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V5 Kuei-Jin: the Hungry Ghosts

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  • V5 Kuei-Jin: the Hungry Ghosts

    So some people have done something I never really thought I'd see, ported over Kindred of the East to V5 while keeping the core concept of the Hungry Dead intact rather than making them just more Cainites. I had figured that if anyone was going to touch KotE for V5 it would be some kind of mash up of KotE ideas with Cainities. Like Dharmas of Paths of Enlightenment or Loresheets. Certainly I did not expect anyone to make a 128 page book out of it.

    Kuei-Jin: the Hungry Ghosts

    I've only read the initial couple of pages explaining what the book is and flipped through the rest of it as it's a 128 pages but just the presentation of the book is very good and clearly a lot of work went into it. A good layout and style to it that reminds me of V5 but also sets it apart from V5. Though there are a couple pages I noticed where the font and page colors were bit harsh on the eyes but those were just a couple pages here and there and only fluff so it doesn't get in the way of the rules. Plus the text is in two columns instead of three which is always a positive in my view. On top of that the book has what appears to be original art as far as I can tell. Though the art is only from one person and while it is good it also tends to look more generic and ordinary. Still it doesn't have the worst aspects of the art of the old KotE. No Wan Kuei running around in kimonos with katanas here. And the art isn't entirely all Chinese and Japanese Wan Kuei, there's at least one clearly Indian Wan Kuei among the art pieces of the Five Dharmas and several Wan Kuei that look like they could be from anywhere.

    And of course they created a V5 KotE character sheet for it.

    From the initial stuff I have read they take a location neutral stance, using neutral English names for most things with the Glossary listing alternative names. For example in the book Chi is referred to as Essence, Psyche and Shadow are used for Hun and P'o, and Hungry Ghost for Kuei-Jin/Wan-Kuei. In terms of lore, from what I've seen there has been tweaks and changes but the general lore of KotE appears to be intact. Though there appears to have been some kind of mass disappearance of Wan Kuei in 2004 that has wildly shaken up their society. About the biggest change I've seen so far is that they replaced the Chinese Xue with a new character, Asrikpa who I assume was Indian, as the founder of the Five Main Dharmas. So at least from what I've seen so far they are seeking to draw more beyond just China and Japan which is always nice to see as KotE criminally under utilized the other regions under their sphere.

    One thing I did look through the book for and found at the back is that they completely did away with the old ethnic/racial limitations of KotE. A Hungry Ghost can be anyone from anywhere. Which I had suspected based on the use of neutral terms and the previously mentioned art pieces of characters that looked like they could fit in just about anywhere.

    I plan to start reading it in more depth tonight and see how it all stacks up so expect to hear some more about that in the next couple of days.

    And to top it all off, it's Pay What You Want so it won't cost an arm and a leg like some official V5 books. Frankly just on the presentation of the book it's worth a couple dollars easily and if the book is as good as it looks, it would be easily worth the suggested price they listed.

    Homo sapiens. What an inventive, invincible species. It's only a few million years since they crawled up out of the mud and learned to walk. Puny, defenceless bipeds. They've survived flood, famine and plague. They've survived cosmic wars and holocausts. And now, here they are, out among the stars, waiting to begin a new life. Ready to outsit eternity. They're indomitable. Indomitable.

  • #2
    Wanted to post this a few days ago but life got in the way.

    Anyway I've read the first half of the book which is all the lore and Dharma info while the half I haven't read yet is the Character Creation, Disciplines, Rules, etc. Though I have skimmed through it a bit and it appears that they have taken V5 and blended in aspects of WtO mechanics into it which fits in with the kind of tone of the Hungry Ghosts they're going for as well as the nature of the race that they've already had.

    I actually first want to talk about one of the last pages though one I think should have been in the introduction pages, Advice for Play. It's honestly not really advice for playing as it's real advice is repeating the point that the book is a framework with generic terms with it being up to the Storyteller and their group to flesh it out on their own. Rather the page revolves around three points, the first being the creators' thoughts on KotE and this book. Like myself and a few others on these forums have expressed in the past, they view KotE as flawed but not without merit. Unsurprising given the effort put into this book. The second point is about Culture and Ethnicity. Like I said in my first post, they've completely removed the old notions that only people in Eastern Asia could become Wan Kuei. The last point is a brief explanation on why several lore changes happened in the book. In particular one I'm not all that crazy about but one that keeps it in line with the lore of V5 so I can't really blame them for that. But I will get into that in a bit.

    Like I said, this page really should have been in the front section as they are some important points for people to know about the book that could be missed by some readers by sticking it at very back of the book.

