Blades of the Five Rings

Blades in Rokugan
Since I like Rokugan and I don’t enjoy the direction FFG went with in their revival, I did what all people should do, and tried to create something with Rokugan that I like. So I basically hacked John Harpers “Blades in the Dark” and got this, I tried to keep it intuitive and didn’t write it in a formal way. This is by no means finished, just something playable. For those actually knowing Blades in the Dark, I obviously changed a lot:

The core resolution mechanic is as follows: When Characters want to do something they could fail in an interesting/relevant way, determine the Intend of their Action and the Task of how they want to accomplish their intend. Then the Players have to make an Action Roll.

Action Rolls work as follows: You Roll a number of d6. You Roll one relevant Ring + one relevant Asset and look what the highest Result is, if your pool is 0 roll 2d6 and take the lowest.

1-3 is a fail, something bad happens. Think of it as: instead of what you wanted, you get … Examples: Instead of hitting them, they hit you. Instead of opening the lock, some guards come around the corner. Instead of seducing the courtier, they actually seduce you.

4-5, you kinda get what you want, but not like really. A qualified success, think of it as: you get what you want, but… Examples: You hit your opponent, but you get hit as well. You get through the guards, but not without paying them. You lure some info out of the courtier, but not without them getting some information as well.

6: You get what you want. Without a but.

More than one 6: You get more than you want. A Crit basically.

If your action succeeds the regular Effect is 2. All Intentions are Clocks, which you fill with effect. Regular Intentions should require a 2 Clock. More complicated enemies or difficult maneuvers might require you to fill larger Clocks. Which might require more than one Action or Special Abilities. Like a peasant might be a 1 Clock a Samurai can easily strike one down with one strike. An Enemy Samurai might require a 4 Clock. If you just have regular effect (that’s 2) you might need 2 successful strikes (twice regular effect of 2) to bring them down. The GM has the right to change the effect to fit the action. Attacking with a broom might be less effective than attacking with a sword. On a Crit one usually gains improved effect or some other boon.

When you Roll a 1-3, 4-5 or you face a serious challenge you might suffer Consequences thrown at you by the GM. Consequences are the bad things during the Action Rolls. When you are facing a foe, to powerful for you, or a situation so dire, you can suffer Consequences without making a Roll in the first place. If you are facing of with your allies vs. some gigantic Oni, the Oni might be able to just inflict a Consequence upon you, because he is just a lot more powerful than you and you can chose to Resist that.
If you don’t want that Consequence to happen, you can Resist and roll with the appropriate Ring and spend a number of Heart equal to the lowest number rolled. When the Ring used is 0, Roll 2d6 and take the highest. When you Resist a Consequence, it just doesn’t happen. When your Heart is empty, you can’t Resist anymore and you have to change one of your Bushido Virtues. Your Heart completely refills at the end of every “Adventure”. Also you regain 1 Heart for every xp you got from your Bushido at the end of every session.

Character Creation:

…works as follows:

you have 5 Rings of which 4 work as kind of attributes. However they talk about how good you are at doing stuff a certain way, instead of your natural features. You get 5 points to spend, the max. level of a Ring is 2.

Earth (steady, careful)
Fire (brash, ferocious)
Water (forceful, attentive)
Wind (graceful, cunning)

Nothingness (on every Action or Resist Roll you make you can spend 1 Nothingness to get +1d, you get them back after each scene)

Generally speaking, Earth is your “hp”, Fire is your speed and reflexes, Water is your attentiveness and Wind is your appeal. Like, the person with the highest Appeal is the most likely to get talked to, highest Fire gets to act first etc.

You start with 10 Heart which can go to 0 and a Glory of 3. You can permanently spend Glory to use your good name to get stuff without a Roll using nothing but your good name. You get Glory upon finishing missions giving by your Lord, defeating worthy foes, slaying monsters etc. The usual stuff.

Also, you get Assets, you get 1 at level 2 and 3 at level 1:

  • Clan + Family Name (+2 Descriptors)
  •  School+Style (+2 Descriptors)
  • An Item of personal importance (+2 Descriptors)
  • A natural feature (+2 Descriptors)

The Descriptors tells us in what situation the Assets can be applied. If more than 1 Descriptor of the SAME Asset applies you get +1 effect per additional Descriptor that applies.

