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  • L5R Shugenja

    Returning once again to my roadblock of long ago. I've always liked the setting of Legend of the Five Rings, but not super keen on the system. Most of it is real easy to bring over to Savage Worlds, but the Shugenja have always stumped me.

    For those unfamiliar, the primary spellcasters are Shugenja, basically priests with the ability to speak with the elemental kami: spirits of Air, Water, Earth and Fire. Now, the quick and dirty way to do this would be to just copy the Elementalists of 50 Fathoms and Hellfrost. In those, you begin with access to one element, and take edges to learn new ones. L5R Shugenja, however, are supposed to be able to speak to all the spirits. They tend to specialize, but even the most sturdy, earth-focused Crab can and does speak to the spirits of the Air.

    Because I'm stubborn, I've come up with all sorts of different ways (most of them bad) to make all five base attributes valuable somehow for a Shugenja, representing the five elements. Agility is Air, Vigor is Earth, Smarts is Fire, Strength is Water, and Spirit is Void. There are no Void kami, and therefore no Void spells (for now. Yes, I know about Ishiken).

    What I'm thinking is:

    No Power Points, pretty much as written in the core book, but with the casting penalties reduced.

    Every element has a different casting skill, but each of them starts at a d4. So you’ll have a basic competence in every element, but you’ll need to beef up the ones you use a lot. Also, the attribute becomes important, as it makes it easier to learn. If you cast a lot of Fire, you’ll want decent Smarts. And of course, you’re not spending advances on Power Points, so you can use them on your casting skills.

    Backlash will be troublesome, but I need to work out how exactly. I know one possible penalty will be the inability to cast spells of that element for a time. So if you fumble a Fire spell, the Fire kami will abandon you for a day or so.

    Certain backlash effects can be resisted using Spirit, and Spirit replaces Smarts for all those spell ranges and such listed in the book. It’s also used for anything not covered by one of the elements, such as sensing the presence of ghosts and ancestor spirits.


    In short: Spirit is always good, and one or two other Attributes/Elements will probably be the focus for most. Hopefully it leaves room for specialists and generalists.


    Plenty of details to be ironed out, obviously, but overall, whaddya think?

  • #2
    I've found Zadmar's Savage Arcanum to be a fantastic resource for home brewing arcane backgrounds- His Savage Worlds page is here.

    In Savage Arcanum he describes a Elementalism on page 11. It sounds EXACTLY what you're looking for.

    Summarized:

    Shugenja:
    • (+2) Free Casting- When using Free Casting, your Arcane Skill roll suffers a penalty equal to half the Power Point cost of the spell you wish to cast, rounded down. A failure cancels all of your currently maintained spells, and causes you to become Shaken. This can cause a wound
    • (+1) 2 Starting Powers
    • (-1) You start with no power points.
    • (+0) Backlash: A roll of 1 on the Arcane Skill die causes the character to become Shaken, and this doesn’t cause a wound.
    Players acquire powers normally. There are 5 new skills in your setting - Earth, Air, Fire, Water and Void. The trappings of a power are dependent on the skill used to cast the power.
    Optional Rule: Players may spend a benny to use a power for the duration of the current encounter/scene.

    Does this seem like what you had in mind?
    Last edited by Mzum; 06-10-2021, 02:50 AM.

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    • #3
      Maybe instead of 5 arcane skills, use the same balancing mechanics of the old system. Each Shugenja has an elemental affinity and deficiency. He may learn Powers with his chosen affinity trapping if if they were one rank lower. Powers with their chosen deficiency trappings are one rank higher.

      They also start with a slightly modifier version of Divination, and can commune with their affinity Kamis at Novice, their Deficiency at Vetern and the rest at Seasoned.

      Comment


      • #4
        There is Iron Dynasty for SW with most of your hard work done, just not Swade. But a quick spit and polish should sort that out for you.

        Alternatively there is Heries of the Oruent, and Oriental Adventures, both 5e, and both done by DM's Guild which are L5R fir DnD. With Savage Pathfinder conversions should be easier.

        Third choice, use Super 2e for Elemental Control. Will require tinkering to purchase power though.

