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Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

FATAL & Friends
Walls of Text
#1 Builder
2014-2018



That said, Ratkin is hugely unbalanced even by oWoD standards. Most notably: nearly everything to do with the Munchmausen.

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Fossilized Rappy
Dec 26, 2012


Selachian posted:

So I take it a lot of the art in this book is swipes/pastiches from original Golden Age comics?



Bieeardo posted:

Mutants and Masterminds has done that a lot.
Yep, it's sort of M&M's "thing" when it comes to art.

Bitchtits McGee
Jul 1, 2011


Tasoth posted:

Ghost Love could be interesting if you changed the requirement to something like having a tea ceremony (since it is Asian) or a dinner for a ghost that reminds them of life for you to gain the effect. It would make exorcist type characters much more interesting at the least.

Actually, there's no mechanical requirement for supernatural sexytimes in Ghost Lover, only the name and a couple lines of fluff. RAW, it's just a secondary character that you can call up for combat advantage. Still, your idea of periodically having to perform some mundane activity as a sort of anchoring ritual sounds really quite cool.

Tasoth posted:

All that other poo poo, I'm actually repulsed that someone spent time thinking it up.

I sometimes find myself trying to imagine the sort of person who'd actually play these things I'm writing about. Occasionally, I'm successful. However, I can't ever seem to imagine their hentai role-playing experience actually being enhanced by stats, rules, and die rolls. There's just no demand for this product that I can see.

Midjack
Dec 24, 2007





Bitchtits McGee posted:

I sometimes find myself trying to imagine the sort of person who'd actually play these things I'm writing about. Occasionally, I'm successful. However, I can't ever seem to imagine their hentai role-playing experience actually being enhanced by stats, rules, and die rolls. There's just no demand for this product that I can see.

I'm sure as long as the rolling leaves one hand free at all times they're happy. :v:

Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

FATAL & Friends
Walls of Text
#1 Builder
2014-2018



oMage: Dragons of the East

Legend has it that Korea was founded by the god Hwang Ung. When a tiger and a bear demanded to become human, Hwang Ung ordered them to purify themselves in a cave for 100 days, eating only the sacred herbs of garlic and mugwort. At the end, only the bear remained, and she bore Hwang Ung a son, Dan Gun Wang Gum. Legend holds that Dan Gun founded the first Korean kingdom, Choson ('the Land of the Morning Calm') in 2333 BC. Archaeologists have found that the tribes of the Korean peninsula began to unite under pressure from Chinese states, and by the 4th century BC, these alliances led to the kingdoms of Puyo and Koguryo, which kept Korea safe from invasion by the Chinese and Manchurians. Eventually, Puyo fell and the survivors founded Pakche in the west. In the east, the kingdom of Silla rose.

At which point the book becomes incomprehensible, because a section from the end has replaced a paragraph of text. Oops!

Back in readability, the Koreans adapted the Tang bureaucracy, but soon devolved to their old borders. In 1200, the Mongol conquerors of China and Manchuria swept in, and the Koryo royal family fled to the island of Kanghwa, becoming replaced by puppet kings. Kublai Khan even used Korea to launch two doomed fleets for Japan. And then we get more replaced text.

Sidebar: Korea has several warrior traditions, including the knighthood of Silla, the hwarang, who mixed Buddhist ethics and absolute loyalty to the crown. Like samurai, the hwarang wielded swords, called gum, which each hwarang personally forged and customized for their own styles. The sulsa, a subset of hwarang, were spies and assassins, said to have supernatural powers taught by Buddhist monks, including telepathy, invisibility and darkvision. Unlike ninja, however, the sulsa were respected members of the warrior class. Lastly, sword dancers used the gum in intricate movements, serving both as entertainers for nobles and discreet bodyguards. Legend has it that a sword dancer once killed an assassin with such grace that no one watching realized it was a duel until the killing blow.

Anyway, in 1592, Toyotomi Hideyoshi of Japan invaded Choson. The Chinese allies and peasant guerillas harassed the Japanese forces, while Choson's navy dominated the sea due to the brilliance of ADmiral Yi Sun-shin. Three years later, Choson repelled another invasion, this time without Chinese aid, and the Tokugawa shogunate established peaceful trade instead. After the Qing dynasty turned Choson into a tributary state, Korea sealed its borders, refusing to be a battleground. However, tribute missions to Beijing introduced them to Western culture, and Catholicism was actually introduced by native scholars rather than missionaries.

An American expedition to Korea was repelled, but Meiji Japan forced Chinese influence out and toppled the Yi government. By 1910, Japan controlled Korea, with many Koreans fleeing to Russia or China, or joining resistance movements. At the end of World War 2, Russian and American occupation arbitrarily divided the country along the 38th parallel, with the northern Choson People's DEmocratic Republic following the Russian communist model and the southern Republic of Korea electing President Lee Seung Man in 1948. In 1950, North Korea invaded the south, and Chinese, Soviet and US armed forces moved to intervene in the war. By the end of the Korean War in 1953, both governments were on the verge of collapse. In 1961, a military coup toppled the elected South Korean government, and after the assassination of President Park Chung Hee in 1979, reformers led to a proliferation of regional parties and a democratic parliament.

In the 90s, tensions rose when North Korea claimed to have tested over 100 nuclear weapons and conducted numerous ballistic tests in South Korean airspace. Meanwhile, South Korea was in the midst of an economic boom rivalling Japan...and as severe a slump when the Asian currencies collapsed. South Korea's economy is now fueled by electronics and automotives, while North Korea remains isolated from the world.



Now, our next chapter! You'd assume it was about wizards, right? Well, no, not really. Chapter two is about religion. See, the spiritual legacy of Asia can be a mage's best friend or worst enemy. Each religion tends to acknowledge the rest, and they can mix very well despite all being complete faiths. Of course, that doesn't mean it's always rose and sunshine - there's been religious conflict, just like everywhere else. Unlike the West, where philosophy and religion are often separate, Asian faiths tend to mix mythology with rigorous examination of the world. While both sorcery and technology stray from orthodox doctrine of any faith, the mages tend to view the beliefs as very useful indeed. On the other hand, the arrogance of mages can often offend the faithful, and True Faith in Asian religions is just as dangerous to a mage as a Christian True Faith.

So, Hinduism! Hinduism comes from India, and its holy books are the Vedas, though Hindus do not view them the same way Christians or Jews might view the Bible or Torah - they are stories and illustrations of the universe, not books to be quoted for rules. Other works, such as the Mahabharata or Upanishads, are also important. Hinduism has spread to Southeast Asia and even the Americas and Europe, but Hindus do not proselytize, so it has few non-Asian adherents. Karma and dharma are the fundamental concerns of Hindu life. Your dharma is your path or duty, which leads to ethical acts and wisdom. An act done out of dharma rather than personal interest is a virtuous deed, though a dharma may contradict wider ethical principles. (For example: the hero Arjuna is reluctant to go to war because it may kill his kin, but the god Krishna assures him that he must fight, for it is his dharma.) Karma, on the other hand, is the consequences for following (or not following) your dharma. When dharma is followed with virtue and diligence, you are assured of rebirth to a higher life. If neglected, you might be reborn in a worse life or even an animal...or even in one of the Hells. Good karma is essential spiritual growth, but it can also be an obstacle to the highest growth, as it distracts you with material concerns. Since many mages have noticed that Avatars come only to humans, study of karma is a popular pastime. Ultimately, the goal of Hinduism is to supercede karma, attaining Moksa (or liberation), freedom from the cycle of birth and death, as the atman (read: self, or soul) achieves unity with God, or the Supreme Truth, or the Brahman, or the world-soul.

Sidebar: Theosophy is a Western tradition that exploited Hindu beliefs. Founded by H. P. Blavatsky and James Olcott in 1875 after they allegedly spent years in Tibet under guidance of "mahatmas", Blavatsky combined European alchemy, Hindu belief and Egyptian snake worship to form a "universal wisdom tradition." Theosophy was a major influence on Western occultism, and in 1878, it moved its headquarters to Madras, India. After Olcott's death, his successor, Annie Besant, groomed Jiddu Krishnamurti to be a messiah, though he eventually renounced the claim and founded his own school. Theosophy draws many of its teachings from Vedanta Hinduism, but distorted and highly prejudicial. Even so, it did inspire the earliest Western scholarship on Hinduism and Buddhism. Supernatural beliefs are important to Theosophy, and Blavatsky was famous in Spiritualist circles as a medium.

There are many gods in Hinduism, but some are more popular than others. Gods are also not discrete - a village god may be an avatar of one or more gods, and the trimurti of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva are often represented as one being with three heads. The Brahmin jati attend to the rituals that honor each god. The Trimurti are most important - Brahma the Creator, Vishnu the Preserver and Shiva the Destroyer, through whom all things pass. Brahma is rarely worshipped directly, and is not to be confused with the world-soul Brahman. Vishnu the Preserver guides Hindus to serve dharma and intercedes to save humanity from flood, wars and falsehood. In this aeon, he has appeared nine times to do so and will appear for a tenth and final time at the end of the world. His incarnations have included the fish that saved Manu, the first man, the hero Rama, the god Krishna and the Buddha. He appears with his consort, Sri, Goddess of Good Fortune, and is seated on the nine-headed serpant Anata (or Infinity). Shiva, the Destroyer, is an ambivalent sort of god, both benevolent and dangerous. He is the passion that can create or destroy, the patron of ascetics and also manifest in Nataraja, Lord of the Dance, and he figures greatly into Tantric rituals. He appears with four arms, one with a drum to create the universe, one a flame to destroy it, one to protect the world and one pointing at his feet, which destroy falsehood. His symbol is the lingam, a symbolic penis. The Trimurti are often shown as one god, covering the Supreme Truth of Liberation, and symbolizing that each is an aspect of the other two. Shiva also creates, Vishnu destroys that which is evil or against the dharma. All three are said to be manifestations of the one supreme God. Forehead markings can show devotion to a particular member of the Trimurti, such as horizontal lines of ash marking a follower of Shiva.

