Home > Musings, Roleplaying > #RPGaDay – Day 17 – My Favorite Fantasy RPG

#RPGaDay – Day 17 – My Favorite Fantasy RPG

If you’re not familiar with #RPGaDay, go here and then come back to read my rambling about my favorite fantasy RPG.I’m not sure why this particular topic inspired me to write more than my usual simple tweet about the topic, but here we go. I play a lot of Pathfinder. It’s quite easily my go-to game when I need something that’s easy to get into. It’s not my favorite fantasy RPG. I have a special soft spot for Dungeons & Dragons (except 2nd and 4th editions) but it’s not my favorite either. My favorite fantasy RPG is Legend of the Five Rings.

These Are A Few Of My Favorite Things

Where to start? I think one of the things I like about L5R is that it’s unusual. There are a lot of games that do traditional fantasy or tweak the traditional fantasy model in various ways, but none quite so thoroughly as L5R. Player characters are samurai, a cut above the peasantry but with a slew of responsibilities and expectations that keep them from behaving like typical adventurers. As much as I like the “kick in the door” doctrine sometimes when it comes to adventuring, the subtlety required to navigate politics and expectations in Rokugan (the setting for L5R) bring a welcome change from your traditional fantasy party.

And not everyone has to be the ultimate warrior samurai either. Of the characters I’ve played in L5R, my two favorites were my tiny Scorpion Clan courtier and my spear-wielding Scorpion Clan bushi (term for warrior). The courtier had little combat skill, but she ruled the social roost and frequently kept the other characters free to handle the other messy business of being magistrates. The bushi gave up his public honor to serve his Emperor as an undercover agent in a ronin army and employed a mix of social skills and pushing the right people at the right time to help the rest of the party succeed. My typical fantasy characters are Clerics and Paladins, all deeply honorable and prone to flashy displays. L5R gives me that framework to step out of that comfort zone and still play a character with at least some honorable streak in some fashion.

I love the wealth of history in L5R. Every clan has a fun origin purpose and plenty of back story (and beefs) with the other clans. I like deep settings that you can really sink your teeth into and L5R provides that in dump truck loads. On the flip side, you only have to dip into as much of the history as you want. It’s probably enough for you to know what the Scorpion Clan generally thinks of the Crane Clan. You don’t have to know the exact details of the history that let to those beliefs (although I recommend it, it’s worth it).

The art, especially in the more recent editions, is evocative and a joy to look at. The fourth edition book is so pretty that I will probably always have it on my shelf, even if I never get to play the game again. Alderac knows what they’re doing when it comes to art.

My One Problem

Okay, going to stop gushing for a bit to discuss my one problem with my favorite fantasy RPG and it’s barrier to entry. One of the things that separates L5R from the pack, the cultural framework, really only works if you have players that are willing to learn it. Rules for gift giving? You politely reject twice and accept the gift on the third offer. Dead body? Don’t touch that, that’s for peasants to do. There’s quite a bit to learn and it’s rewarding to do so, but it can get in the way for some people and that makes it hard to put together a group for the game.

Final Thoughts

Legend of the Five Rings is one of those games I will continue to love, even if I never play it again. There’s so much to love here and the setting is a joy to read. I hope to get a chance to play it again some day, but even if I don’t, it will have a permanent seat at my favorites table.

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  1. August 17, 2015 at 11:00 AM

    I would rate L5R higher in my lists as well if it was not for that barrier to entry. I really enjoy the setting but it is so difficult to find players willing to truly delve into the culture and roleplaying aspects necessary to truly appreciate an L5R campaign. My two campaigns in L5R are still some of the most memorable I have ever experienced (one running and one playing).

    • August 17, 2015 at 11:21 AM

      We actually just mentioned one of those events in a session this weekend in regards to your ability to roll against Mark. Namely the duel between your water shugenja and his fire shugenja. We forget what the duel was about, but we remember the duel itself (and that Mark lost badly).

      • August 17, 2015 at 11:45 AM

        I still remember the dual as well but cannot at all remember what provoked it. I do remember that Slap the Wave overwhelmed Mark’s fire shugenja which ended that dual quickly.

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