At the beginning of the Empire, there were Eight Kami who competed within the first Celestial tournament, and the winner, Hantei, became the first Emperor of Rokugan. The other seven went forth to honour their Emperor by creating the Great Clans to serve him. Since that time one of these clans, the Ki Rin, has left the Empire across the northern mountains and into the desert, never to be seen again. The other six clans remain, loyally serving the descendents of the first Emperor.
In theory the Great Clans command only what power is granted to them by the Emperor. This consists of the power to fulfil their specific duties without interfering with the duties of other clans and to govern over the Emperor’s lands. In reality each clan commands considerable military, economic and political power – each enough to overthrow the Emperor and the Empire. Only the power of the other clans keep each other in check – that and the fact that no honourable Clan Champion would ever consider such a blasphemous and disgraceful act.
The six Great Clans are described on individual Clan pages.
Each Clan is comprised of one or more families of samurai, all sworn into the service of their Clan. In the case of the Great Clans, several families are sworn to serve each Clan. A character is born from, and raised by, one of these families. As with the clans in the Empire, each family has a role to play within its clan. The role of each family will not have a great influence on the mechanics of a character, but they do provide a small bonus at character creation. This is in the form of a +1 bonus rank to one Ring. The choice of family may have a much greater impact on the character’s life by influencing his world view, look, choices, and most importantly, his name.
The families and the bonus Ring rank granted at character creation are detailed on each of the Clan pages in the rulebook.