The Crane Clan
"Our guest is brilliant and charming. How fortunate that I know how to make use of these advantages.
- Doji Shunya
The Crane clan are known throughout Rokugan as excellent duellists, artisans and courtiers. They were founded by the goddess Doji and pursue excellence in all things, from the martial arts to creative endeavours. The traditions Doji established have formed the basis for Rokugani culture and the dueling technique her husband pioneered has become the standard all across the nation to this day. Their descendants now are one of the dominant forces in Rokugani art, culture and politics.
The Crane are known as the Left Hand of the Emperor, for it is said they rule during peace time. Given their position as perenial court favourites, as well as the abundant wealth they derive from vast, fertile territories and strong political connections, this is not far from wrong. They are the richest Clan and perhaps the most well-connected - virtually anyone of note in Rokugani history is likely to have had a Crane for a spouse, lover or creditor.
The members of the Crane families tend towards slighter builds and fair skin and produce many beauties, with some cruel jokes being made behind closed doors that the only way to know a male Crane from a female is to bed them and hope for the best. It is traditional for the Crane to bleach their hair white in honor of Doji Hayaku, founder of the Daidoji family, who ventured into the Shadowlands to recover his missing sister and returned three years later, bearing her sword and with his black hair turned white. Their colour is sky blue.
The Crane are composed of four dominant families; the Doji rule as voice of the clan, and one of the most potent forces in all of the Empire's courts. The Kakita are duelists and artisans, with several prestigious academies for each, including being reknowned across the lands as the finest masters of iajutsu. The Daidoji are the defenders of the Crane and their military might, quietly handling the tasks too dishonorable for the other families. Finally, the Asahina family of shugenja are pacifists and spend their time in peaceful meditation and focussing on the creation of magical artifacts.
The Crane present a friendly face to all, though the truth is somewhat different. The dislike the Crab for being brutish and ignoring the other things in life beyond military service, and see the Lion in much the same way. They respect the Phoenix for their scholarly wisdom but see them as somewhat socially lacking, while they see the Scorpion as their greatest threat for being perhaps a little too like them. Oddly, they have a kind of parental affection for the Unicorn, who they have been coaching in the ways of "proper civilization" after their time in the wilderness.
The Crane look rather harshly on ronin, seeing them as crude and subversions of the grand culture that the Crane have worked so hard to build. However, they have been known to hire ronin military bands to fight proxy wars with their enemies, to distract them from some other ploy.
The Dragon Clan
"The most difficult act in the world is to sit still."
- Saying of the Ise Zumi
The Dragon Clan was founded by the Kami Togashi, though not intentionally; after his loss at the Heavenly Tournament, he retreated into the northern mountains to contemplate what had happened. However, he found he was followed by two men - Mirumoto and Agasha. They became his first followers and went on to found families that exist to this day. Those who sought wisdom would travel to the mountains and be adopted into Togashi's family, Mirumoto's if they showed skill with a blade or Agashas' if they had an affinity with the elements. Their comparative isolation over the next thousand years made them a minor player in the Empire's politics, and poorly understood until Kitsuki Iweko was appointed Empress of Rokugan and the Dragon were suddenly catapulted to the political foreground by association.
The Dragon are something of the black sheep of Rokugani politics due to their mixed nature, odd customs and esoteric philosophies. For instance, there are many monastic orders in Dragon lands - since the isolated mountains suit secluded monks quite well - and three are given the same social standing as samurai families. The most famous of these orders are the Ise Zumi or "tatooed men" that form the Togashi 'family'. Due to the poor quality of their soul, they are also the only Clan to eat meat - mountain goats are euphemistically called 'mountain tuna' to get around the taboo of touching dead flesh even in food. Their mixed backgrounds mean that it is difficult to give a stereotypical apperance for a Dragon bushi. Their clan colour is dark green, often worn with yellow highlights.
The Dragon Clan have tense political relations with the Phoenix, their neighbours to the East. There have been several bitter feuds, including the defection of the Agasha family to the Phoenix, that means the bad blood between the two Clans have never really gone away. What little land the Dragon have is absolutely vital to them and therefore their border conflicts are hotly contested. However, in general they kept out of Rokugani affairs and were seen as irrelevant until comparatively recently.
