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The Book of Air
by Jay S. A. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 09/26/2012 21:52:00
The Book of Air is the first of a new line of sourcebooks for the Legend of the Five Rings series of books, that uses an interesting approach towards expanding the setting.

L5R has always been an interesting setting with regards to the depth and detail of the society of Rokugan, and this series of supplements expands on it by breaking down the topics according to the themes of the five elements of Rokugan: Air, Earth, Water, Fire and Void.

The Book of Air focuses on the facets that are relevant to the element of Air, as broken down into various chapters that look into War, the Court, Magic, Enlightenment and the Setting. The book also provides a self-contained setting that can be dropped into any existing campaign. New Mechanics are also present in the book to sate the needs of those who are looking for new rules to implement into their games. Needless to say, every clan gets something out of this book, so Crab and Lion players need not worry about being left out in a book that seems so focused on the softer side of Rokugani life.

I’m pleased to say that the organization of each of the chapters is very well done, with the book going into extensive detail with regards to the facet being discussed. The role of archery for example, is treated in the general form, then broken down into the various specific traditions of each of the clans. The chapters go into detail with regards to War, Courtly Politics, Magic (my favorite chapter due to the Kitsu Spirit Legion), Enlightenment, the world of Rokugan and a Politics-heavy Campaign setting.

Each of these are discussed without interrupting with mechanics. Instead all of the fluff is presented up front, and all the mechanics sorted out in the final chapter. This makes for an interesting format as it makes rules lookups so much easier, while letting people who enjoy the fluff (or need them, as with most GMs) read and digest the information without switching back and forth from concept to rules thinking in every other page or so.

The Book of Air is a worthy addition to the excellent Legend of the Five Rings 4th Edition line, expanding on topics and lending even more detail to the unique nature of the clans. Given the quality of the writing, combined with excellent artwork and layout and the new format of organizing the information in the book, I find myself looking forward to the rest of the series.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Book of Air
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Legend of the Five Rings 4th Edition
by Michael H. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 09/16/2012 21:16:19
I have been playing Legend of the Five Rings off and on since I discovered the first edition of the game back in 1999. I have always been a fan of Japanese history, culture and folklore (no expert by any means, just a fan). Prior to finding this game I had become hooked on Rurouni Kenshin and I was looking for a game that captured the mythical and epic nature of medieval Japan. Legend of the Five Rings was the game that filled that need for me.

Prior editions of the game were tied intricately to the ongoing storyline which was being driven by the Legend of the Five Rings collectible card game. While in a lot of ways this was a good thing it often left players of the RPG just a bit behind the curve when it came to developments in the setting, slaves to a game in which they had no say. The Fourth Edition of L5R has finally freed players from this burden and empowered players to enjoy the time frame in the setting they want to explore.

The second edition of the game was tied very closely to Dungeons & Dragons and overall it felt like an underdeveloped product although it did bring several interesting mechanics to the table. Third edition marked a separation from D&D but as time went on the game became more and more complicated to play. While no one can deny the quality of the game it was hard to play the game without feeling a bit overwhelmed. One of the major focuses of the fourth edition was returning the game to a simpler core set of rules which maintained the flavored development by previous editions without crippling players with an overpowering game system.

For the most part I feel the game succeeds at fulfilling that goal. I finally had a chance to play L5R 4E at GenCon 2012 and I walked away a very happy gamer. The system was easy to use but versatile enough to handle everything our group threw at the game master. Combat was fast, fun and deadly without being tedious to track. Each character was infused with the L5R flavor that we have come to know and love.

L5R 4E is a game that has finally come back into its own. AEG got everything right with this edition and once again I find myself 100% engaged with the product line.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Legend of the Five Rings 4th Edition
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Sophia's Daughters
by Mark E. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 08/10/2012 19:19:35
This book was one of the biggest let-downs of the entire game. Put forth as 'swashbuckling feminists' it instead traded women's subserviance to men for women's subserviance to the Sidhe. These are no longer free willed women who chart the course of their own destiny, they, instead, act at the behest of their 'benevolant masters' in some uber-secret war which was never discussed in any previous books.

Add to that the inclusion of a 'male SD' group which is stunningly game breaking all on its lonesome combined with a new form of magic which allows all the females of the SD to bypass any roleplaying in favor of forcing the GM to tell them who the bad guy is right away, and you begin to understand how poorly thought out this book is.

It's quite obvious the author has a soft spot for 'elves' as the capricious and often evil Sidhe are given a makeover which places them firmly in the "we're here to rescue the poor humans who couldn't possibly figure this out on their own" camp. And the book suffers for that.

