Ronin Schools

Basic Schools

Dutiful Disciple Shugenja [EnE]

  • Benefit: +1 Intelligence
  • Skills: Calligraphy, Lore: Theology, Lore (pick one), Meditation, Spellcraft, any two Skills
  • Honor: 4.0
  • Outfit: Sturdy Robes, Wakizashi, any 1 weapon, Traveling Pack, Scroll Satchel, 5 bu
  • Affinity / Deficiency: Disciple shugenja typically have the same Affinity and Deficiency of their mentor, which of course varies wildly. You may choose one non-Void element in which you gain an Affinity. You are automatically Deficient in the opposing element.
  • Spells: Sense, Commune, Summon, 3 spells of your elemental Affinity, 2 spells of a non-Deficient element, and 1 spell of a second non-Deficient element. You gain additional spells for going up in Rank normally so long as you remain on good terms with your sensei.
  • Technique: Soul of Study – Disciples often idolize their mentors and regard their teachings as the most sacred of verses. When casting one of your beginning spells (the ones given you by you mentor), you roll an additional +1k0 on Spell Casting Rolls.

Generic Ronin [Bushi] [SE]

The ronin mechanics in the L5R 4th Edition RPG are designed to reflect the unfortunate reality of a wave-man’s life – namely, most ronin bands are only around for a short time, and are unable to develop more than one Technique. Even the rare ronin groups that manage to endure for a long time or gain prestigious support, such as the Legion of Two Thousand, are hard-pressed to establish the sort of infrastructure and long-term continuity required to maintain a full-fledged bushi school. The game design reflects this with a system which forces most ronin to rely chiefly on their innate capacities (represented by Skills) with only one or two Techniques.

Although this approach is realistic for the setting, it does put ronin significantly behind clan characters (even Minor Clan characters) in terms of their game-mechanic capabilities. This can be frustrating for players who are running ronin characters. GMs who wish to mitigate this frustration can opt to make this “generic ronin school” available for play. Although a “generic” school does not really fit the concept of what schools are supposed to represent in the world of Rokugan, it does allow greater options for players, which is a virtue in itself. GMs can thus have the freedom to decide whether they wish to focus their campaigns more on setting authenticity at the expense of game-balance, or more on game-balance and maintaining fairness between players.

Although this school is intended primarily to represent ronin, it can also be used to represent any other situation in which a character could have martial training without access to a “named” bushi school. For example, it could represent the training of Great Clan samurai who belong to minor vassal families without access to their clan’s main dojo. It could also represent Minor Clan samurai in clans like the Fox, Dragonfly, Oriole, or Bat who have bushi in their ranks but lack any bushi school of their own.

  • Benefit: +1 Agility
  • Honor: 4.5
  • Skills: Athletics, Defense, Hunting, Intimidation, Kenjutsu, Knives, any one Weapon Skill
  • Outfit: Light Armor, Sturdy Clothing, Daisho, any 1 weapon, Traveling Pack, 1 koku

Techniques

Rank One: Strength of My Father
Ronin are known for their resilience in the face of adversity. When you are suffering TN penalties due to Wounds, you may make an Earth Roll (ignoring Wound TN penalties) during the Reactions Stage of each Round, with a TN equal to 5 + 5x the number of Wound Ranks you are currently suffering. If the roll is successful, you may ignore the effects of your Wound penalties until the next Reactions Stage. This Technique does not work once you reach the Down or Out Wound Ranks.

Rank Two: Never Yield
Ronin are accustomed to being the underdogs. When you are outnumbered in a skirmish, you gain a bonus to your Armor TN equal to the amount by which the number of enemies exceeds the number of your allies. This bonus cannot exceed the total of your School Rank x2.

Rank Three: Bite of the Wolf
Veteran ronin are swift and deadly fighters. You may attack as a Simple Action when wielding a katana or a knife.

Rank Four: Twice-Cutting Spirit
As ronin become truly experienced, they become ever more deadly with many different weapons. Choose one additional melee weapon: you may attack with that weapon as a Simple Action. Once per skirmish, you may spend a Void Point on a damage roll, regardless of what weapon you are using.

Rank Five: Valor of the Wolf
Those ronin who survive long enough to perfect their skills become legends of the battlefield, able to endure all manner of hardship and prevail in spite of severe injuries. Choose another melee weapon: you may attack with that weapon as a Simple Action. Additionally, you may spend a Void Point to activate your R1 Technique without requiring a Willpower Trait Roll; when you activate it in this way, it lasts a number of Rounds equal to your Fire Ring.

Ronin Order Shugenja [EnE]

  • Benefit: +1 Awareness
  • Skills: Calligraphy (Cipher), Divination, Lore: Theology, Lore (pick any), Meditation, Spellcraft, any one Skill
  • Honor: 5.0
  • Outfit: Sturdy Robes, Daisho, Traveling Pack, Scroll Satchel, 5 bu
  • Affinity / Deficiency: Ronin orders tend to emphasize practicality over power, and most often favor spells that have utility in daily life. You have an Affinity for Air spells and a Deficiency for Earth spells.
  • Spells: Sense, Commune, Summon, 3 Air spells, 2 Water spells, and 1 Fire spell
  • Technique: The Path of Discipline – Orders such as the Brotherhood and other prominent ronin groups emphasize the most basic tenets of shugenja traditions, strengthening the core beliefs and abilities of their students. You gain one Free Raise on all Sense, Commune, and Summon spells for all elements except Void and Earth.

