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Legend of the Five Rings 4th Edition $59.99 $34.99
Average Rating:4.8 / 5
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Legend of the Five Rings 4th Edition
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Legend of the Five Rings 4th Edition
Publisher: Alderac Entertainment Group
by Iam B. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 02/07/2014 13:14:38
Great Book! I love that L5R has moved into a 4th edition, it is more balanced and greatly more supported and I strongly recommend it for anyone who likes role playing and samurai.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Legend of the Five Rings 4th Edition
Publisher: Alderac Entertainment Group
by John F. O. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 09/03/2013 07:07:50
I got exposed to the Legend of the Five Rings (L5R) setting via the collectible card game (CCG), of which I was a casual player. I liked the setting of the CCG enough that I bought a PDF copy of the RPG core book when it was on sale. This massive 405-page tome is a breathtaking piece of work, and I’m very happy with my purchase.

For the uninitiated, the L5R RPG is set in Rokugan, a fantasy setting based in medieval Japan. Players portray samurai, which are akin to medieval knights, a class of nobles who serve their local lord through strength of arms. A "knight" (called "bushi" in this setting) is not the only type of character you can play, though: thankfully you can also be a courtier (politician/negotiator/diplomat), or a shugenja (priest/mystic). Of course, no Japanese RPG would be complete without the ninja as playable character, and there is also an option to play oriental monks.

The book is divided into chapters named after the aforementioned five rings: The Book of Air (setting material), Book of Earth (RPG mechanics), Book of Fire (character creation), Book of Water (advanced mechanics), and Book of Void (game master's chapter). I find this style is unique and very setting-appropriate, although I ran into some confusion when the chapters were referred to this way inside the book since I know that the titles of some of this game’s supplements are also titled as such.

The cover is very dark but is appropriate for the mood of the game: grim and foreboding. Life of a samurai is not easy – not only will he have to deal with “wandering monsters”, he will also need to act honorably and with courtesy. Indeed, as the tag line at the back of the book says, “Honor and service are valued more than magic swords taken from wandering ogres.”

A map of Rokugan is included in the inside cover of the book. The write ups for the locations are found in the last chapter of the book and it can be a bit annoying flipping through that chapter and the inside covers as you read the entries, most especially in this format. I would have also preferred to have the names of the locations on the map instead of just the key codes in their places.

Next, the table of contents is hyperlinked, and the introduction has a sidebar for owners of the previous edition.

The first chapter, the Book of Air, deals with the setting material. There is an in-depth history of Rokugan from its beginning up to the present timeline. Fans of the CCG will no doubt be familiar with this but for us casual players and newbies to this RPG this is heaven-sent. It does a great job of bringing anyone up to speed with the setting. Geography, culture and society are discussed next and I find that they are sufficient to bring you to the proper mindset when playing in this game. There is a discussion of the tenets of bushido, and some notes on everyday rituals. Most importantly, the overview of each of the major clans is here.

A thing that can be bothersome is the lack of glossary in this chapter. In a setting such as this where there are a lot of Japanese words used, you would think the writers would put in a glossary of terns but they leave it up to the readers to look up all those words in a Japanese dictionary or the Internet.

The Book of Earth is all about game mechanics. This chapter introduces the Roll and Keep dice system that is used in this RPG. Basically, tasks are accomplished by rolling a number of ten-sided dice based on a character trait against target number. A “10” lets you roll that die again and add the results. This mechanic is one of my main cons in this game as this style can be clunky and mathy during play, as the act of mentally adding up those numbers can be tedious especially during play where players can have more than a handful of dice to roll. One can see though that this system was designed with the setting in mind – the system allows your samurai to hold back, “pull his punches”, or intentionally fail, as failure might be the better course of action in a game where Honor is more important than winning a fight. The mechanics of combat (here called skirmishes), and most importantly, dueling, are discussed here.

