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 upon the game’s sale to FFG in 2015.
Chapter 48: Finding Your Fix
So I guess that was April, huh?
Welcome back, dear reader. Your continued support during this time of struggle for the entire world is appreciated. Know that choosing to spend your precious time each month reading these articles does mean a great deal. While I have been trying to remain an active participant in the online L5R Community, we are all experiencing a challenging time during the COVID-19 lockdowns. Even those of us who, like me, can be a bit of a recluse are struggling. Know that you are not alone out there.
And with that in mind, let us speak about April 2020 and Legend of the Five Rings.
No News is Still News
April 2020 was a very slow month in terms of overall news regarding L5R. Fantasy Flight Games continues to move forward with development per usual, though there have been (as expected) extensive shipping delays of any new product – at least within the United States. Distribution outside the US has seen the Dominion Cycle continue, on the other hand, with both Packs 3 and 4 out in the wild on the internet. Yet while they are now public knowledge, and the fact some of those cards absolutely merit discussion, I will be covering them in greater detail next month.
Pacing in these times has proven necessary.
Befriending The Highwayman
Without any new LCG releases in April, the game has effectively been stuck in a holding pattern, waiting for Spreading Shadows to hit the shelves. The RPG, by contrast, did see the debut of new material. Namely, the module which premiered at Gen Con 2019 was released for free along with its various support materials.
“The Highwayman” is written for a small party of characters created using the rules in Path of Waves who are hired to track down a missing sake shipment which vanished in unaligned lands along the borders of the haunted Shinomen Forest. My initial review of “The Highwayman” was mentioned during my Gen Con write up back in Chapter 40, and reviewing the full module shows that very little was noticeably changed between Gen Con and release.
It is a fun module, but one written very much with the idea of “ronin for hire” in mind. To adapt this for use in campaigns not focused around Path of Waves, I would recommend making the missing shipment a little more important, and focus less on the “payment” part.
The Story Continues
The one area where FFG has been most consistent in their L5R content, however, is with its fiction. FFG has been steadily releasing short fiction during this hiatus of physical product, and April saw the release of three short stories. D.G. Laderoute’s “How the World Ought to Work” follows the investigation of Toturi and Seppun Ishikawa into the attempted assassination of Toturi and shows the conflict inevitable when courtly ideals have to function in the day to day world of Otosan Uchi.
April also saw the release of the first two parts of Katrina Ostrander’s trilogy of short fiction following the exile of Bayushi Kachiko to Toshi Ranbo, and Doji Hotaru’s struggle to deal with the demands of war and honor. “Caged Birds” and “Violence Behind Courtliness” reaffirms Katrina’s title as the Master of ‘Ships in L5R fandom, setting the stage for a tale of the destiny, danger, and undeniable love which ties the hearts of Kachiko and Hotaru together.
And…that’s it. That’s April. That’s all we have. There are no Kotei, no releases, no new product, nothing. Once again, we are in the time of drought when it comes to L5R fanfare, but at least in this case it’s to be expected. The question then becomes, then: without the normal trappings of weekly game nights down at the friendly local gaming store to stay engaged, how has the community of L5R remained active?
Bushido in the Time of Coronavirus
Fortunately, that was already in place before the pandemic.
Social media has been very present in Legend of the Five Rings since its return, and while Fantasy Flight Games has not created an official L5R LCG community on Facebook (and the page they inherited from AEG has been quietly abandoned), the L5R community can generally be found in one of three places: the “Legend of the Five Rings: LCG” group on Facebook, the “L5R” group on Facebook, and the “Legend of the Five Rings – The Roleplaying Game (FFG)” group on Facebook. Each of these see regular engagement from the community, along with the occasional interaction from FFG’s staff. Tyler Parrott and the FFG Organized Play in particular are known for engaging almost exclusively in the first group, making it an effective place to start.
L5R also, unsurprisingly, has a robust presence on Discord. The main L5R Discord is maintained by the same people who run the Court Games podcast, and a link to this Discord can be found on their website. The Discord is central in organizing both the monthly L5R Discord Leagues, which see regular play of all skill levels and matches players all over the world, as well as the biennial L5R World Cup, which is currently ongoing. Most L5R podcasts also have their own Discord servers and serve as a central location for gathering players and staying engaged.
