Owl Clan

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The Owl Clan

In so many ways, the Clan of the Owl stands alone in the Empire. The youngest Great Clan, it nonetheless possesses an incredibly complicated history, suitable for a Clan that calls itself “the memory of the Empire.” In the two centuries since its founding, the Owl have come to occupy a unique place in Rokugani culture and society, one of careful neutrality and deep, sometimes unsettling, knowledge.

The Owl were created out of the thousands of followers of Hantei Okucheo in the mid twelfth century. Okucheo, along with most of the samurai who eventually swore fealty to him, was a returned spirit, a long-dead ancestor returned to living body through the power of an ancient and now-destroyed artifact. Once Emperor Hantei XVI, the Steel Chrysanthemum, Okucheo attempted to claim the Empire’s throne by right of Imperial blood, leading to years of strife before the Toturi Interregnum finally ended. As part of Okucheo’s agreement to end his claim to the throne, he and his followers were granted the Owl Clan, a recognized Great Clan through Okucheo’s link to the Kami Hantei.

Because Okucheo’s followers spanned every Clan and hailed from every century since the dawn of the Empire to the Clan War, they brought to the new Owl an unparallelled knowledge of Rokugani history and insights into the workings of every Clan. The Hantei family itself drew heavily on the respect their name still carried in the Empire, especially among the Seppun, Otomo, and Miya families, to build a strong relationship with the Imperial bureaucracy and court; many in the Empire thought this might herald another attempt at gaining the throne, but the Hantei headed these concerns off by proclaiming an oath that no descendant of Hantei Okucheo would ever be wedded to the Toturi line. Instead, the Owl have taken their Imperial ties and unusually broad perspective on the other Clans to become the Empire’s de facto mediators, eschewing strong political alliances and avoiding the ire of most the other Clans for a kind of deliberate neutrality.

As returned spirits, most of the founding samurai of the Owl were uniquely familiar with the workings of the Spirit Realms, to a degree even the Kitsu might envy. This knowledge was more practical than theoretical, however; as the Clan began to develop its unique Schools and Techniques, the hands-on familiarity of the returned spirits expressed itself through special advantages in dealing with the natives of those other Realms. Even today, though, the Kitsu and the Chise have a strong working relationship when it comes to researching the planes of existence beyond Ningen-do. The Hantei family leads the Clan, composed of descendants of those who swore fealty directly to Hantei Okucheo himself at the Owl’s founding. The Hantei have a reputation as consummate dealmakers, equally adept at establishing peace accords and building strong military alliances. They see themselves as the whole Empire in microcosm, a blend of bloodlines from every Founding Kami and descended from a ruling Emperor; even the best among them carry a certain amount of arrogance from this perspective. The family tends to produce more courtiers than bushi, but the difference is slight, and the Hantei support both a Hantei Bushi and a Hantei Courtier School. Bushi or courtier, Hantei samurai are expected to have some familiarity with both warfare and politics, as a proper samurai should.

The Chise family was founded by Hantei Okucheo’s wife, an Asahina-trained Doji shugenja who offered fealty to all the shugenja in the new Clan, regardless of their original spellcasting tradition. Consequently, the Chise family produces shugenja progeny almost as frequently as do the Isawa, a vital advantage in a Clan as small as the Owl. In keeping with the philosophies of their founder, the Chise tend toward pacifism and diplomacy over military applications of the kami, but they nonetheless possess the heritage of Okucheo’s ruthlessness to call upon at need. As with the Hantei Schools, the Chise Shugenja School is uniquely skilled in dealing with denizens of other Spirit Realms.

The third Owl Clan family, the down to earth Heichi, often seems like an odd fit amongst their more politically-inclined Hantei and Chise cousins, but it is doubtful the Owl Clan would have survived their first challenging decades without the strong arms of the Heichi to defend them. The Heichi were once the Minor Clan of the Boar, an offshoot of the Crab founded in the third century, but the Clan was wiped out by the depredations of the loathsome maho tsukai Asahina Yajinden. Fortunately, a surprisingly large number of Boar returned to the Empire with the other returned spirits, and the Crab Clan offered the survivors fealty as a vassal family of the Hida. Less than a year later, however, Hantei Okucheo founded the Owl and offered the Heichi fealty as a Great Clan family in their own right. The Crab already held perhaps the greatest hatred among the Clans for Okucheo; when the Heichi accepted Okucheo’s offer, the lasting enmity of the Crab for the Owl was sealed. Even now, the only Clan that truly considers the Owl an enemy is the Crab, and no one in the Empire sees that as likely to change soon. For their own part, the Heichi hold a fierce loyalty to the Owl and the Hantei family in particular for the honor granted them in joining a Great Clan as full members. The Hantei value the Heichi’s strength on the battlefield, and often arrange Heichi marriages for Hantei bushi that lack sufficient adeptness in court. Heichi bushi are strong, loyal, and dependable, with a knowledge of defensive tactics that owes much to their former Crab allies. They are also skilled weaponsmiths, but have a family taboo against the forging of katana, which they exclusively leave to the Hantei - this taboo stems from their family’s destruction at Yajinden’s hands to feed the vile Anvil of Despair. Instead, the Heichi favor the creation and mastery of the mai chong, an unusual spear that sees use almost nowhere else in the Empire.

