The Day of Thunder was the Gencon 1997 storyline tournament. It was the culmination of the Imperial Edition story arc. The story resolved around The Seven Thunders, (Champions) one from each major clan and Fu Leng the evil god who had taken over the body of the dying emperor. Emperor Fu Leng had turned the empire and clans against each other and what was amazing to us is that going into this final battle there was really no knowing how the tale would end. If good triumphed over evil there would still be a matter of finding a new Emperor and dealing with the traitors but if Fu Leng won….. He had promised the empire 1000 years of Darkness. Our team was committed to delivering either outcome depending on the events that unfolded at the tournament.
CCG communities are amazing. The core connection in a CCG style game is competition and you cannot have competition without floor rules, reasonable players, and judges to make calls when necessary. Players end up forming the major part of event staff and as others are eliminated from events they pitch in to help make sure that rules are followed. Without these people these stories I am sharing would not be possible and I want to thank everyone who has ever run an event or supported us in this way.
We had our largest event space ever and we created amazing T-Shirts for the event. Clan colors with a big clan mon right on the chest. They were simple and quite simply the best shirts we ever made for any of our games or events. Everyone in the event received the shirt that matched the clan they were going to play and as Gen Con progressed these shirts seemed to appear everywhere. This was the biggest L5R event we had run but thankfully we had an amazing crew and they had things well under control.
On day one players started gathering in the event hall wearing their T-shirts and standing with groups of friends and other clan members. You have to understand, back then an L5R event was like no other event at a convention. It was like a sports event with players chanting and cheering for their clans and before every event we would do a battle cry that shook the event space. The Day of Thunder was even more electric. Before the events started the players were gathered into their clans and speeches were made. Then a roll call of clans was made. “Lions let me hear your roar!!” and the Lion Clan players roared and yelled and slapped high fives. “Crab defenders of the Empire” Another cheer “The Shadowlands followers of Fu Leng” Boos mixed with cheers from the grey-shirt wearing Shadowlands players. And so the roll call went on until it reached the smallest of the Clans. A new faction not yet a major clan, Yoritomo’s Army, wearing Dark Green shirts with a Mantis Logo. The herald from the chair called. “Mantis Clan!!” there was silence in the room. No one screamed. He called again “Mantis” One small player in dark green shirt stepped through a crowd and threw up his arms. “YORITOMO!!!!” Silence for a second and then… the whole room erupted and cheered. I cried. I’m crying now. It was amazing and so perfect since Yoritomo was known as the baddest man in the empire an army of one and here was this guy having his moment.
The room died down and pairings for the first round were posted. L5R events are run in two phases. During the first phase you play multiple matches and the players with the best win loss victory move on to the brackets. During the first round as I was walking around I noticed the Steve Swarner, runner up the year before, was playing against the Mantis Clan player. He had a concerned and serious look on his face. I thought maybe he was losing. During a break in the action I leaned over and said “How is it going?” He said “fine I’m winning.” I said “what wrong then?” and he said, and this has stuck with me. “I don’t want to be the guy responsible for knocking THIS guy out of the tournament.” WOW. He had felt the moment and did not want to play spoiler. L5R players were just a different breed. The story mattered. Two Dragon Clan players were also paired against each other in the first round. They would not lift a card. And played to a draw because “Dragon do night fight Dragon and we settle our differences in the mountains in private.” Wow again the first round of the biggest event ever and you won’t play against someone in your clan. Crazy… but sooo cool.
There were many memorable moments from the weekend, most of which were created by the players within the framework we had provided them. If nothing else of note had happened it would already have been an amazing end to the story but it was The Day of Thunder and the players had a few surprises up their sleeves.