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A Guide to the L5R RPG Beta for New and Returning Players

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Yesterday, the free beta PDF of the fifth edition of the Legend of the Five Rings Roleplaying Game was released! I’ve been working on it alongside lead designer Max Brooke, and we’re tremendously excited to dive into the beta playtesting stage. The core mechanic should be both fresh and familiar to returning players, and for new players, we hope that it inspires a whole new generation. If you’re curious about what the new edition of the L5R RPG is all about, and how it’s similar and what’s different, read the below excerpt from the product page!

What is the Legend of the Five Rings Roleplaying Game about?

In the Legend of the Five Rings Roleplaying Game, players take on the roles of samurai from the seven Great Clans serving their lords across Rokugan, a rich and complex setting based on a fantastical and romanticized version of feudal Japan (while also taking inspiration from other East Asian myths, literature, and history). Characters are warriors, courtiers, priests, and monks defending their lord’s interests while upholding the Code of Bushidō, a code that demands samurai ignore their own desires in favor of justice, loyalty, and honor.

What lines will your character cross at their lord’s order? What desires will your character sacrifice to uphold their ideals? Adventures in the Legend of the Five Rings RPG take their cue from eastern storytelling, which valorizes individuals sacrificing themselves to maintain societal harmony, as opposed to western narratives that reward heroes for defying society. However, ideals and human emotions cannot easily be put aside even by the greatest of samurai, and this inner conflict drives the drama of Legend of the Five Rings.

How do I participate in the beta and provide feedback?

The Legend of the Five Ring Roleplaying Game Beta gives players everything they need to start running adventures in the world of Rokugan. Though it does not contain the full contents and character options of the future release, it has more than enough for you to begin roleplaying in Rokugan. You can download the beta , and sign up for our mailing list! After providing an email address for our mailing list, the Legend of the Five Rings development team will send out surveys every other week for players to provide feedback and distill their experiences in the world of Rokugan. This feedback will be read and taken into account when creating the final product, giving you a chance to influence what roleplaying in Rokugan looks like!

How is the Legend of the Five Rings RPG unique compared to other roleplaying games?

The Legend of the Five Rings RPG has always focused on encouraging character growth, society, intrigue, and politics in a richly developed fantasy setting. The primary struggle that characters face in the game is an internal one: what do you do when your personal feelings conflict with your duty? What do you do when two tenets of Bushidō are in opposition, or when your loyalty to your lord demands that you commit a dishonorable act? A samurai must choose.

We have zeroed in on these questions of samurai drama to help players and Game Masters facilitate that drama during play by introducing ninjō (your human desires), giri (your obligation to society), and strife (a measure of how much emotion is swirling beneath your character’s stoic façade) to a player’s character sheet and the GM’s campaign sheet. These function alongside a character’s honor, glory, and status values, which operate slightly differently than past editions. We’ve handed agency back to the players, shifting from a punishment inflicted by the GM (losing honor for committing dishonorable deeds) to giving players a more active role in their character’s destiny (forfeiting honor to commit dishonorable deeds).

Does the Legend of the Five Rings RPG use the Genesys system?

No! The Legend of the Five Rings RPG uses a completely different system, taking elements from the original Roll and Keep system and combining that with custom dice. For more information on this, read on.

How does task resolution work in the Legend of the Five Rings RPG?

The idea of making players choose also extends to the core mechanic of the game, which draws elements from Roll and Keep, while using custom dice. Similar to how dice pools were constructed in previous editions, players add Skill dice equal to their ranks in their skill and Ring dice equal to their ranks in the ring that matches their approach, roll them together, and then keep a number of dice equal to their ring rank. Now, however, instead of tallying up numeric values on a ten-sided die (and almost always choosing the highest values by default), players must now decide for themselves how the narrative unfolds based on the possible dice results.

