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 49: Come What May
Black Lives Matter.
In a small divergence from my usual opening about the last month in Legend of the Five Rings, I feel that it would be lacking for me not to speak about the world beyond this game. For those who do not follow me on social media, I am more than simply a games journalist. I am also an activist, and I seek to uplift the voices of the disenfranchised and oppressed in the United States and beyond. While my personal focus is in indigenous activism, it has been an honor in the past to stand alongside the Black Lives Matter movement when they have stood for indigenous rights. And now, I stand with them in their fight for justice and life.
The impact of systemic, institutional racism in the United States cannot be over-exaggerated. It is the underpinnings of everything in this country. It is the gravity against which people have to struggle every single day. The darker your skin, the harder it is to just breathe in this country and many other places in the world. It does not have to be that way, however, and if we all work together, we can make this country better. It is a hard job, and it is the work of generations, but as my aunt taught me when she spoke of the struggle of the American Indian Movement in the 1970s, “the fight may be bigger than us, but it is not bigger than all of us.”
Donate your time. Educate yourself and others. Organize on social media and in the streets. Demonstrate your devotion to equity and diversity in everything you do. Yes, it is dangerous to be in crowds right now due to the pandemic alone, and I am not asking you to be unsafe, dear reader. Simply, it is an option.
Donate your money. The Bail Project helps thousands struggling against the financial challenges incurred by demonstrating. The American Civil Liberties Union fights for racial equity and justice throughout the United States, and does so with the financial support of donors. Black Voters Matter is a community activism group, mobilizing black voters to get registered and involved, which is the means by which lasting social change can be affected through the system that is already in place.
Donate your attention. It is hard right now to see what is going on in United States and the world. It hurts to witness the violence and suffering, but it is important that those who do not have to experience systemic racism to bear witness to it. It is natural to become upset. It is natural to grow angry, or sad, or to feel powerless. It is an experience, however, that black Americans have every day of their lives, without the ability to walk away or stop paying attention. At the barest minimum, cue up a video which lasts eight minutes and forty-six seconds, and just let it run without looking away or doing anything else. It drives home just how very long that time really is.
Above all that, reach out to marginalized voices in gaming and provide space for them to speak their truth. Listen and be engaged. The storm around us is not even halfway through, but we will see the far side of it together if we try.
Now, you may be asking, “Why is this relevant to Legend of the Five Rings?”
Fantasy Flight Games, the company which owns L5R, is headquartered in Roseville, Minnesota. Roseville is a stone’s throw from Minneapolis and St. Paul, the Twin Cities. Literally, while I was at the World Championships last year, I would go into Minneapolis regularly on foot for coffee. The wave of protests in the wake of the death of George Floyd started in Minneapolis, a city with a reputation for ethnic and racial division stretching back to the 1960s. The protests have been a long time in coming, and it is my sincere hope that when this all runs its course, the Minneapolis on the far side is a better, more equitable city eager to take up the hard work of racial justice in America.
Until there is justice, there can be no peace.
With that elucidated, dear reader, let us turn to May 2020 and Legend of the Five Rings – for what little information there is to report.
The short version is that May 2020 was a very slow month for L5R, which is to be expected considering the state of the world, receiving three pieces of short fiction and one Organized Play update. And let us speak of the Organized Play update first.
With both Origins and Gen Con officially canceled, Kotei Season is officially on hold. While Games Week in Madrid have not yet officially followed suit, restrictions on international travel are unlikely to abate by that point, making any sort of “World Championship” unfeasible.
While Fantasy Flight Organized Play has held off on making any official announcements cancelling its Grand Championships or extending the Season of War Kotei Season, it has removed the expiration date on its Hatamoto statuses earned after March 21, 2019. The Hatamoto status is one of the few prestige titles in Legend of the Five Rings, marking a person as a top of Clan finisher at a Premier event. The Hatamoto title comes with a standing invitation to the Winter Court World Championship and typically would expire after 2 years. I would like to extend my congratulations to the current “Perma-Motos” as they are being called and look forward to a time when we can start having events in person again. If you are curious, here is the full list of the current Hatamoto.
Threads of Honor
The one area where we have seen movement in May was with a trio of stories. “Truth and Lies” by Katrina Ostrander finished the story of Kachiko and Hotaru in Toshi Ranbo started in “Caged Birds” – and what a finish. The actions taken this story will likely continue to shape the narrative for years to come, and we shall see what will become of the two star-crossed lovers.
