The default setting and backdrop will be Rokugan from the Legend of Five Rings CCG. It is not a clone of that world but the basic background, map and layout and locations will be from Rokugan. This was the default setting used in D&D 3e. This means the Shadowlands and the Clans play a central role in the campaign world. However, I am not a purest so there will be plenty of changes from the cannon setting (for example you will see plenty of the original 1e Kara-Tur setting sprinkled throughout as will as ideas taken from Avatar: The Last Airbender). To avoid confusion I will use Kara-Tur over Rokugan (and sometimes use both interchangeably).
A BRIEF HISTORY OF ROKUGAN
Eventually, the Nothing receded, and into existence came beings of vast, almost unknowable power. Amaterasu, the Lady Sun, and Onnotangu, the Lord Moon, were the greatest of these, and together, husband and wife gave names to all that was, creating the mortal realm of Ningen-do, as well as many other spirit realms and all that dwelled within them. Thus it was that the universe was born.
Lady Sun and Lord Moon had ten children, sons and daughters who were much beloved by their mother. Their father, however, recognized that the children had the potential to grow more powerful than he, and that their mother loved them more than him. These were unacceptable circumstances, and the anger and jealousy grew within Onnotangu until he could bear it no longer. One after another, he pursued his children, defeated them, and devoured them. After each one, his wife brought him sake with poison, and after nine children, Onnotangu fell into a slumber. When he awakened, he discovered his last son, Hantei, ready to face him, prepared by the Lady Amaterasu. Their battle was fierce, and Hantei cut his father open, allowing his siblings to spill forth and tumble from the Celestial Heavens, falling far to the mortal realm. Unwilling to leave his siblings to face this alone, Hantei accompanied them.
In the mortal realm, the children of the Sun and Moon, who became known as the Kami, found tribes of men and woman scattered across the portion of the land where they came to rest. Eight of them, for one disappeared during the fall and another never emerged from his father’s gullet, held a tournament to determine who among them would be the leader, and Hantei was victorious. Declaring himself the first Emperor of Rokugan, Hantei bid his siblings to go out and gather followers, which they did. Each of the seven siblings who stood with Hantei went out and gathered mortals to their banner, creating the original Great Clans of Rokugan.
- Hida, the great warrior, strongest mortal in the world, created the Crab Clan.
- Doji, the gentle spirit and creator of Rokugan’s society, formed the Crane Clan.
- Togashi, the mysterious and contemplative, created the Dragon Clan.
- Akodo, greatest commander of men to ever take the field, led the Lion Clan.
- Shiba, the scholar and philosopher, created the Phoenix Clan.
- Bayushi, the master of lies, created the Scorpion Clan.
- Shinjo, the compassionate lover of nature, created the Ki-Rin (Unicorn) Clan.
The Empire of Rokugan was created as a reflection of the perfect harmony and order found in the Celestial Heavens, the realm of Lady Sun and Lord Moon and the original home of the Kami. Each of the Kami granted their name to their immediate family members, specifically their spouse and children, as well as to those who swore fealty to them. In this way, each created a large family to govern the clan they created. Other families soon came into being as powerful servants proved their worth to the Kami. These sworn vassals soon became the samurai caste, the nobles of the Empire, sworn to service to their families and clans. The vast majority of these samurai were warriors known as bushi, individuals sworn to live and die in the name of their lords. A smaller number, those skilled in the political and social arts, instead took to the courts of their lords to pursue the agendas that would place their clan in the Emperor’s graces; in the courts, a whisper is as deadly as a blade. A still smaller portion, gifted from birth with the natural ability to speak to the elemental spirits that comprise all that exists in the mortal realm, become priests of the kami, as such spirits are called, and are known as shugenja. As members of the samurai caste, shugenja command the same rights and responsibilities as the others, but additionally have the power to command the elements themselves.
The samurai of Rokugan base their lives around the code of bushido, an ancient philosophy created by Akodo, the Kami who formed the Lion Clan. The virtues espoused by the code are embraced completely by the Great Clans, although each embraces a different virtue and chooses to focus their attention upon it. After more than a thousand years of devotion, however, the adherents of Fu Leng, the Kami lost to the others during their fall to the mortal realm, subverted the code and created a blasphemous mirror of it, emphasizing all the negative aspects that appealed to the arrogant, violent nature of their duties as warriors. This philosophy, known as Shourido, emphasized things, will, knowledge, and perfection, among others. Although the vast majority of those embracing this philosophy were found among the Spider Clan, the followers of Fu Leng, a small handful could be found among the ranks of the other Great Clans as well.