An incomplete list of Descriptors follows, you can think of some yourself, however use your common sense. If your Descriptor works in every situation, its a bad Descriptor. You can use general Activities to set Descriptors, but not for Combat stuff, since that would be boring. :

Combat Situation
Skirmish (Combat without Rules between a bunch a people)
Battle (War with battle lines and such)
Duel (A duel or 1on1 Combat)
Certain Weapon-Type
The first round of combat
After getting an injury

Non-Combat Activities
casting a Spell
performing a Kiho
Knowing about X

The Mountains
The Sea
The Court
The Shadowlands

The Target
vs. Kamis
vs. Monsters
vs. Samurai
vs. Courtier
vs. Peasants
vs. a certain Clan

you get the drift. You Roll with Ring+Asset. To roll an Asset at least one Descriptor has to apply. To roll a Ring the task has to actually (honestly) be performed that way. So like, its hard to sneak brashly, if silence is important. Or hard to run carefully, if its about speed. Its the players job to use Rings and Assets. However the GM always has the right to modify the effect of the action.

Also there are Playbooks with Special Abilities. You get to chose 1 Playbook and 2 Special Abilities. You can take special Abilities from any Playbook. Every Playbook starts with 1 Ability for free. You can’t get those from other classes. Those are the things in ( ) after the name.

Bushi: (you wear armor, yay)

  • Duty knows no pain: Ignore a number of injuries of up to your Earth
  • Cutting Steel: Increase Effect with a certain weapon-type by 1. Spend 2 Heart and make a roll to cut something usually not though cut-able. 
  • Heart of a true warrior: Increase your Heart by your highest Ring
  • Art of the Duel: You always get to chose an additional option while fighting a Duel
  • Lord of Battles: Increase the Tier of every Army you fight in and all Cohorts under you by 1. 
  • In presence of a true warrior: Increase all effect of actions that utilize the forceful exertion of your charisma. Spend 2 Heart and make a Roll to make all Action freeze to notice you.
  • With hands like swords and swords like spears: You can target an additional enemy during skirmish.
  • Move as wind, strike as lightning: When there is a question of who acts first, its you. You can spend 2 Heart to get an additional action, once per scene.
  • Master of the Jade: Increase your effect vs. Monsters of the Shadowlands by 1. Also you are unaffected by taint, baring the strongest kind.
  • The way of the sword: You can spend 2 Heart to utilize your school in a situation it normally wouldn’t apply in.

Courtier: (you are a person of importance)

  • Like a look in the Mirror: You always see lies and notice peoples trues intentions.
  • visage of innocence: unless utterly obvious you are always last suspected of crimes. Spend 2 Heart and make a Roll to extend that effect to allies.
  • Yojimbo: You have a loyal bodyguard. Get an additional level 2 Yojimbo Asset with 2 Descriptors. Name them and specify why they are loyal to you.
  • Behind the Fan: Increase the effect of all devious social maneuvers you perform. Spend 2 Heart and make a Roll to visibly shame someone. They will Attack you, fall in standing or hesitate for a long time.
  • Friends in high places: Name an important person and add them as an level 2 asset. They are a friend and can help from time to time.
  • Strings of heaven: The Art you produce is sublime. You can spend 2 Heart and make a Roll to bind all people playing attention.
  • Trust: you get +1d vs a target you had/have an intimate relationship with.
  • Mesmerism: you can chose to make people forget conversations they had with you.
  • Executive branch: local law enforcement listens to you to a reasonable extend. You have to roll, if it gets absurd.
  • A frog leaps in… : When you pour 2 Heart into a Haiku and read it to a person in intimacy make a Roll and chose 2: 
  • They fall in love with you, 
  • nobody notices it, otherwise somebody noticed
  • they offer you a gift, 
  • you get +1d against them for d6 rolls.

Shugenja: (you can control a specified element for 1 Heart in your vicinity for one Roll)

  • Tempest: You can summon up an elemental Tempest for Heart. 1-5, 1= a person, 5 a village, or Champion of the Elements: You can control all elements and it costs you only 1 Heart instead of 2.
  • Ritual of the Fortunes: you can perform a sacrificial rite to commune with the Kami present. Spend 2 Heart and make a Roll. The sacrifice must be about as important as what you want.
  • Ritual of the Elements: Create a Ritual. Tell the GM what it is supposed to do. They will tell you what you need for it.
  • Touch like cold water: You can spend 3 Heart and make a Roll to heal an injury or an illness. Make a Roll with Water.
  • Armor of somber stone: You can spend 3 Heart and make a Roll with Earth to fortify the clothes of a person. It now counts as armor and can take up to 2 hits.
  • Rising from burning ashes: You can spend 3 Heart to ignite the soul of a warrior. Make a Roll with Fire. They get +1d and increased effect for the scene.
  • Stepping on high clouds: Make a Roll and spend 2 Heart. You can walk on air now. For a scene.
  • Commune with the elements: spend 1 Heart to talk with the elements.
  • Ask for guidance: When you are in the presence of a mighty Kami or a holy place, make a Roll and ask the GM one question, they will answer honestly.

