I have thought quite a long time about writing a mod for Heroes of Rokugan. As is the norm for anything that has no meaningful deadline, that hasn’t amounted to much of anything. I did start thinking through an idea, but I got bored with it.
For the next local convention, I haven’t thought of anything to run. Then, I realized that a playtest of a mod would be the perfect thing to run. Being deadline and commitment driven, putting an actual date on when it would need to be done might see me put the work in.
What’s difficult is narrowing down to just one idea. Sure, there’s always writing more mods, but let’s get through one, first. There are so many things I find lacking in HoR adventures, but they can’t all go into one mod.
What are these lacks?
1. Honor gains – Honor gains aren’t that common to begin with, I don’t recall any major Honor gains that didn’t involve losing your character from HoR2. A lot of my recent discussion about what bothers me about 4e L5R is that Honor seems far less important, being a resource only for certain schools or for characters who start with 6.5 Honor schools.
2. Unusual skills – The lack here isn’t one of omission but of dearth. On the other hand, rare skills are rare. Having one mod greatly benefit one skill is neither fair to those who didn’t take it (why would they?) or to the lucky party where someone is good at the skill and can break a mod. This is where it’s kind of sad that macro skills work the way they do. If macro skills – Perform, Artisan, Games, etc. – meant you could use the skill with all subtypes, then the skills wouldn’t so rarely be used. To benefit specialists, emphases could be used to differentiate someone more skilled in one area than another. In HoR2, I got enough use out of Sailing to be satisfied. My mod needs to elevate some more obscure skill while not being stupid about it.
3. Flavorful mod rewards – These crop up from time to time. No reason not to include them. Well, I can see where only a limited number of mods should include certs, however, not every unusual reward needs to be certed.
4. Flavorful story rewards – Not a great way to describe this category, but what I’m thinking of are unusual locations, unusual events, etc. Any mod that involved leaving Rokugan, whether by traveling into gaijin lands, the Shadowlands, or by traveling to another spirit realm, interested me much more. Also, just having identifiable locales is better than not, such as a major shrine or a “lost” shrine or whatever. “Plot mods” are likely better than ones that just exist to have people accumulate XP.
5. Shadowlands – Already mentioned traveling to them, but what I mean here is really “Monsters”. I don’t find Taint interesting, but I think there should be far more oni-slaying. Or, since it appears that the Lying Darkness is important to HoR3, Shadowspawn-thrashing. I’d rather see much less intrigue and much more monster-murdering in my Asian gaming. What I’m not interested in is the casual monster – the monster that isn’t necessarily there to be fought but just a plot device. We want to use our katana, tetsubo, war fans, et al.
6. Daimyo – Unlike some of my HoR2 players, in HoR2, I couldn’t care less about daimyo, including my own. They didn’t rise to the level of nebulous NPCs, and that was fine because I was busy trying to plot how to leave Rokugan … er, advance my societal position through proper channels of expression and duty. However, HoR3 is not HoR2. The daimyo system is a mechanic in HoR3 that is supposed to matter. It doesn’t. Maybe someone, somewhere has been affected, but I have yet to see it. Of course, there are far too many daimyo, so it’s difficult to incorporate them. Who wants a dozen names listed as mattering with a hundred or whatever not?
7. Contests – Again, they exist. They just aren’t common enough. I actually rate contests, whether tournaments or not, to be the most desirable elements to include in adventures. Though, as with everything, it’s easy to overdo. Not every session should have them. But, I need to increase the average.
8. Recurring characters – This I may not be able to do anything about. If I only ever write one mod, the chances seems slim of using someone else’s character or having someone use one of mine, though mods get edited before publishing, so maybe a recurring character will get inserted into a mod. Can’t hurt to have as interesting characters as possible to increase people’s desires to see them again.
9. Limited characters – I hate running Winter Court mods. It’s not WC, itself, as I find snowy environs evocative. It’s the endless number of irrelevant NPCs. Other mods have similar problems. For running HoR2 as a home game, cutting in half or so the number of NPCs is often the way to go. Now, as a player, I don’t tend to mind having a large cast of red herring characters. After all, I just pick a NPC based on clan or other feature and focus my efforts to interact with the world. That has paid off well enough. Still, discipline. Define only interesting characters who serve useful purposes. The point of these mods shouldn’t be to trick people, should be to entertain. I’ll leave the “parade of names” mods to other writers …
10. Action – … because I want the focus to be on action. Not tedious investigations that involve confirming stories or repeated climbing checks but action that’s actually exciting. This is not a strongpoint for me. I’m much better suited for soap operas. But, we get far too much politics and intrigue and far too little running in abject terror and smiting.
11. Advantages/Disadvantages – Typically, an advantage or disad either comes up all of the time or virtually never. That’s not how they are supposed to work. Much like underused skills need to see some use, underrelevant ads./disads. should matter.
12. Bears – Total party kills are far too rare.
I’m sure I’m forgetting some lacks. Though, if you’ve read this far, you’ve probably realized something. This is a terrible way to create entertainment. You don’t create by trying to address problems. This is why I’m not a good person for game design – I look to fix what’s broken not create new, broken things. I’d be far better suited to editing other people’s mods.
Instead of laying out what I see as weaknesses, I should be honing in on what’s awesome and making that awesome be awesome. Like, bear fights.
[For those who don’t get the joke, bears are like the scariest things in the game that you could ever expect to face.]