Taking place about two years since the events of Never a Dull Blade, the Hearts and Souls campaign presents a different Empire. Chronologically taking place at around the Lotus era of the Canon storyline, the absence of Iuchiban and the Rain of Blood presents a fairly different Empire from before
After narrowly avoiding the Scorpion-Crab War that the Gozoku Conspiracy was trying to cook up, the Crab have redoubled their efforts at the wall. Hida Kuon still leads the clan, and enjoys a healthy alliance with the Lion Clan thanks to the efforts of Akodo Senji, the Daimyo of the Lion Clan’s esteemed Akodo Family. Hida Kisada has retired to the Hida Bushi School to pass on his knowledge and skills to the next generation of Crab samurai.
However, the loss of Lion crops from the Tsuno Invasion meant less crops available for the Empire as a whole, and the Crab are feeling the brunt of this economic collapse. Food is being rationed out, and even tithes to Samurai retainers are being slashed in order to afford alternative sources of food from the Mantis or the Crane.
The Crane Clan enter this year in a position of strength. With the Lion Clan’s losses to the Unicorn, combined with Doji Domotai’s allies in the Lion Clan, the western holdings of the Left Hand are experiencing a period of relative calm. Economically, the Crane are still a powerhouse, though the presence of the Mantis Clan’s less savory merchantile characters, combined with the Crab Clan’s overworked Yasuki family is upping the competition in Crane Markets.
Likewise, the Scorpion Clan are still rivals in court, with Bayushi Kaukatsu’s position as Imperial Chancellor to Toturi III being a particularly stubborn obstacle to the brilliant Imperial Advisor, Doji Tanitsu.
However, despite the positive outlook to visitors, there are some fractures in the solidarity of the Crane. Doji Domotai has proven to be a largely controversial champion, as she recently disbanded the once unknown Daidoji Harriers. This has made her an enemy of those who proudly called themselves patriots, who sacrificed their honor for the safety of the Crane. There are others still who mutter that her Lion upbringing is a sure sign of her unsuitability as a Champion for the Clan.
After the war against Agasha Tamori, the Dark Oracle of Fire, the Dragon Clan are in a state of rebuilding. Bereft of land by the Wrath of the Kami volcano eruption, and the subsequent war against the Phoenix over land to settle in, the Dragon are in poor shape.
For the most part, they have become even more insular than before, though rumors abound of several groups of Dragon Clan samurai roving the empire in search of dangerous Nemuranai, though they are very tight lipped about why the Clan is focusing on this search.
The Lion Clan is still recovering from the two major conflicts that have decimated its fighting forces. The War of the Rich Frog, and the Tsuno Invasion left the Clan far weaker than it did before. However, due to the events of the Tsuno Invasion, the Kitsu have returned to Rokugan, and many of these spirit creatures travel among the Lion, having found a home and a family in the world of man.
The youngest of the Great Clans finds itself in a period of strong economic growth. With dominance over seafaring trade and strengthened ties to the Ivory Kingdoms and other Gaijin cultures, they have been carving out a place in the economy, supplying the Crab and the Crane with goods.
The Crane however see them as money-grubbing opportunists, and find the methods of the Yoritomo and Kasuga distasteful. The Mantis on the other hand don’t seem to care about their reputation, as long as they can make a profit.
Even years after the catastrophic Phoenix Clan Civil War, the Phoenix Clan still struggles to find peace within itself. The enigmatic rebel leader that has taken on the name of “Miyata” has taken his crusade to other Clans, trying to destabilize the Empire further and upend the Celestial Heirarchy.
Shiba Mirabu also has to deal with the vacancy in the seat of the Elemental Master of Water in the Council. The Clan struggles to re-assert it’s identity, unite the squabbling families and find something in common to work for.
The Scorpion Clan have not been this powerful since the days before the Clan War. Bayushi Paneki leads his clan to further prominence after the successful purging of Bayushi Atsuki and the Gozoku from his ranks.
With Bayushi Kaukatsu as Imperial Chancellor and the ear of the Emperor, the Clan is now enjoying a period of fame and perhaps even “acceptance” in the courts. Thanks to the avoidance of the Scorpion-Crab war, the Clan is now free to focus completely on political domination against the Crane as opposed to worrying about the Crab marching into their lands.
The proud Unicorn Clan are as equally crippled as the lion. The Khan, Moto Chagatai was paralyzed from the waist down from his duel with Matsu Nimuro, and has since stepped down to an advisory position to the new Unicorn Khan: Moto Chen.
Their losses to the Lion Clan were a severe blow to the Unicorn morale, and they’ve long since turned their attentions to the Northern Borders, speaking of a gaijin threat known as the Yodotai, though details remain unclear.