Also important is the Goddess, known by many names and natures. She is Parvati, who tempers Shiva's rage. She is Sakti, the power of Shiva personified. She is Durga, slayer of demons, and Kali, mother who kills her children. Even in her most dread forms, however, the Goddess is respected. Durga is always seen in garlands to celebrate her victory over the buffalo-demon Mahisa, and Kali is honored as that which destroys the weak and flawed. And, well...

quote:

Up until the end of the 18th century, Kali was venerated with ritual strangulation and dismemberment by the Thug cult, but this was as much a form of banditry as true devotion, as many Thugs grew rich off the looted bodies of victims.

Anyway, while Western scholars often treat them as distinct, most Hindus recognize all these as avatars of one Goddess. Lakshmi, Goddess of Learning, is a notable exception who is often worshipped alone and venerated as the inventor of writing. Other gods include elephant-headed Ganesh, the remover of obstacles, who is called on before any major task is begun, or Hanuman the Monkey King, who protects common people. Each community also has its own deity, often identified with a larger god such as Vishnu or Devi, and older Vedic deities like Agni, god of fire, are still respected and worshipped. The book also talks about Hindu yoga, a mental and physical discipline meant to achieve union with a god or the Brahman. In the West, Hatha Yoga (which focuses on perfecting the body) has become very popular. However, 'Yoga' is used to refer to any method to achieve liberation, including Karma Yoga (working to generate good karma in everyday life) and Bhakti Yoga (liberation via religious devotion). Of those methods that require a guru, Jnana and Raja Yoga (disciplines of wisdom and concentration) are also well known but less practiced than Hatha Yoga. Advanced yogin are said to gain supernatural powers, or siddhi, including clairvoyance, knowledge of past lives and colocation. Advanced yoga practitioners are also known to control their autonomic functions, like heart rate and the breathing reflex. Yoga is very popular, almost required, for Hindu mages. Modified forms of Hatha, Jnana or Raja Yoga are common, while the humbler Karma and Bhakti Yoga are often neglected. Siddhi, it is said, are often considered coincidental for yoga wizards.

Sidebar: Hindus and Buddhists both believe that the world has been made and destroyed many times, and each "day" or kalpa, as Brahma reckons it, lasts about 4.3 billion years. After one hundred "years" of kalpas, the world is consumed by Vishnu or Shiva to be made again. Each of the fourteen "hours" (or manavantaras) in a kalpa is divided into 71 maha-yugas, each of which contains four yugas - a golden age, two ages of decline and at last the Kali Yuga, the Age of IRon, when humans have turned away from the dharma and looks to the end of the manavantara, when they are annihilated and remade. Hindu reckoning holds that the Kali Yuga began in 3120 BC. However, Hindus also speak of the final return of Vishnu, and Buddhists of the Maitreya, the next Buddha, who will both reintroduce the dharma in the next age. As the Sixth Age comes, mages are reminded to keep these things in mind.

Next time: Buddhism.

Big Hubris
Mar 8, 2011




Bieeardo posted:

The problem is-- yeah. White Wolf writers are utterly poo poo with subtext. References to important person as a particular splat should have led into the implication that all of them were acting as conspiratorial groups, but the result is almost always more 'This guy is a foozle! Isn't that cool?!' They even parody it with everyone laying claim to Rasputin, and one Changeling book takes it even further by laying claim to living, real-world people.

Awful writers are obsessed with making sure that no question goes unanswered, even if no one's asking. Frex,

Stephenls posted:

In The White Treatise, I came up with the idea of the Eyeless Face as a thing rather than the Lesser and Greater Minions of the Eyeless Face just being disposable constructs created out of nothing by the relevant summoning spells. In Dreams of the First Age I put in a brief mention of the Eyeless Nation occupying the space between the surface of Creation and the Dome of the Heavens during prehistory.

Somewhere else some author specifically called out the Eyeless Face as being, explicitly, the Primordials' guard-dog for Yu-Shan and nothing more.

So, uh....
e::sweatdrop:

Big Hubris fucked around with this message at 06:18 on Apr 15, 2013

That Old Tree
Jun 23, 2012

nah




That wasn't Eric.

citybeatnik
Mar 1, 2013

You Are All
WEIRDOS






Mors Rattus posted:

That said, Ratkin is hugely unbalanced even by oWoD standards. Most notably: nearly everything to do with the Munchmausen.

Ratkin really took the "heavy metal album cover come to life" and turned it up to 11, which is really awesome when it's you and your friends sitting around trying to figure out how to blow up that tenement building so it falls right on top of that OTHER building like the Twitcher -swears- he can make happen while at the same time trying to keep the poor Seer from wigging out AND laughing at the Plague Lord for the Bastet-skin suit he made. It's -terrible- when you try to turn it in to anything else.

Both Ratkin and Bone Gnawers were the only things in Werewolf that clicked with me, and the latter's mostly because they tried so hard in the Revised Tribe book to stop them being the comedy relief while still being weird and funky. When you have the spirit of Elvis teaching you a Gift that makes your foes start square dancing while you're driving a personification of the General Lee in to them off a ramp you're on to something golden.

Bitchtits McGee
Jul 1, 2011



Part 3: The World of Black Tokyo

:neckbeard: Yaaaay, game lore! I love this stuff! :shepicide:

The Amakaze

Your basic Illuminati stand-in: the immortal founders of Japan's zaibatsu, controlling everything from the unearthly pleasures of their vast palatial estates in the Tatakama, only ever setting foot back in the mortal world anymore for the odd board meeting or G8 Summit. Except, of course, immortality has a price, and that price gets steeper every year, so by this point they're really just another layer of stooges between Earth and the Black Else, directing mortal affairs to further the ends of their demonic paymasters. Then it goes on for half-a-dozen paragraphs about how the PCs could find out they've been unwittingly working for the Amakaze all along. You could probably write the whole entry yourself. Pretty standard stuff.

The Ubume Empress

According to a sidebar, the so-called Ubume Empress works for the Amakaze, somehow manipulating the other Ubume into servitude so that they can "spread delicious misery across the human realm"... again, somehow. While her actual purpose and motivation is vague to the point of vapor, the rest of her entry is bizarrely detailed. She answers to the name "Ellen", and her accent seems to be American, but she isn't native to the world of Black Tokyo, having somehow crossed through the Black Else and the Tatakama after her death. She wears tailored business attire, to which the ghosts of hundreds of fetuses cling invisibly, and enchanted veils cover up the fact that she's missing the top of her skull. Why go to the trouble of including all this? Is it based on someone he knows? A friend's self-insert? Petty revenge against an ex-girlfriend who slept around on him? :iiam:

oh, and then there's this thing posted:

The Ubume Empress is also adept at manipulating Japanís minority Christian population to commit horrid atrocities in the name of faith, only realizing too late their actions serve the Black Else.

Fields. :jerkbag:

Amusement Store Tulip - Sapporo, Japan

Nominally, an adult novelty shop. But in the back room, owner Noriko Tennin, self-emancipated Living Toy (new to me, too, but the name seems fairly self-evident) and Innocent (D7ACU: The Innocent, Skortched Urf Studios, 2007, but I ain't buyin' that one), crafts magical artifacts to order. Reasonable prices and good quality, but accordingly, a months-long backlog on orders. She'll even custom-build you a Living Toy bedmate, but only after she's "encountered" you herself and is sure you won't mistreat them.

www.anon-chan.net

yyyyyyyyyyyyyep posted:

A rude and impudent website, a place where calling another anonymous poster a friend of the family-fag is the height of comedy, and the one place on the Net where itís totally possible to innocently stumble across home-made kiddy porn while browsing for anime wallpapers or song torrents.

Right down to a recent spate of 'hacktivism' against the corporations of the Amakaze. Anonymity keeps the fight alive for the most part, but twin webmasters Ryu and Haneda Shirow have their own list of supernatural contacts to call on if the forces of evil get too close for comfort, cough cough plot hook.

Aokigahara Forest



If you're gonna make a game about Japanese ghosts, you've gotta set a space aside for the Sea of Trees. An old growth forest around the base of Mount Fuji, Aokigahara is purportedly the most haunted place in Japan, a reputation due entirely to the indisputably documented fact that it's also the most popular spot in Japan for committing suicide, seeing upwards of 100 every year. Popular opinion puts the root of this in Seichou Matsumoto's 1960 novel Kuroi Jakai, about a young lover who hangs himself from a tree in the forest, but as is the way of these things, stranger theories abound.

In Black Tokyo, the roots of the Universal Tree cross under the soil, making the entire forest a weak spot in the barrier between the True Earth Realm and the Tatakama. Portals constantly open and close at random, Kasha guide the souls of the dead so they cannot return as undead, Futakuchi descend upon sacred groves. And just in case you thought he'd get too solemn or respectful of the site to include some creepy detail, a cave in the heart of the forest contains a sacred steel dildo which Kijimunna use to masturbate themselves to death.

Clovers Academy - Outside Tokyo

An exclusive private school owned and operated by Heaven itself, training the next generation of demon slayers from Grades 7-12. The students are mentioned to be pen pals with the seemingly all-girl Hanging Academy, whatever that is.

Club Ameonna - Tokyo Harbor

A :nws:nyotaimori:nws: club "popular with younger Yakuza and wealthy idiots who get their thrills being seen with Yakuza". Also the location of a permanent portal directly to the Black Else, so make sure you really understand the directions to the restroom when you ask.

Fairy Tale Student's Club - Rappongi, Tokyo

Again, not my typo. A two-bedroom apartment turned party club and crash-pad for young shapeshifters and magic-users, with a loose-knit but internally-loyal membership.

Monsters University - Okinawa

The "run-down inner city" equivalent to the Clovers Academy, MU is a sort of magically-aware juvie hall, where optimistic exorcists send young abominations to learn how to rise above their baser instincts or die trying.

:arghfist::spergin: posted:

Since most of Monsterís University students enjoy watching women die, students of both genders often begin strange, melancholy romances with the girls of the Hanging Academy.

This seems like it might be a good place for Doom, but since I still don't know what the deal is with this Hanging Academy, all that really frustrates me is that these things don't have numbers on the front or something. :reject:

www.omorashi-chase.jp

A popular watersports webcam site, with a magically encrypted Member's Only section selling the stained panties of down-on-their-luck goddesses, as well as an always-busy chat room for Flow Witches and waste-mages.

