Thursday, September 7, 2017


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. You can see my previous entry HERE

Today I am doing Silkworm (#57), Homunculus (#1), An Otherworldly Examination (#2) and Living Dead (#3). If you've been following these entires you know I skipped the first three stories because they presented some challenges. I was concerned that they required developing major mechanics for the game. However, now that I've had time to consider things, I believe I was over-thinking the issue and I want this series to be thorough. So in this entry I include the first three stories as well.  

The first story is another erotic one, and in my following description, there is no way to dance around the details. The title is Silkworm and it is a story about Lian, a man born with a penis so small he can't have children (the name of the story is in reference to this deformity because it is said to resemble a silkworm). One day he takes a letter for a young woman to her family in Qin-Nu village and finds himself at a courtyard house inhabited by Fox Demons and a ghost named Clever. The ghost tries to make love to him but is upset by his condition and inability to perform. However the head Fox, Auntie Hua, takes pity on him and gives him a pill that restores his penis and his virility. The story becomes a love triangle between Clever, Lian and Auntie Hua's daughter Tertia (who it turns out was the woman who originally gave him the letter). Eventually Auntie Hua sends him back to his family but tells him if his love for the two women is true he should arrange a match at a later date. At home he eventually convinces his parents to agree to a match with a Fox and Ghost (something his father is surprisingly okay with given enough time). A matchmaker is sent, and she arranges a marriage with Tertia, but informs Lian that Clever already passed away. Auntie tells him that she has already been reborn. This turns out to be a lie and he hears rumors of a weeping ghost at the old courtyard house. When he goes to investigate, he finds Clever who has given birth to his son. He brings them back and they basically live happily ever after. 

For Silkworm I decided to make an NPC entry for Auntie Hua since she is probably the most interesting and most gameable character in the story. I like the idea of a fox who can heal or restore people. In the story we don't really see any sign of her draining the life from men in the traditional ways, so I decided she has a much more subtle method. I also created a ritual based on her pill. 

Homunculus is a story about a cultivator who accidentally creates a small creature similar to a Yaksha Demon while trying to achieve immortality by perfecting his elixir field. The idea in the book is that he has infected his practice with secret desires or impure motives and it produces the creature from between his ears. I should say again this is all through translation so on this one I definitely welcome any feedback from people familiar with the original text. 

For Homunculus I made some optional Insight rules based on the story. These can be used anytime PCs or NPCs go into seclusion to attain insights. 

An Otherworldly Examination is about a scholar who believes he is being summoned for the imperial exams and is instead brought before examiners who include Guan Yu (the god of war) where he passes an examination to earn a city god post. However when he explains that he has to care for his mother, they allow him to remain until her death and take the post after. He returns to discover he has been dead for three days. Cares for his mother for 9 years, then after she dies and he conducts her funeral, the scholar himself dies as well and assumes the promised post. 

For An Otherworldly Examination I realized it would be cool to make Celestial Exams to see if scholar characters can become gods after death. The likelihood of success is rare, but it exists as a possibility. 

Living Dead is about a group of men who seek shelter in the inn, only to learn the landlord's daughter has died. She rises up as a ghost and breathes on them one by one, causing them to die. One of the men escapes and rushes to a monastery, where a group of monks are reciting sutras and striking wooden fish. The ghost rushes to embrace a nearby poplar tree and clings to it with rigid fingers where she appears to die permanently. The man seems to faint. 

For Living Dead I decided to create a genuinely lethal ghost that can frighten even experienced characters. I also simplified the situation with the tree and monks, making it a little easier to defeat her if the PCs can figure out her weakness. 

I once again am including dividing titles so readers know which story the entries are meant to take inspiration from. 

Auntie Hua is a talented healer with a keen interest in humans. Presently she wants to marry her daughter to a promising scholar or martial hero. So far she has not found a good match. But she has put out word that she will relinquish her Restorative Pill to the man she and her daughter both find acceptable. She hopes this will attract the right talent. In the meantime she and her daughter reside in a remote swamp, in a pristine courtyard house where she provides healing services. The courtyard house is difficult to reach but her skills are unmatched. 

Defenses: Hardiness 3, Evade 6, Parry 7, Stealth 7, Wits 10, Resolve 7
Key Skills: Bite: 3d10 (2d10 Damage), Speed: 7d10, Detect: 3d10, Muscle: 1d10, Empathy: 5d10, Persuade: 4d10, Deception: 4d10, Medicine: 5d10, Talent (Poison): 3d10, Talent (Cooking): 3d10,  Ritual (Restorative Pill Ritual): 3d10, Creatures (Humans): 2d10
Max Wounds: 25
Enervation: Auntie Hua has reached a high level of cultivation and can drain humans through a much more subtle method than most Fox Demons. She can cultivate and feed off of mental energy. She engages people in simulating discussion and draws on their mind for sustenance. Anytime she engages a human in conversation, roll her Empathy against Wits. This represents her ability to understand the person's interests and guide the conversation. On a Success she drains one point of Wits. On a Total Success she drains 2 points. Every 25 points she drains increases her Max Wounds by 1 permanently. 

Enchanting Form: The true form of Auntie Hua is a fox, but to most she looks like a pretty women in her 50s. Anytime someone first sees her, roll 4d10 against Wits. On a Success the target only sees a woman. On a failure the person sees a trace feature her fox nature (a bushy tail, yellow eyes, whiskers, etc). This is brief, as Auntie Hua can roll 4d10 against Wits immediately to restore the illusion in the person's mind. Once she succeeds against a target, they will always see her as a beautiful matron unless they actively attempt to check for evidence to the contrary (in which case another roll is called for). 

