Taint effects

Taint was the process of physical and mental corruption gained by entering or associating with the Shadowlands, oni, or the practice of maho, or blood magic. The taint was a physical manifestation of Jigoku's hold on the mortal realm. [1] Sometimes it was called the 'sixth element'. [2]

Protection from the Taint[edit | edit source]

Corrupted Jade

Jade[edit | edit source]

The best way to be safe from the taint was to never contract it in the first place. The Kuni discovered over the years of studying the taint that samurai who carried pieces of Jade with them seemed more able to stave off the corrupting effects of the Shadowlands. [3] The blessed nature of jade would keep corruption away from the bearer, but only for a while. The jade absorbed the taint, turning black and soft after a while. Jade was easily available until 1133, and since then there had been a wide shortage. Jade after 1133 was only given to high ranking samurai by their daimyo. [1]

A single piece of Jade, approximately the size of a man's finger, could protect one person from the taint for about a week. The Jade would slowly turn black and soft, as it absorbed the tainting effect of the Shadowlands. [3]

Naga spell[edit | edit source]

The Naga race became immune to the 'Dark Gift' in their ceremony of "come of age", where the young Naga were inducted into society and were exposed to an elaborate spell woven with pearl and jade. [4]

Nezumi Race[edit | edit source]

Nezumi were entirely immune to the Shadowlands Taint and their immunity extended beyond invulnerability to corruption. The Nezumi were unable to explain this phenomenon. [5] The Transcendents were the beings responsible for the famed Nezumi immunity to Taint. All Nezumi carried a little yumeji, the control exerted by Yume-do, with them, lending them both the immunity to Taint and drawing them to Yume-do for their afterlife. [6]

Dangers of the Taint[edit | edit source]

There were numerous ways for Rokugani to contract the taint. Foremost was spending time in the Shadowlands. If the person had any open, unbound wounds while in the Shadowlands then the likelihood of contracting the taint was drastically increased. The taint could be contracted by eating or drinking tainted food, and as such Maho-tsukai had been known to attempt to taint water supplies and rice fields to cause chaos. Shugenja calling upon the kami while in the Shadowlands often summoned kansen instead, and kansen loved to taint shugenja. Dying in the Shadowlands often meant being ressurected as a zombie. This could only be prevented if the body was decapitated or burned. [7]

Symptoms of the Taint[edit | edit source]

Mark of the Taint

As the taint developed the person afflicted began to show mental and physical signs of corruption. Skin would turn paler, hair became greasy and they would often have the appearance of being ill. They could become short-tempered, quick to respond to any perceived threats, and if the taint was unchecked the person would lose more and more control over their actions. In the end the taint would completely overcome the person, turning them into a monster under the control of Jigoku. Symptoms were individual to each case, but they all ended with the same result. Any tainted people were kept under close watch by Imperial authorities, but were generally left to live in peace so long as the affliction was not dangerous to others. The Kuni Witch Hunters and other similar organizations created a system to rate how dangerous each tainted person was. The Witch Hunters kept an eye on all tainted individuals, and would not hesitate to act when the symptoms had progressed too far. [8]

First Degree - Passive Infection[edit | edit source]

This level of taint had no mental symptoms, and little danger of spreading the taint to others. The Kuni rarely punished anyone at this stage. They were checked on monthly to see if they have progressed to another level. The person was not allowed to marry without informing the prospective spouse and family. Any violation of this protocol was considered a "mental symptom", which was ground for execution. [9] The taint at this stage would manifest itself in the form of nightmares. Physically the person would be prone to nausea, vomiting and uncontrolled trembling. They might start mumbling to themselves, without even realising it. [8]

Second Degree - Active Infection[edit | edit source]

At this level the first mental symptoms began, and the taint could be spread to others. At this point the subject was given a choice of seppuku or joining the Damned by the Witch Hunters. From this point on they would be under constant supervision by the Kuni. [9] The person at this stage would start to become paranoid and irritated by those around him. They felt they could not trust anyone, and that everyone must be secretly tainted. Hallucinations occurred, and the subject started to hear the voices of kansen. [8]

