The Histories

Legend of the 5 Rings has an incredibly deep story, going into its 13th Century as we begin the game, and the Emerald Empire has a very long memory. In many ways, the relationships between families and Clans are constructed from this memory. What follows is primarily a signpost of the changes I’ve made to the canon story, along with a very high level overview of the most major events for context. I do this because I anticipate you guys won’t do the reading. If you feel the need to prove me wrong (please prove me wrong) then I recommend the following resources:

  • 4th Edition Rulebook(pg 13-22) – Given that 4e is timeline-agnostic, they had to present a pretty legitimate (if brief) history. I wholeheartedly recommend starting here.
  • 4th Edition: Imperial Histories I & II – Technically “Alternate Setting” books, I’ve found that the majority of the settings contained are simply points of history in the mainline canon. As such, there’s a bunch of really good detail on what happened in those time periods in these books.
  • 3rd Edition: The Four Winds – We may be throwing out the 3ER ruleset, but the story remains the same. This is a whole book of details on what happened leading up to the point where our campaign’s history breaks from canon.
  • Legend of the 5 Rings Wiki – It’s rough, and it’s missing some details here and there, but it’s the best place I’ve found for specific timelines. For example, if you want the timeline of history as it applies to the Phoenix Clan , or specifically Shiba Aikune , then this is probably the best place to go. In fact, those who are paying attention may notice I quote this source several times below.

I obviously have at least a single physical copy of all of the above, but I believe the group has digital copies of most of them circulating as well.

That established, on to the CliffsNotes.

Pre-History

((GM’s Note: These tales become distorted with time and distance. This accounting is mostly from my own personal memory, and lacks some critical details. Both of these things are deliberate. If your character is a true historian who has committed the “proper” version to memory, or has special insight into the ancients for one reason or another, see me. Otherwise, consider this to be the story as it might be told by a street performer – structurally intact if not academically rigorous.))

Nothing

In the beginning, there was Nothing. That nothing was both a void, and a whole – despite being Nothing, it was somehow also everything. Reality came into being in three stages. First, one-third was created out of its fear of loneliness. Second, another third out of its desire for companionship. Finally, the last third came from its remorse for accidentally creating the world and therefore ruining the perfect, empty void. These are the Three Sins – Fear, Desire and Regret – poisoning the mind and keep it from acting with certainty. So it was with the Nothing.

The Fall of the Kami

But Creation progressed. With Reality came the elements. With the Elements came the Divine Elemental Dragons. The Spirit Realms were formed, and the Sun and Moon created the world of man. Lord Moon loved his wife the Lady Sun very much, and did everything he could to please her. They shaped and named all the creatures of the world together, and raised a family of their own, but as they did so Lord Moon felt more and more neglected. The attention and love that his wife showed to their creations and their children had once belonged to him alone, and he was jealous. Gradually, his jealousy grew into hatred, until finally he could control himself no longer.

He ate his children.

The Lady Sun, playing the dutiful wife, offered him a cup of poisoned sake with each child he consumed, until finally he had eaten all of them save their eldest. Hantei took up a sword and challenged his father. The moon attacked him, but – slowed as he was by the drink – Hantei was able to dodge out of the way. The blow cut a hole in the Heavens. Hantei could hear his siblings crying out, so he directed his counterattack to open up Lord Moon’s stomach.

The children of Sun and Moon fell from their father’s stomach and through the hole, escaping their father’s wrath. Eight of them fell into what we now know as Rokugan, but Fu Leng had caught hold of the edge of the hole, and fell far to the south instead. Lady Sun wept at the loss of her children, and where her tears fell, jade formed. Lord Moon’s wound bled, and where his blood fell from the sky and found his wife’s tears, the first humans were formed.

Sidenote: The Ancient Races

There are creatures in this world that claim to pre-date the Sun and Moon, and even a few more that believe the Fall of the Kami was a cataclysmic event for some grand civilization. Their stories cast many of the above details into doubt…

The Zokujin, who some say represent the strength of the Earth
The Trolls, who embody the power of Fire
The Kenku, subtle as Air
The Ningyo, fickle and impermanent as Water
The lost Kitsu, whose mysteries whisper of the Void

The Naga, serpent-men who slumber in the Shinomen Forest
The Nezumi, bestial allies of the Crab Clan who are immune to the Shadowlands Taint

However, Rokugani history has been recorded and passed down from the lips of the gods themselves. Surely such records are worth more than the hazy memories of these strange creatures.