    After the Introduction section we get a couple of pages dedicated to explaining what the Hungry Ghosts are. If you're already familiar with KotE and WtO, there's nothing new here. It's intended for people who never really touched KotE.

    It's after that section that things get interesting, starting with a two page transcript of a discussion between what in old terms would be a Mandarin and Ancestor with a crowd of other Hungry Ghosts present. They are discussing a major recent event that has rocked their world and is the big lore change I'm not crazy about, the Great Departure. The Mandarin's words tend to be really flowery and poetic and I had to read several times to understand it fully.

    Fortunately it does get explained in the following pages as the book discusses their history. Starting with the Yama Kings and the Ten Thousand Immortals. While the core lore of their origins has been kept the same, there has been changes to the original Yama Kings. In the original lore, the initial Yama Kings were largely all terrible beings 'rewarded' with their domains and duties of cleansing wicked souls. In HG, there were originally only nine Yama Kings (they also give them names) and they weren't evil. However as time passed and more wicked souls ended up under ministrations, requiring harsher methods and in turn creating what we would recognize as Tainted Chi from KotE. Eventually one of the Yama Kings consumed some of it, finding that it made them more powerful the more they consumed. Worse, it had a corruptive and addictive effect to it, driving them to harvest more and more to feed their addiction only for it to corrupt them more and more. The other Kings would follow suit and before too long they became what we recognize as Yama Kings.

    From there, the general lore roughly plays out with the Divinities (the book's generic term for the August Personage of Jade and the Celestial Bureaucracy) demanding that the Yama Kings present themselves to answer for their actions only for them to flee, snatching bits of the Yin and Yang Worlds to create the first of the Thousand Hells. Though I will say there is one bit that is I think written a bit strangely as it implies that the Yama Kings drained the Dark Kingdom of Jade and drained it of it's Essence, turning it into a spiritually barren wasteland when I think they meant that part of its had suffered that fate.

    Unlike the Great Departure, I'm actually fine with this lore change. It gives a greater connection between the Yama Kings and the Hungry Ghosts as both share a succumbing to temptation leading to corruption and a downfall. As well it makes the initial Kings a bit more interesting than in the previous lore where they were virtually all evil to begin with. They even threw in a vague prophecy that could hint at the possible redemption of the Yama Kings, being restored to their original uncorrupted state. Of course the book does also note that this only applies those nine and that later Kings are a different bunch.

    After we have the Ten Thousand Immortals and their Fall. Not much a change here. We do get the story of the supposed first Immortal to fall that could easily inserted to the original KotE but otherwise it's the general story of their fall.

    Interestingly we get a page discussing the Wheel of Ages but unlike in KotE which only discusses the first six ages, it goes on to discuss what the Hungry Ghosts believe the latter six ages will be, even giving them names.

    From there we have a brief discussion on the Scarlet Screens, KotE's iteration of the Masquerade, as well as the Red Mandate, an update to the Screens to deal with modern technology in keeping with the recent struggles the Cainites have had in V5. Unfortunately it also leads to a complete waste of two pages with the title 'Red Mandate Rules of Hungry Ghost Society' spread across two pages with four points, each described with a sentence or two. They could have used those pages to explain the events that led to the Red Mandate and better explained them.

    Finally in this section we have the Great Departure, the big lore change to KotE. As you can imagine from the title, it's the mass disappearance of the HG. In 2004, it's estimated that up to 80% of HG, including all the Bodhisattvas, suddenly disappeared. As a result, much of the major Courts and organizations have been greatly diminished or outright collapsed which in turn allowed Cainites to move into their territories. Like I said, I'm not pleased with this but I understand why they did it, to keep the book in line with V5 and it's lore. In-universe, no one is entirely sure why this has happened. The best they have is the claim from that conversation transcript I mentioned before, the idea that the Bodhisattvas and all the other missing HG were called upon by those that move beyond the Bodhisattva level to aid them in delaying the arrival of the Sixth Age. Though even some of them question if that's true or just a story that's been cooked up to make things seem better than they actually are.

    That said, it's not all doom and gloom for them as the world's Essence which had been diminishing throughout the Fifth Age had become strong and vibrant again, with their own powers returning to what they were in the Fourth Age (what they were like during the Dark Ages) though I haven't yet read through the Disciplines so I can't yet attest to how strong they are now. And obviously HG are still taking their Second Breath after the Great Departure.

    After that we have the ranks of the HG based on their Path (Dharma) Rating just like from the original Rulebook though some of the names have been changed. For example Mandarins are now Ancestors while Ancestors are now Preceptors. Though one interesting thing they did add was that the initial ranks wear veils during Court events, grey at Rating 1 but as they start to advance their Path, changing to a colored one based on their Path.

