Posted by: markfender | September 23, 2015

Age of Samurai

FFG has the L5R franchise. So I guess it’s time to wildly speculate about the inevitable roleplaying game.

star_wars_rpg_age_of_rebellion_gm_kit-434491393406913dFirst off, the trade dress that FFG is using for the Star Wars RPGs would look pretty cool L5R-themed (Even though it’s pretty much the same trade dress that Pathfinder is using…apparently it’s the hot new trend in trade dress).

If you’ve looked at any of the Star Wars RPGs, then you know they use odd dice. I’m cool with the dice, but not as much with how they’re integrated. The cool thing is that there’s two axes of information on them, which I could see working well for L5R (although I hope the symbols are a little more obvious…which could be worse due to the temptation to make them kanji). What I’m not as keen on is how I have to figure out two separate totals…because there’s negative and positive symbols that have to be added and subtracted in order to garner a total. Now, I get why they work that way (you can’t have “bad” dice adding to the players’ total dice pool and then not have them negatively impact the results), but it does require more processing time per roll.

I’m not entirely happy with the process of upgrading/downgrading dice either. Because I’ve noticed a trend with my players – they like to roll and then calculate success/failure/bonuses/penalties/etc. This does not work with the upgrade/downgrade mechanic well. Even in original Roll and Keep L5R, I notice that my players calculate their die pools and then roll them, skipping steps like declaring Raises. In games like White Wolf, we are constantly rerolling die pools because the players get eager to roll dice and don’t account for losing dice due to Defense, making the pool they just rolled incorrect. Despite numerous attempts to stop this behavior (in L5R, this became a mantra of me asking “any Raises?” hopefully catching them before they rolled), it just seems like my particular group just doesn’t account for any modifications to their dice pools before rolling. And that doesn’t work with the upgrade/downgrade thing (It will work with the negative dice, because as the GM you can just say “you forgot your negative dice” and then add those in after the roll – not so with the upgrade/downgrade thing.) So, I kind of hope that goes away in the next iteration of the system.

While I don’t necessarily care for the way Star Wars characters improve (too reminiscent of the Warhammer games), I can see how that system could be integrated with L5R. If each School technique is a new tier, the basic idea still works. With the alternate schools/techniques as presented in the 4th edition of L5R, I can see those slotting into the charts as alternate paths. Different method of presentation – same results. However, keeping School Techniques is a personal requirement – that’s where so much of the flavor of L5R is. Getting rid of those for a more generic class system like Star Wars does would be a complete non-starter for me.

I’m not too keen on the “special power fuel stat” of Strain either. I can see Strain integrated into some of the courtier schools, but the way it works in Star Wars combat doesn’t seem quite right for L5R. A samurai doesn’t use Strain to power his School Techniques because that School Technique is the only way he knows how to use that weapon. With the highly ritualized kata method of learning, I can’t see L5R samurai making decisions to activate certain techniques or not. I also note that many Star Wars abilities are kind of underwhelming – adding a die with the potential for 1-2 more successes doesn’t “feel” like L5R, where combat is a super-deadly affair. Of course, Star Wars is at a different power level, so hopefully that’ll be adjusted.

What does excite me is the ability to integrate Honor more fully into the mechanics. An Honor die instead of a Force die would go a long way to making the L5R catchphrase of “Honor is Stronger Than Steel” a reality in the mechanics.

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