The Imperial Herald
A Legend of the Five Rings Publication
The Imperial Herald - May, 2021
Welcome to the final issue of the Imperial Herald. What a long, strange trip it's been, but after 12 months of publications it's time to draw the shutters and sunset the site. Before we go, however, we will take a quick look at the final retail releases for the game, discuss the current state of competitive play, sit down for a wonderful chat with Steelfur and Kakita Kaori of the Emerald Legacy, go over the final changes we have made to the site, and then offer our farewells.
Make yourself a pot of tea and settle in for a good read.
New Releases - It Ends in Shadows
The final dynasty pack of the Temptations Cycle, Peace at Any Cost has been officially released, although sadly no card images for it (or Coils of Power) have been uploaded by Fantasy Flight Games (and likely never will be). As a result, FiveRingsDB (and thus Jigoku) are using user-scanned images with no Fantasy Flight watermark.
BushiBuilder has not uploaded any cards beyond the original spoilers, and Dan posted on Patreon on May 17 that "As of the publishing of this article, I won't be adding any new data to bushibuilder or updating the images (whenever FFG actually provides them). I'll keep the site up and running at least through the summer, likely longer, giving people enough time to transition over to using another builder, like fiveringsdb."
Dan, as creator of my deck builder of choice I'd like to thank you for all the work you have done. I'm still proud my Kotei-winning deck is on there, and I'm now going to have to print it out before it goes away!
Under Fu Leng's Shadow is also appearing on some shelves but has not been officially released yet (despite the original post announcing a May rollout). Again, FiveRingsDB has uploaded user scans of images, and these are also on Jigoku.
I get the keys to my new flat next month and have some custom furniture being made at the moment. One particular piece I'm looking forward to is a floating shelf in the study dedicated solely to my card games collection. It will be bittersweet to put this final box on the shelf; in a way it is a fitting end to the current narrative arc, but will it is also a symbol for what what might have been—a solo or co-operative game mode that should have continued well into the future.
Nevermind. The aesthetic of the Shadowlands card art is truly mesmerising, and the box will make a fitting capstone to anybody's physical Legend of the Five Rings collection.
Fiction - From the Sublime to the Ridiculous
I had a true lump in my throat when finishing the epilogue, and it was wonderful to see so many narrative arcs coming to a satisfying close. Most of the fictions produced by Fantasy Flight Games posed questions rather offer answers (as a way to invest readers in the ongoing narrative). And while this is all very well, good stories need closure so it was great to see this here.
Many Legend of the Five Rings stories also focus on people making what they think are the right decisions, only for these to end it personal or widespread tragedy. In this case, however, the clans did truly come together, and the final defeat of Okuma no Oni by Isawa Tadaka and Shiba Tsukune was authentic and fitting. While Katsuo the peasant gave it a good run, the symmetry of two beloved Phoenix characters working together to stem the darkness was a beautiful thing to behold. Bravo Robert Denton III, Marie Brennan and Katrina Ostrander.
May also saw the winners announced for the only fan contest to make it to the end of the Contest of Champions. Sadly, this made barely a splash in a Twitter post, which is a shame as the art is very cool. As an old-school Warhammer painter I particularly appreciated the framing and lighting in the Bayushi Shoju shot, and would like to congratulate all winners and entrants.
Meanwhile, the fan fiction contest was shot down by fear of arcane legal judgements, while the costume contest was cancelled due to concerns of cultural insensitivity (my wife is from a Japanese family, has a degree in Anthropology and a PhD in Linguistics, and is a devout third-wave feminist, but she can't see what all the fuss is about). Nevermind.
Meanwhile, The Great Clans of Rokugan, a compilation of Legend of the Five Rings novellas, was announced by Aconyte books. Bizarrely, this includes the already-published The Sword and the Spirits by Robert Denton III, Whispers of Shadow and Steel by Mari Murdock, Across the Burning Sands by Daniel Lovat Clark, along with Ice and Snow by Katrina Ostrander, the long-awaited Crane novella.
Quite why these novellas were chosen (and not The Eternal Knot or Trail of Shadows) is anyone's guess, as is why Ice and Snow was not released as a standalone novella to match the others on the shelf. There is also no word on the Lion novella, so we completionists will have to continue to live on in forlorn hope.
