Thursday, June 30, 2011

Great Clans Preview: Akodo Kensai

Written By
Kakita Seigi

Welcome back to the Great Clan previews. Today, we'll be focusing on the Lion Clan preview, the Akodo Kensai. Also known as the “sword saints,” the Lion Kensai are the most traditional of all Lion warriors. Kensai practice the art of kenjutsu and iaijutsu with such pious fervor that they are known throughout Rokugan for having developed a supernatural connection with the katana. Many an onlooker has claimed that to watch a Lion Kensai handle a katana is to observe the most spectacular display of kenjutsu. And while many samurai consider the Kakita style to be the most preeminent form of swordplay, none can deny the potency of a Lion Kensai's skill with a sword. Indeed the Kensai's technique is both artistic and ritualized, developed over thousands of hours of training with kata until a Kensai can instinctively hear the beating "Heart of the Sword."

The Akodo Kensai was first introduced in the Third Edition of L5R RPG as an Advanced School. For Fourth Edition, Design has revamped the school to instead be a path. I'd like to take a moment to emphasize this important change. Paths in Fourth Edition aren't nearly as much alternate forms of study like they were in Third Edition, in which samurai could jump from one school to the next. Instead paths now reflect the rich diversity of styles across the dojos of a clan's major bushi schools. Thus, Design felt that the Lion Kensai would be best represented as the distinct traditionalist approach that Lion Bushi utilize, rather than representing a cohesive group of swordsmen like the Crane Kenshinzen or Dragon Swordsmaster.

Now as a path, the Akodo Kensai path replaces any Lion Bushi's Rank 4 technique. The technique offers two interesting advantages. The first bonus is a minor Armor TN bonus, which both the Akodo and Matsu Bushi lack. This obviously can be an useful advantage for any Lion Bushi trying to survive the carnage of combat; however, the bonus can only be used against the first melee attack each round and the bushi must be in the Attack stance, so the bonus isn't a blanket armor bonus and has some restrictions. The second ability, the heart of the technique, involves being able to activate a kata as a free action, once-per-skirmish. This ability can prove to be incredibly handy for Lion Bushi that need an immediate combat edge from kata. For practical purposes, this also means a Lion bushi can benefit from more than one kata per round, such as an Akodo Bushi using the Disappearing World Style on his first attack and then following up with Strength of Purity Style on his second attack.

The Akodo Kensai path is an excellent choice for Lion players that enjoy utilizing kata or want an additional defensive benefit. Though this path is not for everyone. The original Rank 4 techniques of both the Akodo and Matsu Bushi schools are still quite effective and more general, whereas the Akodo Kensai is more build-specific. For example, the high entry requirements of this path, which requires high skill ranks in both Iaijutsu and Kenjutsu will make the choice difficult for non-duelist characters. Also, Lion characters that favor using the Full Attack stance will find some less utility from this path.

New Alternate Path: Akodo Kensai [Bushi]
The samurai of the Lion Clan value tradition above all else, and many Lion warriors follow directly in the footsteps of their ancestors. While other weapons may be better suited for the battlefield, the katana remains the icon of samurai culture. The Akodo Kensai focuses exclusively on this weapon until he can overcome its deficiencies. He pours thousands of hours of practice into kata, kenjutsu, and iaijutsu until he has a profound connection with the weapon. When he is ready, the Kensai can move and attack as if the katana were a very part of his body. He strikes with almost supernatural ease, with a grace and beauty that enthralls any who watch him.

Technique Rank: 4
Replaces: Any Lion Bushi 4
Technique: The Heart of the Sword - The Akodo Kensai navigates the battlefield with his katana in his hands. He remains untouched by the enemies around him, for he can direct the flow of combat with his own attacks. While using a sword and in the Attack Stance, you may increase your Armor TN by your Honor Rank against the first melee attack each Combat Round. Additionally, once per skirmish you may activate a Kata as a Free Action.

Sample NPC
Akodo Kazutoshi - Vengeful Kensai
Kazutoshi was a child prodigy, a spitting image of his father. For most of his young adult life, he displayed remarkable talent as a swordsmen and continually honed both his body and blade to a razor-edge. His friends and family had often noted that one day Kazutoshi would became a great sensei of the Akodo Bushi school like his father Akio, teaching the art of the blade to the next generation of Akodo.

However, that was before his fateful encounter with Moto Yesugei during the Battle of Toshi Ranbo. Although Yesugei was a grizzled Moto well past his prime, Yesugei single-handedly crushed Kazutoshi and his squadron. Yesugei cut down every Lion in the unit, sparing no one save Kazutoshi. Kazutoshi bristled at the injustice of not being given a proper samurai's death, but Yesugei only responded "a life for a life."

