Rob Hobart

Author, Game Designer

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Heroes of Rokugan I

Heroes of Rokugan II

L5R Homebrew

Download The Mini Adventures
Download The NPCs and Handouts
Download The Outline

The campaign’s first Interactive was a big step toward achieving goals I’d had from the beginning. It is a measure of how slowly our player-base grew that I had to wait over two years before I felt I could try to run one. Even then, it only drew about 24 players, which was barely enough to make it work. I played Otomo Hiroshi, Imperial Historian (my “avatar” within the campaign) while two other GMs played the Tsume daimyo and the wily trader Yasuki Taka.

I had planned from the beginning of the campaign to do Interactives which would be actual courtly/political events, incorporating “clan orders” for each faction. At the time, this was a revolutionary idea for an RPGA interactive, although various independent LARPs and White Wolf’s Camarilla were already doing things of this sort. However, I also used a lot of ideas that were then-standard for Interactives in other RPGA campaigns. For example, pretty much every campaign had “booths” where the PCs could buy special items or join meta-organizations, so I had Yasuki Taka show up at each Interactive with a bunch of item certs to sell in exchange for money or favors. Likewise, other RPGA campaigns included “side missions” (in which a group of PCs go to a table and play through a short adventure) in their Interactives, so I had those too. In this case, for example, one side-mission involved stopping a Tortoise gun-smuggling operation, while the other featured an encounter with a Snow Maiden.

I chose Shiro Kyotei as the setting for this event for a couple of different reasons:

Firstly, I’d simply liked the place ever since I’d read (and run) the “Murder at Kyotei Castle” adventure in the classic 1st Edition L5R book Honor’s Veil. In fact, I would later return to Shiro Kyotei in a much more ambitious way for the module A Time of War, which was basically a sequel to “Murder at Kyotei Castle.”

Secondly, Shiro Kyotei’s modest size but interesting status/location (a Crane castle surrounded by the lands of the Lion, Phoenix, and Imperials) seemed ideal for what I wanted to depict: a minor Winter Court that would handle an assortment of lesser but nagging political issues. I based many of the diplomatic topics on events in the campaign up to that point – for example, the Crab had to deal with the fallout from the Yasuki smuggling operation in A Mantis and His Rat. Some issues, most notably the quarrel between the Lion and the Unicorn over the City of the Rich Frog, would not be fully resolved in this event and would carry forward into future Interactives.

Chronologically, this Winter Court actually took place between the modules Heart of Vengeance and Soul of Akodo, so by premiering it in November 2002 I was creating a small time-discontinuity. I did this because (a) I wanted to premier the first Interactive at a specific convention where I knew there would be a decent turnout, and (b) I wanted it to run several more times in other parts of the country so that I could compile the official “canon” results from a larger cross-section of the campaign’s player-base. In this regard I was quite successful, as the Interactive ran a total of four times within the time limit.

Since the Interactive depicted a Winter Court, I included a large number of “bridal certs” to represent (and encourage) the Rokugani emphasis on marriages as diplomatic tools. I had a lot of fun coming up with the various certs, some of which were straight-up beneficial while others were very distinctly “mixed blessings.” However, I ended up making a lot of extra work for myself by trying to avoid any duplicate certs (I felt it would diminish suspension-of-disbelief if two players showed up at a table with the same wife). Accordingly, each time I sent out the Interactive to a new region, I re-made all the certs which had been given out in previous events, an effort which strained my creative powers. Ultimately, once the deadline for actual storyline-impact had passed I gave up and stopped worrying about duplicate certs – it was simply too much work to keep making new ones, especially with additional Interactives coming out that required more certs of their own.

Distributing Interactives to the groups running them was a colossal pain, by the way. Because Keith had used some very large graphic files to create the cert template, each cert was over 1 megabyte in size… and between the brides and Taka’s merchandise, Shiro Kyotei had something like 25 certs. Those were the days before broadband, so e-mailing all of that out – even with Zipped compression – was a major project.