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Author Topic: Bloody Sun, Shattered Sword  (Read 5327 times)
Gibbering Mouther
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« on: August 17, 2014, 04:55:43 AM »


The island-chain of Nihon has long been thought the Birthplace of the Rising Sun. But now blood stains the shining face of the sun-goddess Amaterasu and priests woke one morning to find the great torii-gate at the Imperial Shrine had pitted and aged ten-score years during the moonless night. Whispers have begun to filter into the Imperial Court – of yurei and mononoke and oni; ghostly and elemental things, strange and wild and ancient, stirring in the untouched and ancient depths of mountains and forests and lakes – and some in the countryside have begun to whisper that dusk is falling.

That night has come, at long last, to the Birthplace of the Rising Sun.


Setting Stat-Block

Title: Bloody Sun, Shattered Sword
System: System-neutral.
Theme: Living things vs. untamed nature, the present vs. the returning past, the perilous strength of human passion, the ignorance and arrogance of civilized man, the enduring responsibility you hold towards what you have tamed.
Tone: Creepy and dream-like, with sudden eruptions of violence or horror like hot lifeblood sprayed across slowly drifting snow.
Description: Desperate heroes propitiate and outwit primal spirits reshaping the nature of their homeland.
Inspirations: Princess Mononoke, Mushishi, The Mountain Witch, Kwaidan, Tales from the Otori, Steerpike's Fimbulvinter.
Technology: Iron age.
Magic: Based on historical Japanese practices & beliefs of the pre-modern period - limited, indirect, and vastly outmatched by what is waking up.
Religion: As in the period - variously Shinto, Buddhism, Ainu animism, imported Chinese philosophy and associated syncretism.
Races: Humans. Some distant descendants of lesser spirit beings.
Ecology: As feudal Japan, with old weather patterns and extinct species making their return.
Geography: Japan. Hokkaido and the Ainu to the North, Okinawa and Ryukyu to the South, China and Korea to the West. the heavenly plain of Takamagahara to the East.
Cosmology: There is one world, where spirit-nature suffuses and transforms both landscape and living beings to varying degrees.

New Setting!

New setting coming together for a game I'm running for my regular group - official start-date isn't until October, so I have until then to get all my world-building worked out. Comments all very welcome - I have a rough idea of some topics I need to work out and write down, but requests for more information on subjects of interest/in need of clarification are welcomed.
« Last Edit: May 02, 2015, 05:17:47 AM by HippopotamusDundee » Logged


Giant Space Hamster
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« Reply #1 on: August 17, 2014, 09:43:11 AM »

I like the sound of this!  I'm looking forward to reading more!
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« Reply #2 on: August 17, 2014, 05:05:32 PM »

Princess Mononoke and Mushishi?

I'm in.
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Gibbering Mouther
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« Reply #3 on: August 17, 2014, 08:49:35 PM »

Developer's Notes

Inspired by Steerpike's treatments of the tribes in Fimbulvinter and the historically flexible  "symbolic neverwhen clash of three proto-Japanese races (the Jomon, Yamato and Emishi)" that is Princess Mononoke, here are the peoples of Nihon.

People of Nihon

Yayoi

Dwelling in central Honshu between the lowland valleys and forested mountains, the Yayoi are famous for their architecture – cutting terraces into the hillside to grow rice in the water that runs from springs uphill and constructing large farming villages of wood and stone – as well as their skill as bronze-smiths. They are among the most numerous of the peoples of Nihon, and their permanent settlements represent the largest concentrations of human presence outside the Imperial Court itself. The lordship of the Yayoi is contested, their previous lord cut down in a skirmish with bandits bare months into his rule – some answer to advisors ruling on behalf of his infant son; others champion the cause of his second cousin, a respected village headman of middle years called Okafu Hakuto.

The Yayoi are great shrine-builders, and bright vermillion torii-gates and copper prayer-tablets can be found scattered over the hillsides and along the winding paths of their lands. Copper statues of the fox-guardians sacred to the harvest-god Inari Ōkami are ubiquitous and are thought to give protection from wolves and boars, messengers of the hostile gods of the mountain forests from which the Yayoi fell wood to build their settlements. But their benevolent smiles seem to turn to snarls as copper catches the bloody light of the setting sun, and as some woodsmen drunkenly claim to have glimpsed huge black foxes hunting alongside the great white wolves of the forest gods the oldest Yayoi remember that Inari Ōkami is god not only of the generous rice-field but also the keen-edged sword.

