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 essentially a sequel to Touch of Obsidian, giving the PCs the chance to free the Dragon Clan Champion from the control of the Obsidian Dragon. It was also the conclusion of a specific player-character arc in which that PC (Otomo Torokage) accepted his destiny as a tamashii. I had known for a long time that Torokage would somehow be involved in the redemption/restoration of Togashi Imasu, but I did not know _how_ that would happen until I came up with the idea that Imasu would be possessed by the Obsidian Dragon. The module was presented as half of a high-low pair (with the module Winter Court: Shiro no Shosuro) as part of my ongoing effort to depict a two-tier storyline, and as such it also incorporated a great many minor sub-plots and resolutions, both for various NPCs and for the PCs interacting with them.

The High House of Light is not a normal site for a Winter Court, but I liked it for specifically that reason – it was a strange and unique place where the “normal” Winter Court things would be out of place, allowing me to get creative with the events taking place during the module. The in-story justification for this unusual Winter Court was a duel between Kakita Saburashi and Mirumoto Kanjo (the enlightened sword-saint who lost out to Mirumoto Daikabe), but I also worked in a Go tournament between Kamato (the monk Grandmaster from Unquiet Graves) and Doji Mizuki, the Crane grandmaster who had secretly murdered the previous Crane Grandmaster, Doji Fujimura, in a regional Interactive.

Due to both the setting and the prominent events taking place, I included a large number of NPCs in the module, including many recurring figures (great and minor) from earlier in the campaign – among them fan-favorite Hitomi Fuguki, former Emerald Championship contestant Doji Matsui,the now grief-stricken Go player Kuni Otango, the Scorpion “disbeliever” Shosuro Mitaka, and the tormented duelist Kakita Amika. I also included several daimyo, most notably the Crane Clan regent Doji Akane. Since she had not gotten much story attention up to this point, I decided to include an option for her to have a “winter romance” with a PC – a classic Japanese theme of a brief ephemeral love-affair that leaves only memories behind. (Probably the most interesting result from this little sub-plot was the Crane duelist who later perished in a duel when he flubbed an Honor Test on a failed Focus roll… he wrote a lengthy and eloquent fiction showing how his illicit affair with Akane led to his Honor “breaking” at the critical moment.)

Having made the mistake in previous “court intrigue” modules of not having enough interesting things happening for the PCs to interact with, I was determined to make sure this module was chock-full of cool character stories and interesting moments. In addition to the potential romance with Akane, I also incorporated the possibility for a PC romance with Hitomi Choujo – the Lion-turned-Hitomi from In Search of the Future – although this had more story significance for the module since she was also the reincarnation of Togashi Imasu’s lost love. Other story-moments in the module included the three religious celebrations over the course of the winter, the Game of Letters, Fuguki and the other tattooed men being driven slowly mad by the influence of Obsidian, Grandmaster Kamoto exposing Mizuki’s crime by recoginizing it in her Go-game, and Kuni Otango passing on the last remnants of his granddaughter’s prophetic gift to a PC. (I had already made a specific PC into the “primary” inheritor of her gift, and used that to have him utter ominous prophecies at Interactives, but I wanted to have more options for in-module prophetic revalations.)

The climax of this module – in which Torokage and the PCs confront the possessed Imasu and must give him the strength to cast off the power of Obsidian – was probably my single favorite moment in the entire campaign, especially the final moment in which Torokage fulfills his destiny by sacrificing himself to save Imasu’s soul: “Step forward, my lord, and I will catch you!” I wrote the whole scene one evening in a single two-hour surge, feverishly typing without a break. I’ll confess, though, that the cool final line was not my own creation – I was inspired by the climactic moment of Tim Powers’ novel “Earthquake Weather,” in which one of the characters makes a similar sacrifice. (BTW, Powers’ novels are uniformly excellent – I heartily recommend them to anyone looking for some good reading.)

Although the big confrontation was the module’s high-point, I also greatly enjoyed the way the outcome of that event fed into the module’s concluding sequence: the duel between Saburashi and Kanjo, in which Saburashi – who has spent decades obsessively trying to attain “the perfect strike” – loses because the enlightened Kanjo has actually discovered the Perfect Strike while on musha shugyo. The consequences of this duel are directly influenced by whether the PCs managed to free Imasu from Obsidian… if Imasu is still a prisoner of the Dragon of Sin, Saburashi attacks Kanjo and the two perish in a shocking tragedy, but if Obsidian’s influence has been banished, Saburashi in turn is freed from his compulsion by the enlightenment of defeat, and accepts retirement. This, in turn, affects the PCs who are obligated to duel Kakita Amika: if her beloved sensei sees the error of his ways, she does as well, offering her apology to the PC. Conversely, if Saburashi died on the path of sin, Amika insists on her duel to the death. (I was entertained by the PCs who had spent two years building up their dueling skills to face Amika, only to have her apologize to them… at which point their own Honor required them to grit their teeth and accept.)