Second in the series of elemental-themed sourcebooks for the timeline-neutral 4th Edition, the Book of Earth is the latest release on PDF.
The Book of Earth focuses on the facets that are relevant to Earth, as broken down to a look into War, the Court, Magic, Enlightenment and the Setting. Like the Book of Air, the Book of Earth also provides a self-contained setting that can be dropped into any campaign. For those looking for new Mechanics, they follow the same format as Book of Air, and have it all on the last chapter of the book.
I find that the approach of showing off each of elements as part of a greater culture and further subdivided per clan is a unique one, and the Book of Earth has some very good insights. My favorite section would have to be a discussion on armor, and the focus of Shiba Artisans creating ornate and functional armor for the bushi of the Phoenix was a very insightful touch.
I’m certain that Crab Clan fans will be very happy to get this book due to the focus and attention it gives to Heavy Weapons as well. There’s also a quick section that shows how to use non-standard Skill / Trait pairings that focus on Willpower and Stamina, some of the most underused traits that get some interesting new combinations for both combat and non-combat characters alike.
That said, all the Clans get something from the book. The discussion on armor, castles and sieges for example, apply to all the clans. GMs and Players alike will find inspiration and plot hooks dripping from nearly every sentence, and I can see how this can be an inspiration for character concepts that go beyond the usual Bushi-Courtier-Shugenja trifecta. Sumai Champion bushi? Why not. Shiba Artisan focusing on Armor? Absolutely.
Those who are looking at the spiritual side of the element need not fear as there’s a discussion on Earth magic, as well as the families that excel in it. The Tamori family for example is given some spotlight time here, as well as the infamous Chuda family. New Earth spells will make many shugenja players happy, and the Monks get their own set of kiho to shake things up.
Again the Book of Earth is a great addition to the L5R 4th Edition line. Much like the Book of Air, the book manages to expand the depth of culture and history of the setting while still remaining iconic and accessible to new players. Solid writing, combined with L5R’s always excellent artwork make this one a winner.