Thursday, September 17, 2009

Crab Clan Families

The Crab Clan consists of six families: the Hida, Hiruma, Kaiu, Kuni, Toritaka, and Yasuki. Each of these families consist of a number of separate bloodlines and vassals that all share a common family name. For example, though the Hida family bears the name of the kami Hida, founder of the Crab Clan, only a distinct line amongst them actually share his blood; the rest of the family are descended from the various humans who followed Hida at the dawn of the Empire and those ronin who proved themselves worthy of the Hida name during a Twenty-Goblin Winter. Each family is led by a daimyo who maintains the family holdings and utilizes family resources. Each samurai is beholden to his family's daimyo; his name, his swords, his honor, and even his very life are owned by the daimyo and are to be used in service to him. The Crab Clan as a whole is represented by the Clan Champion. The Clan Champion is chosen through a series of trials that test his strength, character, courage, leadership, and capability. As each samurai serves his daimyo, so the daimyo of the Crab serve the Clan Champion.

The six families of the Crab comprise the samurai, or noble, caste. Serving beneath them, lacking any family name, are the heimin, or peasants. Peasants carry out the farming, manual labor, and other duties beneath the notice and station of a samurai. They are forbidden to carry weapons (although in Crab lands this restriction is lax as you want the peasants to defend themselves against the Shadowlands; in fact, the Crab actively teach peasants how to fight, though never with swords or bows as those weapons belong solely to the samurai) and are beholden to the orders of samurai (technically, a samurai can kill a peasant for any reason at any time). Beneath the heimin are the eta, those who carry out unclean acts like preparing dead bodies and torturing prisoners (as blood is unclean and physical touching is taboo).

Each character has a family name (Toritaka) and a personal name (Torymar). His full name would be Toritaka Torymar. How you address another person depends on your relationship. With family and friends, the personal name or a nickname are used (Torymar, Tory). With Clan members, family names can be used alone (as with the real world military using just the last name, Toritaka-san) or the full name if there are more than one member of that family (talking to just Toritaka Torymar one in a group of Toritaka bushi). Outside the Clan, either the family name or Clan name can be used (Crab-san and Toritaka-san are both acceptable though most non-Crab would not be familiar with the Toritaka family). I do not require people to constantly use -san or other honorifics in their posts, though it may be appropriate when dealing with your superior officers or other dignitaries.

The Hida family rules the Crab Clan. Descended from the Kami whose name they bear, they are fierce warriors with an extreme range of emotions. Their rage in battle is legendary as is their joy in the face of triumph. To those outside the family, who only see the results of their emotion, the Hida appear as if they have no self-control but this is untrue. A Hida is taught to recognize the power of emotions, but to always control them. A fierce temper is a powerful weapon, one that can turn the tide of battles, but must be kept in check until the proper time arrives. The Hida family's rule of their clan has never been questioned, for the Hida have always recognized the talents of each family that serves them. Responsibilities among the clan are clearly defined, and the expertise of each family is recognized and highly valued. In return for this trust, the other families show the Hida unfailing loyalty. The Hida are the largest of the Crab families, forming the backbone of the Crab armies. Whereas many Crab are larger than average, Hida bushi tend to be even taller and more muscular. Some wonder if their proximity to the Shadowlands has conferred the strength of demons upon their family over the generations, but never within earshot of a Hida.

The Hiruma are a grim and humorless family, and for good reason. Their lands were completely destroyed and dominated by the Shadowlands during the same battle that led to the creation of the Kaiu (or Great Carpenter) Wall. The dark memories of their failure to protect their land still remain. The Hiruma lands are desolate and lifeless. Even the stones of Hiruma castles seem darker, as if stained by a shadow that will never wash away. As their territories lie beyond the formidable protection of the Kaiu Wall, the Hiruma must be ever vigilant and prepared for attack. Their scouts are among the finest in the Empire, able to move quickly and tirelessly through the most hostile of terrains without detection. While the other families all bear great knowledge of the enemy, none know the terrain of the Shadowlands as they do. Though Hiruma are strong in the way of all Crab, they tend to be lean and tough where the Hida are massive and powerful. Hiruma have a reputation for speaking few words, though when they do speak they do so with a bitter, cynical view. While the Hiruma never doubt that the Crab Clan will ultimately defeat the Shadowlands, neither do they doubt that many of their family will die before that day ever comes.