At that moment, something terrible awoke in Kazutoshi's soul. A sleeping Lion was aroused to ferocious fury and it demanded retribution. Many of Kazutoshi's friends have now become anxious at Kazutoshi's vicious actions during the Fall of Shiro Moto. Kazutoshi's sole goal is to defeat his nemesis in honorable single combat... or die trying. Any Unicorn who stood in his way has been crushed ruthlessly.

Unfortunately Kazutoshi chafes at his inability to best Yesugei. Kazutoshi has now lost a total of three duels to the old man, each time being spared by the Moto. Kazutoshi has now begun to despair of ever defeating Yesugei and Kazutoshi's quest has become all the more sardonic now, since Kazutoshi must serve side-by-side as comrades with Yesugei during the Destroyer War. Kazutoshi still hopes to triumph over his rival, but Kazutoshi has come to begrudgingly respect Yesugei. Time will time tell whether Kazutoshi ever gets the chance to fight the Moto again. And if he does, will Kazutoshi still have the resolve to slay the old Moto, especially now that the Moto is finally showing signs of old age?

Akodo Kazutoshi
School/Rank: Akodo Bushi 4 (Akodo Kensai)
Air: 3 -Reflexes: 4
Earth: 3
Fire: 4 - Agility 5
Water: 3 -Perception: 4
Void: 4
Glory: 3.7
Status: 3.2 (Gunso)
Honor: 7.1

Skills: Athletics 4, Battle (Mass Combat) 5, Defense 3, Etiquette (Courtesy) 3, Iaijutsu (Assessment, Focus, Strike) 5, Kenjutsu (Katana) 7, Kyujutsu 3, Lore: Bushido 4, Lore: History 3, Sincerity (Honesty) 2

Techniques: The Way of the Lion, Strength of Purity, Strength of My Ancestors, The Heart of the Sword
Kata: Disappearing World Style, Striking as Water, Strength of Purity Style

Advantages: Ally: Moto Yesugei (Inf. 2, Dev. 4), Heart of Vengeance (Unicorn), Prodigy, Virtuous
Disadvantages: Driven: Regain His Pride, Idealistic, Sworn Enemy (Moto Yesugei, 8 - includes nemesis)


  1. Honestly a bit disappointed in this as I was hoping & (my own fault) expecting that this would be an advanced school as in the previous edition.

    Unless we have another advanced school I am not aware of (am still waiting for EE PDF) I don't believe Bushi Lion players have access to a gender neutral advanced school (Lion's Pride is for female bushi, unless the totally unknown Son's of the Pride is allowed.) This would have been perfect for Lion Bushi players.

    Second the Path could have been more similar to the previous version of the Kensai School. Why the sudden Iaijutsu requirement? Especially as this was a Kenjutsu focused path/school. The bonus to the Armour TN instead of the Initiative boost the Kensai previously gave is a bit off-putting. Lion bushi don't have access to either Armour or Initiative boosts and initiative would have been closer to the previous version. (Re-reading, my post this especially doesn't make sense when you've given the Kensai an emphasis in Iaijutsu which would make the school faster IMO).

    The Kata portion of the Path sounds decent but am a bit disappointed at it only being once per skirmish (Second switch and beyond should have been allowed with a void point) and nothing to affect the price/requirements of purchasing kata which this school depends on (Lower the cost or Lower the requirements to purchase kata by one.)

    Looking back the above might be a bit much for a single path but then again I did favour Kensai being an advanced school after all...

    Sorry if I'm ranting a bit but I liked the Kensai school and was working towards a home-ruled one in my current game. The GM and I was planning to switch over to the Official one when it released but I think I'll ask if I can just use the Home-ruled one currently.

    Note: Posting this here as well as in the Forums.

  2. I think you and your GM should give it a try. You may find it fun. But in the grand scheme of things it is understandable to not find it appealing.

    I do think the Iaijutsu aspect adds to it because of the importances of dueling. It doesn't make the Kensai comparable to the Crane and Dragon but the focus it places on dueling will make them overall better than the average bushi from other clans.

  3. I will probably test it out a bit in a few test skirmishes and weigh it against the Home-brew Schools and to be fair it does sound better then the Akodo Rank 4 currently but...

    The 4E version of the Kensai seems to be going against much of the fluff and a fair bit of the spirit of the mechanics of the 3E, which is what I was initially imagining my character to be like. Kensai = Lion Kenjutsu answer to Crane Kenshinzen.

    I have already stated my view on the inclusion of Iaijutsu (Why the Kenshinzen don't have a similar requirement for Kenjutsu despite the importance of fighting...) but will there be any support for this addition? Namely Kata's?

    See another part of the fluff for Kensai was being the Kata master. However there was a wider variety of Katas in the previous edition (Fair enough can't expect you guys to have everything in a few initial books.)

    The Kensai have always been in an unusual position in my view in that they have to pay additional experience and meet requirements to fulfill their focus: Kata. That is the School's/Path's strength and weakness.

    Will there be a Kata to take advantage of that Iaijutsu skill and place the Kensai as being below Crane/Dragon but above other clans? Will there be any Kensai exclusive Kata to highlight their position as Kata masters?

