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Storytelling in Rokugan often occurs during a time of war, when the role of the warriors and the movements of armies rightly dominate. However, the Empire has lasted for a thousand years, and during that time it has sustained its people and given rise to fine art, and the reserves to support those mighty armies. Power becomes centralized into the mighty and defensible cities which are well described in various sourcebooks, including Otosan Uchi, Toshi Ranbo, Ryoko Owari, Naishou Province, and so on. However, during peacetime and in regions untouched by war, it is small towns and villages that provide the Empire's plenty and demonstrate that Rokugan still bears the Mandate of Heaven. This section describes the Mandate of Heaven, how these villages and small towns are governed by their samurai, the role of courtiers outside of the high courts of daimyos and the Emperor, and how a model village might vary from one clan to another. Some of this material comes from Legend of the Five Rings source books, some based on governance in Japan and Korea, with allusions to Chinese governance.
- 1 The Mandate of Heaven
- 2 The Samurai Family
- 3 Of Koku: Samurai Economics
- 4 The Structure of a Village
- 5 The Development of Cities
- 6 The Transition to War
- 7 The Role of Courtiers
- 8 Variations between Clans
The Mandate of Heaven
When the Eight Kami first fell from Heaven, they encountered a peaceful tribe of farmers led by the wise woman, Seppun. Hantei spoke with her, and in his heavenly wisdom made an agreement with her, and through her, all the peoples of the Empire. The agreement was simple: Follow and support us, and we will grant you Protection from your enemies, Defense against the spirits of other Realms, and The prosperity of your lands.
It was based on this promise that the people of Ningen-do recognized in Hantei the Mandate of Heaven, and have put their faith in him ever since. In order to fulfill this promise, Hantei looked first to his brothers and sisters, and they, in turn, looked to those special men and women of Ningen-do who proved themselves before them, to help them in this task. And so the samurai caste was formed: sons and daughters and those commissioned by the kami, who took up these promises. Samurai stood as bushi, protecting against enemies, as shugenja, defending against the dangerous influence of other spiritual realms - especially Jigoku, and as courtiers, developing the health and prosperity of the land. In these roles, samurai touch upon every aspect of life in Rokugan. And the smallest unit of life in Rokugan is the family.
The Samurai Family
The family is the smallest functional unit of governance in Rokugan. Though families vary in wealth and structure throughout Rokugan, certain fundamentals stay the same.
The Household Together
Each of the Seven Great Clans is made up of a number of Greater and Vassal Families that, united, form the members of the samurai clan. These families, descended along a family line from a single notable ancestor, carry with it the schools, training, and traditions of that family. They are granted their Family Name by the Clan Champion, and the Family Daimyo serves as the Lord for all the samurai who bear his or her name.
However, that Named Family is made up of many, many smaller households, traditionally made up of a husband and wife and their children. This household serves as the central unit of civic governance.
A Household consists of a Mother and Father, their children, and elderly parents who have chosen not to retire to join the brotherhood. It can also include unmarried brothers or sisters, sick or permanently injured family members, and the widows and orphans of the previous members of the family.
The head of each household is responsible for Katokusozoku, the continuation of the family line, as well as making certain the household meets its obligations to its family Daimyo and to the Emperor. The head of household in Rokugan has varied by Great Family and by period of Rokugan's history. Prior to the coming of the Kami, succession was passed from mother to oldest daughter. Later, with the coming of the Kami, many families opted for patriarchal succession, granting leadership of the family to the eldest son. The Matsu, Utaku, and Moshi remained strictly matriarchal. In modern Rokugan, most households pass the succession to the oldest child, male or female, though this is an area of conflict between tradition and the modern view of the family for some households when the oldest child is not a son.
Marriages are arranged with the needs of the Daimyo and the continuation and prosperity of the Household in mind. They are expected to be monogamous, however, if there has been no heir and the household can afford one, the husband may take a concubine. The child of a concubine may legally be the heir if no child was born in the marriage before them. Children may also be adopted and made successors to the Household line.
If the normal successor of the household line dies or is unable to assume those duties, the role falls to a younger brother or sister. The new successor of the family line is expected to care for the spouse and children of the previous heir as if they were their own children. Children in the household who do not become the head of household are expected to either marry into a different household or go out and establish their own new households, carrying on and spreading the family name. These new families, however, do not hold the same status as the primary family line.
The Duties of the Family
Beyond the duty of providing succession for the family line, households have additional obligations. During the summer and the season of war, most able-bodied bushi in the family are expected to fight in the armies of the Clan. Even if there are not active battles being waged, armies muster and train to be prepared for conflicts to come. During the winter, Artisans or Courtiers who might not be regular members of the court can be called away to attend to the political needs of the Clan. Shugenja, though rare, are often called out during the spring and autumn to bless the shrines in the area and pray for the planting and harvest. When members of the Household are called away on duty, the spouse or other household members are supposed to take up the abandoned household tasks.
Even in times of peace when all household members are present, everyone in an household has duties to perform. Child-raising and household chores are time-consuming tasks, and only families that have sufficient wealth to support both themselves and servants have servants to perform such duties. Diligence is a virtue for heimin and samurai alike. Of course, for individual families, their amount of diligence varies: this is the overall social expectation.
Among these duties are:
- Study and training
- Housekeeping chores such as cleaning, laundry, and the preparation of food. This takes at least 60 hours a week for traditional households.
- Acquiring the goods the household needs through trade or favors
- Generating additional income for the household either by creating goods that can be traded or sold (for example, by woodcrafting, painting, weaving, and so on). This can be artwork, commissions, or crafted goods, and is often the primary activity during the winter months for the many not attending any Winter Courts.
- Growing a vegetable garden and preserving food for the next season. Even in cities there is usually enough space for a small patch or communal garden.
- Fulfilling the spiritual obligations of the household to honor the ancestors and appease the kami
- Patrolling and maintaining the property one has been given
- Caring for the ill, injured, or disabled within the family
- Fulfilling the duties required of the household by one's Daimyo (of course)
Servants play an essential role in the lives of most samurai households.
A single samurai household of the lowest ranks of a clan would be performing all of these duties themselves. Local heimin could be ordered to assist the family on tasks of heavy and unpleasant physical labor, though many bushi would take it as a point of pride that they are able to chop wood and haul water as ably as anyone. However, as a household grows in wealth, these tasks can be passed on to servants or retainers that are then paid out of the samurai household's supply of rice to assume such duties. At the lowest levels, this will be heimen who live in the surrounding town to come in and do periodic chores such as gardening or laundry. Then, if the household is wealthy enough, it might bring in a young unmarried woman more permanently to take care of the children, or a wetnurse to nurse an infant. With greater wealth, a cook or some servants to assist with cleaning or dressing could be brought into the home. The number and role of the servants depends on the wealth of the household.
Some of the duties that may be taken by servants are:
- Housekeeping chores such as cleaning, laundry, and the preparation and preservation of food - This will usually be done by household servants or cooks, usually heimen women who might do this with part of their days and then return to their own households to do the same in the evening.
- Childrearing - This will be done usually by a wetnurse (for infants), a nursing heimen woman who has or has recently lost an infant of their own. Older children are cared for by nursemaids, called Komori, unmarried teenage girls who are moved into the household for this task.
- Acquiring the goods the household needs through trade or favors - This would be done by the Goyo Shonin, the main purchaser of goods who oversees many of the other servants.
- Growing a vegetable garden - Done by gardeners, often who tend the gardens as part of their tasks outside the samurai estate.
- Fulfilling the spiritual obligations of the household to honor the ancestors and appease the kami - This can be done by a household monk or spiritual advisor, though it is usually supervised by the elderly parents left in the home.
- Patrolling and maintaining the property one has been given - Hired ashigaru guards, or even samurai guards for households of sufficient stature.
As the Samurai Family grows in wealth, due to the productivity of their village or due to greater support and upkeep from their daimyo, or through their own actions, they are able to bring in more servants, fulfilling more roles in the house, and those servants are more likely to become full time residents of the house.
Changes through the Ages
In ancient Rokugan, when Inari first blessed the lands with rice and the blessings of the kami and new technologies first allowed for the mass cultivation of rice, the population of Rokugan was low, with only a handful of samurai directly related to the ruling families of Rokugan and many, many heimen.
