Legend of the Five Rings
Where Honor is Stronger than Steel
Bryan Reese (Lead Designer)
|Publisher(s)||Alderac Entertainment Group|
|Genre(s)||Asian Fantasy CCG / RPG|
|Players||2 or more|
|Random chance||Some (order of cards drawn)|
Legend of the Five Rings (often abbreviated L5R) is a fictional setting created by John Wick and published by Alderac Entertainment Group in 1995. The setting primarily involves the fictional empire of Rokugan, though some additional areas and cultures have been discussed. Rokugan is based roughly on feudal Japan with influences from other East Asian cultures such as China, Mongolia, Korea, and Vietnam. This setting is the basis for the Legend of the Five Rings Collectible Card Game as well as the Legend of the Five Rings Role-Playing Game. Legend of the Five Rings was also the "featured campaign setting" of the Oriental Adventures expansion to the third edition of Dungeons & Dragons, though this book is now out of print.
The deep, evolving story of Legend of the Five Rings is one of the features that sets it apart from most game settings. Players of the collectible card game, and to a lesser extent the role-playing game, can influence this story as it progresses by participating in sanctioned tournaments. The winners of major tournaments make pivotal decisions that can influence the storyline for years to come, with winners of minor tournaments influencing the storyline in lesser ways.
Legend of the Five Rings has broken new ground in player interaction in hobby gaming with the Race for the Throne. This mega-event took place over 2007 and 2008, where players of both the collectible card game and the role-playing game could affect the storyline of their Clan by earning points in various Spheres of influence.
Legend of the Five Rings Products 
The Legend of the Five Rings Collectible Card Game 
The Legend of the Five Rings collectible card game is played by two or more players (in tournaments, generally two), each with two decks of at least 40 cards each (formerly at least 30 cards each). The game continues until a player has reached one of several different victory conditions, at which point that player is declared the winner. Victory conditions include winning militarily (destroying all provinces of one's opponent), by honour (reaching a certain number of honour points), dishonour (forcing one's opponent under a certain honour point threshold), through enlightenment (by putting cards called rings into play) or via a couple of special cards which essentially mean "game won".
In the game's tournaments players can affect the storyline of the game, their deck construction directly contributing to the lives (or deaths) of the characters involved. This is in turn reflected in future expansions of the game, and the mechanics of the cards therein. The full current rules of the collectible card game can be found at the Comprehensive Rules Site.
Kotei Season 
The Kotei Season runs generally February through June of each year, where regional tournaments occur around the world. Each season incorporates a major event currently going on in the Emerald Empire, with each event determining at least one factor of the larger story. Kotei winners are pre-qualified into major events such as Gen Con and the European Championships, allowing them to skip the qualifying rounds.
Race for the Throne 
The Race for the Throne is L5R's new "mega-game" where players from all the various Clans compete across various "spheres", to earn points for their Clans. These points are earned by tournament wins, charitable work, online contests and many other methods. In November 2008, the Dragon Clan won the Race for the Throne, with Kitsuki Iweko ascending to become Empress Iweko I.
Current Promotions 
Legend of the Five Rings currently supports the Dojo Days store program. This program allows stores to receive benefits based on the number of Imperial Assembly registered players at their store. The players are also rewarded for bringing in new players as part of their Clan. These stores are also able to qualify to host official Storyline Events should their dedicated player base grow to 30 or more players.
Player-Influenced Cards 
Legend of the Five Rings has many cards that are directly influenced by players and their actions. These cards often feature an attribution on the vertical right side of the card, which includes the name of the player, the event, and the date involved in the creation of the card or theme behind the card. Having your name on a card is a goal of many players of Legend of the Five Rings.
A long running tradition in the L5R CCG is the Banzai shout during tournaments. To fire up the players before the rounds begin, the tournament organizer, special guest, or a selected player gives a short rousing speech restating what the players are fighting for in the storyline, followed the shout of "Utz!" followed by the player's response "Banzai!" three times. This is in homage to traditional samurai battle cries.
The L5R CCG is currently published in English, French, and Spanish. Previously the game was also published in German and Polish.
The Legend of the Five Rings Role-Playing Game 
The Legend of the Five Rings Role-Playing Game is a role-playing game that requires one person to be game master and any number of other people to play different characters. As with all role-playing games, there is no "winner" or "loser", and the players do not generally compete against each other. Instead, the players work together to find a solution to some problem which the game master has presented their characters. What separated Legend of the Five Rings from other role-playing games was that players could either follow the traditional RPG style of hack/slash adventure or play as courtiers and take part in a campaign in which they never enter a single battle.
