Three Feet from Death
THE UNICORN CLAN
For all their differences, the other Great Clans of Rokugan are united in one regard: they look at the Unicorn Clan as outsiders and borderline barbarians. This reputation is not entirely undeserved, as the clan spent the majority of its history completely absent from the Empire. During the ﬁ rst days of Rokugan, the Lady Shinjo petitioned her brother Hantei for the right to explore the world beyond the Empire in order to ensure that no new threats might come from there. For eight centuries the Clan of the Ki-rin was gone, before it ﬁnally returned as the Unicorn Clan. Now the clan ﬁts in poorly with its fellows, having adopted numerous customs the Empire ﬁnds strange or even disgusting. The Unicorn do not care overmuch, however, and celebrate life as few others, embracing their rich and diverse culture in spite of the raging xenophobia their colleagues share. The Unicorn may never fully be integrated into the Empire, but their zest for life, their compassionate nature, and their powerful cavalry (unique because of the gaijin horse breeds the clan controls) ensure they will not be ousted from their position any time in the near future.
The Unicorn are ﬁlled with curiosity, curiosity born of centuries of wandering and exploration. No matter how beneﬁcial or comfortable their situation, no matter how much power and inﬂuence they wield, they cannot help but wonder what lies beyond the horizon. This philosophy pervades their every action, giving some the impression that they are easily distracted, when the truth is merely that they wish to resolve issues as quickly as possible so the option to move on is always present. Some among their number overcome this tendency, of course, such as their court representatives, but somewhere in the back of every Unicorn’s mind, curiosity still lurks.
Another dominant aspect of Unicorn philosophy is concern for those who are under the clan’s protection. All clans safeguard the peasants who work for them, of course, since they are valuable assets who handle matters the samurai cannot or will The Lady Shinjo was by far the most compassionate and caring of the Kami, so much so that she alone attempted to reconcile with their lost brother Fu Leng during the First War. Her effort was doomed to failure, of course, but even that did not deter her, and her brothers and sisters respected her all the more for it. The family that bears her name has always struggled to rule the clan as they believed she would. The Moto, descended from nomads who joined the clan during its journeys, are brutal and warlike, with little of the gentle nature of their Shinjo lords, though they eventually replaced the Shinjo as lords of the clan. The Utaku (once called Otaku, they changed their name in reverence to the Second Unicorn Thunder, Otaku Kamoko) are pious and devoted, a matriarchal family with the most feared and potent cavalry force in the whole of the Empire. The Ide are among the Empire’s most ardent paciﬁsts, and as such get along well with the Phoenix. They are the voice of the Unicorn in court, and have attempted to adopt more of the Empire’s customs than the other members of the clan. Sadly, despite their efforts they continue to be regarded as outsiders by most. The Iuchi family practice strange rituals that are unlike those conducted by any other shugenja family, and are looked upon as oddities by many. They have exceptional gifts in travel magic and in establishing mystical bonds with animals. The tiny Horiuchi family was created from the Iuchi and served as caregivers for the clan’s orphans and ill, until they were eradicated by plague from the face of Rokugan.
As might be expected of a clan that possesses such enormous numbers of cavalry, the Unicorn lands are dominated by vast, ﬂowing plains and peaceful grasslands. Much of this is used for grazing to feed the horses, of course, but during their long years of wandering, the Unicorn learned a great deal about making the most of their resources, and studied various gaijin methods of agriculture. As a result, the clan is able to feed its people on the modest portions of arable land used for farming, in particular the exceptionally fertile northeastern region of their provinces. The clan also controls a portion of the Spine of the World Mountains, including the narrow but strategically important Iuchi Pass through the northwestern end of the mountain chain, which separates the northern and southern portions of their holdings.