Third Degree - Deadly Infection[edit | edit source]

At this level the taint was so extreme that anyone who had reached this level were executed by the Witch Hunters when caught. Seppuku was not an option, as they could not be trusted to have a choice. [10] The taint presented in ways unique to each individual. Some choose to disregard their hygiene and stop bathing. Others exibited extreme homicidal behaviour. Some coughed blood, others become gaunt and some even grow long black fingernails. They became very unpredictable, and as such very dangerous. [11]

Fourth Degree - Embrace of the Dark[edit | edit source]

This category included those possessed by demons using the taint for supernatural powers. They should be executed by decapitation immediately. [12] For the most part symptoms continue as before, and people at this stage fell into two categories. Madmen or Lost. Madmen have completely lost their minds and were nothing more than bestial. Lost retained their intelligence, but were complete slaves of Jigoku. [13]

Living with the Taint[edit | edit source]

Contracting the taint meant a doomed life of struggle and hardship. The taint would influence their decisions, and eventually devour their soul. Merely having the taint changes ones personality, causing tics and acting in unbecoming ways. The taint would increase at varying intervals depending on the mental and physical strength of the person who became tainted. Drinking Tea of Jade Petals would slow the progression to a near standstill. [13]

Removing the Taint[edit | edit source]

Other than a few very special cases there was no way of removing the taint.

Tea of Jade Petals[edit | edit source]

Drinking Tea of Jade Petals would slow the taint, and was one of the most popular ways to combat the taint. The tea was harvested from specially grown lotus blossoms sprinkled with jade powder known only to the monks of the Jade Lotus. The monks secretly worked with the Kuni Witch Hunters, telling them who buys the tea. [13]

Tears of the First Emperor[edit | edit source]

One of the few reliable ways of removing the taint completely were the Tears of the First Emperor, which were in the possession of the wife of the Doji Daimyo. They permanently removed the taint at the cost of the tainted persons life. [13]

The Unbroken[edit | edit source]

The ronin band called the Unbroken developed a technique that gradually removed the taint by killing Shadowlands creatures. The technique however also drastically shortened their lifespan, and those who joined the Unbroken might never leave. [13]

Rest, My Brother[edit | edit source]

The kiho Rest, My Brother also managed to lower the taint within a person, but at the cost of terrible pain and damage to the body. Even if the target survived, the procedure could not be done more than once a week, making it a slow, painful process. [14]

Jade Hand[edit | edit source]

The Jade Hand nemuranai was known to have burned away the taint completely when it attached itself to a person, as seen when Hida Yakamo attached it during the Clan War. It was also believed to render the bearer immune to the taint completely. [15]

Purification[edit | edit source]

One of the few ways to remove the taint was a spell developed by the Crab and Phoenix shugenja. The spell known as Purification was a complicated and complex ritual that demanded at least an hour of deep concentration. If successful the spell decreased the taint in the target, but all the shugenja who participated in the ritual would then contract a small portion of the taint. [16]

Shadowed Tower[edit | edit source]

The Shadowed Tower, a secret organization which tried to control the Scorpion Clan, succesfully removed the taint with an unorthodox method.[17] Using a method developed by a Bloodspeaker cult, the Shadowed Tower channeled the Taint towards hapless, drugged out peasants who "willingly" accepted it on behalf of the shugenja. To assist in the acceptance, the peasants were often initially (and without their knowledge) exposed to the Taint [18] through corrupted rice, then corrupted opium, until their wills, and later their souls, were forfeit. [citation needed]

Powers of the Taint[edit | edit source]

Those who embraced the taint were granted certain gifts to make the embrace slightly more appetizing. People with the taint found they were capable of greater feats of strength, agility, stamina or reflexes. For those who wished to mingle in society without being discovered, it was possible to carry a jade sliver corrupted by the taint. This protected the bearer against detection and pure magic. This jade sliver would only last for approximately five days before crumbling into dust. [19]

Shadowlands Powers[edit | edit source]

Those who attempted to draw upon the powers of the taint, either subconciously or willingly, would find there were varous deformities or mental twistings as the price. [19]

Minor Powers[edit | edit source]

