Rob Hobart

Author, Game Designer

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Heroes of Rokugan I

Heroes of Rokugan II

L5R Homebrew

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The conclusion of the Kolat arc was set immediately after Unmaker’s Shadow, and – fittingly – it is Togashi himself who serves as the Quest Giver, dispatching the PCs to rescue Hitomi from the Kolat. Given that (a) the Kolat had now fulfilled their primary destiny by giving the PCs the Sun-and-Moon ritual, and (b) Hitomi was the answer to Togashi’s own “riddle” by bringing him a long-awaited death, it made perfect sense to me that this would be the moment that the Dragon Kami finally stepped in and personally told the PCs what to do. By waiting until now for Togashi to actually do this, I maximized its impact and avoided letting him become a recurring Deus Ex Machina. (AEG's old adventure Twilight's Honor had taught me a useful lesson in this regard.)

The PCs start their quest by returning to the Shrine of the Ki-Rin (another late-campaign “call-back” to something from much earlier – they had previously visited the Shrine in the module Fury of the Elements) and meeting up there with Matsu Hiroru. The “White Ninja” appears for the third and last time; he is poisoned and dying but still able to give them crucial information on the location of the Hidden Temple. Although my preferred outcome was for Hiroru to die here, the existence of the spell Peace of the Kami meant that at least some parties would be able to save him from death, and rather than try to finesse that I simply accepted that such groups would be able to go to the Hidden Temple with Hiroru at their side. (By the way, Peace of the Kami is one of several examples of spells introduced in 2nd and 3rd Edition that made shugenja far more powerful than before and thus seriously weakened L5R’s “gritty” feel. I remain irritated that we did not get rid of all those spells in 4th Edition.)

The idea that the Kolat would kidnap Hitomi and then brainwash her to murder Togashi was one I had originally used in my home campaign. The early L5R canon implied pretty strongly that Togashi valued Hitomi not only for her status as a Thunder but also because she would be the source of his death – and indeed, why else would he give her the sacred Dragon ancestral blades, nemuranai powerful enough to take his life? I really liked the idea that the Kolat – obsessed with eliminating Togashi as a threat – would actually be playing into his hands by turning Hitomi into his killer (another beat on the whole “they have a destiny to fulfill” theme). It seemed a natural idea to bring this storyline into HoR because it would completely surprise the PCs even if they were knowledgeable about the original canon plot. I planted the seeds in Year Three by spreading gossip that Hitomi had gone missing, which led into the Daini/Yukihera plotline. I also liked the idea that this derailed Hitomi from being the Dragon Thunder without actually making her Tainted or Shadow-corrupted.

In my home campaign, after the PCs learned the location of the Hidden Temple I simply let them assault the place in whatever way they thought best. Thanks in part to the spell Embrace of Kenro-ji-jin, they were able to easily infiltrate the Temple and then slaughter almost the entire Council of Masters. However, for HoR that spell was not available, so the PCs had to infiltrate the Temple the old-fashioned way and their mission was focused on rescuing Mirumoto Hitomi. I enjoyed creating a detailed map of the Temple’s “dungeon level” and giving the PCs the opportunity to discover things like the Oni’s Eye and the chambers of the Breaker.

The poem which Akodo Kage uses to “activate” Hitomi at the end of the module is, in fact, her gempukku peom, straight out of Way of the Dragon. I set up this final scene so the PCs would have a hard choice – stay with the dying Togashi to hear his final words, or pursue Kage in the slim hope of vengeance. It was a very slim hope since Kage’s fellow Kolat Master, Al-Hazaad, is standing by with a flying carpet (the only time that a gaijin appears in HoR1). To the best of my knowledge, no one actually managed to kill Kage or Al-Hazaad, although a few PCs got close.

Meanwhile, the PCs who stay behind receive Togashi’s final blessing and benediction… and the Twelfth Black Scroll.