I cannot wait for my less-cramped shelf
Also, while trying to Google an image of the The Great Clans of Rokugan I came across the sixth book of the fourth edition of the Legend of the Five Rings roleplaying game. Damn, that looked good.
Competitive Play - Once More Unto the Breach
In the hubbub that followed the announcement in February we haven't been looking much at the Legend of the Five Rings competitive scene. Time to remedy that.
First and foremost, Clan War is on again with 108 players from around the world competing in 6 teams for domination.
At the time of writing, Mad Dogs Reloaded are stretching out their lead in Week 4. There is still a close fight in the midpack and plenty to play for going forward so keep an eye on Usagi's awesome weekly recaps in the L5R Global Discord Events server.
Discord League continues unabated with all competitions now running under the Jade Edict. As always, thank you to Jmart for hosting and posting all things Discord League:
Interview - Steelfur and Kakita Kaori of the Emerald Legacy
Who else to interview for our final conversation than representatives from the Emerald Legacy, the fan-led initiative to continue Legend of the Five Rings into the future. I was very happy to talk with Steelfur and Kakita Kaori to learn more about the EL's plans going forward.
Hello Kaori and Steelfur and welcome to The Emerald Dojo. Perhaps we can begin with each of you introducing yourselves and telling us how you got into the hobby?
Kaori: Hi, there. My name is Jeanne Kalvar, though online everyone calls me Kakita Kaori. I first introduced to L5R in 1996 when my friend Brent Keith took up the card game and introduced it to my husband and I. Later, we joined with some friends who had begun an RPG and began to play that. I first joined the L5R community for real when I was cruising the internet in 1998 or so and found a letter posted by Ree Soesbee to 'The Crane Clan' on the Crane message boards. I decided to write a fan fiction as the response, and ended up finding out a whole lot about the L5R community in response. I've stayed involved to one degree or another most of the years since.
Steelfur: Hi, so I’m Finbarr, though most of you know me as Steelfur. I saw L5R for the first time in the school cafe when I was about 12-13, my brother and his friends had just found it and picked it up. My brother got a starter (Crane) and I picked up one of the only clans left (Dragon). Being from a small town in Ireland I was hooked by tales of far off places, and the landscapes, magic, monks and warriors that it contained.
I already played magic but hadn’t enjoyed the community and found the Irish L5R community much more welcoming and I stuck around for quite a few years played L5R almost every weekend and at home with my brother (ask me about the Gold + Diamond Crane Honour deck meta, I dare you).
I stopped playing just before I went to university. The CCG model really started to weigh on me as a teenager who’s parents didn’t like buying cardboard and then as a student I needed money to enable any kind of social life in Dublin.
Unsurprisingly when the LCG was announced I bought in straight away and helped build a good scene in the London Legion and I’ve been playing ever since and that community now plays other games as well and continues to stay strong!
These days most of you will know me from other work I do online like the LLO tournament series, my YouTube videos and how much I like to talk on discord.
In addition to the many ways you have been involved in the community in one way or the other you are also both involved in the fan-continuation project (which I note has been retitled the Emerald Legacy, a much more pleasing shade of green). What drew you to this and what roles are you responsible for in the team?
Steelfur: I mean I sort of fell into mine, though I do manage quite a few projects in my day job.
I had realised that the game was finished about a year before it was cancelled (though I was a bit optimistic that something had just been delayed due to Covid) because as a play tester we had no active projects at the time once shadowlands wrapped up. So I had already started to talk to people and say “okay, who wants to do something when that happens?”
We started to talk about design, and OP and things that would look differently.
We weren’t nearly finished/ready when the game got cancelled and I quickly realised after talking about my own project that there was a lot more general appetite in the community to do something beyond the people I had already spoken to.
So then we reached out to nisei and asked them what they did and they said “get a group of people together who don’t want the jobs and recruit for people that do”.
So that then became the plan, I did a lot of the early admin in the first few weeks with application forms and that kind of thing but didn’t have the time to apply myself.
Then the project started and there is always a need for more helpers. So I just stuck around picking up bits of admin that needed doing like posting announcements and background work, and here we are.
