Show Me Your Stance
At AEG, our role-playing roots are deep and we always intended to do RPG’s as supplemental material to our storyline worlds. In the case of Legend of the Five Rings, the RPG material strengthened the connection players had to the story.
The core L5R RPG book was an opus and it was birthed in the same way the CCG was. Lots of healthy debates and teamwork.
I was a Dungeons and Dragons player so when I was introduced to our first RPG I expected to sit down, roll up a character, go kill some monsters, and steal some stuff. Life in the Emerald Empire was not about that and the way you played the game reflected that. The team led by John Wick delivered a nuanced and thematic game that captured life in the Emerald Empire better than we ever could have hoped. Less dice chucking, more role playing. We would play sessions where Great Clan emissaries debated land holdings and more often we would not be fighting the NPC’s we would be talking to them. Heresy. When we did finally fight it was dangerous and deadly. It turns out if you get sliced in half by a katana, you die. You don’t fight on for another 50 hit points and then have a cleric sew you up.
I still use the phrase “Show me your stance,” which in L5R was the less deadly way for two samurai to fight. You could tell from the stance of two samurai who was likely to win the battle so instead of fighting they would face off and the samurai who knew he was outmatched would concede. So cool.
The thing we did not expect to have happen is that RPG’s became a stable source of income for AEG. We got into the cycle of doing 3-6 books a year for the L5R RPG which meant we built up the company around that. It helped the CCG because we had quality story people doing work they could get paid for, and it did much more than help AEG stay afloat between CCG expansions.
I am scanning the internet and looking at the lists of L5R RPG products we published and to be honest I am bit astounded. Over 100 books through 4 Editions, and we haven’t started talking about the other RPG’s yet. When people ask how AEG got started, I tend to focus on the CCG story but it is very apparent that we were a CCG and RPG company. I will amend that as I describe us in the future.
There was some crossover between players of the CCG and RPG, but there were more players who did one or the other. The big thing that happened is that players of the RPG became invested in results of the CCG storyline events. In the beginning that was the only way to affect the storyline, and so having the same loyalties as many CCG players, the RPG players rooted for, advised on story decisions, and followed players who played for their same Clan. By Gencon 2017 the clans had become the teams of Rokugan and loyalty and excitement was running deeper than we could ever hope.
In 1998, the Legend of the Five Rings RPG won the Origins Award for Best Role-Playing Game of 1997.