Rob Hobart

Author, Game Designer

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Heroes of Rokugan I

Heroes of Rokugan II

L5R Homebrew

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The real point of the prologues was this module, in which I returned to my favorite theme of samurai murder-mystery investigations. The PCs are drafted into investigating a murder that has the potential to start a war between the Lion and the Unicorn. (At this point it should not surprise anyone that I am a fan of well-researched historical mystery novels such as the Cadfael, Robert Carey, and Sano Ichiro series.) This time, the crime is actually a frame-up of an innocent man, with a war as the outcome if the deception is not unraveled – much higher stakes than in Winter Court: Shiro Asahina.

I put a lot of work into developing both the mystery itself and an assortment of interesting NPCs connected with it. I was especially proud of the fact that the frame-up victim’s inability to provide an alibi was due to a combination of social customs and emotional reasons – he is engaged to marry an uncompromising Otaku, and knows she will not approve of his affair with a geisha. This matters to him far more than the accusation of murder, which he assumes he can simply deny. (To modern American gamers, of course, this ordering of priorities seems deeply bizarre.) Moreover, solving the frame-up depends in part on knowing the social customs of geisha houses – the key clue turns out to be “who got him an introduction to the geisha house?”

The villain of the story, Daidoji Hitokiri, was essentially a Harrier, though the Harriers would not actually be officially introduced into L5R until the following year – this resulted in the anomaly of a ruthless spy and assassin being trained in the Daidoji Yojimbo School. Of course, the Daidoji had always been depicted as having a darker side to their family – spying, assassinating, using gunpowder, etc – which made it very odd that the only School written for them in 1st Edition was the super-honorable Yojimbo School. This is a rare instance where I felt the 2nd Edition/3rd Edition writers “got it right” by introducing a mechanical depiction of the darker side of the Daidoji family, and if I had been able to go back and revise the module later I would have made Hitokiri into a Harrier. His name (“manslayer”) was a semi-subtle tribute to the protagonist of the manga/anime series Rurouni Kenshin.

Speaking of semi-subtle characters… the ronin magistrate Ichiko who appears in these two modules is the only specifically homosexual character in HoR1. Since the RPGA’s rules on sexual topics were even more restrictive than AEG’s, I never actually stated this – her secret had to be inferred from her description and a few clues in her stat bloc.

This was the second module in which the characters could potentially end up on the Mass Battle Table, and the first one where it actually happened (at the premier, five tables solved the mystery and two went to battle). This majority-success outcome meant that Hitokiri’s gambit failed and the Lion did not go to war with the Unicorn, a result which I incorporated into subsequent modules.