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Naishou Province - 2013 GENCON RPG
by Jay S. A. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 12/08/2013 23:26:50
I’m really THIS close to declaring Legend of the Five Rings, 4th edition to be the RPG that is most supportive to GMs in my entire experience in the hobby.

The recently released Naishou Province supplement is just more proof of it.

I know that many of those who’v read my previous reviews of L5R books have heard it before, but getting the hang of a setting as exotic and different as Rokugan is difficult for new GMs. The Naishou Province presents an entire province of Rokugan, from locations, to NPCs and plot hooks, all ready for a GM to use in their games.

The Naishou Province is not tied to a specific location in Rokugan, allowing GMs to place it wherever they feel most comfortably in.

The book itself is divided into several sections detailing the Provincial Capital, Settlements inside the province, the Geography of Naishou and a sample adventure which the GM can run or mine for ideas.

The Naishou Province book also allows for different kinds of adventures, from political conspiracies to combat and magic. There’s plenty to see and do in the Naishou province, and the book can easily fuel a long-term campaign as the GM can just keep inserting new complications and the interest of the other Great Clans over the unaligned province.

Mechanics-wise, Naishou Province is a little bit underwhelming, but given that it was meant to be more of a setting book I don’t feel that it is at fault. Lion Clan fans will be happy with the inclusion of a new Basic School in the form of the Lion Elite Spearmen, as well as the mechanics of the Magari-Yari, signature weapon of Matsu Gohei, the Butcher.

One thing of note however is that Naishou Province feels rather short, being a companion volume to another upcoming L5R book: Secrets of the Empire, a book that will detail the Ronin, Minor Clans, Imperial Families and the Brotherhood of Shinsei. I have no complaints about it however, and if I was to get a new GM to start an L5R campaign, I’d easily refer The Naishou Province supplement as one of their first books outside of the core.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Naishou Province - 2013 GENCON RPG
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Legend of the Five Rings: Imperial Histories 2
by Jay S. A. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 12/08/2013 18:30:46
Among the many excellent books for the 4th Edition of the Legend of the Five Rings RPG, the Imperial Histories series is perhaps the one that I would recommend for busy GMs. Imperial Histories presents several alternative eras for an L5R campaign, each being a very game-able setup with enough hooks and twists to keep things fresh and interesting.

Imperial Histories 2 is divided into the following settings:

The Togashi Dynasty – An alternate Rokugan wherein Togashi defeats Hantei in the tournament to decide who should become Emperor in the dawn of the Empire. The resulting setting is one full of interesting supernatural wonders and a stronger presence of nonhuman races as opposed to the default setting.

The Reign of the Shining Prince – Taking place in the reign of the second Emperor, this setting is an introspective one for the Empire. Having fought the first Day of Thunder, the second Emperor finds himself saddled with the duty of making the Empire worthy of the sacrifices of the Kami. It’s less bombastic than the other settings, but I find that it is the one with more options to explore the foundations that made the Rokugan what it is in the present.

The Iron Empire – Again another intriguing setting, this one discusses Rokugan if samurai were slowly being displaced by technological progress? By adopting foreign technologies, Rokugan finds itself evolving differently, and along interesting branches of development. Steam engines, guns, and other technologies transform Rokugan into something similar but also teeming with tension as traditionalists try to cling to old glories in the face of innovation.

Heresy of the Five Rings – This setting offers a different angle, as it deals with what happens when change in Rokugan happens from a Religious angle. This is especially useful for games centered around the more spiritual clans such as the Dragon and the Phoenix.

The Reign of the Steel Chrysanthemum – One of the most hated villains in Rokugan’s canon history is the Hantei XVI, the Steel Chrysanthemum. A cruel and vicious tyrant, his reign was considered to be one of the darkest in Rokugani history, which is saying something in a setting that is constantly beset by assaults from Ancient Evil Gods. That said this is great for the rebels and freedom fighter types.

The Eighth Century Crises – Perhaps one of the settings in the book that amuses me due to how closely it resembles standard RPG campaigns, this setting is a gauntlet of existential threats thrown at Rokugan one after the other. From the Maw to the Dark Oracles and the Bloodspeakers it’s a veritable buffet of evil for the heroes of Rokugan to confront (and hopefully defeat.)

The Return of the Unicorn – Perhaps it’s because I’ve been running a Unicorn Campaign, but this setting deals with a major turning point in the history of the Empire. It surprises me that it took this long for it to actually get the spotlight. The return of the former Ki-Rin Clan is a wake up call of sorts to the Empire to understand that the world does not revolve solely around them and that there are other places exotic and dangerous outside their borders.

The Shattered Empire – An alternate setting meant to take place after the Second Day of Thunder. This setting assumes that it was Togashi Hitomi to survive the confict against Fu Leng, and does not assume the throne, as Toturi did. This power vaccuum leaves the Clans working on recovering fast enough to put their candidate upon the empty throne.

The Four Winds Era – Detailing the age where the Four Winds were making their various bids for the throne, this is considered to be one of the better eras of the canon storyline. Interesting characters, plenty of opportunities for glory in both combat and in court and a spiritual hook in the form of Toturi Sezaru makes for well-rounded opportunities for any group of samurai.