This low population, coupled with a new food source that was much more productive per field-worker than any previous crop, as well as a peaceful Empire, allowed for each samurai to have many servants indeed. Even the poorest, most ascetic monk would travel with a servant during these ancient days, and it was unthinkable for a samurai to travel without a whole retinue of at least four or five servants.
Many of the customs of the Highest Courts developed around this time period, and some of the most wealthy still live in this fashion. However, as population grew and more once-servants were elevated to the orders of the samurai caste, the ability to have dozens of servants in attendance on you diminished for most samurai save the most wealthy...and ostentatious.
The Samurai Home
The residence of Samurai households vary greatly based on the family wealth and status, and whether the family is in the country or in a more urban environment. An individual bushi while on deployment might have only a futon in a barracks, but have a family back home in a traditional house, described in this section.
Individual homes for Samurai households vary widely. For ji-samurai and ronin families, they may be only a single room, but most clan samurai would have three to four rooms in their homes.
Samurai homes would more often have tile roofs compared to heimen roofs of rice thatch, but be built primarily of wood. Around them would be a small garden, and often a wall around the larger property, though it may not be high.
Some of the features of a traditional Samurai home would include:
- Shoji: Waxed paper screens that make up the exterior walls of the house, able to allow in light into the interior.
- Engawa: The covered pathway that surrounds the exterior of the home. When the storm shutters (Amado) are closed around the house, or during the winter, this pathway will be protected, a narrow corridor surrounding the inner rooms. When the storm shutters are open, this corridor is on the outside of the house, while the shoji are free to let in light.
- Amado: The storm shutters used to encase the house during storms or in the cold, made of heavy planks of wood.
- Fusuma: Sliding walls that act as walls and doors in the interior of the house. The interior configuration of the house is very customizable due to these screens.
- Tokonoma: An elevated area within a room to display a prized artwork or ikebana to greet guests at.
- Genkan: A lower area where one removes one's shoes as one enters the house.
Tatami: The woven straw mats that cover the floors of a samurai's house.
- Chabudai: Low tables at which one kneels while eating in a samurai's house.
- Zanbuton: Thin pillows used to sit or kneel on tatami mat floors.
- Kamidana: A small household shrine to the Fortunes within the house.
- Ofuro: For those households large enough and with sufficient servants to supply the heated water, this is the bath for a household. One would always wash off thoroughly with buckets of water before entering the bath. Baths are usually wooden washtubs and are heated with buckets of hot water brought in from elsewhere in the house.
- Irori: A sunken hearth, often placed in the middle of a room, used to prepare food and heat the room. It is a stone lined square pit built into the center of a floor, often with a decorative hook above it from which a cooking pot may be hung.
- Byobu: Folding screens, used within a larger room for privacy.
Of Koku: Samurai Economics
We are told that Clan Samurai do not care about money or commerce. All that a samurai needs is provided by their lord. But the governance and structures of villages centers around their production of rice, so a basic understanding of samurai economics is required.
When discussing Economics in Rokugan, particularly the Economics of the Family, we are give a few primary pieces of information:
- That all the needs of a samurai are provided by their Lord or Daimyo
- That the basic unit of currency is the Koku, which is the equivalent of one years supply of rice for a heimin
- That it is not honorable for a samurai to discuss commerce.
However, in this world, as in any other, samurai must acquire goods and services for themselves and their households, even if it is not and should not be a major pursuit of players. The rice must be grown to pay the taxes that become the way the needs of the samurai are met, and goods and services must exchange hands for everyone except those with sufficient retainers to do the task for them.
Those interested in this topic might believe that the book A Merchant's Guide to Rokugan might provide a valuable resource. However, that is the Kolat sourcebook and has no useful information about samurai demographics and economics. I will only touch on these topics briefly.
Samurai are supported primarily by their Daimyo, and the Daimyo is supported primarily through the taxes placed upon their heimen. It takes the labor of 14-18 heimin to produce enough rice to support one samurai. That means it would take a village of about 100 people to support a single samurai household, especially considering some village members will not be productive members of society. In addition, a samurai family may certainly have members that are not in a productive role for their Lord, such as children and the extremely elderly.
Given the numbers involved, in general a Daimyo, while he will see his bushi well-supplied, will not have the wealth to provide for a large family and large number of servants for each bushi samurai in his armies. A bushi would be supplied enough to bring home and support their household over the winter if they were diligent, but most of the rank and file will certainly want to supplement their income in any way they can.
The currency of taxes is rice. A village's rice crop is collected by the local samurai in charge of a village. Part goes to the samurai's household as their entitlement, while the rest is passed on as tax to the district governor or local daimyo. The local daimyo pays their household and retainers from that tax, and passes the rest as tax to the family daimyo, then the clan daimyo, and so on to the Emperor.
When villages do not grow rice, they can trade for it, or offer metals, jade, or other trade goods in a rate of exchange for rice determined by the Imperial bureaucracy. However, rice is the standard, which is a source of considerable political power for major rice-growing areas such as those held by the Crane clan.
While the heimin who grow the rice generally themselves live off of other crops, they can earn rice through trade or service to the local samurai household. Most hiemin families work in the paddies during planting and harvest, but spend the rest of the year in other tasks, such as growing crops for themselves, smithing, basket-weaving, pottery, sewing, doing chores for the samurai household, and so on to supplement their personal income.
Trade and Barter
Commerce is not considered an honorable skill, and no samurai, save perhaps the Yasuki would consider haggling at the market like a fishmonger. However, samurai still have to exchange their earnings from their lord, or their own creative endeavors, for goods for themselves and their households.
Here are some of the many ways that a samurai in Rokugan may do so.
- Trust the task to an honorable heimin. There is no dishonor in passing a koku or two to a trusted heimin servant to go haggle for a good or service. The simple order of "Get this item for me" should suffice for any purchase.
- Order a heimin shopkeeper to give it to you. If a shopkeeper serves in the same clan lands as the samurai, asking a shopkeeper for a good is a legitimate way of acquiring an item. The shopkeeper would then note who the item was given to and that amount would be reflected back in a reduction of the taxes paid to the daimyo at the end of the harvest season, or for reimbursement from the daimyo's karo. However, there are consequences for greed and abuse in such a system, which will be described later. If the samurai demands an item in the lands of another clan, the shopkeeper will usually surrender the good anyway, but such an act would see a prompt request from the local magistrate to investigate and remove the offending samurai...or offer a worse consequence.
- Trade in goods. While commerce is looked down on, gifts, or tokens of appreciation, are clearly virtuous and expected. If I were to admire your fish, and you happened to admire my plums, then I am free to give you a gift of plums and you would of course give me a gift of fish. Barter in this fashion requires a delicate balance of understanding the needs and desires of another, but this is simple to do within the bounds of a small area with a limited number of avenues of exchange.
- Trade in services. Even samurai can volunteer for tasks if there is sufficient need, and a heimin would surely reward the samurai who did so with both reverence and gifts of appreciation. Whether chopping firewood (for the exercise), penning a message, defeating some bandits, investigating a minor mystery, carrying a warning against a rival, or offering a recommendation to a future customer, a shopkeeper can express a need that a samurai could fulfill. Should the samurai be willing to fulfill it, the shopkeeper would be happy to provide a worthy reward for their assistance from items out of their wares.
- Leave the change. This is used in areas where the shopkeepers are used to dealing in coin, such as larger cities. If you are speaking with a shopkeeper about an item, and say you want it, the shopkeeper (if accustomed to samurai ways), may insist on offering it to you as a gift. If you accept, the shopkeeper would expect that you would take the item, but happen to leave, someplace inconspicuous but nearby, the value of the item in coinage for the shopkeeper. As a sample transaction:
Innkeeper: Ah, samurai-sama! Please, welcome to my humble inn. Would you like a meal and sake tonight? Samurai: That sounds good. Innkeeper: These rough louts... (the innkeeper gestures at some other heimin), value my glorious cooking at 3 bu, but, please let me offer it to you, Samurai-sama, with my best wishes. After the meal the samurai departs, leaving behind on the table at least 3 bu, and, if they value their honor as a samurai, more, to show how much more worthy they are than the heimin.