Sagari Downs - Nagasaki

Lavish and apparently fictional 1/4-mile horse racing track, where many of the jockeys are actually Koropokkuru, which makes a sort of carrot-over-stick sense. Open to the public during the regular racing season, closed off and glamoured during the winter months for "high-stakes and eroticized races" between "Japanís mystic pony-players, animalistic cosplay-mages and the virginal, powerfully built Daughters of Kirin" for the exclusive amusement of richer clientele.

Seamless Sleep Club - Rappongi, Tokyo

Still not my typo. Run by three of the Tannin sisters ('related' to the owner of Amusement Store Tulip and likewise self-emancipated Living Toys), the SSC is a popular maid cafe and "cuddle club", where lonely otaku and salarymen can pay extra to sleep with the staff in the literal sense of just sharing a bed - no intimate contact, both parties' pajamas stay on at all times. Recently gained national notoriety when the Imperial Princess hosted a party there, but not mentioned in the tabloids were the personal bodyguards the owners built for her as a gift.

The Shikome

The extremist side of the Eyrines Sisterhood, the Shikome not only hunt down and kill sexual predators, but go the extra mile to euthanize their victims as well, with the reasoning that while being raped itself is no sin, the lifetime of pain and guilt that often follows only serves to stain their karma, so they're better off re-entering the cycle of rebirth as soon as possible. Yeesh. Not very many of them around, what with both the aforementioned predators and the Eyrines both actively hunting them down.

Vending Machine Girls

Mage-bred sex slaves sold in mystical gashapon machines, "transitory playthings [which] are almost as disposable as a can of soda". FIIIIIIIEEEEEEEELLLLDS!! :doom:

Next time: zombie hobo hordes, auto-groping kimonos, and literal crotch rockets! I can't wait!

Qwo
Sep 27, 2011


This poo poo reminds me of the vile, disgusting, utterly pathetic anime Wicked City. I imagine the game designer is a fan.

Evil Mastermind
Apr 28, 2008



Life, the Mutliverse, and Everything - Let's Read TORG


Part 1: tl;dr

TORG. Man...TORG.

Where to start on this?

TORG was a huge game line in the early to mid 90's, back in the day where boxes sets were still a Thing and
having a ton of supplements was pretty much expected. I've said how it's the epitipe of 90's design both mechanically
and in terms of the metaplot. It's the poster child for setting bloat. It had great ideas handled in a really bad
way. Hell, a large part of the metaplot didn't happen in-game, it happened in a novel trilogy that came out before the game did. It has Jeff Mills, the worst NPC ever.

But I'm getting ahead of myself.

The hardest thing about talking about TORG is that it's a huge, sprawling, heavily entangled mess. It's a mess I love, it's one of my favorite settings ever, but everything in both the crunch and fluff is so heavily intertwined it's ridiculous. TORG is the embodiment of "rules as physics", because the setting has a lot of metaphysics that are modeled in the actual game mechanics.

Dammit, I'm getting ahead of myself again. Hell, I haven't even talked about what the game's about yet. Let's start with the basics.

TORG was first released by West End Games in 1990, and is a multi-genre game about Earth being invaded by alternate realities in an attempt to drain it of "possibility energy", allowing the man who organized the invasion to ascend to godhood.

The core of TORG was a boxed set that came with three books: the core rules, the Worldbook that described all the different realities, a starter adventure, and a deck of cards that were needed to play the game. The TORG line ran for about 5 years, and ended up with 50 books on top of the core set. Over half of them were adventures, which were all tied into the overall metaplot and caused a lot of the problems that arose in the later years of the line.

And that raises another problem: I can't talk too much about the mechanical side of things without giving you folks a base understanding of the setting. So let's start there...

FAIR WARNING: There is a lot of backstory here, and most of it won't make sense until we get to other parts of the system later. Just bear with me.

quote:

Legends. They speak of The Place, in the Time of Nothing. The Void was alone in The Place, possessed by an unending hunger but unable to sate it. Then Eternity entered The Place, full of dreams and possibilities locked within its infinite instant with no method of release. Void and Eternity met, and The Maelstrom was formed.

The Void tasted the essence of Eternity, and it became aware of what it craved. Eternity boiled away into the Void and billions of possibilities were destroyed. Whole galaxies came and went as the Void fed. The Maelstrom endlessly tossed out possibilities that were destroyed in the whirling currents of creation. But, eventually, two possibilities survived.

The Nameless One, a being that took after the Void, was destruction personified. Apeiros, created from realized possibilities, was of Eternity's image. The two waged a war of creation and destruction - Apeiros setting possibilities free, the Nameless One feeding on their power. But as fast as the Nameless One could feed, Apeiros could create. There could be no victor. Then the Nameless One invoked the Void.

With no other course available, Apeiros left The Place. It appealed to Eternity and saw an infinite number of possibilities opened before it. Apeiros took them all, diffusing the possibilities throughout the new place ó throughout the cosmverse.

The Nameless One, now alone in The Place with the Void, vowed to hunt down Apeiros and Eternity, no matter how long it took. It used what limited creative powers it had learned during its war against Apeiros to create the Darkness Devices. Then it sent these items of evil into the cosmverse to perpetuate acts of destruction and capture the dispersed shards of Eternity.

Legends. They tell of the discovery of the first Darkness Device, and how it elevated its possessor to High Lord and then led him to other cosms to destroy and drain possibilities. Thus was born the first of the Possibility Raiders; thus was spoken The Prophecy ó there would arise a High Lord with the knowledge and power to absorb so much energy as to become immortal, all powerful, a god. And this High Lord would be called the Torg!

And thus the multiverse was created.

A central idea of TORG is that the core building block of a reality (or "cosm"), the fundamental unit of energy, is the Possibility. Possibilities are what allow worlds to grow and change, what allow people to find their own destinies and shape the world around them. But every world could also potentially have a Darkness Device: an ancient artifact that could steal possibilities from the world and give them directly to its owner, who would become the High Lord of that world.

One of these High Lords was a figure known only as "The Gaunt Man". He was the High Lord of the world of Orrorsh; an alternate Earth where the Victorian empire controlled a world beset by monsters and horrors out of nightmares. The Gaunt Man's overall goal was to become the Torg, and in pursuing this goal he set out through the multiverse finding other worlds and stripping them of possibilities. Once he had enough possibility energy, we would only need a large amount of physical energy to complete his transformation into the Torg and attain control of the multiverse.

The physical energy would be easy; a large enough act of destruction would take care of that. The hard part was finding enough possibility energy. He could drain worlds as he found them, but that was time consuming even for an immortal like himself.

Then, in his travels, he discovered Earth.

Earth was unique in The Gaunt Man's travels because it was the richest in possibility energy. In fact, it had vastly more possibilities than any other world he'd come across. This one world alone could provide him with the needed energy to become the Torg, but this power was also an incredible disadvantage to him.

Through the use of a Darkness Device it was possible to create "maelstrom bridges" between two realities, allowing High Lords to send invading armies from one reality to another. However, it's a multiversal law that two realities cannot exist in the same place at the same time. When one reality invades another, there is a contest of realities, in which possibility energy surges from the invading cosm, then from the defending cosm, then back to the invading cosm, until one reality is triumphant. High Lords use their Darkness Devices to sustain and absorb the surge from the defending cosm. But because Earth had so much possibility energy, the defensive surge from Earth was too large to be handled by Orrorsh alone. The invasion would be repelled and the bridge destroyed almost as soon as the invasion started.

Unwilling to let such a little thing as certain defeat stop him when he was so close to his goal, The Gaunt Man researched and experiemented for years to come up with a plan: invade Earth with multiple realities at once. In is travels, he had come across other "Possibility Raiders", other High Lords who used their own Darkness Devices to travel to and conquer other worlds.

The problem was determining how many allies he wanted to bring to the invasion. He needed help, true, but he also wanted to ensure he was sharing his power with as few "allies" as possible, as well as making sure they were people he could easily manipulate. At the same time, he needed to have enough realities invade that Earth's reality couldn't effectively push back against all of them at once. He determined that an invasion force of seven realities would be optimum, and set out to gather his invasion force:

  • There was the Gaunt Man himself, High Lord of Orrorsh, the world of Victorian horror.
  • His former chief officer Uthorion. Uthorion was the High Lord of Asyle, the fantasy cosm. Uthorion was possessing the body of the world's queen, Lady Pella Ardinay, and slowly corrupting Aysle itself.
  • Another of the Gaunt Man's former lieutenants, Kranod, was also brought in. Kranod was a "techno-demon" from Tharkold, a harsh world of perpetual war between techno-demons and humans and where magic and high technology were merged.
  • Baruk Kaah, High Lord of the primitive cosm The Living Land, was tapped because his reality was the strongest in spiritual strength out of all the Gaunt Man's options.
  • The Gaunt Man also recruited Pope Jean Malraux I, High Lord of Magna Verita. Pope Marlaux had conquered many realities in the name of God, changing them to dark, medieval worlds like his own where only the Church held sway and science was forbidden. His world was referred to as The False Papacy by the other High Lords, but never to Malraux's face.
  • Next was the costumed madman known only as Dr. Mobius, the insane High Lord of the pulp cosm of Terra and self-proclaimed Pharaoh of the Nile Empire.
  • Lastly, negotiations came to a close with 3327, the CEO of the Kawana Corporation and High Lord of the world known as Marketplace. In this reality, known as Nippon Tech, the laws of profit were are powerful as the laws of physics.

The invasion took years to plan, but the High Lords did much to prepare. They sent advance agents ahead through smaller bridges called "dimthreads" that only needed to exist for moments, and would not cause major disturbances in Earth's reality. These agents were able to keep their home realities around themselves, and subtly prepared Earth for their masters' invasion.

The Gaunt Man led the attack, dropping a maelstrom bridge into Indonesia and bringing with him an army of monsters and horrors. As Orrorsh slowly overwrote Earth's reality in Indonesia, technology started to break down as the rules of a "Victorian" reality too hold and dangerous storms surrounded the islands as Earth's reality fought back against the invading cosm.

To the outside world, all that anyone knew was that Indonesia and the surrounding islands were cut off. Before the world governments could investigate, Baruk Kaah attacked.