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        • #5
          Before I was halfway through with your post I was already thinking a system that uses separate arcane skills per element is what you are looking for.

          Just to break down my thoughts:
          • Each of the five elements has its own casting skill named after it (Air, Earth, Fire, Water, Void).
          • When a character learns a new power, it is "Trapping-neutral." The Trapping is chosen at the time of casting, using the appropriate skill.
          Questions and concerns:
          • How are "hybrid" Trappings handled? For example, lightning can be considered a mix of Air and Fire... mud is both Earth and Water... is there a guideline on how to handle this (use lowest of the two dice, etc)?
          • By tying each elemental skill to a different attribute, you may be stifling player creativity. A player who wants to be an agile but weak Water-caster is going to have spend more resources doing so. It reminds me of the way psionics worked in older versions of D&D, before the criticism and complaints caused WotC to make an official change. Personally, I would tie them all to Spirit.

          Comment


          • Mzum
            Mzum commented
            Editing a comment
            Regarding tying each elemental skill to a different attribute: It does add a hefty amount of flavor. I love the idea of specializations encouraging a certain physique.

            To the OP: Let us know what you eventually come up with. I love hearing about other people's ideas and games.

        • #6
          Thanks for the input, everyone. There's a good chance I've actually read Zadmar's take on it, and I'm just stealing his ideas without realizing it.


          I'm on mobile and not really familiar with this newer version of the forums (and by new, I realize that it's been around for years), so this won't be as organized as I'd like.


          But, regarding some of the concerns: yes, spreading skill points out among multiple casting skills means that those skills would be weaker. That's why I'm reducing the usual penalty from the No Power Points rule. Lower skill, fewer penalties. While most Shugenja will want to be very strong in their chosen element, a d6 in their weaker elements will be just fine in most circumstances.


          Also, it will really only be four skills, not five. Void magic (ishiken-do) is extraordinarily rare, and tinkers with the fabric of reality. Most versions of L5R don't even touch it in the core books, so I'm fine leaving it alone unless a player really wants to get into the weeds on it.


          Regarding Trappings, I would actually give PCs a lot more "Spells," because it's part of the setting that these powers serve very different purposes. "Fist of Osano-Wo" and "Jade Strike" would both be covered by the Bolt power, but but the first is a lightning bolt that will absolutely blast some poor schmuck straight to the Realm of Blessed Ancestors, while the second will inflict agony only on people and creatures afflicted with the Shadowlands Taint. Many Powers will only be available to certain elements. Healing, for example, is the realm of Water, while illusions, disguises and stealth are all about Air.


          Regarding Attributes being tied too closely to the element, I'm not too worried about it. I warn my players not to fall into the trap of thinking they need to max out Attributes just to improve a related skill. Agility and Fighting, for example. Yes, it's good to have a high Agility if you want to be a great swordsman. But honestly, if Fighting is the only skill you want to max out, you don't need that much Agility. A d6 or d8 is plenty. Spend the other advances to beef up your Strength.


          So yes, a Water Shugenja should have at least decent Strength. The Water Kami will respond well to someone with their element flowing through them. But also, they don't need to be a powerhouse, they should be fit. It also fits well, because the two most Water-focused clans are the warlike Lion and Unicorn.

          Comment


          • dentris
            dentris commented
            Editing a comment
            If you really want to go the Elements as Attributes route, I would make some changes. Water is mostly Strenght, but is now linked with Notice and Battle, and replaces Agility or Smarts as a prerequisite for everything related to vision or movement. Earth is Vigor and the part of Spirit related to willpower and mental resitance, Fire is Agility and Smarts mostly. Air is the part of Spirit not covered by Earth, replaces Fighting in Parry's calculation and becomes the prerequisite for all Edges that deals with defense, mental and physical. The odd one become Void. It's really specifc to japanese cosmology and I would just say you start with a number of Bennies equal to half your Void.

        • #7
          Okay. It looks like you know what you want to do and how to do it. I don't see any real pressing concerns with the method you've chosen. Reducing casting penalties to compensate for needing to spread points across multiple skills is a fair approach. I guess all that's left is to say Good Luck and happy gaming!

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