Legend of the Five Rings 5e

Posted 02 Jun 2021 to Fantasy

The premier Fantasy Japan game.


XP Card

Sessions GM'd: 0
Sessions as Player: 24

I Used

338 page physical book. My character was an investigator from the Kitsuki school of the Dragon clan. I tried to play him as a pragmatic, sensible, slightly unfit fellow who didn't place the highest regard on the social hierarchy.


This edition uses the Fantasy Flight Games dice system, which required some adjustment from me. The setting is rich and wonderful. In our campaign we played young samurai, sent on a secret mission to investigate the opium trade in a seedy city.


The Good

  • Funny Dice. There are 4 symbols that can come up on the custom dice. Some of them are useful for achieving success, and others are useful for triggering extra moves. This novel dice system means you consider the dice result after rolling and sometimes pick different options. It adds an extra layer of depth to dice rolls.
  • Crunchy synergies. There is depth to the tactical options and abilities your character can learn. It works well and is satisfying when you learn to synergize Ability A with Gear B and Move C. For example, my character became adept at disarming and controlling the movement of enemies by using a specialised weapon.
  • Detailed character creation. It takes about an hour and 90 pages to create a character by following the 20 Questions method. These steps result in a character who has more depth than many other systems. You will know details about your character, such as your aspirations, opinion of norms, hobbies, etc. I appreciated the consideration given here.
  • A great setting baked-in. It is full of colour and flavour. It includes factions which are easy to throw into conflict. The setting is pretty inseparable from the system, however. I will often transplant a good system into a homebrew setting, but that would be difficult to do here.
  • Social abilities. They have included a number of social skills, and special abilities intended for use in social conflict. This is a tricky aspect of RPGs to mechanise, and they've given it a good go. There are several pages on how to mechanically handle a social conflict scene, including initiative and different types of actions.
  • Gorgeous art. Almost every page has a beautiful picture on it, and it is a pleasure just to page through and look at them.
  • Clear writing style. I appreciate the way rules are explained and presented. The language is clear and consistent teminology is used throughout. One is never in doubt over what a move or ability does, and very little interpretation is needed from the GM. Light, short, italicised fiction is given along with most abilities. These are considerately separated from the actual rule text, and satisfyingly brief.

The Not-So-Good

  • Funny dice. I got used to them in the end, but it definitely is a learning curve. It took me about 5 sessions to fully internalise the funny symbols on the custom dice, and understand the benefits and drawbacks. Whether you are playing online or face-to-face, you have an extra hurdle to set up your game, because ordinary dice won't work.
  • Dice rolls are not quick. You have to build a pool, roll it, interpret it, reroll some dice, interpret them, keep the dice you want, and declare your result. We were pretty fast by the end, but it will never be as fast as rolling 1d20 and adding a number.
  • Slow combat. Many of your abilities are triggered by the moves of others. These are often defensive moves. You accumulate a lot of these abilities, especially once you have levelled up a bit. You wind up making dice rolls in response to other dice rolls. Remember that each dice roll is not quick. The compounding effect of this is that combat can take quite a long while, as it can take several minutes to resolve one action. It is exacerbated with more experienced characters, who have unlocked more abilities. We had a combat with 4 PCs against 3 ninja, and it took 2 hours. We were Rank 3.



The game system and the setting are very tightly bound together. This can be great because it allows for mechanics that call back to the rich setting. But it also means I cannot easily repurpose the game system for a different setting, and if I ever revisit this game for another campaign it will need to be because I want to play in Rokugan again.



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