Friday, September 26, 2008


Rokugan is the fictional empire which is the main power in the Legend of the Five Rings setting, the basis for the Legend of the Five Rings Collectible Card Game, Legend of the Five Rings Role-Playing Game, and the now out of print Clan War Miniatures game, all from Alderac Entertainment Group. It is similar to feudal Japan, though it also includes aspects of other Asian cultures, as well as magic and mythical beasts. The setting was used by Wizards of the Coast as the basis for their updated Oriental Adventures Dungeons & Dragons supplement.

There is no given name for the entire world which the setting describes, so “Rokugan” is used alternately to refer to the specific nation within the setting or to refer to the entire world. Strictly speaking this is incorrect, but as the Emperor lays claim to all that is as a right of being the descendant of Amaterasu (Lady Sun) and Onnotangu (Lord Moon), the courtiers of the Emerald Empire would see this as an appropriate use. The citizens and rulers of the Burning Sands and Ivory Kingdoms might disagree, however. Some say that Ningen-Do, the name of the metaphysical realm in which the world is placed, serves as a proper name for the world.

The Empire of Rokugan

Rokugani society is based on a clan structure, with seven (and later eight) so-called “Great Clans”, as well as a number of minor clans. Great Clans are made up of several family lines, each with their own general purpose within the clan. Minor clans, on the other hand, generally only have one family. Each clan also has areas of land under their control which the emperor bestowed on them as a fief. The emperor retains ownership off all lands, however, and the clans essentially rent the lands they use by paying taxes annually.

Crab Clan

The Crab Clan is considered the least cultured or courtly of all the clans. Their duty is to guard the Carpenter Wall that separates the empire of Rokugan from the foul and tainted Shadowlands. In guarding the wall, they face constant attack from undead foes, Oni (demons), and a variety of other evil minions. It has been the Crab clan’s duty to guard the wall for as far back as memory goes. It is, for this reason, that they have become experts of defensive strategies. Their warriors are all battle hardened and experienced and most of them prefer to wield massive weapons such as the tetsubo (two-handed war-club) or the no-dachi (two-handed sword). The clan families are Hida, Hiruma, Kaiu, Kuni, Toritaka, and Yasuki. The clan colors are grey and dark blue.

Crane Clan

The Crane Clan is considered the most artistic of all the clans. They are the Emperor’s Left Hand. They are known throughout the empire for their trained courtiers and duelists. Crane samurai are arguably the finest duelists in Rokugan. They are trained heavily in Iaijutsu (fast-draw technique) where the sword is drawn and a killing blow is struck with one, very fast movement. The clan families are Asahina, Daidoji, Doji, Kakita and formerly the Yasuki, who now swear allegiance to the Crab Clan. The clan colors are white and light blue.

Dragon Clan

The Dragon Clan controls the mountains to the north of the empire. They are aloof and removed from the affairs of the other clans, preferring to reside in their mountain strongholds. Most of the land the Dragon Clan holds becomes completely cut off from the rest of the empire during the winter due to heavy snowfall. Their samurai use niten (two-strike style) in which combatants use both katana and wakizashi to execute very fast strikes in rapid succession. To many observers, the niten looks more like a dance than actual combat, however, niten is a deadly art requiring a great deal of skill and coordination. The clan families are Hoshi, Kitsuki, Mirumoto, Tamori, Togashi, and formerly the Agasha, who now swear allegiance to the Phoenix. The clan colors are emerald green and gold.

Lion Clan

The Lion Clan is known as a very aggressive and honor-driven clan. They are the Emperor’s Right Hand, personally defending his causes above all else. Some of the finest generals of all Rokugan have come from the Lion clan. The clan families are Akodo, Ikoma, Kitsu, and Matsu. The clan colors are brown and yellow.

Mantis Clan

The Mantis Clan started as a group of minor clans that banded together under the banner of one powerful man, Yoritomo. They are the only new Great Clan, as previously the requirement for such recognition was being founded at the founding of Rokugan. They are known for their seafaring ability and their fine silks. The clan families are Kitsune, Moshi, Tsuruchi, and Yoritomo. The clan colors are silver and green.

Phoenix Clan

The Phoenix Clan is known as the most skilled with magic in the empire. They have schools of magic associated with each element, including the empire’s only school dealing with Void magic. The clan families are Agasha, Asako, Isawa, and Shiba. The clan colors are red and orange.

Scorpion Clan

The Scorpion Clan is known as the Underhand of the Emperor. They are known for their courtiers’ abilities. Their ninja are experts in assassination and espionage. Scorpion knowledge is not shared with outsiders, but is a true thing of power. Scorpion architects have constructed many key structures throughout Rokugan, and, as a result, many of those structures have secret passages and rooms unknown to all but the Scorpion clan. It is a Scorpion tradition to always be masked, or face painted. The clan families are Bayushi, Shosuro, Soshi, and Yogo. The clan colors are dark red and black.

