Rob Hobart

Author, Game Designer

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Heroes of Rokugan I

Heroes of Rokugan II

L5R Homebrew

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The development of this module followed a long and somewhat complex path. When I first roughed out the outline for a six-module “Iuchiban arc” in late 2000/early 2001, I had a vague idea that the fifth module would take place during an Imperial Winter Court, with the PCs attending the court, engaging in various intrigues and entertainments, and meeting Hantei Sotorii in person. At the end of the module Sotorii would be kidnapped by the Bloodspeakers, creating a cliffhanger to be resolved in the sixth and final module. However, I found this concept didn’t bring me much inspiration – in fact, increasingly I felt like it was a bad idea, because the whole module would be a pointless “bait and switch” in which nothing the PCs did really mattered. Also, I found it difficult to justify sending the PCs (who would still be low-rank, low-Glory characters) to the Emperor’s court.

Around the time I was developing Occult Murders, a new solution came to me. Reading through the discussions of the Miya in AEG’s second Winter Court book (Winter Court: Kyuden Kakita) brought my attention to the custom of the Kanrinrin (caretakers), low-ranking samurai assigned by the Miya family to watch over and care for the Emperor’s palace while he is absent for Winter Court. Even better, the book included a story about a recent winter in which Miya Yoto’s scummy son, Miya Satoshi, selected a rival group of Kanrinrin (samurai of the Moto family, no less) who wound up in a disastrous conflict with the “true” Kanrinrin chosen by Yoto. I realized this was a perfect opening for a module – the PCs could be selected by Yoto and then have to deal with the ambitious, temperamental Moto chosen by Satoshi. Even better, this would mean that the PCs’ actions during the module would _matter_, since failure as Kanrinrin would carry disastrous personal consequences for them – thus, the Bloodspeaker kidnapping at the end would not “negate” everything they had done up to that point.

Thus inspired, I used the Miya lands in Occult Murders partly to set up this module, and I made sure that Satoshi made an appearance there so that his behavior here would not come as a complete surprise. By the time I was actually ready to write this module a few months later, AEG had released the Otosan Uchi box set, and I used the material there to help create a series of conflicts and challenges for the PCs. The sub-plot involving the erratic behavior of one of the Inner City governors, for example, was lifted directly from there. The box set’s discussion of tunnels beneath the city also solved my problem of how the Bloodspeakers would be able to evade the magical wards on the city, kidnap Hantei Sotorii, and yet still be able to escape without being intercepted.

Side-Note: Timeline Changes and Campaign Continuity

In the original Clan War/1st Edition L5R canon, Hantei Sotorii was born to a favored concubine – he was a “late-life” child of the Emperor, who was depicted as being well past the normal age of retirement. The Emperor’s actual Crane wife was presumed to have died childless some time before. Furthermore, concubines were assumed to be commoners (no samurai lord would allow his daughter to be a mere concubine, even for the Emperor) so there was a subtle implication that Sotorii was a flawed Hantei due in part to his mixed blood.

When I wrote this module, I had Sotorii’s concubine mother actually appear in the scenario, living in honored retirement within the Imperial Palace. What I did not know was that in the last two years the new AEG Story Team had imposed a massive retcon on the story, decreeing that Sotorii’s concubine mother had been a Crane and that the Emperor married her after she managed to conceive him a child. Not only that, but they invented a follow-on storyline in which the now-Empress became pregnant again, then was kidnapped by Bloodspeakers and her second child transformed into the Dark Lord Daigotsu. (Yet somehow the Empire did not spend the next 50 years hunting down every last Bloodspeaker it could find..?) Since I was not following the Gold-era CCG storyline very closely, I was unaware that this revision had been imposed on the timeline – the only hints of it in published L5R RPG materials were references to the Yotsu ronin family in “Way of the Wolf” and the Otosan Uchi box set.

The upshot of all this was that I unknowingly split the Living Rokugan/HoR1 timeline decisively away from the canon of “modern” L5R with this module. However, once I found out what I had done, I did not feel any regret – the “modern” retconned storyline seemed poorly thought-out to me, not to mention disrespectful of the creative skills of earlier writers, and I refused to acknowledge it in HoR1. (For that matter, once I was able to work on L5R officially for 4th Edition, I made a policy of subtly de-emphasizing the more problematic aspects of that particular storyline, such as by carefully not mentioning which Empress the Bloodspeakers kidnapped…)