[Region 2] Empire of Kaidan (startup thread)
Really as a placeholder for my start up content...
The Empire of Kaidan consists of an island group east of the continent where Ansium is located, it is part of a larger island chain formed by a volcanic "hot spot" on the ocean floor, located below the furthest west island of this chain, west of the region of Kaidan.
A race of barbarian humans still inhabit the island, though have been forced to live on the fringes away from the dominant culture of Asahi who arrived here a millenia ago. Periodic acts of genocide are imposed on the barbarians from time to time.
The Empire of Kaidan is based on early feudal Japan, in its history, culture, technology, religion, folklore and government system. At this time the emperor is more of a figurehead, while true government is maintained by the court ministry and the Shogun. The Shogunate government is called the Fukuhara Bakufu (tent government) or the Taira Shogunate.
At the current time, most of the Imperial Court is undead, including the Child-Emperor, Antoku, the Shogun (Death Knight), all the chief ministers, and many of the court bureaucrats, servants and the Shogun's chief generals. The bulk of the government at both imperial and provincial levels are living humans, the Asahi people. I haven't decided if there are any non-human races here.
Although this is posted at the end of my Genpei War Challenge Map, here is an illustration of Shogun Taira no Kiyomori, the Death Knight protector and regent of the emperor of Kaidan (the true lord of Kaidan). Enjoy!
PS: as this is supposed to be for any game system, my creations will not reflect intentional similarities to Oriental Adventures, nor Legend of the Five Rings: Rokugan, rather fantasy ideas from Japanese folklore.
Religion and the Caste System
I've also started a thread in the forums of our friends in the Campaign Builders Guild and some interesting discussion has come about.
Religion and the Caste System:
Most gaming systems for Japanese settings, including L5R and Oriental Adventures feature the mythology of the Shinto system, as it is polythiestic with its own heroes and monsters - good tropes to work with in a fantasy environment.
However, I am going to emphasize Buddhism and its Wheel of Life construct in defining both religion and the caste system in the Empire of Asahi. Rather than calling it Buddhism (because it is a respected active religion) I am currently calling it "Zao", a kind of conjunction of "Zen" and "Tao".
Under the Wheel of Life construct, your thoughts and actions in this life will determine where you will reincarnate in the next life. The six realms of the Wheel of Life include: heaven, asuras (realm of jealousy), human realm (here and now), animal realm, the hungry ghost realm, and Hell. Each of these realms are defined by certain sins or character flaws that take you there in death.
The true goal of Buddhism is to break from this construct and seek salvation through the dispostion of the sins, needs, desires and instincts of life and achieving a state of perfection, the absence of materialism, or Nirvana.
Rather than being different planes of existence (as in the Buddhist philosophy) the social caste system of Asahi: emperor/nobility, samurai, farmers/priests, merchants, and the bottom or untouchable caste are each defined by one of the realms of the Wheel of Life. Thus the construct is the empire, and all realms of the construct exist in Asahi, in the form of the caste system.
Heaven, the realm of pride, complacency and intoxication is the noble caste, thus those who have the precepts of pride, complacency and intoxication in this life will grant you into the Noble Caste in your next life. The Imperial Court and the Provincial Daimyos (ruling clans) are both the nobility caste and the heaven realm. Note most of the nobility of Asahi are undead, its not the Heaven you're thinking of...
Asuras, the realm of jealousy, resentment and ambition, characterized by endless strife and war to achieve success. This is the samurai caste, from the Shogun to the lowest retainer serving a lord.
The Human realm characterized by desire, freedom of choice and dissatisfaction comprises the bulk of Asahi society - the farmers, fishers and artisans and the priests caste.
The Hungry Ghost realm is defined by greed, insatiable cravings and addictions exists as the Merchant Caste, which also includes entertainers, yakuza and prostitutes.
The two other realms of the Wheel of Life, fall outside normal Asahi society, but still within the island empire.
The Animal realm characterized by ignorance and domination of instinctual needs (sex, food, territory...) are barbarians and Animals of the wilderness. The animal barbarians of Asahi are shape-changers, called the Hengeyokai. They actually have the largest territories not controlled by the emperor, but are not a cohesive territory, rather any extensive tracts of wilderness throughout the empire - mountain ranges, woodland tracts, inaccessable coasts, etc.
Edit: the untouchables or bottom caste are very much considered non-human by the upper classes so they technically fall under the Animal realm.
The last realm of the Wheel of Life is Hell, defined by rage, torment and despair, this is the Underworld, the realms of the Oni or demon people. This is the only metaphysical, other planar existence in the religion of Zao and life in Asahi. Theologians could consider it the Ethereal Plane, as it coexists with Asahi, but just slight out of sync breachable only through dark sorcery.
