The family and clan of a samurai are very important to him. their history is his history and their honor is his honor. A character with a small family will tend to be less arrogant than one with a large family. Good family connections can increase arrogance independently from family size.
A master should not unreasonably make requests for the possessions of his retainers, such as their horses and falcons, or their swords, naginatas, paintings or Chinese goods. Generally speaking, for retainers to possess valuable articles is the same as if the master himself possessed them.

(The Recorded Words of Asakura Soteki)

Samurai families exist in a web of bonds and duties. Families join together into clans to share and increase political and military influence. The families associated in a clan may expect considerations and support from each other. Oaths, intermarriage, adoption, land grants, stipends, and the exchange of younger members for training bind the families closer together. "Connected" families use all of the above methods to assure receipt of desired favors and to extend influence. A family can use its "connections" for its own gain. It must expect, however, to be called upon by those same "connections" to perform services and duties in return.

Vassals, whether individuals or whole families, can be bound into a family or clan structure. They are given most of the same rights, privileges, and responsibilities as those who are members of the group by birth. Vassals may expect considerations and support from their lords in return for their loyalty and service. In most cases a lord is responsible under the law for his vassal as if the vassal were a member of his family. In counterpoint, the vassal must follow the direction of his lord as a loyal son would follow his father's wishes.

Samurai clans often join together in greater alliances. The structure of such an alliance resembles that of a clan, but with entire clans filling the niche that families fill within a simple clan. Such allied clans use the same methods to bind their member clans that clans use to bind member families. The Taira and Minamoto of the Gempei War were clans of this sort, as were many of the rival powers contending in the wars leading to the Tokugawa unification of Nippon.

It is not good to be feared by one's own retainers. It has been passed down from ages past that it is fundamental to value one's retainers' deep devotion. If such is not the case, when the time comes it will be difficult for them to be valuable to you by throwing away their lives.

(The Recorded Words of Asakura Soteki)

The clan is as much a political organization as a family group. Clan laws are civil laws. The clan dispenses justice, maintains order, provides military strength, and collects taxes. Whithin its territory the clan rules with most of the prerogatives held by a king in medieval Europe. Only a strong shogun can force outside authority upon a powerful clan.

The lord of the clan is advised by a council of elders, generals, and senior clan members. Trusted clan members are given the title of hatamoto, a proud and noble rank for favored retainers who hold important positions or have significant fiefs. The rank of gokenin is given to senior and proven clan members. Below these are the rank and file samurai, the heart and sinews of the clan.

Samurai Society

In all things there is a comprehensive attutude that is important to have, but generally, there are few of these times who have thought this through to a clear understanding.

First, a man whose profession is the use of arms should think and then act upon not only his own fame, but also that of his descendants. He should not scandalize his name forever by holding his one and only life too dear. On the other hand, in the light of this, to consider this life that is given to us only once as nothing more than dust and ashes, and lose it at a time when one should not, would be to gain a reputation that is not worth mentioning. One's main purpose in throwing away his life is to do so either for the sake of the Emperor or in some great undertaking of a military general. It is exactly that will be the great fame of one's descendants.

To be involved in some epheremal quarrel will demonstrate the indiscretion of one's house and will not add to one's fame, regardless of being in the right or wrong.

(The Chikubasho of Shiba Yoshimasa)


To a samurai, his honor is everything. It encompasses his castle and station as well as his accomplishments and deeds. It is, in a very real sense, his reputation.

Personal Virtues

The most important virtues for a samurai are adherence to the code of bushido and fullfillment of the obligations of giri. The code of bushido relies heavily on giri, while the performance of duties demanded by giri are often modified or reinforced by the dictates of bushido. Both are influenced by Confucian ethics and religious beliefs.

Bushido means quite literally "The Way of the Warrior." It developed as a personal and professional code of conduct among the samurai, and spread its influence into all walks of Nipponese life. Its meaning was transmitted through teachings and lists of precepts presented by clan elders and outstanding warriors. Versions of the code were not written down as such until the sixteenth century. From these sources, as well as later explanations and earlier literary representations of the notable virtues of a samurai, a picture of the elements of bushido can be developed.

Giri refers to the web of obligations and duties owed by a person to those around him: parents, family, and friends as well as feudal superiors and inferiors.

If one were to say in a word what the condition of being a samurai is, its basis lies first in seriously devoting one's body and soul to his master. And if one is asked what to do beyond this, it would be to fit oneself inwardly with intelligence, humanity and courage. The combining of these three virtues may seem unobtainable to the ordinary person, but it is easy. Intelligence is nothing more than discussing things with others. Limitless wisdom comes from this. Humanity is something done for the sake of others, simply comparing oneself with them and putting them in the fore. Courage is gritting one's teeth; it is simply doing that and pushing ahead, paying no attention to the circumstances. Anything that seems above these three is not necessary to be known.

As for outward aspects there are personal appearance, one's way of speaking, and calligraphy. And as all of these are daily matters, they improve by constant practice. Basically, one should perceive their nature to be one of quiet strength. If one has accomplished all these things, then he should have a knowledge of our area's history and customs. After that he may study the various arts as recreation. If you think it over, being a retainer is simple. And these days, if you observe people who are even a bit useful, you will see that they have accomplished these three outward aspects.

(Hagakure of Yamamoto Tsunetomo)

The Elements of Bushido

Bushido is the ethical code of the samurai, and is composed of many elements: Loyalty, Honor, Courage, Refinement, and Excellence.


Loyalty is the paramount virtue of the samurai. A samurai's loyalty is given first to a feudal superior, then to his clan, then to his family. Loyalty to the emperor is, of course, of great importance although this rarely had any practical effect on a samurai's actions. Conflicting loyalties are common and simple solutions are rare. In severe cases, a samurai's resolution to a conflict may be to commit seppuku.
When one is serving officially or in the master's court, he should not think of a hundred or a thousand people, but should consider only the importance of the master. Nor should he draw the line at his own life or anything else he considers valuable. Even if the master is being phlegmatic and one goes unrecognized, he should know that he will surely have the divine protection of the kami and Buddhas.

(The Message of Gokurakuji-dono)

It is a samurai's duty to serve his superior, whether that superior is a military commander, a feudal overlord, a clan official, or the head of his family. A superior's orders are not to be questioned. They are to be followed immediately and to the fullest of the samurai's ability, even if this leads to unhappiness or death. A retainer's life belongs to his lord. It is to be preserved or spent as the lord wills.

