Traditional Chinese medicine and magic attempt their tasks by balancing the elements and energies in the human body and world. Doctors use herbs, animal remains, massage, feng shui, and acupuncture to establish balance of metaphysical forces. While the West is slowly giving these practices their due respect, in the World of Darkness they represent a shadow of true mastery of such forces. The shinma are servants of the elemental forces that created the world. The truck with the foundations of perception: Yin and Yang and the elements of Earth: Wood, Fire, Metal, Water, and Earth.
Wu Tan doesn't rely on static spells or cantrips. Each of the Alchemies has five levels of growing mastery that can be used to create effects. Each Alchemy also corresponds not only to the natural element it is named for but to the spiritual correspondences of those elements in the souls of themselves and other people. While Wu Tan doesn't have the scope of Awakened Sphere magic, it is much more universal than people imagine.
- Abundance: Number of targets effected
- Circumstances: Placing conditions on the effect
- Continuance: Duration of effect
- Domain: Range to the target or sphere of influence
- Harm: Directly damaging a target
- Magnitude: Size of target or the degree to which it is changed by the magic
- Color: Auspicious colors attached to elements
- Direction: Standing in the elements direction from the target
- Dzi Dzat: Paper sacrifices, folded or drawn to represent what is desired
- Festivals: Auspicious celebrations tied to the elements
- Kwannon-jin Fortune: Being a kwannon-jin associated with the element
- Mu-Jen: Wooden dolls like voodoo dolls
- Poetry: A haiku or other poem
- Season: The element's time of year
- Sense: Caster and target experiencing the same taste, smell, etc...
- Skills: Using a skill or knowledge that aids the I Chih
- Wani Form: The hsien wears their true self
The roll for an I Chih is a number of dice equal to the Alchemy score plus the appropriate attribute based on whether the effect is Yin or Yang. The exceptions are Di Tan which only uses Intelligence as its attribute, and Nei Tan which only rolls the shinma's Tao score.
- Yin: Appearance
- Yang: Strength
- Yin: Perception
- Yang: Dexterity
- Yin: Stamina
- Yang: Manipulation
- Yin: Charisma
- Yang: Wits
- Yin and Yang: Intelligence
Yin & Yang Edit
We must start with what Yin and Yang are not. They are not opposites as they are not in opposition. Is the lit side of your body in the sun in opposition to the dark side? No. Light and Dark just describe the sides of your body. The job of the concept is to describe reality. They are compliments and exist because of the other. Ideally the two are in balance, but this rarely happens in the Fifth Age.
Yin has the following characteristics: dark, passive, cold, moist, decaying, negative, defensive, material, and female. It is also associated with the dead. If a Wu Tan effect has one of these descriptors then it is a Yin Effect; the character rolls the I Chih with difficulty based on their Yin Score.
Yang has the following characteristics: light, active, hot, dry, growing, positive, offensive, and male. Yang tends to be more destructive than Yin. If a Wu Tan effect has any of these descriptors it is a Yang Effect; the character rolls the I Chih with difficulty based on their Yang Score.
Chi, literally meaning breath, is the primal force of the Universe. It has Yin and Yang attributes. A Hsien's chi is potent and plentiful. When they were trapped in the Middle Kingdom they turned the flow of Chi in their bodies in on itself like a mobius strip to keep their life energies from bleeding away. This keeps them intact on this side of the Wall. It also keeps them from crossing the Wall.
The Shinma have Yin and Yang Chi Ratings from 1 to 10. The higher the rating the easier to create I Chih.
|Yin or Yang Score||I Chih Difficulty Number|
|0||N/A - no magic is possible|
When the Hsien took human form it severed them from the wellspring of their magic as well as cut them off from the Heavenly Courts. Happily, though, the Chi within them shines through and accumulates as a new, though less potent, form of Chi called Yugen. This yugen is undifferentiated Chi; neither Yin nor Yang. It is only gathered at Dragon Nests and during religious festivals.
