Melee Combat in L5R
This article describes several changes to and options added to the basic melee combat rules of L5R.
Etiquette of Arms
In Rokugan this is great respect both for the deadliness of weapons and the demands of propriety. All weapons are to be properly sheathed unless about to be used or inspected. Swords have sheathes, and other weapons have cloth covers or a boot to both protect the weapon and to show peaceful intent. To remove the cover or loosen a weapon in its saya is a most serious threat, and likely to result in almost instant bloodshed. Drawn and readied weapons are only suitable for warriors on patrol or already in battle. A samurai drawing his sword or leveling a spear has eloquently stated that battle has begun. No further words are required. There is very specific ritual for presenting a weapon for inspection or as a gift.
Likewise, armor is only suitable to certain occasions. Light armor, known as ‘duty armor’ is acceptable for samurai actively going about the business of their lord. Warriors on patrol, serving as couriers, inspecting holdings, council or other ‘on duty’ tasks are entitled to wear duty armor. Heavy armor, called ‘war armor’ or sometimes ‘full armor’ is worn only in time of war or for certain ceremonial functions (one exception to this is the Hida family who, while in their own lands, treat full armor as duty armor). Even bodyguards will refrain from wearing full armor unless ordered to. Samurai going about their own business will forgo any sort of armor. In any basic Outfit, that includes armor add ‘armor chest’, a large box with carrying poles and pads for transporting 1-2 suits of armor.
Ritual is also specific for how a sword is carried and set down in the presence of a superior. The way a samurai thrusts his daisho through his obi is indicative of rank. The extension of the blade defines his personal space. A high ranking samurai will place his blades so they jut out to the front and rear, clearing a large space around himself. Lower ranked samurai will wear their blades more vertically, closer to the body. When entering a castle or the presence of a lord in his home, samurai may be asked to set aside their weapons. Characters who are within one Position Rank of the owner of the home may keep their swords if they wish, but must put up all other arms beyond the daisho. Characters of lower position must yield all of their weapons. The etiquette of entering a home handles this surrender of arms smoothly and without disturbing the tranquility of guest or house. When setting down ones blades prior to sitting, they are placed on the right (where it is difficult to draw), indicating trust. Placing it on the left indicates suspicion. It gives a hostile tone to the entire encounter. To “bind” one’s weapon is to place a small tie between the tsuba and saya. While the tie may not actually prevent the blade from being drawn, it is a statement that “on my honor, this blade is not here”. To disarm a samurai whose blade is bonded is to show the most profound mistrust or disrespect. While samurai regularly carry the daisho, weapons of war (any weapon larger than a katana and not a peasant weapon) are subject to the same sort of restrictions as duty armor. Female samurai regularly carry the wakizashi and/or a small knife.
Initiative will be rolled using 1D10 + Air Ring. Void points spent on initiative rolls will add +1k0 to the roll.
Raises in Combat
Raises for Damage
Raising for damage represents a generic good hit. The attacker rolls but not keeps an extra die for damage for each such raise (+1k0). Raises for damage may be combined with other raises.
Striking Specific Locations “Called Shot”
To attack a specific portion of an opponent’s body, the attacker must make two or more raises. Such attacks cause specific injuries to the opponent along with general Wounds. Depending on the amount of damage inflicted and the target’s Earth the opponent will be injured, maimed, or killed. This system does not promote instant kills, but instead offers other penalties a character might experience after being struck in combat. In addition to the Wounds done, the attacker may choose one of the additional effects listed below. It is best if the player describes his attack in character, letting the GM use the injuries to simulate the additional advantage the character has gained through their skill and daring. Multiple injuries are cumulative even if they duplicate other effects. If the called shot does a large amount of damage, the attacker may choose to maim instead of injure. The minimum damage required to maim is equal to a multiple of the victim’s Earth. Maiming is quite serious as neither natural or magical healing will repair the secondary effects (only the Wounds can be recovered). Characters that have been maimed will take an additional Wound each time a number of turns equal to their Earth Ring passes unless medical aid is applied. There is no limit to the amount of damage received in a maiming attack, nor is it tracked separately from wounds from general hits. If the wounds are severe enough to fill the target’s Dead Wound Rank, the cause of death will be particularly distinctive. Limbs are neatly severed near the trunk and the opponent dies instantly of shock, etc. Being cut in half or pierced through the heart for torso hits or decapitated on head hits are common images associated with such blows.
Arm (3 Raises; Earth x 5 Wounds to maim):
Deep gash- target’s attacks roll one less die for damage.
Loose grip on weapon- no skill dice on attacks. Must spend one action to regain proper grip.
Lose all feeling from arm- no re-rolling 10′s on attack rolls.
Maimed- Mauled or severed limb. Lose hand, forearm or arm. Missing Limb Disadvantage.
Foot (4 Raises; Earth x 3 Wounds to maim):
Can’t support any weight- roll three less dice on any balance rolls.
Pinned- cannot move until weapon is removed.
Fall- end this turn prone (TNtbH 5, one action to regain footing).
Maimed- Lose toes or foot. Lost Limb disadvantage.
Hand (4 Raises; Earth x 3 Wounds to maim):
Deep gash- target’s attacks roll one less die for damage.
No grip- Drop anything held in that hand. May not use hand for any actions for 3 turns.
Lose all feeling from hand- considered unskilled on attacks (no Raises, no re-rolling 10′s).
Maimed- Lose several fingers, thumb, or entire hand. Missing Limb Disadvantage.
Head (4 Raises; Earth x 4 Wounds to maim):
Blackout- Target loses next action. Normal TN to be hit (Target may not declare Full Defense).