Kaah had chosen North America for his invasion; where the Gaunt Man employed subtlety he used brute force. Three bridges dropped from the Living Land: one in New York, one in Sacramento, and one in Fort Providence in Canada. Kaah sent thousands of edeinos down the bridges, lizard-people like himself, as well as other more alien races he'd conquered. As the Living Land's primitive reality overwrote Earth's, thousands upon thousands of Earth's inhabitants were "transformed" to the new cosm, forgetting their old lives and becoming followers of Baruk's Kaah's fanatic religion and worshiping the Goddess Lanala. The Living Land now covered the east and west coasts of the United States.

Canadian and US forces were caught completely unprepared, and the American president and vice-president were in New York when the invasion happened and were presumed dead.

Aysle was the next to invade, dropping several bridges onto England and Scotland, covering both almost entirely with the new reality. The United Kingdom was overrun by vikings, giants, dragons, and wizards and the deterioration of technology in the realm made fighting back almost impossible.

The False Papacy invaded France next, changing the country into a despotic theocracy and dragging the technology and social levels of central Europe down to their level. Pope Malraux did not come to Earth personally to oversee the invasion, a decision that would ultimately change his reality at its most fundamental levels.

Tharkold was to invade Russia next, but it was here that the Possibility Raiders met their first setback.

In order to safely invade another reality, devices called stelae needed to be set up in the reality that was to be invaded. Stelae are set up in threes, forming a triangle. When a bridge was dropped inside this triangle, the stelae would become empowered and created a barrier that served two purposes. First, it created a wall that prevented the invading reality from pushing back directly against the invading realm, allowing the High Lord to establish footholds. Second, the area inside the triangle described by the stelae would transform to the invading reality, taking on that reality's rules. Inhabitants would have their possibility energy striped, and would transform to the new reality. They would forget their old lives, their old world, and would become effective inhabitants of the new reality.

This is why the more "primitive" realities invaded first. As these realities overwrote Earth's, the lower technological levels would cause Earth's technology to stop working. A military assault rifle would not work at all in Asyle, not because it hadn't been invented in that reality yet, but because that reality didn't support that level of technology at all. In extreme cases, the assault rifle might actually physically transform into something appropriate, like a crossbow.

Moments before the Tharkold bridge dropped, a Russian force attached to their psychic research project had discovered the location of one of Tharkold's stelae thanks to the precognitives in the project. The stelae was destroyed, breaking the circuit and allowing Earth's reality to fight back. Not only was the bridge destroyed and the invading force repelled, the resulting surge of Earth's energy ravaged Tharkold itself for years afterward.

The sudden surge of energy from Earth pushed hard against the cosms that had already invaded, and it seemed as if Earth could destroy the invaders as the High Lords hurried to readjust and bolder their holdings to the sudden reversal of fortunes. Four realities were not enough to stand againt Earth's posibilities.

Then the Nile Empire invaded.

Dr. Mobius invaded Egypt, and the Nile Empire quickly spread over norther Africa, turning it into a realm of two-fisted heroes, shadowy villains, ancient magic, and lost treasures. Dr. Mobius expanded recklessly into the deserts, as well as conquering Israel and the Sudan.

Seeing that the High Lords were now capable of winning, 3327 finally dropped hid maelstrom bridge in Japan. Unlike the other High Lords, however, 3327 didn't go in for flashy effects. He dropped his bridge inside a skyscraper his corporation had purchased as part of the attack preparations. All the people of Earth knew was that the Kawana Corporation and its CEO Ryuchi Kanawa (3327 himself) were a new major financial power. The invasion of Japan was so subtle, the Nippon Tech reality so similar to Earth's, that it would be years before anyone even knew Japan had been invaded.

Now six realities invaded Earth, leaving everything in a sort of equilibrium. The Gaunt Man was ready to become Torg when the second major setback occurred.

Every living being in a cosm contains possibility energy. Most only have one possibility, one major change in their lives. These "ords" are the people who become transformed when they enter new realities, and are unable to fight back.

Some, however, are capable of more.

When faced with a true moment of crisis, some people are able to draw more possibilities from their world. They can keep their reality around them in a sort of "bubble", allowing them to accomplish things not possible by the local reality. They can fight the invaders on their own terms.

The High Lords call them "Stormers", based on the storms that are created when two realities clash. The heroes prefer to call themselves "Storm Knights".

The large amount of possibility energy on Earth created an inordinate amount of Storm Knights. In addition, Storm Knights from the invading realities joined the fight, trying to stop the High Lords from destroying Earth as they had so many worlds before.

One group of Knights managed to face two of the High Lords directly. As Pope Malraux descended his maelstrom bridge into France, he was confronted by a survivor of a cyberpunk reality. As she fought him, she managed to use a device called a "data plate" to show Malraux her destroyed high-tech reality. Malraux saw this as a vision from God Himself, and the vision actually altered his personal reality. When he arrived in France, he used his Darkness Device to alter his home cosm's technology levels, bringing it from the printing press to cybernetics in a matter of weeks. He declared that cybernetics were the body of Christ, and that the internet was the realm of God. He was physically transformed as well, half of his body replaced with cybernetics. He declared himself the Cyberpope, and his realm was transformed into the Cyberpapacy.

The Knights then fought Uthorion, driving him from Lady Ardinay's body and leaving Aysle without a High Lord. Although Lady Ardinay is on the side of good and has allied with Earth, the Darkness Device still whispers to her, tempting her with the power to "fix" everything.

It wasn't long before the Storm Knights confronted the Gaunt Man himself. The Gaunt Man is an ancient foe, unable to be killed by normal means. Instead, the Knights used an artifact called The Heart of Coyote to trap him in a pocket dimension, caught in an endless cycle of creation and destruction.

Which brings us to the Near Now. With the Gaunt Man gone, the remaining High Lords scramble for territory and power in an attempt to become the Torg. The American government is in disarray, with a temporary government being set up in Dallas. America has lost its ability to be a major financial and technological world power, leaving Japan to pick up the slack, nobody knowing that the now-largest finacial power is run by a Possibility Raider. Dr. Mobius continues to expand, threatening Iran and Saudi Arabia with bizzare creations of weird science. Berlin finds itself a major world player as Germany is the only thing standing between Russia and the Cyberpapacy.

This is the world of Core Earth. And it is in need of heroes.

---

Okay. You see that huge chunk of text I just wrote?

That's 2,200 words. And that's the setup for the setting, and the minimum you need to know about what's going on so the rest of what I'm going to tell you makes sense. And that's all stuff that happened in the novel trilogy before the "game" actually starts. Technically speaking the box set takes place about three months after the end of the third novel.

I haven't even touched on how possibility energy works. Or world laws. Or axioms. Or disconnecting and reconnecting. Or the everlaws. Or eternity shards. Or Towlyn of House Tankred. Or the Signal Fire. Or the logarithmic scale. Or glass ninjas.

Yeah. 90's design.


NEXT TIME: We actually crack open the rulebook!

Evil Mastermind fucked around with this message at 17:17 on Apr 15, 2013

Bitchtits McGee
Jul 1, 2011


Qwo posted:

This poo poo reminds me of the vile, disgusting, utterly pathetic anime Wicked City. I imagine the game designer is a fan.

Listed under "Inspirations" at the back of the core book, right after Urotsukidoji.


I always saw these books around the local gaming shop growing up, but never knew a thing about them until now.

I love it already. :allears:

dwarf74
Sep 2, 2012






Buglord

Evil Mastermind posted:

That's 2,200 words. And that's the setup for the setting, and the minimum you need to know about what's going on so the rest of what I'm going to tell you makes sense. And that's all stuff that happened in the novel trilogy before the "game" actually starts. Technically speaking the box set takes place about three months after the end of the third novel.
I will be reading this avidly. I loved the crap out of TORG when it came out, and still have the sourcebooks in my basement. The red/blue d20 is still in my dice bag, too. (And I think the novels, I have on a shelf somewhere...) Reading your synopsis reminded me of how goddamned cool the whole setting is.

Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

FATAL & Friends
Walls of Text
#1 Builder
2014-2018



oMage: Dragons of the East

Buddhism! In around 500 BC, the Hindu concepts of the soul, karma and dharma were radically reexamined by Siddhartha Gautama. He was a part of the Sakya clan of kshatriya, a prince in a happy, contented marriage. However, he encountered suffering, old age and death among the royalty, and he abandoned his life for one of yogic discipline and extreme asceticism. However, despite reaching the highest echelons of asceticism, he was not satisfied. He fasted until he was essentially a skeleton, then sought the Middle Way of discipline and care for the body, resting under a fig tree. There, he was tempted by Mara, the Evil One, who sent his daughters, the personifications of worldly desire, to distract him. Siddhartha ignored them, then banished the demon Mara and recalled all of his past lives, learning the true nature of karma and dharma and realizing the Four Noble Truths. He became the Buddha, the Awakened One.

For a time, the Buddha considered keeping his enlightenment secret, but his compassion forced him to share it. His first disciples were companions of his ascetic days, and they became arhats, enlightened hermits. Buddhists also say that the historical Buddha, Sakyamuni ('sage of the Sakya clan'), was only one of many Buddhas of the past and future, who have and will guide humanity to enlightenment. Potential Buddhas, called bodhisattvas, compassionately guide all people with a perfect knowledge of dharma. Buddhism is done throughout Asia, spread via nonviolent proselytizing and willingness to incorporate local traditions. Bitter feuds, of course, and even outright war in Japan have happened between rival sects, but modern Buddhism is very ecumenical. Ironically, Buddhism is fairly rare in its birthplace of India.

