I’ve edited this list to remove the list of languages (and the last couple of references to non-generic advantages and disadvantages), and expanded or generalized a few things a bit more: it has close to two years since the list was updated. Note that the various advantages of Leaders are now a bit cheaper and more effective: in practice, their original effects generally were not worth the cost. The list is suitable for any game using the Legend of the Five Rings base mechanics, whether based in the usual setting, in foreign lands, in deep space, or whatever.
Advantages may be acquired after character creation, but doing so ALWAYS requires an in-game explanation that satisfies the Game Master. Cheap explanations (“I spend a lot of time training”) may suffice for some advantages, but leaves them costing twice their base costs. Good explanations played out in the game, such as seeking out a tutor or having a school that teaches an advantage as a technique, reduce the cost to the listed base. Advantages bestowed by the Game Master – such as being granted a new ally due to your heroic rescue of the individual in question – are free. Finally, if an advantage has some bothersome side effect, it’s cost is reduced by 1 point, to a minimum of 1. For example, a Gift that makes a character difficult to remember might make it hard for you to gain recognition for your deeds.
Allies, Contacts, and Connections are rated according to four basic elements – the extent of their Power, their Loyalty to your character, their Eccentricity, and their Inconvenience. You can have as many Allies as you wish, but they have a minimum cost of one point each [optionally, you can have a single ancestor spirit ally for 0 points], no matter how useless they are. Characters are normally presumed to have low-grade allies in their family and school at no cost.
Power ranges from Modest (a notable, but retired, expert in a field, a member of an important court with access to information but no authority, a very minor landholder or local official, a small spirit which can grant an extra spell slot and a free raise on a few basic spells under limited circumstances, a skilled warrior who can teach a few minor techniques, an ancestor spirit [these usually provide +5 points in something related to their role in life], a competent servant, a local street gang, 1 point), thru Moderate (a prominent authority in a field, a notable landowner or minor imperial official, a skilled teacher who can teach a school or two, someone with access to a library containing a selection of common spells, someone who can provide access to high-quality equipment or a well-equipped workshop, a spirit who can grant a few (about 10) points worth of abilities or a small pool of raises each day, a highly-skilled servant or agent, 2 points), or even Great (someone who controls vast lands or holds great political power, a powerful magic-wielder with access to potent spells, a great lord who could grant access to many schools, a mighty spirit which can provide some unique service or notably enhance several spells per day, someone who can provide extremely high-quality equipment, or someone who can bestow up to 20 points worth of techniques, 4 points).
Loyalty ranges from Minor (someone who’d take a little trouble and spend some money to help you out, but isn’t going to take any serious risks, 0 points), on through Notable (an ally who’d go to a lot of trouble and take significant personal risks to help you, but will not abandon his or her duty or risk his or her family and friends, 1 point), Major (an ally who’d take great personal risks and endanger his or her family and duties to help you, 2 points), and on up to Absolute (an ally who’d do virtually anything for you, no matter what the risk, 4 points).
Eccentricity ranges from None (your friend is a human citizen of the country or an ancestor spirit, 0 points) on through Minor (nonhuman natives to the setting or people from distant lands, 1 Point), Major (a minor spirit, a near-unique physical entity, a demon, or other truly bizarre entity, 2 points) on up to Incredible (a minor godling, a strange spirit, or an other-planar entity. 4 points).
Inconvenience ranges from 0 (your friend is almost always available and virtually never makes any demands on you), through Minor (your friend wants an occasional minor service or tribute, is paid a small honorarium when he, she, or it helps you out, wants regular weekly prayers and offerings, or is sometimes difficult to get ahold of, -1 point), Major (your “friend” always wants some service or payment when called upon, asks for daily prayers and small offerings, is only available at particular times and places, has enemies who make difficulties for you, or some such, -2 points) on to Impossible (the contact wants a fair block of time almost every day, wants you to go on regular quests for him, her, or it, or is otherwise an incredible amount of trouble, -4 points). Note that these are friends, contacts, and allies: they won’t demand the impossible or put you at severe risk for minor things. If you’re gravely wounded, you can skip the weekly ritual this time.