Self-Taught Shugenja [EnE]

  • Benefit: +1 Willpower
  • Skills: Athletics, Hunting, Meditation, Spellcraft, any three non-High Skills
  • Honor: 4.0
  • Outfit: Sturdy Robes, Wakizashi, any 1 weapon, Traveling Pack, Scroll Satchel, 5 bu
  • Affinity / Deficiency: Self-taught shugenja typically have great holes in their training as a result of the trial and error method by which they learn the ways of the kami. You may choose any one non-Void Element in which to have an Affinity. You automatically gain a Deficiency in the opposing Element and in any one other Element of your choice.
  • Spells: Sense, Commune, Summon, and any five spells you can cast (no spells may be in Elements for which you have a Deficiency).
  • Technique: The Kami’s Gift – Those who are selftaught possess an affinity for the kami that many among the clans would envy. When you spend a Void Point on a Spellcasting Roll, you add +2k2 instead of +1k1. Unfortunately, you do not automatically gain additional spells when you advance in Rank; you must seek them out on your own.

Advanced Schools

Disciples of Sun Tao [SE]

The Disciples are an ancient ronin band based around Sun Tao’s legendary book. The leaders of the band believe they possess the only complete copy of Sun Tao’s writings. Due to the band’s age and dedication, it has actually developed multiple Techniques. Those raised within the band usually learn the Gaze of Sun Tao initially before moving on to study the Disciples’ advanced teachings. However, the Disciples also recruit other ronin who have learned different basic Techniques.

Requirements:

  • Rings/Traits: Fire 4, Water 3
  • Skills: Battle (Mass Battle) 4, any two Weapon skills at Rank 4
  • Other: Must be born into or recruited into the Disciples of Sun Tao ronin band.

Techniques

Rank One: Terumoto’s Lesson
Sun Tao’s chief disciple was a skilled warrior who embraced his master’s doctrine of studying battle in all its forms and mastering all types of warfare. Choose any three Weapon Skills; you gain a +1k0 bonus to your rolls with those Skills.

Rank Two: Sun Tao’s Legacy
All members of the Disciples study the Book of Sun Tao, which binds them together as a group. You gain a bonus of +1k1 to your Battle Skill rolls when rolling to determine who is winning a battle, and a bonus of +1k0 when rolling to determine your status on the Mass Battle Table.

Rank Three: Aikumo’s Perfection
The second leader of the Disciples perfected their teachings and his Technique is the pinnacle of the band’s training. You may make attacks with melee weapons as a Simple Action.

Legion of Two Thousand [SE]

Sponsored by the Imperial house, the Legion of Two Thousand – recruited from some of the best soldiers in Toturi’s ronin army – enjoys resources and support which most ronin can only dream about. As a result, it has been able to develop extensive martial techniques, an extremely rare accomplishment for wave-men.

Requirements:

  • Rings/Traits: Fire 3, Water 3
  • Skills: Battle 3, Defense 4, Kenjutsu 3
  • Other: Must have Honor 5.0 or better and be recruited into the Legion of Two Thousand ronin band.

Techniques

Rank One: Stand as Two Thousand
The Legion earned fame in its early years for protecting remote corners of the Empire and for helping defend the Kaiu Wall. You gain a +1k0 bonus to your Defense Skill rolls. When you are fighting in defense of the innocent or of the common people, this bonus is +1k1 instead.

Rank Two: Kuronada’s Honor
The son of the tyrant Karatsu embraced honorable ways despite his father’s legacy and became one of the most famous commanders in the Legion. So long as you have an Honor of 5.0 or better, you gain a bonus of +2k1 whenever you spend a Void Point on a roll with a School Skill, rather than the normal +1k1. This ability cannot be used in the Center Stance.

Rank Three: Tamago’s Expertise
The ascension of the brilliant tactician Tamago to the leadership of the Legion of Two Thousand leads to the Legion developing more advanced training. You may make melee attacks with Samurai weapons as Simple Actions.

Rank 1 Paths

Disciples of Sun Tao [Bushi] [CR]

The ronin who call themselves the disciples of Sun Tao are a group that have taken the teachings of the legendary ronin tactician Sun Tao, who is said to have studied with each of the Great Clans in turn, and applied his wisdom to the art of the duel. Although they lack the skill and recognition of dueling traditions within the Great Clans, those who follow dueling have, over time, come to grudgingly acknowledge their strength.

  • Benefit: +1 Reflexes
  • Skills: Athletics, Defense, Hunting, Iaijutsu, Kenjutsu, any 2 Skills
  • Honor: 4.5
  • Outfit: Light Armor, Sturdy Clothing, Daisho, any 1 weapon, Traveling Pack, 1 koku
  • Technique: The Gaze of Sun Tao - Students of Sun Tao understand the relationship between honor and skill. You may add your Honor Rank to the total of all Iaijutsu Skill Rolls.

Forest Killers [Bushi] [CR]

The Forest Killers are perhaps the most ruthless and fearsome bandit organization in the history of the Empire. For centuries they exploited the superstitions surrounding the
Shinomen Mori by hiding within its depths. They were eventually eradicated by the Emerald Champion, but their demise proved short-lived, and within a few years a new group of Forest Killers was plaguing the lands around the Shinomen once more.

