L5R Setting Thoughts – Minor Clans

15 April, 2010

The Empire of Rokugan is a fascinating place, drawing primarily on Japanese history (samurai, Shinto and Zen) with a heavy dose of China (the Empire, an Imperial bureaucracy, Taoism) and bit from other east Asian countries (like Korea) and beyond (like stealing some supernatural horrors from the Indonesian mythology) adding in a lot of traditional (western) fantasy tropes, shake and serve hot.

The organizing principle of Rokugan is the Clan and the seven Great Clans control the majority of the lands and resources (in the name of the Emperor of course) and each serve broad roles, the Lion are the military, the Crab guards against the Dark and so on.  However, there are also the minor clans, living in the shadows of the great clans, on small patches of lands created by one Emperor or another for a very specific task or purpose in mind.

For me, the minor clans exemplify Rokugan in a unique way.  Each of them has its own path to follow, perhaps one that only they can, in service to the Empire.  They have limited, sometimes very limited, resources and must make do with what they have and the very rare aid from the Imperial state or an allied Great Clan.  They come to focus on and embody a particular niche or quirk of the Rokugan way, such as:

  • The Centipede Clan, comprising the small Moshi family, who live in an inaccessible high valley and are the most fervent and dedicated worshipers of Amaterasu in the Empire.  That is all.  They are fanatic sun-worshipers who revel in the fact that they are cut off from the rest of Rokugan and can practice their ways undisturbed.  They are also the only family that is more tradition than even the Lion.
  • The Fox Clan, the Kitsune family, who have become deeply tied to the fox spirits and the mystical paths of the Kitsunemori (“fox forest”) as well as being masters of herbalism.  They walk the hidden spirit paths of their home and know magical secrets because of it.
  • The Monkey Clan, descendants of the noble budoka Toku who served with such honor and dedication under Hantei Buretsu, twenty-sixth in his line, during his Grand Expedition to the North, saving the Emperor’s life no less than three times.  In recognition of his samurai’s soul, Toku was granted his own family and clan to serve and guard the Emperor in perpetuity.  The Toku family now serves primarily in the Imperial Legions, the Imperial Magistrates and even a few among the Imperial Guards.  (Note, this is the history for my campaign and not the canon background for the Monkey.  But one of the players wanted to be a Monkey so here it is.)

Another note is there is no Mantis Clan in my Rokugan as commonly envisioned by L5R.  The role of sailor/ pirate/ mercenary is taken over by the Gull Clan.  There is a Mantis Clan but they will be more philosopher / monk based to fit with the role of the mantis in general Asian thought.

Because of there are always niches to be filled and fun stories to be had, my Rokugan will have most of the published minor clans in one form or another and add more as interesting story/ game/ character possibilities arise.  The minor clans are the secret soul of the Empire and they will always be important.

Update: I have decided the polite way to refer to them is the Young or Younger Clans.


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