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Author Topic: Mythic Nippon Setting Notes  (Read 13311 times)


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Mythic Nippon Setting Notes
« on: September 15, 2013, 09:30:18 pm »

Mythic Nippon
Welcome to Mythic Nippon. It is a place of mystery and wonder; inspired by the legends of Feudal Japan, Imperial China, and other places in the Far East. It is a world of stoic samurai and treacherous ninja; sorcery wielding wu-jen and brutal warlords; where dragons soar the skies and immortals walk the earth; Where demons and oni scheme among men and danger lurks in every shadow; Where legendary heroes and masters of ki search for honor, glory, and adventure!

It is the Kamakura era; year 1297.

Sixteen years ago, the great Mongol warrior Kublai Khan, led a massive invasion of Nippon for the Chinese. His forces carried with them a new weapon; one that would rival the powers of sorcery itself – the secret of gunpowder. His campaign was a brutal success and Nippon was quickly subjugated under Chinese rule.

Kublai Khan left Nippon shortly after the Chinese Shogunate took power – though legend has it that he never made it home. His fleet of mercenary warriors was caught in a terrible typhoon and sunk to the bottom of the sea; a ‘Divine Wind’ sent to avenge Nippon’s lost honor.

The Islands
Geographically, Nippon consists of four main islands and over a thousand minor ones.
  • Honshu - The principle island in the chain is Honshu, on which the great cities of Kyoto and Edo stand, and where the Emperor and Shogun have ruled throughout history.
  • Hokkaido, north of Honshu, is a land of mystery, covered with icy mists and largely unexplored. It is inhabited by the Ebisu, or Northern Barbarians, who have a tribal culture and are ruled by shamans mixing totemic magic and cult religion in large doses.
  • Kyushu is an island of highly independent Samurai clans. It has traditionally been a thorn in the side of whatever central government rules on Honshu.
  • Shikoku is a small and barren Island, a place of smallholdings in the main. It is usually dominated by Honshu politics.
The Islands are places of equal harshness and beauty. Almost 25% of the land area consists of inaccessible mountains peaks; many of them are active volcanoes that can erupt without warning in a fury of fire and death. Barely 10% of the land can be cultivated easily, leading to the development of highly advanced agricultural techniques, designed to wrest the most from every inch of available farmland. Nippon is also shaken by hundreds of earthquakes each year. While most are minor tremors, a significant fraction are man-killing explosions of nature’s anger. In the aftermath of these great shocks, coastal dwellers flee for the hills, knowing that great tsunami’s will soon thunder in from the sea.

Social Hierarchy Under Chinese Rule
Mythic Nippon has four social castes in descending order: Samurai, Noble, Commoner, and Non-Person. One must always be respectful to those of higher rank or risk swift and sometimes deadly redress. It is customary to bow to those in your own caste and kneel to those above you. Note that their caste, not their gender, determines a person’s rank in society and females can be Samurai (known as a Samurai-ko) or anything else for that matter.

The Samurai Caste
OOO Chinese Shogun (Taiko T’ien Shinhan)
OOO Shogun’s Magistrates
OOO Daimyos
OOO Daimyo’s Magistrates
OOO Samurai

Samurai have the following privileges:
  • They may challenge other Samurai and Nobles to duels, though lethal duels must be sanctioned by the Daimyo.
  • They must be respectful to Shinto Priests, Wu-Jen, and Ninja Masters. Only the Daimyo may punish these, though Ninja Masters are considered criminals and must be captured for the Daimyo if discovered.
  • They may be openly rude and insulting to Fair Folk, Artisans, Master Craftsmen, Ronin, and Free Monks.
  • They may bully and beat Peasants, Merchants, Soldiers, Apprentice Monks, and Geisha, though these have the right to fight back.
  • They may bully and beat Nezumi, Ninja, Yakuza, and Untouchable Ones (handlers of the dead), who may not fight back (unless they want to be considered criminals).
  • They may kill Criminals on sight unless restricted by higher directive.
The Noble Caste
OOO Noble Houses
OOO Divine Shinto Masters
OOO Shinto Priests, Wu-Jen, Ninja Masters

The Commoner Caste
OOO Fair Folk, Artisans, Master Craftsmen, Ronin, Free Monks
OOO Peasants, Merchants, Soldiers, Apprentice Monks, Geisha

The Non-Person Caste
OOO Nezumi, Ninja, Yakuza, Untouchable Ones (handlers of the dead)
OOO Criminals

The Chinese Shogun
At the center of power is the Chinese Shogun, Taiko T’ien Shinhan. He creates all the laws, owns all the land, and is considered the preeminent spiritual leader of the people. He has a bureau of administrators, known as Magistrates, who handle the daily affairs of state and mete out the Shogun’s justice when necessary.

The Shogunate
Members of the Shogunate are direct members of the Shogun’s family. They are the aunts and uncles, brothers and sisters, and sons and daughters, of the shogun, and though they have no political power, they do have direct access to his ear.

The Shogun’s Magistrates
The Shogun’s Magistrates are appointed to mete out the justice of the Shogun and to enforce his law. To question the Shogun’s Magistrate is to question the Shogun, a crime punishable by death.

The Daimyos
While the Shogun owns all the land, he has given regency to the Daimyo’s, or ‘Great Lords of the People’, and allows them to tax the Commoners, taking a portion for himself. Because the Daimyo’s have great resources available to them, they can form armies, which can sometimes threaten the power of the Shogun. To ensure loyalty, the Shogun holds the families of all Daimyos ‘hostage’ in Edo Castle, and requires that the Daimyo’s themselves live at Edo half of the time as well. For the most part, this effectively prevents the cohesion necessary between Commoner and Daimyo for organized revolt against the Shogun.

The Daimyo’s Magistrates
Every Daimyo has a group of advisors called Magistrates. Like the Shogun’s Magistrates, the Daimyo’s Magistrates are representatives of their lord and to question them is to question the Daimyo.

