Originating as a series chronicling David Gordon’s return to the Legend of the Five Rings CCG after a several year absence, Dave of the Five Rings continues on as he examines the current and future of the iconic world of Rokugan.
Chapter 18: Off to GenCon
Welcome, dear reader, to this special pre-Gen Con release of Dave of the Five Rings! At this time, I will be inaugurating my annual pilgrimage to the Grand Ole Con (and my second) as part of The Cardboard Republic. While I intend to spend a little less time this year haunting the CCG Hall as part of the Legend of the Five Rings player community and a little more time out on the expo floor, I did not feel that I could rightly face the excitement of this year’s Gen Con without one last contribution.
Gen Con 2015 is going to be a big one for L5R, as it marks the 20th Anniversary of the game, originally released by the Five Rings Publishing Group way back in 1995. Despite dwindling numbers in the CCG, the community continues as strong as ever, all while moving ever faster towards a strange and uncertain future. Under the direction of the new brand lead Dave Laderoute, you may recall the increased visibility of the storyline direction I have written about previously, and specifically the bold choice of placing the very story direction of the Clans themselves in the hands of their players through Story Choice votes. With the first Gen Con since this new direction literally beginning tomorrow, I have hope we might see a renaissance in this game’s community.
What to talk about first, however? Since my last article, AEG has announced the stakes of the various tournaments at Gen Con, unveiled the details of Siege: the Clan War, released the results of the Initial Story Path voting, resolved many of this year’s Kotei prizes in the form of bi-weekly fictions, and we’ve had our first major tournament victory since the release of Thunderous Acclaim.
Let’s go with the most compelling of these news items – that of the Initial Story Path Choices.
In the Spider Clan, there is no denying that Shourido Above All had a strong following. Rooted in community effort in an attempt to prevent the Story Choice imposed upon us from fracturing our player base further, the campaign for its presence in the storyline was a long and difficult one.
Ultimately, however, it did not take home the majority vote of the Spider Clan.
It didn’t even get the plurality vote.
With everything tallied and tabulated, 41% of the Spider Clan chose to Embrace the Darkness, forsaking their identity as a Great Clan in the favor of placing Daigotsu Kanpeki on the throne of Rokugan through the power of Jigoku. 34% of the Spider Clan chose Shourido Above All, to change the spirit of Rokugan itself through promoting the philosophy of personal power. Only 25% of the Spider Clan chose to Walk in the Light, turning their backs on service to Jigoku as the destruction of fools.
Ultimately, what does this mean? None of the three options managed to score a true majority over the other two, leaving it hopeful that all three will be represented in the story, albeit with a strong direction of Embrace.
Future Story Paths will see how the Spider Clan’s choice of Embracing the Darkness will pan out, and exactly how Shourido and those who Walk In The Light will be dealt with. Both groups remain vocal in the community, and perhaps that is the best part of the Story Choice. Votes were taken , voices were heard, and the game will change as a result.
As a proponent of the Shourido Above All Story Choice, I am genuinely proud of how well we did. Being only 7% behind the winning vote shows that the choice had as much resonance in the community as we had hoped. What had started during a brainstorming session on Shinden Fu Leng will leave a mark on the living world of Rokugan in some fashion. I can point towards that and say, “I own that. That was me.”
Legend of the Five Rings is built upon the promise that any of its players can leave a mark on the world we share in, and through community efforts to create and back Shourido Above All, we have done exactly that. Though we may have lost to Embrace the Darkness, we won the most important victory of all. We mattered.
Among the other Clans, the Initial Story Choice results have shown similar splits, with only the Unicorn Clan’s decision to build an army out of conquered gaijin and peasants claiming a true majority. The next closest is arguably the Lion Clan’s choice to find a new way, though that itself is also split.
Certain trends can be drawn, however. Nearly every faction chose deck types which favored Military conditions with very little political influence. If the Design Team keeps the cards on track for the Story Paths chosen, Onyx Edition may very well become the Military player’s playground.
Additionally, the Clans given the option to openly oppose Jigoku and the Spider Clan almost entirely chose that option, with the Crab, Crane, Lion, and Phoenix each favoring direct and immediate conflict with the new regime. Only the Scorpion Clan was split in that choice, with a strong percentage of their players favoring open conflict and a nearly equal percent favoring working with the Spider Clan to wipe out the Kolat.
Meanwhike, The Mantis Clan chose their means of rebirth in a post-Onyx world by following a new Yoritomo back to greatness, and the Dragon Clan showed curious wisdom in selecting the path that would lead them into conflict with every other Clan.
With half the Empire openly opposing him, it is curious how long Daigotsu Kanpeki will hold the throne after the beginning of Onyx Edition – or how much of the Empire will be lost in the fight. The second set of Story Path Choices will be coming out in September if AEG sticks to the three month schedule it has proposed, and we will begin to see the impact of the choices in the second expansion set of Onyx Edition. While it may be two full years before these player decisions start changing the CCG directly, their impact on the storyline may be felt much earlier, as the Story Team weaves the narrative of Rokugan towards the directions chosen by the players.