Rokugan is an Empire of warriors, although the nature of war that a samurai wages depends upon the duties assigned to them by their lords. Throughout the long history of the Emerald Empire, countless wars have been waged, both between the clans and against a host of supernatural enemies. Under the watchful eye of its Emperors, the Empire has flourished with the blessings of the Celestial Heavens. Wars have come and gone, and will come again.
THE EMPIRE OF ROKUGAN
Rokugan, the world of the Legend of the Five Rings card game and novels, is the featured setting for Oriental Adventures. It does not use all the options presented throughout this book, but few campaigns do. Rokugan stands as a shining example of how to weave various elements from the cultures and legends of Asia into a unique campaign setting with a flavor all its own.
This chapter is relatively brief, but information about Rokugan appears throughout this book. This chapter delves into detail regarding the history of the Empire of Rokugan, its culture, and the clans that make it up—their families and lands. Each clan description includes an additional prestige class and hooks (many with maps) for adventures involving the clan.
The seperate post describes the source of evil in Rokugan, the Shadowlands.
This history of Rokugan encompasses more than a thousand years. The last forty or so of those years are of particular interest, since that is the time period covered by the Legend of the
Five Rings card game and novels. This chapter cannot hope to describe the events of the Clan Wars, the War Against the Shadow, and the Spirit Wars in any kind of exhaustive detail. A summary of key events in those years appears here, and each clan description below gives a current snapshot of the clan, with details of the most important events leading up to the present.
THE CHILDREN OF THE SUN AND MOON
The history of Rokugan begins in the Celestial Heavens, which at that time were one with the mortal world. There, Lady Sun and Lord Moon were born from nothing, and together bore ten children. Known as the kami (or great spirits), these children were named Hida, Doji, Togashi, Akodo, Shiba, Bayushi, Shinjo, Fu Leng, Ryoshun, and Hantei. Lord Moon, Onnotangu, was jealous of his children, however, and did not wish to share their mother’s love with them. Thus, he sought to destroy his children by eating them. He swallowed nine of them, leaving only
Hantei, who hid in a cave. When Hantei grew to adulthood, he faced his father in combat and cut open Lord Moon’s belly. From the wound, the eight living children of the Sun and Moon spilled out. One child, Ryoshun, died in his father’s stomach and went on to watch over Jigoku, the realm of the dead. Lord Moon’s blood and Lady Sun’s tears also fell from the sky, raining down on the earth. From the mixture of blood and tears, humanity was born. The kami, too, fell to the earth—Fu Leng landing in a deep pit that would become the source of the Shadowlands, the other eight ending up among the new race of humans.
When humanity was born, it was not alone on the earth. Nezumi, nagas, kenkus, and kitsus lived on earth before humanity arose. The oldest naga stories speak of a race that was flourishing when they were young. All were pushed aside by the rise of the empire. The nezumi empire was shattered by Fu Leng’s fall, and the nezumi reduced to their savage state in order to survive the horrors of the Shadowlands. The nagas began their long sleep, planning to reawaken when they were needed once more. The kenkus simply withdrew into the deepest forests. The kits us were hunted down and nearly exterminated, until Akodo saw their intelligence and compassion, and brought the survivors into his clan.
HANTEI, SHINSEI, AND FU LENG
When the kami fell to earth, they held a series of contests to determine who would rule them. Hantei won, and so his line was the line of emperors for a thousand years, until the crowning of Toturi. Fu Leng, alone in the Festering Pit, gathered his own hordes of oni and ogres, and soon made war upon his sisters and brothers and their clans. The other seven kami gathered great human heroes around them, forming the seven great clans of the empire. This young empire could not stand against the power of Fu Leng’s Shadowlands horde, until a small man appeared from the West, calling himself Shinsei.
Shinsei spoke with Hantei for a long time, imparting his philosophy, which was recorded by Shiba and became the Tao of Shinsei. Then, Shinsei took one human from each clan—Hida Atarasi, Doji Konishiko, Lady Matsu, Lady Utaku, Lord Isawa, Lord Mirumoto, and Lady Shosuro—into the Shadowlands to fight Fu Leng. Shinsei and his Seven Thunders defeated Fu Leng, binding his power within twelve Black Scrolls that Shosuro—the only survivor of the Seven Thunders—brought back with her to the empire.
A THOUSAND YEARS OF PEACE
A thousand years passed—not peaceful, for the clans warred against each other virtually without ceasing, as they do to this day. Still, this time is called “A Thousand Years of Peace,” because for a thousand years Fu Leng’s power remained contained in the Black Scrolls. During this time, the Ki-Rin clan, led by the kami Shinjo, left Rokugan to explore the rest of the world. They wandered for eight hundred years, returning in 815 as the Unicorn clan.