Abusing the System
This system of payment and barter relies on the honor of the samurai to pay an appropriate return to the value of the good or service offered. Samurai are called to be compassionate and honest, and they have a duty to their lands. However, greed is always a vice to which even samurai succumb. In Rokugan, when the lands are being properly managed, such vice will have consequences that encourage honesty among even the greediest samurai.
- Samurai who order shopkeepers to give up too many of their goods without repayment, to the point where they put the daimyo or the shopkeeper's livelihood in jeopardy, may be challenged by the shopkeeper's local magistrate for their action when the shopkeeper seeks redress.
- Samurai who embezzle or otherwise claim too much of their daimyo's wealth without any individual shopkeeper being aware may be audited by the daimyo's karo and will be called to explain himself before the daimyo. Seppuku is a possible result.
- Samurai who do not leave enough payment for goods or services rendered may find themselves shut out of all the business of a district, with the shopkeepers refusing to 'be open' in order to sell goods to the cheapskate samurai.
- Samurai who overtax their heimin, leaving them without enough to eat or working them too hard, can cause the heimin to bring an appeal to that samurai's lord. If that does not work, they will find that the heimin population of their village can pick up and move away. It is extremely difficult to force any people to stay in an area of land where they are being oppressed, and in normal times, even the lowest castes can flee a truly unjust lord. The unjust lord will then have no one to put in the crops, and so lose the source of their wealth, as well as trying to explain to their clan champion's karo why his fields have stopped producing rice.
This last is an important point. Oppressive village magistrates and local lords do happen often. It is difficult for people to pick up and move away from a home they have always known for an uncertain future elsewhere. In particular in situations other than farming, such as in a mining town, it is easier to control and constrain the population and not allow them to escape. In times of war, the outside world is often so dangerous that heimin do not dare to leave, giving their local lords more freedom to abuse the peasantry. It is in situations where a lord makes things unbearable, and the people lack the ability to slip away, that peasant rebellions have been known to occur.
However, under normal circumstances, there is nothing requiring the heimin to remain in a specific village. To the daimyo, it does not matter if the income generated by that heimin came from one village or another. Much of Rokugan is wilderness, up to 70%. There is a lot of space around other villages to set up new fields. A bad sonchou or magistrate will find his heimin slip away, meaning they are unable to put in or harvest as much rice. The village's wealth will be reduced while villages with good magistrates who govern well will grow as heimin join. This is a powerful motivator to keep local magistrates honest.
The Structure of a Village
Beyond the family, the basic structure of governance is the village, from tiny hamlets to villages of up to a thousand people. Beyond the Samurai family, the next smallest unit of local governance is the village. A village is a group of five to over one hundred heimin households, gathered together for common purpose and protection. The villagers share the surrounding fields and resources, working them in service to their daimyo and for the Emperor.
Despite the presence of large cities like Ryoko Owari and Otosan Uchi or Toshi Ranbo, the majority of Rokugan is largely rural, governed by local village governments with only distant oversight from the major clan apparatus. A single village covers a comparatively broad area with small clusters of houses surrounded by fields. Each small cluster of houses is usually called a buraku, or hamlet. A number of buraku makes up a mura, or village.
Each small village or hamlet will have a heimin village headman or woman, a shōya, who is responsible for governing the village, seeing that the villagers do their work, that taxes are paid, and that disputes are resolved. The shōya does not have the authority to execute anyone, but can punish minor transgressions with shunning, extra work, or caning. The shōya will also be responsible for reporting problems and harvests to the local magistrate, the samurai in charge of the area.
When samurai become involved with the affairs of the village, the village's costs often increase and they are susceptible to orders and constraints that could cause the heimin villagers difficulty, so villagers often prefer to have no samurai involvement in their affairs. However, a group of villages or a single large, wealthy village will receive samurai oversight none the less.
A samurai household will be tasked by the daimyo to oversee one or more villages based on their size, with a member of the household serving as the village magistrate. This position of samurai of a village can be passed as a hereditary title within a samurai household. The samurai leader of a village is called a sonchou, or simply village magistrate. If the village is of sufficient status and wealth, there may even be lesser-ranked samurai that serve as yoriki to the village magistrate in keeping the peace in the area of the village.
Note: In 5th Edition, most samurai live in cities, and sonchou or village magistrates are rare. This would reflect a more tumultuous period of Rokugani history, when samurai would need to be called quickly to the front, and higher-ranking samurai would prefer living in cities in order to increase their glory and status and exposure to the important people of the Empire. However, in different periods of time, samurai families act more as landowners and caretakers. Choose the distribution as your campaign sees fit.
The duties of the Sonchou and Yoriki
The samurai household serving as sonchou are ordered by the daimyo to do these primary tasks:
- Protect the land from bandits, wild animals, shadowlands creatures, or enemy clans.
- Administer justice on behalf of the local daimyo, routing out dishonorable ronin or investigating and punishing crimes in the area too great for the village shōya.
- Settle disputes and prepare agreements between villages regarding shared resources.
- Prepare taxes and maintain records regarding the productivity of the village for the daimyo.
- Support village-wide religious obligations and festivals
- Improve the land by commissioning irrigation or public works, flood control, maintaining walls, and so on.
Some of these roles, such as defense and the administration of justice, are best suited for bushi. However, negotiating, recordkeeping, and leading projects are tasks well-handled by courtiers. In a village led by a single samurai family, it is not uncommon to see these duties divided between the husband and wife, with one claiming the martial duties, and the other claiming the aspects better suited to courtiers. Although the perception for many is that most courtiers spend most of their times involved with intricate schemes between clans in the high courts of Rokguan, many more courtiers serve in the more humble role of village administrators.
Villages that are safe, well-organized, and where the heimin are treated fairly, and where the heimin will benefit from the fruits of their labor, will thrive. They will attract more heimin also, bringing in greater wealth. Villages where the heimin feel unsafe, where squabbles and bickering prevent work from being done, or where the heimin are abused or feel they do not benefit from their work, will lose population, grow poorer, and diminish.
Villages range widely in size from less than a hundred heimin up to over one thousand heimin. But they can share some common characteristics, provided here.
Villages could vary in size between less than one hundred people to over a thousand. It had very little layout or planning, and very rarely was walled, though the estate of a samurai household would be walled and in times of attack the villagers could gather behind the walls of the samurai's own house hold, if they did not flee.
Over 70% of Rokugan is given over to wilderness. Much of this wilderness has been untouched, such as the depths of the Shinomen Forest and Isawa Mori, or rocky hillsides unsuitable for farming. However, much of this wilderness are areas that have been farmed previously, but the villagers who lived there moved away or were killed due to a tragic event, a war, a drop in the fertility of the land, rumors of a curse or haunting, leadership under an unjust lord, or some other reason. These empty fields can be worked again, allowing villages to move or grow, or disappear depending on their circumstances.
As the picture above shows, there are several areas of importance, and a few not mentioned.
- The Sonchou's Stronghold - Where the local Samurai Household resides.
- The Village Square - Where celebrations, gathering, and merchant stalls are set up.
- The Village Shrine - Often villages would show special veneration to one particular fortune or kami, but shrines to that fortune can be used to reverence all of them.
- The Rice Mill - Rice can be refined by hand winnowing, or by the use of a water wheel as shown here.
- Hinin Tannery - Those of the burakumin caste would not live in the village itself, but on the outskirts of town, where they could perform tasks such as preparing leather and handling cremations.
Many villages would also have these additional locations
- Village inn and bathhouse - Providing a place for a cup of sake and cheer in the evenings and catering to travelers, the inn also allows the villagers to enjoy the luxury of a bath.
- Public toilets - Heimin houses do not have toilets. A few areas on the outside of town are designated for this purpose.
- The Shōya's House - The house of the village headman, larger than others in the village.
- The Rice Storehouses - Where the rice or goods intended for taxes is stored before it is taken by the tax collectors.
- Village Well - Villages not directly located on the water would have a spring or well, often in the center of the village square.
- Livestock Pens - Although meat was eaten rarely by samurai, pigs, chickens, and other animals are kept in limited numbers by heimin to be eaten.