The two major contributions the Dragon have made to wider Rokugani culture are in martial arts and criminal investigations. They are responsible for the "niten" or two-sword style of fighting practiced by the Mirumoto family primarily, in which the bushi uses their wakizashi simultaneously with their katana. It was created to defeat the Kakita dueling technique, causing its use to be highly controversial in Crane lands. They also pioneered the Kitsuki Method, in which logical deduction based on physical evidence is used to prove innocence or guilt in legal proceedings. This method was totally contrary to previous legal practice but has been worked more equally into Rokugani law of late.
The Togashi family are not truly a family but a monastic order that has great sway in Dragon politics and many Dragon Champions have come from their ranks; they practice a form of tatooing that seems to give the recipient magical abilities. The Mirumoto family is the largest in numbers and makes up the bulk of their armies, notable for their controversial use of two-weapon fighting. The Tamori family were founded from the remnants of those Agasha who did not defect to the Phoenix and are shugenja with the closely guarded secret of binding spells in liquid, creating a kind of 'potion'. Finally, the Kitsuki family make up most of the Dragon's courtiers and magistrates, being the inventors and practicioners of the Kitsuki method. The current Imperial Dynasty, the Iweko, was founded by a member of the Kitsuki, elevating them to a prime position in Imperial politics.
"On the battlefield, all actions are honorable."
- from Akodo's Leadership
If the Crane are the Emperor's Left Hand, the greatest cultural force in peace time, then the Lion Clan are the Right Hand. Theirs is the hand that holds the sword and that strikes down the enemies of the Crown. Descended from the god Akodo, they are the greatest military force in the Empire bar none, both in terms of numbers and the quality of their soldiers. They are the most likely to serve as guards to the Emperor (outside of the Seppun family) and make up the bulk of the Imperial Legions.
The Lion are the most militant and rigid adherents to the tenets of bushido, seeing honor and duty to the Emperor as the two guiding principles by which all samurai should live. They are also dedicated to war in all its forms and during times of peace they still wear their blades and practice for the next time armed conflict breaks out. This dogmatic approach to honor has made diplomatic relations difficult for the Lion, especially with the more flexible Crane and Scorpion. To a Lion, an ancestor is more than a memory or a spirit of the past; they believe the ancestors guide them in the present and most Lion samurai can recite their entire family lineage from memory.
The main distinction in the Lion clan military structure comes between the Akodo family - who are both valiant soldiers and brilliant tacticians - and the Matsu family, a matriachal line of powerful and ferocious warriors; the Akodo form a fluid, changing hammer to strike at enemies, while the Matsu are an unyeilding anvil for the enemies to be broken upon. The other families are the Ikoma - historians and bards who are also sometimes said to act as spies for the Lion - and the Kitsu shugenja, lorekeepers and mythologists for the Clan who are said to have been descended from the lion-men spirit creatures they share their name with.
Perhaps the largest contribution the Lion have made to wider Rokugani culture is the book Leadership, the highest authority on military strategy in the land. The Kami Akodo first pennned the text and every Lion bushi owns a copy. Many generals, Lion lords and Clan Champions add their own edits and contributions to Leadership, which are then reprinted and passed on and unedited copies are extremely rare and valuable. An open secret in Rokugan is that many of the tactics Akodo espouses in his text are too pragmatic to be honorable according to the Lion's strict adherence to bushido - such as advocating the use of spycraft and deception in warfare - but none dare bring this up while in earshot of a Lion, for that would be an insult to their ancestors.
The Mantis Clan
"We carry the favour of Thunder. Stand aside or face the storm's wrath."
- Moshi Awako
The Mantis Clan is the youngest created and the only one not directly founded by a deity. Prior to the Second Day of Thunder they were at best an unofficial clan, though officially regarded as little better than an organization of ronin and pirates. Their leader, Yoritomo, gathered an alliance and delivered an ultimatum to the other Great Clans - either they would accept the Mantis as a Great Clan and recieve their aid in the war or the Mantis would wage war against Rokugan. Rather than face war on another front, the other leaders acquiesced. The Mantis - former pirates - were tasked with guarding the seas and coastline of Rokugan from outside threats.
The Mantis Clan was "founded" by Kaimetsu-Uo, spurned heir of the Crab Clan who fled to the Islands of Silk and Spice to form his own clan. Over the centuries they preyed on shipping from the other clans and took in ronin and other outsiders to form their own 'families', leading to a motley band of mixed specialities and oddballs. They also have an unusual combat style born of their sailing practices - most Mantis samurai prefer to use pairs of kama sickles rather than their long katanas because they are shorter and quicker, making them more suited to ship combat. This also is because their lands have comparatively metal reserves and the sea air is particularly corrosive for metals, so they use the cheaper and less lovingly-crafted kama rather than risk tarnishing their blades.