This means that each realm is not a separate province or defined geographic region, (except for two) but rather coexists throughout the land defined in your social placement. Which also means, you're not a peasant farmer because of your parentage, but because of things you did in your previous life. The Empire of Asahi is Heaven, Hell and the material world in one.
Final note, the goal of Buddhism is achieving Nirvana. However, this means breaking away from the Wheel of Life Construct, leaving material things behind. This is counter to the existence of the Asahi Empire, which is the construct put into reality. While priests are tolerated as healers, teachers, raisers of orphans, caretakers for the poor, and calmers for the masses. Those priests who follow the true path to Nirvana and guide those to finding that path are enemies of the state - identified, sought and executed by Imperial decree, enforced by the Shogunate.
"Nirvana is something that should be kept in a box and hidden away, for it is the pin pulled that will end the construct of Asahi." spoken by the Taira no Kiyomori to the imperial court on its founding day, 1000 years ago.
Is this too weird, or outside setting of Ansium as far as religion goes?
I intend to keep this phenomenon local to the Islands of Asahi exclusively, and not spread across the world and not worry a spellsinger of Thrubmorton Fen.
PS: sorry for extra long post, I wanted to get my thoughts out there cohesively and explained.
Got a friend with lots of Zelazny
SG, I've got a friend who has a huge library of Sci-Fi, and plenty of Zelazny. I'll see if he's got a copy this weekend when I see him, otherwise I'll do a search online.
On an aside, my mom gets Japanese videos in the mail, and I've checked to see if I could obtain/watch Sonny Chiba's Kage no Gundan TV series in the 80's. From Turgenev's post on RPMiller's Sengoku thread...
Maybe I can get some ideas there too!
PS: I've almost worked out all the bugs on my setting to start posting on the Wiki again, the ICE forum discussion is emmensely helpful.
Last long post before I move this to the Wiki...
This is the last long post before I post this to the Wiki on Sunday. I need some C & C guys!
The Empire of Asahi, so far:
1. Zao, which is based on Buddhist ideas, but instead of elimination of all material things good and evil, so one is cleansed through meditation and attaining enlightenment, hence Nirvana. I am instilling the western good vs. evil ethic. Where the Asahi and the Wheel of Life construct, which the Imperium wants to maintain, control and dominate represent the primary "evil" overlords in the setting. The idea of Nirvana is both hidden and considered heresy by the state. The Court is an anti-buddha regime.
2. Heretics discover the truth of Nirvana, secretly follow the path to enlightenment. Those who attain it and return become powerful mage/priests known as Boddhisatva or the "enlightened ones" represent the force of good in Asahi. Underground shrines are established in many provinces away from the capital at Fukuhara-kyo. By following the path to enlightenment those of any caste (the realms of the Wheel of Life) can escape the Wheel, and reach Nirvana, which defies the wheel, the imperium and takes power away - the imperium is losing its permanent citizens of the cycle.
3. Because the Noble House, Minamoto was the primary opposing force to the real life Taira clan, now in exile in Asahi, senior members of Minamoto clan become the leading Boddhisatva and have come to Asahi to renew hostilities with the Taira and work to limit or eliminate the power of the throne. The Minamoto clan become one of the noble houses of Asahi, though technically outside the wheel, they hold the position of the Heaven Realm, as not all members of the house are enlightened. (Though they have a much greater chance of achieving Nirvana, due to the senior members/Boddhisatva of the clan.)
4. Because the emperor, shogun and senior members of the court are undead, as well as loyal Daimyo (provincial clan leaders), they are technically outside the construct of the Wheel itself - this is how they maintain the status quo and dominate (permanently) those doomed to roam the eternal cycle of the wheel.
5. Those who rise in the Wheel of Life and reincarnate into the Heaven Realm/noble houses (not including the Minamoto House) are allowed to grow to adulthood. A special branch of the ministry watch them throughout their early lives and perform tests of their loyalty to the throne. If satisfactory to the Imperial mold, they are allowed to continue as nobility. The "best" of them are transformed to undead status, by the Court Necromancers to join the powers in control of Asahi. Should they fail, or otherwise be determined to not profess the ideals of the Court, they are killed and sent back into the Wheel.
6. There is always the random chance that those reincarnated to the Heaven Realm will be born into Clan Minamoto, or one of the lesser "pro Boddhisatva" clans who support them are given a greater chance to join the forces of good. Whether through unwillingness, character flaws or other distractions a member of these good houses they aren't killed but watched, and allowed to perform their duties. If, however, a house member proves to be dangerous, they will be unofficially exiled - sent to hold one of the outer holdings, where the unclean cannot upset the plans of the pro Minamoto.
