Legend of the Five Rings
Legend of the Five Rings, also abbreviated as Lot5R (by illiterate morons) or, more commonly, L5R, is both a tabletop RPG and a CCG set in the same universe. The setting, a land known as "Rokugan", is a sort of fantasy version of feudal-era Asia, mainly based on Japan, and players typically take on the roles of members of the samurai social class (which, despite the name, also includes noncombative diplomats, courtiers, and faux-Taoist sorcerers as well as the stereotypical samurai warriors). Despite all this, the game is not widely regarded as particularly weeaboo, and discussions about it are generally calm, albeit very infrequent. Its metaplot, based on the results of the CCG tournaments, is both praised and loathed by fans, since while it actually advances, it frequently does so in stupid ways as well as fun ones. There have even been accusations that the game balance shifts to favor certain factions over others specifically to keep things moving in the direction the story team wants.
The franchise was acquired by Fantasy Flight Games, with the revised edition slated to be released in 2017. It has been changed from a collectable card game to a living card game (so no random elements or card packs), meaning the sole survivor of the Magic: The Gathering wars has now fallen. Hopefully they do a better job than Wizards of the Coast did...
Continuity is also being rebooted, back to 1e in the time before the Scorpion Coup.
Over 9000 years ago, Lord Moon and Lady Sun appeared on the relatively shapeless world and gave it form. This world was created by Nothing (with a capital N), it all being very mystical and shit.
Lord Moon started chasing after Lady Sun's skirts until one day he caught her, and when one anthropomorphic representation of a celestial body loves another anthropomorphic representation of a celestial body very much... Ten sprogs she borne him: Hida, Doji, Togashi, Akodo, Shiba, Bayushi, Shinjo, Fu Leng, Ryoshun, and Hantei.
As it tends to happen in these stories, Lord Moon decided that eating his own children was a very good idea. Lady Sun obliged, but got him to drink some poisoned sake after each child, thus making Lord Moon drunk as hell and letting one child (Hantei) escape. Hantei would train to become a badass and after another >9000 years, he called his old man out. Epic battle ensued in Heaven, and all of his siblings escaped and ended up crashing into the Earth, except for Ryoshun who died as he was the first to be eaten, and Fu Leng who crashed into Jigoku (Hell) as he was grabbed by Lord Moon as he tried to flee.
The children descended into the Earth, became mortal, and had a tournament to decide who should run the world: obviously, Hantei won and became the Emperor. The rest of his brothers formed Clans out of the scattered humans living in Earth, and Rokugan, the Emerald Empire, was formed.
And Fu Leng? Obviously he got mightily pissed at his siblings forgetting about him, so he took over what would be later known as the Shadowlands, built zombies, trolls, oni, and other monsters and sent them to killfuck the Emerald Empire. For all of their combined badassery, Hantei and company couldn't put up a fight and when they were about to die, a monk called Shinsei showed up and promised Emperor Hantei that he could take out Fu Leng with no problem. Since the guy wrecked Hantei's bodyguards unarmed, he let him take seven warriors (one per clan) and go.
Fu Leng's armies crumbled before Hantei's forces not long after that, but only one of the party returned: the Scorpion samurai, who faked her own death not long after. The Clans generally got along after that, and a thousand years of peace (save the odd Clan war, uprising and whatnot) followed.
Then the PCs showed up.
The Crab, founded by the Kami Hida, are Rokugan's primary defense against the Shadowlands. They maintain and defend the Great Carpenter Wall
of China. They are rude, dirty bullies that care little for Rokugan's etiquette, but they are tough as nuts and honest about things. These are necessary qualities when you are fighting with insidious and alien evil every day, but don't serve you well in court.
- Crab Hida Bushi are experts in reducing damage, since they get beat on all the time by supernatural opponents. They prefer heavy weapons, to give as good as they get.
- Crab Hiruma Bushi are scouts - they are fast survivalists who can dart in and out of the fight to wear down enemies. They also learn how to get through dangerous environments.
- Crab Kuni shugenja specialize in magic that focuses on and smacks down anything tainted by evil. Their research also makes it easier for them to affect non-humans with spells, whether their ratfolk allies or hostile monsters.
- Crab Yasuki courtiers are the used-car sales-people of the Rokugani courts. Their vast stocks of "gifts" and pushy style help them curry favor, and they leverage those profits to keep the army fed and supplied. For best results play them as less Crab more Mr. Krabs.