Rating:
[1 of 5 Stars!]
Sophia's Daughters
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The Sidhe Book of Nightmares
by Mark E. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 08/10/2012 19:06:13
While I understand the desire to more fully flesh out parts of the game that are not initially discussed, this book proceeds to give undue abilities to PCs in such a game-imbalancing manner it quickly becomes obvious there was no playtesting for this product. Stick with the earlier books and save yourself the cost of this.

Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
The Sidhe Book of Nightmares
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Legend of the Burning Sands
by Jay S. A. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 08/07/2012 00:44:47
After what seemed to be an eternity, Alderac has finally released the PDF version of the sought after Legend of the Burning Sands RPG into the wild.

Released back in the days of 3rd Edition L5R, Legend of the Burning Sands (LBS) was a huge thing for me when it came out as it broadened the scope of L5R's setting of Rokugan, and introduced new cultures and factions that were all interesting and potentially fun to play.

LBS takes place in Rokugan's sister setting, the Burning Sands. Despite sharing the same "World" the Burning Sands was an entirely different setting with it's own cultural norms and societies that are a far cry from the asian-inspired nature of Rokugan.

The Burning Sands is a harsh desert that holds multiple cultures, whose lives revolve around Medinat al-Salaam, the massive city ruled by the Caliph. Nine factions exist in the city: The Khadi, Qolat, the Ashalan, the Assassins, the Ebonites, The Jackals, the Ra'Shari, the Senpet and the Yodotai.

The city of Medinaat Al-Saalam is the focus of the game, and constitutes the majority of the attention to the setting. Everything from demographics to economics is given attention, and there's enough material for a GM to spin off more than enough plot hooks for a lengthy campaign.

Of these factions, seven are given a chapter to themselves. These are the Ashalan, Assassins, Ra'Shari, Senpet, Yodotai, Jackals and Ebonites, and compose the playable factions in the game. Each of these are given a thorough treatment which include their histories, secrets, methods and techniques unique to each faction.

The system is pretty much the Roll and Keep system with minor tweaks aimed towards showing how magic here is very different from importuning Kami in Rokugan. Familiarity with L5R is nice, but the system is treated in full as to not require the L5R corebook to run a game.

There's also a bestiary of the local wildlife, and a Jinn creation system to simulate these mysterious (and dangerous) beings native to the Burning Sands.

Legend of the Burning Sands is stuffed with information, and sometimes it feels that the artwork had to be sacrificed to make space. There's art for each of the factions, but aside from that, there's very little else out there. I don't mind, but it might intimidate a few readers who aren't used to seeing walls of text.

---

Despite its age, I still recommend Legend of the Burning Sands. It works well as both a standalone product and as a supplement for the L5R games, and introduces an entirely different setting with its own interesting cultures. The setting is still every bit as interesting and compelling as it was the first time I picked it up as a CCG, and I'm more than happy to see that I can now run my own adventures in the Burning Sands in tabletop form.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Legend of the Burning Sands
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Legend Of The Five Rings Live Action Role-Playing Game
by James H. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 06/27/2012 17:34:37
Just on a read-through, this game looks rather good. Having played Mind's Eye Theatre, a game with a similar rules ethic (ie card pulls instead of hard skill), I can tell it's something that would work in practice. The information is well presented and clear, and I never got lost reading it.

A big problem I have is that the book promises a section on costuming, but doesn't deliver on this. It's a shame, because it's something that open-book LRP books tend not to delve into enough. It doesn't really detract from the presentation of the book or the quality of the game information, so this isn't a major thing.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Legend Of The Five Rings Live Action Role-Playing Game
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Brave New World
by Antonio M. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 06/18/2012 08:18:29
Overall, I'd have to say this is a pretty well made game. The system isn't the greatest I've seen and definitely not the most "statistically accurate" if you can call a system that. Basically, it's a pretty simple system resulting in a simple game. The reason this game stands a head above a lot of other games is simply because of the setting. This game is worth the money just for the first about 50 - 100 pages where it describes the setting, characters, and how everything happened. Also the last few pages deal with what is not revealed in the beginning, the secrets and is only for the GM to read. What makes this game great since the system is so simple, you could actual integrate your favorite system into this pretty flawlessly. All you'd have to do really is change a few feats around and the stats and your good to go. All in all, this game is worth the money just because the setting alone. It's a simple system which is fun, but also allows for an easy integration of another system with one of the best settings I've ever read.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Brave New World
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Legend of the Five Rings: Strongholds of the Empire
by Jay S. A. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 05/10/2012 19:45:11
Strongholds of the Empire is yet another essential addition to any L5R 4th Edition Library. Any of the cities presented could spawn several dozen different campaigns that don’t even need to go beyond the city walls. There’s plenty of conflict and politics to go around, and for the ambitious, there’s always the extra challenge of playing in a campaign set in Toshi Ranbo, the Imperial City that is shared between the Lion and the Crane.

