Before I get into the rules changes we are making for Emperor Edition I want to take a minute to speak as to why we are making changes. Over the past few arcs, there have been rules changes every arc, most of them have improved the game. However, continual changes every arc is a trend I would like to end. We are making these rules changes to Emperor Edition in hopes of not having to make any more changes in subsequent arcs, or at least putting ourselves in the position of making the minimum number of changes required. This will give L5R some stability from one arc to the next, something I am sure L5R players will enjoy. Some of these you may already be aware of but they are included here for completeness.
So with that, here are the rules changes coming to L5R with Emperor Edition
Dragon does not start with the favor
A benefit from winning the Race for the Throne mega game, this was a benefit for Celestial Edition and it will not carry on to Emperor Edition.
Death from 0 chi will not be negated
A relatively minor change, by making death from 0 chi immune to negation, the confusion of personalities walking around with 0 chi will be over.
Required targeting is now listed in the constraints block
One of the more significant changes, by putting all mandatory targeting in the constraints block of an action, it creates a clearly separated effects block, making L5R easier than ever for players, new and old, to understand how cards work. This does affect both Melee and Ranged Attacks, as their targeting, starting with Emperor will be optional. So they will now read “You may target an enemy Follower or Personality without Followers…”
Dueling and Duelist
Two more major rules changes are dueling are the duelist keyword. The focus pool is going away, being replaced by the ability to, four times per duel, focus from your hand or from the top of your deck (without looking at it first if from your deck, though you may look at it after you have focused it). The rules for the duelist keyword are also changing. Now a duelist will win ties against non-duelist personalities and, once per duel, before focus effects resolve, may discard one of their focused cards and focus a different card instead.
So why the changes. While we may have become accustomed to the current dueling rules and focus pools, they are not as smooth as they should be. First you have to put your hand down and form a new hand of three cards. Then you have to decide if you want to focus and, if you do, what card you wish to focus, which may require you to put your focus pool down and pick your hand back up. This back and forth between two hands is a clunky mechanic. Then, when you are done with this, you need to decide in which order to put the cards back on the bottom of your deck. And you had to go through this process whether or not you ever wanted to actually duel. So even if you simply wanted to strike and move on to the next action, you had a little chunk of work to get there. Now, if you know you don’t want to duel, you simply say strike and move on to the next action immediately. Not having to go through a 30 second process does add up to a significant amount of time over the course of several duels in a battle.
The change to the duelist keyword helps resolve a few different issues that the current rules creates. First, the current rules create a situation where having good chi is not a defense in a duel. Starting 2 or 3 chi ahead of your opponent is often irrelevant. This has often lead to some random 3 chi duelist taking down Clan Champions. Under the new rules this is fixed and having a high chi is a benefit. Second, the current rules allow a situation where the duel is not just the ends, but also the means. Using the current system, decks have often abused Focus Effects thanks to the guarantee that you will focus first. In Lotus Edition, this was abused to unprecedented levels where Focus Effects often times would get you a significant part of the way to your victory condition, be it through honor gains or card draw. This created a situation where we had to print less duels and weaker Focus Effects. Under the new system, this will no longer be an issue. Finally, the old system created a situation where having a lower chi was more beneficial than having a higher chi, which simply does not feel right in an iaijutsu contest.
With these changes to dueling, we strive to maintain the enjoyment dueling players get out of duels, and in fact improve upon that now that we are free to print more duels, as well as making dueling a more enjoyable experience to non-dueling decks. You may still lose the duel, but at least you can just say “Strike” and move on to your action, instead of having to cycle the top three cards of your deck to the bottom while you wait for your opponent to figure out what Focus Effect he wants to resolve.
The Divine Child Empress Iweko I has decreed that the Spider shall go forth and conquer in her name. With this decree comes a new mechanical benefit. The Conqueror keyword is going to mostly be the domain of the Spider, though it may appear in other clans as well. It is a rule book ability which will allow you to, once per turn, straighten a unit after a battle resolution has ended, much like the card Spearhead.
Melee Attacks will function identically to Ranged Attacks, however they will be mechanically distinct. This means cards which modify Ranged Attacks will not affect Melee Attacks and vice versa. The reason for this distinction is two fold. First, it gives us some design space to work with. Second, and more importantly, it allows for a distinction when the flavor requires one. When a Kensai cuts you with his sword, or a Monk punches you in the chest, or a Berserker crushes your skull in his fist, it does not make sense to call it a Ranged Attack. Previously our only alternative was to write the entire mechanic out long hand, which was far from desirable.
Seppuku is undergoing two changes in Emperor Edition. First, Shugenja will now be allowed to use the Seppuku action, as they are a part of the Samurai caste just like Courtiers. Second, the Seppuku action is changing completely. The ability will now allow you to, as an Open action any number of times per turn, rehonor and destroy your dishonorable personality. The reason for this change is to fix the inherent flaws of the old rule. It is something most people realized even if they were unaware of it. Because a dishonor deck was forced to deal with Samurai and Courtiers who could actively fight their victory condition, reducing honor losses to 1, they had to be given the tools to fight these decks. This created a situation where when a deck didn’t have the ability to commit Seppuku, such as Monks or Berserkers, they didn’t stand a chance. So, to give them a chance, we had to create cards such to help them in that match. Then we had to give dishonor cards to help fight off decks who played all this dishonor meta we had to create. This cycle went back and forth and was all because of the inherent flaw of the Seppuku action. With this flaw fixed, we will be able to create a dishonor deck which is not in a feast or famine situation in most of its games. This will also create a more interesting and dynamic dishonor match for non-dishonor decks.
The Equip action will retain the ability it has always had, but it is now gaining a second ability. Any number of times per turn you may attach a spell to one of your unbowed opposed Shugenja as a Battle action and then you will get an additional Battle action to use that spell. Celestial Edition was the first arc where battle spell decks were truly playable. City of Tears was a big reason for this, but it had some inherent flaws. First, it was a Phoenix stronghold, so every clan who was not Phoenix in Celestial still had a difficult time playing with spells in battle. Second, it allowed you to attach spells to bowed Shugenja, so a bowed Shugenja could wipe out an entire enemy army. Third, you could attach spells to unopposed Shugenja, which led to situations where you just “bought” provinces, paying gold to attach spells with force bonuses, allowing you to take the province and retaining the abilities on the spell for a future turn. This last outcome can be ok if you choose to put cards in your deck that allow you to attach in battle, but is less ok when it is just a mass benefit for your stronghold. With the new Equip action, all three of these problems are addressed which will allow non-City of Tears Shugenja decks to thrive in ways they have never been able to in the game’s history.
An old favorite, just streamlined. The once per turn honor gain has now turned into the Proclaim Reaction with one minor tweak, it only gains honor equal to base personal honor. The old rule actually had an odd hiccup in it, where it gained honor for your personality after he entered play, but it was based on his personal honor before he entered play. The best solution to fix this was to gain honor based on their base personal honor after they enter play. By introducing the Proclaim action, we not only streamline the process but we also open up design space for future cards.
Clan Discount and Ignoring Honor Requirements
Now all rules for bringing people into play, except Proclaim, apply at all times, meaning you can apply your clan discount and pay extra gold to ignore honor requirements any time you bring someone of your clan into play. This change was made to simply be more intuitive.
Creating units for Rule of Presence and Location
A revert back to the ways of old, bringing a personality into play will now satisfy the rules of presence and location. Again, this is simply a more intuitive approach.
Overlaying personalities is changing in two ways. First, we are removing the cost requirement if overlaying more than one experienced level. This is simply not that relevant anymore. Second, we are removing the inheritance of abilities. L5R has lots of little outdated, sometimes pointless, rules which can seem never ending to a new player. This is one of those many minutiae which leads to more complication. Our goal is to keep the complexity and remove the complication, and this is one step towards that.
Dishonor and Enlightenment
Dishonor and Enlightenment will no longer be instantaneous victory conditions. A player will win if he begins his turn with all five rings in play (if they were last played by their own text). Any time a player reaches -20 or less honor, he loses after his next End Phase. Both of these changes are made to alleviate the frustrations and feelings of helplessness that come with instantaneous victory conditions. Losing in the middle of battle when you have a billion force is not fun. Now you will always get that one last chance to try and take your opponent out before he can claim victory, regardless of his victory condition.
Keywords on abilities don’t move up
This was a rule that most players didn’t even know about, so it was decided to get rid of it entirely. In Celestial Edition, if a personality had an ability with a keyword (such as Chuda Atsuro’s Maho Reaction) that keyword actually moved up to the personality, giving him more keywords than most people knew about, often times leading to misplays when a card needed to know how many keywords a personality had.
There will no longer be a special rule for Events in the rulebook concerning the number you can have in your deck or the number you can resolve. Now Events will simply be unique, or even sometimes non-unique. This is another step towards getting rid of unnecessary complications in the rules.
Another unnecessary rules complication was the rule that a reaction may only react once per trigger. In fact, in all of Celestial Edition it only ever affected one thing, the Seppuku ability, as all other reactions were once per turn by default. Due to its now outdated nature, we are removing it.
Yet another unnecessary rules complication, strongholds have been cards which produce card effects, but could not be targeted by other cards unless they specifically targeted strongholds. What this meant was, if I had an ability which straightened temples, I could not use it to straighten Shrine of Champions, because it was a stronghold. This was another confusion to new and casual players, so it was removed.
That is it for the rules changes for Emperor Edition. As you can see there are quite a few but they are all made with two goals in mind. Make the game the best it can be and make it as attainable to new and casual players as possible. We truly believe that L5R is about to be the best it has ever been while simultaneously being as new player friendly as it has ever been.
One more thing to discuss before this article is done is the dishonor match up, both versus honor decks as well as versus high personal honor and low personal honor decks. We have been working on making these matches more balanced and so what you will see is scaling honor losses, frequently based on base personal honor. These will mostly deal with action phase honor losses. What this will do is scale the power of a dishonor player’s cards appropriately to the match he is fighting. If he is fighting against a high personal honor paragon deck, his cards will cause more honor losses. If he is fighting against low personal honor berserkers, his cards will cause less honor losses. In this way, a dishonor deck will keep appropriate pace with his opponent.
When fighting against a honor deck, a dishonor deck should have enough recurring honor losses to drop his opponent to -20 within 45 minutes, greatly reducing the number of times this match will be decided on a die roll. The honor deck will be given the tools to win a military game versus his dishonor opponent, using cards which will give him force, sometimes also based upon his base personal honor. While we understand that honor players may not like that they have to switch victory conditions, the harsh reality is honor and dishonor are mathematically opposing victory conditions. If they are balanced, the game will simply never end, or at least not within 45 minutes. One of the two conditions will need to switch victory conditions, and giving honor the tools to go military, scaling with their personal honor, fits perfectly with our new dishonor cards which also scale with personal honor.
I hope you have enjoyed this look into Emperor Edition and stay tuned to L5R.com for much more in the coming weeks.