Kindred of the East
|Kindred of the East|
|Role-playing game published by
|Rule System||Storyteller System|
|Authors||Robert Hatch, et al|
|Essential Books||Kindred of the East|
Be a dead man,
Be thoroughly dead--
And behave as you like,
And all's well."
- – Zen Master Bunan
Kindred of the East is a campaign supplement to Vampire: The Masquerade, focusing on the supernatural denizens of the Exotic East, particularly the native blood drinkers of that land, the Kuei-Jin. Superficially similar to the Get of Caine, the Kuei-jin are a very different kind of supernatural indeed, and one who is more in tune with the world of the Spirits.
In ages past, what would become the Kuei-jin started out as the Wan Xian, the Ten Thousand Immortals. Chosen by the August Personage in Jade (God essentially), these were mortals who passed various tests of worthiness, and were granted the ability to absorb and use ambient Chi (the energy that infuses all things). They were then tasked with safeguarding the Middle Kingdom (a term used to refer to BOTH the territory of Imperial China at its historical height AND the Mortal Realms in its entirety) against the forces of the Yama Kings and other supernatural threats. In their service many amassed great power, reached enlightenment, and eventually gained passage into Heaven.
Due to the threats they faced, its inevitable that Wan Xian would fall in the line of duty. As such it was tasked to the Ebon Dragon and the Scarlet Empress to seak out worthy replacements.
Some of this, particularly the personalities involved, sounds suspiciously familiar, doesn't it? Don't worry, it's not your imagination.
Eventually all good things come to an end. The Wan Xian eventually became corrupt, partly due to the influence of the Yama Kings (creating the first akuma), partly due usurping the Dragon Nests (nodes where lines of Chi converged) from their Xiong Ren (Eastern Shapeshifters) owners, and partly due to simple hubris that led to them slaughtering their half-vampire children (the Jin Hai) when the latter politely asked them to stop being such assholes. The August Personage cursed them for their perfidy, and only four Wan Xian were spared.
Left with the inability to breathe, the rest were forced to feed on the Chi of others to survive. With even their rituals of Rebirth corrupted by the tortures of the Hell realm, it more or less ensured that only those with the blackest of hearts would be return to Unlife.
And so it was that the Ten Thousand Heroes would become the Ten Thousand Demons, and the Wan Xian became the Wan Kuei, the first of the Kuei-Jin.
Before we begin: About Chi and the Duality of the SoulEdit
A lot of the design choices behind Kindred of the East rely on being familiar with the concepts of Chi and the Hun and P'o parts of the soul, which are all grounded in real-world classical Chinese philosphy, so it's better we get that out of the way before discussing the Kuei-Jin proper.
The Chi VirtuesEdit
Chi is the energy that infuses everything. Being unliving beings, Kuei-jin don't have Chi naturally, and have to gain it from the living, initially via feeding on the flesh, then blood. There are a myriad variety of Chi, but Kuei-jin mainly deal with the Yin and Yang chi. Yin chi is usually cold and stagnant-seeming, while Yang chi is warm and vibrant. Having too much of the former makes one look like a shambling corpse; too much of the latter and the Kuei-jin will seem a little too alive, to the point where they can sire (or bear, for the ladies) mortal children.
The Yin Virtue represents attunement to darker, more negative energies. Kuei-jin who willingly take in Yin Chi more aloof, calm, and cynical, and they're generally more creepy to mortals (unless said mortal is into the morbid, which in case, they're attractive instead). Yin-attuned Kuei-jin are more resistant to the Fire soul status (aka Frenzy), plus gain Ghostsight, which allows them to see Spirits from the Ying World, and the structural weakness of anything. Ghostsight can also be used to detect any illness or injury suffered by another person, though the Kuei-jin needs to be medically-trained to recognize and treat such damage.
On the flipside, the Yang Virtue shows attunement to the active spark that makes things live, even mostly unliving beings like the Kuei-jin. Vampires attuned to Yang seem more human, being vibrant and vivacious, and love walking among the Middle Kingdom's mortals. Yang-attuned vampires can resist Wave soul (Panic) status better, and Heal injuries of others via expending blood and Chi, and gain Lifesight, which lets them detect living things in the area. Lifesight also allows a Kuei-jin to read the feelings of people around him, and home in to those who have strong passions. Finally it allows the Kuei-jin to detect beings that pass or make their home in the Yang World (or Middle Umbra), like the Garou.
Preferring one type of Chi over the other influeces a Kuei-jin's vulnerability, by the way. Yin-leaning Kuei-jin are vulnerable to the traditional wooden staking (as they are more "dead"), while Yan-leaning Kuei-jin are more vulnerable to getting shanked by anything made of Metal (because they are more "alive").
The more enlightened a Kuei-jin becomes, the more proficient they become in drawing chi from other sources, with many eventually able to get chi from breath or ambiently from the environment itself.
The Soul VirtuesEdit
Kuei-jin are somewhat aware that the soul is made up of two parts: Hun, which is the "higher" soul, and P'o, the "lower" soul. Vampires who have high Hun are honorable and people of temperance; conversely, those with high P'o are wild, unruly, and savage.
