This was going to be a review, but after opening the Legend of the Five Rings Roleplaying Beginner Game (L5R RPG), it immediately became clear that not only was this a stellar product in terms of components, but that it was an incredible product overall and for RPG beginners and also experienced roleplayers or GMs looking to get into Legend of the Five Rings. So, we decided to save the review of the system until the players and games masters products are released and concentrate on just showing why, if you have any interest in Legend of the Five Rings, or even getting in to roleplaying, you should buy this product.
Legend of the Five Rings (popularly known as L5R) was a setting first published in 1995 by Alderac Entertainment Group (AEG). It was a roleplaying game, collectible card game, and has also had boardgames, a miniatures game, a Live-Action roleplaying game, and a series of tie-in fiction novels produced over its life span with AEG. In September 2015, Fantasy Flight Games (FFG) announced they had purchased the rights from AEG and would be looking to initially produce a card game under their Living Card Game (LCG) umbrella, which has been doing well.
The L5R setting is based on oriental mythology, legends, and fairy tales, with samurai from a variety of clans fighting for dominance through military and political might in the setting world of Rokugan. Their are seven major clans of the Crab, Crane, Dragon, Lion, Phoenix, Scorpion, and Unicorn. Each clan has its own role in the universe, such as the mighty Lion clan, masters of tactical warfare, or the stoic Crab clan, who defend the Empire from Oni (demons) and other evil beings from their defensive wall.
The Legend of the Five Rings Roleplaying Beginner Game is the first RPG product in the L5R setting from FFG and is a perfect place to start for Games Masters (GMs) and players with no roleplaying experience, roleplayers with experience with other RPGs who want to get into L5R, and even veteran L5R players looking to discover FFG's L5R system.
The L5R RPG Beginner Game has everything everyone needs to play their first games of the L5R RPG. There is an introduction booklet that all players should read to understand what an RPG is and bring them into the L5R setting. This is followed by an Adventure Book, which is read by the GM, that explains step by step the first adventure for the GM and the players. It does an incredible job of bringing in the rules as required throughout the adventure. The third book is a rulebook, almost a first look at the upcoming full L5R RPG products and has enough to cover any initial RPG needs after going through the Adventure Book.
The adventure is a perfect introduction to L5R and focuses on the Topaz Championship, where young Samurai compete in their coming of age ceremony. It's a fantastic way to introduce the setting, characters, and system of L5R in an extremely well-laid-out adventure.
The Legend of the Five Rings Roleplaying Beginner Game includes character folios for four different characters: a Dragon clan monk (religious martial artist), a Crane clan courtier (political figure), a Lion clan samurai (warrior), and a Phoenix clan Shugenja (magic user). These folios include everything players need to know about their characters, as well as some key aspects of the L5R RPG core rules as easy reference. The folios also include a great introduction to roleplaying and playing your character, including their backstory. We haven't included images of the internal pages, simply to not spoil anything for players who might be interested in playing the Beginner Game. For those who wish to see more, FFG have made available characters for the three other major clans on their website, and players can download full folios for the Scorpion, Crab, and Unicorn characters here. Players wishing to see what the Character folios contain can download these folios to see.
All seven of the characters are great for the included adventure, and players should pick which character appeals to them the most. It is also worth noting that while subtle, it is fantastic to see a progressive character like the Scorpion character being included as a pre-generated character from FFG, and I hope that we can see more of this in the future.
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The L5R RPG Beginner Game also includes a double sided map and counters that can be used on the maps, or maps of the GM or player's own creation. We've included some images above of the different scales on the map so you can see the detail. It is a product that looks great on the table and is very useful, while adding solid depth when using the counters to display player and possible enemy locations. Not all GMs and players like to have props during their games, but it is there and available should your game need it.
In the original Legend of the Five Rings Roleplaying Game from AEG, the system ran on the terms roll and keep, which meant that a player would be able to roll a certain amount of dice and then chose which to keep, so a player might be rolling five dice in total, but only keeping two of them to count towards their success or not. FFG's L5R RPG system continues this system, with their own unique dice. Characters have access to the five Rings of Air, Water, Earth, Fire, and Void, which make up all aspects of their character and also skills, like commerce or martial arts. To make a check, the GM tells the player which skill will be tested and the player decides which Ring they will use. The Rings represent how the character will use the skill, like Fire for direct or Void for centered. Players then roll a white dice for each rank or ability they have in the skill and a black dice for each level they have in the Ring. Players roll the total pool and get to keep as many dice as they have equal to the Ring being tested.
The dice themselves have several symbols: the ring made of up a single line for a success; a ring made up of three lines for an explosive success where players can roll an additional die into the pool; a flowery symbol that represents opportunity, which might not be a direct success but an incidental result of the action; and also the symbol that looks like fire (or a heart if upside down), which can add complications, even if the result is a success.
There is also an L5R RPG Dice App available for those who prefer the digital RPG feel.
We will cover the Legend of the Five Rings Roleplaying Game system in full when the full system is released with a review score, but as a product, the L5R RPG Beginner Game is one of the best entry-level RPG products on the market. If the setting doesn't appeal to you, there probably won't be much enjoyment in this, but if you have always thought about trying out an RPG and you find even a tiny bit of interest in the L5R setting, then the Beginner Game will be perfect for you. We wish this product had been available when we first started playing RPGs.
FFG are doing a superb job of running with the L5R setting. I've been a player of L5R since the first edition of the RPG and the original CCG, and FFG are keeping the defining points of the setting, while also making the system their own. The LCG is going from strength to strength and the inclusions of the novellas are a real push for the setting. This first product in the FFG L5R RPG line is really promising for the future of L5R. Another great sign of their commitment to the property is the sheer amount of free bonus fiction and RPG extras available on the FFG site.
I will see you on the battlefield, Samurai.
This copy of the L5R RPG Beginner Game used for this preview was provided by Asmodee UK.
Are you a veteran or newbie to L5R? What do you think of FFGs L5R? Have you played the LCG? Are you new to roleplaying and like the look of this product? Let us know in the comments below.