Rob Hobart

Author, Game Designer

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Heroes of Rokugan I

Heroes of Rokugan II

L5R Homebrew

Spiritual Presence

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Intended to be the fourth mod but released third by the RPGA, this was the first of the campaign’s infamous Year One “killer mods,” and an interesting example of how playtesting is not always reliable. At the time, the RPGA made playtesting of all modules mandatory, but my playtest group consisted of my regular L5R group – all of whom were experienced players and skilled tacticians. When they stormed through this mod’s climactic fight in less than two rounds, with no serious injuries, I concluded it was too weak and boosted it up. The result was an overpowered fight that slaughtered many PCs like sheep. (A similar problem afflicted a few other Year One mods.) The module also had a subtler problem which showcased my general lack of planning in the early campaign – it was set at the end of winter (the PCs are attending an event to watch the melting of the winter snow in the lord’s garden) but this made no sense when played in sequence with the earlier and later mods. Later on, I would re-organize the module sequence and place Spiritual Presence after Winter Court Kyuden Asahina, which made better sense and also allowed the PCs to accumulate a little more XP before having to face this mod’s nasty combat. I also put a warning and play-balance suggestion on the campaign website. (Since the module was owned by the RPGA, I could not simply revise and re-release it as I would do with problem-mods later on.)

The story for this module was supplied by Jaime McCoy, the GM who introduced me to L5R in 1997. His basic idea was that the mod was a Rokugani version of a Scooby-Doo story – a supernatural event draws the interest of the PCs, they investigate and eventually face the “true” mundane enemies, and in the end the villain rants that he would have gotten away with it except for those meddling samurai. I’m honestly not sure if anyone ever picked up on that theme, though.

This mod featured one of the campaign’s few appearances by Agasha Tamori, and also introduced several more low-rank NPCs who would make return appearances later on – notably the magistrate Shiba Osugi, who ended up being kind of important. It also featured a re-appearance by a Satsume’s Tournament NPC, Iuchi Kageki; this created the precedent that minor NPCs could show up over and over again, although Kageki himself never amounted to anything much in the storyline.