Hun measures a Kuei-jin's rational side, her use of abstract thinking and aesthetics, as well as their empathy for mortals and overall resolve. It's like Conscience, but not quite, more related instead to one's honor and devotion to duty. Those who have high Hun are seen more as thoughtful and spiritual, and can better harness the power of their P'o when evoking Demon Arts, keeping control instead of being consumed by their Demon. They have sharp senses, and can even speak to Spirits, if they can detect them to begin with.
P'o on the other hand represents the animalistic side of the Kuei-jin. It is what influences a vampire's hunger, as well as sometimes turns something trivial into causing mindless rage. Many seek to tame their P'o; others, like the Devil Tigers, cultivate their Demons, seeing it as crucial to their kharmic duties as Heaven's Devils. The greatest sages say that enlightment can only be fully reached once the P'o is accepted and assimilated as a part of one's being.
Compared to Hun, there's a lot to be said about P'o. Most obviously, it's partly the cause of the Kuei-jin "condition", as during their mortal lives, more often than not, a Kuei-jin had been in thrall of their baser emotions. When they finally died (likely suddenly, violently, or both), the p'o part of the mortal's soul dropped straight into Hell... Then clawed its way back out to its body, usually around two months after death.
Mastering channeling one's P'o obviously has its uses. The Kuei-jin may willingly unleash a Berserk rage in themself, which means they no longer suffer wound penalties, and gain access to potent Demon Chi. Demon Chi is not "true" chi, but nonetheless used to fuel the Demon Shintai techniques, as well as temporarily move faster, increase Strength, or do more damage. And because Kuei-jin have no "natural" fangs, they need to expend Demon chi to grow fangs, and even more to create a fully-fanged maw.
Finally a Kuei-jin may draw from their P'o to break free of magical mind control, but on a success might instead force their Shadow Nature to the forefront. Unlike the mindless Beast of the Cainites, the Shadow of a Kuei-jin is a distinct personality embodying their repressed weaknesses and self-destructive urges.
Out of Hell, and the Road BackEdit
Unlike Cainites, Kuei-jin are "born" when a strong-willed soul manages to fight its way back from what is (in essence) Hell, and crawl back into its body. In this regard, they are similar to the traditional "Revenant" of folklore. Having died denying one facet or another of their lives before falling into despair, depravity, or sudden violence, these damned souls now find themselves in the living world once more. Now they seek to find meaning to their new Unlives, repay their Kharmic debt, and either enter Heaven or exit the Great Cycle.
In the turbulence of the Modern age not many succeed, and as the Sixth Age approaches, there might not even be time to do so anymore.
We All Start SomewhereEdit
All Kuei-jin start out as a chih-mei, a feral thing in thrall of its P'o and with a bad case of munchies for human flesh (as this is the most readily-available source of Chi). Many Kuei-jin never get past this state, and their eventual fate is to either be used as undead guard dogs by the local Court, or destroyed by by Witch Hunters after they've eaten one villager too many, shapeshifting Hengeyokai, or other shen.
In rare instances, a Kuei-jin breaks free of their animalistic state of their own accord, but most of the time a Court will seek out and collect chih-mei, to test and see if any would return to sapience (meaning their rational Hun manages to subdue the bestial P'o). Those that do proceed to the next step in their unlife's journey.
New Meat for the CourtsEdit
The newly self-aware Kuei-jin are not immediately absorbed into the Court that found them. Instead they are considered as hin, or non-persons, and will remain so for the duration of their initial training (called re). As hin have no rights, they can be arbitrarily cut down if they even annoy more established Kuei-jin, so it's no wonder that many learn to be mindful of social etiquette and be very civil.
Hin will be trained rigorously, not just by an assigned sifu (teacher), but most of the Court members that can spare the time. They are instructed on things that will aid them in navigating Kuei-jin society, from calligraphy, to martial arts, to the etiquette of the Unliving and that of the Spirit World. Here they also learn their Disciplines and supernatural arts, as well as the manipulation of Chi. They also learn to come to grips with their vampiric nature: sating their hunger, mastering their wave and fire natures, and avoiding the sun. As their Shadow finally manifests, they are also trained on how to confront their inner Demon, and use its power, lest they be consumed by their P'o.
This is also the time where a Kuei-jin begins their path along a Dharma, the way to enlightment. Representatives of each Dharma study the hin, then consult with each other to see which student fits which Dharma best.
During this time the hin's every word and action is scrutinized by the community as a whole. They may catch the eye of an established member of the Court, who may take them on as a student or petitioner, and in the process gets introduced to the politics of a Kuei-jin Court.
Eventually every hin will experience a final "exam", essentially a big community party where they will have to prove themselves to the Court. As there are also mortals among the gathered, the hin have to be able to conduct themselves with poise, courtesy, and subtlety. At the same time, hin will also have to show expertise in their selected Disciplines, control over their wave and fire natures (frenzy), or their Chi. One bad screw up, and a sign of displeasure from a Court Ancestor, will see a hin is swiftly escorted out of the proceedings, never to be seen again after.
