Rob Hobart

Author, Game Designer

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Heroes of Rokugan I

Heroes of Rokugan II

L5R Homebrew

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This module was one of the first examples of a new aspect of the campaign – scenarios created to directly reflect earlier player decisions. In this case, a recurring topic in the campaign’s first two Interactives had been a Unicorn crusade to take the legal “medicinal opium” trade away from the Scorpion, on the grounds that the Scorpion were also engaged in illegal opium smuggling. The Scorpion had resisted all such efforts, and in retaliation the Unicorn and several other factions shared their information on the opium smuggling networks with the Lion Clan (who could be relied on to take action). Thus was born this scenario, in which the Lion are preparing a public accusation against the Scorpion in the Imperial Court and the Scorpion are trying to derail it by getting rid of the Lion witnesses.

This module introduced the “gossip section” at the start of the module, in which the PCs have a chance to catch up with news and rumors from around the Empire. This would become a recurring feature of modules in the final two years of the campaign, allowing me to share “metaplot” with the PCs and set up foreshadowing of upcoming storylines. I also threw in a big end-of-module gut-punch by allowing the PCs to make Perception rolls to realize that the young Emperor was Shadow-corrupted. (I distinctly remember one player wailing “oh NOOOOO!” when he rolled high and had to learn the awful truth.)

I had a lot of fun coming up with the various witnesses and the different stratagems which the Scorpion would use to take them out – ranging from seduction or drugging all the way up to assassination. The module could actually be rather complex to run, drawing a few comparisons to Lies Lies Lies, though ultimately it never became that infamous.

Scorpion’s Sting was also one of the first modules to really embrace the underlying PvP elements of the L5R setting, since it put Scorpion PCs in direct opposition to the rest of the party. This aspect of L5R would always be somewhat problematic in the context of a living campaign, and I was never really satisfied with how I approached the issue, in this campaign or the next one. The presence of PvP themes served to “enable” a small minority of obnoxious players (from many different in-game factions) who wanted to go around gratuitously murdering other PCs who got on their bad side. Eventually, this would become enough of an issue that I had to officially proclaim “no assassinations” midway through HoR2.

Many years later, I strip-mined this scenario to create an official “canon” adventure for L5R, running at GenCon 2014. For that version, I replaced the Scorpion with the Spider and used a set of pre-generated characters, thereby eliminating the PvP issue.