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. Samurai begin acquiring the basic building blocks of Skills at a very young age, when they fi rst enter a dojo to begin training for a life of service in the name of their Clan. Each Clan’s dojo teaches different Skills, and even within a single Clan the Skills taught at particular dojo can vary widely. All dojo offer a number of additional, optional courses of study for their students, however, so even two samurai who attend the same dojo can have different Skills, albeit with a common base of training.
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 fi rst, 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 Maneuvers 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 his Void Ring. A character with Void 2, for instance, can make 1 or 2 Raises per roll, but not 3. 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 fi nd 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.

Example: John’s character Bayushi Shinai is going to fire an arrow at an enemy samurai. The Skill that governs archery is Kyujutsu, which is usually paired with Reflexes. Shinai has Reflexes 3 and Kyujutsu 4, so he rolls 7 dice (3+4). John rolls seven ten-sided dice and gets a 2, 4, 5, 7, 7, 8, and a 12 (a 10 that was rolled again to get a 2). John may keep 3 dice with his Refl exes of 3, and chooses to keep the 7, 8, and 12 to get a total of 27. Since his Game Master had announced the TN for the shot was 20, Shinai has struck his target.
It is possible for characters to make Skill Rolls even if they possess no ranks in the given Skill. This is referred to as an Unskilled Roll.

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 benefi t 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, for example, or a character may have to roll Earth to resist the Shadowlands Taint.

Damage Rolls

Damage rolls are very common in combat. Any time a character makes a successful attack roll (a specifi c kind of Skill Roll), he infl icts 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 infl icting. For melee weapons, a character using a particular weapon adds his Strength to the number of rolled dice in the weapon’s DR. For example, a Crab bushi with Strength 3 using a dai-tsuchi (DR 5k2) would roll 8k2 damage following a successful attack with the dai-tsuchi.
For ranged weapons, the character’s Strength is not always added to the DR of the weapon, depending upon the weapon used. The most common ranged weapons, bows, have a Strength rating of their own that is added to the rolled dice of the projectile’s DR. A yumi has a Strength of 3, for example. Using a yumi to fire a standard arrow would roll a total of 5k2 (Strength 3 plus the arrow’s DR of 2k2) for damage from a successful attack roll. For rules for other ranged weapons please see Equipment.
Another kind of damage roll is the unarmed damage roll. A character that has made a successful attack against an opponent using only his bare hands inflicts unarmed damage. Unarmed attacks normally have a DR of 0k1, which means the character rolls a number of dice equal to his Strength, and keeps one.

Spell Casting Rolls

Spell Casting Rolls are the province of shugenja and are made to determine if they are successful in casting a particular spell. When a shugenja prepares to cast a spell of a particular element, the player rolls a number of dice equal to the character’s Shugenja School Rank plus his Ring in the relevant element, and keeps a number of dice equal to the character’s Ring. EXAMPLE: Brent’s character Isawa Tishi is going to cast a Fire spell. Tishi has Fire 3 and is a Rank 1 student of the Isawa Shugenja School. Brent rolls 4 dice (3+1) and keeps 3 (equal to the character’s Fire Ring).

Contested Rolls

A Contested Roll is made when two characters are making a roll in direct opposition to one another, and only one can be successful. Any type of roll can be a Contested Roll, meaning that there can be Contested Skill Rolls, Contested Trait Rolls, Contested Ring Rolls, etc. In the case of a Contested Roll, both participants make the designated roll (i.e. in a Contested Agility Roll, the players both roll their characters’ Agility) and compare the result. The character whose player rolled a higher result is victorious. It is possible for multiple characters to be involved in a Contested Roll, in which case the player who rolls the highest of those involved is the victor. In any instance where there is a tie on a Contested Roll, and the circumstances of the roll are such that a tie is not a viable option, the players involved must immediately re-roll the Contested Roll. Multiple re-rolls may be made if subsequent ties are the result (although that is statistically unlikely!).
It is possible to declare Raises on a Contested Roll. If this is done, that character’s roll must exceed his opponent’s by an increment of 5 for every Raise declared, or he is considered to have failed the roll.

Skill Rolls, Expanded

Given that Skill Rolls are the most frequent kind of roll made in the L5R RPG, there are a wide variety of situations and circumstances that can arise as a result of rolls, and several different ways in which these rolls can be made. The following situations and roll types are likely to come up in most average campaign sessions.

Unskilled Rolls

It is possible for a character to attempt a roll when a Skill Roll is called for, even if they have no ranks in that Skill. In this case, they are effectively making a Trait Roll against a Skill Roll TN, which is typically higher than most Trait Rolls can realistically achieve. When making an Unskilled Roll, the following two conditions apply:

  • Dice never explode on an Unskilled Roll.
  • Unskilled Rolls may not benefi t from Raises, either called Raises or Free Raises.

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 fi rst attempt failed. When making a second attempt at the same Skill Roll, the TN for the Skill Roll increases by +10. Second attempts on Skill 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 fi rst involves a group working together toward one end, without signifi cant 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 other 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 samurai 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 samurai roped together, each of them will roll their Athletics (Climbing) Skill. The samurai with the highest Skill in the group has Athletics 4, so the other samurai 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 achievedthrough 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.

Special Dice Rules

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 die’s 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.

The Ten Dice Rule

In the L5R RPG, 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. c 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.
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