A Purifier of the Crab, dedicated to hunting down Mahō-tsukai and forcing others to give his clan the respect they are due. A Shrine Keeper of the Phoenix, a perfectionist who strives to both prove herself to her clan and show them what true loyalty means. A Wardmaster of the Scorpion tasked with keeping dark artifacts safe who scoffs at the curse of the Yogo. An Investigator of the Dragon, unwilling to remain isolated in the mountains, looking for justice and a home in the wider Empire. A Smuggler of the Tortoise, tracking illicit goods of a particularly dire nature, longing for the respect of others. Meet the Party returns to a now-finished land where honor is stronger than steel, with ready-to-play characters for Legend of the Five Rings Roleplaying from Fantasy Flight Games!
The L5R Roleplaying Core Rulebook (and the GM’s kit) has joined the Beginner Game on the market! I mulled over giving the core book a full review, but after having reviewed the Beta . . . well, diving into the minutiae of everything that has changed when the heart of it has remained the same isn’t really one of my strengths. Making characters, though, that I can do! Read on and see what I came up with for use in your own games or simply inspiration for a type of party some L5R characters can form: a band of samurai tasked with fighting dark sorcery and monsters!
Clan: Crab Family: Kuni School: Kuni Purifier
Status: 30 Glory: 50 Honor: 50
Giri: Hunt down the Mahō-tsukai.
Ninjō: Force the other Great Clans to respect the Crab.
Air: 1 Earth: 3 Fire: 2 Water: 2 Void: 2
Endurance: 10 Focus: 3 Composure: 10 Vigilance: 2
Skills: Fitness 1, Theology 1, Martial Arts [Melee] 1, Medicine 2, Survival 1, Skulduggery 1, Meditation 1
Starting Techniques: Striking as Earth [Kata], Armor of Earth [Invocation], Jade Strike [Invocation], Commune with the Spirits [Ritual], Threshold Barrier [Ritual]
School Ability: Gaze Into Shadow
Advantages: Indomitable Will [Earth], Stories [Earth], Sixth Sense [Void]
Disadvantages: Bluntness [Air], Impatience [Earth]
Starting Outfit: Sanctified Robes, wakizashi, knife, makeup kit, scroll satchel, traveling pack, tetsubō, 4 koku
How Do They Stand Out: Adaptability, Friendliness, or Awareness
What detail do others find most striking: A scowling face covered in the warpaint of the Kuni.
Opinion of Clan: Positive Opinion of Bushidō: Divergent [Skulduggery]
Who have they learned the most from: Mother, a veteran Purifier.
Samurai Heritage: Glorious Sacrifice (Lost Family Heirloom: Sanctified Robes [Resplendent, Sacred])
Death: Succumbing to his wounds moments after his greatest enemy is crushed before him.
Unmasking: Accusing others of cowardice and declaring them unworthy of the Crab’s protection.
Kuni Otoya is unswerving in his determination to hunt down those who would tap into the powers of Jigoku. Gaze Into Shadow allows Otoya, once per round and when making a check targeting or involving a Tainted being, to take kept dice equal to his School Rank containing Strife and set them to Success instead. His Indomitable Will lets him re-roll dice when making checks to keep his cool while in danger, and his Sixth Sense does the same when he’s following his hunches. Striking as Earth lets him spend Opportunity on Melee and Unarmed checks to increase his physical resistance for a turn, while Armor of Earth encases him in stone armor and increases physical resistance for a number of rounds equal to Otoya’s Earth Ring. Jade Strike is a ranged Invocation that can smite and purify Otherworldly beings while also dealing a critical strike, potentially revealing and Silencing them (non-Otherworldly beings are not affected, removing the risk of friendly fire). Commune With Spirits lets Otoya do just that, while Threshold Barrier creates warded entryways or areas.
Clan: Phoenix Family: Kaito School: Kaito Shrine Keeper
Status: 30 Glory: 45 Honor: 55
Giri: Protect holy places from kansen and Mahō-tsukai.
Ninjō: Prove the Phoenix wrong about the Daughter of the Scorpion.
Air: 3 Earth: 1 Fire: 2 Water: 2 Void: 2
Endurance: 6 Focus: 5 Composure: 6 Vigilance: 3
Skills: Theology 2, Fitness 1, Martial Arts [Ranged] 2, Meditation 1, Performance 1, Smithing 1, Martial Arts [Melee] 1, Skulduggery 1
Starting Techniques: Hawk’s Precision [Kata], Tempest of Air [Invocation], Cleansing Rite [Ritual], Commune with Spirits [Ritual]
School Ability: Sacred Arrows
Advantages: Blessed Lineage [Void], Playfulness [Air]
Disadvantages: Sworn Enemy [Earth], Perfectionism [Water], Whispers of Failure [Fire]
Starting Outfit: Sanctified Robes, wakizashi, yumi, quiver of arrows, bō, scroll satchel, traveling pack, bowyer’s kit, 4 koku
How do they stand out: Creativity, passion, or drive.
