Skills fall into a number of categories. The most significant of these is referred to as the subtype, a system where all Skills are sorted into one of four broad categories depending upon how the use of the Skill is regarded in Rokugani society.

  • High Skills are exclusively the province of the samurai caste. These are the Skills one would typically see in use at a daimyo's court, or even among the attendants of the Emperor's court. They reflect sophistication and nobility, and typically require considerable education in order to attain and practice.
  • Bugei Skills are the domain of the bushi. These are the Skills of a warrior, and while the samurai are not the only ones who practice them (since ashigaru and budoka learn some of these as well), they are unquestionably the masters of the craft.
  • Merchant Skills represent knowledge of certain practices that are not the domain of the samurai. While it is not inherently dishonorable to practice these Skills, it is somewhat questionable, and those who do so openly and regularly are looked upon with mild disdain by their more sophisticated kinsmen.
  • Low Skills represent deplorable crafts and practices that no honorable soul would even imagine taking up. Practicing any of these Skills will usually result in a loss of Honor for a samurai who does so, and if done in public, quite possibly Glory as well.


Individual Skills may cover a number of different activities, all of which fall under the auspices of the primary Skill. These different aspects are called Emphases, and can give a bonus to characters who choose to pay special attention to that aspect of the Skill.
The number of Emphases a character may possess for a Skill is determined by his rank in that Skill. A character may possess one Emphasis for a Skill at Rank 1, two Emphases at rank 3, three Emphases at rank 5, four at Rank 7, and a maximum of five Emphases at rank 9. It costs two Experience Points to purchase an Emphasis in a Skill. An Emphasis is indicated in parentheses after the name of the Skill to which it is attached. For example, a character with three ranks in the Kyujutsu Skill and an Emphasis for the yumi would note the Skill as follows: Kyujutsu (Yumi) 3.
When making a Skill Roll, if the character has an Emphasis that applies to the situation requiring the roll, he may immediately re-roll any dice that result in a 1. This may only be done once per roll. For example, if a character with Kenjutsu (Katana) 3 and Agility is making an attack with a katana, he rolls 5k2 for the attack and gets 1,1,4,6,8. Because he is using a katana and has the Katana Emphasis for Kenjutsu, he immediately re-rolls the two dice that resulted in a 1, getting a 1 and a 7. He would then presumably keep the 7 and the 8, for a total of 15. The die that rolled a 1 the second time would not be re-rolled.

Mastery Abilities

Because of the nature of the Roll & Keep system, Traits are often considered more important than Skills, since they contribute not only to the number of dice rolled, but also determine how many are kept. Skills have a number of benefits of their own, however, and the most potent of these are Mastery Abilities.
Mastery Abilities are additional benefits that characters gain from having higher ranks in a given Skill. Although most Skills have them, there are some that do not. Those Skills that have Mastery Abilities typically gain them at Ranks 3, 5, and 7, although there are some Skills that gain a single Mastery Ability at Rank 5. These benefits are listed in the individual Skill write-ups. Unless otherwise specified, Mastery Abilities only apply when the actual Skill in question is being used.
All Skills possess a single Mastery Ability at Rank 10, which is a Free Raise on all rolls made using that Skill.

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