There’s a sense of incredible relief for the PDF-reading community of L5R this week with the release of the much awaited third installment of the L5R 4th Edition Element-themed sourcebooks: The Book of Fire.
The Book of Fire is perhaps one of the most sought after of the Element Books as it focuses on the Element most related to doing damage (though the book goes on to show that there’s more to fire than just burning and destruction.) As with the previous books, the Book of Fire is divided into several chapters that focuses on different facets of Rokugan as seen through the lens of the Element of fire. These facets are: War, Magic, Peace, Enlightenment and the Setting. The book is capped off with new Mechanics, as well as a mini-setting that could be used to run a campaign.
Kenjustu gets top billing in the Book of Fire’s section on War, and as a GM, I’m grateful for the amount of detail spent on expanding the culture of Kenjutsu in the setting, with the kind of intimate detail in the other Element books. Each Clan’s philosophy and approach to Kenjutsu is detailed with enough information to lend even more “realism” to how GMs can portray them in-game, which I personally find to be priceless when running a game so focused on a culture as different and unique as Rokugan.
Of course, there’s also the Martial Art of fire, Hitsu-Do, which focuses on a very offensive stance, with little focus on defensive methods. Again this is an Art open to all the Clans, though not all the Clans use it. The Crane Clan in particular tend to not care about it, but certain individuals might find it appropriate for themselves.
The Chapter on Magic focuses on the nature of the Fire Kami, and the schools of the Clans that have a close affinity to the Element. My favorie section here is a little portion that talks about the Notable uses of Creative Fire Spells, a section that is of much use to any Shugenja player.
The Fires of Peace is incredibly informative to me, as a Courtier fan. This takes the concept of Fire as Illumination, and focuses on the Phoenix and Lion Clan’s love of knowledge as a source of wisdom. I find it very important to have this chapter as many players often find the librarian / lorekeeper concept to be particularly boring.
The Book of Fire also contains some very interesting gems on Glassmaking, Poetry, Swordmaking (and the notes on the Celestial Swords and Bloodswords!) The final chapter, the Hundred STances Dogo, presents a unique setting where Kenjutsu is a big focus, lending itself well to games involving a lot of Bushi, though Courtiers and Shugenja can also find a lot to do given the Dojo’s political worth and how various schools find their way to it.
Among the new mechanics involved in the book are a few new paths for various clans, and mechanics fo the Taryu-Jiai, duelling between Shugenja. These resemble Iaijutsu Duels but are pretty spectacular displays of elemental magics that can make for an interesting climax of a session where Shugenja characters are at odds.
The Book of Fire is a remarkable addition to an already phenomenal line. The Elemental Books are a valuable addition to any L5R Collection, expanding the setting with the kind of detail that makes Rokugan unique while making it accessible to those who aren’t entirely familiar with the nuances of the setting.