Rob Hobart

Author, Game Designer

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Heroes of Rokugan I

Heroes of Rokugan II

L5R Homebrew

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The campaign’s finale was a complex mixture of Interactive and tabletop play. The action began with all of the clan factions (each led by their iconic NPC, such as Kisada for the Crab, Tsuko for the Lion, and so forth) assembling and sharing their information in order to plan their assault on Otosan Uchi. I also threw in a Naga NPC (played by Tim Dickey) with some additional crucial info. Once all the information got compiled, the PCs learned they had four major goals within the city – perform the Sun-and-Moon ritual (at Seppun Hill), defeat Otaku Taro, defeat Isawa Akei (who was trying to replicate the “Dark Oracle of Rokugan” ritual from Flower’s Kiss), and defeat Hida Atarasi. PCs had to choose which of these four goals they would pursue, and of course all the crucial artifacts for the Sun-and-Moon ritual had to reach Seppun Hill safely.

Once the PCs had their assignments, everybody had to survive three rounds in Mass Battle before filtering out to individual tables where the four objectives would play out. The summoning of the Sun and Moon led to those divinities committing seppuku and being replaced by two PCs, who would then name the Shadow. And once all that was resolved, I selected seven Thunders to confront Fu Leng at a single table that I GM’d personally.

In theory, all this was perfectly fine, and from a technical standpoint it all played out correctly. However, there were two glitches that diminished the overall success of the event:

  • First, the four climactic battles ended up being much less challenging than I thought they would be. My intention was for these to be desperate fights that would kill off at least a significant minority of the PCs, but I had underestimated how much last-minute XP spending took place in the campaign’s final months. Most tables were actually over-powered and easily won the fights. In retrospect, I should have been much more flexible about adjusting the challenges “on the fly” to make sure they were suitably epic and deadly.
  • Secondly, choosing seven Thunders by myself – despite great efforts on my part not to succumb to favoritism -- created too much controversy among the majority of players who did not “make the cut.” I ended up writing and posting to the HoR listserv a lengthy description of how I had made the choices and what my criteria had been, and while this reduced the anger and hurt feelings, it still wasn’t ideal. In retrospect, I think a better choice would have been for me to nominate two or three prospective Thunders for each clan and then let the players vote on which ones would get the honor. That would, if nothing else, at least have spread the anger of the disappointed across the entire player-base instead of focusing it on me.
All this being said… it was still quite a thrill, at the end of five years, to have seven players sit down at one table to do battle with the Dark Kami.