  • Benefit: +1 Agility
  • Skills: Athletics, Defense, Hunting, Kenjutsu, Kyujutsu, Stealth, any 1 Weapon Skill
  • Honor: 1.5
  • Outfit: Light Armor, Sturdy Clothing, Daisho, any 1 weapon, Traveling Pack, 2 koku
  • Technique: Strength of the Forest - The Forest Killers are a formidable group who recruit only the toughest and most durable of warriors to join their band. You gain additional Wounds per Wound Rank equal to your Stamina. You may also add your Stamina to the total of all damage rolls resulting from melee attacks.

People's Legionnaire [Bushi] [IH]

After the commoner Asahime began organizing her army of peasants, she worked with her monk adviser Rojin to develop a spear-fighting technique that would allow simple ashigaru soldiers to stand their ground against samurai opponents. The technique was designed to capitalize on working together, using numbers and discipline to overcome the superior fighting skills of samurai opponents. Unsurprisingly, in Rokugan’s canon history the technique did not survive the ultimate defeat of the People’s Legion, but creative GMs can use it to represent any peasant or ronin army that lasts long enough to develop some discipline and organized training.

  • Benefit: +1 Stamina
  • Skills: Athletics, Defense, Hunting, Knives, Spears, Stealth, any 1 Merchant or Low Skill
  • Honor: 0.0 (peasant fighting technique)
  • Outfit: Ashigaru Armor, Sturdy Clothing, Yari, any 1 Peasant weapon, Backpack, 5 zeni
  • Technique: Unity of Purpose - The People’s Legionnaires drill endlessly, learning to act in unison on the battlefield. After Initiative is rolled at the beginning of a skirmish, you may take a Free Action to lower your Initiative score to match that of an ally who is also trained in this technique. If you and an ally with the same Initiative attack the same opponent, you each gain a +1k0 bonus on your attack roll for each such ally striking the same foe. The maximum number of bonus dice you can gain on a single attack roll is equal to your Insight Rank +1.

Tawagoto's Army [Bushi] [CR]

Inspired by the young and charismatic ronin Tawagoto, this group of ronin and peasants rallied together to protect the innocent people of Rokugan from the rash of violent peasant revolutions inspired by the mad monk Kokujin while the Great Clans were engaged in another war of succession. Eventually the clans recognized the threat and sanctioned Tawagoto’s activities, lending him aid to complete the task of hunting down Kokujin’s forces and destroying them.

  • Benefit: +1 Agility
  • Skills: Battle, Defense, Etiquette, Investigation, Kenjutsu, Spears, any 1 Skill
  • Honor: 4.5
  • Outfit: Light Armor, Sturdy Clothing, Daisho, any 1 weapon, Traveling Pack, 1 koku
  • Technique: The People’s Will - Those who are guided by honor carry the strength of the Empire’s people in their actions. When you spend a Void Point to add a bonus of +1k1 to any Skill or Trait Roll, you may also add your Honor Rank to the total of that roll.

Tengoku's Justice [Bushi] [CR]

Ruthless in the extreme, the mountain bandits known as Tengoku’s Justice could threaten the reputation of the Forest Killers as the most reviled bandits in the Empire if they
survive long enough. Their heretical name, however, gives additional reason to hate them, likely shortening their expected survival. The Tengoku’s Justice band makes their home in the Dragon mountains, pillaging and laying waste to entire villages to gather the supplies and wealth they desire. They trust in the traditional inaction of the Dragon to make their apprehension less likely, but have drawn the unwavering attention of the magistrates of the Mantis Clan due to their actions.

  • Benefit: +1 Strength
  • Skills: Athletics, Defense, Horsemanship, Hunting, Kenjutsu, Kyujutsu, any 1 Skill
  • Honor: 4.5
  • Outfit: Ashigaru or Light Armor, Sturdy Clothing, Daisho, Bow with 20 Arrows or Knife, Traveling Pack, 1 koku
  • Technique: Heaven’s Curse - The sheer ruthless, murderous nature of the Tengoku’s Justice fighting style could rival even that of the Forest Killers. Whenever you surprise an opponent in a skirmish, you may double your Strength for the purposes of determining how many damage dice you roll on that attack.

The Tessen [Bushi] [CR]

Composed primarily of former Crane and Lion, the Tessen came together to attempt to protect the people of Toshi Ranbo, centuries before it became the new Imperial City. The constant changing of hands between the two clans left the city in a terrible state, often plagued by criminals who knew the clans were too busy with one another to bother hunting them. Because the Crane forbade any save themselves to carry a blade within the city, these ronin took up the tessen as their weapon of choice, and continue to patrol the streets of the Imperial City today, albeit with only grudging acknowledgement from the city’s Imperial protectors.

  • Benefit: +1 Stamina
  • Skills: Battle, Defense, Investigation, Jiujutsu, War Fans, any 2 Skills
  • Honor: 3.5
  • Outfit: Light Armor, Sturdy Clothing, Daisho, War Fan, any 1 weapon, Traveling Pack, 2 koku
  • Technique: Folds of the Iron Fan - Few in Rokugan have mastered the facets of the iron fan with the same fluency as the Tessen. When wielding a war fan in your off hand, you suffer no penalties for attacks made with that hand. You also add your rank in War Fans to the total of your Armor TN at all times while wielding a war fan.

