Legend of the Five Rings Roleplaying Game

Infobox RPG
title = Legend of the Five Rings
subtitle = Roleplaying Game

caption =
designer = Brian Yoon, Fred Wan, John Wick, Rich Wulf, Seth Mason, Shawn Carman
publisher = Alderac Entertainment Group
date = 1997 ("1st edition") 2000 ("d20") 2005 ("3rd edition")
genre = Fantasy
system = Custom
footnotes =

The Legend of the Five Rings Roleplaying Game is a role-playing game originally written by John Wick and published by Alderac Entertainment Group, under license from Five Rings Publishing Group, in 1997. The game uses the Legend of the Five Rings setting, and primarily the nation of Rokugan, which is based on feudal Japan with influences from other East Asian cultures.

Like most role-playing games, Legend of the Five Rings is played by one or more players and a game master, who controls the events that happen during the game as well as the non-player characters (also called "NPCs"). An aspect that sets Legend of the Five Rings apart from other games is the inclusion of courtiers and other non-combatant character types as valid player character types. Most role-playing games focus heavily on combat and non-combatants are generally only given as non-player characters, whereas in Legend of the Five Rings it is possible (although unlikely) to play an entire game with no scenes of combat at all.

In 1998, Legend of the Five Rings won the Origins Award for "Best Roleplaying Game of 1997". [cite web|url=http://www.originsgamefair.com/awards/1997/list-of-winners|title=Origins Award Winners (1997)]


The fictional setting of "Legend of the Five Rings" is similar to feudal Japan, though it also includes aspects of other Asian cultures, as well as magic and mythical beasts. There is no given name for the entire world which the setting describes, so "Rokugan" is used alternately to refer to the specific nation within the setting or to refer to the entire world.

Rokugani society is based on a clan structure, with seven (and later eight) so-called "Great Clans", as well as a number of minor clans. Great Clans are made up of several family lines, each with their own general purpose within the clan. Minor clans, on the other hand, generally only have one family. Each clan also has areas of land bequeathed by the emperor under their control. The emperor retains ownership off all lands, however, and the clans essentially rent the lands they use by paying taxes annually.


The game system of "Legend of the Five Rings" uses 10-sided dice exclusively. Normally, when a die is rolled and the result is 10 (normally marked '0' on the die), the die is said to "explode". In this situation, the player rolls again and the new result is added to the original result. If this second result is a 10, the player rolls a third time, totaling all three results. This process is repeated until the player rolls something other than 10.

Roll & Keep

The mechanic for which the game is most widely known is the "Roll & Keep" system, designed by Dave Williams and John Wick. When dice are rolled, there are two quantities given: a number of dice to be rolled and a number of dice to be "kept". The totals of the kept dice are added together, giving the player the total sum for his or her roll. For example, if a roll called for five dice to be rolled and three kept (said simply "five keep three" or written "5K3"), five dice would be rolled. Out of those five, the player would choose three (generally, but not necessarily, the player would choose the three with the highest values) whose values would be added together for the total value of the roll.


"Legend of the Five Rings" uses eight traits: Stamina, Willpower, Strength, Perception, Agility, Intelligence, Reflexes, and Awareness. The Traits are grouped into pairs associated with four elemental "Rings" (respectively to above): Earth, Water, Fire, and Air. The four Rings represent a limitation in character development, because in order for a character to advance, the level of his Rings must increase, and to increase a character’s Rings, both of the Ring’s associated Traits must increase.

There is a fifth Ring, called Void. This ring, like the other four, is taken from Miyamoto Musashi's "The Book of Five Rings", although "Nothingness" is a better translation of the text. In the game, Void represents a character’s inner strength, and its use allows a character to perform extraordinary actions, or to perform normal actions more efficiently.

Character creation

There are primarily two methods of creating characters in role-playing games: to roll dice to randomly generate attributes or to begin with a set number of points and a formula by which attributes can be purchased with these points. "Legend of the Five Rings" uses the latter method. Each new character begins with 45 "Character Points" to spend to create the character (except for ronin characters, which begin with 55). These points are spent to raise the level of the character’s Traits and Void Ring, to raise the level of the character’s skills, and to purchase new skills. In previous versions of the game, characters started with 30 points, or 45 for ronin.

These points may also be used to purchase "Advantages", which give the character some extra bonus or ability that is designed to help in certain situations (such as "Large", which increases the damage a character can inflict, or "Social Position", which increases that character’s standing in the courts of the land). Conversely, if a player so chooses, he can select a number of Disadvantages for his character, which give him extra Character Points to spend in other areas, but imposes some penalty on the character during play (such as "Small", which decreases the damage the character can inflict with certain weapons, or "Bad Reputation", which causes a great number of NPCs to dislike the character).

Character types

Most fantasy role-playing games have two basic types of characters: fighters and wizards. These characters will take many different, nuanced aspects of the forms, but most can either be traced back to a combatant-type or a magic-user-type (and sometimes both). "Legend of the Five Rings" has the "bushi" and "shugenja" to fill these roles (and to a lesser extent, the monk also fills the latter role), but has one more vital role to fill: the courtier. Unlike most fantasy role-playing games, the setting revolves heavily around the political intrigues and deal-making of the courts of the leaders of Rokugan, and as such, politico-type characters can hold great power through the course of the game.

While the main types of character are called "Bushi", "Shugenja", "Courtier", and even "Monk", there are many schools that do not explicitly use these names. However, most, if not all of these schools are variations on the basic types (such as the "Utaku Battle Maiden", a bushi school exclusive to females specializing in heavy cavalry, or the "Ise Zumi", a type of monk that gains power primarily through gaining magical tattoos instead of kiho).


External links

* [http://www.l5r.com Legend of the Five Rings] - The official Legend of the Five Rings home page.
* [http://www.alderac.com Alderac Entertainment Group] - The creators of Legend of the Five Rings.
* [http://l5r.wikicities.com The L5R Wiki] - The unofficial L5R Wiki, with story information about Legend of the Five Rings.
* [http://www.fiveringsonline.com Five Rings Online] - A five year standing L5R Online, Digichat based game, currently on its 3rd story arc.
* [http://www.heroes-of-rokugan.com/ Heroes of Rokugan] - An independently run (but supported by AEG) Living-style campaign.

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