Way back in the first edition, L5R had a series of supplements that covered each clan, giving mechanics, new schools biographies of notable heroes and essentially pulls back the curtain of stereotype to give an in-depth treatment of the Clans. 4th Edition’s The Great Clans does the same thing, except now it has the full weight of an entire span of Rokugani’s history to pull from, leading to what is essentially a more well-developed and interesting product.
I applaud the fact that they decided to release one massive volume as opposed to smaller books. While it could be argued that each of the chapters is technically smaller in page count as opposed to the thin softcover supplements of the older editions, the result is actually better. With the limited page count, the authors are then forced to focus their efforts to give as much per page as humanly possible.
Each Clan has one chapter, broken down to the following sections:
- An Overview
- A History of the Clan, which covers notable events
- Details on the Families of the Clan
- Biographies of notable heroes (complete with stat blocks)
- The Clan’s Lands and territories
- Special Aspects of the Clan, such as unique units or Clan-specific practices
- New Game Mechanics, including Ancestors
The way that the chapters are written are all clear and insightful, and I would gladly have players read through the relevant chapters for a given Clan for mono-Clan campaigns, such as the one I’m currently running.
Also included in the book are an appendix serving as a full chapter to discuss the nature of the Spider Clan, as well as another appendix serving as a discussion of the Vassal families of the various Clans (though with no mechanics, from what I can see, which is perhaps a small disappointment on my part.) And a third appendix that covers the ever-popular Heritage Tables wherein players that are making characters can rely on luck to add certain advantages or complications to their character’s lives at the start of a campaign.
The Great Clans is a book without an ounce of fat. Every bit of fluff serves to further insight to the clan, and the accompanying mechanics gives ways for players to further customize their characters without resorting to having to pick up stuff from other Clans just to be unique. The writing is clear, informative and displays the love and dedication of the authors to a setting that they are eager to share to the reader. As with all of L5R’s 4th Edition books, The Great Clans is also a work of art, featuring beautiful artwork, clear layouts and font choices that aren’t a pain to read. GMs and Players alike will find a ton of things that can enrich their campaigns, and Alderac continues their winning streak with the 4th Edition of Legend of the Five Rings as the best edition in the history of the L5R RPG.