Status of the Owl Clan:

The samurai of the Owl have kept a carefully held neutrality with all of the Great Clans since their founding. The realities of the last several years, especially the attack on Toshi Ranbo in 1324, have begun to put pressure on this policy. They are approaching a crossroads in their short history, and their future depends on the decisions they will make in the next several years.

The Owl’s views on the other clans:

  • Crab: They hate us for the actions of our founder, despite no one living having anything to do with what happened. We can try to be kind to them when the chance presents, but be wary. They will try to hurt us.
  • Crane: They have extended olive branches, and in difficult times, they can provide support. Their desire for commitments we cannot offer is frustrating.
  • Dragon: They are enigmatic, as is well recorded, but they are kind enough to generally leave us alone.
  • Lion: The Shogun is a Lion more than any other clan, and as such we tie to them closer than perhaps any other clan. They do not hold much expectation for us, and we gladly remember this.
  • Mantis: They have been useful to fill out our forces when we have been forced to violence and have not had the soldiers to manage. Still, they are soldiers of fortune, and no soldier of fortune is can be trusted very far.
  • Phoenix: Scholars who resent us for actions of the past, much like the Crab do. They are certainly too close to ignore or anger, but we should not expect them to ever be friends.
  • Scorpion: The Scorpion Champion’s hatred is puzzling, but then we have always had people who hate us for reasons that defy logic. Their lot is inherently untrustworthy, by the charter they have offered, and we should treat them as such.
  • Unicorn: Outsiders, perhaps even by our standards. We do not denigrate them, but there is no cause to offer them support. Just stop them from warmongering.
  • Minor Clans: The truth of the matter is that most of the Minor Clans can field armies to rival ours. We cannot afford to treat them with the same arrogance the other Great Clans do.
  • Ronin: Many of ours have ancestry to ronin from before our founding, and many are worthy of respect. Respect, though, must always be tempered by wariness. Many of ours were Ronin in the past. Don't forget that they can be strong, but remember also that they are dangerous.


Mechanics

The Hantei Family receives +1 awareness at character creation. It's schools are the Hantei Bushi School and the Otomo Diplomat School (renamed the Hantei Courtier School) from the Togashi Dynasty chapter of Imperial Histories 2.

The Chise Family receives +1 Perception at Character Creation. It's school is the Seppun Shugenja School (renamed the Chise Shugenja School) from the Togashi Dynasty chapter of Imperial Histories 2.

The Heichi family is mechanically identical to the Boar Clan from the book of water in the Legend of the Five Rings 4th Edition Core Book.


Owl Questions

Q: Where are the lands of the Owl Clan?

A: The Owl claim their capitol in the formerly contested city of Toshi Ranbo wo Shien Shite Reigisaho. The Crane and Lion, as part of peace accords in 1145, ceded the embattled city, along with surrounding lands including the Kintani Valley and the Southern part of the Dragon Heart Plains.

Q: Do the Heichi family still have their holdings in the Twilight Mountains?

A: They do not. Those holdings are unfortunately woefully far from the lands the Owl now calls home, and the Crab are not particularly interested in letting the Heichi go there to claim those lands and the secrets within.

Q: Aside from the Crab (hostile) and Lion (positive), are there any other outstanding prejudices of the other Great Clans towards the Owl Clan?

A: Most clans are generally neutral to the clan, partially because it takes active effort into not angering people. The Crane tend towards friendly to the Owl, especially since the Owl Champions have universally taken Crane Brides in honor of old traditions.

Q: If I were to sales pitch the Owl Clan in a tabletop game, how would I go about that? As in: "The Crab Clan are gruff warriors fighting an eternal war against the forces of Hell so the rest of the Empire can exist." or "The Crane Clan are the masters of art, diplomacy, and courtliness, who settle military matters with influence and the unsurpassed skill of their duelists." or "The Dragon Clan are rugged individualists and pragmatic iconoclasts, in a society which worships the past and conformity."

A: "The Owl Clan are an eclectic clan, who specialize in dealings with the nonhuman races and spirits." (I could probably think of something more eloquent were I not at work and somewhat brain fried, but I may ask Adam to take care of that part...)


Who's Who


Owl Players