The caste of warriors and rulers in Rokugan. All carry a wakizashi, the mark of a samurai.
Bushi – Warriors specializing in the use of swords and other weapons. Soldiers and Yojimbo usually.
Shugenja – Priests of the Kami, they are able to pray for miraculous results.
Courtier – The lifeblood of Rokugan, courtiers do everything from matchmaking to negotiation between clans.
Holding territory in the southern lands of the Empire. The Crab have always been the guardians of Rokugan. They are experts in the Shadowlands, as it has ever been their duty to man the Great Carpenter Wall that separates the purity of the Empire from the corruption of Jigoku. Comprised of the Hida, the ruling family, the Kaiu, a family of engineers and tacticians, the Kuni, a shugenja family specializing in combating Maho, and the Yasuki, a former Crane family of merchants and negotiators that defected. The Crab tend to be cruder, louder, and more violent than the civilized members of the samurai caste.
The society of Rokugan owes its very existence to the Crane. Founded by the Kami Doji, the Crane are graceful, beautiful, and refuse to tolerate failure. In addition to music, art, and the rules of honor, the Crane are also the foremost duelists in the Empire. The tradition of the Iajitsu duel as a method for settling disputes began with the Crane, and the Kakita Duelling Academy is the most famous place in the entire Empire to study the art of the sword. Beyond all of this, the Crane are one of the most honorable clans in the Empire. Truly they hold themselves up as the very picture of perfection that all samurai should strive for.
Enigmatic, the children of the Kami Togashi are an odd clan of samurai. Composed of monks of the Order of Togashi, perceptive courtiers of the Kitsuki (who have pioneered the growing popularity of citing evidence rather than relying on testimony), the swordmasters of the Mirumoto (who practice the odd Ninten style of swordplay), and the fiery Tamori shugenja, the Dragon usually stay aloof from the goings on in the Empire. When they do come down from their northern mountains, the Dragon impress the traditionalists by scoring many victories with their peculiar ways. Usually neutral in political squabbles, the Dragon are natural mediators.
None embody the way of the warrior like the Lion. The Right Hand of the Emperor, the Lion are one of the most honorable clans in the Empire. Originally under the leadership of the Kami Akodo and his family, the Lion have the largest and most impressive military in the whole Empire. The Akodo are the foremost military tacticians in the entire Empire. No Akodo trained general has ever been defeated by one who isn't. In addition to the phenomenal military prowess of the Akodo, the Lion also boast the wild and ferocious Matsu family. The Matsu believe in little more than strength, honor, and an uncompromising honesty. This frequently opens the hotheaded Matsu to being preyed on by those more politically adroit. The Ikoma, a family of historians, tacticians and storytellers do what they can to protect the reputation of such an honorable clan. The Kitsu are almost an anomaly in such a war-like clan. The Kitsu are shugenja that spend a great deal of time deal with the honored ancestors of the Lion and others. In addition, they provide spiritual guidance to their leaders among the Akodo and Matsu.
Formerly a minor clan descended from the Lion and Crab, the Mantis have been a great clan for years. Built by one man, Yoritomo, the Mantis are a clan of seafarers and some say pirates. The Mantis themselves claim that they are greater than any of the other Great Clans that have never had to try and succeed, having had everything given to them. One of the wealthiest families in the Empire, the Yoritomo remain fully in control of the Mantis. The Yoritomo are unique among all of the families in the entire Empire due to them having a bushi school, a shugenja school, and a courtier school. Most families specialize, there seems to be nothing a Yoritomo cannot accomplish. Along with the Yoritomo are the Moshi family. A family of traditionalists in a clan of those who value new approaches, the Moshi are excellent shugenja. They also bear a mark with the Matsu and Utaku by being a matriarchal family. As all Mantis families seem to have a required oddity, the Moshi revere the old Lady Sun, instead of her replacement. The Tsuruchi stand out as much as the rest of the Mantis by being a family that focuses on the art of the bow to the exclusion of the sword. A family that used to forgo the sword entirely, recently the Tsuruchi have taken to training small amounts with them. They remain the greatest archers in the whole of Rokugan though, and are also excellent magistrates and bounty hunters.
