L5R by way of Apocalypse World

August 14, 2011

There’s setting and concept stuff I really liked about L5R, that the rules never really did well for me. This week I realized Apocalypse World actually would be a good rules hack to do L5R with.

For example, duels! Duels are supposed to be a big deal, but L5R’s rules keep all the tension around a sort of bidding up/chicken mechanic, which ended up being generally meh for me in play.

When you look at media that does duels well, it’s usually an excuse to do all kinds of character exploration through internal monologues and flashbacks- it’s about the why and the personal consquences of the duel. (Sword of Doom, Vagabond, even stuff like Battle Angel Alita and Naruto do this).

So, I’m playing around with stuff like this:


Roll + Spirit. On a 10+ ask 2 of your opponent On a 7-9, ask 1 of your opponent, your opponent asks 1 of you. On a Miss: Your opponent asks 2 of you.

These questions are played out as flashbacks and monologues- your character doesn’t learn these facts- this is all for us, the people playing, the audience:

– Who do you aspire to be like and why?
– What are you running from?
– Who do you care about the most, and how have you failed them?
– What would happiness look like for you?
– Who else suffers if you lose this duel?

Whoever has to answer a question receives Harm +2 from their opponent- no armor or special ability blocks this.

For each question you answer, pick 1:

– Do Harm -1 to your opponent instead. Hold 1. Spend it anytime in the future to have a flashback scene of a conversation from before the duel. This can happen even if your character died.

– Ask a request of your opponent- if they do it, they gain 1 XP, if they refuse, it’s On Dangerous Ground

– You impress everyone with your bearing and spirit, if anyone outside the duel insulted you before this they take 1 Shame.

– Make a Read the Heart move on your opponent as your last action (as wounded or before killed)

– Bow out before blades are drawn; No one takes Harm, but your opponent erases 2 Shame and gains +2 HX with you. You may never challenge them to a duel again.

You’ll notice that this Move is a way to get us into genre tropes in the choices you have.

It’s also more complicated than most Moves in AW- it’s really two Moves in one.

The first one forces us to examine the characters who are up on the chopping block. The second one gives the players controlling said characters a chance to determine what the long term consequences are in return.

I’m going to probably tweak stuff and clean it up a bit, but I’m ok that it’s a little complicated, given that duels won’t be happening all the time anyway.

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