Rob Hobart

Author, Game Designer

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Heroes of Rokugan I

Heroes of Rokugan II

L5R Homebrew

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The second module in Kevin’s mini-series about an insane Naga experimenting with the Taint, this mod – like the previous one -- was essentially a self-contained story connected to the previous and subsequent ones only by the presence of the sinister Tainted gray pearls. For this module, Kevin was also pursuing a specific in-character goal as well: creating a suitable justification for his character, Daidoji Tokiru, to be able to buy off his Sworn Enemy: Mantis Clan Champion. Thus, Tokiru himself serves as the Quest Giver and reveals his shameful backstory and the disappearance of his fiancé in the module’s opening sequence, and the PCs’ successful resolution of the story (revealing that the fiancé had actually fallen to the Taint) led to Kevin writing a lengthy fiction about his character apologizing to the Mantis Clan and agreeing to be their ally in the courts, after which he finally spent the XP to dispose of the Sworn Enemy. It was, for me, a near-perfect example of how to pursue a personal meta-game goal within the larger campaign.

Of course, going to the Shadowlands on behalf of a Crane samurai was now problematic, since in the wake of GenCon the Crab were implacably hostile to the Crane and would be going to war with them in the following year. Kevin’s solution to this problem was to have the PCs work around the Crab restrictions with the help of a Hiruma who was distantly related to him (yet another female Hiruma, this one a pastiche of Marion from Raiders of the Lost Ark). She in turn would coordinate with the PCs to persuade a Crab ship captain to undertake an unauthorized mission into the Sea of Shadows. The ensuing “Rokugani scavenger hunt” could be fun (I certainly enjoyed running it for my tables), but in retrospect I probably should have added in some specific options for the PCs to circumvent it by means of Favors/Allies, courtier techniques, or sheer wealth. (I tended to count on GM flexibility to deal with such creative approaches to problems, forgetting that the majority of GMs in “living” campaigns prefer to stick closely to the text and not allow off-beat approaches unless the module explicitly authorizes them to do so.)

Going by sea allowed me to work in an encounter with the infamous Skill Tide, one of my favorite Shadowlands threats. In general I always enjoyed depicting the myriad horrors and weirdnesses of the Shadowlands, and Kevin had some pretty cool ideas of his own which I used largely unchanged – my one major contribution, in fact, was the return appearance of the terrifying Hunger Oni when the PCs are fleeing back to their boat. I did, however, add a subtle flavor element to the coastline of wrecked ships: the distant outlines of gaijin vessels on the horizon. This was added both to explain the gaijin sewers in the City of the Lost and to set up a later depiction of a Shadowlands seaborne invasion (during Doom of the Crab) riding on gaijin ships.

The sub-plot involving a shipwrecked Mantis sailor was included as an incentive for the PCs to track the Lost villains back to their lair, rather than simply attacking them on the shoreline when they were first spotted. Amusingly, a great many players didn’t care and simply attacked the Lost the moment they saw them, resulting in a tougher fight than if they followed the baddies to their home and then fought only the three “named” ones. Either way, though, the main villain (Yamiko, the former fiancé) had the maho spell Blood Armor, which could present a very serious challenge to players who did not recognize the problem and adjust their tactics. Although total PC fatalities from this module were not huge, there were more than I expected, and they usually seemed to result from players not figuring out how to deal with Blood Armor. I was rather amused when a couple of “save my XP and stay at Rank Two so I can play everything” power-gamers went down in this mod. (As a bonus, winning the fight was not a permanent victory -- Yamiko had the Shadowlands power of Thy Master’s Will, ensuring she would return for Kevin's third and final module.)