The Yayoi are of average height and are built along leaner lines than their Jōmon neighbours. Their dark hair grows long and sleek, and their dark brown eyes are set in high and narrow faces with flat noses and brows. They hunt using bronze-tipped arrows and spears, and at times of war supplement those same weapons with crude swords and bronze-headed clubs.

Jōmon

Equally comfortable at land and on sea, the Jōmon are famed for both their skill as fishermen and their skill as craftsmen using pottery and lacquered wood. They alone among the people of Nihon will venture out past the shoreline into deep-water to hunt and gather the gifts of the Dragon-Kings, living off what they catch there. The coastline of northern and central Honshu is their domain, and their clifftop settlements overlook sheltered valleys where they cultivate lacquer-producing trees that also bear fruits and nuts to supplement their diet. The lord of the Jōmon is Sansai Kizuna, a weatherbeaten young man who holds his council out on the sacred waters of Toyama Bay.

Ancestor-worship is prominent among the Jōmon, who rely on their forebears to protect them from unquiet spirits that may cling to the bone finery and tools they bear, as are sacrifices of salt, shell, and sake to the Dragon-Kings for protection from the blustering tantrums of the storm-god Susanō-no-Mikoto. But out on the open sea where the endless water swells and the Dragon-Kings rule the sky and tides grow strange; fell winds howling like spiteful Susanō-no-Mikoto as they drive sheets of blinding rain, dark forms twisting and coiling far below the surface as vast waves like mountains surge and crash.

The Jōmon are sturdily built and of average height, with short wide faces and pronounced brows and noses. Their hair is a deep glossy black that goes a stormy grey as they age, and their eyes are a similar colour to their hair. The same stone-headed spears they use to hunt serve them equally well in times of war, wielded alongside simple clubs and staffs and crude hunting bows and intricate sets of lacquered-wood armour.

Takahi

Living and farming among the rich soils and hot springs of volcanic southern Kyushu, the Takahi would be regarded as suicidal for tempting the wrath of the mountain-gods as they do if it weren’t for the wealth it clearly brings them.  Their lack of reserve and casual disregard for the subtle courtesies of their neighbours have earned them a reputation for peculiarity, though even the rudest and most undisciplined tongue would never repeat such rumours within earshot of the hot-tempered Takahi. The lord of the Takahi is ¬¬Yuushi Hōrōzan, an elderly yamabushi said to spend more time speaking to the spirits of the volcanoes in the wilderness than attending to his subjects.

The tradition of mountain worship is strong among the Takahi, who favour the intemperate gods of the volcanoes and the salamander-spirits of the hot springs to their neighbours’ gods of forest and field and stream. But earth-thunder shakes the slumber of those living in the shadow of the fiery mountains and babies are delivered with charred-black eyes already open. The mountain-gods are vast in their passions and generosity, the peasants whisper, but also in their hunger.

The Takahi are taller and leaner than many of their neighbours, their fingers long and clever and eyes sharp. Their hair is lighter than many of the people of Nihon; dark brown rather than black, and streaks begin to lighten to a shocking white even in their youth. The Takahi are famous for their marksmanship; great archers who favour tall bows along with long knives and sword-spears, eschewing armour for mobility when they can.

Kumaso

The ancient cedar-forests of eastern Kyushu are home to the Kumaso, charcoal-burners and woodsmen who live on the mountain borders of civilization. Viewed as somewhat provincial on the mainland, the Kumaso have grown fierce and wild in order to survive among the wild boar and bears that also inhabit the thick mountain forests. Skilled swimmers, the Kumaso also roam over the thickly-forested islands that lie off Kyushu’s shore, eschewing boats and relying on their famed stamina to make the crossing. The lord of the Kumoso is Gumoro Ranji, a towering woman of  middle-years rumoured to have sent the Emperor, then newly-crowned, the skin of a huge boar she singlehandedly wrestled to an exhausted standstill as a gift.

The art of sumō originated among the Kumaso, whose priests and holy men would wrestle to the death with the messengers of the kami to win the right to cut living wood and set fires in the domain of the forest gods. But the boars and bears who speak for the kami have grown swollen and filled with hateful blood-hunger and a story now rustles through the forest of a shrine, never named, where the priest was torn apart by a bone-white bear twice the height of a man and the shadow of the tangled branches now grows long and heavy and watchful. And on the coast those who keep the islands feel familiar currents run wrong and bold, and dream of something swimming beneath that will not long suffer them to pass.

