Our group recently started up a campaign in L5R 3rd edition. I decided to go with a Dragon Clan monk. After a few play sessions, I'm starting to run into issues finding a role for the character. We have enough ranged characters in the party ( two dedicated archers, a shugenga (wizard), and a scout) that it doesn't make much sense for me to rush into melee. Either the party kills the threat or it was too strong to engage with face-to-face anyway.

My ideal solution would be to tweak the character to be more support oriented. After all, those squishy ranged sorts need someone to watch their backs. Unfortunately, this system doesn't seem to offer many tools to actually support that playstyle. I have my tattoos (Bat, Arrowroot, Blaze, and Bellflower), but those are pretty limited. Apparently dragon clan monks don't get 'kiho' abilities like normal monks.

Are there any skills or abilities I can pick up that will let me adapt this character to better fit the party? Is 'run up and punch hard' really my only option?

  • \$\begingroup\$ Which tattoos do you have? \$\endgroup\$
    – CatLord
    Feb 18, 2020 at 1:03
  • \$\begingroup\$ @ CatLord This issue is not which tattoos I have (currently I have Bat, Arrowroot, Blaze, and Bellflower), it's that none of the available options really do anything to help other PCs. I can make myself impossible to hit or a Fire-breathing menace but I can't really assist anyone else with that. \$\endgroup\$
    – pbuchheit
    Feb 20, 2020 at 15:41
  • \$\begingroup\$ what are the other character's schools? I suspect... a tsurushi Archer and... what more? \$\endgroup\$
    – Trish
    Mar 8, 2020 at 18:49
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Trish Well we HAD a Haruma scout and a Wasp Archer. One died to a kami induced landslide (turns out spirits don't care about friendly fire). The other decided to reveal that he had leaked the Crab invasion plans to Totori while the Crab Champion, the 'Great Bear' himself was standing in the room with him. \$\endgroup\$
    – pbuchheit
    Mar 10, 2020 at 12:54
  • \$\begingroup\$ @pbuchheit losing 50% of the 'artillery' surely shifted the balance from ranged to closer combat... \$\endgroup\$
    – Trish
    Mar 10, 2020 at 13:20

2 Answers 2


I understand if your GM has certain caveats for their world, but the RAW says you can have kiho as an Order of Togashi. It gets a little fuzzy depending on it you're playing the original or the revised edition. In the original edition, any school that was explicitly "Brotherhood" could only learn Kiho using their ring as a mastery level (pg253). In the revised edition (pg266), you can add your monk ranks to your mastery level. Both cases limit you to your SR in number of Kiho.

As for your other issues, it really sounds like you need to have a conversation with your GM. Explain to them that you're pretty much not playing the game since your character's specialty is frequently overshadowed.

From a mostly uninformed outside perspective, it sounds like your GM might need to revisit their tactics. It sounds like your fights are a lot of open terrain with clearly marked enemies who stand without concealment and charge into a hail of arrows blindly. This part of my answer will likely be unpopular, but it is a key element to why rolls like this exist. There could be ambushes, mass combat, corridors, cover, enemy shugenja with even rank 1 spells, and many other pretty simple foils to archers.

  • \$\begingroup\$ I was aware that 'non monks' could use Kiho, but the rules seem designed to make them prohibitively expensive, especially for low level characters who don't have many exp points to spare. The rules are not at all clear on whether or not dragon clan monks have to pay extra or if they count as monks for the purposes of learning Kiho. \$\endgroup\$
    – pbuchheit
    Feb 20, 2020 at 15:32
  • \$\begingroup\$ @pbuchheit : They are not a "Brotherhood of Shinsei" monk, so sadly the cost is likely higher unless your GM feels merciful. Because of the cost and not helping with insight, I personally allowed it at reduced price but that's my table. \$\endgroup\$
    – CatLord
    Feb 22, 2020 at 2:11

Let's see what comes to the table: 2 archers, 1 scout (probably also an archer) and a shugenja. These all have some limited resources, especially arrows and spell slots. And technically, the GM does - as CatLord notes - not give them hundreds of feet of targeting, but anyway, let's assume you are acting in the southern Scorpion lands or northern Lion plains only, those are flat. As a monk you might help in backing up these long-range fighters in a lot of ways:

  • Acupuncture is a very monk-style variant of medicine, which can help to counteract any damage that the group receives and spare some of the Shugenja's heal spells for other uses or for emergencies. This also couples well with your Arrowroot Tattoo.
  • Monks are considered to be outside of the normal order: You are considered to be a person of faith and knowledgeable on the ways of the gods and fortunes. This can be a door opener for your group, just by virtue of you being a monk. Bring your Lore skills - especially Theology - up to spec for those.
  • Divination is a typical area some monks dabble in to devise the will of the fortunes. It could be worth a look to aide the story along.
  • While Tea Ceremony isn't a typical monky-thing, having someone in the group that can aid others in regaining void points is especially valuable.
  • Battle could be interesting: if you are proficient and the others would heed your advice, you could grant them free raises (starting at rank 5)
  • Craft: Bowmaking (or technically: Fletching) would aide your group to reduce the number of arrows needed to acquire.

There are also other tattoos that might be interesting for you - ask your GM if you could alter one of your tattoos or if you can gain additional ones for some price:

  • The Centipede TattooL5R 3rd Ed. Core Rules, p128 would pretty much deny the archer's range advantage over you, as you suddenly get a movement of at least 200 feet - a normal Yumi has 250 feet range. This means you could engage the targets in a melee that your partners snipe at.
  • The Lion TattooL5R 3rd Ed. Core Rules, p129 would make you extremely versatile, allowing you to use any weapon - yes, bows included - on the fly, joining the ranks of the archers or frontline with any weapon, as needed.
  • The Balance TattooL5R 4th Ed. Core Rules, p115 would allow your shugenja to put some spells easier - allowing them to put more powerful spells on you and make you their line breaker against some supernatural foes - if your GM allows this one..

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