Sidebar: Early Buddhism was ambivalent about whether gods existed, and Buddha preached salvation without reliance on faith. Buddhas and bodhisattvas are not gods, just enlightened beings to be emulated, but the Hindu gods were always honored, and Buddhism has also adopted local gods wherever it spread. Buddhist clergy rarely perform weddings or coming of age ceremonies, which fall under local gods most of the time, but do perform funerals, as they are an important step on the road to nirvana. Vajrayana Buddhists use the Bardo Thodol, the Tibetan Book of the Dead, to guide the dead towards Buddha nature, or at least a good human birth. Buddhists differentiate between worldly spirits and emanations of the Buddha. Spirits are gods, ghosts or nature spirits who have power but lack wisdom, while Buddha's emanations are those spirits or gods that represent the Buddha in different cultures. Japanese Buddhists often revere the kami as buddhas, while others revere the Buddhas as kami. Worldly spirits are often converted to Buddhism and guard Buddhist temples. And, of course, there's not always an obvious line. The current Dalai Lama has forbidden worship of the spirit Dorje Shugden, but Shugden's advocates claim it is a manifestation of a bodhisattva, while the Dalai Lama maintains it is a mere worldly spirit that has tried to harm his past incarnations. This has led to a split between the Gelgupa school and Shugden's followers, which has occasionally become violent.

Buddhists revere the Three Jewels: the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha. The Buddha is revered for setting an example of how to live a good and holy life - both his final life and his past lives show how to be righteous and how to save others. The Dharma has a different meaning in Buddhism, referring to a definitive truth about the cosmos. At its core are the Four Noble Truths. First, suffering (dhukkha) is inevitable, and everyone will experience it. Second, the origin of suffering is desire (tanha). People desire what they do not have or are disappointed when they achieve it or lose it. Tanha is about unrealistic desire for a permanent self, immune to the changes of the world. Third, suffering can be cured if desire is defeated. This is not done by ascetic discipline, but by following the Middle Way, which rejects extremes of desire and self-denial. Fourth, the cure to suffering is the Eightfold Path of right view, right thought, right effort, right speech, right conduct, right livelihood, right mindfulness and right meditation. By practicing all of these, desire and suffering are conquered and you set on the road to Nirvana.

Part of the dharma is about the nature of reality. Sunyata is the condition of impermanence - all things are dynamic, changing processes, not static entities. What is one moment will be different or gone the next. Thus, nothing has intrinsic existence. Anatta explains how things can exist despite this - the doctrine of no-self. There is no core to who you are, just a set of functional states, skhandas, which provide the illusion of self. By realizing there is no self or soul to be concerned with, you learn that selfishness is a lie, for the self does not exist. Karma and rebirth are modified - Buddhist karma refers only to mental events that cause pleasure, pain and attachment. Rebirth is the duplication of an old personality in a new body.

The Sangha is the Buddhist monastic order, or more loosely the Buddhist community. Ultimately, it is divided into four partS: those who have begun to practice, those who are sufficiently advanced to be reborn only once, those on their last life before Nirvana and those who have become arhats. Monks and nuns (or bhiksu and bhiksunis) have different vows based on sect and region. A Sri Lankan Theravadan monk is in theory celibate, vegetarian and owns only three robes, while a Japanese Zen monk can marry and eat meat. All Buddhists, however, try to follow the Five Precepts: no killing, stealing, sexual misconduct, lying or intoxication.

The Theravada ("School of the Elders") tradition was formalized to heal early schisms in Buddhism, with the monks Ananda and Upali reciting the Buddha's words, making a common canon called the Tripitaka, or Three Baskets. It laid the groundwork for a set of common teachings emphasizing monastic poverty and nonviolence. Theravada is a conservative tradition that holds the arhat as the supreme example of Buddhist virtue. The arhat has no material desires or attachments, completing the journey to nirvana. Theravadan Buddhism is quite strict, maintaining vows of poverty, vegetarianism, nonviolence and other similar requirements. It is dominant in Sri Lanka and Southeast Asia.

Sidebar: Both Vajrayana Buddhism and Hinduism have Tantric traditions. Tantra uses sexual desire to induce spiritual awakening. It is a form of yoga in which the practitioners see themselves as divine figures whose union transcends lust, conquering it as an attachment. Hindu Tantra is designed to raise SAkti, the power of the Goddess. The Kundalini "serpent" of Sakti rises through the spine, activating the chakras and granting ecstatic awakening. Buddhist Tantra initiates disciples into a holy family, with sexual union representing the merging of male wisdom and female compassion. There is right hand Tantra, with symbolic sex, and left hand Tantra, with actual sex. Many practitioners of the left hand Tantra consciously break taboos (such as eating meat or drinking alcohol), reasoning that such barriers form a material attachment as much as indulging them would. As a religion, most Tantra is right-hand at present. Vajrayana is sometimes called Tantric Buddhism, but Tantra is now normally used to refer to a specific practice, not a sect. Most Tantra and especially left hand Tantra is an esoteric practice, and while many books exist on the subject, few people actually belong to any of the older Tantric lines.

In the fourth century AD, several Buddhist schools began to emphasize the bodhisattva as a role model. Since bodhisattvas forgo Nirvana until all people are enlightened, they have the power to relieve mortals of their karmic stains, allowing them to be reborn in paradise. By following their example and taking the Bodhisattva Vow, these Mahayana Buddhists ("Great Vehicle") can join them. An offshoot, Pure Land, venerates the Buddha Amitabha (or in Japanese, Amida) whose vow is that anyone who sincerely calls on him will be reborn in his Western Paradise, regardless of karma. Zen, a Japanese Mahayana sect, traces its roots to the Shaolin Temple of China, where the Indian patriarch Bodhidharma taught that all people were potential Buddhas that had only to recall their innermost nature. This Ch'an ('meditation') teaching was imported to Japan, where the sudden path to enlightenment was emphasized. Koans, poetry and even violence are tools used by the Zen roshi, masters, to shock students into their original buddha-selves.

Vajrayana ('Diamond Thunderbolt Vehicle') is a magical form of Buddhism, and has contributed more than any other to the paradigm of Asian magic. It is called the Third Turning of the Wheel, and sees itself as the pinnacle of Buddhist practice. After studying both Theravada and Mahayana, a chela ('disciple') is expected to learn meditation, mantras, mudras and mandalas, as well as invocation of spirits and gods. Vajrayana's knowledge is often taught in secret, with texts being deliberately incomplete or misleading, to preserve the oral tradition of guru and chela. Vajrayana was practiced throughout the Buddhist world, and ruined temples in the shape of sacred mandalas can still be seen in parts of Southeast Asia. In modern times, Japan, China and Tibet have active Vajrayana Sangha, and Tibet's traditions are most well-known today, particular the Gelgupa School of the Dalai Lama. To his followers, he is a bodhisattva undergoing constant mortal rebirth to aid his people.

Confucianism! K'ung-fu Tzu, a minor advisor in one of the states of Lu, described a theory of ethical conduct and harmonious social behavior. His teachings emphasized a return to ancestral rites, reciprocal kindness and respect for hierarchy and authority. He advised people to follow the will of Heaven, not with empty ritual but with sincere effort. Known as Confucianism in the West, as his LAtinized name was Confucius, it is usually called the Scholar's Doctrine in Asia. The essential texts are the Analects, Great Learning and the Doctrine of the Mean, as well as the Book of Mencius (or Meng-tzu), the greatest Confucian scholar after Master K'ung himself. The Master regarded the I Ching and the Annals of the Spring and Autumn Period as the guides for tradition and ritual. However, the origin and content of the earlier works are unknown, and the Book of Music was lost in the Burning of Books by Qin Shihuang. Still, much remains for Confucian scholars to study. Confucianism created much of the social structure in China, Japan and Korea, and has had influence in all of Asia. The values of family harmony and scholarship are strong, even in modern China, which has actively tried to eradicate it.

Jen and Li are two of Confucianism's most important principles. The Analects state that you must never do to others what you would not want done to you. This is the essence of Jen, the natural state of human beings, who wish to help others. Li is formal kindness and politeness, essentially a noblesse oblige by which superior people must display it to others to put them at ease. They possess Li, performing ceremonies with correct form and meaning. Formerly, Li was believed beyond the grasp of common people, but COnfucianism asserts that Li can be cultivated by anyone. Jen and Li must be administrated properly to promote peace and wise leadership. The Five Relationships (ruler/minster, father/son, husband/wife, elder brother/younger brother and friend/friend) direct the virtuesa, and ultimately the ideal is derived from the patriarchal family, so a minister's duty to a ruler is similar to a son's duty to a father. The father is head of the family as the king is head of the state, with each responsible for rituals to ensure the success of their charges. An effective ruler begins with his own family, exercising Jen and Li in his household. He treats the state like a family to be compassionately governed, but still assumes the role of subject or child in rituals to honor the ancestors or gods. To truly act as a child of Heaven is important, as rulers are subject to the Mandate of Heaven, just as subjects are to ministers' decrees. Mencius warns that foolish or despotic ruler loses the Mandate, and the common people gain a right to rebel against them.

Sidebar: Moism! Mo-tzu was a Confucian who came to oppose his teacher. He promoted the idea of Heaven as Supreme Being, with many ghostly or spiritual servants. He was a militant pacifist, going as far as to learn military strategy in order to prevent wars. He garrisoned the state of Sung with his followers to force invaders from Ch'u to abandon their plans. He spoke at odds with tradition, favoring universal equal love to patriachal Jen. His doctrine was eventually overtaken by Confucianism, largely because his zeal and unorthodoxy earned him few favors, especially as he scandalized his contemporaries by rejecting ritual when it interfered with equal love. His disciples were perhaps his greatest legacy - wandering soldiers of peace. Moism is generally viewed as a dead faith, but is followed by the Li-Hai of the Akashic Brotherhood, who combine magic with formidable fighting skills, intervening at times to disarm both sides of a conflict and ordering them to stop fighting. Usually this only works when both sides team up to destroy the Moists, ut occasionally a wizard is both clever and powerful enough to make it actually work.

The Book of Rites lays out instructions for how to venerate the gods and ancestors in Confucianism. While they existed before Master K'ung, he considered them an important part of a good and ordered life. They maintain the principles of filial piety and acknowledge wise leadership, as when an honest magistrate, wise scholar or brave hero is offered sacrifices at a temple. An offering should be given to the ancestors at a marriage, funeral or important household decision. Among Asian wizards, ancestor worship is basically second nature. A Wu Lung mage might not even distinguish between magical and ceremonial offerings. Few Asian mages ignore their ancestors - even the Stone People know that Heaven watches them intently and will punish them for impiety. However, one of the few exceptions to this ritual focus is Confucianism's rejection of human sacrifice, including the burial of living or even symbolic concubines and servants. Such practices, Master K'ung said, were wrong because they violated Jen.