Rank 2 Paths

Claws of the Wolf [Bushi] [EnE]

The Claws of the Wolf are a small group of rather vicious vigilantes who subscribe to the ideals of Toturi Sezaru, an Imperial heir who lived during the mid to late twelfth century and whose death helped usher in the Race for the Throne. Sezaru was one of the most powerful shugenja of his age, and perhaps of all time, but struggled throughout his life with emotional detachment and borderline sociopathic tendencies. He never surrendered his honor, but came close on more than one occasion, especially during his ruthless and relentless hunts for members of the Bloodspeaker Cult. The men who claim to continue his legacy are similarly brutal in their assessment of the world around them, and attempt to eradicate threats to the Empire’s stability or to its people. Unfortunately, their judgment of what constitutes a threat can be highly suspect at times. The members wear ceramic masks similar to the one made famous by Sezaru himself.

Generalization: This Technique can be used by any group of vigilantes or devotees to a ruthless figure. Other notable historical fi gures might include Hantei XVI (the Steel Chrysanthemum), for example, or a notably ruthless or pragmatic magistrate. Even the Clan War-era berserker Hida Amoro might inspire such a group.

  • Requirements: Wary, Driven
  • Technique: Hunting the Darkness – The Claws of the Wolf ruthlessly punish all who violate Imperial law. You gain a bonus of +2k2 to the total of your first attack roll in a skirmish if the opponent you are attacking is an individual you know without question is guilty of a violation of Imperial law.

East Wind [Bushi] [EnE]

The East Wind is a benevolent ronin brotherhood devoted to protecting the common people of East Hub Village, a city on the outskirts of Otosan Uchi. The Eastern Hub’s primary role as a port ensures a constant stream of wealthy merchants, a breed that often suffers from mild paranoia and usually has excess funds to spend in protecting investments. The East Wind initially found gainful employment with such merchants and used their pay to purchase simple holdings of their own within the city. From that power base they extended their infl uence throughout the city in an attempt to curb crime and other excesses as much as possible. Although they preferred to keep a low profi le, the people of Eastern Hub recognized the value of what the ronin did and looked on them with fondness and gratitude. After the destruction of Otosan Uchi in the mid-twelfth century, the fortunes of the Hub Cities declined, but the East Wind brotherhood endured, and eventually the Unicorn Clan began revitalizing the city and sponsoring the ronin.

  • Requirements: Commerce 1+, Horsemanship 2+, Honor 4+
  • Technique: Shielded by the East – The East Wind specialize in the defense of their charges, whoever they might be. When in the Defense or Full Defense Stances and performing the Guard Action, you increase both your Armor TN and that of your charge by 5.

Eyes of Nanashi [Bushi] [EnE]

Nanashi Mura (“Anonymous Village”) sits on the edge of Dragon Clan territory near the vast Dragon Heart Plain. Imperial records indicate the village is a holding of the Dragon, and it is true they are responsible for its administration. In reality, however, the Dragon have always permitted the ronin who call the city home to rule the village’s affairs, so long as they meet their taxes and maintain peace in the region. The village is overseen by a council of ronin and their will is enforced by a group of warriors and magistrates known as the Eyes of Nanashi. Within the village the Eyes are generally regarded as honorable law enforcement, and even visiting Great Clan samurai will treat them with some respect, albeit mostly out of deference to the Dragon Clan.

  • Requirements: Lore: Law 3, Honor Rank 4+
  • Technique: Strike the Center - The Eyes of Nanashi prefer non-lethal means of defending the city, and often use non-traditional weapons to gain a psychological advantage over their foes. You gain a bonus of +1k1 on any attack roll intended to disable rather than kill. (This is at the GM’s discretion, but maneuvers like Disarm, Knockdown, or certain Called Shots are usually a good indication you are trying not to injure your opponent.)

Moonless Riders [Bushi] [EnE]

The Moonless Riders are an extremely small and specialized group of ronin who have carefully cultivated skills that allow them to not only survive but seek regular employment by the armies of the Great Clans. The Riders, who are comprised primarily of former Unicorn, Lion, and Dragon samurai, specialize in cavalry tactics – but unlike most samurai, they train at night. As a result, they are among the preeminent nocturnal scouts and couriers in the Empire. The Unicorn find their practices distasteful due to the risk posed to horses in night operations, but the Moonless Riders consider this a necessity in order to maintain their livelihood. Although they wander freely across the Empire, the Moonless Riders do tend to linger in areas where clans share borders, and often find employment by the Lion along the Unicorn border and, less frequently, the Crane border as well. Minor Clans also employ them when possible to protect themselves against hostile neighboring Great Clans.

  • Requirements: Horsemanship 3+, Way of the Land
  • Technique: Moving the Shadow – Moonless Riders are experts at all things nocturnal. You do not suffer any penalties that might be incurred due to natural darkness. When active at night or in other forms of darkness (such as a basement or cave), you gain a bonus of +2k1 instead of +1k1 when you spend a Void Point to enhance any non-Weapon Bugei Skill.

