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A ronin (literally, “wave man” – one who was tossed about, like a wave in the sea) is a masterless samurai. Traditionally, ronin are regarded as disreputable and are frequently the targets of humiliation and satire. They often pose a serious threat in Rokugan, as the masterless life often degenerated into a life of thievery and malice.
A samurai can become masterless from the ruin or fall of his master, or after the loss of his master’s favor. In addition, a samurai can become ronin if he is not recognized as an heir by his samurai parent. Some ronin simply chose to abandon their station.
To a samurai, the loss of duty is often seen as a fate worse than death. Generally, a samurai will request to commit seppuku to absolve himself of whatever shame caused him to become ronin, though this step can be forbidden by the samurai’s daimyo, if becoming ronin is a punishment.