The Samurai
Each Magistrate has a number of Samurai working under him, called Yoriki, usually tasked with keeping the peace on a local level. In turn, these Samurais are allowed deputies called Doshin, drawn from the Commoner caste.

The Noble Families
Under each Daimyo are the Noble Families of his clan. These are the Daimyo’s aunts and uncles, brothers and sisters, sons and daughters, and all of their extended family. It is the Nobles who tax the Commoners and deliver the revenue to the Daimyo’s Magistrates. Because they deal more directly with the commoners, the Noble Families tend to be more sympathetic to the lower classes.

Shinto Priests
The Shinto Religion deals with maintaining a balanced relationship between man, his ancestors, and the multitudes of spirits that make up Creation. Shinto Priest are sought when one seeks advice, would ask a favor of The Ancestors, or needs to exorcise a hostile spirit from his home. Because of their abilities, Shinto Priests are offered at least minimal respect from even those above them. Shinto Temples attract monks devoted to learning the secrets of Creation and pursuing spiritual enlightenment. The Path of Shintoism is one of the very few ways that a Commoner can ascend above his caste. Once he attains the rank of Shinto Priest, he becomes an Honorary Noble and is offered the respect and treatment of that caste. Of course a Noble who becomes a Shinto Priest is then doubly blessed.

The Wu-jen are powerful sorcerers, who can manipulate Creation itself, bending it to their will. It is an ability that few can master and is believed to be a gift bestowed on the worthy by The Ancestors themselves. Because of this belief, those demonstrating the powers of the Wu-jen are considered Nobility, regardless of birth. For if The Ancestors found the Wu-jen worthy, then who is man to judge diferently?

Ronin are Samurai without a lord. Most commonly, they are those who’s lord has been killed in battle or slain by the assassin’s blade. Because the Samurai were unable to give up their life for their lord, they are disgraced and become as Commoners.

Fair Folk
Fair Folk are the children of foxes who became human (see below). They are indistinguishable from humans, except for their fox ears and short bushy tails. Like humans, they may be of any caste but are typically commoners.

Geisha are entertainers, trained in the arts of music, poetry, and conversation. All women are expected to master the art of Geisha, though only Commoners actually become Geisha.

Nezumi are the children of rats who tried to become human, but were cursed, because they cheated one of the Five Gods in doing so (see below). They are short bipedal rat men who are barely tolerated among humans, mostly out of pity because they can no longer dwell among the animals.

The Ninja are paid assassins and spies, working for the highest bidder. Though outlaws, they are nonetheless available to any Daimyo (or the exceptionally wealthy) should he call on them, ready to serve for a price. Being experts in stealth and wielding dark magics, Ninja can make deadly foes.

The Yakuza are organized crime gangs that hide among otherwise normal looking villages, towns, and cities. They typically run small criminal operations and lie low, trying not to attract too much attention, avoiding discovery through the liberal use of bribes, threats, and extortion. Because killing Yakuza outright can have serious repercussions throughout the populace, they must first be caught in a criminal act before being branded Criminals.

Crime and punishment
The Samurai are official representatives of their Daimyo and the Daimyos are official representatives of the Shogun. The Shogun is the chief lawmaker in the land, and therefore, the Samurai and Daimyos are the keepers of that Justice (as knights were the keepers of the King’s justice in feudal Europe). However, having a drunken Samurai ‘dispensing justice’ can sometimes be as deadly as having a gang of criminals in your tavern house. Villagers will often adopt Commoner ‘police’ who inherit the position from their fathers, when Samurai aren’t around. Nippon has a very unforgiving justice system, but before anyone can be brought to justice, the perpetrator must make a confession, or the criminal must be caught red-handed. Torture is a common method of obtaining ‘confessions’.

Forgery and robbery are punishable by death, and the perpetrator’s wife and children are slain as well. Treason against the Shogun or Daimyo is also punishable by death. Samurai may escape execution (and loss of honor to their family) through seppuku. Sometimes, when the crime is particularly vile, Samurai are offered the chance to commit seppuku, but are given a wooden sword to complete the ritual. This shows that the Daimyo does not believe the Samurai has the courage to complete the act, and is only going through the motions to save Face. Seppuku can even be denied to a Samurai (a severe punishment), forcing him to live out the rest of his life in shame. Lesser crimes can be amended through public beatings, house arrest (for Samurai), fines, or cuffing (which involves the offender being handcuffed for extended periods of time).

Often, when a villager commits a crime, the Village Headman is punished. Likewise, when a Samurai’s son is found guilty, the father is expected to atone for the crime.

Murder is handled a bit differently. When a member of one’s family is slain, any other member may go to the killer’s Daimyo and ask for Blood Duel. It may seem that the Daimyos would reject such challenges, but that would show their lack of faith in their own Samurai, and could also be seen as a display of cowardice. The individual seeking a Blood Duel need not fight the duel themselves, if a volunteer can be found to do it for them. Some Ronin make a decent business settling other peoples’ Blood Duels for them.

Before any of this can take place however, the family of the victim must be certain of the killer’s identity and the killing must have been ‘public’, that is, there must have been witnesses to the killing. Once a challenge has been accepted, it is made publicly know and no one may interfere. Doing so is considered a capital crime.

Needless to say, once the challenger or challenged (or both) are killed, the Blood Duel is over. Death in a Blood Duel is a rightful death, and cannot be avenged – at least not within the confines of the Shogun’s law…

People of the Non-Person caste cannot make a Blood Duel challenge.

« Last Edit: September 17, 2013, 10:13:40 am by BerkaZerka »


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Re: Mythic Nippon Setting Notes
« Reply #1 on: September 15, 2013, 09:35:32 pm »

Current Political State
The Chinese Shogunate is new and strong, maintaining a ridged policy of social conventions. To ensure loyalty, the Daimyos’ families must live at Edo castle under the Chinese Shogun. The Daimyos themselves must live in Edo half the time, alternating residence between Edo and their homelands every two years.

