“When the historians of the Empire recall the reign of Iweko I, the Divine Empress, there is one truth that will never be questioned: her reign changed the face of Rokugan and its people forever.” – Togashi Satsu, Voice of the Empress
At the year’s end Celestial Edition will be wrapping up to make way for the next L5R arc: Emperor Edition. From now until then, every Friday we will be previewing one clan theme, and we will be updating this page as they are revealed.
“Samurai require funds to survive, and yet most have no understanding of the concept. This is a weakness that can be exploited.” – The teachings of Yasuki Jinn-Kuen
There are few samurai families in the Empire who have as complete a grasp of the power that money holds as the Yasuki. Some believe that it was the family’s affinity for and involvement with money and trade that was the first spark of war between the Crab and Crane clans during the Empire’s earliest days, a war that saw the Yasuki family change their allegiance from the Crane to the Crab. Some believe that the Yasuki specifically engineered the conflict so that they could join the only clan practical enough to allow them to conduct their business without interference.
The Yasuki merchants seem individualistic and somewhat disorganized, but this is merely a deception that they present to others. They have a highly organized network with a clear hierarchy and command structure that ensures every single merchant is working for the betterment of the Crab at all times. The haggling and negotiating that is the hallmark of a Yasuki merchant seems innocent at first glance, but every action one such merchant takes has a direct and planned benefit for the Crab Clan as a whole, even if their ‘customers’ never realize it.
The Yasuki tend to play both sides of any conflict, except when the Crab are involved. Even then, they allow their so-called allies to believe that they are interested only in profit, and will trade goods with the clan’s enemies during times of war. Of course, the ‘goods’ being traded in these instances are substandard liabilities that lead to more Crab victories on the field of battle, and their constant market manipulations ensure that their enemies will be denied the assets they need to wage war when they need it the most.
Money is power and no one understands this better than the Yasuki. In a land where dealing with money is detested, the merchants of the Yasuki gladly delve into the world of finance which has given them great power and influence. Through bribery, extortion, and other less-than-reputable activities, the Yasuki keep their lands safe, their coffers full, and their influence deep. All of these tools can be used by the Yasuki at any time to attack their enemies, generally through political means, shaming their enemies in court. Using these underhanded tactics, the Yasuki have no problem with shaming others in court for their own gain. But the Yasuki’s main goal is to control the flow of trade and money, and this leads to much of their attention being focused directly on the holdings of their enemies.
The Yasuki Economic Warfare is a dedicated dishonor theme.
Minions of the Shadow Dragon
Even among the fluid morals and loyalties of the Spider Clan, the minions of the entity known as the Shadow Dragon stand out as enigmatic. Born in the damnation of the former Air Dragon, the Shadow Dragon is as unknowable and inscrutable as the darkness that lingers behind a mountain as the sun rises. Its agenda and desires are largely unknown, and it serves the Spider only so long as the Spider’s needs can continue to serve its own. Thus far, this is an arrangement that has suited the beast, or at least it pretends so, and to many the Shadow Dragon is part and parcel of the Spider Clan philosophy and assets. Even the Spider are not quick to trust the beast’s minion’s however.
At present, the Shadow Dragon serves an essential function in the elimination of the Spider Clan’s enemies. With the changes wrought in the Spider’s operations at the conclusion of the Destroyer War, the Daigotsu and their attendants are not so free to engage in activities that once would have seemed second nature to them. There are threats that cannot be overcome with the military might at their disposal, yet which cannot be permitted to continue. It is then that the scions of Daigotsu call upon their allies among the Goju and the Ninube to deal with the matter. As often as not, whatever the problem is, it simply… disappears. As if it had never been.
The Goju are the faceless monstrosities that serve the Shadow Dragon, only nominally human and frequently bearing no resemblance to their former selves. They emerge from the darkest night to commit acts of singular violence, leaving death, misery, and confusion in their wake. The Ninube, on the other hand, pretend to retain some semblance of their mortal lives, but it is merely a shadow within a shadow, a lie within the darkness. Their magic is as brutal as the Goju’s infiltration, but far less understandable and dreadful in its implementation. Those locations where the Ninube do battle are rarely the same afterwards, forever cursed by the terrible forces unleashed there.
Little is known about the Ninube and Goju families, and what little there is to know is shrouded in mystery. The fact that they still exist is a fact very few in Ro… Rok? Rokugan! Rokugan are aware of. These beings, as it is incorrect to call them people, are a secret even to the… the… the clan they work with. Spider? What was I talking about? Something with cards… no Goju things on cards. Ok. They live in the shadows and are trained in the art of ninjutsu, though their techniques are far different from those of the Scorpion. Swearing fealty to their lord the Shadow Dragon, itself a twisted… glorious… abomination shrouded in mystery, the Goju’s true purpose and desires are… something… I can’t remember. Who are you people? Who am I? Attack you with my cards… are they my cards? I think…
Spirits of the Forest
“It was as if the forest itself spat forth a legion of enemies to oppose us. Whatever the value of the Fox lands, it is not worth the cost of conquering them.” – Unnamed Scorpion officer
The Kitsune are amongst the oldest families in Rokugan, having first united under the banner of the Lady Shinjo during the dawn of the Empire. Driven from the ancestral lands of the Ki-rin by the ambition of the Lion Clan, those who became the Kitsune were forced to seek their home near the feared and enigmatic Kitsune Mori. Filled with spirits of all stripes, the forest was the source of countless rumors and superstitions. The Kitsune people discovered that these rumors were true, and that the forest from which they took their family name had in turn been given its name from the kitsune spirits that dwelled within it.
Over the centuries, the Kitsune have forged a close bond with the spirits of the forest, and none more so than the fox spirits whose name they share. The kitsune answer their mortal allies’ summons, and go to great lengths to defend them from all who would do them harm. They are not alone in this, however. The mighty spirits of the forest, the wolf, the bear, even the fearful tiger, can appear at the request of the Kitsune to assist them. It may be as simple as requesting that a bird-spirit carry a message, or summoning the powerful bear to batter down an obstacle or even an enemy.
The Mantis, ever respectful of the Kitsune family’s rich history, have never exploited this relationship with the spirits. The Yoritomo family understands all too well the perils of exploiting a bond with the denizens of another realm. Instead, they merely make requests of the Kitsune to accomplish certain tasks that they have need of on the mainland, and allow the Kitsune to achieve them in whatever means they prefer. It is an arrangement that has suited both families, and which the spirits seem eager to continue.
The Kitsune’s, especially their Shugenja, uncanny ability to commune and co-exist with these spirits have led to a very unique, symbiotic relationship. The spirits protect the Kitsune’s lands and the Kitsune in turn do everything in their power to protect the forest and spirits. This desire to protect, along with the Kitsune’s naturally passive nature, has led them to live a very honorable life. However, the Kitsune are unafraid to defend their lands and, if they are threatened, the Kitsune Shugenja will call upon the spirits of the forest to help them in the forest’s defense. Summoning these woodland creatures to help defend their homeland is a very useful skill to have.
It is not only the ability to summon these spirits though, but also the diversity in different animal type that can be summoned. The capabilities of a Bear spirit are quite different than those of a Falcon spirit, and having the right ally on your side can be the difference between life and death. While the Kitsune Shugenja tend not to put themselves in harm’s way if they can help it, they use their magic to aid their woodland allies who are protecting the forests.
The Spirits of the Forest deck is an honor theme.
This theme is dedicated to Nicolas Dewiere who showed the honor of the Mantis at the 2010 World Championships in Lyon, France.
Path of Man
“Others seek to be above the world. We shall seek to be as one with it”— Asako
There are many monastic orders within the Empire, dedicated to learning various esoteric and elaborate concepts. The Henshin of the Phoenix study a very simple concept—the mysteries of nature—but are still amongst the least understood of all the monks of the empire.
At their core, the Henshin seek to understand the interplay of the elements, and how the elements influence people and things. They seek to understand how too much Water ruins the flavor of tea, how strong Fire can drive an individual towards passionate behavior, how bountiful Earth in castle walls will allow them to hold in spite of great challenges. To the Henshin, the world is a mystery—a wonderful mystery to be explored.
