Definition of Terms

  • Action – What a character does when it is their Turn during a combat Round.
  • Initiative – A measure of how quickly a given character reacts compared to other participants in a skirmish.
  • Round – A unit of time, 3 to 10 seconds in length, during which all participants in a skirmish have an opportunity to take Actions.
  • Turn – The opportunity for an individual character to take Actions during a combat Round. Under normal circumstances, every participant in a skirmish has one Turn, which takes place on their Initiative.

Sequence of Events

A combat Round unfolds in the following stages:

Stage 1: Initiative – During the first Round of a skirmish, all participants make an Initiative Roll, rolling Reflexes and Insight Rank (see Book of Fire for information on Insight Ranks), keeping Reflexes (noted as Insight Rank / Reflexes). The result of this roll, called the Initiative Score, determines the order in which all characters will act. An Initiative Roll is only made on a character’s first Round of participation in the skirmish, and the resulting Initiative Score is used for the remainder of the skirmish. However, in subsequent Rounds, Initiative Scores may potentially change as a result of different character abilities or situational modifiers. During the first Round of combat, characters also select their Stance immediately before they make their Initiative Roll.

Stage 2: Turns – The bulk of a combat Round involves each individual participant taking their Turn. When this stage begins, the character with the highest Initiative Score takes their Turn first, and may take any legal Action. A character may choose to delay taking their Turn, and instead allow the character with the next highest Initiative Score to take their Turn. After that, the character who delayed their Turn has the chance to take it or delay again, and so on. Delaying a Turn has no effect on a character’s Initiative Score the following Round, and Turns cannot be “saved” from one Round to the next. If every participant Delays their Turn, when the participant with the lowest initiative score is reached he must take his Turn, then the Round ends. After the first Round of a skirmish, characters may change their Stances at the beginning of their Turn, before taking any Actions. A character only ever has one Turn per Round, regardless of how many Actions he may take during the Round.

Stage 3: Reactions – At the end of a Round, when all characters have taken their Turn, there are certain abilities that take effect as a result of the events of the Round. For example, spell effects that have expired end during the Reaction Stage. All such effects happen simultaneously during Stage 3. Reaction effects, typically generated by Techniques, Spells, or Advantages, are always clearly labeled as such.

Attack & Defense

Any attack a character makes against an opponent requires a roll, typically a Skill Roll that includes a Weapon Skill as one of its components. Attacks may be melee or ranged in nature, depending upon the weapon being used. These rolls are made using the rules included for Skill Rolls above, and the result of an attack roll is compared to the opponent’s Armor TN. All characters have an Armor TN that is calculated by multiplying their Reflexes Trait by 5, adding 5, and adding any bonuses that apply to the Armor TN (typically from Stances or from the character wearing armor of some kind).

If the result of the attack roll meets or exceeds the target’s Armor TN, then the attack was successful and the opponent was struck with the weapon in question. Damage must now be rolled. Penalties or bonuses may be applied to attack rolls for a variety of reasons. The most obvious and frequent penalty is for being injured (see the discussion of Wounds immediately following this section). Any ranged attack made against an opponent who is within melee range also suffers a penalty of -10 to the total of the attack roll, due to the awkwardness of fi ring at someone who is a direct threat. Additional bonuses and penalties are discussed under Stances and Status Effects, and the GM can apply bonuses or penalties based on specific circumstances (a character trying to attack while balancing on a railing would probably suffer a penalty, for example).

Every weapon has a damage rating (DR). This rating indicates how much damage the weapon inflicts upon those struck with it. The katana, the most common weapon wielded by samurai, has DR 3k2. For melee attacks, characters add their Strength to the first number of a weapon’s DR. A character who makes a successful attack roll wielding a katana, and who has Strength 3, would roll 6k2 for damage (3 Strength plus the 3 from the first number of the DR). The character’s player selects the two dice he wishes to keep out of the six and totals them together. This is the number of Wounds the attack has inflicted upon its target. A character adds his Strength to certain types of ranged attacks in the same manner, but not all (see Equipment).