The Shadowed Throne – In an interesting counterpoint to the Four Winds Era, the Shadowed Throne assumes that Toturi Tsudao survives to become Empress. With all Four Winds taking their places in the empire, Rokugan still proves to be a fragile setting as the various Clans react to what turns out to be Tsudao’s insufficient skill at keeping the Clans placated.

The Destroyer War – Another canon setting, The Destroyer War discusses the time when Kali-Ma marches towards Rokugan with the intent of claiming it for her own. Fans of the more recent events in the setting will find good use of this setting as it presents important details of that era as well as the necessary NPCs and mechanics of the era

Age of Exploration – This setting works very well with the Second City Boxed set, as it presents the time when the Empire goes forth to explore (and claim) the lands of the Ivory Kingdoms as it’s own.

Empire of Emerald Stars – Of all the settings in the book, this one is perhaps the most divergent. Empire of Emerald Stars takes the L5R setting and spins it off as a Space Opera, set in the far future, with interesting takes on what spacefaring and technology would look like if filtered through Rokugan’s unique lens. I have to admit that I’m very amused with this particular setting and a part of me wishes that it had a bigger page count. For those wondering about how different an L5R game can get, this is well worth checking out.



Imperial Histories 2 is full of interesting worlds, both canon and alternate, and has the mechanics to back it up. Fans of the setting will find nothing to complain about in the book as it lives up to the incredible reputation of being another excellent supplement to the 4th Edition line.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Legend of the Five Rings: Imperial Histories 2
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Legend of the Five Rings: Imperial Histories 2
by Frazier M. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 12/06/2013 13:37:38
Imperial Histories was one of the best constructed and most useful books in the Legend of the Five Rings line and its successor does not disappoint. Like the first, each chapter details a different era of Rokugani history, some which have been detailed before, while some are entirely new.

It dedicates a bit more space to alternate history variant Rokugans than the first, but they are all quite imaginative. The Togashi Dynasty is the highlight here, which explores what Rokugan might have looked like under the Dragon Emperor.

Of the canonical chapters, the Reign of the Steel Chrysanthemum stands out. Hantei XVI, the Seel Chrysanthemum, is known to have been one of Rokugan's most ruthless tyrants, but now his reign of terror is explored and detailed in great depths. I honestly cannot wait to run a game about a shadow war between the Scorpion Clan and the Steel Chrysanthemum's mistress of spies.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Adventure I
by Marchgo M. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 11/25/2013 18:39:42
Many Good adventures with lots of possible expansion.
Excellent product

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Adventure I
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Legend of the Five Rings: Imperial Histories 2
by Roger L. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 10/26/2013 05:53:12
Ein Geständ­nis vor­weg: Legend of the Five Rings ist für mich mehr als nur irgend­ein Rol­len­spiel. In den letz­ten acht Jah­ren habe ich an der Seite von tap­fe­ren Samu­rai und Shu­genja dut­zende Aben­teuer im fan­tas­ti­schen Land Roku­gan ver­bracht. Gemein­sam haben wir den Auf­stieg und Fall von Fürs­ten und Kai­sern mit­er­lebt, Intri­gen auf­ge­deckt und am Kaiu-Wall gegen die Hor­den der Schat­ten­lande gekämpft. Des­halb erwar­tete ich beson­ders gespannt (und kri­tisch) das neu­este Rollenspiel-Produkt der Alderac Enter­tain­ment Group. Aber was sollte der Titel Impe­rial His­to­ries 2 bedeu­ten? Ein gan­zes Buch füll­ten die neu­es­ten Ereig­nisse roku­ga­ni­scher Geschichte seit dem ers­ten Impe­rial His­to­ries nun wirk­lich nicht und die Nach­wir­kun­gen des Des­troyer War wur­den bereits im Second City Boxed Set abge­han­delt. Die Ant­wort lau­tet ein­fach wie genial: Alter­na­tive Settings.

Erschei­nungs­bild

L5R Imperial Histories II CoverLegend of the Five Rings: Impe­rial His­to­ries 2 kommt gewohnt im Look der vier­ten Edi­tion des Rol­len­spiels daher: Hard­co­ver, dun­kel­grauer Ein­band, des­sen Cover eine roku­ga­ni­sche Schrift­rolle ziert, die den pseudo-asiatischen Flair des Set­tings stil­si­cher ein­fängt. Denn pas­sen­der­weise wer­den in Roku­gan geschicht­li­che Ereig­nisse auf eben sol­chen Schrift­rol­len festgehalten.