Confucian belief claims humans have a dual soul. The lower, or animal soul is called P'o, and descends to the earth with the body, becoming kuei (a ghost), while the intellectual half of the soul, Hun, rises to heaven and becomes a celestial spirit, shien. These beliefs are very popular with Chinese Chi'n Ta. Rituals contacting heavenly and ancestral shen exist, but must be done with proper piety, or they are worse than useless. Neo-Confucians later applied the Master's principles of social harmony to self-cultivation. The T'ai Chi, or Absolute, is the highest state of Li, humanity's natural state, but exposure to worldly Chi and the processes of Yin, Yang and the Taoist elements degrades that nature. Thus, human beings need self-discipline and commitment to justice and orthodoxy to reattain it. The metaphysics of Neo-Confucianism added a rigidity and strict hierarchy to Confucianism that was not originally a feature but suited societies like feudal Japan, where it enforced distinctions between, say, samurai and peasant or man and woman.

Sidebar: Legalism is the exception to Asian beliefs straddling philosophy and religion. It has no religious claims at all and is more Machiavelli than Confucius. The basic precept is that the ruler's ambitions are above all ethical concerns. Laws exist merely to exercise power and must be created, used and abused to serve that power. The ruler should have no friends, even among family - they are all potential enemies. REwards and punishments determine loyalty, and disobedience must be punished harshly for even minor infractions to deter rebellion. Legalist works are usually guidebooks to leadership, most famously one by Prince Han Fei Tzu from around 200 BC, which says a ruler must not let private affairs interfere with statecraft. All agreements, even between close friends, should be formalized under law. An ideal prince has no desires beyond preservation and exercise of raw power. Lust, vanity and friendship are weaknesses to be exploited. One sect of the Akashic Brotherhood, the Shi-Ren, combines Legalist doctrine with the Brotherhood's tenets, preaching a duty that applies to both spirits and wizards. LEgalism's materialism and despotism also make it common among the Wu Lung and the Five MEtal Dragons. The Dragon Emperor Wizard has banned the magical use of Legalist doctrine, but many Wu Lung study it to better understand both their foes and superiors.

Yeah, eventually this book is gonna talk about the motherfucking Dragon Emperor Wizard.

Next time: Not that.

Mors Rattus fucked around with this message at 23:05 on Apr 15, 2013

Young Freud
Nov 25, 2006



Evil Mastermind posted:

Life, the Mutliverse, and Everything - Let's Read TORG


I'm a little disappointed you didn't go for the more evocative tag line: "The storm has a name..."

Fossilized Rappy
Dec 26, 2012


Bitchtits McGee posted:

Innocent (D7ACU: The Innocent, Skortched Urf Studios, 2007, but I ain't buyin' that one)
I can help you with that one. Some of Fields' ouvre was in the care package of RPG books you got (along with far better ones such as Frost and Fur) when you donated to the RPG Gamers for Fukushima charity back in 2011.

The Innocent is an advanced class (a 10-level prestige class in D&D terms) said to be the result of children that are whimsically touched by fey, elves, or kitsunes. The character is basically an adult-child that can change their age category at will and learns such class features as magic that cannot be used to kill unless you spend an action point, a de-aging touch attack, and the crafting of clockwork soldiers.

In the hands of someone actually not insane, the idea of a trickster figure coming from a "forever young" idealist could be interesting, but this is Fields.

Evil Mastermind
Apr 28, 2008



Young Freud posted:

I'm a little disappointed you didn't go for the more evocative tag line: "The storm has a name..."

Yeah, I realized after I was finished that I should have used more of the game's catchphrases. That will be fixed in future posts.

Bieeanshee
Aug 21, 2000

Not keen on keening.




Grimey Drawer

The ad campaign for TORG was clever, full-page pictures of a brick wall with eerie light leaking through the mortar, with a cryptic quote and the WEG logo at the bottom, spaced out over a period of months. By the time they got to 'The storm has a name...' I was hooked.

...but nobody in my loving city carried the drat game.

Tasoth
Dec 12, 2011


I have this feeling that if you welded Torg's setting to Fate, you'd get a pretty sweet game to run.

And thanks to Dragons of the East, I now know where Kindred of the East's use of Hun and P'o comes from.

Evil Mastermind
Apr 28, 2008



Tasoth posted:

I have this feeling that if you welded Torg's setting to Fate, you'd get a pretty sweet game to run.

I've actually been noodling around with a Fate Core conversion, but I haven't gotten too far into it yet.

Cooked Auto
Aug 4, 2007

If you will not serve in combat, you will serve on the firing line!




Evil Mastermind posted:

Life, the Mutliverse, and Everything - Let's Read TORG


And once again Scandinavia is left out.
I'm just gonna believe that their Viking spirit makes them resistant and helping them fight back.

Evil Mastermind
Apr 28, 2008



Cooked Auto posted:

And once again Scandinavia is left out.
I'm just gonna believe that their Viking spirit makes them resistant and helping them fight back.

Actually, Aysle did indeed expand over Finland, Sweden, and Norway before Uthorion was ousted. They even dropped a bridge in Finland.

And yes, many people did get transformed into vikings. :black101:

Diskhotep
Jan 4, 2008



Cooked Auto posted:

And once again Scandinavia is left out.
I'm just gonna believe that their Viking spirit makes them resistant and helping them fight back.

I'm sure Evil Mastermind will post the realm maps when he covers them, but you'll be glad to know that Scandinavia is now part of the realm of Aysle. Unfortunately, most of the transformed Scandinavians joined up with Thorfinn Bjanni's Ayslish Vikings, but there are still plenty of Viking Storm Knights willing to aid in Lady Ardinay's fight to return Aysle to the side of Light.

edit: beaten!

mllaneza
Apr 28, 2007


Veteran, Bermuda Triangle Expeditionary Force, 1993-1952





Cooked Auto posted:

And once again Scandinavia is left out.
I'm just gonna believe that their Viking spirit makes them resistant and helping them fight back.

It's going to be a long time before anyone invades Finland again.

Halloween Jack
Sep 11, 2003

Let your word be "Yes, Yes" or "No, No"; anything more than this comes from the evil one.

mllaneza posted:

It's going to be a long time before anyone invades Finland again.

Finland doesn't need an army of berserkers, just a platoon of Simo Hayhas.

Humbug Scoolbus
Apr 25, 2008

The scarlet letter was her passport into regions where other women dared not tread. Shame, Despair, Solitude! These had been her teachers, stern and wild ones, and they had made her strong, but taught her much amiss.


Clapping Larry

Hey mll! Want me to start running TORG on Saturdays? :getin:

I love TORG and was getting ready to do an F&F before I was beaten like a craven dog...I have all the books and was at the GENCON where it was released. West End Games had a huge booth that year and there were lines or game nerds stretching around the main hall in Milwaukee wanting to get their hands on a copy of this wild rear end game. TSR's booth looked empty in comparison.

Evil Mastermind
Apr 28, 2008



Humbug Scoolbus posted:

Hey mll! Want me to start running TORG on Saturdays? :getin:

I love TORG and was getting ready to do an F&F before I was beaten like a craven dog...I have all the books and was at the GENCON where it was released. West End Games had a huge booth that year and there were lines or game nerds stretching around the main hall in Milwaukee wanting to get their hands on a copy of this wild rear end game. TSR's booth looked empty in comparison.

Sorry, man. I needed to get back into reviewing after a long pause, plus I had to justify buying all the setting books in the past two weeks. :shobon:

Humbug Scoolbus
Apr 25, 2008

The scarlet letter was her passport into regions where other women dared not tread. Shame, Despair, Solitude! These had been her teachers, stern and wild ones, and they had made her strong, but taught her much amiss.


Clapping Larry

Evil Mastermind posted:

Sorry, man. I needed to get back into reviewing after a long pause, plus I had to justify buying all the setting books in the past two weeks. :shobon:

That's cool. I can cover any stuff you don't have though.

dwarf74
Sep 2, 2012






Buglord

Humbug Scoolbus posted:

That's cool. I can cover any stuff you don't have though.
I repeat - the spell creation system from Aysle must be covered. It's epic.

Evil Mastermind
Apr 28, 2008



Oh, I'm gonna cover spell creation, don't you worry about that. If I'm feeling brave I might even try to make a spell!

I'm pretty much planning on doing all the cosm books, then finish up with War's End. I wasn't planning on covering the adventures because for the most part they're pretty bad.

Humbug Scoolbus
Apr 25, 2008

The scarlet letter was her passport into regions where other women dared not tread. Shame, Despair, Solitude! These had been her teachers, stern and wild ones, and they had made her strong, but taught her much amiss.


Clapping Larry

You had better cover High Lord of Earth :colbert:

Young Freud
Nov 25, 2006



Humbug Scoolbus posted:

You had better cover High Lord of Earth :colbert:

The Delphi Council probably needs to be mentioned, since it's the Core Earth splatbook.

dwarf74
Sep 2, 2012






Buglord

Evil Mastermind posted:

Oh, I'm gonna cover spell creation, don't you worry about that. If I'm feeling brave I might even try to make a spell!
I would never, ever suggest you actually try to make a spell. I'm not cruel.

20 years later, and that's still the one of the :catstare:est things I've seen in an RPG book.

Young Freud
Nov 25, 2006



dwarf74 posted:

I would never, ever suggest you actually try to make a spell. I'm not cruel.

20 years later, and that's still the one of the :catstare:est things I've seen in an RPG book.

I'm fairly certain that they reprinted a version of those rules in the D6 Adventure, WEG's last gasp at the Open Gaming License market, so it's likely those rules survived not only the end of the line that spawned them but the company itself, since the OpenD6 are now widely available.

Amechra
Sep 9, 2012


Young Freud posted:

I'm fairly certain that they reprinted a version of those rules in the D6 Adventure, WEG's last gasp at the Open Gaming License market, so it's likely those rules survived not only the end of the line that spawned them but the company itself, since the OpenD6 are now widely available.

Yep, they did. You can find 'em in the D6 Fantasy and D6 Adventure pdfs.