The Book of Fire is all about character creation. Two styles are presented: a short style where you pick character your character’s stats, and expanded style involving answering questions about your character. If you are familiar with White Wolf’s storyteller games, the expanded style is very similar to the prelude. Casual players will find it easy to make characters while the expanded style option would be enjoyed by more serious roleplayers. The quick character creation involves just five steps: pick a clan (one among eight), pick a family (a minimum of four choices per clan), pick a school (minimum three options), customize your character (use 40 points to buy skill ranks, advantages and disadvantages), and lastly determined derived attributes (such as Honor, Glory, Status, and Insight ranks). There is a wealth of options to choose from, and although there are only basically 4 character types available (bushi which includes the ninja, shugenja, courtier, and monk), no two characters will ever be very much like another, even if coming from the same clan. An extensive list of spells for the shugenja is included, each ring with up to level 6 spells. Lastly, there is an equipment list at the end of the chapter arranged to be very helpful in creating new characters very quickly.

The Book of Water deals with advanced mechanics. For those who find the extensive character customization options in the previous chapter still lacking, there are more options here such as additional clans (Spider and 13 minor clans), families (including Imperial families), advanced schools for each clans, more options for monks (additional schools and spell-like abilities called kiho), and katas (fighting postures that grant bonuses). This chapter also includes mass battle rules that allow for individual actions during combat, the dreaded maho (blood magic) spells, and rules for ancestors. Whew!

Last but not the least, the Book of Void contains the GM information. Extensive advice for new GMs is included, containing tips on how to run this and any other RPG. Various styles of running games are presented, as well as advice on how to build your own adventures. There is even a sample adventure included, which showcase the breath of the system and serves as a reminder of the customs and rituals of Rokugan. Stats for typical monsters, rules for poison, the already mentioned location guide, suggested references and an extensive index round up the rest of the book (although this last one should have been hyperlinked for ease of reference).

All these aside, what ultimately made me give this RPG a five star rating is that it is complete: you don’t need any other book to run the game. It has its own extensive setting material, complete set of rules, expert rules, beginner GM advice, a variety of monsters, an introductory adventure and a blank character record sheet. Who could ask for more?

Fans of medieval fantasy Japanese will love it (although purists might be bothered by some details, like equality of women and existence of lions in the setting). Fans of the CCG will also be thrilled with the translation of their beloved game into this wonderful RPG. Highly recommended.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Legend of the Five Rings 4th Edition
Publisher: Alderac Entertainment Group
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
Publisher: Alderac Entertainment Group
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
Publisher: Alderac Entertainment Group
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
Publisher: Alderac Entertainment Group
by Rob B. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 11/26/2011 11:50:25
This may be the best edition of the L5R rules ever written. They are clear, well-laid out, and, as always, written in a way that both entertains and educates. I have been playing L5R since 1st edition, now some 15 years ago, I suppose. This is the definitive edition thus far. If you have ever played, or ever wanted to play in this rich, engaging Wuxia-style setting, then I strongly recommend that you buy this version and get started. If you've been away from the L5R scene for a while, get this and get back into the game. It is top quality, and I cannot recommend it enough. Happy Gaming!

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Legend of the Five Rings 4th Edition
Publisher: Alderac Entertainment Group
by Jay S. A. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/22/2011 08:41:31
Legend of the Five Rings is one of the most complex and elegant pseudo-Japanese fantasy settings in the market today. It boasts of a reputation of being one of those games that plays up the importance of social and cultural aspects of life in the setting of Rokugan. This comes from the focus on Honor and Duty, which weigh very heavily in the lives of the player characters.

The Roll and Keep system has been improved and streamlined from the 3rd Edition of the game, resulting in a faster, easier to learn incarnation in 4th Edition. The book goes to great lengths to provide a wealth of character options that allow for a massive array of character types.

The setting itself is very vivid, and while some might complain about the overload of information and detail, the 4th edition actually tries it's best to be as friendly to newcomers as possible The book covers all the Major Clans of the setting in a fashion that plays up their unique cultures, beliefs and strengths in a manner that anyone can understand without having to be a long time fan or a player of their CCG.

