Rob Hobart

Author, Game Designer

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Heroes of Rokugan I

Heroes of Rokugan II

L5R Homebrew

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This was the first of three modules submitted by our overseas GM’ing team of Mark Biffin and Leah Bushby, and ended up having a number of interesting ramifications on the campaign, including serving as inspiration to other authors who would make use of some of the NPCs introduced here. Mark had a couple of themes in this module – the first was the basic awfulness of the Rokugani justice system, while the second was the threat of Shourido (building on the minor Shourido sub-element introduced in Strength from Weakness). Mark created a new NPC, a Shourido-influenced Hoshi monk, who was intended to be a recurring figure in later modules – Mark had some notion of trying to do a “Shourido” series that would be a counterpoint to the “Bushido” series, and although this never really panned out, the monk and the Shourido theme ultimately did make several return appearances.

Personally, the thing I really liked about this module was the two namesake NPCs, the Kitsuki-trained Tortoise magistrate and the conventionally-trained Hare magistrate. Although it would have been simple to portray the “rational” Kitsuki approach being obviously better than the traditional Hare, in fact the Tortoise NPC is so focused on his Kitsuki shenanigans that he cannot actually solve the case without help from the PCs. The Hare, meanwhile, is so ruthlessly focused that he’ll accidentially kill a child during an arrest if the PCs don’t intervene. So neither “side” really comes out well, although the Tortoise at least is more sympathetic (he doesn’t kill anyone).

This module was also a subtle call-back to my old “love sucks” theme, with the ill-used Scorpion wife starting a love affair with her lord’s chief guard and then conspiring with him to murder her husband. The actual murder mystery and associated clues/investigation was the part of the module that I revised the most, in keeping with my preference for designing good mysteries -- and of course I never passed up a chance to work the culture and traditions of geisha houses into a story.

Since the core points of this scenario were (a) Rokugani justice is screwed-up, and (b) Shourido is a dangerous temptation, the scenario was set up to make the true culprit wholly uncatchable unless one of the PCs was a good duelist (with swords or magic) who would put his life on the line to prove the case. This often put the players into the position of knowing who was guilty but being unable to do anything about it, and thus having to watch while the innocent Lion is shamefully executed, shouting to his son to avenge him.

I made this module Low-Rank as part of my ongoing effort to create a high/low storyline split, but – as noted previously – many players found ways to get around this constraint, leading me to undertake my first experiment with a “forced split” in the next two modules.