Rob Hobart

Author, Game Designer

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Heroes of Rokugan I

Heroes of Rokugan II

L5R Homebrew

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The GenCon 2007 Interactive was by far HoR’s biggest Interactive up until this time (although we would get even bigger in Year Three and Year Four) and was set in a very high social circle indeed: the funeral of the Toturi twins. Like Grave of Heroes, I announced the title nearly a year in advance as an ominous teaser for the player-base. The actual negotiating topics of the Interactive, of course, were not decided until the last couple of months before GenCon.

Since this was a major event in Rokugan’s history, I made sure to include a large number of prominent NPCs, recruiting various willing/trusted players to portray them. I myself played the Emperor (who spends the event basically watching everything while quietly despairing), my wife played the second Imperial daughter (Toturi “the Scholar” Maihime), and various others depicted Miya Shikan, O-Doji Koneko and her son Doji Sarutomo, the Master of Void, the Phoenix Clan Champion, the Jade Champion, the Khan, the Moshi daimyo, the Mirumoto daimyo, and others. (The Mirumoto daimyo, who of course had no _legitimate_ children, announced at this event that he would retire and his successor would be chosen with a Kenjutsu tournament.) Our biggest triumph here was to recruit an L5R CCG player who was famous for cross-dressing as female NPCs at previous L5R LARPs… he agreed to play O-Doji Koneko and did an incredible job. Mark Biffin also was a stand-out as Miya Shikan.

This event was significantly influenced by the ongoing canon-L5R meta-game called the “Race for the Throne.” AEG very much wanted the RPG to have a voice in that event, and asked me to present the GenCon Interactive in such a way that it could also generate political points for the Race. Accordingly, I had to design major goals for the event that could produce clear Great Clan “winners”; this led to the decision to introduce two specific negotiating points (the marriage of the Emperor’s eldest daughter and the fostering of his youngest son Kobe) that would be decided by votes. After much intense negotiation, the final result was a win for the Crane in the primary vote (she married Daidoji Kowaru, the new Daidoji family daimyo) and a win for the Crab/Spider on the secondary vote (Kobe was fostered to the Crab). Both of these decisions would have significant ramifications for the campaign’s later storyline.

Speaking of the Spider… one challenge for me was to find a way to let the CCG’s “Spider Clan” be represented in this Interactive even though they did not exist in Rokugan 1500. My solution was to exploit the “Sons of Destiny” cult idea I had come up with for the earlier module Compassion. Since the Spider Clan were supposed to be infiltrating the rest of the Empire, it was a simple matter to substitute the Sons of Destiny, who as a conspiratorial fringe cult would also have a few recruits in every clan. This led me to the decision to make the putatively female Master of Void, Isawa Akima, into a leader of the cult and thus also a female impersonator (a cult called “Sons of Destiny” was, by definition, misogynistic). Although the overall activities of the cult at the Interactive went unnoticed by the players, some of the Phoenix players did pick up that something wasn’t right with their clan’s leadership, and one player took the initiative to send letters to his Clan Champion expressing his concerns. I would “pay off” this effort in the module City of Empty Dreams a year later.

I also experimented at this event with another “Favor” mechanic, whereby the characters could give Favor Tokens to others to get them to vote in the desired way, and refusing to vote as asked would result in a loss of Glory – representing the effects of social/political attacks. Some of the players quickly saw the potential here to “Favor bomb” specific PCs and drive down their Glory, a nastily effective tactic. I was actually happier with this approach than with many of my other attempts at adding a mechanical element to Interactives, but it got distinctly mixed reviews from the players, and I ultimately wound up dropping it.

In addition to the two major diplomatic topics, each clan had its own lesser goals, and this resulted in the Dragon getting permission to carry out a punitive raid on the Badger (the first minor breach of Shikan’s peace… cracks in the dike). On the other hand, the situation created by the Hare getting three different sponsors for their shugenja school did not resolve so smoothly… the Phoenix, being averse to conflict, pulled out of their sponsorship, but the Crab and Scorpion both remained. This set up the “Hare War” storyline that would dominate Year Three and finally shatter Shikan’s peace for good.