With the general exception of the Crab and Unicorn Clans, the Mantis are seen as necessary thugs. Their reputation for being pirates has not entirely vanished with their ascension to Great Clan status, though not without a great deal of effort and wishing from the Mantis. Some holdouts still practice piracy, though the Mantis try to hush this up. The Mantis, being former outsiders, get along with out such outsiders well and so have good diplomatic relations with the Unicorn and the Minor Clans.
The ruling family of the Mantis are the Yoritomo, who make up the bulk of the Clan's bushi and courtiers, as well as some shugenja; the Yoritomo are some of the most adaptable people in Rokugan. The Tsuruchi family were formerly the Wasp Clan before being adopted into the Mantis and are some of the finest archers in the land. The Kitsune family were the Fox Clan before being absorbed into the Mantis; their shugenja have deep connection with spirits from Chikushudo, the realm of animals. Finally, the Moshi shugenja family - formerly the Centipede Clan - revere the sun and channel its fire while remaining a deep, philosophical serenity.
"Fire is a riddle of itself. It destroys in order to maintain its own life and in its death it clears way for new life. And now I will clear the way to your new life."
- Asako Nobunori
The Phoenix Clan is known throughout Rokugan as have the finest - and the most - shugenjas in the entire Empire. They are scholars by inclination and tend towards pacifism, seeking diplomacy over warfare as far as possible. However, those who assume that the Phoenix's policy of not fighting means that they can't fight find themselves burned alive by the formidable spells the Phoenix can unleash in their defense, or skewered upon the spears of the Shiba family. Their political presence in Rokugan is comparatively weak, as they have relatively few courtiers.
The power structure of the Phoenix Clan is also unorthodox. Like other clans, they have a Clan Champion who is always a member of the Shiba family - which is the family descended from the Kami that founded the Clan. However, the Shiba are not actually in command of the Phoenix. That duty falls to the Elemental Council, the five mightiest and wisest shugenja in the Phoenix Clan, usually of the Isawa family. This stems from ancient history, with the god Shiba bent his knee to the mortal man Isawa, casting away his pride in order to better protect his people in the war against Fu Leng. Since then, the Shiba have typically served as bodyguards and protectors to the Isawa family and other shugenja.
The sterotypical Phoenix is dark haired and pale, generally without much physical presence to them. They often carry a large number of scrolls with them and generally travel in pairs - one shugenja and one yojimbo. To the Phoenix, knowledge is one of the most powerful tools a samurai has at their disposal, including forbidden knowledge. The Clan commands great libraries and archives, including many not known to the other Clans. Much of their secret knowledge might only passed down from master to student by word of mouth, such as blood magic rituals or the location of Black Scrolls. Their clan color is scarlet, often worn with gold highlights.
The Isawa family are bar none the greatest shugenja in the land - some of the only shugenja to be able to learn Void spells are Isawa - and typically most members of the Elemental Council are Isawa. The Shiba are the only bushi family in the Phoenix; masters of the spear, they make up the armed forces of the Phoenix as well as the bodyguards of the Clan's many shugenja. The scholarly Asako are some of the finest historians of the land; the make up much of the public face of the Phoenix as many become courtiers or travelling monks. Finally, the Agasha - defectors from the Dragon Clan - are some of the only shugenja to be able to cast multi-elemental spells.
The Scorpion Clan
"Life isn't fair. That doesn't mean you can't win."
- Bayushi Tangen
If the Crane are the Left Hand of the Emperor and the Lion his Right, the Scorpion Clan are the Underhand of the Emperor. They are popularly cast as the villains in folk tales and dramas because of their happy reliance of deception and other unsporting tactics. This is a reputation the Scorpion accept quite happily, for they are simply fulfilling the role given by the first Emperor to their founder, the kami Bayushi.
The Scorpion are complex, fascinating and dangerous. They are a family of manipulators, decievers, spies and assassins who value loyalty and duty over honor and for whom the ends always justify the means. They dirty their hands doing the jobs the other samurai wont, so that they can preserve their honor. They root out conspiracies, poison traitors, prevent inssurection. It is also said that they are tasked with guarding the Black Scrolls that seal away great dark power, though only the very head of the Clan would know where they are kept. But of course, knowledge and certainty become slippery concepts whenever the Scorpion get involved.
