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Legend of the Five Rings: The Book of Water
by Jack B. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 03/28/2014 12:48:50

As usual another great source book by AEG for L5R 4th Edition. No complaints and so happy they are releasing the PDF versions so soon after the print. Now just waiting for the Book of Void and my collection will be complete.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Legend of the Five Rings: The Book of Water
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Legend of the Five Rings: Imperial Histories
by Flames R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 03/25/2014 19:52:38

Each of the previous editions of Legend of the Five Rings was connected to a specific time period. The first edition was set before the events of the CCG. The second edition bumped the timeline to the Time of the Void. The third edition came out current with the CCG story at the time. The fourth edition opted to be timeless to allow fans to use whatever time period they wanted. This left a lot of the game’s history out of the core book. This makes the fourth edition versatile, but left out a lot of the player created history and backstory. Imperial Histories was created to fill that void.

Imperial Histories is a guide to various points in the history of Rokugan. Many of the periods have been seen in other sourcebooks or editions. Some have been referred to in historical accounts. And a few are brand new to the book. Each of these is set ups as a campaign possibility with new rules, new schools and, in some cases, modifications to the existing rules for different eras of the Empire. This book is aimed at GMs looking for campaign ideas or fans wanting historical information in one place.

Imperial Histories is available in hardcover and PDF. The book follows the same art and layout style as the Legend of the Five Rings core book. Most of the artwork is from the more recent sets of the CCG with the chapters broken up by two page spreads. Appropriate art is used where available. The book includes a sidebar talking about the time periods that don’t use accurate art. There is an index in the back. Unlike the core book PDF, neither the table of contents nor the index are hyperlinked. There are one or two repeats of art from the core book but the majority of pieces are new to the RPG line.

The chapters each detail a different period in Rokugan history. It starts with the Dawn of the Empire, when the kami walked the earth. The book also details more famous elements of history such as the first two arcs of the CCG. The Day of Thunder is when many fans of Legend of the Five Rings came into the game. It was followed by the Spirit Wars and the Four Winds saga. Each of these gets a chapter. The book rounds out with two alternate timelines. The Heroes of Rokugan illustrates a living campaign that’s been going on for years. One Thousand Years of Darkness takes place in a world where Fu Leng, the Lord of the Shadowlands was not defeated on the Day of Thunder and rules over the Emerald Empire.

Each chapter ends with mechanics relevant to the chapter. This usually means new schools, different schools or rules modifications. There are a few settings that involve gaijin, which add rules for things like firearms and non-Eastern weaponry. The rules for playing a gaijin essentially boil down to: don’t. Full rules might appear in a later book but the authors make an argument that there are plenty of other fantasy games on the market that cover that ground well.

The most compelling chapter is One Thousand Years of Darkness. This dark setting is one the fans have been waiting for. The timeline puts the players as part of the rag-tag rebels still fighting against the dark Emperor Fu Leng. This game of samurai already thrives on tough choices between duty and honor. This setting makes those choices even tougher. Fans of horror will love being desperate demon slayers as well as dark intrigues to try and save an Empire that might not be worth saving anymore.

One of the chapters not in the book is the current CCG storyline. Other storyline updates have filled entire books. Fans looking to see how the current timeline is shaping up will be disappointed. AEG has plans for a second book like this next year. Rather than just updating characters and storylines, these books could be a gateway for fans of the RPG to keep up with the CCG and fans of the CCG to try out the RPG. These camps have been separated for far too long. Not telling the ongoing story here is a missed opportunity.

The Heroes of Rokugan chapter misses in a few areas. It reads like someone’s campaign that already happened rather than a jumping off point for a new campaign. The story has some interesting elements and characters but doesn’t feel ready to run out of the book like the others. The same information can be picked up for free on the campaign website. Having it here seems like a bit of padding, especially when there are a lot of other time periods that could have fit in the book. GMs looking for material to mine will have a lot to choose from. Things from the alternate timelines could easily make themselves seen in home games. Historical schools could be reskinned or used to make an NPC unique. There’s a ton of material here to put into any game regardless of the setting. Each chapter also has enough material for the basis of a campaign. GMs looking to run Legend of the Five Rings after a campaign or too will find the information here very useful.