There are two specialized modifiers available for Allies, Contacts, and Connections. Replaceable (+2) lets you replace any you lose during the next game session (instead of regaining the points at one per session), although the GM may opt to modify them somewhat. Group (also +2) means that your connection is with a family, a branch of the government, a secret society, or some similar organization, rather than with an individual.
Ability-granting supernatural allies are the easiest way to build up a mass of special talents cheaply. A wise GM will keep a careful eye on them.
Bonus Dice are straightforward. You get 1-5 (depending on how often you purchased this advantage) bonus dice on your rolls. If you get to keep, but not roll them, their cost is doubled. If they count as being skilled, thus negating the penalties for being unskilled in a field, their cost is doubled. If you get to roll and keep the extra die their cost is tripled. Finally, if they count as being skilled and you get to roll and keep them, their cost is quadrupled.
Their base cost depends on how often you get to roll them. If the roll is Rare (per day, when someone specific is in danger, on social skills with peasants, on deceit rolls versus the opposite sex, versus fear, a particular lore skill, on rolls to recall random facts) each die costs (1). If it’s Uncommon (whenever you’re up against a particular group, versus poison and disease, on athletics rolls) each die costs (2). If it’s pretty Common (with all skills in a rarely-used category, with damage in unarmed melee combat, on all Initiative rolls, on any roll that depends on your speaking ability, against anyone who wounded you last round, on the first round of combat) each die costs (3). If it’s Very Common (with all weapons, when spellcasting, in melee combat, with any lore skill) each die costs (4). Finally, if it’s Extremely Common (such as all rolls using a particular ring or it’s traits), it costs (7)
When you’re actually rolling, you can trade one, and only one, bonus die (regardless of type) for a free raise. This rule is necessary to accommodate certain old-style advantages. The GM can and will disallow it if it’s being abused.
Enhancements increase the effective value of a trait or Ring by 1, per rank for the purpose of calculating some derived value or in a particular situation. They cost from ½ to 6 points per level, depending on how important the effect is and how often it comes up. For example, you may increase your Water ring for calculating your movement rate (½), any ring to get an extra spell slot (2), glory for the purposes of spreading gossip (2), your stamina for the purpose of healing wounds (1), your Void ring for the purposes of accumulating Void Points (5), your Void ring for the purposes of determining how many raises you may make (6), your Earth ring for the purposes of calculating your wounds (4), any ring to increase your rank-based technique limit or innate power level limit (5), or your reflexes for calculating your base armor class or initiative (5). In general, you may not have more than six levels or 15 points worth of any one enhancement.
Experience advantages include Obsessions (2), which provide one extra XP for any session in which you make notable progress toward them, Knacks (1-6), which reduce the cost of upgrading a particular skill or trait by 1 point per level, to a minimum of 1 point, and being a Sensei (5), which allows you to train individual students at 1 XP/month or groups thereof at half that rate (thus the 10-year school average for a starting character). In general, if the Game Master is going to allow these advantages at all, it may be best to simply give each character one of each. Allowing more causes problems.
Gifts provide protection against other people’s actions, increasing their target numbers by 5, 10, or 15 depending on how often you’ve purchased them. The price depends on how often they come into play. They may be Rare (when someone is trying to change your mind via the use of a skill) (1), Uncommon (when a roll is required to remember you, when someone is trying to confuse, stall, lie, or feint against you , when someone is trying to bribe or seduce you, when someone is trying to affect you with magic) (2), Common (when someone attempts to disarm you, when someone is attempting to persuade you of something) (3), or Very Common (when people are making rolls to hit you) (5) circumstances.
Languages cost 1 point each to speak or read, 2 for both, +1 to lipread, +1 if they are extremely alien and hard to speak, and +3 if they require some minor bit of magic – such as being able to change the color of your face or emit odd scents – to speak successfully. Characters normally speak and read their native tongue. Anyone with Status 1 or higher can speak that languages formal mode, if any. magic-wielders automatically speak any relevant magical tongue as well and can “write” it as a kind of cipher. Languages are advantages instead of skills because 1) you don’t roll them, and 2) to keep people from spending a void point to get one temporarily.