Individual characters have Wound Ranks that measure the amount of damage that they can sustain before it begins to impair their ability to take actions and eventually incapacitates or kills them. The Wounds inflicted by an attack fill up these Wound Ranks in order, with each Rank containing a maximum number of Wounds determined by the character’s Earth Ring. As soon as a character suffers damage that begins filling in a particular Wound Rank, the character is then considered to be in the state described by that Rank. Once that Rank has been filled, additional damage goes to the next Rank. The ranks are as follows:

This is the default condition of any character who has not suffered damage. Regardless of what Earth Ring multiplier is chosen for a campaign (see sidebar), this Wound Rank should utilize the character’s Earth x5 in order to create a buffer for normal activity. All further Wound Ranks normally utilize the character's Earth x2.

(Increase the TN of all rolls made by +3 while nicked)
A character who has been nicked has suffered a mild but distracting injury.

(Increase the TN of all rolls made by +5 while Grazed)
A grazed character is injured, but still able to function without tremendous difficulty.

(Increase the TN of all rolls made by +10 while Hurt)
A character who is hurt has begun to suffer noticeably from the effects of his injuries.

(Increase the TN of all rolls made by +15 while Injured)
An injured character has difficulty focusing his attention on the task at hand.

(Increase the TN of all rolls made by +20 while Crippled)
A crippled character can barely stand, much less move. Any attempt to make a Move action is increased by one level of difficulty (a Free Action becomes Simple, etc.)

(Increase the TN of all rolls made by +40 while Down)
A character who is Down is virtually incapacitated. They may speak only in a whisper. Such a character may only potentially take Free Actions unless a particular wound makes such action impossible (and cannot take Move actions), and must spend a Void Point in order to be able to do so.

A character who has been reduced to this level is immobile, unconscious, and likely dying. Once this Rank is filled, any additional damage inflicted to the character kills him instantly.


A character’s Stance determines what actions they may or may not take during their Turn in a combat Round. Stances reflect the basic postures every samurai is taught to prepare them for combat, and even the most pious shugenja or effete courtier is familiar with them. During the first Round of a skirmish, characters assume their Stance during Stage 1. On every subsequent round, they can change their Stance or choose to maintain it at the beginning of their Turn in Stage 2. The Stances a character may adopt are as follows:

Attack : Attack is the standard Stance adopted by most bushi in a combat situation, and is tied closely to the Ring of Water in that it is fluid and versatile. A character in the Attack Stance has no restrictions on the kind of Actions he may take.

Full Attack : Full Attack is the Ring of Fire, raging and consuming all in its path. A character in the Full Attack Stance may take no Simple or Complex Actions other than those used to make attacks, and may only use Move Actions to get closer to his enemies. Characters may not use the Full Attack Stance to deliver ranged attacks. A character in the Full Attack Stance gains a bonus of +2k1 to attack rolls made that round, but his Armor TN is reduced by 10 to reflect the all-or-nothing nature of the attack. A character in the Full Attack Stance who takes a Move Action during his turn may move an additional 5 feet beyond the normal amount allowed for the Move Action. This bonus movement is granted only once per Round, and the character still may not exceed the normal maximum distance he may normally move in one Round. Full Attack may not be used while mounted.

Defense : Defense is the Ring of Air, adaptable and reactive. Defense allows for the greatest freedom of action. Characters in the Defense Stance add their Air Ring plus their Defense Skill Rank to their Armor TN. There are no restrictions on what kind of Actions a character in the Defense Stance may take, other than that they may not attack. The Defense Stance is useful for making oneself less vulnerable while making Skill Rolls or Spell Casting Rolls during skirmishes. A bushi attempting to light a spark for a burning arrow in the middle of a melee would use Defense, as he may still need to drop what he is doing to defend himself from an enemy who attacks.

Full Defense : The Full Defense Stance is the Ring of Earth, reserved, unmoving, and unassailable. Upon declaring his Stance, a character in the Full Defense Stance makes a Defense / Reflexes roll and adds half of the total (rounding up) to his Armor TN until his following Turn. This Skill Roll is considered a Complex Action, so a character in this Stance may only take Free Actions.