The minions of Fu Leng did not rest for a thousand years, however. Not only did the creatures of the Shadowlands attack the empire from without, but the Taint of the Shadowlands began to spread within the empire as well. A Crab scholar named Kuni Nakanu discovered the Taint as early as the year 100, noticing its ability to animate corpses. Four centuries later, a sorcerer now called Iuchiban discovered Nakanu’s works and used them to develop spells of maho. He animated an army of skeletons and zombies within a cemetery in the heart of Otosan Uchi (known as the Battle of Stolen Graves), but he was eventually caught and imprisoned within a tomb deep in Crab territory. His loyal followers, known as Bloodspeakers, continued to pass on his teachings despite their master’s apparent defeat. Iuchiban’s spirit has not lain quietly in his tomb, either.
It escaped once, after two hundred years of imprisonment, and very nearly did so again in recent memory. No means has yet been discovered to destroy Iuchiban’s spirit forever, and until that happens, the danger he and his Bloodspeakers represent continues to threaten the empire.
After a thousand years of relative peace, Fu Leng began to stir once more. Bayushi Shoju, champion of the Scorpion, discovered a scroll of prophecy that predicted the return of Fu Leng in the time of the last Hantei. Attempting to prevent the dreadful prophecy from being fulfilled, Shoju killed Hantei XXXVIII and tried to seize the throne.
The Emperor’s young son escaped the coup, however, and Akodo Toturi killed Shoju in the throne room. The Scorpion clan was obliterated by the other clans of the empire in retaliation for the coup. Instead of preventing the prophecy’s fulfillment,
Shoju made it possible, as the young Hantei XXXIX was easily overcome by Fu Leng. Following the coup, Yogo Junzo opened the first of the twelve Black Scrolls, unleashing Fu Leng’s power and beginning the evil course Shoju had hoped to prevent. With each additional scroll that was opened, Fu Leng’s control over the Emperor grew more complete. Hida Kisada, champion of the Crab, began to move against the Emperor, perceiving his weakness and inability to rule effectively. Striking a bargain with the Shadowlands, Kisada fought his way to the Imperial Palace. When he finally strode into the throne room, he expected to cut down the feeble boy-
Emperor and claim the throne. What he found, however, was not a weak boy, but a dark deity. With eleven Black Scrolls now open, Fu Leng’s possession of the young Hantei was complete, and he quickly cut down the Crab champion. The oni that had marched with the Crab joined their dark master, and the weakened remnant of the Crab army retreated.
In the end, a descendant of Shinsei known as the Hooded Ronin led seven descendants of the original Seven Thunders into Otosan Uchi to face Fu Leng once more: Kisada’s son Yakamo, Utaku Kamoko, Doji Hoturi, Isawa Tadaka, Bayushi Kachiko, Mirumoto Hitomi, and Akodo Toturi. As they fought, Togashi Yokuni revealed himself to be the dragon Togashi, and explained that he had kept the twelfth Black Scroll hidden inside his heart for centuries. Hitomi opened his heart to remove the scroll, killing Togashi, and opened the scroll. With that, Fu Leng’s power was fully restored—but he was also fully manifest and fully mortal. At last able to harm Fu Leng, the Seven Thunders renewed their efforts, and Toturi and Hoturi struck the killing blows, destroying the dark deity forever. Toturi took the throne, establishing a new dynasty as Toturi I.
THE WAR AGAINST THE SHADOW
Only two years into his reign, Toturi was kidnapped by ninja and held in ruined Morikage Castle, in the Phoenix lands. The Scorpions once more took the blame, as their association with ninja was famous, but the Emerald Champion, Kakita Toshimoko, refused to exterminate the Scorpions again. Instead, they were sent into exile in the desert wastes to the west, the Burning Sands, while their children were fostered with Toshimoko’s clan, the Crane.
When Toturi was at last found, he was changed: A shadow seemed to have fallen over his eyes, and his behavior went from erratic to completely insane by the end of the war. The ninja who kidnapped him were not Scorpions, but representatives of a more mysterious force: the Shadow, a nameless, formless being left over from creation. The Shadow sought to unmake the empire and all humanity by erasing names, memories, and even forms, re-creating the world in its formless image. Its ninja servants were fearsome representatives of this agenda: Literally faceless, they changed shape easily and walked through shadow.
The Scorpions were not completely blameless, for they had sheltered the Shadow in their schools and castles for a thousand years. When Shosuro returned from the Shadowlands after the first defeat of Fu Leng, she brought the Shadow with her. Faking her own death, Shosuro became Soshi and founded the Scorpion school of shadow magic. Scorpion shugenjas and ninja were marked with shadow brands, which gave them access to the power of the Shadow but began to rob them of their humanity. Such was the fate suffered by the Emperor.
