2nd Time Around

You may have heard; you may have noticed.

Legend of the Five Rings is being republished in its new Second Edition. The core rulebook – which has been sold out for some time – is being reissued in two volumes: a Player’s Guide and a Game Master’s Guide. The basic cover for the Player’s Guide is shown at the right (the only image on this site, we might add, which has been…ahem…liberated from AEG).

And, yes, the Player’s Guide has arrived. The Master – lucky monk that he is – picked himself up a copy only two days ago. The Game Master’s Guide is soon to follow (January, perhaps).

As befits a 2nd edition, there have been some changes …

No – this isn’t a review. The Master will leave that to “professional” reviewers who will claim to be unbiased, or close to it. No, friends, the Master is shamelessly biased (as demonstrated by an entire website devoted to L5R rpg…), and makes no apology for it.

Instead, the Master will share some general comments and notations on the new volume, for those who care to have them.

The “stats”: 260 hardcover pages – larger than the 1st edition rulebook. Layout has been changed to gray margins at the top and bottom, instead of the black margins on all sides. No sidebar text now. The layout mirrors the Daimyo Edition of Clan War.

As you would expect, there is no GM information in the book. All monsters, GM advice, Challenge-Focus-Strikes, and other GM material has been removed. However, some excellent player material has been added: more on the culture and expectations of a samurai. The Master is personally glad to see the addition of the Etiquette material (from the GM’s Survival Guide) as well as the general enhancement of the cultural information provided. This has long been a stumbling block for new players.

The official timeline has been updated about two years, after the Scorpion Clan Coup. The Clan histories sections have been updated accordingly.

Naga are now included in the core rules, providing “out of the basic book” options for Naga Bushi, Slayers (the new school), and “Shugenja”. Players interested in playing Naga shugenja and others seriously in-depth are directed to the Way of the Naga book (rightfully so).

A new bushi school has been added to each Clan: never-before-seen schools. Each Clan is given a four page full color spread (over the 1st edition two pages) on making a character. New full color images of each Clan’s bushi and shugenja.

The major rule change is really that characters now roll dice equal to their Skill rating, and keep dice equal to the corresponding Trait. Skills and Traits can now range up to 10, but the additional ratings of 6-10 represent super-human prowess. Many skills, many advantages and disadvantages.

Combat changes a bit. The main change here is wound levels – no longer do wounds subtract from your die pool; now wounds add to the TN of actions. Having watched players struggle with 1 (or less) die pools as a result of heavy combat…

The rules make mention of the 1st edition and the changes, both in an Appendix and within the main text. A much appreciated approach. The book itself draws upon the whole line of L5R supplements – old hands with many of the books will find familiar material.

The spell system is completely reworked, with 6 Mastery levels now. Spells can be “memorized” (no scroll needed). Achieving “mastery” of a spell involves a 3 raise roll – with each casting – to avoid using a “spell slot”. Spells are reworked, new ones added. Players interested in detailed Clan-based magic and Void Shugenjas are directed to the Way of… books (Clan and Phoenix, respectively).

As mentioned, references are made to appropriate Way of the Clan books for more depth, specialised magic, etc. While this in no way “cripples” or reduces the value of the Player’s Guide, it does tell us that the Way of the Clan books are still valued, and will hopefully not be “2nd editioned” as well. On the other hand, AEG is planning the Secrets of the Clans series… Additionally, the Appendix summarizes each of the Way of the Clan books (for major Clans) and provide a capture of a single school and family from the book – providing yet more material under a single set of covers.

The artwork is overall of very good quality. The color plates are new and well executed. The Brian Snoddy artwork from the 1st edition is missed, however.

Some occasionally odd moments of layout. For instance, the rules on Spell Research end the “systems” chapter – odd only in the fact that the Magic Chapter is the next one following. A few other similar instances, but nothing crippling by any means. The real puzzler is the example on Weapons Skills, decribed as a Bushi School advancement test: the last weapon the Dragon bushi is apparently to demonstrate skill with is… the kama – a “peasant” weapon, as well as one noted to be favored by ninja. The Master assumes that was a *very* hypothetical example.

All in all, the Player’s Guide is quite enjoyable, and rekindles additional excitement in a favorite game system.

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