Silent Blades [Bushi] [EnE]

Although they pride themselves on their skill as hired killers and assassins, the Silent Blades are in truth little more than rank amateurs when it comes to the arts of infiltration and assassination. Although they do have some skill, it is vastly less than they like to imagine, and as a result they are constantly struggling to overcome the impact of botched jobs and the occasional disastrous failure. Fortunately for them, however, those who would hire ronin assassins rarely communicate with one another, and the group has managed to avoid cultivating a poor reputation despite their mediocrity. While they do not know it, the Blades are actually pawns of a more secretive and skilled order known as Shadowed Steel, which is in turn a pawn of yet another unknown force. Thus the Silent Blades are essentially fodder for larger, more powerful, and more skilled groups, brought out when a scapegoat is necessary or when a very unskilled target needs to be eliminated.

  • Requirements: Ninjutsu 3+, Stealth 3+
  • Technique: Black Hearts, Red Blades – The Silent Blades are not completely without skill as assassins. If you are attacking an opponent who is unaware of your presence (for example, a foe you have defeated with a Contested Stealth Skill Roll to remain undetected), you may add your Stealth Skill Rank to the total of all attack and damage rolls made against that opponent for the duration of this skirmish.

The Thousand [Bushi] [SE]

The Thousand were formed during the First Yasuki War under the banner of a Crane ronin named Tamedaore who had a knack for both military organization and mercantile commerce. His ronin band peaked at over a thousand men and fought for the Crane during the latter years of the Yasuki War. Afterward, the band remained together but its numbers gradually diminished over the centuries; their last remnants were wiped out by the Unicorn Clan in the year 816.

  • Requirements: Iaijutsu 4, Void 3
  • Technique: Tamedaore's Secret - While you are in the Center Stance and on the Round immediately after you leave the Center Stance, you gain a bonus to your Armor TN equal to 2x your Void Ring.

Rank 3 Paths

Broken Guard [Bushi] [EnE]

In the aftermath of the infamous Scorpion Clan Coup at the beginning of the twelfth century, the Akodo family of the Lion Clan was dissolved by a wrathful Emperor. The majority of the family joined other Lion families, and many others took their own lives in shame. Some, however, took up the life of the ronin rather than remain within the now hostile Lion Clan with its new Matsu leadership. Of those who became wave men, a small group banded together for mutual defense and survival. These men, known as the Broken Guard, were led by a former officer named Saigorei, a man with a deep grudge against the Unicorn Clan. Saigorei gathered men with similar philosophies to his banner, honing their skills with an emphasis on anti-cavalry maneuvers. The Broken Guard quickly gained a reputation as dangerously effective against mounted foes, and they saw regular employment throughout the Clan War era. When the Akodo family finally reformed, many of the Broken Guard rejoined it. Of those remaining, most joined together with other ronin who had fought in the amalgamation known as Toturi’s Army, becoming the Wolf Legion.

Generalization: Independent of the timeline, this Path could be used to represent any anti-cavalry group, or a group with a grudge against the Unicorn Clan for whatever reason.

  • Requirements: Polearms 3+, Heart of Vengeance (Unicorn)
  • Technique: The Tiger’s Teeth – The Broken Guard are among the finest anti-cavalry forces in the Empire. You may make a melee attack as a Simple Action when using a polearm. You gain a bonus of +1k1 on attack rolls made against targets on horseback (or mounted on similarly-sized creatures).

Hidden Sword [Bushi] [EnE]

The ronin band known as the Hidden Sword is a large group that patrols the outskirts of the Shinomen Mori, trying to protect the people in the lands around it from the various enemies who threaten them. The Sword targets primarily bandits but also the various enigmatic creatures emerging periodically from the Shinomen. The band’s area of operation requires them to interact with the Scorpion, Crab, and Unicorn clans fairly regularly, and as a result the men of the Hidden Sword, while honorable, remain extremely practical and realistic individuals who do not succumb to blind idealism. Historically, the group has opposed and been sworn enemies of the Forest Killers, one of the Empire’s largest and most violent groups of ronin bandits, who lair within the Shinomen Mori. On at least one occasion, the Hidden Sword has been completely wiped out by the Forest Killers, but was reformed by its leader’s sons to carry on his work.

  • Requirements: Hero of the People
  • Technique: Keeping the Peace – The Hidden Sword excel at combating criminals and bandits, and have been taught effective techniques for dispatching such individuals. When fi ghting against an opponent with lower Honor Rank than yours, you may make melee attacks as a Simple Action instead of a Complex Action when wielding weapons with the Samurai keyword.

Machi-Kanshisha [Bushi] [EnE]

This band of ronin are known by the name of their preferred weapon, a long iron smoking pipe. Perhaps fortunately, the machi-kanshisha pipe is not well known in many parts of the Empire, and as a result many associate the name with the ronin band itself rather than the pipe for which they are named. The Machi-kanshisha are the guardians of the City of the Rich Frog, a major trade hub that sits in the narrow divide between the holdings of the Lion and Unicorn clans. Because of the militant nature of the two clans in question, who closely observe any significant violence near their borders, the Machi-kanshisha prefer to use their namesake smoking pipes as non-lethal weapons, employing them to subdue their foes rather than kill them. In the twelfth century, the City of the Rich Frog is annexed by the Lion Clan, and the Kaeru ronin family, administrators of the city and employers of the Machi-kanshisha, become vassals of the Ikoma family.

Generalization: Most of the Empire’s history has seen the Machi-kanshisha employed as listed above. If the GM chooses to modify a campaign set in the modern era, they can remain doing exactly what they have for so long without the Ikoma’s involvement.