This is the ideal. In practice, orders are disobeyed, ignored, and modified. A samurai's reasons for doing so can vary. A disloyal but ambitious might seek to improve his own position; if he is successful, his breach of the code may be overlooked. A loyal samurai might disobey as well. He might do this knowing (or fearing) that his lord is mistaken in issuing a particular order, or seeing a better course of action. If he is right, and successful, and can maintain his lord's honor, he may be forgiven his breach. If he is wrong, seppuku may be the result.

Obviously this is the foundation of bushido, and yet almost all of Nippon's major battles were decided by sudden defections and backstabbings. The major daimyos all knew this and made allowance for its happening, because it was so common. If a samurai family saw a chance to gain more land by switching sides, they often did so without hesitation. This was an endemic problem particularly in the 14th century. In fact some families split down the middle to ensure that enough of the family would end up on the winning side to survive.


Honor, for a samurai, is a combination of integrity and reputation. Lying, oathbreaking, and cheating are dishonorable. Indeed, many consider lying an act of cowardice. A samurai's word is his bond, although sometimes the letter of a statement or agreement is followed rather than the apparent intent.
Because of some business, Morooka Hikeomon was called upon to swear before the gods concerning the truth of a certain matter. But he said, "A samurai's word is harder than metal. Since I have impressed this fact upon myself, what more can the kami and Buddhas do?" and the swearing was cancelled. This happened when he was twenty-six.

(Hagakure of Yamamoto Tsunetomo)

The Nipponese concern with reputation and appearances are well known. Excellence in martial virtues or the arts, as well as acts in accordance with bushido or the demands of giri, bring honor while inferior performance, inattention to duty, and acts in opposition to bushido will lessen a man's honor. A samurai's honor must be maintained, and a samurai will go to great lengths and perform strenuous deeds to restore lost honor. The thought of dying with tarnished honor is a nightmare to a samurai. The honor of a retainer and his lord are tied together and that which affects one affects the other. A loyal samurai holds his lord's honor higher than his own.
A man exists for a generation, but his name lasts to the end of time.

(Hagakure of Yamamoto Tsunetomo)


Courage is more than simple bravery. A samurai is expected to face adversity at need, or at his lord's command, without qualm or hesitation. Physical pain is to be endured without emotion. Death holds no fear for a samurai. A death in battle is most certainly honorable. Yet a samurai's courage should not be reckless and foolhardy. To die unnecessarily while the cause of one's lord remains in doubt shows a lack of loyalty to that lord.


Refinement in all things is expected of a samurai. Proficiency in martial skills is called for by his profession as a warrior. It is equally expected that he develop an appreciation of and proficiency in the arts. His manners and etiquette should be flawless.
It is said that the warrior's is the twofold Way of pen and sword, and he should have a taste for both Ways. Even if a man has no natural ability, he can be a warrior by sticking assiduously to both divisions of the Way.

(The Book of Five Rings)


The code of bushido calls strongly for excellence. A samurai is expected to always strive to be the best he can, at whatever he attempts. This drive towards excellence gives a samurai the determination to strive bravely and achieve his goals.
Although the mean is the standard for all things, in military affairs a man must always strive to outstrip others... In the stories of the elder warriors it is said that on the battlefield if one wills himself to outstrip warriors of accomplishment, and day and night hopes to strike down a powerful enemy, he will grow indefatigable and fierce of heart and will manifest courage. One should use this principle in everyday affairs too.

(Hagakure of Yamamoto Tsunetomo)

The Obligations of Giri

Death is a feather, duty is a mountain.

(old Japanese proverb)

Giri refers to the obligations and responsibilities of a samurai to do what is expected of him in every aspect of his life. It is sometimes simply translated as "duty." Giri requires a samurai to obey and abide by traditional customs (such as those regarding familial duties, marriage, and gifts) and to perform any tasks assigned to him. The demands of justice, honor, and reputation are deeply bound up with giri. A samurai is dishonored for failing a giri obligation.

A samurai is expected to discharge the obligations of giri even though it may be unpleasant or result in unhappiness for him or for others for whom he cares. Sometimes the demands of giri can conflict, either with other giri demands or with the samurai's personal wishes or feelings. Common conflicts pit duty against "human feelings" (ninjo) such as mercy or love. This can leave a samurai with no course but to act improperly according to one obligation in order to fulfill another. In extreme cases, the conflict can only be honorably resolved by seppuku.

Once a samurai named Kanzaki Shikibu found himself in a giri conflict. He was ordered to escort his lord's son to the Chimshima Islands. Shikibu's only son, Katsutaro, accompanied him on the journey. Along the way a fellow samurai entrusted to Shikibu's care one of his sons, Tanzaburo, who wished to travel to the islands. At a river crossing that samurai's son was accidentally drowned. Shikibu had to atone for his failure in the obligation to protect Tanzaburo. Shikibu could replace the samurai's loss by giving Katsutaro to him but that would take time and Shikibu's giri to his lord required that he countinue on at once. Shikibu faced a dilemma:

He thought for a while and then summoned his son. "Tanzaburo's father entrusted his son's safety to me," he said, "but I let him die. If you remain alive, I will not be able to fulfill my duty to Lord Tango and preserve my honor as a samruai. And so you yourself must die at once."

Katsutaro, with true samurai spirit, showed not the slightest hesitation. He turned back, dove into the seething waves, and was never seen again. For some time, Shikibu stood by the river and contemplated the way of the world.

"Truly, nothing is so heartbreaking as fulfilling the claims of duty. ... I too would like to die here, but it would be a terrible thing if I disobeyed my lord's orders to accompany his son."

(Tales of Samurai Honor 1:5)


Politeness is expected of all Nipponese, in all walks of life. Many verbs have both a normal and a polite form. Honorifics are often appended to names to indicate that the speaker shows proper respect for the person to whom he is speaking. Good form and proper etiquette in performing any act are well regarded.
There was to Lord Eirin's character many high points difficult to measure, but according to the elders the foremost of these was the way he governed the province by his civility. It goes without saying that he acted this way toward those in the samurai class, but he was also polite in writing letters to the farmers and townspeople, and even in addressing these letters he was gracious beyond normal practice. In this way, all were willing to sacrifice their lives for him and become his allies.

(The Recorded Words of Asakura Soteki)


Fatalism is common among Nipponese. Things considered lucky or unlucky breaks among Europeans are considered to be due to fate, or karma. They are the benefits of a good deed or the repayment of a bad one in a former life. Yet, it is a practical fatalism which expects a samurai always to try his best. After all, failure will be bad karma for a future incarnation.

