale of great emotional significance with the Air kami. This must be a significant and personal piece of information, one that could perhaps embarrass or disgrace the shugenja if it were known. Each such tale can only be used once with the Air kami, since they will recognize the information if it is shared again. (Air kami often speak with each other about such things, so another shugenja who casts Commune within a day of this action and who asks questions about the original shugenja will be able to learn this information.) Instead of such a tale, a physical item of personal importance could be sacrificed to the kami; this should be something like a fan given as a token of affection, something emotionally significant and impossible to replace. 3 Free Raises.

The shugenja not only shares a personal experience with the kami, but allows the spirits to take the emotions as their own. This sacrifice can only be made with a positive experience, something fun or delightful or heart-warming—the spirits do not like holding on to negative emotions such as hatred or sadness. If the emotion is associated with a Social Advantage such as Allies, Blissful Betrothal, Darling of the Court, Heart of Vengeance, or Sensation, the Advantage is lost (the shugenja no longer has the emotional connection required to enjoy the benefits of the Advantage). Whatever is given up is replaced by a dull and vacant sensation the shugenja remembers the experience, but loses all emotional attachment and treats it rather like a story about someone else. Others affected by the Advantage (such as the spouse in a Blissful Betrothal) will likely be surprised and upset by the sudden change in the shugenja’s behavior toward them. 3 Free Raises, plus a number of Free Raises equal to the point value of any lost Advantage.

Appeasing the Fire Kami [BoF 64]

Below are some suggested devotions (and their associated Free Raise rewards) for use with Fire spells. It is up to the GM if the bonus applies to the very next Fire Spell cast or if the Free Raise is available for some period of time, such as for the next day or while in a specific location. The GM should also determine if multiple Free Raises can be used separately or if they must be used together.

  • Meditate, with specific focus on relating to the Fire kami, attempting to impress them with clarity of thought and purpose. This requires a successful Meditation / Fire Skill Roll against a TN of 25, although this could be reduced to 20 if performed in a Place of Power related to Fire (see sidebar). Success grants 1 Free Raise.
  • Offer the Fire kami a minor sacrifice, such as by burning incense in their honor or burning a
    poem or haiku specifically written for the purpose. This may require a Fire Ring Roll against a TN of 20 if not performed in a Place of Power related to Fire. Success grants 1 Free Raise.
  • Offer the Fire kami a major sacrifice, such as by burning a letter from one’s true love. This may require a Fire Ring Roll against a TN of 30, or a TN of 25 if performed in a Place of Power related to Fire. Alternatively, the major sacrifice conducted in conjunction with a period of deep Meditation (roll Meditation / Fire against a TN of 25, or 20 if performed in a Place of Power related to Fire) may suffice, but will require more time. Success grants 2 Free Raises
  • Offer the Fire kami an epic sacrifice, such as by writing a clear and well-reasoned treatise on some subject the shugenja knows well (perhaps requiring a Lore / Intelligence Roll against a TN of at least 25) and then burning it, or burning something of intimate value to the shugenja that cannot be replaced (for example, the final letter from one’s lost love). Again, this may require a Fire Ring Roll against a TN of 30 (TN 25 if performed in a Place of Power related to Fire) and deep Meditation may be substituted for the Fire Ring Roll. The reward is 3 Free Raises
  • The shugenja permanently sacrifices knowledge to the Fire kami, represented by giving up one or more Ranks in a Lore Skill, some other Skill related to intellect and knowledge, or even an Advantage. Such Advantages could include Absolute Direction, Clear Thinker, Forbidden Knowledge, Languages, Precise Memory, Prodigy, Read Lips, Sage, and Tactician. The shugenja enters deep meditation (roll Meditation / Fire against a TN of at least 25) and allows the Fire kami to remove the knowledge he has offered to them. The knowledge is simply gone, burned
    away by the kami (which could be a painful experience). The shugenja will remember that he sacrificed what he knew, but the knowledge itself is gone… although Lore Skill Ranks lost this way could eventually be regained through study and the expenditure of Experience Points in the normal way. The reward is 3 Free Raises, plus an
    additional Raise for each additional Skill Rank sacrificed beyond the first. If an Advantage is sacrificed, gain an additional number of Free Raises equal to the point value of the Advantage.

