Review – Enemies of the Empire

17 February, 2012

The Enemies of the Empire are surprisingly numerous and the reference to them is nearly indispensable for any Legends of the Five Rings campaign that is not focused purely on courtly machinations (and there are even useful resources for that as well).  It provides a wealth of information and along useful new game mechanics and character options.

Enemies of the Empire, a sourcebook for the Legends of the Five Rings RPG (4th edition) is a 290-page PDF (288 pages if you remove the covers), written by Shawn Carman, Robert Hobart, Brian Yoon; Kevin Blake, Mikael Brodu, Patrick Duke, Dave Laderoute, Maxime Lemaire, Jacob Ross, Ray Rupp, Rich Wulf, and Ryan Reese and published by AEG.

The layout is a straightforward design taken directly from the print version of the book, with a 2-column layout (and occasional one column commentary).  As is expected from AEG, Enemies of the Empire is lavishly illustrated with full color art throughout.  The table of contents is complete and there is an index as well, so finding what you are looking for should be easy the PDF book-marking is useful as well if not always intuitive.

After an opening piece of fiction, it moves onto a page of advice on gauging the threat, which is always a challenge especially in a system as deadly as Legends of the Five Rings can be.  The actual enemies list begins with animals, expanding the choices considerably for natural creatures.  Some of the animals can be useful for the characters and not just obstacles.

There are human enemies: the vile Bloodspeakers, detailing their history, organization and provides additional tricks and magic for them as well as some of the most notable (and powerful) bloodspeakers.  The sinister Kolat conspiracy, its machinations, plans, example agents of all tiers and new advantages, disadvantages and schools.  The Lost, humans who have fallen to the taint of the Shadowlands and often gained great power but at a terrible price, they have new schools, new Shadowlands powers and examples of some of the more well known of the Lost.  And the Ronin, who are given a plethora of new paths and the bands who teach them as well as three ronin shugenja schools (something lacking in the core rules).  All of which provide new options for player characters as well as providing a wealth of villains for the GM.  The new ronin bands, paths, and shugenja schools are especially welcome and make the option of playing a ronin much more feasible within the system.

Rokugan is also home to a variety of non-human cultures: The Naga, snake-people who are joined in a shared spiritual link.  The Nezumi, ratfolk who know the secret magic of names.  Both of which could, in the right campaign, be used as player characters.  Spirits and shapechangers from the other realms and the other ancient races of Rokugan: the Kenku, Kitsu, Ningyo, Trolls, Zokujin and the Tsuno -corrupted Kitsu- are further detailed as well (though not available for players).

True evil is not neglected: The ninja and other servants of the Nothing, which seeks to unravel reality are detailed.  The mighty Oni, direct manifestations of evil -complete with tools for making your own oni- and other creatures of the Shadowlands (along with advice on using the Shaodwlands in adventures).  Completing the options for evil there are the Undead which is combined with advice for running horror in the Rokugan setting.

The work concludes with an appendix featuring a set of random encounter tables.

Disclosure: As a featured reviewer for RPGNow/DriveThroughRPG, I received my copy of this product for free from the publisher for the purpose of this review.  Also, I am friends with several of the authors, but I hope that has not shaded my opinion of the product.


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