Rob Hobart

Author, Game Designer

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Heroes of Rokugan I

Heroes of Rokugan II

L5R Homebrew

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This was the first official “Mid-Rank” module (as opposed to the “Low/Mid” category that dominated Year Two and Year Three) and the campaign’s fourth trip to the Shadowlands. I had long wanted to do a Shadowlands “dungeon crawl” in the tunnels beneath the Kaiu Wall, and I began specifically planning this module as soon as the Shiro Kaiu Interactive ended with the Crab civil war getting underway and the eighth tower falling to the forces of Jigoku. The mod also served to answer the player-base’s loud questions about what was happening in Crab lands (whose borders had been closed after the Shiro Kaiu Interactive) and had an early scene which showed Hida Kisada’s perspective in a semi-sympathetic light -- I didn't want Kisada reduced to a one-dimensional villain.

The scene with Kisada, by the way, also brought back an undropped shoe from much earlier in the campaign – the Pekkle no Oni from the module Drawing Out the Darkness, who had now taken on the role of advisor to Kuni Yori. This served as a meta-game clue to the players that Yori and Kisada were actually being manipulated by the Shadowlands, and re-introduced the Pekkle as a nasty Crab courtier who would go on to appear (played by me) as an NPC in two smaller “regional” Interactives.

This module introduced the Jade Hand artifact into the campaign, though at this point it was highly unlikely to become the possession of a PC (the mission was instead to retrieve the Hand for Hida Sukune). Since the PCs’ goal was to find and retrieve the Hand, they were incentivized to be cautious/stealthy and avoid needless combats, maximizing their chances of getting out alive. I used this infiltration theme to create another scene in which the PCs could see Hida Atarasi from a distance, and also worked in a return appearance by the dreaded Dark Oracle of Air.

Of course, the most fun part of this module for me was creating the map and the various encounters within the Shadowlands-occupied portion of the Kaiu Wall. I deliberately designed the place in such a way that the PCs’ best option was to avoid distractions, eschew the temptation to explore side-passages, and simply follow the direct path through the Wall to the eighth tower. In other words, the PCs could do best by suppressing their D&D instincts.

The one issue with this module was that the inclusion of a Mass Battle at the end made it a bit too long for a normal four-hour time slot. Although our escape from the RPGA meant we were no longer forced to rigidly end our modules within a strict time-limit (which was especially helpful at GenCon), a module that routinely ran a half-hour to an hour over time was still a problem.