Auch im Inne­ren ist das Buch eine Augen­weide, vol­ler Zeich­nun­gen in Farbe. Kaum eine Seite ver­geht, ohne dass ein Art­work den Text­fluss auf­lo­ckert. Dazu beginnt jedes der drei­zehn Kapi­tel mit einem ganz­sei­ti­gen Ein­lei­tungs­bild – mal mehr, mal weni­ger pas­send zum Inhalt. Info­käs­ten bie­ten wei­ter­füh­rende Infor­ma­tio­nen und ein soli­der Index sorgt für die schnelle Ori­en­tie­rung. Dass im Buch teil­weise alte Legend of the Five Rings–Bil­der ganz oder in Aus­schnit­ten wie­der­ver­wen­det wer­den, ist nicht wei­ter tra­gisch und fällt nur einem Ken­ner der Rol­len­spiel­se­rie auf. Äußer­lich wird für den stol­zen Preis von fast vier­zig Euro, wie von Alderac Enter­tain­ment gewohnt, ein soli­des Hard­co­ver­buch gebo­ten, das sich gut in jedem Samm­ler­re­gal macht.

Die har­ten Fakten:

Ver­lag: Alderac Enter­tain­ment Group
Autor(en): Kevin Blake, Marie Brennan, Daniel Bris­coe, Shawn Car­man, Rovert Den­ton, Robert Hobart, Kim Hos­mer, Maxime Lemaire, Seth Mason, Eric Menge, Ryan Reese, Jason Shafer und Alex­andre Simard
Erschei­nungs­jahr: 2013
Spra­che: Eng­lisch
For­mat: Hard­co­ver
Sei­ten­an­zahl: 310
ISBN: 9781594720673
Preis: 33,95 EUR bis 38,95 EUR
Bezugs­quelle: Ama­zon (Klick), Sphä­ren­meis­ters Spiele (Klick)


Inhalt — His­to­ri­sche Rückblenden

Emerald Throne
Legend of the Five Rings ist ein Set­ting, das sich wei­ter­ent­wi­ckelt. Beein­flusst vom gleich­na­mi­gen Kar­ten­spiel ver­än­dern die jähr­li­chen offi­zi­el­len Kam­pa­gnen gesell­schaft­li­che und teil­weise mys­ti­sche Details der Welt Roku­gan. Dabei begann das Rol­len­spiel mit der ers­ten Edi­tion nicht im Jahre Null, dem Fall der Kami, son­dern etwa tau­send Jahre spä­ter am Ende der Herr­schaft der Hantei-Kaiser. Impe­rial His­to­ries 2 setzt genau da ein und bie­tet mehr als ‚nur‘ einen his­to­ri­schen Rück­blick für Spiel­lei­ter: Es lässt Spie­ler prä­gende Epo­chen aus der Geschichte selbst erleben.

Wäh­rend das erste Impe­rial His­to­ries sich aber auf aus ande­ren Publi­ka­tio­nen wohl­be­kannte Zeit­epo­chen wie etwa die Klankriege oder die Herr­schaft der Gozoku beschränkte, beleuch­tet Impe­rial His­to­ries 2 die weni­ger bekannte Ver­gan­gen­heit roku­ga­ni­scher Geschichte. So etwa die zwei­hun­dert Jahre wäh­rende Herr­schaft des zwei­ten Han­tei Kai­sers zu einer Zeit, als das Hof­le­ben in star­kem Kon­trast zu den noch wil­den Tra­di­tio­nen der jun­gen Klans stand. Oder aber die grau­same Ter­ror­herr­schaft von Han­tei XVI, des­sen Para­noia tau­sende unschul­dige Roku­gani das Leben kos­tete. Beide Epi­so­den der Geschichte wur­den von den Fans nach dem ers­ten Band stark nach­ge­fragt und nun für Impe­rial His­to­ries 2 voll­stän­dig ausgestaltet.

Der in den ein­zel­nen Kapi­teln ent­hal­tene kurze Über­blick über die hin­füh­ren­den his­to­ri­schen Ereig­nisse ist aus­rei­chend und doch so knapp gehal­ten, dass Spiel­run­den genug Frei­raum für eigene Kam­pa­gnen haben. Das Buch geht beson­ders auf Unklar­hei­ten der kano­ni­schen Geschichts­schrei­bung Roku­gans und dadurch ent­ste­hende Optio­nen ein, über­lässt die letzte Ent­schei­dung über die tat­säch­li­che Wahr­heit der Ereig­nisse jedoch dem Spiel­lei­ter. Das mag für Leser, die einen strik­ten Hin­ter­grund mögen, unbe­frie­di­gend sein, gibt ande­rer­seits aber die ein­zig­ar­tige Mög­lich­keit Details an den Ver­lauf einer Gegenwarts-Kampagne anzu­pas­sen. Wie bei jedem Aus­flug in die Ver­gan­gen­heit eines beste­hen­den Set­tings sto­ßen Spiel­lei­ter aber schnell auf Pro­bleme, wenn Spie­ler ver­su­chen die gro­ßen kano­ni­schen Ereig­nisse zu ver­än­dern. Hier ist gerade bei mäch­ti­ge­ren Cha­rak­te­ren Fin­ger­spit­zen­ge­fühl gefragt.