Blood in eyes- TN to be hit reduced by 5. Must spend one full turn (at reduced TN) to clear vision.
Dazed- -6 on Initiative. Penalty decreases by one each turn until gone.
Critical!- Take additional Wounds equal to the next highest die of damage (Damage Roll now keeps an extra die).
Maimed- Lose an eye (Single Eye disadvantage) or horrible scarring (equivalent to Benten’s Curse).
Leg (3 Raises; Earth x 7 Wounds to maim):
Bloody gash- Lose and additional Wound at the beginning of each turn.
Can’t support full weight- Roll one less die on Full Defense rolls.
Limping- Reduce movement speed by half.
Stumble- Automatically lose initiative (declare first, act last) next turn.
Maimed- Mauled or severed limb. Lose foot, calf, or leg. Lame disadvantage.
Torso (2 Raises; Earth x 8 Wounds to maim):
Painful injury- Lose one die on all Skill Rolls next two turns.
Stunned/winded- -3 on Initiative Roll next turn.
Losing blood- Lose an additional Wound at the end of each turn target declares an attack.
Vitals hit- Take additional wounds equal attacker’s weapon skill.
Maimed- Grievously injured (disemboweled or punctured lung). Permanent Wound Disadvantage. Take 3 Wounds from bleeding instead of 1.
Special attacks are performed by declaring a Normal or Full Attack and then raising to produce an unusual result. Many special attacks do not (directly) result in Wounds. All special attacks require a successful Attack Roll before they take place.
*Bind (3 Raises):* By pinning the opponent’s weapon against a hard surface or otherwise controlling the opponent’s weapon or weapon arm, the danger of the weapon may be greatly reduced. A successful weapon bind attack causes the opponent to lose skill on attacks equal to the attacker’s skill with the weapon used to bind him. This may result in the opponent being considered unskilled until he frees himself. The weapon is freed by either using an action and rolling Agility + Weapon Skill (at full value) with a TN of the Bind Roll, or by successfully hitting the attacker with the trapped weapon, despite the skill penalty. The weapon used to bind may not be used to attack while binding or during the turn the trapped weapon is freed.
*Clipping (4 Raises):* This is an advanced form of the marking attack, in which the opponent is not harmed at all. The opponent’s hair, clothes, or other possessions are struck in such a way as to clearly state the attacker could have hurt him badly, but is so superior he does not have to. Some examples of the precision including lopping off an opponent’s top knot rather than his head, or carving your name into a breastplate instead of running him through. This is VERY intimidating. Clipping may not be performed as part of a Full Attack.
*Corps-a-Corps (1 Raise):* This attack attempts to jam both weapons together, allowing brute strength to become a dominant factor. If the attack succeeds, the attacker and opponent have momentarily locked weapons and are physically pushing against each other. The defender may either choose to disengage or struggle with the attacker. To disengage the defender rolls Agility + Defense with the TN equal to the attacker’s roll to Corps-a-Corps. If the roll fails it becomes a struggle. If the roll succeeds, the defender disengages successfully, receiving a Free Raise to strike the attacker on his next action. If the two struggle, make an opposed Strength + Hand-to-Hand (any type) Roll. The loser is thrown to the ground (prone), taking Wounds equal to the victor’s Strength. If the contest is close, the two remain locked together until the following turn. On continuing turns, each character has the option to struggle or disengage when they declare their action. If both characters declare “disengage” in the same turn they automatically disengage, losing all other actions that turn.
*Disarm (3 Raises):* A disarm attempts to knock a weapon (or item) from an opponent’s grasp. The opponent must roll his weapon skill + Strength (keeping weapon skill) with a TN of the attacker’s Disarm roll to retain control of his weapon. Failure results in the weapon being knocked (attacker’s Strength plus one die) feet away.
*Drive (1 Raise):* Rather than trying to hit the opponent, this attack is intended to force the opponent back, either away from some objective or on to unfavorable ground (or over a cliff or obstruction). If the attack succeeds, the opponent is forced back up to the attacker’s (Strength + Weapon Skill) feet. The defender must make an Agility + Athletics Roll with a TN of half (round down) the attacker’s roll to Drive to avoid tripping and becoming prone. If the opponent is aware of the dangerous nature of the area he is being driven into he may refuse to give way, in which case the attack damages him as if the raise to drive had been a raise for damage.
*Foul (4 Raises):* A foul is a modified driving attack in which the attacker strikes one opponent (doing normal damage) in such a way that the opponent then obstructs another attacker. At least one opponent must come after the attack in the initiative order for this action to be effective. This attack is very effective against swarming opponents (such as goblins), allowing the attacker to hit one opponent (at great difficulty) and avoid a second.
*Mark (2 Raises):* A marking attack is a blow that does no real damage but bloodies the opponent. Suitable to contests to “first blood” or mocking an opponent. In duels and friendly contests, successful marking shows both discretion and skill. Mark may not be performed as part of a Full Attack.
*Point-to-throat (4 Raises):* This attack achieves the classic “point resting against something delicate” instead of doing damage. If the opponent attacks or makes any sudden movements, the attacker immediately gets a simultaneous attack with four Free Raises (both actions resolve together. If the threatened person declares Full Defense, determine the TN bonus before completing the attacker’s extra action). Now would be a good time to talk. Point-to-throat may not be performed as part of a Full Attack.
*Subdue (2 Raises):* The damage roll from a subduing attack suffers -1k0, and will never reduce an opponent below the Out Wound Rank. Subdue may not be performed as part of a Full Attack.