Attitudes Towards Money

Money is of little concern to a samurai. It is beneath his dignity to haggle with merchants. Thus samurai often pay exorbitant prices without question when unscrupulous merchants exploit this attitude. Monetary matters are the province of the female head of a household. The honor-conscious samurai woman has, on more than one occasion, secretly sold her own treasures to maintain her lord's appearances, lifestyle, and holdings. The samurai find wealth in beauty and other things, to whit:
However, to oppress the people and covet the possessions of the samurai in one's desire to become quickly prosperous is absolutely laying the foundation of the destruction of the fief.

Precious metals and jewels are not necessarily treasures. Rather, one should consider his samurai and the common people as his wealth, and bring them up with gentleness and benevolence. Gold and silver are not necessarily to be recklessly accumulated; and when one receives wealth and distinction naturally through years of meritorious deeds, no disasters are likely to follow.

(Notes on Regulations by Kuroda Nagamasa)

The heimin find such disdain of money foolish. To them, haggling is a joy. Money is their principal route to a higher position in society, if not for themselves then for their descendants.

Membership in a Social Group

The group as an entity is a central concept to the Nipponese at all levels of society. A group can be a clan, a family, a trade, a neighborhood, an economic stratum, or some combination of these. Outsiders are objects of suspicion and distrust. Letters of introduction by members or friends of the group are common methods of bypassing barriers to acceptance.

The individual is subordinate to the group. His desires and wishes may be satisfied only after the welfare of the group is assured. What is good for the group is good for the individual.

The converse of this is that responsibility is often placed on the group for the acts of individual members. Such responsibility most often focuses on the elder or nominal head of the group. Sometimes entire families or villages suffer punishment for the actions of one of their members. The usual result of group responsibility is that Nipponese groups elect to police their own members and to mete out punishment before the matter reaches outsiders. Such prompt action can restore whatever honor was lost due to the wrongdoer's actions.

The importance of the social group cannot be emphasized enough. It exists from the very top to the very bottom of society, and every group is stratified within itself. There are very few "equals" in Nipponese society. Somebody is always above someone else.

A man may not live under the same sky as the slayer of his father.


The Family

A samurai holds his family in high esteem. It is his home, his history, and his future. It is said that any action by a son or daughter on behalf of the parents, nomatter how self-sacrificing it may be, cannot repay the tiniest fraction of the debt owed. Filial duty is required under the laws of heaven. A child may not disobey the wishes of a parent even after the child has grown, unless he wishes dishonor and shame.

The samurai family is an extended family. Parents, their children, and their children's children as well as uncles and aunts, often share the same roof. A man's wife leaves her own family behind to join her husband's household, never to return to her parents' home except as a visitor or if sent home as a childless widow or in disgrace. Rich samurai often take concubines into their homes. Such women serve under the wife who herself serves under the senior female of the household (usually the husband's mother). The ultimate authority in the family resides with the patriarch of the family. He makes or approves all major family decisions. Under the law, he is responsible for the actions of any family member. His wife is undisputed ruler of household affairs.

Children are treated with great kindness and leniency. Tradition condemns any abusive treatment of the young. Until the age of seven, children are exempt from the strictures of society. At that age their formal schooling starts and the weight of Nipponese society begins to descend upon them. Young samurai males shave their forelocks at their coming of age ceremonies, which may occur at any time between the ages of 13 and 21.

Inheritance is at the discretion of the lord. The firstborn son is normally named as heir to prevent dispersing family holdings. This principle was strongly enforced during the Tokugawa period. Before that time, inheritance was haphazard at best. In the 14th century, it was common to divide holdings among all sons (and sometimes daughters). In other periods land was given to the most competent son regardless of position. Hence, succession disputes occurred because there were no set rules.

Sometimes a likely heir is adopted into the family to assure a strong hand to maintain control over the family's holdings. Such adopted children, who may not even be children at all but grown adults, join the family as if they had been born to it. The greatest of the Uesugi family, Uesugi Kenshin, was actually a vassal named Nagao who saved his (younger) master from destruction on condition he be named heir. He then led the Uesugi family to greather heights than ever. Adoption into families, sometimes forced, is often used by self-made warlords to legitimize their holdings and improve their social status.

Strong bonds tie a samurai to his family. When a samurai takes service outside his family or clan, most of his loyalty is transferred to his new lord. Loyalty to a lord is intense, often greater that gaiven to the emperor or shogun. This is right and proper according to the code of bushido, but it can lead to conflicts. More than one samurai has found himself placed in a position where, to follow a lord's order, he must harm or allow to be harmed a member of his family. Sometimes, to save family honor, a lord must be disobeyed. This is a conflict of giri and, if it cannot be resolved with honor on both sides, the only solution may be seppuku.

Samurai families bond together into clans. A single family heads the clan and gives the clan its name. The main part of the clan is composed of cadet branches; families of relatives, both near and distant; and samurai vassals of all degrees. All members owe loyalty to the lord of the clan, the head of the principal army.

Social Structure

In Nippon an individual always knows where he or she stands in relation to other individuals. Respect for superiors, acknowledgement of obligations to inferiors, and proper courtesy are expected of all. Yet within this seemingly rigid society is a tradition of reward for personal merit which can lead to advancement and improved social position. No leader can afford to let concerns of status blind him to the abilities of his social inferiors. Rewards go to the able as to the well-birthed. There is no formal path to advancement. The ambitious await the notice of superiors or build their own power base until such notice is inevitable.

Nipponese society is structured to allow the greatest freedom to men. In Nippon, most women acquesce to this cultural pattern. Still, there are those who overcome these restrictions. Such women carve their own niches in society. In Nippon, they are respected for their skill and courage.

The women of the Tokugawa period were the most oppressed, but even then a prominent woman could do well. In earlier ages, women had a great deal of freedom to move about and influence their surroundings. The real power behind Minamoto Yoritomo was his wife Hojo Masako. It is no accident that the Hojo family became Regents over a weak Shogun almost immediately after Yoritomo's death.

The Castes

Nipponese society has a caste structure. Highest in prestige, although not in power, are the kuge, the imperial nobility. This group includes the immediate family and more distant relatives of the emperor; "retired" (officially abdicated but often still influential) emperors; and the ancient nobility of Nippon. The person of the emperor transcends any questions of caste for he is an embodiment of the divine kami and a descendant of Amaterasu (the sun-kami).