Alter­na­tive Rokugans

Die his­to­ri­schen Rück­blen­den machen aber nur sie­ben der drei­zehn Kapi­tel von Impe­rial His­to­ries 2 aus. Der Rest ist eine Samm­lung von alter­na­ti­ven „Was wäre wenn“-Szenarien, die in der Ver­gan­gen­heit (und Zukunft) von Roku­gan spie­len. Dies wurde bereits im Vor­gän­ger­buch Impe­rial His­to­ries mit dem Kapi­tel The Thousand Years of Dar­k­ness vor­ge­dacht, ist hier aber deut­lich umfang­rei­cher gestal­tet. Die ein­zel­nen Sze­na­rien sind genauso detail­liert beschrie­ben, wie die his­to­ri­schen Epo­chen, samt Hin­wei­sen für Spiel­lei­ter und einer Über­sicht der zu die­ser Zeit akti­ven Klans.

Beson­ders inter­es­sant sind diese alter­na­ti­ven Ver­sio­nen Roku­gans des­halb, wenn sie mehr als nur poli­ti­sche oder his­to­ri­sche Gege­ben­hei­ten, näm­lich das Grund­ge­fühl des Rol­len­spiels selbst ver­än­dern. Spiel­lei­ter müs­sen zwar noch etwas Arbeit in die Aus­ge­stal­tung einer Kam­pa­gne ste­cken, erhal­ten aber in jedem Kapi­tel einen Über­blick über Mecha­ni­ken, wich­tige Cha­rak­tere, Ant­ago­nis­ten, Zau­ber und Kampf­schu­len für den neuen Hin­ter­grund. Der eigent­li­che Clou ist jedoch: Viele alter­na­tive Set­tings ent­stam­men nicht der Feder der Alderac Enter­tain­ment–Schrei­ber, son­dern Ein­sen­dun­gen von Spie­lern des Rol­len­spiels. Qua­li­ta­tiv merkt man aber kei­nen Unter­schied; offen­bar hat hier das Design­team selbst mit– und nachgeholfen.

Fan­tasy Rokugan

Gleich das erste Kapi­tel, The Toga­shi Dynas­tie, ist das durch­dach­teste alter­na­tive Set­ting und stößt dabei einen der Grund­pfei­ler von Legend of the Five Rings um: Nicht Kami Han­tei, son­dern sein Bru­der Toga­shi wird in die­sem alter­na­ti­ven Roku­gan als Sie­ger des Tur­niers der Kami gekürt und der Dra­chen­klan damit zum ers­ten Kai­ser­haus. Das Ergeb­nis ist ein deut­lich fan­tas­ti­sche­res Roku­gan, in wel­chem die über­na­tür­li­chen Völ­ker wie Kenku, Naga oder Nezumi Seite an Seite mit den Men­schen leben. Han­tei ist hier Grün­der des Eulen­klans, der sich um die Belange der „Frem­den“ küm­mert, wäh­rend Kai­ser Toga­shi tat­säch­lich unsterb­lich die Jahr­hun­derte über­dau­ert und das Mönchs­we­sen fördert.

Rea­lis­ti­sches Rokugan

Den ent­ge­gen­ge­setz­ten Weg geht das Kapi­tel The Shat­te­red Empire. Hier endet die Hantei-Dynastie mit dem Tod der zwei­ten Cham­pi­ons des Don­ners, ohne dass Toturi den Thron ergreift. Folge und Set­ting sind ein Roku­gan im Klankrieg um den Kai­ser­ti­tel, das Spie­lern ent­ge­gen­kom­men dürfte, die gerne ein rea­lis­ti­sche­res Roku­gan hät­ten, das der japa­ni­schen Sengoku-Jidai Epo­che ähnelt. Der Hin­ter­grund nimmt hier einen deut­lich düs­te­re­ren Ton an und ist gut für Mili­tär­kam­pa­gnen geeignet.

Steam­punk Rokugan

Das Kapi­tel Iron Roku­gan ver­mischt das asia­ti­sche Set­ting mit west­li­chen Ele­men­ten. Nach dem Angriff der Gai­jin über­nimmt Roku­gan einen Groß­teil ihrer Tech­no­lo­gie. Flin­ten­schloss­pis­to­len und Eisen­bah­nen erge­ben in Ver­bin­dung mit Samu­rai und Kai­ser­hof einen Hin­ter­grund, der Spie­lern viel zumu­tet, aber ein­fach Spaß macht – vor allem, wenn die Kami sich unzu­frie­den mit den neuen Wegen des Rei­ches zei­gen und die Bau­ern die Kas­ten­ge­sell­schaft in Frage stel­len. Damit erin­nert das Set­ting in mehr als nur einer Hin­sicht an die Meiji-Restauration des spä­ten 19. Jahr­hun­derts. Ein Über­blick über mög­li­che Feu­er­waf­fen und eine Abhand­lung über tech­no­lo­gi­sche Aus­wir­kun­gen auf die Gesell­schaft der Samu­rai wer­den mitgeliefert.

Roku­gan im Weltraum?

