Legend of the Five Rings Character Generation

This guide to creating an L5R character assumes that the person wishing to do so has some conception of what a roleplaying game is, as well as a character concept. Remember that a character is more than stats and advantages. Numbers don't make the character, you make the character.

Step One: Choose a Clan

The currently possible clans to choose from can be found either in the L5R RPG, or back at the Clans section. Each Clan choice confers upon the character a different worldview and choice of family benefits and schools to attend. Also possible is the choice of playing a ronin, a character with no clan. For rules on creating a ronin character, please refer to my reprinting of The Process For Generating A Ronin Character.

Step Two: Choose a Family

The currently possible families to choose from can be be found either in the L5R RPG, the Way of the ... Sourcebooks, back at the Families section. Each family within a clan confers a different trait bonus at character generation, so choosing a family has a great initial effect on your character. Choose carefully, and please refer to the appropriate Way of the ... Sourcebook to examine the history of each family and how that should play into your character.

Step Three: Choose a School

Unless you decide to take the Different School Advantage, your character must attend one of his Clan's Schools, though not necessarily his own family's one. It's possible for a character who is an Agasha (a shugenja family within the Dragon) to attend the Mirumoto Bushi School with intent to be a warrior, but the player should have a good reason as to why the character abandoned his family's traditional magical training. The School your character attends should be chosen with care, for only with the Multiple Schools Advantage can you change your School at a later time, so your character's possible Techniques and special abilities are defined at the outset, as well as what Skills they are going to get free. If choosing to make a shugenja character, your School choices may be a bit more limited, but still should be examined carefully. Most Clans have at least two different types of shugenja Schools. For the possible schools identified by Clan, refer to The Way of ... Sourcebooks, or the Schools section.

Step Four: Customize

It's at this point that your character gets interesting. You should have already received two different Trait bonuses for your family and your School, as well as a list of initial skills. Now you get to completely customize your character. To start with, a player should be aware that their character begins with all Traits at 2, initial skills and Honor defined by their school, and a Glory of 1. So a unbegun character's sheet would look something similar to this:

Fire Ring: 2


Air Ring: 2

    Agility: 2
    Intelligence: 2

    Reflexes: 2
    Awareness: 2

Earth Ring: 2

Water Ring: 2

    Stamina: 2
    Willpower: 2

    Strength: 2
    Perception: 2

Void Ring: 2

Honor: x and x boxes
Glory: 1 and 0 boxes

A newly begun character starts with 25 Character Points to customize their character. These points can be spent on Advantages, Skills, Ancestors, raising Traits, Honor, or Glory, rolls on the Heritage Tables (which I don't intend to ever make available here, sorry), and your points to spend can be increased by taking Disadvantages. A breakdown on point costs of different customizations at character generation follows:

Raising a Trait

-8 points
At character generation, a character may not increase a Trait by more than two. Additionally, a beginning character may not have any Trait above 4.

Raising a Skill

-1 point per level
At character generation, a character may not increase a skill by more than two (i.e. if a skill was conferred by a character's School at level 1, it may not be increased to more than 3, and a skill not given by School may not be raised to more than 2). If a character starts with a skill at level 1, it only costs two points to raise it to 3.

Raising the Void Ring

-12 points
As explained later in the discussion of Insight, Void is the only Ring that acts as a Trait. The Void Ring, similar to Traits, may not be increased by more than 2 at character generation.

Raising/Lowering Honor Ranks

-3/+2 points
Honor may only raised or lowered by one Rank at character generation. For a more in-depth discussion of what different Honor ranks mean for your character, please refer to the L5R RPG, but suffice to say that an Honor of 2 is a fairly standard one.

Raising Glory Ranks

-5 points
Be prepared to explain why your character is so famous if you raise your starting Glory.


- a number of points dependent upon the particular Advantages chosen


>+ a number of points dependent upon the particular Disadvantages chosen
There is a 10 point limit to Disadvantages


>+ or - a number of points dependent upon the Ancestor chosen
Generally, you may only purchase an Ancestor that is from your Clan. If you want another Clan's Ancestor, be prepared to back it up with exactly why you are related closely enough to the other Clan to have a kharmic tie with one of their Ancestors.

For reference, skills contribute to the number of dice rolled, and Traits contribute to the number of dice kept. For instance, a character with an Investigation of 3 and a Perception of 2 would roll 5 dice and keep 2 when examining a crime scene. Avoid the temptation of putting all your points into Traits. While keeping dice is good, the more dice to pick and choose from, the better.

Step Five: Calculate Insight

Insight determines what Rank your character is, and thus what Techniques within their School they are capable of using. To calculate your initial Insight, first look at your Rings. Your Rings are equal to the lower of the two Traits associated with them (i.e., if your Agility is 5 and your Intelligence is 2, your Fire Ring is 2), with the exception of the Void Ring. Add up all your Rings, and multiply by 10. Then add up all your Skills (a level 1 Skill counts for 1, a level 3 for 3), and add it to the number you obtained before. This is your Insight, and will change as your character gains Experience Points and you increase your Traits and skills during play.













