Legend of the Five Rings: Imperial Histories
Imperial Histories is a supplement for the Asian epic fantasy, martial arts system Legend of the Five Rings published by Alderac Entertainment Group.
By Lawrence “darth_kwan_doh” Grabowski
Imperial Histories details various historical eras of play for Legend of the Five Rings, including two that were selected as part of a writing contest. I have heard there is a second contest planned for Imperial Histories II
Before I get started I want to thank everyone who helped make my L5R core book review second most popular review of Quarter One. I hope in the future I can continue to offer up reviews that are that well-received.
Imperial Histories takes the reader through eight canonical eras or Rokugan’s history, one non-canonical future era, and one canonical-in-a-Marvel-alternate-universe-kind-of-way era. Each chapter contains the following sections:
An Overview of the Era: Each chapter takes the reader through the era in question, outlining any important relationships and events that occur.
The Status of the Clans: This section outlines the activities and mindset of each clan during the era in question.
The Era in Play: There are suggestions throughout the chapter for how the PCs can be integrated into the main plots of the era as well as any changes that might be necessary (non-existent schools or families for example)
Prominent Personalities: The major players of each era, as well as important minor players, receive a write up and a stat block.
New Mechanics: A lot of the mechanics are era-specific, but can be adapted to be whatever era you are playing in.
Imperial Histories provides information aiding readers in playing in a variety of historical eras. Like previous L5R books, IH introduces new mechanics as well as containing updates of previous schools, including many peoples favorite: the Sodan-Sezno. While the chapters of The Great Clans were largely identical in structure, this is not the case in IH. While there is some overlap in the layout of each chapter, they are designed to highlight the specific events in each era. As previously mentioned, scattered throughout the book are ways to integrate the PCs into each era’s major events as well as ways to integrate them into less grandiose campaigns.
Of particular interest are the two less-canonical entries, Heroes of Rokugan and The Thousand Years of Darkness . HoR is a fan made and run campaign that you can find here http://www.heroes-of-rokugan.com/. The HoR entry details the events of the campaign, which are heavily influenced by the outcomes of the various modules. The Thousand Years of Darkness details an era of play where Fu Leng is victorious at the Second Day of Thunder, leaving the PCs running from the Obsidian Legion, Hoturi the Heartless, the Dark Elemental Masters, Goju Hitomi, and the feared Ashura. They can call upon the aid of Diagotsu, traitorous dark master of the Void, the children of Toturi and Kaede, and the Kolat.
Publication Quality: 8 out of 10
This book receives a slight drop in score compared to the previous L5R 4th ed. books I’ve reviewed. The spine of the copy I have is starting to show some wear and tear. That said, this book continues to deliver the improved editing characteristic of 4th ed. as well as featuring a cover with the same curious tactile characteristics as previous books. The art in this book continues to draw from the CCG. Each chapter is populated by art that is contemporary to the era in question, where available.
Mechanics: 9 out of 10
The mechanics throughout the book are largely era specific, although they are easily adaptable to other eras of play. It includes things like rules for gunpowder, new ancestors, and the requisite new schools.
Value Add: 10 out of 10
Imperial Histories adds a variety of new mechanical information to the L5R universe allowing the representation of a host of different characters. That said, the greater value of the book is the host of historical information. Games in different historical eras barely scratch the surface of the possibilities of the book. Aside from being an interesting read, for those who enjoy consuming information, each era can be mined ruthlessly for plots and ideas.
Overall: 9 out of 10
I was somewhat disappointed by the mechanics of this book. I felt some of the mechanics were too narrow in use in their current form, outside of their specific era. That said, they are easy to adapt to other eras. I am a huge fan of consuming information, so I had a great time reading each era. While I don’t expect to play in The Thousand Years of Darkness or Heroes of Rokugan, they were especially great reads. HoR was especially interesting because I had heard so much about it previously. Overall, I would definitely recommend this book.