Monk: (Your fists count as normal weapons)

  • One with all: Spend 2 Heart to gain 1 Nothingness and vice versa
  • Body of steel: Spend 1 Void to gain 1 Armor
  • Mind it aflame: spend 1 Void and make a Fire Roll: 1-3: chose 1, 4-5: chose 2, 6: chose 3, 6,6: chose all
  • Gain increased effect on physical stuff this scene, 
  • perform one feat of extreme physical prowess, 
  • your body wont thank you later for this (dont take 1 injury later on), 
  • get+1 for the next d6 rolls in this scene
  • Legs made from Storm: spend 1 void to get the movement of a horse. Also generally, when there is a question about the speed of people on foot, you are the fastest.
  • a fish’s Spirit: you swim like a fish. Also you can hold your breath for a ludicrous amounts of time.
  • Deep Spirit: you gain 2 void to spend for free during every session.
  • Master of the empty Hand: improved effect while fighting without weapons other than your bare hands. Spend 2 Heart to get additional improved effect for d6 actions.
  • Atemi Strikes: When you strike the right points of a opponent that’s still human, Spend 2 Heart and make a Roll, then chose 1: 
  • the target can’t move away from their position, 
  • the target will go unconscious in a minute or so, 
  • the target will not feel any pain for the next minute or so
  • Wisdom of the Shinsei: when you let the wisdom of Shinsei speak and preach about the greatness of the Tao, spend 1 Heart and make a Roll: 1-3: chose 1, 4-5: chose 2, 6: chose 3, 6,6: chose all
  • will offer you a gift, 
  • will talk to you honestly, 
  • will not regret it later on, 
  • will from now on see you in a different light
  • Kami no machi: when you worship the fortunes and pray, spend 2 Heart and make a Roll: 1-3: chose 1, 4-5: chose 2, 6: chose 3, 6,6: chose all
  • The Kamis will smile upon you, you can once have pure luck, tell the GM when. 
  • Peasants will treat you with reverence, 
  • You will get an insight about your current situation, 
  • It wont take very long

Ninja: (you can use Ninja Equipment: Shuko, Kurasi-Kama, Mankiri-Gusari, Shuriken, Kunai )

  • Ambush Expert: When you spring an Ambush, get +1d and increased effect during the surprise.
  • Walking without trace: You leave no unwanted marks. And make no unwanted sound.
  • Master of Shadows: Increase effect for stealth operations. You can spend 2 Heart to go invisible for a short time.
  • Poison Master: You can spend 2 Heart to prepare a new poison. You start with one preparation. Make a Roll and chose 2: 
  • it works fast, otherwise it takes some time
  • its deadly, otherwise it just causes extreme nausea 
  • it leaves no traces, otherwise its obvious what was used
  • its fast on hand, otherwise you need some time to get the poison out
  • Ninjutsu: You get improved effect with all Ninja Weapons. You can spend 3 Heart to dodge a potential injury from an attack. 
  • Master of Intrigue: Once per session roll a d6 and ask the GM about current events regarding the rolled topic.1: War, 2: Arts, 3: Religion, 4: Your Clan,  5: Politics, 6: something Local
  • Friends everywhere: You got around and got friends, like everywhere. Spend 1 Heart to create a friend in a low position.
  • Weapons on hand: Even thorough inspection wont find some small weapons you carry around. Basically you are always armed. Even in the bath.
  • Eyes of the big eagle: When you observe and analyze potential foes, spend 1 Heart and make a Roll: 1-3: chose 1, 4-5: chose 2, 6: chose 3, 6,6: chose all
  • You notice a vulnerability, 
  • you notice who is the most dangerous around, 
  • you notice who they are truly aligned with, 
  • they don’t notice your efforts.
  • Intuition: You can always tell when somethings just not right. You get +1d to detect stuff that’s meant to go unnoticed. 


Equipment really shouldn’t matter for the kind of stories one should tell with this system. I advise using some easy kind of system. But hey, if you want to micromanage equipment more, go ahead. You could give certain equipment improved effect in certain situation, I just don’t think that fits.