All Scorpion samurai wear masks of unique design and appearance, chosen upon completion of their manhood rituals. It is considered their face for all intents and purposes. They might be silk slips the cover only the mouth, or a full-face demonic mask made of lacquer or porcelain. Scorpion only remove their masks in the presence of those they trust absolutely and might be stripped of their mask as a punishment for bringing disgrace to their Clan. Most would rather be seen without their swords than without their masks. Their clan colour is black, worn with dark red.
Though the Scorpion are never popular in Rokugan, their influence is undeniable. Their spy networks, extensive blackmailing efforts and the monopoly they hold on the trade of opium for medicinal and recreationl use make them a force to be reckoned with in the courts. Their military might is comparatively small, but it doesn't need to be large - accidents just seem to happen to people who make themselves enemy of the Scorpion.
It should be noted that the Scorpion Clan are not ninja. They are samurai. They wear the daisho and in public are expected to maintain a facade of honorable conduct. They do, however, engage in dishonorable conduct covertly and have fostered the myth of the ninja; a truly master assassin will not dress in black robes and faff about on rooftops. They disguise themselves as one of the target's retainers then sneak into the castle and poison his sake, then leave before anyone knows what has happened. However, the Scorpion do use the myth of the ninja by dressing up a bunch of novice samurai and sending them out to be deliberately noisy and clumsy assassins, thus distracting castle guards from the real danger coming in.
The Scorpion Clan is traditionally led by the Bayushi family, well-rounded individuals equally at home in a contest of wits or swordplay. The Shosuro family are famous actors and handle many discrete problems for the Scorpion; it is said that a man who weds a Shosuro finds his enemies suddenly coming down with mysterious illnesses. The Soshi family of shugenja are closely associated with tejina, or illusion magic. The Yogo family defected from the Phoenix after recieving a curse that they would inevitably betray those they loved the most, and practice protection magic centered around wards.
Last edited by OiHarkin; 01-12-2013 at 05:10 AM.
"Do not let your mind be clouded by what is proper. Let it be cleared by what is right"
- Shiryo no Shijo
The Unicorn Clan were once known as the Ki-Rin, founded by the kami Shinjo in order to scout out the world outside of Rokugan for other threats in response to the war with Fu Leng. After leaving Rokugan they spent eight centuries in the wilderness, discovering new lands and mingling with the barbarians outside. It has been over two centuries since their return, but the cultural influence of their time outside Rokugan is still profound and gives them a reputation as being uncivilized savages by the other Clans. Nevertheless, their military might is respected, having the finest cavalry in Rokugan. Much of their success in war comes from the unconventional tactics learned and developed abroad.
There is a lot of bad blood between the Unicorn and the Lion, not just because of the Unicorn's foreign ways but over territory; when the Ki-Rin left Rokugan, much of their land was claimed by the Lion and when the Unicorn returned, they reclaimed that land. They get on well with both the Crab and Crane clans, respecting the Crab's emphasis on duty and appreciating the friendship of the Crane. Their lands mostly make up the plains and hills of the north-west, bordered by valleys and mountains. They only keep a few permanent cities, castles and towns, instead having migrating tent-cities using yurts.
The gaijin influence in Unicorn culture is profound to this day. They often wear furs and use scimitars in combat. Instead of bowing, their traditional greeting involves shaking hands. Instead of a Clan Champion, their Clan leader is known as a Khan. Many of their given names are drawn from the other cultures they encountered in their wanderings - names like Ming-li, Chagatan, Gaheris. Naturally, the Unicorn that leave their lands and travel to others are sensible enough to respect the customs of the other Clans, but in their own lands they live their own way. Their clan colour is purple, often worn with white or gold accents.
Despite their close contact with their founding Kami, the Unicorn leadership was heavily infiltrated by an anti-theistic conspiracy known as the Kolat when Shinjo went missing. The Kolat were descended from humans who rejected the rule of the Kami when they descended from Heaven and formed the Clans, and believed that man should rule man. When Shinjo returned to Rokugan, she exposed the Kolat infiltrators and killed or exiled them, though Kolat over the years Kolat conspirators have been found in all Clans and at all levels, from humble peasants to Clan Champions. Following the infiltration, the Unicorn have a great hatred of the Kolat.