    Unfortunately they don't talk much about the HG Courts and how they function as all we get is what the Preceptors do and how one becomes an Ancestor.

    Finally we have the Dharmas or Paths. The Main Five are back along with the Rising Phoenixes and the Face of Gods. Unfortunately they also decided to axe the other Heretical Dharmas, stating that they were either destroyed or absorbed into others. While I personally only like the seven Dharams we did get, I'm not crazy about removing player options like that.

    As for the Dharmas themselves, they're presented much as I remember them with some new or altered material added. One thing that has been added to the write-ups are the different Schools of Thought that most of the Dharmas have. I do remember that the Dharma Books had them but I don't remember if they are in line with what's in those books or new creations. Further each Path has a Boon and Bane attached to them with the Boon is determined by their School and relates to it. The two exceptions to this are the Thousand Whispers who get to take one of the Path Boons until they undergo their Death Ritual at which point they replace it with a new one, and the Face of the Gods who only have a single Boon.

    Another thing they did was redesign the Dharma symbols which several badly needed, especially the Devil-Tigers. That said, I continue to find the actual character art to be really generic. Like you could use most of the art for anything and it work fine. Only a few of the ones I've seen have something supernatural to them and none of them have screamed undead creature. As weird and crazy as the old KotE art could get, you tell it was dealing with supernatural beings. The most we get in this book from what I've seen is on the page talking about the Rating 0 (Chih-mei) that has a pair of stylized sketches of a falling body and a snarling skeletal figure. A person dying and then taking their Second Breath, rising as a flesh-hungry, raging monster.

    Overall I rather like the book so far. The idea of making the concepts and terms more setting neutral is something I've expressed before when talking about ideas on making KotE more palatable. Same with making the HG global. Like I said, while I'm not a fan of the Great Departure and would probably downplay it in my own games if I ever play it or V5 in general, I get why they did it. Beyond that, I do think the book is lacking when it comes to the HG Courts and how a typical one would operate. Yes, it would have been a bit tricky with the more setting neutral approach they've taken but they already did talk about some of that with things like how Ancestors claim their titles. Would it have been that hard spend a couple more pages talking about a typical HG Court and the positions within it? Especially given how they wasted two pages on the Red Mandate. But otherwise it continues to be a solid fanbook.

    Of course I still need to get through all the crunch but given that it's Pay What You Want, I can't help but continue to recommend it.

    Homo sapiens. What an inventive, invincible species. It's only a few million years since they crawled up out of the mud and learned to walk. Puny, defenceless bipeds. They've survived flood, famine and plague. They've survived cosmic wars and holocausts. And now, here they are, out among the stars, waiting to begin a new life. Ready to outsit eternity. They're indomitable. Indomitable.


    • #3
      Super neat! I have been waiting for someone to move this over to v5. I'll check it out!


      • #4
        Did they get rid of the D&D-sourced Tou Mu?


        • #5
          Originally posted by Saur Ops Specialist View Post
          Did they get rid of the D&D-sourced Tou Mu?
          Yama Kings are much broader with a lot of room for cultural interpretation.


          • #6
            Yeah they only list the original nine Yama Kings and give them very broad names that could be used among any culture, being merely one of a thousand different names for them. For those who are curious the names are:

            1. She-Who-Sings
            2. King-Of-Flames
            3. Dance-For-Heaven
            4. Queen-Of-Memories
            5. The-Thousand-Stories
            6. Bringer-Of-Grace
            7. Righter-Of-Wrongs
            8. Purity-Of-Absence
            9. Cultivator-Of-Flowers​
            Based on the existing lore and the lore in the book, the Bringer-of-Grace would be Tou Mu as she was the one that corrupted the first Immortal and later captured his soul to torment for eternity. So technically she is present in the book, she's just not called Tou Mu. Probably because she's one of only one among the initial named Yama Kings that we know anything about and has a significant presence.

            As for Tou Mu and D&D, she might actually be named after Doumu, a Chinese and Taoist Goddess. Other Yama Kings also are based on or named after gods of Eastern Asian faiths and mythologies so it wouldn't be out of the question. Especially since both are associated with stars (Polaris and the Big Dipper in Doumu's case) and possess eighteen arm.

            Homo sapiens. What an inventive, invincible species. It's only a few million years since they crawled up out of the mud and learned to walk. Puny, defenceless bipeds. They've survived flood, famine and plague. They've survived cosmic wars and holocausts. And now, here they are, out among the stars, waiting to begin a new life. Ready to outsit eternity. They're indomitable. Indomitable.