Toturi’s corruption spread chaos through the empire. As his madness increased, so did the strife and warfare among the clans. The chaos extended even to the heavens, as Hitomi challenged and defeated Lord Moon and rose to take his place. Yakamo would later follow her, assisting Lady Sun in her seppuku and ascending as the new sun deity.
Finally, in a moment of clarity, Toturi recognized that the only way to save the empire was to commit seppuku. Meanwhile, Hida Yakamo was leading an army to Volturnum, the city of Shadow located in the Shadowlands. There, the armies faced the Shadow and its minions at Oblivions’ Gate—the portal through which the spirits of the dead pass on to Jigoku, the realm of the dead. Fighting to prevent the Shadow from closing the portal and destroying Jigoku, and thus erasing the empire’s memory, the massed armies of the clans fought fiercely against ninja and Shadowlands creatures alike. The ronin Ginawa saw Toturi’s spirit and pulled him through the portal from Jigoku, and the purified Emperor led the armies to victory.
Toturi was not the only spirit to return from Jigoku during the Battle at Oblivion’s Gate, however. Large numbers of spirits found themselves on the wrong side of Oblivion’s Gate at the end of the war. In the end, they followed three main paths. Believing that they had already lived their lives, and that they did not belong in modern-day Rokugan, many of the spirits paid their respects to their descendants and committed seppuku, many throwing themselves off the Cliffs of Golden Tears above the Phoenix temples.
Others rejoined their clans and lived among their descendants. For clans such as the Crane and the Lion, hurt badly by the wars against the Shadow, the aid of such spirits played a crucial role in rebuilding the clan’s fortunes. A final group of spirits was led by Hantei XVI (known in life as the Steel Chrysanthemum) and his chief lieutenant, Hida Tsuneo, who established themselves in what was left of the Crane lands. Drawing spirit armies into his service, and pressing his claim upon the throne as a
Hantei instead of an upstart of no lineage, Hantei XVI eventually threw the empire into an eight-year civil war. Hantei’s army of spirits was finally defeated through a combinationof Scorpion treachery, Phoenix magic, and Toturi’s diplomacy. Pretending to turn against the Lion and Dragon clans they had allied with previously, the Scorpions pretended to side with Hantei and Tsuneo. They then led the spirit armies into Beiden Pass, where the shugenjas of the Phoenix had laid a trap: A mighty ritual brought the walls of the pass down on the army.
Beaten, Hantei negotiated a peace with Toturi, with a simple cost attached—Toturi must give one of his sons the Hantei name. Hantei Naseru spent much of his childhood at the estate of Hantei XVI, and carries the name of the last Imperial line.
As at the game start Hantei XVI has gone missing and has been missing for at least 1 year. All other heirs with a direct claim to the throne are also missing or dead. The kingdom has been ruled by the Jade Regent in the absence of the Emperor and the people have suffered under his rule. The clans are consumed with almost daily skirmishes, battles and wars with each other and no respite will come from them in the near future as the tyranny of the Jade Regent marches unchecked it is only a matter of time before he becomes de-facto Emperor of Rokugan.
THE CELESTIAL ORDER: ROKUGANI CULTURE
In the social philosophy of Rokugan, the universe is an ordered place. From the heights of the Celestial Heavens (the loftiest region of the Spirit World) to the depths of Gakido (the infernal regions of the Spirit World), with the mortal realm squarely in between, all creatures and spirits are ordered in a hierarchy, from greatest to least. Human social order mirrors this cosmic order, from the Emperor at the top to the eta at the bottom. This concept of celestial order is the key to the culture of
Rokugan, for it establishes a society based on law and order in which everything and everyone has a place. At the pinnacle of the human social order is the Emperor, the absolute ruler of Rokugan. The Emperor owns all the land of the empire; the clans pay taxes to the Emperor as payment for the right to live and work on the land. Just beneath the Emperor in status are the kuge, the highest rank of hereditary nobility. The kuge consist of the Imperial (Toturi) family, the Otomo and Seppun families, and the Champion of each clan with their immediate families. While thousands of samurai in Rokugan bear the Doji family name, only a handful are members of the
Doji noble house. They are members of vassal families, and may have their own family names, but they use the Doji family name in official matters. These vassal families, as well as the other great families of the clans, make up the buke, the hereditary military class. The buke are the bulk of the noble caste in Rokugan, and all samurai and shugenja characters are assumed to be part of this social class. Below the buke are ji-samurai (“half-samurai”), lesser warriors from the vassal families and ronin.