Those that manage to survive this social gauntlet are formally welcomed by the Ancestor and Mandarins, and join the Court as disciples. They are now considered full members of the community, with all the rights and social expectations that entail. The Kuei-jin at this point will be assigned a "direction" based on the day the vampire arose to Second Breath, and inducted to a wu -- a group with (usually) four other vampires that will become a Kuei-jin's second family.
In previous ages, the period lasted as long as twenty-four years; in the current age, the equivalent training is squeezed into about five. As a result, masters normally don't have the patience to spare, and students who don't show the emotional and spiritual fortitude to survive the time to come are usually dealt with harshly and lethally.
Upon joining a wu, the formally-accepted Kuei-jin enter the period normally called Koa. Usually lasting the period of a human lifetime, this is when a Cathayan begins to explore his new nature as well as find his place in the world. For many, the Koa is a time to indulge in sensual pleasures, and settle old scores among the living. For others, it's simply the first step on the long road to enlightenment.
To the shock of many Ancestors, new Kuei-jin usually spend this time making their marks on the society of unliving, putting their own ambition over the good of Kuei-jin society as a whole.
Naturally, this is the point where many a new campaign for Kue-jin start.
Setting Your DirectionEdit
A Kuei-jin is given a Direction once they are formally accepted into a Court as a Disciple. Based on the cardinal directions, and derived from divinations, usually of an astrological nature (often times based on the date a Kuei-jin takes their Second Breath), a Kuei-jin's Direction will serve as a guide to their duties and responsibilities for the rest of their unlife. While not absolute, a Direction will often influence their personalities or roles in society.
The Directions and what they usually represent are as follows:
- North: Usually Yin-attuned, North-facing Kuei-jin are charged with maintaining traditions, and sentencing those who flagrantly disrespect those traditions. They are arbitrators, magistrates and judges of the unliving, and woe betide those who transgress the law.
- West: Considered odd even for Kuei-jin, West-direction Kuei-jin are interpreters of the Spirits, and carry out their will in the Middle Kingdom. That said, they are usually also the enforcers of the mandarins' will, and serve as their executioners.
- South: Very dynamic, hot-blooded, and passionate, South-direction Kuei-jin are often front-line soldiers, leaders, and destroyers. Others Kuei-jin roll their eyes at their exuberance, but none can fault their enthusiasm.
- East: Often called "harvesters", East-direction Kuei-jin ensure that the mortal populations under their responsibility are harmonious. They are comfortable in guiding or manipulating their charges for their own good (and the Court's, of course).
- Center: Introspective and philosophical, Kuei-jin of the Center assist others in finding their place in the great tapestry of the Universe. Many help in inducting a new Kuei-jin to their community, but others pursue personal and spiritual quests away from their fellows.
It is considered auspicious and ideal if a given wu contains members representing all Directions and yet are in harmony. Having a wu made up of Gui Ren of the same Direction can prove very effective at their assigned task, but is considered kharmically unbalanced. Plus variety is the spice of life, after all.
Mechanically a Direction doesn't actually do anything, but it does help a player narrow down what kind of Nature they could roleplay, which would lead obviously to what Disciplines they would take.
Dharma, And YouEdit
Each Kuei-jin has a Dharma, a path through the unlife used to determine what their purpose is in the Great Cycle, with the eventual end of reaching Enlightenment. Part philosophy, part code of behavior, part lightning flashes of insight and clarity (called dah), a Kuejin grows in power and understanding the further they journey along the dharmic road.
Incidentally the further along a Kuei-jin is on their Dharmic journey, the more likely it is for a Cathayan to be eligible for a higher position in a given Court's ladder of influence (due to the accumulated wisdom and experience their Dharma implies). Court Mandarins and Ancestors are usually the wisest, most cunning, and deadliest members of their community for good reason.
Futher along the path still are the Bodhisattvas. Even the intrigues of Court unlife have lost their colour to these Kuei-jin, who have long discovered that these are distractions to the attainment of Enlightenment. Many of them retreat from the world almost entirely, to meditate on forlorn mountain hideaways about the vagarities of existence. As they stand on the cusp of attaining heaven, the power these enlightened beings radiate can often be overwhelming, even painful, for younger Kuei-jin, yet at the same time they are examples of what the lowest disciple can eventually attain.
The final step of the Dharmic journey is that of the Arhat. The Kuei-jin finally becomes Enlightened; the process often takes millennia, but when that moment clarity happens, the cares of the Mortal World falls away, and they enter the Thousand Clouds. Their kharmic debt was paid, and they are finally free from the Great Cycle.
While the base Kindred of the East rulebook claims that there are no Arhats left in the waking world, the individual Dharma books that followed contradict this, and say that yes, there are still a few of these super-enlightened beings hanging around. While they're supposed to move on to Heaven (and many indeed do), the few mentioned stay in the Middle Kingdom by choice. This is especially true of the Devil Tigers, whose Arhats are waiting for the Sixth Age to arrive... So that they can gank the Demon King when he even tries to ascend to the vacated throne of the August Personage.
Now, with the fluff out of the way...
