The Legend of the Five Rings Roleplaying Game (L5R RPG) by Fantasy Flight Games is the 4th Edition of the game. A new sourcebook and adventure have been released and in this article, we’re going to take a look at what’s inside them. We’re going to look at Courts of Stone, a guide to the courtly world in L5R, and Winter’s Embrace, a courtly adventure that coincides with the Courts of Stone sourcebook and takes players into the famous Winter Court.
For those interested in the L5R RPG, we’ve reviewed the Core Rulebook and Games Master’s Guide previously, and for those new to L5R or roleplaying in general, a fantastic starter set is available in the L5R RPG Beginners Pack. If you’re interested in the mechanics and setting of L5R, please read those articles first as here we’ll just discuss what’s in the new sourcebooks.
Courts of Stone
Courts of Stone is deceptive in its title and rightly so. What you may think you’re getting is a guide to the politics and ways of the court in Rokugan. And you do get some of that. The sourcebook details some of the most famous castles and palaces of the clans, including the fortress-palace of the Lion clan, Last Breath Castle and the beautiful Crane clan Kyuden Doji. It also includes a lot of details about the Crane clan itself, as masters of the court, and looks at their families and lands in detail. But then halfway through the book, in the Shadows of the Court chapter, it takes a turn.
The start of the 2nd chapter, titled, Wars and Worlds of Shadows, includes information and rules on the mystical Deer minor clan, who keep balance in the Emporer’s lands through arranging alliances and stealthy violence. It also includes a host of new and exciting schools with the Bayushi Deathdealer, Daidoji Spymaster, Ikoma Shadow, Mercenary Ninja schools and 2 schools for the Deer clan, the Shika Matchmaker and Shika Speardancer, offering both sides of the clan.
New character options are also included with new Distinctions like Famously Neutral, Passions like Decorum, Adversities like Lackluster and Anxieties like Isolation. New heritages and gear are also available and includes courtly and shinobi equipment and weapons. Shinobi players will be glad to add the ninjato and folding half-bow to their inventories.
Several new techniques, including a few ninjitsu techniques like Silent Elimination and Like a Ghost, which make your stealthy infiltrations easier, are added. New rituals like Formal Tea Ceremony and Treaty Signing add to player’s courtly abilities also fit very well into the details of this supplement.
The book ends with a great section for GM’s on running court, intrigue, and romance games, as well as engaging shinobi characters in games, which can be difficult to do if the party only includes one of those character types. It offers some great tips and guidance on keeping the shinobi player engaged, while not bogging down the whole party and keeping the flow of the game going.
Winter’s Embrace is a courtly adventure for the L5R RPG, that comes with FFG’s usual beautiful map and art character tokens. The map has the lands of the Crane on one-side and the palace of Kyuden Doji, where the adventure is set on the other.
The adventure is a 2-Act story that spans the multiple days of the Winter Court. It includes some great romance, courtly intrigue and social engagements, as well as detailing some interesting and famous rituals. It works very well with the Courts of Stone sourcebook, but all required rules for the adventure are included.
If you’ve enjoyed the pacing and detail from the adventures, either from the Beginners Set, GM’s Guide or those provided on FFG’s site, as a player or GM, then this will also appeal to you. The adventure deals with and gives access to a very interesting side of L5R, and while it includes some action, it is not full-on, so groups who want constant battle may not enjoy this. The romance side of the adventure is also handled well and can be included if players are interested in that side, but it isn’t compulsory for the storyline, or to enjoy the adventure.
A supplemental storyline for Winter’s Embrace, The Scroll or the Sword is available for free via the FFG website along with a host of other downloads like the Court Sheet and Winter’s Embrace Calendar.
Courts of Stone and Winter’s Embrace have been our favorite supplement and adventure released so far, and not just because of our eternal love for all things Shinobi. FFG are showing a very different side to L5R with these supplements and allowing players and GM’s access to a very interesting and powerful roleplaying aspect. Both supplements offer challenges, but also a huge amount of growth as well.
Have you played the L5R RPG? Which editions have you played? Which is your favorite clan? Let us know in the comments below.
These copies of the L5R RPG Courts of Stone and Winter’s Embrace were provided by Asmodee UK.