Table of Contents

The most basic representations of a character’s abilities are the Five Rings. The Five Rings are the basic conceptual building blocks of the Legend of the Five Rings world. All things, both living and nonliving, 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 infl uence 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 behavior 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 Refl exes is fl eet of foot and possesses a lightning fast response time that aids him in many aspects of combat. Refl exes is important in the determination of a character’s Initiative and Armor 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, resisting the power of the Shadowlands Taint, 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 benefi t 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 diffi culty 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-eye 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 Void. Void is poorly understood by the mortal mind, for it is both the presence and the absence of the other four elements. It is the state of all elements existing together simultaneously, and yet it is also the emptiness that exists between them. Void is an almost uniquely human trait, a result of the divine spark that exists within them through their creation by the forces of the Celestial Heavens. Very few other creatures can even perceive the Void, let alone manipulate it.

There are no Traits associated with the Void Ring. Instead, a character gains a number of Void Points equal to his Void Ring, and may use them to enhance die-rolls and other actions made during the course of the game. Void Points represent a moment of enlightened insight or an epiphany that a character experiences, that moment when, for just an instant, he is at one with the universe. A character’s pool of Void Points is refreshed each day after an opportunity to rest, although certain meditation techniques allow them to be recovered more quickly.

A player may declare he is spending a Void Point any time when it would be applicable, but the most common instances are before the player’s character makes a roll, takes certain types of Actions, or takes damage. The expenditure of a Void Point enhances a roll or the character’s abilities in one of a number of different ways. A character may normally only spend one Void Point per Round for one of the following effects, although some abilities may allow them to spend more than one under certain circumstances. By spending a Void Point, a character may:

  • Gain a bonus of +1k1 to a Skill, Trait, Ring, or Spell Casting roll (the Void Point expenditure must be declared prior to the roll being made). Damage Rolls may not be enhanced in this manner.
  • Temporarily increase his rank in a Skill from 0 to 1, avoiding Unskilled Roll penalties.
  • Reduce the amount of Wounds suffered from one source of damage by 10 (this must be done immediately after the damage total is announced).
  • Increase his Armor TN by 10 for one round. This is done at the beginning of the combat Round.
  • Exchange his Initiative Score with one willing target for the remainder of the current skirmish. This is done at the beginning of the combat Round. Only one of the two characters needs to spend a Void for this effect to take place.
  • Increase his Initiative Score by 10 for the duration of the current skirmish. This is done at the beginning of the combat Round.

Also, Void Points may be spent to activate certain School Techniques; this does not count against the once per Round restriction.

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