Once in a while I get the impression that some people perceive the Clans in L5R as something akin to character classes. Dragons are mystical monk-types, Phoenix are the wizards and Lion are the warriors, that sort of thing.
And while this form of stereotyping has it’s uses, I think there’s a lot of nuances in the setting that’s lost in that kind of view.
I prefer to think of each Clan as a Nation in and of itself. While all of them answer to the Emperor and the Imperial Courts, the fact of the matter is that each Clan governs its lands in whatever manner it sees fit. Most of the Clans are answerable to their Champion (with the exception of the Phoenix) as the absolute leader and authority of their people.
This way of approaching the setting suddenly amplifies the perceived scale of Rokugan. Each Clan suddenly becomes magnified, and the true diversity and depth of each of the families within a clan, and their individual philosophies, cultures and priorites in life shine through. I suppose what I’m trying to say here is that looking only at the surface level of “I’m X Clan so I do Y” is a disservice to the sheer amount of interesting detail you could mine for your character.
Part of what I’m trying to do with L5R right now with my camapgins is to really put each clan under a microscope. What defines them? What makes them a nation under a single identity? How are they unique compared to each other?
Sure it’s ambitious, but certainly worth doing. I’m entertaining the idea of actually running a single-clan campaign for every single clan in the game, but I can already see that being a very long (and very ambitous) effort that relies on more than just my own enthusiasm to pull off.