Mechanically, levels in Dharma are almost the same as Generation is for Cainite vampires, though you deduct your Dharma level from 13 to figure out what your equivalent "Generation" is. Interestingly enough, the main KoTE rulebook explicitly says Dharma scores should not be used to figure out Power Levels. While a Bodhisattva is the rough equivalent of a Kindred Methuselah, it does not mean that a Bodhisattva can take a Methuselah one on one (though if you munchkin it, it's certainly possible). Not helped by how much expensive everything is points-wise for a Kuei-jin.
Plus unless one was a Devil Tiger, being a close combat murder machine doesn't quite match up with the whole "at the cusp of Enlightenment" thing that Bodhisattvas represent. It's best to think of it as an Apples and Oranges situation.
That said, there are stuff that the more Spiritually-attuned Kuei-jin can do that your run of the mill Methuselah (who are often blind to the Spirit World) can't, like travel thousands of miles in the blink of an eye, step sideways into the Spirit World ala Garou, or summon storms to blot out the sun.
(To see a canonical example of this at work, several Ravnos Methuselah were little more than quick snacks when their Antediluvian woke up during the Week of Nightmares. By comparison, a trio of Bodhisattva managed to pin down Zapathasura in Bangladesh for a night and a day, before the Technocracy decided to ruin everyone's fun by nuking all of them).
The higher your Dharma, the higher your Attributes, Disciplines, and Chi use limit can get. Unlike Cainites, where a player will have to eventually do Diablerie if they want to get anything above five dots, advancement in Dharma is a mostly story-driven affair; you either experience a flash of enlightment over the course of a gaming session (depending on your chosen Dharma), or you don't.
Choose Your Own DharmaEdit
There are five "Traditional" Dharma, universally called the "Fivefold Path" (called that way because these were the ones created by the first Arhat, Xue as he wandered the Middle Kingdom after God cursed the Wan Xian) that a Kuei-jin can follow, each representing one of the Virtues that a Cathayan seeks to embrace, each a different path on the road to Enlightenment. Each Dharma likewise has a number of Sects connected to it, all based on a particular interpretation of its core tenets.
There are also so-called "heretical" Dharmas, which either represent different interpretations of the way to Enlightenment, or spit on the concept on Enlightenment entirely. Because of the fact that few if any of them have yet to ascend even a single Bodhisattva, followers of the Fivefold Path see them painfully deluded fools or, as in the case of the Scorpion Eaters, dangerous traitors that need to be put down for good.
The Dharmas of the Fivefold Path:
- Howl of the Devil Tiger: Experts in dealing and enduring pain, they're usually evil bastards, but their evil is never petty, as it's directed evil against the truly depraved and malicious. They seek to replace the Devil servants of the Yama Kings, who've lost sight of their original purpose of destroying evil. Represents P'o.
- Way of the Resplendent Crane: Those who believe that through virtuous behavior, respect of the rules, and proper action, this rotten World can be saved and renewed. Thinking of them as fussy but well-meaning Chinese Paladin bureaucrats wouldn't be too off the mark. Represents Hun.
- Song of the Shadows (Bone Flowers): Melancholic scholars, who have even closer ties to Ghosts and the Spirit World. Due to their stoicism and detachment, they make excellent diplomats, spies, and assassins. Represents Yin.
- Dance of the Thrashing Dragon: Thrillseekers and hedonists, they seek to experience all of life's colors, especially since they missed out on it before their Second Breath. Many of them become parents of Shade Walkers, due to either knocking up their mortal lovers, or getting knocked up. Represents Yang.
- The Path of a Thousand Whispers (Hollow Reeds): The rarest Dharma, where one seeks to find their place in the Great Cycle by living through a countless identities. Not generally trusted by other Kuei-jin, as they can be allies in one of their identities, and enemies in another. Represents Balance.
The Heretical Dharmas:
- Spirit of the Living Earth (Cerulian Veils): Shamans and travelers of the Spirit Realms, they're not picky about who they traffic with, which includes evil sprits that typically hunt down Kuei-jin. Represents Yin and Yang.
- Face of the Gods: Believe that they are Gods cast out of Heaven, and that Mortals should make it up to them by worshipping them and let them feed on their prayers, because why not? Represents Hun and P'o.
- Flames of the Rising Phoenix: See their new Unlives as a simple continuation of their old Mortal lives, and a second chance to set the kharmic scales straight. Represents Hun and Yang.
- Tempest of Inward Focus: Introspective isolationists, who feel that they need to focus on their own internal issues, and the problems of the world can wait. Represents Balance.
- Scorpion Eaters: Fatalists that have given up on fighting the coming Sixth Age, and surrendered to the Yama Kings. Universally-considered traitors and akuma. Represents P'o.
Let's Talk Politics: The Kuei-jin CourtsEdit
The governing body of Kuei-jin in particular region is called a Court, which oversees all wu in that area. In China there are five August Courts, descended from the Ancestral Courts of old, though there are other Courts located in different parts of Asia. While they are mostly concerned with the goings-on of the unliving, if they see the need to influence the world of mortals the Courts do so through the so-called Scarlet Screens -- secret societies, big corporations, even street gangs -- that act as their intermediaries.