Bottom Line: A great book for GMs looking for a time to set their new Legend of The Five Rings campaign.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Legend of the Five Rings: Imperial Histories
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Legend of the Five Rings: Legacy of Disaster
by Tahjare D. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 03/21/2014 17:09:47

I am new to l5r and this was the first glimps in to the game. I found the first section informative but lacking in details that only the rule books provide. The adventure it self was interesting and a good read. The third section with the pregenerated characters and spell description was also informative. Had I known the games mechanics I would definitely play the game.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Legend of the Five Rings: Legacy of Disaster
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Legend of the Five Rings: Secrets of the Empire
by Kathleen D. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 02/19/2014 14:14:37

Content-wise, this is a great book with lots of useful information.

On the other hand, it's a terrible pdf (like all the other AEG ones I own), as it's super slow to load. It's also 'secured' so you can't even print to a new pdf file that might be less rubbish. If other publishers can make pretty pdfs that are fast and nimble, why can't this one be too?



Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
Legend of the Five Rings: Secrets of the Empire
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Creatures of Rokugan
by Lennart B. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 02/08/2014 18:25:07

First, let me rate the content of this monster book. Creates of Rokugan is organised like the official d20 monster books and use the same keywords and formatting. It is intended to be used for adventures in Rokugan, the default campaign setting for Legend of the Five Rings, but is a nice addition for every game master who would like to use some oriental monster in his campaign.

Creates of Rokugan features more than a hundred new monsters, a few templates, items and sample NPCs as well as prestige classes, new magical items and rules for Tainted character that have been corrupted by the Taint of the Shadowlands. Many creatures are established creatures from Legend of the Five Rings, though some (like the tengu-like kenku) come from D&D. Most monsters are evil supernatural creatures like undead, oni and other spirits. This is alright, though, as there are enough d20 books with mundane monsters already.

The illustrations are good too excellent, but all are black-and-white, as the entire interior of the book. And sadly, this is the last positive aspect of this product.

The book was originally published in 2001 (as a physical product) while this PDF is available since 2006. This makes me wonder why it is a scan instead of an actual digital book? Did they accidentally delete the original digital files? However, this is mentioned in the RPGNow sidebar, so I knew it before I bought this product.

However, I was not informed about the absolutely abysmal quality of the scan (the preview as too short to show how miserable the scan is)! Firstly, the resolution is very low. There are no sharp edges, which means that the PDF is probably a collection of JPGs (as opposed to an image format of higher quality,). There are white lines on all sidebars which I'm sure weren't in the original prints.

Furthermore, the PDF has no hyperlinked table of contents (halfway understandable as it's a scan) and not bookmarks at all, which is simply not acceptable. An amateur with a PDF editor could add bookmarks for all the monsters in about an hour, so I expect that from an established publisher as well. Needless to say that the page numbers reflect the total page numbers of the PDF, not the ones that are actually on the page. Also, the back cover is not where it belongs but is the second page for some reason.

The OCR (optical character recognition) is unacceptable. Entire paragraphs as not selectable at all. Only black text on white background is selectable. This was scanned in 2006. That's not very long ago. Scanners back then were solid. Even the amateurish scanner I have at home delivers better results than this. Sure, I could simply OCR the PDF again, but that's not possible without cracking the file as the PDF is secured. And I'm sure not all buyers have the necessary software for that. Oh, and due to the aforementioned low resolution of the PDF, not all text is transferred correctly when copied to a text editor.

Don't buy this product. Don't support abysmal service like this.



Rating:
[1 of 5 Stars!]
Creatures of Rokugan
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Legend of the Five Rings 4th Edition
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
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Fireborn: The Fire Within
by Geert-Jan W. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 01/03/2014 07:48:41

This is like a great mini-campaign to introduce the characters into Fireborn. Though it is all BUT subtle, letting the player's really dive in directly into the setting.

For player's this might be a good introduction, but for the GM it isn't... This requires quite a bit of preperation before hand, and a good read through of the adventure before you start. Make sure you know the rules, and your player's ready to literally jump right into the action.

The adventure starts with peace negotiations in the mythic age as part of a flashback/dream of the player characters. This is quite confusing, as they only get little bits of info, and know little other then that it's important to stop the war (but not know why it's so incredibly important). It's played as a vague dream, and it can be a bit hard to get the player's into it and resolve the negotiations in a fluid and flowing manner.