The members of the noble class are defined best by the concept of loyalty. Each noble owes loyalty to another, from the lowliest petty samurai to the great daimyos (governor/generals) and the clan champions of the kuge. A noble literally belongs to his lord: a samurai is not permitted to throw his life away—in battle, in a duel, or in suicide (seppuku)—without her lord’s permission. Even the lowliest noble has rights that the lower classes can never achieve, however, including the right to carry weapons (particularly the katana and the wakizashi).
Young nobles are raised in schools, whether for samurai or for shugenjas, where they learn history, philosophy, and language in addition to the skills of their character class. They spend nine years in these schools, rarely seeing their parents.
At some point between the age of 13 and 21, typically around 16, a young noble performs a rite of passage called gempukku and is considered an adult for the first time. A marriage is soon arranged for the young noble—love merits no place in a heart that must belong entirely to one’s lord. Love and passion conflict with unquestioning devotion to one’s lord, undermining the loyalty due to the lord. At the age of 40, it is proper for a noble to retire and become a monk, though many prominent nobles defy this expectation.
The vast bottom of the Rokugani social order is the bone, the lower-class commoners. The bonge includes heimins (“halfpeople”)— the ordinary common folk, including farmers and merchants—and hinins (“nonpeople”). Criminals, entertainers (including actors, musicians, and geisha), gamblers, and eta (those who inherit “dirty” jobs involving handling dead people or animals) make up the hinin class. Despite the apparently rigid structure of the classes, it is possible for heimins to move up into the ranks of the buke, usually by distinguishing themselves in battle or through marriage. Members of the bone are not allowed to approach the Emperor or the members of the kuge under any circumstances, and always treat members of the buke with humility and respect. A heimin who compromises a samurai’s honor by being rude or insubordinate can expect to be killed on the spot, and the samurai faces no legal consequences for preserving his honor in this way.
The concept of “Kami” is one that prevails in all of the peoples thought throughout the different faiths of Kara-Tur. It is sometimes translated to mean “divinity” or “spirit”, but is a much more universal idea that is usually left untranslated by those that understand it. All things deserve to be revered and/or dreaded for their own sake. The concept is applied to everything: all animals, plants, seas, mountains, or any natural phenomena. Each of these has its own divine spirit- the larger (or more important) the place, the greater the Kami. If their “place” is threatened, the Kami may actually materialize to defend its ward.
THE CELESTIAL EMPEROR AND THE CELESTIAL BUREAUCRACY
Unlike the western world, which has always tended to view non-human creatures as a loose collection of beings with no unity or cohesion, the Oriental mind has organized the world into a unified whole. One particularly strong belief is that of the Celestial Emperor, a powerful being who heads the Celestial Bureaucracy, a type of government of the spirits. Many of the spirit creatures described in this section come under his command and many hold offices or positions within the Celestial Bureaucracy. Here they receive and carry out orders, punish the wicked, and file reports of their activities. Thus the Chiang lung (river dragons) have been given the duty of making rain and report to the Ministry of Thunder, who in turn reports to the Celestial Emperor. Like the bureaucrats of the real world, these spirit officials can be corrupt, disobedient, just, or incompetent. They can also be replaced, since each year their superiors examine their activities and behaviour.
The beings of this mythos present “ideal types” who give their worshipers models to live and grow by. This allows the true believer to become one of the gods with enough faith and hard work.
The gods, the Celestial Bureaucracy and ancestors have their place but the centre of most peoples worship is deep love and affection for nature. Temples are arranged around trees and gardens. There are 8 million “Kami”, or divine spirits, but none of these have images in the temples. Shrines usually face the south and Sometimes the east, but never the north or west as they are regarded as unlucky directions.
There is always a gateway (Torii) to every shrine and Sometimes there are whole clusters of before the shrine. Holy symbols do not abound in this religion, but there ore three universal ones: the mirror (associated with Amaterasu Omikami), the sword, and a perfect cluster of gemstones.
Punishment for transgressions of any type is often through the stripping away of personal ability. A shukenja who transgresses against the gods may lose points from abilities (like strength or dexterity) for slight sins and spellcasting ability for greater sins, always with the provision that such things Con be earned back with greater service.
As many of these powers are perfect humans they have a very real physical body. Some information is provided about their abilities or the abilities of their avatars and proxies who tend to have similar strengths and weakness to the power they serve. Mortals cannot kill the powers themselves though it is possible to face and overcome an avatar or proxy. It is not unusual for a mythos power to test the people in a relevant way to the domain they oversee to judge their character.
