In the character creation section of Art of War the clans are summarized for the player.
Family Names: Aoi, Fuma, Gan, Goemon, Iga, Kai, Koga, Meng, Tong, Wa, Wang
Common Tenets: Courage, Respect and Courtesy
Common Tropes: Hero, Kui, Shinobi
Clan Techniques: Clone, Flood, Scorpion’s Sting
Nestled in the foothills of Mt. Rinzai travelers can find the northernmost city and capital of the Serpent Clan territory, Aechi City. Mountain terraced rice fields surrounds the city known as the birthplace of the Serpent Clan, the sole source of the spirit mineral known as Dragon Scale, and home of the shadow arts practiced by shinobi. Sprawling south of the capital just beyond the foothills, a hero can find comfort in either the Valley of Peace to the east or the Valley of Serenity to the west. Approaching the southern edge of the valleys and encompassing much of the Serpent lands, the chi formed mountain range of Five Phases can be seen from any location in the providence. Those who are able to climb the jagged obsidian cliffs often refer to a hawk’s eye view as a “iron bowl of snakes”.
Hidden among the villages, behind the facade of pleasantries is a providence standing upon the rivers of blood spilled by shinobi gangs prior to the clan formation. Under the banners of conquest, the Kitsune and Tiger waged war for the resources of the valleys. Soon these gangs united and formed a plan to eject the tyranny that encroached upon them. They became the methodical mercenaries, spies and assassins of the silent battles fought between the clans. Serpent leaders worked together to dwindle the occupying clans to extinction. Since the Triad Resolution, clan territory has remained untouched and openly reserved in court politics. Choosing the side that puts them in the fortuitous situation, while appearing in the position of neutrality. Clan agents have wedged themselves into social circles, gathering information they need in order to maintain their survival.
Despite a profitable history of working in the shadows, the clan sustains itself on the agricultural advances in terrace farming. This method avoids the pitfalls of erosion from seasonal flooding rains of the melting snow-caps. In addition, with the help of initiatives banning herd animals (except for a select controlled population) the Twin Valleys remain untouched providing scenic harmonious environments to inspire the artistic culture. This inspiration has boosted the quality of craftsmanship of ceramic and blacksmithing trade coming from the clan. Thanks in part from adjacent peaks around to Mt. Rinzai containing vast deposits of minerals ranging from clay to Dragon Scale, masonry has become an economic boon to the isolated providence since the reintroduction into the Empire.
With sky reaching mountains, obsidian cliffs, hidden caves, and lush green valleys, the slithering snakes portray the perfect portrait utopia of civilization. Guided by the old ways of BuXia, citizens of the providence live prosperous and harmonious lives in the sunlight. Like the blackened cliffs that surround them, the shadows cast upon the valley are large and provide cover for the dealings of organized turf wars harking back to pre-Imperial days.
Ground is a limited and highly prized commodity within the iron bowl. While the major families of the clan faired well with the Triad Resolution, it’s the small ones that strive to gain status. Families spy on one another, truces are declared as often as they are broken and habitual evening duels are the standard. Often seen as a cultural aesthetic, when such measures must be taken, they often result in bruises or end with first blood. Blood of a Serpent spilled by a Serpent results in swift and often deadly resolutions, not by the families involved, but by local Serpent authorities.
Survival. When the Serpents extracted (some say kidnapped) the descendants of the Imperial family, do so ensured the survival of the dynastic heritage and placed the Clan in a position of influence for the first time. As caretakers and advisors to the throne, the Serpent Clan has established a symbiotic codependency with the Emperor. Emperor Wu makes use of the specialized talents at his disposal, while the clan are the first to hear of royal rumors and decrees. They look to maintain this status quo as long as possible.
Balance. Serpents have seen the devastating results that war has on the citizenry of the country. They are the victims of a war that was brought to them, and never want others to suffer the same hardships. The clan has instituted spy networks, bribes, negotiations and underhanded tactics the other clans dare not perform to keep the power balance in check. Even if it means dealing with one of their own.
Being the eyes and ears of the Empire falls to the imperial department of Office H. This office falls under the responsibility the Serpent Clan, but acts independently of any clan jurisdiction based on the original royal decree. Each member assigned to the internal affairs investigation office must receive the reigning Emperor’s approval. Whereupon acceptance, they must swear an oath before the Kami of the Jade Throne to follow the strict moral code of the office while holding its secrets. Failure means dishonor, followed by imprisonment or death. These are but the mortal responses, as the wrath of breaking a bond with a Kami hold longer lasting effects.
By the age of 25, should a Serpent not have at least one large tattoo, they typically will not receive them. Tattoos are a cultural tradition but are never forced. Designs range from full body murals of myths, to representing stages of life, identifying ones youth gang, or even depicting departed loved ones. The other clans view this practice as taboo and almost criminal. In order to curb this attitude, many who sport tattoos maintain them in places where they can be covered.
Beyond the view of pervasive tattooing practices, Serpents are typed as a laissez faire bunch who focus on the arts and philosophical elements of nature. While knowledge of some art is not unheard of, members of the clan are thoughtful of those they consider immediate family. Accused of being slow to act, they respond after logical contemplation, deducing the best resolution that helps in their survival.
- Only the most respected and hardworking individuals can earn a position at Office H.
- Shinobi schools can be found all over the nation, members from other clans trade in large favors for children to join the elite schools found in the Twin Valleys.
- WuXing of minerals and metal take refuge in a small foot hill west of Mt. Rinzai. Temple laymen travel down from its hidden location on the 12th of every month to trade wares.
- The meteorite shower that deposited Dragon Scale across the mountains is said to be happening in the current year. Soothsayers have predicted the rain will start in the Hanxia Plains and move east towards the Crap Reef.
- Emperor Wu has asked the clan to spearhead an envoy to the Naga nation in the north.
- Famed Duelist known as Twin Fang developed her signature style of wielding both a katana and wakizashi in her youth.
- The Peafowl Teahouse is the oldest standing structure still in continuous operation.
- Geishas from the Serpent Clan are only rivaled by those of the Kitsune Clan.
- Youth gangs are mostly social clubs that prank each other versus performing criminal activity.
Rumors & Secrets:
- The Statue of Aechi is a Terracotta that needs a burst of Chi to reawaken.
- The Iga and Koga families seek to eliminate the Tong family for caring more about profits then the keeping the shadow arts sacred.
- Once a year, the three main families each a champion to partake in a grand tournament. The winning family becomes the sole family for Office H recruits.
- Trade with the Nagas have been in place for more than 100 years. The mineral Dragon Scale is only accessible from the Naga side of the mountain range.
- Secret gambling halls that favor “the house” are operated by Serpents in every city and village.
- All shinobi organizations act independently of each other and do not consider themselves as part of a clan.
- The Oni invasion was a grand scheme of the Serpents to end the war between the Tigers and Kitsune once and for all.
- Wu Zhang is a Serpent imposter put in place after the real imperial passed away without an heir.