Center : The Center Stance is the Ring of Void. The principle function of Center Stance is related to the benefits it offers in iaijutsu dueling (see the rules for Iaijutsu Duels later in this chapter), but it has benefits in skirmishes as well. Characters in the Center Stance take no Actions, instead focusing their energy in preparation for action the following round. A character in the Center Stance forfeits all Actions while in that Stance. On the round following his adoption of the Center Stance, the character gains a bonus of 1k1 plus his Void Ring on any one roll made during his Turn. The character also adds 10 to the total of his Initiative Score for that Round only


During a combat Round, every character may take Actions on their Turn. Although a character’s Stance can limit what kind of Actions they may take, in general a character may take one of the two following options:

  • One Complex Action + Free Actions
  • Two Simple Actions + Free Actions

Free Actions are minor activities that do not disrupt a character’s ability to perform other tasks during the course of their Turn. Unless otherwise specified, a character may only perform each Free Action a maximum of once per Round.

Simple Actions are more complicated tasks that require more of a character’s attention, but not so much that he is not capable of taking more than one action at a time.

Complex Actions are elaborate or time-consuming efforts that require all of a character’s attention in order to complete.

Move Actions

Characters in L5R can move a certain amount per round depending upon the Action or Actions they devote to that task.
Actions correspond to the following movement rates:

  • Free Action: A number of feet equal to five times the character’s Water Ring
  • Simple Action: A number of feet equal to ten times the character’s Water Ring.
  • Complex Action: These are not normally available, but some mechanics can require a character to perform specific tasks as Complex Move Actions.

A character may not move more than twenty times his Water Ring in feet per round unless he has an ability that increases his maximum possible movement per round. Movement is also modified by the type of terrain where characters are located. It is far easier to run down a city street, for instance, than a rocky beach. It is ultimately up to the Game Master to determine what level of terrain any particular area falls under. Terrain types and the movement penalties they incur include:

  • Basic: City streets, plains, sparse forest, etc. A character has no movement penalties in basic terrain.
  • Moderate: Tall grass, foothills, beaches, etc. A character’s Water Ring is considered one Rank lower (to a minimum of one) for the purposes of determining how far he can move using Move Actions when on moderate terrain.
  • Difficult: Mountains, dense forest, hip-deep water, etc. A character’s Water Ring is considered two Ranks lower (to a minimum of one) for the purposes of determining how far he can move using Move Actions when on difficult terrain. GMs may optionally choose to assign penalties to physical rolls (both Skill and Trait rolls) made in Difficult terrain, typically a -5 or -10 to the roll, if it seems appropriate.


Maneuvers are specialized actions and attacks that are more diffi cult than the standard melee and ranged attacks that characters can make as part of a combat round. Because these attacks accomplish additional effects above normal attack damage, they require Raises in order to be made. Certain Maneuvers can only be performed in particular Stances. It should be noted that these maneuvers do not constitute an exhaustive list of the things which a character might be able to accomplish with an attack. Rather, they specify the maneuvers that are most likely to come up during a skirmish. The GM and players should feel free to improvise other maneuvers based on the rules presented here.

Called Shot (Variable raises)
A Called Shot is an attack that specifically targets one section of the body. Without the Called Shot Maneuver, it is assumed that an attack will strike the target’s torso, but with an increasing number of Raises, smaller and more specific parts of the body can be targeted. A specific limb can be targeted with 1 Raise, a hand or foot with 2 Raises, the head with 3 Raises, or an eye, ear, finger, or other similarly small part with 4 Raises. There is no specific mechanical effect for striking a particular body part in this manner, although individual GMs may rule that a certain amount of damage may sever or destroy the body part in question, and any items held or worn on that part may be dropped or destroyed.

Disarm (3 Raises)
The Disarm Maneuver specifically targets a weapon held by the target, with the intent of knocking it out of the target’s grasp. A successful Disarm attack inflicts only 2k1 damage from the jarring impact of the strike, regardless of the weapon used, and characters executing this Maneuver do not add their Strength to the number of rolled damage dice. If the Maneuver is successful, the character and his target make a Contested Strength Roll. If the attacking character wins, the target drops the weapon in question. Weapons with wooden components that are the target of a Disarm Maneuver by weapons with a steel blade may be broken, at the GM’s discretion. Recovering a dropped weapon requires a Simple Action on the part of a character who has been Disarmed.