  • Requirements: Athletics 2+, Staves 3+
  • Technique: Smoke and Mirrors – The Machi-kanshisha are extremely adept at wielding their namesake weapon. When using an iron pipe, you gain a Free Raise on any Disarm or Knockdown attack. You may also spend a Void Point to make a melee attack with a machi-kanshisa as a Simple Action (you may spend up to two Void Points per Round in this manner).

Order of Isashi [Shugenja] [SE]

This ronin shugenja order was founded in the wake of the second war with Iuchiban. Its members travel across Rokugan, always going to the most war-torn and disasterplagued regions, healing the injured and treating the sick with no expectation of payment or reward. They are welcomed in Crab lands but tend to encounter suspicion and hostility in most other regions, since their actions can be perceived as shaming the local clan shugenja for callousness.

  • Replaces: Ronin shugenja 3 (any ronin shugenja school)
  • Requirements: Medicine 3, Honor Rank 5.0 or better
  • Technique: Isashi’s Mercy - The Order of Isashi devotes itself to healing the sick and the injured. You gain a +1k0 bonus to Medicine Skill rolls and a Free Raise when casting any spell that heals Wounds or cures illness.

Serpents of Sanada [Bushi] [EnE]

Over the centuries there has been no shortage of ronin who have turned to violence and brutality to make their way through the world. Some, such as the Forest Killers, have cultivated such a reputation that their name is used to frighten children throughout the Empire. There are very few, however, who have the sheer audacity and penchant for destruction as the Serpents of Sanada. The Serpents are a naval band and over the years they have accumulated a small fleet of vessels, using them to become one of the most successful (and hated) pirate groups in almost a thousand years. In particular the Serpents are an offense to the Mantis Clan, who not only have many former members among their ranks but have actually been attacked on their home islands by the Serpents, something no pirate ever before dared to do. The Mantis ruthlessly hunt down vessels in the Serpents’ fleet but find it difficult to destroy the whole force.

  • Requirements: Knives 3+, Sailing 3+, Honor Rank 3 or lower
  • Technique: The Serpents’ Coils – The Serpents of Sanada are utterly ruthless pirates, and like others of their ilk they have been forced to master weapons that will not corrode in the sea air. When wielding a wooden weapon or a weapon with the Peasant keyword, you may make melee attacks as Simple Actions rather than Complex Actions.

Snow Riders [Bushi] [EnE]

Through most of Rokugan’s history winter has brought an abrupt end to war. The costs of waging war in the bitter cold and snow are simply too high, and every time it has been attempted the army responsible has ultimately been defeated. This did not change until the Empire’s twelfth century, when the boundless ambition of the Unicorn Clan Khan, Moto Chagatai, led him on a winter campaign across the Lion provinces. Although Chagatai’s campaign to capture the Imperial City was ultimately unsuccessful, the punishment he inflicted on the Lion forever changed the way the Empire regarded winter warfare. Few attempted to recreate the extent of that campaign, but most recognized it was possible to fight in the winter with adequate preparation and training. One group of ronin who served in Chagatai’s forces and survived the Lion’s vengeance went on to sell their services as couriers, messengers, and general supplemental cavalry, all with a specialty in winter tactics. The Yasuki family of the Crab would be envious of the discreet promotion the Snow Riders have conducted on behalf of their organization, and they have ensured they are always employed during the winter – if nothing else because their employers don’t want their enemies employing the Riders instead. Generally speaking, the Riders make adequate profits during the winter months to support them through the summer, which is exactly their intention.

Generalization: Although the story of this group is tied specifically to the Khan’s infamous campaign, there is no reason a small group could not develop along these lines independently of that incident. Doing so might make their services more difficult to market and sell, however.

  • Requirements: Athletics 3+, Horsemanship 4+
  • Technique: The Journey’s Beginning – The Snow Riders have mastered the art of mounted warfare and of waging war in winter conditions. You may ignore movement penalties based on terrain if the penalties in question are caused by snow or ice. You may spend a Void Point while fighting mounted in order to make a single attack as a Simple Action.

Tsume Pikemen [Bushi] [IH]

The Tsume vassal family prided themselves on being masters of the spear, teaching their bushi to specialize in defensive tactics and rely on a wall of spear-points to break enemy charges. After the Tsume ruling bloodline is exterminated in the War of Bleeding Flowers, their samurai become ronin but do their best to preserve their traditional fighting methods, passing their Technique down from parent to child. The process is further enhanced by their tradition of meeting annually to renew their sense of loyalty and identity.

Tsume ronin often hire themselves out as guards or escorts, using their spear tactics to defeat bandit raids. In keeping with their legacy as former Crane samurai, they are trustworthy and reliable soldiers and refuse to ever betray their employers. This makes them quite popular among merchants and others in need of reliable guards.

  • Requirements: Spears 3+, Polearms 3+, Honor Rank 3 or higher
  • Special Notes: Within the Heroes of Rokugan setting, this Technique is normally only available to ronin descended from the retainers of the deceased Tsume vassal family, or to close allies of that family. In other eras of play, GMs may use this technique to represent any honorable, trustworthy ronin band that replies primarily on spears or polearms.
  • Technique: Wall of Pikes - The Tsume Pikemen are taught to use defensive tactics, luring the enemy into a charge and then impaling them on their spears. While you are in the Defense posture and wielding a spear or polearm, immediately after an opponent makes a melee attack against you or one of your allies within ten feet (whether or not the attack hit), you may spend a Void Point in order to take a Free Action to attack that opponent with your spear/polearm. You may also use this Technique in the Full Defense posture, but making the attack will require spending two Void Points instead of one.

