Basic Rules

When a player wishes to have his character take an action, the Game Master determines what abilities the character should use to determine success or failure (these abilities most often consist of one Trait and one Skill used in conjunction with one another). The Game Master must also decide how difficult the task should be, and choose a Target Number (TN) based on this difficulty. The player rolls a number of ten-sided dice based upon the abilities on the player’s character sheet that the Game Master has identified as necessary for the task. The player then adds the total of the dice rolled and compares the sum to the TN chosen by the Game Master. If the total meets or exceeds the TN, the character successfully completed the task in question. If the total is less than the TN, the character has failed to complete the task. It is rare that a player will keep all of the dice rolled when his character is taking an action. Typically, a player can keep a smaller number of dice than the amount rolled, and in almost all situations the player will choose the highest rolling of the dice, although he may keep whichever ones he chooses; if for some reason he wishes for his character to fail the roll in question, he may choose lower rolling dice. When denoting the number of dice that should be rolled and kept, the format used is XkY, where X represents the number of dice rolled, or “rolled dice,” and Y the number of dice kept, or “kept dice.” For example, the notation 4k2 means that four dice should be rolled and two of them chosen to be kept and added together; if the player rolled a 3, 6, 7, and 9, the player would likely choose the 7 and 9 for a total of 16 on the roll.

Target numbers

A target number is a measure of the difficulty of any given task, as determined by the game master. A task that should be easy will be assigned a low TN, whereas a difficult task will have a higher TN. while individual game masters are encouraged to use their own judgement to determine the difficulty of any task, a general idea of how difficult a given task might be is as follows:

TN Difficulty Physical Mental
None Mundane Getting out of bed Remembering details of your sword
5 Very easy Striking an immobile target Recognizing an old friend
10 Easy Carrying half your weight Finding a is placed item
15 Average Lifting your weight Remembering someone you’ve seen once
20 Moderate Jumping a ten foot ditch Recognizing someone in disguise
30 Difficult Scaling a cliff without rope Finding a well hidden object
40 Very Hard Diving safely from a waterfall Remembering someone’s exact words
60 Heroic Out-wrestling a troll Naming all of your ancestors…in order
80 Impossible Shattering stone with bare hands Outwitting a God

Rings & Traits

the most basic representations of a character’s abilities are the five rings. All things, both living and non-living, are composed of differing proportions of the elements that the rings represent. With regard to characters, each ring is made up of two traits, one mental and one physical, representing its influence in the mortal world. at the beginning of the character creation process, characters begin with all rings and traits at 2 out of a possible 10. These may be increased during the character creation process, or during the game, through the expenditure of experience points. a rank of 2 represents the normal capability possessed by an individual with no particular training, whereas the upper limit of 10 is reserved for the most supremely gifted and talented individuals in the world, and for supernatural beings. rings are never increased directly. instead, a ring is equal to the lower of the two traits that comprise it. thus, if a ring is made up of a trait of 2 and a trait of 4, then the ring’s rank is 2. if the lower of the traits increases to 3, the ring will increase to rank 3 as well. thus, by increasing both traits, a player increases the character’s ring, which in turn grants them greater access to other abilities.

Air is enigmatic and mercurial in all things, and represents an individual’s capacity for empathy and intuition. the spirits of air can be capricious and mischievous, but their wrath is as that of the storm. those who are aligned with the element of air possess superior instincts and speed of reaction. those who are at odds with air are physically sluggish and oblivious to the nuanced behaviour of those around them.

Awareness is a mental trait that represents a character’s intuition and general ability to empathize with others. awareness allows a character to perceive the feelings and motivations of others, even with little evidence to support their intuition. it also allows them to better portray those same feelings, and thus to win over others who believe the character is sympathetic to their cause. persuasion, charisma, and manipulation are the hallmarks of awareness, which is the most important trait for social skills.

Reflexes is a physical trait that represents a character’s ability to instantly react to events taking place around him. a character with high reflexes is fleet of foot and possesses a lightning fast response time that aids him in many aspects of combat. reflexes is important in the determination of a character’s initiative and armour TN.