Bearing arms and wearing armor in urban areas is controlled by law, and forbidden for those not of the Samurai caste. Dueling and feuds are also subject to strict legal control, requiring official authorization. Crime is punished with quick dispatch and usually by death, though local laws are subject to reversal by the Shogun’s officials. Battles between Daimyos are forbidden and the only large-scale military activity is between the Shogun and those who threaten the peace of the realm, such as rebellious Daimyo, peasants in revolt, or uprising Ronin.

Goods and training are easily accessible in the current society and the economy prospers, because the roads are regularly patrolled and kept free of brigandage in the main provinces, which promotes trade. Academies of the martial and peaceful arts flourish and warriors deprived of their main employment, in time of peace, turn to the perfection of their skills for philosophical ends. Religious freedom is at a high point, keeping Shinto Masters busy, as the public’s interest in pursuing spiritual enlightenment is high. Tolerance for those of the Non-Persons caste however is low, and they’d best walk softly in areas under the Shogunate’s control.

History has shown control to be fluid and things can change. When an overwhelmed or weak Shogunate is in power, life is somewhat more exciting. The Daimyos, Noble Houses, and even disenfranchised Ronin, sensing the loosening control, will start jockeying for maximum advantage, while paying lip service to the Shogunate unless in outright rebellion. Motivations will vary according to philosophy and power with greater Daimyos looking for their own entry into the Shogunate and lesser lords gauging the field of potential winners, looking for the best ally.

Others will take advantage of the confusion, expanding their own holdings through warfare as independent factions try to buttress themselves against the coming disorder. Battles large and small will abound and travel will be risky outside of strongly policed provinces.

The Yakuza will try to take control of their villages and the high roads, extorting protection money from the inhabitants and travelers to prevent trouble, while the Ninja are kept busy with espionage work and assassinations. Brigandage in outlying areas will be commonplace and the economy and trade will suffer for it.

Training in more esoteric skills will be hard to find, as emphasis will be on more utilitarian combat skills. The public’s interest in pursuing spiritual enlightenment will take a back seat to simply surviving and waiting for things sort themselves out.

The Languages of Mythic Nippon
  • Old Realm: Ancient Japanese; the language of Spirits, Oni, sorcery, and occult texts.
  • Realm Tongue: Japanese (the character’s native language); includes both High Realm spoken by nobles and Low Realm spoken by commoners.
  • Imperial: Chinese; the language of the Chinese Bureaucracy that currently occupies Japan.
  • Merchant’s Cant: A Japanese/Chinese pigeon tongue used for commerce and trade.
  • Primitive: The language of outlanders, savages, and sub humans.
Life Of The Samurai
Coming of Age
When a child of the Samurai caste turns seven, he is sent to a school where he learns the ways of his caste and profession. Young Samurai are taught history, swordplay, language, battle tactics, and philosophy. It takes approximately nine years to finish the training, after which, they perform a rite of passage called gempukku and are then, for the first time, considered an adult.

The most significant ceremony of a samurai’s life, Gempukku, celebrates the passage from childhood to adulthood. This ceremony typically occurs at sixteen years of age, though depending on the circumstances it can take place earlier of later in life. Though most samurai children begin training long before this ceremony, a samurai need not go through an apprenticeship; upon completion of the ceremony, his elders give him his swords and consider him henceforth an adult in all ways.

Naturally inexperienced samurai are rarely given the same responsibilities of their older brethren, but they are otherwise granted the respect and station of a samurai immediately upon reaching adulthood.

The nature of the Gempukku ceremony varies greatly by clan and family. While some prefer an elaborate ceremony offering opportunity for courtly interaction, other involve surviving an expedition into the mountains and returning with a goblin or other pestilent monster's head. In times of war, Gempukku ceremonies are often disposed of altogether as young samurai-to-be are handed their daisho and sent immediately to the front lines.

Marriage in Nippon has nothing to do with love. A marriage is strictly a business mater, arranged by the parents of the couple and a middleman. One is not necessarily expected to love one’s spouse. However, a slight against a Samurai’s wife is a slight against her husband.

The wife runs a Nipponese household and handles all of the money, giving her husband a stipend, which he may spend any way he wishes. She manages the servants, hires workers to repair or improve the house, and handles all of the entertainment for visitors.

While there is little romance to be found in a marriage, the same cannot be said for affairs outside a marriage. Although a Samurai’s extramarital affairs are ignored by society, he is expected to be discreet, so he does not insult his wife’s family. When Samurai seek such company, they often find it in the arms of a Geisha.

When entering a Geisha teahouse, Samurai are expected to leave their weapons at the door to avoid bloodshed within.

Passionate love is often frowned upon in Samurai circles; it is an emotion for “lower people” such as courtesans and Geisha. As such, it has no place in a Samurai’s heart; there is only room for complete, unquestioning devotion to one’s Daimyo. Any other emotions conflict with one’s devotion, clouding loyalty.

Only vary rarely does a love story end happily for a Samurai. While this may be an accepted truth in Nippon, lovers who can overcome the odds are often seen as heroic and honorable, while those who fail are tragic and sometimes even vilified.

Old Age
In Nippon, a Samurai is considered a ‘young man’ until he reaches his twentieth year. Then he is ‘middle aged’ until he is forty. On their fortieth birthday, it is considered proper for Samurai to shave their heads and retire, in order to prepare for the next life. Though considered proper, it is not something that every Samurai will do; as some will remain in their positions if they see the need, unless forced to retire by their superiors. Even a retired Samurai holds considerable influence and power however, and it is not uncommon to see a new Daimyo led like a puppet by a retired one until his predecessor passes on (which may sometimes require a little help).

Fear of death is not only improper, it is also dishonorable. Because the Nipponese believe in a Spirit World where the souls of the departed go to await rebirth, they expect to join their ancestors in the Spirit World after death. A common motto is taught to the Samurai in dojos: ‘I have borrowed my ancestor’s name; I must return it to them untainted’.

Bushido: Code of the Warrior
Bushido is the code which all Samurai are expected to adhere to and emphasizes a life of virtue and integrity. All of these virtues together encapsulate a Samurai’s Honor.