Extra Attack (5 Raises)
The ability to make multiple attacks per Turn is normally only granted by powerful School Techniques. This Maneuver allows anyone to gain an extra attack per Turn, however, as long as they have the skill necessary to pull it off. To gain an additional attack, a character must make 5 successful Raises on the first attack roll. These Raises confer no benefits, but if they succeed, the character may immediately make a second attack roll as soon as the first attack has been resolved (including damage). The Extra Attack Maneuver may only be used once per turn. The initial attack in this Maneuver must be successful, but the second may miss without any negative effects.

Feint (2 Raises)
A Feint is an attack that contains, as its first component, a deceptive movement intended to make a target believe that the attack will come from one direction, and then the actual attack comes from another direction, exploiting a hole in the target’s defenses opened by their attempt to defend against the initial attack. If the Feint Maneuver is successful, half the amount by which the character’s attack roll exceeded the target’s Armor TN (taking the 2 Raises for his Maneuver into account) is added to the damage roll for that attack, to a maximum amount equal to fi ve times the character’s Insight Rank.

Guard (0 Raises)
Guard is a unique combat Action that does not actually require an attack roll. However, it has been placed here with Maneuvers for convenience, since it is used only in combat. During a skirmish, a character can choose to dedicate himself to protecting another character, making it harder for enemies to attack that person. Guarding is a Simple Action, and you may not take the Guard Action while in the Full Attack stance. When you declare a Guard Action, you must designate one other person within 5 feet of you. Until your next Turn, any time that person is within 5 feet of you, their Armor TN is increased by 10 and your Armor TN is decreased by 5.

Increased Damage (1 or more Raises)
The simplest of all Maneuvers, an Increased Damage Maneuver adds a bonus of 1k0 to the total of the damage roll that corresponds to the attack. Multiple Raises can be made to gain a larger amount of Increased Damage, but all Raises made in one combat Round count as one effect for the purposes of any mechanics that decrease the number of Raises required.

Knockdown (2 or 4 Raises)
The Knockdown Maneuver is a specialized attack intended to damage an opponent and knock them prone. Because this attack generally targets the legs, it is only useable against two- or four-legged opponents (requiring 2 and 4 Raises respectively). If successful, the attack deals normal damage and forces a Contested Strength Roll between the character and the target. If the character is successful, the target is knocked prone.

Iaijutsu Dueling

The iaijutsu duel is the formal means of conflict resolution in Rokugan between members of the samurai caste. Such duels are most often to first blood, but matters of a truly grievous nature can result in a duel to the death. The social rules of such duels, and the circumstances giving rise to them, are described in the Book of Air. Mechanically, once a challenge has been issued and accepted, the process takes place over the course of two combat rounds. In an iaijutsu duel, both duelists are considered to be in Center Stance throughout the duel, and may not take any actions other than the ones outlined below.

Assessment: On the fi rst Round of the duel, both characters enter the Assessment stage on the Initiative Turn of the faster duelist. During the Assessment stage, each participant assumes the Center Stance and makes an Iaijutsu (Assessment) / Awareness roll against a TN equal to 10 plus their opponent’s Insight Rank x 5. If successful, a duelist’s roll reveals any one of the following pieces of information, plus an additional piece of information per Raise.

  • The opponent’s Void
  • The opponent’s Refl exes
  • The opponent’s Iaijutsu Skill
  • Any Iaijutsu Emphases the opponent may possess
  • The current number of Void Points the opponent has available
  • The opponent’s current Wound Level

If a character’s Assessment roll exceeds the total of their opponent’s roll by 10 or more, whether or not it gained any information, the winning character gains a bonus of +1k1 on his subsequent Focus roll. At this point, it is possible for either of the duelists to concede defeat, recognizing his opponent as superior.

Focus: During the second Round of the duel, both characters enter the Focus stage on the Initiative Turn of the faster duelist. The opponents study one another carefully, looking for any weakness. The duelists make a Contested Iaijutsu (Focus) / Void Roll. If one duelist beats the other’s roll by 5 or more, that duelist earns the right to make the fi rst strike. He gains a Free Raise toward his strike roll for every additional increment of 5 by which he beats his opponent’s roll. If neither duelist beats the other’s roll by at least 5, then a simultaneous "kharmic strike" takes place.

