All (that I know of) schools in the first edition of Legend of the Five Rings provide the set of starting skills for the characters. Sometimes one or more of those skills are "open ended" like "any Bugei skill".
Can I choose a skill that's already on the list? For example: having Kenjutsu on the list and choosing it as my "any Bugei skill"
And if it is possible will this give me Kenjutsu 2 or just a wasted skill slot (the second option sounds unlikely, but I want to be sure)?

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ I prefer first edition answers, because that is what I play, but I guess, that if none can be found, other editions can be useful too. \$\endgroup\$
    – skkf
    Commented Jun 3, 2019 at 19:34
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ I'd stay stick with 1e. The later editions made more profound changes than this - some of them dramatically more profound. \$\endgroup\$
    – Ben Barden
    Commented Jun 3, 2019 at 19:47
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    \$\begingroup\$ Neither am I, but it is at least some hint. Do the schools work in a similar manner in fifth edition, anyway? \$\endgroup\$
    – skkf
    Commented Jun 3, 2019 at 19:55
  • \$\begingroup\$ @skkf: That may be worth asking as its own separate question. \$\endgroup\$
    – V2Blast
    Commented Jun 3, 2019 at 20:41
  • \$\begingroup\$ @skkf : Which school are you looking at? I may edit my answer afterward. Also, Editions 1-4 have a similar, even if ostensibly, rolling and advancement system. 5e works like Star Wars: Edge of the Empire after the rights were bought, and almost everything works quite differently. \$\endgroup\$
    – CatLord
    Commented Dec 21, 2020 at 12:47

2 Answers 2


The first relevant book for this question will be Legend of the Five Rings – Roleplaying in the Emerald Empire, aka the first edition core rules.

Let's skip right to Character creation, Chapter 2: Book of Water. Page 56 defines skills, and then page 57 instructs as follows:

Third: choose a school

... Then, write the Skills in the Skills section. Skills your character learns in his school will almost always begin at Rank 1.

The example of character building on page 62/63 does not help here, it chose a skill that the character didn't have yet. The Skills-subchapter starting page 68 says nothing. Neither does the first school with such a choice (Kuni Shugenja) elaborate on it.

The relevant passage does not explicitly forbid to stack the choice-Skill with a set Skill but says explicitly that while it is usual and almost always a Rank 1, that doesn't necessarily need to be so.

All but 3 schools get 7 separately listed Skill slots (either dictated skill or a choice). The 3 others are the Dragon Bushi, who get only 6, the Dragon Shugenja, who get 5, and the Unicorn Bushi, who gets get 6 slots naming one skill at 2. Unicorn Bushi is thus the only school that gets a higher skill level.

Most free choices use the syntax of "any one [X] Skill" or similar. However, not every choice is formulated so openly! Phoenix & Scorpion Shugenja say "any other 2 High Skills" (emphasis mine), excluding any Skill that is already on the sheet.

The second relevant Book is the errata, which does little to change rules in the relevant sections. But they do contain the following clarification:

Q: If a school gives you a choice of two extra high skill, can I take on skill at two?

A: Yes, depending on your GM's preferences.


Combining this reading of the core book schools with the exact language of the paragraph, my conclusion is:

Strictly reading it is not forbidden to double up a skill and thus get a higher specialty for less width. Since it is, for cost purposes, not relevant in which order skills are bought during character creation, it wouldn't save points for optimization.

The sentence structure in the Phoenix & Scorpion Shugenja choices heavily implies, that, while generally not forbidding double ups but for those two, it is usually intended to be an addition of any skill not already learned.

The Errata however clarify in the contrary: It is up to the GM to decide if doubling up school skills is allowable.


GM Approval, but Yes

Mathematically, as long as you buy any skill with Character Points (p57) it's a wash since they only charge 1CP per rank no matter what that rank is. Where things get a little questionable is that your starting maximum for Kenjutsu (or whatever) would be bumped to 4, because once you get to the character points stage, you can raise any one thing twice, with only traits explicitly capped at 4. If you plan to exploit that then your GM make take some issues with you gaming creation, and that's the only reason I won't call it a definite "yes".

In 3rd and 4th edition they charge based on the level of the skill, and saving a character point and interrupting the balance (even if only one point).


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