Courage “You cannot live while hiding from life”
A Samurai is expected to be ready to give up his life for his Daimyo at any moment. The people of Nippon not only believe in reincarnation, but also that the actions of this life will affect a thousand lifetimes to come. This belief in karma is why a Samurai cares so little for his own safety. He knows that if he selflessly gives his life serving his lord, his station will be better in the next lifetime. Common folk allow fears to swallow their hearts. An extraordinary soul is one who has the courage to truly live life to its limits, to live as if each moment is the last.

Loyalty “A handful of wealth is worth a handful of dust when compared to the riches a Samurai’s family brings to him”
There is another reason that a Samurai is willing to live so dangerously. He knows that if he gives his life for his Daimyo, his Daimyo will look very well upon his family. The concept of loyalty goes both ways. A Daimyo will be loyal to a fallen Samurai’s memory by rewarding his family in return for his devotion. This concept of giving one’s life to better one’s family is important. In Nippon, nothing is as important as your family. Without a family, a person’s life is worth nothing.

Sincerity “You own every word you speak”
Sincerity does not mean honesty; sincerity is the ability to appear honest. A Samurai is expected to lie to protect his family’s honor. That is why in court, the testimony of family members is not considered valid. A man or woman who can cry on command has a valuable skill in Nippon and the ability to appear sincere while apologizing is highly regarded. The Nipponese are more concerned with saying what people want to hear than telling the truth. To tell the truth brings embarrassment to all parties involved, and is therefore dishonorable.

Face “A courageous man has no need to be cruel”
Face is how well respected you are in your caste. A Samurai is very careful not to lose the respect of those around him, even if that respect is more because of appearance than truth. Self-discipline therefore, is very important and someone who shows a burst of emotion is said to have ‘lost his face’. Being considerate to others shows that one is worthy of respect and can win many favors, while being inconsiderate can cost you your life. A Samurai with no Face has been disgraced and may only save Face by committing Seppuku.

Excellence “While you rest, your enemy practices”
A Samurai must always strive to be the best in all aspects of his life, not just in military matters. Every action requires the utmost concentration, because every repetition brings the practitioner closer to perfection. The Nipponese believe that perfection can be attained in all things: swordsmanship, hunting, gardening… Even breathing can always be improved.

Farmers And Commoners
Farmers do not live on isolated farms. Farms surround a village in which the farmers, their families, and other Commoners live. A Commoner’s home is very simple, typically having only a living room and sleeping quarters. More important villagers, such as the Village Headman, will sometimes have a larger home, complete with a ‘quality room’ in which he can entertain visiting Samurai. The interior walls are made of paper; the floors are made of wood. Homes are often built out of cedar, which is flexible (for the strong winds of storms) but also more flammable than most other wood. A quick summer brush fire can level an entire village in a single day. Valuables are kept in a stone locker in the rear of the house to protect them from fires and theft. Shoes are always removed and left in the entryway before entering the house.

The Village
All villages are surrounded by fire ditches to help prevent the all-too-frequent fires that occur in the dry summer. They are also surrounded by trees, giving the villages constant shade to protect them from the summer heat they so despise. Roads that run into villages are also lined with trees, tall hedges, and the occasional Shinto shrine.

Samurai And Nobles
The homes of the Samurai and Nobles are much more extravagant than those of the Commoners, often ten times as expensive and expansive. These small estates always include a decorative garden and include three main sections. The front section is used entirely for business and entertaining visitors. The second section is reserved for sleeping and includes chambers for visiting guests and relatives. And the third section is where the food is prepared and the women have their private chambers.

Each Daimyo family lives in an ancestral castle, which surrounds a town or city and is rimmed with farms. It is walled and moated to discourage invaders and has a number of strongholds which house the barracks, the lord’s residence, and food stores. Each stronghold sits high atop a steep stone battlement with only a narrow advance and gate, where troops moving into and out of the castle may do so only in single file. The inner hallways of the stronghold are made of stone and are a vast labyrinth that only allows a single man to advance at a time, making it easy to defend. Each hallway is also filled with slots to shoot arrows through and holes along the ceiling to drop in oil, acid, and poison. Atop the stone hallways is the Daimyo’s home, which is a larger, more extravagant version of the Samurai or Nobles’ home, easily housing a retinue of up to fifty people (in-laws, body guards, etc).

Samurai who serve the Daimyo of a castle have the option of living in the barracks if they are bachelors. The Samurai-ko (female Samurai) typically live with the lord’s family.

The cities are protected by the walls and moats of the fortress of the Daimyo and are the heart of Nippon’s economy. Cities are divided into districts which are gated, walled, and watched over by the local police force. Identification papers are needed to pass from district to district after dark. Typical districts include a Samurai district, a Noble district, a Shinto Temple district, a School district, a Business District, and an Entertainment district.

Generally, Non-Persons and illiterate Commoners are not welcome in the city. They do their business in the spring market season.

Travel in Nippon can take a long time. A man on horseback can travel 20 to 30 miles a day, depending on the weather, terrain, and if he is using one of the Emperor’s roads. All roads belong to the Emperor. They are continuously maintained and patrolled by the apprentice Samurai of each Province, who are barracked in Way Stations set along the roads every 15 miles and at boarders between Provinces. The officers at Way Stations provide assistance to travelers, act as advance scouts (looking for unauthorized military activity), and generally seek to keep the peace. They are sometimes staffed with Wu-jen, just in case of emergency.

When people travel, they must gain permission from their Daimyo and carry Travel Papers indicating their destination and business. Travel Papers are checked at way stations on the boarders between each Province.

Most travel is on horseback or by foot and nothing larger than a handcart or rickshaw may be taken along the Emperor’s roads, to prevent ruts. Only the Emperor and his entourage are allowed to travel by carriage.

Due to the restrictions placed on travel, merchants typically move their cargo by junk boat, unloading it in ports and sending only what is necessary up the Emperor’s roads on handcarts.