The Unicorn, once known as the Ki-Rin Clan, were absent from the Empire for nearly eight centuries as they wandered the world, exploring and ensuring that there were no external threats to the Emperor that might remain unknown. Since their return, they have been regarded by many as barbarians and outsiders, due mostly to their embrace of customs that are in stark contrast to the norm for Rokugan. Still, the Unicorn are universally respected because of their cavalry. They use gaijin steeds and their horse-mounted troops are without compare in the Empire.
THE HORIUCHI FAMILY: +1 WILLPOWER
The tiny Horiuchi family has never claimed more than a few dozen members at most. Created a few decades before the Clan War, the Horiuchi are a branch of the Iuchi family that specializes in defensive and protective magic. Horiuchi samurai are compassionate individuals who tend to intervene in the affairs of others during times of crisis.
THE IDE FAMILY: +1 PERCEPTION
The public face of the Unicorn, the Ide have worked tirelessly to combat the perception many have of the Clan as barbarians and near-gaijin. They ﬂawlessly merge the traditions of their people with the customs of the Empire, and in doing so seek to earn the gradual respect and acceptance of other clans. Samurai of the Ide family are almost universally even-tempered and eager to forge alliances with others, whether personal or larger in scale.
THE IUCHI FAMILY: +1 INTELLIGENCE
With the exception of the Tamori, the Iuchi family is probably the most militant shugenja family in the Empire. They serve in the armies of the Unicorn Clan in considerable numbers, and while they enjoy friendship and scholarly debate as much as any priests, they do not shy away from conﬂict when pressed.
THE MOTO FAMILY: +1 AGILITY
The Moto exemplify virtually every negative stereotype that the Unicorn Clan as a whole has struggled with since their return to the Empire centuries ago. More than any other family, their gaijin blood is obvious from the look of them, short and squat as they are. They are alternately boisterous and brusque, depending upon the circumstances, and rarely ﬁt in well with samurai of other Clans. They are respected, however, for their warrior traditions.
THE SHINJO FAMILY: +1 REFLEXES
The Shinjo family ruled the Unicorn Clan for most of their history, although in the latter portion of the Empire’s development they were removed from power by their founder, the Kami Shinjo, due to corruption within their ranks. The Shinjo are an affable, industrious family whose members adapt easily to almost any task set before them, and who work well with others in virtually any situation.
THE UTAKU FAMILY: +1 STAMINA
The matriarchal Utaku family are rigidly honorable and pious individuals with carefully deﬁned duties depending upon their gender. Women are generally trained to serve with the most elite cavalry units in the world, the Utaku Battle Maidens, while the men manage the households and serve among the legions of infantry in the Unicorn army.
The Unicorn’s view of other clans:
- CRAB: They do not care that we are different, because they do not care about the Empire’s customs any more than we do. It is refreshing to be treated as equals, and we will not forget their camaraderie.
- CRANE: Were it not for them, we might never have reclaimed our birthright. Always remember they are our allies, and forgive them their arrogance. They know no other way.
- DRAGON: What kind of person can tolerate hiding in the mountains for a thousand years? Do they not crave the wind in their hair and the plains rushing by beneath them? They are extremely peculiar.
- LION: Our closest neighbors and potentially our greatest enemies. They dislike us because we are different, but they recognize our military power. Perhaps one day we can be allies rather than simply neutral toward one another.
- MANTIS: Ambitious and aggressive, attempting to seize a place for themselves in the Empire. They are very much like us.
- PHOENIX: They look down their noses at us but still covet the knowledge we safeguard. If they wish to gain access to our libraries, they must first meet us as equals. A pity they are not willing to do so.
- SCORPION: Even in the most treacherous realms, we never encountered anyone as despicable as the Scorpion. They are a blight upon the Empire, and perhaps as their enemies we can forge alliances with the other clans.
- MINOR CLANS: Their weakness makes them of little importance, but their bushi can be as brave and honorable as any Great Clan samurai, and for that at least we can respect them.
Carman, S., Hobart, R., Pinto, J & Yoon, B.(2010). Legend of the five rings: 4th edition roleplaying game. Ontario, California:Alderac Entertainment Group.