The Clans are the other major faction of the Battletech universe and for the most part they reside in a separate area of space well outside the Inner Sphere. If you're new to BattleTech, little more backtracking will be necessary to understand how they fit in...
In the year 2784, the ranking Star League Defence Force officer, General Aleksandr Kerensky, called a meeting with around 200 other senior officers to propose a move to an as yet uncharted region of space. Tired of all the political infighting and the warfare that was tearing the Inner Sphere apart, he wanted to take as many as would follow him and set up a new colony, run along military lines, based on honour and justice and free of the greed and corruption that had beset the Star League.
Around 80% of his fellow officers chose to follow General Kerensky on what became known as the Exodus - leaving the Inner Sphere with almost no military force to speak of. He vowed to return one day and 'save' the Inner Shere, restoring it to its former glory. The Exodus reached its final destination in a region of space far beyond the Periphery, known as the Pentagon Worlds around 2 years later and the settlement of the people began. This didn't go smoothly though and they fought among themselves until a second exodus was launched, leading them deeper into uncharted territory. They finally settled on a dozen worlds, known as the Kerensky Cluster and were split into separate colonies across these worlds.
Being warriors they tended to admire and identify with the dominant predators on these worlds and adopted their names and images to identify their groups...even modelling their cultures on the creatures' characterstics...and thus the Clans were founded.
Over time they developed a number of combat based rituals, known as Trials, to settle disputes without resorting to the full-scale warfare that had nearly decimated them earlier. They also developed a language of their own and a caste system which gives the Clans a social structure unlike any other civilisation. Not surprisingly, the Warrior caste are the top dogs, followed by the Scientist, Merchant and Labourer castes. There is also a Dark or Bandit caste to which criminals and misfits are assigned, but this is rarely spoken of as they are seen as an embarrassment.
Perhaps more disturbingly, they also took the science of genetic manipulation and made it into an art form, carefully selecting genetic material from their best warriors and using it to create a superior breed of warrior, born in artificial wombs. Traditional conception is frowned upon - at least in Warrior circles - as there is less control over the offspring's genetic makeup. Warriors do, very occasionally have children, but this is more by accident than design. In Clan society, it is left to the lower castes to reproduce naturally, to provide an ample work force.
In 3050 they attempted to fulfil Kerensky's promise to return and invaded the Inner Sphere, with the goal of reclaiming Terra (Earth). Fortunately they were stopped well short of that mark but were able to lay permanent claim to a sizeable chunk of space, which they divided among themselves.
Originally, there were 20 Clans, but over time this number has increased and decreased. The current number stands at 16.
Blood Spirit Burrock Cloud Cobra Coyote Diamond Shark Fire Mandrill Goliath Scorpion Hell's Horses Ice Hellion Jade Falcon Mongoose Nova Cat Sea Fox Smoke Jaguar Snow Raven Star Adder Steel Viper Widowmaker Wolf Wolf-In-Exile Wolverine
Clan Burrock was absorbed by Clan Star Adder in 3059, after the Burrock leaders were found guilty of conspiring with elements of the Dark/Bandit caste to acquire technology through illegitimate means.
Clan Mongoose was absorbed by the Smoke Jaguars in 2868 after trying to ignore one Grand Council ruling too many.
Clan Sea Fox was renamed Clan Diamond Shark after the Clan's totem animal (the Sea Fox) was rendered extinct by a larger predator (the Diamond Shark).
Clan Smoke Jaguar was destroyed in one of the most famous military campaigns in Battletech history. After the invasion had been halted in 3052, Prince Victor Steiner-Davion, then ruler of the Federated Commonwealth, led a massive task force, which first routed the Jaguars from the Inner Sphere, then pursued them to Clan space and defeated them on their homeworld of Huntress.
Clan Widowmaker was absorbed by Clan Wolf in 2834 after their right to rule was questioned, following some particularly brutal treatment of their civilian population.
Clan Wolverine (also known as the Not-Named Clan) was annihilated by Clan Wolf in 2823 after declaring their independence from the other Clans. Fearing they had become tainted by the greed and corruption prevalent in the Inner Sphere, ilKhan Nicholas Kerensky petitioned the Grand Council for a Trial of Annihilation. Elements of the Wolverines survived this action and escaped to parts unknown. Reforming their society along similar lines to the now-defunct Star League, they now go by the name of the 331st Royal Battlemech Division. They are more commonly known as the Minnesota Tribe, as the unit insignia shows an outline of that state, once part of the ancient Terran colony known as the United States.
Clan Wolf In Exile was formed shortly after the end of the invasion of 3050. One of Ilkhan Ulric Kerensky's last acts was to order those loyal to the Warden cause to find a new sanctuary in the Inner Sphere and to remain there as its guardians against future Clan incursions. Chosen to be the leader of this new clan was none other than Phelan Kell, a former bondsman who had begun his career as a mercenary with the Kell Hounds. Kerensky believed that Phelan's Inner Sphere roots would ensure they remained true to their assigned mission. Kell led the exiled Wolves back to the Kell Hound world of Arc Royal, where they continue to work closely with the mercenary unit.
Clans are generally classified as either Warden or Crusader. Wardens believe the Clans should act as protectors of the Inner Sphere, while the Crusaders' ultimate goal is to conquer it and rebuild the Star League as it was in its heyday. Of course, this is complicated by the fact that most Clans have their own Warden and Crusader factions and their allegiances can change with the election of a new Khan.