Axes and great iron-shod clubs are the weapons of choice among the Kumaso, who wrap themselves in thick cured hides when they go to war. They are also great wrestlers, breaking limbs and throwing grown men down from horseback to lie broken and helpless on the ground. The Kumaso are the tallest people of Nihon, their broad shoulders and bulk of muscle and fat only adding to their stature, and grow great shocks of untamed black hair.

Yumishi

Sometimes said by the other peoples of Nihon to be born in the saddle, the Yumishi of Northern Honshu are renowned for their skills at riding and training both horses and red elk and the deadly prowess of their mounted archers. Reclusive and untrusting, the Yumishi stick to the hidden pathways of their forested valleys and avoid leaving their homes save when trade or great necessity forces them to. The lord of the Yumishi is Mirui Yakashi, a young hunter who rides a great red elk, bears the hoof-shaped mark of the elk-gods on her shoulder and is whispered to be possessed by them in battle.

The red elk and horse are the most potent of all animals in the eyes of the Yumishi, their spirits responsible for bridging the enclosed and sacred world of their forests and the wild and treacherous peril of the world beyond. Fierce and war-like, the horse and red elk also possess great healing powers and each year the millet and barley seeds are anointed with their blood before planting to ensure a bountiful harvest.  But the warm blood spilled in spring was sucked up by the hungry earth, seeds left clean and pale as bone, and a strange sickness has begun to afflict the outskirts of the forest as even the oldest and most sacred trees ooze sap stained a deathly black through which maggots and fouler things squirm.

The Yumishi are shorter and slighter than many of their neighbours, making them lithe and agile and an easy burden for a horse or red elk to bear. Their eyes are a deep-grey and their dark hair slowly lightens to pure white as they age. The bow is their preferred weapon, and every Yumishi trains with it from childhood until they become an adult and frequently beyond. The Yumishi are also famous for their straight-edged swords, forged with Tatara iron traded for with the least sacred and well-bred of their horses.

Gomori

Regarded with suspicion and no small amount of fear by their neighbours, the tunnel-dwelling Gomori are unique among their neighbours in tracing descent and inheritance down the female line. Highly accustomed to working with earth and stone, the Gomori are much sought after by all of Nihon for their expertise in excavation and fortification for both residential and military purposes. They dwell beneath the mountains of southern Honshu, basing their settlements in existing cave and tunnel systems and creating hollow mounds of earth to hide the surface entrances. The lord of the Gomori is Kumoshita Tsuchi, a blind old woman known for her bluntness and her remarkable skills at reading people and seeing through deception.

Discomfort and privation are seen as purifying among the Gomori, who are known for meditating for hours under freezing underground waterfalls, depriving themselves of food or sleep for days on end, or willingly rejecting sight or sound for months at a time. This ritual cleansing strips away the contamination of the human world and brings them close again to the earth from which they are made, and opens their hearts to communion with the spirits and gods of the deep dark places. But the comforting rhythm of the stone’s trembling grows fevered and labouring and soft breaths of wind in lightless tunnels stretch out into gusty moan, and those closest to the earth have restless dreams of tossing, and turning, and waking.

Able to rely on slings for their limited hunting and their maze-like and highly defensible tunnels for protection, the Gomori have no need for a sophisticated weapon culture. When necessary they use simple stone-headed axes or clubs which, wielded skilfully, can be just as devastating as more complex or intricate tools of war. Shortest of the peoples of Nihon, the Gomori are squat and slightly hunch-backed due to adaptation to many generations of underground living, and their arms are long and their legs short relative to their overall height. Their dark eyes are large and deepset and their dark hair is thin and wispy when it grows at all.

Tatara

Great town-builders and blacksmiths, the Tatara live and work in large forge-towns encircled by wooden palisades that protect the iron-sand and valuable refined iron and steel within. The Tatara have settled wherever plentiful iron-sand can be found, largely the lowland lakes of central Honshu, and their proximity to the fertile farmlands and central trade-roads of the Yamato of the Imperial Court mean that they are able to trade good iron for most of their other needs. Each Tatara forge-town is largely independent but still defers somewhat to Shibo Sabi, the headwomen of their oldest and largest settlement, an old woman who still retains the strength and skill to practice her craft.