Now, that’s all well and good you may say, but beyond merely engaging with the community, are there any options to play L5R online?
Let me answer that by introducing you to Jigoku.Online, a free java-based web client used to play the L5R LCG online. Created by the same group who pioneered Jinteki.Online, the NetRunner online web client, Jigoku.Online platforms both the Discord League and the L5R World Cup. Since the start of the pandemic the London Legion Online group out of the United Kingdom, as well as the Good Omens online group out of Spain, have been active in using the Jigoku.Online platform to host international tournaments. It is regularly updated by a team of volunteers, programming in each card as they are released, and uses the watermarked images from FiveRingsDB to allow players from all over the world to enjoy the Legend of the Five Rings LCG.
It is important to note that Jigoku.Online is not supported (or even publicly acknowledged) by Fantasy Flight and is maintained entirely by a team of volunteers. While there is an option to donate directly to Jigoku.Online, such donations go towards maintaining the servers which host the thousands of games daily. FFG’s Community Fair Use language is written very carefully and specifically calls out that they do not support or approve any online version of their game not expressly published by Asmodee North America or Fantasy Flight Interactive. It is for these reasons, for instance, why any Tabletop Simulator versions of FFG’s games get taken down regularly. Fortunately for the community, Jigoku.Online remains in its unrecognized state, because without it, there is little doubt in anyone’s mind in the L5R community that the LCG would die.
If playing the modern LCG is not your thing but you still love L5R itself, I also would like to direct you to the L5R CCG Rebirth Project. Created by a group of fans of the old CCG, many of whom were playtesters or part of the Player Design Team, the L5R CCG Rebirth aims to pick up the torch from where AEG set it down and continue both the game they made as well as the storyline forward.
Though still in alpha, this has been a project that has been years in the making and is being handled by a group with a deep love of L5R as it once was. The L5R CCG Rebirth uses the Sun and Moon program (an old way to play the CCG online that existed for years under AEG but never quite reached widespread use). In many ways, it reminds me of a prettier version of Gempukku, an old online program which I actively participated in. I even once played Chris Bergstrom, the champion of the Second Day of Thunder at Gen Con 1998 on Gempukku, and pulled out a Darkest Magic victory.
If you are a fan of the old CCG and have some free time of late, or are feeling particularly nostalgic, I highly recommend giving the L5R CCG Rebirth a look. You will see a lot of old familiar faces, and I am happy to see their hard work come to fruition.
Time during the pandemic has also generated a sharp uptick of revised interest in RPGs, and L5R is no exception. And there are options available to aid you with that. On the one hand, Roll20 has an integrated Character Sheet for the FFG version of the L5R RPG, though there is no official support from FFG for either Roll20 or Fantasy Grounds. This absolutely limits the ability to engage with the Fantasy Flight version of the RPG and remains the single biggest challenge to the RPG’s success in the current environment.
Almost opposite this, the 4th Edition version of the AEG L5R RPG has seen a surge in popularity online since the beginning of social distancing. With its straightforward rules, lack of custom dice, and robust online community, it is quickly becoming the version of choice in playing L5R RPG online.
If this is something you would like to do, I would highly recommend checking out Heroes of Rokugan. Heroes of Rokugan is a fan-run living campaign of the L5R RPG supporting the AEG 4th Edition ruleset, which can still be purchased on DriveThruRPG. They are currently two thirds of the way through their fourth campaign, but you can access their previous campaigns through the website. The storyline of the fourth campaign is set 200 years after the storyline of their third campaign and explores a Rokugan that has become increasingly open to outside influences under the guidance of their latest Emperor. With an active online community, Heroes of Rokugan is a good place to get in your L5R fix while staying safe and socially distant.
And that is all for this month, dear reader. May is shaping up to be an interesting month to talk about, as FFG begins to move towards normalizing product releases again, and I will discuss the cards revealed in Packs 3 and 4 of the Dominion Cycle in the near future. Barring any other major announcements, I may even go into a deep dive on my feelings on the current state of Dueling in L5R LCG, and why adopting the Skirmish format’s rules for Dueling is the right move forward.
Until then, dear reader, stay safe, stay healthy.
Carry the Fortunes.
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 on Twitter.
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Photo Credits: Legend of the 5 Rings images by Fantasy Flight Games.