L5r: Legend of the Five Rings

Spell Research

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Spell research is the process by which new spells are created. Most shugenja will go their entire lives without creating a new spell, but some feel the need to push the boundaries of known magic and create something new.

Creating a new spell Edit

Obtaining approval Edit

The first step in researching a new spell is to obtain approval to conduct the research. The student is required to approach the head of his school and request that he be allowed to conduct the research. If the head of the school is not the family daimyo, the student must also obtain the permission of the daimyo. [1]

In the event that the student is particularly well-known, the Clan Champion may also involve himself in the process. In this case, the Champion has the power to unilaterally grant or deny permission for the student to use the clan's resources to conduct his research. [2]

In the event that a student's request is denied by his school's head or family's daimyo, he may appeal his case to the Champion, though this could easily be seen as an annoyance and a dishonorable act. Without the appropriate permissions, the student is not allowed to continue with his planned research. [3]

Detailing the request Edit

To gain his superior's approval, a shugenja must write a detailed report of what he wishes to accomplish. Most requests are rejected out of hand if the effect's description is not at least 200 words long. The student must also list the element he believes to be appropriate, any known spells with similar effects, what the target of the effect will be, the desired duration of the spell, and the assumed method of interacting with the kami to produce the effect. [3]

Reviewing the request Edit

The student's superiors will spend some time reviewing the request, and decide whether or not they will allow the shugenja to conduct the research. They may require changes to the project before they grant their approval. they may also inform the shugenja that they believe a different element to be best for his researching. They may also decide that the proposal as presented is beyond the shugenja's abilities and request that the proposal be revised to reflect a less powerful effect. [3]

Research Edit

If the shugenja is granted permission to conduct his studies, he begins to spend many long days within his school's library conducting his research. For any new spell, a shugenja must spend at least one month dedicated only to his research, with no other duties or tasks. The longer a shugenja spends researching, the more likely his chances of success. For most spells, four months is the most time that a shugenja can effectively research; after that, the only information a shugenja may find will repeat what he has already found. [4]

Completion Edit

Upon completion of his research, the shugenja will give to his school's library a copy of all of the notes he has created.[3] If the spell was successfully created, the student will create three copies to give to the school's library. One of these copies is returned to the shugenja in a very traditional ceremony. Depending on the notability of the researcher or the work, this ceremony may be attended by notable dignitaries. During the ceremony, a demonstration of the new spell is required.[4]

School research libraries Edit

All shugenja schools maintain research libraries for their students. These libraries generally have the same focus as the school, with libraries of the Tamori Shugenja focusing mainly on Earth magic, but the libraries of the Soshi Shugenja focusing on the effects of Air. [1]

The results of any new research are added to a school's library, whether the spell was a success or not. Research notes are quite valuable to future researchers, and are kept and cataloged regardless of whether or not they produced a working spell. For a student to not give his school all materials pertaining to his research is unthinkable. [3]

Others' libraries Edit

Practices, cataloging, and especially ciphers can vary greatly from clan to clan. Because of this, a researcher can only get the maximum use out of a research library if it is upkept by his own school. Visiting researchers may glean information from another school's libraries, but not nearly as easily as if they had researched in their own. Students who trained at another clan's school will find it particularly difficult to conduct research at home, and depending on the political climate may be unable to research at their own school's library. [3]

Ownership Edit

As the student used his clan's resources to conduct his research, the results of the research -- whether a functional spell or simply the student's research notes -- are controlled by the clan. As such, the clan may decide to share their new knowledge with others or to keep it a secret for themselves. Many of the clans have secret spells that no one outside the clan is allowed to learn. [3]

Difficulties Edit

Spell research is a daunting and dangerous task. Active and newly-graduated students are rarely, if ever, given permission to conduct their own research. Generally, only those shugenja with a good deal of experience outside the classrooms are allowed to proceed. [3]

Researching an effect for an element in which the shugenja's school has a deficiency (whether or not the shugenja in question has the same deficiency) is more difficult, because the research on that element is likely to be sparse. The converse, of course, is also true, that researching an element for which a school has an affinity is easier for the researcher.[4] However, some shugenja have a natural affinity for a particular element. These shugenja will find it easier to research spells of that element. [1]

Ronin Edit

For the ronin shugenja, spell research is a very daunting task. Few, if any clan libraries are likely to allow a ronin access to their priceless research. Any shugenja may attempt to create a new spell without the benefit of a research library -- and most ronin will have to -- but it is a very difficult and dangerous task. The students of the clans have a thousand years of mistakes and successes from which they can learn, a luxury which the ronin rarely share. [3]

Limitations Edit

There are certain limitations on what can be researched. For instance, a spell with an effect that is very clearly related to one and only one element, such as a spell to create water or a spell to affect a person's strength, cannot use an element other than the related element, water in both of these cases. Also, no student will ever be allowed to research a maho spell. Even the pragmatic Kuni Shugenja, while they may study the dark magics and lecture on how to recognize them, will not be offering a demonstration for effect. [5]

See also Edit


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Way of the Phoenix, p. 112
  2. Way of the Phoenix, pp. 112-113
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 3.6 3.7 3.8 Way of the Phoenix, page 113
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 Way of the Phoenix, p. 114
  5. Way of the Phoenix, p. 117

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