Of course, as the village grows, more residents can make a living in the space, often working the rice fields in planting and harvest, but pursuing other trades such as being a merchant or artisans at other times of the year. If the village is large enough, some might be able to pursue this other profession all year round. Some of the craftsmen in a larger village might be:
- Bamboo Cutter
- Noodle or Mochi-maker
- Teahouse or Geisha house owner
- Midwife - Note: A midwife is of the hinin caste, but this is a position of considerable status, like a geisha or other esteemed professional.
Ashigaru and Peasant Levies
Ashigaru For much of Rokugan, unmarried young heimin men of a village between the ages of sixteen and thirty serve as ashigaru if they are healthy. Unmarried heimin women of similar age may also choose to serve in this role, especially if they are taking the place of a family member or lover who would otherwise be required to serve as an ashigaru. Society overall does not expect women in these roles.
The majority of ashigaru are seasonal soldiers. They depart for war after they have worked with their families in the villages to plant their village's crops. During the summer, they remain with their units, generally under the direction of a samurai commander. When summer ends, they will normally be permitted to return in time to assist bringing in the harvest, while they winter at home in their villages, crafting and otherwise working to create goods that can benefit their families.
However, war scars men and homes alike. When there is no warfare and the land is fully at peace, ashigaru are usually not called up up at all, working in harmony with their villages. Unfortunately, such times are few. As war intensifies, the ashigaru are called up for longer and longer periods, eventually, potentially, being needed year round. Ashigaru after intense fighting may be released to return to villages that have disappeared, their families fled or killed by the tides of war. The samurai lord they served may fall in battle, leaving them rudderless. They may have fled a superior foe against orders and been afraid to return to their own lands. Or, if they have been embroiled in warfare for a long time, these young men may be unwilling or unable to submit to the humble rhythms of a life of planting and harvesting, instead drinking to drown the memories of their experiences and looking for the camaraderie of their fellow ashigaru for comfort. In the aftermath of great wars, there are frequently periods of time when such heimin become permanent ashigaru, a class of mercenary wandering foot soldiers.
Ashigaru called seasonally from their villages are normally supplied by their lord, given food and the weapons the lord believes they require. However, they are not paid as samurai are. They can make additional money by looting the fallen or the lands they conquer, or wealthy lords can reward them for success. Permanent ashigaru will offer themselves to a lord for service by making an arrangement with a higher-ranked ashigaru, a jizamurai, a karo, or a lower-ranked samurai, in exchange for koku. Permanent ashigaru arm and supply themselves with the loot of the fallen. While ashigaru freely loot the dead, they are careful never to take a samurai's daisho as loot. They know they would be killed for daring to do so.
Ashigaru are not expected to have the discipline of samurai. If they are in battle against overwhelming odds, few expect the ashigaru units not to break and run. Ashigaru are not expected to come up with battle strategy or be superior fighters. If a samurai commander has made an order to stay, his ashigaru can expect to suffer for their cowardice at breaking the order, of course. However, if their commander is dead and no new orders have been given, it would be rare for an ashigaru to risk their life to push their unit towards victory. That said, those special ashigaru who do succeed in making a valiant stand against overwhelming odds, of their own initiative, truly can make an impression on their lord. If they survive and the battle is won, such ashigaru may win themselves the greatest glory an ashigaru may know: the reward of a daisho and an invitation to join the samurai caste as one of their lord's own followers.
Moderate warfare is frequent, and during such times only the usual heimin of villages are conscripted to serve as ashigaru: young unmarried people in fighting shape who tend to be called up frequently. They are generally conscripted along with their village sonchou as the season of war begins. However, as a clan begins to suffer significant losses in battle, their situation and manpower becomes more and more desperate. A second, third, or fourth level of conscription may be ordered from a village.
When second or third conscriptions occur, the heimin are required to report to serve their lord in battle. A first conscription would be only of the ashigaru: young, unmarried men of age. A second conscription might require one man from every family, regardless of marital status or age. A third might require all men and women between 14 and 45, excepting women with small children. A fourth conscription, in truly desperate times, could require everyone except the extremely old, extremely young, and extremely infirm. The heimin that report to such conscriptions serve as peasant levies.
Peasant levies are untrained, minimally armed, and often barely fit enough to fight. They are not expected to have discipline. They are only expected to obey the one who is put in charge of them and do what they can to survive. It is apparent to all that a Lord who has called up their peasant levies is in truly desperate straits. Peasant levies will be supplied and fed with what their lord can spare at such a difficult juncture. Their only hope is to be allowed to return home.
The Development of Cities
When villages grow in size or protect important people or key resources, they become a valued part of clan lands, points worth defending. They become cities.
Once villages reach a certain size and level of prosperity, they can become a town, and, eventually, a city.
From Hamlet to Village to Town
Because heimin are free to move across Clan lands, a small village that is managed well will attract other heimin, while a village that is managed poorly will lose them. The well-managed village, manned by greater numbers, can be more productive, attracting craftsmen who can also trade with the villagers, setting up shop, and again increasing the village's productivity. The samurai family in charge of such growing villages themselves grow wealthier, and gain the recognition of their daimyo. They may even welcome the aid of additional samurai families who can serve as village yoriki, book keepers, and negotiators for the village. Eventually that village, and possibly even the samurai family leading it, will be recognized as a valuable resource for the clan.
Growing in Power: From Village Samurai to Valued Retainer
The feudal contract underpins all of Rokugani society. This contract is based in the belief that, if a samurai does great service for their lord, their efforts will be rewarded, not only for themselves but for subsequent generations.
Samurai that are recognized for their good service, either through a deed, special insight, being a great warrior, or being a capable administrator, maybe deemed too valuable to spend on just overseeing a minor plot of land. The lord will then call the samurai into direct service. In so doing, the daimyo will, by honor, be obliged to recompense that samurai at least the value of the koku he would have made overseeing his original village, including support for his family and provision for a number of servants appropriate to his position. If the village samurai is being brought into a valuable position, they are expected to be able to meet a similar standard of living as the other retainers of the daimyo in the same role. A lord that is pleased with his retainer will ensure that he is able to meet that standard. This serves to prevent dissatisfaction and anger, and demonstrates to outsiders how well the lord treats his trusted retainers.
There is the expectation that the heirs of such a valued retainer would find similar employment, or at least be granted a position equal to their parent's if they return to village life. Therefore, most village samurai would be eager for the chance to seek out such positions.
Once a village samurai has become such a valued retainer, it is natural that they should move to be near their daimyo or place where he is deemed needed. Therefore, village samurai move towards hubs of commerce, war, and diplomacy as they increase in rank. They would leave their traditional villages in the care of younger siblings or those selected by the daimyo. This causes the samurai population, and therefore the value, of these centers to grow larger, and become worth defending.
The Growth of Cities
Heimin, too, are attracted to these hubs of commerce, war, and diplomacy, and they will move there of their own volition. This happens especially during times of war, for such centers are defended vigorously while smaller settlements are not. The daimyo may even deem such locations worthy of a wall or fortifications to protect these areas, making them full-blown cities. The clan will heartily defend a city where the estates of the kuge located, or where valuable retainers live, historic or holy places, or simply where the area is so productive in terms of commerce and wealth that the clan cannot afford to lose it. Sometimes, a family newly elevated to the kuge may be granted the right to build a castle in the emerging city, taking it under their service and protection.
Replacing the Samurai Family
Once a village has grown into a full city of the clan, its power serves the Clan Champion. However, it is to the clan's benefit that the city continue to be managed well and grow, not divided between the children of a single samurai family, or fall to the foibles of a weak heir. Therefore, the Clan Champion will appoint a governor for the city from his most trusted and capable retainers, who can rule the city in the Champion's stead. The governor is responsible for the collection of taxes and the safety of the inhabitants of his city, bringing more samurai to serve as magistrates and soldiers. New governors are selected at need when the Clan Champion sees fit...as an honor, as a challenge, and even simply to occupy the time of a troublesome rival.
The Layout of the City
Cities in Rokugan can grow organically from the cluster of simple huts that they originated as, or they can be carefully and extravagantly planned with the guidance of the Kami. Cities serve to fulfill many roles. Almost all cities in Rokugan are defensible, either because they are on an island or at a cliff's edge, or because they are surrounded by walls. Most cities are on the ocean or on waterways, boats being the fastest means of transportation of goods in the Empire. The great castles of each clan's ruling families are often surrounded by or have cities nearby, drawn by the security the Kami created for themselves at the beginning of the Empire. Cities can run from 5,000 to 100,000 inhabitants, but of those, only about five percent would be clan samurai of status.