The Tatara have little care or time to give to spirits and gods, regarding them with wariness and suspicion and preferring to avoid them rather than seeking their favour. Their smith-gods and ancestor-spirits are the exception and each summer the lakes near Tatara forge-towns are lit by lanterns welcoming the dead back to be with their families again and spread their skills and knowledge. But as slag and waste is thrown over the walls the lakes and springwater within begin to rise and grow slick and chill and stained with deep and twilight hues. The ironsand dredged up is tarnished and more silt and mud than good metal, mist and a clammy and unseasonal cold cling to the earth and water within the walls, and the dirt that supports the houses and massive foundries of the Tatara slowly turns to mud and is inexorably washed away.

The Tatara wear fine fabrics dyed with complex and colourful designs, imported from the neighbouring Yamato, and intricate steel jewellery is common. They stand taller than any of their neighbours, and their build tends towards a deceptive leanness that disguises their true strength. They prefer well-crafted blades, especially the increasingly popular katana, and have begun experimenting with sulphur and other products from the Takahi to create primitive hand-cannons they call kasou.  

Ainu

Hardened hunters and survivalists from the freezing shores of Hokkaido, the northernmost island of Nihon, the Ainu are held in contempt by the Yamato of the Imperial Court for their primitive and barbarous ways. Among the peoples of Nihon the Ainu are the only ones to have domesticated wolves and trained them to work alongside human masters, and the only ones outside the clandestine Onmitsu clans to learn to derive poison and use it as a weapon. The lord of the Ainu is Eperruy Ekisu, a huntsman of middle-years who wears a cloak of painted eagle-feathers and keeps a great white-furred hound as his constant companion.

The most sacred of all Ainu animal-gods is the great brown bear and in each clan-village one is kept and raised by the chief as his own kin, then sacrificed at a certain age to carry the fears and prayers of the people to the heavens. But the passage of time weighs heavily on the skull-talismans left by past bear-gods, the sacred items cracking and crumbling with every short hour that passes. And as deathly silent snowstorms that blow from the lands of the dead shroud the island and the wise sea-eagles abandon their nests to escape, fevered delusions and madness being to spark among the youths and elders of the clan-villages and threaten to kindle into a wildfire that will engulf the frozen island until no humans are left unscathed.

Spears and bows are favoured weapons among the Ainu, being equally effective for hunting or warfare, and some are known to craft crude armour from the bones of slain prey. Slightly shorter and squatter than their neighbouring peoples the Ainu have thick dark brown or black wavy hair to protect them from the cold, both on their bodies and on their heads. Unusually among the peoples of Nihon, the Ainu can grow long and bushy beards and their eyebrows are thick and bushy over their deep-set eyes.

Yamato

The descendants of Yayoi, Jōmon, Yumishi, and Tatara bloodlines that mixed and mingled over the centuries at the Imperial Court, the Yamato claim the imperial cities both past and present as their domain, along with the fertile mountain basins and plains that feed them. Patrons of the classics and traditional artforms, the manners and customs of the Yamato are a convoluted and labyrinthine maze that few outsiders can navigate with the same refinement and elegance as the members of the Imperial Court. The lord of the Yamato is the ruler of the Imperial Capital and of the land of Nihon, Emperor Saishā himself.

Spirituality is a core concern of the Yamato, with eight thousand priests and monks tending the countless shrines and temples that fill the streets of Heian-Kyō, the Imperial Capital, which also plays host to the court-diviners of the Bureau of Onmyō and the scholars of the Bureau of Folklore. But the divinations of the onmyōji begin to go awry as stars and constellations twist and wheel out of their appointed paths, and spirits of tension and agitation begin to worm their way into the populace as the geomantic alignments upon which the sacred tranquillity of Heian-Kyō rests warp under the pressure of a presence rising from deep within the earth.

Vividly coloured and lavishly embroidered fabrics are common among the fashion of the Yamato, their robes often featuring as many as twelve subtly contrasting and complementary layers. Makeup is also commonly worn by all the members of the Imperial Court, and delicately worked wooden and steel fans are a common accessory. These razor-edged metal fans are commonly carried for personal security by courtiers, as are richly-decorated shortswords in the wakizashi and kodachi styles traded from the neighbouring Tatara.
« Last Edit: October 16, 2014, 02:51:45 AM by HippopotamusDundee » Logged


Gibbering Mouther
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« Reply #4 on: August 20, 2014, 09:37:48 AM »

Out of Character

Added the Yumishi and the Gomori.
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« Reply #5 on: August 24, 2014, 01:29:29 PM »

The Gomori are really great... do they have a mythic/folkloric/historic basis or are they invented?  Either way they're very cool.