Rank 4 Paths

Kenburo's Way [Bushi] [IH]

Akodo Kenburo devised his dueling technique while he was a young ronin, roaming the streets and confronting other ronin, criminals, and thugs. During his tenure as Emerald Champion he taught the technique to a few of his most trusted magistrates, and after his death they preserved it within the Ruby Dojo and passed it down to later generations. Kenburo’s core tenet was that it was not the fastest, strongest, or most skilled duelist who won the duel, but the duelist who most frightens his opponent. “Break their spirit and their skill doesn’t matter,” he commented. “Make them think they are certain to die and even the boldest samurai will falter.”

Kenburo’s Way is only known within the Ruby Dojo and is thus normally only available to Emerald and Jade Magistrates. However, given that it was originally devised by Kenburo while he was a ronin, GMs may also wish to experiment with making the technique available to other ronin—after all, who knows whether Kenburo taught it to anyone before he won the Emerald Championship?

  • Requirements: Intimidation 5, Iaijutsu 5. Must be a student of the Ruby Dojo.
  • Technique: The Butcher’s Gaze - During an iaijutsu duel, before Assessment rolls are made, you may spend a Void Point to take a Free Action and make a Contested Intimidation/Willpower roll against your opponent. (This is considered a Fear effect for the purpose of abilities and mechanics that resist Fear.) If you win the Contested Roll, your opponent’s dice do not explode on his Assessment and Focus rolls for this duel.

Order of Five Weapons [Shugenja] [SE]

Founded by a Void shugenja named Ekuro, the Order of Five Weapons teaches mastery of the Elemental weapon spells, and also maintains a secret spell taught to its most trusted members.

  • Replaces: Ronin shugenja 4 (any ronin shugenja school)
  • Requires: At least Rank 3 in the Skills of Kenjutsu, Heavy Weapon, Spears, and Staves
  • Special: Must be able to cast at least two of the four Elemental Weapon spells (Yari of Air, Katana of Fire, Tetsubo of Earth, Bo of Water)
  • Technique: Ekuro’s Weapons - The founder of this order perfected the use of weapons summoned from the Elemental kami. You may cast any of the four Elemental Weapon spells as a Simple Action (rather than a Complex Action). You may spend a Void Point (as a Free Action) to be able to attack with these summoned weapons as a Simple Action for a number of Rounds equal to your Insight Rank. If you have the Ishiken-do Advantage, you may learn the secret spell “Dart of Void.”

Seven Waves Mercenaries [Bushi] [EnE]

The Seven Waves Mercenaries are an older ronin group with a reputation for discrete and effective service. The organization was founded roughly a century after the return of the Unicorn Clan to the Empire. The Seven Waves were created by a group of seven ronin, each one an outcast from one of the original Great Clans – this of course predates the elevation of the Mantis to Great Clan status, and the organization’s leaders never deigned to add a Mantis ronin to their ranks. When the Seven Waves take a job, those of their number associated with the clans in question remain apart to avoid coloring the employer’s opinion of the organization, but still offer expertise and advice to the other members. Over the years the organization has grown, but the leaders of the group, most of them descendants of the original founders, prefer to keep it organized into similar seven-man teams.

  • Requirements: Clan Ronin only
  • Technique: Roaring to Shake Heaven – Members of the Seventh Wave draw strength from their diversity. When fighting alongside your allies, you gain a bonus of +2 to the total of all attack and damage rolls for each different Basic School represented among your group. You may not gain a total bonus greater than twice your Void Ring from this Technique.

Sword of Yotsu [Bushi] [EnE]

There are few ronin brotherhoods in the Empire better known than the Sword of Yotsu, and perhaps none who have experienced the same degree of success. The brotherhood is led by an actual family, one of only a handful of ronin families in Rokugan’s history. The founder of the Yotsu performed a glorious service for the Hantei Dynasty, rescuing the Emperor’s youngest son from the clutches of the Bloodspeaker Cult by leaving his own child in the boy’s place. In gratitude and recognition of his sacrifice, the Emperor granted the ronin his father’s personal name as a family name, and the Yotsu family was born. Having lived many years wandering the Empire in his youth, Yotsu understood very well how the poor and defenseless suffered, and he vowed to use what little he had to ensure he and his would never suffer such fates. Over subsequent generations, Yotsu’s children expanded their family’s operations into a true ronin brotherhood, allowing other ronin to swear fealty to them and take their name in exchange for a vow to protect the defenseless. The Yotsu are generally honorable men and women, although they place greater emphasis on their duty than on the niceties of everyday samurai behavior.

  • Requirements: Kenjutsu 4+, Hero of the People, Honor Rank 5+
  • Technique: Shelter the Blameless – The Sword of Yotsu draw strength from their duty to protect others. During any Round when you are actively defending or protecting another (GM’s discretion), you gain one bonus Void Point for use during that Round. Unspent Void Points gained from this Technique are lost at the end of the Round (after the Reactions stage).