Earth is eternal, unchanging, and unmoving. it is the element of endurance and resistance, and represents an individual’s ability to withstand whatever trials arise. the spirits of earth are quiet and impassive but can be roused into brief moments of terrible violence. those who are aligned with earth have tremendous fortitude and resolve, while those who are at odds with earth are frail and weak-minded.

Willpower is a mental trait that determines a character’s ability to focus his mental energies on the task set before him. a character with a high willpower is decided and persistent, capable of paying close attention to even the minutest detail for hours on end with no sign of wavering. willpower is mainly used to resist certain attempts to manipulate or intimidate a character.

Stamina is a physical trait that determines a character’s ability to endure constant physical activity and recover from wounds suffered in battle. a character with a high stamina possesses the ability to exert himself for long periods of time with no signs of fatigue or weakness, and to recover from even near-mortal wounds in a remarkably short period of time. stamina’s primary benefit to a character is its influence on how quickly he recovers wounds suffered from damage.

Fire is the element of dynamic change, energy, and destruction. it is the element of motion and illumination. spirits of fire are capable of mending what has been broken, or of destroying all in their path. those who are strong in the element of fire are great warriors, brilliant scholars, or possibly both. those weak in fire are physically uncoordinated and sluggish of thought.

Intelligence is a mental trait that measures a character’s ability to gain new knowledge and put it to use. a character with a high intelligence understands new information quickly, puts it to use instantly, and recalls it with great clarity. Those with lower intelligence have difficulty understanding new material and recall it imperfectly. Intelligence-based rolls are common for non-combat oriented characters.

Agility is a physical trait that represents a character’s hand-to-hand coordination and general physical athleticism. Virtually any physical feat that is not dependent upon speed or strength is instead dependent upon agility. agility is used for almost every weapon skill, making it one of the most important traits with regard to combat.

Water is the element of rapid change and alteration. it is the inexorable force that can carve mountains over thousands of years and the capricious storm that batters a ship one instant and gently carries it to its destination the next. spirits of water can enhance the movement abilities of those they bless, or bolster their strength in other ways. those who are strong in the element of water possess incredible strength and perception. those who are weak in water are slow to move and possess dulled senses.

Perception is a mental trait that represents a character’s attention to events unfolding around him. a character with a high perception notices everything that takes place around him, whereas one with a low perception misses even obvious things happening in his immediate vicinity.

Strength is a physical trait that represents a character’s pure physical power. strength is sheer force with no consideration for finesse or precision. characters with a high strength are warriors of devastating power, while characters with low strength are ineffective warriors with little ability to damage their opponents. strength has considerable effect on weapon and unarmed damage, as well as how much a character can lift, and is often used for taxing physical activities such as climbing or swimming.

The fifth and final element that comprises the universe is Magic. Magic is poorly understood by the mortal mind, for its origin is a shrouded mystery. But mortals have found a way to use it too create Arcane miracles such as healing the sick to calling forth animals. A character with high magic is able to call forth powerful spells, while a character with low magic has a hard time casting the weakest spells.

Ring and trait reduction

there are numerous mechanical effects that can temporarily reduce a character’s traits or rings. (the reduction of a ring also reduces the associated traits, and reducing traits can also affect a ring, since no ring can be higher than its lowest trait.) such a penalty reduces all rolls associated with that ring or trait, and can also impact any abilities derived from rings or traits, such as wounds (which are derived from earth). Reducing a living creature’s earth ring to 0 will also reduce the creature’s wounds to 0, killing it. Reducing other rings to 0 will not kill a living creature, but it may have other effects at the discretion of the gm. as a general principle, we suggest that such a creature falls unconscious and cannot be revived until the condition causing the ring reduction is alleviated.

Exploding dice
sometimes dice rolls yield a spectacular result. When a die comes up as a 10, it is rolled again, and the next result is added to the dies total. if the result is another 10, the die is rolled again until a result that is not a 10 is gained.

