Character Creation in the Legend of the Five Rings Roleplaying Game
Tales of harrowing tribulation, perplexing mysteries, and glorious battle do not arise of their own volition; they are born of deeds—from those who endure what others cannot, learn what others do not, and brave what others will not. Before your adventures across Rokugan begin in the Legend of the Five Rings Roleplaying Game, you will make a series of choices to describe not only your character’s statistics and powers, but also their personality and place in the world.
Whether you have a firm concept in mind—a temple guardian who strictly follows his clan’s beliefs, or a contemplative monk whose curiosity sometimes gets the better of her—or you’re starting from scratch and exploring as you build, your character comes alive by answering the Game of Twenty Questions. What’s more, character creation is one of the key differences between the Legend of the Five Rings Roleplaying Core Rulebook and the Beginner Game!
Join us today as we take our first look at character creation in Legend of the Five Rings Roleplaying!
Approaching the Elements
Before we get into questions and answers, first we must explore the elements that compose every character. In the Legend of the Five Rings Roleplaying Game, characters are not defined with stats representing their strength, or their quickness, or their knowledge. Instead, the foundation of your character lies in their worldview and personality. The five core attributes, or Ring Values, align with the power of the Five Rings. Thus, your character’s traits are listed as Air, Earth, Fire, Water, and Void, each with a numerical score.
Each element stands for different traits that may be more or less present in your character:
Air: Subtlety, cleverness, shrewdness
Earth: Discipline, toughness, measured action
Fire: Passion, creativity, quickness
Water: Adaptability, observation, trustworthiness
Void: Enlightenment, spirituality, awareness
These connections start to come into play when you use a skill check to overcome a challenge. The appropriate ring depends on your character’s attitude and intentions, which means that similar or identical tasks can be approached in myriad ways.
For example, a courtier may be attempting to moderate a trade negotiation between two parties. If she genuinely wishes to see an equitable outcome, she may use a Water approach, while attempting to manipulate one side into accepting a disadvantageous contract becomes an Air approach. A noble general uses Earth to maintain discipline and order among her troops, while she would use a Fire approach to rouse her warriors’ hearts to bravery and glory on the dawn of battle.
As you create your character over the Game of Twenty Questions, your Ring Values change to reflect the history, personality, and goals of your character!
Answer the Questions
The first questions of character creation are some of the most important, reflecting your character’s core identity. For example, as your very first question, which guides all other essential choices, is your character’s clan. Are they an enigmatic Scorpion? A diplomatic Crane? A noble Lion? Your character’s clan dictates a great deal of your character’s story, both past and future. How others react to them, how their education shaped them, what ties they have to clan and family—all of these things and more return directly to the choice of clan.
Appropriately, your clan choice is also the first facet of your character that affects your Ring Values. For instance, a Crab Clan character will receive a higher Earth Ring and Fitness skill, as befitting a member of a clan renowned for toughness and resolve. A Phoenix Clan member instead gains an increased Void Ring and Theology skill, reflecting the meditative training all Phoenix receive as an essential part of their culture.
While all members of a particular clan start with the cornerstone of their clan bonuses, every subsequent question adds new layers, and further exploration into your character can cause significant (and interesting!) divergences.
For the second question, you must delve deeper into your character, and decide what family your character belongs. Each clan contains numerous large families, who all serve the clan and Empire in different ways.
The Lion’s Matsu family, for instance, are legendary warriors, fierce as they are loyal, while the Shiba family serving the Phoenix clan entwine their martial training with a close understanding of the mystical shugenja they protect. Both families are traditionally bushi, but each see their role and duty in different ways.
Like the choice of a clan, the family your character comes from also confers attribute benefits. A Dragon Clan member of the Kistuki family would have been raised around courtiers and magistrates, so this character would gain increased Government and Sentiment skills, as they have a better understanding of the workings of the courts and the nuances of interpersonal communication. Additionally, the character chooses between an increased Air Ring or Water Ring, reflecting a tendency toward cleverness or understanding.
The choice of family also influences what material goods your character begins with, as it is the first question that confers koku, the coin of the realm. Even within a clan, this amount can vary. The Unicorn Clan’s Ide family are known as prolific merchants and courtiers, and thus provide nine koku to new characters, while their Iuchi family of priests and shugenja place a much lower value on material goods, claiming only five koku.
Small Pieces of a Greater Whole
While clan and family are core parts of a character’s identity, they only answer the biggest and most blanket questions. In our next preview, we’ll dig even deeper into the Game of Twenty Questions to see how they will flesh out details about your characters that you may have never considered—even as a decades-long veteran of roleplaying games. Conversely, if Legend of the Five Rings Roleplaying is your first roleplaying experience, these questions can serve you for a lifetime in the hobby!