Well written, beautifully illustrated, and very useful for new and experienced L5R GMs and players alike, Strongholds of the Empire is a strong first entry into PDF sourcebooks, and I can only hope that Alderac continues to publish in this format.

---

This is an excerpt from the full review on my blog, if you'd like to read the full article, please visit:
http://philgamer.wordpress.com/2012/05/11/legend-of-the--
five-rings-review-strongholds-of-the-empire/

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Legend of the Five Rings: Strongholds of the Empire
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The Last Gods
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 05/05/2012 08:36:28
With potentially world-shaking import, here's a real cracker of a stand-alone adventure to drop into your campaign just when your characters think that all they have to worry is about whose turn it is to cook over the campfire...

So, there the party is, sitting around said campfire when a robed figure clutching a sythe turns up! But he hasn't come for anyone's soul, it's a bit more of a challenge than that. As he crumbles away before their very eyes, he asks them to take on a quest to save the very fabric of the universe itself. Assuming they don't dismiss this apparation as something brought about by those dodgy mushrooms the elf insisted on adding to the stew, they have an incredible adventure ahead of them, with all to play for and the very universe at stake.

Perhaps inevitable when gods start interfering in the characters' affairs, but there is a fair element of railroading once they embark on this adventure. A single path to follow, arbitrary effects that WILL happen and which there's nothing that they can do anything about... things that will annoy some players, but - for those prepared to enter into the spirit of the thing - events that bring home the fact that this time they are messing with things that are truly beyond mortal comprehension, even for relatively high-level fellows like themselves. As you'd expect, the combat encounters are physically challenging, but the main thrust of events involves a lot of puzzles to solve - something else that some players find annoying but others relish. Solving them should prove entertaining, and they can all be solved, even if you may find the need to drop the odd hint here and there.

It is, and intended to be, a strange adventure, not the regular sort of affair that goes to make up a normal campaign. It has the potential, if well handled and entered into in the right spirit, to be something that those who venture through it will talk about - in character and out - for years to come. Some players, as mentioned before, will find it a frustrating or even dull experience. That's the trouble of messing with the affairs of deities. They don't think like you or I do, and this adventure gets this across well.

It will work best - although it is truly a stand-alone event - if inserted into your regular campaign, and played through with your usual characters, than run as a one-off. For there are times when players will see their cherished characters at dire risk, maybe even having to contemplate making the ultimate sacrifice - and by that I mean, choosing to do so, not just risking all in a brawl. Moments that can become the highlights of your shared storytelling.

If everything goes wrong, and they fail to complete the quest, say it's a shared dream and blame it on those mushrooms! Yet if they complete their mission, they all will have something quite unusual to look back on as they break camp and continue on their merry way.

[A note on the rating: This adventure is one that will be either loved or hated - I've given it 5 stars, as it could be THAT good with a group for which it works. Just remember: it may not be to your taste!]

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Last Gods
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The Heart of Amun Khonshu
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 05/04/2012 10:18:45
A neat little adventure to slot in when you haven't had much prep time or there's a lull in the ongoing campaign, this is designed to entertain your players for an evening's play. All you need to do is have the characters in a city near a desert then sucker them into going for an ale one evening and then...

The premise is simple. Out in that handy desert there is an ancient tomb with rich pickings to be had by any willing to brave a little danger. As encouragement, the informant has a classic sob story to tell about his lifelong friend who lies at death's door and can only be saved by an artefact he believes is hidden in this tomb - everything else the characters may take for themselves. Who could resist?

Assuming the characters take the bait, er, I mean, decide to aid this worthy cause, they'll need to travel across the desert to the tomb. That bit is left to you, gloss over it or throw sand, sun and suffering at them as you please. There are plenty of resources to help you deal with desert travel if required. The tomb is, however, detailed comprehensively, as befits the focus of the adventure. It depends on how much time you have and the way in which you wish to present things - and how it all fits in with anything else that might be going on in your campaign.

