While most people are already thinking of the new book out from AEG on the Burning Sands, being here in the Philippines means I probably won’t even see the book on local stores until weeks or months from now. That said, I have been fortunate enough to actually have a copy of one of the earlier supplements for Legend of the Five Rings, “Emerald Empire.”
Emerald Empire is the first hardback supplement for Legend of the Five Rings, 3rd Edition, and is meant to go into detail about the empire as a whole, and to put it simply, it does not disappoint when it comes to this objective.
L5R is a game that is as much about it’s setting as it is about the rules. The Rokugani Setting is a fantasy take on Japan and some other Asian cultures tied to it, and as such it requires much more worldbuilding to get used to than the standard western fantasy settings. It’s easy for people to imagine a western fantasy castle… but it’s harder for people to envision just how a Daimyo’s home might look.
That being said, Emerald Empire is, in one word, exhaustive. I loved how they broke everything down into chapters that dealt with everyday life, from politics to superstitions to food, clothing and festivals celebrated in each clan. Rather than having a completely homogenous pseudo-japan, the Clans are each given a real personality, and it’s now entirely possible to see where culture shock might set in if a Courtly Crane Clan samurai were somehow tasked to serve at the less than polite Crab Clan’s Wall.
I can’t really go and say that it’s well-researched given that it’s a fictional setting, but the book conveys a sense of authority, and that says a lot when talking about a setting book. It really does feel like a travel book, something you’d want to give visitors to a foreign country.
While admittedly the Crunch is few and far in between, whatever is actually statted out is interesting. Vassal families whose specialties vary from the stereotype of the clan are an interesting addition to gameplay, allowing people to pick a given family from a great clan and get the opportunity to make a name for themselves without feeling like a cookie cutter double of one of the major personalities of the game.
That being said, I can’t help but recommend this book highly to those who would play in an L5R campaign. Even those who don’t play the rpg, but love the setting will find this book enlightening at the very least and very entertaining in actually fleshing out the world of L5R even further.