Rob Hobart

Author, Game Designer

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Heroes of Rokugan I

Heroes of Rokugan II

L5R Homebrew

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This module saw the return of Kitsuki Yuri, serving as Quest Giver. I felt rather proud of the idea of giving her the flu, thereby justifying her staying home while the PCs did all the leg-work – pretty much any module has to find ways to avoid letting the NPCs run the show, but illness was a solution that actually made sense in-world. Structurally, A Magistrate’s Duty was similar to Occult Murders in that the PCs are recruited to investigate a mysterious crime-wave (complete with a map to guide them), but the investigations are more complex and the stakes are higher, with the PCs ultimately tracing the Bloodspeakers to one of the False Tombs and learning, at the end of the module, that the cult has found the real Tomb of Iuchiban somewhere else.

I set the module in the Scorpion lands because the canonical materials on the Tomb of Iuchiban strongly suggested that both the real Tomb and the two False Tombs were located in remote regions of the Scorpion provinces. This also let me create a different investigative atmosphere than in Occult Murders, since the Scorpion would be inherently hostile to any outside group snooping around in their lands.

The opening sequence, in which the PCs get into a brawl with the daimyo’s spoiled no-good son and then have to be rescued from the consequences by Kitsuki Yuri, was the result of an ongoing effort on my part to have different unique lead-ins for the modules. This was partly a personal creative impulse and partly because L5R did not lend itself to the standard “adventurers needed” intros used in D&D campaigns like Living City and Living Greyhawk (or more recently, Pathfinder Society). However, in this case it ended up feeling too much like a railroad – some PCs went out of their way to avoid the brawl, which disrupted the intro and put the GM into the position of “forcing” the desired result. If A Foreign Legacy showed that I was getting better at writing modules, this module showed I still had plenty of things to learn…

Aside from that, there were a lot of things I enjoyed about writing this module. I always liked investigation scenarios, and here I got to add various subtle flavor-elements to the plot, like the read-between-the–lines romance between the missing Phoenix Inquisitor and her yojimbo. And of course it was great fun to end the module at one of the False Tombs, with the PCs potentially able to explore the first couple of rooms if they were feeling bold… I based the rooms on those from the Tomb of Iuchiban box set, but made sure not to directly copy any of those traps specifically. The “wasp Oni” in the final battle, with its massive injections of venom into its victims, was another favorite – some players reported feeling traumatized by the experience…

Side-note #1: The monastery with Bloodspeaker “monks” included a chance for the PCs to be killed outright with poisoned tea, and while it almost never actually happened, the incident left some players in a deeply paranoid state -- which would later be reinforced by the Kolat agent in the module In Time of War, who also used the poisoned tea gambit. Some players would even carry their paranoia into the second campaign and dodge a similar threat years later…

Side-note #2: Due to the long lead-times required for GenCon modules combined with the RPGA transitioning to only requiring two months’ lead time for all other submissions, this module was actually written _after_ I wrote the final two episodes of Soul of Iuchiban (both of which premiered at GenCon 2002). In fact I didn’t write this module until after I finished all the mods for both GenCon and Origins. Luckily, I had outlined the Iuchiban arc when I started writing it the year before, so this was not very troublesome aside from the intense workload it created at the start of 2002.