The tomb itself, whilst somewhat reminiscent of something found in Ancient Egypt, is well-constructed from a fantasy point of view which an array of obstacles to keep tomb-raiders at bay. There's plenty to keep the characters occupied, without being too frustrating... at least, provided they are willing to put in some hard work to excavate the tomb properly.

Most monsters herein are relatively familiar, but there is a useful new one well suited to any formal tomb of a devotee of a cult that believes you and your possessions can pass on to an afterlife, the artefact itself (which has plenty more plot potential even after you've retrieved it), not to mention the occupant of the tomb who, shall we say, may well object to anyone having the temerity to disturb his eternal rest.

It's a neat package to use as a one-off game or a side-adventure dropped into a campaign at a suitable moment. With a bit of care and advance prepartion - such as finding reference to the artefact or encountering a situation in which it could be of use independently of a fellow in an inn enlisting the characters' aid, the adventure could be woven into your overarching plot.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
The Heart of Amun Khonshu
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Legend of the Five Rings: The Great Clans
by Devon K. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 04/30/2012 23:35:28
Five Rings? Five stars! In my opinion, this book is a must have for anyone who is playing this game, or anyone who has any interest in the setting. The writing in the book is detailed and rich. The extra options are incredible and very, very fun.

The book is beautiful. The text is well written and grabs your interest from the start. The book goes deeper into the histories of the clans and really brings the conflicts between them and their origins to life. I especially enjoyed reading the Crane section, as I'm currently playing a Crane character. The information in this book gave me additional options and ideas to bring my character to life and make him much more interesting.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Legend of the Five Rings: The Great Clans
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Legend of the Five Rings 4th Edition
by Paul B. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 04/02/2012 14:02:33
I've always loved L5R, having purchased the last two editions; I purchased this out of curiosity with a negative 'Another edition comment' at the fore of my mind. I hadn't really like third editions look and feel, and was expecting similar.
However, I was amazed at the quality of both the layout beauty of the book, it is easily one of the best looking rpgs I've ever had the joy to read. If anything it is perhaps a little too pretty as it is slightly distracting reading through the rules.

Having brought the pdf I was so impressed, I went on to purchase the dead tree version, and the subsequent rule books.

Be warned the approach to building characters has changed, the books acting as more of a toolkit than a blow by blow instruction list, which both allows for more character variation and better development.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Legend of the Five Rings 4th Edition
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L5R- Game Master's Screen and Adventure
by Paul B. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 04/02/2012 13:47:15
I purchased the Dead tree version from ebay, I was more than a little disappointed by the quality compared to the 4th rules books which I rate highly.
The Adventure is ok, a little short but ok.
The screen on the other hand is very thin card, the Art work is ok and the table/info is useful, but when compared to the Screens for Dark heresy it is forced to hold its head in shame.
And the moral of this story is stick with the PDF.

Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
L5R- Game Master's Screen and Adventure
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City of Lies Box Set
by Rob B. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 03/19/2012 12:37:02
Probably one of the best fantasy city supplements ever developed, City of Lies gives a GM all the tools necessary to run ongoing, long-term campaigns in Legend of the Five Rings. The player's guide to Ryoko Owari is one of the best handouts I've ever seen for city plot development and NPC character information - it tells your players who these guys are, what each part of the city is about, and the major plotlines and unusual practices of the city. It hints at the plots that could be run without giving anything away. I owned the print version of this supplement but I bought the PDF version solely so I could print out several copies of this document for my players as a handout.

The rest of the supplement is equally high-quality. There are handouts that are of use to the players, plots, pre-written adventures, adventure hooks, random rumor generators, ideas about how to create random encounters using the personalities and places in the game, a big map, and so very much more, all written with the high-quality that one can expect from an AEG - Rokugan based product.

I love this supplement, and I was thrilled to find it available online. I highly recommend it.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
City of Lies Box Set
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Legend of the Five Rings 4th Edition
by Aaron H. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 03/07/2012 14:32:43
Legend of the Five Rings (L5R) [Fourth Edition] takes place in a setting heavily influenced by feudal Japan, liberally sprinkled with elements of other Asian cultures. It contains a variety of fantastic elements, including spell-casting, otherworldly creatures, several planes of existence, and, my favorite, kung fu monks with magical tattoos that let them breath fire. Players assume the role of members of the samurai class and take part in a variety of adventures, from ranging out beyond the Kaiu Wall in search of Oni to slay to maneuvering through royal courts full of honey lips hiding dagger tongues.

