Rob Hobart

Author, Game Designer

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Heroes of Rokugan I

Heroes of Rokugan II

L5R Homebrew

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With the campaign having now visited three Spirit Realms, I decided to push ahead and see how many more of the realms we could work in before the end. (Ultimately, I managed all but one -- Gaki-do was the only Realm left out.) I’d had an idea lurking in the back of my mind for a long time that I should find a way to bring back the nine-tailed fox (from Tears of a Fox’s Heart) and Goro the boar (from In Search of the Future), and eventually that idea coalesced into this module. Much like the earlier Undignified Death, it was a somewhat “light” scenario that didn’t connect to the campaign’s larger metaplot, so as with that previous module I decided to make it Low/Mid-Rank. This also let me justify an introduction in which the PCs are serving as flunkies to an Imperial tax assessor, a fairly minor duty that by this point in the campaign would make no sense at all for most “primary” PCs. (The one-shot Otomo NPC who the PCs are serving/escorting, a rather amusing old eccentric, was salvaged out of a rejected module submission from much earlier in the campaign.)

The one down-side of making this a Low/Mid-Rank module is that the sub-plot of the PCs meeting Goro’s father (and getting in trouble if they had helped kill off Goro in In Search of the Future) only “paid off” for a tiny handful of tables, since most players had run through In Search of the Future with their higher-Rank “primary” character, and only a minority of those characters were still Rank 3 or less.

As always, I enjoyed writing a mystery scenario, but in this case the “mystery” is ultimately an emotional one rather than a criminal one: the daimyo’s foxwife is broken-hearted because her husband loves his concubine (and the son born of that concubine) but not her. This can be seen as another recurrence of my “love sucks” theme, albeit this time with an added supernatural context. BTW, the story of a loyal wife driven to anger and bitterness by her husband’s affection to his concubine is one that shows up regularly in Japanese stories, both samurai and modern, and is arguably an inevitable consequence of a society where concubinage is accepted while love is covert and dangerous. I had wanted to use the idea in a module for some time and was pleased at how it meshed in so neatly with my Chikushudo ideas. (I was also rather entertained by how many PCs tried to ‘solve’ the module by persuading the daimyo to love his wife – a quintessential “Western” solution to the problem that, of course, did not work here at all.)

Thematically, this module was a balancing act between the darker/sadder aspects of the story (the foxwife’s heartbreak, the scene with the nine-tailed fox at the end) and the more humorous elements of the Realm of Animals, such as Goro’s father or the wiseacre tanuki who meets the PCs after they pass through the spirit portal. Probably my favorite humorous sub-element was the womanizing monk at the local shrine, busily seducing naïve peasant girls – this is a character type who shows up in Japanese pop culture all the time, but is all-but-absent from canonical L5R. (Conveniently, it also served as a red herring for the main plot, as some PCs decided the disturbances in the area must be due to the presence of a lustful monk.)