House Rule Mechanics



I will try to sum up the myriad house rules I use here. It will likely not be a complete list, and it is subject to change at my whim. Deal with it.

Kyujutsu, Bows, and Arrows

Something about the way that bows work in L5R has always bugged me. At first I thought little of it, I mean, there was a lot more parity in L5R between archery and melee than other games I’d played, so why complain? But now, some six and a half years later, I decided to alter the rules. The Way of the Samurai is supposed to be the Way of the Sword and Bow. L5R has forgotten that bow part, but I haven’t. So I did some research, and found that there is virtually no difference between yumi for foot archery versus those for horseback archery. They are the same bows, and in fact that is what is so unique about Japanese kyudo. The reason for their ability to fire such massive (2 meters and up) bows from horseback or from the kneeling position is the unique asymmetrical nature of the bow. The grip is very low, instead of in the middle like other styles of bow throughout the rest of the world. Both kyudo and the yumi are fascinating, and I have rewritten the archery rules to better reflect their unique flair, which I believe was lost in the vanilla rules due to the game devs not understanding the basic differences between kyudo and European archery (called Yomanri in L5R). It is about so much more than that old throwaway line, “the arrow knows the way.”

Retooled: The New Kyujutsu
Bugei – Kyujutsu (Reflexes)
Sub-Types: Weapon Skill
Emphases: Daikyu, Hankyu, Hoko-Yumi, Kazuyumi, Shigetou, Yabusame

The art of the bow is an accepted and respected part of all bushi’s training, save perhaps for a handful of esoteric idealists who place misguided principle above practicality and tradition. To all others, the value of the bow in striking an enemy who is not within arm’s reach is obvious. Indeed, during the time of the first Hantei the way of the samurai was often called the Way of the Horse and Bow. Though the position of kyujutsu has diminished since those storied times, it is still one of the most respected and useful of the bugei arts among samurai of all stations and walks of life, from the Shogun to the lowliest ronin bandit. Unlike gaijin archery, often called Yomanri, Rokugani archery does not rely upon aiming, however; rather, practitioners are taught to assess their target, then draw and fire as a smooth, fluid motion. Hesitation is frowned upon; so much so in fact, that young students are taught to fire swiftly, with no regard for accuracy until the basic form has been mastered. Once the arrow has been nocked, the bow is lifted far above the face and is brought down as the string is drawn back. Once reaching the desired level, the arrow is loosed without delay. As the saying goes, the arrow know the way. Yabusame, the art of the bow while on horseback, is also of note for it is a widely respected art generally held separately from foot archery. Though the mechanics of firing a bow remain similar, it because much more complex to do so while mounted. Through the studious practice of Yabusame, however, a samurai can fire from horseback as easily as from the ground.

A character making a ranged attack who is firing at someone within melee range suffers a penalty of -10 to the total of his attack roll. When firing a bow from horseback, both the Yabusame emphasis and the emphasis of the individual bow are required to gain the effect of the emphasis.

Mastery Abilities:

  • Rank 3: Stringing a bow for use is a Simple Action rather than a Complex Action.
  • Rank 5: The DR of all arrows are increased by +1k0. Additionally, if you possess the Yabusame emphasis, you no longer suffer TN penalties for shooting a bow from horseback.
  • Rank 7: When using any bow, the Maximum Strength of the bow is increased by 1.

Retooled: The New Yumi
There are five basic types of yumi: hankyu, kazuyumi, shigetou, daikyu, and hoko-yumi.

+ Hankyu +
The hankyu, or half-bow, is much smaller than other yumi, generally 3.5-4.5 feet in length. Constructed of a single piece of wood, it can be strung much longer than other yumi without seriously damaging its components. While still asymmetrical, the arrow is shot much closer to the middle of the bow than in other yumi. The hankyu’s design dates back before the Fall of the Kami, and it is still very popular with travelers, scouts, and magistrates who need to use a more compact and quick to ready yumi than the traditional long bows utilized by the soldiers. Its smaller size also makes it easier to fire from horseback than other yumi, making it some what popular among bandits and ronin who have horses, but lack training in the art of Yabusame.
Keywords: Medium
Maximum Strength: 2
Range: 100’
Special Rules: Can be carried around pre-strung without damage. Increase the TN of all attack rolls by +5 if used from horseback.
Price: 2 Koku