The Moto family are currently the rulers of the Unicorn, descended from a nomadic clan of gaijin known as the Ujik-hai; their bushi focus on overwhelming attack and many Moto become death-priests, worshipping the gods known as the Shi-Tien Yen-Wang. The Ide family are the Unicorn's courtiers and emissaries, seeking for peaceful resolutions to conflicts and fostering understanding between warring groups. The Horiuchi family of shugenja practice meishodo, or name-magic, using charms and amulets rather than the kami. Their cousins, the Iuchi shugenja, believe there is not "one true way" to magic and frequently experiment and adapt new methods. The Shinjo family made up the bulk of the Unicorn's bushi, magistrates and scouts, though their numbers were greatly diminished when Shinjo herself returned and stripped out the Kolat infiltrators. Finally, the matriarchal Utaku family make up the bulk of the Shiotome or Battle Maidens, an all-women unit of elite cavalry troopers using a unique and jealously-guarded breed of warhorse.
The Minor Clans
Never forget the Three Man Alliance
Where the Great Clans have over a thousand years of history between them and were founded by deities, Minor Clans might only last for a few decades and are founded by Imperial decree. If a samurai performs some great deed, they might be rewarded by the Emperor to found their own Clan. Since the Minor Clans are all considered to have some form of favour and protection from the Emperor, meaning the Great Clans are not permitted to wage war on them except under some quite significant mitigating circumstances. They also tend to be given rather specific goals and purposes by their Imperial decree. As their name suggests, Minor Clans are small in terms of numbers, wealth and military might. While Great Clans are composed of multiple family lines, most Minor Clans only have one - two at tops.
For the most part, Minor Clans are politically irrelevant. While the Great Clans generally do not war with the Minor Clans, they do tend to weild their superior political and economic might over their smaller cousins. However, there have been times the Minor Clans and Great have done batte. The most famous example of this would be the Three Man Alliance, when the Sparrow, Fox and Wasp Clans banded together in mutual defense against an invading Scorpion army - and triumphed.
The Badger Clan (family name Ichiro) whose public duty is to guard the norther border of the Empire, but in secret their true duty is to guard Ryoshun's grave, the site where the god fell to earth and died. Their lands were recently ravaged by a rampaging Oni and many Badger samurai have taken to mercenary work to raise the funds necessary to rebuild their lands.
The Bat Clan (family name Komori) are relatively young, less than a century old. They were founded by a Mantis Clan shugenja whose father was a spirit and as a result he was an unusually potent medium and channeler of spirits. The live on a tropical island in the eastern ocean, thick with jungle and a place where the fabric between spiritual realms is quite thin.
The Dragonfly Clan (family name Tonbo) were founded when a Phoenix woman married the Dragon samurai she truly loved, spurning her betrothed Lion samurai. This was the root of an armed conflict between the Clans and the Clan was founded to prevent all-out war beginning. The Tonbo today are some of finest scriers and seers of Rokugan's shugenja.
The Hare Clan (family names Usagi and Ujina) was founded by a ronin in thanks for his services in the war against Iuchiban. They initially focussed on the tracking and destruction of Bloodspeakers, but were destroyed by the Scorpion Clan under the manipulations of the Kolat. After the Hare were restored, they moved to focus on the destruction the Kolat and any other secret society that might threaten the Empire.
The Monkey Clan (family name Toku) was founded to honor the peasant Toku, who pretended to be a ronin and became the right hand man of Toturi during the Clan War, serving Toturi until he became Emperor. When Toku revealed he was not a samurai but a peasant, he asked permission to kill himself. Toturi refused and instead gave him a decree to found the Monkey Clan. The Toku take in many ronin to their ranks and have a fierce idealism towards honor and justice. Many of them become magistrates.
The Oriole Clan (family name Tsi) were founded by Toturi III to honor the imperial blacksmiths; when the family founder was kidnapped by insurgents and forced to make and repair weapons for them, he secretly sabotaged their blades. In secret during his captivity, he forged a masterwork blade that became the ancestral sword of the Toturi dynasty. To this day, the Oriole are some of the finest blade-smiths in the Empire.