Etwas alleine steht das letzte Kapi­tel und gewag­teste alter­na­tive Roku­gan von Impe­rial His­to­ries 2 da: The Eme­rald Stars. Tat­säch­lich han­delt es sich um eine in die ferne Zukunft wei­ter­ge­dachte Welt­raum­oper mit Sied­lungs­pla­ne­ten der ein­zel­nen Klans und Raum­schif­fen der Katana-Klasse. Hier hilft auch nicht der Hin­weis auf ein „radi­ka­les Expe­ri­ment“, denn so ganz will Zukunfts-L5R nicht funk­tio­nie­ren. Die gege­bene Hin­ter­grund­ge­schichte ist zu knapp, um den Auf­bruch in den Welt­raum zu erklä­ren und das über­tra­gene Kas­ten­sys­tem samt nach­träg­lich erober­tem Hei­mat­pla­ne­ten eher unglaub­wür­dig. Dazu schaf­fen es Beschrei­bung und Art­work nicht, ein Gefühl für das befremd­li­che Set­ting auf­zu­bauen. Bei den Regeln fehlt mit nur vier moder­nen Waf­fen und einer Hand­voll neuer Skills zu viel um Roku­gan im Welt­raum ohne viel Zusatz­ar­beit spiel­bar zu machen. Wer die Idee von Kat­a­n­a­kämp­fen auf den Mon­den fer­ner Pla­ne­ten den­noch inter­es­sant fin­det, hat immer­hin einen Aus­gangs­punkt um das Set­ting aus­zu­ge­stal­ten; alle ande­ren kön­nen das Kapi­tel getrost auslassen.

Fazit

Zuge­ge­ben, zu Beginn war ich kri­tisch, da Impe­rial His­to­ries 2 noch einen Schritt wei­ter geht, als der his­to­risch aus­ge­rich­tete Vor­gän­ger­band. Aber die lie­be­voll gestal­te­ten, alter­na­ti­ven Set­tings haben mich über­zeugt und als Ken­ner der roku­ga­ni­schen Geschichte über man­che iro­ni­sche Anspie­lung schmun­zeln las­sen. Für Aben­teuer jen­seits einer regu­lä­ren L5R-Kampagne sind alle Set­tings gut geeig­net und las­sen Zeit­pa­ra­doxa beim Spiel in der kano­ni­schen Ver­gan­gen­heit gar nicht erst aufkommen.

Für Spiel­lei­ter wie mich, die das Buch als Ide­en­fund­grube nut­zen, gibt es genug Ele­mente, die sich auch in lau­fende Kam­pa­gnen ein­bauen las­sen – etwa der eigen­wil­lige Eulen­klan oder alter­na­tive Cha­rak­ter­pfade. Das Weltraum-Setting des letz­ten Kapi­tels muss ja nicht jedem gefal­len, aber der Schritt, auch unge­wöhn­li­che Expe­ri­mente zu wagen, ist immer­hin mutig. Dazu finde ich Alderac Enter­tain­ments Methode gut, qua­li­ta­tiv hoch­wer­tige Ein­sen­dun­gen im Buch zu ver­wen­den – so sieht 2013 Fan­ser­vice aus!

Nur für Ein­stei­ger ist das Buch eher nicht geeig­net – man braucht schon eini­ges Wis­sen zum Sta­tus Quo in Legend oft the Five Rings, um damit als Spiel­lei­ter arbei­ten zu können.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Legend of the Five Rings: Imperial Histories 2
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Naishou Province - 2013 GENCON RPG
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 10/25/2013 11:02:06
Beautifully presented and with a wealth of detail this is much more than an adventure - it is a complete and detailed account of Naishou Province that provides scope for your own adventures, as well as containing plenty of material to get you started.

Starting with a map - beautiful brush-style - and a short piece of fiction, the Introduction explains what you have got hold of: basically a complete setting in which to run your adventures. Naishou Province is a single unaligned province of the Empire with plenty of scope for you and your players to stamp their own mark upon it. The history of the province is outlined - naturally it is right now a bit up in the air as it under temporary direct control of the Imperial family, but it has a long history rich in culture and strife. It is a prosperous area, somewhere - purposely not well-defined - outside areas under the direct control of the Great Clans and somewhat isolated by its geography, but its potential means that it has been squabbled over for generations.

After a brief word on a new fighting group - elite spearmen in the service of the Lion clan - and the characteristics of Naishou citizens, the next chapter is a detailed introduction to the main city of the province, Toshi no Naishou. It is the political and economic capital as well as the largest settlement by far, nestled beside a river. It is divided, in a somewhat haphazard manner, into different districts clustered around the Governor's palace. There's a samurai quarter, a merchant district and one for the heimin population - craftsmen, fisherfolk, farmers and the like. The eta live on the far side of the river in the main, an area regarded as inauspicious. Locals are surprisingly assiduous record-keepers and have a strong sense of their own history and ancestry. They are also very pious.

Important locations are listed, with stories and rumours to bring them to life. This portion reads like a good travel guide and quite makes you want to pay a visit. Then notable locals are listed, to serve as background figures or indeed to be woven into your stories. They include members of nearly all the Great Clans, jockeying for position. Fans of intrigue-based games should find plenty of interest here.

The next chapter looks at the settlements of Naishou Province. There are many fascinating towns and villages well worth a visit, often just for cultural delights even if the party's business does not take them there. For each there are notes on the appearance, culture, notables and whatever might be going on there... you will find plenty of material to help them spring into life. This section includes monasteries, ronin encampments and other locations as well as actual townships.