What are you going to use to run this come October?  Some variety of D&D or something else?
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« Reply #6 on: August 25, 2014, 03:49:18 AM »

Steerpike

The Gomori are really great... do they have a mythic/folkloric/historic basis or are they invented?  Either way they're very cool.

The Gomori are loosely based off the tsuchigumo, a mythological race of shapeshifting spider-men whose name also gets linked in early feudal primary sources with bandits and rebel clans who rejected Yamato rules. The occasional academic has been known, however, to stick their neck out and suggest the mythic tsuchigumo are a corrupted remembrance of an ancient ethnic minority who lived underground and whose physical characteristics, slight hunchbackedness and/or altered limb proportion, led to their association with spiders.

Steerpike

What are you going to use to run this come October?  Some variety of D&D or something else?

Some kind of a skill-based d20 variant, yeah. I've got a bunch of notes on the drafted 'system' floating around if anyone would be interested to see them. Other main possibility is that I do some kind of an Apocalypse World hack or a reskin of Gumshoe, but that's not as likely.
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Gibbering Mouther
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« Reply #7 on: September 19, 2014, 10:37:57 AM »

Out of Character

Added the Ainu and the Yamato. That's the last of the People of Nihon - next I'll probably be looking at the Imperial Bureau of Folklore, unless anyone is more curious about another area of the setting
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« Reply #8 on: September 19, 2014, 12:06:45 PM »

Both editions are great. Personally, I'm most interested in hearing about the Imperial Court, namely its structure.
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Gibbering Mouther
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« Reply #9 on: September 25, 2014, 09:44:30 AM »

Developer's Notes

As requested by Rose-of-Vellum, some notes on the structure, composition, and nature of the Imperial Court.

The Imperial Court


Bright silk-draped flowers
Dyed garden set wind-dancing
Fair blooms most bitter
Proud chrysanthemum watches
His field envied by Heaven


A flourishing centre of art and learning, the Imperial Court at Heian-Kyō is renowned across the islands of Nihon for its refinement, its culture, and its politely-veiled danger. The artistocracy of the Imperial Capital, composed of the Emperor's extended kin and the seven-score noble clans of the Yamato, dedicate their time to the endless rituals and festivals of the capital's countless sacred sites, the slow perfection of poetry, calligraphy, painting, philosophy, and other arts, and the complex and stylized games of dalliance and marriage that underlay the most innocent of public gestures. But for all the beauty and elegant grace of the Imperial Court there is danger too - each word and act in their maze of manners and customs carries a weight of unspoken symbol and meaning, and a stumble or misjudged step in the wrong company can become a lethal liability in the ruthless political contests that go on behind painted smiles and civilized masks.

Around and through this stately and careful dance move the courtiers of Heian-Kyō: civil servants and scribes representing the various Imperial Bureaus, the eight-thousand priests and monks who organize the ceremonies that shape the day-to-day and yearly life of the Imperial Court, master-craftsmen and guild-heads, expert artists and scholars elevated by their skills beyond their humble birth, family retainers and agents of the aristocrats and nobles of the court proper, and representatives and envoys from the lords of Nihon's peoples and from foreign kingdoms.

The center of life in Heian-Kyō as part of the Imperial Court is the pursuit of beauty, and the ability to appreciate it, in all its forms - from the deadly elegance of a keen sword-cut and the stately drift of falling leaves to the poetic encapsulation of both sound and silence and the sedate pleasure of etiquette and manners and beautifully-worded conversation. Good taste and a cultivated palette for the refined pleasures of court-life are the unspoken currency through which access to social betters can be obtained, favorable opinion and regard won, and influence and power slowly garnered.
« Last Edit: September 27, 2014, 08:28:07 PM by HippopotamusDundee » Logged


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« Reply #10 on: September 27, 2014, 08:23:58 PM »

Developer's Notes

This is the backbone on which a campaign can most easily be built - the characters play representative/s of the Imperial Bureau of Folklore and their allies, and are directly positioned to come into contact with the reawakening primal spirits of Nihon-that-was.

