Rob Hobart

Author, Game Designer

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Heroes of Rokugan I

Heroes of Rokugan II

L5R Homebrew

The Falling Darkness, Ch1: Soul of Iuchiban

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I had planned from the moment Living Rokugan was approved that I would do an “Iuchiban arc” as the campaign’s first major plotline, and chose the big stage of GenCon 2001 to launch the arc. Like much of what I did in HoR1 (and especially in the campaign’s first two years), this plotline was based on a previous home campaign; in fact, this module and the finale, Fate of a Hantei, were cribbed pretty directly from that home game. Kuni Vistan, who had appeared in my home campaign and also shows up in both mods, was taken straight from the classic Tomb of Iuchiban box set.

In the home game I had Vistan take the PCs directly to Kyuden Isawa, but for the module I needed a starting-point where he could be introduced. It had to be somewhere reasonably close to Kyuden Isawa but where it was credible for the PCs to be involved. My solution was a minor diplomatic gathering in Centipede lands to choose a husband for Moshi Wakiza. This sub-plot of Wakiza’s betrothal ended up introducing an unplanned timeline divergence to the campaign – at the time, I was not fully up-to-date on the many details of the CCG arcs and thus did not realize that Wakiza had ultimately married Yoritomo in the canonical storyline. So, I wrote into the module that she agreed to marry an Agasha (the Dragon seemed like a good match for the Centipede). This, in turn, led me to introduce a storyline in Year Three about Yoritomo trying to marry Kitsune Ryosei.

(Speaking of divergences… the original 1st Edition location for the Valley of the Centipede was in the mountains just south of Phoenix lands. During the then-newly-launched Gold/Diamond era of the CCG, the Centipede lands were arbitrarily ret-conned to the Spine of the World Mountains hundreds of miles to the south, a needless change which I disliked intensely once I learned about it. 15 years later, I used the Atlas of Rokugan to reverse the change and officially move the Centipede back where they belonged.)

The climactic sequence in Kyuden Isawa, with Yajinden body-hopping his way out of the castle with the stolen scrolls, was inspired by the famous “historical” story of Iuchiban fleeing a Dragon court by leaping from one body to the next, leaving a trail of corpses behind him. However, it was also an intrinsically flawed sequence in that it was a mandatory “programmed loss” for the PCs – Yajinden had to escape with the secret knowledge in order to set up the rest of the arc, so I couldn’t let the PCs stop him no matter how brave, clever, or lucky they were. I was very conscious that some players might well find this frustrating or infuriating, and tried to write the mod in such a way as to minimize such reactions, as well as building in a tough fight at the end to create a sense of accomplishment. Later, though, I came to feel that I had taken the wrong approach and should have done things differently – though I was never able to figure out how.