Rob Hobart

Author, Game Designer

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Heroes of Rokugan I

Heroes of Rokugan II

L5R Homebrew

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The draft which became the campaign’s first Shadowlands module had actually been submitted to me something like six or seven months earlier. While deciding how and when to use it, I received a proposal from another player for a module based on a Twenty Goblin Winter (I had already announced in campaign gossip that the Crab would be holding another 20GW to swell their military ranks). Although that player never sent me anything I could actually use, the idea of setting one or more modules during a 20 Goblin Winter nonetheless lodged in my mind and I began devising plans to use Strength From Weakness in such a context. Since a 20GW would draw attention and observers from the rest of the Empire, it was an ideal event to justify the presence of multi-clan PCs in the Crab lands, where they could then get involved in various Crab/Shadowlands storylines. I decided to create a pair of modules set in the 20GW – one from the player submission, one of my own – with a shared introduction so that the modules would “work” regardless of which order the PCs played them. The modules both would start in Shinsei’s Last Hope, which had been established in canon as the “headquarters” of the 20GW and which I had visited briefly at the end of HoR1. (The introduction scene, in which a gruff Crab warns the PCs on how to kill themselves if the place should fall to the Shadowlands, was a direct tip of the hat to the classic L5R adventure “Mirror, Mirror,” created by the authors of the brilliant 1st Edition book Bearers of Jade.)

I really liked the authors' specific justification for the PCs engaging in the mission of this module: the Kuni provincial daimyo who had appeared way back in Wrath of the Kami had gone on a political crusade to force the other clans to acknowledge the harshness of Crab duties by sending samurai to participate in a scouting mission. I also really liked the specific sub-plot tied to this daimyo -- his son must pass his gempukku by killing a Shadowlands monster and bringing back its head, but the teenage boy actually has the soul of an artist and is ill-suited to the life of a Crab warrior. A significant number of PCs ended up taking action to persuade the daimyo to let his son train as an artisan, with some Crane PCs even committing personal effort to get him enrolled in the Kakita Artisan Academy.

The original draft of this module had a somewhat loose, almost surreal structure in which the PCs wandered from one strange Shadowlands encounter to another. In some ways this was pretty cool and might have worked in some types of adventures (especially ones where the PCs went into the “deep Shadowlands” that are much more mutable and chaotic), but given that in this scenario the PCs were being guided by a Hiruma Scout on the way out and then were retracting their steps on the way back, I felt there needed to be more structure to their journey, and revised the scenario accordingly. I used the same encounters as the original authors but added “bridging” material to link them together into a coherent journey. The somewhat convoluted sub-plot involving the Kuni with a gun and the Yasuki Crab/Crane smuggling cartel that supplied him with it was the creation of one of the two module authors, who had written fiction back at the start of the campaign to make her character a semi-prominent member of the Yasuki vassal family running that cartel. Her intention at the time seems to have been that the “Cartel Ties” cert at the end of the module could draw the PCs into a future meta-plot involving her character’s sordid family activities. However, by the time the module released her character had perished (she tried to Jade Strike the Imperial Advisor) and so the whole plotline kind of fizzled out. A number of characters did take the “Cartel Ties” cert, though. and about a year later a couple of those PCs decided to “rat out” the cartel to Imperial law enforcement – I used this as the basis for a sub-plot in a later Interactive in which the Crab and Crane were each trying to shift blame for the cartel’s criminal activities.

The scene with Kyoso no Oni herself was potentially a very dangerous encounter – she’s an Oni Lord, after all – so I carefully designed it to be non-mandatory. It was entirely possible for the PCs to not encounter Kyoso at all, especially if they took the corrupted Hiruma’s excuses at face value. On the other hand, it was also possible for stronger groups of PCs to fight and straight-up beat her, and I know of at least one table that did so. In any case, this was not intended to be a “killer mod” and in that respect it seems to have been successful – it never developed the dire repute of the various Tsuno mods, for example.

A side-topic: So, did 20GW have two parts or three? When I first wrote the CogCon 20GW modules, my plan was to just have the two of them – Strength From Weakness and City of the Lost. However, right after they premiered I came up with an idea for a third module, which eventually became Failure of Courage. Accordingly, I revised the “Twenty Goblin Winter” arc to have three parts, re-doing the website listings and cover-pages for the first two modules. This led to a certain amount of confusion, since many people had seen the previous “Part 1 of 2/Part 2 of 2” labels on the website and the initial module printouts.

Another side-topic: this module continued the odd recurring theme, going all the way back to HoR1, of NPC Hiruma scouts being female (despite coming from the Crab Clan’s most male-dominated family). Another such NPC would show up later in the module Into the Darkness. I’m not sure why this kept happening, though I suspect the primary reason was the desire of each author to make their Hiruma NPC memorable and distinctive.