Commercial Warfare [BoA 177]

GMs who wish to expand the concept of commercial warfare between rival merchant patrons can adopt the Trading Council technique as a simple, general representation of such conflict. Any time two (or more) merchants are clashing in a particular market, the GM can call for Contested Rolls of Commerce (Merchant) / Awareness, with the winning merchant inflicting a koku loss equal to the difference between the rolls on the losing rival. If multiple merchants are rolling against each other, the GM may add more options, such as allowing the winner to divide the losses between the losers, or letting the “middle” roll inflict a halved loss on those below.

If this option for commercial warfare is used, the Daidoji Trading Council technique should be changed to award a +2k1 bonus to any Commerce rolls made when performing commercial warfare

Crafting Extraordinary Weapons [SoTE 240]

Skilled weaponsmiths are capable of creating unusual and high-quality items assuming they have the proper materials, equipment, and time. Weapons crafted by the basic rules in the L5R 4th Edition Core Rulebook conform to the normal weapon stats in the L5R rules and are considered to be of “Average” quality. Weapons of higher quality are said to be “Excellent”; such weapons possess special properties that set them apart.

To create an “Excellent” weapon, the regular Crafting rules are used. However, the cost of materials and the koku value of the weapon are both tripled. This means an Excellent Wakizashi will have a value of 45 Koku, an excellent Naginata will have a value of 30 Koku, and so forth. (Use this value when determining the base TN for Crafting the weapon.)

A smith must have a Craft: Weaponsmithing Skill Rank of at least 7 to create an Excellent weapon. A Kaiu or Tsi smith may create an Excellent weapon with a Skill Rank of at least 5.

A smith who creates an Excellent weapon may call Raises to confer one Special Quality on the weapon. However, failure on the Crafting roll means the weapon is wholly ruined and useless; the smith must try again. A list of Qualities and the associated Raises is provided below. Characters trained in the Tsi or Kaiu schools receive one Free Raise for the purpose of conferring Special Qualities.

Weapon Special Qualities:

  • Balanced: The wielder gains +1k0 on attack rolls using this weapon. Raises: 4
  • Radiant: This weapon counts as Jade for the purpose of attacking Invulnerable targets. Raises: 6
  • Signature: This weapon bears a unique signature stamp, identifying it with its creator. Raises: 2
  • Swift: The wielder gains +5 to his Initiative score while using this weapon. Raises: 4
  • True: This weapon decreases the target’s Reduction by the wielder’s Strength. Raises: 6
  • Unbreakable: This weapon cannot be broken. Raises: 5

Crafting Sacred Weapons [SoTE 240]

A smith of a clan that possesses a Sacred Weapon (as per the Advantages in the L5R 4th Edition Core Rulebook, page 152-153) may attempt to make one using a Craft: Weaponsmithing roll. The smith must create the appropriate Excellent Quality weapon with 7 Raises (6 Raises for a Kaiu smith).

A samurai may only attempt to create a Sacred Weapon of his own clan. A Crane can only attempt to make Kakita Blades, a Crab may only attempt to make Kaiu Blades, and so forth.

Crop Blessings [BoE 61]

Although blessing fields and crops is one of the most basic and widespread of shugenja duties, the L5R 4th Edition RPG has not created any specific spell to represent this effect  after all, a crop-blessing is not something that produces any mechanical game effect. However, if a GM wishes to incorporate crop blessings into the game in a mechanical way, we suggest the following option:

Blessing the Land is considered to be a Rank 0 Earth spell (meaning it can be cast even by a Rank 1 shugenja who is deficient in Earth). The spell will normally affect a single field or rice paddy; each Raise on the spell will double the extent of the blessing’s effect.

A crop blessing will protect the chosen fields against any natural threat to the harvest (e.g. blight or
disease, bug infestations, drought, etc). However, it will not protect against crop failure stemming from the wrath of an angry spirit or Fortune – in those cases, the shugenja must determine the source of the spirit’s anger and appease it in order to restore proper conditions.

