Legend of the Five Rings Role-Playing Game

From Academic Kids

The Legend of the Five Rings Role-Playing Game is a role-playing game originally 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"). One thing that sets Legend of the Five Rings apart from most other games is the mechanics that use only a 10-sided die. Most role-playing games use dice with a wide assortment of faces (4-sided, 6-sided, and 20-sided dice are common, and 8-sided, 12-sided, and even 100-sided dice are not unheard of). Another 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.




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, another die is rolled (or the same die is re-rolled) and the result is added to the original die. If this second die also rolls 10, another die is rolled and the result is added. This process is repeated until the die rolls something other than 10.

Roll & Keep

The mechanic for which the game is most widely known is the "Roll & Keep" system. When dice are rolled, there are two quantities give: 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.


Attributes (called "Traits" in Legend of the Five Rings) are common in most role-playing games to gauge a character’s level of ability in different physical or mental abilities, such as strength, agility, intelligence, and charisma. Legend of the Five Rings uses eight such Traits: Stamina, Willpower, Strength, Perception, Agility, Intelligence, Reflexes, and Awareness. A major difference in Legend of the Five Rings and other games, however, is that 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 and 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 30 "Character Points" to spend to create the character (except for ronin characters, which begin with 45). 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.

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).


The following is a list of the products released for Legend of the Five Rings, divided by series. Product numbers and adventure numbers (if applicable) are in parentheses.

Core Rule Books

  • Legend of the Five Rings: Roleplaying in the Emerald Empire (3001)- The First Edition main rule book.
  • Legend of the Five Rings, Second Edition: Player's Guide (3101)
  • Legend of the Five Rings, Second Edition: Game Master's Guide (3102)

"Way of" Series

The so-called "Way of" series was written to detail the lives of the different clans of Rokugan, as well as certain other groups. This series ran from the beginning of First Edition through Second Edition.

  • Way of the Crab (3007)
  • Way of the Crane (3009)
  • Way of the Dragon (3003)
  • Way of the Lion (3010)
  • Way of the Phoenix (3017)
  • Way of the Scorpion (3008)
  • Way of the Unicorn (3005)
  • Way of the Minor Clans (3021)
  • Way of the Naga (3014)
  • Way of the Wolf (3025) - The supplement detailing the lives of ronin.
  • Way of Shinsei (3028) - The supplement detailing the lives of monks.
  • Way of the Shadowlands (3030) - The supplement detailing the evils of the Shadowlands.
  • Way of the Nezumi (3032) - The supplement detailing the lives of the Nezumi.
  • Way of the Samurai (3106) - After the release of Oriental Adventures, the decision was made to make new releases compatible with both Second Edition and the d20 System, beginning with this book.
  • Way of the Ninja (3107)
  • Way of the Shugenja (3108)
  • Way of the Open Hand (3042) - Details on martial arts techniques.
  • Way of the Daimyo (3043) - Mechanics for courtiers, daimyo, and others of high social position.
  • Way of the Thief (3044) - Details on Rokugan's criminal underworld.

"Secrets" Series

This series updated each of the Great Clans and the Shadowlands for the Second Edition timeline, which had advanced forty years from the release of First Edition. It also gave specific rules for each group under the d20 System.

  • Secrets of the Crab (3036)
  • Secrets of the Crane (3037)
  • Secrets of the Dragon (3038)
  • Secrets of the Lion (3026)
  • Secrets of the Mantis (3034)
  • Secrets of the Phoenix (3035)
  • Secrets of the Scorpion (3027)
  • Secrets of the Shadowlands (3039)
  • Secrets of the Unicorn (3029)

Winter Court Series

The Winter Court series detailed life in and out of the courts of Rokugan and added many mechanics valuable to courtier characters. Each followed the events during a different year's Imperial winter court.

  • Winter Court: Kyuden Seppun (3016)
  • Winter Court: Kyuden Kakita (3024)
  • Winter Court: Kyuden Asako (3030) - This book was published under Second Edition, but it is currently the last of the Winter Court series, and continues the previous books' in style and substance.


Many adventure supplements were published for First Edition. These allowed a game master short on ideas (or creativity) to run a game without investing a great deal of effort. These adventures were released in several different series.

B - Bushido Series

  • Code of Bushido (B-1; 4003)
  • Legacy of the Forge (B-2; 4006)

I - Intrigue Series

  • Honor's Veil (I-1; 4001) - Contains the adventures "Murder at Kyotei Castle" and "Honor's Veil".
  • Bells of the Dead (I-2; 4009) - Released in 2000, this is the only adventure released for Second Edition.

M - High magic Series

  • Midnight's Blood (M-1; 4005)
  • Void in the Heavens (M-2; 4007)

S - Shadowlands Series

  • Tomb of Iuchiban (S-1; 3012) - Boxed set.
  • Twilight Honor (S-2; 4004) - Widely regarded as the worst L5R adventure ever published.
  • Lesser of Two Evils (S-3; 4008)

L - City of Lies

  • City of Lies (L-1; 3004) - Boxed set.
  • Night of a Thousand Screams (L-2; 4002)

O - Otosan Uchi

  • Otosan Uchi (3020) - Boxed set.

Campaign Settings

These books detail broad periods of time in Rokugan. They cover entire storyline arcs of the Legend of the Five Rings Collectible Card Game, giving adventure ideas and timeline-specific mechanics for the role-playing game.

  • Time of the Void (3033) - Covers the original "Clan War" storyline arc.
  • Hidden Emperor (3047) - Covers the "Jade" storyline arc.

Miscellaneous Books

  • The Book of the Shadowlands (3006) - A look at the Shadowlands through the journal of Kuni Mokuna.
  • Bearers of Jade: The Second Book of the Shadowlands (3019) - More information on the Shadowlands and suggestions for horror role-playing in Legend of the Five Rings.
  • The Complete Exotic Arms Guide (3040) - A weapons compendium.
  • Fortunes and Winds (3109) - Details of the different realms intersecting with Rokugan and their inhabitants. Dual system.
  • Gamemaster's Pack (3002) - Two different versions of this were released, each having a GM's screen and a small booklet containing errata and an adventure. The adventure in the first release was "The Hare Clan", and the second was "The Silence Within Sound".
  • Game Master's Survival Guide (3015) - A book of information on Rokugani culture and customs, as well as many tips for running a good adventure or campaign.
  • Legend of the Five Rings Live-Action Role Playing (3041) - Book describing rules for playing Legend of the Five Rings as a live-action game.
  • The Merchant's Guide to Rokugan (3023) - Disguised as a book detailing the economy of Rokugan and the activities of its merchant class, this was actually the book detailing the history and operations of the secret society known as the Kolat.
  • Minmura: The Village of Promises (4010) - An incredibly detailed village, able to be placed anywhere in Rokugan.
  • Unexpected Allies (3018) - A book of NPCs.
  • Walking the Way (3011) - A book of rare high-level spells, each with an adventure dealing with it.
  • The Way of Shadow (3013) - The supplement detailing the nameless, faceless evil known as the Shadow. Despite the name, this book is not generally considered to be part of the "Way of" series, which dealt with player character options. This book is a setting/adventure supplement.

Related Topics

See also Legend of the Five Rings (disambiguation) for other articles which share this name.

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