Cities that are planned are commonly arranged on a grid pattern or a circular street pattern, with several gates into the city. features found in cities are:
- Surrounding fields and feeder villages
- City Walls and City Gates
- Barracks for unmarried bushi assigned to defend the city
- A Temple of the Brotherhood of Shinsei
- A number of Shrines to the Fortunes
- Storehouses for taxed rice or similar goods
- A waterwheeel or mill for processing rice and grain
- A burakumin area for leatherworking and other unsavory jobs
- Docks for fishing vessels or merchant ships
- A city open marketplace
- An artisan district for crafters and artisans, including their shops
- A geisha/entertainment district
- Magistrate's stations, usually with watchtowers and bells in case of fire
- Training Dojos
- Inns, Sake Houses, and Tea Houses
- Public Baths (called the Sento) or Hotsprings if available
- A noble district where most higher status samurai reside
- Government Offices for various functions
- Gardens for the nobility
- The Governor's palace
- The Keep: If the city is there because it centers on a Kuge family's home, this will be in or near the city proper.
The Transition to War
In peacetime the Empire is still, but interclan warfare or invasions of the Shadowlands turns the norms of families, villages, and cities upside-down.
The Transition to War
The patterns of life and governance set in place during the years of peace set the framework for family, village, and city life and the basic culture of the Empire. However, many terrible periods of warfare have beset the Emerald Empire, and the patterns of governance need to adapt to these changes.
War in the Family
For many clans, half or more of the adult samurai of age serve the clan as bushi. Though many such warriors serve as yojimbo, guards, magistrates, and duelists, many more serve their clan on the battlefield.
During periods of general peace, these battles, when they occur, would be restricted to the summer months. Unmarried soldiers, still in training, may reside in barracks, possibly even year round. However, married soldiers are mustered once the rice has been planted, leaving their families to train with their units and be prepared to go to war at their daimyo's command. Lesser daimyo, especially in clans such as the Lion, routinely engage battles between each other to keep their troops sharp, while other clans might focus more on exercises, border skirmishes with other clans, or dispelling ronin and brigands. Meanwhile their spouses maintain the villages or their familial duties while they are away and wait for their return before harvest comes.
However, when times of major interclan warfare, or war with an external threat like the Shadowlands, approach, the assurances of a summer season of war end. The bushi can be called up at any time, and will stay as long as they are required. Yojimbo, duelists, magistrates, guards and others filling alternate duties are redirected to join the armies if their current function is not considered essential. Those older than their normal soldiering years, or those who have taken past injuries, may also be called up. This leaves many families short-handed and scrambling, even if the war is not directly touching their own lands.
If the war does fall near the family lands, those who remain are in even greater danger. Villages, unlike cities and towns, are rarely defensible, and those samurai who remain in the village are often the elderly, the children, or the wounded or infirm. Many samurai families, with no bushi who remain, in this situation will abandon the village completely, seeking safety behind tall city walls. Sometimes the village will follow. For those who remain, some may join in the last-ditch defense of their villages and homes. Those samurai found in a village in the path of an enemy army may be ignored, captured, ransomed, killed, allowed to commit seppuku, or executed, depending on the demeanor and nature of the invading army.
Many a bushi has returned from a desperate war to find his home empty and his village gone.
War in the Village
During a serious war, life in the villages and hamlets is altered dramatically. The first notification, other than rumors, that war is impending, is the muster of the samurai, as the bushi of the samurai family of the village is called up for war. That samurai may also receive orders to bring a muster of his own village's ashigaru. These are the healthy young men of the village between the ages of sixteen and thirty-five. Depending on the scale of the war and the nature of the enemy, those heimin conscripted may be volunteers seeking their fortune, one man from each family, all unmarried men, all men, married and unmarried, healthy enough to wield a spear, or all men and women without children who are healthy enough to pick up a weapon. It is rare that women would be conscripted as ashigaru, but if the situation were severe enough, it could happen.
It would be the responsibility of the village samurai to perform the initial muster of their village's ashigaru. However, as the war lengthens and intensifies, it would not be uncommon for a second or third muster to go through the village, as new representatives of the daimyo arrive to demand more heimin report to support the fighting forces.
It is, however, a careful calculation that must be made on the part of the commanding samurai. Those heimin who report as ashigaru in the front lines are not able to protect their villages from banditry or bring in the harvests or plant. If too many heimin are called up, the harvests will be lost, taxes will not be able to be paid. Hunger can kill an army as readily as steel. For this reason, many farming villages support numbers of trained ashigaru who work seasonally during planting and harvest, when they need to, but are the first to be conscripted when the time for war comes. Supporting easily recruit-able ashigaru means it is less likely that those essential to bringing in the harvests will be conscripted in times of trouble.
While the village's fighting men are fighting as ashigaru, the villagers that remain are left to fend for themselves, sometimes under the care of the non-bushi samurai in charge of the village. They are expected to do all the tasks they would have done with the support of the ashigaru. This leads to long and and back-breaking hours and a general decrease in trade. Bandits freely seize the opportunity to take advantage of the weakened villages, and some villages even hire ronin not aligned to their daimyo's conflicts to protect them from such depredations. Other ronin might, instead, take advantage of the situation by running a protection racket: attacking the villagers in one village and putting themselves to be hired as protection in another. Such activities make even the friendliest heimin rarely happy when a masterless samurai comes to town.
Eventually, war can descend upon the village itself. It is customary for an army passing through a village to take advantage of that village's resources while they are in town. Villagers might be pushed out of their homes, which are taken over to lodge the officers of the village, food stores will be raided, and villagers will be required to serve the army as servants. Poorly disciplined armies with little care for honor may also make off with the villagers tax stores, take advantage of the villager's daughters, or worse. If the army passing through reports to the Champion whose clan traditionally holds that village, the villagers have recourse to take complaints about bad behavior to him. However, if it is an enemy army passing through the land, the village has no such recourse.
In general, there is no expectation that the remaining heimin will fight to defend the village. They will try to hide from enemy armies, obey intruding samurai, and hunker down, praying that the bad times will pass quickly. If the local samurai family has won their loyalty and trust, the heimin may well endeavor to hide and protect the local samurai family, at the risk of endangering themselves and their own lives. Enemy commanders sometimes see benefit in denying their enemy the resources of the village, which could mean burning down the village, salting the earth, even killing the heimin. In such cases, the villagers are expected to flee for their lives.
Of course, if the invading army is of the forces of the Shadowlands, no measure is too great to stop their tide. The villagers may fight to the death to stop them. It is only, however, normally in Crab lands that the villagers consider this a possible occurrence, and they are permitted to keep weapons in order to do so.
War in the Cities
Cities have the great advantage of sturdy walls and strong defenses to protect those who live there, samurai and heimen alike. However, that makes them, in some ways, even more vulnerable in times of war, for while villages are ephemeral, cities are high-value targets that truly show mastery over an area.
When the clan begins on a war setting, little initially changes in the city. Ashigaru and bushi both are expected to defend the city, as a high priority target, so even when the city's ashigaru and bushi are mustered, cities remain well-manned.
However, as war goes on, refugees from the villages, both samurai and heimin, retreat to the cities, swelling their numbers with refugees. Supplies and trade routes may get cut off, causing hunger. There is no rationing system in Rokugan, so the poorest tend to suffer the most deprivation. This can lead to peasant rebellions within the stifling confines of a city, even before it falls under siege. Better managed cities able to maintain their trading routes, do better.
Once a city truly is under siege, conditions within the city grow even worse. Many heimin will flee the city ahead of an approaching army, driven away by hunger and fear of repercussions, or simply driven out by the clan samurai holding the city, who need the space and supplies for their own troops. The entire city falls under martial law, and a strict military discipline forces any rebellion to be dealt with harshly. The lower classes unable to flee again must settle in and hide as best they can. Fortunately, warfare in Rokugan does not generally lend itself to protracted sieges, and the issue can be resolved within a month or so. When the city changes hands, the heimin are expected to serve their new masters without question, and those who do not are executed. Those samurai who remain in the captured city when it is taken may be returned or ransomed to their clan, be allowed to commit seppuku, or executed, depending on the honor and inclination of the city's conquerors.