The emperor lacks direct political power but his approval is necessary for a samurai to take the title of shogun. His influence and blessing must be courted in Kyoto, where he presides at the center of an intellectual circle that sets the pattern of artistic expression, fashion and philosophy.

The emperor's influence is limited by the samurai practice of enthroning an imperial child in the place of an abdicated emperor. The shogun or some other very powerful samurai acts as regent until the child comes of age and is forced to abdicate in favor of yet another imperial child. The emperor spends his days in religious rituals and artistic pursuits, occasionally interacting with the real world to trade official approval of shogunate policies for some privilege or benefit.

Often, there are several retired emperors alive at one time. Though they lack the semi-divine status of the ruling emperor, their political influence is still strong in the court and can be a force to be reckoned with. Often these retired emperors, or members of their circle of nobles, get involved in plots to strengthen the imperial influence or rebuild a political/military power-base for the throne.

In the Heian period, the "retired" emperors were the actual government at times. Often a young emperor abdicated on his own to avoid the ritual and get down to the real business of governing.

Below the prines and princesses of the imperial family are the ranks of greater and lesser nobles, ministers, and bureaucrats of the imperial court. Since status in the kuge is dependent on the antiquity of the family line, newcomers are very rare. These immensely educated and sophisticated nobles are often poor in terms of material wealth; much poorer than their social inferiors, the ruling buke. Many are reduced to peddling their influence at court in return for the resources to maintain their lifestyles. This is not universally true. The kuge were very wealthy in Heian Japan, and even in later periods many still had significant wealth. Their main problem was control of land. The kuge held vast stretches of land during the Heian period, guarded by stewards while the kuge relaxed in the capitol. Eventually, the stewards stopped remitting taxes to the capitol and noble power declined. But even in the worst days many kuge still had some land remitting income.

The real rulers of Nippon are the buke, the caste of the samurai. This caste includes the samurai and jizamurai. In some senses, the ronin may be included as well. A petitioner for the title (and rank) of shogun must be born into a samurai clan.

The government of the samurai, called the bakufu, is headed by a shogun. The shogun is, for all practical purposes, the supreme ruler of the country. When the shogun and his clan are strong, his word is law, enforced by the clan armies. When the shogun and his clan are weak, various samurai lords rule freely in their own domains. The strongest prepare for the day when they may overthrow the shogun and petition the emperor to name the successful rebel (usually at this point encamped outside Kyoto with an army) as the new shogun.

Like all governments, the bakufu has a bureaucracy. Like many governments throughout history, as the central authority grows weaker, the bureaucracy grows more complex and corrupt. The ministers of the bakufu are appointed by the shogun, usually for life or until they incur his displeasure, which may very well be the same thing. Some ministers serve as the shogun's personal representative overseeing important sections of the country. Others serve in an advisory council, each responsible for a government office dealing with a specific area of concern such as the economy, agricultural planning, road maintenance, or military strength. Serving the deputies and ministers are various underlings ranging from administrators of whole provinces down to local police forces and tax officials. Even under a strong shogun, the further from the seat of government, the more likely officials are to exercise their authority for their own ends and comforts. Most shoguns maintain a network of spies, magistrates, and informers who operate outside the regular bureaucracy as a check against excesses and a guard against rebellion.

In many ways, the shogun and his clan are first among equals. The great landholding lords, the daimyo, have their own clans, advisory councils, military forces, and even buraucracies paralleling those of the bakufu. Whithin their lands, the daimyo are the law. Only the strongest of shoguns dare overrule them. To qualify for the status of daimyo, a clan leader had to be a samurai, have income from his land of at least 10,000 koku per year, and receive official sanction by the shogun or the emperor. New daimyo were created periodically, and old ones vanished, as their clans lost their power or were shattered. At any given time, there were usually between 200-300 daimyo in all of Nippon.

Samurai serve within their clans, owing fealty either directly to the clan lord (who may be a daimyo himself, or simply owe fealty to a daimyo= or to one of his subordinates. They are soldiers for the army and guards for palaces and castles, as well as middle managers and manpower for the hundred and one tasks involved in the day-to-day life of the clan. Income and status within the samurai caste vary widely.

Ranking below the "true" samurai are the jizamurai. They are landholders in their own right, much like European country squires and poor landed knights. Jizamurai are very possessive about their holdings, always fearing the rapacious desires of greater lords. At times they band together for mutual defense against attempts by nearby daimyo to seize the jizamurai holdings. On occasion such groupings become permanent and a new samurai clan is born. The jizamurai virtually disappeared during the Tokugawa period, when they were given the choice of being true samurai or becoming true peasants (losing their swords). Before that time, they were a force to be reckoned with.

In early times, the term ronin was used to refer to a peasant that had absconded from the land, usually to become an ashigaru. The more-used latter meaning refers to a samurai deprived of masters and/or land. Many jizamurai became ronin after 1600 A.D.

The heimin caste is the backbone of the Nipponese economy. It includes the farmers, artisans, and merchants. Within the caste the highest social rank is accorded to the poorest class, the farmers. They produce the rice upon which the nation lives. Next come the artisans, who produce tangible results from their labor. Lowest, and richest, are the merchants, who are seen as parasites who fatten on the work of others.

Oppressed heimin often form leagues called ikki to resist intolerable conditions. When peaceful overtures fail, such leagues may resort to armed rebellion. Such rebellions are almost always doomed, with great loss of life to its supporters and execution for its leaders. Yet even in such a defeat the heimin sometimes win their point, as the embarassed samurai lord accedes to their original requests once order is restored.

Some farmers are quite wealthy. During the Late Warring States period they prospered and became nearly independent of the ruling classes (who were involved in death struggles among themselves). Some ikke proved so strong that they controlled whole districts and provinces for years at a time. The oppression of the Tokugawa period was a Bakufu reaction to this free spirit.

Among the heimin dwell the yakuza: criminals, gamblers, bullies, and the occasional "Robin Hood." These men organize themselves into "clans" on the samurai model. The head of a gang is known as the oyabun, a title with all the connotations of a Mafia "godfather." The members are bound by a code of group loyalty and obedience to the oyabun, serving him as samurai would serve their lord. A yakuza failing his oyabun does not commit seppuku as a failed samurai might. Instead, he cuts off a joint from one of his fingers (usually the left hand little finger) as a symbolic suicide, and offers it to the oyabun. Acceptance preserves the yakuza's life. Rejection indicates that the oyabun feels the failure is deserving of death and a real suicide is expected.