The Legend of the Five Rings Role-Playing Game is currently in its fourth version. All four versions used an original ruleset designed specifically for the setting. The rulesets are all very similar, allowing active games to transition relatively easily between them. To distinguish this game system from the d20 System mechanics (see below), it is often referred to as the d10, "classic", or the "Roll & Keep" ("R&K") system.
Live-Action Roleplaying 
In 2004 a Live-action roleplay version of the game was released. Live-Action roleplaying has long been a major part of Legend of the Five Rings at events such as Gen Con. Heroes of Rokugan, a fan-run group organizes yearly LARPs as part of their own storyline.
Death at Koten 
Death at Koten is the first L5R Graphic Novel, released in May 2009. It revolves around the death of Hida Kisada and the events that take place as a result of his assassination.
Clan War 
Clan War was a miniature based model strategy game produced by AEG, whose story line is derived from the Legend of the Five Rings setting. This game itself is no longer produced but the loyal fandom has a strong presence in its continued existence. The metal miniatures used to play the game are being re-released by Valiant Miniatures in 2010.
Board Games 
"Art of War"
A L5R Board Game has been in the works for several years, and despite delays and release pushbacks, AEG had said the game would be released in 2009. It was not released in 2009 and designer Dan Versen, claiming it was "L5R meets Axis and Allies" cited the increase above quoted prices by printers and model makers as the reason for delay and that he has his, "Fingers crossed for 2011!"
"War of Honor"
A second "Board Game" for L5R is slated for release during the summer/fall of 2011. This Game Mixes elements of the CCG and a board game layout to give an old school Multi-player CCG feel. More can bee read about it in the AEG forums here.
"Ninja: Legend of the Scorpion Clan"
In Fall 2011, AEG released a boardgame featuring a conflict between a Scorpion ninja infiltrating a Lion estate to carry out a secret mission. Designed as an experience to take less than an hour, it includes dozens of plastic miniatures and revolves around hidden movement.
- Clan War - First Scroll: The Scorpion (July 2000)
- Clan War - Second Scroll: The Unicorn
- Clan War - Third Scroll: The Crane
- Clan War - Fourth Scroll: The Phoenix
- Clan War - Fifth Scroll: The Crab
- Clan War - Sixth Scroll: The Dragon
- Clan War - Seventh Scroll: The Lion
The Four Winds Saga
- The Steel Throne (Prelude)
- Wind of Honor (First scroll)
- Wind of War (Second scroll)
- Wind of Justice (Third scroll)
- Wind of Truth (Fourth scroll)
Legend of the Five Rings is set primarily in the fictional land of Rokugan (also known as the Emerald Empire), based on feudal Japan with influences from other East Asian cultures, where samurai, shugenja, and trained courtiers vie for control of the noble courts. Rokugan itself is home to mostly humans, divided into a society based on clans, with eight Great Clans and various minor ones, though at the moment they are all in confusion, and are vying for one of their members to be the new Emperor. They are regularly threatened by evil plots from within, but the main threat still lies to the southwest of Rokugan: the deadly wastes of the Shadowlands, where demonic hordes roam.
The world of L5R, which contains Rokugan, also contains the nations of the Burning Sands as well as the Ivory Kingdoms. A few foreign visitors from these lands have been featured in Legend of the Five Rings, but have not played a major role in the storyline. Much is unknown of these lands, mostly due to the extreme xenophobia of the Rokugani, shown in the story by an Imperial mandate of non-interaction with Gaijin.
The following is from D. J. Trindle's post to the L5R e-mail newsgroups regarding the future - and the past - of the role-playing game. It was entitled "Whither the L5R RPG?" and is archived in full at http://l5r.alderac.com/rpg/whither_l5rrpg.html
Alderac Entertainment Group (AEG), in partnership with Isomedia, first designed and published the L5R collectible card game in 1995. Eventually, it became obvious that L5R would greatly benefit from the sort of promotion, marketing, and production that costs a lot of money. Some of the original AEG and Isomedia folks found interested investors and formed the Five Rings Publishing Group (FRPG), which purchased the intellectual property (IP) that is L5R. FRPG took over production and marketing, while AEG continued to design the game. In 1997, AEG licensed the role-playing publication rights for L5R from FRPG, and published the first edition of the L5R RPG. The fans liked it enough to vote it the Best RPG of 1997 at the Origins Awards, and the core book went through four printings while spawning two dozen sourcebooks and add-on products.
In 1997, FRPG was purchased by Wizards of the Coast. The existing licenses remained in place, so the same creative team continued work on Legend of the Five Rings, AEG continued publishing the RPG, and Wizards began publishing the card game. In 1999, Legend of the Five Rings changed hands once more when Wizards was purchased by toy-making giant Hasbro (however, "Wizards" continued operations under their original name). The previous licenses were still in effect, so changes to the games and the development teams as a result were unnoticeable. Wizards of the Coast re-released Oriental Adventures (a long out-of-print AD&D supplement), changing the setting from the original Kara-Tur to Rokugan, and updating the supplement to the d20 rules. Several of the following sourcebooks provided dual (d20 & d10/R&K) rulesets.
