Monday, August 28, 2017


A door god
I have been making NPCs, Monsters and Scenarios inspired by Pu Songling's Strange Tales from a Chinese Studio. For each entry I take two or more stories from the Penguin Edition translated by John Minford and make gameable material. This entry is based on Friendship Beyond the Grave (#30), Karmic Debts (#31), Ritual Cleansing (#32) and The Door God and the Thief (#32). You can see my previous entry HERE

Making these is an interesting challenge and I think it forces me to get outside my comfort zone. The stories in today's blog are some of the better ones in the book. Friendship Beyond the Grave is a tale about a man named Ye who desperately wants to pass the Imperial Exams to obtain a degree but keeps failing (even when his essays would merit passage). He befriends a local magistrate, Crane Rider, who assists him but he still fails the exams. He becomes despondent and his health grows poor, so Crane Rider takes him in to tutor his son who passes the exams. As a reward, Crane Rider purchases Ye Imperial College membership so he can skip the first degree and be eligible for the second. He then goes on to pass the exams. However when he returns to his wife, she recoils in horror and says he has been dead already for some time. I decided to make a ghost based on Ye, but made it a little more sinister and challenging for players. 

Karmic Debts is a little unusual but is basically about a man who dreams he owes someone 40 strings of cash, and awakes to find his wife has given birth. He realizes that the child is the physical manifestation of debt from a prior life. He puts aside 40 strings of cash and spends it on the child's needs. When the money is nearly gone, the child dies and he spends the remainder on a coffin. It is a grim story but got me thinking about how to make Karma matter a little more int he game. Karmic Encounters are one way to do that. 

The next story is Ritual Cleansing. This is another one about a Fox Spirit, but in this case, the fox spirit is quite old and has been practicing Taoist breathing called Tu-Na. He befriends another priest at the temple but disappears for ten days at a time during the Heaven and Earth ceremonies. He confesses to being a Fox Spirit and explains he has to go into hiding to avoid the Ritual Cleansing. One year, he is nearly caught but escapes into cesspit. When he is clean enough he returns and warns his friend of great political calamities to come. People have probably noticed a large number of Fox Spirits in these entries. Many of the stories focus on Fox Spirits (and some are occasionally erotic). What I am trying to do to emulate this is create different varieties of Fox Spirits, as each story seems to have a slightly different take on them. I really like the Fox Spirit stories and they tend be solid sources for gaming inspiration each time. 

The Door God and the Thief is about a thief who sneaks into a Taoist Temple and tries to take one of the priest's coins. As he is fleeing one of the door gods goes after him and forces him to return and admit his guilt. Door gods are just fun in a campaign and they provide a great in-setting explanation for how so many temples manage to maintain treasures and libraries with so little theft. 

This is still a rough idea and I will probably make some tables for it in one of my games (maybe another blog post as well). Karma matters in Wandering Heroes of Ogre Gate and every character has a Karmic Rating. Anyone with a negative rating has poor Karma, anyone with a positive rating has accrued good merit. Karma is an active force in the world. Good things follow from having positive Karma and bad things follow from having negative Karma. One way this can manifest is encounters. Some encounters with creatures or allies can be based on a person's Karma. Each lunar month every character with positive or negative Karma has a 1 in 10 chance of having a Karmic Encounter. Characters with -5 Karma or +5 Karma or greater, have a 2 in 10 chance. If a Karmic Encounter occurs, roll on the following table, to determine what the encounter is. Good Karma encounters are uniformly helpful, while Bad Karma encounters always try to kill the character or make them suffer. Bad Karma encounters usually happen at the worst imaginable moment, while Good Karma Encounters usually happen when the players are in need of help. 

Roll 1d10   Result
1                Bixie 
2                Dragon Horse 
3                Fei Beast 
4                An Immortal in Human guide 
5                A helpful animal 
6                Roc
7                Profound Fox Spirit (see below)
8                Helpful martial hero 
9                Profound Master 
10              God in human guise 

Roll 1d10   Result
1                Gui (preferably a person killed by the character)
2                Demon 
3                Animal attack 
4                Celestial Demon in human guise 
5                Raksha Demon 
6                Profound Master Attack 
7                Immortal in human guise 
8                Longzhi
9                Ogre Demon
10              Painted Death 

A Haunting Scholar is one who desperately wanted to pass the imperial exams but died before doing so (particularly if they should have passed but were denied a degree by a bitter official). Haunting Scholars do not know they have died, and as long as this remains the case, and they successfully pass the exams, they are benevolent entities. As far as they are concerned it is just another day. They will typically flee from the site of their death, and seek out a close friend or ally, asking for financial help or physical assistance preparing for the exams. This can take years. However if they learn of their death before passing the exams, they become violent and their true powers manifest as their body floods with raging white energy. When this happens, their slaughter is indiscriminate. In the case of Player Characters, a scholar friend or ally who dies could seek them out and travel with them to prepare for the next exams. 