The Tournament of the Kami

The Kami found themselves affected by the mortal world. They weakened, and became demigods rather than true immortals like their father and mother. Still more potent than any true human, they knew they were not what they once were, and that they could not easily return to the Heavens. In order to decide who was best fit to rule, the Kami held a tournament.

Togashi did not enter the competition, preferring to watch.

Hida faced Shinjo with his great strength, but was overcome by the latter’s speed.

Shinjo was then overcome by Bayushi’s cunning.

Bayushi’s tricks weren’t enough to fool his twin brother, Shiba.

Shiba was then outmaneuvered by lady Doji.

On martial terms, Doji could not hope to defeat Akodo.

The final duel between Akodo and Hantei is said to be the greatest display of not only skill, but also the virtues of a samurai, in all of history. Finally – though no blow had been struck – Akodo laid down his sword and admitted defeat.

Thus, Hantei became the First Emperor of the land, and his siblings swore fealty to him.

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Canon(0-1158)

((GM’s Note: As stated above, I don’t intend to attempt to cover the entirety of Rokugani history in this space. The “Canon” section thusly contains mostly things that are either the structural events of the canon history (such as the climaxes of major story arcs) or the rare places where I have deliberately diverged from the printed canon for one reason or another. Anything not mentioned specifically here should be assumed to have happened according to printed L5r materials.))

The First Century

Gathering the Clans (year 5)

Each of the Kami ventured forth and established a base of power, rallying the tribal humans to their banner and promoting the most exceptional amongst them to found families of their own.

Things that didn’t happen: Kakita invents the katana (year ??)

While Kakita was a phenomenal swordsman and a hero worthy of his divine wife, he did not – as one of his callouts in a 4th edition book somewhere tries to claim – invent the katana. The traditional blade of Rokugan’s origins are much older than that, as the Kami brought such blades with them from the Heavens.

First Tournament of the Emerald Champion (year 23)

Kakita defeats Matsu for the title, sparking a feud between the two families that would last well into the 12th century.

First Day of Thunder (year 42)

The Shadowlands, led by the Kami Fu Leng, rises up to assault the Empire, and for a time the dark army seems unstoppable. A lowly monk by the name of Shinsei surfaces, who claims that a representative from each clan, born with the Soul of Thunder, are prophesied to be able to defeat the dark god and ensure 1,000 years of light. The Thunders succeed in defeating Fu Leng and imprisoning his essence in 13 black scrolls, though it costs nearly all of them their lives – as well as that of the Kami Shiba.

Akodo wipes out the Kitsu (year 44)

Incorrectly believing them to be monsters from the Shadowlands, Akodo wages a campaign of genocide against one of the ancient races. It’s not until there are only 5 surviving members of the race that his mistake is realized, and the survivors are married honorably into the Lion clan, founding the Kitsu family.

The Ki-Rin’s Exodus (year 45)

Unsettled by the Empire’s lack of preparation against foreign threats, the Kami Shinjo decides to take her followers and explore outside the Empire. They are to learn as much as they can, so that when they return the Empire can be prepared for any invasion force that may attempt to force its way into Rokugan.

Hantei Genji ascends the throne (year 46)

Hantei finally succumbs to injuries he suffered while fighting the Shadowlands, and his son is crowned Emperor.

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The Second Century

The Emerald Magistrates and Imperial Legions are created (year 153)

Under the rulership of Hantei Genji, the Emerald Champion’s duties are increased. No longer simply the Emperor’s personal duelist, the Emerald Champion becomes the head of both an imperial police force and a military. These bodies are comprised of samurai recruited from all of the clans, but (theoretically) not hindered by the politics and private interests of any given clan – they serve the Imperial Will directly.

Imperial Law is officially reformed (year 163)

The laws, charters, and jurisdictions of the Emerald Magistrates and Imperial Legions are solidified, fully outlining their authority. In addition, Iaijutsu is officially decreed the final arbiter of justice in matters between samurai.