The Henshin understand themselves, and they understand the world around them. With that understanding comes the ability to effect the very essences of themselves and others. An arm, weak with palsy, can be made to function as if whole. An enemy’s keen mind can be distracted or enfeebled. And a moment of clarity can be produced for the confused. With the Henshin, a person’s strengths and weaknesses can be molded as the needs arise.
During times of strife, the Henshin provide the Phoenix with the ability to enhance their own forces, and debilitate those of their opponents. Warriors seeking to oppose the Phoenix will find their prowess decreased, while those serving under the Phoenix will find their strength at arms heightened. Likewise, the Henshin can supplement the inner strength of their comrades, and damage that of their foes.
The Phoenix Henshin are primarily a military theme, but the Henshin monks will also serve as valuable aides for those who seek enlightenment.
Protectors of the Temples
The families of the Crane Clan have always been a fluid group that have worked together to ensure the clan’s continued dominance in politics, the arts, and in dueling. Unique among the families, the Asahina have always been separated from the others due to their uniquely monastic traditions and their strong devotion to pacifism. Although sects within the family adhering to variations of their overall philosophy have risen and fallen in prominence over the centuries, on the whole the Asahina are a family of priests with a strong aversion to violence at all costs.
Despite this, however, history has shown time and time again that even the most pacifistic family must be prepared to defend those things that are sacred to it. The Clan War was a particularly devastating time for the Asahina’s sacred temples and shrines, and the third Yasuki War saw some if their most valued works of art sacrificed in the name of war. For this reason perhaps more than any other, the Asahina have accepted that when war is brought to one’s doorstep, allowing it to pass unimpeded only passes the suffering on to others. This is something the Asahina are no longer willing to do.
The sacred sites of the Crane Clan are under the protection of the Asahina family. In order to ensure their safety, the family has taken under its wing a number of bushi from the other families and trained them in the venerable art of zen archery, a meditative practice that the monastic groups within the Asahina have practiced for centuries. Looking to the example set by the great hero Daidoji Sembi during the Clan War, the Asahina understand the effectiveness their monastic techniques can have when unleashed on the battlefield, and while they regret the necessity of such a thing, they are no longer willing to permit enemies to prey upon them or those under their protection. All who would call the Crane an enemy will learn to fear the stalwart defense offered by the Protectors of the Temple when the time comes.
Whenever possible though, the Asahina are peace loving and focus on the element of Air, using that element to create works of beauty as well as tempering the aggression of those who would bring war unto them. The Asahina are also great at using their Air magic to strengthen their defenses.
The Protectors of the Temples deck is an honor theme.
Shadow of the Pride
Throughout the history of the Emerald Empire, there has been no greater military force than that of the Lion Clan. Eclipsed only in rare moments of weakness that coincided with enormous build-ups on the part of their enemies, the Lion have a centuries-old and well-deserved reputation as the most fearsome and capable army in Rokugan. Historically, in the long years between wars, many have looked to the contemplative Akodo and the brash Matsu and falsely believed that the Lion have been hide-bound to tradition, making them weak. It is a fallacy that virtually every clan has come to deeply regret at one point or another.
The Empress has seen the Lion’s honor, and knows that it is not hubris, but humility, that drives them. For that reason, she has called upon the Lion, as her Right Hand, to form a core unit in the revitalized Imperial Legions. The bushi who serve in the Shadow of the Pride have a passionate devotion to honor, and the standards they set for themselves far exceed those they place upon others.
No one can question the adherence of the Lion to bushido, but this has not rendered them blind to the realities of war. As a whole, the clan recognizes the vital role that information plays in warfare, and the fact that a battle can be won before either army takes the field is something taught to even the youngest and least experienced student of the Akodo sensei. While it is the Akodo who lead the armies, and the Matsu who comprise the bulk of their ranks, it is the valiant Ikoma who gather the information that wins battles.
The Ikoma have a long-standing tradition of serving as magistrates and sentries for the Lion provinces, but their role in the assault upon the clan’s enemies is less heralded among the Empire’s stories of valor and battle. The Ikoma-trained scouts who serve the Lion armies are like shadows that slip into the contested lands before battle and carefully gather intelligence on their enemies and the terrain on which the war is to be fought. It is their knowledge, relayed to their lords among the Akodo, that influences vital decisions and tactical strategies the Lion use to win wars. And while the other clans may never be aware of the vital role that the scouts among the Lion play in their defeat, the other Lion families never forget.
Lion scouts are impeccable at finding the perfect terrain for Lion tacticians to use. This uncanny knowledge is what sets Lion scouts apart from the scouts of other clans. While still proficient archers as scouts tend to be, it is their knowledge of the land, and knowing how to exploit the terrain that truly showcases their strengths. When upon the right terrain, archers can turn from an annoying obstacle into a force of certain death.
The Shadow of the Pride deck is a military theme.
Paragons of Loyalty
Although many in Rokugan would be hard-pressed to find words describing the virtues of the Scorpion Clan, when the issue is forced, most will grudgingly admit that the adherence of the average Scorpion samurai to the tenet of loyalty is nigh absolute. To a man, the Scorpion are willing to sacrifice their honor and the sanctity of their name in the better interests of the clan. They do this for one reason and one reason only: the unwavering devotion to their lords and to the notion that their lords are worthy of this greatest sacrifice.
One of the Scorpion Clan’s most dangerous practices is the deadly games they employ in the courts of the Empire. Scorpion courtiers are ruthless without measure and willing to invest years or even decades of time and careful manipulation to see a plot come to fruition. These games require pawns, however, and it is often their brothers in arms, their yojimbo, who take on the role of a carefully disguised weapon held close to the breast of their enemies (or occasionally their allies!). A Scorpion yojimbo can seem to be a rampaging beast barely held in check by the good graces of a friendly courtier, or perhaps an honorable man bound by his oaths to fulfill terrible edicts at the command of a sinister lunatic in the courts. Sometimes, these paragons appear to be both at once! With the Scorpion, nothing can be assumed but that they are loyal to their cause without exception.
The Scorpions fierce loyalty is exemplified in their Paragons of Loyalty theme. While the Paragons of Loyalty are indeed paragons, it is not to the tenets of Bushido or Shourido, as is typically seen. They are models of excellence, also known as paragons, to the concept of Loyalty. Their primary role is as the yojimbo of the Scorpion, who are there to protect their courtiers, and that is where they draw their strength. As with the Phoenix yojimbo and their Shugenja, the Scorpion yojimbo keep their charges safe from harm by keeping them at home, getting boosted by their mere existence. Where they differ from each other is how they are enhanced. A Phoenix yojimbo gets magical enhancement by his Shugenja, strengthening him in combat. A Scorpion yojimbo gets political enhancements from his Courtier, which allows him more control over his opponent. Control can be a powerful tool. Using the political power of the Scorpion Courtiers, along with the strength in arms their devotion to loyalty brings them, the yojimbo of the Scorpion command a power no other can.
The Paragons of Loyalty deck is a military theme.
Shi-Tien Yen-Wang Priests
Centuries ago, the Moto nomads revered the capricious and wrathful gods known as the Shi-Tien Yen-Wang, the Lords of Death. The Lords granted their subjects great power in exchange for their dutiful worship, but they were not kind gods, and when the time came, the Moto abandoned them after joining the wandering Ki-rin Clan. Outraged at the Moto’s temerity, the Lords of Death plagued them for years, eventually finding them in Rokugan and subjecting them to kharmic suffering for their abandonment. In time, however, the valiant heir to the clan, Moto Chagatai, confronted the Lords in their own realm and struck a bargain: the Moto would return to their worship of the Lords of Death, even spreading their teachings to other families and clans, in exchange for the Lords’ pardon for their ancestors’ crimes. The Shi-Tien Yen-Wang found these terms acceptable, and the Death Priests of the Unicorn Clan were created.
Since Chagatai’s bargain was struck, the Death Priests have become a well known faction within the shugenja of the Unicorn Clan. Many members of the Iuchi family have embraced the Lords of Death, accustomed to the family is to strange religions and practices. Death Priests are known throughout the Empire for their dark, severe demeanor, and for the potency of the Lords’ favor when granted during battle. The Shi-Tien Yen-Wang have become lesser Fortunes in the Rokugani cosmology, and as a result there are even a small number of shugenja in other clans who have taken up worship of the Lords. Their severity fits well with the traditional samurai mindset, but only those priests who accept their dual role as warriors are suitable for service in the eyes of the Lords of Death.