"The Left Hand Of The Emperor." All emperors had Crane girls for wives for a long while, so Doji's Clan has had heavy political influence in Rokugan since times immemorial. They have set the rules for social interactions both in court and in daily life for centuries. They are very wealthy, very proud, and they also dig the white-haired pretty boy look. AEG favoured dicking on them in the fluff, mostly because their place as proponents of traditional values was at odds with the Mantis who were AEGs waifu.
- Crane Kakita bushi are duelists, with perfect form and gorgeous to watch in action. Outside of a duel, they're super-fast and gain benefits from taking a turn in the otherwise-wonky Center stance to really line up a good hit.
- Crane Daidoji bushi are super-tough, especially for Crane, and excel at being bodyguards and brutalizing people who try to bypass them to get at their charges.
- Crane Asahina shugenja specialize in non-lethal effects, defensive casting, and crafting works of beauty and wonder.
- Crane Doji courtiers will trade favors and politically out-maneuver their opponents.
The Dragon are the most reserved of the Clans. They mostly keep to themselves in their mountain retreats, and most strangers never quite know what to make of Togashi's Clan. Of all the Clans they value independent thought the most, and come the closest to non-conformists -- duty is still paramount, but it can be up to you how to fulfill it. They have crazy tattooed monks that breathe fire and piss heroin (one of these may be a lie). Also they have Chinese-style Taoist swordsmen who sit on mountain tops, don't wear armour and still cut you in half.
- Dragon Mirumoto bushi are known for their two-weapon style, which other clans find a little weird, but gives them a rock-solid defense and magic resistance. They're generally seen as the second-best duelists in Rokugan, after the Kakita, though they dispute the claim.
- Dragon Tamori shugenja are alchemists, using materials to enhance themselves or others. They can put their spells into potions and give them to friends to use on themselves later. They are also the rump-remainders of the Agasha, who mostly left for the Phoenix when the leader of the Dragon clan started going crazy.
- Dragon Kitsuki courtiers are unconventional, which makes people uncomfortable in the courts, but they can see right through the obfuscations and misdirections that form political combat. They are the closest anyone in Rokugan comes to being proper detectives, and many of them work as magistrates rather than courtiers, though the legal system finds their focus on evidence and deduction really weird.
- The Togashi Monks, which are effectively a family unto themselves, are strong at unarmed combat and are extremely modifiable through a variety of tattoos that grant them further powers, like shooting fire out of their hands.
"The Right Hand of the Emperor." Soldiers and generals par excellence, the Lion are a very powerful Clan. They've been at this for dozens of generations, which makes them paramount experts in military matters, but somewhat unwilling to listen to new ideas. They also don't play well with other samurai that aren't as "RAH RAH HONOR BUSHIDO" as they are, which is almost all of them. Nonetheless have the Emperor's ear when it comes to military matters. Akodo's people are crazy honorable, but that doesn't make them nice guys.
- Lion Akodo bushi are experts in precision, striking exactly in the right place at the right time. They also tend to favor using war fans in the off hand for defense, and are master tacticians and leaders of men in addition to personal combatants.
- Lion Matsu bushi are berserk warriors who excel at using the Full Attack stance, which lets them hit hard and accurately but leaves their defense wide open. They learn some tricks to make that less of a death-sentence, but...
- Lion Kitsu shugenja can always communicate with their ancestors; Lion clan doesn't have to wonder if their predecessors would approve of their actions, they can just ask, and they have centuries of wisdom to advise them. They're also there to help glue the warriors back together with healing and support magic.
- Lion Ikoma courtiers would never engage in the duplicity and insincerity that can get one ahead in the arena of politics. Instead they rely on precedents and storytelling to demonstrate their path is the correct choice, often by rocking out and engaging in various bardic mischief.
Founded by a half-Lion half-Crab who had been passed over for leadership of the Crab Clan, the Mantis claimed to be the oldest minor Clan in existence, something that was disputed by the Fox. At the Second Day of Thunder, when the clans united to fight Fu Leng, the Mantis daimyo demanded that the major clans recognized his contribution by promoting the Mantis and their allies to the status of a Major Clan, the Mantis absorbing their good buddies to make a very diverse group of clans. Generally reckoned as traders and suspected of piracy. The Mantis were AEG's waifu and as such got heavily favoured whenever the setting advanced, to the point of being ridiculous.
- Mantis Yoritomo bushi are either sailors, and thus good with unstable surfaces and dual-wielding unconventional "peasant" weapons.
- Mantis Tsuruchi bushi (the former Wasp Clan) are lethal archers, generally of the "won't miss"
- Mantis Moshi shugenja (the former Centipede Clan) are priestesses of the Sun, because good weather is important for sailors. However, they're also masters of calling down storms too. Sometimes they ride giant water snakes, and run on solar batteries, so they work better during the day.