Leaders may add +1/2/3 to the effective skill and trait ratings being used by each member of a group in a cooperative skill roll for 5/7/10 points, add ½, 1, or 2x their Water Ring to their tactical skill rolls in mass combats (2/4/6), trade their initiatives with the character with the initiative just above or below them that character likes it or not (5), reduce the assistant’s target numbers for cumulative skill rolls by 5 and provide two free raises per successful assistant (6), or even allow everyone in a cooperative skill roll to roll independently, taking the highest result (10).
Natural Mastery allows the use of a single, 5-point, technique as an innate talent. This does not count against the user’s technique limits, but it can never be changed and any given character can have only one Natural Mastery (8).
Secrets are valuable pieces of information that few or no others possess. You could have material which could be used to blackmail someone important, clues to the location of a mighty lost artifact, know the location of some natural treasure, have access to secret magical information, know that a group of gaijin place great value on some herb common in the Empire, or hold a scroll or two of lost techniques, Secrets normally cost from 0-6 points, depending on how useful they are. Knowing great-grandmothers secret soup recipe probably won’t cost any points (unless there’s something REALLY special about it), having leverage on someone usually costs 1 point per point of the victim’s status, secret spells usually cost 1 point per level, a detailed knowledge of a particular province costs 2, a detailed knowledge of the northern half of the empire costs 5, and so on.
Special Equipment includes exotic, high-quality, and even magical gear. The GM will probably want to know how you got this: if it’s a family heirloom, it’s generally an honor and a responsibility to hold it. If you just found it, something is probably going on. If you acquired it somehow, how?
Trivial Items cost (1). They may simply be a minor gaijin or other exotic but mundane item, one made by a famous craftsman or with an impressive history (worth a free raise on social skills when you can relevantly drag out the story), be of Fine Quality, be a minor writ (e.g. imperial travel papers), or they may even be magical, if unimportant. For example, lamps that light themselves and musical instruments that play themselves on command, pens that write without ink and never smear, a charm granting access to a particular spell, cloaks that repel water and dirt, and similar items all fall into this category. Any magic-wielder can make such items given a little time and the expenditure of 1 XP.
Minor Items cost (2). Notable books written in gaijin lands, a telescope or (forbidden) gunpowder weapon fall into this category, as do Excellent Quality items, writs granting notable privileges, and items with lesser magical powers (such as casting a level 1 spell 1/day or a level 2 spell 1/week, storing a spell of up to level 3, recording messages, being weightless, boosting damage by +1K0 or +0K1, or providing another 2-point advantage. Such items can be created by level 2 magic-wielder with three raises on the crafting roll, 2 XP to spend, and an appropriate ritual.
Major Items cost (4). Extremely useful exotic tomes and gear, minor items from other worlds and times, and personal items which once belonged to legendary figures fall into this category, as do items of Legendary Quality. Greater magical powers – such as being able to cast a level 1 spell 3/day, a level 2 spell 1/day, or a level 3-4 spell 1/week, storing a couple of level 3 or lower spells or a single one of up to level 5, providing a 4-point advantage, acting as a standard item without penalties [such as a broach that acts like no-penalty armor], able to transform or conceal themselves, granting immunity to natural poisons and diseases, immovability, reducing all physical damage by the user’s earth rating, being considered jade for damage purposes, adding +2K1 or +1K2 magical energy damage, or fully healing the user once per day, also fit in here. Such items can be created by level 4 magic-wielder with 5 raises on the crafting roll, elaborate rituals, extremely difficult-to-obtain ingredients, and the expenditure of 4 XP.
Greater items can be created by simply summing up the costs, but this is subject to a (highly-recommended) maximum limit of 12 points.