Gift Giving
The giving of gifts is a very formalized and honored tradition of the peoples of Nippon. The way someone gives you a gift can tell you if he respects you, if he is a friend, or if he is your deadliest enemy. When giving a gift, the recipient is assumed to be able to return your generosity quickly and equitably. To give someone a gift that is beyond their means to return, is to tell them that you know they cannot return your generosity and is very insulting.

Also, the giving of gifts has a ritual that must be observed. When the giver offers the gift, the recipient must refuse the gift twice. This offers the giver three opportunities to show that he truly intends to give the gift. Taking the gift too soon impugns the giver’s sincerity. Also, if the giver offers the gift, is refused and then fails to continue to offer the gift, that shows that the giver never meant to give the gift in the first place.

Gifts can be of great monetary value, but the most valuable gifts are those of sentimental value.
« Last Edit: December 07, 2013, 12:04:45 pm by BerkaZerka »


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Re: Mythic Nippon Setting Notes
« Reply #2 on: September 15, 2013, 09:38:17 pm »

The Spirit World
Mythic Nippon is not only what one sees with the naked eye. An unseen world exists; and is a realm of wondrous, innumerable, and sometimes deadly spirits, both good and evil.  Everything in Creation has an associated spirit, even inanimate objects and abstract concepts, such as love, hate, charity, or greed.  These spirits are usually content to attend to their purposes, unseen by most men, yet ever present in all things.  Others, which may be mischievous or malevolent, take great pleasure in crossing into the physical world to torment and disrupt the lives of man.  The veil that separates the physical world from the Spirit World is easy for most spirits to part, but is almost non-existent in some of the world’s higher mountains.  In these mystical places, the traveler can literally walk into the Spirit World unawares; usually a one way trip.

The Spirit World is also the realm of the Five Gods of Creation and the Naga that serve them.  It is also where the Ancestors go after death, who live in a great celestial castle in the sky known as the Celestial Palace, awaiting rebirth into a new life.

Ki Energy
The Spirit World resonates with all things living, imbuing every creature with Ki Energy. Some individuals learn to harness this energy, using it to focus the mind, spirit, and body to such a degree as to accomplish sometimes truly incredible feats. Mythic Nippon is alive with this energy, even to the point of it gushing invisibly into the Physical World through mystical portals known as Spirit Wells. When those who can see them find one of these portals, a Shrine is usually built up around it to further harness its energy.

Spirit Wells
Spirit Wells are points between the physical and spirit world, where unseen spirit energy fountains out like a geyser. This energy can be sensed with the Sensitive Edge on a Successful Perception (Spot) roll – or outright seen with Spirit Sight.

Anyone resting in the immediate vicinity of an un-tapped Spirit Well, for a minimum of six hours, will regain +1 Luck and Surge Points for that day.

A Spirit Well can also be tapped and harnessed, by building a Spirit Shrine around it, and focusing its energy through large crystals, carved jade, or other precious gemstones. It requires the Spirit Artisan Amazing Feat to do so, but once a Spirit Shrine has been built, one can meditate for an hour at the site (once per day), to restore +1 Luck and Surge in addition to the benefits gained from actually resting there.

Furthermore, a small gold or silver charm can be left in the Focal Point of the Spirit Shrine for 24 hours to imbue it with a temporary Luck Point. The Luck Point stays in the Luck Charm indefinitely, until used by anyone holding or wearing it, which then renders the item normal once again. Normally, only 1 Luck Charm can be imbued by a Spirit Shrine at any time, but the Charm Master Amazing Feat allows more each time it is purchased.

The Celestial Order
There are Five Gods who rule over Creation, comprising what is known as the Celestial Order. Each God encompasses one of the Five Elements of Creation, with an Elemental Herald that acts as the God’s intermediary between the Celestial Order and the rest of Creation. The Five Gods include: A-Buji the Sun with his Fire Elemental Herald; U-Mani the Moon with her Wood Elemental Herald; Tok-ji and Suk-chi the East and West Winds with their Air Elemental Herald; The Earth with its Earth Elemental Herald; and The Ocean with its Water Elemental Herald.

The Story of Creation
The world that is, was written upon a Grand Celestial Scroll, called Makimono, by the hand of the Five Gods of Creation.  Initially, there were only two gods, alone together in the heavens – A-Buji the Sun who was male and U-Mani the Moon who was female.

A-Buji the Sun was an all-consuming fire, while U-Mani the Moon was giving and filled the void created by the Sun’s appetites – though together they neither diminished nor expanded.

In time, U-Mani the Moon grew weary of the unending sameness, so she seduced A-Buji the Sun to join with him and create two Twins – the male Tok-ji, who was the East Wind, and the female Suk-chi, who was the West Wind.

The Twins took the forms of great majestic dragons, soaring like silk ribbons across the heavens.  The two were Ying and Yang; opposites and at the same time complimentary.  So much two halves of a whole, that together they are considered one god, called the East and West Winds.  The Twins could not abide the stillness of heaven however, wanting a place to play, so U-Mani the Moon drew Earth upon a Great Scroll and sent the Twins down to play.

But A-Buji the Sun’s fire began to consume the edges of the Scroll and scorched the Earth.  U-Mani the Moon saw what was happening, and not wanting to lose her work, created the Ocean to be a mistress for the Sun and to quench his consuming fire.

The Ocean cooled the Sun, but not before the Earth had received a terrible wound from the Sun’s burning fire. It was from this wound that a great demon, called Massaki Dai-Oni came forth.  The union of the Sun and Ocean meanwhile, spawned animals that began to fill the Earth.

U-Mani the Moon was jealous of the animals that the Ocean and Sun had created, so she joined with the Earth and made man, giving him dominion over the animals and tasking him with destroying the great demon Massaki Dai-Oni.  But the Massaki Dai-Oni had seen what U-Mani the Moon was doing and himself created the Oni to give man battle. The fighting began, but the Oni were much too strong and began to destroy man.

U-Mani the Moon, not wanting man destroyed, last of all joined with the Ocean and created the Naga to help man defeat the Oni.  It was a close battle, but with the help of the Naga, the great demon Massaki Dai-Oni was bound and the Oni were scattered into the depths of the Earth.