Kaori: For me, a fit of temporary madness? I had heard of plans to create a follow up for the LCG, and was asked to apply for the position of story lead by players not associated with the Emerald Legacy project or its precursors. I think their feelings were that I know and love Legend of the Five Rings, and that I would work hard to carry on the best of the L5R traditions and storytelling into the future. I try to keep my commitments and I can't begin to tell you what a big effort this is going to be. I hope those that put me forward are happy with their choice when they see what we come up with.
Steelfur: or what its worth, I also wanted to ask Kaori to apply for the role but she beat me to it :-)
Steelfur, that's interesting the advice you were given by Nisei, but it actually makes a lot of sense. How else is the team looking to replicate the success of fan-continuation projects like Nisei, whilst avoiding less successful attempts such as Warhammer 40K: Conquest?
Steelfur: I mean of course we can only try, from what I've read and from people I've talked to projects like these have failed for a few reasons.
Firstly, and this is something that we have struggled with as well, is that not many people want to do the job, Its unpaid work, and it can take a decent chunk of time to actually do a proper job of this kind of project. In fact the biggest problem is finding people to do the jobs that aren't flashy and aren't even related to the card game.
Take designer for example, we had 20+ applicants for people who wanted to design cards for the game, even today you get messages and people posting, "hey I've got the perfect card that would fix unicorn", but behind all of that you need the people doing the non-flashy jobs, like spreadsheets and budgeting, website design, coding, project planning.
And L5R is lucky because we have those people, we have Zarzuckett who is doing great work on this project but also codes Jigoku in his spare time, we have Workerbee who not only made 5RDB but also designed the monthly discord league app with Siri. We genuinely have people willing to muck in and get things done.
There are other reasons these sort of projects can fail, often coming down to a lack of a coherent vision and an agreed goal. So one of the things we have been working to do on this project is make sure everyone is happy to work towards the same goal, and we all like the sound of where we are going (which I won't spoil) but safe to say there have been exciting plans.
And the third reason that these sort of projects have struggled in the past, is communities, is when elements of the community that people aren't as happy with come to the fore, and that leads other people to quit or walk away from the game. L5R is fantastic in that we have a brilliant community, but we also have a lot of baggage, so from the start of this project everyone agreed that there would be an Ethics, Diversity and Inclusion officer (EDI) on the committee. For us that wasn't optional, and we did get some pushback against that with people saying they thought it wasn't necessary, but it is. Especially as we deal with Asian culture and an Asian setting it really is vital that we have a member of the team with role that keeps us acting in the best way we can.
So really our "strategy for success", if you can call it that is to keep talking and communicating with the community, get as many good volunteers on board as we can to split the load, and then just try and keep the project running as smoothly as possible until we can show people our vision and hopefully get even more of their support. It could go wrong, and of course we are asking for a lot of faith from people to work with an IP they care about, but we've got to try at least? :-)
That all sounds great, and reassuring! When I think back to the fatal announcement from FFG in February it was remarkable just how quickly things turned from 'oh no' to 'let's start moving forward'. There had already been some planning going on behind the scenes in various guises, but it was also reassuring to see these projects come together under the same banner once everyone realised a shared vision was needed.
I think this speaks to the strength of the L5R community, and Kaori do you think this also speaks to the passion the community has for the world of L5R? While I think the FFG story team did a wonderful job of ending the current narrative arc on a high note, I'm sure there are many more stories to be told in the world of Rokugan...
Kaori: I think there is a lot of passion in the L5R community, though it certainly has come over some rough times! Right now might be some of its roughest times yet, though the book line from Asmodee press, the continuance of the RPG, and whatever promised product FFG has on the horizon gives me hope. For all its foibles and failings, tiny and niche as it might be, L5R and its community I think have a whole lot to offer.
There are many stories left to tell in the world of Rokugan. Fortunately, or unfortunately, depending on your point of view, Emerald Legacy won't be the only people telling them, which makes L5R a very unique challenge compared to, say, the Nisei project.
While Asmodee plans to carry on L5R in some fashion, it carries with it some version of the world and lore. There certainly are hints in the final fictions of a whole new storyline and great events left to come! And we at Emerald Legacy don't want to infringe on that great story, and we want to support it.
