Converting 4e schools – an example
This is a transcript of my thought process and general thinking when it comes to translating 4e schools for use in FFGe. The primary benefit of understanding how to do this quickly and efficiently is to be able to play groups/clans you wouldn’t be able to currently, such as the Spider Clan or the Sparrow clan (which I’ve put on this website, but still).
This simply how I do it and my experiences with it – if you’d do it differently, by all means you do you. For this exercise, I’m choosing to use the Yoritomo Courtier school in 4e.
What general concepts am I keeping in mind?
Before I even begin looking at the school I’ll be working on, I need to remember some key differences in design between the two lines.
-There are basically no contested rolls; instead, rolls are generally made against vigilance or a TN set by the technique.
-In general, schools feel more specific but less specialized. For example, while there are the Doji Diplomat and Bureaucrat schools, both of which could be covered by the Doji Courtier and some skill choices in 4e, the schools more freely allow you to dip a little into a martial role, such as the Doji Diplomat giving you martial arts(range) as an option and the existence of martial shuji.
-There is no divide between mental and physical attributes, so be aware of the extended side effects when choosing attributes.
-There are less skills – this is both to our advantage and disadvantage.
From the top
The first place to start when converting a school, I feel, is from it’s starting line. This will help set a lot of trends. Let’s have a look at what our Yoritomo courtier school starts out with – we have:
Attributes: +1 Willpower
Skills: Commerce(appraisal),Courtier, Defence, Etiquette, Intimidation, Sincerity, any one Merchant or Lore skill
First thing I notice is how low their honour is. 4E works on a 0.0 to a 10.0 scale, which is basically a 100 point scale with decimals. If we call this 25 honour, that’s already deep into the “1 flaw disadvantage” territory. While some players may like starting at such a disadvantage I assume most won’t, so I’ll bump it close. That way if they want to avoid a disadvantage they can, but they’re still low honour.
For skills, 5 of the skills aren’t in 4e. Courtier, Etiquette, Sincerity, Defence and Intimidation don’t exist! But, most have have equivalent. Courtier I’d say is courtesy, which also covers etiquette and sincerity. Defence isn’t really a thing in FFGe – it’s more generally covered by fitness or martial arts of some kind. Since we’re kind of low on skills (losing three to Courtesy), I decide to add both.
Sentiment is about understanding how to talk to others, which is appropriate for helping cover the courtier’s trio from 4e.
That’s 5 skill options, and we need two more to fill the gap. Since the Mantis in general make use of boats a lot, I decide to add Seafaring as a skill and… hmm. When choosing skills, we want skills that will be useful, but not considered mandatory. We want to keep our choose five an actual choice, after all. I decide to add Skullduggery, since it plays into their technique.
The final big choice “from the top” is choosing a secondary attribute. I always let the school choose the first element, since it makes it easier and helps us add flavour to a school with zero real effort.
The other element choice is more interesting. There’s three main factors to consider – what the school wants to do, what elements the clan invest in and what options you open up. The Mantis has some fire investment, but is mostly water. In terms of approaches, fire and air seem right in general, although fire moreso because the school is all about intimidation, which can be described using the overwhelm from fire. With that in mind, we decide to go +fire.
Make a final review – does everything seem/feel right? To me, the element I feel is off is the fitness skill. Yoritomo courtiers can be of many kinds, and don’t necessarily all work out and maintain fitness. Instead, I swap it for Command, which works to our core principle of less specialization.
Nothing fancy with the technique options, slap on the right tag and we’re good to go.
So we end up with:
Yoritomo Courtier [Courtier] Attributes: +1 Earth or Fire
Skills(choose five): Commerce, Command, Courtesy, Martial arts(melee), Seafaring, Sentiment, Skulduggery
Technique access: Shuji, Rituals, Kata
The first technique
…Is actually the school ability. The main thing you want is something from the first technique to translate to a bonus which increases based on your school rank. Anything else, consider if it’s necessary. In our case, our school technique translates almost one for one, so we end up with:
Duty before Honour:
You do not lose Glory when using a Trade skill in front of someone of higher status.
In addition, when you make social or trade skill schools against ronin, bandits, gang members, mercenaries, pirates and other lawless types, you gain free [Ring dice] equal to your school rank.
A little strong, but specific to make up for it.
Mostly, this is going to be guess work. Look at the techniques in the FFGe books for your rank and decide “is this core to my school?” If it is and between ranks 1 and 2, consider adding it to your starting selection. If you think every member of your school should be able to learn it, add it to your curriculum. Generally, a school will have 3-5 techniques which are “special access”, either outside of their normal curriculum or earlier than normal. These should be the “signatures” of the school, and if they’re early should be generally one rank early.
When choosing techniques, my general thought process was “is this something most characters from this school would do?” In the case of the Yoritomo courtier, I mostly focused on scummy shuji
Do I need to translate every rank technique?
Generally, no. Some simply don’t translate because of the lack of contested rolls, and others are mechanical manipulations which simply don’t exist in FFGe. An example would be Command the Waves, which lets you reroll failed sincerity rolled as intimidation rolls. There’s generally not shuji which let you do rerolls like this for one, but what is intimidation? Command, maybe? But command is more of a military thing than intimidation was, so…
Short version – if it’s an action type technique and you really want to, you absolutely can translate a technique. More passive abilities are best reserved for rank 1 or rank 6 abilities.
There’s two main elements to this – skill groups and skill choices. Try not to give them access to every skill group across their ranks, and for bushi, generally smaller is better. The Matsu Berserker might be a bit extreme, but consider:
Would every character from this school always invest in at least 2 or 3 of these skills?
If so, consider adding that skill group to their rotation.
For the Yoritomo courtier, I went with Trade and Social as my main skill groups. They’re about talking and working with fringe society, which between trade and social covers that. I also added scholastic skills at rank 3 for variety, and also to represent their need to learn more about Rokugan as a whole the more important and central to the Mantis they become.
For individual skills, you want a decent amount of repetition, plus some outliers.
If only 30% of DnD 5th games break level 10, I’d wager 5% of L5R games will reach rank 6. So don’t be afraid to go nuts – take something you like from the school, put in some numbers (or don’t, your call), then badabing badaboom.
Write your fluff, double check everything, run down the curriculum a few times to see how your characters end up. If you can get about 2-3 different styles of characters in your head looking at the curriculum, good!
Normally I’d say work on your fluff first, but this is a conversion wherein we already know the fluff.
You can get the school here: Mantis Speaker
NOTE: This does require the Mantis clan DLC, which is available from FFG here: https://images-cdn.fantasyflightgames.com/filer_public/03/0c/030cde9c-35e4-467f-9ae0-9de88051d015/mantis_clan_dlc2.pdf
QUICK NOTE: The school should say “+1 Earth and Fire”, rather than or. Will fix later on today.
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Hardcore AEGite. Doesn't mean I can't make content for FFGe, though.
The website listed isn't one I have association with, but is a good source of copyright free classic literature.