February 8th, 2010

Sake Guy

Tenra Character Types, in Brief

Originally published at Tenra Bansho Development Journal. Please leave any comments there.

Hey, we’re a Facebook group now! Look for “Tenra Bansho” in a Facebook search.

So, as the final bits of editing of the game draw to a close before layout begins in full, I find myself wanting to post more about the game but without the time to do so. The classic conundrum of, “I want to talk about the game, but I’m too busy writing the game to talk about it!”

In any case, over on RPGNet a patient fan was asking, “What kinds of characters can you play in this game?” Well, the answer is “Lots”, but that’s not very helpful.

There are certain “core archetypes of character” for the game: These are the kinds of character types that whole chapters of the book are devoted to. However, when creating your character, you can pass up all of those to be something of your own creation as well. In any case, here are the core character types in brief, and a little bit about each. Future updates will talk about each archetype in detail:

Armour-rider: Often children of nobility, their innocence wakes the 14-foot-tall mecha-like armour and keeps it moving, their skill and training make it formidable in battle. Armour are genrally two armed two legged humanoid mecha, but they can come in all shapes and sizes: Legless wheel-driven armour, multi-legged insect-like armour, etc. When the armour rider matures and realizes that battle isn’t a game, that people are dying horribly with every sword strike, the mecha rejects her. Each armour is a state-of-the art magical wonder crafted and granted solely by the mysterious Shinto Priesthood.

There are lesser mass-produced armours called “Kimen Armour” which adults can pilot. But while strong, they are no match for the true Priesthood-crafted armour.

Onmyoji: Taoist sorcerers, these aloof mages harness the natural gossamer-like “sha” power latent in the earth, and weave it through will, gestures and invocation writing into a creature. They can’t shoot fireballs from their hands, but they can easily write a few lines on a scrap of paper, throw it into the air, and summon a terrible dragon spirit to breathe fire on their enemies. Recently, some sorcerers use a combination of abacus and “kimen” calculation engine to store and retrieve shiki spirits easily. Older, refined wizards refer to these upstarts as “Shiki slingers”.

Samurai: A sorcerer can summon a shiki to be bound to a device or object. A samurai is what happens when a sorcerer binds a monstrous shiki spirit to human flesh. Samurai is the designated name for those individuals who have thrown away their humanity in return for power: Having rare balls of metallic soulgem implanted into their skin, a shiki is bound to their living bodies. If they survive this horrifying ordeal, they will from that point be able to switch on this power for a time: Their bodies gain mass, muscle, and chitinous plates. The soulgems erupt with color and power the body. The samurai achieves superhuman reflexes, stamina, accuracy and strength for a time. Enormous power, bound to the flesh and bone of a samurai.

They only had to give up their souls to get it.

Buddhist priest/monk: There are three orders of Buddhism in Tenra: The traditional Phoenix sect owns the temples, as well as the hearts and minds, of most of the people of Tenra, and practice the sutras in cycles of meditation and reflection. The Ebon Mountain order is made up of monks from all walks of life who gave up their cloistered lives and live out in the land and amongst the people: Many train in fierce martial arts to protect the people they encounter. The Bright Lotus cult brings peace and understanding directly to the people, and act as teachers, historians, and performers: Their message is simple, and it’s catching on with the people.

Kijin: Kijin – “Man and Machine”. If you are wounded in battle and lose an arm, your lord will gladly pay the expense to condition you with a replacement arm of steel, perhaps with a gun or blade attached to it… and send you right back out to the front line. Kijin are the men and women who have traded in their weakness for steel: As medicine in Tenra improves, so does the ability to graft more and more metal on to flesh. At what point are you no longer human? Ask a kijin; they take bets on when they cross this line.