Each court is led by an Ancestor (Dharma 7-8), whose rule was legitimized by the so-called Mandate of Hell after a rigorous screening process by senior Kuei-jin. He is in turn advised by the Court Mandarins (Dharma 6), and served by the Jina (Dharma 4-5). All wu usually defer to the Court's mandates, though in practice most wu see to their own business, though the elder members of the various wu often confer with each other on larger matters. And while politics is unavoidable in any given Court, most of the time it is often genteel, especially when compared to the literal cut-throat rivalries prevalent in the Domain of a Cainite Prince.
The Five August CourtsEdit
- Blood: Based in Beijing. Aspected North, the Blood Court has been the seat of authority of the Five August Courts ever since the drafting of the Treaty of the Quincunx. It passes laws and dictates policy for all wu under the Quincunx's authority, which means all Kuei-jin in the Middle Kingdom. It remains a steadfast bastion of tradition, and puts a premium on correctness and harmony with the Great Cycle.
- Bone: Based in Chongquing. Aspected West, the Bone Court busies itself in trying to find a connection back with the past, primarily through recovering potent artifacts and relics from the time of Mount Meru and the Wan Xian. This is a side-quest though, as most Kuei-jin of the court primarily want to find a way back to Mount Meru itself. The Court itself is very insular as a result.
- Flame: Based in Hong Kong. Aspected South. Defunct for the entirety of British rule in Hong Kong, the forces of the Quincux are fevereshly trying to rebuild its strutures in the wake of the territory's return to Chinese control. Loyal wu are trying to root out pockets of Cainites still in the city, and it is said when the situation stabilizes in the Court's favor, the region will then be used as the focal point for striking at their enemies' heartland.
- Flesh: Based in Shanghai. Aspected East, the Flesh Court was originally created as a stopgap against the akuma-infested Court of the Azure Dragon, to purge the eastern reaches against divergent thought and rebellion. The going has not been easy, not helped by the Japanese invasion of 1937, which brought a host of akuma with them. As a result, the "Court" is embroiled in a nightly battle to repel foreign invaders.
- Jade: Based in Changan. Aspected Center, the Jade Court is the spiritual center for the entire Kuei-jin population. Kuei-jin from this Court are considered some of the wisest and intellectual of their kind. Representatives from the Jade court as always welcome in any of the smaller regional Courts as a result.
- Golden: Aspected South. Descendants of the Scarlet Phoenix Court and based in the countries that make up Indochina and a good chunk of Southeast Asia, the Golden Court is an aberration in that it is mostly a matriarchy, with powerful penangallan-queens ruling the roost. Bombastic, vicous, and cunning, the warrior-women of the Golden Court fight a constant battle against the akuma trying to infiltrate their ranks.
- Golden Lions: Based in Singapore, the so-called Golden Lion Court is made up of expatriate male Kuei-jin from the Golden Court, and other outcasts from the matriarchy. Kuei-jin in the Lion City are an orderly lot, especially when compared to their more chaotic and savage female counterparts in the mainland.
- Green: Based in the Korean peninsula, the Kuei-jin of the Green Courts are known mostly for their necromancy and their trade in Jade. Caught between the Quincunx in China and the Uji in Japan, the Green Court has learned to lie low and play both sides against each other, to its own benefit.
- Uji: Based in Japan, the gaki of Japan are currently experiencing a period of turmoil, with two of its most powerful houses pitted against each other as the country itself rushes headlong into modernity and Western nfluence. Matters are complicated by the deteriorating health of the reservoirs of Chi running through the country, a consequence of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
- Infinite Thunders: Based in Sri Lanka, the Bijali is only given cursory acceptance by the Quincunx. Located at the crossroads of trade and culture, the Court makes its own way philosphically. The court had, for the longest time, had a cold war with the native Ravnos of India, which exploded into the conflict that led to the Week of Nightmares.
- New Promise Mandarinate: Based in San Francisco in California, this was founded in the wake of the Great Leap Outward, to take the fight to the Cainites on their home turf. The wu shown in the comics of the Dharma books have moved here as of 2002.
Much like the Disciplines available to Cainites, Kuei-jin have access to potent powers and abilities. Unlike Western vampires though, these are usually learned the further through a Gui Ren journeys on the Road Back. This doesn't make them less potent, however.
Allows a Kuei-jin to create mystical effects through Chi use, either of their own or the environment. These are the following:
- Equilibrium: Balance or imbalance a target's Chi for various purposes. Usually requires a touch, but does not on its own affect ghosts or spirits.
- Tapestry: Manipulate ambient Chi to produce a variety of helpful effects. A Yin-attuned Chi Rift, one of the 5-dot powers, was used in conjunction with Storm Shintai to pin Zapathasura in place for a night and a day.
- Yang Prana: Frenzied and explosive katas that allow a Kuei-jin to tap into more of their Yang Chi. As these need a fair degree of movement, these cannot be done if a Gui Ren is incapacitated in some way.
- Yin Prana: Graceful and slow motions that allow its user to tap into more of their Yin Chi. Like Yang Prana, the Kuei-jin must be able to move to use this.