The Role of Courtiers
Bushi and Shugenja have clear roles for villages and towns in Rokugan. But courtiers too fulfill a vital role, even outside the elegant boundaries of a Winter Court.
Courtiers without a Court
The role of the bushi as described by the Mandate of Heaven is to serve as Protection against Enemies. This is task is fulfilled most frequently, of course, on the battlefields of Rokugan. But it also is fulfilled through service on the Great Wall of the Kaiu, in scouts and patrols against bandits, pirates, or lawless ronin, and as yojimbo and duelists in the court protecting both the honor and the lives of those who serve the kami.
The role of shugenja as described by the Mandate of Heaven is to serve as Defense against the spirits of other Realms. The labor of shugenja extends from fighting unkind spirits from other spirit realms, pleasing and keeping the Fortunes, spirits of the dead, and kami appeased through prayer and offering, using ceremonies and rituals to draw the blessings of the kami upon the people and fields of Rokugan, and using their special gifts to bring the blessings of the kami to the people of Ningen-do.
The role of courtiers according to the Mandate of Heaven is to bring prosperity to the land. But this job as used in the Role-Playing Game is less clear-cut than either Bushi or Shugenja. While many scenes are written describing the activity of courtiers within a Daimyo's hall, much less is written about the role of courtiers in the towns and villages of Rokugan. But courtiers may make up half or more of the population of samurai in a clan, and it is important to understand what these courtiers actually do.
Note: When the term courtier is used here, it refers to all samurai who are not combat-capable bushi or shugenja. They may have received training in the clan's courtier school, they may have trained in a different school that injury or circumstance have made them unable to pursue further, or they may have received a general, broad skill-based education that serves them best in their current role,
Courtiers in Families
For most of Rokugan, it is considered ideal if a bushi is married to a courtier. This provides each village with the protection of a bushi during autumn, winter, and spring, and the diplomatic and bookkeeping skills, and the skills of a courtier throughout the year, unless they are called away during winter to attend to the needs of Winter Court.
Courtiers in samurai families assist in many ways. They control the bookkeeping, taxes, and trades. They manage the finances and correspondences. Many pursue arts are crafts to generate extra income for the family. They also, unless the family is wealthy enough to maintain servants, handle much of the chores, child-raising, gardening, and cooking for the family.
In most of Rokugan, it is more common that a woman fulfill this vital role in the family. However, among the Matsu, Moshi, and Utaku families, men far more frequently have this position.
Courtiers in Villages
If a village only has a single sonchou samurai family with a courtier, then during the summer months while the bushi is away, the family will use an ashigaru or ji-samurai for the defense of the village. When the bushi returns, they can provide further training and leadership for the ashigaru.
Even if the sonchou family does not have a courtier, a larger village may have additional courtiers assigned in order to fulfill these vital roles. This would be particularly true if large public works projects were being completed in the area. During the three seasons of the year when the bushi are back from summer campaigning, these are also tasks they contribute to, though they will also do patrols, breaking up fights, and challenging bandits or strangers.
The following tasks are the responsibility of a courtier working with a village or group of villages:
- Dispute resolution
- Negotiation between villages over shared resources
- Negotiation with the local daimyo over clan resources
- Entertaining visiting nobility, from within the clan and outside the clan
- Directing the use of limited resources
- Recording and maintaining tax records, seeing that the taxes are collected and stored, guarded, and delivered.
- Designing and implementing land improvements such as irrigation and flood control systems.
- Judging and enforcing discipline on lawbreakers and ruffians.
- Disseminating, often by painstaking copying, edicts from the daimyo to be passed to surrounding villages.
- Directing the creation of processed goods such as silk or sake to be traded to bring further prosperity to the village, including bringing in and measuring supplies, hours of labor, quality of production, and so on, and maintaining all the records associated with this production.
- Directing ashigaru and managing conscription when the bushi have been called up.
- Insuring the roads, walls, and floodworks are properly maintained.
Courtiers in Towns
Once a village has grown to be a major hub worthy of defense, more courtiers, along with other samurai, gather to fill other duties for their lords. In a town, these non-bushi step into a great many roles associated with serving the most elite samurai of the clan.
These additional duties can include:
- Working as secretaries, assistants, and servants to the most high-ranked samurai of the clan.
- Collecting and recording information from the villages around and preparing reports.
- Managing the transportation of taxes and goods throughout a region.
- Acting as a representative of the lord for important social events in the surrounding region, such as for funerals or births.
- Making sure that essential services such as the collection of night soil or the removal of trash is completed to keep the town in proper order.
- Collecting docking and transport taxes.
- Pursuing arts and crafts or managing heimin working on such activities in the economic hub.
- Working with their counterparts in the Imperial Bureaucracy ministries to confirm that all is being completed to the Emperor's liking.
- Settling disputes between merchants and emissaries of different clans.
Courtiers in Times of War
Of course, when war comes to a clan, it is the bushi that take the lead in all things, and the courtiers must step back. However, the expertise of courtiers does provide a skill set that is put to new uses. During wartime, courtiers often must become logisticians, mastering the transportation of supplies from one place to another. They are responsible for keeping the essential affairs of the Empire running, and making certain that the armies have what they need even while the villages are suffering with a loss of manpower as their ashigaru are conscripted for the front lines. Supplies and people are moved from areas of danger to areas where they can continue to be productive and keep the clan running. When towns are captured, the courtiers within are unable to do these duties, and a whole region falls apart. The war is on in earnest.
Variations between Clans
While all the Empire is built around Families, their Villages, and Towns, each clan has their own variations, in how their families are structured, in how their villages are formed and face adversity, and how their towns are built and deal with crisis. This section includes those differences, as well as some of the many differences in various traditions between the clans.
For these three areas of local governance, the Family, the village, and the City, of course the various clans of Rokugan have many variations. This section does not attempt to be a full index of all the variations between the different clans in this area, but instead highlights a few variations that might be relevent to your samurai's adventures in Rokugan. Please feel free to suggest more!
Governance and Traditions
- Families: Crab clan samurai families often include the widows and orphans of those samurai who have fallen on the wall. Brothers and sisters with families of their own bring in the families of the fallen entire, making them a part of their own family. By custom any child born to a widow within the first five years of a bushi's death is still considered the child of the fallen bushi, and it a quiet, unspoken duty for the family of the fallen to ensure that their fallen sibling has heirs of his own. This quiet duty has allowed the Crab to maintain their numbers even in times of great loss against the Shadowlands, as well as making certain that the widows of the fallen are well cared for in their later years.
- Families: Crab women who do not serve on the wall are highly revered in their role as mothers, considering it their sacred duty to the Clan. Any who insults a Crab mother will find themselves with a tetsubo to the head and no one would blink.
- Families: Crab are generally allowed to arrange their own marriages. If a Crab reaches the age of 22 without marrying, a marriage will be arranged for them by their parents and their local magistrate.
- Families: Crab bushi are required year round for combat, but that does not mean that every Crab bushi lives only at the wall. Service at the wall for most bushi is seasonal, with each bushi serving at the wall for a season, returning home to recover for a season, then returning back to the wall for yet another season. The enemy, always, is the Shadowlands, and there is no lack of opportunities to train against that foe.
- Villages: Crab villages are more likely than villages in the rest of the empire to be walled, though the wall may be a simple wooden palisade. Crab heimin, unlike those of other clans, are allowed to remain armed, though samurai weapons are still forbidden. They will still be executed if they raise weapons against samurai of their own clan. However, if they claim that they were deceived and thought the samurai was working under the influence of the Shadowlands, their transgression may be forgiven. More than one cruel village magistrate has been removed under such a provision.
- Villages: Due to the demands for samurai on the wall, villages are less likely to have a samurai sonchou family in Crab lands. A single magistrate may patrol a large area with many villages. Individual villages would be maintained by their own headman and ashigaru would defend it.
- Villages: Ashigaru are rarely sent to the wall as fighters. Without sophisticated training and discipline, an untrained ashigaru is more of a liability than a benefit to the Crab because they can be turned against the clan as a weapon by the Shadowlands. They are used on the Wall, however, for support, construction, or the operation of seige engines, all under the guidance of samurai taskmasters. When the Crab go to war with forces within the Empire, ashigaru troops are often used.