At the same time, Emerald Legacy won't carry forward the legacy of the competitive card games, CCG and LCG, without a story line that graces the card sets, and story tournaments that players can impact, in the hope of creating a grand world.
Bringing the end of the FFG Storyline together with an Emerald Legacy Storyline big and bold enough to have story tournaments, while allowing an Asmodee storyline to continue into some unknown future...It's going to be a really big challenge.
The ways that we choose to do that aren't going to please everyone...AEG and FFG failed to please everyone almost all the time, after all. We can only do our best to make it as good a story as we can.
It certainly is a challenge, and as you say there are many potential forks in the road ahead. I love the world and its characters, though, and I certainly wish you the best.
That brings me to the grey area of legal rights. Projects like Jigoku and Nisei operate under the good graces of a company that cannot formally acknowledge them, yet is well aware of their existence. How do you both hope to work with your team to create cards and stories in this world that we do not hold the rights to, and what would you like people to know about these challenges?
Steelfur: I think the thing that is important for people to understand is that we've discussed quite a few models of how this would look, and really what it comes down to is nothing is 100% safe, but distance creates safety.
You'll see some of the decisions we've taken and people will agree or disagree with them, but many of them have been taken to create some distance and breathing room between us and the original game and the IP that FFG is very much still working with. That distance should allow us to do more than we could do if we stayed completely aligned with them.
Kaori: We still are dedicated to keeping it as close as we can, and certainly to keeping what players love about L5R. Folks will just have to see if we manage to achieve that goal. As to how we do it, at least with the story, I'm afraid I'm going to have to keep those cards hidden until we play them. Otherwise, what will we have to write about?
Indeed so :-) Steel you mentioned earlier the sheer hard work that goes into something like this, and the fact that much of it will go unrewarded. If people are genuinely interested in creating something in this unique world, how could they help out?
Steelfur: So these sort of projects are run on energy and enthusiasm. The people currently doing the job will need support and will likely rotate out and back in a few times over the course of the project. Many hands make light work and delegation stops burnout.
At the moment we are looking for a long term coordinator. That’s someone with project management skills to be the heart of the project, not to tell the teams what to do but to keep the teams working together towards their shared goals.
We also need playtesters and writers, and volunteers for our EDI council, and then soon after that it will be local and regional OP teams and organisers.
Then in the near future we will need volunteer artists. As a community project, you’d understand we are never going to have a lot of money. So whilst we’d love to and maybe in the future we can commission some art. There will always be a space for volunteers who want to work with other passionate people in the community and see their art used on cards we make going forwards.
Really what I’m trying to get at is that this is a whole community effort. If it succeeds it will be because everyone who wants to keep the game alive will ask themselves “what can I do to help” and will get in touch. Passion and energy will rarely be turned away.
If that doesn’t happen and we don’t get those volunteers (on top of the awesome ones we already have) then the project might run out of steam. This is very much a time for deeds and not words.
Kaori: Steelfur said everything there better that I could! Mostly if people want to help me, other than those who are volunteering, I hope that when our stories do come out they enjoy them with an open mind. We won't be able to please everyone. But if people enjoy it as a fan effort, they can have Fun with it. And that makes it fun for us, which in turn makes this a heck of a lot less overwhelming. This is all just a bunch of volunteers after all.
Steelfur: Can’t agree more. Feedback is so vital. We don’t expect to get everything right. So if you don’t like something. Come talk to us. Give us feedback. And if you love something we do. Tell us that too. It will make it worthwhile.
The Emerald Dojo - All Good Things
I joke with my wife that she likes to start projects and I like to finish them, so it was important to me to end this site on the right note. With that in mind, we have a couple of things to announce before we say our final farewells.
First of all, a Game Modes guide has been added to the Starting Out section to help new players navigate the myriad of ways the game can now be played. In addition, Severijn has added excellent guides on Skirmish Play and The Jade Edict to the Deckbuilding section.
The second of these is important as, while we did discuss the idea of updating all guides on the site to reflect the Jade Edict rulings, we ultimately decided against this. The site is now over 130,000 words and it is quite a lot of work to keep the existing guides updated to reflect new card releases, Imperial Law updates, and the shifting meta. With the end of the retail game for all intents and purposes mirroring the end of Imperial Law, we decided to end our involvement with the site here as well.
