A Lordless Life

Previewing Rōnin Characters in Path of Waves


“When you reach town, you will need a vantage point overlooking the harbor, so you notice when the shipment arrives. Keiichi’s inn south of the docks will do. Pay, and he will let you stay as long as you want without asking questions. Why are you looking at me like that?”
“Forgive me, I—” The rōnin flushes. “I am surprised you know Keiichi’s.”
“Oh, I was not always a respectable old lady in a fancy castle. Do this thing for me well, and perhaps you will earn that story.”

Pre-order your own copy of Path of Waves at your local retailer or online through our website with free shipping in the continental U.S. today!

Rokugan is a land of honor and turmoil. As dangers both on the battlefield and in the courts threaten the throne, the seven Great Clans struggle to guide Rokugan through these troubled times and leave their mark on the Emerald Empire. In the Legend of the Five Rings Roleplaying Game, you have the chance to enter this fantastical empire and embark on your own unique journey that could lead Rokugan into a new age.

But there are those in Rokugan who exist outside of the Celestial Order. To them, the troubles and schemes of the Great Clans mean little as they fight tooth and nail just to survive on the fringes of the empire. In Path of Wavesyou gain insight into the lives of the rōnin, gaijin, and outcasts who see the Emerald Empire through different eyes, opened to the ugliness of a world set against them. But they also have a rare gift. No one gives them orders; no Great Clan decides who they are. They are truly free.

Today, we offer you a closer look at the life of the rōnin, which you may choose to embrace in the Path of Waves sourcebook for the Legend of the Five Rings Roleplaying Game—now available for pre-order at your local retailer or online through our website with free shipping within the continental United States!

Life of Rōnin

When most people think of rōnin, they think of fallen samurai—those who have openly rebelled against their lord and have been branded for their actions. However, there are many paths that lead to this end and not all of them are simple. If a samurai’s lord dies suddenly or retires without a chosen successor, the ensuing power vacuum may temporarily leave them rōnin in a “ghost fief;” and even once the new lord is installed, there is no guarantee of employment for new retainers. Others willingly leave or are left to wander the empire when their lords simply do not have the resources to keep them on. And still more spend a year after their gempuku traveling the country, earning a living through odd jobs or selling their fighting services to the highest bidder.

Regardless of what led them to this life, rōnin must spend their days traveling and attending to their basic needs by any means necessary. This may lead some to become a martial pilgrim, mercenary, criminal, or monk. Each Great Clan interacts with rōnin differently, and the choices open to them may vary greatly simply based on where they are in the empire. They may stand shoulder-to-should with Crab warriors beyond the Wall, or complete spying missions for the Crane who would never admit to such association, though they pay handsomely. But no matter where they go, it can still be difficult for rōnin to gain employment as many believe their very existence flies in the face of the Celestial Order. After all, if karma is flawless and dictates what one will become in their next life, how could a noble samurai ever fall to become a rōnin?

Living separate from the honor and privilege they experienced before, rōnin often have a complicated relationship with the tenets of Bushidō. For the rōnin who still believes in its ideals, there is only one recourse: personal adherence to this code. It is said that, regardless of status, all those whose life embodies Bushidō’s seven tenets are real samurai and will be judged to have fulfilled a samurai’s purpose in the final estimation. Any rōnin may live according to the tenets, but whether their actions will be rewarded cannot be known by any living soul. For many, it is easier to abandon these bonds and enjoy the life that is. But whatever rules a rōnin may follow, or not, they know that the choice is their own.

Discover Your True Self

To help you embrace your new life as a wandering rōnin, Path of Waves provides you with a new Game of Twenty Questions to reveal deeper insights into your characters that will create a solid foundation for an immersive adventure in the Legend of the Five Rings universe. If you are seeking to play a rōnin, gaijin, or peasant character, the revised set of questions helps you better tackles the nuances of struggling, surviving, and succeeding in life outside of the Great Clans in a society that loathes those who do not fit neatly into the Celestial Order. You will still need access to the Legend of the Five Rings Roleplaying Game Core Rulebook throughout the character-building process, but the additions you will find in Path of the Waves will breathe life into your characters like never before.

Mechanical attributes and modifiers are assigned to your character as you make vital decisions about your character’s desires, bonds, history, and regrets. As the character begins to take shape, you will learn all about the skills they learned while growing up in a specific region, what gets them in to and out of trouble, and how their past affects them now, among other details that will build a window into the soul of your character from which you will see the world through their eyes. Perhaps they have many mouths to feed back home and you are willing to take any job, no matter the risk, as you struggle to provide for them; or maybe you failed once and live in constant fear and anxiety, forcing you to always keep your promises no matter the cost. Always remember that your character is more than a set of statistics on paper—their personalities and values will change how they are likely to behave in a situation, and ultimately shape the adventure that you are about to embark on more than any other factor.

A Lonely Road

The life of a rōnin is arduous, but the adventures that await you when stepping into this role promise to be unparalleled. Will you embrace the freedom of a life outside the Celestial Order? There is no telling what trials await you, but you will know that the path you follow will be your own.

Pre-order your copy of Path of Waves (L5R10) at your local retailer today or online through our website—with free shipping within the continental United States—here!

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