The Legend of the Five Rings Roleplaying Game (L5R RPG) by Fantasy Flight Games is the 4th Edition of the game. Several sourcebooks have been released over the last few months and in this article we’re going to take a look at what’s inside them. We’re going to look at Emerald Empire, a guide to the world that L5R is set in, Shadowlands, a guide to the dark and monstrous area south of the protective wall and Mask of the Oni, an adventure that coincides with the Shadowlands sourcebook and takes players deep into the Shadowlands.
For those interested in the L5R RPG, we’ve reviewed the Core Rulebook and Games Master’s Guide previously, and for those new to L5R or roleplaying in general, a fantastic starter set is available in the L5R RPG Beginners Pack. If you’re interested in the mechanics and setting of L5R, please read those article first as here we’ll just discuss what’s in the new sourcebooks.
Emerald Empire is a solid sourcebook. Coming in at 256 pages it is around two-thirds of the page count of the Core Rulebook. As it is mostly source material, that should give you some idea of the sheer amount of detail that Emerald Empire goes in to. The chapter headings give a comprehensive insight into what the book contains and they are:
- Strongholds of Power
- Centers of Trade
- Heart of the Empire
- Sacred Spaces
- Paths to Enlightnement
- Wilds of Rokugan
- New Player Options
Throughout the book, along with a huge amount of detail about areas, the history and life in Rokugan, are beautifully detailed maps or areas and floor plans of castles and other buildings of importance. There are also NPC character details, which contain full stats and information about key characters and figureheads. There are also adventure seeds, containing information on hooks, rising action and climax to give GM’s inspiration for their own campaigns.
Emerald Empire goes into great detail about the daily lives of a huge variety of people in Rokugan, from the lords of castles, to merchants, farmers and monks.
For players, it gives the rules and character stats for characters coming from 3 Imperial families and the Imperial Clan. As well as 9 new schools (including our favorite the Kolat Saboteur School). It also includes new advantages, disadvantages, in passions, distinctions, adversities and anxieties. It also has 2 new techniques, a Level 3 Kolat, Spin the Web and a Level 4 Imperial, Awe of Heaven. Several new character titles are also available, including Daimyo, Priest and Yojimbo.
The sheer amount of detail in this sourcebook make it an essential purchase for anyone looking to roleplay in the world of L5R.
Shadowlands is a punchy sourcebook, covering the dark and mysterious lands of demons and goblins to the South of the Empire. The book is 144 pages and has 3 chapters.
- Dark Histories – covering full details of the Shadowlands
- Honor Against Demons – which looks at the heroes, units and clans who actively fight against the Shadowlands
- Out of The Shadows – which gives players and GM new rules and details for campaigns that step into the Shadowlands
As with Emerald Empire, Shadowlands is beautifully illustrated and full of detail. It contains adventure hooks and important NPC information throughout. For GMs, it gives details on the creatures of the Shadowlands. from demons (oni) and spirits, to goblins and ogres. It also includes details of the Dark Moto, fallen samurai who dwell within the Shadowlands. The Crab Clan are also covered in detail, as they are the warriors manning and maintaining the wall, which protects the rest of the Empire from the Shadowlands threat. Each Crab family is looked at, along with their lands. It also includes NPC details for Crab characters and adventure hooks for them.
Details of the Nezumi are also included. They are ratlike humanoids who resist the Shadowlands taint and fight to survive with their dwindling population.
For Players, character options for the Falcon minor clan are included, with clan and family rules for them. There are also several new schools for each clan, including the Mirumoto Taoist Blade school and the Falcon clan, Toritaka Phantom Hunter School. Several new Shadowlands themed advantages and disadvantages are also included, along with new Samurai Heritages and some new weapons and armor. Rules for new blessed and cursed treasures are also included, such as the infamous Mask of Fu Leng and Kishu: The Oni Cutting Sword.
Blood Magic rules are also detailed, for those who want to risk dabling with the dark powers. The book closes with details and advice for GMs running games in the Shadowlands, including how to incorporate a higher level of horror into them.
Mask of the Oni
The Mask of the Oni adventure includes a beautifully illustrated map of the Shadowlands and its neighbouring territories of the Empire, along with a map and floor plan for Daylight Castle. It also has tokens for the characters and NPCs of the included adventure.
Mask of the Oni can be continued straight from the Dark Tides adventure, which was part of the L5R RPG GM’s Guide. But it also has details for how to run it if players haven’t played that adventure.
Mask of the Oni is a five part adventure that takes players deep into the Shadowlands. It works very well with the Shadowlands sourcebook, but all details are included to run the adventure, even if you don’t have access to that. As always, the adventure is beautifully illustrated and scripted as per all the previous L5R adventures. If you’ve enjoyed the pacing and detail from the adventures, either from the Beginners Set, GM’s Guide or those provided on FFG’s site, as a player or GM, then this will also appeal to you. As expected it is a lot darker than previous adventures, but it is an interesting journey into that part of the world.
A supplemental storyline for Mask of the Oni, The Knotted Trails is available for free via the FFG website.
The sheer amount of detail FFG are putting into their sourcebooks is a great sign for their interest in the RPG. All of their products so far have been extremely well produced and are beautifully presented. The rules and details are placed side by side with the source material, so that you don’t feel like you are simply buying a book of stats and details. It does means that information is spread around the sourcebooks, but as a GM you’re going to be writing a lot of notes anyway. All of the player’s material is placed together at the end so that it’s simple for players to find the information they require.
The care and attention that FFG are putting into the L5R RPG makes us excited for the future of the product. The free material that FFG are also making available, that they could easily monetise, makes the purchase of their products worthwhile.
These copies of the L5R RPG Emerald Empire, Shadowlands and Mask of the Oni were provided by Asmodee UK.
Have you played the L5R RPG? Which editions have you played? Which is your favorite clan? Let us know in the comments below.