In a current RP with my friends on Roll20, one of the characters was tainted by Fu Leng. The GM skipped the entire process of the Taint chart in the rule book and pushed my friend's character to the max Taint level on the chart. I feel my friend (Joseph) was cheated out of his character.

Fu Leng acted like a friendly NPC in the RP when we traveled to the spirit world. He tricked my friend into eating fruit from the spirit world and that is how the Taint was gained (according to the GM). The GM stated,

It is completely fine I did this because it was Fu Leng. I did nothing that broke the rules because Joseph grabbed the Dark Fate which states “GM do your worst” so it was completely within the rules.

Can someone please clarify whether gaining Shadow Taint can work like that?

Even with it being Fu Leng, he did not Taint him but instead tricked him into eating food from the spirit world. Shouldn't Joseph be able to roll against the Taint, and then after failing start going down the chart?

  • 5
    \$\begingroup\$ Are you asking about Rules As Written or about GMs overriding rules and how that interacts with the social contract? \$\endgroup\$
    – Quentin
    Feb 22, 2016 at 8:20
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Are you talking about Fu Leng, the dark kami? If so, he is pretty one of the strongest sources of corruption in rokugan, and he has enough power to completely turn you into a demon by touch. He was powerful enough to dominate the Nothingness, so... \$\endgroup\$
    – ShadowKras
    Feb 22, 2016 at 14:53
  • \$\begingroup\$ Im asking if its to the rules or if my GM just 100% overridden the rules because he thinks he was going to the rules and i disagree. also yes i meant Fu Leng. i fixed that. i couldn't remember how to spell his name. \$\endgroup\$ Feb 23, 2016 at 17:00

1 Answer 1


By the book?

Rules-wise, it's rather clear this shouldn't happen. L5R rulebooks state that whenever a character is exposed to the Taint, a character can resist it through a roll, and Taint only increases through failing to do so. Skipping this process by making a character not able to defend, and inflicting far more Taint than usual at a single use is clearly against the rulebook.

However, there's another rule that's important to take into account here...

Rule zero: GM fiat

Many RPG groups implicitly or explicitly operate on the principle that the GM can make the ultimate ruling on any issue. This includes ignoring rules the GM finds unnecessary, and is often a helpful tool when the official rules are unnecessarily complex, unfun or conflict with the narrative drive desired with the party. If Rule zero is followed in your party, yes - Taint can work that way.

But it doesn't mean Taint should work that way. While GM fiat is often beneficial, many players don't like it, and it should always be discussed when uncertain. Does your group want the GM to be able to skip the rulebook, especially when it comes to ruining PCs like this? Is the GM using their powers wisely?

Talk to the GM, talk to the other players

Role-playing games are meant to be a fun social interaction, but people around the table often have different ideas on what they want from the particular game. It sounds like your GM wants to run a rather brutal, unforgiving game*, and it's conflicting with your expectations of the game. Talk to the GM and try to establish common ground on the issue, and clarify to which extent the GM and other players want the rules followed to the letter and how much should the GM improvise in such situations.

* Nothing wrong with this in itself, as long as it's something the players find fun as well

  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ This is exactly the sort of answer i was looking for. I added how the taint was put into my friend in the RP, what is your opinion on if it was to the rules or not? this will help me on how i talk to the group next Friday. \$\endgroup\$ Feb 23, 2016 at 16:58
  • \$\begingroup\$ @RickyHammack Thanks for your feedback. On the rules-as-written level, I'm quite sure one is not supposed to instantly lose their characters to the Taint without being allowed the usual defensive rolls and progress through the Taint chart - however, my experience with L5R is limited and I may not know all the details - for example, special rules the particular enemy might have. I'll try to doublecheck this as soon as possible. \$\endgroup\$
    – kviiri
    Feb 23, 2016 at 17:12
  • \$\begingroup\$ It all depends on how much taint he got, there is no NPC sheet for a dark kami. If the GM said he got 50 points of taint, he is already at taint rank 5. The check to resist such thing would be so high that he wouldnt be able to pass (TN 40-50?). \$\endgroup\$
    – ShadowKras
    Feb 23, 2016 at 19:14
  • \$\begingroup\$ But for reference, being attacked by a tainted creature always will cause 1 point of taint unless you pass a TN 15 earth check. Being swallowed by an Oni also causes 1 point (per turn) if you fail a TN 30 check. \$\endgroup\$
    – ShadowKras
    Feb 23, 2016 at 19:15

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