Immunities: Auntie Hua is immune to mundane attacks. 

Illusionary Veil: Auntie Hua can create an environmental illusion to conceal herself or even conceal her house. Make a Deception Roll against Wits of the targets. On a Success they do not see her. She can extend this ability to objects and people around her, causing them to be unseen as well. 

This Ritual can only be performed by a Fox Demon or similar creature. In order to make it, they must imbue it with years of their own cultivation, losing 9 Max Wounds in the process permanently. The caster blends a variety of ingredients to produce a round bolus pill that cures any Flaw and even cures Demon Flaws. Make a Ritual Skill Roll TN 8. On a Success you have a pill that with just one dose, removes all Flaws and Demon Flaws. Anyone who swallows it is cured of their flaw but spends the next day recovering. On a Failure you still lose the 9 Max Wounds but produce a pill that does nothing. 

Just as human governments hold exams for scholar official appointments, so too does the Bureaucracy of Heaven. Whenever a scholar character dies in Wandering Heroes of Ogre Gate, he is brought to a celestial prefect before being sent to the Eight Magistrates. Note even non-scholars are sometimes given this honor under special circumstances. There he  is given the Celestial Exams, and if he passes he is given a post in the Bureaucracy of Heaven (effectively becoming a god). When such a character takes the exam, they must roll for each of the skills below in order and succeed. However character may only attempt this once. If they fail they go before the Eight Magistrates. 

Classics (Sayings of Kong Zhi or the Book of Fortunes): TN 10
Religion (Dehua): TN 10
Religion (Yen-Li): TN 10
Talent (Calligraphy): TN 10
Talent (Poetry): TN 10
Ritual (Any One): TN 10
Divination: TN 10
Talent (Any one): TN 10

This is an optional rule for gaining Insights in Wandering Heroes of Ogre Gate (WHOG, 165). This adds a risk of failure. Normally when trying to attain insights, characters only risk wasting time. But to make them more dangerous roll on the following table and use the result whenever a character fails an insight roll. 

Insight Failure Table
Roll 1d10      Result
1-3                1d10 Diminutive Yaksha produced (see below)
4                   Gain Demon Flaw (WHOG, 64)
5                   Go Blind for 1 Year
6                   Lose Kung Fu for 1 year
7                   Lose 3 Hardiness for 2 years
8                   Unleash a 6d10 Open Damage blast if Qi energy to all in a 50 foot area per rank of your Qi
9                   Lose a rank of Qi for 1 month
10                 You become overcome with violent intent, killing anyone who come across for the next month

These are tiny Yaksha demons the size of a finger, produced by your own elixir field. They rise then form in your head and drop from your ears when you meditate in seclusion and allow your thoughts to wander uncontrolled. Some say they are demons who take hold of your desires during a crucial stage in cultivation, others say they are the physical manifestation of your hidden rage. Whatever they are, once birthed, they venture forth and cause destruction. The cultivator who gives them life, cannot kill them. If they die by someone else's hand, he isn't harmed. But if he kills them, he dies instantly (and knows this to be true the moment he sees them). 
Defenses: Hardiness 2, Evade 8, Parry 2, Stealth 10, Wits 8, Resolve 8
Key Skills: Bite: 1d10 (2d10 Open), Claw: 1d10 (1d10 and special), Speed: 4d10, Detect: 2d10, Muscle: 0d10, Deception: 2d10, Talent (Singing): 1d10

Max Wounds: 1

Devour: The teeth of these Yaksha demons are sharp but tiny. They deliver 2d10 Open Damage on a successful bite.
Blood Nail: The fingernails of Diminutive Yaksha deadly but due to their small size, they only do 1d10 damage. When they hit with their claws, on a Total Success, they cause the target to bleed profusely (1 Automatic Wound per round until the bleeding is stopped). They can also use this to help feed on sleeping victims at night.
Singing Whisper: Diminutive Yaksha can sing a gentle melody that lulls people to sleep like normal Yaksha (though their ability is less potent). Roll their Talent (Singing) against Resolve. On a success the person falls asleep for ten minutes. On a Total Success they fall asleep for 1 hour.
This ghost looks like a normal corpse, often arising hours after death. It feeds on humans by gently drawing on their breath while they sleep. Its breath kills all men equally. However they are drawn to poplar trees and these can be used to help evade them. 
Defenses: Hardiness 9, Evade 6, Parry 8, Stealth 8, Wits 6, Resolve 7
Key Skills: Grapple: 3d10, Arm Strike: 3d10,  Speed: 4d10, Muscle: 4d10, Detect: 2d10, Endurance: 3d10
Max Wounds: 10
Immunities: Breath Taking Ghosts are tough to kill and immune to mundane attacks. 

Lethal Breath: A breathtaking ghost can kill with a single intake of air. It simply needs to be close to the target (within 5 feet). Make an Endurance Roll against Evade. On a Success they drain 2 Hardiness. On a Total Success the target dies. This affects anyone from Qi Rank 0-6. Those with Qi ranks 7 or higher are not affected by Breathtaking Ghosts. 

Senses: Breathtaking Ghosts can sense things in a large area by sense of smell. Roll their Detect and on a Success they can tell who or what is within a 300 foot area. 

Poplar Vulnerability: Breathtaking Ghosts are attracted to poplar trees and rush toward any they sense in the area. If they see a poplar roll 4d10 against the Breathtaking Ghost's Resolve. If the result meets or exceeds its Resolve, the Breathtaking Ghost rushes to the poplar, clings to it, and is laid to rest permanently. This information is widely known to anyone with 2 Ranks in Creatures (Spirits). Otherwise they must make a TN 8 Roll to see if they know this. 

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