Some week ago I finally got my copy of Writ of the Wilds. And reading it, I stumbled over one thing: My beloved Kitsune Impersonator class ability was suddenly made obsolete and overshadowed by a Ritual available for any [Yokai].1, 2 And the retroactive change to the school was making them a Yokai.3


So as to show my problem, let me show the two for comparison:

Kitsune Impersonator School 1 Chikushō-dō’s Guile Rank 1 Ritual [Yokai] 2
Fox Spirit (School Ability): Your true form is that of a large fox with up to eight tails if you are a full-blooded kitsune, or a human with certain vulpine traits if you possess human ancestry as well.
As a Scheme and Support action, you may transform between your human and true forms, or into another silhouette 1 or 2 natural creature at the GM’s discretion (you cannot mimic specific individuals). Observers with vigilance lower than or equal to your school rank plus your ranks in Performance do not detect any flaws in your façade. However, certain key features persist across all of your forms. If you become Compromised, your disguise slips, subtly revealing your true tails, ears, feet, or shadow.
Activation: As a downtime activity, you may make a TN 1 Survival (Air) check to tap into the power of Chikushō-dō and Sakkaku, shrouding yourself in human form.
Effects: If you succeed, you transform into a human form that is derived from your true form. You are functionally human (and are unable to use techniques that require aspects of your true form). Observers with vigilance lower than or equal to your ranks in Performance do not detect any flaws in your façade. However, certain key features of your body persist across all of your forms, such as the color of your feathers or fur becoming part of your hair or clothes, or identifying scars remaining on your body. If you become Compromised, your disguise slips, subtly revealing your true form in your feathers or fur, feet, or shadow. As a Support action, you may transform back into your true form.

New Opportunities
*: You may choose a form of another creature of silhouette 2.
**: You may choose a form of a creature of silhouette 1 or 3.


Now, as you see, the effect of the two is almost the same. The only difference is basically the shift-time, and the new opportunities for the Ritual:

  • The Ritual takes a downtime action to turn human, while the Impersonator has a scheme or support action.
  • Returning to animal form is a support action for the Ritual, while it is a Scheme or Support action for the School.
  • The view-through trigger is identical.
  • The compromised effects are the same.
  • The School Ability does not need opportunities to turn any other silhouette 1 or 2 creatures while the Ritual only comes with one form intrinsically. The ritual allows any other silhouette 2 creatures for 1 opportunity and 1 or 3 creatures for 2 opportunities.

It appears to me, that on paper, the Ritual is in some regards more powerful than the school ability (unlocking silhouette 3 creatures), and otherwise very much intrudes on the school ability's special factor: any other school ability is unique and can't really be mimicked by any simple Rank 1 Ritual... and then came that one...


Do I miss some errata to the Kitsune Impersonator School or a fact that makes the school clearly superior to the Ritual? Might there be an easy fix to regain the school ability's superiority over a ritual?

1 - Kitsune Impersonator Tradition. In: Emerald Empire (5th Ed), p.239.
2 - Chikushō-dō’s Guile. In: Writ of the Wilds, p.118.
3 - Sidebar: Who's a Yokai?. In: Writ of the Wilds, p.117.


2 Answers 2


The Ritual is weaker.

In general, the Ritual might appear to be a copy at first glance, but it is actually weaker in three major aspects.

Kitsune Impersonators do not need a roll.

It might be skipped or overlooked in the text at first glance, but the Kitsune Impersonator just changes forms. No roll is required, no chance to mess it up exists. They just do.

While the TN 1 Survival (Air) roll for the ritual is not too hard, it is still a chance to fail or create complications for yourself. Complications can lead to becoming compromised or otherwise revealing the dark secret of being a Yokai to everyone.

The Ritual disguise is easier to pierce.

In the comparison found in the question, a crucial little fact escaped mention: the see-through factor. For the Kitsune Impersonator, the Vigilance requirement to pierce the veil is the Impersonator's Performance ranks plus their School Rank. For the Ritual, the required value is only the Performance ranks.

This makes a Kitsune Impersonator much harder to possibly nigh impossible to detect as shapeshifted unless they are compromised.

Kitsune Impersonators shift casually, the Ritualist not.

As ShadowRanger noted, there is a time difference, which stems from not perfectly rules-accurate wording in the comparison due to misreading:

  • The Kitsune Impersonator takes a Scheme and Support action, which are types of actions that can happen during Initiative. While not necessarily a thing of seconds, these actions happen at the same speed as any other actions in a Conflict Scene. At worst, each such action is measured in minutes. Or to say it differently: The Kitsune Impersonator shifts at the speed of initiative.1
  • The Chikushō-dō’s Guile Ritual is referring not to an action but a downtime activity. Those are handled only in Downtime Scenes, which take at least "a few hours", but less than about two days. The Ritual user shifts at the speed of pause.2

As ShadowRanger correctly observed, this might be a huge detriment to the Ritual user: while returning to their true form is one initiative pass, they can not return to their disguise during the same conflict scene or even the same narrative scene - they need to have a downtime scene and then spend a downtime activity on resuming human form.

The time the ritual user has to spend in their yokai form before they can redo the ritual might also exclude them from normal samurai activities, especially any courtly ones: Yokai can't just run around in that shape.

Even Kitsune Impersonators might occasionally benefit from the Ritual.

There are niches in which even the Kitsune Impersonator might want to use the inferior Ritual - and they do get Ritual as their Available Techniques, so it is open to them easily enough.

Mainly, the ritual allows bigger creatures, so if the Kitsune Impersonator needs to appear as something of the size of a horse, ogre, Rakshasa, or Naga, they need the Ritual and two opportunities.3 This might be in order to transport two companions, lift heavier objects, use the claws of a bear, or impress other samurai by having your Akodo friend ride in on an Otaku Steed.4, 5

In a more questionable capacity, you might convince your GM that the ritual does not explicitly disallow mimicking a specific individual. However, the counterargument to this is, that the form gained from the Ritual "is derived from your true form" and thus should not be a perfect copycat.

1 - Action types. In: L5R 5e Core Rulebook, p.252.
2 - Downtime Scenes. In: L5R 5e Core Rulebook, p.248.
3 - Silhouette Examples. In: L5R 5e Core Rulebook, p.265.
4 - Bear. In: L5R 5e Core Rulebook, p.325.
5 - Otaku Steed. In: L5R 5e Core Rulebook, p.327.


The time to change seems to be the sole, and fairly important, advantage of the Kitsune Impersonator ability; the impersonator can switch back and forth as necessary in the space of seconds, taking advantage of whatever form offers the most advantage at the time. The Ritual being defined as a downtime activity means it takes at least a few hours to turn into a human (per the shortest length given in the core rulebook for a period of downtime), and if they switch back to their original form, they're stuck in it until they have a few hours of peace to perform the ritual again.

Being able to shapeshift functionally at will is a significant benefit in various circumstances. Something as simple as using your use fox form to burrow under a wall and shift to human on the other side is trivial for the Kitsune Impersonator, and impossible for the ritual user. The impersonator can definitely shift directly between any of their available alternate forms without revealing their true form, while it's arguable as to whether you must revert to true form to perform the ritual to adopt a new form.


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