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Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Kwaidan part 2

The Monastery

1. The Tori Gate
Beyond the gate stands a leafy grove. Just inside it there is a small offering table upon which various votive candles burn. A pallet with a shrouded figure lies before the table surrounded by bowls with offerings of rice and fish. This is the corpse of an old man left there sometime during the day. If the party approach at night, they may see the Jikininki appear and devour the corpse and the offerings, but this will only occur when all the candles on the shrine have either burnt or blown out. As the players inspect the pallet they may hear a rustling in the undergrowth and then the sounds of someone or something making their way, rather clumsily, through the bushes. This will be Hoichi who, having picked up his meagre portion of food from the funeral party, is hurriedly making his way back to the ruined monastery before the Jikininki arrives for his dinner. Scattered around the grounds of the monastery where they are not obscured by the entangling undergrowth will be seen numerous go-rin-ishi (the five-circle funerary stone of Nippon).

2. Amidaji Temple
Deserted for a hundred years and in some disrepair, mosses grow upon the door posts, holes are visible in the once-elegant sloping roof, ivy hangs down from the eves. Across what once must have been an ornamental pond, the monk's quarters have all but collapsed into piles of mildewed boards.

Approaching the temple, a strong smell of incense pervades the air, and (if Hoichi has not been accidentally slain or is entertaining Lord Akiyama's ghost in the graveyard) the strains of an unearthly singing with accompaniment of the highest quality from the biwa will be heard. At night, no light will appear in the inner sanctuary where the music is coming from. Unseen things will scuttle away at their approach to hide behind statues and in crevices in the cracked floor stones. The players may be alarmed when Hoichi, presenting a spectral sight, rises up before them in the darkness; he is naked except for a loincloth, his body is covered with tattoos of the holy sutras as a ward against evil spirits, his unseeing eyes have a glazed and faintly luminous quality. Sonjo will recognise the holiness of the tattoos immediately, but he may be too late to prevent a nervous player from striking.

Hoichi, the blind and rather timid, biwa (Nipponese lute) player who lives in the ruined monastery, will tell of certain nights when a samurai comes to fetch him and takes him to play before a great lord. Hoichi is unaware that on these nights he is playing for the ghost of Akiyama, who finds in the beautiful music a momentary surcease from his torment. Hoichi remains in the monastery precincts at all other times and is safe from the Rokurokubi who dare not enter. He should be treated as an 'extra' (one hit kills him) with a Biwa BCS-Qf 19

3. The Island of the Kami
A small dilapidated shrine made of stone and wood stands on top of the pinnacle island. The shrine was once connected to the mainland by a rope bridge which hangs severed from the side of the island. The bridge appears to have been cut from the mainland side, where the cut-through ends of the supporting ropes can still be seen attached to stanchions. At night oni-bi (demon fires) can be seen to flit around the island, although they are not seen in the shrine. The good kami Ugetsu dwells in the shrine. The bridge was cut by the Rokuro-kubi who wished to dispel his benign magical influence from their stalking grounds. Ugetsu will reward anyone who repairs the bridge by Instruction. The only way to reach the island is to scale its vertical slopes from a boat; this will be fatal in nearly all cases (a sheer climb at -3 from Climbing capability) unless the player makes use of the rope bridge for the last fifty feet of the ascent. Despite its rotted appearance, the bridge is still magically imbued, and anyone making use of it will be protected by Ugetsu.

Ugetsu, the local kami, is a Jigami whose shrine is set on a pinnacle of rock which could be reached via a rope bridge from the cliffs. The Rokuro-kubi cut the bridge to prevent neighbouring villagers from making offerings to him.

Spirit Rank: 4
Hit Points: 20
Armour Class: 5
Zanshin: 2
Magic BCS: 8
BAP: 10
MNA: 2
BMA: 7
Powers: Instruct, Fertility (fields), Fertility (births), Control Phenomena within 1.2 Ri (about 5 miles) of shrine.
Spells: (four times a day each) dark circle, master of the green, confusing gaze, burning touch.
Skills: Tonfa-te 14, Nunchaku-te 14, Popular Dance 16, Fishing 16.

Ugetsu appears as an impressive man in silk robes of green dyed with subtle patterns of brown reminiscent of the paddy fields.

4: The Graveyard
Here there is a 20% chance of an encounter every two hours.
1. The ghost of Tadafune Akiyama (nights of the new moon only).
2. The Mujina (dusk or night only).

Two Torii gates (NW and E) lead into the enclosed areas which is now extremely overgrown with ferns and bramble. Around the walls stand the moss-covered go-rin-ishi (five-stone tombs) commemorating Lord Akiyama's men. In the graveyard, teetering upon the edge of the eroded cliff-face, stands a larger go-rin-ishi which covers Akiyama's grave. An inscription on one of the stones bears the lord's name although this is totally obscured by moss and lichen. Underneath are lines commemorating the sea battle that took place off Asamimura in which Akiyama perished. Players with a good memory for music may recognise in them parts of the songs recited by Hoichi in the temple (that is, if they have heard them). In front of the larger tomb and right at the edge of the cliff, there is an area of flattened grass and bracken where it appears someone has been sitting. Hoichi will be seen to sit here as he recites in front of the tomb at night; Akiyama who leads him down to the cliff's edge from the temple, fades into the five stone tomb at the begin¬ning of the recital. The tomb could be said to resemble a seated man. Akiyama's treasure will be found buried underneath his tomb next to his funerary urn. [see stats.]

