Rob Hobart

Author, Game Designer

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Heroes of Rokugan I

Heroes of Rokugan II

L5R Homebrew

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In HoR1 I had somehow always delayed writing a module set in Ryoko Owari just long enough for someone else to submit one. In HoR2 I finally overcame this, in large part because I really wanted to use the City of Lies to showcase the socio-economic changes underway in Rokugan 1500: sharply higher population, rising criminal elements, and a slow-motion breakdown of samurai authority. Ryoko Owari seemed like the ideal setting for emphasizing such themes since (a) it was very familiar to veteran L5R players, and (b) it was already known as the most corrupt city in Rokugan, and thus the place where “the rot” would be most visible and dramatic.

The underlying meta-plot in this module was a covert conflict between the Shosuro and Bayushi families, at this point played out mainly through proxies such as yakuza gangs. This was the first hint in the campaign that Shosuro Hido, “the Spider,” was in the process of undermining the Clan Champion’s authority in order to usurp control of the clan (a sub-set of his participation in the “Three Old Men” storyline). Accordingly, this module actually contained a low-key PvP element that could be triggered if there were Scorpion PCs from the two opposing families. (In order to prevent things from getting out of hand, I avoided any outright assassination orders.)

The Otomo tax assessor from Uncertainty reappeared in this module as the leader of the PCs’ mission to investigate the corrupt Emerald Magistrate. I made the corrupt magistrate a Crane so that he would be a highly capable duelist, thus making it very difficult for the low-Rank PCs to force a favorable outcome with their swords. I enjoyed developing both his personality and those of his underlings, especially the ronin with his obsidian dagger (the first numeranai I allowed into the campaign) – scumbags are generally fun both to write and to role-play. Of course, since the mod was themed around clashes between yakuza gangs, I also got to write lots of commoner scumbags as well.

The fight at the climax of the mod was designed to be somewhat challenging while still giving the PCs a solid edge (so long as they fought with reasonable intelligence). Of course, the real fun in this scene was the return of the female ronin, Maeda Oroko, from Topaz… with news of parenthood for any PCs who had succumbed to her charms in the earlier module. This bit of “actions have consequences” was one of my favorites in the campaign and had a significant impact on the personal storylines of several PCs – including at least two who defied their families and married Oroko.

This module introduced the first PC Emerald Magistrates into the campaign, as Emerald Champion Kitsuki Jiro assigns a PC to replace the discredited Crane. Of course, the fact that Jiro literally chooses his new Magistrate at random was another beat on my “incompetent authority” sub-theme.

The Programmed Yakuza Fight

At one point in this module, the PCs investigate an uncooperative yakuza gang. I was aware that some PCs might barge into a fight with the gang (samurai, especially PC samurai, generally don’t take well to arrogant commoners) but I didn’t want the module to bog down in an interminable and ultimately rather pointless fight – and one with a lot of potential complications. For example, the gang would be reluctant to actually kill samurai outright since that would bring down too much “heat,” but the PCs would certainly fight to kill and it would be difficult to justify the gang not doing the same once their blood was up. What if the PCs escalated to throwing spells, burning down the yakuza house, etc? What if PCs got killed, deflecting the whole module into a crusade against the yakuza?

My solution to these problems was to simply proclaim what would happen if the PCs started a fight – a “programmed” outcome that avoided all these issues. The PCs would automatically lose the fight but instead of being killed they would be beaten unconscious, stripped naked, and thrown out in the street – costing them Honor and Glory and increasing their Infamy as they become laughing-stocks for the whole city.

This little module element accidentally produced a very interesting and unique result for one Unicorn PC – after going through this yakuza-beat-down experience, he met Maeda Oroko at the end of the module and took custody of their child, resulting in an additional Glory/Infamy hit. This resulted in his Infamy becoming too high relative to his Glory/Status, and his clan threw him out. Becoming a ronin, he nonetheless kept and raised his son, in effect becoming a sort of “Lone Wolf & Cub” character (but without the assassinations-for-hire). The player was completely okay with this and even carried a plush doll at Interactives to represent his character’s toddler son. A considerable time later, he managed to join a new clan, the Crab, by way of the Twenty Goblin Winter.