Below the heimin are the eta, a caste of people whose livelihoods are considered unclean or unsuitable. Any occupations which deal with dead animals, such as butcher and tanner, as well as those which deal with the dead or the taking of life, such as undertaker, sexecutioner, or gravedigger, fall into the unclean category. Entertainers, travelling actors, and even the highly regarded courtesans of the "willow world" ply trades which are unsuitable for proper folk. The lives of eta are full of misery, with little hope of improvement unless they run away to a new part of the country and conceal their origins. Players and gamemasters should think carefully before saddling a player with the burdens of an eta character.

Outside the formal structure of society are several significant groups of people. Buddhist clerics have no official status, yet are usually regarded somewhat more highly than the heimin. Physicians and famous scholars fall into a similar social niche. The samurai show their regard for such individuals by granting them permission to war two swords and bear two names. Ronin (masterless smaurai) are casteless as well. Any respect shown to them is based more on fear than on admiration. Many consider them even worse than the bandits and criminals who creep around the edges of Nipponese society.

Perhaps the most feared of the casteless folk are the ninja, dwellers in the dark night. This fear causes many folk to be cautious and circumspect around someone demonstrating ninja skills or suspected of being a ninja. If the person is not really a ninja, any blatant accuser will be greatly shamed and dishonored. If the person is a ninja, the accuser may not have much longer to live, even if the accused is killed. Ninja have relatives who will avenge them and mysterious ways of learning the secrets of their enemies.

Neither being a ninja nor employing a ninja is a crime. Yet a ninja, or person openly associated with one is suspect and shunned by most of society. A ninja caught in a criminal or treasonous act is subject to immediate and shameful execution. Anyone hiring a ninja for a criminal act is as guilty as the actual perpetrator, if a connection can be proven.

Living Conditions

Nipponese houses are usually small, wooden-framed buildings with outer walls of plaster. They are built on short pilings that raise them from the ground to allow air circulation. Additional air spaces are present in the space between the ceiling and the roof. Many of the outer walls are movable, allowing the house to be opened to the elements. For inclement weather, windows and outer doors have sliding or hinged wooden covers called amado. In pleasant weather, doors and windows are opened during the day to air the house and discourage the mildew fostered by the humid climate. Heating is provided by movable charcoal burners called hibachi.

An entryway at the front of a house provides a covered area where shoes and outdoor gear are removed before entering the house proper. The outer half of this area is floored with packed earth. After removing his shoes a visitor steps up to the hardwood floor of the house. Just inside the house proper is a sword rack ready to receive the katana of guests.

The floors of the rooms are covered with rice-straw mats called tatami. These measure 3 feet by 6 feet and are two and a half inches thick. A room's size is measured in the number of mats needed to cover the floor (e.g. 4-mat, 6-mat, or 8-mat room) and are always of a geometry to allow the placement of full-sized mats. Rooms are separated by wooden walls or by sliding panels constructed of wooden lattices and paper panels. Heavy panels with opaque paper (fusuma) serve as room dividers while lighter panels fitted with translucent rice paper panels (shoji) function as doors and windows. Sometimes extra sliding tracks are provided to allow rearranging of the pattern of walls within a house. The floors of corridors between rooms are of polished hardwood.

The furnishings of a Nipponese house are sparse. A typical room has little more than a low table and some sitting cushions. Rooms serve double duty; at night any room may become a bedroom when mattresses (futon) and hardwood pillows are brought out from a chest of drawers or a closet. A room which is reserved for a particular occupant might have a dresser or cabinet for storage of personal items. Items of decoration or mementoes are often displayed on walls. The main room of a house invariably has a recessed alcove, slightly raised from floor level, called the tokonoma. It is designed for the display of artworks, flowers, or decorative scrolls. In a religious household, another alcove will house the family's shrines, the kamidana for Shinto and/or the butsudan for Buddhism. A shelf, above head height, often runs around the walls of the room and is used for storage. A warrior's household will usually have a lacquered armor chest wherein is stored the owner's martial equipage. The suit of armor itself might be on display in a corner or folded within the box.

The kitchen is usually located at the rear of the house and has an entrance to access the family's garden plot. The floor of the kitchen is of polished hardwood where it connects with the house and packed earth near the door to the outside. A storeroom oftens opens off this part of the room.

A partially or completely separate building houses the bathtub, toilet, and washing facilities.

Typical Manorhouse

The typical manorhouse residence of a samurai lord consists of several buildings and gardens surrounded by an eight-to-ten foot wall. The size and elegance of these features varies according to the wealth and social standing of the owner. Wealthier lords' homes boast more rooms of the types described above as well as special rooms reserved for specific functions. All of the rooms are most certainly larger and grander in their materials, furnishings, and decorations.

The major building has rooms of receptions or audiences, guest rooms, and the rooms regularly used by the family. Often the women are sequestered in a separate part of the house. Servants' quarters are located near the center next to cooking and maintenance facilities. A veranda usually extends around the building.

Retainers are housed in communal long-houses around the edges of the compound. Such houses are often incorporated into the outer compound wall. Priviledged or rich retainers might maintain their own separate residences.

Other buildings in the compound can include stables and appropriate workspace for the blacksmith, a teahouse, a bath house, a small shrine, storehouses, and possibly even a Noh stage.

The gate to the compound can give an indication of the owner's approximate rank and wealth. Government regulations set forth the styles and decoration types suitable for a samurai's rank. There may also be lesser gates, but these are rarely ostentatious. All gates are guarded by the lord's samurai, even after they are closed at dark.

Typical Castle

Early castles in Nippon are built simply as military strongholds to provide strategic defense points. Most are built on hills or in the mountains. Later castles are built to be residences as well as forts, many of them on small knolls or even on flat ground. In all cases, Nipponese engineers work to maximize the terrain advantages provided by the castle's site.

Outer defenses consist of moats (dry as well as wet) and high wooden or stone walls on the interior side. Walls and moats are arranged in "rings," with additional passages and open areas to give a maze-like effect. Gates in successive rings are always off-set to further confuse and delay attackers. Ramparts support wood and plaster walls to protect the defenders. These walls have holes to allow the defenders to use their bows. Sometimes the walls are double-sided and roffed to provide additional protection and to allow continuous harassment of attackers even after a wall's gate has been breached. The main keep is often supported by lesser keeps which are incorporated into the overall structure of the castle.

