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Tiansheng [Strains of the Cursed Blood- China]

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  • #16
    Brainstorming ideas for the Three Kingdoms of Darkness sidebar, and this came to mind. I've been entertaining the idea that the (mostly fictional) woman known as Diaochan might have secretly been one of the Heaven Born.

    If I do go through with this idea, which of the Five Steps would be the most apt for her? The Water Step seems to be the most likely, but I'm curious to hear what you think.


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    • #17
      Three Kingdoms of Darkness: Lost Harmony

      If there is one thing that best embodies the worst of chaos, it is War. And the War of the Three Kingdoms is one of the greatest conflicts to plague the ancient world. Warlords vie for the right to rule under the Mandate of Heaven, and their struggles plague the common folk with death and destruction. Yet even in the midst of this tragedy, despite the atrocities made on all sides, some manage to leave their mark in history with their actions.

      And more than a few Heaven Born are counted among such figures.

      The woman known as Diaochan is perhaps the best example. A follower of the Water Step, her actions would come to bring about the downfall of Dong Zhuo, and thus put an end to the atrocities of his reigns. What befell her afterwards (and whether or not she truly existed) will come to be a subject of much debate, and not even her fellow Tiansheng may know the full truth.

      However Diaochan's story ends, others in the conspiracy have their own tales in this violent and chaotic time. Some roam the countryside, fighting the various demons who roam freely under the cover of war. Others navigate the politics of the court, with their cunning and guile putting them steps ahead of many ambitious mortals and yaoguai. Either way, most do not live long, as the majority of the conspiracy faces the same hardships of the era as the peasantry.

      Indeed, the conflicts ravaging China nearly extinguish the lineage. Famine, disease, and bloodshed claim a number of Tiansheng, and more than a few bloodlines die out without leaving behind any fertile daughters. That the mowang and their servants hunt them under the cover of war only makes their situation more dire.

      Even so, the Tiansheng survive. And when the Three Kingdoms are founded, they establish themselves in each kingdom's lands. But like the freeholds of the Lost, they would suffer from divisions among their ranks. The Five Perfects that lead the Heaven Born are split over which lord they should support as the rightful bearer of the Mandate. While this dispute does not hamper the conspiracy, at first, it soon threatens to tear it apart as the kingdoms turn their armies on each other.

      In time, even the Heaven Born fall into strife, with mothers clashing with their daughters, and sisters standing on opposing sides.


      Mystery Cult Initiation (Tiansheng) (o to ooooo)
      Effect: You are a child of Heaven, marked by the powers of the yaoguai who dwell in the lands beyond the Thorns. While your birthright may leave you with a life of suffering and unable to bear children, it still empowers you to uphold the balance set by the Mandate of Heaven.

      (o) -- You finished your training, and have taken an oath to protect mankind from hungry demons. You may buy dots in the Mofa Endowment, and gain an Occult Specialty in Huntsmen. You can also expect to live for 150 years.

      (oo) -- Most Heaven Born come from rural families, and come to be instructed in traditional medicine. Even if you live in the cities, you still know a few natural remedies. You gain the Holistic Awareness Merit.

      (ooo) -- You have fought in the name of the Mandate to remove unnatural taint from the world, and you have learned to recognize it on sight. You gain the Eye for the Strange Merit, and now live up to 200 years. This is the highest that a man can reach in the conspiracy.

      (oooo) -- In standing against the Mowang, you have begun to master the power of your own dreams. You gain the Lucid Dreamer Merit and a dot in the Diviner Merit. If you already have the former, you instead gain two more dots in the latter.

      (ooooo) -- You have proven yourself trustworthy to the Five Perfects, and many see you as a possible candidate to succeed one of them. Until then, your place in the conspiracy allows you to touch the Mandate in your waking moments. You gain the Omen Sensitivity Merit, and may expect to live up to 400 years.
      Last edited by Deionscribe; 01-13-2017, 07:56 AM.