The book itself looks absolutely gorgeous, with a stunning layout and excellent artwork. The presentation is top notch and leaves very little to be desired. Definitely a must have in any RPG collection.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Legend of the Five Rings 4th Edition
Publisher: Alderac Entertainment Group
by Dennis S. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/01/2011 23:48:55
Legend of the Five Rings 4th Edition continues to provide the same interesting, flavorful japanese roleplaying game in its latest edition. The rules are still the same roll and keep you knew, and if you knew it, you'll be able to pick everything up quick. There are changes though, and I believe they're for the better. Schools have been organized better, they're more balanced, and they're very interesting. If you don't know the rules, they're easier than ever to pick up, although there's a lot of stuff to be read. Still, there really isn't any RPG like L5R out there. It's not for everyone, but the people who understand it will buy this edition of the game. It's well worth the reinvestment.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Legend of the Five Rings 4th Edition
Publisher: Alderac Entertainment Group
by Adrian S. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/19/2010 05:20:09
Third and Fourth Edition of L5R herald a return to the 'Roll & Keep' system that is long overdue after the debacle that was D20 L5R.
The system is excellent in conveying the flavour of the setting - one of heroism and epic deeds and is well-married to a rich, deep setting. The setting - a quasi-historical fantasy Japan - that offers a myriad of role-playing styles and opportunities. You want a game focused on ninja assassinations? Fine. How about a high-intrigue court game with an intense social setting? Done. How about a tragic game of honour, loss and epic battle? Check.

This is not 'AD&D with katanas'. It is a game where the social setting, etiquette, customs and culture come to the fore and the 'kewl powers' take a definite backseat. It is a setting where your characters see definite advancement and it is not always measured in dice and stats.

I'd recommend two other items to go with this purchase - the free module 'Legacy of Disaster' to get you started, and the novels. Whilst the latter are not brilliantly written (very standard gaming novel fare), but they do evoke the setting and advance the timeline very well.

On this note, the backstory is quite well-developed and tied to the events in the card game's continuity, but don't let this discourage you - it makes for entertaining reading and you can ignore almost all of it in any campaign.

In short, if you are after a fantasy game with a little more substance and a very different feel, this will fit the bill.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Legend of the Five Rings 4th Edition
Publisher: Alderac Entertainment Group
by Erathoniel W. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 09/08/2010 22:18:27
I have only one gripe with this: It's so long.

However, once you get past that, Legend of the Five Rings is worth the read. Basically a mix of cultural analysis and game, the nice thing about Legend of the Five Rings is that you can play it in any style: politics and fighting are available, so if you want a game of social intrigue, or wanton bloodshed, you can run it.

The rules are unique and interesting, and I must say that it avoids most of my gripes with the majority of systems out there. There are no huge modifiers leading to foregone conclusions, and you don't wind up throwing hundreds of dice.

The setting has loads and loads of content to go with it, almost all of the 400 pages are crammed with information, making it one of the best books around.

The art and typesetting is perfect. I really cannot find a complaint. Legend of the Five Rings has exciting, gripping typesetting and art that make it an easy read because you feel engaged and immersed.

Granted, at $36, it's an investment, but you really do get what you pay for, and since it has the content of many lesser systems, Legend of the Five Rings is a one-stop-shop for any feudal Asian setting.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Legend of the Five Rings 4th Edition
Publisher: Alderac Entertainment Group
by Shotgun G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 09/07/2010 18:46:16
Having discovered L5R through the CCG, I was immediately hooked on the whole history of Rokugan. For 15 years, AEG have been adding to this amazing story of a land torn by warring Clans, threats from the Shadowlands and more recently pestilence and disease.

3rd edition to me was very clunky, with a lot of things that made it slow and labourious. 4th edition is has been redesigned, almost from the ground up. Changes to combat, the Clan schools and tweaks here and there; have made the whole system smoother.

Whether your new to L5R or a player of the older versions, this edition should appeal. From the rich artwork to the streamlined character creations, the book is very well presented and full to the brim with information.

At 405 pages, it is a hefty read. But it is also an easy read, with each section broken into smaller Books. The Book of Air details the history of Rokugan, the culture that makes up society; as well as sections on all of the Clans. The Book of Earth is the general mechanics of the game; while The Book of Fire is the Character Creation. Book of Water has all the information on Advanced Mechanics, with the Book of Void covering all the GM aspects of the game.

Overall a great update on the system, with some tweaks that make the whole thing a lot sharper to play; both as a player and GM. If you like Japanese History or just enjoy an RPG with an oriental flavour; then Legend of the Five Rings is perfect for this.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
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