Humbug Scoolbus
Apr 25, 2008

The scarlet letter was her passport into regions where other women dared not tread. Shame, Despair, Solitude! These had been her teachers, stern and wild ones, and they had made her strong, but taught her much amiss.


Clapping Larry

Building Weird Science Gimmicks is easier even...Doctor Mobius is not amused.

Halloween Jack
Sep 11, 2003

Let your word be "Yes, Yes" or "No, No"; anything more than this comes from the evil one.

Are TORG's rules for creating spells and such the same as the Masterbook rules for creating your own "SFX?" Because drat that poo poo is a pain.

unseenlibrarian
Jun 4, 2012

There's only one thing in the mountains that leaves a track like this. The creature of legend that roams the Timberline. My people named him Sasquatch. You call him... Bigfoot.

Halloween Jack posted:

Are TORG's rules for creating spells and such the same as the Masterbook rules for creating your own "SFX?" Because drat that poo poo is a pain.


No, no. They're not that bad.


They are WORSE.

(The Masterbook version is really vastly streamlined, especially from the 'advanced' version in the big TORG spellbook supplement.)

Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

FATAL & Friends
Walls of Text
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oMage: Dragons of the East

Let's talk Taoism. Little is actually known about Lao-tzu, the founder of Taoism. He left the Tao Te Ching with a border guard and headed west on the back of an ox, never to be seen again. The Tao Te Ching has two sections. The first talks about the idea of the Tao, the unchanging and ultimate principle of the universe, which is the source of all things. Its guiding principle is wu-wei, non-action, which means to act with just enough energy or passivity to allow the Tao to manifest without any problems. The second section is devoted to Te, the way the Tao is wielded in human affairs. The Tao Te Ching recommends rejecting tradition when it is burdensome and favors a decentralized government in which the sage-king of a state applies the principle of wu-wei to local affairs, preventing too much or too little ambition from causing problems. Eventually, the ideas of the Tao Te Ching split into philosophical and religious divisions. Lao-tzu and Chaung-tzu's writings were central inspirations for philosophical Taoism, and religious Taoism mixes Chinese folk religion and Taoist mysticism into a complex whole that is concerned with immortality and the Way of Heaven.

Chaung-tzu laid the groundwork for philosophical Taoism. He was a mystic thinker who emphasized unity with the Tao. By letting go of tradition and prejudice, a disciple could attain freedom from emotional turmoil and bondage to the cycle of life and death. They mystic rejects all distinctions between things and people, opening themself to the Tao. Philosophical Taoism became a protest against Confucian values, and in the middle of the 3rd century, a group called the Seven Worthies of the Bamboo Grove oppoesed the intellectual establishment and lived hedonistic, eccentric lives. Similar to the 1960s counterculture, they practiced enjoyment for its own sake, with much drinking, singing and poetry. Juan Chi shared wine with his pigs, and when people asking Liu Ling why he wore no clothes, he said since Heaven and earth were roof and floor enough, his house would be his clothing. (And then he asked them to leave his pants.) Taoist philosophy encourages spontaneity, and philosophical Taoists influenced Chinese poetry heavily. Their appreciation for simple yet startling manifestations of nature also influenced Chinese art and Japanese Zen gardens.

Sidebar: Religious Taoism makes very little distinction between priests and sorcerers. Both do similar rituals in similar costumes and may even work together some times. A priest is, in some sense, a general practitioner, and a sorcerer is a specialist. Much of this is due to the origin or religious Taoism under the Han, which was heavily infiltrated (even, some might say, controlled) by the Wu Lung. Yin, Yang and the five elements were rigorously used in their magic and proto-science, and they wanted their discoveries to be accepted by the people. Taoism, a perfect blend of rational and mystical, was an ideal addition to their paradigm. They took pains to de-emphasize the second part of the Tao Te Ching, of course, which called for political and social change - peasants could hardly manage their own affairs, after all. And so they felt they had the faith well in hand. As a result, they were utterly confounded by the first Celestial Master, Chang Tao-ling, whose followers included several powerful wizards. He was untouchable by magic, and many Wu Lung felt his stated mission of destruction of demons was a veiled reference to, well, them. After many failed attempts, the Wu Lung gave up on the Celestial Masters and just quietly accepted Taoist sorcerers. The Taoist practices have left a huge influence on them. The Akashic Brotherhood has also enlisted Taoist wizards and beliefs, though they tend to focus on philosophical Taoism. However, they do maintain ancient ties to monastic sorcerers from the Perfect Truth and Pole Star sects, who practice Taoist asceticism and martial skill similar to the Akashics. Most Awakened Taoists, however, are Taoists first and last. Taoism accepts magical practice and gives a structured path to mastery. There's no need for a religious Taoist to deal with the politics and doctrinal compromises of the Asian Mages if they don't want to. Instead, they mostly belong to small sectarian groups.

Religious Taoism began with mystics and alchemists who mixed reverence for the Yellow Emperor and Lao-tzu into one deified figure, Hung-Lao. The cult combined traditional Chinese belief in the Celestial Bureaucracy with emerging theories of Ying and Yang as well as Five Element theory. The first Taoist religious institution, the Celestial Masters, began in Szechwan, in southern China, when Lao-tzu allegedly appeared to Chang Tao-ling in a cave in the 2nd century AD. After complaining of demonic influence and disrespect leading the world away from the Tao, LAo-tzu made Chang the first Celestial Master, charged with casting out demons and returning people to wisdom. The Celestial Masters opposed animal sacrifice, replacing them with vegetable offerings to the dead. They cared for the sick and practiced confession as a cure for illness. Prayers were offered to Heaven, Earth and the rivers. Today, the Celestial Masters are based in Taiwan and are popular throughout southern China. Priests are married, and both men and women can be priests. It is often hereditary. Priests receive licenses for certain rituals, and a group of priests may cover all of a community's needed rites. In the north, the Perfect Truth sect practices fasting, internal alchemy and meditation.

The Taoist canon is very large - over 1000 volumes. Few can master every part of it. Training may include sword routines, acrobatics, chi-kung, the use of mudras, or practices like the Five Thunders, in which a priest learns to emit Chi to affect others. The best-known rituals involve the Lunar New Year and include the lion dance and use of firecrackers to frighten demons away. On the winter solstice, the Rite of Cosmic Renewal is done to symbolize the sun's rebirth and return to the world. All Taoist rituals, the book says, include use of incense and the burning of sacred writings along with prayer by the faithful.

The head of the Taoist pantheon is a trinity: the Jade Emperor, Lord Tao and Lord Lao. The Jade Emperor is the supreme being, creator and ruler of the past. Lord Tao, the Precious Celestial One, rules the present and is the personified Tao. Lord Lao, the divine Lao-tzu, rules over the future. Beneath this trinity is the CElestial Bureaucracy of folk religion, with the Stove God, Earth God and City God watching over people. The Eight Immortals are people who have enough merit to live forever. Similar to Catholic saints, they are called on in times of crisis and each serves a particular group or trade. Li of the iron crutch is the patron of pharmacists, General Tsao is the patron ofactors, Chung-li Chuan of the peace and feather fan aids silversmiths, and Lu Tung-ping, the leader, was a famous alchemist who gave magical silver to those in need. The rest are similar. Taoism also has a Messianic figure. In the Classic of Great PEace, it is prophesied that Heaven will give the words of a divine book to the Chen-Jen, or true man. The Chen-Jen will give this text to a virtuous ruler, who will take the Tao in his heart and rule by it, granting authority to both ministers and common folk. The Tao will maintain harmony, and the prince will rarely punish or coerce his people.

One of the major goals of Taoism is immortality. By achieving a balance of Yin and Yang, a Taoist can become hsien, immortal. The human body is a microcosm of the Taoist trinity: Chi, the breath, Jing, the vital essence and Shen, the spirit. Both internal and external alchemy attempt to bring those three in harmony with the macrocosmic Tao. Alchemists rid themselves of emotional and physical excesses such as wild passion, celibacy, extreme sadness or overeating, and experiment with elixirs of immortality. Classical elixirs use cinnabar (mercufy sulfide) and...well, were lethal poison, but Taoist alchemists were pioneers of chemistry, pharmacology and physiology. Mercury was found to be a great preservative for corpses and was often to taken to preserve the body after death. Internal alchemy, however, uses your own body to manufacture the "golden elixir" of immortality. Taoist yoga, chi-kung and internal martial arts like tai chi chuan harmonize the energy of the body. The head, chest and abdomen serve as "cinnabar fields," each ruled by a member of the Taoist trinity and inhabited by several gods. Through meditation, the alchemist may call on those gods to drive out physical or spiritual toxins and link their personal Chi to the macrocosm.

Among Mages, external alchemy is practiced largely by the Wu Lung and internal alchemy by the Akashic Brotherhood. Taoist ideas have inspired several magical innovations. For example, the Wu Lung may retain the metal energies of mercury but render it non-toxic for their potions. More feared is the ability said to be possessed by some Akashic Brothers to manufacture poison within their own bodies, giving them lethal tears, blood or spit. Both groups study Taoist methods of immortality, and some Asian Mages who are old beyond mortal years find it safest to live in heavily Taoist areas.