In the center of the castle stands a great keep, a multi-storied structure. It stands on a high, slope-walled stone foundation in which corridors and rooms are sometimes hollowed for storage, treasuries, armories, and escape passages. The upper levels are of wood and plaster construction. Like all plaster used in Nipponese castle construction, this outer surface is treated to be fire-resistant, resulting in a brilliant white finish. The first level of the upper keep is provided with chutes and trapdoors to allow defenders to rain down rocks and other debris to impede attackers. The upper levels are progressibely less fortified since they are usually out of reach of enemy archers. They are used as living quarters.

In Nippon, magical defenses are incorporated into most castles. Due to the great size of Nipponese castles, lords can sometimes only provide such protection for parts of the castle. Most common are spells to foil the magical assaults of attackers; other spells might provide warnings of armed intruders.

A castle's true strength is the samurai who defend it.


A samurai normally wears a wide-sleeved, robe-like garment (kimono) and a divided skirt (hakama). A sash (obi) is worn around the waist, and into it are tucked the samurai's swords. The hakama may be worn loose or gathered together below the knee and tied closely around the lower leg. Split-toed socks (tabi) are worn along with straw sandals (wariji). Formal occasions call for the addition of a vest-like garment called kamishimo which bears the heraldic symbol (mon) of the samurai's allegiance.

A lady does not wear the hakama or kamishimo. Instead her kimono is of floor-length or longer. She often wears a second kimono, of complementary colors, to give a layered effect. Her sash is very wide and usually tied in an elaborate bow. Formal wear calls for more expensive versions of everyday styles and further layers. Women adventurers often wear male garb.

Everyday wear is likely to be made of cotton and sometimes linen but formal versions are of imported Chinese silk. Both materials are often printed in decorative patterns or repetitive designs. The kimono may be any color but warriors favor subdued hues. The hakama likewise varies in color but is usually darker than the kimono. Black and other very dark colors are favored. A samurai's obi is almost invariably white. Ladies usually sport pastel shades and bright colors. A lady's obi is often as colorful as the rest of her outfit. In Nippon, white is the color of death as well as purity. It is worn for formal seppuku. Samurai expecting to die in battle often lace their armor with white cords.

For clothing, anything between cotton and natural silk will do. A man who squanders money for clothing and brings his household finances into disorder is fit for punishment. Generally, one should furnish himself with armor that is appropriate to his social position, sustain his retainers, and use his money for martial affairs.

(The Precepts of Kato Kiyomasa)

Bad weather gear consists of a straw raincoat, which makes a person resemble an ambulatory haystack, and high-soled wooden clogs instead of regular sandals. The clogs prevent wetting the feet in puddles but can require a delicate balancing act to keep one's feet. Oiled paper umbrellas are used as well.

Buttons are not used at all. Clothing is tied to secure it in place.

The Nipponese wear little jewelry. Elaborate combs and pins for a lady's hair are almost the only types to see regular wear. Rings are unknown and other jewelry (earrings, necklaces, medallions, etc.) is rare. Adornment may be carried or worn in the form of fans, parasols, elaborate sword furniture, small lacquered or enameled boxes for sundries, and toggles (netsuke) which keep pouches from sliding through the sash.

Male samurai shave the upper, front portion of their heads which makes them look as if they are balding. The rest of the hair is left long but tied into a queue at the back of the head. This is worn sticking up in the "tea whisk" style or folded forward then back again over itself in the more popular style. Boys and young men leave a forelock, which is split and dressed towards either temple. The forelock is shaved at the boy's coming-of-age ceremony. Ladies wear their hair long in a single ponytail commonly gathered at the nape of the neck, but occasionally as low as the small of the back. For dress-up occations, elaborate coiffures of multiple loops are socially required.


The Nipponese adhere strongly to several customs which are alien to Westerners.


Ronin, or "wave men," are so named because they wander the land of Nippon aimlessly, back and forth like the waves of the sea. They are samurai who no longer have a master. A samurai can find himself in this situation due to discharge of service for real or imagined crimes, the reassignment of his territory to a rival, the destruction of his clan, or his lord's death. Becoming ronin is not irreversible; a ronin might find another lord and become samurai again. Rather than face the loss of honor in becoming ronin upon the death of a lord, some samurai elect seppuku.

Ronin are outside the normal society structure, yet they keep their attitudes of samurai superiority. In group-conscious Nippon, they are perennial outsiders. They are distrusted for this and feared as well. Their martial skills make them dangerous to any who cross them, especially since they are without the direction of a lord and outside the normal constraints on behavior.

Many ronin are desperate men, destute of material wealth or spiritual solace. Some attempt to earn an honest living by teaching their martial skills or hiring themselves out as bodyguards. Others merely bully their way through life or turn to outright brigandage.

The most famous story about ronin is the Chushingura, the tale of the forty-seven ronin. The forty-seven were retainers of a lord who was maneuvered by a rival into committing seppuku. For a year, the retainers lived as ronin while awaiting their chance to attack the mansion of the rival lord. Their attack was successful and they presented the head of the rival to their lord's grave. The shogunate ordered them to commit seppuku. This they did, having fulfilled their duty to their lord. They have been honored since as true samurai.


There are strict rules for conducting a katakiuchi, a legal vendetta, in Nippon. The vendetta may only be directed against the person who has killed or caused the death of a person close to the avenger. The right or wrong of the original death is immaterial once the katakiuchi permit is issued. The avenger must be of equal or lower social status than the person whom he wishes to revenge. Thus, a lord may not revenge a vassal, an older brother may not avenge a younger, and a father may not revenge a son. Once the katakiuchi is registered, the avenger may not return home without proof of his success. The avenger must ask for a leave of absence from his lord to register and complete his katakiuchi.

The permit for katakiuchi is issued by the lord of the province in which the target resides. If he refuses, no vendetta may take place in that province and the target is safe as long as he stays in that province. When permission for katakiuchi is granted, all pertinent data is enterd into a document which the avenger must carry with him to present to officials once the vendetta is completed. The killing must be deliberate, not accidental, on the part of the avenger or the katakiuchi is uncompleted. The deliberate killing of the target by a third party renders the katakiuchi uncompletable. An unregistered or improperly registered katakiuchi killing leaves the avenger subject to a charge of murder, although sympathetic samurai officials often drop the charges.

Governmental regulations and clan custom provide motivation for katakiuchi. A son often may not be allowed to inherit while his father's slayer still lives. Similarly, a younger brother may have to avenge an older in order to receive his portion of a fief. In many clans, the person to be revenged is considered to have lost honor for having been so unprepared or unskilled as to be slain. This lost honor reflects on those eligible to avenge him. Katakiuchi would restore his honor.