Unicorn Clan

The Unicorn Clan is known for their cavalry and horsemanship. They are considered barbarians by the other clans because the clan as a whole spent nearly 800 of the last thousand years outside of the empire. They hunt game and eat red meat and have adopted a number of other customs that are considered taboo by the rest of the Clans. However, the horses they brought back from far off lands are faster, stronger, and larger than any found in Rokugan. The clan families are Moto, Horiuchi, Ide, Iuchi, Shinjo, and Utaku, formerly known as Otaku. The clan colors are purple and white.

Minor Clans

There are many minor clans in Rokugan—clans that have been formed since the birth of the empire by those other than the seven Kami. New clans are not founded lightly. The founders of these clans generally performed some extraordinarily valiant deed or favor for the Empire. Among the Minor clans are: Hare Clan, Ox Clan, Sparrow Clan, Spider Clan, Monkey Clan, Tortoise Clan, Bat Clan, Oriole Clan, Dragonfly Clan. The Dragonfly Clan was wiped out in a war between the Lion and the Dragon, but has recently been reconstructed with the help of Toturi Sezuru. The Fox Clan has recently been absorbed into the Mantis.

Other Regions

Burning Sands

The Burning Sands lie to the north and west of Rokugan. These lands consist mostly of vast stretches of desert where nomads roam the land and bitter wars are fought over the smallest reservoirs of water. It is thematically based on a fantastic version of Arabia.

Ivory Kingdoms

The Ivory Kingdoms lie far to the west and south of Rokugan, past the Shadowlands. Little is known of these islands and their inhabitants to the general populace of Rokugan, although secretly (and illegally) the Mantis Clan has been carrying on trade with this nation for some time. It is thematically based on a fantasy version of India.


The Shadowlands border Rokugan to the south and south-west. While not a nation per se this is a vile land where the very air can be poisonous, and foul, unholy creatures are summoned forth by dark powers to wage a never-ending battle against all life in Rokugan.


In the world of Rokugan, there are many different and extraordinary creatures roaming the lands, and humans are not the only beings to have developed a civilization.


The great majority of the population of Rokugan are humans. Humans almost exclusively make up the population of the clans, great and minor, as well as the other groups within Rokugan. The number of non-human members of Rokugan’s clans throughout history can probably be counted on one’s fingers.


The kenku are an ancient race resembling very large humanoid crows. Kenku are legendary swordsmen and are, at least in legend, responsible for training some of the most famous Rokugani swordsmen in history. Seeing a kenku is rare, and getting one to take on a student is nearly impossible. These creatures have removed themselves from Rokugan almost entirely. Their appearance is of a large crow standing upright, and whose wings can be flexed and used as arms.


The Lost are those humans who have given themselves over to Fu Leng’s evil will. They are often “blessed” with his dark gifts, which lead eventually to madness. Some of the Lost have formed mock societies, and there have even been rumors of children born in the Shadowlands, many of whom have the benefits of the dark gifts, with little in the way of curses due to their unfailing devotion to Fu Leng.


The naga are an ancient race of creatures who appear half-human, half-serpent. Long before the rise of Rokugan, the Naga had a vast and vibrant civilization. At some point in pre-history, however, the entire race of Naga entered a deep sleep, where they remained for nearly 100,000 years. They awakened briefly during the Second Day of Thunder, but after a few short years of involvement in Rokugani affairs, they once again returned to their slumber.


The “ratlings” are a race of large, intelligent rats. They currently live in squalor, barely better than animals, although they claim to have once had an extensive, advanced society. Unfortunately, this supposed civilization was entirely within what has become the Shadowlands, and was presumably destroyed when the dark Kami Fu Leng fell to the earth. Nothing found by any explorers has verified the claim of a previous Nezumi society, and many stories of the Naga history provide evidence the society never existed.


The “copper goblins” are small creatures with wiry hair and heads vaguely resembling those of frogs. They have extraordinary natural tunneling abilities—being that they eat rock for nourishment, this is little surprise. Because of this, they are often used—involuntarily more often than not—by the clans of Rokugan in their various mines. Zokujin live to be centuries old, and an experienced zokujin shaman will have more powerful abilities in the area of Earth magic than is possible for human shugenja.


Though now little more than low-witted brutes, the ogres once had a thriving Empire, and rumors of great advancements beyond that of even the current humans. However, with the fall of Fu Leng from the Heavens, the ogres were subjugated to his will, and have since reverted into the monsters they now are.


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