Dramatic Chain and Staff Action [BoW 175]

L5R combat is usually focused on the weapons associated with the samurai – the sword, naginata, and bow. However, Asian action cinema often depicts chain weapons and staves in a highly dramatic fashion which emphasizes their capacities for unpredictable movements, striking opponents at range, and tripping, throwing, entangling or otherwise taking out those opponents.

GMs who wish to add more depth to these underutilized weapons can encourage this by offering their players more options with Raises and Maneuvers. A few examples follow:

In the L5R Core rules, certain weapons can be used to perform Grapples. GMs who wish to add more options to chain weapons can allow them to be used for this purpose as well, or even allow players to call Raises on chain weapon attacks to add +1k0 bonuses to their subsequent Contested Rolls to control such Grapples.

The Three-Section-Staff is an exotic-looking weapon but one with no special properties of its own. GMs who wish to add flavor to this weapon can allow characters who are highly skilled in staff combat (Staves Skill Rank of 5 or higher) to gain a defensive bonus while using the three-section-staff (such as a +5 bonus to Armor TN), to gain a Free Raise on performing Knockdown attacks with the weapon, or even to gain a bonus for getting past Reduction (due to the staff’s ability to whip around a foe’s body and thus strike at vulnerable areas

Both chain weapons and the longer sorts of staves are often depicted as granting the advantage of reach allowing a warrior to strike his foes before they can reach him, or to hold enemies at bay with a whirling defensive pattern. The effects of “reach” can be represented by granting a skilled character an Initiative bonus when fighting opponents with Medium or Small weapons. The defensive effects of these weapons can be represented by allowing a well-skilled character (Skill Rank of at least 3, or more likely 5+) to gain extra bonuses when using the Defense or Full Defense Stances

Another frequent depiction in Asian cinema is the use of these weapons to strike many opponents with a single whirling, spinning attack. Although the GM can represent this by allowing a skilled character to get Free Raises on the Extra Attack Maneuver, a more interesting option might be to allow the character to reduce the damage of his weapon (dropping unkept or even kept dice) to be able to strike multiple opponents with a single attack. This works especially well if the foes are lower Insight Rank samurai, peasant rebels, goblins, or similar “minions” who cannot match the character’s skills.

Finally, a character might use a chain weapon to pin down an opponent, such as by wrapping the chain around an arm or leg and then wrapping the other end around a tree, pillar, or fence. These can be represented by the character taking Raises to reduce his opponent’s mobility, which the GM can then represent by lowering the victim’s effective Water Ring for movement purposes.

Exorcism Wards [GC 42]

Many Toritaka Exorcists enhance their exorcisms by placing specially-inscribed paper wards on the target. They (and only they) can create these wards as a Complex Action that requires expending an Earth spell-slot (which cannot be regained until the ward is used) and rolling Calligraphy / Intelligence at TN 25. Placing an exorcism ward on an unwilling target is
an unarmed attack that uses a Spellcraft / Agility roll; placing it on a bound/helpless/unresisting target is a Simple Action.

Exorcism wards are especially useful items because they can potentially be employed by other people, not just the Exorcist who created them. Any non-Exorcist shugenja or monk who has a Toritaka exorcism ward may place it on a possessed person and then try to perform an exorcism (a Contested Willpower roll) as a Complex Action; this expends a spell slot for a shugenja, or a Void Point for a monk. The PC does not gain any bonus to the Contested Willpower roll from the ward and in addition must successfully call three Raises on the roll for it to succeed. Many Kuni shugenja and Kuni Witch-Hunters
visit the Toritaka lands regularly to equip themselves with exorcism wards.

Firearm Misfires [IH1 97]

Historically, real early firearms tended to be somewhat temperamental devices that often failed to work, sometimes endangering their uses in the process. The GM may wish to add this option to the firearms rules to create a greater sense of realism and uncertainty in their usage.

