Unfortunately, from what I'm reading it seems some of my initial fears are being confirmed.
During the last couple of months I've been checking AEG's boards with some regularity to see if the new books might be of interest to me. The paths in the rulebook had me preocupied in relation with school bloat and this statement by Shawn Carman does not reassure me.
Sure, now you're not filling it with the brim with paths.
Big Fucking Deal.
The problem wasn't the number of paths.
The problem was how many of those paths, schools and advanced schools were redundant or thematically inappropriate. If you're just going to "fill it to the brim" with schools, then you're not actually solving the problem, and looking at the Emerald Empire school list it is impossible not to feel bloat is a serious risk:
- Shinjo Bushi Basic School- I'm actually more than ok with this one because, while I understand why AEG decided to go with the Moto bushi, it should have been in the rulebook.
- Minor Clan Defender Advanced School- As it applies to all minor clans, and some of them have crappy mechanic I can also live with it easily.
- Imperial Scion Advanced School- The first one to trigger red flags. Does it actually add anything? Or are we just throwing an advanced school to the Imperials because the other clans also have advanced schools?
- Ikoma Lion's Shadow Basic School- Historically I understand why make this one a basic school, as they are the old spymasters, but why not reconvert it to an advanced school? Or maybe to a series of paths focusing on a magistrate/counter-intelligence aspect, a scout aspect and an intelligence officer aspect? Still this is not something that raises any red flag.
- Shiba Artisans Basic School- This one used to be a path. I'm not sure it merits a complete school but it is one I can live with.
- Kobune Captain Advanced School- Does this really require a complete school? I can be convinced of the merits of the school but only with some trepidation.
- Doji Magistrate Basic School- Historically I can understand the rationale for this one, but here I feel we're before a lost opportunity. This could be a path that granted some social ability to the Kakita and Daidoji bushi, and/or some combat ability to the Doji courtier. Instead it is actually a straight out bushi recycling the old Mizu-Do mechanics which makes it even more puzzling as in L5R lore Mizu-Do was the province of the Kakita Artisans.
- Soshi Magistrate Basic School- I wanted a Soshi Magistrate for years, but was there a need for it to be a complete school? Again couldn't this be a path that granted combat ability to the Bayushi Courtier and/or social ability to the Bayushi bushi? Worst, it seem to be a straight out combat school, in which case one has to wonder what does it offer beyond the Bayushi and Shosuro schools?
- Dark Paragon Advanced School- I'm actually not touching this one without further information.
- Taoist Swordmen Basic School- In third edition we had the bushi, the swordmaster, Student of the Tao and Hojatsu's Legacy. Are we going down that path again?
- Hida Pragmatist Basic School- Apparently this one recycles Kobo mechanics. Which means we're on the way to have three or four Crab wrestling schools, again. Redundant.
On a related note I've got Enemies of the Empire, and, despite some misgivings, my opinion on it is largely positive.
It has a lot of material inspired by Bearers of Jade, and Kuni Mokuna's Guide which is cool. I was a bit surprised that they decided Doji Nashiko is the Demon Bride of Fu Leng when they were two different characters previously, but that's ok.
I think that the Core book and EotE has more than enough to run a complete and varied L5R campaign, and with the older material I have it certainly won't be a problem I'll have if I ever feel like running L5R again.