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The Third Century

Invention of the Koku (year 243)

The monetary system used by all of Rokugan was invented.

Hantei Ningi ascends the throne (year 246)

After nearly 200 years of rule, Hantei Genji passes the mantle of Emperor to his son.

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The Fourth Century

The Crab Clan forms an official alliance with the Nezumi (year 314)

Hantei Fujiwa ascends the throne (year 371)

The precise beginning of the reign of his predecessor Hantei Bosai has unfortunately been lost to history, but Fujiwa is the 5th emperor of Rokugan.

The Yasuki Break, and the beginning of the Crane-Crab War (year 387)

The Gozoku conspiracy begins (year 391)

An alliance between the leaders of the Scorpion, Crane, and Phoenix have been plotting for some time, and now they move. By quietly holding the emperor’s heir hostage, they are able to force Fujiwa into becoming their puppet.

Hantei Kusada ascends the throne (year 397)

Imperial edicts, and the (official) end of the Crane-Crab War (year 400)

Open, large-scale warfare between the Great Clans is forbidden, and thus the Crane-Crab War is ended abruptly and inconclusively. Bad blood and “minor border skirmishes” continue for centuries.

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The Fifth Century

The Snake Clan, the Shuten Doji, and the Five Nights of Shame (year 401-402)

Hantei Yugozohime ascends the throne (year 435)

Fall of the Gozoku (year 435)

Gaijin ambassadors are allowed into the Imperial Court (year 440)

A pale-skinned people who refer to themselves as the Merenae sail for Rokugan after having positive dealings with the Moto and Ide families of the Ki-Rin. They become lost at sea, and encounter a fleet of yet another race, the Thrane. The two lend each other aide and eventually reach Rokugan together. After extensive negotiations with the Crane and Mantis, they make it into the Empress’ presence, where they make their case and are granted limited trade rights and 2 years to prove their honor.

The Battle of White Stag and the Battle of Raging Seas (year 442)

At the end of the two year arrangement, Empress Yugozohime requested that the gaijin leave and never return. The angered gaijin returned in force, sailing into the Golden Bay and unleashing a cannonade on the capitol that killed both the Empress and the Lion Clan Champion. The fighting was very fierce, but the gaijin ships were driven off. These events fundamentally cemented the Rokugani opinion of gaijin and black powder.

Hantei Muhaki ascends the throne (year 442)

Yugozohime’s uncle, bans all things Gaijin.

The Ki-Rin Clan rename themselves the Unicorn Clan (year 442)

Hantei Yugozohime’s cousin ascends the throne as Hantei X (year 487)

The precise beginning of the reign of his predecessor Hantei Retsuhime has unfortunately been lost to history, but

The Unicorn defeat the Cult of Ruhmal (year 497)

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The Sixth Century

The Bloodswords are created (year 508)

The rise of Iuchiban and the Battle of Stolen Graves (year 510)

Mantis kidnap the Imperial Heir (year 510)

Imperial edict: Cremation becomes proper funerary rite (year 514)

Following the horrors of the Battle of Stolen Graves, emperor Hantei XI declares that all bodies must be cremated after death. The people do not respond favorably, afraid of cutting ties with their honored ancestors. His son, Hantei XII is able to encourage widespread adoption by making use of the influential and charismatic monk Gorinno, who crafts the rituals that will become the new standard.

Heresy of the 5 Rings (year 519-535)

Gorinno suggests that there is a spiritual disease within the Empire, resulting from the imbalance of the Great Clans with the elements – that with both the Scorpion and the Crane, the element of Air was over-represented while the other 4 elements had one associated clan each. This idea caused incredible amounts of turmoil in the empire – creating a heretical Order of monks and nearly destroying the Crane and Scorpion Clans – before it was finally put down.

Bloodspeaker Cult establishes the Crimson Kingdom (year 528-529)

Hantei XVI, “the Steel Chrysanthemum” ascends the throne (year 589)

Despite auspicious beginnings – extensive road construction and a record-setting harvest season the following year – Hantei XVI would become the most brutal tyrant the empire has ever known. He slaughtered entire groups when his expectations were not met (such as an entire Crane province put to the sword for not paying taxes), made the Crab the official Right hand of the Emperor, and had his own mother killed in the middle of open court.