What detail do others find most striking: The mask across her eyes, modeled after her Shosuro mother’s mask.
Opinion of Clan: Positive Opinion of Bushidō: Orthodox
Who have they learned the most from: Her strict father [Whispers of Failure/Ranged]
Samurai Heritage: Elevated for Service [Skulduggery]
Death: Striking down those within the Phoenix who would betray their sacred trust and loyalties.
Unmasking: Muttering about where she’d like to put her next dozen arrows.
Kaito Jorihime‘s arrows and magic will lay low all who threaten the shrines of Rokugan. Sacred Arrows actually lets her store Invocations within an arrow, triggering the Invocation where the arrow strikes along with some Opportunity uses to delay the trigger or land a hit with the Invocation even with a missed arrow shot. She can lever her Blessed Lineage (and other’s knowledge of it) to re-roll dice whenever she can make her bloodline benefit her. Hawk’s Precision allows Jorihime to spend Opportunity to (potentially drastically) increase the range of her arrows. Tempest of Air (a great use of Sacred Arrows) buffets enemies for supernatural damage, disorientation, and even forced movement. Cleansing Rite lets Jorihime remove the Afflicted and Defiled conditions from persons and areas respectively, while Commune With Spirits lets her do just that.
Clan: Scorpion Family: Yogo School: Yogo Wardmaster
Status: 35 Glory: 42 Honor: 40
Giri: Keep dark artifacts safe from those who would abuse them.
Ninjō: Find a true love and defy the curse.
Air: 2 Earth: 2 Fire: 1 Water: 2 Void: 3
Endurance: 6 Focus: 3 Composure: 8 Vigilance: 2
Skills: Skulduggery 2, Composition 2, Theology 1, Martial Art [Melee] 1, Martial Arts [Unarmed] 1, Sentiment 1, Courtesy 1, Culture 1
Starting Techniques: Grasp of Earth [Invocation], The Rushing Wave [Invocation], Shallow Waters [Shūji], Commune with the Spirits [Ritual], Threshold Barrier [Ritual]
School Ability: Mystical Script
Advantages: Famously Lucky [Void], Wordplay [Air], Benten’s Blessing [Air]
Disadvantages: Whispers of Doom [Void], Irrepressible Flirtation [Earth]
Starting Outfit: Sanctified robes, concealed armor, wakizashi, knife, three shuriken, calligraphy set, scroll satchel, traveling pack, finger of jade, 4 koku
How do they stand out: Self-awareness, insight, or mysticism
What detail do others find most striking: A scar across his face, bridging his nose.
Opinion of Clan: Disagreement [Sentiment] Opinion of Bushidō: Divergent
Who have they learned the most from: A fellow Yogo who also refused to be cowed by the curse.
Samurai Heritage: Discovery [Culture]
Death: Saving his true love from themselves.
Unmasking: An admission of his true feelings.
Yogo Chen earns the ‘master’ part of being a Yogo Wardmaster. Mystical Script allows Chen to have additional wards with prepared Invocations equal to his School Rank. In addition, decoding or using Chen’s wards requires a Theology [Void] check with a TN equal to his School Rank. Being known as Famously Lucky allows Chen to use that reputation to re-roll dice, and Benten’s Blessing gives him an advantage in affairs of the heart. Grasp of Earth splits open the ground beneath a foe to deal supernatural damage and render them prone, with some extra Opportunity options. The Rushing Wave allows Chen or a character near him to race along on a torrent of water, potentially covering several range bands at once (out of combat, Chen can double the traveling speed of a swimmer or ship). Shallow Waters can use Water Ring Social Opportunities to learn something the target desires, perhaps even their Ninjō. Commune With Spirits lets Chen do just that, while Threshold Barrier creates warded entryways or areas.
Clan: Dragon Family: Kitsuki School: Kitsuki Investigator
Status: 30 Glory: 44 Honor: 50
Giri: Keep the Emperor’s peace at all costs.
Ninjō: Find a home with another Great Clan.
Air: 2 Earth: 3 Fire: 2 Water: 2 Void: 1
Endurance: 10 Focus: 4 Composure: 10 Vigilance: 2
Skills: Meditation 1, Government 1, Sentiment 2, Culture 1, Martial Arts [Melee] 2, Skulduggery 1, Survival 2, Courtesy 1, Command 1
Starting Techniques: Tactical Assessment [Kata], Shallow Waters [Shūji]
School Ability: Kitsuki’s Method
Advantages: Precise Memory [Earth], Gossip [Air]
Disadvantages: Haunting [Void], Softheartedness [Fire], Gaijin Name [Fire]
Starting Outfit: Traveling clothes, wakizashi, knife, calligraphy set, jian, traveling pack, journal of observations, lacquered armor, 6 koku
How do they stand out: Thoroughness, patience, or calm.
