Rob Hobart

Author, Game Designer

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Heroes of Rokugan I

Heroes of Rokugan II

L5R Homebrew

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In late 2002 I sat down and started trying to figure out what would be happening at Origins and GenCon in 2003. This early planning was absolutely necessary due to the long lead-times for RPGA submissions to those two conventions. I was muddling around with a couple of vague ideas – one involving “saving” the Badger Clan from the catastrophe inflicted on them by L5R 2nd Edition, and one involving an earthquake striking the Imperial City. However, I had no unifying themes and no real concept of where exactly to go with the campaign’s main storyline once the Akodo had fallen at the end of the “Lion and Crane” arc. The idea of simply re-creating the Clan Wars (but without the Scorpion Clan Coup) did not seem very inspiring – among other things, it raised the question of how to tear the Empire apart without the Coup to shatter its foundations. (The “earthquake in Otosan Uchi” idea was inspired partly by the need to find some other way of killing off Hantei the 38th.)

Then, suddenly, an inspiration struck: what if I combined the Clan Wars storyline with the subsequent War Against the Darkness? What if the Shadow -- one of my all-time favorite villains in L5R – formed an alliance of convenience with Fu Leng? The result would be a very different and unique storyline, but one that could still climax with seven Thunders facing the Dark God. And as a bonus, the earlier appearance of the Shadow in the module A Foreign Legacy would now be a "prologue" rather than merely a one-shot story.

With that decision made, both of the stalled module ideas suddenly “gelled.” For this one, I realized the Shadow was an ideal explanation for the otherwise rather inexplicable destruction of the Badger. I used the same NPCs for the scenario as in the “canon” Badger story from the 2nd Edition book “Way of the Shadowlands” (a book I regarded as grossly inferior to the brilliance of 1st Edition’s Bearers of Jade), but used the Shadow-corruption gambit to reverse the identity of the villain and thereby trip up any players who had read the book and might be tempted to metagame the situation. Also, I made sure at least one Badger castle was still intact so the PCs could, ultimately, save the clan by defeating the giant Oni.

Speaking of the giant Oni… this module used an unusual plot device by deliberately confronting the PCs with a massively superior opponent (the Oni shows up as soon as they reach the Badger lands) and forcing them to retreat and hide until they can find out what has happened and acquire the assets and allies they need to defeat the creature. Therefore the opening encounter did not try to straight-up murder the PCs – instead, GMs were instructed to use the fight to convince the PCs that the situation was unwinnable and give the players every opportunity to retreat and escape (and thus be able to play the rest of the mod). However, even at this point in the campaign some player characters stubbornly insisted on standing and fighting against a gigantic Oni made from hundreds of animated human corpses… and a few lost their lives.

If you’re familiar with the later CCG storylines, you’ll know that the canonical Badger were eventually declared to be not entirely destroyed after all, and a card tournament outcome in late 2005 resulted in their being fully restored. This was pretty clearly an instance of the writers trying to get rid of a Minor Clan and the player-base refusing to let them do so, which made me feel rather affirmed in my decision to write this module.