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Friday, 25 March 2011

Kwaidan part 3

The Village of Asamimura
Consists of a small ji-zamurai mansion and a dozen or so peasant huts. By night Asamimura is stalked by such grisly nightmares as the undead Jikininki and the faceless Mujina.

The village of Asamimura is in fact quite desolate – though it appears to be inhabited by a few hardy peasants these are actually Rokuro-kubi. By night they hunt, with a 15% chance every two hours of returning to the village.

The Rokuro-kubi
Spirit Rank: 2
Armour Class: 6
Zanshin: 2
BAP: 12
MNA: 2
BMA: 5
Attack: Bite, BCS: 12, Damage 1d3 lethal.
Hit Points: Headman 15, Strongman: 18, Others 10, 11, 6, 8, 9, 10, 6, 4.
Treasure: 2 silver, 40 copper on their persons and hidden in their huts.

The Rokuro-kubi all act as classic 'Average Men' by day. The Headman is crafty and Strongman is slow-witted; all the others (three women and two children plus men) are of average intelligence.

They appear by day as humble fishermen/farmers of the village. They will be hospitable and put up the party in the dilapidated manor where the squire Tetsu lived. At night they revert to type and will attempt to devour numbers of the party. If the party approaches Asamimura at night they will find the village apparently deserted with several headless bodies, in a state of perfect preservation, lying in some of the houses. Moreover the necks of the bodies will not appear severed, but look as a stalk does when a leaf has been plucked from it. The Rokuro-kubi dislike Hobei the Jikininki. He devours corpses they would like for themselves. They will tell the players that a gaki stalks the monastery grounds and it is probably this that has been terrorising travellers on the moors.

6. The Village Offering Table
Closer obser¬vation will reveal that the stone shrine at the centre of the village dedicated to the local kami, Ugetsu, has had some of its stones dislodged, perhaps in a gale. This damage has not been repaired, and further disrespect has been shown to the kami in that the fallen stones now serve as mooring stones for the fishing boats drawn up on the beach. The fishing nets laid out as if to dry next to the boats will also be seen to be in some state of disrepair if looked at closely.

7. Beach of Skulls
On the northern edge of the beach, underneath the cliffs, players may spot what appear to be small boulders and bits of white driftwood strewn about. On closer inspection they will be seen to be skulls and bones of Akiyama's men eroded from the cliff above and washed up on the beach by the tide. These relics will be brown in colour; scattered amongst them are the far whiter bones of the Rokuro-kubi's latest victims.

8. The Ji-zamurai's Mansion
There is a 15 chance of an encounter for every two hours spent in Tetsu's dilapidated house. Roll d6:

1-3: The Mujina (dusk or night only)
4-6: The Rokuro-kubi (appearing as normal peasants if during the day)

On close inspection, a few things will appear to be amiss:
(i) The floorboards of many of the rooms and also that of the teahouse appear to have been prised up and then roughly hammered down again. The garden appears to have been dug over thoroughly in a number of places and the earth thrown back loosely to cover the holes. This damage was caused by the Rokuro-kubi looking for Tetsu's hidden gold.
(ii) One of the bedrooms (the third) appears to be not as dusty as the others. A few spots of brown, dried blood may be found on the underside of one of the tatami mats; the Rokuro-kubi's last victim was devoured here. A pilgrim staff will be found to have been thrown into the undergrowth of the garden.
(iii) A bow with a rotted string and a mildewed quiver of arrows will be found amongst the weeds on the southern porch (B). A target butt, partially obscured by climbing plants, stands against the southern garden wall (C); one or two arrow-heads are still stuck into it. Two burnt-out torch stubs stand to either side of it, set into the ground. Anyone with any knowledge of archery may make their BCS role to discover that the bow shows signs of fine workmanship (a 3 Man-Rating dai-kyu, worth 50 silver when refurbished).

Tetsu was practising archery one night by the light of the torches when he heard the sound of sobbing coming from the bushes near the butt. Fearing he had accidentally wounded someone hiding in the undergrowth, he left his bow on the terrace and approached the bushes. In the light of the torches he saw a young woman kneeling on the grass with averted face. As he neared her she turned to reveal the terrible featureless face of the Mujina. Tetsu has been mad ever since and has never returned to the mansion.

A suit of armour stands in the living room (A), antique-looking with fine embossing. A now extinct clan crest is set into the helmet (the crest is of a wisteria blossom and is made of enamel). A character must make his heraldry BCS to identify as the Tadafune clan emblem. The armour belonged to Lord Tadafune. Its value is 90 gold pieces. It is reputedly haunted, and this has deterred the Rokuro-kubi from pilfering it. This rumour has basis in fact; on moonlit night a low ghostly moaning may be heard coming from it. A player approaching closer will hear Lord Akiyama's hollow voice commanding him to find a Buddhist priest so that his body may be reburied with proper rites.

A chest (lock complexity 6) stands in the storage room of Tetsu's manor. The chamber is carefully concealed behind sliding panels which resemble the woodwork of the outer walls. (Wit Saving Throw to see a Hidden Thing). Inside the chest are scrolls representing the deeds of the estate. There is also one with Tetsu's family name (Watanabe) set as a seal into wax. Anyone opening it will discover the following poem:

In the place of sweet refreshment
Look westward to the setting sun,
Bright beneath the water
Brighter fish than goldfish swim.

(This refers to an urn sunk by Tetsu in the middle of the pond, in it will be found 9 gold pieces).
Such accessories as torches, ropes, linen, will be found in the kitchen.


  1. Dave, aren't you describing nukekubi in this scenario rather than rokurokubi?

  2. The Fighting Fantasy book, 'Sword of the Samurai', by Mark Smith and Jamie Thomson, first introduced me to the Rokuro-Kubi when I was maybe twelve years old. Freaky, freaky monsters; never forgot about them. Good - or possibly unnerving - to see them pop up again here.

    Good book, that one. Is it too traumatic for a twelve-year-old to learn about 'seppuku'...? Nah.

  3. Nikolas Kiej'e in his book Japanese Grostequeries identifies the nekekubi as the long-necked goblin, while the Bushido designers evidently took their lead from Lafcadio Hearn who (in Kwaidan) used rokurokubi to mean a detachable-head goblin. Henri Joly mentions only rokurokubi and implies they might have either long necks or detachable heads or possibly both. I suspect the answer lies in the fact that folklore is not an exact science.

  4. Thanks for posting this adventure, Dave. Do you see it as a potential scenario in the Legend setting or would any amendments be necessary?

  5. From the most reliable sources I've read, rokurokubi are the long-necked ones and nukekubi are the detachable head ones. Apparently the confusion between the two (which led to rokurokubi often being given the powers of nukekubi such as in Sword of the Samurai and this scenario) started with Hearn's Kwaidan. In fact, nukekubi literally means "Detachable Neck".

  6. Jiminy, I guess you could fit it into the Yamato of Legend, though it's unlikely any characters from Ellesland are going to find their way out there.

    Hamza, I think you're probably right. I'll ask Paul (Mason) to comment on this, but at the moment he may be plagued by powercuts as a result of the tsunami. Which is as good an opportunity as any to remind all who enjoyed this scenario to consider a donation to the Japanese Red Cross - see last week's post and link.

  7. Well, he (Paul Mason) just posted on his blog.

  8. Yes he did. Right here: