Rokugan RPG fantasy setting conversion for D&DNext (preliminary thoughts)

Rokugan is my favourite oriental setting, and it has its own RPG rules system developed by AEG, therefore it won't ever have an official D&DNext version, but 5e is the system I'm looking forward to DM and play with in the following years. Therefore I just know that if I want to play a 5e game in Rokugan, it's inevitable I have to write my own conversion.

I won't really start until D&DNext is actually released and the core books are in my hands, but I have been gathering some preliminary thoughts about what to do. I don't know at this moment if I'll be allowed to share the conversion to the public.

In many ways, Rokugan and D&D don't go together well, at least because the latter is traditionally focused on exploration and combat while Rokugan has a lot more going on in the social environment. While that is also often part of a lot of D&D games, there are characters in Rokugan which are almost entirely designed around that. Furthermore, D&D combat is based on HP attrition, while Rokugan combat is more lethal, rather similar to save-or-die. Finally, the spellcasting system in Rokugan is significantly different from vancian magic.

Nevertheless, my own experience with Rokugan is entirely confined to its 3e/d20 version, so I'll be fine with recreating that unorthodox version of it.

You are welcome to comments on my thoughts and ideas!
 
Preliminary thoughts: essential setting elements

Here I'm rambling a bit about what are elements of the Rokugan fantasy setting that IMO need to be reflected in the converted rules, and generate some "design marks".

When I'll start making the actual conversion, I'll restrict myself to a "basic Rokugan campaign". What does that mean?

It means essentially to focus on the most iconic characters only, which is what typically you should start from in your first game in Rokugan. In the world of Rokugan, the norm for a player character is to hail from the Rokugani noble caste (let's call them "bushi" rather than "samurai" to avoid confusion with the Samurai class), and belong to either a Great Clan, a Minor Clan, an Imperial Family, or be a Ronin. Non-noble human characters (peasants or slaves), non-human characters and "gaijin" (foreigners) are not basic characters and interact very differently with everybody else.

Design mark #1: only the Human race in the basic campaign (Rokugani bushi)
Design mark #2: focus on Great Clans first, leave Minor Clans, Imperial Family and Ronin for a later stage

Furthermore, all bushi train with a School since young age, and normally stick with it forever; there is a stern division between martial schools (Samurai), magic schools (Shugenja), court schools (Courtiers) and monasteries (Monks). Almost everything that can be learned, has to be learned from a master, but masters don't "sell" training (money doesn't work for Rokugani bushi). There are options to learn specific things from another School or master, but there is no such thing as freely shifting from school to school or choosing to learn anything you want (in fact, it could almost be said that there is no individual freedom at all in Rokugan). This causes stern multiclassing restrictions between the main classes, however in d20 other classes work more like "service classes" that can be freely taken to complement the character mechanics, without the need to have a narrative meaning (example: you are a Samurai, you're trained in one specific martial School, mechanically you might be a Samurai/Fighter/Ranger/Barbarian if everything is appropriate to your School, narratively you're still just a Samurai of that School).

Design mark #3: only Samurai, Shugenja, Courtier and Monk classes needed in the basic campaign
Design mark #4: no multiclassing

Honor is essential for a Rokugan campaign, while Alignment is unimportant and mostly left as a roleplay aid. To make Honor a more tangible element of the game, an actual Honor rules system should be there. Fortunately, the d20 Honor system is pretty much plug-and-play and can probably be used in 5e with little or no adjustment.

Design mark #5: just reuse the d20 Honor system

Skills (anything non-martial and non-magical) are very important in Rokugan. The original d20 versions of the 4 main classes all had at least 4 skill points per level, so all human PCs could max out 5 skills minimum. D&DNext characters use broader skills than in 3e, and all have at least 4 of them, so maybe not much change is needed here. However the skills list need to be filtered for potentially dishonorable skills, and more Rokugani-specific skills need to be added. Backgrounds in 5e represent your "job" or "social role" when not adventuring, but all Rokugan basic PC are nobles, and don't have a "job"; most sample Backgrounds are inappropriate, and the few left would make the PC too rigid, thus it's best to go with the "pick your own skills" option.

Design mark #6: remove dishonorable (sub)skills from the list
Design mark #7: identify what iconic Rokugani skills are missing from the list
Design mark #8: no backgrounds, freely pick your trait+skills+tools

Clan, Family and Ancestor are Rokugan-specific choices essential in character design. Clan in d20 didn't grant benefits straightforward, but instead it determined what you can learn (feats, skills, spells, prestige classes etc.). The choice of Family typically determined your favored class (not applicable), an additional class skill or small skill bonus, and extra equipment. Your chosen Ancestor was your first level bonus feat, called an "Ancestor feat", which is something that each PC has one and only one (you had to pick one Ancestor feat at 1st level, you could never have another, and there is no other way to gain Ancestor feats); this means that despite being "feats" they are completely separate from all other feats in the game, hence there is no need to convert them into 5e feats, they can remain their own separate thing.

Design mark #8: there has to be plenty of clan-restricted character material (feats, spells, subclasses, equipment)
Design mark #9: Ancestor feats remain a separate subsystem

Magic in Rokugan works differently than in typical D&D. The Shugenja is the only PC class who does magic, which is a little bit of everything: magic is related to the spirit-based religion of Rokugan, so narratively the Shugenja is partly a Mage, partly a Cleric and partly a Druid. That's not a problem, anyway it's the only spellcasting class. But the spellcasting system used by the Legend of the Five Rings RPG is very different from vancian. The d20 version of the Shugenja used D&D spells and slots, but at least cast spells as a Sorcerer. What is most appropriate for 5e still needs to be thought out carefully.

Another thing that needs to be in, is Void Use, which is about supernatural deeds but potentially open to every character. In d20, most abilities related to Void Use were therefore feats. This may or may not be the best solution in D&DNext, I still have to think about it.

As a last remark, as long as a "basic Rokugan campaign" is concerned, there is no need to worry about less-than-straightforward characters, let's say "characters with issues" such as Ronin, Ninja, and tainted characters. The DM is definitely going to need something to represent Maho-Tsukai or Maho-Bujin and other adversaries, but these could be designed ad-hoc, without generalized rules for the time being.

...on second thoughts, probably Taint should be there already in the basic game. The d20 Taint system is probably good as-is except for the numbers involved, which might need some adaptation to fit bounded accuracy.

Design mark #10: reuse the d20 Taint system, with adjusted numbers
 
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Preliminary thoughts: Races

In a basic Rokugan campaign, your only possible choice of race is Human.

This causes one concern: what sense does it make if every PC has +1 to all abilities?

At the same time, the game needs for humans (and humans only, or more precisely non-foreign humans from the noble caste) to belong to one Clan, and to one Family of such clan. Also, each human needs to have an Ancestor, although this does not necessarily depend on Clan and Family.

So instead of adding these three choices, I will replace the +1 to all abilities with the choice of Clan, Family and Ancestor.

Clan in d20 does not grant immediate benefits, but typically determines which Schools you can choose to be trained at, which in turns "unlock" the option of picking certain feats, spells, special class abilities, prestige classes etc. This can pretty much work the same way in D&DNext.

Family in d20 determined the following:

- your favoured class: this doesn't work in 5e and is removed
- your starting honor range: this is based on the Honor system which can be ported as-is from d20
- one extra class skill: this can become one extra proficiency from a short list (there better be a choice, otherwise all PCs from the same family always have that skill); I'm thinking to make this more valuable, by allowing to gain skill expertise if you already have that skill proficiency
- some extra equipment: I'm undecided whether to keep this or remove

Ancestor in d20 is a feat, that can (and has to) be taken only at 1st level, and only 1 per PC. I think the best idea is to keep the d20 Ancestor feats as they are now, and each Human PC gets one. Ancestor feats that are inappropriate for 5e (e.g. those which break bounded accuracy) will either be adjusted or removed.

If this "package" is too weak overall, it might be considered to add some individual bonuses such as:

- bonus proficiencies on things other than skills
- still keep +1 to two ability scores of choice
 
Preliminary thoughts: Classes

As I mentioned in the previous post, I'll focus only on the 4 main classes of the game, and assume that there is no multiclassing between them (characters do multiclass into Monk at a certain age, but we can ignore that for now).

Samurai

Heavy focus on martial features and abilities, which means plenty of feats, and optionally maneuvers. HD and weapon/armor proficiencies can stay the same as in d20.

Significantly more skilled than Fighters, and definitely not just physical skills. But 5e PCs are all more skilled than in 3e, so just one class skill proficiency is probably enough.

The only unique feature in the d20 Samurai was the Ancestral Daisho, but it had an XP cost to increase its benefits, so it wasn't strictly required to. I think the best mechanical representation for this is to create a subclass: at every level where you get a subclass benefit, your Ancestral Daisho improves. The XP cost is removed, but it improves by level so in a sense it's quite the same, without the sour taste of reducing your XP.

"Service classes" of the Samurai in d20 were mainly the Fighter, Barbarian and (spell-less) Ranger. My favourite idea is to break down these classes, and turn them into subclasses of the Samurai. Some class features of the 5e Fighter might simply become class feature of the Samurai, but for instance Rage can be very much unique to a Berserker subclass, which in turn might be restricted to characters of the Unicorn clan or the Hida and Matsu families.

Battlemaster and Warrior subclasses are totally appropriate also as Samurai subclasses. Battlemaster's maneuvers however, seem perfect to be restricted by Clan.

Monk

Basically the core D&D Monk was used in d20 Rokugan, only with some more flexibility in the choice of class features. Very likely we can use the 5e Monk as-is, since that is also largely based on the 3e Monk.

The current 5e Monk subclasses Way of the Open Hand and Way of the Elements are also quite appropriate.

d20 Rokugan had another Monk-like class called Inkyo, to represent a more supernatural type of monks. This might be turned into a further subclass (it's not very "elemental" but more "void-oriented", but another option is to merge it with the Way of the Elements).

Finally, I never quite sorted out whether the Sohei is or isn't a proper Rokugan class. In d20 Oriental Adventures it's said it doesn't exist in Rokugan, while the d20 Rokugan Campaign Setting mentions it as a type of Monk. I would be positive about having the Sohei as a Monk subclass, but definitely without the spells it has in Oriental Adventures.

Courtier

This class is a hybrid between a Rogue and an Aristocrat, minus the combat sides of both. The basic math of the class can be replicated trivially, but the real "meat" is skills and special Courtier abilities.

This class in d20 is a skillful as a Rogue, but didn't have physical skills in its class list. In D&DNext skills are largely individual rather than derived from class, while skillful classes (Rogue, Bard and Ranger) get 2-3 more skill proficiencies than anybody else, therefore this seems a must-have for the Courtier as well (with appropriate choices for the bonus skills list).

There is a handful of Courtier class abilities in d20 but not all of them are essential: IMHO the most interesting one is Gossip, the others may be retained or replaced by something else. But besides those common Courtier abilities, there are also the "special Courtier abilities" which are chosen, i.e. different to each character, and which ones you can choose depend on your Clan. Because of this 'selectability' and the restrictions by Clan, special Courtier abilities play a role similar to the Samurai's technique feats (and eventually maneuvers) and the Shugenja's spells, which makes them a must-have. Luckily, because they are a separate system, they don't need to be converted, they can just stay as they are, provided that whichever of them breaks bounded accuracy is removed or adjusted.

As for subclasses, we might try to fit a Bard~ish idea under the Courtier, particularly for providing inspiration benefits, but it should probably not be magical.

Shugenja

Definitely the most difficult of the bunch to adapt to D&DNext! The class math and general structure is not an issue, but the spellcasting system is.

I am actually not familiar with the magic system of L5R other than its d20 adaptation, which according to many was not appropriate enough: the Shugenja was basically a 3e Sorcerer (daily slots, fixed number of spells known, no need for preparation), but there is no such character in 5e where every spellcaster has to prepare spells in advance, so it's probably even further away from how magic is supposed to work in Rokugan.

Nevertheless, it might work to just use 5e spellcasting system. The alternative is to port a system from any other edition of L5R, but this may or may not fit with the rest of D&DNext.

Prestige Classes

May not be needed for a "basic Rokugan campaign", but at least let's take a look forward...

There were lots of PrCls in Rokugan d20, the majority of which represented training with a specific group, and were therefore restricted by Clan, but usually there is a much stronger emphasis on the narrative of becoming a member of a PrCl compared to standard D&D.

Anyway, older d20 Rokugan prestige classes can be converted into D&DNext in at least the following ways:

- feat chains
- subclasses
- 3e-like prestige classes

These are the main implication of choosing each approach:

As a feat chain, this means
(a) it's generally available to all base classes, but some classes may advance faster than others
(b) minimum character level to enter is 4th
(c) benefits are scattered over distant (fixed) levels
(d) possible to pace advancement only more slowly
(e) possible to take multiple prestige classes

As a subclass, this means
(a) it's available only to one class
(b) it has to start when the subclass starts, usually 2nd or 3rd, not later
(c) benefits are scattered over distant (fixed) levels
(d) advancement is automatic, pace is fixed
(e) only one prestige class is possible (unless the option of mixing multiple subclasses is allowed)

As a 3e-like prestige class, this means
(a) it's available to whatever classes have access to the requirements
(b) there might be an implied minimum level, but otherwise can start at any level
(c) benefits are achieved quickly, at consecutive levels
(d) advancement is freely paced
(e) possible to take multiple prestige classes

I really think that there is no one-size-fits-all, therefore all three approaches should be used, the best one depends on the specific prestige class to convert.
 
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Preliminary thoughts: Combat

In Rokugan, combat (particularly duels) is usually expected to be fast and deadly, while D&D generally treats combat as a matter of attrition, gradually decreasing each other's HP.

I don't want to change how combat works in D&DNext. I like its simplicity, I like how "theatre of the mind" (i.e. without keeping precise track of distances and positions) is much easier than in the previous 2 editions, and anyway changing combat rules can have lots of consequences on balance and other areas of the games. Overall, a lot of work I'd rather avoid.

However, D&DNext description of combat, damage and HP, seems to suggest to treat most damage as minor physical wounds and wear, or even fatigue, and to think that only strikes that drop to negative HP are "real" wounds. This might play in our favor, because if we adhere to this descriptive practice, we can imagine a fight in Rokugan being a matter of parrying and dodging, except that when an attack "hits" this means your defenses are worn down and you get closer to receiving that one hit that defeats you (or simply, the probability of losing the fight increases every time an attack gets "too close", even if we still describe a "hit" as a parry, dodge or perhaps cutting your hair and clothes).

Duels

While regular 5e combat rules might be fine after all when fighting monsters, duels are a little bit different.

In d20 Rokugan there are Iaijutsu rules for duels. They are supposed to significantly increase the chance of winning with your first strike. They don't always work, because even tho you get a huge damage bonus on your first strike (if you succeed at striking first!), the opponent's HP are normally more. It's very similar in magnitude to Sneak Attack, except that how much extra damage you deal depends on a skill check, and Sneak Attack definitely doesn't always kill an opponent in one blow.

Of course not every duel is to the death, many are to first blood, in which case the exact damage dealt is irrelevant, so the d20 Iaijutsu rules are still ok.

Still, I think it's worth starting off by trying to use the old d20 Iaijutsu rules for duels also in case of duels to the death, even if that means a few rounds of combat are usually due, which isn't exactly very "quick and deadly".

These are the needed adjustments:

- The d20 Iaijutsu rules are governed by a skill called Iaijutsu Focus. At first thought, we might just add this to the list of 5e skills, however the bounded accuracy of skills proficiency bonus might be a problem. This skill is not used for challenges against a DC, so what really matters is the relative difference with your opponent's bonus (i.e. your chance of striking first). There are supposed to be quite large differences between someone completely untrained and a master, and the bounded accuracy probably doesn't capture that. Still, there might be other ways to represent mastery, e.g. a Samurai subclass Iaijutsu Master (converted from the original PrCl) might get an additional bonus to Iaijutsu Focus, a feat might grant Expertise to Iaijutsu Focus, and so on.

- The absolute result of your Iaijutsu Focus determines the bonus damage (only if you do win the contest of striking first). In d20 Rokugan this damage can also be used in a regular fight if you catch an opponent flat-footed, so it has to be decided if we want something similar in 5e or if we only want this to work in a duel. In any case, the actual table for extra damage based on your skill check result certainly needs adjustment since the skill bonus/rank doesn't grow as high as in d20.
 
Preliminary thoughts: feats in general

Some more thoughts about how to deal with feats, especially since d20 Rokugan has an immense material when it comes to feats... it would be great to be able to use them without too much work! But very clearly, feats in D&DNext are bigger, something between twice and three times the size of 3e feats.

One existing problem I already mentioned, is how to represent Void Use, which in d20 Rokugan is a large feats tree: the first feat gives you the ability to spend void points for basic uses, after that there's plenty of feats granting additional uses of void points or increased benefits for previous uses. Every character can potentially acquire these feats.

Another problem is martial arts feats. I would rather have these exclusives to Monks, so that Samurai have techniques and maneuvers, Shugenja have spells, Courtiers have special courtier abilities, and Monks have martial arts. All of these can sometimes be common and some other times Clan-exclusive.

It might be possible to salvage all these d20 feats (well, not all since we still have to purge the lists from feats which break bounded accuracy), so here's a very simple idea...

...how about if, every time a 5e Rokugan character can acquire a feat or +1 in two ability scores, she can either:

- gain a 5e feat
- gain +1 in two ability scores
- gain two 3e feats
- gain +1 in one ability score and one 3e feat

This would allow to both use all 5e feats (excluding those thematically inappropriate to Rokugan) and all 3e Rokugan feats (excluding those mechanically inappropriate to 5e).

I.e., we don't really need to worry about converting lots of smaller d20 feats into larger 5e feats!
 
Preliminary thoughts: Skills and Tools

No reason to rush this task, since the whole 5e list of Skills and (especially) Tools might not be finalized yet.

What is almost certainly final, is that skills in 5e are less and therefore slightly more encompassing than 3e skills, that the choice of skills and tools proficiencies is almost completely free (no cross-class skills at double price, no restricted skills), that the general philosophy of 5e is "everybody can try anything" (but some exceptions might happen with tools), and that the total bonus is limited to +12 if you can get both proficiency and expertise.

As a matter of fact, skills in Rokugan are important distinguishing features of the characters. I don't think the idea "you can try anyway" works well in Rokugan... you don't "try" in Rokugan, you are supposed to excel at something or have someone else do it for you. It's not a problem for skills used in adventuring (such as Perception, Athletics but also Knowledge), it's really only a problem with skills used in society, particularly in court. For those, I think the idea of expertise should be leveraged, and so it should be available via feats or (sub)class features.

Besides that, Rokugan needs more skills than the core list. On the top of my head, skills such as Craft (for artistic purposes) and Geography (possibly region-specific) would be nice to have, as well as some Rokugan-unique skills such as Battle, Tea Ceremony and the already mentioned Iaijutsu Focus. Knowledge skills are a bit messy, there were too many in Rokugan, often overlapping (even Arcana and Religion are in a sense the same thing in Rokugan).

Finally, some skills/tools such as Deception, Animal Handling, Sleight of Hand, Thieve's Tools and even Medicine are sometimes (if not always) dishonorable, and should be either removed from the list, or care should be taken by the players to use them only honorably.
 
First sanity checks with D&D 5e Basic

Now that the Basic Rules are finalized and released, I can get a better opinion on what I need to do for this conversion work!

Here are a couple of topics with easy resolution: the skills list and the human race. These are still preliminary thoughts, nothing set in stone yet.

Design mark #6: remove dishonorable (sub)skills from the list
The current list of skills in Basic is:

Acrobatics
Animal Handling
Arcana
Athletics
Deception*
History
Insight
Intimidation
Investigation
Medicine*
Nature
Perception
Performance
Persuasion
Religion
Sleight of Hand*
Stealth
Survival

Skills marked with * are most of the time dishonorable, but I am reluctant to remove them from the list. At least Scorpion characters are very likely to train in Deception anyway, and Sleight of Hand may have some uses that aren't dishonorable after all. Maybe the best is just leave all these, and just adjudicate (dis)honorable usage only during the action itself.

Unlike the skills list, the current list of tools may not be complete. Anyway many of these are going to be mostly dishonorable: disguise kit, forgery kit, poisoner's kit, thieves' tools certainly are, as well as all artisan's tools related to low crafts, but even these could be honorable when used "artistically". At least the following should be allowed:

Alchemist's supplies
Calligrapher's supplies
Cartographer's tools
Cook's utensils
Glassblower's tools
Jeweler's tools
Painter's tools
Potter's tools
Smith's tools
Weaver's tools
Woodcarver's tools
Gaming sets
Herbalism kit*
Musical instruments
Navigator's tools*
Vehicles

* not completely sure but probably ok

Design mark #7: identify what iconic Rokugani skills are missing from the list
Some skills that I'm currently thinking about adding to the current list:

Battle
Bonsai*
Calligraphy*
Concentration
Etiquette (may fold with Persuasion)
Geography
Iaijutsu
Ikebana
Landscape Gardening*
Maho
Origami
Tea Ceremony*

Skills marked with * might be more appropriate as tools.

I have some issues with knowledge skills, because in Rokugan magic is religion and it's about the spirits of nature, hence Arcana ~ Nature ~ Religion aren't that different from each other.

Design mark #8: no backgrounds, freely pick your trait+skills+tools
Backgrounds in their final form grant:

- one feature
- two skills
- two tools or languages
- equipment package
- two traits, one ideal, one bond, one flaw (all optional)

The structure is sound, and will be used by characters in my conversion to pick their choices freely, instead of using predefined backgrounds.

The only problem is that at the moment most existing backgrounds features are inappropriate, because they rely on social relationships and ranks. These cannot be applied as written in Rokugan, where caste, clan, schools and family already establish relationships. It makes no sense for someone to have the "Rustic Hospitality" feature, when every PC is a noble and the common folk are supposed to obey to all nobles, or the "Military Rank" feature which is supposedly automatic to all samurai. "Researcher" is the only feature that is fine as-is, all the others at the very least need serious adjustments. I'll have to wait for the PHB to see if I have a decent amount of backgrounds to choose from.

So instead of adding these three choices, I will replace the +1 to all abilities with the choice of Clan, Family and Ancestor.
Good news that we got variant human traits in Basic, meaning that I can already check my preliminary idea against such option:

- +1 to two different ability scores
- one extra class skill
- one feat

Clan and honor in my proposal don't weight anything with regard to balance, so my original suggestion could have summed up as:

- +1 to two different ability scores
- one extra class skill or expertise
- one ancestor feat (imported from 3e)
- one more non-skill proficiency

We are remarkably close! The ancestor feat is worth half a 5e feat at best, so if by "non-skill proficiency" we actually mean a weapon, armor, tool or language proficiency (but not a saving throw, which is more valuable), then we might actually have a winner.

Note that both the skill and non-skill bonus proficiencies should be restricted by family which is an important narrative choice in Rokugan, but the choice of family should provide a short list, not a fixed choice.

Example: you choose the Kobayashi (made up) war-loving family for your PC, and this grants you the following:

- proficiency in either the Athletics, Battle, History or Intimidation skill (or expertise if you are already proficient)
- proficiency in either one weapon of choice, one armor type or shield, or land vehicles
 

Sanglorian

Explorer
Some skills that I'm currently thinking about adding to the current list:

Battle
Bonsai*
Calligraphy*
Concentration
Etiquette (may fold with Persuasion)
Geography
Iaijutsu
Ikebana
Landscape Gardening*
Maho
Origami
Tea Ceremony*

Skills marked with * might be more appropriate as tools.
I think Tool proficiency: Bonsai, landscaping rake, tea, origami paper are very cool, and work much better than skills. There's already a calligrapher's kit, from memory, so that won't require a skill.

Backgrounds in their final form grant:

- one feature
- two skills
- two tools or languages
- equipment package
- two traits, one ideal, one bond, one flaw (all optional)

The structure is sound, and will be used by characters in my conversion to pick their choices freely, instead of using predefined backgrounds.

The only problem is that at the moment most existing backgrounds features are inappropriate, because they rely on social relationships and ranks. These cannot be applied as written in Rokugan, where caste, clan, schools and family already establish relationships. It makes no sense for someone to have the "Rustic Hospitality" feature, when every PC is a noble and the common folk are supposed to obey to all nobles, or the "Military Rank" feature which is supposedly automatic to all samurai. "Researcher" is the only feature that is fine as-is, all the others at the very least need serious adjustments. I'll have to wait for the PHB to see if I have a decent amount of backgrounds to choose from.
What about having clans or families as backgrounds? That would fit well with different clans having different personality traits, flaws, bonds and ideals. And you mentioned that ancestor feats are self-contained - so why not make them ancestor features instead?
 
Thanks a lot for the comments :)

I think Tool proficiency: Bonsai, landscaping rake, tea, origami paper are very cool, and work much better than skills. There's already a calligrapher's kit, from memory, so that won't require a skill.
I am uncertain about whether they'd better be skills or tools. My guess is that you definitely need some tool for tending to a bonsai, landscaping a garden, or prepare tea. OTOH you don't need any tool for ikebana as far as I know. You may create origami from origami paper, but you can also improvise them with normal paper, and calligraphy may apply also to writing with carbon, chalk or even on the sand.

These are just thoughts. Truth is that it doesn't matter that much whether technically they are skills or tools, also because these are skills that are probably rarely used (except tea ceremony which has its own pseudo-magic effects in-game). But somehow I'll have to make a choice for presenting these options to the players.

What about having clans or families as backgrounds? That would fit well with different clans having different personality traits, flaws, bonds and ideals. And you mentioned that ancestor feats are self-contained - so why not make them ancestor features instead?
I thought about the first idea, but it won't work IMO because a background is a fixed set of proficiencies. I don't want all Cranes or all Daidoji family members to end up with exactly the same skills proficiencies. Well, they still get 2 skills from class, but my point is that I don't want everyone in a clan - which is thousands of people at least - to have those 2 skills + 2 tools or languages. I think it's too restrictive.

About ancestor feats, if you mean for them to replace the background's "feature", it's probably ok even tho typically the latter is a downtime benefit. As a general principle, I'd like to try and keep things as close as possible to 5e default rules, so if I find enough backgrounds with applicable feature, I would prefer to re-use those.
 

Sanglorian

Explorer
I am uncertain about whether they'd better be skills or tools. My guess is that you definitely need some tool for tending to a bonsai, landscaping a garden, or prepare tea. OTOH you don't need any tool for ikebana as far as I know. You may create origami from origami paper, but you can also improvise them with normal paper, and calligraphy may apply also to writing with carbon, chalk or even on the sand.

These are just thoughts. Truth is that it doesn't matter that much whether technically they are skills or tools, also because these are skills that are probably rarely used (except tea ceremony which has its own pseudo-magic effects in-game). But somehow I'll have to make a choice for presenting these options to the players.
I'm interpretting "tool" quite loosely - I think proficiency in a calligraphy kit should cover anything that's used to draw calligraphy - and I'd rule the same for origami paper. I guess my thought is that a skill is a fair bit bigger than a tool proficiency, and I'm not sure that Calligraphy or Bonsai could ever be the equal of Athletics or Perception - but they could definitely be competitive with proficiency in the lute or card games.

I thought about the first idea, but it won't work IMO because a background is a fixed set of proficiencies. I don't want all Cranes or all Daidoji family members to end up with exactly the same skills proficiencies. Well, they still get 2 skills from class, but my point is that I don't want everyone in a clan - which is thousands of people at least - to have those 2 skills + 2 tools or languages. I think it's too restrictive.

About ancestor feats, if you mean for them to replace the background's "feature", it's probably ok even tho typically the latter is a downtime benefit. As a general principle, I'd like to try and keep things as close as possible to 5e default rules, so if I find enough backgrounds with applicable feature, I would prefer to re-use those.
Why not present the Daidoji background but then let players swap out elements that they don't want for others? The Daidoji background could represent the archetypal Daidoji, but then there'd be variation. (You could even require something to be swapped out, so there is literally no one who exactly matches the archetype, everyone deviates from it in some way).

Yeah, I was thinking of ancestor feats replacing the feature. I'm not sure what they contain - aren't there some that provide out-of-combat benefits?
 
Why not present the Daidoji background but then let players swap out elements that they don't want for others? The Daidoji background could represent the archetypal Daidoji, but then there'd be variation. (You could even require something to be swapped out, so there is literally no one who exactly matches the archetype, everyone deviates from it in some way).
It might work if saying e.g. that each clan background has a list of skills, and you have to pick at least one, while the second is free choice. But that's the same as what I'm doing with including clan in the human variant race.

I can think about it, if the presentation works better with clans as backgrounds, and then just use the human variant race as-is. If something doesn't need to change compared to 5e Basic, that's a positive thing. In my first idea, I keep backgrounds rules the same (using the "custom backgrounds" option as the only option) but I change how the human race works, in your alternative it's the other way around.

Yeah, I was thinking of ancestor feats replacing the feature. I'm not sure what they contain - aren't there some that provide out-of-combat benefits?
The majority of them grants fiddly bits in combat or skills, which isn't great in 5e. There are tons of them however (certainly more than a hundred), so I'm positive that I can find at least 20-30 of them that can be used in 5e, but I don't expect them to resemble the loose (more narrative than mechanical) benefits of backgrounds' features.
 
This is how it would look following your idea, using a made-up family of an undisclosed clan.

Just notice that actually I am making Background = Family rather than Clan. I think this is better both because clans are too large and always have everyone in them (every clan has samurai, shugenjas etc...), while families are smaller and have a stronger orientation, and also because in d20 Rokugan it was the choice of family which was linked to bonus skills (while Clan only determined which feats, spells or other class-based abilities you had access to).

Background (Family): Kobayashi

Feature: you gain any one Ancestor feat*
Skills: gain proficiency** in two skills of choice between Persuasion, Deception, Investigation and Insight
Tools and languages: gain proficiency** in two of the following: calligraphy tools, musical instrument(any), tea ceremony sets, or any language
Equipment: gain two of the following: masterwork calligraphy tools, masterwork musical instrument or masterwork tea ceremony set

*this could be the default for all backgrounds/families
**or gain expertise if you already have proficiency

I might try first to set the skills and tools/languages to 2 fixed each (no choice), and from there to see how it goes. Each character still has 3 or more skills anyway, 2 from class (chosen from a list) and 1 from human variant race (completely free choice), so the variety is guaranteed.

I really want to keep at least the possibility of "stacking" proficiencies into expertise because in Rokugan many characters are supposed to become undisputed masters in their chosen art. This could be done also with feats, but I think it's easier this way.

Non-human characters won't be able to choose family backgrounds but will have tribe backgrounds (nezumi) or bloodline backgrounds (naga).

Thanks for the suggestions! :)
 

GreenTengu

Explorer
I'm sorry, I don't mean to derail your thread, but... since it is here, I'd like to make a short commentary.

There was a point, years ago, when I was a fan of L5R. In that I bought all the RPG books, I spent hundreds of dollars on cards and played at least twice a month, buying cards online to make thematic decks. I read all the stories that AEG wrote and released.

Thing is, certainly aspects of this whole fictional world started to feel quite wrong to me. And as time went on, I studied Japanese language, culture, history-- I've read the Tales of Heike and I've studied the various periods of history with more than a passing familiarity on the Sengoku period and the Edo period in particular-- the time at which L5R is generally mostly based. I have lived in Japan for four years and been to many historical sites across the country.

At this point I can hardly stand this setting. The fundamental... well... I'm not sure what sort of ignorance it is. Racist? Orientalism? Just... the outsiders perspective, removing the humanity from the foreign culture and turning them into caricatures, removing the elements that are similar to the European culture and exaggerating the otherness and basically positing a number of negative things about Japanese in general.. it is kind of impossible to ignore and very irritating.

I know the knee-jerk reaction of someone who has decided to be a fanatic of the setting, as I am sure any person attempting to convert it to a new RPG system almost certainly is, would be to try to deny any of this and stalwartly defend it whether right or wrong, but... before you spend any more energy on this project, I'd like you to consider a few things.


The first is the easiest. Consider the brutally strict feudalism and class structure, the forced marriages and the sexism. None of this was any different in Japan than in any European country. All European countries were precisely the same. So why is it that when one goes to create a fantastical European setting, these truths are buried and forgotten but when one goes to approach a world based on a foreign culture these aspects are heavily exaggerated and made central thematic elements? These elements are clearly seen as negative traits or we would find them as heavily enforced in European settings. But they aren't. Ever. AEG made a European setting and didn't include them as part of it at all. There seems to be an agenda to say that THOSE people are inhuman like that, but WE are far more enlightened than them.

It is worth noting that the man who united Japan at the end of the Sengoku period was a man who was born a peasant, and changed his name three times. There was no serious strict class system until he took control of the country. And, also worth noting, Japan has an unbroken imperial line that stretches back a thousand years. One did not conquer the country by killing the "demon-infested" Emperor, sitting upon his throne and declaring yourself Emperor with the heavens blessing this and erasing the imperial name from history. You conquered the country by taking control of the Imperial palace and turning the Emperor into your puppet.


It is a major theme in Rokugan that Japanese resolve absolutely everything with personal direct violence and hold such personal direct violence in higher regard than anything else. A person's worth is measured purely by their ability to do personal direct violence with a sword better than any other person. One becomes a good duelist and they can waltz around the country, demanding a duel with anyone who so much as irks them and the person must respond by either accepting the duel and getting killed or immediately killing themself. And this is posited as the was Japanese people handle their political affairs. Which cannot help but paint them as lowly, stupid brutes who care only about one's ability to chop people apart with swords.
Of course, this could not be further from the truth. Duelists existed in history, but nothing of much worth or note was ever resolved through dueling. Japanese are just as intelligent, thoughtful, aware people as any other. And they know that one is not simply right and never determined the "truth" based on the outcome of a sword fight. Such things did not prove one's ability to lead or manage the land. The only thing it proved was that one's sword fighting style was better. Duels were generally done between heads of fighting academies (and not all sword fighting! Japanese used other weapons!!). If you won the duel, then you'd gain prestige and maybe more students would flock to your school. It was like a sporting competition, only sometimes with life and death on the line.
But NEVER was any governor or magistrate challenged by a renowned sword fighter and had to choose between accepting and being killed or ritualistic suicide. One's "honor" was not harmed in the least by recognizing that someone else was a fiercer warrior and just walking away with nothing more to say about it. Particularly if fighting wasn't your primary role.
And the ritualistic suicide? Happened only ever when one was forced into it after being defeated by an enemy since there were more painful and horrifying ways to die and you wouldn't have your corpse desecrated or your relatives slaughtered or it was done as a very extreme form of political protest. Japanese warriors were never at any point greatly eager to cut themselves open at the first time they ever made any mistake or failed at anything or lost a battle. There were many samurai who lost many, many battles and ultimately gave up and JOINED the people they were fighting against. Yeah-- samurai could do that. You didn't wear a color-coded uniform and forced to stick to one clan for your entire life. Samurai regularly jumped ship to other clans. In fact, part of the spoils of victory was to steal your enemy's best surviving generals and warriors.

The setting posits that Japanese people are incapable of advancement or change in any way, shape or form. Not culturally, not technologically, not artistically. A major point in the setting that Japanese people never change, that they are all style and no awareness of substance. That they will continue to do things in an ineffective, costly, bad way simply because it is "traditional" and the "way it has always been done". Of course, this is wildly off-base. Japanese have almost always been very ready and willing to both adopt and then advance anything that they see. Even in the period where they were supposedly steady (the Tokugawa period) they made really amazing leaps forward artistically and culturally. They even had the first mass-producing color print method.
Instead, in Rokugan-- it is said that absolutely nothing in the nation ever changed one iota in over 1,000 years and that everyone would rather die than to do anything in a creative, interesting or new way-- and that anyone who suggests or tries anything new is quickly turned on and put to death. It is suggested that at a time when the land is under constant assault with demons, undead and monsters that the samurai INSISTED on disarming nearly their entire populace leaving them completely vulnerable and then simultaneously stubbornly refused to use the most advanced or effective weapons, insisting on using the old methods no matter how many lives it cost.
Again, how can this be seen as anything other than slander against Japanese people? Was there a point at which Japan disarmed its peasants and outlawed gun powder? Yes, but ONLY after the entire land was completely united under a single leader and they were confident that there were no more outside threats. In fact, they actually shipped most of their samurai out of the country to go conquer Korea so that they wouldn't fight among themselves. At the time they were primarily concerned about uprisings-- either by the peasants or by governors who might try to restart the mass war that the country had just recovered from. There is no justification or excuse for it in Rokugan beyond "Japanese aren't intelligent people like us, they will stubbornly insist on doing things wrong. We are so much more enlightened than them."

Samurai are posited to constantly charge the enemy head-on without any attempt to resort to tactics of any sort. They would never do anything remotely sneaky or break the etiquette of battle (unless they are in a clan with an insect icon). They will just stubbornly attack the enemy recklessly and foolishly, but they gain great bonuses from doing so because they are supreme fighters when doing this!! And.... the truth?...
Two of the most iconic and famous samurai, samurai that all others ought to be measured on, are Minamoto Yoshitsune and Sanada Yukimura. Minamoto Yoshitsune won many battles against superior forces by doing such underhanded tactics such as attacking enemies in the city during the dead of night, leading his troops on horseback down a steep mountainside to assault the enemy rank from the rear and shooting the unarmored peasant oarsmen in the enemy boats instead of at the enemy warriors. Sanda Yukimura famously had female assassins working for him who would seduce and then murder his enemies when they let their guard down. And that is nothing compared to the treachery and cunning of some famous samurai, particularly Oda Nobunaga.
If no actual samurai, much less the most iconic and famous, would be capable of living up to the samurai code you want to posit all samurai live by, then there is something seriously messed up about your samurai code and your general idea of what you want to label a "samurai". Once your definition has precluded the finest examples of something, it is no longer usable as a definition.

And those are probably the big slanders against Japan. There are minor irksome things....

The idea that Japanese people run around in color-coded uniforms.
The idea that Japanese people name themselves after animals or aspire to be like animals and base their personalities, behaviors and fighting styles after the animal their clan's iconic spirit animal.
Names were not neatly divided by clan nor did everyone in a particular clan all look alike. People who were relatives (even brothers!) could easily end up fighting on opposites sides of a war. It did not require special Imperial decree for someone to change their name or start a new family-- many samurai changed their name a few times. And Samurai names were generally 4-syllable names made up of two kanji, one of which was usually taken from the father.

Granted, perhaps these things were done simply to make the setting easier for those unfamiliar with Japanese things to get into it. But... really... what would you think if you had a setting that was based in Europe but insisted that everyone wore kilts and sashes. And there was this warrior named "Bugsy Bunny" who was a member of the "Bunny Clan" and his fighting style with his bastard sword (because ALL warriors use bastard swords all the time! Don't you know it is the ultimate super weapon that puts all weapons to shame?! The bastard sword has been passed down through his family for generations!) is totally based on a bunny's speed and ferocity and you can easily identify Bugsy as a member of the Bunny Clan because he is always tearing his white and pink tartan kilt and scarf and his half-plate armor is also painted bright white and pink. Oh, and it is written by Chinese people who've never even been to Europe for longer than maybe a month and don't know the first two things about European history.

And.... finally... the katana. Oh, the katana. Oh god... the katana. Do I even need to?... Ugh...
The katana was not the be all, end all symbol of the samurai. At least not until samurai stopped functionally being a thing and were more just a ceremonial position. It is not a super weapon. It is not flat out, hands down THE perfect weapon to use in every single situation and anyone who uses anything else is just asking to lose. Samurai never used them to the exclusion of all other weapons. Samurai used bows, polearms, and guns as often or more often than katanas. There were people famous for all sorts of other weapons.
Were katana good? Well, sure. As good as any other sword. But the best thing about them compared to other swords was simply that they didn't break. The swords they used prior to them broke all the time.
But, perhaps more importantly... katana do not cut through armor as though it were paper mache. And whatever work and craftsmen ship and expense goes into a katana?... It's nothing compared to the lacquered scalemail of a Japanese traditional suit of armor. It is the armor that saves a samurai in battle, not the sword. The reason swords ever became the ceremonial symbol was because the armor was just so unbelievably expensive to own, maintain and keep. But while samurai still had a real chance of seeing battle, it should be the armor they treasure well above the sword, the armor that is passed down through the generations-- katana may not be cheap, but for a samurai getting a new one is not THAT big of a deal. In fact, if a samurai was going to use a sword (probably against untrained and badly armed bandits or peasants), they would probably keep a few extra around for when the first one got bent out of shape.

Now, maybe one wants to say "well... well.... they say Rokugan ISN'T Japan, so.. nyeh!"
But, come on. Really?
They use Japanese names ONLY Japanese names. They use Japanese words for things there are perfectly fine English words for. They call their warriors "samurai" and have something called "ninja" though it couldn't be further removed from the real thing. They have things remotely resembling Buddhist and Shinto religions. They use Japanese art style, they try to make their weapons and armor look as close to Japanese as possible. In other words, that is a poor excuse. The thing they are saying about the people of their land are things they are heavily implying are true about Japanese because whereever a gap is, it is filled with whatever is true of Japanese-- at least from a total fetishistic foreigner's perspective.


Look, this ended up being way longer than I needed it to be, but I hope that some of this allowed you to see another perspective and hopefully reconsider things. I don't need to see a big rebuttal. I know you want to immediately reject everything I said right away without actually considering it... but if you read it, maybe at least internally once you stop attributing these thoughts to an "outsider" to an "enemy" then you'll maybeLook, this ended up being way longer than I needed it to be, but I hope that some of this allowed you to see another perspective and hopefully reconsider things. I don't need to see a big rebuttal. I know you want to immediately reject everything I said right away without actually considering it... but if you read it, maybe at least internally once you stop attributing these thoughts to an "outsider" to an "enemy" and maybe have them spontaneously occur to yourself, you might find them easier to relate with or something.

My main purpose in writing this was to say.... it's all good and fine to have a fantasy setting inspired by Japan. In fact, I kind of want to create a Japanese/Korean/Chinese inspired fantasy world myself. But... you know... if you are going to go through all the effort of converting something then... you know... why use Rokugan? Why use a setting so fundamentally based on slanderous and untrue orientalisms? You are practically exerting about the same amount of dedicated effort necessary to create your own world anyway... so why not do so? Why not try to make a Japanese-inspired fantasy world of your own that could... at least attempt not to be so offensive? I swear, you could do better than Rokugan!

In fact, anyone who set out to make the world first and foremost to be used for a RPG rather than first and foremost to be the setting of a cardgame and war game would probably do better. Because some of the things I listed are probably directly derived from trying to create the aspects of the world in a way to justify the mechanical oddities inherent in a card game rather than being what would naturally arise and grow if you were designing it to match the mechanics of an RPG or just creating it in a more organic and natural way.

A good example is the duels. For the purposes of the card game, duels needed to be a "accept death or the whole family loses honor points" kind of thing. That was the mechanic decided for the "duel" card in the card game. Issue being that taking that mechanic and throwing it into an RPG world or a literary world and suddenly it is ludicrous and can only come across as anti-Japanese when one attempts to justify it.
 
Samurai

The first PC class is the easiest: the Samurai

I was going to design this class as a spin-off of the Fighter, but I couldn't help but notice that practically everything in the Fighter class is already appropriate for the samurai as well, with only minor adjustments needed!

In general, I would expect the Rokugan Samurai to be a well-educated noble warrior, which in 3e meant that the class needed definitely more skill points than the Fighter. However, 5e characters already get more skills as a baseline: 2 from class + 2 from background + 1 human. This should be enough.

These are the only few tweaks I'd do to change the Fighter into a Samurai:

- remove heavy armor proficiency
- remove shield proficiency
- allow protection fighting style to work without a shield
- add Battle and Iaijutsu to class skills list, remove Survival

The reason for these is that heavy armor and shields are rarely used anyway.

Then the matter is, what kind of subclasses should be available?

Some examples on the top of my head:
- Champion is so generic that should be appropriate also in Rokugan
- Battlemaster is also generic, so OK but available maneuvers depend on Clan
- Iaijutsu master, if there were a Duelist subclass in the PHB, it could be based off that; alternatively this could be a feat, if we want it available to all classes
- Ancestral daisho might seem a weird choice, but IMO it will work perfectly as a subclass
 
Courtier

Time to start drafting the more difficult base classes... let's try with the Courtier, starting off from the 3e class and see what we have to change.

1) General class features:

Hit Dice: 1d6 per Courtier level

2) Proficiencies:

Armor: None
Weapons: Simple weapons and wakizashi
Tools: Choose two from any artisan's tools, gaming sets, musical instruments, fine arts tools (see previous post on skills & tools), and languages
Saving throws: Wisdom, Charisma
Skills: Choose four from Deception, Etiquette*, History, Insight, Intimidation, Investigation, Perception, Performance and Persuasion

*this may or may not be needed in the game (could be part of Persuasion or a different skill)

3) This is how the level-based table for the Courtier may look like after my considerations and adjustments:

Code:
1st	Expertise, Wealth
2nd	Cunning Action, Retainers
3rd	Gossip, subclass feature
4th	Ability Score Improvement
5th	Courtier Ability
6th	Expertise
7th	Versatile, subclass feature
8th	Ability Score Improvement
9th	Courtier Ability
10th	Leadership (Yojimbo)
11th	Reliable Talent, subclass feature
12th	Ability Score Improvement
13th	Courtier Ability
14th	The Heart Speaks
15th	Versatile, subclass feature
16th	Ability Score Improvement	
17th	Courtier Ability
18th	The Immovable Hand of Peace
19th	Ability Score Improvement	
20th	Courtier Ability
Now a list of explanations, and how I came to the results above.

- Expertise: same as Rogue, replaces Talent and Style & Grace (basically bonuses to Cha checks), seemed more appropriate to fit with 5e
- Wealth: same as 3e Courtier, this is just bonus money, a minor feature
- Cunning Action: same as Rogue, added to represent the Courtier's tendency to avoid combat
- Retainers: added, same as Noble background trait
- Gossip: changed from 3e Courtier, now allows Investigation checks without spending any time, but still has % chance of mislead
- Courtier Abilities: same as 3e Courtier (but adjusted levels), this is a series of Courtier-only special features, many of which will be Clan-restricted; the 3e Courtier gets 6 during 20 levels, I decided to lower the number because many of those may not be applicable anymore due to bounded accuracy
- Versatile: changed from 3e Courtier (also adjusted levels, and only twice instead of 4 times) this used to add more skills to your class list; I'm thinking to replace that with either 1 additional skill proficiency or 2 tools/languages proficiencies
- Leadership: moved up 1 level from 3e Courtier, might also be revised compared to the original 3e feat
- Reliable Talent: added, same as Rogue
- The Heart Speaks: moved up 2 levels from 3e Courtier and changed, used to allow Take 20 on Sense Motive, I'm replacing this with advantage on all Insight checks*
- The Immovable Hand of Peace: same as 3e Courtier, might need save DC adjustment (this is similar to a Sanctuary spell at will, more difficult to resist but self-only)

*actually this is not impressive at all... at 14th level I might actually just keep the automatic 20 as in 3e

It's hard for me to assess the power balance of this class. It's very much non-combat-oriented.
 
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Shugenja

Last class to design at the moment, since I''ll wait for the final version of the Monk, is the Shugenja.

The original 3e class is practically entirely about spells, and so is the 5e Wizard, therefore the simplest design choice is just use the current Wizard as a basis, and do a few modifications.
The Shugenja spell list will obviously need to be designed later.

As a matter of fact, the 3e Shugenja cast spells as a Sorcerer, but the 5e Wizard itself is more similar to a 3e Sorcerer (with the ability to swap the known list spells every day) rather than a 3e Wizard, so it might be fine to use the default spellcasting rules.

So here is the list of modifications to the Wizard class to turn it into a Shugenja class.