Centers on a Kuei-jin mastering their control over the Hun and P'o. Those who master Soul Disciplines are formidable beings, but on the flip side, any mistake in activating these skills give an opening for their Shadows to take over if they're not careful.
- Cultivation: Techniques for communing and influencing a target's P'o, forcing frienzies, separating Hun and P'o from the target's body, and even merging the two soul fragments together temporarily.
- Chi'iu Muh/Dragon Tears: Depending on whether Hun or P'o is in control, can be used to heal body and soul, but if P'o is in control it can be used to steal souls and harm spirits. Advancing through this creates first a gem on the forehead, then a third eye, then a blazing orb.
- Interesting story, Saulot (the Antediluvian of the Salubri) was Xue's first disciple (where he was known as Zao-Lat, followed by a number of colorful epithets like "The Thief", and the "The Traitor"), and this was one of those things he "stole" from his master. This eventually turned into the Obeah and Valeren Disciplines in the main game.
- Internalize: Centers on inner focus and control, users are capable of channeling their inner strength to do amazing feats.
- Obligation: Channel Hun to inspire or overwhelm the wills of others. Masters of this can create permanent bonds between the souls of the users and their target.
- Mibasham: A rarely-practiced art concerned with a target's Dharma, and existence as Kuei-jin.
- Tzu Wei: Use astrology and the horoscope to create a result favorable to the user.
Techniques that are powered by a Kuei-jin's P'o. No Soul Disciplines barring Chi'iu Muh may be used while using Demon Arts, and whenever these are invoked, the user must take care that they not be overwhelmed by their Shadow soul.
- Black Wind: Essentially controlled Frenzy, this turns the Kuei-jin into a whirling storm of destruction. The user may gain an extra action, move further, or do more damage.
- Demon Shintai: Assume monstrous form while increasing physical and combat prowess. Demonic features are unique to each user, and normally grow more prominent or ornate as they advance in skill, but still normally reflect their Shadow natures.
- Hellweaving: Channels the powerful energy from Yomi, to harm enemies or aid the user. Usually needs a LOT of human sacrifice in exchange. Using this Discipline is a surefire way to get outed as a true akuma, and thus be placed on all Quincunx Kuei-jin's shitlist.
- Iron Mountain: Channel one's Demon to endure impressive amounts (and different types) of damage.
- Kiai: Use one's voice as a weapon against living and the unliving, and even use it to open pathways through the Spirit Worlds. FUS-RO-DAH!
The so-called god bodies, which manifest as Chi gets focused into the user's physical form. The more mastery one has of their Chi, the more a Kuei-jin can temporarily raise an attuned attribute as well.
- Blood: Attunes Strength. Utilize one's blood for defensive or offensive purposes.
- Bone: Attunes Stamina. Channel Yin to be even more like an obvious undead horror, to the point that they can vanish from view or poison their enemies.
- Jade: Attunes Strength. Channel ambient Chi to be able to walk on water, flow through objects like earth or concrete, fly, or take on the aspect of a classical element.
- Flesh: Attunes Dexterity. Channel Yang energy to augment or transform their bodies, to the point the user can create homunculus-like spies out of their own flesh.
- Ghost-flame: Attunes Stamina. Manifest cold Yin flames or blazing Yang flames to protect the user or damage their enemies.
- Beast: Attunes Strength. Use one's P'o to control the animals in an area, while higher masteries allow the user to channel a "totem" animal spirit and gain its abilities.
- Smoke: Attunes Dexterity. Use smoke to misdirect or hide from opponents, or control fire to attack at higher mastery levels.
- Storm: Attunes Stamina. Channel storm winds to fly, lightning to attack, and even create a thunderstorm to blot out the sun over a given area. Used to terrific effect during the Week of Nightmares.
Similar to Thaumaturgical rituals, Kuei-jin use Rites to tap and manipulate the Chi of their surroundings. Many of these are used to communicate and placate spirits, travel through the land of the Yin or Yang worlds, or to utilize the potent reserves of Dragon Nests to traverse vast distances in a blink of the eye.
All Kuei-jin may learn rites over the course of their unlives, but mostly those of the West and Center directions do so. One just needs to find a willing master, the right materials, and a whole lot of practice.
- Chi Rites: Allow a user to locate places of power, enter the spirit worlds, or make Chi adjustments in their area.
- Individual Rites: Used to commemorate significant changes to their unlives. Normally story-driven, but with mechanical effects.
- Social Rites: Ceremonies used to acknowledge changes that affect the greater community. Another story-driven affair, but also with tangible effects.
- Rites of Wind and Water: Basically Kuei-jin feng shui, where proper Chi line alignments are used to achieve results using power from the spirit world.
- Akuma: The most despised opponent a Kuei-jin can face barring members of the Dharmic heresies, akuma are Kuei-jin who have willingly abandoned enlightment for servitude to the Yama Kings. There are some unlucky souls branded by akuma by the Courts for political reasons, but these normally get off lightly (just exile mostly) compared to "true" akuma, who are normally hunted down and killed on sight once revealed.