Sidebar: Chinese popular religion is found in Buddhism, Confucianism and Taoism, and it combines influences as old as Shang divination and incorporates every major development in Chinese history. Each of China's three major faiths has influenced and been influenced by it. Indeed, Confucianism and Taoism can't even be seperated from it. The STove God, at the bottom of the celestial hierarchy, lives in his portrait in the kitchen. On the Lunar New Year, that portrait is burned, sending him to Heaven to report. This is why he is always fed delicious rice cakes just before the journey - the sticky cakes shut him up, literally, and delay bad reports. The local Earth God patrols for wandering ghosts and helps guide the dead to the Underworld. He is also consulted by mediums, especially for feng shui, as new buildings are in his jurisdiction. He usually has a modest shrine or an altar beside the Stove God. Sacrifices are offered, but when disaster comes, he may be dismissed as incompetent and replaced. City Gods or shih ('scholars') are responsible for an entire district of Stove and Earth Gods. Unlike the other two, each is a specific individual, a deified role model of the past. These gods are tradionally dead scholars, officials or generals. Their temples are built like traditional houses, and in addition to sacrifices may receive new furnishings or performances...including TVs, in the modern age. The Jade Emperor heads the Bureaucracy, but is too distant to petition for most things - that was, in the past, the Emperor's job. Other figures also persist, like the Earth Mother, who has recently received revived interest, and is credited with creating humanity and sending the Buddha and Lao-tzu. The Sage Kings are remembered also, for bringing the arts to humanity. They include Fu-hsi ('Animal Tamer') and Sui-jen ('Fire Maker'), and most famously the Yellow Emperor, who invented the compass needle, had a wife who discovered silk and a chief minister who invented writing. He is also credited with the Classic of Internal MEdicine, which lays out acupuncture locations and pressure points. China's three official faiths have also influenced popular faith - everyone appreciates the Eight Immortals, and Kuan-Yin, goddess of mercy, was originally a bodhisattva (and a male). Maitreya, the future Buddha, has become Malo, a fat, generous monk who wanders the world with a bag of presents. He is often compared to Santa Claus, another popular figure in Asia.

Now, Shinto! Shinto has no founder or central text. It is basically the faith of the Japanese people. It is not a universal religion and doesn't seek to convert foreigners. It states that the Japanese are children of the kami and do not need to declare allegiance to what is their heritage. It has no moral code - instead, its followers seek to purify themselves before the kami. Impurity can take on many forms - having blood on you, being ugly, being dirty, having shameful thoughts. Impurity attracts maho-tsukai, evil spirits of the Darkness World. Purification, called misogi, can be done via sexual abstinence, bathing, meditation or the creation of beautiful art, among other things. The main focus of Shinto is the worship of the kami. All sorts of things can be considered kami - heroic ancestors, gods, dragons, the Buddhas, holy figures of other religions...but mostly, the kami are nature spirits or animistic spirits. Mountains, especially, are revered. Mt. Fuji is the best-known and holiest mountain. Kami are everywhere, but major land features bring their presence closer. A freestanding gateway called a torii marks larger shrines, but the kami can be acknowledged even by something as simple as a piece of straw tied to a rock.

Sidebar: Industrialization, cultural cynicism and the atomic bombs have wounded the kami. The kuei-jin claim the kami have fled forever, but they're wrong. Most kami have, instead, moved from the Yang World to Taka-ma-gahara, the Plain of Heaven. This suits modern times, when most consider the kami concepts rather than natural entities. Since most shen have little access to Heaven, many believe the kami destroyed, and some have been arrogant enough to take their place. Since many shrines are powerful places for Chi, some sorcerers have begun to drain them for power. The kami are getting mad, especially at the kuei-jin who are defiling shrines with blood. Soon, they may act. Shinto priests also have resources, many having True Faith enough to drive off vampires and other maho-tsukai. Torii divide the mortal realm from that of the kami, and a ritually pure priest can draw on their power to destroy a Chi'n Ta who is foolish enough to drain their shrine. The impurity of doing so, you see, draws on the Yomi-no-kuni and can rot the wizard from the inside out. On the other hand, a Chi'n Ta who performs misogi and enters with a pure heart may be granted Chi with a natural Resonance, which can give many minor benefits such as luck in the wilderness or a lucky encounter with an animal or spirit.

Shinto myth claims that in the beginning, the world was one mass, but the impure parts of it descended to the earth, while the pure parts rose to heaven. Between them rose the Pillar of the Land. After six generations, the Pillar brought forth Izanagi and Izanami, the god and goddess who made Japan. Unfortunately, because Izanami spoke first, their first child was a leech, which they set adrift. Their second union created the Japanese Archipelago, the kami of the land and the spirit-ancestors of the Japanese. Izanami died, burned by the birth of the fire god, and Izanagi went to Yomi-no-kuni, the Darkness World where the most impure elements of the primordial mass went. There, he found maggots, decay and filth, and he went to cleanse himself. As he washed his left eye, he made the Sun Goddess, Amaterasu, and his right eye produced the Moon God, Tsukiyoki. His nostrils made Susano-o, the trickster god of the Summer Wind. Susano-o pranks Amaterasu, ruining her crops and throwing feces at her throne. Disgusted, she hides in the CAve of Heaven and bars the door, leaving the world sunless. Fortunately, the kami ancestors of two clans decorated a sakaki tree with a mirror, jewels and ribbons, luring Amaterasu out. Then, they bound her with rope to keep her from hiding again. She went on to give birth to the imperial line of Japan, and all JApanese emperors have enacted a ritual symbolically allowing them to be reborn from the womb of the Sun Goddess.

Modern Japan has three types of Shinto. Shrine Shinto is most common, centered on the thousands of shrines in Japan. They are usually under the care of a specific family that has tended them for generations, though World War 2 interrupted this, often. Sect Shinto revolves around the 13 organizations that devote themselves to particular forms of worship, like the cult of Mount Fuji or sects that combine Shinto and Confucianism. Folk Shinto includes shamanism, divination and worship of household gods, and is often merged with Buddhist or Taoist practices. Originally, there was a fourth sect, State Shinto, which asserted imperial divinity as he returned to power at the start of the 20th century. It tied worship to nationalism and put all shrines under a central authority despite protests from the shrine families. At the end of World War 2, it was disbanded as part of the Japanese surrender.

Shinto worship is tied to everyday life. A kami-dama is a household shrine, where offerings, candles and tablets from other shrines are placed. At larger shrines, the worshiper begins by washing the hands and mouth, then placing a coin in the offering box and clapping twice to get the kami's attention before praying. Before leaving, an offering of food, money, drink or something symbolic is made to the priest. The priest performs rituals in classical Japanese, often with the aid of a mirror, jewels and the branch of a sakaki tree. There are also shamans, called miko, who serve as direct channels for the kami. Miko are usually blind and women, who naturally attract the kami. They are consulted in times of crisis, like wars or earthquakes, or to approve marriages and other decisions. They are most common in rural areas, where people remain superstitious. Japanese Chi'n Ta tend to deal with Shinto beliefs as part of their magic, even if it's by consciously denying them. Mage life tends to follow normal life that way, with Shinto teachings either woven into the magical style as routine or explicitly left absent.

Shugendo, 'the way of mastering power through asceticism', has roots in both Shinto and Buddhist tradition. Its followers practice extreme misogi - fasting, standing under waterfalls, hanging from cliffs. These yamabushi, mountain warriors, harden themselves with discipline and then return to the world as exorcists, healers and miracle workers. Yamabushi practice Vajrayana Buddhist rituals, generally from the Tendai and Shingon sects. In the past, this was persecuted and led to war, with one yamabushi being infamous for boiling the heads of his foes while they still lived. Many martial arts schools claim to be founded by yamabushi, and many tales connect them to the ninja, who supposedly had similar rituals and lifestyles. Among mages, the Akashic Brotherhood has had a long association with Shugendo. Wilderness hermitages allow free use of magic, after all, and Akashic yamabushi can survive things no normal human could.

Sidebar: What about Western faiths? Well, Christianity, Judaism and Islam are all in Asia. Chinese Jews are very elusive - they date back to the Silk Road, and are one of the most obscure, smallest communities in China. They don't proselytize, so that probably won't change. Islam has been in Asia for centuries, especially in places like India, Pakistan or Indonesia. Muslims also have distinct communities in China, where they showed up via trade and the religious freedom of the Yuan Dynasty. As industrial Asia strengthens ties with the Middle East, the number of Muslims is growing. Christianity has had a troubled history. Tokugawa Japan banned it, crucifying followers, and Communist China only recently allowed open practice of Christian faith. South Korea and Japan have seen a very recent surge of conversions, and Korean Christianity began in the hands of Korean scholars, not Western missionaries. They're pretty secure there. Christian weddings are also quite popular in Japan, regardless of the faith of the bride and groom. Both Christianity and Islam preach exclusivity - you can't be a good Muslim or Christian and also honor the local gods or Tao. That's foreign to most Asians, and a barrier to conversion. Further, Hinduism and Shinto are so tied to daily life in their nations that being a Christian or Muslim might alienate the convert from their culture.

Sidebar: Most people in Asia follow multiple faiths at once. These syncretic practices can produce new faiths, and it's a very old tradition, dating back to religious Taoism, as well as newer beliefs combining Shinto, Christianity and pop psychology. Syncretic movements often form things that are part personality cult, part mystical discipline, and they can be good or bad depending on the leader and the sort of followers. Aum Shinrikyo combined Hindu and Shinto beliefs and committed mass murder with sarin gas to prepare for the apocalypse. The Venerable Earth Mother movement in Taiwan, on the other hand, has revived the idea of a Creator Goddess and claim that her religious wisdom will end suffering. Omoto-kyo, a Japanese syncretic faith, was founded by Deguchi Nao, who was driven to despair by her daughter's madness in 1892 and claimed to receive a vision from Tenchi-kane-no-kami, the Great God of the Universe. In that vision, she saw a world cleansed for a coming messiah. In 1898, she met an ascetic who she proclaimed the messiah, changing his name to Deguchi Onisaburo. He claimed his soul had left his body and learned the secrets of the universe in a mountain cave. Omoto-kyo claimed that Susano-o and Kunikotachi-no-Mikoto were the rightful rulers of heaven, driven out by evil spirits, and Deguchi Onisaburo was the rightful emperor of Japan, the true Dalai Lama and the Maitreya Buddha. He was arrested several times for his claims. One major follower of the sect was Ueshiba Morihei, founder of Aikido, and there are many stories of Ueshiba throwing people without touching them, turning invisible and teleporting, including once to escape a firing squad. Most of these are from his students, however, so they're questionable. Syncretism is, however, very popular with wizards, since...well, it's already fairly similar to what Mages do already by borrowing from many sources for their paradigms. Second, most of these religions emphasize supernatural occurrences, so it gives the Mages some people it's safe to do magic around. This, plus the benefits of bodyguards and minions mean that some wizards go so far as to play messiah themselves.

Next time: The actual wizards.

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Tasoth
Dec 12, 2011


Is Dragons of the East really that well researched or are you adding bits and pieces to the review? Because that's impressive for WoD if it is.

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