Thursday, May 18, 2017

Yokai Monogatari

At Chupacabracon, I ran two games. One, The Doktor, is from The King is Dead. The other, Toketsu Onsen Monogotari, is a new mini-setting I plan on developing. Sean and I love Japanese history and folklore, so we plan on a number of Japanese mini-settings. The ghost stories or Heian-Kyo inspired another that we know we will create. As for others, well, we will decide when we get there.

I started on the setting from the Japanese game, currently titled Yokai Monogotari. Below is the intro and a quick overview. This is just beginning development and is my side project as we return to The King is Dead.

A battle nears and will sweep us into its maw. How did we come to this?

First, the capital burned. Clans fought to control the imperial court and reign as shogun. Before long, the fire spread into the provinces and throughout the islands. Provincial leaders, the daimyo, thirsted for power and land. They waged war against one another, invading their neighbors’ lands. War envelops the land and the eight islands burns.

So men say. They believe they direct all that occurs. But we know better. The forces beyond us, from the High Plain of Heaven and Yomi flow through the earthly plain. When the Mongols sailed to our shores, samurai claimed they fought the horde back. They do not praise Susanoo and the great wind he set upon the navy: the kamikaze wind blew some ships farther to sea and sunk others. We do not forget.

The emperor and his grand court flourished in their capital, a shining light for the entirety of the eight islands. In time, the western residences fell into disrepair. One-by-one, each home grew dark and began to decay. The nobles fled to the East, leaving the remains to the desperate unafraid of what may lurk in the shadows. The emperor allowed half of the capital to rot. The onmyoji warned the Ministers of the Right and the Left; they pleaded with the emperor to act. They foresaw a corruption that would fall upon the land, the age of the yokai.

At first, great heroes challenged the threat faced in Heian-Kyo. Warriors of incredible fortitude and virtue faced the foes. Watanabe no Tsuna cleansed the Rashomon Gate, and under his commander, Minamoto no Raiko, protected the capital from a growing supernatural threat. Ghosts dwelt among men. They brought darkness to the hearts of men and possessed others. The great onmyoji engaged the dead and sent them to Yomi. But when onmyoji like Abe no Seimei and the great warriors left this world, the yokai had no adversary to stop their assault.

Then, the gods lost faith in the emperor and his ministers.

Each year brought new yokai, and soon the yokai possessed half of the capital. The more demonic among them lead the new populace. They required reverence and loyalty, demanding followers to turn from the gods. The wicked faith stretched out along the Western streets, and the contamination expanded. Their darkness blocked the protective light of Amaterasu-no-Mikoto, and her descendants did nothing.

Few can withstand the temptations of the yokai. The infection took hold of the greatest families. The Genji and the Heike turned on one another. The blood of their feud soaked the earth. The honorable, like Tomoe no Gozen, gave their lives for peace. Those lands prospered when the war moved on. However, far more of the blood came from the innocents crushed beneath the armies. They left the living world angry and vengeful. If they did not return as yokai, their blood fed those already here.

The four guardian beasts could not hold the tide; with no center, they could not retain the whole.

The provincial governors, the damiyo, and their generals smelled the blood. The sharks along the coast found brothers in these men. These opportunistic men seized the moment, rose-up to secure land and power. Confident, the yokai urged many men to engage in battle, and so their disease spread. Some daimyo and generals, at least in the beginning, fought for the gods, the land, and the people. Embodying the greater heroes before them, they resisted the coming plague. However, the disease had grown too strong for single men to fight against the tide, and they succumbed.

Today, the eight islands belong to the yokai, and you and I must take up arms to drive them from our homes.

Hereos in Yokai Monogatari battle the supernatural threat to medieval Japan.

Japan enjoys a long history of supernatural stories. The creation myth and the early heroes found in the Nihongi, the ghost stories of the Heian courts, and the yokai tales of the countryside speak of a world teeming with being and creatures, both good and bad. Storytellers use the Sengoku Jidai, or the Warring States, period to weave such tales. In modern times, manga and anime try to capture the otherworldly of this era. Works like Sengoku Basara and Ninja Scroll present humans capable of supernatural feats. On the other hand, Inuyasha and Princess Mononoke tell of a world of gods and yokai.

Yokai Monogatari brings these sort of stories together. Heroes are not mere mortals, but humans with gifts not of the earthly plain. Yokai, both good and bad, exist and do commit acts both helpful and damaging. Disgusted by the growing avarice and destruction of the daimyo, the heroes of Yokai Monogatari band together to deal with the threat left in the armies’ wake. Invigorated and inspired by the war, the yokai grow stronger and wreak havoc upon the innocent and survivors. With no one left to fight, these heroes take up the charge and wage a spiritual war for the soul of the eight islands.

The adventures, or misadventures, of the heroes can take any form. The setting is ripe for stories of horror and despair. Comedic romps with wacky yokai belong in this setting. Intrigue figures well into the setting, both as a story element or type. The heroes may find themselves in a romance that may fail or succeed. The main tone of the setting is the heroic. Dangerous yokai pose threats that normal people cannot hope to defeat, and the heroes, blessed by the gods, defeat the evil presence alongside those yokai desiring peace. Samurai turned ronin, renegade ninja, wandering holy persons – from both the Shinto and Buddhist traditions – wizards, monks, and yokai join forces to save the eight islands of Japan. Welcome to Yokai Monogatari.

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