The Naga, no longer needed in their original capacity, withdrew from the Earth and into the Spirit World to watch over the spirits of man in their transitions between life and death.

For a time, man lived in peace upon the Earth, but the scattered Oni slowly began to corrupt things from the shadows where they hid, and wicked spirits, monsters, and new immortals began to come forth.

The Order Of Creation
Everything in Creation is either a God, Elemental, Spirit, Man, Beast, or Oni. Like the Social Castes of Man, Creation itself has a distinct hierarchy, including seven tiers in descending order:
OOO The Five Gods
OOO Elementals
OOO Naga
OOO Spirits
OOO Beasts

The Oni
The Oni are the demons of Mythic Nippon that come from deep within the Earth, crawling up from the Underworld itself wherever they can find a way out, or by being summoned up through magic of the darkest kind.  Unlike Spirits, the Oni’s natural state is corporeal, though most can use their ability to Manifest to become incorporeal to the physical world simply by entering the Spirit World, which all Oni can see into and out of with ease.  

All Oni are subjugated to Massaki Dai-Oni – The Father and Foremost of Demons – and the five Horse Walker Generals of his demonic army, known as the Circle of Iron.  Massaki Dai-Oni also retains a personal Honor Guard of five ancient Shadow Dragons, called the Order of Shades.

Below Massaki Dai-Oni and his Circle of Iron are the nobles of the demon world, known as Independents.  Unlike the Circle of Iron, these Oni do not cooperate with each other and serve their own ends – which are more often than not at odds with each other and sometimes even the Circle of Iron itself (though this never lasts long once the Circle of Iron finds out about it).  While left to themselves generally, Independents are still subject to Massaki Dai-Oni and his Circle of Iron, who do occasionally conscript them in their machinations against humanity.

The lowliest of Oni are the mindless, weak, or easily controlled demons, known as Thralls.  These Oni are often used and abused by both the more powerful demons above them and mankind itself, who has learned some of the dark spells used to bind and control them.

The Story Of The Fair Folk
Some of the animals wanted to become human and begged Mother Moon for this blessing. Mother Moon relented and had a contest, where those animals that wanted to become human had to enter a cave and not eat for one hundred years and a day. Those who could do it would become human.

All of the animals, except the rat and the fox, starved to death. The rat had cheated, eating the other animals as they died, but the fox had succeeded, because she had made a deal with an Oni, which took her hunger and ate for her. At the end of the contest, Mother Moon punished the rat by turning it into the Ratlings called Nezumi, while the fox was awarded the prize and became Fair Folk.

Then the Oni came and claimed the Fair Folk’s first born as payment for its services. The Fair Folk reluctantly agreed, because they are honorable creatures and had given their word. So the Oni corrupted the child and created from it the man-eating nine-tailed fox called Kitsune.

The Legendary Creatures Of Mythic Nippon
Below is a list of the legendary creatures that inhabit Mythic Nippon. Anyone of these creatures would be recognizable to most Nipponese, who are well versed in the folklore of their world. Each entry is denoted by a bolded letter to indicate whether the creature is (E)lemental, (S)pirit, (M)an, (B)east, or (O)ni.

Bakemono: Goblins. O
Bisan: Tree spirits that can become giant wasps. S
Ebisu: Northern barbarians of Hokkaido. M
Elementals: Heralds of the Five Gods. E
Fair Folk: Foxmen. M
Foo: Lions of good fortune. S
Gaki: Ghouls. S
Gamageru: Giant toads. B
Hengeyokai: Werewolves. S
Inukiro: Yellow disease-carrying dogs. B
Iru-Ari: Giant ants. B
Jikumo: Magic spirit spiders. S
Kabutomushi: Giant beetles. B
Kaikani: Giant crabs. B
Kaitako: Giant octopus. B
Kami: Dragons. S
Kappa: Turtle water spirits. S
Kenku: Birdmen. M
KenshiTora: Saber-toothed tigers. B
Kirin: Magical steeds. S
Kitsune: Nine-tailed fox. S
Kojin: Sharkmen. M
Kujira: Giant fish. B
Mukade: Giant 12’ long centipedes. B
Naga: Snakemen. S
Namikodomo: Water nymph. S
Nezumi: Ratmen. M
O-Bakemono: Ogres. O
Oni: Demons - too many to list. O
Rokurokubi: Pennaggolan. S
Shi-Ryo: Ancestors. S
Shutendoji: Vampires. S
Shutenyori: Vampire ghosts. S
Spirits: Too many to list. S
Tatsu: False dragons. B
Torakumo: Giant trap door spiders. B
Uba: Witches. M
Ushibuta: Giant boars. B
Ushiwani: Giant crocodiles. B
Yamasaru: Carnivorous mountain apes. B
Yori: Ghosts. S

Ancestors: Shi-Ryo. S
Birdmen: Kenku. M
Carnivorous mountain apes: Yamasaru. B
Demons: Oni. O
Dragons: Kami. S
False dragons: Tatsu. B
Foxmen: Fair Folk. M
Ghosts: Yori. S
Ghouls: Gaki. S
Giant 12’ long centipedes: Mukade. B
Giant ants: Iru-Ari. B
Giant beetles: Kabutomushi. B
Giant boars: Ushibuta. B
Giant crabs: Kaikani. B
Giant crocodiles: Ushiwani:. B
Giant fish: Kujira. B
Giant octopus: Kaitako. B
Giant toads: Gamageru. B
Giant trap door spiders: Torakumo. B
Goblins: Bakemono. O
Heralds of the Five Gods: Elementals. E
Lions of good fortune: Foo. S
Magic spirit spiders: Jikumo: . S
Magical steeds: Kirin. S
Nine-tailed fox: Kitsune. S
Northern barbarians of Hokkaido: Ebisu. M
Ogres: O-Bakemono. O
Pennaggolan: Rokurokubi. S
Ratmen: Nezumi. M
Saber-toothed tigers: KenshiTora. B
Sharkmen: Kojin. M
Snakemen: Naga. S
Spirits: Too many to list. S
Tree spirits that can become giant wasps: Bisan. S
Turtle water spirits: Kappa. S
Vampire ghosts: Shutenyori. S
Vampires: Shutendoji. S
Water nymph: Namikodomo. S
Werewolves: Hengeyokai. S
Witches: Uba. M
Yellow disease-carrying dogs: Inukiro. B  
« Last Edit: October 01, 2013, 04:15:19 pm by BerkaZerka »


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Re: Mythic Nippon Setting Notes
« Reply #3 on: September 15, 2013, 09:39:02 pm »

The Oni List___
The following is a list of the most common type of Oni, likely to be encountered (or summoned) in Mythic Nippon.

