My Experience With Legend of the Five Rings

I got into the Legend of the Five Rings (L5R) tabletop RPG through the 3e version of Oriental Adventures. I got the Rokugan d20 book and a few other d20 books.

During that time, I read a ton of the fiction on the FFG website. Some good, some so-so.

I got into Heroes of Rokugan, the organized play version. They used the L5R 2e rules (with some 1e thrown in). I’ve had mixed experiences from this. I liked every other game, meaning I didn’t like half of them.

L5R is great if you want a Japanese-inspired RPG, but you have to know what that entails. You do not game to do the right thing (my mistake). Your goal is about honor of clan, empire, and lastly yourself. It’s about saving face.

I remember one time being kind of bored in a game, but then it turned into a murder mystery and I started having fun. At that point, me and another player were told to stop pursing the murderer as it would cause a some sort of political/societal issue. So a guy got away with murder because of saving face.

My shining moment in that game was when we went into the Shadowlands for a mission, and my character sacrificed himself to save the party. It was a 1e rule called life casting. Because of his heroic efforts, a statue of him was erected in the Unicorn lands, even though he was from the Phoenix clan. Gotta love heroic sacrifice.

So if you’re really big into Japanese-themed fantasy, this is the game for you. The clans are cool and so is the magic.

If you just like Oriental Adventures in general, this may not be the game for you. You will not find many classes beyond the samurai and shugenja. The wu jen especially does not have a place there.

If you like heroic fantasy (as I do), then this game definitely is not for you, unless you go against the major themes of the setting and make it your own. My problem is that I never felt comfortable making it my own, probably due to the fiction and my experiences in the game.

Above all, decide for yourself if L5R is right for you.

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