Under this option, any time a firearm misses its target, the GM should check to see if any 1’s were rolled on the attack dice. (If the shooter has an Emphasis that allows re-rolling initial 1’s, the GM should only check the final re-rolled dice.) If there was at least one 1 in the roll, the firearm has misfired and cannot be used again until it is cleaned (a process requiring at least two minutes). If there are three or more 1’s on the roll, the firearm catastrophically explodes, inflicting 3k2 damage on the wielder

Instruments [BoA 117]

The construction of musical instruments is a highly refined art form. For simplicity a GM may stipulate that Craft: Musical Instrument is sufficient to make any musical instrument. However, the construction of a taiko drum is very different from the construction of a shakuhachi flute. A GM who wishes more realism can define Craft: Wind Instrument, Craft: Stringed Instrument, and Craft: Percussion Instrument as separate Skills, with specific types of the various instruments being Emphases of each such Sub-Skill. In any case, it is suggested that any Skill used to construct musical instruments be considered a High Skill as well as a Merchant Skill. Alternatively, the GM may also allow the creation of musical instruments to be an Artisan Sub-Skill as well.

If the optional Crafting rules are in use, musical instruments are also considered to be under the “Other” category for materials, with a value ranging from 1 to 5 bu. Exceptionally high-quality instruments will be significantly more expensive, up to ten times that cost. It is recommended that an instrument maker should also have at least 1 Rank in the appropriate Perform Skill associated with that instrument in order to be able to make it properly.

If the GM wishes to use a simpler mechanic, he can simply have the player roll either Craft: (Instrument Category) / Intelligence Roll or Artisan: (Instrument Category) / Intelligence against a TN of 15 for a normal instrument or 25 for an instrument of exceptional instrument. The instrument maker may call Raises to attempt to further improve the quality of the instrument.

Regardless of which rules option is used, the time required to construct an instrument will be lengthy; a recommended estimate would be one week to make a normal quality instrument and two weeks to make an exceptional quality instrument. If the PC is making Raises to achieve greater quality or artistic embellishment, the time required could be even longer at the GM’s discretion.

Falconry [BoA 121]

Falconry is considered a high art among Rokugani nobility, and skilled falconers are highly sought after for performance at court (when the weather conditions allow it, of course). A falconer with birds that are properly trained can win considerable fame by having his birds perform in front of an audience.

As a shorthand approach, a falconer may roll Animal Handling (Falconry) / Awareness at TN 15 if he is putting on a display of hunting, or TN 25 if he is putting on a display of aerial tricks and maneuvers. (Note that untrained birds cannot be used.) Success gains the falconer 1 point of Glory for a hunting display, 2 points of Glory for a an aerial performance display. Using an unusual species of bird, such as an owl or osprey, can increase each gain by 1 point at the GM’s discretion.

As a general rule, the GM should not allow a given falconer to benefit from these Glory gains more than once a month at the same location. Likewise, the GM should be wary of letting a character with extremely high Glory (Rank 6 or higher) gain additional Glory from continuing performances, since his reputation is already well established at that point.

Kite Making [BoA 113]

Kite Making is normally represented as a Sub-Skill of the Craft Macro-Skill, although decorative display kites could use it as an Artisan Sub-Skill instead. Regardless, kite-making is considered a respectable activity for samurai and is often taught to children of the samurai caste by their parents.

For simplicity, kites can be assigned to one of three categories: simple, complex, or elaborate. Simple kites are just as they sound, simple designs intended for entertainment and little else. They have the essential components to catch the wind and remain aloft, but little else. Complex kites are more involved, and often use box or tube shapes or multiple tails, and sometimes multiple strings as well. They tend to either be extremely sturdy and stable, or else deliberately cultivate a specific instability to enhance their maneuverability. Elaborate kites add independently moving surfaces
that let them change their shape, and also integrate intricate ornamentation; they are beautiful, functional, and capable of excellent performance. Complex and elaborate kites are both very difficult to fly.

GMs using the optional Crafting rules in the L5R 4th Edition Core rulebook, kites are considered to be in the “Other” category. Simple kites have a value of 1-3 zeni, complex kites have a value of 1-2 bu, and elaborate kites are anywhere from 5 bu to a full 1 koku.