            • #7
              Finally finished the book. Got delayed by real life and generally being slower reading through mechanics, rules and other crunch. Though on the plus side I did manage convince some friends to flip through it as well and I might be able to get them to give it a try.

              Now before I continue on, I should note that I've never played V5 or KotE, and it's been years since I've actually read the rules for those games so I can't really compare the rules in Hungry Ghosts to either of those games beyond stuff I kind of remember.

              First off we have Character Creation. Obviously it uses V5 Character Creation as a base with modifications to reflect the systems of KotE. Clan gets replaced by Path and Path School but we also get the Yama King the character escaped from and the HG Master who instructed the character on their Path which is an interesting choice. Those things did exist in KotE of course but they weren't really something that was treated as important enough to put on the Character Sheet and brought up as a step in CC. I did check the KotE Rulebook and while they were brought up, it was in the section talking about fleshing out the character's backstory. Frankly this change makes a lot of sense given the nature of the HG and how both have a significant impact on them. While Cainites have their Sires, they really need them. It's not uncommon for a Cainite to be Embraced and dumped by their Sire, whether intentionally or not, and have to find their own way through Unlife. HG can't really due to most of them starting off as mindless flesh-hungry wights. They need their Masters to pull them up from that state and starting them on their Path hence the importance of their Masters. The Yama King is important for being the Hell they were tortured in and escaped from, an experience that while different for each HG is their shared trauma and something to motivate them to transcend their fate. However it is kind of undermined by there not being a lot on the Yama Kings and the Thousand Hells in the book.

              We also have the Shadow Archetypes and the Psyche vs Shadow which replaces V5's Humanity as well as the Essence pools which replaces the Blood pool. Otherwise I believe else is more or less the same as V5 CC.

              From there it goes into Hunger, Feeding and Essence. From what I remember, it appears to be in line with V5. Though I do find it a little odd that Black Essence slates 2 Hunger while Scarlet only slates 1. I would have thought it would be a the other way round. Feeding and Essence are straight up from V5 and KotE. HG have four ways of feeding depending on their Path Rating, consuming flesh, consuming blood, consuming breath and osmosis. The higher their Path, the more options they have. What you feed from will determine the Essence gained. For flesh, living victims grants Scarlet Essence, corpses produce Black. In the case of blood and breath, they integrated the Blood Humors of V5 with choleric and sanguine producing Scarlet, melancholy and phlegmatic produce Black.

              There is one part of Feeding I do want to bring up but it will be more relevant when I get to the Disciplines.

              And with Essence we have one of the more complicated aspects of KotE, Essence Imbalance. With the HG having two Essences (well with Demonic Essence as well but that's another matter) they had a system revolving around how much of those Essences they had in their bodies and the effects it could have on them if they have too much of one. Again, it's been ages since I've read the rules of KotE but I vaguely recall it being a bit messy of a system. Though I may be just remembering complaints I've seen people have about KotE. Regardless, the Essence Balance system here is simple and easy to understand. You have a meter of nine dots, separated into groups of three. The center three are Neutral while sides are Life and Death respectively. You start off on the center dot of neutral and every time you use Essence to slate Hunger, you move towards that side based on the kind of Essence you use for that. Scarlet pushes you towards Life, Black towards Death. Depending where the character is in the meter will cause different effects. All in keeping with the concepts and mechanics of KotE.

              From there we have Lifesight and Deathsight which is nothing new for KotE, before moving on to the Shadow and Demonic Essence. Most of it appears to be in line with KotE with additional mechanics taken from V5, namely Stains, Touchstones and Convictions. Interestingly they added that Touchstones can include personal items and supernaturals with a high degree of humanity. While I'm fine with Touchstones potentially including other Supernaturals, I'm not sure if I agree with including personal items. Like I think I can see where they're coming from but honestly without more explanation, I find it a bit of a stretch and think it could abused to get around some of the dangers of Touchstones.

              Then we have Path Rating and Rank. Path Rating is where a HG is on their Path while Rank is their position within HG society. Rank is partially tied to Rating but the Path Rating doesn't always indicate their Rank, especially past the initial Ranks. What really interests me in this section is the discussion on how gameplay-wise a player advances their PC on their Path, providing three different options, Observation with no Mechanics, Mechanics-based and a combination of the two. Observation is basically Roleplaying the PC's advancement across their Path, with suggestions on what that could look like. The other two are pretty self-explanatory. In all of them the HG doesn't just go up on their Path as they can regress on their Path and there are mechanics for rising and falling on your Path. I like this section as one of the things that would always be a bit sticky when it comes to KotE, at least long term ones, would be one's advancement on their Path.

