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  • Writer's pictureDawn Dalton

Favorite RPGs: Legend of the Five Rings

Welcome to Rokugan. Land of mystery, of enchantment... Wait, that's Agrabah from Aladdin. But it still holds true for Rokugan.

I first started playing L5R in college and have played through just about every edition that's come out (except the newest because my GM refuses to buy the game a fifth time). The game is set in Rokugan, a faux feudal Japan. Magic is real, samurai are badasses, and courtiers whisper secrets behind the scenes.

The world is broken up into nine major clans, each of whom are known for something different in the world. Want to do mounted combat? Go with the Unicorn Clan. Beefy beat stick more your style? Crab Clan. Iaijuttsu duelist? Crane Clan. Spell chucker? Phoenix Clan.

But, you can play against type if you want to. Not every Scorpion is a sneaky bastard who lies through their teeth. Some of the best tell the truth most of the time so you never know what's truth and lies. Inside every clan are families who each specialize even further.

In game terms, the clan you choose will determine what schools you can attend. Very few Dragon clan samurai will attend a Scorpion clan school. There will be exceptions, but those are best worked out with you GM before the game (and there are advantages you can take to have an out of clan school). Your family will give you a bump in one of your Traits which will help with your rolls for skills or spells that use that Trait.

Every clan has both a bushi (fighter) and shugenja (spellcaster) school. After the first edition, there were other schools added, including courtier and monk depending on your clan. A good group will have a mix of everything. While an all fighter group sounds like a good idea, a courtier can get you in places that you can't bash your way into.

And that's my biggest beef with the game. Most of the editions push the bushi above all else. They get advanced schools above rank 5, whereas courtiers have to branch into another school type. I'm usually the courtier in my group because no one else wants to do it. Once we hit rank 5, I'm kinda done with the game because I'm stuck either learning spells or having to defend myself with my meager sword skills.

With that exception, I love this game. I'm tempted to pick up my own copy of Fantasy Flight's edition to see how they changed and adapted the game. I've played a bit of every type of character, just not every clan, which makes this one of the games I can come back to time and again without getting bored.

What's your favorite game? If they have multiple editions, which is your favorite and why?

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