Rob Hobart

Author, Game Designer

Home Novels L5R Other RPGs Miscellaneous Writing About Contact

Heroes of Rokugan I

Heroes of Rokugan II

L5R Homebrew

Winter Court: Kyuden Asahina

Download The Adventure

Of all the Year One modules, this one was probably the most ambitious, both in terms of its structure/goals and in terms of breaking away from the traditional patterns of RPGA living-campaign role-playing. Here was a scenario with NO actual combat, where social interaction and the intricate dance of Rokugani etiquette were the point and purpose of everything. I had been so concerned about the possible ramifications of this that the original proposal for Living Rokugan had specifically mentioned such modules (forewarning the RPGA leadership), and I put “Winter Court” in the title to telegraph to all potential players what they were getting into.

I had made Winter Court an important part of my home campaigns, hitting the players with complex social environments full of dozens of named NPCs. Such stories typically took a couple of long sessions to play through, so I was very uncertain as to whether I could boil one down to a one-round RPGA module. In retrospect, I really didn’t succeed – the mod tended to run 5+ hours. I should have just made it a two-round scenario, but at the time I was uncertain whether I could get one approved so early in the campaign.

Of course, as if the huge cast of NPCs and many intricate social scenes weren’t enough, I also incorporated a complicated and challenging murder mystery. (Tonbo Genso makes one of his few return appearances here, serving as the Quest Giver who assigns the PCs to investigate the crime.) I had been a fan of mystery fiction since my childhood, when I read dozens of stories and novels by classic mystery writers such as Agatha Christie, Arthur Conan Doyle, and Dorothy Sayers. Much of the reason why Call of Cthulhu appealed to me (it was my favorite RPG until I discovered L5R) was because most of its scenarios were structured as mysteries – the game even called the characters Investigators. 1st Edition L5R, with its emphasis on the “magistrate campaign,” also embraced such scenarios and many of the early L5R supplements, such as Honor’s Veil, Code of Bushido, and City of Lies, had mysteries and investigations as key elements. So it is no surprise that I introduced a murder mystery scenario early in HoR1, and would write many more over the next nine years. They remain in many ways my favorite type of adventure. For this mod, I embraced the classic British murder-mystery structure by killing off someone who was deeply hated (a Scorpion who was manipulating and blackmailing many different people), thus creating a huge list of potential suspects, many of whom lacked alibis.

The sub-plot involving the ratlings (who can supply one of the most important clues for solving the murder, if the PCs help them in return) was inspired by a reference in one of the 1st Edition supplements to ratlings overrunning the southern Crane lands, searching for a treasure to fight a dangerous Oni. I had used this sub-plot in my home campaign as well, but there I had the PCs actually go retrieve the treasure (the Jade Bow) and take it into the Shadowlands to fight the Oni. Obviously I couldn’t do that here, so I just had the PCs find clues to the Bow’s location, and filed away in my mind the idea that some future module should feature an appearance by ratlings carrying the artifact. This would eventually happen a year later, in the module Drawing Out the Darkness.

This mod had a huge cast of NPCs, several of whom were re-appearing from earlier mods (solidifying the trend started by Spiritual Presence). Some of the new ones would also become recurring and significant figures in the campaign, most notably the Scorpion seductress Bayushi Fumi and the sword-collecting Crane daimyo, Doji Takashi. The mod also featured “guest appearances” by two notable canonical figures, Asahina Tamako and Doji Shizue – I made a point of trying to sprinkle in these recognizable personalities during the first couple years of the campaign.