- Villages: The Crab are fairly free-handed with their peasants. They care primarily about whether the heimin of a village can turn over the supplies they are required to or not, and leave the methods by which those supplies are found up to the local sonchou or magistrate. The Yasuki are not meticulous record keepers except in matters of trade, and it is easy for a village to go unnoticed for generations...for the benefit of the villagers, or to their disadvantage.
- Villages: Due to unwaviering requirements as to what is needed from a village, especially from things like Iron Mines, the Crab can be oppressive to their peasants if they think it is necessary to meet the logistical demands, using samurai taskmasters to get sufficient labor out of the heimin. It is harder for heimin to leave their villages in Crab lands out of fear of the taskmasters or the creatures that haunt the countryside.
- Economics: The Yasuki and Kaiu are masters of logistics. The Yasuki focus on long-distance trade, while the Kaiu manage the short-range supply lines. While both may care little for the details of governance, there is no family better at managing the extended supply lines necessary to make sure the right goods end up in the right places. The Wall would have fallen long but for this skill.
- Cities: The entire population of a Crab city can fit within the enormous confines of a Crab citadel when a serious assault occurs. Conditions at these times are harsh, but the Crab brook no rebellion. They are harsh because they must be and discipline is strictly enforced. But they are sought out because when things are at their worse, there is no place safer than inside a Crab fortress.
Governance and Traditions
- Families: Crane families are the definition of typical for Rokugan. With the higher number of courtiers in the clan, it is more common to have village sonchou be courtier families without a bushi; in these cases, samurai yoriki will fill the role of village guardian.
- Families: Crane bushi not serving as yojimbo or magistrates are generally called for the summer season of war, as are other clans. For Daidoji Heavy Infantry, they may spend this, as they do for at least a year during their training, on the Wall alongside the Hida. For other Crane forces, they may spend their summer doing drills, fighting bandits, or handling border skirmishes with the Lion or Scorpion during the summers, between planting and harvest.
- Families: Marriage is taken very seriously, and it is the duty of every Crane samurai to marry well for the sake of their family and clan. Crane marriage arrangers are considered the finest in the Empire. A fortunate romantic streak is occasioned among the nakados....but only rarely. They do look for compatibility and future contentment.
- Villages: Of all their arts, the art of governance has produced the most prosperity, and the Crane devote more of their samurai to that art than any other clan. The techniques of the artisans, courtiers, and shugenja of the Crane all lend themselves to increasing the prosperity of the clan through the wealth of its villages. The Crane have learned that prosperity happens when the heimin are provided with a peaceful, secure environment in which their needs are met and they are treated justly and well.
- Villages: Crane villagers are considered extremely well educated. Though few heimin from any clan can read and write, Crane artisans are frequently hired by lords to teach the villagers about society, law, and the way of the Tao, often by means of their colorful storytelling. Healers of the Asahina also travel extensively among the heimin to offer healing, following the tradition of Asahina Koresada. During times of plague, hospitals have been created for healing.
- Villages: Crane villagers know better than to prepare fields by removing stands of trees without permission from their magistrates. They take pride in the appearance of their lands, often earning them compliments and the patronage of wealthy visitors. They are usually kept spotless and well-maintained. While Crane villages in Asahina Lands tend to be built with an eye towards beauty and fu sui, villages in Daidoji lands will seem vulnerable but will be carefully structured to be efficient and easy to defend. The lands are organized carefully.
- Towns: Many Crane cities are ports, built against the sea. They vary, but in these areas the kuydens are generally on the high ground so they can only be attacked from one side. Though the villagers can shelter there, they are not generally built to handle an extended siege.
- Towns and Cities going to War: Their skill and efficiency during peacetime tends to lead to a reluctance and difficulty gearing up for war. The Crane are slow to call up their ashigaru, relying on their Daidoji warriors and often taking significant early-stage losses before the matter can be redeemed in court.
Governance and Traditions
- Families: The Dragon clan is small and Dragon birthrates are low. It is not unheard of for Dragon families unable to conceive children of their own to adopt children from among the heimin.
- Families: Dragon Bushi are more likely than other clans not to be called into summer service, since Dragon forces are highly individual combatants. However, each Dragon bushi is expected to maintain himself in top combat form year round, and may be called to present himself to his Lord at any time. Dragon bushi also are called on to defend against small border raids from the Lion during the summer.
- Families: Dragon in the more monastic orders rarely marry, and those in the more traditional families rarely find themselves to wed early, instead seeking the role of marriage in their own individual path. For most, marriage is a distraction from the path of enlightenment.
- Families: The process of becoming a monk from being a samurai is a step of personal growth, not the end of a career, and it happens earlier than in other clans.
- Villages: The Dragon are generally kind to their heimin, but their lands are poor and hunger is common and peasant families can quickly fall destitute. Such *Families abandon unwanted children outside of Dragon monasteries, which act as orphanages. Some of these abandoned children go on to join the Togashi family.
- Villages: Dragon villages hardly need fortifications, being in steep and rugged terrain that makes them easy to defend from those approaching from below. The few fertile areas in the lowlands are heavily guarded by the Mirumoto.
- Villages: Dragon lands in general are often seen as a refugee for criminals and bandits, as they are full of wilderness and places to hide. Many are remote, and because the ways are difficult to reach, not often patrolled by samurai. Of course, any bandits and criminals that do go there have to survive the terrain as well.
- Towns: The few Dragon cities are more defensible than the Crab lands as the mountains serve as their walls. Were it not for hunger, they might never fall.
Governance and Traditions
- Families: Within Lion families, every role is strictly proscribed by duty and Katokusozoku is of particular significance. Lion Families are always aware that their ancestors are watching them and expect great things of them, especially of their duties to the family.
- Families: Marriages are entered into with the duty of a warrior and many children of high quality are the sign of a Lion's familial duty properly done.
- Families: When Matsu marry members of other Lion families, the other Lion must take the Matsu name. This leads to the Matsu being the largest of the Lion families.
- Families: Marriages are arranged early, before the age of 10. Genetics, such as the potential strength of children from a certain match, are considered, alongside political considerations.
- Families: Most Lion retire to become advisors. Even after that, they seldom become cloistered monks, instead preferring to wander and stay involved with the affairs of the Empire.
- Families: Those family members assigned to tend the homestead rather than be on the battlefield are expected to run it with precision and care, as much of a logistical focus as a home.
- Families: Especially among the Lion, the samurai are expected to be able to complete any chore they ask of their heimin, and to pull such duties on themselves to inspire their servants as they would their followers on the battlefield.
- Families: Lion bushi are called up every summer without fail, along with many ashigaru. They will be called on to drill, but also to participate in small intra-clan conflicts between opposing lords over matters of honor, or similar conflicts with lords in other clans. These are limited in nature, with no real land changing hands, lest the Emperor intervene, and are intended as a show of skill and wit as raw power. Such constant warfare keeps Lion bushi and tacticians at their peak for when the true battles come.
- Villages: Villages in Lion lands often must suffer lean times, because many men of fighting age are expected to drill and fight regularly as ashigaru. However, even in the leanest times, the samurai sonchou runs it with meticulous precision.
- Villages: The Lion dislike the disorder of peasants leaving their villages, and will generally return peasants who wish to flee, considering their actions cowardice. However, if too many villagers try to flee a village and must be returned, it is not uncommon that an investigation into the village sonchou will begin.
- Villages: Villages without a sonchou are fairly common in Lion lands, because Lion lands are broad and villages are far-spread and scattered. Although the fearsome Lion patrols regularly keep bandits at bay, pockets of nonconformity can arise among the heimin until the Lion leadership sends a magistrate to properly tamp down on such irregularities.
- Towns: Due to their increased size, and therefore increased numbers of samurai, Lion towns are among the most disciplined in the Empire. This is in part loyalty, but also more than a little fear. The Lion will not brook trouble in times of threat.
Governance and Traditions
- Families: Phoenix families often to live in larger homes, with married adult siblings living in the same family homestead with their children as the grandparents and the main heir's family. This central homestead allows the family to oversee a more wide-spread group of small hamlets and villages.
