I have been thinking about playing L5R recently as a duet (one player, one GM), and a reply on twitter made me want to expand on the L5R lore and how it scares players and GMs.
L5R has been around for 20 years. And it’s history has both benefited and suffered from a large amount of beautiful fiction tied to the results of the trading card game that spawned the RPG, 4 editions of the RPG, and a veritable oni-load of accompanying source books.
This means that there is a huge amount of resources that the player and GM can use to enrich their game… and for those of us with a tad of anxiety, a gigantic amount of information you don’t know.
My personal experience made this almost painfully obvious. I sat at a table with three people who had been playing in some cases since the first edition and I was lost.
Major Clans, Minor Clans, Clans that no longer exist or changed name, several dynasties, multiple invasions, uncountable wars, and references to characters and their exploits that were deeply linked to every other thing on this list. And that wasn’t all: kami, oni, cultural norms cribbed from half a dozen real life societies in varying measures of anachronism, and lets not get started on the crossover with 7th Sea
I sat there for most of the first couple of sessions absolutely terrified of making a faux pas both in-game and around the table. Not pleasant.
And the truth is: it was mostly in my head. I still play games, including L5R, with most of these people. Back then and now they are kind and willing to explain whenever there is a gap in our knowledge (they’ll also drag me for any mistakes, but in a friendly way).
But the important thing is this: Knowledge of the intricacies of history and manners of Rokugan enhance play, but they are definitely not necessary. What is important is making sure the whole table is playing the same game, understanding the risks, and the meaning of the interactions they are having with the world.
This is true of ANY game, but it is something that often crops up when discussing Legend of the Five Rings. Just remember: Your Rokugan May Vary, and that is a good thing.