After the dream however, the rest of the campaign gets a bit mroe interesting. There is a bit of a lower pace moment where some investigative detective work comes around, but they can be sped up or spiced up if your group doesn't like to get into such situations. My group actually loved this change of pace in between the action scenes.

I think in general, this adventure tries to show and explore all kinds of different perspectives and styles of what Fireborn can provide in adventures for good or ill. It is very inspiring, and even though not everything will work for your group, going through it at least once does give you a better idea what Fireborn can be, and gives enough ideas to continue the adventures afterwards.

But again, it's rather ambitious for a "introduction", and requires a lot of carefull reading and preperation to get the msot out of this. I highly recommend going for an easier and shorter pre-adventure or two to get into the system first, so when it comes to combat not everything has to be explained or covered all over again. It's how I did it, and it worked out well.



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[5 of 5 Stars!]
Fireborn: The Fire Within
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Fireborn: Player's Handbook
by Geert-Jan W. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 01/03/2014 07:34:43

A great game, but not for everyone.

I really enjoyed the rpg, and still do in an active rpg group. I would highly recommend it, even if the rules may not be for everyone, as the setting in itself is awesome enough to steal from in case you feel other rules systems work better for you. As the setting should be clear to most (Dragons reincarnating, now coming back in the modern age), the mechanical side is what I'll focus on.

The game uses a system called the "dynamic D6" system. Generally this means you have 4 seperate dice pools representing 1 for active physical actions (attacking, climbing, jumping etc), 1 pool for active mental actions (looking for something, casting magic, trying to focus your mind, use a mental skill etc), and then 2 more defensive "reactive" pools; reactive physical (defending, dodging away, etc.) and reactive mental (resisting influences, noticing an ambush etc).

Now the truly interesting part (that makes it dynamic) is that you can shift these dice pools around based on your skill in an action, and the amount of focus you put into it. In example, when attacking using your fists to punch someone in the face, it is a Fire melee action. Your skill in melee is 2, and Fire score is 2. This normally means you roll 2 dice (Fire 2), but using your skill you can fcus more on your action, and gain 2 extra dice, so to roll 4 instead. However, those dice need to come from somewhere.. so you lower one of the other dicepools by 2 due to you more aggresive stance performing this action. (which may make you vulnerable to defense or other actions).

That is what I think, makes the system pretty awesome, but it gets better. During combat it makes things look a bit more like a Matrix style action scene every time an attack is performed. For each point in for example your Fire score, you can build a sequence. So Fire 4 would be 4 "small" actions in the sequence, which can allow you to jump through a window, shoot both you guns in your hand (dual wielding pistols), and roll to cover. (Jump - shoot gun left - shoot gun right - roll for cover)

This does however can make things a bit more complicated/hard to understand in how it works with defending etc. This could have benefited greatly from a better and more clear explanation, but it helps when you have someone who understands the rules to learn from. (You learn best from experience)

What makes the game a bit more metagamey is the Karma bid, which allows your player to push for a success in any action by spending Karma. Karma can be spend for 1 extra success each after the dice are rolled, and can allow an action to completely succeed if not enough successes are rolled. The defender also gets to use Karma however, so it becomes a bid...whichever one gets the biggest total of successes will be the winner, but it might still come back to a partial success if not enough excess successes are obtained. (defender successes and attacker's cancel each other out)

It is rather required however, as Karma will be the thing keeping you alive early in game when you do not have access to draconic powers (which also use Karma). Combat is lethal!

But there are ofcourse downsides to all this;

  • Combat is nice and fast when you get into it, but it takes a while tog et your head around it. Making combat and defence sequences can be hard to envision at first. And if poorly understood..makes for a complicated mess at the table with everyone looking confused. It is advised to really learn the system before seriously going into large scale complicated combat scenes. Take it easy with just 1 or two player's to slowly introduce. You will also want the Lost Lore booklet/pdf, it is recomended to answer some questions and give better explanations on soem bits of the game. You can find it still on the G+ community page for Fireborn, along with just about everythign else Fireborn that could still be saved. (why they did not make everythign available here or on the official FFG pages anymore is beyond me)

  • Combat styles are nice, and they add specific sequences you can do based on your "martial arts style", in practice however most seem overpowered due to the payoff effects they can give if they succeed the entire chain. As well as cumbersome at times, so..I generally moved towards making it more freeform with your own designs of action sequences that fit your style and providing cinematic action dice instead. (they also gain less powerful payoffs, based on the actions they take). It can work as written, but sometimes just feels more restrictive then it probably was intended to be.

