In the transition between 1996 & 1997 Alderac Entertainment Group decided to invest in creating the Legend of the Five Rings RPG. The 1995 split with company founder Jolly Blackburn over the direction the company was headed, namely the CCG market, created an opportunity to expand that was not in Blackburn’s original designs.
From the CCG of Legends of the Five Rings the RPG was also born and I say the world of role-playing is much better for it.
Written by John Wick who I believe is the absolute best game designer of the past two decades [and yes this includes Monte Cook] the game creates a fantastic world of China/Japan mash-up that is epically fun to play. Wick also creates a history so rich I often found the supplements worthy of a second or third read just for fun.
That said, I’m here to talk about the artwork which I also find intrinsically interesting to the genre. You see, Alderac hired Matthew D. Wilson as de-facto art director for the project who in turn brought in the artistic talents of Brian Snoddy.
Now if you don’t recognize these two names, you probably aren’t into miniature gaming as they both went on to form Privateer Press in 2000 featuring the world of the Iron Kingdoms. If you happen to own that original hard cover you will note its similarity to the L5R 1st Edition hardcover in a number of ways, namely Wilson’s color cover and Snoddy’s black and white interior illustrations.
Wilson’s L5R cover is set with his muted color pallet that comes standard with most of his work, and I have to say it is an interesting piece if not abundantly perspective driven and a bit overblown.
Snoddy, however, does a fantastic job with the interior pieces that happen to be some of my favorite designs of the 1990s [much as his work on Iron Kingdoms is stunning as well]
In all, the 1st Edition L5R is a classic treasure, to be appreciated for both its content and its artwork.
Artistic Rating: 3.5 [out of 5]