In late 2000, however, speculation about the future of Legend of the Five Rings – especially the RPG – began to run rampant after Hasbro, during a string of decisions that greatly upset the leadership at Wizards, decided to sell Legend of the Five Rings two years before AEG's long-standing license was due to expire. Any fears turned out to be unfounded when, less than half a year later, AEG won the bidding war for Legend of the Five Rings.
Today, AEG owns the intellectual property of Legend of the Five Rings and still designs and publishes the card game and the role-playing game. AEG released Lotus Edition for the CCG in late 2005, beginning the Age of Enlightenment story arc. The new Samurai Edition was released in July 2007, and includes the Race for the Throne story arc. Celestial Edition is scheduled for mid-2009 and will usher in a new storyline for players to take part in.
Story Team 
There have been five 'eras' when it comes to the L5R Story Lead/Team.
The previous lead was Rich Wulf, assisted by Shawn Carman. Wulf's works include Way of the Wolf, Bells of the Dead, Rokugan, and many other Legend of the Five Rings products. Large contributions to the Legend of the Five Rings series were also made by Ree Soesbee, who was lead writer of Legend of the Five Rings prior to Rich Wulf, and John Wick before her who along with the founding members of Five Rings Publishing Group created the world. While the property was controlled by Wizards of the Coast, the creation of the Four Winds arc (starting with Gold Edition) was helmed by Paul Allen Timm and Rob Heinsoo with contributions from Andy Heckt and Frank Chafe.
Currently, Shawn Carman is the head of the Legend of the Five Rings Story Team. He has had great success at incorporating player effects into the game in a smooth manner, regardless of how odd the results of a tournament may be to the setting of the game. His team includes Rusty Priske, Nancy Sauer, Brian Yoon, Yoon Ha Lee, and Robert Denton with Fred Wan acting as co-lead and continuity editor. The team formerly included Lucas Twyman, who left the team in July 2011.
International Olympic Committee 
One legal issue for Legend of the Five Rings involved the use of a symbol that consisted of five interlocking rings, arranged in essentially a star pattern. This symbol was used for several years in the role-playing game and featured prominently on the backings of the cards in the collectible card game. The United States Olympic Committee sued Wizards of the Coast, who at that time owned Legend of the Five Rings, over the logo, because a special Act of the U.S. Congress gave them the exclusive rights to any symbol consisting of five interlocking rings.
The only way to completely resolve the issue was to quit using the symbol. For the role-playing game this meant very little, but for the collectible card game it meant that the backing of the cards had to be redesigned, which left players with a mix of cards that essentially resulted in marked decks. In an attempt to appease the players, Wizards released the first set with the different backs – Spirit Wars – bundled with opaque sleeves that would obscure the designs on the backs of the cards, allowing players to use any mix of cards in their decks.
See also 
- Alderac Entertainment Group
- Legend of the Five Rings (disambiguation)
- Legend of the Five Rings Collectible Card Game
- Legend of the Five Rings Role-Playing Game
- The Book of Five Rings
- Legend of the Burning Sands
- Alderac Entertainment Group - The publishers of Legend of the Five Rings.
- Legend of the Five Rings - The official Legend of the Five Rings home page.
- The official AEG Forums - The official AEG Forums for L5R (and their other games)
- Comprehensive Rules - The full rules of the Legend of the Five Rings CCG.
- L5R, an external wiki - The unofficial Legend of the Five Rings wiki.
- Home of the Crane Clan - The Crane Clan forums
- Kaze no Shiro - Castle of the Wind - A website dedicated to collecting all canon Fiction of L5R.
- Five Rings Online - Nearly ten years standing L5R online digichat based game, currently in its 5th story arc.
- Daigotsu.com - Unofficial, popular fan-made website with forums for players, a searchable card database, a listing of past fictions and a trading utility all made for and by fans of the Legend of the Five Rings CCG.
- Playccg - Legend of the Five Rings singles card store - has images of every L5R card ever made.
- L5R Search - Nearly comprehensive Legend of the Five Rings search engine and singles card store, based in New Zealand.
- DocAngst.com - Legend of the Five Rings search engine and singles card store.
- Gijon Shiro - Fan-made website about the city of Gijon (Asturias, Spain) in L5R.
- Heroes of Rokugan - Home of the Heroes of Rokugan, currently in its 3rd story arc.
- SomeGuysCards.com - Legend of the Five Rings singles store, news, and search engine.