The power granted by the Lords of Death gives the Moto Death Priests amazing control over both life and death. Something that is very handy to have on the field of battle. Combine this power with their affinity for the element of Water, and the Moto Death Priests are a force to be reckoned with.
The Shi-Tien Yen-Wang Priests deck is a military theme.
Defenders of the Mountains
There are few in the Empire who would ever define the Dragon as traditionalists, but in the minds of many, the Tamori family goes too far in their deviation from the norm. A young family with less than a century of their own customs and ways, the Tamori have always been one of the Empire’s most martial shugenja families. Under the leadership of Tamori Shimura and his chief advisor Wotan, however, the family has well and truly embraced its martial heritage.
The Tamori are the Empire’s greatest practitioners of alchemy, an art poorly understood by any other family save for their progenitors among the Agasha, to whom no Tamori maintains a speaking relationship. Their prowess in this area allows them to contain the power of their spells into potent liquids that can be transported. This in turn allows others to employ them without the presence of the Tamori, and allows the family to fulfill much of their duties as battlefield support without actually requiring their presence. This is fortunate, for it allows the Tamori to practice their art as yamabushi, or warrior priests. The yamabushi of the Tamori family are trained in the art of weaponry and warfare, and rather than assault their enemies from afar, they prefer to close and devastate them at close range.
The yamabushi are a controversial group throughout Rokugan. Their very presence is offensive to the Lion, horrifying to the Crane, and saddening to the Phoenix. The Crab and Scorpion find them merely amusing. Regardless, the strong reactions that they provoke in others has led the leadership of the Dragon to keep them stationed at home, and the principal duty of the Tamori is the defense of the Dragon mountains. At least for now, at any rate.
The Defenders of the Mountains deck is an honor theme.
Masters of Niten
In the history of Rokugan, there have been two dominant schools of thought with regard to the use of the daisho. The most prevalent, practiced by the majority of clans throughout the Empire, calls for the samurai to wield the katana, his soul, in battle while preserving the wakizashi, his honor, for more ceremonial uses. Alone among the Great Clans, the Dragon eschew this philosophy, embracing the practice of Niten, the two-blade style of swordsmanship. Despite the centuries of tradition associated with Niten, many view it as an unconventional and derivative practice, which would be greatly offensive to anyone except the Dragon, who do not regard the opinions of others as of particular importance.
Although Niten is far and away the most prevalent fighting style found among Dragon bushi, the clan’s acceptance of unconventional styles has engendered a philosophy among many Dragon that each warrior must find his own path in terms of what weapons suit him best. For this reason, many among the clan can be counted among the ranks of the kensai, those warriors who excel at a large variety of weapons. Many clans permit the teaching of multiple weapon styles, of course, but few embrace it to the extent that the Dragon have, and as a result the Mirumoto are known as some of the deadliest individual combatants in all of Rokugan.
Some of the prominent fighting styles that have arisen amongst /p/athe Dragon as a result of this acceptance of divergent paths include the Fusami style, which is a combination of traditional duelist training with highly unconventional and acrobatic, sweeping strikes; the Nightingale Technique, a highly modified version of the traditional niten-do style; and the Yozo style, which is an extremely aggressive, relentless form of kenjutsu that is well suited to whittling away an opponent’s strong defenses.
Kensai are often misunderstood in Rokugan, frequently confused for duelists. The two are rather different though. While a duelist is a master of the art of iaijutsu, a kensai is the master of weapons. Though generally each kensai is a master of only one type of weapon, the Dragon spend their lives mastering Niten. This does not mean, however, that all Dragon kensai are masters of the katana and wakizashi technique. Some kensai may be a master of katanas, while another map style=”text-align: center”y be a master of the yumi, while another may be the master o/pf the dai-tsuchi, though this last one is rather rare to find in the ranks of the Dragon. Each kensai is deadly in his own right, regardless of the weapon he chooses to master. As weapon masters, kensai are functional on their own, however they truly excel once they are equipped with a weapon.
The Masters of Niten deck is a military theme.
If there is any group that truly embodies the dichotomy of the Spider Clan, then it is the order of sohei that bear their clan mon proudly. Once existing within the Brotherhood of Shinsei as a false order bearing the name the Order of Venom, the sohei who follow Lord Daigotsu’s banner have since abandoned all pretence, something they despise as weakness, and simply embraced their true nature as the Order of the Spider.
The men and women who make up the Order of the Spider are a varied lot. They seem to possess but a single common trait: they discovered that their journey to enlightenment followed a path that the Brotherhood condemned as false or corrupt. The order’s founder, Roshungi, was said by many to be a madman, but none can argue that he found true power at the culmination of the path he walked. If anything, his hand-picked successor and the man who truly shaped the destiny of the Order of the Spider, Michio, was even more so. Like Michio, many of the order eschew the Shadowlands Taint, preferring instead to focus on attaining their own power through whatever means suits them. Unlocking the true potential of their dark chi grants them abilities that seem fearsome beyond all reckoning, and which prompts the unquestioned, unyielding condemnation of the Brotherhood. Only Daigotsu embraced the order and blessed their methods, and it is for that reason that the sohei serve the Spider above all others.
The Spider sohei are unique among monks in the empire as they are fully armed and trained warriors. With their martial arts training and their mastery of weapons, the Spider sohei are a very lethal opponent.
The Sohei deck is a military theme.
Paragons of Bushido
The Lion have often been held as an example, if most frequently by members of their own ranks, as the ultimate expression of a samurai devoted to the code of bushido. Bushido and those works inspired by it, most notably the sacred Leadership, penned by the Kami Akodo, have laid the course for the whole of the Lion Clan’s beliefs and system of warfare for more than one thousand years, and that is unlikely to change. Even among the Lion, the most ardent adherents to the code of bushido are found among the Matsu. Easily the largest family in the Empire, the Matsu have a well-earned reputation for anger and ferocity, for unflinching devotion to bushido, and for absolute ruthlessness on the field of battle. For many Matsu, absolute devotion to bushido requires the sacrifice of personal concerns and considerations. Only bushido matters. Only honor matters.
To the Matsu, the tactical brilliance of the Akodo is but a means to an end, and one that requires the Akodo to separate themselves from the reality of bushido in order to dwell within the realm of theory and strategy. It is not a duty the Matsu wish for themselves, but one they gladly allow others to bear in their place. Likewise, the reconnaissance function of the Ikoma is a necessary but distasteful aspect of warfare that the Matsu eschew in favor of the traditional warrior’s role. The Lion are the embodiment of bushido, yes, but it is the Matsu who are the blade of the Lion Clan.
While they venerate all of the tenets of Bushido, as Lion samurai, Lion paragons follow Honor above all else and bring true meaning to the phrase “Honor is a force more powerful than steel.” And honor is a force the paragons of the Lion know how to wield. With ruthless efficiency, paragons of Bushido strike down their enemies on the battlefield, using the discipline learned from years of training to stay calm, cool, and collected under the pressures of battle. To many, using your honor as a weapon is simply a saying. To the Lion paragons of Bushido, it is a way of life.
The Paragons of Bushido deck is a military theme that also can win through honor.
“The Inquisition (Let’s Begin)
The Inquisition (Look out sin)
We have a mission
To convert Ninja (Ni ni ni ni ni ni nja)
We’re gonna teach them (Wrong from right)
We’re gonna help them (See the light)
And make an offer that they can’t refuse.
(That Ninja just can’t refuse)” – Asako Torquemada
The Asako are without question the most varied family of the Phoenix Clan, and perhaps of the Empire as a whole. They fulfill a large number of roles within the family, with many among them serving as courtiers for the clan, many others taking on the role of monastic adherents to bring honor and wisdom to the Phoenix, and still others, albeit only a handful, plumb the depths of the universe’s mysteries as members of the Henshin. There is a strong shugenja tradition within the family as well, however, and of those who can speak to the kami, a small number are found to possess the skill, the resolve, and the drive to become Inquisitors.