  • Example: A die rolls a 10 and then a 3. the result of that die is a 13.
  • Example: a die rolls a 10, a 10, and a 7. the result of that die is a 27.


Rings and traits represent the innate mental and physical abilities of a character. what they learn through training and experience, however, is represented by skills. Like rings and traits, skills are ranked from 1 to 10. a rank of 1 in a skill indicates that a character has been introduced to the most basic principles of that skill, whereas a character with a rank of 10 in any given skill is either one of the greatest masters on the planet, or a supernatural being of some sort. when a skill roll is called for, it lists the skill first, then the trait being used for the particular roll. a call for an athletics / agility roll, for instance, would require a player to roll a total number of dice equal to his character’s ranks in the athletics skill and agility trait, and to keep a number of dice equal to the character’s agility trait.

There are times when simple success is not enough. When a character needs to accomplish something truly spectacular, raises are the means by which that can be accomplished. when a player declares he is making a raise, he is choosing to voluntarily increase the TN of the task his character is attempting, by an increment of 5 per raise. raises are generally made when a player feels his character’s abilities will allow him to easily exceed the TN for a given task. the most common use of raises is to allow characters to perform manoeuvres in combat (described later in this chapter), but individual GMs can allow any number of different effects with sufficient raises. players who wish to try unconventional or creative actions that are not covered by the basic rules should simply ask the gm how many raises will be required to succeed.

A character can make a maximum number of raises per roll equal to the skills traits ring. A character with Fire 2, for instance, can make 1 or 2 raises per roll, but not 3, on all skills associated with fire. some mechanical effects grant a character free raises. these give the benefit of having made a raise without actually increasing the TN of the roll in question, and do not count toward the maximum number of raises that may be made per roll. Free raises may also be used to reduce the TN of the task being attempted by 5 instead of augmenting the roll in the same way as a normal raise. raises are not without risk, however.

If a player declares raises on a roll, and the result of his roll fails to meet the new, increased TN, the roll fails. this is a failure even if the result of the roll meets the original TN but falls short of the new, increased TN. types of rolls there are a number of types of rolls that come up frequently in a legend of the five rings role-playing game session. The most common are: skill rolls skill rolls are the most common type of roll made in the game. typically a skill is combined with a single trait to determine the number of dice rolled for a particular task.

When a skill/ trait pair is announced by the game master, the player will use a number of dice equal to the character’s rank in the trait plus their rank in the skill. after rolling this number of dice, the player will keep a number equal to the trait being used, adding these kept dice together to find the total for the roll. skills thus grant additional rolled dice for each task, increasing the chance of getting better results, while also being less expensive to increase in rank than traits.

A player that forgets to call a Raise can still earn what is called a Uncalled Raise. A Uncalled Raise is earned for every 15 rolled over the TN. Therefore if the TN is 15 and the player forgott to call any raises, a roll of 36 would yield one Free Raises (for exceeding the TN by 15).

The ten dice rule

Characters can progress to a point where they are rolling large handfuls of dice, so much that it can become difficult to count and track them all. to keep matters relatively simple, no roll can ever use more than ten dice at a time. additional rolled dice become kept dice at a ratio of one kept die per two additional rolled dice. if both rolled and kept dice already equal ten, then each additional die of both types converts to a bonus of +2 to the total of the roll.

  • Example: A roll of 12k4 would become 10k5, because the two extra rolled dice that exceed the ten dice rule become one extra kept die.
  • Example: a roll of 13k9 would become 10k10 + 2, because the two extra rolled dice that exceed the ten dice rule become one extra kept die, and the additional odd rolled die becomes a bonus of +2.
  • Example: a roll of 10k12 would become 10k10 + 4, with each of the extra kept dice above the ten dice rule becoming a bonus of +2.
  • Example: a roll of 14k12 would become 10k10 +12. since both rolled and kept dice exceed ten, the four additional rolled dice become a bonus of +8, and the two additional kept dice become a bonus of +4, for a total of +12.