Thralls_ – AKA Demons of the Second Circle

  • Goblins: Child-sized Demon Foot-Soldiers
  • 20 ft Diameter Worm Swarm Demon. A mindless assassin
  • Human-sized Vulture Demon. A spy and kidnapper
  • Human-sized Goat Demon Mercenary
  • Human-sized Poison Frog Demon. A colorful dealer of psychotropic wonders
  • 10 ft wide, 20 ft long, Wasp Swarm Demon. Known as ‘the Stinging horror’
  • Gorilla-sized Demon Blood Ape
  • 14 ft Long, 3 ft wide, Giant Centipede Demon of Racing Doom
  • Ogre: 12 ft tall, 8 ft wide Demon Heavy Infantry
  • 30 ft long, 20 ft high, Giant Beetle Demon. Known as ‘the Lumbering Juggernaut’
  • 12 ft high, 16 ft long, Giant Boar Demon. Mammoth monster of disease and corruption
  • Horse-sized Spider Demon. A crafty spinner of webs and lies
  • 30 ft long Giant Pike Fish. Known as ‘the Terror From the Deep’
  • 60 ft long Giant Crocodile. Known as ‘the River Dragon’


Independents_ – AKA Demons of the First Circle

  • 60 ft tall, 30 ft wide, Giant Demon Super-Heavy Infantry
  • 12 ft tall, 8 ft wide, Bull Demon Lieutenants of The Iron Circle’s Army
  • 80 ft long Corrupted False Dragons. The guard dogs of the Iron Circle
  • 8 ft tall, 15 ft long, Scorpion-tailed Bone Demons of Burning Hate
  • 14 ft tall, 7 ft wide Horse Walker Captains of The Iron Circle’s Army
  • 8 ft tall, 12 ft round, Bloated Demon Magistrate and Eater of The Dead
  • 60 ft tall, 30 ft wide, Spindle-Armed Giant. Emaciated Titanic Horror
  • 40 ft Diameter Blood Pool Demon. Mindless Devourer of Souls
  • 10 ft tall (including 3 ft antlers), The Female One. Four-armed Demonic Concubine
  • Human-Sized Mother of Hags. Advisor to the Demon Court

« Last Edit: April 13, 2022, 06:17:10 pm by BerkaZerka »


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Re: Mythic Nippon Setting Notes
« Reply #4 on: September 15, 2013, 09:39:47 pm »

Good vs. Evil_
In the setting Good and Evil are harder to fit into a neat little package than in D&D, with its Alignment Chart. In D&D you have the Good, Neutral, Evil Axis – and the Law, Neutral, Chaos Axis.

In Mythic Nippon, there really is only ‘how the character acts overall’ in relation to the expectations of Society that determines (among society) whether they perceive him as good or evil.

Generally, that means Law over Good. Someone who does what Society expects them to do is considered good, while lawbreakers and rebels are considered evil (a chaotic good D&D character would be considered Evil by these standards). If Mythic Nippon was a D&D setting, the Base Alignment of the Populace would be Lawful Neutral.

With Priests – because they have to ‘choose’ a side, it’s only slightly more complicated. The base ‘Ideals' of ‘Evil’ and ‘Good’ are as follows.

Evil IdealsGood Ideals
Serves Self |  Serves Others
Indifferent to Life |  Respects Life
Indifferent to Law |  Respects Law
Power is Imperative |  Humility is Honorable
Despises Weakness |  Tolerates Weakness
End Justifies Means |  Follows Moral Standards
Lives For Now |  Considers Next Life

Just because a Priest adheres to these Ideals however, doesn’t in any way obligate him to actually spread evil. He is free to use the ‘freedom’ of his evil ways to do whatever he wants – including being ‘Good’.

Further, as long as an Evil Priest (or any person who leans towards the principles of Evil) appears on the surface to be a Law-abiding fellow, there’s no reason for society to think of him as anything less than an asset.

It’s only when they openly defy the law or are caught doing something truly horrible that the evil ‘label’ will suddenly attach.

Even knowing through Sense Motive, Amazing Feats, or Magic that someone has an ‘evilly inclined’ heart, doesn’t mean that he cannot resist his nature and continually do ‘good’.

After all, it is in Good’s nature to tolerate ‘weakness’….
« Last Edit: September 25, 2013, 11:20:19 am by BerkaZerka »


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Re: Mythic Nippon Setting Notes
« Reply #5 on: September 22, 2013, 04:14:24 pm »

Mythic Nippon: The Demon God of Sendai

Prolog ---

Those who would one day bear the honorific title: ‘Samurai of Sendai,’ were once the children of minor nobles in Sendai, the fortress city of Daimyo Shinsen Hasekura. When they were young, these children knew each other and attended school together. Their parents fell into the upper social ranking of the city, below only three other families and the Daimyo himself. They were taught to love the Daimyo and bring honor to their family names, by faithfully serving the Daimyo – as their families had for centuries before; serving as city officials, military leaders, royal physicians, political advisors, court magicians, and priests.

From the time they were very young, the children of Sendai knew that the Chinese were the enemies of their homeland; the Isles of Nippon. The parents in Sendai would say that the Chinese would carry them away if they misbehaved, and that the Chinese waited in the forests to capture runaways. Back then, the children of Sendai never saw any Chinese, but that’s because they were obedient children.