The Inquisitors are a small sect within the Phoenix Clan, contemporaries of the Kuni Witch Hunters and the Kuroiban, who are dedicated to the eradication of all blasphemous magical practices throughout the Empire. While the Kuni and Kuroiban focus on the corruption of the Shadowlands, the Inquisitors hunt any and all who break the Emperor’s laws concerning the appropriate use of magic. This has often brought them into conflict with the agents of the Jade Champion, and there have been frequent issues of jurisdiction between the two, but generally even the Jade Champion recognizes the prowess of the Phoenix in this area. The Isawa grudgingly tolerate the invasive practices of the Inquisitors because they ensure that the occasional rogue shugenja does not disgrace the whole of the Phoenix Clan. And of course the Isawa believe that the Phoenix are uniquely suited to determine when and if any samurai of another clans succumbs to weakness, and how to deal with them when that occurs.
The empire is filled with men with evil hearts. Maho-tsukai have plagued the empire for centuries and the Inquisitors exist to cleanse the lands. As Magistrates, it is their job to maintain order in the lands of the Phoenix. This unique role they have has multiple effects. First, it brings honor to themselves and their clan as they successfully battle the evil that infiltrates Rokugan society. Second, it brings shame and dishonor upon those who are revealed.
This duality makes the Phoenix Inquisitor deck both an honor and a dishonor theme.
Archery is considered a noble art within the samurai caste of Rokugan, and one that is pursued by various families in different clans. The Mirumoto family of the Dragon have a strong archery tradition, as do the Shinjo of the Unicorn and even the monastic Asahina of the Crane. Some among these groups consider themselves among the Empire’s greatest archers, but of course they are simply fooling themselves, for there can be no greater archers than those trained by the Tsuruchi family. From their first days as the Wasp Clan, long before they joined Yoritomo’s Alliance and became members of the Mantis, the Tsuruchi have had a reputation as unparalleled master archers, and for good reason. While perhaps once in a generation, a member of another clan manages to equal the Tsuruchi’s prowess through natural ability, they possess a natural affinity that the average man can never hope to match.
The Tsuruchi are one of the fastest growing families in Rokugan, and the second largest family in the Mantis Clan. The vast majority of their ranks are trained as archers first, and swordsmen or magistrates second. They play a pivotal role in the military forces of the Mantis Clan, and a significant number serve at least a short rotation in the Imperial Legions as well, where the Tsuruchi are valued above all others as archers. Being trained among their ranks is of enormous value to other families, and is among the clan’s most highly valued political favors. Due to their specialized training, the Tsuruchi rarely comprise entire military units on their own, but instead support existing Yoritomo forces as magistrates, scouts, and of course, archers.
What other clans think of as expert archery, the Tsuruchi laugh at, as most Tsuruchi are better trained before they reach their gempukku. Because of this, the scouts of the Mantis are a very lethal fighting force.
The Mantis scouts deck is a military theme with a heavy focus on the lethality of their archery.
The samurai of Rokugan are a force to be reckoned with by any estimation. They have endured the wrath of the Heavens, weathered the fall of Dynasties, and engineered the deaths of gods. The indomitability of mankind, their ability to resist even the most sinister machinations of evil forces, and their purity of spirit has allowed them to prosper when all others have fallen. It makes it a simple matter to forget all that has gone before.
This is a terrible mistake.
The world has known countless civilizations and species before mankind rose to power, and some of them carved empires that lasted far longer than the Empire of Rokugan has stood. Perhaps it is a sign of the times that so many are active once again. The sleeping Naga stir in their dreams. The humble Zokujin stir at signs of their sacred Bloodwhite Stone. The murderous oni of Jigoku lust for the blood of men. And even some among the ranks of man, the treacherous Chuda and their terrible sorcery, forsake their humanity in exchange for powers dark and terrible.
The realm of man has never been greater, and has never been more threatened by its enemies. Few are those who dare threaten the Great Clans through force of arms, for time and time again they have proven that such endeavors are fruitless. Instead, the threats grow in the shadows, seeking to corrupt or undermine those who have oppressed or wronged them. Foremost among these are the Chuda, whose schism from the Spider Clan represents one of the greatest threats the Empire’s purity has faced in more than a generation.
The Shugenja of the Chuda have had enough of the Spider’s ways. They feel the Spider have lost sight of their true purpose; the complete and entire annihilation of the people of Rokugan. Fed up with the attempts to destroy the empire from within, the Chuda have left the Spider and have returned to a place of true power, the summoning of Onis. This power, when kept under control, can destroy nations. But for how long will the Chuda be able to control it…
The Jigoku’s Horde theme is not a theme for any one clan, but rather a banner for all types of nonhumans to rally to. Whether you like Onis, Naga, or everything in between, you will find a welcoming home at The Forgotten Temple, though feel free to cleanse your favorite clan of those pointless humans. While Jigoku’s Horde is not one of the main 36 themes of Emperor Edition, it will receive nonhuman support in one fashion or another each expansion.
The Jigoku’s Horde deck is a military theme of pure, unadulterated destruction and is dedicated to the players who worked hard in support of Jigoku.
The twenty-five years since the conclusion of the Destroyer War have been difficult for the Crane. The clan was scarcely recovered from the third Yasuki War and their role in supporting the Empress’ forces in the War of Dark Fire before the plague spread by Kali-ma’s minions reared its terrible head in their beautiful homelands. Stretched to the point of breaking in virtually every way that mattered, the Crane endured through the one battlefield they have always dominated: the courts. One thousand years of favors and the debt of others has allowed the Crane to establish their dominance in court once more, becoming the masters of politics that history has always painted them as. There is no court of any importance anywhere in the Empire that does not have a Crane representative. Virtually every member of the Jeweled Champions and the Emperor’s Chosen have at least one Crane advisor among their immediate retinue. And of course the bond between the Otomo family and the Crane has never been stronger.
Simply because the Crane conduct their wars in court instead of upon the battlefield does not mean there is no collateral damage, however. The brokering of favors and the manipulation of treaties that fuels the Crane political machine is anathema to the rigid worldview of their Lion allies, and relations between the two clans have grown strained as a result. Likewise the Mantis bear enormous resentment toward the Crane and their political interference in matters of an economic nature. Like all others, however, the Mantis can but bide their time, for in the courts of Rokugan, the Crane are all but unbeatable.
Crane Courtiers work endlessly at keeping enemy armies away, choosing to fight on the battlefield of a court. All the while they are showing everyone just how honorable they are. Over hundreds of years in the court, the Crane have mastered the art of using the many favors they have acquired for their own needs.
The Crane Political Warfare deck is an honor theme.
“If you understand construction, you understand destruction. And if you understand destruction, then victory is an inevitability.” – Kaiu Umasu’s Siege
In all of Rokugan, there are no more capable and respected engineers than those among the Kaiu family of the Crab. It is said that he Hiruma provide the Hida with the location of their enemy, the Toritaka provide the identity of the enemy, the Kuni tells them how to destroy the enemy, and the Yasuki fund the entire military effort. If that is true, then it is surely the Kaiu who place the weapons of destruction in their Hida lords’ hands. It is the quiet and industrious Kaiu who construct and repair the great fortresses of the Crab Clan. It is they who maintain the Great Carpenter Wall and the siege engines that sit upon it, visiting death to the massive Shadowlands beasts who draw near to Crab territory. And on a more personal level, it is the Kaiu who craft the blades and armor that every Crab warrior carries into battle, from the simplest tanto to the largest tetsubo.
In battle, the Kaiu are patient, methodical, and all but irresistible. Upon taking the field they immediately begin probing an enemy for any sign of weakness, never resting until they locate one. Once such a weakness has been found, they ceaselessly exploit it, punishing their foes for their lack of foresight and straining even the strongest army or the most impregnable fortress. It is said that no fortification has ever withstood a Kaiu siege, and those who have faced them on the battlefield would be hard-pressed to disagree with such a claim.
In addition to their considerable battle prowess, the Kaiu are in great demand throughout the Empire in their role as architects and smiths. After any significant conflict, most Great Clans will quietly and humbly request the assistance of the Kaiu in rebuilding their losses. The Kaiu are often happy to oblige, for doing so not only gives them insight into the weaknesses of a potential enemy’s defenses, but also gains much honor for the Crab Clan in the process.
Siege warfare is a tough strategy though and only the most brilliant minds can pull it off consistently and successfully, so most of the Kaiu siege masters are also tactical masters. Through their extensive knowledge of defenses, both theirs and their enemies, they are capable of bringing down fortresses as well as making their own impenetrable.
