Disclaimer: I purchased this from Petrie’s (my FLGS) and am not being paid to review this product.
This week’s review covers Legend of the Five Rings’ Book of Fire. This is the third in their elemental series which takes a deeper look on how the elementals play out in all aspects of Rokugani life. Overall each book in this series has been better than the last. Book of Fire continues with this trend, but does not appear to continue with AEG’s editing issues that has plagued this line for years. Although in the table of contents we have a section titled World of Earth, instead of World of Fire. But this was the only glaring error in editing.
Fire consumes, fire creates, and fire transforms. This is the lens that the book views its topic through. The introduction gives us a brief overview of the book and these themes of fire. Then it walks through the core character mechanics that relate to fire. We find a discussion of advantages, disadvantages and skills here, as well as a look at the full attack stance. Wrapping up the introduction is a great discussion on running a fire-based campaign. This section has stood out as my favorite in all the elemental books. The style of fire is one of fast pacing and high action. Even though it only spends two pages on this style of gaming, it pairs well with the improvisational Air style and the detail orientated Earth style described in the previous books.
Fires of War
This chapter focus very heavily on kenjutsu and the katana as the expression of fire in the realm of war. We receive a brief history of kenjutsu in the Emerald Empire, and of the katana. The major kenjutsu schools of each of the major and the notable minor clans are discussed as well. The chapter then looks at use of knives in combat and the art of Hitsu-do, before finishing up with a look at warfare and the life of a soldier in Rokugan. Personally I would have liked a deeper look at the Mass Combat system but here is hoping that shows up in Book of Water.
Fires of Magic
The Fires of Magic covers the mystical nature of fire kami and their shugenja. It looks at the shugenja families that embrace fire in its varying capacities. Some of which, like the Phoenix families were obvious but the Asahina family of the Crane Clan was a very interesting choice. We then get insight into fire magic traditions and spells, again through the same three lenses as before: destruction, creation, and change. The writers dig a little deeper into the nature of fire kami, and how to deal with them; as well as giving us Taryu-Jiai, the art of Shugenja duels. Finally this chapter looks at elemental imbalances as they play out concerning fire.
Fires of Peace
This section digs into how the element of fire is applied in the courts of the Empire. After an explanation of the philosophy of fire, this chapter looks at the families and clans that embrace fire as a way of life for their courtiers. This chapter then describes some of the famous courts of fire, locations that embrace the philosophy of fire. And then finally, as one of the aspects of fire is intelligence, we get a look at the great libraries of the Empire.
Fires Within is the shortest chapter and focuses on the monastic orders and traditions of fire. We also get a look at the Kiho of fire and at the Elemental Keeper of Fire, Kakita Tsuken.
World of Fire
This chapter in all of the elemental series looks at the chosen element as it plays out in the Empire at large. We see how fire can be damaging on an Empire-wide scale with volcanos, drought and wildfire. The next section contains a very nice overview of the art of swordsmithing. Following this the chapter looks at crafting as it relates to the creation and use of charcoal and glass. Poetry is also covered here, as it is an art form that expresses the philosophy of fire.
Wrapped up in the World of Fire is this books bestiary and list of Nemuranai (magic items). The list of awakened weapons in this section is very impressive. It covers a wide choice of iconic and damning weapons from the whole of Rokugani history. This includes: the Bloodswords, the Celestial Swords, and the Shameswords.
Hundred Stance Dojo
Each book also provides the GM with a storyline neutral setting for them to drop into their campaign. The Book of Fire gives us the Hundred Stance Dojo. Founded on the tenants of an unknown ronin, it has been fought over since its inception and is now overseen by an Imperial Family. We are given history, descriptions, NPC’s, a mini campaign, and six story hooks relating to the dojo. This location is fantastic and provides everything a GM would need for a great game of L5R. Out of the three such settings, this one sits right behind the Book of Air’s Iron Flower Castle for my favorite one.
Like the rest of the books in this series, most of the new mechanical discussion is handled here at the end of the book. This section gives the players thirteen new alternate paths, three new monk schools, new katas, new spells and kihos. GMs get the rules for counterspelling, Taryu-Jiai, and new creatures to use in their games.
As I said before this series of supplements keeps getting better. It didn’t feel like the writers knew what they wanted from the series with the Book of Air. But they have continued to refine the content over each successive book. If you are a fan of the Legend of the Five Rings, this book has plenty of fluff for you. If you are playing in a game, or running a game, this books give you some great options to fill out your character both story wise and mechanically.