1) General class features:

Hit Dice: 1d6 per Shugenja level (same as in 3e, same as 5e Wizard)

Spellcasting ability: Charisma

2) Proficiencies:

Armor: None
Weapons: Simple weapons and wakizashi
Tools: None
Languages: Kami
Saving throws: Wisdom, Charisma*
Skills: Choose two from Arcana, Concentration, History, Maho, Medicine, Nature, Persuasion, Religion

*not sure if this would better be Intelligence

3) Element Focus, 1st level feature

This is essentially the choice of your favored element (Air, Earth, Fire or Water). It's important to note that most spells fall into one of the four elements, so not only spells that create fire are Fire spells in Rokugan, but many other spells might be. For example, healing spells are Water spells. Only a minority (maybe 20%) of spells are general and don't belong to any element. Then there are also Void spells and Maho spells but they have special requirements and most PC never learn them.

In 3e the choice of element meant:

a- Spell Focus, +2 DC on spells of your chosen element
b- cannot learn spells of the opposite element
c- must have at least 50% known spells from chosen element
d- (optionally) spellcasting ability can be element-based instead of Charisma

The "a+b" meant e.g. a Water Shugenja cast water spells with +2 DC, Air and Earth spells at normal DC, and cannot cast Fire spells. I am thinking about replacing this with being proficient with spells of your favored element and non-proficient with spells of the other elements, but I wonder if "b" can be entirely dropped -> TBD

"c" has to be considered in the perspective of 5e spellcasting rules, and thus it better become "at least half of your prepared spells each day must belong to your chosen element".

"d" can remain an option. In this case, it might be also possible to make saving throws proficiency change with favored element, e.g. Air = Dex+Cha, Fire = Dex+Int, Water = Wis+Str, Earth = Con+Cha.

Note: since the chosen element is associated to the chosen Shugenja School, Elemental Focus can be described as part of that

4) Sense Elements, 1st level feature

This is mostly ok, except that it originally used Spellcraft checks. I don't think Arcana are actually that appropriate, Concentration checks sound better to me. Otherwise unchanged.

5) Spellbook vs Ofuda

The Shugenja uses Ofuda (permanent scrolls) instead of a Spellbook, and they also work as focus for spellcasting.

In 3e Shugenja couldn't freely add spells to their known list as in a Spellbook, so I think it should stay that way in 5e.

Notice however that 1 additional spell per spell level is known from the School of choice.

6) Cantrips & Rituals

I think we're safe with the default 5e known cantrips progression and general Rituals rules.

Notice that one additional cantrip is known from the School of choice.

7) Arcane Recovery, 1st level feature

Undecided if this should be kept as-is or removed entirely, mostly because we've added a few minor things to the class at 1st level (slightly better weapon prof, sense elements) but perhaps those are not enough to require to remove something from the Wizard base. If something needs removing, Arcane Recovery will be. -> TBD

8) Spell Mastery and Signature Spells, high level features

Since these fill two otherwise "empty" levels, it's easier to just let them stay, they are so generic that they can't be inappropriate.

9) Shugenja School and subclasses

My first idea was to have subclasses represent the chosen School, however this means all Shugenja from the same clan will have the same subclass, so I currently thinking that School and subclass will be two different choices.

School in 3e determined bonus known spells and favored element, and this can also be the case in 5e.

But independently from this, we can let subclass represent other cases, including both specializations across all schools (e.g. re-using the Evocation tradition of the Wizard is fine, just ignore the ability related to the Spellbook) and clan-restricted specializations (among which there can be some adaptation of 3e prestige classes or feat chains).

edit: some rethinking applied
 
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Spells

I've started to compile a list Rokugan spells list, but it's premature, considering that the Basic D&D spells list is limited and many more spells may appear in the PHB.

Basically the idea is simple:

- if a spell in the Rokugan 3e list also appears in 5e (Basic or PHB) then it can easily go into the Rokugan 5e list, using the 5e version of it of course; unless the spell is changed to the point of being inappropriate for the setting, which I doubt it will ever happen

- the spell's type (air, earth, fire, water, general, void or maho) can be taken from the 3e list

When doing this with only Basic D&D available, there is immediately an issue related to the lack of enough spells of each element at every level. As I mentioned in the previous post however, I'm going to change the original 3e requirement that "a Shugenja must have at least 50% of their known spells belonging to their favored element" with "a Shugenja must have at least 50% of their prepared spells belonging to their favored element", so there isn't a need for an enormous number of spells. Still, the Shugenja is going to learn 3 per class level (6 per spell level typically) so my target is to have at least 3 spells of each element at each spell level

Once the PHB is released, I can check how short I am on such target, and complete the list in the following ways:

- take spells from the Rokugan 3e list that aren't in 5e, check them one-by-one for consistency with bounded accuracy and general 5e design ideas (e.g. no spells that boost ability scores); if only minor changes are needed, import the spell to the 5e list

- check each imported spell to see if it needs to require concentration

- check each imported spell to see if it can be a ritual (but don't make too many rituals, keep the rate similar to 5e in general)

- take a look at novel 5e spells that did not exist in 3e, and see if they fit well enough with the Shugenja's general concepts, and add them as-is to the Rokugan 5e list

What I want to avoid, is to take spells that are both in D&D 3e and 5e, but were excluded from d20 Rokugan, because it's easy to overlook the reason why.
 
Update to skills & tools list

Still work in progress, but I have updated the lists of Skills and Tools.

The sign "+" means added from the default Basic list.
The sign "*" means using this skill/tool is often dishonorable.

Skills

Acrobatics
Animal Handling
Arcana
+Architecture and Engineering
Athletics
+Battle
+Concentration
Deception*
+Etiquette
+Geography
+Ghost Lore
+Iaijutsu
History
Insight
Intimidation
Investigation
+Maho
Medicine*
Nature
Perception
Performance:
+Bugaku (Dance)
+Kabuki (Theatre)
+Otoshibanashi (Storytelling)
+Waka (Poetry)​
Persuasion
Religion
+Shadowlands Lore
Sleight of Hand*
Stealth
Survival
+Tea Ceremony


Tools

Note the slight rearrangement of some artisan's tools under "fine arts tools". Not a big deal, but I'll use the difference to simplify the descriptions of background, just think artisan's tools more about crafting something and fine arts tools more about decorating or arranging something.

Artisan's tools:
Alchemist's supplies
Cartographer's tools
Glassblower's tools
Jeweler's tools
Potter's tools
Smith's tools
Weaver's tools
Woodcarver's tools​
Gaming sets:
+Go (strategy board)
+Hanafuda (cards)
+Shogi (chess)
+Sugoroku (dice & board)​
Herbalism kit
Maquillage kit (renamed from Disguise kit)
Musical instruments:
+Biwa (lute)
+Kokyuu (bowed)
+Koto (zither)
+Kugo (harp)
+Nohkan (flute, transverse)
+Shakuhachi (flute, vertical)
+Shamisen (banjo)
+Taiko (drums)​
Navigator's tools
Poisoner's kit*
+Tattoos kit
Thieves' tools*
Vehicles, land
Vehicles, water
Fine arts tools:
+Bonsai
Calligrapher's supplies (moved from artisan's tools)
Cook's utensils (moved from artisan's tools)
+Ikebana^
+Kakemono (hanging scrolls)
+Landscape Gardening
+Origami^
Painter's tools (moved from artisan's tools)​
 
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