Blackened Claws

These were just minor abilites giving the tainted individual powers above the norm. Learning more powers increased the person's taint further. [20]

Major Powers[edit | edit source]

These powers were more impressive than the minor ones, but also caused a greater increase in taint. Major powers could only be gained if the person already had a minor power. [22]

Greater Powers[edit | edit source]

Feeding on Flesh

Greater powers were terrible to behold and could cause great devastation. They came at a higher price however, severely increasing their taint. Greater powers could only be gained if the person already had a major power. [19] [25]

Deformities and Scarring[edit | edit source]

Some of the Shadowlands powers caused deformities or scarring in the person. Deformities made the person appear inhuman, and therefore it was harder for them to conceal their dark secret. Scarring was a major sign of a maho user, which was easier to hide, but very damning if discovered. [19]

Linked to the Champion of Jigoku[edit | edit source]

Those who were subject to the Taint felt the will of the Champion of Jigoku. During hundred years the Champion did not change, Fu Leng, but when he was stepped down and Kali-Ma was the new representative of Jigoku in the mortal world, those who bore the taint began to feel her will. Their loyalties, usually bound to Daigotsu suddenly began to fade and shift. [27]

New Taint[edit | edit source]

Taint revealed after Daigotsu broke his treaty

In the month of the Goat of 1173, [28] the recently proclaimed Master of Jigoku, Daigotsu, had bargained with the Empire, and as a consequence he withhold the taint over the humans. The people of Rokugan would be spared the Taint forever. Only those who willingly embraced the blessings of Jigoku could gain [29] the so-called New Taint. [30] In 1175 the Jade Champion Kuni Daigo authorized more proactive enforcement of executing those suspected of the new Taint before they surrendered themselves. [31] In 1200 Daigotsu reneged on his agreement with the Empress. The Shadowlands Taint had endured, it had only remained hidden. [32]

See also[edit | edit source]


  1. 1.0 1.1 Legend of the Five Rings: Third Edition, p. 261
  2. Way of the Phoenix, p. 25
  3. 3.0 3.1 Game Master's Pack; The Hare Clan, p. 10
  4. Way of the Naga, p. 20
  5. Way of the Ratling, p. 23
  6. Fortunes & Winds, p. 100
  7. Legend of the Five Rings: Third Edition, pp. 261-262
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 Legend of the Five Rings: Third Edition, p. 262
  9. 9.0 9.1 Winter Court: Kyuden Kakita, p. 72
  10. Winter Court: Kyuden Kakita, pp. 72-73
  11. Legend of the Five Rings: Third Edition, pp. 262-263
  12. Winter Court: Kyuden Kakita, p. 73
  13. 13.0 13.1 13.2 13.3 13.4 Legend of the Five Rings: Third Edition, p. 263
  14. Legend of the Five Rings: Third Edition, p. 256
  15. Prayers and Treasures, p. 118
  16. Game Master's Pack; The Hare Clan, p. 11
  17. Clan Letter to the Scorpion #20 (Imperial Herald v2 #5)
  18. Visions of Flame: Broad Daylight (Season of the Scorpion), by Rich Wulf
  19. 19.0 19.1 19.2 19.3 Legend of the Five Rings: Third Edition, p. 264
  20. Legend of the Five Rings: Third Edition, pp. 264-265
  21. 21.0 21.1 21.2 21.3 Way of the Shadowlands, p. 60
  22. Legend of the Five Rings: Third Edition, pp. 264-266
  23. 23.0 23.1 Way of the Shadowlands, p. 63
  24. 24.0 24.1 24.2 Way of the Shadowlands, p. 64
  25. Legend of the Five Rings: Third Edition, pp. 266-267
  26. 26.0 26.1 Way of the Shadowlands, p. 66
  27. Questions of Loyalty, by Nancy Sauer
  28. Imperial Histories 2, p. 254
  29. Goddesses, Part 4, by Shawn Carman
  30. Imperial Histories 2, p. 276
  31. A Brief History of the Sanctioned Spider Clan, by Seth Mason
  32. Ominous Revelation (Evil Portents flavor)

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