One other big change is that we decided to archive the Clan Meta Guides as these are now very dated in a post-Jade Edict world. They will still exist in the Resources section for posterity, and are an interesting reminder of the moment of perfect beauty when we had up-to-date primer and meta guides for all clans in late 2020.
For any new players who enter the hobby the site will still exist as a tool to help them get the most out of the physical cards they purchase to play with friends and local playgroups. As for playing online, Severijn's insightful Jade Edict guide will point them in the right direction, but beyond this they are best joining the Discord server where the most up-to-date help can always be found.
We did do a final refresh of all gameplay and primer guides, however, to reflect the last packs of the Temptations Cycle and Under Fu Leng's Shadow. With this, I'm happy that the site will continue as a shrine to the final retail version of the game, and the good memories associated with it.
And speaking of good memories, it is time to say goodbye.
Sayonara from Severijn
Mono no Aware is is the way of things, and our website is no exception. I am proud of the Emerald Dojo as our little shrine for people that wish to learn what the Legend of the Five Rings is all about, especially as a card game.
I am a player of many games both alive and dead, and as time goes on, I have less and less time to learn the new game and figure out its nuances. The rules of the game certainly tell you what you can and cannot do in a game, but it doesn't tell you how to actually play the game or what you should pay attention to. For some of these, I had the great pleasure of having an online resource to help me figure out how people actually played the game. The best of these served as a jumping off point for me to explore and experience the game for myself without needing to go through the painful learning bits and without giving me too much bias. It was a pity that the Legend of the Five Rings did not have much to guide you other than Joe from Cincinnati's articles on topics like fate management and playing the game as a Crab. While those articles were pretty formative for how I learned to play the game better, it was a far cry from the websites that guided me for Middle-Earth and Star Wars Armada (shout outs to Mark's MECCG guide and cannotgetyourshipout respectively). I wanted more like that.
Then Paul released the first version of the Emerald Dojo and I was impressed by its quality and effort, especially in consistency of how everything was presented to the reader. Being the stickler that I am, I couldn't help myself but provide some advice on Phoenix and was soon invited to write myself. I had already been thinking of doing some forum threads on CardGameDB to help players avoid running into Way of the Crab Tsukune-first or any of the other big "gotcha" cards that are out there, and could not help myself leaving reviews on card here and there. Suffice to say, I was happy to contribute to this project that would hopefully help more players along, especially as the pandemic would sweep the world, making it harder for people to learn about the game.
Now, Mono no Aware is also applicable during the game's period of official support. Through herculean efforts, Paul managed to find a superb player for each of the factions and me for the Phoenix. We all wrote our primers and meta guides for the clans in due time and found out the hard way how quickly the meta moves to value different ideas. It was immediately outdated, but we still liked what we wrote and knew we didn't have the bandwidth to test every deck to the degree we needed to in order to give a complete image. This occurred again with my article on Rally, which was obsoleted within days from being written by the Jade Edict banning all Rally cards.
Now though, we move to a different period for the game. Official support, tournament play and the storyline have all but fully wrapped up, and so our own spot is also threatening to become obsolete. I believe that this will never truly be the case. Our primers and guides may not be up to date with the newest balance patches, especially as these change ever so quickly, but the lessons and insights these contain remain evergreen.
As we all learned when we over-fated a character late in the game, there's a time and place for everything, but one should not overstay their welcome. It is then with pride and pleasure that I look back at our cosy shrine for new players to browse and read through. I am grateful to have played an active role in it and wish to thank all the other contributors to our site: Konstantinos, Erik, Hunter, Saibrock, Poogin, Christian, LordShoju (whom we should all aspire to be like on Jigoku) and last but not least Paul without whom none of this would have happened.
Thank you for reading, take care of yourself and play on with the fortunes.
Sayonara from Paul
I remember hovering my cursor over the 'Add to Cart' button for quite a long time when I was first looking at the Legend of the Five Rings core set. I tend to dive pretty deeply into games I consider worthy, and I wasn't sure if I was ready for another time sink just yet. I had spent a lot of energy as a GM in World of Warcraft a few years earlier, and was also starting out as a teacher so most of my time was taken up with lesson planning and marking work. Still, my good friend Merlin (of the Hidden City Roller Derby) would not stop raving about the elegant game design, and the overall aesthetic was very pleasing...