Step Six: Calculate Wounds

Look at your Earth Ring. Multiply it by 2, and that is your number of wounds per Wound Level. Wound Levels go from 0 to -4, referring to how many dice you lose at that amount of damage, to Down, to Out, to Dead. Usually, a starting character will have an Earth Ring of 2, leading to Wound Levels of 4, meaning a total of 32 Wounds. Don't take more than that. That's when you die.

Congratulations! You have an L5R character!

A Sample of Character Generation

Even though I'm usually very prone to playing a Unicorn character, I decided to branch out for this example, and have chosen to create a Crab character.

This gives me the following choices for families: Hida, Hiruma, Kaiu, Kuni, and Yasuki.
Because I'm partial to female warriors, I've decided to have my character be a daughter of the Hida family, the premier fighters of the Crab Clan. This gives my character an initial Trait bonus of +1 Strength, as well as determining her last name. At this point, I think I'll name her. Hida Sachiko sounds like a decent choice. Female Japanese names often end in "ko," basically translating to girl. Sachi means happiness, or fortune, so Sachiko sounds like a good name for a girl. Especially considering what I intend for her character backstory if I ever use her. ;)

Now I want to decide on a School, which (this time, at least) is a fairly easy choice. The main bushi School of the Crab is the Hida Bushi School (what a name). The Hida Bushi School confers the following:

And this is the fun part. I have 25 points to play with.

I decide that the first thing I want to do is make Sachiko a somewhat unusual Crab. They aren't known generally for their intelligence or deftness, so I decide to dump 16 points in to raising her Intelligence and Agility to 3 each. I've already decided that her mother is actually a dainty Crane courtier, whose marriage to Sachiko's father was an arranged one.

With only 9 points left, I start looking for some Disadvantages to give me some more play room. I've chosen the following:

I've decided that Sachiko was born a delicate girl, whose mother desired her to be a courtier. Despite her natural grace, small size and her mother's coddling (hence her interest in origami), her father's wishes eventually overruled and Sachiko joined her older sister and two older brothers at the Hida Bushi School.

Having given her a few disadvantages, I start skimming the advantages to see if there's anything to even them out. The ones I chose:

I've pulled a little trickery here, and bought Benten's Blessing at the lower, Crane, cost. I've decided that Sachiko's Doji mother passed her beauty and grace to her youngest daughter, justifying the lower cost Blessing, as well as a natural sense of balance.

With her mother's early influence, I think Sachiko is more honorable than the usual Hida bushi. I spend 3 points to raise her Honor to 2.5. Only 7 points left. ;)

It's time to look at Skills. Examining the ones conferred by her school, I decide that Battle and Kenjutsu are the only two that I want to raise. Sachiko is squeamish enough to be repulsed by the Shadowlands and knowledge of it, even being a Crab. She's been an indifferent student of even the ono (war axe), the most "delicate" weapon that her Subojutsu skill applies to. I personally don't enjoy playing archer characters, and Sachiko's mother really disapproves of hand-to-hand fighting. I still might raise her Defense later, though. I raise her Battle to 3 to reflect her intelligence, and her Kenjutsu to 2. Sachiko's main source of enthusiasm for the blade stems from how kenjutsu can be likened to a dance, and Crab kenjutsu isn't the prettiest.

With a mere 4 points left to choose starting Skills with, I skimmed the list to find what was appropriate to round out what Sachiko knows.

I've got a really strange Crab Clan girl here (which is just what I wanted). Sachiko's mother taught her origami from a very early age, and Sachiko has kept up practicing how to create paper animals, even to the point of neglecting her military training. Anyone with a Crane mother should know some basic etiquette, and Sachiko's mother has taught her how to use and conceal a knife, the only weapon generally used by courtiers.

Now I double-check my points, since I should have used them all up, and I want to make sure that I haven't gone over.

25-16 (Trait bonuses) = 9
9+5 (Disadvantages) = 14
14-4 (Advantages) = 10
10-3 (Honor raise) = 7
7-7 (Skill bonuses) = 0


Now I have the information to calculate Sachiko's Insight:

Fire Ring: 3


Air Ring: 2

    Agility: 3
    Intelligence: 3

    Reflexes: 2
    Awareness: 2

Earth Ring: 2

Water Ring: 2

    Stamina: 3
    Willpower: 2

    Strength: 3
    Perception: 2

Void Ring: 2

  • Archery 1
  • Battle 3
  • Defense 1
  • Jiujutsu 1
  • Kenjutsu 2
  • Shadowlands Lore 1
  • Subojutsu 1
  • Origami 2
  • Etiquette 1
  • Knife 1

(3+2+2+2+2)x10 = 110
1+3+1+1+2+1+1+2+1+1 = 14
Total Insight = 110+14 = 124

Sachiko doesn't have very high Insight, but what do you expect of a girl who's spent a lot more time diddling around with her courtier mother than concentrating on her studies? There's plenty of time for her to advance once she gets booted out on her own.

Sachiko's Earth Ring is a 2, meaning her total Wounds figure out at (2x2)x8 = 32. She's a pretty wimpy Crab, but about average for the general inhabitant of Rokugan.

And there you go! Go forth, create characters, and enjoy your game and your character!