The Imperial Bureau of Folklore


Over two centuries ago the sun-goddess Amaterasu appeared to one of the Emperor’s predecessors at the Imperial Shrine to warn him that great spiritual danger was coming to Nihon, seeping up from the earth and sea to taint his subjects just as slow poison creeps through sluggish veins until it stops a weakened heart. Waking from the dream-trance the that Emperor commanded an endless survey be taken of all the forms of worship and belief that existed in his kingdom and all the maladies, afflictions, and spirit-manifestations that the common people reported to watch for the warning signs of this wakening threat, protect his subjects from it where possible, and burn out every trace of the infection when necessary.

To carry out this nigh-impossible and thankless task the Imperial Bureau of Folklore was formed, staffed with experts from a broad range of fields - priests, monks, historians, visiting alchemists from the West, diviners, the stray yamabushi exorcists who could be lured down from their mountains - whose combined teachings on the diverse spirits of Nihon, named kamishi by the Emperor, became the foundation of the work the Bureau continues to carry out.

Wandering kamishi-scholars tread the backroads and mountain passes of rural Nihon, investigating reports of strange occurences; sages and diviners in a sacred and spiritually-sealed shrine to Amaterasu outside Heian-Kyō map and record the findings of the kamishi-scholars in a great geomantic array that shows the flood of ancient danger that was foretold, no longer a slow creep but an ever-quickening advance; auditors and exorcists respond to cases that are beyond the knowledge and wisdom of the kamishi-scholars and do what they must to safeguard the Birthplace of the Rising Sun.
« Last Edit: October 16, 2014, 04:29:53 AM by HippopotamusDundee » Logged


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« Reply #11 on: October 16, 2014, 07:39:21 AM »

Developer's Notes

More detail to come on each of the Ichiji, order largely dependent upon where people's interest lies. Or if y'all have other elements of the setting you're curious about, speak up and I'll write about that instead/too.

The Ichiji

Ancient and terrible beings from a time before the memory of the peoples of Nihon, the Ichiji are Powers that transcend even the greatest and wisest of kami. Made from the immanent spiritual nature of the most fundamental and enduring concepts or objects, even the human innovations of masks and names through which the kami can relate to mortals are unable to contain the dread and elemental fierceness of their nature.

The Ichiji exist at a level utterly remote from even Amaterasu and the other rules of the kami – their behaviour arises purely from their nature rather than from personality or sentience; they communicate their will by the movements of their part of the world rather than discrete words or thoughts; they exist beyond all but the most primitive desires and motivations: to survive, to consume, and to remake the world so that it is as they remember.

Inchoate and utterly without physical form, the Ichiji suffuse the physical or conceptual landscapes of which they are the concentrated essence and can manifest themselves only through the movement and activity of that landscape. Not only are the Ichiji bodiless, unlike all other kami, but they also almost entirely lack the self-awareness and sentience that characterizes all but the most primitive and lowly of kami. But unlike these lesser spirits that are not even extant enough yet to realize their existence the Ichiji have no need to act or think to embody their nature, they simply are.

  • Yaban, the Beast
  • Umi, the Waves
  • Enkai, the Deep Waters
  • Kazan, the Fire-Under-Earth
  • Tsuchi, the Earth-that-Grows
  • Yama, the Rocky Peaks
  • Kaze, the Winds
  • Yuki, the Cold
  • Fukai, the Depths
  • Mori, the Forests
« Last Edit: October 16, 2014, 07:56:38 AM by HippopotamusDundee » Logged


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« Reply #12 on: June 20, 2015, 08:28:11 AM »

Update!

So the local roleplaying convention has passed, clearing me of the need to prepare my game for that, and my life is slowly getting under control and I've now finally got things organized to run this game at last. The roleplaying society at my university has been more of a Pathfinder society the last few years and a friend of mine in the executive is working to change that - somehow I wound up volunteered and will now be running a Bloody Sun, Shattered Sword campaign on a fortnightly basis once the new semester begins. Which means, among other things, more material to post up here. So without further ado here's some material from the GMing side of things.

Monsters

In Bloody Sun, Shattered Sword a monster is more than simply the flesh and teeth and claws that threaten a Character’s life, or the ancient and terrible kami whose wrath threatens all within their dominion. A monster is in the portents that herald its arrival; in the signs that betray its presence as the land itself groans under its weight; in the maladies and afflictions that befall those who are forced to live in the liminal twilight that surrounds a rupture in their understanding and imagining of the world.

