On Saturday my housemate began the last generation of her L5R game and it was awesome. The fun part of this generation though, is that when the game started 3-4 years ago, this story was always the goal. Each player went through the events of key points in Rokugan's history through 3-4 different PCs having fun and adventures while shaping and building the world in preparation of this adventure. We're only one session in and already you can see just how much that work, those previous lives, have paid off.
The story for this generation is the Third Day of Thunder. For those not familiar with L5R, every thousand years there is an event called the Day of Thunder. It is an event where a chosen group, one from each of the original seven great clans, must venture deep into the Shadowlands along with a monk on a mission to seal the world's dark god away and stop him from taking over. The first Day of Thunder happened near the formation of the Empire. The second Day of Thunder happened around the year 1100 where the reincarnated souls of those seven thunders regathered to stop the dark god. The Third Day of Thunder therefore would be a thousand years later. Now, Rokugan doesn't use the same year calendar we have, but that does mean that the third Day of Thunder would be a game taking place in a world very close to the modern one we live in. In other words, magical samurai and a war with the demons of hell for the fate of the world where the chosen reincarnated souls are all high school students.
A Bit of Horror, A Bit of Urban Fantasy
The GM has been thinking of this for years, but a lot of the beginning of the game hinges on how does the world respond to the sudden return of magic, primarily in the forms of Oni and Goblins violently erupting back into reality. The city built over the former heart of the shadowlands is a warzone with people finding that most modern weapons just don't work against creatures of spirit and magic. As you get further out though it goes less from overwhelming monstrous activity to more horror. Those who could have been shugenja suddenly hear the kami - or more likely the dark kami - whispering to them and telling them to do things. Those who have been harboring corruption in their heart for years and decades are now completely under the sway of the dark god.
Creatures of nightmare are running everywhere, Starting off the game plays like a horror game. The PCs don't know what is going on. Monsters are everywhere. Even worse, the monsters want them. Why? Because all the major players on the board, except for the PCs, know that they're the key pieces in what is about to play out. If those on the "good" side can get them together, get them trained, and have the mission pulled off the world is safe for another 1000 years. If those on the "evil" side can corrupt them, kill them, or otherwise get them out of the picture...there is no one to stop the dark god's rise to power.
This puts a power arc in the game where you start off with a strong horror vibe. The main goal of the PCs is to survive and get away from the literal nightmares coming after them. As the game goes on, and with sparks of it in the early part, it is more Urban Fantasy because the PCs can do something about what is going on.
Seeds of Previous Generations
But what about all those past stories? What do they have to do with it? First you have the setting. Littered throughout the world are things the PCs set up in previous generations. The PCs now go to a school set up by one of the players nearly 800 years ago in game. Sure, a school could be any school, but because a PC set it up it has more history, it also has quirks and other oddities that have transitioned through based on how the player wanted it. There are also NPCs, awakened items, and numerous other things in the game, placed around the game, or otherwise waiting to come into play that all have a history deep inside the game world that we developed. Old PCs are also returning, or at least the version the legends tell of them.
Everywhere in the game is history from the previous parts of the game. Inside jokes that have been dead for years are back in play at the table. One character is being taught by an NPC that he helped save the life of in previous generations and even saw as something of a rival in their school. My character claimed the swords my first character made, only to find them not only awake and ready to fight but also infused with a personality very similar to that of my first character.
It's an awesome experience, and one I had hoped to - but failed - to really give in my own generational L5R game. Seeing it done right is absolutely amazing, but takes a dedication to the NPCs and a willingness to go completely ridiculous with each current generation that is awesome.
Has anyone reading this tried to do something like this? How well did it work? From the player side i have to say it is an awesome experience.