  • Lethal combat v.s. cinematic combat. Combat feels like an action movie due to the cinematic "effect", but combat nevertheless is highly lethal as written. Especially the problem of guns being a bit too overpowered, made me down the damage of guns a little to not shoot everyone dead in their tracks every time one uses them. Still, guns are illegal in the game, and should be VERY hard to get. Even if you own one, the GM should be carefull to limit them, and give some drawbacks on carrying one to prevent abuse. But even without guns, combat can be over very quickly, as you have a good chance of wound penalties as well. I decided to remove the dice penalties, and first have the minor wounds completely fill up before wound penalties develop for every minor wound they would otherwise gain in subsequent attacks.

  • You have 2 characters to work through.. First a Scion character, and need to make a whole new character for your dragon self in the mythic age. There is theoption to sort of "mirror" your Scion to the mythic Age dragon version, but it severely limits your dragon in flexibility and is not recomended. It's not THAT hard to make a character in Fireborn, so it's recomended to first play an adventure or two with just the Scion character without draconic powers. Let them learn the system, then make their dragon selves and dive in for reall. There are many adventures out there that work well for this purpose. My first intro adventure was "three souls and a smoking gun", a Gencon adventure, which is found as pdf online.

This is also a game that benefits greatly from a few "helpful" bits and pieces to help speed things up. I used poker chips for Karma, using the colours to make them personal to each player, making it easy to refresh whenever after combat etc.

Having character sheets printed double sided and color coded (look for the costum collour sheets of Scion and dragon characters) is a great help. Whenever a flashback comes around, just flip over the character sheet to the other side.

It helps having stones or (even better) colloured dice for the 4 dice pools. I use stones, so if they get switched around due to stance changes, theya re easily brought back to the original situation at the start of the next round.

Making it easy for your player's (and yourself) makes this game work even faster :)



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Fireborn: Player's Handbook
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Legend of the Five Rings: Secrets of the Empire
by Jeremy M. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 12/20/2013 12:45:55

Recently purchaced this and was not disapointed. The history of the minor clans realy needed to be told and this did it nicely. Was not expecting to much in game mechanics but I was pleasently suprised with the Ronin/Bushi School and the Minor Clan Heritage Table (This was needed). With the new school the Minor Clans that have no listed Bushi School, like the Moshi, can have clan Samurai without having to take different school.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Legend of the Five Rings: Secrets of the Empire
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Legend of the Five Rings: Secrets of the Empire
by Jack B. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 12/20/2013 12:25:14

Love this book. Like all of AEG's books it is beautiful and PDFs are so nice to read on a tablet or large phone. The art, layout, and even filler fiction is as always excellent.

This book fills in so many holes in the material relased thus far. It makes playing Minor Clans, Ronin, and Monks a much more rewarding experience.

The whole section at the end about the Realms opens up alot avenues to creative GMs. If you are playing/GMing a Kitsune or a Kitsu this section is a must.

Given the poor binding quality of Alderac's physical books, these PDFs have been a life saver. I hope the publisher continues to release the PDF books so quickly after the physical book release.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Legend of the Five Rings: Strongholds of the Empire
by John Y. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 12/11/2013 11:38:25

An excellent source of information to help those GM's who need information to set the background of their stories. This source book was a big very help to me in understanding how different clans run their unique cities and holds within them. The most useful was the write up on Toshi Ranbo itself along with complete stat layouts of several of the most notable NPCs there. The icing on the book itself was the additional game mechanics included at the end of each chapter and the layout of each city as an individual chapter. The only bad thing I can say about this book are the misprinted game mechanics in some sections. Excellent read and a must for GM's and Players alike!



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Legend of the Five Rings: Strongholds of the Empire
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Legend of the Five Rings: Naishou Province
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!]
Legend of the Five Rings: Naishou Province
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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!]
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.



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