+ Kazuyumi +
Similar to the hankyu, the kazuyumi is contructed of a single piece of timber, though sometimes it is strengthened with bamboo. It is also similar to the shigetou, due to its asymmetrical shape, and large size. It stands the height of a full grown man, and is more powerful than the hankyu, but, it lacks the draw of the traditional shigetou, and so it lacks it’s range and penetrating power. While considerably worse than the shigetou, the kazuyumi is not considered to be solely a weapon of the samurai, and so it is used by budoka, doshin, and ashigaru throughout the Empire, as well as bandits and other ne’er-do-wells.
Keywords: Large, Peasant
Maximum Strength: 3
Range: 175’
Special Rules: Increase the TN of all attack rolls by +10 if used on horseback. Foes may add 3 to their reduction bonus they receive from heavy or bajutsu armor when hit by an arrow shot from the Kazuyumi.
Price: 5 koku

+ Shigetou +
The traditional yumi of the samurai class, the shigetou, or shige-no-yumi, is a powerful bow which at 6-7 feet in length is almost always taller than the archer who fires it. It owes its great power to its great size, and remains versatile due to its low grip and its complex construction. Made of strong timber, bamboo and horn, and wrapped in a coiled rattan cord, this yumi is very sturdy, and has a great draw. It is considered the standard for kyujutsu, so ubiquitous it is often referred to simply as the yumi, and is afforded great honor by all proper samurai. Its prestige is lower only than the daisho.
Keywords: Large, Samurai
Maximum Strength: 4
Range: 250’
Special Rules: Increase the TN of all attack rolls by +10 if used on horseback. Increase the TN of all attack rolls by +5 if the user has a strength of 2 or lower.
Price: 20 koku

+ Daikyu +
The Daikyu, the great bow, is a massive yumi suitable for only the strongest of warriors. At 8 feet long, or longer, the daikyu is a great challenge for any one to draw, let alone loose an arrow with any accuracy. It is made exactly as the shigetou, but much larger, and with a metal sounding plate, which makes a great sound when fired. Many bushi know to fear this sound on the battlefields of Rokugan. For those with the strength and patience to master it, the daikyu is a weapon of mass destruction, dealing death to the enemy at great range.
Keywords: Large, Samurai
Maximum Strength: 5
Range: 400’
Special Rules: Increase the TN of all attack rolls by +10 if used on horseback. Increase the TN of all attack rolls by +10 if the user has a strength of 4. With a Strength of 3 or lower it is impossible to make attacks with this weapon.
Price: 35 koku

+ Hoko-Yumi +
The hoko-yumi, the bow of the others, is the bow of the Unicorn Clan. It is of gaijin origin, and is therefore suspect to many Rokugani. Even those who mistrust its origins can not dispute its power and versatility. Built of horn, bone, and wood, the hoko-yumi is a true composite, with layers of each adding strength to the whole. Its shape is its most striking feature. With a symmetrical shape, its fired from a convex handle in the its center. The arms of the bow than bend concave, before bending back to convex at their ends. Due to this odd shape, this yumi has a great draw, despite its smaller size. It is bow easily fired while mounted, and is prized by the Unicorn who own them, but is little used elsewhere in the Empire.
Keywords: Medium
Maximum Strength: 4
Range: 200’
Special Rules: Increase the TN of all attack rolls by +5 if used on horseback. Increase the TN of all attack rolls by +10 if the user has a strength of 2 or lower.
Price: 40 koku

Retooled: The New Arrows
There are five basic arrow types. While most are unchanged from the base rule set, I will post them all anyways.

+ Armor Piercing +
These arrows replace the broader head of the Willow Leaf with a narrow spike intended to punch through armored plates. They are effective in penetrating armor, but sacrifice raw damage.
DR: 0k2
Cost: 2 bu
Special Rules: Ignores the Armor TN bonus provided by armor and reduces Reduction by 2.