Power of the sun
Alignment: Lawful Good
Worshipers Alignment: Lawful Good
Symbol: Octagonal mirror
Plane: Prime Material Plane (Kara-Tur)
One of a trinity (with Susanowo and Tsukiyomi) of the most powerful of this group of deities, this human-seeming goddess was the mother of her pantheon. Amaterasu Omikomi is able to touch anything and turn it into anything. She has been known to turn hostile creatures into small birds. She is known to be as deadly as the most legendary monks in Kara-Tur – she is a match to any creature in unarmed combat. Even in human form she shines as bright as the sun radiating light and warmth.
Power of blacksmiths
Worshipers Alignment: Worker of metal
Symbol: Double-edged axe
Plane: Prime Material Plane (Kara-Tur)
This massive human-appearing god is able to make any type of magical weapon in a week. He especially likes to make swords and spears that fight for themselves. The god can create raw materials out of thin air, use any weapon known on any plane, and become astral or ethereal at will.
He favours blacksmiths, and there is always a chance that any weapon a blacksmith makes with extremely special core that is dedicated to Ama-Tsu-Mara, will be made transformed in to a blade worthy of legend.
He is depicted using a double-edged axe that is 12 feet long that can instantly slay any creature associated with fire.
Power of wealth and luck
Alignment: Lawful Good
Worshipers Alignment: Those wishing luck and riches
Symbol: Three coins
Plane: Prime Materiel Plane (Kara-Tur)
This god looks like a portly bolding male with an easy grace about him. He is also known as the patron of all farmers, and in this aspect can be prayed to for weather of any type and hope for a good harvest. The god is noted for his good-natured outlook on all thing and often uses his powers fro the benefit of his worshipers. Besides being able to control all types of weather, he has complete control over the growth of plant and natural animal life (making them grow huge or shrink at will). He wanders the land in ethereal form, observing his worshipers. Those who sacrifice great amounts of wealth to him at his temples will eventually be rewarded by Daikoku (even if it is given to the descendants of the giver). He (or a proxy/avatar) fights with a wooden mallet that shrinks any creature it hits to half their size. It will permanently negate the magical affects of any magical item or weapon used against Daikoku. The Mallet of Seven Fortunes can also transport its bearer to a place of safety if their life is in danger or they are ensorcelled.
Power of luck through hard work
Alignment: Lawful Good
Worshipers Alignment: Any Good
Symbol: Fishing rod or cane staff
Plane: Prime Material Plane (Kara-Tur) and Seven Heavens
The deity appears as an elderly male, and is occasionally found floating over the earth rewarding those who work hard with bountiful harvest of foodstuffs or extra money for sale of goods. Using a staff in battle, he always makes any saving throw and is astonishing lucky – weapons seem to misfire or glance away at the last minute always causing minimum damage or outright missing.
Power of War
Alignment: Chaotic Good
Worshipers Alignment: Warriors of all types
Symbol: Throwing Dagger
Plane: Prime Material Plane (Kara-Tur) and Gladsheim
Hachiman has the ability to assume any shape and is practically immune to spells (he doesn’t consider spellcasting a particular honourable way to kill an opponent and is immune to all spells below 7th level). His Purple Dragon throwing knife turns in to an ancient red dragon when cast in anger (as an ancient red dragon but chaotic good alignment). If the Purple is killed it reverts back to its throwing knife form. Hachiman wields a no-daichi in battle that only he may lift and is so sharp it can separate spirit from body.
Power of Luck
Alignment: Neutral Good
Worshipers Alignment: Anyone wishing luck
Symbol: White Diamond
Plane: Prime Material Plane (Kara-Tur)
The goddess always appears as a human in any situation where she aids in a struggle. At will she may shift shape to appear as any kind of female humanoid and never fails a saving throw. She may also summon any good aligned creature from the Material Plane to her side and generally calls a hero of some type (samurai, ranger etc.) who is not under her dominance in any way. Though none have ever failed to support the goddess or servant as needed. She never physically takes part in battle, but observes and gives special luck to those she favours. She also occasionally favours beings (not just humans) that take unusual chances in those situations where random chance plays o hand. While the goddess (or her proxy) prefers to use magic to attack her personal enemies, if pressed hard enough she will strike them with her Unlucky Gem.
The Great Land Master, Patron of Heroes
Alignment: Chaotic Good
Worshipers Alignment: Chaotic and any good heroes
Symbol: Red sword
Plane: Material Plane (Kara-Tur) and Gladesheim
This god always appears human, and in his aspect as Land Master he is able to converse with all “natural” creatures, heal them and make them and make them grow young or old at will. The very ground speaks to him and tells him who has posed or what is hidden underneath. Oh-Kuni-Nushi wields great red nodachi. He encourages his worshipers to actively seek heroic quests which they may attempt.
