Thursday, September 23, 2010

Legend of the 5 Rings: The Great Clans

I figure it's been waaaay too long since my last article on Legend of the 5 Rings (L5R), and since we've got a spot open today, I want to take a look at the Great Clans. As I've mentioned in previous posts, I'm pretty much brand new to L5R. 4th Edition Core was the first L5R book I picked up, and I don't regret it even a tiny bit. The production quality immense and the writing has a quality that's quite addictive.

Enough about the book - you'll be getting a full review with tons of pictures down the line - today we talk of the Great Clans of Rokugan (the setting of L5R)! Keep Reading to see where The Hopeless Gamer may see himself in the future.

I love Samurai - they're completely one of my irrationally cool things I adore. I believe it all started with Samurai Pizza Cats and then was matured (just a bit) with my obsession of Ronin Warriors as a middle schooler. Both of these animes represent the powerful branding power of the word "Samurai" or "Ronin" but fail to convey the real weight those tropes should carry.

I finally got into the hard stuff - Akira Kurosawa films - in high school, and I haven't looked back. L5R hits me on a real gut level where I can easily picture the great Toshiro Mifune portraying a character from pretty much every one of the Great Clans. I'm not sure why it took me so long to take the L5R plunge, but I'm very happy I did it at this time. It's a perfect jumping on point to the game as they not only have the core book but also the equally as pretty Enemies of the Empire (which you'll see a review of as well) and the GM Screen. You'd be pretty much set with those three items to run any game you could want.

There's your preamble, now on to the meat - the Clans! L5R 4th Edition hosts 9 Great Clans: Crab, Crane, Dragon, Lion, Mantis, Phoenix, Scorpion, and Unicorn.

For those of you new to L5R (like myself just a few months ago), here's the elevator pitch for each clan:

Crab: They defend greater Rokugan from demons but are brutes in polite company that couldn't debate their way out of a paper bag.
Crane: Polar opposite to the Crab, the Crane focus on courtly gestures and winning through political compromise and expertise rather than the strength in their arms.
Dragon: These are the oddball guys. They live in the mountains and finding their own path is enough of a life goal in and of itself.
Lion: The military arm of the emperor. Blood thirsty while being honor-bound, they keep up appearances and are easily led into political traps.
Mantis: Mantis is the upstart Great Clan. Formerly a minor clan, they now work constantly to be recognized on even-footing with the other Great Clans. They have some powerful sea and archery masters amongst them.
Phoenix: They are the undisputed masters of the mystical arts. The Shugneja (basically magic users in L5R) of th Phoenix are dangerous and unpredicatable - both a result of the power they hold.
Scorpion: If you've played a Game of Thrones, they are the coolest parts of Lannister and Martell. They care not for personal honor but will do anything to preserve the empire. Anything.
Unicorn: The Unicorn are the "Lost" Great Clan. After exploring the desert beyond Rokugan they return and are masters of the horse and cavalry-related military tactics.

If you need a way to wrap your mind around how a Clan impacts a character, you can think of it as a kind of race/class hybrid if each race was able to equally do cool things in melee, at range, and with magic. See, each Clan gives you some choices to make: you get to choose which great family you're form and then again which school you were trained in (usually a Bushi (samurai warrior), a Shugenja (wizard monk), and/or Courtier (politically adroit individual)) that varies greatly from Clan to Clan. The Mantis, for instance have an entire school devouted to Archery because it's one of their specialties.

I've done some thinking about what Clan I would make my first character in, and I would have to go with the Unicorn. I chose them for two reasons. The first one is that they essentially are strangers in a strange land. If I do get the opportunity to play L5R 4th Ed., it'll be my first experience doing so. One of the neat things about L5R is how heavily focused on honor the game is. Because of this, you need to do things a little more within the confines of the rules of society. The Unicorn, being oddballs of Rokugan, would give me a great excuse for messing up some important traditionally greeting or something until I learn the proper way to behave.

The other reason I chose Unicorn is the Moto Bushi School - one of four options available for schools of the clan. I really like the heavy focus on their cavalry style of combat and the fact that they have Heavy Cavalry (an odd, but awesome thing to be seen in a Samurai army). The Unicorn also have a bit of the desert flair that I really like in my characters, and you can see that in the Rank 3 technique for the school, "Desert Wind Strike."

So there you have it, the Great Clans in a tiny little nutshell! While I like the Unicorn a lot, the Scorpion were a close second given their real tricksy nature, but the oddness of the Unicorn - without being malicious about it - won me over. Look forward to more L5R discussion and reviews in the future!

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