Rob Hobart

Author, Game Designer

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Heroes of Rokugan I

Heroes of Rokugan II

L5R Homebrew

The Ties that Bind

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This was Keith’s third module in writing chronology but the fourth (and last) released, because as soon as he sent it to me I decided it was awesome and needed to be one of our two GenCon modules. The campaign would be making its first big “splash” at GenCon in 2001 and I wanted to put our best foot forward. (Under the model which prevailed in the RPGA at the time, all GenCon modules had to be new “premier” scenarios, and smaller campaigns like ours could only have two of them.) Keith set his module in Ryoko Owari, the City of Lies, using material from the famous 1st Edition box set. I had been considering doing a Ryoko Owari module at some point, but after Keith wrote this I decided I should hold off for a while. Weirdly, this would give rise to a pattern in which every Ryoko Owari module was written by someone else… I didn’t actually go there in a mod I wrote myself until Unmaker’s Shadow at the end of the campaign.

There was a lot of fun stuff in this module – the PCs dealing with a loony Otomo who was blaming others for the murder he had committed, the Scorpion keeping tabs on a Maho cult so they could use it as a convenient “fall gang”, and of course the return appearance of Isawa Gidayu, bestowing curses on anyone who had earned his enmity in Legacy of the Dark One. I cannot take any credit for that idea – it was entirely Keith’s inspiration, and I ran with it. Gidayu would reappear several more times and become the campaign’s most hated villain.

The one problem we had with this module initially was that it tended to run the full 4 hours or a bit longer. This was fine at smaller cons but was a huge problem at the GenCon premier, since in those days the RPGA time-slots were four per day, run back-to-back, and mods had to be finished in about 3.25 hours in order to stay on schedule. Having to stop things and say “Well, here’s what you could have learned if we had more time” really sucked. A year or two later the RPGA finally gave up on this schedule system and went to the 3-slots-a-day model that all other cons followed.

A Digression: Why did we wait a year to appear at GenCon?

When Living Rokugan was officially approved in January of 2000, we were told that premiering at GenCon was not an option (due to the launch of D&D 3rd Edition monopolizing the event) but were offered the chance to premier the campaign at Origins two months earlier. I turned it down because (a) I thought Columbus was a farther drive than it really was, and (b) I wasn’t sure I could be ready in only 5 months. As a result, the campaign launched at CogCon, my own small local con, in September of 2000. I figured this would be okay because we’d get lots of attention at Winter Fantasy four months later… but at WF they launched the Living Force campaign. So Rokugan did not get any kind of attention until GenCon 2001, eleven months after launch… and even there, we only got four slots with three of them being the dreaded morning slots (8am). Small wonder that the campaign grew so slowly in its first two years!

In retrospect, of course, I totally should have launched at Origins.