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      • #18
        Touched by the Mandate

        With their fabled origins and the powers they wield, the Tiansheng have much in common with the yaoguai who call themselves the Lost. They call upon the Mandate of Heaven to reshape things within given purviews, and they often resort to trickery and guile to halt the predations of the mowang. And while they are discouraged from doing so, many of their number do deal with them on a regular basis. Some even go so far as to swear pledges with a select few Yaoguai, despite the dangers such acts invite.

        Why one of the Heaven Born would agree to such a thing ranges from the practical to the personal. It is an open secret in the conspiracy that many branches bargain with the Lost in order to circumvent their infertility. At the same time, a given hunter may have had friends (or even family) who were taken beyond the Thorns and perhaps subsequently escaped.

        And there are those who seek out the changelings not out of friendship or a desire for children, but for tutelage in the mystical arts.

        All Tiansheng are described by the Lost as being "Faetouched", but the apellation is not entirely correct. Yes, their souls are tied to the Mandate (or the Wyrd, as many Westerners call it), but they were not made so from a promise made to a changeling and a journey through the Hedge. They are not cursed with brief lives, fated to die ahead of friends and family. Their thoughts are not colored by unending madness or a strong longing for the Thorns. No, the Heaven Born are something else, a distinct lineage that stands apart from the faetouched and changelings.

        That does not mean they cannot learn their tricks.

        Changelings can learn to command the Ten Thousand Things in the same manner as the Tiansheng, but they can also enter into fixed agreements that let them harness smaller portions of their power. These Contracts leave indelible marks on their bodies and perceptions, but do not have any severe impact on their ability to retain Clarity. Faetouched can similarly harness such sorcery with ease, but only because their psyches have been fundamentally warped.

        Heaven Born also have the potential to wield Contracts, but it is considered a taboo in the conspiracy. The act of learning such magic involves letting demonic energies into themselves. These energies corrupt their minds and bodies, and steadily wear away the fortitude of their souls. A few even whisper rumors of Tiansheng who were rendered barren by the knowledge they received. Such dangers have not deterred members from seeking out those powers, and the conspiracy counts a number of sorcerers and enchantresses among its ranks.

        -=-

        Optional Rule: Born Beyond the Thorns
        A Tiansheng has a somewhat adverse relationship with the Hedge. She is subject to the following conditions.

        • Whenever they cross a Hedge gate, they risk attracting a Hunstman's notice, as if they had activated their Endowment. Tiansheng with no Mofa dots instead gain the Marked Condition towards any Huntsman in a range of one meter.

        • Whenever they exit the Hedge after spending at least a full scene inside it, they must roll Resolve + Composure. On a failure, they suffer from Hedge Addiction for three days. This is extended to a full lunar month on a dramatic failure.


        Optional Rule: Madness in Knowledge
        A Tiansheng can purchase certain Fae-Touched Merits at the Storyteller's discretion. He may also spend Experience to learn Contracts in the same manner as faetouched, with the following restrictions.

        • They cannot learn the Seeming bonuses of Contracts.

        • They cannot make use of catches.

        • They reduce their maximum Integrity by the dots in their highest rated Contract. If this would reduce their current Integrity score, the Storyteller may decide to give 3 Experience per dot lost, which can be used to purchase additional Contracts.

        • Unless they purchase the Glamour Merit (see below), they must tap into external fonts of power to fuel their Contracts.


        New Merit -- Glamour (o to ooooo)
        Effect: The Tiansheng has immersed herself in the raw substance of the Mandate of Heaven. She gains a Glamour pool equal to the dots in this Merit, which can be used to fuel Contracts and certain Merits.


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        • #19
          Fallen Blossoms: The Shogun's Mandate

          Even before their borders were closed, the islands of Nippon had little contact with the wider world. When the Tokugawa Shogunate came into power, though, contact with foreigners was outlawed, and any who sought to enter or exit the country faced execution if caught. The Chinese were one of the few exceptions to this rule, and they were the only ones not confined to the island of Dejima. In fact, they had long established themselves on Nippon, ever since the Hata and several other clans came to the islands in the days of the Qin Dynasty.

