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 had a long and somewhat complicated history. Several years earlier, Keith Weepie and I had brainstormed an idea for a stand-alone L5R adventure in which the PCs travel through the Dragon lands and find themselves in a Groundhog-Day-style time loop. Keith really liked this idea (he always had a certain affinity for the Dragon) and wanted to write it under the title “A Walk Through the Clouds,” but was unable to find the time/energy to do so – although he did create a set of pre-generated Player Characters for it. Later, when we launched Living Rokugan, I suggested he rework the idea into a module for the campaign. At first he agreed, and for a long time the title floated around on the campaign website as an “upcoming” module… finally, I asked Keith if he would be okay with me writing the module, and he agreed. By then I had come up with the new title, taken from a Kiho card which showed a tattooed man in a mountainous landscape. Seemed completely on-target to me!

The key impetus which prompted me to finish the module myself was that I had come up with the idea that it should end with a scene of Togashi setting Shosuro free to complete her destiny. I liked the notion that the PCs had gotten trapped in a time-loop because Togashi needed them to witness this event, rather than merely due to the Dragon lands being weird and magical. I also liked the idea of Togashi’s actions with Shosuro having a higher purpose – in the canonical timeline they seemed kind of random and pointless, which didn’t fit Togashi’s nature. (It may be noted that I subscribed then, and still do now, to the “original” depiction of Togashi as a strange, enigmatic, but essentially benign Kami, as opposed to more recent Story Team interpretations that depict him in a much more negative light.) The upshot of all this is that A Walk Through the Mountains was one of the rare modules to feature a major “cut-scene” (to use a video-game term) at the climax that revealed important plot information. I tried not to employ this schtick too much in the campaign, since over-use would quickly leave the players feeling disempowered.

I leaned heavily on the L5R supplement “Secrets of the Dragon” to develop this module, creating a whole sequence of encounters around the various castles and towns that lie along the route from Shiro Kitsuki to the High House of Light. I particularly enjoyed developing the town of Yushoshu Seido Mura, which had only a brief description in the book but evoked a very striking image in my mind of buildings on the sides of mountains and small bridges crossing deep crevasses. I would return to the town and this description for two modules in HoR2; years after that, when I became the official writer of the RPG, I would make this description canonical in the Atlas of Rokugan.

This module also had an even more radical element – it starts with the PCs already in the Dragon lands, and then introduces a “flashback” sequence in which they take on the mission. This sort of “cinematic” story-telling is extremely tricky in an RPG scenario, even in a home game, but it seemed to me that this weird visit to the Dragon lands was the one place where it might make sense to do it. The actual “mission” which the PCs are assigned is to try to recover a Crane maiden who has heard the call of the Tattooed Order and disappeared into the Dragon mountains, although ultimately the only resolution to it is a brief meeting at the module's end in which they learn she is already tattooed and it's too late to retrieve her. A few years later, my wife Becca and I would re-examine both of these ideas (a flashback within a module and trying to “rescue” someone who is becoming an Ise Zumi) in a module for HoR2; I think we pulled it off better there.