What detail do others find most striking: Her kind smile, even towards her enemies.
Opinion of Clan: Disagreement [Courtesy] Opinion of Bushidō: Orthodox
Who have they learned the most from: A visiting bushi of the Unicorn. [Survival]
Samurai Heritage: Ruthless Victor (Martial Arts [Melee])
Death: Peacefully, retired after many years of service that brought the Dragon and the rest of Rokugan closer together.
Unmasking: Relentlessly pointing out the flaws -from clothing to spirituality – of others.
Kitsuki Geriel brings the investigative prowess and combat acumen of her family and school to the party. Kitsuki’s Method allows her to count her School Rank as her Skill Rank for any investigation check; if her Skill Rank is equal to or higher than her School Rank, she gets to add a kept Ring Die with an Opportunity result instead. Geriel’s Precise Memory allows her to reroll dice when attempting to recall facts. Tactical Assessment lets Geriel spend Opportunity gained during initiative checks in a variety of ways depending on the Ring used, providing some boon to allies or insight into the enemy. Shallow Waters can use Water Ring Social Opportunities to learn something the target desires, perhaps even their Ninjō.
Clan: Tortoise Family: Kasuga School: Kasuga Smuggler
Status: 25 Glory: 35 Honor: 32
Giri: Police the dark artifact market.
Ninjō: Earn the respect of other samurai.
Air: 3 Earth: 2 Fire: 1 Water: 2 Void: 2
Endurance: 6 Focus: 4 Composure: 8 Vigilance: 3
Skills: Commerce 3, Skulduggery 2, Government 1, Culture 1, Courtesy 1, Martial Arts [Melee] 1, Seafaring 1, Fitness 1
Starting Techniques: Rushing Avalanche Style [Kata], Well of Desire [Shūji]
School Ability: Way of the Tortoise
Advantages: Daikoku’s Blessing [Air], Travel [Water], Paragon of Duty [Earth]
Disadvantages: Scorn of Bushi [Water], Materialism [Void]
Starting Outfit: Traveling clothes, wakizashi, hammer, calligraphy set, knife, kiseru, gaijin compass, traveling pack, pouch of gaijin coins, kusari-gama, 9 koku
How do they stand out: Self-awareness, insight, or mysticism
What detail do others find most striking: Obviously foreign-influenced clothing and the jingle of gaijin coins.
Opinion of Clan: Positive Opinion of Bushidō: Divergent [Seafaring]
Who have they learned the most from: The Daimyo of the Tortoise. [Paragon]
Samurai Heritage: Elevated for Service [Commerce]
Death: With honor and glory, creating a legend that will counter every slur against the Tortoise.
Unmasking: Starts talking in a gaijin language without realizing it.
Kasuga Rikyu is prepared to do whatever dirty work must be done to carry out his duty. Way of the Tortoise keeps him from having to stake Glory to use a Trade Skill so long as Rikyu is fulfilling his duty to the Tortoise, and also adds Opportunity equal to his School Rank to checks to interact with the lower classes. Daikoku’s Blessing gives Rikyu an edge in financial matters, and being known as a Paragon of Duty makes it easy for him to convince others of his dedication to that tenet of bushidō. Rushing Avalanche Style lets Rikyu spend Opportunity on attacks with blunt weapons like his hammer to deal damage even on a miss, and extra damage against prone targets. Well of Desire makes it difficult for others to refuse his gifts, which in turn eases Rikyu’s way in follow-up social checks.
I kept things relatively straightforward here; while there are no strict mechanical requirements that one must be a member of a family in order to select that family’s school, there would obviously be an effect on the character’s story, so I kept things on a strict Clan -> Family of That Clan -> That Family’s School progression.
The thing that wasn’t straightforward is that I chose to include a Minor Clan Samurai. The Kasuga Family/School of the Tortoise Clan can be found in the GM’s kit, and with the Mantis Clan available on FFG’s site is one of two Minor Clans currently available for play. I wanted to tap into the Minor Clans just for the heck of it, and the Tortoise’s mandate to keep an eye on the black market fit in pretty well.
Who They Are
Kuni Otoya is an exemplary Purifier from a long line of them; if there was a scroll describing the ideal Purifier, one might think they were writing of Otoya (albeit he’s more adaptable than most of his kin). Trained by his own mother, he lives to hunt down the mahō-tsukai, as Kuni tradition and Crab duty demand. Already the whispers of bloodspeakers have shattered against his indomitable will.
An ideal Kuni is an ill fit for most of the rest of the Emerald Empire, however. Otoya has gained a quick reputation for a lack of courtesy and a lack of patience in pursuit of his duty . . . and a usually-hidden resentment of those who do not respect the sacrifice of the Crab.