The Kaiu are a family of engineers, smiths, and siege masters. They are the pragmatic scholars of their clan, turning all of their boundless energies into the eternal art of war. The Kaiu Wall stands as their proudest accomplishment, but the Kaiu are not satisfied with their masterpiece. Kaiu engineers work tirelessly to repair, strengthen, and improve their clan's defenses. The Crab have come to trust and admire Kaiu craftsmanship above all others. Rare is the Crab whose swords and armor were not born in a Kaiu forge. In the eyes of a Hida, Hiruma, or Yasuki the only truly reliable weapon is a Kaiu weapon. Thought hey rule their home provinces as do any family, the Kaiu are often scattered throughout their clan's territories working on countless projects. They are relentless perfectionists, keenly focused upon fighting the war against the Shadowlands in their own way – by providing their brethren with the weapons and defenses they require to survive. The Kaiu tend to carry themselves in a more scholarly manner than their Kuni cousins, obsessed as they are with the relentless pursuit of knowledge. Kaiu are keen, patient strategists and will observe a problem from all angles before considering a solution. Kaiu are large like most Crab but generally do not have the time to hone their physique like their Hiruma and Hida cousins. Thus Kaiu tend to be large and thick but not well toned. The typical Kaiu has the mammoth physique of a warrior but the ink stained hands of a scholar.

The most infamous family of the Crab, the painted kabuki faces of the Kuni family are met with fear and suspicion in almost every court. They are the Crab Clan's shugenja, mystics with deep insight into the dark horrors that the Crab Clan faces every day. Some wonder if the Kuni study their enemy with too much vigor. Every child knows the tale of Kuni Yori's descent into corruption and madness. For their part, the Kuni refuse to let the tale of their most notorious fallen daimyo be forgotten. Some would say that Yori's was a solitary, if catastrophic, corruption but the Kuni know better. More members of the Kuni family have become practitioners of maho, or black magic, than all other shugenja families combined, a simple matter of their proximity to the Shadowlands. So close to the whispers of the Dark God, the temptation of such power is very difficult to resist. The Kuni understand the risks, but they also know that if they were to withdraw from the war, the Crab Clan would have no defenses against the mystical forces they face with regularity. All the Kuni can do is police themselves strictly and see to it that those who falter are punished without mercy. While very Crab risks his life against the Shadowlands, the Kuni risk their souls as well. The Kuni are hardly typical as shugenja families go. Their studies take them into the harshest of terrains, thus they must be as strong and hearty as their bushi brethren. Kuni move with a constant, hyper energy. Their eyes are sharp and piercing, always searching for any sign of corruption. They often paint their faces with ghastly makeup and wear their hair long and loose. The Kuni do this both to intimidate their foes and to mimic the demons they fight – a constant reminder of what they might become if they lose their courage.

The youngest and smallest of the Crab families, the Toritaka were once known as the Falcon Clan. A strange catastrophe in the Twilight Mountains led to the Toritaka turning to their Crab neighbors for support and later officially swearing fealty to them. Though the Crab's resources were already stretched thin supporting their existing families, they were eager to absorb the unique talents of this strangest of bushi families. The Toritaka dwell in a place called the Tani Hitokatge, or the Valley of Spirits. In this serene valley, the barriers between Rokugan and other Spirit Realms are very thin. All manner of strange ghosts and spirits wander regularly into the valley and rather than abandon their haunted home, the Toritaka long ago took it upon themselves to understand these strang spirit and, when left with no other choice, fight them. While the Crab have unparalleled expertise in fighting the agents of Jigoku, only the Toritaka truly knew how to counter the many ghosts and demons from other realms of existence, creatures that the Horde occasionally calls upon as allies. The average Toritaka greatly resembles a Hida in size and build, for their clan's bloodlines frequently mixed with their closest neighbor's over the generations. Here the resemblance ends, for while Hida thrive on emotion, the Toritaka are withdrawn and reserved. They see themselves as mediators between mortals and spirits, and know that undue emotion can cause great distress in both the living and the dead. A Toritaka is always calm, focused, and controlled.

