Rob Hobart

Author, Game Designer

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Heroes of Rokugan I

Heroes of Rokugan II

L5R Homebrew

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The Interactive for Weekend in Rokugan in January 2008 was the most ambitious and largest event we had done so far, not only in terms of sheer size but also in logistics. The event ran simultaneously in two countries, with combined player attendance exceeding 150 people, and was specifically designed to evoke a “real” Rokugani court experience by being run in darkness, with the only light coming from actual candles. It takes place in Crane lands, where the Crane are celebrating the impending birth of Doji Sarutomo's first child and the marriage of Daidoji Kowaru to the Emperor’s eldest daughter… but the fun is interrupted by a sudden and ominous solar eclipse, forcing the Crane to hurriedly light candles. Since the event was in Crane lands, the two main NPCs present are O-Doji Koneko and her son Sarutomo, and I myself played Koneko in full costume, complete with mask and wig (you can see the results in the picture at the top of my FaceBook page). At the start of the event, I went into a back room and changed into the Koneko costume and mask; then we turned out all the lights, and I came out of the back room (it was pitch-black since we were running this in the evening) and struck a match to light the first of the candles. So everyone’s first glimpse of Koneko was of her face underlit by a match in the dark…

There was a considerable amount of diplomacy going on at this module, much of it involving the Golden Alliance and the ongoing efforts by other clans to break it up. Much of this was driven by the results of a smaller Interactive I had run the previous autumn that dealt with the food shortages created by the drought, with the two food-surplus clans trying to use their resources for leverage against the rest, and all of the clans fighting over the distribution of Miya’s Blessing. Somewhat to everyone’s surprise, the Phoenix – one of the food-shortage clans – had absolutely refused to abandon their alliance with the Lion, despite intense pressure from everyone else; as a result, the opposing clans and the Imperials had coordinated to ‘freeze out’ the Golden Alliance from Miya’s Blessing, which only served to strengthen the alliance. Meanwhile, the Crane had used their own food resources to forge a nonaggression pact with the Crab and Lion.

Of course, after these diplomatic results, the leadership of the Crab had passed into the hands of Hida Gojiro, and his looming aggression was a major diplomatic theme at Sleepless Nights, especially for the Hare. At this point I had already decided that there would be a Crab-Hare War to break up Shikan’s peace and justify a Battle Interactive at GenCon, and the Scorpion had specific orders NOT to back off from supporting the Hare. Shosuro Hido (and his allies, the other two of the Three Old Men) wanted the Empire to plunge into war in order to open the door for his own schemes. However, the Crab were also being belligerent toward pretty much everyone else who was not part of the Golden Alliance, and the Crane in particular spent this Interactive worrying that the Crab would break the non-aggression pact. All of this led up to a dramatic moment at the end of the Interactive in which the Crab contingent had to read aloud Gojiro’s letter proclaiming war against the Hare.

While all this diplomacy and meta-plot was happening, the Interactive also saw a specific Crane Clan plotline play out, involving Koneko, Sarutomo, and the ghost of Sarutomo’s first wife. By this time I had finally figured out what was wrong with Sarutomo and why his two previous wives had died – he was a deeply delusional man, certainly a malignant narcissist, and had murdered his first wife when she mocked his pretensions. She was now haunting him, had killed his second wife with her curse, and now threatened to kill his third wife (Akane, the former Kitsuki) who was due to give birth. The kicker here was that Koneko knew about the murder and had covered it up rather than admit the one great failure of her life: her son. At the Interactive, while I played Koneko and another player depicted Sarutomo, my wife Becca portrayed the ghost of the first wife; eventually, near the end of the event, various Crane PCs learned the truth from the ghost and this led to a confrontation in which Sarutomo confessed the truth and committed seppuku, while Koneko retired to a monastery… leaving the Crane Clan under the leadership of Akane (who, with the ghost appeased, was able to survive and give birth to her son).