of the Five Rings reg; Roleplaying Game
By Elton Robb
of the Five Rings Roleplaying Game
is based on the popular Wizards of the Coast reg; Collectible Card Game
of the Five Rings reg;.
It is published by Alderac Entertainment Group and is probably the company's
most famous roleplaying game. It takes its inspiration from Feudal Japan,
a theme that has been often used and over-explored by RPG companies ever
since TSR released Oriental
In this case, however, the theme is more realized than found in earlier
RPG treatments of feudal Japanese culture (with the possible exception
since the whole game system is dedicated to recreating a world
based on that culture. The world is somewhere out there in the universe,
and it's populated by humans of every color and creed. The game focuses
on just a small part of that world: a nation called Rokugan.
is Feudal Japan in almost every respect. The government is in more direct
control of the Emperor as there is no "Lord Protector" or Shogun
to detract from his Imperial influence. So, to illustrate, imagine Rokugan
as a feudal, oriental Rome. And, just as the Roman Empire had a vast sphere
of influence, so does Rokugan in that it covers an area in size that rivals
game begins with the Book of Earth, and it gives the players and GMs details
on the Society of Rokugan. It explains the creation myth, the heritage
of the Clans, Daimyo and Samurai, Religion, the Caste System, the Society
of Rokugan and what they wear, eat, spend, and how they greet each other;
and finally Bushido.
Rokuganjin believe that their myths and legends are actual history,
and these are the beliefs that shape Rokuganjin culture. The Caste System
is one cultural concept integral to their society, which is stratified
into four major tiers, like steps on a ladder. At the top are the Kuge,
or the Ruling Caste. Here is where the Emperor and the ruling families
of the Imperial Court rule the land, although most of the court action
takes place among the Samurai clans.
the Kuge are the Samurai, or "those who make war." During the
late spring through early fall, the Samurai goes to war at times when
a Clan's honor is at stake. During the winter, the Samurai retires from
the field of hot war, and enters the courtly field of cold war politics.
In the winter court, battles are waged differently. They are about who
can arrange the best marriage, who can gain the Emperor's ear, and who
can gain honor at the expense of other clans. Player characters are made
in the Samurai caste, both spellcasting Shugenja and sword wielding Samurai.
next caste is the Heimin: or half people. The hiemin are the artisans
and the farmers. The farmers are considered more honorable than the artisans.
It is the farmers who keep the economy going: they raise food for the
people to eat so that they can work, politic, and make war. After all,
koku, the money of Rokugan, is based on the rice harvest. The artisans
are the people responsible for building Rokugan. Without artisans, there
would be no bridges, roads, buildings, and palaces. The artisans provide
art and engineering for all the people of Rokugan.
the non-people. This caste includes the merchants, actors, musicians,
geisha, charlatans, criminals and gamblers. Also included are the
Eta. These include those who must touch dead bodies and animals
in necessary professions. The unclean people. The ninja are strictly
non-player characters who are included in the Eta. The ninja involve themselves
in assassination, and are rumored to be spellcasters.
concept integral to Rokuganjin culture is Bushido. Bushido is the
Way of the Warrior, a code which sets down rules that the Samurai follows.
Like the knights of Chivalry, there are some Samurai who do not care about
Bushido, and act beyond the bounds of the Code of Bushido. However, there
are others who strictly follow the Code of Bushido. And most Samurai fall
revolves around the "virtues" of Courage, Loyalty, Sincerity,
On ("respectability" or "face"), Excellence, Dueling,
Revenge, and Bragging. Each of these virtues are so important that a Samurai
faithful to the Code of Bushido will sacrifice his life to uphold this
BOOK OF WATER
Book of Water gives details on Character Creation. In the Core Book, players
are encouraged to play heroic Samurai or powerful Shugenja..
The game explains what these are: Samurai being warriors who are like
the Knights of Feudal Europe, foresworn to a Daimyo; and Shugenja who
are priestly spell casters. Character creation is based on a character
point system: players get so many points to distribute among the Five
Rings: Earth, Fire, Water, Air, and Void. What is left over is used to
purchase skills and advantages and/or disadvantages (talents and flaws).
The Way of the
series of sourcebooks expands on character creation greatly, adding more
character types to play. I myself have two of these books, The
Way of the Crane
Way of the Unicorn.
are some unique skills associated with the game. Such skills include the
Tea Ceremony, which depends on the Void attribute to be successfully tested,
and Lore, which includes lore unique to the Rokuganjin. Skills are divided
into High Skills, which are skills used at Court and in various roleplaying
situations; Bugei Skills, skills of weapons and war; and Low Skills,
skills no Samurai will take the trouble to learn.
the main book, there are some unique advantages and disadvantages. These
advantages and disadvantages reflect the Rokuganjin culture. Here
are a few:
Blessing: This advantage is an advantage of Charisma more than anything
else. It's like getting a boost in presence, except that presence equates
to a likable personality.
Your character has an amazing rapport with your teacher. This is like
having the mentor talent from Rolemaster's Character
Love: What would be an advantage in our culture is a disadvantage
in Rokugan. Believe it or not, True Love is actually looked down upon.
