[L5R Clan Analysis: Phoenix] The Isawa Family

Posted: January 4, 2013 by pointyman2000 in Articles, Legend of the Five Rings, Roleplaying Games
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In many ways the Isawa are the opposite of the Shiba. The Isawa family are mainly composed of shugenja, and are well known for their mastery of magic. It is no exaggeration to say that the Isawa enjoy a certain prestige among shugenja circles as their knowledge and skill with the elements is unmatched.

While the Isawa are proponents of the Phoenix Clan’s philosophy of peace, this doesn’t mean that they are incapable of great violence. Many armies have realized (often too late) that the Isawa can bring terrible forces to bear on those who threaten the clan.

The Isawa family are also the ruling family of the clan. Unlike the other clans, they have an interesting system. Rather than relying soley on their champion, they have a council of five Elemental Masters. Peerless shugenja who specialize in each of the elements. In theory, this should lead to a wiser, more moderate rulership, but there have been exceptions when the council has been unwise in it’s decisions.

This family is also perhaps the one most responsible for the reputation of hubris found in the Phoenix. Many of the Isawa display the natural arrogance of those who know more than most, but this kind of hubris can result in some of the more terrifying failures and tragedies the clan has known.

This makes the Isawa family perhaps one of the most interesting in the entire game. They occupy a unique and interesting niche, and form the backbone of the Phoenix Clan. They are iconic in the sense that everyone in the empire knows that when an Isawa takes to the field, reality itself bows to their whims.

One of the facets of being an Isawa that is often overlooked is the fact that every shugenja is effectively a priest. While it’s very easy to get lost in the whole business of being able to call on the elements to obliterate you opponent, it would be a serious disservice to the depth of the Isawa family’s connection with the kami to treat them as fireball-chucking wizards alone. Instead playing an Isawa will be more like a priest, expected to commune with the spirits and live in harmony with them at all times. Where some samurai (and perhaps other shugenja) might be blind to the myriad ways to care for and pay respects to the kami, the Isawa are well versed in all the means by which they can best commune with them.

  1. Yes, it can be hard for players to grasp that Rokugan’s shugenja are not traditional fantasy RPG wizards, they are more like sorcerer-priests with a very important role to play in society.

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