Strike: On the third Round of the duel, both characters enter the Strike stage on the Initiative Turn of the slower duelist. The duelist who won first strike makes an Iaijutsu / Reflexes attack roll against his opponent’s normal Armor TN. Any Free Raises gained from the Focus stage apply to this roll. The attack is resolved normally, including Wounds being applied. The second duelist may then make his Iaijutsu / Reflexes roll, assuming he still lives. In a duel to fi rst blood, the second duelist has lost the duel if his opponent struck him, and striking after first blood is considered extremely dishonorable. In the event that neither opponent won the Contested Roll during the focus stage, both make their attack rolls simultaneously, an event known as a kharmic strike. Destiny has intervened, and the cause of the duel is considered dropped by both parties. Neither is the victor or the defeated. If neither duelist is dead at the end of the Strike phase, and if the duel is to the death, the duel becomes a standard skirmish, continuing until one combatant is dead. Regardless of the results of the duel, the act of striking counts as each character’s actions for this Round.

Conditional Effects

There are a number of different conditions that can afflict
a character during combat, each with its own unique mechanical effects. School Techniques can cause many of these,
while others simply happen as a result of environmental factors. This list of conditions is not exhaustive, but covers all
the most likely conditions for a character to suffer. The GM should use these rules as guidelines for any unusual conditions that are not covered here.

Blinded : A character who has been struck blind or who suffers from the Blind Disadvantage suffers a penalty of -3k3 to all ranged attack rolls and -1k1 to melee attack rolls. A blind character’s base Armor TN is equal to his Refl exes Trait plus 5 (armor adds bonuses as normal). The character’s Water Ring is considered two ranks lower for the purposes of determining how far he can move as part of a Move Action. Any attempt at a Simple Move Action requires an Athletics/Agility roll (TN 20) or the character is knocked Prone.

Dazed : A character who has been dazed suffers a penalty of -3k0 to all actions. Dazed characters can only use the Defense and Full Defense Stances and cannot perform an Iaijutsu duel. The character may recover from this Status Effect by making a successful Earth Ring Roll versus a TN of 20 during the Reaction Stage. The target may attempt this roll once each Round, and the TN decreases by 5 each time he fails the roll.

Entangled : A character who has become entangled can take no Actions other than attempting to break free. This is a Strength roll against a TN determined by the GM based on the nature of the entanglement; it is a Contested Roll if someone else is actively trying to keep the character entangled. Opponents may initiate a grapple with an entangled character without an attack roll.

Fasting : A character who goes without food and water for 24 hours loses the ability to regain Void Points from rest, although they can still be regained from meditation. After two days of fasting, a character suffers a +5 TN penalty to all his Skill rolls, physical Trait rolls, and Spell Casting Rolls until he gets food and drink. This increases by +5 for each additional day of fasting. After a number of days of fasting equal to his Stamina, he begins losing 2k1 Wounds per day until he gets food and drink or dies.

Fatigued : A character who goes without rest for 24 hours suffers a +5 TN penalty to all his Skill rolls, physical Trait rolls, and Spell Casting Rolls until he rests. This penalty increases by an additional +5 for every day that passes without rest. After a number of days equal to the character’s Stamina Trait, he must begin making Willpower Trait Rolls at TN 20 every two hours to avoid falling asleep. A fatigued character may not take the Full Attack Stance.

Grappled : A character who is participating in a grapple is considered grappled. Characters who are grappled are much easier to hit with attacks, and have their Armor TN reduced to 5 plus any bonuses from armor they are wearing.

Mounted/Higher : A character sitting atop a horse or other mount, or who is on higher ground (at least a four foot height advantage), gains a bonus of +1k0 on attack rolls against un-mounted/lower characters. A mounted character may not use the Full Attack Stance.

Prone : A prone character is lying fl at on his back, side, or stomach, and cannot move, attack, or defend himself to full effect. A prone character immediately suffers a -10 penalty to his Armor TN against melee attacks. This penalty lasts until he stands up. He cannot use Move Actions, and may only adopt the Defense or Attack Stances. He cannot attack with large weapons, and suffers a -2k0 penalty to attacks with medium and small weapons. It requires a Simple Action to stand up from the prone position.

