Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Missing The Point

I keep seeing people complaining about the lethality of the Legend of the Five Rings RPG.  "One hit," I hear, "And my character is screwed."

I get these complaints both online and in person (from a good friend of mine).

They're also missing the point.

I recently read a game that included this in its introduction:
This is a game about death. The true motobushi lives his life and performs his tasks as if he is already dead, and thus has nothing to fear from the spilling of his life’s blood. The mechanics of this game allow seven possible ways for your motobushito die, each of which you can easily prevent, but none of which you should actively avoid.
Remember: not every death is one of the blood.
The game, by the way, is Motobushido.  And I heartily recommend it.

But that opening statement should apply to any samurai-flavored game.

It's even authentic to the period that L5R tries to emulate.

From The Hagakure:
I have come to understand the heart of bushido.  The way of hte warrior is fulfilled in death.  When you are in a situation where your death will benefit your cause, you should instantly choose death.  This will not be a difficult choice if you are truly committed beforehand.  The saying "To die without achieving your goal is to die a meaningless death" is the foolish prattling of those who sit around thinking and never do anything.  Life is not so important when forced to choose between life and integrity.  Of course, we all want to live, and this side of our nature will never fade.  It is easy to reason your way into clinging to life, but if you remain alive without achieving your goal, you are a coward. 
That's ... pretty clear.

The game's system is designed to reinforce this philosophy.  Death should always be on the minds of the characters.  Death in pursuit of their household goals is the point of their life. But I don't know that I have ever seen that explicitly called out in the book, other than maybe a reference to The Hagakure in the bibliography of recommended readings.

By the way: As a GM, I have never killed a PC in combat in L5R. Not one.

So - after all of that rambling from me about how wrong-headed my friend is and how he's totally missing the point, let me remind you of this:

A role-playing game is a collaboration between GM and player.  We gather to have fun together.

Which one of us has missed the point?

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