This ability can make them very difficult to attack into, allowing them the ability to both be a military and an honor theme, though honor will often be a secondary fall back option, rather than a primary goal.
There are many things that have changed in the Empire in the decades since the conclusion of the Destroyer War. That the Scorpion are feared throughout Rokugan’s courts is not among them. In virtually every court of significance, and indeed even in many of no significance, there are representatives of the Scorpion present, watching. They are always friendly, always polite and even eager to lend their assistance to those in need of it. But they are always watching for weakness, for mistakes, for missteps. They can wait for days, months, or even years. They can build close friendships, even forge family-like bonds, but when they finally gain that for which they have been waiting, the trap closes without mercy or hesitation.
Many believe that they are beyond the Scorpion’s reach, that they cannot be drawn into a web of blackmail and deceit because they would never stoop to terrible acts like murder or treason, but such things are rare and the Scorpion have little use for them. It is small acts, minor indiscretions, which open the way for the Scorpion. Such things can be overlooked with but a minor favor for a Scorpion in need, and then the offender’s fate is sealed. Not only do the Scorpion know of the original offense, but now have evidence of collaboration with the Clan of Secrets as well, something that most clans consider a significant compromising of a courtier’s duty.
The battle a Scorpion fights in the courts can be just as deadly as one he would encounter on the battlefield. The Scorpion are masters of the Courtier art and will bring you and your entire house to ruin if you are not careful.
The Political Warfare deck is a dishonor theme.
Paragons of Shourido
The keen observer out there may notice that Unicorn has not yet received their second theme write-up. Unfortunately, all of the Unicorn’s horses have run away and the entire clan is out in the fields recovering them. We expect they should be back for next week. In the mean time, the gracious Spider have agreed to cover their shift.
The Great Clans of Rokugan all revere the code of bushido to varying degrees. Some, like the Lion, make it the most important part of their lives. Others, like the Mantis, have less use for it but still count many adherents among their ranks. Only the Spider Clan eschews the code completely. There may be some among its ranks that adhere to bushido, but they are surely less than can be counted on one’s fingers. Instead, they cling to the heretical philosophy of shourido, the path of the individual.
The paragons of shourido are a frightening and terrible group. They are wholly devoted to the path of personal power, of achieving as much through their own merits as possible. Those who achieve this position have climbed over the bodies of countless enemies and rivals in the process, achieving greatness while avoiding succumbing to the perils of complete absorption in their own excesses. A paragon of strength can easily become an inhuman monstrosity, just as a paragon of will can become a megalomaniacal madman incapable of accepting any authority other than his own. True paragons temper these mad urges and master them, becoming stronger in the process. The paragons of shourido are the inspirational leaders of the Spider Clan; not because they care to inspire others, but because the rank and file of the clan looks to them as examples to be emulated. They are the ideal to which the average Spider aspires.
Where bushido focuses on how to be the best samurai you can for improving yourself as an honorable, selfless person and in turn improving society, shourido is a very selfish philosophy that solely promotes self-improvement, for no one’s sake other than your own. Shourido is powerful though, and the followers of shourido are proof of this.
The Paragons of Shourido deck is a military theme.
Children of the 4 Winds
Less than a century ago, the Shinjo family ruled the Unicorn and were respected throughout the Empire. Then the Lady Shinjo returned, as she had promised, and the family’s fortunes were shattered. Their infiltration by the Kolat was revealed, and their shame persisted for decades. In the modern era of Rokugan, however, that shame has been washed away by the advocacy of the Moto and, strangely enough, the Shinjo’s traditional enemies among the Akodo. The Shinjo are respected among the Empire once more, and not least of all for their significant tactical expertise.
When the Unicorn armies march, the Moto ride at the front, commanding and leading their kinsmen to war. It is the Shinjo who enable them to do so, however. The Shinjo gather intelligence via their peerless scouts, and compile it into vital tactical data that the Unicorn commanders use to great effect on the field of battle. The Moto armies, the Utaku battle maidens, and of course the Shinjo family’s own military forces all rely upon vital scouting data and enemy assessments from the family’s scouts in order to wage war with the brutal effectiveness for which the Unicorn have been known since the first days of the Unicorn Clan Khan.
While the Lion tacticians are truly the masters of warfare in Rokugan, they do not have quite the ability to use cavalry to its full advantage like a Unicorn tactician does. In fact often times the Unicorn tacticians themselves are not cavalry, having spent their time studying the battles of history instead of mastering horsemanship, and as such do not wish to slow their troops down. While this is not always the case, often times Unicorn tacticians are most effective when they do not go to battle. And effective they are, for when you combine the brilliance of a master tactician with the speed of a skilled Unicorn cavalry unit, you get a deadly force that can trample all in its way.
The Children of the Wind deck is a military theme.
In the earliest days of the Empire, there was a dark bond forged between the Shosuro family of the Scorpion Clan and the primordial entity called the Lying Darkness. This was true as well of the Soshi family, but to a much lesser extent. For centuries, the influence of the Darkness wound its way into the very soul of the Shosuro, rendering them the consummate assassins. They could blend with the darkness, move unseen through the night, and take the life of virtually any target, no matter how well protected. In time, the spiritual corruption became too great, and many Scorpion were lost to the faceless ranks of the Darkness’ minions. Perhaps even worse, when the Darkness was defeated at the Battle of Oblivion’s Gate, the acumen of the Shosuro was severely compromised with the loss of their supernaturally enabled members. It was a deficit the Scorpion would not endure.
Generations later, the Shosuro and their allies from the other families operate as effectively as they ever did under the yoke of the Darkness, and without the spiritual compromise they endured then. Suitable candidates for Shosuro training are located as children and begin their training years earlier than their fellow Scorpion. Their training is rumored to be among the most grueling and excruciating experiences in the whole of Rokugan, but the effects cannot be denied. The Shosuro are the most skilled assassins and infiltrators in the known world. Those enemies of the Scorpion Clan who warrant the attention of the Shosuro frequently experience perfectly explainable yet fatal accidents or sometimes simply disappear.
Some consider it the clan’s most merciful means of dealing with an enemy.
Stealth and subterfuge are the essential tools to the Ninja if he wishes to complete his missions. Ninjas excel at hiding from their enemies and taking down their targets with ruthless efficiency. Often dismissed as a myth, simply a story used to scare children, many an unfortunate samurai have discovered this is not true, though they usually do not retain this knowledge for more than a few seconds.
The Shosuro’s Shadow deck is a military theme.
The formation of the Kitsu family took place at the dawn of the Empire, when the Kami Akodo realized the mistake he had made in the persecution and near extinction of the kitsu race. In an attempt to make amends, Akodo forged an arrangement with the five known remaining kitsu, who in turn took human form and joined the fledgling Lion Clan as the first members of the Kitsu family. More than a thousand years later, all members of the Kitsu family bear some link, however insubstantial, to those original five kitsu, and it is from this link that the family’s gift at interacting with the spirit realms originates.
The original kitsu could walk between the spirit realms at will, and did so with great frequency. Their teachings allowed humans a very limited version of this same ability. For centuries, the Kitsu have practiced projecting their souls into the spirit realms so that they could seek the wisdom of their ancestors, whom the Lion revere above all others. In recent generations, however, the number of Lion samurai who have perished in battle has increased dramatically with the many lengthy conflicts that have plagued the Empire. Many of these spirits died early and, although they may have completed their destiny in the mortal realm, they remain hungry to serve the interests of their clan. When the Kitsu call, there are always ancestral spirits waiting and willing to answer. Use of these summoned spirits is something of a grey area in terms of many customs and laws in the Emerald Empire, but to the Lion they are merely another extension of the clan’s honor and might.
While all Rokugani revere their ancestors, none have the direct link to their ancestors like the Kitsu. Due p style=”text-align: justify”/pto this connection, the Kitsu are tasked with recording the spiritual history of their clan. These practices garner them great honor. If they need to defend themselves, the Kitsu can call upon the strength of their ancestors to help defend themselves from their attackers, though they are not normally aggressive themselves.
The Ancestral Reverence deck is an honor theme.
