I was first introduced to the Legends of the Five Rings CCG back when it came out (I think it was somewhere around 1994-95) and my group wasn’t exactly impressed. Magic was the big game at the time so L5R was tossed to the side and forgotten.
I like the idea of playing a samurai and over the years wanted to pick up the L5R RPG, but no group I have ever played with shared my interest. So I never bothered buying any oriental themed games or supplements.
At Gen Con 2007 I stopped by the AEG booth and saw that a new edition of L5R had been released. ( Since then the edition has been revised and released as 3.5) No longer would I need to buy multiple books to play as the game only requires just one core rule book. After looking through the new edition and some really good salesmanship from the guy at the booth I gave in and bought it. When I asked if they were running demos I was directed toward the Heroes of Rokugan, L5R version of RPGA, and sat in on a game with the group.
The game is a lot of fun. I’ve never been a big fan of storytelling systems but this game definitely changed my mind. For someone who likes their games simple, L5R is probably not for them. L5R is kind of a living system and the game I sat in on required a lot more actual roleplaying in character than I am use to. Since I had never played the system I picked the "easiest" character to play, a dumb fighter/brute. Howwever, the intense amout of roleplay for this session meant that I pretty much did nothing. My group kept having to talk me out of starting fights, as the game was more political intrigue than hack n slash and I made the mistake of picking the one character that was pretty much useless. The one time I could have had a great fight, the GM told me after the game, was at the end of the adventure but the group all but held me down to stop me from attacking, so I never got the chance to kill anything. I still had a lot of fun though as I never get to be that character in a group, I always GM/DM.
The world of Rokugan is constantly evolving, and the story is constantly being updated which is great if you are that devoted to your system. Players of the CCG will understand this, but the depth and history of this game may be a bit much for the average RPG player.
Now before I scare any potential players away, it is not required that you follow the living world of Rokugan. Like any RPG setting your home games can be and do whatever you like. My home games have a lot more combat that the game I sat in on at Gen Con. The system is not difficult to learn and though it uses only d10, it should be no problem for most gamers.
If you are a d20 fan and you want to introduce your group to L5R you can still find the L5R d20 books on the internet or maybe even your local FLGS. I got mine at Gen Con for $5 each. The d20 version is a more than just D&D Oriental adventures as it still has the feel of the true L5R game, but with the added bonus of being ready to drop into your 3e D&D campaign.
Both the core L5R book and the d20 version are something I highly recommend.