7. Note, outwardly clan Minamoto serves as a "loyal" provincial house of the Empire. Afterall, in order to best succeed, the Boddhisatva agenda must be kept hidden from public view, to avoid military interdiction by the Imperium. They excuse themselves from acts of vile deeds, but do help the empire in case of heresies darker than the empire itself, invasion by outside nations, and other participation where Imperial goals at least temporarily are for protection of the nation and the populous. The Minamoto also pay taxes, grow rice for the imperial good, etc.
8. Part of the "Minamoto Heresy" is the introduction of the Pure Land, a mitigating place between the Wheel and Nirvana, where those who seek the path to enlightenment, can consign to specific matras before death and allowed entry into the Pure Land. This is on a different plane of existence, outside the control of the Wheel of Life, with Boddhisatva waiting to help guide newcomers to finding the path to enlightenment. Pure Land Buddhism (which this idea is based) is a messianic branch of Buddhism, more akin to western thought, so more easily grasped by readers of the game setting.
9. Suicide is considered taboo, perhaps a downtrodden laborer desires a better life and knows with death they have a chance to escape their current caste to something better. This is not the case as suicide by personal choice is considered wrong.
9a. Ritual suicide (seppuku) performed by the samurai, is outside this taboo, because the true task of samurai (and the word's very meaning) is "to serve". Hara kiri (the common venacular for the rite) is done in service to one's lord, it is not by personal choice thus not taboo.
9b. Those who choose to kill themselves through personal choice, are in effect, so filled with insatiable cravings for a better life, they are condemning themselves to the Hungry Ghost realm and reincarnate as merchants, entertainers, thieves or prostitutes. Suicide by choice will not allow you to move up the wheel of life, unless you're an Oni Demon of the Hell realm, though suicide by Oni is extrememly unlikely, they are demons afterall.
9c. If you are committing suicide due to despair, you are condemning yourself to the Oni Hell realm - the worst realm of all.
10. Good and Evil actions by player characters grant positive or negative points of "Kharma" (no matter which game system is used, this is one of the unique attributes necessary for playing in the Asahi system, as it is a mechanism of the Wheel of Life.) Good Kharma gives a PC the chance to upgrade to a higher realm in the Wheel, while Bad Kharma sends you down.
10a. The level of Kharma provides positive or negative "saves" against magical attacks.
10b. Spellcasters require a minimum amount of Kharma to access spells (bad Kharma is necessary to access dark sorcery spells). High amounts of good/bad Kharma allow spellcasters additional spell access and greater powers.
11. Honor, another attribute necessary for Asahi primarily affects interactions with members of castes above you, as normally higher castes have distate for those below them. It is an enhancement of charisma.
12. There are more plot devices than just the war between the Wheel's Heaven realm and Nirvana - which is the ongoing war between the Taira Imperialists and the Minamoto heresy.
a. Heretics encourage rebellions among the peasants of the Human/Farmer caste, sometimes against the Empire, sometimes against the Boddhisatva, sometimes both, perhaps as a desire to end the immortal war between good and evil, to bring about a final peace. Provinces cede from the empire, opposing temples are burned and other types of social unrest occur.
b. Asahi Pirates prey on any merchant ships in the waters they travel. This means outside nations may make war or invade Asahi in an attempt to punish the Empire, or the pirate centers on the isles and inaccessable coastlines of Asahi where they dwell. I think Ansium might be introduced to the empire through this means...
c. Outsider nations may attempt to invade the Empire to expand their own territories, something like Kublai Khan's invasion attempts on feudal Japan.
d. Imperial desire for more resources may start wars with the animal barbarian Hengeyokai, or other non-human races of Asahi for human vs. non-human hostilities.
e. Undead vs. undead or clan vs. clan wars erupt when disagreements occur that do not affect the status quo, or damage the imperium causing small civil wars from time to time.
f. Dark sorcery from non-imperial factions causes widespread sterility within a given caste, stopping the mechanism of the Wheel and affecting all castes require identification of the source and magical rejuvenation of the fertility once again - this would be at threat to both the Imperium and the Boddhisatva, one of those rare cases that they work together.
g. Outside nations desire or impose trade with the empire, making an otherwise closed society, open up and deal with international problems.
13. Plus all the standard Japanese tropes - political intrigue, ninja assasination/spying, "wire-fu" monks, etc.
14. At this time, I am not utilizing the Shinto faith in this setting. The Buddhist faith includes nature spirits, good and damaging spirits that intercede with Asahi PCs much as the kami might in a Shinto based setting.
15. Even though Ronin (masterless samurai) are normally weakened in most feudal Japan settings, because most noble house daimyo are undead, the institution of ronin occurs more frequently. This means a larger number of weapons skilled freeman exist in Asahi and there are more opportunities for hack and slash games, and adventuring opportunities, games in the empire aren't one big political game like L5R and more gaming options become available.
What do you think?
Again, sorry for the loooong post - I just tend to be thorough! :P