This is followed by a chapter on the geography of the Province. It's quite a diverse area and, as always, the landscape has shaped both peoples and events. The central fertile river valley is bounded by mountains on two sides, with a swamp to the northwest and forests to south and east. Several options are presented for what precisely is to be found in the forests, giving you plenty of leeway to set things up the way you wish. Within the valley, most travel is by river and there is a single main road. The swamp contains some ancient ruins, hinting at earlier inhabitation than even the citizens' meticulous records show. Finally, local wildlife is also discussed.

The final section, A Plague of Crimes, provides a starting adventure based around a cluster of ten small villages in the eastern part of the Province near a large and renowned monastery. There's been a bit of a crime wave, and the first couple of samurai who investigated met their deaths here. The default suggestion is that the Governor directs the party to take over the investigation, but you may have other ways of getting the characters involved, or may prefer one of the other suggestions given here. Once there, the party has a wealth of clues to investigate and many locations to visit as they do so. Discrete events are scattered throughout, but the investigation itself is quite freeform, allowing the characters to wander as they will, interacting with those that they meet. Once the characters find out what is behind the crimewave, they'll find others taking an interest in them and it all has the potential to turn quite nasty, whilst there are also options for you to force the action if they prove slow to grasp what is going on. A satisfactory brawl should result.

Pre-generated characters are provided for those who want to jump straight into the action. They are well detailed with plenty of background information as well as their stat blocks, but presentation is such that they will need to be transcribed onto character sheets - they're not laid out in such a way that you can hand out pages from this product to different players.

The whole thing is a delight to look at, with apposite and atmospheric art, as well as a joy to read, the places and people seeming to leap off the page into the alternate reality of your game world. Think I'll grab my swords and go visit!

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Naishou Province - 2013 GENCON RPG
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The Book of Fire
by Jay S. A. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 10/24/2013 21:11:33
The Book of Fire is perhaps one of the most sought after of the Element Books as it focuses on the Element most related to doing damage (though the book goes on to show that there’s more to fire than just burning and destruction.) As with the previous books, the Book of Fire is divided into several chapters that focuses on different facets of Rokugan as seen through the lens of the Element of fire. These facets are: War, Magic, Peace, Enlightenment and the Setting. The book is capped off with new Mechanics, as well as a mini-setting that could be used to run a campaign.

Kenjustu gets top billing in the Book of Fire’s section on War, and as a GM, I’m grateful for the amount of detail spent on expanding the culture of Kenjutsu in the setting, with the kind of intimate detail in the other Element books. Each Clan’s philosophy and approach to Kenjutsu is detailed with enough information to lend even more “realism” to how GMs can portray them in-game, which I personally find to be priceless when running a game so focused on a culture as different and unique as Rokugan.

Of course, there’s also the Martial Art of fire, Hitsu-Do, which focuses on a very offensive stance, with little focus on defensive methods. Again this is an Art open to all the Clans, though not all the Clans use it. The Crane Clan in particular tend to not care about it, but certain individuals might find it appropriate for themselves.

The Chapter on Magic focuses on the nature of the Fire Kami, and the schools of the Clans that have a close affinity to the Element. My favorie section here is a little portion that talks about the Notable uses of Creative Fire Spells, a section that is of much use to any Shugenja player.

The Fires of Peace is incredibly informative to me, as a Courtier fan. This takes the concept of Fire as Illumination, and focuses on the Phoenix and Lion Clan’s love of knowledge as a source of wisdom. I find it very important to have this chapter as many players often find the librarian / lorekeeper concept to be particularly boring.

The Book of Fire also contains some very interesting gems on Glassmaking, Poetry, Swordmaking (and the notes on the Celestial Swords and Bloodswords!) The final chapter, the Hundred STances Dogo, presents a unique setting where Kenjutsu is a big focus, lending itself well to games involving a lot of Bushi, though Courtiers and Shugenja can also find a lot to do given the Dojo’s political worth and how various schools find their way to it.

Among the new mechanics involved in the book are a few new paths for various clans, and mechanics fo the Taryu-Jiai, duelling between Shugenja. These resemble Iaijutsu Duels but are pretty spectacular displays of elemental magics that can make for an interesting climax of a session where Shugenja characters are at odds.

The Book of Fire is a remarkable addition to an already phenomenal line. The Elemental Books are a valuable addition to any L5R Collection, expanding the setting with the kind of detail that makes Rokugan unique while making it accessible to those who aren’t entirely familiar with the nuances of the setting.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Book of Fire
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Character Travelogue: Lion
by Reilly R. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 10/19/2013 02:36:25
The scans were very poor in some parts, mainly the page being shifted down from where it should be. I have an original copy of the crab travelogue and I'll be using that, after I take it apart, to make some copies. The cover of this will be useful (to have lion as well as crab) and it will be a good reference for page ordering. For $0.75, I can't really complain.

Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Character Travelogue: Lion
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Legend of the Five Rings 4th Edition
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
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Legend of the Five Rings: 3rd Edition Revised
by Jeff C. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 08/05/2013 14:36:21
Good quality color scan, searchable and functional pdf. Much better than previous version of this book. This 3rd edition system works well but can sometimes get bogged down in details. 4th edition really runs smoother, but this still a quality product by AEG and L5R is a great running game.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Legend of the Five Rings: 3rd Edition Revised
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Legacy of Disaster
by Orin M. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 04/14/2013 12:02:44
Listen, I'm gonna be straight with you here. L5R's RPG isn't for everyone. Try this out before you actually buy anything to see if it's for you but i gotta tell you, it's a lot of fun if you can hack it.

In this you'll find all the basics about how to play laid out, the core flavor of rokugan introduced and a colorful beginner's scenario to play through. Everything you need to decide if this is an RPG for you.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Legacy of Disaster
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7th Sea: Compendium
by Rickie M. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 02/09/2013 19:30:41
The &th Sea: Compendium PDF from DriveThruRPG is an excellent addition to and 7th Sea collection. It is a high quality scan that looks like original book.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
7th Sea: Compendium
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The Book of Earth
by Jay S. A. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 01/02/2013 19:31:44
Second in the series of elemental-themed sourcebooks for the timeline-neutral 4th Edition, the Book of Earth is the latest release on PDF.

The Book of Earth focuses on the facets that are relevant to Earth, as broken down to a look into War, the Court, Magic, Enlightenment and the Setting. Like the Book of Air, the Book of Earth also provides a self-contained setting that can be dropped into any campaign. For those looking for new Mechanics, they follow the same format as Book of Air, and have it all on the last chapter of the book.

I find that the approach of showing off each of elements as part of a greater culture and further subdivided per clan is a unique one, and the Book of Earth has some very good insights. My favorite section would have to be a discussion on armor, and the focus of Shiba Artisans creating ornate and functional armor for the bushi of the Phoenix was a very insightful touch.

I'm certain that Crab Clan fans will be very happy to get this book due to the focus and attention it gives to Heavy Weapons as well. There's also a quick section that shows how to use non-standard Skill / Trait pairings that focus on Willpower and Stamina, some of the most underused traits that get some interesting new combinations for both combat and non-combat characters alike.

That said, all the Clans get something from the book. The discussion on armor, castles and sieges for example, apply to all the clans. GMs and Players alike will find inspiration and plot hooks dripping from nearly every sentence, and I can see how this can be an inspiration for character concepts that go beyond the usual Bushi-Courtier-Shugenja trifecta. Sumai Champion bushi? Why not. Shiba Artisan focusing on Armor? Absolutely.

Those who are looking at the spiritual side of the element need not fear as there's a discussion on Earth magic, as well as the families that excel in it. The Tamori family for example is given some spotlight time here, as well as the infamous Chuda family. New Earth spells will make many shugenja players happy, and the Monks get their own set of kiho to shake things up.

Again the Book of Earth is a great addition to the L5R 4th Edition line. Much like the Book of Air, the book manages to expand the depth of culture and history of the setting while still remaining iconic and accessible to new players. Solid writing, combined with L5R's always excellent artwork make this one a winner.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Book of Earth
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Second City Boxed Set
by Jay S. A. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 12/11/2012 20:22:21
It's been quite a wait for us who rely heavily on PDF copies of rpg books, but the Second City Boxed set that was released earlier this year has finally made it to electronic format.

I have to admit that I've been curious about this product for a while now, as I'm not entirely caught up on the canon storyline of L5R. Making a whole boxed set placed in what can be considered to be a very new development of the story is an interesting choice, as it does help people like me understand what is actually going on.

The Boxed set download is actually a group of PDF files for easier downloading. These include:

The Pillow Book
A Map of the Second City
A "for printing" version of the map
The Campaign
The City
The People
The Journal of Yogo Tanaka

It's a hefty download, but that's par for the course in L5R pdf books. Besides, most of the time the gorgeous production values and layout are always worth it.

The Maps

Both maps of the Second city are in full color, showing the massive scale of the city in question. It's impressive to look at and gives you a good idea as to just how many people can fit in this place. The difference between the files is just that the for-printing version is cut up into 8 pages, while the other has the entire map in one big image.

I did notice that there didn't seem to be any labels of any sort, so it's really a collection of buildings with some farmlands and a walled city in the middle with a palace in it. I'm curious as to why there weren't any labels, or if the files will be updated later.

The Pillow Book of Ide Arahime

The Pillow Book is a 20 page work of fiction meant to serve as an in-character guide to the Second City as written from the point of view of Ide Arahime, a Unicorn Clan author. Presented as a journal of the author's travel and experiences in the Second City, it presents an interesting "outsider's" view of just how different the Second City is compared to traditional Rokugan, and perhaps to the more astute L5R fans, just how many concessions were made to exist there.

The Author touches on all aspects of life, from the look and feel of the place, to the stranger customs, artwork, and architecture. There's a lot to be learned through the fiction, and I found it to be interesting reading and a good way to slowly introduce the differences to those unfamiliar with the colonies.