+ Flesh Cutter +
These arrows arrows have broader, often barbed, heads intended to inflict tremendous damage on unarmored targets. The are almost useless against heavy armor, and can not fly as far as Willow Leaf arrows, but when they find exposed flesh they are devastatingly effective.
DR: 2K3
Cost: 5 bu
Special Rules: Double the Armor TN bonus provided by armor; 1/2 Range.

+ Humming Bulb +
These arrows have a blunt, hollow tip that produces a distinctive loud whistling sound when fired. Not intended to inflict wounds, they are used for signaling and sounding alarms, and generally do little damage on impact.
DR: 0K1
Cost: 5 bu
Special Rules: Creates a loud whistling sound.

+ Rope Cutters +
A Rope Cutter is a specialty arrow which has a wide crescent shaped head. They are intended to cut rope, or similar items, tear banners, flags, or pennants, and the like. Due to their design they can not be fired long distances and though they will cause damage if impacting flesh, the Willow Leaf is far better adapted to such tasks.
DR: 1k1
Cost: 3 bu
Special Rules: Gain 2 free raises against rope, cloth, or other similar materials or gain 1 free raise against any inanimate object; 1/2 Range.

+ Willow Leaf +
The Willow Leaf, or Ya, arrow is the standard arrow used by archers of all stripes through out the Empire. This is the arrow used to teach young samurai the art of kyujutsu beginning in childhood, and the type used by the greatest archers in the land. They are ubiquitous due to their versatile and accuracy, so it is no surprise that nearly three fourths of all arrows used in Rokugan are Willow Leaf.
DR: 2K2
Cost: 1 bu
Special Rules: N/A

Iaijutsu Dueling

I’m not going to bother going into why I’ve altered this. My myriad problems with the base dueling system are the same complaints you’ve all heard time and time again. Still I should post the retooled rules anyways, even though we’ve been using them since the inception of this game.

Retooled: As in the standard duel there are three stages. These stages are Assessment, Focus, and Strike.

Assessment: In this stage both duelists make an Awareness/ Iaijutsu (Assessment) roll at a TN of 5 + 5 times the opponents Insight Rank. If successful a duelist may learn one of the following pieces of pertinent information: opponent’s Reflexes, opponent’s Agility, opponent’s Void, opponent’s ranks of Iaijutsu and any Emphases, opponent’s Insight Rank, opponent’s Wound Rank, or opponent’s remaining Void Points. Each successful Raise allows for an additional piece of learned information. If either duelist beats the opponent’s Roll by 10 or more, that duelist gains a +1k1 bonus to the Focus roll.

Focus: The duelists now choose from one of the opponent’s attributes (Reflexes, Awareness, or Void) to be used during the Focus stage. Both duelist make a Contested Choice/ Iaijutsu (Focus) roll. The duelist which beats the other by a margin of at least 5 earns the right to strike first. For each increment of 5 after the first, the winner of the Focus stage gains a Free Raise during the next stage. These Raises may be used in any manner the duelist sees fit, though some uses may be seen as dishonorable. If neither duelist wins this roll by a margin of 5 or more the duel results in a Karmic Strike.

Strike: The winner of the Focus Stage rolls a Reflexes/ Iaijutsu (Strike) against the opponent’s TN to be Hit. If it is a Karmic Strike, both duelists make this roll simultaneously. The second duelist may still opt to strike (though doing so in a duel to the first blood is highly dishonorable), though any wound penalties from the first duelist’s strike are applied to the second duelist’s roll.

Void Point Expenditures

As Written: You may spend a Void Point to reduce the amount of Wounds suffered from one source of damage by 10.

Brandon’s Void system is great, and I’m using it.

Retooled: As per the Yanuskevich Void Rules, the above use of a Void Point is replaced by the following ability: When your Down Wound Rank would fill, and kill you, as the result of damage you may spend a Void Point to instead remain with a single Health in your Down Wound Rank instead.

New Void Point Expenditure

As Written: It doesn’t exist.

This was an idea that Brophy and I brainstormed up while discussing what a Void 2 character can do against something that requires a head shot, and this is the hot fix we came up with.