Sons of Hida
There were many qualities that made the Kami Hida a terrible enemy, according to legend. His strength was without equal in the Heavens or the mortal realm. His fury was without measure. His prowess with a weapon was feared by man and demon alike. But most of all, the legends say, Hida was simply unkillable. Wounds inflicted that would have killed a lesser man were shrugged off and ignored, often healing before the battle was ended. More to the point, however, Hida would wade into his enemies without fear or hesitation despite overwhelming odds, and his absolute rage and fearlessness rendered his foes unable to stop his advance. It is for this reason that the berserkers of the Crab Clan have taken the name the Sons of Hida.
Even among the Crab, the Sons of Hida are looked upon with a mixture of awe and pity. Their prowess in battle is undeniable, but the fury that consumes so many of them is such that they cannot fight alongside their brothers on the field, for the possibility exists that they will inflict too much damage upon their own allies when the red haze comes upon them. Others among them, those known as the “dead-eye berserkers,” fight with complete dispassion and detachment, killing one enemy and moving to the next without ceasing, vowing to tspana name=”Scorpion: Political Warfare”hemselves that it will not be tp/phis enemy that claims their life, nor the next, nor the/span next, and so on. The dead-eyes rarely inflict collateral damage upon their allies, but their demeanor is such that none wish to be in their company.
The Sons of Hida theme is made up of the berserkers of the Crab. They, much like their clan’s founder, are nigh unkillable on the field of battle. Though typically they are not samurai, they are the stereotypical Crab. Big and hard to touch, they go to battle ready for their deaths but stubbornly refuse to die until they have felled all of their enemies.
With their high force, berserkers are a military theme with no switching option.
Paragons of Bushido
Over the centuries since their return to the Empire, the Unicorn Clan has experienced a great number of changes. Families have had their roles shift dramatically in response to events both political and metaphysical. One family whose role has not changed, however, is the Utaku. Stalwart warriors to the last, the Utaku are feared throughout the Empire for their absolute supremacy in cavalry warfare, even among a clan that is known for its cavalry. Although the males of the Utaku family are the rank and file of the clan’s infantry, it is the women who serve as the shiotome, the Battle Maidens of legend, that have gained the most glory throughout Rokugan.
Utaku samurai-ko are trained from a young age, sometimes years younger than the other families select their students. They bond with horses as children, and by the time they stand ready to join the clan’s military, riding is as natural to them as walking, perhaps more so. Although they have many unconventional practices as a result of their animal husbandry practices, the Utaku are nevertheless extremely devoted to the code of bushido, and adhere to its principles with a zeal that many Lion would find admirable. The Utaku share the same militant principles as their Lion neighbors, but temper it with the compassion and sincerity that the Unicorn as a whole embrace. The end result is a tightly-knit, unified family that are known to all as paragons of bushido.
While the Utaku paragons are similar to the Lion paragons, the main difference between them is that the Lion revere Honor as the highest tenet of Bushido while a Battle Maiden, and the Unicorn as a whole, revere Compassion above all else. This compassion for living beings brings the battle maidens great honor. However, do not confuse their compassion with an unwillingness to go to battle. Give an Utaku swift wind and a strong steed and she will ride into death’s arms with a wild battle cry!
The Paragons of Bushido deck is a military theme that can achieve an honor victory.
There are many strong magistrate traditions throughout Rokugan, including such noble and august groups as the Doji magistrates, the Ikoma wardens, and the Tsuruchi bounty hunters. Many have long and illustrious histories that are centuries long, some dating back even to the first century of Rokugan. It is ironic that in an Empire so focused on tradition, that the most famous and perhaps most widespread magistrate group is one that has the most unconventional methods: the Kitsuki family.
The Kitsuki quite openly eschew the customary testimony-based model of investigation that other clans favor, instead depending upon evidence and other forensic methods. This is anathema to many clans, or at least it was up until the point at which the daimyo of the Kitsuki family was selected by the Celestial Heavens to become the Empress of Rokugan. Although the Divine Empress Iweko I has shown little favoritism to her former family since her ascension, no one can deny that the association between the two has dramatically increased the fortunes of the Kitsuki. Those who previously were open to the family’s strange methods are now much more accepting, and even those who have previously condemned them are grudgingly more neutral toward them for fear of drawing the Empress’ ire through their condemnation.
The Kitsuki seek to know the truth in all things by observing the interaction of people with one another and with the physical world. They possess keen powers of perception that are rivaled by few in the Empire, and they focus those perceptions down to a razor’s edge, capable of reading volumes into the lift of an eyebrow, or the fold of a kimono. Their abilities lend themselves to dueling as well, and some Kitsuki flourish in this profession, although admittedly it is not the path the majority pursue.
There is another oddity that separates the courtiers of the Kitsuki from those of other clans. They do not forgo their sword training as most courtiers do. Keeping their kenjutsu technique fined tuned, as well as their perceptions sharp, keeps the Kitsuki investigators busy. But not so busy to allow their dueling techniques to grow soft, rather they have been sharpened as a new generation of duelists learn from those who came before them and add their own techniques to the style. The Dragon prefer Mirumoto’s Two Sword technique, finding it superior to the Kakita’s One Sword technique. It is important for a Kitsuki to keep his dueling technique sharp, as it is often used when they are bringing a criminal to justice. In their jobs of fighting crime, there are two inevitable outcomes. First, they gain honor as keepers of order. Second, the criminals bring dishonor to their lords by getting caught.
This allows the Kitsuki Investigators deck to win through both honor and dishonor.
The Crane Clan has never been renowned for its military might alone. Indeed, whether or not the clan’s domination of politics and the arts is the cause of its relative military weakness or because of it is a matter of some debate among tactically minded historians throughout Rokugan. Regardless, however, for most of its history the Crane Clan has been viewed as markedly militarily weaker than its rivals, depending upon political clout to preserve them throughout a series of conflicts with larger, more militant clans. The fact that most overlook in this matter is that politics is rarely an expeditious process, and that in the face of naked aggression, the Crane have often had to delay their enemies long enough to ensure that a political solution was possible. And that is the role of the Daidoji within the clan’s hierarchy.
The Daidoji are a dedicated military family with fewer resources and numbers than the majority of other military families, yet they are able to stymie the efforts of enemies like the Lion and Scorpion with impunity. This is due in large part to their scouts, a particularly vigorous and ruthless branch known as the Iron Crane. The Iron Crane specialize in delaying and harassment tactics, and over the course of two decades of peace, they have extended their tactics and philosophy to entire legions of Daidoji forces. They are now the pre-eminent military force of the clan, and the commanders are eager to prove their worth against an enemy in the new era of Rokugan.
As with all scouts, they are very capable archers, striking from the shadows and trees when the enemy draws near. However, where they excel is their ability to know their enemy, and the more they learn of their enemy, the better the get. The Iron Crane deck is a military theme.
No one in the Empire would question the fact that the Phoenix Clan possesses more shugenja and shugenja of greater average power than any other clan in the Empire. Despite their preference for pacifism, the Phoenix have demonstrated again and again throughout the past few centuries that they are a power to be reckoned with. Only the depletion of resources over the course of decades of war have prevented the clan from realizing their true potential as a force within the Empire. After two decades of peace, however, the Phoenix have had the opportunity to replenish their ranks and hone their prowess to a razor’s edge.
Unlike most clans, the Phoenix have no particular elemental specialty, having instead among their ranks shugenja who specialize in each different element. Their prowess with speaking with the kami allows them unsurpassed mastery over the physical elements themselves. In particular the Phoenix are able to convince the kami to abandon the physical aspect of their element, destroying it in the process of the kami leaving to inhabit some other material elsewhere. It is this ability to destroy an enemy’s ability to make war by eradicating weapons, defenses, and other paraphernalia, that makes most other clans truly fear to face them on the field of battle.
The Phoenix Elemental Destruction deck is a military theme.
If there can be said to be a single clan that most embodies the notion of using coin and currency as weapons, then surely it is the Mantis Clan. In a very real sense, the merchant patrons of the Yoritomo family created the concept of economic warfare, although the Yasuki family might laugh at such a statement. Regardless, no one can deny that in the economic landscape of the Empire and its Colonies, the Mantis are a force to be reckoned with. The Yoritomo family commands liquid assets that virtually no other family in Rokugan can rival, and they put them to use with absolute skill and unquestioned ruthlessness.