Shukenja of Oh-Kuni-Nushi must attempt a heroic existence. These mortals travel the earth preaching a doctrine of the usefulness of bravery and courage to all walks of life. They may only rise to the next level if they have committed a heroic act on their own initiative.
Power of Thunder, Patron of Fletchers
Worshipers Alignment: Neutral (any)
Symbol: Block spiked mace with a crossed lightning bolt
Plane: Material Plane (Kara-Tur) and Elemental Plane of Air
Raiden has dark, roughened, scaled skin, with hands that end in talons. The god also has a beard, pointed eyebrows and ears, heavily muscled arms and legs, and o large round belly. He has total mastery of weather – in particular lightning. On rare occasions he will aid his mortal worshipers with their undertakings.
In battle he uses a legendary jet-black mace that crackles with lightning and automatically disenchants any weapon or armour it comes in contact with during battle. He wears jet-black armour and bears a great black shield that can completely nullify attacks made against its master. Surrounded by a raging storm whenever he is in battle prevents any kind of missile attack from striking him as does his shadowy aura nullify arcane spells as well.
He has three proxies – Thunder, Lighting and Rain – that all have identical appearance but personify something different about the storm. Appearing as male humans in black monk style clothing and a straw hat that covers their glowing blue eyes.
As patron of fletchers, Raiden will grant to every worshiper who designs arrows the ability in his lifetime to make ten arrows of slaying mortals. These shafts will not display their power or be detectable as magical. This may occur when a fletcher takes extremely special care with the crafting of an arrow; even the creator will not know these arrows for what they are (though he may suspect). The maker will only prize them for the effort he or she put into them.
Storm god and lord of the seas
Alignment: Chaotic Neutral
Worshipers Alignment: Chaotic (any)
Plane: Material Plane (Kara-Tur) and Limbo
A long bearded man with long flowing black hair, this deity can often be found riding a thundercloud. He throws lighting bolts at will and can also change shape as he pleases.
He also has mastery over air and water elementals that do his bidding. His touch can rob a flying creature of flight and he sometimes uses this as a punishment. He wears yellow lamellar armour that radiates heat like the sun. His unswerving Yellow Katana always draws blood when drawn in anger – even if it misses the intended target it always hits another enemy of the storm god. If Susanowo (himself, an avatar or proxy) is encountered in the ocean he is immune to all magic and sea creatures will swarm to protect him.
Power of the Moon
Worshipers Alignment: Neutral (any)
Symbol: White disk
Plane: Prime Material Plane (Kara-Tur)
This god has light blue skin, but otherwise appears to be a massively built human male. At will the god can shape change, and summon one of any type of living creature and any object he sees to his hand (including the weapons of arrogant adventurers).
He uses a magical naginata in bottle that cannot be broken by any force on the Prime Material Plane. The weapon also makes its wielder immune to poison, petrification, and any kind of dominance/charm magic.
THE CELESTIAL EMPEROR AND THE CELESTIAL BUREAUCRACY
Unlike the western world, which has always tended to view non-human creatures as a loose collection of beings with no unity or cohesion, the people of Kara-Tur have organized the world into a unified whole ruled over by a Celestial Emperor, a powerful being who heads the Celestial Bureaucracy, a type of government of the spirits. Many of the spirit creatures in this come under his command and many hold offices or positions within the Celestial Bureaucracy. Here they receive and carry out orders, punish the wicked, and file reports of their activities. Thus the Chiang lung (river dragons) have been given the duty of making rain and report to the Ministry of Thunder, who in turn reports to the Celestial Emperor. Like the bureaucrats of the real world, these spirit officials can be corrupt, disobedient, just, or incompetent. They can also be replaced, since each year their superiors examine their activities and behaviour.
FAUNA & FLORA
Flora and fauna in Kara-Tur is generally identical to the rest of the world with some notable exceptions. There are certain exceptions though, many animals are notably chimeras or crossbreeds of two normal world animals:
- Tiger shark — A powerful animal that is a cross between a tiger and a shark.
- Otter penguin — Penguin with four flippers.
Buffalo yak — Four-legged, furry, horned mammal used for transportation.
- Boar-q-pine — Large wild boar covered in sharp, detachable spines.
- Catgator — Fierce reptile endemic to the Foggy Swamp and characterized by its feline barbels.
- Badgerfrog — Green and brown frog with a trim of white fur.
Two new abilities are used in Oriental Adventure – Honour and Taint. These function as the other ability scores like Strength and Intelligence but are used to determine different outcomes.
Taint tracks the characters resistance to Shadowland corruption. The higher the score the more corrupt the character becomes. All characters start with 0 Taint. If the character ever gains a positive ability modifier in Taint they are consumed by the power of the Shadowlands and become a creature of Jigoku. See the Shadowlands entry for more detailed information and mechanics for Taint.