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The Seventh Century

The Steel Chrysanthemum is (quietly) dethroned (year 610)

Given increasingly erratic behavior, and continued oppression by overwhelming force, the Clans reach a breaking point. The details are never committed to public record, but a regent is put in place until the Steel Chrysanthemum’s son can ascend the throne in 616.

The Articles of Heaven are penned (year 622)

The Great Famine (year 660-669)

Tainted naval assault on Otosan Uchi prevented (year 665)

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The Eighth Century

The Maw attacks, the Battle of the Cresting Wave (year 716)

One of the fiercest oni ever witnessed, the Maw attacked the Crab suddenly, and flanked by the largest army of Shadowlands creatures seen in seven centuries. The Hiruma and Kuni lands (including their ancestral family castles) were lost entirely to the assaulting force. The last stand of the Crab Clan looked decidedly hopeless, but the tide was turned by a single shugenja named Kuni Osaku. Using the Seigo river, she create an impassable wall of water which she maintained for 73 days while the now-iconic Carpenter Wall was constructed. The Maw was killed in the ensuing battle, his skull was purified and mounted on Kyuden Hida as a trophy, and the Crab Clan set to work expanding their wall to cover their entire southern border.

The Kuni Wastes are reclaimed from the Shadowlands (year 717)

Following the Maw’s destruction, the lands of the Kuni are found to be completely claimed by the Shadowlands Taint. The only solution was to destroy any spirituality present in the lands, and attempt to rebuild from nothing. The result was a blasted waste of cracked mud, sand, and rocks. Encouraging the return of the elemental kami to such a space proved essentially impossible. The most potent shugenja the Crab can bring to bear can maintain small gardens, but the hope is that time will eventually heal this scar.

The Crab attempt to reclaim Kyuden Hiruma from the Shadowlands (year 735, 747)

The first attempt fails. The second attempt is successful, but the Crab can only hold for 2 weeks before they are once again driven out. The last living person who has been properly trained in the secret Techniques of the Hiruma family dies in 755.

The return of Iuchiban, the Battle of the Bloody Retreat, and the Battle of Sleeping River (year 750)

Morikage Toshi cursed (year 782)

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The Ninth Century

The return of the Ki-Rin (year 815)

The Ki-Rin (now the Unicorn Clan) returned to an empire that did not recognize them at all. Worse, they were forced to travel through the Shadowlands, causing still more confusion when they emerged. Their powerful cavalry completely outmaneuvered the Crab, but they clashed repeatedly with the Scorpion and Lion clans before they could convince the empire of their legitimacy. The Lion Clan, shamed by their inability to destroy what they saw as a barbarian incursion, had their fallen stricken from the histories entirely. The resulting souls were denied their proper honors, and descended to Toshigoku – the realm of Slaughter. The Unicorn Clan was properly recognized and reinstated as a Great Clan in 816.

Agasha Kitsuki proves his innocence of a false murder accusation (year 820)

Kitsuki family founded in 822.

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The Tenth Century

First use of Yomanri in the empire (year 935)

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The Eleventh Century

Things are quiet…

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The Twelfth Century

Hantei Hochiahime is kidnapped by Bloodspeakers (year 1111)

The Scorpion Clan Coup (year 1123)

The Second Day of Thunder (year 1128)

Toturi ascends the throne as Toturi I (year 1129)

Toturi I is abducted, Scorpion clan is exiled to the Burning Sands (year 1130)

The Crane Civil War and the Great Sea Spider (year 1132)

Toturi I is rescued (year 1132)

Shinjo returns to the Empire, bringing the exiled Scorpion with her (year 1132)

The death of the Moon (year 1132)

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SEMI-CANON (1159-1165)

((GM’s Note: Unless otherwise noted, this time period still GENERALLY goes according to official L5r canon. I changed very little of the above events, because I’m not really interested in rewriting the whole setting. However, the year 1159 is when I start making real changes. That said, the domino effects aren’t going to be immediately apparent everywhere – if a particular Scorpion never becomes a big deal, his absence in the story doesn’t change what the Crab clan are doing for several years, at least – so everything that is not affected can still be assumed to align with canon materials.))

The Fall of Otosan Uchi

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The Histories

Obsidian & Ivory Arch4ngel