The maximum amount of Yugen a hsien may hold is the sum of their Yin and Yang Chi ratings. It costs one Yugen to perform I Chih unless otherwise noted.
A point of Chi can be converted to two points of Yugen in need but the Chi loss is permanent. If done in need the shinma uses their pre-burn rating to establish difficulty.
A character gains a point of yugen at a Dragon Nest for every two hours spent there. Meditation, though, (difficulty 8) will gain an extra point of yugen per success, to a maximum of three. Most dragon nests have a maximum amount of yugen they can produce in a hsien per day.
The Constructive Cycle of Elements Edit
Eastern Elements have one similarity to Western Elements. They are the building blocks of creation. Unlike the flawless ideals of the Greek elements, though, Chinese elements are in constant flux and they do not oppose one another. They interact much more subtly and complexly than that... more like poetry than logic.
It is a constructive cycle. Wood makes Fire. Fire produces ash and so produces Earth out of which comes ore and so Metal. Metal melts like ice and produces Water which nourishes Wood; bringing the cycle around again.
It can be envisioned like a wheel with Earth at its center.
The Alchemies Edit
- Di Tan: Earth Alchemy
- Hou Tan: Fire Alchemy
- Lin Tan: Wood Alchemy
- Tieh Tan: Metal Alchemy
- Shui Tan: Water Alchemy
- Nei Tan: Internal Alchemy
Elemental Alchemy Edit
Elemental Alchemy is the manipulation of the very stuff of Earth.
Elemental Levels Edit
The effects of Wu Tan are several at each level with a total of five levels called I Chih and are the same for all the different alchemies. The differences are based on the Element and whether the effect is based on Yin or Yang.
Level 1: The Prodigal Tongue Edit
The shinma can communicate with spirits; understanding and being understood by them. They must speak to the spirit, not hum or meditate. The spirit will speak back, though those who do not understand the element will not understand what is being said. Material elements creak or groan while spirits materialize and converse in their tongue. Effects are:
- Commune With Element - The Hsien may speak with the elements, be they stones, trees, or rivers depending on the Alchemy they are using. This is Yin or Yang depending on the element.
- Read Elemental Soul - All mortals and Shen have elemental souls. The Hsien can learn something about a sentient being by reading the strength or weakness of the particular elemental soul in the person. This is a Yin Effect.
- Speak With Jimu-Tenno - The shinma can speak with an elemental spirit, or Jimu-Tenno. This is only possible if the shinma can see beyond the Wall or if the spirit has manifested in the Middle Kingdom. This is a Yang Effect
Level 2: Command Elemental Vassals Edit
P'an Ku gave the Hsien the job of overseeing the elemental spirits. Each Hsien can command elementals corresponding to their Kwannon-jin Fortune. Other shinma must negotiate with spirits even with the right Alchemy, usually by making offerings or promises to convince them to serve. The difficulty, though, is finding a spirit because the hsien can no longer simply enter into Heaven. If they are not in a Dragon Nest, a likely place to find a spirit, they can try going to a natural spot attractive to a particular elemental and call out, relying on the spirit to use their power to manifest. Frivolous use of the I Chih will bring reprisal from traditional hsien societies and getting an elemental killed will bring reprisal from Heaven itself.
- Dispel Elemental Spirit - The Hsien may dispel a spirit. It is easier to dispel an unmanifested spirit than a manifested one as it must be forced through the Wall. The successes needed are based on the spirit's current Chi score, 1 success per 10 Chi. If manifested it is one success per 2 Chi. This is a Yin Effect.
- Summon Elemental Spirit - The Hsien may summon elemental spirits with one success needed per 10 points of Chi plus the Wall rating. Success forces the spirit to Appear. If the spirit is not of the hsien's element it must be bargained with and cajoled into service usually by some sacrifice. This is a Yang Effect.