Trait rolls

Trait rolls trait rolls are far less common than skill rolls. they represent situations when the characters in question are attempting to complete a task based solely on their innate abilities, either mental or physical, without any benefit from training. this is more commonly a factor for physical tasks, such as holding one’s breath or holding onto a moving wagon. trait rolls for mental tasks are less common, but might include attempting to focus one’s attention on a subject being observed for a long period of time, or memorize a lot of material very quickly.

To make a trait roll, a character rolls and keeps dice equal to his rank in that trait. ring rolls ring rolls, where dice equal to a character’s rank in a ring are rolled and kept, are very uncommon and typically involve magical or supernatural effects of some sort. spells can sometimes require a target to make a ring roll in order to resist an effect. Damage rolls damage rolls are very common in combat. any time a character makes a successful attack roll (a specific kind of skill roll), he inflicts damage upon his opponent in the form of wounds. damage rolls vary considerably depending upon the weapon used in the attack. every weapon has a damage rating (or DR) that represents the amount of damage it is capable of inflicting. for mêlée weapons, a character using a particular weapon adds his strength to the number of rolled dice in the weapon’s DR.

Failed rolls

When a character fails a skill roll, it is often possible to make a second attempt (unless the gm rules that circumstances make a second attempt impossible). for example, a character attempting to climb a tree could try again if his first attempt failed. when making a second attempt at the same skill roll, the TN for the skill roll increases by +10. second attempts on kill rolls utilizing intelligence or perception usually cannot be made without a change in the situation, such as new information becoming available to the character. skill rolls made as attacks (such as virtually all uses of the weapon skills) may not make a second attempt at +10 TN; an attack roll that fails simply misses, and the character may not make another attack unless he has an ability that confers multiple attacks.

Cooperative rolls

Cooperative skill rolls involve multiple individuals working together to achieve a single result. there are two different types of cooperative rolls. the first involves a group working together toward one end, without significant consequences for failure. an example might be multiple shipwrights working on a new seagoing vessel. in these cases, one individual is chosen from those participating to make the skill roll. he receives a bonus to the total of his roll equal to the combined ranks of all there participants in the skill in question.

The second manner of cooperative roll is one wherein the circumstances of the roll allow for one participant with poor performance to impede the entire group. an example would be a group of players scaling a mountain, tied together for security. in this case, an individual skill roll is required from each participant, but the participant with the single highest rank in the skill being used grants a bonus equal to his skill rank to all others making the roll. for example, continuing the above example of several player roped together, each of them will roll their athletics (climbing) skill. the player with the highest skill in the group has athletics 4, so the other players with lower skill ranks will gain a bonus of +4 to their rolls.

Cumulative rolls

Cumulative skill rolls require multiple successes over time in order for the task at hand to be completed satisfactorily. the TN for cumulative skill rolls is typically very high, but can be achieved through multiple skill rolls over time. each time an individual makes a successful skill roll, the total of the roll is deducted from the total of the TN. for example, if a TN of 60 is required to finish a sculpture, an artisan might make an artisan: sculpture / agility roll and achieve a total of 24.

On the next skill roll, the artisan’s total TN is only 36. individual cumulative skill rolls typically list how long a character must allow to pass between rolls. it should be noted that cumulative skill rolls could be abused by the unscrupulous if the GM is not careful. In general, such methods can only be used in situations where it makes sense to do so (such as the sculpture example above). the GM is also justified in requiring the individual skill rolls to hit a minimum TN (such as 15, 20, or even 25) in order for them to count against the cumulative total. potentially, a very low “flubbed” skill roll might even subtract from the cumulative total, representing a mistake that must be corrected. it is possible to have a cumulative skill roll required that is also a cooperative skill roll, in which case the cooperative roll is generated as described above, and the total is deducted from the cumulative roll’s TN.

Basic Rules

L5R High Fantasy Rule Rewrite Roke