Kongohki: Take a fresh soul, one that died horribly, in great pain, anger or frustration. Now wipe its memories away, and bind it into a mirror, a mirror which powers a human-sized armour. That’s essentially what a kongohki is. They speak with emotion, they can even feel emotion like normal people. But they are warrior-robots with no memories of their past. The only problem is, those memories were not truly wiped away, only deeply suppressed… and it’s only a matter of time before something triggers a full remembrance. What will the kongohki do when it remembers who it was, and how it died? Will it become a monster, or will it come to grips with its new life?

Shinobi: Ninja make up the spy armies of Tenra. Shinobi are those rare ninja who undertake a kind of soulgem surgery which adds these batteries of power under their skin: Shinobi use this power to enhance their ninja abilities, and become able to do things like fly like a hawk, become invisible, gain demon-like power in combat, and so on. Sounds like a great road to power. Only problem is that ninja and shinobi have no lives of their own: They are a toll of their clans, to be used and thrown away for the goals of their group.

Kugutsu: There are artists in the land who have learned that they can carve wood from sacred trees into the likeness of humans, and give them life. Those wooden dolls take on an illusion of flesh and blood and live like (sheltered, beautiful) human beings. Kugutsu means “mannequin” in Japanese, and while they feel and have human emotion, while the are trained to understand human art and history and culture, they are not human themselves. They are properties of immense artistic value to be traded and fought over by lords and regents.

Mushi-Tsukai: Mushi-tsukai, or annelidists, are the doctors and biologists who study the native creatures of tenra, the annelids. Some of these annelids, when adopted into the human body, confer abilities to their host in a kind of symbiotic relationship. As long as the human host fulfills the annelid’s needs, the annelids will protect and enhance the host: Chitinous plates will form on their bodies, blade shafts will protrude from their arms and legs, they will be able to spit acid or extend their eyes on stalks.

Other humans find the annelidists horrifying and tend to shunt them. But when their own child or loved one is hurt and needs medical attention, they’ll head straight to that old hut on the outskirts of town…

Oni: When the humans came to this planet thousands of years ago, they weren’t the only sentient life on the planet. The native people called “Lu-Tirae” lived with the land in a state of connection and harmony. The humans put a stop to that pretty quickly. Seeing their horned heads, the humans called them “oni” (demon), feared them, and drove them from their lands. Later, it was found that if the mysterious heart of the oni is encased in steel, it acts as a perpetual engine or battery which can power large magical constructs… like armour and kongohki.

Originally hunted for being different, they are now hunted by lords driven by greed for the bounty of priceless magical engines their bodies contain. The oni command powers of the earth and the mind through their hearts and horns, and these abilities are perhaps the only thing that kept them from total annihilation.

Shinto priest/maiden: The Shinto Priesthood is a shadowy organization and agency which has two faces: On the outside, they are the shrine maidens and priests who tend to local shrines, calm the kami and perform rituals for cleansing and harvest. On the inside, they are the dominant organization of Tenra, extremely secretive and controlling all of the advanced technology from the ancient times, and use it to keep all of the nations of Tenra in a constant state of warfare with each other.

Why do they use their powers in this way? Is it to keep the nations from rising up against the Priesthood? Or is there truly some benign reason to keep the land in a state of total war?

Ayakashi: The deep forests and seas contain spirits. Not shiki, not kami… something else. This otherness is the ayakashi. The great tengu of the mountains, the fire spirits, the cursed sentient longsword, the cold woman of folklore and the illusory village are all ayakashi. Some watch over the humans, interested in their fate. Others stop at nothing to curse or eat them. They are all tied to the land, and have wonderous powers by human standards. Even though some can take on human form or even have offspring with them, what lies in their hearts can never be truly known by human beings. They are dangerous and unknowable.

Other: The game lets you create any kind of “feudal Japan with gunswords” kind of character you might imagine. While there is no chapter devoted to “blind swordsman”, “vassal lord’s wife hunting for revenge”, “yakuza boss”, or “daimyo’s concubine”, you can create these kinds of interesting characters as well without a problem.

Later on, we’ll look into these character types in detail.