It’s now been four full months since my last foray of running a Legends of the Five Rings game finished, capping off no less than six years of gaming. In that chronicle the characters took on two very different enemies of the Emerald Empire – the vile Maho-Tsukai and the anarchistic Kolat. Both wanted to destroy the social order as means to very different ends, and our heroes were all that stood in the way of immeasurable tragedy.
I believe L5R lends itself to themes of mystery quite well – though most of the character classes swing swords, combat is exceptionally and unflinchingly deadly. Purely politically-driven plots can be as dry as the sacks of rice courtiers must barter over, and while key to the setting I think game time could be better spent than haggling. Besides, I’m just one Storyteller, and admittedly political intrigue isn’t my area of expertise or specialty.
It was a very sincere compliment to hear that the players of my last L5R chronicle were very interested in me running another one, and they were quick to ask when I thought I’d be ready. I readily admit I felt a great deal of trepidation – it felt like I had used up all of my creative energies in that six-year marathon, and I wasn’t sure when or if I’d again have a compelling story for the players to explore.
Recently I was listening to an episode of the irreverent and very informative History is Sexy podcast where the hosts were discussing the history of ghost stories and tales from around the world, and it sparked an interesting idea I thought would be new and unique – what if instead of terrestrial problems, the heroes had to solve more spiritual or mystical ones?
The last campaign had the party fighting against the forces of evil magic, there was absolutely no lack of that, but what if instead of a political and societal end in mind, the antagonists were after a more esoteric end – the right knowledge can be disastrous in the wrong hands, after all.
Fairly quickly I began jotting down notes of different scenarios, situations, circumstances, and plot seeds the characters could run into, and while the shape of it all isn’t yet fully-formed, I think I’m starting to put together an overarching theme or trajectory for the campaign to go. Previously I’ve written about the importance of making sure players and the Storyteller are on the same page when it comes to theme, mood, and goals of the game.
What I think I’ll do is, when the existing Sunday afternoon game has run its course, write up a small sample primer or prospectus for the L5R campaign, and see if the group is interested in exploring that side of Rokugan with me. If not, no big deal – I can put those notes on the back-burner for some future date. If so, then I’ll have buy-in from the players and ideally we can really work together to make another great campaign (though hopefully this time, not quite as chronologically extensive).
As an additional twist, I won’t plan on setting my game in the part of the timeline with which I’m most comfortable – let’s really have the players dive into what the Empire was like in the past, and not just by reading dusty scrolls …