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 first module in the main timeline (one year after Topaz) was another product of my initial struggle with creative exhaustion, basically combining together a scattershot of different ideas – an aerial abduction on a bridge, a maho-tsukai attacking in fog, and a bizarre tattooed man who would be driven mad by involuntary telepathy. As a result, the module became a sort of “bait-and-switch” for the campaign as a whole, since it featured a threat (a maho-tsukai) which was wholly out of theme for HoR2 -- maho would barely appear in the rest of the campaign. However, this module did serve a useful meta-purpose by sending the PCs on a tour of the northern Lion lands that showed how the Lion victory in the Empire’s last war had changed Rokugan’s geography. The huge bridge over the Drowned Merchant River was in the module primarily because I wanted the big fight to take place in the dramatic setting of a huge arched bridge, but it also showcased that this was a future Empire where things were changing… such vast bridges being wholly absent from canonical Rokugan.

My personal favorite part of this module was the tattooed man, Hitomi Fuguki (“pufferfish-energy”) with his loony behavior, which was great fun to role-play. His concept – a kikage-zumi driven to complete madness by a unique tattoo that forces him to read the minds of everyone around him – was inspired partly by the nutty ise zumi in the classic L5R adventure “Night of a Thousand Screams” and partly by the tormented protagonist in Dan Simmons’ novel “The Hollow Man.” I didn’t have any long-term plans for Fuguki at the start, and left it entirely up to the players whether they would react to his end-of-module rampage by killing him or returning him to the Dragon lands for care. As it turned out, most tables did send him back to his home, and a few PCs even volunteered to go along and make sure Fuguki was delivered safely. As a result, he would become a recurring NPC and something of a player favorite.

The love-maddened shugenja who attempts to kidnap the PCs’ charge was a Tonbo for an unusual reason: bad writing in L5R 3rd Edition. Apparently, the various clan schools in the core book were divided up among several different writers (which may partly explain why their power-levels were so radically diverse) and whoever wrote the Dragonfly Shugenja school simply ignored the existing L5R canon and decided that a spellcaster from a clan called “Dragonfly” should have a magic flying power. The school literally allowed Tonbo Shugenja to sprout wings by spending a Void Point. This was grotesquely absurd, but since it had been published in the official rulebook I was stuck with it… and I realized that it would allow me to depict a “flying shugenja” as opposition without having to make that shugenja too high in Insight Rank.

Amusingly, as it turned out this was unnecessary, since I later realized it was perfectly possible to depict a higher-rank shugenja while keeping him from being too lethal to the PCs. When AEG published “3rd Edition Revised” in 2008, Shawn Carman dumped the ridiculous magic-wing-sprouting Tonbo technique in favor of one that actually matched the clan’s depiction in older L5R canon, and I took that opportunity to revise the module and simply gave the shugenja a high enough Insight Rank to be able to cast Call Upon the Wind.