The Ox Clan (family name Morito) were founded when a group of Shinjo samurai occupied Phoenix lands that the Phoenix had bbeen unable to defend themselves and sent several ancestral gifts as an apology. Secretly, however, these samurai were members of the Kolat escaping the purge of the Unicorn by Shinjo. The clan is still heavily infiltrated by the Kolat.
The Sparrow Clan (family name Suzume) were actually founded as a punishment rather than reward; a young Crane courtier spoke out of turning musing that samurai would be more honest if they were poorer and thus it was decided his descendants would forever live in poverty. They are tasked with guarding the Golden Sun plains, a lush and fertile patch of land that is given over to the gods as tribute and not to be farmed by man. Thus, they are extremely poor and many samurai often farm the plains with the peasants. Lacking funds for expensive entertainments, Suzume samurai learn storytelling, song and other forms of art that do not cost anything.
The Tortoise Clan (family name Kasuga) are the voice of the Minor Clans at the Imperial Court. They have a reputation of smugglers, however, as their duties from the Throne involve spying on foreign ports and conducting covert trade with gaijin, who are not permitted to come to Rokugan. Well-intentioned magistrates often have to be discretely informed about this duty and told to give up on investigations that might lead them to the Kasuga.
"The queen of ants cannot count her servants, but she knows that they are loyal. Though the Emperor does not know of me, still, I know of him. And it is the Emperor, and him alone, that I follow. With every word and deed, I do his bidding. Even the ants in the field can say as much, though they do not know their queen."
- Seppun Murayasu
The Imperial Families refer both to the current ruler and their blood relatives and three samurai families that directly and solely serve the ruling dynasty. These families do not belong to the Clans system and are supposed to stay above petty inter-Clan squabbles; their duty is to Rokugan as a whole. Though relatively small in size, these families are naturally very influence both politically and economically. The Imperial families have their own territories, rule their own lands and defend their own borders around the capital. They are descended from the families of the ancient men who were the first and most loyal followers of the kami Hantei, first Emperor of Rokugan.
The Iweko Family are the current Imperial dynasty. Their line was founded by Kitsuki Iweko, who triumphed in the Celestial Tournament and was appointed as Emperor of Rokugan by the divine Jade and Obsidian Dragons. The head of the Iweko family is known as Emperor of Rokugan, the Heavenly Light and Champion of Ningen-Do (the mortal realm).
The Miya Family are heralds and messengers for the Imperial will. Their founder was originally a follower of Otomo who spread the word of the victory over Fu Leng to the empire. Miya's descendants now serve as peace envoys and deliveres of Imperial edicts. They are trained in riding, marathon running and rote memorisation. They are the most publically seen of the Imperial families and generally considered to be the mouth of the Emperor.
The Seppun Family are the bodyguards of the Imperial Family and the security staff of the Imperial Palace. Both their bushi and shugenja are trained to detect hidden threats and combat them with deadly efficiency. There are also Seppun to be found at many levels of the Empire's bureaucracy - they are tasked with maintaining the Empire's history and though their archives might not be as extensive as the Ikomas it does contain unique insights that can only come from close personal proximity to every Emperor across all dynasties.
The Otomo Family are the prominent courtiers in Rokugan, often holding their own courts or travelling to the courts of other Clans. Their duty is to make sure that the reign of the Emperor is unopposed politically. While they will publically claim this is done by fostering peace and goodwill across the Clans, the truth is rather different; they do so by making sure the Clans are always at each others' throats. They whisper in private and make sure fractious secrets come to light. They are also law-makers and the much of modern Rokugani law is descended from treatises written by Otomo daimyo.
The Hantei were the first Imperial dynasty, descended from the deity of the same name who defeated all his siblings in the tournament that birthed Rokugani society. They ruled a thousand years until the Clan War, when Hantei XXIX was possessed by the dark god Fu Leng. When Fu Leng defeated, Hantei died and the Imperial line officially severed. Secretly, however, the immortal bloodspeaker Iuchiban is of Hantei blood and it is said that there are connections between the Hantei line and the Dark Lord Daigotsu.
The Toturi were the dynasty that immediately succeeded the defunct Hantei. They were founded by Akodo Toturi, who had been made a ronin as punishment for his actions during the Scorpion Clan Coup. As a ronin, he gathered an army under him that served crucial in the defense of Rokugan during the Clan War and he personally struck down the possessed Emperor Hantei in the throne room. He was declared Emperor to prevent further in-fighting. However, Toturi was himself possessed by a monster known as the Lying Darkness and plunged the Empire into a series of wars. He committed suicide in his last moments of lucidity to purify his soul and the Darkness driven back, but the dynasty was on shaky ground ever since. When Toturi III died on a quest for elightenment without an heir, the line was declared ended and the Iweko began.
