Children of Thunder or War in the Ivory Kingdoms.
L5R Roleplaying 101
Ok, this is yet another example of me passing off my opinion and view of the system as if it were fact for whoever reads it/thinks it might be useful. This is a basic primer in how to roleplay effectively in L5R, and some fundamental differences between this and other systems/settings.
1) The first thing I would emphasise is that unlike many western style rpgs, such as D&D (not hating, just the quintessential point), L5R has alot more emphasis in effort without a necessary reward beyond a moral reward or sense of fulfillment.In addition, while you can gain glory and status by being heroic and being the almighty PC that wins all, but in this game, serving honourably and upholding the values of Bushido can see you be as highly regarded as being that powerful glorious warrior. Even among pragmatic clans like the Mantis, the virtues of Bushido,and the weight of tradition still weigh on the samurai; just they tend not to get as badly hung up on it when they fail to live up to an impossible standard. Service can be its own reward.
2) Although this game, being set away from Rokugan for the most, avoids alot of the societal pressures, your characters are influenced by tradition, and what they are accustomed to. This is a society where samurai are taught techniques that are hundreds of years old unmodified, and the fundamental rules of the Empire regarding etiquette and law were written within 50-100 years of the Empire being formed, and remain largely unchanged. The Emperors have banned foreign contact for 600 years by this point in the timeline, and even among clans that do trade with the Gaijin, there will always be a certain amount of ingrained prejudice deep down. In short, tradition matters. Even in matters about what food they eat, samurai have expectations and traditions, and these traditions will influence how your character thinks.
3) A Mantis specific point. The Mantis might be a fairly new Great Clan, but that doesn’t mean they are subservient or humble before the other Great Clans. In an empire governed by tradition, the Mantis made the leap from Minor Clan to Great Clan, the only such time that has happened by this point. Persistance and the ability to keep at it are very Mantis attitudes/traits. The Mantis have won wars against other Great Clans, and can stand up with the others. Their most identifiable Bushido virtue is courage, and the Mantis typically have that in spades. In addition, their traditions and even attitudes diverge by family.
4) A key point; dying is not necessarily the result of you failing. All too often, character death can be seen as either a failure to beat the GM, bad plans or as something to be avoided totally. In this universe, whilst a samurai has a duty to his/her lord to serve to the best of his/her ability, including preserving their own lives , all samurai should be prepared to die for their lord in a heartbeat. True, if you come up with a stupid, harebrained scheme that results in a TPK, thats not that great, but having your character stay behind to buy time, or even to fulfill a plan that would ultimately serve a greater good, preferably in accordance with your lords/Bushidos demands, then though you might die, your name will become glorious. This redounds to your lords credit, as well as to you family. In short, don’t be stupid and reckless, but it has to be remembered that character death is not necessarily a negative thing, if you embrace it and allow your character to have that “beautiful death”, almost.
5) Sensible plans are always good. Consider your contingencies, because this system is lethal. It is renowned for its lethality, and you can easily get TPK’ed. Make good plans, but don’t be afraid to take risks for big gains. The difference between a group that takes 5 samurai to their deaths by going balls to the wall and the group that maybe loses 2, but achieves exactly what they came to do and more is this. The first one had no education in its risk, and attacked head on in the middle of the day, hoping sheer heroism would win the day. The second group launched an attack at night disguised as a bunch of wounded patrol troopers, who the second they got let into the walls then commenced to unleash hell and thundered right to their objective. Educated risks are good, in short.
6) Learn to love your character. Embrace their foibles and details. That’s pretty much all I can say on that.