Rob Hobart

Author, Game Designer

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Heroes of Rokugan I

Heroes of Rokugan II

L5R Homebrew

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This module was created by combining two completely different submissions, one of them relatively recent and the other many months old, each of which contained some very cool ideas but didn’t really work as complete stories on their own. One of them, submitted by Jeff Southerland, depicted the PCs escorting a group of Minor Clan children to be guests of the Crane; it had a good basic concept but the actual plot consisted of little more than an attack by a maho-tsukai. The second submission, from Mark Biffin, depicted a “false flag” operation by the Lion, designed to provoke war between Crane and Crab (and to wipe out the Tsume ronin as a bonus); it offered an awesome climactic sequence, but was lacking in motivation for the PCs. By combining the two submissions into a single module, both problems were resolved: the “escort the kids” mission now led into the climactic events of the attack on Jukami Mura, and the need to continue protecting the kids would put the PCs into a classic moral quandary – they could fulfill that goal or help mitigate the horrors of the Lion assault, but not both.

I rewrote both halves of the module extensively in order to merge them smoothly together and to incorporate my own ideas. The initial journey to collect the children, for example, was modified to be undertaken at the orders of Miya Shikan and included the NPC Hida Hei (about whom more anon). It depicted the PCs visiting the one remaining notable Hare stronghold (Shiro Usagi having been destroyed), and I scrapped the original plan for a maho-tsukai villain in favor of an Oni no Pekkle with a bag of rice-grain-shaped oni eggs. (This also let me add an additional looming threat – the oni-egg “plague” -- to the climax of the module.) Once the PCs finally reached Jukami Mura, I used the dinner with the local Crane lord as a bridge into the second half of the story (and to give the Pekkle another chance to spread oni eggs).

The two prominent NPCs in the story – the disgraced Sapphire Magistrate Hida Hei and the malignant Crane duelist Daidoji “the Merciful” Noritoshi – were actually PCs. They were the two most prominent and widely known player-characters in the Australian HoR community, and had agreed to let Mark put them into this module to introduce them to the rest of the HoR world. I liked this idea (and had already incorporated one of Noritoshi’s more notorious deeds into the larger campaign through the status of the NPC Kakita Amika), but felt they were a little too prominent in the original draft… there was a danger of their taking over the storyline and leaving the players as little more than spectators. Adding the child-escort plotline solved much of this problem, although I left the final confrontation between the two (and Hei’s disgusted resignation from the Sapphire Magistrates) unchanged.

Sadly, one aspect of this module that ended up having much less impact than I’d have liked was the nigh-extermination of the Tsume ronin. I actually thought this was one of Mark's cleverest ideas – I had established at the beginning of the campaign that the Tsume met once a year to renew their familial connections, so Mark decided their meeting for the year 1502 would be in Jukami Mura and the Lion ‘false flag’ operation would take advantage of that to wipe them out. However, most players who went through this module seemed to pay little to no attention to the presence of the Tsume, and their subsequent destruction did not draw much attention. (The exception was the one game-group which included a Tsume ronin PC… “Guess what, you’re the last one now.”)

Speaking the ‘false flag’ operation… I really liked that Mark came up with that, because it showed that he had definitely picked up on exactly what was going on within the Lion Clan. Of course, since Mark didn’t know all the campaign’s innermost secrets, he depicted _all_ of the attacking Lion as belonging to the secret “anniki”group within the Lion, which was actually a small elite of a dozen or so loyal followers of Gintaku. However, this was easily rectified when I revised the draft. (BTW, this is the last point in the campaign when “Akodo Mako” was actually the human being named Akodo Mako… soon after, he was killed and replaced by Moto Yoshi, who took on his identity.)

A minor aspect of this module that most players missed was the presence of Hoshi Haitoku, the Shourido-corrupted monk that Mark had introduced in The Tortoise and the Hare. Mark intended this module to be the second step along a series of Shourido-focused modules, but “real life” intervened and he was unable to get enough time to write more modules. However, this gauntlet would be picked up by two other players, whose own modules – Nemesis of Justice and Truth & Falsehood – would continue the Shourido sub-theme and give it a nice climax.