Rob Hobart

Author, Game Designer

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Heroes of Rokugan I

Heroes of Rokugan II

L5R Homebrew

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The primary theme of the Interactive for Origins 2004 grew out of a much earlier (and at the time, seemingly very minor) story element: the first of the Iuchiban modules depicting Moshi Wakiza marrying a Dragon shugenja. Much later I realized this had created a timeline divergence, since in canon she married Yoritomo to help build the Minor Clan Alliance (and eventually lever the Mantis into Great Clan status). My initial solution to this problem was to have Yoritomo marry Ryosei of the Fox Clan instead, but this led to bitter opposition from the campaign’s tiny Fox contingent. This eventually led me to create this Interactive and to specifically include a mini-mission in which the PCs could destroy Kitsune Gohei, the Walking Horror of Fu Leng -- Ryosei had agreed to marry Yoritomo in return for his assistance in accomplishing that goal, so the PCs could remove the incentive for the marriage by killing Gohei.

Unfortunately, the one thing I didn’t think of doing for this event was to come up with other, general-purpose diplomatic goals for the Minor Clans. At the time we had only a very small number of such players and they generally created their own goals at Interactives – however, this event was large and prominent enough to draw some outside attendees who wanted to play Fox characters, and I didn’t have anything for them to do. I tried to improvise some additional stuff but it didn’t work very well. This was an important lesson that I drew on for future Interactives – make sure every single faction has interesting goals, because you never know who might see “L5R LARP” on the convention schedule and decide to show up.

From a longer-term viewpoint, this Interactive was also an important turning-point for how I was approaching the campaign storyline. Up to this point, I was still assuming that the next campaign would be a direct sequel to this one and would be set in the Gold/Diamond CCG era – in fact, I had specifically discussed this with Ray Lau, the L5R Brand Manager, about 15 months earlier. This meant I would need the storyline to resolve in a way that was at least somewhat close to the canon outcome of the first two CCG arcs – close enough that I could use a single-page “cheat-sheet” to list the differences. For example, I knew we would have a different Emperor (since Toturi was slated to be possessed by Fu Leng) but simply changing the dynasty’s name would not be a big deal – I could still show the Emperor marrying Isawa Kaede and having four children named Kaneka, Sezaru, Tsudao, and Naseru.

However, midway through Storm & Forest, I realized it was simply impossible to produce a pseudo-canonical outcome while still letting the players have the freedom to pursue goals and negotiate on behalf of their factions. Several players at this event were coming up with cool ideas that I would have to block in order to stay somewhere close to canon, and I realized I didn’t WANT to block them – the ideas were too good to turn down. So I decided, spur of the moment, that the next campaign would NOT be a direct sequel to this one, and therefore the players would be free to do whatever they thought best in pursuit of their clan goals. (I still retained the authority to block things that were silly or that directly contradicted the wishes of the clan leadership, but this was a far less restrictive approach.) Once I made this decision, it was like a huge weight lifted off my shoulders and I was able to throw myself into the campaign’s last year with renewed vigor. The players also became more enthusiastic as they saw their efforts and ideas rewarded more clearly.

This also had a profound long-term impact on HoR2, since once I decided it would not be a sequel to HoR1 I was free to develop new and different ideas on what it would be. This eventually led to the decision to set the next campaign many years into the future, turning the entire “canon” L5R into a distant past for a new storyline.

A Campaign Fiction

What follows is the first-ever “campaign fiction” I posted on the HoR YahooGroup… it was written in response to the outcome of the Storm & Forest Interactive. I would do a lot more of this in HoR2, using fictions to summarize the outcomes of Interactives and to help the players develop emotional connections to the major NPCs.


Mirumoto Yukihera relaxes in the soaking pool, enjoying the heat radiating into his muscles. He sips from a cup of fine sake and regards the bushi who kneels just outside the open door of the bathing chamber.

"So Agasha Gennai's followers remain defiant?"

The bushi grimaces and searches for the right words. "They remain... convinced, my lord, of the correctness of their actions."

"How strange." The acting daimyo of the Mirumoto family takes another sip from the sake cup, letting the delicate flavor drift across his tongue. "I have led our Clan to victory against overwhelming odds. The Lion are defeated, and retreat from the lands of our Dragonfly cousins. The Unicorn have been punished for their treachery, and their wealth swells our coffers. Now the armies of the Phoenix fall back in disarray, and our Clan stands in unchallenged mastery of the northern Empire. Soon we will petition the Son of Heaven to recognize our victories. And yet... these so-called Agasha still insist that the war was a mistake, a mistake so grave that it justified their leaving our Clan and going to stay as 'guests' among the untrustworthy Unicorn." He tosses back the last of the sake and refills the cup with precise, careful movements. "Most peculiar, as I said."

The bushi nods. "Hai, my lord. There is no explaining it. Agasha Tamori-sama has suggested that we petition the Emperor to rename his remaining followers, so that their name will no longer be stained by the treason of Gennai's followers."

Yukihera smirks. "Tamori-san is a most loyal daimyo. Still, perhaps we need not be quite so... hasty... as he suggests. Winter is coming, a time for negotiation. We will offer these 'dissidents' one more chance to see the error of their ways. A proper apology, perhaps, and a suitable reduction in status."

"And if they remain defiant by Spring, my lord?"

Yukihera regards the sake in his cup for a long moment. His eyes gleam in the candlelight. "Then they will learn what it means to betray the Dragon."