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.
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?
School/Rank: Akodo Bushi 4 (Akodo Kensai)
Air: 3 -Reflexes: 4
Fire: 4 - Agility 5
Water: 3 -Perception: 4
Status: 3.2 (Gunso)
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)