Elsewhere In Rokugan
In other news, the Crab Clan recently won the Bride of the Emperor event, selecting Hida Ayameko to be the bride of Iweko Seiken, the soon-to-be Emperor of Rokugan. As the only major tournament before Gen Con with Thunderous Acclaim being legal, its results are being scrutinized heavily by the community. The final match saw a Unicorn military deck lose to a Crab Clan Yasuki dishonor deck. The Top 8 saw the presence of Phoenix, Unicorn, Crab, Spider, Scorpion and Mantis. As a Spider player, the presence of multiple Dishonor decks in the Top 8 makes me apprehensive for Gen Con itself. Spider Clan decks have always been weak to Dishonor, but it shall be seen just how impactful the new Yajinden Sensei will be with its limited ability to turn off entering into play honor losses for specific Personalities.
The Holding House of Loose Silk has also received errata, preventing it from targeting its controller’s Personalities. A linchpin of the Kobi Conspiracy decks, this errata, combined with a previous errata on Oboro, the Liar, will likely see this style of deck removed from competitive play entirely. As the last expected errata or rules change before Gen Con 2015, the community has redoubled its efforts in playtesting tournament decks in preparation for the Main Event.
Many of the cards in Siege: Clan War have also been revealed alongside the themes and the mechanics. For those who recall my articles on Siege: Heart of Darkness from last Gen Con, I have high hopes that their sophomore effort will be even better. The Design Team has picked the most iconic time of Legend of the Five Rings history to showcase through the Siege mechanic. The Clan War was where the game began, twenty years ago, and the first story arc planned. It tells the story of the corruption of the last Hantei emperor into the mortal vessel of the dark god Fu Leng, and how seven heroes from seven Great Clans came together to strike him down and save the world.
From a design standpoint, the Siege: Clan Wars will be introducing several new unique Personalities, one for nearly each faction and theme. The only factions in Siege: Clan Wars not receiving a new card are the Spider Clan and the Naga, and many of the anti-Shadowlands (and by extension, Spider) cards in the set has left the Spider Clan community fairly disgruntled. Still, Siege is my favorite format of L5R, and the many highly desirable rare and uncommon Holdings in the Companion decks legal for the current environment has guaranteed my purchase of this product.
The new Story Team members, one of whom I recently interviewed, has also started releasing bi-weekly fictions with the goal of reflecting the many outstanding storyline prizes. At the same time, they have been staying on top of this Kotei season’s Icon victories while advancing the Thunderous Acclaim storyline itself. They are laying the groundwork upon which Onyx Edition will be built and showing the paths ahead. It’s not quite the pace of the old Friday Fictions during L5R’s heyday, but the new Story Team members are showing remarkable ability to provide the community with regular, well-written fiction showing us our impact on the world of Rokugan.
Finally, we come to Gen Con 2015 itself and the 20th Anniversary Celebration of Legend of the Five Rings. Interest in the event is high. AEG has unveiled the stakes of nearly all their official events, and announced their plans for the 20th Anniversary Celebration itself. The Main Event this year will be the Thirteenth Scroll, a 20 Festivals arc event with the standard qualifying tournaments (or “grinders” as they’re more commonly called) for Thursday and Friday, a semi-final tournament on Saturday, and the Finals on Sunday. Each Kotei win and sufficient performance in the Bride of the Emperor tournament grants an automatic seed into the semi-finals.
The story prize this year is the 13th Black Scroll itself, a powerful and dangerous artifact previously used to house the essence of a dark god. The winner’s Clan will come into the possession of the 13th Black Scroll, and the winner will choose a target in the game world for their Clan to consider using it on. Doing so will greatly weaken any divine being, or likely kill anyone less, but at an extremely high price. There is already a single bounty of $1,000 for it to be used against Yoritomo, and other bounties are already beginning to percolate.
In addition to the main event, there will be several side tournaments for lesser prizes. There is a Draft Invitational tournament on Thursday for those who already have a semi-finals seed, with the winner’s Clan learning more of the Dark Prophecy that has been slowly revealed over the summer’s Kotei season. There is also an L5R Modern tournament involving a warning from one of the Spirit Realms about the darkness ahead and several smaller Draft tournaments for inclusion in a Scenes of the Empire fiction.
Beyond that, there will be several Challenge Booths, likely playing against the Siege: Clan Wars deck, and there is the Hands of the Sun and Moon Draft tournament on Saturday morning. The top two finishers of that tournament will be able to name a personality of their faction to receive a visit from either the Jade Hand or the Obsidian Hand, bearers of two powerful artifacts of virtue and villainy, respectively. On the tabletop side of Rokugan, there will also be an official RPG event on Thursday night, similar to last year, with several smaller RPG events run by the Heroes of Rokugan group.
Finally, on Saturday night itself, there will be the 20th Anniversary Celebration itself. Held outside the Convention Center, the 20th Anniversary Celebration will be featuring the first look at the Naga, Onyx Edition, and a vote for the inaugural membership of the Legend of the Five Rings Hall of Fame. I can also likely guarantee there to be a costume contest, vast amounts of swag, and a general atmosphere of celebration and fun.
While I intend to spend less time covering L5R this year at Gen Con, I know there are certain events you will certainly find me at. I will be there for the Thursday morning Banzai. I will be there for the 20th Anniversary Celebration. And I will be there for the major RPG event. Many of us from Winter Court IV are also planning a get together at the 20th Anniversary Celebration, and it will be awesome to put some faces and voices to the people I spent three months politicking with.
And if encounter me there, dear reader, I will thank you for this journey you have taken with me. It was longer than I expected, but I have not regretted a step.
David Gordon is a regular contributor to the site. A storyteller by trade and avowed tabletop veteran, he also has a long and complicated past with L5R. These are his stories. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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