The Journal of Yogo Tanaka

This second journal is another in-character account, but serves as a record of Yogo Tanaka's investigations and how it slowly gets out of hand. The writing is well done, and I have to admit that it works well for it's purpose, which is a supplement to the Campaign included in the Boxed Set. I'd rather not go into too much detail with regards to the contents lest I spoil any pertinent information, but the book makes for an interesting prop for the campaign.

The Campaign

This pdf contains the rather... plainly titled, "The Campaign" which is a full length campaign meant for characters using the Second City setting. It's an extensive campaign, with interesting characters and a compelling villain go to after.

The campaign itself is fairly broad, starting from Rokugan proper and spinning off into a tour of the Second City setting itself. It's a strongly investigative campaign that lends itself well to characters and players who are more interested to mysteries than pure combat, though there's enough of that as well to show the unique dangers posed by the new setting.

I'm glad to see the variance of plot hooks in the campaign, and it suits a good mix of characters from different clans as the varying points of view and approaches to solving a problem can come in very handy.

The Campaign ends with a bestiary of the various monsters in the Second City setting, including the Destroyers and stranger creatures that can threaten even the most stalwart of samurai.

The City

This book is the one that provides the meat of the setting. Starting off from the History of the Second City as the Rokugani understand it. There's some mention of the Ivory Kingdoms, but the section starts from the rise of the Cult of Rhumal, and Kali-Ma the Destroyer and how Empress Iweko I proclaimed the colonies as territory of Rokugan.

The book also goes on to discuss the layout of the city, complete with sections of the map as presented in the PDF complete with the annotations I was looking for with regards to the important locations in the city. I'm starting to understand that the maps are the ones that can be provided to PCs who are new to the city, and they can be free to add their own notes as necessary, while the GM has this for reference.

Each district is covered in great detail, with all the locations given a thorough treatment and notable NPCs scattered throughout. The RPG team of L5R is known for being thorough, and it shines through in this book.

The last chapter of the book goes into the smaller details, including the routes by which people travel to and from the colonies, and a discussion of the culture and mannerisms of the Second City and how they differ from Rokugan main. A mini-Emerald Empire supplement, if you will.

The People

This PDF goes into the detail of the various social structures in the Second City, including the Ivory Court, the government of the Colonies. This is a great way to preserve the political / intrigue feel of Rokugan in a new setting. With so much to be discovered and explored, this is new territory even for the political characters as they try to push the influence and control of the Second City for their clans.

The next chapter discusses the movers and shakers of the setting including Otomo Suikihime, the notorious Imperial Governor and the various ministers of the setting. While strongly tied to the colonies, those who don't plan to use the setting can always transplant these characters into their own settings with little to no trouble.

The People of the Second City discuss the Great Clans and the Imperial Families. Again these are a host of NPCs that can be used to populate any campaign, and help paint a vibrant (and well populated) location.

Not to be forgotten, the minor clans and wave men of the setting also get their own chapter, discussing the opportunities and nature of their presence in this brave new frontier.

Fnially the last section discusses a smattering of new Paths for the Great Clans and Basic Schools for those native to the Ivory Kingdoms.

---

The Second City Boxed set is huge. It's also an impressive body of work to bring to life a new and exciting development to the L5R universe outside of traditional Rokugan.

While I have to admit that I was initially lukewarm to the idea of this sudden shift outside of the borders of the Empire, I do appreciate the advantages of changing the status quo in such a traditional society. The NPCs and locations presented in the Second City are all done by a team whose enthusiasm shines through, and I'm glad that the team has managed to make sure that none of these characters are mere caricatures.

The usefulness of the set for those who don't plan to use the Second City is still high, as even if you don't end up using the setting, the NPCs alone are worth the price of admission.

Those GMs who wish to have a campaign get their wish, and it's certainly one that spans the length of the Second City and the empire, with equal opportunities for politics, investigation and combat.

The two books are nice for flavor, and the journal makes for a great prop for the campaign. I'm ambivalent about the pillow book however, but it can still be useful for new players who aren't in the mood to slog through The City book.

Is the Second City Boxed Set worth the price as a PDF product? Definitely. There's a ton of detail here, and one could easily run a full campaign with just the contents of this box and the corebook and never look at another supplement again.

The Second City Boxed set continues the winning streak of the Legend of the Five Rings 4th Edition supplements and I'm more than happy to say that it can certainly add tons of value to anyone's L5R Collection.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Second City Boxed Set
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The Gauntlet
by Dale M. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 12/07/2012 13:26:48
The adventure is good and it would be worth a 4 Star rating. However, the presentation is IMPOSSIBLE. It is a staples removed scanned in product the size of a piece of paper folded in half from top to bottom. That would be fine except they did not arrange the pages into a readable fashion. So page 1 is on the right side while page 16 is on the same sheet. Page 2, switching sides from page 1, is on the left and page 15 is on the right. So to read this, you have to start at the front, read half pages to the end and then go BACKWARDS to read the second half of the adventure. Utter madness.

The adventure is pretty decent and is the only thing that saved this adventure from a 1 star rating. It really isn't even worth the 80 cents it is currently priced at. My apologizes to the authors who put time into this.

Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
The Gauntlet
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