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The Legend of the Five Rings product line has a moderately interesting history (OOC and IC).

What I have been able to piece together of the setting's publishing history:

AD&D has a setting module Oriental Adventures, but it did not use the Rokugan setting.

By the time Oriental Adventures for D&D 3.0 ("OA") came out, Wizards of the Coast had acquired the license for L5R, including the Rokugan setting. The book features Rokugan as the setting. (L5R 1st and 2nd Edition were out by this time, and the setting was already in use.)

Since then several more editions of L5R have come out, including the current L5R 4th edition.

Some setting details are not the same between the editions. Because Rokugan is so strongly defined by its fluff, these differences could be significant. There are so many things any PC in L5R would never do because it is dishonourable (e.g. touching a corpse, let alone looting it).

Question

What are the in-setting differences between Rokugan as presented in Oriental Adventures for D&D and that presented in L5R 4th ed?

In terms of the in-universe history, I am only concerned with prior to year 1158, as that is when the Oriental Adventures timeline ends. I am not sure if there are significant historical differences or not, but I am only concerned with very major differences, particularly in how people behave.

Note I am not interested in mechanical changes. Though I am interested in the fluff explanations. (Eg if magic works different)

Differences I've already found

So far I have found:

  • OA: People eat meat. L5R: eating meat is taboo
  • OA: the Dragon Territory is super mysterious. Getting to a city in dragon lands is a truly fantastical experience—roads may move overnight, etc. L5R: The dragon don't like guests—expect barriers might show up in your way, but nothing beyond the mundane or the capacity of a Shugenja.

Rational

None of my players, or myself, have played any version of Oriental Adventures, or L5R other than 4the ed, and most of us have played D&D 3.5 if not 3.0.

I want to play D&D 3.0 Oriental Adventures with them. As everyone is so familiar with L5R Rokugan it would be easy to slip into L5R fluff—I want to be sure of the differences.

Though I am sure you could just directly swap the setting and sweep the differences under the carpet, that would defeat my purpose...

Full disclosure:
The purpose of this is for a drinking game: "Every time you make a incorrect assumption about the setting that would hold in L5R, but doesn't in Oriental Adventures, take a drink."

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3  
Just a comment. In the original setting, samurai do eat meat, just not any meat. You may look here for more info. –  MACN Jun 22 at 8:53
1  
True, There is also "Mountain Tuna" which is Goat. (and the Spider/Lost have been know to eat... what I call "ShadowLands Tuna") –  Oxinabox Jun 22 at 9:27

2 Answers 2

Since I am really involved in D&D 3.0 and 3.5 I can answer your question but you will not like my answer; In-Setting differences between L5R and D&D in general have so many setting differences that you could write a 3 book novel about it.

The big ones: In D&D your gods are different and thus how the world came to be is much different as is the lore behind your setting, In Oriental Adventures you have the world of Faerun all around you and it can influence your campaign in ways that might change it largely outside your theme of "L5R". Since the Oriental Adventures takes part around the territory of Thay and the Great Dales from the Unapproachable East as in most D&D Faerun based worlds.

BUT this is not the case in your campaign because you are choosing to use the Oriental Adventures custom version of the L5R lore in Rokugan, which by default lends directly to L5R The history of Rokugan;

*

Encompassing more than a thousand years. The last forty or so of those years are of particular interest, since that is the time period covered by the Legend of the Five Rings card game and novels. This chapter cannot hope to describe the events of the Clan Wars, the War Against the Shadow, and the Spirit Wars in any kind of exhaustive detail. A summary of key events in those years appears here, and each clan description below gives a current snapshot of the clan, with details of the most important events leading up to the present.

*Page 207 of the Oriental Adventures book.

As far as I can read their should be no difference in setting between the L5R series and the D&D 3.0 or 3.5 Game you wish to run unless you specifically change something to form fit your game or world. The differences you mention above about people eating meat is simply an observation that can be over ruled by any GM, also the way to the dragon homelands is completely up to you as the GM to build and thus could easily mirror exactly as it dose in L5R.

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In my circles, Rokugan was just more material to dip into like Eberron or Forgotten Realms. The setting itself is still malleable but has a core if you're seeking ideas. –  CatLord Jul 28 at 1:45

The differences you are seeing between Oriental Adventures and the L5R RPG are caused more by differences in timeframe than actual differences in the setting or fluff. They are intended to be exactly the same setting. However, the Oriental Adventures book was written during the time the CCG was going through the Four Winds storyline, and is mainly written with that time period fixed firmly in mind. The 4th ed L5R RPG was specifically written to be mostly time-period neutral, and so generally doesn't delve very deeply into fluff that doesn't apply in all time settings.

In addition, the differences in mechanics themselves will often lead to story differences in capability in PCs/NPCs. Taking stats of a character from one system and translating to another will result in some changes that affect fluff. For instance, the spells available to a shugenja are quite different in number available and power levels between the two game systems, meaning the same shugneja character may well be capable of very different things under the two systems. This can lead to some anachronisms.

As a bit of background, I played the L5R ccg and rpg quite extensively (through most of 1st and 2nd ed of the RPG). I also ran a whole campaign under the Oriental Adventures rules, for a group that was totally unfamiliar with Rokugan as a setting. The feel of the games were a little different due to mechanical differences, but the overall story was taken directly from a number of L5R RPG adventures (Fall of the Hare Clan, some of Ryoko Owari, some others).

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