- Dhampyr: Also known as Shade Walkers, these people are the half-damned offspring of a Yang-inbalanced Kuei-jin and their mortal lover. Once introduced to the shadow society that their unliving parents move in, they make perfect daytime agents. Many have their own motivations that don't necessarily coincide with their parents though. They are very long-lived, and there are actually Jin-hai survivors from the original massacre by the Wan Xian still hanging around, pursuing their own mysterious motives.
- Yulan-jin: Yulan-jin are souls that managed to escape Hell, and yet whose P'o was not strong enough to reunite with the Hun of its old body. As a result, they are cursed to jump from one body to another once their vessel dies, to move on to the closest available corpse. In all other respects they're Kuei-jin, but without a stable body (or indeed, a stable memory), most of these doomed individuals have no way to follow the Road Back. A vanishingly few though manage to become true Kuei-jin, but it is a difficult path to say the least.
The Great Leap Outward / The Crimson War
Kuei-jin versus Cainites in California, essentially. Indirectly brought about when a certain dick of a Giovanni approached some Mandarins of the Blood Court in Beijing about the possibility of weakening the Wall that was preventing Second Breath from happening outside of Asia. One crusading Resplendent Crane with a hard-on for taking the fight to Cainites later (as they blamed them for being the source of the majority of corruption affecting the Middle Kingdom), and the Mandarins had their excuse to test the results of their "arrangement".
About a hundred and fifty Kuei-jin journeyed from Hong Kong to San Francisco in what would be called the "Great Leap Outward", including several Flesh Court veterans from Shanghai. Night battles soon erupted between the expedition's frontline wu and the forces of both the Camarilla and the Sabbat. The Gui Ren enjoyed initial success due to surprise and the ignorance of the Western vampires to their abilities, but soon resistance stiffened.
The Sabbat turned to their tried and true tactic of Mass Embrace, and sent wave after wave of Thinblood/Shovelhead cannon fodder to wear wu down in a battle of attrition. The Camarilla, on the other hand, used its Ghoul servants to hunt down the resting places used by the Kuei-jin during the day, and destroy the invaders while they slept.
With their supply lines stretched and no quick way to replace losses, the Kuei-jin leaders in California had to reconsider a much more measured approach. At the same time, the Ancients of the Blood Court were gearing up for the long term, and were readying much more subtle and diplomatic ways to deal with the Cainites.
With news of Second Breath now happening in California though, the forces of the Great Leap Outwards are even more convinced of the righteousness of their cause.
As of V5/5th Edition, most of this had been retconned away, with much of the captured territory still in Anarch hands.
Naturally, much like the other gamelines of the Old World of Darkness, the Kindred of the East received a few scenarios to coincide with the Time of Judgement.
The Rising of One Hundred CloudsEdit
The "Magic Goes Away" scenario. The Sixth Age arrives in a way unexpected to many Wan Kuei. The Demon Emperor has ascended, but the start of His reign brings the closing off of the Mortal realm from the Spiritual, and not the expected time of battle. Many shen decide to withdraw into the Yin and Yang worlds before travel there becomes impossible.
As the divide between the material and spiritual realms becomes stronger, ambient Chi becomes weaker. Elder Wan Kuei who used to passively absorb ambient Chi in the environment are forced on the hunt once more. Whats worse, is with the weakening of Chi lines, travel through the spirit paths become nearly impossible.
Things progress to the point where the Wall is nearly impenetrable. Before this happens elder Kuei-jin go missing, with many experiencing that last burst of insight needed to achieve Enlightenment. For others, a more darker fate awaits, as they walk into Yomi either willingly, or called there by the Yama Kings as their akuma natures are revealed. With even the walls to Yomi barred tight, no more Wan Kuei take Second Breath.
Bereft of guidance, the younger members of all Dharmas struggle to make their way in a world where resources are much more scarce. And what's worse, the Wan Kuei's traditional enemies circle, sensing weakness... Whatever happens next, it's very likely that the players might become some of the last Kuei-jin left in the world, a sad remnant of an already sorrowful age.
Serpent Bites the HandEdit
An Espionage and Combat scenario. Oliver Thrace, a Tremere from the Hong Kong chantry, had been staying as an "honored guest" of the Blood Court ever since he surrendered himself to them during the turnover of Hong Kong. Unbeknownst to his captors, he had been taking advantage of his stay to observe the Kuei-jin and figure out their weaknesses. And thanks to forbidden knowledge given by the Yama Kings Mikaboshi and Tou Mu, he may finally have the thing needed to tip things in the Cainites' favor.
Through one means or another, Thrace escapes from his hosts, and even when the Characters pursue, they somehow lose trace of him (or deal with him, and think the threat ended). Other issues vie for their attention, but soon enough, the Screaming Plague happens, and Kuei-jin simply drop dead.
Y'see, Thrace (or one of his replacements if the PCs deal with him during the escape) managed to return to the Camarilla, where he then taught the Ritual of Breaking the Demon Bonds to his fellow Tremere. What it does is it severes the bond a Kuei-jin has with their body, and sends their soul screaming back into Yomi.