Three years later and I certainly did dive hard. I could never have imagined when I first started popping components out of my three core sets that I would be running an active website, or be fortunate enough to interview the Head of Story for Fantasy Flight Games as part of the process.
I shudder to think how much money I've spent on additional core sets, Luxury Playstyle components, and petrol or plane tickets over the years, but I don't regret a moment of my time with the hobby. I have made friends here in Australia and around the world that I could never have conceived of, and retain truly-precious memories from my time with the game and this site. I still remember floating on air after (somehow) winning the Sydney Kotei as Unicorn, and I had to sneak out of the building for a cheeky sushi lunch to get some space afterwards.
I also remember the amazing camaraderie that came with being a member of the Australian World Cup team in 2020, and would love the chance do so again if the tournament runs in 2021. There is nothing like working with a team for a shared goal that you all believe in, and I wish my scheduling would allow me to compete the in the fantastic Clan War event.
Launching this site was another significant moment, as was taking the big step to invite dedicated clan curators to maintain the clan primer and meta guides on an ongoing basis. For anyone looking to involve themselves more deeply in a beloved hobby I highly recommend becoming a content creator of some kind. There is something about crafting unique content for an tight-knit community that I found deeply satisfying, and I'm very proud of what we've achieved.
Why end the site now then?
A part of me does want to continue. In many ways the shackles have been taken off and we as a community are free to create the stories we want to read and the game we want to play. The Emerald Dojo could play a role in this (and still might), but as mentioned earlier the site now contains more words than the average novel, and refreshing it means going over everything to check that banned cards are not referred to, typos are corrected, and subtle changes to the meta are reflected. In many ways a website with curated guides is archaic in a world of Discord, podcasts and Twitch, but I still enjoy reading and writing long-form content and hopefully the site did some good.
As mentioned I'm also getting ready to move into my own home for the first time next month, and I also plan to join my wife (who I haven't seen since COVID) in Finland at the end of the year. Given that the final retail release was scheduled for May, and that this month would also mark one year of Imperial Heralds, the timing felt right and our other curators agreed.
What a strange time it has been these last 18 months.
I do feel for Tyler and the game he was tasked to steward through extraordinary times. In preparing the recent Game Modes guide for the site I was reading through the many documents he created for Draft and Skirmish—two modes that never received a retail release, but which I think reflected a true desire to introduce the game to new players and expand the community. I also enjoyed the fictions he wrote for the game, and the time he took to chat on podcasts and Discord. While I don't agree with all of his design decisions, I think he did the right thing by the game under difficult circumstances. Thank you Tyler.
What we are left with, then, is a core set, 3 premium expansions, 7 clan packs and 5 complete cycles of dynasty packs. Not bad as far as Fantasy Flight Games LCGs go. Certainly, there is enough of a physical card pool to keep local game groups going, and I still very much enjoy playing with our regular group here in Canberra.
We are talking about a final farewell tournament here in Australia (I'm putting forward the name Notei for all unofficial tournaments going forward), and look forward to a final hurrah to make sure the retail game ends on a bang, not a whimper. I urge all regions and playgroups to do the same.
In online spaces, the Jade Edict has been embraced by the community and my interview with Steelfur and Kaori assures me that the future of card gaming in Rokugan is in good hands. They have an incredible amount of work to do, however, so be kind and offer genuine help and constructive criticism, rather than negativity that helps no one. I sympathise with Steel when he says that most of the work on fan projects is unglamourous and time consuming (maintaining the guides here on the Dojo is far less sexy than writing them for the first time), so I offer a deep bow to the designers, artists, coders, and testers who will carry the game forward.
With that I will sign off. A huge thank you to the clan curators for the Emerald Dojo: Enegon, Erik, Saibrook, Lordshoju, Poogin, and Christian, and especially my right hand man Severijn for being such a wonderful person to collaborate with. Most of all, a massive thank you to everyone who enjoyed the site and offered nothing but helpful feedback and ideas. You made it all worthwhile.
Stay safe, pray to the kami, and I'll see you down the road.