GMs who prefer a simpler system can simply have their players roll Artisan: Kite Making / Intelligence or Craft: Kite Making / Intelligence against a TN of 10 for a simple kite, 20 for a complex kite, or 30 for an elaborate kite. Kite crafters may call Raises to create kites of particular excellence, with bonuses to their performance (see “Kite Flying and Kite Fighting” for
details of how this could be useful). Generally, it takes half a day to make a simple kite, two days to make a complex kite, and anywhere from three days to a week to make an elaborate kite.

Kaiu Armor [GC 39]

Obviously, the armor created by a Kaiu Engineer of Rank 3 or higher is a significant benefit to bushi everywhere. Such armor is almost never available for non-Crab samurai, however, for it is immediately put to use in the war against the Shadowlands. At the GM’s discretion, a Crab character may acquire a set of Kaiu Armor during play, but this will generally incur major obligations and is likely to cost a small fortune (a minimum of five to ten times the normal cost for that type
of armor). Kaiu characters may of course produce the armor and give it as gifts, but those selling it for profit will quickly attract the severe ire of their superiors for betraying their duty to the clan. If GMs wish to allow it, Kaiu Armor can be purchased as a Granted Advantage with a cost equal to 3 + the creator’s School Rank.

Making Explosives More Risky [IH1 181]

The manufacture of explosives and the planting of demolition charges are hazardous activities which may result in premature detonation. Some GMs may wish to emphasize the strange, unpredictable nature of gaijin explosives by also making them more finicky and unreliable which was in fact a real limitation of premodern explosives. This adds depth to the explosives rules but will also complicate their use slightly.

As a basic rule, any time a nageteppo is thrown there is a 1-in-10 chance that it is a “fizzle” that produces only a small useless puff of smoke or a brief, inconsequential flame. Likewise, any time a demolition charge is detonated, there is a 1-in-10 chance that it fails to explode. A demolition charge that does not detonate can be reset for another attempt; this requires a repeat of the earlier Engineering or Craft roll at +5 to the TN (thus also increasing the risk of accidental discharge).

Paper Constructs [BoA 115]

If a player wishes to create a character who focuses on paper constructs (rather than origami), the GM may opt to introduce Paper Constructs as a new Sub-Skill of the Artisan Macro-Skill. Artisan Schools which target Artisan Skills may apply their Techniques to Paper Constructs just as they do to other Artisan Sub-Skills.

The Paper Constructs skill is found among all clans, but is most common among the Asahina of the Crane. A skilled Paper Constructs artisan is highly sought after for many events, particularly in the courts of the Crane. An artisan who prepares an especially captivating display should be rewarded with a point or two of Glory, though as always the GM should be wary of
allowing this reward too often lest players artificially inflate their Glory Rank with endless displays of artistry. Besides, a particular court is unlikely to respond favorably to an artisan’s paper constructs display more than once or twice before it becomes “old” and they begin looking for the next big artistic sensation.

As in the case of Falconry later in this chapter, a good baseline is that PCs should not be able to do this more than once a month, and should not be able to gain more Glory from Paper Constructs once their Glory Rank reaches 6 or higher.

Peasant Weapon Quality [BoW 31]

Compared to the weapons crafted specifically for samurai to use in battle, peasant weapons are generally of much lower quality. Many of the peasant weapons in the L5R 4th Edition Core rulebook include rules to represent this. For peasant weapons which do not already have such an entry in the core rulebook, a good rule of thumb is that the weapon will break if it does more than 20 points of damage in a single attack.

This is not to say that peasant weapons are all fragile or shoddily made. Many of them, especially those crafted from metal, can last for many years or even decades of hard use at their intended tasks. Peasant blacksmiths take as much pride in their craftsmanship as any other Rokugani, after all. Moreover, they could if necessary craft peasant weapons with much more resilient components. Even a parangu can hold up better if it is crafted from higher-quality steel. The GM should feel free to modify or ignore the rules for peasant weapons breaking if the circumstances seem appropriate.

