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Legends of the Five Rings does offer rules for cooperationL5R 4E Core p.81, mainly they seem aimed at mundane tasks like building a ship or designing a new garden.

However, some spells, like Bonds of Ningen-Do (a ritualistic spell taking 10 minutes, shortened by one per assistant)L5R 4E Core p.177 have specific rules that there are assistants. This seems to hint that spellcasting can be assisted at.

Assuming two Shugenja have learned the same spell (or are instructed for a rite such as the one above) and they have access to all their needed materials, the rules on p.81 offer 2 variants on how to handle cooperation rolls. Interpreted on spellcasting that gets us:

  1. A lead-caster is chosen and he gets a bonus of cumulated school-ranks (as they replace skill-ranks) on the roll as a static value.
  2. All roll but the caster with the highest school rank does grant a bonus of their bonus to any assistance.

I am highly leaning towards 1 in most cases, as the worst that can happen is wasting a spell slot, but a group of combat casters might also work together under the guidance of a master shugenja, each casting their own spell simultaneously, which sounds like a type 2 case.

Yet some complications have to be kept in mind with finding a good ruling:

It's unclear if variant 1 means that only the main caster expends a spell slot or do all assistants need to spend either a matching spell slot or void spell slot. To me, it sounds like a huge tax on the helping shugenja, for offering a few fixed points. That valuable slot might be more effectively used by casting the same spell twice, so I would not impose the spell slot cost but they need to spend their actions on the casting just as much as the main caster.

Variant 2, as 'group casting' isn't without any problems either: There are usually little consequences to someone messing up their spell but the wasted spell slot. So technically the whole variant should not be an appropriate choice to assist one another in the first place. That could be remedied by ruling that a single failure in such a caster group also fails all of the other spells: either you get a full barrage of the same spells or none at all. That would make such a caster group a heavyweight on the battlefield, matching some in-universe stories where a group of few (45) Phoenix shugenja defeated a whole army at Kawa Mitsu Kishi (Three Stone River).

Do I overlook a problem with these two solutions and do they offer a balanced approach to assisting one another in casting spells?

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  • \$\begingroup\$ @ThomasMarkov took that to Meta \$\endgroup\$ – Trish May 4 at 15:13
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This would be a house rule, not something supported by existing lore/rules

In L5R spells are specific rituals that operate in a specific way. This is why the assisted casting is written into Bonds of Ningen-do instead of having its own section. This isn't to say that variant spells couldn't exist (or be created by the players) that would allow ritual casting, and that would be the proper way to handle it within the existing rules.

Some thoughts on the house rules

Variant 1 is mostly fine. I think its a little weird for a shugenja invoking the kami NOT to spend a spell slot, but then again the concept of spell slots in a non-mechanical sense is already weird.

Variant 2 is basically an OP version of Variant 1. Essentially you have one person assisting multiple people during a turn while also casting their own spell. You've assigned a penalty for failure but with the penalty for failure you've assigned they'd be better off just casting their own individual spells.


As for a handful of Phoenix defeating an army, there's a couple things to keep in mind.

  • One is that Phoenix Ishiken are a thing. A Rank 1 Fire Ishiken can cast Fist of Osano-Wo [Fire] + [Void] times a day, for [Fire]k[Fire] damage in a 20' radius. Since armies are generally arrayed into tight formations and the bulk of the army would presumably have the average human Earth 2, its not hard to see how that math works out.
  • Most of the super powerful stuff that happens in the lore doesn't fall under the spells we have in the book. You can could either think of these as clan secrets (probably Mastery 6+ spells) that don't get passed around, or as special one-offs which would be handled by using Commune to talk to the kami directly.
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    \$\begingroup\$ Correction, Stone River... l5r.fandom.com/wiki/Battle_of_Three_Stone_River \$\endgroup\$ – Trish May 4 at 14:51
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Trish I'm not sure what you're correcting, unless you deleted something, but nothing about the Battle of Three Stone River runs counter to what I said. \$\endgroup\$ – Wesley Obenshain May 6 at 15:38
  • \$\begingroup\$ I had first linked to the wrong battle, then corrected myself to 3 Stone River \$\endgroup\$ – Trish May 6 at 16:30
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Trish Oh, okay. Well, everything that battle describes is tactical, not any sort of special or 'ritual' casting. No special rules would be needed to replicate it; just lots of planning and tactical advantages (rivers, cliffs, forests, etc). \$\endgroup\$ – Wesley Obenshain yesterday
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Strictly according to RAW, any given spell is cast by one shugenja. It is that shugenja's prayer to the elemental Kami and whether or not that prayer is answered.

Some ways to amp a spell include

  • Take "Center" stance for a round before casting

  • School abilities (i.e. Dragon or Phoenix Bushi) that can lower casting TNs

  • School abilities that grant raises

  • Great Potential (SpellCraft) to open the raise cap

  • Have other shugenja cast spells that raise rings / restore Void Points

  • Be casting Maho and sacrifice your "helpers"

  • Have other shugenja cast the same spell on the same target and play for the law of averages

  • Importune, which is asking for a one time permission to cast a spell you don't have (see last point)

  • In 3e they suggested that certain locations can add affinity/deficiency on their own based on being hallowed or otherwise favored by a kami

Otherwise the only thing spellcasting, unless stated within the spell's description (like Bonds of Ningen-Do), that can be done as a team effort is perhaps a team spellcraft skill check to find a given scroll they're looking for or identify the right spell in the first place.

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