Next, the Imperial Court of Shoju’s regency continues to be a source of intrigue in Mari Murdock’s “Courtly Nets and Hidden Snares”, as Kakita Yoshi builds a resistance to Shoju’s control, finding a weakness in the least expected of places. Finally, Annie Vandermeer Mitsoda finishes the story choice of the Top Crab at Winter Court 2018 in “The Sea and the Sun’s Shadow”, following the mission of Yasuki Oguri and Kudaka out to a Watchtower on the Kaiu Wall which has fallen silent.
In Pursuit of Greatness
May also did reveal some of the LCG’s upcoming content, with FFG releasing a complete visual spoiler for In Pursuit of Truth, the third Dynasty Pack in the Dominion Cycle. Like Rokugan at War, In Pursuit of Truth has already been explosive in its impact on the game, primarily through the inclusion of an intensely powerful Neutral Event with the Rally keyword.
Lost Papers, a 0 Fate cost Event with Rally and a Reaction triggered ability, may in fact be the single least expensive card ever printed in L5R, as it does not cost Fate, does not take a Dynasty Action (and thus Passing Fate), and does not take a Dynasty Deck slot (due to Rally). It punishes decks which like to place Fate on their Characters, often bowing the most powerful character your opponent controls. Decks without the means to ready their Towers are being torn down by this single, ubiquitous card, and its presence is strongly poised to warp the meta in favor of Great Clans with the ability to ready their towers – most notably the Lion Clan who have not one (Ready for Battle), not two (In Service To My Lord), but three (Fan of Command) answers to bowing their tower.
And speaking of Lion Towers, In Pursuit of Truth provides the Lion Clan with one of the best cards printed to date. Master Tactician is a 5 Fate non-unique Bushi Commander Character who, as a trait, allows you to look at and play the top card of your Conflict deck as if it were in your hand up to three times a round, provided this Character is participating in Conflict and there is a Battlefield in play. With several powerful Battlefields, such as Favorable Ground and Makeshift War Camp, the second restriction is inconsequential.
This ability alone would almost be worth the 5 Fate, but add to this the 5 printed Military Skill, 5 printed Political Skill, and 3 Glory in the Clan with Prepare for War, the Master Tactician is more than capable of destroying any Province by itself. Finally, add to that the ruling that each copy of Master Tactician in play is tracked separately, two copies means being able to use the ability six times in a single turn. The Dominion Cycle continues to hand the Lion Clan one powerful tool after another, and it is only thanks to our current pandemic that this has not been the summer of Lion domination in all tournaments.
All is not lost for other Great Clans, however, as In Pursuit of Truth provides a few tools. The Scorpion Clan gains Silent Ones Monastery, an Eminent Province which limits the amount of Honor gained in a single phase to no more than 2. The Dragon Clan picks up Kitsuki Chiari, a unique character who can reveal four cards from your opponent’s hand and potentially discard one, which is a strong ability but questionable in its ability to knock the necessary cards out of your opponent’s hand. The Phoenix Clan gains the Student of the Tao, a powerful Character with the Rally keyword and a send home ability which can be used on both offense and defense. And The Unicorn Clan picks up Scholar of Renpet, whose greatest use is being a 1 Fate cost Rally Character.
For our sharp-eyed readers keyed into the Spoiler community of Legend of the Five Rings, there was also a photo spoiler for Campaigns of Conquest, the fourth pack in the Dominion Cycle. I have taken a look at this spoiler, and I will be happy to discuss these cards as early as next month, preferably when they are more available on a website not behind an Imgur wall.
To put it simply, the Unicorn Clan will be getting some nice toys, the Lion Clan continue to get everything they need, the Scorpion Clan continue to get useful tools, and the Dragon Clan get strange pieces of a puzzle which do not quite fit together right. In other words, of what has been leaked so far, no real surprises are in store there.
And…that’s the about it for Legend of the Five Rings in May. Spreading Shadows hit shelves in the US a little over a week ago, and we will hopefully see the remainder of the Dominion cycle shipping in July, August, September, and October. Celestial Realms and its accompanying adventure, “Wheel of Judgment”, should likewise hopefully be released in August, though the future of the RPG still remains nebulous in the transfer to Edge Entertainment Studios. There will no L5R RPG content as part of Free RPG Day, however.
Thank you again for your indulgence and your support in these trying times. Your readership means a great deal to me, and know that I will be here in July to speak about June. Who knows what the world will look like then? But hopefully, I will be here to see it with you.
Until then, dear reader.
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.