All samurai are warriors, yet the Phoenix remain a clan devoted to peace. The Phoenix are also unique in that the Kami Shiba actually knelt and swore fealty to a mortal man, rather than ruling his own clan. Isawa, the shugenja that Shiba knelt to, founded the most prominent and powerful magical families in the Empire. The Isawa are envied by all for their ability to speak with and deal with the kami. The Shiba have kept to their duty, and have become one of the greatest collections of yojimbo in order to better protect the Isawa. The other two families of the Phoenix are nearly invisible to the rest of the Empire. The Asako comprise the majority of courtiers for the Phoenix, yet they remain a family devoted to scholarship and learning. The Agasha, formerly a family from the Dragon, defected to the Phoenix generations ago. A family of shugenja themselves, they are normally overshadowed by the Isawa.
Villains to a man, the Scorpion are the most reviled clan in the Empire. The Scorpion wear their deception proudly, and are never seen without wearing an ornamental mask. By covering their face, they show why they are the “clan of secrets.” Dishonorable yet powerful, the Scorpion are often underestimated. The Bayushi, the family founded by their ancestral Kami, are a family of both deadly warriors and even more deadly courtiers. The Bayushi are all graceful and stunningly beautiful. Aided by the comparatively bland Shosuro, the Bayushi also rule over the cunning Shugenja of the Soshi. The fourth family of the Scorpion are the Yogo. Cursed in the first war against Jigoku, the Yogo are destined to betray those that they love the most. The original Yogo fled the Phoenix that he loved and joined with the Scorpion that he hated. Passionately devoted to combating the shadowlands, there is rumor of a secret force of Yogo and Shosuro called the “Kuroiban” who make it their duty to seek out and destroy incursions of the Shadowlands in the Empire.
Just after the first ever war with the Shadowlands, the Kami Shinjo took most of her people, and left the Empire. She wished to see what was beyond the borders of Rokugan, what else there was. When they left they were called the Ki-Rin, when they returned 800 years later, they were the Unicorn. Since their return they have still embraced their natural wanderlust and nomadic tendencies. There are few cities in Unicorn lands, most samurai of the Unicorn are just as happy to sleep under the stars or in a temporary tent. When the Unicorn returned to Rokugan, few were willing to believe that the Ki-Rin had come back. After all, where the Rokugani rode large ponies, these barbarians rode huge warhorses. Where the Rokugani refused to eat red meat unless absolutely necessary, the Unicorn love little else like a skewer of roasted red meat. The Unicorn also wear fur, and leather, as they don't seem to follow the tradition of not touching dead flesh. The Unicorn to this day are a clan of calvarymen par exellance, with the most intimidating charge of heavily armored warriors in the world. They also bring a sensibility born of foreign lands and strange customs. Sometimes this works for them, making them unpredictable. Sometimes it only alienates the more traditional among the Empire. The recent attempt by the Khan, Moto Chagatai should have catapulted the Unicorn to the position as the greatest clan in the Empire. It seems to have only sown resentment. Ah well, another thing that the Unicorn are in ample supply of is optimism. Their souls are hard to defeat.
The Imperial Families
The first emperor was Hantei, having proven his superiority in the contest that all of the Kami participated in at the founding of the Empire. While all the other Kami gathered followers and founded their own clans, Hantei gathered two families himself yet didn't found a clan with them. They are the Imperial families, powerful and prestigious.
Masters of the Imperial court, none are better at manipulation than the Otomo. They shoulder a large part of the burden for running the Imperial bureaucracy.
The yojimbo for the Emperor himself, the Seppun are the strong arm of the Imperial families. The Seppun take their duty with seriousness bordering on fantacism. The Imperial court is secured by the Seppun, and they regard the intrusion of any Clan's guards as being a grave insult.
Ronin are despicable creatures. They are either failures and have been cast out of their clans, or samurai born of those who have been cast out. Some hold ronin in a place of pity, and attempt to give them a master that they might serve, others spurn them for not fulfilling the duties that are required of all samurai, to serve. Ronin simply hope that some day they will earn a place in some clan.