- Families: Phoenix soldiers are only called up briefly during the summer, instead patrolling their lands and performing other duties. However, the whole family may be called on to move should a bushi be called to serve as a yojimbo to a shugenja in a different location.
- Families: Phoenix shugenja's families tend to cluster around libraries and institutions of learning, though the shugenja themselves may be called away from these central locations to spread the blessings of the Fortunes throughout the land.
- Families: Phoenix children are examined at birth for signs of the gifts of the shugenja. Usually, if a child is born a shugenja they are taken away from their family for training by the time they are five years old, and watched carefully before then.
- Families: Most shugenja have little to do with the raising of their own children, leaving it to a non-shugenja spouse or Komori nursemaids. Bushi and courtiers are much more involved.
- Families: The Phoenix have marriages arranged usually by the age of eight. The marriage is a glorious and sacred affair, and the Phoenix ceremony sets the standard for the whole empire.
- Families: Phoenix marriages are heavily reliant on omens and prophecies, and much divination occurs before a marriage is approved. For this reason, the Phoenix are generally understanding when a marriage arrangement is broken for these reasons, and a gift is made in recompense to make up for the loss when this occurs. On the other hand, if the shugenja can become convinced that the fortunes truly bless a young couple in love, they may approve a love match to please Hotei and Benten, the fortunes of Contentment and Love.
- Families: The small forces of active Phoenix bushi not serving as yojimbo are called up during the summer to wage battle against the Yobanjin barbarians to the north. Fortunately the chill and mountain passes mean that barbarian incursions during the winter months are rare.
- Villages: Shugenja sonchou are extremely rare. Instead, lower-ranked shugenja are given the duty of wandering through the land dispensing advice and blessings across a larger region.
- Villages: Monks are welcomed in Phoenix villages, lingering to teach the wisdom of the Tao, sometimes for many years. Although their advice is not as prized as the guidance of the shugenja, they give to even normal village heimin an insight into spiritual matters beyond those of many clans.
- Villages: Villages in Phoenix lands tend to be reclusive and wary of outsiders. They appeal often for the guidance of the shugenja on difficult matters, and non-shugenja sonchou are often insufficient to reassure them.
- Villages: Villagers are particularly reverent of the shrines and kami, and out of self-preservation will respond with great hostility to those who do not show proper respect.
- Towns: Phoenix towns rarely bare the burden of attack, and tend to be places of peace and commerce.
Governance and Traditions
- Families: Scorpion families are extremely tight knit. Children are spoiled and lavished with affection in comparison to most other clans. They are given a free-spirited run of the household, but all the while they are watched carefully to determine those traits that would make them excel.
- Families: It is considered unlucky for anyone to mention that a family member is away from home. Despite this, it is customary for Scorpion samurai to live and work far from their home, leading to much evasion on the part of those who remain. If both partners fill important duties for the clan, their whole household and all its tasks, including the rearing of very small children, will be done by servants, elderly parents, or lower-ranked samurai. While the Scorpion samurai are away, those that remain will deny their absence, claiming that they are just temporarily unavailable.
- Families: Scorpion bushi are called up each summer, just as those of other clans are. They may be sent either to drill, or to be sent on 'exercises' where small units are sent into enemy clan lands to scout, gather information, and fight if caught. Of course, if caught, they only got lost, and the Scorpion will arrange a suitable recompense. This keeps the Scorpion bushi sharp...and wary.
- Families: Marriages for Scorpion are always arranged for the benefit of the clan. With rare exceptions, Scorpion only marry once, and a failed marriage is a failure of duty to the clan.
- Families: Scorpion look forward to their retirement, and retired Scorpion are looked at with reverence and awe.
- Villages: Scorpion sonchou prefer to wait to allow a situation to develop to untenable levels before interceding. This serves two purposes: it makes the true perpetrators much more obvious, and it allows the sonchou to be able to determine who among his villagers would be tempted into a position that would endanger the clan. He may allow those villagers to live, but he will be able to use this knowledge to better control his village in the future.
- Villages: Scorpion villagers tend to be less well-treated than those of other clans, with high demands placed upon them. If they try to leave, they are treated harshly, and they are always afraid a spy within the village will report their departure. The Scorpion daimyo do have spies within many villages, however, who report local sonchou who abuse their power too egregiously. Fear serves as an effective motivator for heimin and samurai alike.
- Towns: The Scorpion know that all samurai have secret 'needs' that must be fulfilled, and there is power in being the ones who own the means of fulfilling them. Their towns serve as a hotbed of sin and vice, a drawing together of every pleasure money or power could acquire. Peace is only marginally kept, the goal of which is to prevent embarrassment to the city governors and leadership. However, this lack of discipline is a disguise. Spies for the governor pervade the city from top to bottom, and if any force gets out of control subtle methods are used to remove the threats.
- Towns: In times of war, Scorpion cities, due to their lack of discipline, struggle to rein themselves in. However, the absolute duty of the Scorpion ensure a quick and completely obedient, or necessarily lethal, resolution to internal chaos.
Governance and Traditions
- Families: Many Unicorn families, especially among the Moto, still retain a nomadic lifestyle. Their villages are far-flung and cover a large area of land, A whole family, or group of related families, can travel from one location to another throughout a given territory, settling and camping in any hamlet or other location that needs extra attention, and then moving on. For the Unicorn, life is the journey, and every moment of that journey is a time for learning, family, growing, and working together.
- Families: Unicorn families are more likely to have a more relaxed familial structure, whether they are nomadic or stationary. Long term relationships outside the fixed bonds of marriage, as well as step-children and the children of such unions, are freely accepted into the larger family structure without complaint. While the Unicorn may not advertise their loose family structure out of clan, it is accepted internally.
- Families: For nomadic families, all family members, including younger siblings and their families, remain in the same nomadic family group, so a single Unicorn family can have many men and women of age. These families patrol and manage a large area.
- Families: When traveling across their territory, nomadic Unicorn samurai live in yurts, large tents able to sleep a couple and their immediate children in comfort. The leaders of these extended families may reside in a chomchog, which is large enough to fete the entire family group with ease.
- Families: Unicorn bushi are ready to be called up year round, and are more ready for winter warfare than those of any other clan except the Crab. They are commonly called to serve fighting Ujik-Hai raiders and other forces from the Burning Sands on their borders. However, intra-clan cavalry warfare between feuding Unicorn lords can track across hundreds of miles. If any Unicorn lives are taken due to intra-clan feuds, the feuding lords can expect strong retribution, so such warfare is done more with bluster and counting coup than actual lethal intent.
- Families: Unicorn often grow and train with their own families and in their own family groups, with their own parents caring for them and taking them even on important (if non-perilous) duties. Once their gempukku nears, all the Unicorn young men and women gather on the fields near Shiro Shinjo to swear their oaths in a great ceremony, as one.
- Families: Gaijin are sometimes allowed to be made samurai of the Unicorn by swearing fealty and binding themselves to the clan through a secret blood ritual that mingles their blood with the blood of the KiRin.
- Families: Unicorns are never allowed to marry others of the same bloodline, for at least five generations and sometimes more. This causes some to seek brides among the Ujik-Hai natives of the Burning Sands, quietly bringing new members into the Empire.
- Families: When Unicorn retire, they tend to use the opportunity to become traveling monks, able to explore the Empire freely.
- Villages: Unicorn villages tend to be more transient than the villages of other clans, depending more on hunting or trade rather than stable crops. Rather than building a walled compound for defense, Unicorn villagers tend to pack and move swiftly away from danger. More stable villages of size form around stables and breeding grounds, as well as in the more fertile river valleys.
- Villages: Unicorn villages rarely have a sonchou who resides within the boundaries of the village. The day to day operations of the village are managed by the shōya, village headman. The samurai family in charge of the territory oversees many villages, and travel as a group from one village to the next to manage their lands. They stay at each until affairs are settled there properly, then move on.
- Villages: Unicorn samurai respect the boundaries between buke and heimin, but the relationship is relaxed. Heimin are treated with compassion and given a large measure of independence. This freedom can cause trouble when they encounter samurai of other clans, who believe the heimin are acting with disrespect.
- Towns: The towns of the Unicorn tend to be sprawling and walled, but the walls are low. They are easier to capture than other clans', but also easy to reclaim by a returning strike of fearless Unicorn cavalry.