Places of Power Air [BoA 93]

Certain physical locations are strong in a particular Element and thus will have more powerful spirits of that Element. Locations that are particularly strong in Air include:

  • Cliffs over the sea
  • Mountaintops
  • Storm-prone areas, such as tropical islands
  • Wind-swept plains.
  • Temples dedicated to Air-aligned Fortunes or entities, such as Kaze-no-Kami or the the Air Dragon
  • Places that have a very strong historical association with Air, such as the sanctum of the Phoenix Master of Air.

GMs who wish to add more flavor to the use of magic in their campaigns may wish to make it slightly easier to cast Air spells in these sorts of areas, such as by awarding a Free Raise.

Places of Power Earth [BoE 79]

Certain physical locations are strong in a particular Element and thus will have more powerful spirits of that Element. Locations that are particularly strong in Earth include:

  • Caves and grottoes.
  • Mountaintops.
  • Forests.
  • Deserts, particularly the rocky ones.
  • Temples dedicated to Earth-aligned Fortunes or entities, such as Yama-no-Kami or (especially) the Earth Dragon
  • Places that have a very strong historical association with Earth, such as the sanctum of the
  • Phoenix Master of Earth.

GMs who wish to add more flavor to the use of magic in their campaigns may wish to make it slightly easier to cast Earth spells in these sorts of areas, such as by awarding a Free Raise or simply lowering the TN of the Spell Casting Roll.

Places of Power Fire [BoF 67]

Some locations are particularly attuned to, or associated with, a particular Element. As a result, there will be more kami of that type, and more powerful ones, in such a location. When it comes to Fire, the following locations are especially powerful:

  • Active volcanoes, or places associated with active volcanoes – recent lava flows, fumaroles, hot springs, etc.
  • Forges, kilns and furnaces that have been operating for a lengthy period of time. Assume it takes a generation — about 25 years — for the Fire kami to become so attuned to such a location that it becomes a Place of Power for Fire.
  • Places where lightning strikes are common, such as high terrain features in storm-prone areas, or even the peaks of tall buildings that have been struck by lightning.
  • Areas where wildfires have recently burned, such as forests and grasslands. Note, however, that the Fire kami soon lose interest in such areas, so these are Places of Power only until the last “hot spots” have been extinguished and the final smoke has cleared.
  • Temples dedicated to Fire-aligned Fortunes or entities, such as Osano-Wo or the Fire Dragon.
  • Places that have a strong tradition of being associated with Fire, such as a sanctum used by a powerful Fire Tensai like Agasha Tamori or Isawa Hochiu.

A GM wishing to enhance the flavor of magic in his campaign may wish to make it easier to cast Fire
spells in such locations, reducing the TN of the Spell Casting Roll by 5 – or even more in the case of places that are particularly powerful in Fire

Places of Power Water [BoW 67]

Some locations are particularly attuned to a particular Element, resulting in both more kami of
that type and more powerful kami. GMs who wish to add more depth and flavor to magic in their campaigns may choose to make it easier to cast Water spells in such locations, reducing the TN of the Spell Casting Roll by 5 (or even more in the case of places that are particularly powerful in Water). For the Water kami, the following locations are especially powerful:

  • The ocean, which contains the most powerful water kami of all – although the sheer strength of the kami in the ocean can sometimes overwhelm an unprepared spellcaster.
  • Lakes and rivers – often, a river or lake will have an especially potent Water kami which identifies itself with that body of water and takes its name. A shugenja who can commune with such a spirit can potentially learn what is happening throughout that body of water, no matter how large it may be.
  • Places where there is heavy rainfall or waterlogged ground (marshes, rice paddies, and so forth).
  • Areas which have been recently flooded or otherwise been inundated with water, although these places gradually lose their potency as time passes.
  • Temples dedicated to Water-aligned Fortunes or entities, such as Suitengu or the Water Dragon.
  • Places that have a strong tradition of being associated with Water, such as a sanctum used by a powerful Water Tensai like Isawa Tomo

A GM wishing to enhance the flavor of magic in his campaign may wish to make it easier to cast Water
spells in such locations, reducing the TN of the Spell Casting Roll by 5 – or even more in the case of places that are particularly powerful in Water.

