Rob Hobart

Author, Game Designer

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Heroes of Rokugan I

Heroes of Rokugan II

L5R Homebrew

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The key “prologue” module was actually the second one, A Hidden Blade, which had the potential to start a Lion-Unicorn war. However, I needed a reason for the PCs to be in the City of the Rich Frog already, so I decided to create a prequel module which would explain their presence. I themed Smoke and Mirrors around sordid merchant dealings because that seemed appropriate for the City of the Rich Frog, and it was interesting to show how something so lowly could ramify up into the samurai caste through the maneuverings of merchant patrons and exchanged favors. I also worked in a sub-plot involving a local criminal gang, an early play on a theme I would explore much more thoroughly in HoR2. (I had begun watching the Zatoichi film series, and its depiction of the seedy underbelly of samurai society appealed to me a lot.) I had a lot of fun creating various scummy, shady NPCs for the players to interact with.

I liked the fact that the central plot was basically a giant red herring – a false “haunting” concocted in order to drive away anyone who might stumble across the hidden jade mine. Since the ronin protecting the mine were fairly competent, it was not uncommon in play for the PCs to explore for a while, find a few clues, and then stumble into a dangerous ambush and have to retreat. (By this time, experience had taught most players that retreating was sometimes a good idea.)

The depiction of a tobacco farm may have seemed anomalous to some players. After all, in our own world tobacco was a New World product that spread from there to Europe and thence to the rest of the world. However, in Rokugan it is clearly shown that many people smoke, and they aren’t all smoking opium (which is illegal except for medicinal purposes), so logically…