Eager to eliminate their enemies in California, they start performing the rite in Kuei-jin occupied areas. The effect is immediate and shocking. Kuei-jin minding their own business suddenly rot and turn into dust, starting with the eldest of the city before working its way down to the youngest.
The PCs are now faced with a choice. Either they make a strike against the Tremere before it becomes too late, or make a deal with a Yama King to save themselves. Those who elect to strike at the Tremere Chantries discover the horrific truth: that the ritual sites were converted into broken mirrors, hell gates to Yomi where corrupted Chi well through.
If the characters somehow manage to seal a hellgate or two... The forces of hell still stream through all the other Tremere chantries. However the spots where the gates were sealed remain palces where uncorrupted Chi manages to flow, and these can now be used by the surviving Kuei-jin as bases to now strike against the Yama Kings.
The Trumpet of Mount MeruEdit
A Combat-heavy scenario. The Sixth Age is coming, but the August Personage isn't giving up his throne quietly. He empowers the Shih daemon hunters, allowing them to draw upon the Chi of the land to strengthen themselves much like the Ten Thousand Immortals of old. They would become His new chosen warriors, one final bulwark of defiance against the coming darkness of the Yama Kings.
Before that though, there's one more loose thread to deal with: the Wan Kuei, disgraced spiritual descendants of the Wan Xian, must not be allowed to see the dawn of the Sixth Age. As they grow in confidence as well as power, the Shih begin to openly hunt down the forces of the August Courts, soon even the Elders are put to flight.
When the legendary God Slayer takes to the field of battle, it is a sign that the end had finally come for the Wan Kuei. Depending on the Storyteller, the final battle may occur in the material realm, or the spirit world. Setting the battle in the latter makes it so that little, if any, of the Mortal world gets troubled by this little tussle between the supernatural.
In any case, the last of the Wan Kuei make their stand against their pursuers... But in a surprising twist however the Shih don't annihilate the Kuei-jin; instead they give their defeated foes a chance to join them in the final battle against the Yama Kings. Though many refuse, many also accept, and together with the Shih make a glorious last stand in the Mirror Lands with their backs against the Wall against the endless hordes of the Yama Kings.
The Wicked CityEdit
An investigation and combat scenario. The Wan Kuei discover that the Yama King Mikaboshi's Wicked City is slowly intruding into the Mortal World. The players discover broken mirrors in cities are leaking corrupted Chi into the Mortal world. The Kuei-jin scramble to try and seal these breaches, but anything tried is a temporary fix at best, as another hellgate soon erupts somewhere else.
One thing is clear: the arrival of the Sixth Age is nigh. The Wan Kuei call war councils, and the PCs get involved trying to create a unified front by acting as go-betweens among rival Courts. In the end, even when they're able to unite the various Kuei-jin factions, they're still beaten to the punch by Mikaboshi.
Y'see, the Yama King had been slowly corrupting Strike Force Zero from within, and uses the mages as his cats paws against the Wan Kuei. SF0 agents disrupt Kuei-jin efforts to repair the broken mirrors, and even hunt them down directly.
Through all this, the Broken Mirrors expand, and the Wicked City invades the mortal realm like a cancer, eating away at reality. Urban areas soon become part of Mikaboshi's domain, and his demon servitors stalk the shen, forcing many to flee or into servitude. Even the Cainites are corrupted by the powers of Yomi.
The forces of the August Courts try to hold on to the cities, but they are soon forced from their strongholds by demons and akuma loyal to the Yama King. Even the savage penangallan of the Golden Courts are forced to flee into the jungles, but such fighting withdrawals become all-too common as the forces of darkness converge.
Cities around the world become extensions of the Wicked City, becoming bad Blade Runner or Akira parodies. Then the vile cityscape spreads, taking over places with low ambient Chi before trying to consume dragon lines and nests. The Kuei-jin congregate to defend the latter, as these remain the only sources of undefiled Yin and Yang Chi.
What follows next depends on the Storyteller. They can move the scene to a desperate last stand at one of the last uncorrupted dragon nests... Or go the other way, with the Kuei-jin going on the attack, with the PCs crashing Mikaboshi's coronation party and trying to assassinate him with an ancient jade dagger. If the Storyteller prefers to end things with a literal bang, the PCs can instead set off a relic nuke right underneath Mikaboshi's nose as he crowns himself Demon Emperor, taking him and all the other Yama Kings in attendance out. Yeah.
Why no 20th Anniverary Edition or V5, WW/Onyx Path?Edit
One of the main stumbling blocks that even the creative team had found about updating or streamlining Kindred of the East is the sheer amount of Orientalism prevalent in the lore and even the ruleset. The problematic way that it dealt with Asian cultures in general -- being terribly essentialist by mashing everything into a mulch, then adding Kung-fu and Wuxia for flavor -- did not help matters any.
In the end, it's a whole lot of work for little to no guarantee of a pay-off, so the Kindred of the East line had been left untouched, rules-wise. That's not to say that the Kuei-jin aren't still around -- there have been references to them in many V5 books -- it's just that they're not going to be playable barring homebrews anytime soon.