Opening and Closing Spirit Portals [IH1 204]

How can PCs discover or manipulate a spirit portal? Generally speaking, detecting a portal requires either sensitivity to the Spirit Realm in question or tremendous skill with the kami. A PC who is Blessed or Cursed by a particular Spirit Realm can potentially notice the presence of a spirit portal, although this should not be easy (an Awareness roll at TN 30 or higher should be considered the baseline). A shugenja of School Rank 4 or higher should be able to detect a spirit portal by casting Sense in the appropriate Element (see below) with three Raises. (Some portals may be easier or more difficult to detect, of course, and the GM should adjust the number of Raises accordingly.) Kitsu shugenja, who are strongly attuned to the Spirit Realms, can do this at School Rank 2.

Opening or closing a spirit portal is more difficult. In general, a shugenja attempting this feat will need to be at least School Rank 5 (School Rank 3 for Kitsu shugenja) and cast Commune in the appropriate Element with four Raises. Again, some portals may be easier or more difficult to open, and in some cases extra measures may be required such as performing a ritual or making an offering of some kind (to open a portal) or physically destroying something (to close one).

The Elements most closely associated with portals to a Spirit Realm are listed below. The GM may adjust this if he feels other Elements are more appropriate to a particular portal, or require the use of multiple Elements for an especially powerful portal.

  • Water: Chikushudo and Meido
  • Earth: Gaki-do and Jigoku
  • Fire: Yomi and Toshigoku
  • Air: Yume-do and Sakkaku
  • Void: Maigo no Musha and Tengoku

Sumai Tournaments [BoE 51]

Although sumai wrestling can be represented by the conventional L5R 4th Edition rules for unarmed combat and Grappling, many players and GMs may find this unsatisfactory as a simulation of a sport. Accordingly, we present the following option:
To represent
sumai tournament wrestling, simply have the two wrestlers perform a Contested Roll of Jiujutsu (Sumai) / Strength. If one wrestler wins the Contested Roll by 5 or more, he wins the match (either knocking his opponent down or forcing him out of the ring). If neither wrestler beats the other’s roll by at least 5, the bout continues and another Contested Roll is made.

Sumo gain a considerable advantage from being larger and heavier than their opponents. GMs may represent this by awarding a +1k0 bonus to the roll for the larger wrestler, e.g. for a Large wrestler facing a normal or Small wrestler, or a normal wrestler facing a Small one.

GMs who want to add a little more depth to their sumai tournaments may also wish to incorporate the “stare-down” that takes place before each match, when each sumo seeks to intimidate the other and gain a psychological advantage. This can be represented with a Contested Roll of Intimidation / Willpower, with a wrestler who wins the roll by 5 or more gaining a +1k0 bonus to the subsequent Jiujutsu roll.

Undead Hunger [EotE 268]

Almost all undead suffer from unnatural hunger, a lust for something within the living, whether it be life, flesh, emotion, or spirit. Many undead seem to gain an unnatural vitality from satisfying their hunger, but this lasts only briefly, and the hunger itself never subsides, driving the undead on to seek out more and more prey.

GMs who wish to represent this aspect of the undead in a mechanical way can introduce a new special ability to their game: Hunger. Hunger is normally restricted to undead creatures, although other Shadowlands beings
could potentially have it as well. Hunger has a Rank from 1 to 3, and always is focused on a particular target flesh, blood, certain emotions, etc. Hunger is unnatural and malignant in origin and nature, and the object of Hunger should be chosen accordingly. For example, a zombie would not have Hunger (Sushi). Natural living creatures, like humans, will never know the pain of unnatural hunger and cannot possess this ability.

When a Hunger is sated, the undead creature receives a bonus of +Xk0 to all Attack and Skill rolls (where X is the Rank of Hunger) for the next three Rounds. This bonus is normally not cumulative, but its duration can be reset by further satisfaction of the Hunger. (GMs wishing to create more powerful and threatening undead can allow them to “stack” multiple Hunger bonuses – be warned that this can make a very powerful creature indeed!)

