I love L5R. The setting is in depth and has just the right mix of different Asian cultures. I'm gearing up to play 4th edition and I'm excited to see what changes are in effect. The only problem with it is how they treat unarmed skills. First of all, Jiujitsu does not mean "The Way of Hands and Feet" (Tae Kwon Do does). It means "the gentle art" or "the art of gentleness". And it is only one of myriad Japanese styles. So, it's a problem for me when they call all unarmed martial arts variants of Jiujitsu.

Now, I know. I know. It's Rokugan, not Japan. But Jiujitsu is a real word with a real meaning. They didn't make this mistake with Yarijutsu for example. And I have no problem with made up martial arts like Kaze-do or Mizu-do. So here are my proposed rule changes that I'd like feedback on. Most of them amount to color, but there are some mechanical considerations.

1 - Jiujitsu resembles its real world counterpart.
It is designed to answer the question "I don't have my katana, what do I do now?" As such, it emphasizes locks, throws, and chokes. Punching and kicking are in the curriculum but not emphasized.

2 - Jiujitsu itself is the only martial art that is Jiujitsu.
All others, for example, Mizu-do, are separate skills.

3 - All Bushi with a starting skill of Jiujitsu begin with Jiujitsu as described above.

4 - All Monks with a starting skill of Jiujitsu instead begin with the unarmed martial art that their temple is known for. For example, Dragon Clan Tattooed Monks begin with Kaze-do.

5 - All Ninja-style characters (shinobi for example), begin with Ninjutsu.

6 - Any other careers that begin with Jiujitsu are treated on a case by case basis, though most will begin with Jiujitsu as described above unless a good argument can be made for another style.

7 - Any career can learn any style after character creation provided they find someone to teach them, though only Monks can learn Kiho. I have not worked out all the mechanical advantages of each style. The Way of the Open Hand is a good resource, but the wording is sometimes confusing and some of the rules only apply to d20 (I am playing 4th edition).


A) Has anyone else been so disturbed by this oversight that they had to change the rules?

B) What solutions did you come up with?

C) Are there any problems with my proposed rule changes?

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    \$\begingroup\$ I think the question calls for [house-rules] tag... \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jan 22, 2014 at 15:04
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    \$\begingroup\$ why not just rename jiujitsu? \$\endgroup\$
    – Chuck Dee
    Commented Jan 22, 2014 at 15:44
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    \$\begingroup\$ The way I see it, the rationale behind "Jiujitsu is the punching skill" is that 1) Most RPGs have/need a punhcing skill and 2) The authors wanted to "Japanese-fluff" it. Your ideas are fine, but 1) you will still need an "unarmed fight" skill and 2) adding so many different unarmed skills put a strong emphasis on martial arts. You might be better off having a generic unarmed skill, and an advantage "Martials arts" giving bonuses fo each one. On another hand, as it is now, this question might be too broad for this site, and turn more into a discussion. We cannot answer this question. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jan 22, 2014 at 17:00
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Scrollmaster, I think you might be right about this question being unanswerable. Are there any revisions I could make so that it would have a definitive answer? \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jan 22, 2014 at 17:15
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    \$\begingroup\$ There are two problems with this question from what I see. First, it's too broad. Second, it mixes hyperbole with actual answerable questions. My suggestion would be to break it into actual concrete answerable/actionable questions on the portions that you're concerned with, i.e. "In L5R if this rule was changed to that, what unforeseen rules problems might be apparent." That might have to be tweaked a bit more... but but would be more workable IMO. \$\endgroup\$
    – Chuck Dee
    Commented Jan 22, 2014 at 18:31

1 Answer 1


My answer is made in reference to L5R 4e since it's the closest core book I have and I don't see a specific edition in your question.

I think the edition matters quite significantly here. Mizu- (yet to be done but I'm sure will be in the Book of Water), Kaze-, and Hitsu-Do as well as Sumai/Sumo are all described as actual alternate paths in 4e so just blatantly giving them to anyone for a given school is already a flagrant advantage, especially as Hitsu- and Kaze-Do are rank two AP's. Sumai is a basic school of its own, so you would be doubling down on anybody starting with martial careers and leaving shugenja and courtiers out to dry.

Also, Ninjutsu is its own skill relating to the use of (by L5R reckoning) ninja weapons such as dart guns, shuriken, and naggeteppo.

In theory, any given school has Kata that it can take, and if/what kata a character actually takes can easily flavor the entire attitude of their fighting style. For example, Akodo and Kakita can take Disappearing World Style to color their "Jiujitsu" (A rose by any other name okay?) as relying on precision instead of power. Usagi can use Reckless Abandon Style to put them as extremely aggressive infighters. If you so choose, I recommend reducing the XP cost of the kata if it applies only to Jiujitsu and that everybody equally gets this reduction.

You can even come up with Kata of your own that specifically target the use of Jiujitsu the way Strength in Arms Style targets Heavy Weapons. This can mean kata that change the ease of performing unarmed disarms, knockdowns, extra attacks, etc.

Ultimately a style comes down to the school(s) that encapsulate it and the kata or kiho that character in question decides to take. If they all go for a very "vanilla" style, then let them.

  • \$\begingroup\$ I am playing 4e but don't have any of the elemental supplements. So 4e treats the martial arts as alternate paths and not as skill emphases? If so, I can just change the color and wording. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Feb 10, 2014 at 12:39
  • \$\begingroup\$ For the paths like Kaze-Do you have to have an emphasis in the style as a requirement, as is finding someone willing to teach you. Otherwise it's a rank 2 path (IE replacing rank 2 of the base school). I strongly encourage you to develop your own schools and styles if you don't have access to books other than the core. But as with anything, be very careful about balance and look to the other schools for scaling. \$\endgroup\$
    – CatLord
    Commented Feb 10, 2014 at 13:56
  • \$\begingroup\$ @ CatLord, Great this solves my problem. I'm still not calling it Jiujitsu though! :) \$\endgroup\$ Commented Feb 10, 2014 at 17:03

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