A blog about tabletop hobby and or strategy games, with a side order of electronic turn based goodness here and there. Now with tons of retro gaming content both electronic and tabletop. Also with 20% more self loathing douchebaggery!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Legend of the Five Rings is Entrancing Me!

As I might have mentioned thanks to a thread I read on Something Awful a day or two before going to Connecticon I bought a ton of the Way of series for half price or even less. (I already had bought Lion back in the ultra terrible Clan War game days, and got Crane a couple months back for 3.33 at a clearance.)

So now I have all the main Clans Way ofs, plus Naga, and Way of Shadow (though not a Way of book proper is still a cool thing to have!).

Man, these books ROCK. I've only mostly read through chapter 1 and the opening story sections in them all and they make me fall in love with almost every Clan, even those bastard Cranes.

The Scorpion tale was the best one though. Not only was it damn effective in showing how Scorpions do things, but it was a bit sexy too. (Plus the little sidebar "Scorpion and Other Clan Animal" stories were great too.)

It really makes me want to buy L5R 1st edition and try to get every book for that line. (Not really interested in anything past Toturi I's crowning as Emperor though. Which storyline wise puts me how many years behind the current fluff? Like 50 or so now? My L5R knowledge is so far Clan Wars Daimyo ed, Way of Clans series, D20 Oriental Adventures, D20 Rokugan, and 3 D20/2nd L5R dual stat softcovers.)

Man.. its really Warhammer Fantasy's style of world/universe done RIGHT with far less grimdark and way more heroism, while still being incredibly tragic and depressing.

I'm not sure who has the worse end of the stick in Rokugan. The Peasant or the Samurai. Both are basically screwed by their culture.

I dunno if I want to use the L5R system though. Houseruled Basic D&D with the OA book, or the Swords and Wizardry (itself a houseruled Original D&D OGL project) Ruins and Ronin book, or cobble together something using Tunnels & Trolls.

Either way L5R is just such an amazing and interesting world.

The books so make me want to run or play in a campaign there.

For those who don't know, Legend of the Five Rings is a fantasy land mixture of Warhammer Fantasy, Hong Kong cinema, and Kurosawa Samurai movies.

See divine beings came to the land of Rokugan and founded clans with the humans, with one of these divine siblings founding the Imperial ruling line, and the other his vassals. Except for one brother, Fu Leng who went to the dark foul swamps of the south and created a realm of horror known as the Shadowlands. (Sort of like Warhammer/40K's Chaos realms except less "metal".) He was defeated and the families who followed the divine beings founding the great Clans and their ruling families.

Like feudal Japan the Samurai ruling caste have laws and codes that restrict and oppress them as much as the peasantry they both rule and enslave/protect. Unlike actual Japan women can be rulers and do fight nobly on the battlefield, but can still be put in arranged marriages within their Clan if not to an enemy Clan. As can their sons.

Duty and Honor mean more than one's life or desire or love in Rokugan. Not only do you have to follow the rules and laws to keep the foul denizens of the Shadowlands from destroying and corrupting all, but the Clans come into conflict for various reasons, not to mention the Clan families may have infighting and power struggles.

The challenge of not only following the right path of goodness and justice while not dishonoring the code of Bushido, your family line, your Clan, the Empire as a whole, and your loved ones, much less your own heart is a tightrope walk doomed to sorrow and tragedy, yet one where the greatest heroism can shine forth, even if one is left with no other option than writing one's death haiku, then committing ritual suicide to prevent a greater evil, or to atone for one's sins committed in following the code.

Its like Warhammer, White Wolf, and Kurosawa movies all got together and had a beautiful baby.

Its got 2 different RPG lines both D20 and its home system (currently in a revised 3rd edition with a 4th due next year), a long running CCG (the flagship of the line) whose tournaments actually influence the gameworld's storyline and metaplot, a series of novels, and it had a long cancelled miniatures wargame which had wonderful models even if the game was horribly flawed.
(There are a few other products as well. I think it even had a Diskwars game at one point!)

As my final bit of overview of Rokugan and L5R I will bring up the basics of the Clans:

Dragon: Enigmatic, the Dragon clan have Tattooed monks, and try to largely avoid the other Clans as much as possible.

Unicorn: Returning from a long trip through other lands, they are known for their horsemanship and their strange ways they learned from the Gaijin peoples they met.

Crab: Brutish and blunt, the Crab guard a great wall on the edge of the border between Rokugan and the Shadowlands. They have little time for the political games the rest of the Clans partake in.

Crane: Diplomats and merchants, with a penchant for one on one duels.

Scorpion: The most hated Clan, they wear masks hiding their true face as they deal with intrigues and the darker things that must be done to keep the Empire safe.

Lion: Proud, boastful, and the most like what one would think of when the word Samurai is spoken, they have the largest standing army in the Empire.

Phoenix: Their Shugenja (a mixture of wizard and priest) are quite possibly the most powerful of all the Clans.

There are also the Nezumi Ratpeople, the Naga Snakemen, and the lesser minor Clans as well, but everything revolves around the great Clans and the Imperial Court and their battle against the Shadowlands and each other.

I hope this post sheds a little light on Legend of the Five Rings and maybe helps people see what is so great about it!

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