Three Feet from Death
In many of Rokugan’s greatest plays, poems, and works of fiction, there is a Scorpion villain, and for good reason. The Scorpion are the antithesis of everything the other Great Clans believe, and as a result they are hated almost without exception. This is their choice, and they would have it no other way. When the Empire was first formed, the Kami Bayushi spoke with the little prophet Shinsei, who told him the parable of the scorpion who rode across a river on the back of a frog. The scorpion could not swim, it explained, and thus it would not sting and kill the frog because to do so would kill them both. Halfway through the trip, the scorpion stung the frog, and as it died, the frog asked why the scorpion had doomed them both. The scorpion simply replied, “I can swim.” Bayushi adopted this as his motto, and at his Emperor’s command, created a clan that could accomplish any task deemed necessary, any task the Emperor could not have ordered done and still retain his honor. The Scorpion are the Underhand of the Emperor, the necessary villain that exists to ensure the other clans loathe them and never turn against their Emperor.
The principal philosophy of the Scorpion Clan is that the ends justify the means in any situation. There is virtually no act the Scorpion will not commit if doing so advances the clan’s agenda and fulfills their mandate. Over the centuries, their duty to the Emperor has become an end for its own sake, and many Scorpion delight in the manipulation of the other clans for no reason other than that they enjoy it. And of course, every manipulation creates interpersonal relationships the Scorpion can control and use later as part of their ongoing efforts, many of which have decades-long or even centuries-long goals. Ironically, the Scorpion value Duty as perhaps the only tenet of Bushido worth their attention, the only trait they share with the Crab Clan. Any Scorpion would lay down his life without hesitation, which is not an uncommon trait among samurai, but Scorpion will do it even if the purpose seems pointless or dishonorable, whereas others might be concerned for their personal honor. To a Scorpion, there is no personal honor, only the honor of the clan and the Empire as a whole.
Bayushi was quite possibly the most brilliant of the Kami, and certainly the one with the greatest gift at deception and stealth. He gathered together followers who were similarly skilled, as well as a handful of complete incompetents who would ensure the Scorpion were dramatically underestimated by the remainder of the Empire. The Bayushi family excels at every aspect of deception, as deadly warriors, skilled infiltrators, and silver-tongued courtiers. Their servants among the Shosuro are the greatest masters of shadow who have ever drawn breath, moving unseen through the Empire as assassins and spies. The Soshi are skilled shugenja who can command the spirits in ways unlike any other clan. The Yogo are shugenja as well, but bear an ancient curse that makes them pariahs around virtually everyone save their Scorpion masters.
The Scorpion hold provinces immediately south and east of the Spine of the World Mountains, including a region of the mountains themselves. In addition to the stone and minerals they contain, the mountains also provide exceptional privacy for certain sensitive holdings or activities the clan wishes to conduct out of the public eye. The arable regions of the Scorpion provinces are fertile, but not exceptionally so. Most of the clan’s food requirements can be managed within their own borders, but not all. Fortunately, the Shosuro are among the greatest herbalists in the Empire, and can cultivate extremely rare and potent herbs that grow in few other places. These valuable resources can be traded for food and other goods the clan requires. This includes poppy plants grown for medicinal purposes, the Scorpion and the Phoenix being the only clans with an Imperial charter permitting the growth of such plants. The rest of their lands are sadly rather barren, but at least provide the clan with solitude, something many Scorpion families find essential to their pursuits.
When the Empire was first formed, the Scorpion were tasked with two sacred duties: one was to safeguard the Black Scrolls in which was bound the power of the fallen dark god Fu Leng, and the second was to serve as a villain against which the Great Clans could unite so that they would never unite against the Emperor. It is the latter duty at which the Scorpion have excelled, and in which they revel.
THE BAYUSHI FAMILY: +1 AGILITY
Ruthless and deceitful, the lords of the Scorpion Clan possess many talents, all of which have been put to sinister use for the benefit of their Clan and their Emperor. The Bayushi are dark, dangerous, and manipulative, and always evaluate any situation in terms of how it can best benefit themselves and the Scorpion.
THE SHOSURO FAMILY: +1 AWARENESS
The Shosuro dwell in shadows, rarely being seen but always having an influence on those around them. They are secretive and withdrawn, keeping their own counsel but never failing to obey a command from their Bayushi lords. When the Scorpion require some impossible task performed without complication, it is a Shosuro who fulfills the duty.
THE SOSHI FAMILY: +1 INTELLIGENCE
The Soshi are the main shugenja family of the Scorpion Clan, founded soon after the Clan’s beginnings, and specialize in using magic to enhance the Clan’s efforts in politics, deceit, and manipulation. They often work in close concert with the Shosuro, using their magic to support the Shosuro’s ruthless and secret activities.
THE YOGO FAMILY: +1 WILLPOWER
No family among the accepted Great Clans is more feared or reviled than the Yogo, the Scorpion Clan’s second shugenja family. They are descended from a Phoenix who was cursed during the early days of the Empire to betray the one he loved the most. The curse has been passed down into the family’s bloodline, and as such many avoid the Yogo whenever possible. The Yogo pay no heed to their reputation, however, and use their powerful magic in service to the Scorpion regardless of how expendable they may be considered.
The Scorpion’s view of other clans:
- CRAB: Be extremely cautious, for they are too stupid to be manipulated. The Crab respect only strength, so if one must be killed, do it as spectacularly as possible. Only then will they learn.
- CRANE: They have so much potential if they would but cast aside their pointless desire to remain virtuous in the eyes of their colleagues.
- DRAGON: They sometimes count us among their allies, and they have always treated us with the respect other clans deny us. If they must be used, then do so cautiously and with as much consideration as possible. They must never know.
- LION: Anger and honor are easy to manipulate. Both in one clan makes them little more than pawns. Dangerous pawns, yes, but pawns just the same.
- MANTIS: Those who are so ridiculously eager to prove themselves will jump headlong into virtually anything with minimal effort on our part.
- PHOENIX: They combine arrogance and naive with incredible power. They can be manipulated easily, but their prowess allows them to see through many simple deceptions. Proceed with caution when dealing with them.
- UNICORN: We facilitated their reintroduction to Rokugan, but that does not mean we believe they belong here. Why does everyone assume they are who they say they are, when they can provide so little evidence to support the claim?
- MINOR CLANS: They are too weak and unimportant to bother with, unless they threaten or defy us – in which case they must be crushed without mercy.
Carman, S., Hobart, R., Pinto, J & Yoon, B.(2010). Legend of the five rings: 4th edition roleplaying game. Ontario, California:Alderac Entertainment Group.