Stunned : A character who is stunned may take no actions. Such a character has an Armor TN equal to 5 plus any bonuses from armor worn. The character may recover from this Status Effect by making a successful Earth Ring Roll at TN 20 during the Reaction Stage. If he fails this roll, the status ends at the end of the next Combat Round.


Like the iaijutsu duel, grappling is a unique combat situation that is different enough from a standard skirmish that it warrants its own system. Grapples occur within the normal rules for a skirmish, however, and as such use the same rules for Initiative, Actions, Rounds, and Turns.

A character may initiate a grapple by making an attack roll using Jiujutsu / Agility. This is always a Complex Action unless the character possesses an ability that specifically renders grapples a Simple or Free Action. To successfully initiate a grapple, the attacking character must hit the target’s Armor TN with his attack roll. This attack roll ignores the benefits of armor to the Armor TN. If the attack is successful, both the attacker and the target are considered to be in a grapple.

When characters are involved in a grapple, one of them is in control. Initially this is the character who initiates the grapple, but it can change every round. A grappled character must try to control the grapple at the beginning of his Turn. All characters involved in the grapple must make a Contested Jiujutsu / Strength Roll. The character with the highest result on this roll is considered to be in control of the grapple until the next character’s Turn.

A character who has control of a grapple may do one of the following things on his Turn:

  • Hit: As a Complex Action, the character may inflict normal unarmed damage on any one other participant in the grapple. This damage cannot benefit from Raises, as there is no attack roll being made. Free Raises can still be applied, however.
  • Throw: As a Complex Action, the character may throw one opponent, causing them to become prone anywhere within fi ve feet of the character performing the throw. This removes the thrown character from the grapple.
  • Break: As a Simple Action, the character may immediately remove himself from the grapple.
  • Pass: As a Free Action, the character may do nothing, choosing to maintain the grapple and retain control.

Certain weapons, primarily chain weapons and certain polearms, may be used to grapple opponents. These types of grapples are identical to normal grapples, except that the attack roll and control rolls use the appropriate Weapon Skill in place of Jiujutsu, and a Hit inflicts damage based on the weapon instead of unarmed damage. There is a risk associated with this, however. If a character using a weapon loses control of the grapple, his opponent gains two free Raises on his next Turn to use the Disarm Maneuver against him.

Sumai Tournaments

Although sumai wrestling can be represented by the conventional L5R 4th Edition rules for unarmed combat and Grappling, many players and GMs may find this unsatisfactory as a simulation of a sport.

Accordingly, we present the following option: To represent sumai tournament wrestling, simply have the two wrestlers perform a Contested Roll of Jiujutsu (Sumai) / Strength. If one wrestler wins the Contested Roll by 5 or more, he wins the match (either knocking his opponent down or forcing him out of the ring). If neither wrestler beats the other’s roll by at least 5, the bout continues and another Contested Roll is made.

Sumo gain a considerable advantage from being larger and heavier than their opponents. GMs may represent this by awarding a +1k0 bonus to the roll for the larger wrestler, e.g. for a Large wrestler facing a normal or Small wrestler, or a normal wrestler facing a Small one.

GMs who want to add a little more depth to their sumai tournaments may also wish to incorporate the “stare-down” that takes place before each match, when each sumo seeks to intimidate the other and gain a psychological advantage. This can be represented with a Contested Roll of Intimidation / Willpower, with a wrestler who wins the roll by 5 or more gaining a +1k0 bonus to the subsequent Jiujutsu roll.

Off-hand Weapons & Multiple Attacks

Many players are interested in having their characters use two weapons simultaneously. This is not particularly common in Rokugan, as the vast majority of bushi use the katana, which is traditionally wielded in both hands. Exceptions exist, notably with the Dragon Clan and their daisho technique, the Mantis and their tendency to use matched pairs of small weapons, and the Lion’s favoring of the katana and war fan combination.

A character’s handedness is determined by the player. A character attempting to make an attack with a weapon in his off-hand suffers a penalty of -5 to the roll if it is a small weapon, -10 if it is medium, and -15 if it is large. Additionally, attacks made with the character’s dominant hand suffer a penalty of -5 to attacks as long as a secondary weapon is held in the off hand. However, a character wielding two weapons is more difficult to hit due to the larger area covered. As a result, characters wielding two weapons add their Insight Rank to their Armor TN.

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License