Then one day, the city flooded with common folk. Smoke billowed beyond the city walls and the people talked excitedly amongst themselves about grownup things that the children of Sendai couldn’t understand. Shortly after, their fathers were called away and the other men of the city started to carry weapons. Slowly, over the next few days, these men began to disappear as well, until only the very old remained.

At night, the children of Sendai would hear their mothers weeping, and sometimes fighting would be heard outside the homes – men yelling and then the clashing ring of swords – erupting suddenly and ending as abruptly with the cry of dying men.

Then, after a long time, the men finally returned to Sendai, but they were different… foreign…

Were these the Chinese the children of Sendai had heard about and feared? They came and took the young women away. And other men, who were older, came and took over the houses and stole the place of Sendai’s fathers. The children of Sendai suddenly found themselves with new ‘fathers’, left yearning and hoping for the return of their real fathers to come and make things right.

Not long after, some of Sendai’s younger men returned as well, bringing the children of Sendai a glimmer of bright expectation. Certainly, the children of Sendai believed, the young men of Sendai would fight and drive out the Chinese, so that the fathers of Sendai could return – but it did not happen that way. Instead, the young men of Sendai came home wounded and sad. Many had to be treated by healers and some had even lost the will to speak for a long time to follow.

It took many years, but things slowly began to return to normal; except that the real fathers of Sendai never returned. The children of Sendai began to go to school again, and to play, and to grow up. And as they did, they began to learn and understand the history of their city and people.


The Chinese had come to war against the Isles of Nippon and those who called it their home, led by the great Mongol Warlord Kublai Khan. Their numberless army, and a new weapon, called the ‘Roaring Dragon’, had swept over the lands, conquering all in their path, until finally coming to battle against Sendai itself. It was a bitter and hard fought contest, but the city eventually fell – shortly after the Daimyo, Shinsen Hasekura himself, took a terrible wound from the Roaring Dragons.

It is said however, that Kublai Khan was so impressed with Daimyo Hasekura’s spirit and skill in battle, that he had him healed by his own powerful Wu-Jen; and then restored him to his station and allowed him to continue governing the city of Sendai under the Chinese occupation.

Then, not long after the land was conquered, a Chinese Shogunate was established in the Imperial City of Edo and the Kublai Khan left Nippon with his fleet of mercenary warriors to travel back to China. Legend has it however, that a terrible typhoon rose up like a ‘divine wind’ – sent to avenge Nippon’s lost honor – and before the fleet reached the mainland, and it was all sunk to the bottom of the sea.

Even so, the remaining Chinese rulers (and those occupying the land) still possessed their fearsome new weapon, the Roaring Dragon – a light brass cannon that could be carried by infantry and which fired a three inch ball of stone. The sheer number Roaring Dragons in the possession of the Chinese invaders and the secret of gunpowder that gave these cannons such fearsome breath, secured their rule and were believed by the people to rival even the powers of sorcery itself.

The Daimyo meanwhile, may have survived the fall of Sendai, but his heart had not – and following that dark day, no one was allowed to see him for a very long time, except for a few of his closest advisors. He was, even back then, very old and the people of Sendai expected he would die soon. As it was customary that a Daimyo of such an age would normally step down and appoint a younger leader in his stead, the people of Sendai anxiously awaited word of who the next Daimyo would be – but Daimyo Hasekura had never announced a successor.

It may have been due to the fact that all three houses of Sendai’s major nobles had been killed in the war, or executed shortly after, and that the minor nobles of Sendai, suddenly elevated in the power vacuum, had not yet established a clear position of seniority amongst themselves. With all the intrigue and maneuvering among the new nobles however, the people feared that the Daimyo’s passing without a clear appointment of succession could bring a civil war.


Sixteen years following the fall of Sendai, the Chinese army had long been gone; having taken the city and the country. The Chinese who remained to rule, particularly those in Sendai, were slowly absorbed into the culture, and some joke that it was actually the Chinese who were defeated in the end. Regardless, the two peoples were now one; the original children of Sendai sharing their homes and family names with all of the half brothers and sisters of their now ‘civilized’ Chinese fathers.

Though the original children of Sendai might not have liked their Chinese fathers, they did respect them, and their mothers had grown to love them. As for all their half brothers and sisters – they were a pain, but as they shared some of the same blood, the original children of Sendai tolerated them at least.

As for Daimyo Hasekura, he has not died as expected nor stepped down, and has only been seen a few times in the past decade – making an annual appearance at each New Year’s festival, but rarely at any other time. When in public, he still manages to carry an air of youthful strength, in spite of his advanced years.

Rumors – however quite – now circulate that the Daimyo’s wounds during the battle of Sendai were mortal – as one of the young men who was spared after the battle of Sendai once told of how the Daimyo had been blasted through the chest by the Chinese Roaring Dragons after fighting valiantly for many hours. A Chinese warlord had the Daimyo’s body brought to Kublai Khan and somehow, the Daimyo was restored – but he should have been dead.

Such talk is never spoken in more than a hushed whisper among the closest of comrades or friends however, as anything that would keep a man from passing into his next life (or worse – that would prevent one from dying in the service of his lord) was against the Order of Creation and anathema; dishonoring both the Ancestors and the Five Gods of Creation themselves. Even to be overheard speaking of such things, in relation to the Daimyo, could bring instant death.

It is now the end of the Kamakura era: Year one thousand two hundred ninety seven – and sixteen years into the reign of the Chinese Shogun, Taiko T’ien Shinhan.

Welcome to the legendary Isles of Nippon. A place of mystery and wonder; inspired by the legends of Feudal Japan, Imperial China, and other places in the Far East. It is a world of stoic samurai and treacherous ninja; sorcery wielding wu-jen and brutal warlords; where dragons soar the skies and immortals walk the earth; Where demons and oni scheme among men and danger lurks in every shadow; Where legendary heroes and masters of ki search for honor, glory, and adventure!
« Last Edit: September 25, 2013, 11:19:23 am by BerkaZerka »


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Re: Mythic Nippon Setting Notes
« Reply #6 on: September 25, 2013, 11:19:04 am »

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