Samurai who have successfully completed a katakiuchi are often rewarded by their lords with gifts or increased stipends. They may be offered better positions with other lords. Successful avengers have demonstrated samurai virtues and skills.

Other, more extensive, blood feuds (fukushu) exist in clan-oriented Nippon. A group may elect to register a vendetta against the slayer or slayers of a member of their group or for an insult. The target(s) must be notified of the fukushu andof the names of all those listed as targets. Otherwise the rules of katakiuchi apply. Officials often limit the number of avengers who may attempt fukushu, or apply other restrictions to minimize what could easily become a slaughter.

The rigid rules described above are from the Tokugawa period. Earlier periods were more relaxed, and frequently the perpetrator of a vendetta sought nobody's permission.


Kirisutegomen is the custom of "killing and going away." It refers to the samurai's right to kill a member of the heimin or eta castes who has acted other than as "expected." Surliness, discourtesy, and inappropriate behavior are not "expected" of the lower castes. Samurai may be held by officials, pending investigation of whether the victim was indeed deserving of the samurai's action.

In Nippon, anyone may defend himself from attack. A lower caste member successfully defending himself from a samurai will be questioned but is usually released since the samurai, having lost, certainly did not embody samurai virtues. Most lords will not grant katakiuchi rights against such a lower caste person.

Kirisutegomen, like formal katakiuchi, is a product of the Tokugawa period. Though samurai could (and often did) kill commoners for minor reasons in earlier times, kirisutegomen wasn't quite so common when commoners had swords, too. In 1590, Hideyoshi conducted a sword hunt to deprive all heimin, priests, etc. of their weapons. This paved the way for the stricter class distinctions which rapidly followed.

Sword Etiquette and Customs

The sword, particularly the katana, is believed to be the "soul" of a samurai. Fine blades are often handed down for generations within clans and families, with each successive wielder adding to the sword's glamor. Samurai often ask for well-known blades of defeated enemies after a battle, as their reward for service to their victorious lord. Since a samurai's honor is bound to his sword, if he loses it he is in a sorry state. Unless he recovers it, his honor is lost as well.

Normally only the buke wear the two swords (dai-sho). The kuge have the right but usually disdain such a vulgar display of martial attitude. Physicians also have the right, but often cannot afford them and so do without or wear wooden mock-ups. Heimin (other than ashigaru soldiers in service to a lord) are sometimes permitted to carry a single sword, usually a wakizashi, when travelling. Such a traveler is required to carry a document stating this permission, his starting point and his destination. Before the Tokugawa period, in areas where control was loose, heimin carried swords quite frequently. A good rule of thumb for heimin sword-bearing is the power of the central government and local daimyos (i.e., are they strong enough to suppress the peasants in their district?)

Even police are usually not sword-armed. In the Tokugawa period, only precinct heads of police were samurai. All others were heimin and not all of them were permitted swords. All carried jittes, which announced their office and doubled as a nice sword-breaker. Earlier police were similar. The Heian-era police were led by nobles, but the actual work was still done by heimin, because of the noble's distaste for such unruly work. To the nobleman, the position was just a sinecure.

Swords are worn stuck through the obi (waist sash). The scabbarded blade is normally worn with the edge towards the ground, signifying peaceful or at least non-hostile intent. Worn edge-up, the sword is in position for an iaijutsu draw and is inherently more hostile. Turning the blade from a normal position to edge-up is often considered an aggressive gesture.

The katana (and other weapons such as spears, bows, etc.) is removed upon entering a house. Often a servant, handling the sword with a cloth so that he will not soil it, receives the scabbarded blade and places it in a sword rack. A samurai will retain his short sword, carried in his right hand or placed at his right side where it cannot be brought into play quickly. When entering a building belonging to a lord other than his own, a samurai would expect to have all weapons removed, to be returned when he leaves.

Swords receive great respect. In showing off a famous blade, the owner presents it to the viewer with the edge towards himself. The viewer should draw it no more than an inch or two from the scabbard unless the owner urges him to draw it further. Only with additional urgings should it be removed completely from the scabbard and then only with the edge of the blade away from all present.


Seppuku, also known as harakiri, is a form of ritual suicide used by the samurai. It can be meted out by a lord as punishment or chosen by an individual for a number of reasons. A samurai must request permission from his feudal superior in order to commit seppuku.

Samurai convicted of significant crimes are usually ordered to commit seppuku. This is a privilege of their caste, allowing them to commit suicide rather than face shameful execution. For particularly heinous crimes (such as arson or treason to the emperor), a samurai might be forbidden seppuku and executed as a commoner.

Seppuku is not the proper solution to every dilemma faced by a samurai, especially if it leaves some harm unavenged or is an attempt to avoid an unpleasant task. It is a coward's act to commit seppuku to avoid a duel or vendetta.

One should not torture himself over a single mistake. What is essential is one's presence of mind hereafter. In the Lun Yu it says, "When one makes a mistake, he should not be hesitant to correct it." It says further, "Making a mistake and not correcting it, this is a real mistake."

(Opinions in Ninety-Nine Articles by Takeda Nobushige)

An insoluble conflict (such as being obligated to perform a deed which would bring intolerable shame, while not performing it would be dishonorable) and avoidance of a dishonorable task set by a feudal superior are reasonable grounds for seppuku. Seppuku is an accepted solution to preserve endangered honor. The most common case is to avoid capture or a dishonorable death at the hands of foes in battle. Battlefield seppuku was often carried out with little ceremony.

Seppuku is normally considered to restore lost personal honor when performed as atonement for the actions or inactions which brought about the dishonor.

Kanshi is a type of seppuku intended to reprove one's lord. A loyal samurai win the good of his clan at heart might choose this act to open his lord's eyes to wicked, foolish, or dishonorable acts. The perfect devotion to the lord's best interests shown by such a samurai is held in high esteem. A samurai need not receive his lord's permission to commit kanshi.

Funshi is a type of seppuku designed to display hatred of a foe whom a samurai is unable to harm. The samurai makes a public declaration of the wrongs committed by the foe, in the hope that the public shame will serve the samurai's need for revenge. Officials rarely deny requests for vendetta to survivors of a samurai who has committed funshi.

