Getting There

Rokugan is a big place, regardless of how you read the map. For every place that’s named, there’s at least a hundred unnamed villages, shires, woods, and more disturbing areas. Adventurers and heroes tend to be “on the road” passing through such places frequently.

They do pass through such places, no? Of course they do.

In the Master’s games, no one gets anywhere quickly. Oh, from time to time the heroes get where they need to be. More often than not, however, something occurs as a quick sidetrack.

Simply put, the Master is a sucker for stories of the open road. Any PC travel presents an opportunity for roleplay and adventure. Whenever I’m asked how long does it takes to get from Otosan Uchi to, say, Kyuden Suzume, I provide a rough estimate.

Of course, the real answer depends on a string of variables so long, it would make the heroes think twice about going. Is it raining? Is it the monsoon season? Is there a snowstorm on the way? Upset kami? Earthquake? Has a seasonal flood washed out a small bridge ten ri to the north? Has a procession of mountain monks come down at just the wrong time, blocking all exits from the city? Fire? The list goes on and on, and we haven’t even touched on say, social affairs.

I almost never let a journey go by without at least one additional, spontaneous travel linked scene. These serve a pupose past indulging old GM monks, however. In telling a good, immersive tale, one needs to stress more points than the “real” scenarios. Travel provides the framework for several types of subplots which can be interwoven with the main plotline. Here, then, are just a few thoughts to consider the next time your players or plots require travel

Give the weather some thought. Storms are overused, but highly effective. Monsoons are a little more exotic. Adding the supernatural to the weather condition of your choice can create a disturbing setting for an adventure (particularly horror based ones). The Master has used both monsoons of blood and life draining ice storms of crippling proportions to good effect.

Who might they meet on the road? A courtier? Monk? Bandits? Tax Collectors? An excellent opportunity to provide some deep roleplay with little fear of combat.

Journeys make an ideal time to spring those Challenge-Focus-Strikes on unsuspecting PCs.

And, at least once, what if the PCs arrive early? While it’s usually not a problem when the hero saves the princess with time to spare, but what about when a group of Magistrates arrives at the Matsu Daimyo’s Winter Court early, having had a run of excellent weather and travel conditions. The intracacies of Rokugan’s social structure can make this a rough encounter, or simply color the rest of the adventure.

Along the above lines, what if the PCs arrive in time to foil the plot? The catch the murder red-handed, before the foul minion can slay the target. The PCs will relish this, and press on with greater vigor (if the case of the minion). Everyone likes being successful. Except, of course, the party whos plans have been spoiled; they hate successful heroes. This is a great way to use a module you don’t care to much for: set it up so the PCs destroy the plot before it ever gets started. Then you can weave the immediate sequel of revenge.

Players: you now know that travel isn’t going to be easy. Indulge in it. Opportunities to play your character should be presenting themselves at any and all times. How does your character react? Does she attempt to prepare for every contingency? Pack umbrellas? Call upon a shugenja for divination? Make offerings for a safe travel? Pray to the appropriate fortune? Take a Shintao approach and claim the way is the way? Boldly ignore the weather and head out? Scoff at the thought of storms?


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