- Mantis Kitsune shugenja (the former Fox Clan) are total furries, being born from the union of men and fox spirits. Their spells are easier to cast on animals, and they can affect beast spirits as well as elemental kami with basic spells.
- Mantis courtiers handle trading and not-so-subtle suggestions of how you are better being allied to them than letting them ally to another clan. They use their wealth as a political blunt instrument, and, if that fails, actual blunt instruments as political blunt instruments.
Shiba's crew are devout followers of Rokugan's two religions - the old-school Fortune worship and Shinsei's "New Path". Their shugenja (the aforementioned faux-Taoist sorcerers) are some of the most powerful of Rokugan, but the Clan doesn't like warring so they are not as militarily powerful as one would think. They have a bad habit of occasionally getting obsessed with forbidden knowledge and causing daemonic incursions, though.
- Phoenix Shiba bushi are known for having surprising insights on the battlefield to take advantage of opportunities others would miss. They favor polearms and spears, spend Void points more efficiently, and have their hands full working as bodyguards for their shugenja.
- Phoenix Isawa shugenja sacrifice the others' cool tricks for balls-out power: they can master any element they like, have no Deficiency, and can supercharge any spells of their master element with ease. They are also known for being very arrogant and proud, and their hubris often makes trouble for the rest of the Empire.
- Phoenix Agasha shugenja, who fled the Dragon clan en-masse when the leader decided it was a good idea to shove a bit of Lying Darkness-tainted matter onto the stump of her arm before going insane, Their signature technique is to power spells with different elemental resources than the ones they usually use, as well as crafting powerful fetishes. (Not that kind.)
- Phoenix Asako courtiers aren't ones for playing political games, and they will prove their point by citing academic or scholarly texts, relevant historical accounts, or arduously logical conclusions. They can also help out their allies with the same.
"The Underhand Of The Emperor." The Scorpion Clan do the dirty-work of the Emperor. Their gimmick is knowing stuff... about you... that you'd prefer was kept secret. Since Rokugan puts a lot of importance in public perception, honor and shame, this gives them a great edge over (and the silent hatred of) most other Clans. Woe to the players that have Bayushi fanboys for GMs. Weird love/hate relationship with the Crane - they work really well together and the Crane took in the Scorpion children when the clan got exiled, but they are polar opposites in the courts. Note that while they're often seen as creepy, backstabbing assholes, they are fanatically loyal to their Clan and the Empire as a whole.
- Scorpion Bayushi bushi specialize in dirty tricks and lightning-fast strikes. They are masters of the Feint maneuver, and several of their techniques leave opponents stunned and open for a killing follow-up.
- Scorpion Soshi shugenja are really into illusion and deception magic. Their trick is to put extra juice into their spells to make them go off with no visible, audible, etc. sign that someone just cast them.
- Scorpion Yogo shugenja suffer under an infamous curse that causes them, at least once in their lives, to hurt or betray the person or thing they love most. To fight it, they're excellent with wards and charging paper slips with magical traps.
- Scorpion Bayushi courtiers are masters of blackmail and temptation. The only thing worse than having one as an enemy is having one as an ex-ally.
- Scorpion Shosuro nin-shinobi, only those Spider bastards have ninja are what you'd expect, so long as you expect actual spying, infiltration, and wetwork instead of goofy black-pajamas shenanigans.
The Spider clan was founded in its modern incarnation by Daigotsu, and claims Fu Leng as their patron founding Kami. Their expressed goal is to take over and rule the Empire. The Spider initially begin as a secret conspiracy, then progress into a "ronin group" pretending to be virtuous, and then later into a full Clan after they save the Empire from total destruction by the hands of the Demon godess Kali-Ma. Whether or not this made sense or was just the story team meddling and dragging the game in directions the playerbase wasn't happy with is... debatable. (But also true, and a factor in the game's eventual failure. They ignored a shitload of tournaments to do it too.)
- Spider bushi are all about overwhelming force- they hit hard, can inflict fear on their enemies, and can weaponize Shadowlands taint to hit even harder or take more abuse. Some of their later powers are creepily supernatural, like regenerating damage as they hit enemies. As a side benefit, it's harder to detect their taint.
- Spider Chuda shugenja are maho-tsukai bloodspeakers, the degenerate and corrupt heirs to the fallen Snake Clan, and specialize in hiding the nature of maho magic and mitigating the taint caused by their dark spells. When the Spider become a Great Clan, most of their shugenja give them the finger and bail. They're really good with their filthy blood magic, but aren't as good at other things. Plus, you know... taint.