There is a part of a saying from an Indian visitor to the west when he
explained the difference between East and West. "Your marriage is
the end of a happy romance, ours is the beginning of a love affair."
This explains the disadvantage of True Love. In Rokugan, marriages are
arranged between clans or between families in a clan. A young girl
and a young Samurai do not just go out together and build a relationship
and then get married. Relationships are arranged, not made.
This disadvantage isn't listed in the main book, but is found in the Way
of the Crane.
Vanity is defined as the Character being obsessed with his appearance
or his own genius.
THE BOOK OF FIRE
Book of Fire describes the Game Mechanics, which are simple and based
on ten-sided dice. Players are expected to add Ability and Skill, and
then roll dice against a target number, which can be as high as 50 or
100. There are no percentile rolls. The idea is that the GM gives the
player a target number, typically 15, and the player seeks to roll a number
that can equal or beat this target number.
Doji Hoturi, the Daimyo of the Crane, goes to defend the honor of Bayushi
Kachiko, a beautiful but dangerous woman who had her honor slighted. He
is facing a Lion Samurai who reveals Kachiko's intimacies with the Emperor.
The GM requires the player of Hoturi to make an Etiquette test.
the situation is tense and involves a Samurai of the Lion clan, the GM
assigns a target number of 25 (Very Hard). The player combines Hoturi's
intelligence, a 2, with his rank in Etiquette, 5. This equals 7 dice.
Hoturi knows that he must score a 25. So he rolls . . . He gets: 7, 2,
1, 5, 6, 8, 10. A 10, so he rolls that dice again, getting a 4. 14. The
total is 43.
GM rules that Hoturi successfully navigated the situation with cool words
and logic and the Lion leaves, planning to challenge Hoturi to a duel
later. Kachiko is pleased that her honor isn't slighted and once again
gives Hoturi her fan.
the mass combat system is simple, but since this is a roleplaying game,
there is less emphasis on something like mass combat, allowing Clan
of the Five Rings
miniature combat game to take over.
BOOK OF AIR
Book of Air is detailed next, and it comprises the magic system. The Book
of Air gives more detail on the Shinto-esque religion of Rokugan. Details
on the Fortunes and Ancestor Worship are given, all to give a basis for
the magic system. The Magic System provides a good listing of spells to
use by the righteous holy men known as Shugenja. The Book of Air also
explains a little about evil magic used by Sorcerers called Blood
Sorcerers in Rokugan use this black magic to cause havoc with the Celestial
Order, like raising the dead from their slumber, consorting with demons,
and other malicious acts.
BOOK OF THE VOID
there is the Book of the Void. This is the Game Master's section. It shows
the game masters, both Fledglings and Veterans, how the game works and
how to Master a game of Legend
of the Five Rings.
It also gives details on Rokugan's creatures. The creatures range from
the ever popular Bakemono, or hobgoblins, to the powerful Oni,
or eastern demons. I was disappointed to see that they elected to leave
out dragons, however. Finally, there is an introductory adventure for
the GM to introduce his players to the intricate, delicate Society of
Rokugan, and gives them a chance to role-play in the adventure as Samurai
and Shugenja should.
the Book of the Void there is a Map of Rokugan, an explanation of its
geography, and floor plans of various buildings around Rokugan. Even a
small map of a Rokuganjin city is provided. In the very back is the customary
and well-designed character sheet, something no roleplaying game would
ever be complete without
did have some difficulties after reading through the game. For example,
in the Book of Earth, I was disappointed they chose to use the western
idea of the geisha being glorified prostitutes, rather than as experts
in the culture, as is the case in real Japanese culture.
thing I found not to my liking was the overall way the game mechanics
were presented. They are really simple, but the rules could have been
organized better. I found them to be diffused among the Book of Fire,
making the real game mechanics difficult to find. However, a plus was
the simplistic introduction to game mechanics in the book of Earth, and
as well the writer provides an example of how battle works.
the game has great potential to provide weeks and months of play. Players
will want to play in this strange culture of heroic Samurai and holy Shugenja
over and over again, especially if they are familiar with the Collectible
Card Game Legend
of the Five Rings.
The Roleplaying Game recreates the world of that CCG better than any other
game could. However, since it is about one culture, on chance, you can
drop Rokugan into any existing world system with little headache.
for myself, I did find the game to be a good investment of my money. People
who are in love with Japan will find the game a thrill to role-play in.
I, myself, enjoyed reading it. And when I finally do get to play/run a
game in Rokugan, I'm sure I will be satisfied doing so.
of the Five Rings Roleplaying Game
is published by Alderac Entertainment Group.. Their contact details are
Alderac Entertainment Group
4045 Guasti Road, #212,
can buy this product through our affiliate GreatGames in the UK. Click
or on the logo for direct access to their catalogue.
trademarks and copyrights are acknowledged. Please post your comments
on this review on the General Discussion Board.
Where am I? Scrolls of Wisdom Vote for us on the RPG 100 Sponsored by Mimic Media & Data Systems