              Then we get the Merits and Flaws, a brief section explaining what Merits, Flaws and Loresheets HG can't take along with some HG exclusive Merits and Flaws. Though I will also admit that the mentioning of the Loresheets kind of makes me wish they had come up with HG Loresheets but that's a very minor thing.

              Then we get to the Disciplines and I have some comments about them. One good thing about this is that they have condensed a number of the Disciplines as KotE suffered from a lot of powers. Now we have them all either removed or merged into a smaller number of Disciplines (or Godbodies, the term used in the Dark Ages book) and Essence Rites. And like V5, there are now multiple powers per Discipline level. Making it all a much more digestible.

              Now there are two things at the start of this section that I feel I have to bring. First is that it brings up that the HG at creation has to have at least one dot in Demon Godbody (aka Demon Arts from KotE) because it's the only Godbody that is innate to the HG which is all in line with KotE. However in the Character Creation it doesn't say that. It just says to pick two Disciplines and put three dots between them. The CC section should specifically say that one of those Disciplines has to be in the Demon Godbody.

              The second thing I have to bring up is one of the Level 1 Demon Godbody powers is the ability to create fangs for blood-drinking because HG don't have natural fangs like Cainites do. However in KotE the power to create fangs was innate to all HG. They didn't need to have a specific Discipline to do it. So I find it a rather questionable move to make it one rather than keeping it an innate ability. The only thing I can think of is that Demon Godbody is now only the Black Wind Disciplne and the Demon Shintai and they didn't think having the ability to manifest a demonic feature at Rank 1 was balanced.

              But aside from that the Discipline section looks quite good. They are all derived from the previous powers with them listing their prior names and like I said some are a merging of old Disciplines, taking a major one from the Rulebook and a minor one from another book that covers a similar power.

              Finally we have a section on travel between the Umbra, the Underworld, the Thousand Hells and other Realms as well as general descriptions of these various Realms. As well as other odds and ends. The travel mechanics are pretty standard for many WoD lines. There is a new Realm type (at least I believe it's new), the Heavenly Realms. As you can imagine with that name, they are perfect paradises though they don't necessarily have to assume typical forms of such paradises. However it's not something most games would see as it requires a Path Rating of 7+ to set foot on these Realms. I would put a note that Path 7+ would have been the requirement for a HG to go there under their own ability but that it's possible for younger HG to be brought or invited there under special circumstances.

              Final Thoughts:

              I like this book. While I do have some issues with it, none of them are overwhelming and some can be excused by this being a fan work rather than a professional one. My biggest issue is that there were parts of it that I felt could have used a bit more material. But aside from that it's good book that could hopefully serve as platform for people to give KotE a try. The inclusion of V5 rules and streamlining of the KotE rules looks like it really fixed up some of the mechanical issues of KotE, and I am hoping I'll be able to give it a try just for that. In terms of the Lore and Setting, it's mostly in line with the existing lore and my own thoughts on tweaking it. Like I said before, the Great Departure is the one Lore bit I'm kind of torn on but that's the only one.

              Though I would recommend that if you do pick it up to look at getting the Dharma Books, Heresies of the Way and the Thousand Hells to help flesh things out.

              If I had to give it a rating, it would be a solid 4/5.

              Homo sapiens. What an inventive, invincible species. It's only a few million years since they crawled up out of the mud and learned to walk. Puny, defenceless bipeds. They've survived flood, famine and plague. They've survived cosmic wars and holocausts. And now, here they are, out among the stars, waiting to begin a new life. Ready to outsit eternity. They're indomitable. Indomitable.


              • #8
                Thank you for the review!

                Im glad you enjoyed reading through and liking the work. I hope you do have a chance to play a HG in future games!

                If there are any questions, please don't hesitate to ask!


                • #9
                  Originally posted by Studiokohvi View Post
                  Thank you for the review!

                  Im glad you enjoyed reading through and liking the work. I hope you do have a chance to play a HG in future games!

                  If there are any questions, please don't hesitate to ask!
                  Well it's looking more likely that I will be running a game this summer. I'd rather be a player but in my group I'm the only one with KotE books or any real knowledge of the line. Everyone else pretty much only knows about them from VtMB.

                  The curse of being a fan of a less popular line.

                  I don't have any questions in particular right now.​

                  Homo sapiens. What an inventive, invincible species. It's only a few million years since they crawled up out of the mud and learned to walk. Puny, defenceless bipeds. They've survived flood, famine and plague. They've survived cosmic wars and holocausts. And now, here they are, out among the stars, waiting to begin a new life. Ready to outsit eternity. They're indomitable. Indomitable.