L5R New Lands to the North – Historical Background – The Grand Expedition to the North

21 June, 2012

The Grand Expedition to the North

The warrior-emperor Hantei Buretsu, twenty-sixth in his line, was discontent with the status quo of the Empire.  Everything fit too nicely, each clan fulfilled its duties but nothing really changed.  The Emperor dreamt of bringing the benefit of the Empire to those less civilized, and using his talents as a general in the process.  To the East was endless Ocean, to the South, the dark and tainted lands of He who Shall not be Named, to the West, desert, but to the North, the lands of the Yobanjin.

The Yobanjin, so much like the Rokugani, yet so different.  To the Emperor, they obviously needed to be brought into the fold of the Empire and lifted up to a better and more civilized way.  For two years, the Emperor prepared soldiers and supplies, scouts were sent North by land and sea mapping the routes forward.  Then, led by the Imperial Legions, the armies of the Empire headed into new lands . . . for them and the Great Expedition to the North began.

History records it as a glorious four-year campaign, bringing the barbarians to heel and opening new lands to the Empire.  The truth, as one would expect, is less triumphant.  The first year of the expedition was a rousing success, the Yobanjin forces that tried to oppose the Emperor were crushed and new lands were seized.  The winter was rough on the Imperial forces as supply lines were stretched and the Yobanjin people had little to spare, leading to reprisals against them which would, in time, lead to the emergence of partisans and bandits.

The next Spring, the disparate kings and lords of the Yobanjin had come together to oppose the Emperor and his army.  The Yobanjin army was not as large, nor as coordinated nor as technically advanced as the Rokugani, but they were fighting for their home and they knew the terrain.  The Empire’s advance slowed to a bloody crawl.

The next two years saw bloody battles but very little movement.  The Imperial forces would push forward only to have their supplies cut and be harried back to near to where they started only to start the entire cycle over again.

Finally the Emperor tired of the stalemate and began constructing a chain of fortifications to defend the new northern provinces of the Empire.  His last acts in the north were to grant various lands to his follower and to expanded the borders of the Dragon, Phoenix, Unicorn and Badger clans to the North giving them new territories and new responsibilities.

One of the few good things that came out of the Great Expedition to the North was the ascension of the budoka Toku who served with such honor and dedication, saving the Emperor’s life no less than three times, that he was rewarded with the status of a samurai and his own Clan, the Monkey Clan.

The new lands to the North remain part of the Empire, if little discussed in polite company, with the Clans directly responsible for most of the new territories trying to incorporate them and their people into the Empire.  Three Imperial Legions, the 3rd, 7th and 8th, supported by the Badger clan remain in the North defending the far borders against the Yobanjin, who test the defenses every few years or so, and trying to suppress the ‘bandit gangs’ that threaten Rokugani control.  Service in the far legions in not popular and replacement troops are needed regularly.

Notes: Background for the New Lands to the North L5R campaign.

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