          During the Edo Jidai, Chinese traders far outnumber their Dutch counterparts in Dejima, and they could travel freely in the town for a time. While they would later be restricted to their district in 1689, some would become influential painters in the country. A few even join the ranks of the Bijin. There also existed a larger population of ethnic Chinese, who were considered permanent residents of Nippon. While they were forbidden from leaving, they could mingle more freely with Japanese society, and thus could travel as far as Edo if they wished.

          It was within this larger community that Nippon's Heaven Born could be found.

          Some come from families that lived in the country for generations, but many others are recent immigrants who fled their homeland as it endured civil unrest and natural disasters. Intermingling with the resident Chinese, they maintain only tenuous ties with the mainland thanks to the enforcement of sakoku and hostilities between the Shogunate and the Ming Dynasty. This state of affairs worsens once the Qing Dynasty comes into power, and China grew more insular under their rule.

          Thus, the Tensei of Nippon are a group unto themselves. Cut off from the mainland, they answer to Perfects chosen from their ranks, who lead them in a more concerted effort as opposed to the ordered chaos of the past. The landscape of the local Vigil is treacherous ground for them, and they cannot afford to act at cross purposes if they are to survive.

          The Tensei have a strong presence in the island of Kyushu, with Nagasaki being home to several family lines, including those of the Perfects themselves. Other Heaven Born can be found further south, living among the people of the Ryukyu Islands. From these two regions, the conspiracy has branched out to the rest of Nippon, with some cells venturing as far as Edo over the course of their travels.

          These same cells inevitably cross paths with hunters from other compacts and conspiracies. Some swim alongside the Ama, invoking the magic of the ten thousand things to help quell those beasts that threaten to rise from the sea. Others mingle with the Bijin, trading secrets over nights of entertainment and revelry. A few work closely with the Azusa Miko and the Gimu, rooting out corruption from the temples and the courts.

          And then there are those Heaven Born who cross paths with members of another cursed lineage. The Otodo, as they call themselves, claim descent from the oni. They use the powers inherent in their blood to fight back against malevolent yokai and root out evil in its other forms. Few know that the Tensei exist, but those who do see them as distant kin, another branch of the bloodline that took root across the sea but nonetheless pursue similar responsibilities.

          Not all hunters see the lineage as allies, and would happily see them dead or subdued. The priests and magicians of the Onmyodo bind demons and spirits into servitude, and a few are capable of doing the same to the Heaven Born through the Kinro no Kusari. In the days of the Shogunate, some stories circulate which speak of Tensei reduced to slaves in all but name after running afoul of the Bureau of Onmyo. Such tales remind the conspiracy of its need for secrecy even as some Heaven Born attempt to seek out these lost souls.

          The Tensei also find their concerns directed at another organization. Based among the merchant caste, the Hototogisu are a group whose members could steal the powers of yokai through well-crafted deals. These pilfered abilities were used, in turn, by the merchants to ensure the success of their busineesses. To the Heaven Born, such mystical thefts imply that the merchants wield the Mandate in ways they cannot achieve with Kido, and they try to uncover more on their tricks even as they work to avoid drawing their notice.

          Between the Onmyodo and the Hototogisu, the Tensei find themselves close to destruction or enslavement many times. It is only through their cunning and alliances with other hunters that they were able to avoid either fate as a group.

          The Meiji Restoration would send them tumbling into chaos again, however, as it set into motion events which would bring new and different threats to the conspiracy.

          Tensei no Namae: Because they have lived on the islands for generations, the Heaven Born favor Japanese terms in reference to certain concepts in the conspiracy. Many of the elders among their ranks still use the original Chinese names, however.

          Goryu (五流, Five Schools) - The Five Steps
          Kido (氣道, Spirit Way) - Mofu
          Tenmei (天命, Destiny) - The Mandate of Heaven
          Last edited by Deionscribe; 01-21-2017, 01:51 PM.


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