‘Say not that honor is the child of boldness, Nor believe that death alone can pay its price: It is not to a single action that honor is due, But to the life that enfolds it. – Lady Doji
Ah… what isn’t to like about the Legend of the Five Rings RPG, especially the 1st Edition circa 1998-99? The above quote comes from The Way of the Crane, one of a half dozen spectacular supplements that dedicate themselves to the great clans of the L5R setting.
This particular one, written by Ree Soesbee, is a wonderful piece of gaming fiction that I’d highly recommend to anyone searching for a truly inspired game setting in which players will have just as much fun surviving a winter court as the wilds of the Shadowlands.
Still, these posts always boil down to artwork and I can honestly say I can find nothing wrong with this book. Beginning with the cover piece by Brian Snoddy [of later Privateer Press fame] it captures the unabashed spirit of not only the Crane Clan, but also the power of the deeply honorable samurai that rule over the setting.
Inside the cover, there is no mistaking that the book was produced before the full bloom of ‘the color RPG generation’, but to me that often speaks to a time when art was pure and had to work on its own accord instead of being overly art directed in the digital form. And speaking of art directed, the book doesn’t even list an Art Director among the credits, although Cris Dornaus and Steve Hough do get listed as ‘artwork prepress’ which may indicate they had some say over the direction.
No matter the case, the book is simply stunning with eleven unique talents adding images ranging from comic inspired to e-maki style screen pieces. I’d call for standouts here, but really all artists deserve credit so I’ll list them first, Audrey Corman, Liz Danforth, Cris Dornaus, Jason Felix, Carl Frank, Scott James, Scott Johnson, KC Lancaster, Bradley K McDevitt, Ramon Perez, and Brian Snoddy.
Of those, I have to say Cris Dornaus always struck a chord with her full-lipped heroines and her dour heroes. She absolutely represents everything the setting means in my mind as she worked on every one of these ‘Way’ books, and for that she has captured my loyalty.
In all, Aldrec Entertainment hit a home run with The Way of the Crane.
Artistic Rating: 4.5 [out of 5]