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Legend of the Five Rings Role Playing Game is the official system for table top gaming in Rokugan. I'm going to be describing the fifth edition of the game or the Fantasy Flight Studios version as I'm only passingly familiar with the other editions. This game requires the core book and an Legend of the Five Rings dice set as well as the usual pencils, paper, players, and game master.

This game employs a rather unique system of stats which require some explanation. The philosophy of Rokugan is built around the five rings of Air, Earth, Water, Fire, and Void which compose the world and the ideal human soul. Each player character is a samurai with a rating in these rings as their core stats. Not strength or dexterity but abstract representations of attitudes and approaches:

    Air: this is the element of grace, subtly, evasion, and deception. In battle it relies on feints and opportunism, in craft and art it deals in fine detail, in study it employs careful analysis, in communication it employs double talk and ambiguity, and in trade it tries to con others. The Air ring is about remaining mysterious and just out of reach. It has trouble connecting to anyone or anything.

    Earth: this is the element of grounding, caution, conservatism, and resilience. In battle it relies on standing ones ground and enduring, in craft and art it preserves and repairs, in study it recalls facts, in communication it reasons with others, and in trade it represents the act of manufacturing. The Earth ring is about standing right where you are just as yourself. It's not good for getting places

    Water: this is the element of balance, responsiveness, flexibility, and change. In battle it responds to the opponents actions, in craft and art it adapts one thing into another, in study it surveys options, in communication charms others by listening and building rapport , and in trade it seeks mutually beneficial exchange. The Water ring is about responding and conforming to the situation. As such it's always defined by circomstance.

    Fire: this is the element of dynamism, intensity, passion, and creativity. In battle it relies on an overwhelming offense, in craft and art it is the creative spark of invention, in study it is theorizing, in communication it incites emotions, and in trade it innovates. The Fire ring is at the center of creation and destruction. Operating in it you will get burned sooner or later.

    Void: this is the absence of substance, joy, suffering, and self. It is the sacrifice play that slays you and your opponent, being attuned to the true beauty in a thing, the pure sensory experience, cutting through preconceptions to achieve enlightenment, and subsisting in the world. If you think you can describe void you do not understand void.

Every ring has its time and place and every action the player character takes has them acting from one. One's ring score determines how many ring dice are rolled and the number of dice that can be kept. Characters always have at least one in a ring and an average score is two, three being a strength, four representing remarkable talent, and five being the highest most could dream of achieving. Ring dice are six sided with unique symbols representing successes, explosive successes, opportunities, and strife. Success counts toward beating target number and accomplishing whatever it is that a character is attempting. Explosive successes provide a success and another roll. Opportunities grant circumstantial bonus to a successful action. Strife comes with some success and opportunities and acts against a character's composure which is derived from the Earth and Water rings and represents their ability to stay in control their emotions. A character who's strife exceeds their composure can either unmask or be compromised. Unmasking lets the game master determine an emotional outburst for the character and a compromised character can no longer use a roll with a strife symbol on that die. In addition to the ring dice players have skill dice which have twelve sides and vastly more successes. Skills and rings are determined in character creation by selecting a clan and family. Each clan/family combo provides a basic template for a samurai in the mold of a particular archetype. Some are poncy courtiers, others are magical ward masters, and yet others are tattooed kung fu monks. Rokugan is a diverse place with a strong emphasis on conformity and politely not mentioning the obvious conflicts between the two.

If it's not clear Legend of the Five Rings is a weird game. It's very deep in its own style and soaking in a huge and somewhat impenetrable lore and setting. Playing this is jumping into the deep end of a world that is very feudal, very unequal, and where you are in the middle of that hierarchy. I personally find it deeply engaging but between the bizarre dice pool and the setting this isn't going to be every gamer's cup of tea. If you feel like going deep into a Japanese/Chinese fantasy setting with byzantine politics and odd metaphysics then this might be worth the investment.

IRON NODER THE THIRTEENTH

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