It continues to use the Roll and Keep system for action resolution. Whenever a roll is called for, a trait and a skill are selected and their values added together. That many d10s are rolled. The player then selects a number of them equal to the trait, discarding the rest. The faces of the selected dice are added together, giving you the total for your roll. It’s flexible because traits do not have specific skills associated with them; they can be mixed and matched as the situation calls. For example, you might roll Intelligence and Athletics to determine the best way to ascend the cliff and then Strength and Athletics to do the actual climbing.

OVERALL

I highly recommend Legend of the Five Rings, and not only for the fire-breathing monks, to anyone interested in exploring a less European and less Hack-n-Slash style of gameplay or storytelling. The setting is rich and stimulating while preserving room for player and game master invention, the mechanics are simple and cover a wide range of situations, and you get to kill things with a katana.

RATINGS

Publication Quality: 9 out of 10
The L5R 4th edition core book marks the beginning of a new direction in cover presentation for Legend of the Five Rings. It is grey with minimal detail, in contrast to the third edition books, which were red and usually included a picture, apart from the core book. The art used within the book itself has shifted tones; it is still card art, but when combined with the whitish background it gives the book a much more ethereal feel than the previous edition. I found the fonts and spacing to be unremarkable, except those of the table of contents and index, which I found hard to read. The layout has remained largely the same and will be familiar to anyone who has looked at a previous L5R core book.

It is divided into five chapters each titled after one of the five rings from The Book of Five Rings, each corresponding to a different aspect of the game, setting, general mechanics, characters, advanced mechanics, and game mastering. One thing of particular note is the improvement in editing, especially over the L5R third edition revised book. My one major critique would have to be the character sheet. One of the objectives of fourth edition was to be able to play your character entirely from the character sheet, without consulting the rules. True, there is space to write everything mechanical down, and space for writing down information about NPCs, but the character sheet can run up to 6 pages. At that point I’d rather use a note pad for major stats and note cards for things like spells. Overall, I would say the book is well-made and laid out in a consistent fashion, allowing familiar players to easily transition to fourth edition and allowing new players to learn the game with minimal fuss.

Mechanics: 8 out of 10
The core mechanics, as well as most of the other general mechanics, remain largely, if not entirely, unchanged. One of the most obvious changes is the lack of large static bonuses and free raises, which will probably be lauded by people who remember the Ikoma Spymaster/Voice/Courtier/etc. builds. The only major downside I was able to find to the rules tweaks was that they require an especially fine read by veteran players to find the few important changes that have been made.

Balance has been improved significantly over the previous edition; Mirumoto Bushi, I’m looking at you. Much has been said about Maho and the Spider Clan schools regarding their balance, mostly that they are too powerful. That said though, they are in the Book of Air separated from regular player character mechanics. Additionally, the theme of the edition is “L5R Your Way,” meaning each group should feel free to change things as they see fit as well as use or ignore whatever parts of the book they like. One potential mechanical pitfall that still remains is what to do with social skills. As in previous editions, there is a certain murkiness when it comes to deciding how to arbitrate social rolls. Overall, I would say again that the fourth edition of L5R is an improvement over the third edition; many balance issues have been fixed and a lot of excess bells and whistles have been trimmed out.

Desire to Play: 10 out of 10
L5R Fourth Edition gives people familiar with the brand more of the same gameplay they’ve had for years, but tighter. It gives new players the opportunity to experience a fantasy setting that is a departure from the traditional European medieval, and possibly Renaissance, world that is so common. The theme mechanics force players to make moral decisions that aren’t strictly black and white, which is a staple of Samurai Drama, and have great effect on how players are treated by the world around them. Additionally, the alternate rules allow groups to model the style of their Rokugan on things from their favorite Kurasawa movie to their favorite Anime.

Overall: 9 out of 10
I initially got into Legend of the Five Rings because of the fire-breathing kung fu monks, but it’s much more than running around and lighting things on fire, although there should definitely be some of that. A single campaign in Rokugan can cover so much ground; you might start out chasing bandits, discover they belong to a rival clan, argue in front of the emperor for the legitimacy of the war you want to start, learn that it’s all a conspiracy led by someone high on the food chain being controlled by an evil demon, and end up confronting them deep in the Shadowlands as the fate of the empire hangs in the balance. Legend of the Five Rings provides you with the opportunity to adventure in a world where Honor is a force greater than Steel and the highest achievement is not to doing great things, but being remembered for the great things you have done.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Legend of the Five Rings 4th Edition
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