The knowledge of these Omens is damaging: unless they are resolved – through academic understanding, religious teachings, other forms of rationalisation, or actually being addressed – a Character suffers a degradation of their health and sanity simply through becoming aware of a monsters existence. This degradation normally takes the form of a mechanical penalty of some kind, but at the player’s discretion (or if the Omen or monster is particularly awful) may instead inflict a derangement expressed in the form of “you are driven to [specific action/s or train of thought here]”.

Omens come in the three rough flavours described above:
  • Portents that heralded the monster’s arrival and have endured – usually either the aftermath or continuation of environmental effects or the signs of irrational behaviour that was triggered
  • Signs that betray its presence – changes in the Character’s surroundings that somehow indicate directionality or various forms of tracks that they monster has left or that occur just out of sight
  • Maladies and afflictions – strange diseases, aberrations emerging in the social order, the twisting of the psychogeography of local life, terrible thoughts and urges arising in the fertile ground of repressed human dysfunction

Some products of the monster’s twisted psyche may also be found in its lair – scrawled on parchment, carved into stone or wood, twisted out of raw materials into ‘art’ – and have similar effects as Omens should a Character dwell upon them or try to make sense of them.

It is also always the case that the nature of a monster denies logic, denies sense, and denies closure. Through their actions, Characters can gather as much information as they like but will never be provided with explanation that has the GM as its source – they penetrate as deep into the truth of events as they dare, but the only narratives they will find to string the bloody pieces together are those of their own making.

Town Creation

Step 1: Generate 12 factions (ranging in size from individuals to large multigenerational families), one for each Japanese Zodiac with a single word from the traditional characterization of that Zodiac keyed to them (pick unusual/provocative key-words when possible)

Step 2: Choose the following for the town:
  • Goods/Craft (the main income-source/occupation)
  • Specialty (usually linked to Surplus)
  • Surplus (usually linked to Specialty)
  • Want (usually linked to Scarcity)
  • Scarcity (usually linked to Want)
  • Cult (unusual religious feature)
  • Custom (unusual cultural feature – either an exemplified trait of the local tribal culture or an aberrant one)

Step 3: Generate a map by scattering d6s (a number equal to the factions) to determine the layout of houses, assigning one d6/house (or more) to each faction, with larger dice standing in for the common institutions found in a village context:
  • d4 for shrine/temple/sacred site
  • d8 for watchtower/fortification/armory
  • d10 for ryōkan/inn/way-station
  • d12 for granary/storehouse/town-hall
(Note: Read ridiculous amounts of meaning into matching faces, especially between d6s (and their associated factions) and other institutions)

Pitch/Advertising Material

Mythic almost-Japan, 1200 or so. Scholars and exorcists and their retainers wander the backroads and provinces and struggle against monsters and formless horrors.

The island-chain of Nihon has long been thought the Birthplace of the Rising Sun. But now blood stains the shining face of the sun-goddess Amaterasu and the sages and diviners of the Imperial Bureau of Folklore map slow-spreading omens of disaster and doom.
Whispers spread among the Yamato of the Imperial Court as news comes from the tribes that live outside Heian-Kyō’s mighty walls and fields –of ghostly and elemental forces moving out in the provinces, of wild and ancient things stirring in yet-untouched forests and mountains, of rituals and ceremonies turned hollow or wrong and afflictions and spirit-possessions and worse maledictions.
And the peasants of the city begin to whisper that perhaps dusk is falling. That perhaps night has come, at long last, to the Birthplace of the Rising Sun.


A campaign of rural investigative horror, grounded in the history and folklore of Japan and intended to evoke a mood of surreal and creeping dread.
Custom system combining core d20 mechanics and select ideas from Vincent Baker’s Apocalyse World: Dark Ages. Atmospheric and genre-focused game with an emphasis on characterisation and seriousness; PVP and competitive play strongly discouraged. Level of knowledge no barrier: inexperienced players welcome
« Last Edit: June 20, 2015, 08:31:14 AM by HippopotamusDundee » Logged


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« Reply #13 on: June 20, 2015, 09:10:35 AM »

Love the update, particularly the info/mechanics on Omens (and would be enthused to see some sample monster/omens). I really look forward to seeing the system. I'm indifferent on the Town rules; perhaps a sample generated town might elucidate the process, and more importantly, the quality of its output.
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Spawn of Ungoliant
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« Reply #14 on: June 20, 2015, 01:59:21 PM »

The town rules are quite interesting. Did you happen to get the idea of using dice-as-layout-generator from the sublime Last Gasp Grimoire?

What are you planning on running this with? I know you were debating between possibilities before.
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