- Spider Ninube shugenja are minions of the Lying Darkness, and in denial about how it's eating away their personalities and identities. They can turn into near-invulnerable blots of shadow that can be injured by bright lights and crystal, and while they can't cast maho at all, they can instead cast Nothing spells with similar terrifying power and corrupting effects on themselves.
- Spider courtiers are subversives, sowing dissent and turning people towards darkness while moving blame away from themselves and making themselves difficult to sous out as what they are.
- Spider ninja are corrupted minions of the Shadow Dragon with strange supernatural shadow powers. They make for excellent assassins and but rarely have any real personality, and their final school power literally erases their face and identity.
Shinjo took her men with her far from Rokugan after Fu Leng died, and they have returned to the Empire after 800 years of wandering. A bizarre mix of Mongol, Arab and Japanese influences, the Unicorn are strangers in the Emerald Empire, but they know some tricks the other Clans don't, and they have the best cavalry around.
- Unicorn Moto bushi are the descendents of filthy gaijin, so they naturally master the use of the scimitar, lance, and general horse-fighting. They're good at finishing off injured opponents and moving from foe to foe as they kill.
- Unicorn Utaku bushi (formerly Otaku before it was changed for obvious reasons) are the all-female and less-gaijin variety of cavalry, gaining severals bonuses based on their Honor rank and a variety of powerful and flexible benefits from fighting while mounted.
- Unicorn Iuchi shugenja work mostly with movement/travel magic, and communing with animals (especially horses, duh). They're wild and carefree nature priests.
- Unicorn Ide courtiers are mediators, acting as an impartial outsider to help resolve conflicts and thus indebting both parties to Unicorn clan. They're also very good at getting people to peacefully listen to them, or at least not attack them. during fights.
- Minor Clans
The Minor Clans are those who do not descend from the Children of the Sun and the Moon. They are typically created as a reward for samurai that performed major deeds in the name of the Empire. The most powerful of these used to be the Mantis Clan, who live in islands south of Rokugan and have the greatest navy in the Empire, but have been promoted to a major clan and absorbed several other minor clans in the process.
The dominant race of Rokugan, and the default PC race. Come in several non-Rokugani flavors, including not-Romans, not-Arabs, not-Egyptians, and a couple different kinds of not-Age of Exploration Europeans. The not-Indians actually almost destroyed the world once. Fun times.
Rokugani humans, unlike other races that only have the four elemental rings, have a Void stat, representing their connection to the other four elements and their ability to bend destiny with their will. The jury is out on whether other nations have replacement stats, with at least one suggesting that the Age of Exploration Europeans have Drama instead.
Ratfolk who have a somewhat complicated relationship with humanity. They aren't evil, and are actually really good friends with the Crab, but they don't follow the same Honor Code as humanity does, so there's lots of cross-cultural confusion. They're at least partly defined by their connection to Yume-do, the Realm of Dreams, and are completely immune to the Taint: until at least Ningen-do falls, it is safe from the dark thirst of Jigoku.
Nezumi, rather than Void, have a Name stat, representing their own powerful and legendary importance that will survive them, and therefore their resonant connection to the Realm of Dreams.
Serpentfolk with a centaur-style body format; human from the waist up, giant snake from the waist down. Serpentine heads are a possible mutation, but they do have human faces by default. Women can perform a ritual to change their tail into legs, letting them pass more readily amongst humans. An ancient race who once ruled the world - they used to eat the nezumi's ancestors before they evolved sapience, and the relationship between the two is still strained over that - but went into dormancy around the time the Shadowlands were created. Not inherently hostile towards humanity, as they rightly recognize that Fu Leng needs ousting, but there's a lot of racial tension. They're also a potential PC choice in at least one edition of the games.
They put themselves into mass-hibernation to await a later era where they'd be needed, but doing so left their fertility dangerously low, with a second hibernation generally-regarded as dooming their race. Then they did it, leaving behind only a few stragglers and those who had fallen to the Shadowlands. Whelp.
Instead of Void, naga have an Akasha stat, representing their connection to the naga race as a whole. While not a "hive mind," naga are in psychic contact with one another at a low level at all times, and with the voices of all their ancestors.
Spirits that have somehow come to the
Material Plane Ningen-do and can change their shape between an animal form and a single human form. They must take several special taboo disadvantages to exist off their home plane the Spirit Realm, and breaking these results in power loss, being stuck in animal form, and possibly being made into a human (though that last one has no explicit mechanical enforcement). Allowing them as player characters is allowed "at the GM's option" and they've barely been mentioned.