The dominance of the Mantis Clan originated with centuries of nearly unchecked control over the shipping routes along most of Rokugan’s coastline. A Minor Clan at the time, the Mantis were not given any consideration by most Great Clans because they felt the Yoritomo were beneath their notice. The riches accumulated during these years were amplified considerably by the appointment of a Mantis to the position of first Imperial Treasurer, and the expansion into the Colonies has only given them more resources to call on.
The Mantis use trade and wealth to manipulate and destroy their enemies, either raising the price of essential goods to the point that the enemy has to sue for peace purely to survive, or cutting off the supply of those goods altogether and ruining an enemy’s ability to wage war of any sort, military or political.
Like many of the clans, the Mantis clan has a large contingent of magistrates that are used to police the crime in their provinces. However, not all magistrates are honest, and the Mantis magistrates show what happens when corruption rules the day. Through dirty, underhanded policies and taxation, the Mantis Magistrates fight a war of economics, much like the Yasuki. But where the Yasuki are attacking your holdings, controlling trade and the flow of money, the Mantis are directly attacking you and your troops, through forced bribery, pay-offs, crooked taxation, and other underhanded means. The Mantis magistrates win their fights with these bribes, threats, and other dirty tactics.
The Mantis Economic Warfare is a military theme.
Students of Akodo
Even the most grizzled Crab or surly Moto would grudgingly agree that the greatest tactical mind that the mortal realm has ever known was the Kami Akodo, known throughout most of his mortal life as Akodo One-Eye because of a terrible wound that he suffered during the war with Fu Leng. The simple truth is that regardless of how they feel toward the Lion Clan, all warrior families maintain well-studied copies of Akodo’s Leadership, perhaps the greatest treatise on war that has ever been written.
The descendants and followers of Akodo One-Eye embrace the study of war not only as life’s greatest endeavor, but almost like a religion unto itself. They are among the most honorable of Rokugan’s warrior families, and devote more of their education to the study of strategy and tactics than any other group in existence. They are skilled and devoted warriors themselves, preferring the precise style created by their ancestors, but their true strength on the battlefield is as commanders and officers, guiding the unstoppable might of the Lion Clan as a duelist might guide a flawless blade.
While more than ready to head into battle themselves, they are master tacticians due to planning their strategies. Tactician decks will tend to have more abilities than other decks that are used before the battle in order to make sure the battle runs smoothly. That is not to say they only work before the fight, as their ability to adapt to the current fight is what has brought victory to the Lion for so long.
The Students of Akodo deck is a military theme.
Order of Chikai
There are few bushi families in the Empire that can be said to be more virtuous than the Shiba. Obviously the nature of virtue is one that is debated among different families, but only the most belligerent or biased warrior could look to the Shiba and deny that they hold in high regard not only the tenets of bushido, but also the virtues espoused by the Tao of Shinsei. Rare is the Shiba warrior who is not a scholar as well as a swordsman, or who is not a philosopher as well as a soldier. Of all the strengths of character associated with the Shiba and their pursuit of non-military goals, it is perhaps their selflessness that is most well known.
For much of history, the Shiba were unique in that they were founded by a Kami and yet bowed their will to that of another family, the Isawa. It was Shiba himself who made this arrangement, and did so without thought for himself but only for his Empire. More than one thousand years later, his descendants do the same, and none among them are more revered for their duties than the Order of Chikai.
The Order of Chikai was originally conceived and created as an extremely elite body of yojimbo who were tasked with the protection of the Elemental Masters. That duty has never changed, but has expanded somewhat over the centuries. The order also now protects other high profile shugenja within the clan whom the Council deems worthy of such protection, including the Agasha daimyo, certain students of the sitting Masters and other such figures. Each of these individuals is able to better devote themselves to the service of the Phoenix because they rest easily knowing that the finest warriors in all the Phoenix, the finest yojimbo in the Empire, are standing watch over them at all times.
This relationship, however, is symbiotic, and for their protection, the Phoenix yojimbo in turn receive great strength from their shugenja allies. While capable samurai in their own right, with a powerful shugenja behind him, a Phoenix yojimbo is a serious fighting force to be reckoned with. Their job is to keep their shugenja safe, often mechanically represented by keeping their shugenja at home while they go off to battle. The Shiba yojimbo also have long been proficient duelists, though their technique is not as honed as that of the Crane or Dragon.
The Order of Chikai deck is a military theme.
Warrior Monks of Togashi
There is little that can be said of the Togashi order that would apply universally to all its members. There are few if any groups in the known world that are so diverse and individually unique as the Togashi, and indeed all that can be said about the brothers of the order with any certainty is that they are strange men and women, without exception. Some are philosophers and explorers. Many are teachers. A number of them, however, are warriors, and while only a small portion of them willingly accept that label, there are exceedingly few among the entire order who can be said to be without martial ability.
The martial abilities of the Togashi monks vary wildly depending upon the brother in question. Some are exceptionally destructive warriors, possessing strength and power that might dissuade even the mightiest Crab warrior from engaging them. Others possess speed and finesse in great measure, outpacing the draw of a Crane’s blade or the unerring accuracy of a Lion’s weapon. Many prefer to fight to disable a foe rather than injure them, for injury is a distraction that steers the mind away from learning. Indeed, many consider physical combat merely another means of instruction, and speak to their foes as they might a petulant student. This rarely has a positive effect upon the enemy, but the Togashi are determined to keep trying.
There is another peculiarity to the Togashi: their tattoos. They are made with magical ink derived from the blood of their Kami founder, Togashi. With these mystical tattoos, the Dragon monks are able to perform feats of true wonder. While generally fighting unarmed and in no armor, the speed of these tattooed men is unrivaled, often times being able to strike down multiple foes before they could even draw their weapons. This, however, is merely a distraction from the order’s true purpose.
Togashi monks spend much of their time meditating, seeking enlightenment and attuning themselves to the world around them. This attuning often leads them to having a masterful knowledge of one of the five elements, though rarely is it ever Void.
The Warrior Monks of Togashi deck is a military theme, but it is fully capable of Enlightenment as well.
In the aftermath of the Destroyer War, prudence led the Divine Empress to grant limited amnesty to all those who bore the mon of the Spider Clan. Those among the Spider who already bore the mark of Jigoku upon their souls, however, were not permitted to remain within the boundaries of the Emerald Empire, but were instead banished beyond its borders into the ruined and abandoned region once known as the Ivory Kingdoms. There, the corrupted ranks of the Spider were dispatched to bring order to the chaos, pacifying the region under the careful supervision of the Dragon Clan. With the power of the Spider at the Empire’s command, the Colonies have been hewn through the blood and sweat of a legion of the most terrible warriors imaginable.
The rank and file of Iweko’s Conquerors are everything that the people of Rokugan fear about the Spider. They are corrupt without exception, and possessed of incredible powers that would wither the soul of those unprepared to wield them. Some resent being pitted against monstrosities and the land itself, but many more revel in the unbridled destruction that their mandate permits them to engage in. If, in the process of this pacification, some small number have been led away from the Spider’s path by the teachings of their Dragon overseers, few make mention of it.
While not used to having to work in such tight units, the Spider have picked up quite a few techniques from the other clans. They have learned how to efficiently command units and get their full capacity from them. But not with an arrow, like the Mantis, but up close and personal. The Spider way. A Mantis archer may be able to kill someone from some amazing distances, but he will never truly know the satisfaction of snapping an enemy’s neck with his bare hands, feeling the life drain from his body. This is the kind of joy only a Spider truly knows.
The Iweko’s Conquerors deck is a military theme.
Having lost their homeland to the dark forces of the Shadowlands for hundreds of years before finally reclaiming it, the Hiruma family has never abandoned their quiet, intense resolve to destroy all that the Shadowlands contains as a measure of vengeance for the incredible insult they suffered. During the time of loss and during the years since Shiro Hiruma’s recovery, the Hiruma have toiled beyond the Wall in every recess of the Shadowlands, tirelessly working against the horrible demons that call that twisted realm their home. Many among the Hiruma joke that the Scorpion, who must remain unseen, have a simple time of it; a Hiruma scout must remain unseen, unheard, and avoid being detected by smell, not to mention the various supernatural abilities of oni to detect them.
