Review – Naishou Province (L5R RPG)

            Naishou Province took an unusual route to widespread publication. It began as the setting for the feature module at GenCon 2013, for the Big RPG Night that Alderac was running for the second year in a row. Unfortunately for me [REDACTED because no one wants to hear me go on and on again about missing GenCon 2013]. Luckily for me, they later decided to release Naishou Province to the general public, and so here I’ve got it in my hot little hands. Naishou Province is a 96-page softcover book, and retails for about $20.

Naishou Province is divided into two sections – an overview of the province itself, and then the adventure set in the province that was run at GenCon 2013 (the book also contains a new basic school, the Lion Elite Spearmen). The overview of the province itself is much like those that are included with each of the books in the Elemental series, and are some of my favorite parts of those books. The province is presented as lying in an unspecified location in the empire, and in a way that it doesn’t matter all that much when in the Empire’s history it takes place (there are Unicorn and Mantis/Wasp NPCs, but they can easily be replaced with a ronin of essentially the same description if you’re playing in a time frame where those Clans don’t exist yet).

Not only is there a lot of flexibility in where/when Naishou Province is set, but it seems really easy to fit a group of PCs into it and then have them do things that matter. Naishou Province is physically isolated, and had therefore remained largely free of the influence of the clans until recently, when a bit of a spat occurred that resulted in an Imperial being temporarily placed in charge of the province while deciding which Clan will get to annex it. So PCs of any and every Clan would have a reason to be present in the province, and each now has a concrete and discrete goal that they can try achieve for their Clan, without turning your game world on its ear.

What about the province itself? Naishou Province sports one large town, one medium-sized town, and several identified villages, with the two town locked in something of a rivalry (one-sided so far, but perhaps the PCs could win favor by changing that …). Religion, especially worship of the Seven Fortunes, plays a heavy role in the life of Naishou Province, emphasizing the Rokugan-ness of the setting, and also giving priest or monk characters levers of their own to pull in attempting to secure the province for their clan. There are also a number of rumors of supernatural activity in specific spots in the province, each of which is presented so as to give the GM options between “these peasants will believe anything, won’t they” to “who knew that this river was actually home to a city worth of ningyo?”

The adventure, called A Plague of Crimes, is designed to be easily playable in a few hours (as one might expect from something originally for use in a 4-hour block at a convention). As one might guess from the title, a string of mysterious crimes have struck Naishou Province, and the PCs must investigate (by default, the governor has assigned them this task). The adventure covers ten villages, each of which has some sort of unusual criminal activity reported. As the PCs visit each village, they will (one hopes, anyway) piece together the clues to figure out the force behind the activity, and put an end to an insidious threat to the province.

Because A Plague of Crimes was designed for use at a convention, it also includes the characters who were available for play at the con – 11 of them, all Rank 2, covering all nine Great Clans (yes, there is a Spider character), as well as one from a Minor Clan (a Hare) and a Ronin. Presumably if this adventure is part of a regular campaign, these PCs won’t be used, but each is built with some reason to be in the province, so they could easily just become additional NCPs to populate the area.

Overall, Naishou Province presents a very nice addition to the L5R 4E roleplaying line, although as one might expect for a small setting and adventure book, one that is aimed at the GM or collector more than the player.

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