Legend of the Five Rings: Introduction

This was originally going to be something for my newsletter (for this month even) before other events overtook it and I realized this probably makes more sense as a series of blog posts anyway. Before I begin, allow a brief explanation about what Legend of the Five Rings is:

The Legend of the Five Rings (L5R) is a fictional fantasy setting that focuses on the empire of Rokugan, which borrows heavily from various feudal Asian cultures and (Japan in particular). It was originally associated with a Collectible Card game, however, this expanded over time to include a large amount of official fiction, a tabletop RPG system, and now a Living Card Game.

So all of that is nice, but why bring this up on a blog about my writing? Because it was probably the thing that introduced me to Asian culture and has undoubtedly had a strong influence on my writing as a result. Although there are a number of criticisms that can be leveled at L5R, notably that it westernizes the subject matter to fit the audience and portrays things in a (generally) idealized manner, it is a property that I have enjoyed throughout a significant portion of my life. That being the case, it seems worthwhile to discuss the setting and what I liked about it. Consider this an overview.

For now, I’m going to keep things short and simply discuss how I was introduced to the game.

At the time, I was in middle school—which in the US includes children from roughly 11-13 years of age—so it probably will not come as a surprise that I found out about the game through a friend. He showed me the game while I was visiting his house one day and showed me how to play. My first impressions were that the art was impressive (although in retrospect, not as good as I thought) and that the setting was very different from anything I’d seen before. What really sealed the deal for me, however, was when my friend started going into the game’s story.

Before we go any further, I think it is worth mentioning that L5R was not the first collectible card game I had been exposed to. By this time, Magic the Gathering had been out for a couple of years (I’d heard about it through a different friend). I liked what I had heard about that game, but it never clicked for me the same way L5R did. Ultimately I ended up playing both, but Magic was something I only did because sometimes my friends also ended up playing it. By contrast, L5R enthralled me, even though I was only ever a casual player.

I genuinely believe that the difference came down to the story aspects behind Legend of the Five Rings. The team behind L5R put a lot of effort into the narrative for the game, and that they allowed tournament results to impact the story in meaningful ways was a novel idea that heightened my interest. Although I am now aware that there is a story behind Magic the Gathering, it is not nearly as prominent. It is also worth saying that even if I had been exposed to Magic’s story, I likely would have still preferred L5R because the Asian-inspired setting seemed exotic.

This merely covers the very basics of why I got into the game. Obviously, there was quite a bit going on that kept me there as well, which I will be covering in later posts so keep watching here.