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)?

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    \$\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 Jun 3 '19 at 19:34
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    \$\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 Jun 3 '19 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 Jun 3 '19 at 19:55
  • \$\begingroup\$ @skkf: That may be worth asking as its own separate question. \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Jun 3 '19 at 20:41

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 following:

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 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 choicees use the syntax of "any one X Skill" or similar. However, not every choice is formumated so openly! Phönix & 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 do little to change rules in the relevant sectionse. 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 speciality for less width. Since it is, for cost purposes, not relevant in which order skills are bought during character, it wouldn't save points for optimisation.

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.

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In 5e you can get up to three ranks in each skill during character creation (41). You use the Game of the Twenty Questions Sheet to choose your options.

If you encounter an open-ended choice, you can choose any skill that complies with that choice. Your rank in that skill increases by the stated amount (usually +1) - unless you already have three ranks in that skill. In that case, you cannot make that choice, make a different choice instead.

So by making choices accordingly, you could end up with a martial skill of 3, for further information on Kenjutsu in 5e see the sub-skill (p. 162].

I lack the expertise to give you an edition-comparison that would help you compare that information to 1e content.

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