Another type of seppuku is junshi. When a great leader died, many loyal retainers would commit suicide rather than outlive their beloved leader. This practice was often involuntary during legendary history. The Tokugawa Shogunate outlawed junshi as a waste of human resources, and enforced this by executing the wife and children of junshi-offenders. This practice has popped up in modern Japanese history as well. When the Emperor Meiji died in 1912, General Nogi of Russo-Japanese War fame committed suicide along with his wife to follow the emperor.

The formal ceremony usually takes place in a quiet spot surrounded by the beauties of nature. All participants and observers wear formal clothes. The principal, dressed in white, kneels with chosen second standing slightly behind him and to his left. After composing himself, the principal slits his stomach with a short sword or dagger. The full ceremony consists of three cuts, across from left to right, up, then diagonally into the heart. The second, to prevent any unseemly display of pain by the principal, strikes with his katana, cutting off the principal's head.

A female samurai performs a variation known as jigai. Before commencing the act, she ties her ankles together to maintain a modest posture in death. Instead of slitting her belly, she cuts her own throat with a dagger.

In extreme cases any form of suicide, when approached with a proper samurai attitude and full intent beforehand, could be considered seppuku.


Duels are common in Nippon. They may be fought to settle an argument, redress an insult (real or imagined), gain honor and renown, or prove the superiority of a favored martial approach. As long as witnesses are present to state that a duel was entered into freely by both parties, the duel is legal.

Duels may be fought on the spot or set for an arranged time and place. They are often arranged for a time and place where the combatants will be undisturbed. The European method of using seconds as go-betweens and stand-ins is not followed, although supporters of the duelists may be present for moral support or to insure a fair fight.

Duels may be fought with real weapons or wooden practice weapons. In either case, the fight may continue until first blood, until one party conceeds the superiority of the other, or until death according to the wills of the combatants.

Some clans forbid dueling among their members to avoid useless bloodshed that could weaken the clan. Enmity and jealousy sometimes still ends in a duel, although most such rivalries result in political infighting instead.


Samurai are proud of their lineage and their deeds. At the start of a battle or combat, a samurai will often announce his name and clan as well as a short list of great deeds he or his ancestors have done. His opponent is likely to do the same. This encourages the first to add more great deeds to his announcement, preferably at the expense of the opponent's clan. Consider this challenge from a battle in the Hogen war.
"I once captured Ono Shichiro the chief of the brigands on Mount Suzuka in Ise province, and have thus received the emperor's commands to become vice-commander in chief of his army. My name is Kagetsuna. Watch my arrow and see whether or not it strikes you!"
(Hogen Monogattari)

Boasting serves as an identification of the samurai who will, he hopes, do something noteworthy in the combat. It bolsters his own courage and may unnerve the opponent who is about to fight such a fierce and accomplished scion of a renowned and feared warrior lineage.


Competitions of all sorts are popular among the samurai. These usually take the form of displays of prowess, in either the martial or the gentler arts. Contests in archery, poetry, and horsemanship are among the most popular.

Some popular sports began as religious rituals. Sumo developed from part of a fertility ritual into a betting sport replete with popular champions. Accuracy contests for mounted archers developed from an ancient Shinto form of divination through study of the horses' footprints.

Two-player strategy games such as go and shogi are popular. Go occupies a social niche similar to that of chess in medieval Europe. Some card games are played, as well as various dice games. Almost all forms of games involve betting on the outcome or make betting integral to their play. Gambling halls are common in the cities and even inns may have a regular gambling room. Gambling is often run by professionals under the control of the yakuza.

Dancing and singing are popular at festivals and holiday celebrations. Itinerant actors and puppeteers travel freely through Nippon staging shows. Large cities have theaters where plays are regularly performed.

Cities have pleasure districts where all sorts of entertainments can be found. Most notable among them are the elegant geisha houses where a man may find a full evening's worth of dining, drinking, entertainment, and other sorts of amusement.

Moon viewing is a pasttime learned by the samurai from the kuge. Participants spend an evening dining and drinking in a refined atmosphere. They then retire outside to observe the moon. Those of poetic bent are expected to compose extempore verse for the occasion.

Another placid pasttime is the cha-no-yu, or tea ceremony. This is an elaborate and strictly defined ritual for the making and drinking of tea. Many samurai mansions have special, small buildings in their gardens reserved for such ceremonies.


Rice beer, mildly alcoholic, is common throughout Nippon, especially among the lower classes.

Sake, a rice wine, is more popular with the buke and others who can afford it. It is properly drunk from small cups after it has been heated to body temperature.

Shochu is a strong beverage distilled from sake dregs. It is commonly available only in specialized drinking establishments and is only popular with serious drinkers.

Various fruit brandies are also available.


It is common for a member of the kuge or buke castes to retire from daily life in his later years, to shave his head and become a monk. The person takes the vows of a priest of his chosen religion, usually Buddhist. His behavior is subject to the strictures of Buddhism. Rather than actually taking on the religious activity of a normal priest, the retired person devotes time to meditation or the arts. Becoming a monk in this fashion is a statement that the person is preparing for his death rather than embarking on a new course of life. Such a course is an admirableone for a samurai who has lived a full, adventurous life.

Some samurai (particularly devious, politically oriented lords) profess to retire and become "monks", yet remain active in the world. Such characters may become initiates or priests of their religion and still lead an active political and military life. The realties of such a life will often leave such a character in sin or a state of pollution so that he will have no access to divine magic. In this he resembles the sohei of some Buddhist sects; but unlike the sohei, he follows his own will and does not have the sanction of religious superiors for actions not in accord with standard religious doctrines. Such actions may in fact incur the displeasure of those same religious overlords, leaving the "monk" cut off from the gods - although his military and political powers may more than make up for the lack.

A character may, at some point in his life, desire to take a more religious path for reasons other than retirement. Such a freely chosen course may be taken as long as the character can meet the requirements to become an initiate or priest of the chosen religion. He receives the benefits of, and must observe the rules of, his religion.

Some samurai offer or are ordered to "shave their heads" as a punishment rather than commit seppuku. Such monks usually choose reclusive sects and strive to forget their former lives. A player character forced to this course has effectively left the campaign.

Characters forced to a religious course by an encounter with a deity may be considered to have received it either as a final punishment or merely a redirection of the character's life, depending on the circumstances and the character's actions to that point. In the former case the character leave sthe game as if he had been ordered to shave his head. In the latter, the player must strive to have his character meet the requirements of priesthood and devote his efforts to the religion of the deity encountered. A player not wishing to have a priest for a character may opt to have the character join a reclusive sect and begin a new character.