Weavers [Bushi] [EnE]

Many ronin groups are not well known in the Empire, but few are as completely unknown to the Great Clans as the secretive sect called the Weavers. These men and women rarely associate with one another in person, communicating instead through carefully encoded messages, discrete tattoos, and secret hand signals. They gather together only when there are important matters at hand, typically involving violence or infiltration of the most invasive sort. The Weavers are among the elite agents of the Kolat conspiracy and are only known to its highest-ranking members, or at least so they believe. Although the ten Kolat Masters have access to the entire roster of Weavers, most of their direct subordinates know of perhaps a half-dozen or so they can call upon in dire need. The abilities of the Weavers vary wildly from individual to individual, each having been recruited for a particular skill or set of skills that were needed at the time. In general, however, most have a propensity for violence and an absolute mastery of deceit. One might say lying is a requirement for the job.

  • Requirements: Allies (Kolat) OR Dark Secret (Kolat) OR Obligation (Kolat)
  • Technique: Twist the Weave – The Weavers excel at deceit and manipulation, and use such methods as weapons against their foes. If you have ever won a Contested Skill Roll against someone using your Sincerity (Deceit), Intimidation, or Temptation, if you subsequently face that person in a skirmish you gain a Free Raise that can be used on an attack roll during the first Round of the skirmish.

Rank 5 Paths

Iron Gauntlet Brotherhood [Bushi] [EnE]

The battered and scarred veterans who make up the Iron Gauntlet Brotherhood are among the most seasoned and fearsome ronin in all of Rokugan. Those familiar with their reputation whisper prayers to their ancestors when they catch sight of the Iron Brotherhood banner. The individual members of the Iron Gauntlet are survivors of other ronin groups that have been wiped out by one force or another. The first few members were lone survivors of groups eradicated during one of the Empire’s greatest conflicts. Some believe it was the First War, while others think it may have been as recent as the Clan War. No one knows for certain, and the Iron Brothers do not speak of it to outsiders. In fact, they rarely speak at all save to negotiate the terms of their contracts. In battle, they are utterly ruthless and without hesitation. Anyone who has seen them on the battlefield understands exactly how they survived their individual units’ destruction.

  • Requirements: Earth 4, any one Weapon Skill at 5 or higher
  • Technique: For My Brothers – Members of the Iron Gauntlet stand together against incredible odds and survive. When fighting alongside other members of the Iron Gauntlet Brotherhood, you may expend a Void Point to negate damage inflicted on an ally by an amount equal to your Void Ring x 5.

Shadowed Steel [Bushi] [EnE]

The word ‘ninja’ conjures one of two reactions from the Rokugani: exasperation, because of course ninja do not exist, or fear, because they suspect the substance of the night itself will disgorge and assault them for daring to consider such things. The truth is that to some extent both statements are true. On the one hand, the black-clad assassins of superstition do exist, but are largely a diversionary tactic used by groups like the Scorpion Clan – including through pawns such as the ronin group called the Silent Blade. On the other hand, the primordial entity known as the Lying Darkness unleashes inhuman ninja who can steal faces and names. And then there is the middle ground, where few have ever tread and survived. The men and women known as Shadowed Steel are former vassals of the Scorpion Clan, surreptitiously culled from the clan’s ranks over the course of generations or even centuries, and carefully cultivated into a completely deniable and disposable asset. The Shadowed Steel are few in number and answer only to the Shosuro family, who communicate with them through covert means such as blind drops. When an objective absolutely must be achieved or a foe eliminated at all costs, when the risk is simply two high to utilize the Shosuro family’s own assets, they call on the Shadowed Steel to deal with the matter quickly and with absolute and unwavering finality.

  • Requirements: Athletics 4+, Ninjutsu 4+, Stealth 4+
  • Technique: Death’s Dark Shadow – The Shadowed Steel strike from darkness to devastating effect, and rarely need to strike twice. When you succeed at a Contested Stealth Skill Roll against an opponent attempting to detect you, you may spend a Void Point to add the amount by which your Stealth Skill Roll exceeded your opponent’s roll to the next attack roll you make against that opponent. This must be done within one hour of the Contested Roll taking place – otherwise you must wait until the next Contested Stealth Skill Roll opportunity.

Wolf Legion [Bushi] [EnE]

During the epic conflict history remembers as the Clan War, an unprecedented number of ronin gathered together under the banner of Toturi, the Black Lion. The former Lion Champion, cast out when the Akodo family was dissolved, Toturi assembled thousands of his former clansmen who had become wave men, along with many former Scorpion samurai (whose clan had also been dissolved) and legions of simple ronin looking for the opportunity to be part of something greater than themselves. The organization known as Toturi’s Army fought to protect the people of the Empire and the stability of the Empire itself. After the war, many of the group rejoined their former clans; those who remained formed a new organization, the Wolf Legion. For decades, the Wolf Legion continued to protect the people of Rokugan, alternately ignoring or confronting the selfish politics of the Great Clans.

Generalization: The Wolf Legion are similar in many respects to Tawagoto’s Army (presented in the L5R RPG core rules) in that they are a benevolent organization devoted to the greater good of the Empire. If the GM is running a game in a different era or timeline, they could even represent a more advanced portion of the same organization as Tawagoto’s Army.

  • Requirements: Honor Rank 5+
  • Technique: Black Lion Talon – The traditions of the Wolf Legion are steeped in honor and bushido. Whenever you spend a Void Point to add +1k1 to the total of an attack roll, you may add your Honor Rank to the total of that attack roll as well.
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