Social Traits are straightforward. You can increase your Social Status up to 5 (4 per level), initial Honor (2 per level, and will go up and down normally thereafter), Initial Glory up to 5 (1 per level, but it will go up and down normally thereafter), Glory with respect to a particular group (+1 per 2 with minor groups, such as the peasantry, +1 per 3 with small groups, such as magistrates, travelers, or minor clans, +1 per 5 with major groups, such as everyone from a particular region, major clan, or faith; this is a permanent modifier), Wealth up to 6 (2 per level. Most Samurai start at 1, with a basic kit and a stipend of 10 x (Wealth + Social Status -1 ) koku per year. Each extra level also provides 2 koku worth of starting gear), and Effective Honor (this makes people think you have a higher Honor level than you do, 2 per level to a maximum of +3 levels). For 1-7 points you may select a non-clan school to which you have access, usually beginning your studies there due to being a guest of the clan, a hostage, or as a part of a treaty. The exact cost depends on whether the school is of a closely allied clan (1), of a friendly clan or taught by a family contact (2), is taught by an unfriendly clan or mysterious hermit or some such (3), belongs to a hostile clan (4), is from outside the Empire (5), is nonhuman (6), or is from outside the known universe (7, and you’d better have a REALLY good reason).
Talents resemble Bonus Dice, but negate 5, 10, or 15 points worth of Penalties for particular actions (for being taken 1-3 times) under Rare (when fighting aboard a ship in bad weather) (1), Uncommon (when suffering wound penalties) (2), Common (when just awoken or when fighting at night) (3), or Very Common (when fighting with two weapons) (4) circumstances.
Void Traits revolve around the mysterious forces of void and destiny. Unlike most of the others, however, they do not share a common mechanic. The ability to use an exotic branch of magic costs (5) (actually starting with training in such a branch of magic requires another 5). Fortune – expressed as rerolls per day at your option as to which to keep – can be purchased up to level 5, at a cost of (2) per level if it only applies in limited circumstances, (3) per level if you can use it anytime or can allow anyone nearby who is subjected to limited circumstances to use it and (4) per level if you can use it any time or allow others to do so. Immunity to involuntary loss of Void Points costs a mere (3). A Charmed Life makes you difficult to kill: either you can return after a period of time unless some specific measures are taken (for example, many shapeshifters can return unless a sealing ritual is used when they’re killed), escape a normally-fatal situation once per session, or cannot be killed except under some GM-chosen circumstances (4). A Spirit Tie (1) lets you know when a particular person is in trouble, for (2) it lets you keep track of them, and for (3) it lets you communicate with them at long range. A Blessing – if the Game Master opts to allow them – grants one free raise for every two you make successfully normally on a particular type of roll (2-8 points depending on the type of roll. Not really recommended, but included for back-compatibility with some old-style advantages). Finally, Mastery (8) in a skill eliminates raise caps on it, you may learn a technique related to the skill without a teacher and without it counting against your rank limit, and – at rank 10 in the skill – you may select an additional 10 points worth of Skill Enhancement techniques to apply to said skill at no cost.
While there are lots of specific disadvantages, players are free to come up with their own. Most are simply negative versions of advantages. Most others can be rated according to their Frequency and Severity.
! Frequency is how often the problem comes up: Rarely (0), Every Few Sessions (1), Every Other Session (2), Once A Session (3), Several Times Per Session (4), or Is a Constant Concern (5).
! Severity is how much trouble the disadvantage causes when it comes up. It may cause you Minor Difficulties (1), Great Aggravation (2), Serious Trouble (3), Disastrous Trouble (4), or Probable Death (5).
For example, being Ronin is Several Times/Great Aggravation, for (6). A few disadvantages are automatic “10’s”. These include being Unable to use Void Points (only applicable to creatures who could normally use them) and being a Peasant or Eta. Being non-human is not a disadvantage, no matter how badly people react to you. That’s subsumed in the racial modifiers for the nonhuman species.
Under the standard rules, each clan is associated with particular advantages and disadvantages, buying the advantages for a point less and getting an extra point from the disadvantages. This does not normally apply to point-buy characters. The game master may, however, opt to give characters who adhere closely to their clan stereotypes a 5 XP bonus – if only to encourage the practice and because their enemies will find them easier to predict and manipulate.