Variant Polearms [BoA 37]

In an L5R campaign with many spear-wielding PCs, the GM may wish to introduce some additional mechanical variation to reflect the many sub-types of spears and polearms that exist in Rokugan. In general, weapons like the sankaku yari or the tsukinari yari will be mechanically similar to a normal yari, especially in terms of their Damage Rating (DR) and the applicable skills. However, a GM might wish to allow a PC who takes an Emphasis in a particular yari sub-type to gain a modest mechanical advantage that reflects the design of the weapon. A sankaku yari could ignore 1 or 2 points of Reduction from armor, for example, or a maga yari could allow a small bonus to Disarm attempts. The GM should be wary of letting these benefits grow too strong, however, lest a character be defined more by his weapon than his skills and Techniques

Void Overload [BoV 190]

In the L5R setting, Void magic is often depicted as inherently dangerous, liable to cause madness, confusion, or physical damage if it is not cast properly. Given the disproportionate power of Void magic, the GM may wish to incorporate this aspect of danger and risk into Void spell-casting.

This could be represented in one way by creating consequences for failing to successfully cast a Void spell (i.e. missing the TN of the Spell Casting Roll). A character who fails to cast a Void spell becomes “lost in the Void,” unable to withstand the rush of sensation and experience, and is considered Dazed (as described on page 89 of the L5R 4th Edition Core
rulebook, with the usual ability to recover with an Earth roll). If the shugenja fails the Spell Casting Roll by an extremely large margin (or with a large number of 1’s on the dice), the GM may choose to impose a stronger effect or even a physical impact such as Wounds or physical Disadvantages.

GMs who are willing to add more complexity to their games may also wish to create risk for successful spells that call on the Void to an unusually strong (and thus dangerous) degree again, the character becomes “lost in the Void” with similar penalties to those listed above. One way to do this would be to tie it to successfully casting powerful spells (e.g. spells of Mastery Level 5 or 6) or successfully casting spells with a large number of Raises. In such circumstances, the GM could require the shugenja to make a Meditation / Willpower roll at a TN equal to 5x (spell’s Mastery Level + total number of Raises) to avoid becoming lost in the Void.

Another (and perhaps more interesting) option would be for the character to become lost in the Void if he succeeds in his Spell Casting Roll by an extremely large margin – calling too much of the Void’s power. In this option, the character could become Dazed if he beats the TN by 20 or more, with higher rolls producing correspondingly greater penalties.
Finally, it may be noted that the penalties do not all have to be game-mechanic effects. Creative GMs can also choose to apply more role-play oriented effects, such as a character’s hair turning white, facial features becoming prematurely aged, or  a mild speech impediment.

Wind & Weather [GC 169]

Generally speaking, wind and weather conditions should serve as descriptive aspects of an L5R game rather than taking an active mechanical role. However, if the GM or players desire to incorporate wind and weather into the game mechanically, the following are some suggestions. These rules may also be used as guidelines for the effects of the Yoritomo Shugenja School’s Technique.

Degrees of Wind: Still, Breeze, Gusts, Storm Degrees of Weather: Calm, Showers, Rain, Storm, Torrential Storm, Hurricane Heavy winds or bad weather will inflict penalties on ranged attacks (and possibly spell-casting, if visibility is low enough), beginning with Gusts or Rain at +5 to the TN and increasing at +5 per degree of severity thereafter.

Wind and Weather effects are not cumulative, as Wind is assumed to be included in a listed Weather effect.

Yomanri Mechanics: Interrupting an Aiming Bushi [BoA 175]

The definition of an “interruption” is by its nature somewhat open-ended, and there are many unusual circumstances in which the GM will have to judge whether an archer’s aim has actually been interrupted. For example, what if a violent spell such as The Fires From Within goes off nearby? The GM should be prepared to make rulings as necessary. In some circumstances, the archer might be able to make Willpower rolls to keep his focus and maintain his aim.

As a guideline, the following events are probably interruptions in most circumstances: Voluntarily taking any other Simple or Complex Action in between an Aiming action and your archery Attack action. A mounted archer whose mount takes a Simple Move Action while he is aiming. Taking more than 5 Wounds in damage while aiming (although the GM can allow a Willpower roll to keep aiming when injured). Assuming the Center, Full Attack, or Full Defense stance while aiming