"The Legend of the 5 Rings" is the fifth edition of the role-playing game of the same name, written by Katrina Ostrander and Max Brooke and published by Fantasy Flight Games, brought to Italy thanks to the hard work of Need Games for Lucca Comics & Games 2019. The title surprises for the wide choice it offers to players, who will be able to undertake campaigns or one-shot games with very varied and distant styles. The care in the game design and in the setting make it a title to be recovered absolutely, although recommended in combination with the supplement "The Emerald Empire".
Structure of the manual
The manual consists of 336 pages, divided into eight chapters plus an introduction with the task of welcoming us into the world of Rokugan. The layout is pleasant to the eye and, although some typos due to the translation make the nose turn up, the text is smooth and enjoyable. The illustrations present, the result of the hard work of an unparalleled team of artists, help not only to perceive the charm and mysteries of the Rokugan but also to fall in love with it.
The first six chapters are for the player, so that he can create the character, discover all the secrets of skills and techniques and understand the dynamics of the game. The last two are reserved for the game master, with several very useful tips to adapt the game to the style of the table.
The Rokugan is the name of the setting of "The Legend of the 5 Rings", inspired by feudal Japan with the contamination of other mythologies from the east. The wise emperor Hantei rules over seven major clans, who maintain control over the territories in his name and concession. The sovereign represents the highest point of a very structured and complex social pyramid to follow, where honor and appearance are the masters.
Unlike the Japanese counterpart, the Rokugan is not a set of islands and this exposes the nation to threats from the outside, be they in the form of the Gaijin (foreigners) or the fearsome armies of the Shadowlands.
The players will play samurai, in the most literal meaning of "servants" and not necessarily in the form of the Japanese feudal warrior with katana and wakizashi. The characters, whatever type of play they intend to undertake, will be called upon to explore the complicated relationship between honor, duty and desire.
Roll & Keep
The system makes use of custom six and twelve-sided dice, with symbols instead of numbers, and the characters through the Roll & Keep mechanics will be able to choose which results to keep, which to withdraw and which to discard completely. Although the use of dice, sold separately or rolled via the appropriate application, is strongly recommended, the game contains a small conversion table.
"The Legend of the 5 Rings" has a very simple statistics system which, however, influence all the activities of the game. Unlike other games, where an ability is often and willingly influenced by a single statistic, in this it will be the approach to determine which aspect of the character will come into play. One thing is no small thing and certainly appreciable.
Tactical or Fiction?
One of the things that impressed me most about the 5 Rings legend is the different approaches it offers to running the game. In the section dedicated to the game master, reference is made to tactics vs. narration. Incredibly, you are asked to listen to the table, rather than imposing your vision on the players (a nice Statement of Intent and the problem is solved) and to let them choose. The game, as it is explained for a long time in the manual, lends itself to an incredibly strategic approach, with different moves, shapes, techniques, etc ... both for the fights and for the battles and for the political intrigues. However, the manual considers that a type of game of this type, a little cumbersome and slow, may not meet the interest of the players.
Who is it recommended for?
"The Legend of the 5 Rings" is recommended to anyone who wants to undertake a game of choices and consequences, where there are no right or wrong answers but only characters who must accept the disturbance that certain decisions entail. Desire or duty? Honor or justice? These are all questions that players and characters will find themselves asking themselves during a roleplay of “The Legend of the 5 Rings”. The system lends itself to different styles of play, so don't be afraid of the rules which, at a very first reading, can seem intimidating.
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