This is a couple months late. It has been sitting on my laptop as I was super busy with school. I will be posting a followup to this soon.
Around two weeks ago the first edition of the Legend of the Five Rings 5th edition beta was released. Legend of the Five Rings is a super Asian inspired setting that is basically Japanese and Chinese history and mythology on steroids.
This beta is my first experience with LoTFR and so far as a group we have made our characters and given the pdf a full read. My first impressions have been very positive. The system uses a modified Fantasy Flight Star Wars rpg system with the special dice which I love the idea of but I hate how expensive they are. To explain instead of using a d20 system they use dice with different symbols, you roll based on your stats and each affects the roll in ways that are different from just success or fail. I want to see it in action before making a firmer judgment.
Despite being in beta the system has a lot of options right now. Seven different clans, several families in each, and then within those clans are several schools. Character have a lot of niches that they can fill, you can be a cavalry archer, a spy, a political person of the court, an assassin, a heavy weapons user, an artisan, and this is just the obvious stuff and the first version of the beta. In a discussion with a friend who has played the 4th edition he has told me that more schools and families are coming which will provide even more options. Until I play the system more I cannot comment heavily upon the mechanics of the options or how they actually play but I am optimistic.
What has impressed me most about the system so far is the focus upon roleplay and character crafting. I love D&D 5e but it is a very combat focused system that encourages optimization first and character stories second. That is fine and I love that system a lot but it is nice to read over this system and see something geared far more toward roleplay. The system does this in three ways; the first is the use of twenty questions when building a character. You go through a sheet and answer twenty questions about your character that help to determine stats, motives, and goals. This is very helpful for crafting a character and I found some questions to be hard to craft a good answer for without really thinking about who my character is.
The second thing the system does is that you must take disadvantages. Disadvantages have mechanical downsides but the way they are done in this system makes choosing a disadvantage to actually be really interesting and engaging. There is a wide variety of them with the option of making a custom disadvantage. They help round out a character by forcing a player to choose a flaw and one that has actual consequences. What I like about this is that there are all sorts of cool ways that when making a character you can get interactions between advantages, disadvantages, and passions. As someone who loves making characters the advantages, disadvantages, and passions along with 20 questions got the gears turning and provided so much inspiration.
The third thing the system does well is that the flavor of the world is strong. The focus on a single unifying culture (you will be playing a flavor of Japanese/Chinese culture no matter what) helps to make the game more focused. Rather than a toolbox type game like D&D this one is far more focused on a specific experience within a culture, but that does not mean there is not variety. The seven great clans plus the variety of families within those clans further dividing into schools means there is a lot of possibilities of roleplay as your character grows up a navigates the culture and their situation. What I like is that it does not give just a general rule, but an exact history of each clan, the values that the clan holds true, a variety of behaviors and traditions that each clan holds, how each clan is seen in the empire, and what the political and duty of each clan. Navigating that identity as a player seems like it will be a lot of fun.
Overall my first impression is very positive, I am looking forward to playing and seeing what new content and tweaks they put in as the beta progresses. When we start playing or when new additions are added I will post more of my thoughts.