Once members of the Crane Clan, the Yasuki family is the most curious of the Crab families. Six hundred years ago, the Crab annexed portions of Crane lands in order to feed their troops. These lands belonged to the Yasuki family and the daimyo of the Yasuki, along with half the family, swore allegiance to the Crab Clan, the rest of the family remaining as servants of the Crane. The Crab Yasuki are obsessed with wealth and commerce, a family of wily traders and smooth businessmen. The Yasuki have a reputation for aggressive bargaining, and will not balk at bending the occasional law to get a better deal. While their reputation as shady dealers precedes them, it is difficult to maintain one's distrust in a Yasuki's presence. They seem to have a way of convincing potential customers that they are, at least this time, entirely trustworthy. They also have a seemingly unfailing habit of having exactly what their customer wants. To the Crab Clan, this makes them indispensible. They are the economic masterminds that maintain the delicate web of trade and negotiation needed to keep the mighty Crab war machine fueled and ready. While it may seem that the Yasuki are embroiled in their world of trade and profit far from their cousins' war, nothing could be further from the truth. Every Crab Yasuki knows what his fellow Crab face on the Wall every day. Every Yasuki knows how much his brethren rely upon him. They make the deals they do so that the Hida and Hiruma warriors will be well fed, so that the Kaiu will have steel to work their forge, and so that the Kuni and Toritaka will have the cystal and jade they need to protect the clan from evil. It is a unique battlefield, but the Yasuki fight battles of commerce with all the relentless determination of a Crab. In appearance, the Yasuki are the least like a typical Crab. Their Crane blood still runs strong in their veins, and Yasuki tend to be small, thin, and beautiful. Though they do not bleach their hair in the manner of the Crane, they do wear their hair long and dress in fine clothing. This is all for the sake of appearance, of course, for rare is the Yasuki who is not ready and able to take up a weapon and aid his fellow Crab in the defense of the Wall.

The Nezumi, or rat people, are an unusual race of creatures that inhabit the Shadowlands. They lived there before the fall of Fu Leng and their kingdom was destroyed by him and the Horde. They went into hiding, burrowing out nests and endlessly winding tunnels beneath the Shadowlands. Most interesting, however, is the fact that they seem entirely immune to the Taint. Where men are driven mad and all life is twisted and deformed by the Taint, the Nezumi show no sign of corruption at all. Nezumi are small creatures that greatly resemble wererats in their hybrid form (basically giant, humanoid rats). Some have adopted the affectations of Rokugani society (wearing Rokugani-style armor, wielding swords, etc) while others have maintained the old ways. Because they share a common enemy with the Crab, several Nezumi tribes have allied with the Clan. However, theirs is not a military alliance. The vast majority of Nezumi prefer a life of hiding and scrounging to combat. They trade information to the Crab for food and materials. They are more than a match for Hiruma scouts in navigating the Shadowlands, both because it is their home and because they have no fear of the Taint. Nezumi are universally reviled in the Empire except among the Crab (as the pragmatic Crab would never let xenophobia and racism get in the way of an advantage against the Shadowlands, though even amongst the Crab nezumi are not entirely welcome). As nezumi find the greatest acceptance among the Crab who man the Wall, and as the campaign consists of samurai who man the Wall, I would have no problem a Nezumi character. However, realize that if you play a Nezumi you will suffer somewhat if the game moves to the Crab side of the Wall.

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