Rob Hobart

Author, Game Designer

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Heroes of Rokugan I

Heroes of Rokugan II

L5R Homebrew

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The third episode of the Iuchiban arc was also the campaign’s second visit to the Shadowlands. However, unlike the first visit, this one was not designed to be an inherent PC-killer – rather, it was intended that the greatest challenge would be Taint, while the physical challenge could be overcome fairly readily, assuming intelligent play and average dice-luck. The reason for this, of course, was that this module did not give the PCs a choice about going into Fu Leng’s domain – once on the ship, they are unavoidably going to wind up stranded in the Shadowlands.

The mod’s opening plot-hook brought back Kuni Vistan for his second appearance and also featured the grisly fate of those who succumb to the Taint – they are drawn inevitably to the Shadowlands, where some of them become Lost and others simply dissolve into flesh-sludge. I chose the Isawa Bloodspeaker leader for this unpleasant fate because he always struck me as kind of uninteresting, making him a good candidate for plot-driven disposal.

The concept of the characters being stranded in the Shadowlands without food, water, or jade was inspired by a very memorable session in one of my home campaigns, and certain elements of the module (such as one random character suffering a broken leg) were lifted directly from that source. The big Oni who hunts the PCs, and the ratling allies with their Jade Bow, were of course the follow-ups to the ratling sub-plot in Winter Court: Kyuden Asahina, and as such were one of the first big “meta-continuity” moments in the campaign, paving the way for much more to come.

Speaking of continuity… this module really marked the point in the campaign where I started doing a lot more work on building a larger narrative, introducing plot-points and side-elements that would “pay off” later on. The Pekkle no Oni infiltrator, for example, was added to the module with the specific idea that he might be able to survive the module, infiltrate the Empire, and reappear as a secondary villain later on (as indeed he did). Even more important was the sub-plot involving the PCs discovering the Bloodsword Passion, which serves both an immediate purpose (giving the PCs a weapon that can hurt the Oni) and a long-term one (the Kolat steals the blade and will later use it to bring down the Akodo family). I was already planning ahead to my version of the fall of the Akodo, and “planted” Passion in this mod to lay the groundwork.