Rob Hobart

Author, Game Designer

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Heroes of Rokugan I

Heroes of Rokugan II

L5R Homebrew

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In the lead-up to GenCon 2004, I was over-stretched by work and did not really plan out much of what would be released in the next few months. With CogCon following barely a month after GenCon (in late September), it formed my next “event horizon” and I found myself forced into making schedule plans and writing module outlines at GenCon during a slot when I was free from GM’ing.

Initially, I had intended to release Time to Pay the Price at CogCon -- I had already begun dropping hints about it in the “gossip sections” of earlier mods and I actually did some preliminary writing work on it during the final weeks before GenCon… but then, at GenCon itself, I suddenly realized that I _had_ to do Funeral Pyre first because I had announced the death of Bayushi Shoju in the “gossip” for Stain Upon the Soul, and the Scorpion would never allow the funeral of their Clan Champion to be delayed longer than the absolute minimum time required for the Emperor to attend.

The upshot of all this was that I came home from GenCon and immediately had to start writing Funeral Pyre so it could premier barely four weeks later. At the time, the computer at my business was very old and tended to crash when running Word, so I had to do all the writing at home in the evenings. I got it done, of course, but I definitely felt that this mod was “rushed” and was perhaps not my best work. It didn’t help that by this point in the campaign, the drive to resolve the storyline by the end of Year Five meant that I was cramming a lot of big events into a dwindling number of modules – thus, this mod featured the introduction of the Obsidian Hand, the “resurrection” of Shoju with one of the Black Scrolls, the disgrace of the Crane NPC Doji Takashi, letting the Scorpion PCs know that the miraculously healed “Bayushi Kachiko” was actually an interloper (Shosuro herself), and dropping hints that Yogo Junzo was in her thrall. There were some good moments – I really liked the emotional impact on the players whose characters were admitted to the secret meeting with the real Kachiko – but overall the module felt a bit cluttered and also a bit superficial to me. For instance, the huge cast of NPCs at the funeral (inevitable given the presence of the Emperor) was more overwhelming than interesting, since there wasn’t enough for all of them to actually do – thus many of them ended up just being silhouettes in the background.

To be sure, the final battle against Soshi Bantaro and the undead Shoju was pretty challenging (since the presence of the Emperor meant the PCs were unarmed), and made for some cool moments – one of my favorite stories from that was the Badger PC who took down the flying Soshi Bantaro with a “caber toss” of a log from the funeral pyre itself.

Funeral Pyre included an important bit of future plot-planning by allowing multiple Scorpion and Scorpion-allied PCs to become “Bearers of the Obsidian Hand” (a cert within the module). It was assumed that most of these Obsidian Hands were actually decoys, but one was real, and there was the potential for a PC to actually attach the Hand in the same was Mirumoto Hitomi did in canon. That PC would then be destined to replace Lord Moon at the climax of the campaign. (If no one had acquired the true hand, which is what I was expecting to be the most likely outcome, I would have picked the most appropriate candidate out of those with the cert.)