Retooled: A character may spend a Void Point to make a single additional Raise (beyond the amount normally allowed by one’s Void Ring) on a roll. This Raise still increases the TN by 5, and all other normal conditions for applying the Raise (e.g. a restriction on the types of Maneuvers allowed) still apply.

Social Mass Combat

As Written: It doesn’t exist.

Another product of the mind of Brandon Yanuskevich, Social Mass Battle (or Mass Court, if you will) is sweet, so I’m using it. Basic rules are presented here, the real in-depth stuff will remain at the game, at least for the time being.

Retooled: A new set of derived statistics for use during Social Mass Combat, as follows.
Composure (Social Health): Calculated as standard Health but using the Air Ring.
Frustration (Social TN Penalties): Calculated as standard TN Penalties due to damage.
On (Social Reduction): Status + Glory – Infamy (+2 Bonus if you possess the Courtier tag).
Politicking Roll (Social Battle Roll): Awareness/Courtier (Politicking)
Tides of Court (Social Tides of Battle): 1k1 + Courtier Rank + Air Ring
Relaxation Rate (Social Healing Rate): Awareness x 2 + Insight Rank


As Written: A character attempting to make an attack with a weapon in his off-hand suffers a penalty of -5 to the roll if it is a small weapon, -10 if it is medium, and -15 if it is large. Additionally, attacks made with the character’s dominant hand suffer a penalty of -5 to attacks as long as a secondary weapon is held in the off hand. However, a character wielding two weapons is more difficult to hit due to the larger area covered. As a result, characters wielding two weapons add their Insight Rank to their Armor TN.

In an attempt to make dual wielding (and the Defense Skill) more attractive to characters besides Mirumoto, dual-wielding has been altered to increase character and NPC diversity.

Retooled: as written except the bonus to Armor TN equals your ranks in the Defense skill.

Brash Disadvantage
As Written: If you are threatened or insulted, you must make a Willpower Trait roll (adding your Honor Rank to the total) at a TN of 25, or you will attack immediately.

Due to the nature of Rokugan, if Brash were used as above, all it takes is a single bad willpower roll after being insulted by the wrong person to completely end a character. I disagreed with that on principle, so it has been altered to suit my preferences.

Retooled: if you are threatened or insulted, you must make a Willpower Trait roll (adding your Honor Rank to the total) at a TN of 25, or you must make an aggressive action toward the triggering individual, i.e. , initiating an attack, issuing a challenge, or using intimidation. Your response may be subtle, but it may not be made secretly. Discuss with your GM what constitutes an aggressive action.

Wealthy Advantage

As Written: For each point spent in this Advantage, you gain 2 additional koku to be added to your School outfit. Crane, Unicorn, and Imperial characters may purchase this advantage for one less point off its total cost.

This is pretty shit, and we all know it.

Retooled: For each point spent in this Advantage, you gain 2 additional koku to be added to your yearly stipend. In addition, you may attempt to access your family’s wealth in order to make expensive purchases normally outside the grasp of a poorer samurai. You make an Intelligence/ Commerce (Mathematics) roll with a TN based on the cost and/or difficulty of the project (ie purchasing a kobune, or building a home) a number of times per season equal to the times you have purchased this advantage. Though you may successfully “slush fund” a great number of projects with this advantage, your family or daimyo may veto outrageous proposals (GM’s discretion) regardless of your success. Be wary, as using your family’s wealth on dalliances and personal luxury may lead to a loss of face, honor, or even access to their accounts.

Resisting Fear

As Written: To resist a Fear Effect, a character must roll Raw Willpower at a TN equal to 5 + (5 x Fear Rank). Those of high honor, however, are better able to overcome this test – all characters may add their Honor Rank to the total of their roll.

Losing to fear sucks. But losing when you’re a take-no-shit (low honor) badass while the prissy Doji courtier sails right through sucks even harder. This is an attempt to address that without lessening the powerful effect of Honor on Fear.

Retooled: To resist a Fear Effect, a character must roll Raw Willpower at a TN equal to 5 + (5 x Fear Rank). Those of high honor or impressive skill, however, are better able to overcome this test – all characters may add either their Honor Rank or their Insight Rank (whichever is greater) to the total of the roll.

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House Rule Mechanics

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