There are success symbols that allow players to achieve their intentions, which they accumulate and compare to a Target Number from 1 to 8. The more bonus successes you accumulate, the better you do at the task (or the more damage you inflict on your enemies). Conversely, your shortfall can mean bad things happen to your character if they fail by a significant amount. Exploding success symbols enable players to roll and keep additional dice, while opportunity symbols let players pursue mechanical or narrative opportunities that can be activated independent of success and failure—your character might succeed or fail to persuade the other courtier, but as a player you can introduce a new wrinkle to the scene, such as another character’s arrival, or a heretofore unnoticed detail about the environment. Strife frequently appears beside all three symbols to represent a character’s emotions being stirred up by the task at hand, so players must be strategic when deciding at what emotional cost their character will secure a victory or push to activate special abilities. Do they keep a die and succeed, but lose their composure? Or do they accept failure now and find another avenue with this opportunity?

How are opportunities different from raises in past editions?

Opportunity is a new mechanic for the fifth edition of the Legend of the Five Rings RPG that allows players to contribute to the unfolding narrative with new and interesting details, or to activate powerful techniques, including kata, kihō, shugenja invocations, and a totally new form of technique called shūji. Shūji are rhetorical devices courtiers use to outmaneuver their rivals in intrigues or rally their allies on the battlefield. Opportunity is reminiscent of the raise mechanic from previous editions, in which players could raise the difficulty of a task to perform cool side effects. This time, however, opportunities are one of the choices players can make while keeping dice, as opposed to calling raises before the roll. Opportunity resolves independently of success and failure, so players can help guide the direction of the scene even if their character doesn’t accomplish their intentions.

How do I get the custom dice to use for the beta?

The dice used for the Legend of the Five Rings Roleplaying Game are unique in nature, using custom symbols. While the beta contains a conversion chart that allows you to use standard six-sided and twelve-sided dice for checks, Fantasy Flight Games has also created a dice app which can be downloaded from the App Store or Google Play! The app features a standard set of dice as well as the custom dice featured in the game, inviting you to perform checks with just the click of a few buttons!

How do I create a character in the new edition?

Character creation is another process that should feel both fresh and familiar for returning players. The Game of Twenty Questions has been expanded to include the mechanical side of building a character as well as the narrative side, but players are still choosing their clan, family, school, skills, advantages, disadvantages, and more. Advantages and disadvantages function differently than they have in previous editions, but they still serve as some of the most defining means by which your character stands out—and struggles. Each advantage and disadvantage comes with a potent narrative ability as well as a mechanical ability that manipulates the dice pool or interacts with a character’s strife level.

How are my character’s physical, mental, and spiritual characteristics represented mechanically?

In the new edition, we have moved away from rings and traits that measure specific characteristics, such as Stamina and Willpower. Instead, the rings now reflect a character’s personality and methodology. A courtier with a high fire ring is more successful when they give their speeches passionately, powerfully, and creatively, while one with a high air ring is subtle, cunning, and perceptive. A warrior with a high water ring is adaptable and seeks to redirect their enemies’ energy against them, whereas a combatant with a high void ring fights instinctively, moving in tune with the flow of the universe. A shugenja with a high air ring is precise and graceful, which allows her to commune with air spirits more intuitively than a more rigid shugenja who relies on recollection and logic with their earth ring. This change provides more roleplaying cues while also adding interesting variation in the difficulties associated with a given check: some tasks will be easier with different approaches, and other tasks will be harder. Stances, techniques, advantages, disadvantages, and specific uses of the Opportunity symbol also key off of the elemental approach the character uses to pursue their goals.

What skills are there, and how do they relate to the elemental approaches?

We’ve streamlined the list of skills considerably compared with previous editions, but we’ve included options to GMs to break skills into distinct subskills to represent a greater focus on that element within a specific campaign. Skills are grouped into Artisan, Social, Scholar, Martial, and Trade skills, and each skill grouping has specific ways in which they can be paired with the elemental approaches. For example, to recall details a particular law, a character would use the earth approach with the Government skill. To charm another samurai into doing what they want them to do, a character would use the water approach with the Courtesy skill (if they’re being polite to a superior) or the Command skill (if they’re ordering a subordinate). To analyze a particular sword and discern details about its creator or properties, a character would pair the air approach with the Smithing skill. In this way, characters can approach problems in ways that suit their personality, but they cannot rely on the same approach to succeed every time.

To dive deeper into the rules for the fifth edition of the Legend of the Five Rings Roleplaying Game and start playing, download the beta rulebook PDF, available now!

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