While travelling everyone got:

  • some rice and beans to not starve
  • some gear and something to sleep “on the road”
  • Your Katana and Wakizashi
  • A secondary Weapon 
  • Some sturdy clothes or some noble cloth
  • a Warhorse, a Sprinter or another Weapon
  • some writing equipment, some hunting equipment, some jade medallion or a spyglass
In addition whenever they want to have already bought something and it is reasonable they should just make a Roll to already have that item. “Oh I would totally have bought a map of the surrounding area!” “Cool, make a Roll”

On Foes:

So, how do foes work in this system? Generally they have hp which gets filled by the effect of the players. If they are on par with players or weaker, they inflict injuries when players fail their roles. If they are in a different league than them, the players might have to resist them before even getting chance to Roll. This is hard to explain, you can just read Blades in the Dark, it works in a similar way. Or Dungeon World, it works similar to Dungeon World also. If Players are fighting things still Human1on1 they…


While you are fighting 1on1 or a an official duel, combat works as follows:
At the start both parties establish whats at stake. what they want if they win. After that, establish whether this is to the Death or till first blood. Only if both want to fight until first blood that option is chosen. If you were to get improved effect during a duel, you get +1d instead.
During each round, both parties make a Roll. Npcs have a Dicepool from 1-7. 1 being a Peasant and 7 being like a Dragon.
1-3: chose 1, 4-5: chose 2: 6: chose 3, for every additional 6: chose 2 more. Every option can be chosen multiple times. And the choices are made hidden.

  • Attack!: Perform 1 attack, if this goes through they take an Injury.
  • Focus!: Get +2d next round. 
  • Counter!: Negate 1 attack and perform 1 attack if you negated an attack.
  • Dodge!: Negate 2 attacks, you take -1d next round.
  • Fight Dirty?: -1 Glory, negate 1 attack, they take -2d next round.
  • Feint!: Make one attack you already did uncounterable
  • Do something else and hope for mercy!?: What it says. You are in a fight and try not to fight. Maybe they wont strike?

After the options were chosen, compare them. Surmise how many attack got through, who takes how many injuries and who gets what dice modifiers next round. Then go again, if one of both still want to fight.


Whenever you take an Injury (you don’t or can’t resist a harm consequence) mark 1 Injury on your Sheet. You can take a Number of Injuries = your Earth +2. When that number is reached you are in need of help and the next Injury will kill you.
If you wear armor, you can use your armor once instead of rolling resist for harm.
The GM names the Injury,when an Injury applies to the situation, take -1d.


You need 10 Xp for a new Special Ability and 7 xp to increase a Ring or and Asset by 1 the max level of a Ring is 3 and of an Asset is 4.

You get Xp by following the Bushido despite all odds. So, following your Bushido through resistance. No resistance, no xp. When your Heart Track fills remove one Virtue and replace it with something selfish. When All Virtues are filled, your character has become unplayable. For every xp you get through your Virtues you get to refill 1 Heart.

You Have:

Righteousness – Gi
Courage – Yu
Compassion – Jin
Courtesy – Rei
Honor – Meiyo
Integrity – Makoto
Duty – Chugi

1xp and 1 Heart refill for each at the end of session.

Also you can have up to 2 Goal. Things you want to personally achieve, or missions you were given.
1 xp if you active followed those through resistance, 2xp if you finished them through resistance. So max. Xp per session is 11.

At the end of the session, when you actively went against one of your Virtues, block it. You now can’t gain xp through it until you emotionally rectified your mistake.


Concept: big bad Crab Bushin, Her Family was killed by the Shadowlands taint, now she wants revenge.

RINGS (5 Points to spend, max level of a Ring is 2)

Earth 2
Fire 1
Water 1
Wind 0
Nothingness 1

ASSETS: (1 at level 2 and 3 at level 1, every asset with 2 Descriptors)

Name: Miraya Miko – 1 (Peasants, Crab People) It’s a low standing family from the crab clan.

School: School of the Jaden Mask – 2 ( with Jade Weapons, vs. Monsters) It’s a school made to combat the evils of the Shadowlands in Rokugan.

An Item of Importance: The old Pipe of her Grandfather – 1 ( The Court, The Shadowlands) An old pipe made partially from Jade. Its design is sublime.

A Natural Feature: Her Iron Will – 1(Skirmish, After getting hurt) Her pure will is known to push through, no matter what

Playbook: Bushi (she wears armor)

Special Abilities: Jade Master; Deep Spirit

She stars with 10 Heart and 3 Glory and is ready to play!


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