While Hengeyokai do have Void, they are limited in its use. They also permanently have a glory of 0 unless they steal a human's identity.
The whole rigamarole started as a collectible card game. The "one-true setting" of Rokugan is described in plot arcs that correspond to CCG releases, and the outcomes of turning points in the plot are decided at annual or semi-annual CCG tournaments.
The RPG's history follows the CCG history closely until the 4th edition (released 2010).
The CCG has four ways of winning a match. The first and most common is Military, where one player destroys all four of another player's provinces. The next two are Honor and Dishonor, in which you either start your turn with a family honor of 40 or higher, or your opponent ends their turn with a family honor of -20 or lower. The last way of winning is Enlightenment, where you have in play all five of the Elemental Ring cards, brought into play by their own effects.
With the buyout of the L5R license by FFG, the CCG is effectively dead after the last Onyx Edition set is released. Any rules and tournament results and plots will probably not carry over to the LCG edition, which is rebooting the setting back to before the Scorpion Coup.
Characters in the L5R RPG are usually samurai ("knights," but not necessarily sword-swingers) either belonging to one of the Clans or lordless ronin. Rokugan is a troubled land, besieged both by the threat of the Shadowlands and the constant jockeying for supremacy between the Clans. Life is very ordered for PCs, so "LOL!randum XD" players will see their characters cut down quickly; Rokugan has little tolerance for non-conformists. Typical excuses for parties working together are: having all PCs be part of one Clan and its allies, having them all participate in one of the Winter Courts (social campaigns involving the Emperor and other bigwigs) or making them all Emerald Magistrates, a free-roaming force of samurai troubleshooters for the Empire.
Depending on the edition, the system uses D10s or D20s. That explode.
The RPG is noted for, among other things, having a deep set of rules for 1-on-1 duels. Is That Guy giving you trouble? Is he not a Crane? Challenge him to a duel.
Dungeons and Dragons
Rokugan was, very briefly, an official Dungeons & Dragons campaign setting during 3rd Edition. The 3rd Edition version of Oriental Adventures attempted to both update the original 1E version of the book and present L5R's setting as an example for how to make an Asian themed campaign.
The 3.5 updates for the material presented in this book are pretty scattered. Shugenja and Wu Jen (which was included for generic Asian campaigns), along with some of their unique spells, were updated in Complete Divine (which stripped it of most of its Rokugan fluff, except the fact that they don't start with armor proficiency) and Complete Arcane respectively. The Bear Warrior, Weapon Master and Tattooed Monk prestige classes were updated in Complete Warrior, which also included a completely separate, and much worse, "Samurai" class. Everything else however was updated in Dragon Magazine issue 318.
"Oriental Adventures 3.0" gave way to a full-fledged "Legend of the Five Rings D20" spin-off setting. Unlike Oriental Adventures these are merely using the 3rd edition rules via Open Gaming License rather than official D&D products. This started with a "Rokugan D20 Campaign Setting" corebook, which included options for playing Nezumi and Naga PCs as well as members of the Clans, and was then expanded with multiple books, consisting of the following:
- The Complete Exotic Arms Guide
- Creatures of Rokugan
- Magic of Rokugan
- The Hidden Emperor
- Fortunes & Winds
- Secrets of the Scorpion
- Secrets of the Dragon
- Secrets of the Lion
- Secrets of the Phoenix
- Secrets of the Crab
- Secrets of the Crane
- Secrets of the Shadowlands
- Secrets of the Unicorn
- Secrets of the Mantis
- Way of the Daimyo
- Way of the Ninja
- Way of the Thief
- Way of the Samurai
- Way of the Shugenja
- Way of the Open Hand
Fantasy Flight Games version
FFG put out a beta in Fall 2017 for a new edition of the game, incorporating several elements from their Star Wars Roleplaying Game, including fancy custom dice. You will be shocked to learn that it is skub. Common bones of contention include katanas that shatter all the time, whether or not the giri/ninjo system is just a crappy roleplaying substitute and a poor fit for the system, dueling that everyone admits just sucks, and, again, those damn custom dice. Or an app you can shell out four bucks for if you want to pay to play an open beta.
Legend of the Five Rings fourth edition (the current edition) has a fairly strong community on the sup/tg/ IRC server (irc.thisisnotatrueending.com). Players looking for games, chat, or anything else related to the RPG should check out #L5ROOC and/or talk to KingGheedorah, who moderates the channel and is currently running over 9000 L5R games.