The oni-bi frequent the graveyard at all times of the night, and many can be seen whirling around Hoichi's head during his performance. Oni-bi are harmless supernatural manifestations.

At the edge of the eroded cliff parts of the graveyard's wall and the lesser tombs hang over empty space. Looking down one can see human bones protruding from the cliff-face where Akiyama's men are about to return to the watery grave a hundred feet below from whence they were pulled.

On rough stormy nights a dreadful wailing can be heard to come from out at sea. The waters are said to be haunted by the ghost of a noble warrior, Tadafune Akiyama, who 200 years ago, died with several of his men in a sea-battle against a band of pirates. Their bodies were brought in and buried up on the cliffs and Amidaji Temple, a small Buddhist foundation, was then set up to commemorate their deaths. The sea has since eroded the cliff so that half the original graveyard has collapsed away, spilling the mortal remains into the waters below – or sometimes onto the beach, where the Rokuro-kubi come to feast on the rotted corpses. The spirit of Akiyama grows increasingly restless as his own grave will soon be breached by the erosion. His ghost roams on nights of the new moon – for on such a night was he slain – seeking a priest who will rebury him and perform the Segaki service to quieten his spirit.

The Ghost of Lord Akiyama
Spirit Rank: 5
Hit Points: 45
Armour Class: 10
Zanshin: 2
BAP: 10
MNA: 2
BMA: 5
Attack: Katana, BCS 19, Damage 1d6+3 lethal.
Treasure: In the grave, a netsuke of a ki-rin (The Steed of Heaven from the Bushido rules, 3 charges).

The ghost is a Shura, gaunt and wild-eyed but much as Akiyama looked when alive. He speaks in a hollow tormented voice, commanding those before him to retrieve his body from its grave on the cliffs and to give it proper burial elsewhere.

5. The Anjitsu
Here stands a simple stone tomb covered by moss and lichen. Below it lie the mortal remains of the bad Buddhist priest Hobei, now a Jikininki. Players passing near the grove while Hobei is still in human form may hear a faint moaning sound, and, approaching nearer, even the sound of grating teeth. Instead of the tomb, the players will see an anjitsu or hermitage, in the form of a small cottage constructed of stone, with a sloping, gabled roof made of wood. This will disappear once Hobei has made his confession and segaki rites are performed over his body, or when in gaki form.

The Jikininki (corpse eating Gaki)
Str: 30
Dft: 20
Spd: 20
Hlh: 3
Wit: 5
Will: 33
Magic BCS:8
Spirit Rank: 3
Hit Points: 25
Attack: 2 talons,BCS 12, Damage 1d6 lethal
Armour Class: 5
Damage: +3
BAP: 10
MNA: 2
BMA: 7
Jo, BCS 14, Damage 1d6+3 subdual.
Spells: Three uses per day of shadow cloak, as cast by level 2 Shugenja.
Powers: Bewilder (treat as Awe but victims never pass out and the effect vanishes whey Jikininki departs). Minor Invulnerability (takes half damage from non-magical weapons).

The Jikininki is a kind of Gaki. This one was called Hobei, an ex-Buddhist monk. He usually appears as a normal man, dwelling in his anjitsu (priest's hermitage). He feeds on corpses left at the temple gate. This takes five rounds, and if Hobei is wounded he recovers 5 hit points by eating a corpse. Hobei will fight if thwarted from reaching a corpse but once he is glutted he will depart. In his human form, Hobei is surly and irascible but basically contrite about his condition. He was an avaricious priest who thought only of the payment when he performed burial rites, and this dishonour has caused him to become a Jikininki. If the party somehow find out the truth about him and confront him with it he will break down in shame and ask to be given Segaki rites. After the rites have been performed he and his hut will vanish, leaving the players beside Hobei's moss-covered tomb. Burning the body is not necessary.

(Scenario concludes on Friday.)


  1. Is Shura the Japanese word for the Sanskrit Asura?

  2. I'm guessing it's some type of ghost listed in the Bushido rules.

  3. Well, I just looked it up in Wikipedia, and I was right: it's the Japanese word for the Sanskrit Asura, which in Buddhism (and in a slightly altered form in Hinduism since many of these Indian-origin religions seem to share similar elements) is the name of "the lowest ranks of the deities or demigods of the Kamadhatu".

    Hmm, that sounds slightly different from the ghost-like creature you're describing. I'm puzzled.

  4. "Shura appear as slightly misty forms similar to those they bore in
    life. They are usually the ghosts of violent individuals, held to earth
    by abrupt deaths which left their attention focussed on combat or
    attack, or else condemned to be Yurei by Emma-hoo." Bushido Book 2 page 23

    Appears to be related to / derived from a category of Noh play (Shura-mono).