Honour measures not only a character’s devotion to a code but also the character’s understanding of it. The Honour score can also reflect how others perceive a character’s honour. A character with a high Honour usually has a reputation that others know about, especially those who have high Honour scores themselves.
Unlike other abilities, Honour can’t be raised with normal ability score increases. Instead, the DM will award increases to Honour- or impose reductions- based on a character’s actions. As with other ability scores, a character’s Honour can’t exceed 20 or fall below 1.
Honour Checks. Honor checks can be used in social situations, much as Charisma would, when a character’s understanding of a code of conduct is the most defining factor in the way a social interaction will play out. You might also call for an Honor check when a character is in one of the following situations:
- Being unsure how to act with honour
- Surrendering while trying to save face
- Trying to determine another character’s Honor score
- Trying to use the proper etiquette in a delicate social situation
- Using his or her honourable or dishonourable reputation to influence someone else
- For the skills iajitsu, Calligraphy and Origami.
Honour Saving Throws. An Honour saving throw comes into play when you want to determine whether a character might inadvertently do something dishonourable. The DM might call for an Honour saving throw in the following situations:
- Avoiding an accidental breach of honor or etiquette
- Resisting the urge to respond to goading or insults from an enemy
- Recognising when an enemy attempts to trick a character into a breach of honour
In a typical Oriental Adventures game only the following races are available to choose from. Humans predominate however, more so than in places like Faerun.
Each character generally belongs to one of the clans even if not actually related by blood. Clan information is listed under the human entry as the bulk of the clans are human (as is the bulk of the citizenry of Rokugan). Clans also provide unique backgrounds suitable for the setting.
Classes are also restricted and modified from the original 5e PHB and additional archetypes have been added. If an archetype is not listed here it is not available. Except for cultural considerations the PHB classes listed here are unchanged though they maybe called something else.
Barbarian. All archetypes are available in Oriental Adventures with the addition of the komainu rager. Though barbarians in Fantasy Asia are not your typical Viking or Goth but Mongol or tribal descent (like a barbarians from a place like the Philippines or an Ainu from Japan.
Bards do not exist in Kara Tur. While entertainers are certainly popular in the courts of the daimyos, they are generally experts (or sometimes rogues) rather than bards, focusing on Perform and Diplomacy skills but gaining no spells or magical abilities. Conceivably a mystical geisha could be a bard.
Clerics do not exist in Kara Tur but see the shukenja below.
Druids do not exist in Kara Tur except in barbaric spell casters such as shamans and witch doctors. The shaman archetype is the only available druid circle in Oriental Adventures and the characters background must be barbaric in nature to take the circle.
Paladins do not exist in Oriental Adventures with the exception of the sohei a new archetype for the paladin class and the only one available in Kara Tur.
Rangers, a cunning, skilled warrior of the wilderness. This class gains an additional benefit at level 9 but otherwise doesn’t deviate from its description in the Player’s Handbook, except for cultural considerations.
Bend the Elements. At 9th level you may change the damage type of any energy based spell from its base damage type to another as a bonus action. The following types maybe changed air (thunder and lighting), earth (poison or piercing/wood), water (bludgeoning or necrotic/blood) and fire (fire). Using water-bending to change the damage type to necrotic will potentially accumulate Taint but you may increase the damage die by 1 for the base spell. The base spell’s attributes and variables otherwise does not change.
Rogues are unchanged from the PHB except for the addition of the ninja archetype as well as the shared Shichifukuin feature gained at level 2 by all rogues. The assassin archetype is not a ninja but are those who operate outside the ninja families exclusively as assassins. Ninjas are spys as much as assassins and this archetype reflects this.
Shichifukuin. From 2nd level, whenever you roll damage for an attack if it is the number 7 or a multiple of 7 you may add an additional 1d7 to the damage roll. The number of bonus 1d7 die rolled increases by 1 every time you gain a proficiency bonus increase.
Sorcerer’s are spellcaster with inborn magical ability. This class is unchanged from its description in the Player’s Handbook, except for cultural considerations. The shukenja is the divine spell caster for Kara Tur and is considered a sorcerers origin class with access to divine magic.
Except for cultural considerations the Warlock is unchanged from the 5e Player’s Handbook. Pacts will most likely be with kami – powerful nature spirits – for good and neutral warlocks or oni – demonic spirits – for evil warlocks. Women make up the bulk of warlocks in Kara Tur and are known as witches. Depending on the nature of their pact a town may consider a witch a blessing or a bane.
Wizards do not exist in Kara-Tur except in the form of the Wu Jen – a potent arcane spellcaster.