Kaito Jorihime was raised from birth to protect the shrines of Rokugan from everything – spirit or man or beast – that might threaten them. Unfortunately for her, she was raised as such by her father, a cold and arrogant man who resented her very existence – his marriage to a Shosuro of the Scorpion has not been a happy one. That relationship has been extremely formative for Jorihime, in both good and bad ways. It has driven her to excel, but that sometimes leads to an obsession with perfection, and her father’s unwarranted criticism has spread rumors of her incompetence.
Jorihime truly believes in the principles of her clan and family . . . but she’s found her way to rebel by embracing aspects of her mother’s family. That’s served to make her father more of an outright enemy than ever before, but Jorihime’s mother has taught her to value loyalty – Scorpion-brand loyalty – and Jorihime is determined to prove to the Phoenix that she is worthy of – no, better than – them all.
Yogo Chen knows very well the curse of his family, doomed to betray someone or something he cares about. Unlike most other Yogo, however, he refuses to try and avoid the curse by cutting himself off emotionally. Rather, he’s determined to live his own life and simply thwart the curse, either by somehow avoiding the betrayal or making up for it after the fact.
So far, so good. In fact, he’s gained a reputation for coming out of dangerous or potentially-laden-with-betrayal situations much better off than could be expected. While he carries out his duty in a manner worthy of a Scorpion (if not always a samurai), he’s often regarded as something of a larger-than-life figure; a boisterous sense of humor, an apparent compulsion to flirt with anything human, luck in both battle and love . . . some have said he’ll likely be a character in one of the more tawdry pillow books some day. Only time will tell if Chen will manage to keep it from being a tragedy.
Kitsuki Geriel grew up training to become a magistrate, to track down criminals and keep the Empire’s peace . . . and being told that the place of the Dragon was to stand apart. That never sat particularly well with her . . . and when a bushi of the Unicorn visited the Kitsuki, that feeling was magnified. The wider world out there was full of wonders . . . and troubles far too big for any single magistrate sent out into it to make a different.
When she came of age she took a Unicorn name to honor her mentor, and went out into the Empire to keep the peace . . . but also to create bonds. A single magistrate cannot solve the world’s problems, but perhaps a Dragon can bring her clan out of their isolation.
The whispers of a ghost in her ear are surely a coincidence.
Kasuga Rikyu, like the rest of the Tortoise Clan, has a sacred duty handed down from the throne: to carefully watch the gaijin traders and the black market in and out of Rokugan. To deal with both gaijin and commerce is neither glorious nor honorable, but Rikyu takes his duty very seriously because it must be done. Granted, he didn’t expect that duty to involve Mahō-tsukai and their foul artifacts, but truly the gaijin are foolish to try and become involved in such things.
Rikyu is capable of going places and treating with people no other samurai can – or would dream of. That’s proven quite helpful in his new efforts to carry out his duty far from the port of his home, and the chance to travel through Rokugan has been a welcome blessing. Still, Rikyu dreams of what it might be like for other samurai, Great Clan samurai, to not treat him as lesser just because his duty is murkier than theirs.
How They Came Together
L5RRP doesn’t have any sort of unifying mechanic or baked-in narrative point to bring together members of the disparate Clans, Great or otherwise, that you see in some of the other games that FFG has published. Star Wars characters are bound together by whatever they’re running from, their duty to the Alliance, or by being Force Sensitive in a hostile galaxy. Dark Heresy characters were all conscripted into the Inquisition. L5R characters instead have duties to their Clans, and canonically those Clans don’t always get along very well (I’m working on my power of understatement).
What you need, then, is a premise of your own (or an adventure’s) design that brings them together. We saw this in the Beginner Game, when the ghost of Doji Satsume appears before the young contestants and asks for their help. So what has brought our samurai here together?
Otoya and Geriel likely met following the same goal from different ends, the Kuni following his leads in pursuit of dark sorcerers and the Kitsuki investigating the kidnappings that the mahō-tsukai were using to fuel their magic. It is likely that Jorihime crossed their paths when one of the shrines she is responsible for protecting was threatened. Chen and Rikyu probably met each other before the rest, the Yogo tracking dark artifacts heading for the coast and the Kasuga being tasked to investigate similar artifacts starting to appear in the hands of gaijin. Eventually their searches, now joined, took them back inland in pursuit of their targets, where they met up with the others. Now, each for reasons of their own, they work together to protect Rokugan and the Emerald Empire from the evil beings and people who would seek to drown it all in blood.
So, will Otoya, Jorihime, Chen, Geriel, and Rikyu fulfill their duties? Will they be able to achieve their own desires without dishonoring themselves, their families, and their clans? Or will the words of bloodspeakers ring true, and all fall into darkness? As always, that’s for you (and your dice) to determine!
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