Defenses: Hardiness 4, Evade 4, Parry 4, Stealth 9, Wits 8, Resolve 6
Key Skills: Grapple: 1d10, Hair: 2d10, Speed: 2d10, Athletics: 1d10, Muscle: 1d10, Detect: 2d10, Ritual (Ancestor Veneration): 2d10, Classics (Sayings of Kong Zhi): 2d10, Classics (Book of Fortunes): 1d10, Talent (Calligraphy): 1d10, History (Era of the Glorious Emperor): 2d10

Max Wounds: 8

The powers of a Haunting Scholar are untapped before it realizes it is dead. So long as it thinks it is still alive, a Haunting Scholar will not use any of these. The moment it does use its powers, its hair moves as if in a breeze of Qi energy and its eyes shine a white light. 
Life Stealing Breath: Haunting Scholars can drain Qi and Hardiness by inhaling the air around them. Roll 2d10 against the Evade of any adjacent foe. If they success they Drain 1 Qi, if they get a Total Success they Drain 1 Qi plus 1 Hardiness.

Hair: Their is alive with Qi energy and can attack 10 by 20 foot area with a debilitating strike. Roll 2d10 against Evade. Anyone struck takes 1d10 Damage and is exposed (roll 2d10 against Hardiness). If affected target suffers increasing -1d10 Speed penalty each round. When reach 0d10, the target is paralyzed for 1d10 rounds.
Laying to Rest: To be laid to rest they must pass the exams and realize they are dead. 

Profound Fox Demons are cultivated spirited beasts. Unlike other types of demons, they do not feed off of human essence or drain Qi, instead they use cultivation practices like breathing and meditation to extend their lives and attain powers. Effectively they are martial heroes, profound masters and even immortals. Some occasionally go on to become gods, though the Bureaucracy of Heaven usually frowns on this. The powers they gain tend to be protective in nature rather than deceptive. The stats below are an example of a Profound Fox Demon. Each one is unique and they can be any Qi rank. 

Defenses: Hardiness 8, Evade 8, Parry 6, Stealth 10, Wits 8, Resolve 6
Key Skills: Bite: 3d10 (4d10 Damage), Grapple: 1d10, Arm Strike: 2d10 (4d10 Damage), Speed: 7d10 (100 feet), Fly: 6d10 (90 feet), Detect: 3d10, Muscle: 2d10, Persuade: 3d10, Empathy: 2d10, Meditation: 3d10, Divination: 2d10, Talent (Any 3): 2d10, Knowledge (Any 4): 2d10

Qi: 8
Max Wounds: 17
Weapons: Stick (3d10 Damage, +1d10 Accuracy)

Shape Change: Profound Fox Demons can take the shape of a fox, a human or a hybrid. 
Immunities: Profound Fox Demons are immune to all normal Attacks, only taking Damage from Kung Fu Techniques Qi level 1 or greater.
Fly: All profound Fox Demons can fly. 
Protective Barrier: A Profound Fox Demon can create a protective barrier using its own Qi energy. To do this, the Fox must temporarily lose Qi and use it to create the barrier. It only regains its Qi when the barrier is ended. This can be a size in diameter equal to the invested Qi in yards. Passing through the barrier is impossible without breaking it. Breaking it requires energy based attacks derived from Qi or magic and it has an Integrity equal to the Fox's invested Qi rank multiplies by 3. 
Premonition: Profound Fox Demons can sense disaster before it strikes. They can make a Divination roll to sense coming storms, approaching armies or a looming threat (such as a nearby encounter). 

Healing Touch: Some Fox Demons develop a healing touch that restores 2 Wounds.
Key Kung Fu Techniques (Waijia 1, Qinggong 2, Neigong 1): Dog Bashing Stick, Stick of the Rising Dog, Fist of Killing, Rage of One Thousand Grieving Widows, Skull Breaking Stick, Spinning Kick of Death, Whirling Dodge (Counter), Deflecting Canopy (Counter), Iron Spirit Reversal (Counter)
Profound Techniques: Thundering Palm of the Heavens

Temple Door Gods are often enormous statues or paintings at the entrance way to temples.  They are usually made in the image of a powerful creature like an Ogre Demon or Raksha (sometimes in the image of a god like Supreme Judge Yu). Most temples have 'door gods', but few have real Door Gods that can protect the temple because the process for making them is difficult and not widely known. Many say it requires the sacrifice of a martial hero. When anyone transgresses at the temple by stealing, attempting to kill any of the priests/monks or by violating major rules, the statues animate and attack (in the case of paintings they take full form and attack). Door gods exist for other types of buildings as well. 

Defenses: Hardiness 10, Evade 4, Parry 7, Stealth 6 or 9 when still, Wits 3, Resolve 10
Key Skills: Arm Strike: 3d10, Grapple: 2d10, Leg Strike: 4d10, Heavy Melee: 5d10, Speed: 2d10, Muscle: 5d10, Detect: 2d10, Endurance: 6d10

Qi: 5
Max Wounds: 16

Beast Strength (x4)

Bronze Body: Door Gods have a Hardiness of 10.
Smash and Kill: The physical attack of a door god, weather it is from a weapon, fist or foot, blazes with energy and delivers 7d10 plus 1 Damage on a Successful attack. 

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