"A general need not fight to win. Sometimes merely forcing your enemy to lose is sufficient."
- The Book of Sun Tao.
The word "ronin" literally means "wave-man", one who is tossed about as if a wave in the ocean. They are masterless samurai, members of the samurai caste who do not belong to any clan and thus technically have no place in Rokugan society. Being ronin is a position of great freedom - they have no masters and thus no obligations - but usually one of poverty, lacking the vast financial support of the noble families. Though generally looked down on by Rokugan society as a whole for their tendency to turn to crime and violence, ronin have sometimes been a force for good in the Emerald Empire.
Broadly speaking there are two kinds of ronin. The first are the "Clan Ronin", who were born and trained by one of the Clans but exiled for some offense, either their own or their lords. These ronin tend to have better training and equipment, but are less experienced at life outside of the samurai caste. On the other hand "True Ronin" - meaning ronin who were born to ronin parents and have never been in a Clan - have no formal combat training but will have spent their life learning the hard lessons of being a warrior, cobbling together their own skills and fighting techniques. Shugenja who are born as true ronin often have little opportunity to train and experiment with their powers, lacking the chance to go to temples and other schools.
Sometimes, ronin get together to form larger groups and support each other that way. Often, these take the form of mercenary companies and bandit gangs, but if a large enough group of ronin get together under a charismatic leader they might form an army, settlement or even something resembling a samurai 'family' or Minor Clan. Below are some notable examples of such ronin collectives.
The Broken Guard mercenary band began as Akodo outcasts but soon accepted ashigaru (peasant soldiers) into their ranks, making them popular with the common man. They used long spears and focussed on anti-cavalry techniques. They are considered a respectable group, having worked in the past to protect Minor Clans from bandit raids.
The Forest Killers are one of Rokugan's most dangerous - and persistent - bandit gangs, using ambush tactics to strike down their targets. Though they migrate from location to location to prevent being detected, they always used forests as their hiding groups. Though ruthless killers, they are experienced trackers, hunters and woodsmen.
The Fortune's Grace are a female order of ronin shugenja specialising in communing with spirits to help the peasants and calming angry ghosts. They have strict vows of celibacy and purity to maintain their mediumship abilities. They have grown to have several small temples established across the Empire.
Nanashi Mura - the anonymous village - is a ronin settlement technically outside of Dragon lands but sat on their southern border. It is entirely populated and governed by ronin, though a Dragon magistrate does visit often to make sure peace is being kept. This magistrate works closely with the group known as the Eyes of Nanashi, a kind of ronin police force that operate in the village and use non-lethal weaponry to keep the peace.
The Hidden Weapon ronin band disguise themselves as peasants and use peasant weapons to strike their targets from stealth. They are generally benevolent, protecting a Tsuruchi village. However, some have questioned whether the Hidden Weapon actually exist or are simply a rumour.
The Machi-Kanshisha serve as a kind of police force in the City Of The Rich Frog; a contested city equally likely to be held by the Unicorn or the Lion, the Kaeru ronin family (now vassals of the Lion) established the Machi-Kanshisha to keep the peace no matter who was in power. Though they carry swords, they are recognisable by the long iron smoking pipes they carry and typically use to bludgeon criminals into submission.
The Scales of the Carp are ronin merchants, traders and smugglers funded in secret by the Yasuki family. The Yasuki give them weapons, funding and information in exchange for a sizable cut of their profits. They engage in trade, gather information and sabotage their rivals.
The Serpents of Sanada are, in a word, pirates. They have been operating in Mantis waters for decades and have yet to be stamped out entirely, speaking how deadly they are at sea.
The Unbroken are tainted ronin, who were either tainted during their life or simply born carrying the taint inherited from a parent. They are sworn enemies of the Shadowlands and regularly do battle with the creatures from it, often venturing out to support the Crab Clan. They seek a cure for their taint, or at least a noble death.
The Weavers are a secretive group of ronin assassins affiliated with the Kolat, named for their practice of disguising themselves as basket-weavers and merchants. Even under torture, they never reveal the name of their clients. They must be equally skilled in commerce and assassination.