  4. Adding question to the Aoshi's:

    I miss a lot a mechanic like the Dojos in 3rd. Just little things, but that may cause an interily different perception about the mechanics in given School. And I guess I'm the onlyone that doesn't miss the Vassal Families.

    BTW, I've great curiosity about the reach rules in p. 202 of 4th's basic. How use that in maps? I tried the squarexsquare mechanic, a lot like D&D... And was a mess. Any hint?

  5. Well to be fair to the Kenshinzen he doesn't need Kenjutsu. He's a duelist and not all duelist need to worry about serving in an army or having to fight in skirmishes. Some may, but I find it unlikely the average star of the Kakita Dueling Academy finds themselves in to many battles.

    The Kensai on the other hand, being a bushi, should expect to find himself in a duel or two. Thus it's a good bonus for them since it makes them focus on an aspect of bushi life that should come up at least once or twice.

    YMMV of course.

    I can't answer the question on Kata's though.

    As for the mechanics, 4th Edition is attempting to walk away from all the mechanical glut that was in 3rd Edition. I know some people liked the little things but other people didn't and in the end it did become a mess to balance it all and keep it all straight.

    As fo the reach rules, I'd have to consider that one. As a GM I don't use them all that often and don't even bother with squars or hexes or anything like that. Not my style I suppose.

  6. First off Dace, I'd like to say thank you for replying to my comments here, I really appreciate it. I apologize if I seem to be harping on about it but I think the Kensai has become a red flag for me in this edition. That being most of 4E has otherwise been great so you and the RPG team are definitely ahead of the game.

    Onto the Kenshinzen not needing Kenjutsu. I used to agree with you (and the traditionalist in me who likes only change minimum change necessary to fluff/focus between editions still does.) but Okuma's post on page 3 of the preview thread for "The Great Clan's" got me thinking. Is a Kenshinzen *expected* to win every duel on the first strike? or only fight in first blood ones? I would expect that even a Kenshinzen could expect some death duels to go to a skirmish phase. Similarly this does deal a blow to the image of Kenshinzen duelists hunting the enemy commanders on a mass battlefield, which was the usual Crane strategy. Do they duel every warrior who heads towards them?

    I appreciate the fact that you can't respond about the katas, but could you please take this comment/feedback to the RPG-Team for me: The Kensai will only be as good as the katas available to it. For it to be a success it needs good katas. Without those it will be sub-par. The fluff of the path as kata masters also needs some backing up in terms of unique katas for this path (In My Opinion)

    Regarding glut, on one hand I can appreciate want to keep mechanics glut low on the other the RPG-Team and I simply have a fundamental disagreement on the Kensai being a Path or Advanced School. I appreciate the fact that the RPG-Team is not going to just change it's mind but feedback should still be passed I feel.

    One other feedback/comment I'd like to make is that currently the Lion Clan have perhaps the most restrictive Advance School out there. While I personally felt the Kensai should have been the more open advance school as an alternative for bush, is there anything in the pipeline for a more open Advance School for the Lion?

    Typing out the last para made me realise that I might just be one of your more difficult customers, I adore the fluff and wish it to be backed up by mechanics. Which is partly why I love the Lion's Pride but don't want to play a male version of it or why I love the Kenasi and wish to see it match the fluff of being kata masters or answer to the Kenshinzen. Hope you'll forgive me :)

  7. Nah you're not harping. I mean I moderate the AEG forums after all. :). And your concerns are understandable. Not everyone is going to feel the same way about changes made to their old favorites.

    Onto the Kenshinzen. Well I'm of the mindset that a good one will outright kill his opponent. On the chance that he doesn't kill him I would like to think that the wound penalties from the strike should be enough to royally hinder his opponents ability to fight back.

    Thus a few ranks of Kenjustu are likely needed for that, but not as heavily as the average bushi. As for the age old Crane tactic of the Kenshinzen challenging the enemy leader, I kinda always pictured it as a bunch of Daidoji laying down their lives so that the Kakita can make it to the general and challenge him.

    Such a Kenshinzen would of course have a higher kenjutsu because he likely often finds himself on the field of battle.

    But overall I still kinda consider kenjutsu as not that important to a Kenshinzen.

    As for passing on your feedback, will do. But also keep in mind Shawn has a new article (I think I've blogged about it once) that looks to be a good way for you to voice that opinion directly to DT itself. So you may not need me to be your middle man.

    As for Lion Advanced Schools, well thats not a question I can answer at this time.

  8. Thanks Dace, as far as the feedback thing goes, you got me to ask to email me my old password and account name back to respond to Shawn's Column I just added a whopper of an Opening post in a thread responding to Shawn's Column, short of a summary of my posts on this and the AEG forum so hopefully the DT'll will receive that feedback and I can continue this with them...those poor poor people... :)