Among the Hiruma are a number of different detachments. One of the most famous of these are the so-called Hiruma Snipers. These are archers of astonishing speed and skill, men and women who are respected even by the vaunted Tsuruchi, greatest archers in the Empire. The snipers are accustomed to firing from cover, striking vital parts that can cripple or kill instantly, and either moving in to finish off their prey or fleeing while it is incapacitated. It is relatively short range work, as the Hiruma are not inclined to anger a distant enemy unless given extremely good reason to do so. When forced to, however, the Hiruma archers are among the finest close-range marksmen in the Empire, and there are untold thousands of dead demons that can readily attest to such a fact.
Mainly the Hiruma family, the Crab scouts are prolific archers, and their abilities reflect this. Where the Crab scouts really excel is their ability to work in small, cohesive units. This leads the Crab scout deck to excel with followers, and their abilities reflect this capability.
Even with higher than average personal honor for Crab, they are still primarily a military theme with no switch options.
Lords of the Plains
Many years ago, the Lady Shinjo returned to Rokugan and to her people, just as she had promised she would centuries before when she had disappeared from the mortal realm. Incensed beyond measure at the extent to which the Kolat conspiracy had corrupted the family bearing her name, Shinjo deposed her own family and elevated the Moto, a family many found to be crude and barbaric, to a position of leadership within the clan. Decades later, despite that the Shinjo family has redeemed itself in the eyes of many, the Moto retain control of the Unicorn Clan. In fact, the majestic Lady Shinjo has been reborn, reincarnated in the form of the current Clan Champion, a young woman named Moto Naleesh. It is at Naleesh’s command that the Unicorn move forward into a bold new era.
While the Shinjo and the Utaku families provide the tactical advisors and elite cavalry units of the Unicorn armies, it is the Moto who continue to comprise the majority of the forces at the clan’s command, as well as the many officers necessary to coordinate such a large military force. Even if it were not for the blessings of the Lady Shinjo, and her reincarnation into the ranks of the Moto, the other families would likely defer to the Moto with regard to warfare anyway; the Moto are simply the most ruthless and relentless of all the Unicorn families, and the ones best suited to ensure absolute victory on the battlefield at any cost. The Empire has not quite yet forgotten the name Moto Chagatai, and for very good reason.
As one of the least accepted clans in the empire, the Unicorn are aware they must keep a healthy army and good commanders at their disposal at all times, even in times of peace. So even in this 25 years of peace the empire has experienced, the Unicorn have continued their military training. The Unicorn commanders excel at the mobility of their troops. And when a Unicorn army comes towards you, beware, for before you know it they will be on top of you, trampling your helmet underneath their hooves.
The Lords of the Plains deck is a military theme.
“With the wealth from the Colonies come those who wish to grow rich off of it. Which is fine, until one seeks to do it at the clan’s expense. Then I must intervene and correct the wise or dispose of the foolish. Were you still alive, you could figure out which you were.”
There are many magistrate traditions throughout the Empire. The Kitsuki family of the Dragon are probably the most well known, but the Shinjo, Doji, and Ikoma families are merely a few of the many others that exist throughout Rokugan. Every clan, every family, has a need for peace in their lands in order to ensure prosperity and harmony. Every clan, that is, except perhaps the Scorpion. Among the Scorpion, peace is an opportunity for weakness or distraction, or perhaps even worse, inefficiency. The many plots and secrets of the Scorpion Clan require a never-ending parade of pawns and scapegoats, and there is no branch of that clan more adept at securing such things than the Soshi magistrates.
Unlike all other known magistrate traditions, the focus of the Soshi is not to enforce justice and law. They do those things, to be sure, but only when doing so is in direct support of the goals of the Scorpion Clan. Criminals who operate outside the sanction of the Scorpion or who work in opposition to the clan are crushed mercilessly and without hesitation. Even more so, they are held up as an example before the Empire of how the Scorpion are dedicated to justice despite the beliefs of others. Few are fooled by such hollow gestures.
The Scorpiospann magistrate is a bit different than other magistrates in the empire in that, as a Scorpion, all of their motives are ulterior. While a Crane or Dragon magistrate might arrest a man due to his crimes and to keep the city safe, a Scorpion magistrate arrests a man so he may be used as a pawn for someone else in a much grander scheme. This prevents the Scorpion magistrate from gaining much honor from his act, however he is much better at bringing shame and dishonor on his victims. The Underhand deck is a military and dishonor switch theme.
Keepers of the Peace
Although they are not as celebrated as other judicial traditions among the Great Clans, the Crane Clan and more specifically the Doji family have a long and illustrious history as magistrates within the clan and beyond. The Doji magistrates are a secondary tradition within the leaders of the Crane, but one that has worked tirelessly behind the scenes for many centuries to maintain the seemingly flawless peace of the Crane provinces. The instances where a visitor to the Crane lands has witnessed a crime taking place are virtually nonexistent, and this is due almost exclusively to the efforts of the Doji magistrates.
In addition to their efforts for the clan, Doji magistrates are frequently called upon to support and bolster the efforts of the Emerald Champion, a position filled more frequently by a Crane than by any other clan throughout history. While many look at the frequent presence of Crane among the highest echelons of service for the Imperial bureaucracy and scoff, imagining that political favors are to blame, the truth is that a great many Crane earn their way to the top through dedication and skill.
The Crane Magistrates have spent the last 25 years dealing with a post-wartime society. When you take Samurai who knew nothing but fighting their whole lives and suddenly tell them there is no more fighting, trouble will surely follow. An increase in crime has made the Magistrates more necessary than ever. Often times when you accuse someone of a crime, it also leads to a duel, so the Magistrates have to also be supreme duelists, which luckily is not a problem for the Crane. The Crane practice Kakita’s One Sword technique, feeling it is superior to the Dragon’s Two Sword technique. In their duties, Magistrates have to deal with dishonorable scum and, by publicly arresting them, it creates two o/autcomes. First, the Magistrates garner honor for dealing with this scum. Second, the Magistrates cause honor loss to the lords of the scum they capture. Because of these two dynamics, the Keepers of the Peace deck is an honor theme that can also dishonor the enemy.
Children of Thunder
Decades ago, the selfless sacrifice of the Thunder Dragon, the most benevolent and passionate of all the Elemental Dragons, allowed the spirit of the mortal hero Yoritomo to ascend from the rank and file of the Celestial Court and take his place among the Kami, forever consecrating the position of his people, the Mantis, as a Great Clan of Rokugan. This act was not one of kindness, however, but rather of sacrifice; in order for Yoritomo to ascend to true divinity, the Thunder Dragon had to sacrifice its own divinity. Immeasurably weakened and cast out by its indifferent fellow dragons, Thunder fell to the mortal realm, summoning as it fell its own mortal champion, the Mantis lord Yoritomo Naizen. At once, the Mantis Clan answered the call of their most generous and loving patron.
Now, years later, the Thunder Dragon remains in the mortal realm, Despite its almost inconceivable power, the creature is still weakened and moral, and under the right set of circumstances, it could theoretically be slain. Unwilling to rely solely upon the dragon’s own power to protect it, the Mantis have assisted it in finding a private place to conceal itself, and they continue to stand watch over it. Additionally, a sacred ritual in which the soul of Mantis shugenja mingle ever so slightly with the essence of the Thunder Dragon has been created, and allows those priests and priestesses to wield an infinitesimal fraction of the dragon’s power in exchange for the bolstering of its essence with their souls. These shugenja, the Children of Thunder, are not completely human any longer, but they serve the Mantis with power unlike any before seen in the mortal realm, and in the name of the Thunder Dragon, it is a sacrifice they make readily.
It is their sacred duty to harness and protect the element of Thunder. And while Thunder is not one of the five elements that make up the world around it, it is still very powerful. A power only the Mantis truly wield and understand. Whether it is the deafening sound bringing their enemies to their knees or the bolts of lightning striking them down, fighting against the Children of Thunder is fighting against mother nature herself. The Mantis Thunder deck is a military theme.
While not a true theme as the others featured on this page, the Ronin will nonetheless make a return in Emperor Edition with Palace of the Breaking Dawn. They will receive support throughout the arc, though not at the levels of the other themes. The life of a Ronin is long, arduous, unforgiving, and thankless, never having anything handed to them. Are you up to the task? The Ronin theme, if it can survive the society it lives in, is a military deck.