- Diminish/Nurture Elemental Soul - The Shinma may command the elemental soul of a sentient being. Using the example of Fire, to increase a beings sense of propriety (a Yang effect) would cause an unruly person to act properly while decreasing the Fire soul (a Yin effect) will make a prudish person more open to lascivious suggestions. The Human soul is a complex thing and to completely control it requires use of all 5 elements.
- Increase/Decrease Elemental Attribute - The Hsien may increase (Yang) or decrease (Yin) the number of dots in an elemental Attribute. (see above for elemental attributes). It requires 2 successes to add or subtract 1 Attribute dot. To drive an attribute to 0 requires three successes on top of that.
- Summon the Dragon Boat - This power can only be used at a Dragon Nest and allows the shinma to travel to other dragon nests and enter the spirit world in a limited fashion. To do so the hsien must have a dragon boat figurine made of the color jade allied to their kwannon-jin. The ritual is done as the focal point of the Nest where the practitioner summons an elemental to act as a ferryman. The elemental usually gets the figurine as part of the bargaining. After the elemental is summoned the I Chih is enacted. The boat carries one person unless the Abundance modifier is used.If the I Chih is unsuccessful the elemental loses faith in the hsien and departs and the whole ritual must be repeated. A botch sullies the nest and breaks the figurine. It takes a day to purify the Nest before the ritual can be performed again. The type of elemental summoned depends on the road followed. This seems to be a Yang effect.
Level 3: Raiment of the Elements Edit
At this level, the Hsien gains control of the elemental nature of his or her mortal body. This allows for many effects like taking on the appearance of the element, merge with, hide within, and travel through the element, subsume small objects of the element within themselves, and by doing so understand their properties. This level can only effect the Hsien themself and objects of the elements.
- The Enfolded Object - The shinma can hide small items of the appropriate element within their own elemental spirit. They can roughly double their mass with this effect (bringing in an object up to their own mass) and once hidden the object cannot be detected because it becomes a spiritual part of the shinma. Some objects need multiple alchemies to effect. A gun with its gunpowder needs both Metal and Earth. One would guess this is a Yin Effect.
- The Path of the Elements - The hsien can merge with and "fly" through the elements. He or she must touch the element and it must be of at least the same or mass. Different modifiers change distance travelled or time spent in the object. One success allows 10 meters of travel. At the end of time spent, the hsien must step out or be ejected, causing 2 levels of Aggravated Damage. Perception rolls while in the element are at +2 difficulty and I Chih cannot be cast as the Chi of the hsien is already active. Mundane items (like clothes) do not travel with the hsien unless they are Enfolded, though magical and jade items do. Silk worn by the hsien travels as well. (Members of the Li Shen say this is because of the August Personage of Jade's sublime modesty. No one wants a bunch of nude hsien showing up when summoned.) One would assume this is a Yang Effect.
- Elemental Form/ Elemental Fist - The Shinma may transmute their body into one of the elements. The laws of the middle kingdom still apply, though. Fire must have fuel and Water must have a container. As above, normal items do not change but magical ones do. Masters of Wood, Earth, Metal, or Fire, can do extra damage in hand-to-hand combat by changing their extremities. Each success on the roll adds a dice of damage. One would assume this is a Yang Effect.
- Mask Elemental Soul - (Not Canon) Based on the description of this I Chih it seems it would be possible for the Shinma to mask his or her elemental souls with fake readings. This would come in handy if a noble Chu Jung was trying to infiltrate one of the Mu Courts as they could mask their proper, decorous soul with a fake, improper mask.
Level 4: Awaken the Elements Edit
With this power the Shinma regions the ability to command the elements of the Middle Kingdom. They can be summoned, shaped, moved, toyed with, and sundered. Powerful hsien can summon storms or divert rivers, make plants dance like people, or rive the earth.
- Awaken True Jade - The shinma can awaken Jade. To create Yin Jade is a Yin Effect and to create Yang Jade is a Yang Effect.
- Move Element - Similar to telekinesis, this power lets the shinma move an element. Modifiers are used to determine size, duration, and distance moved. The object moves at walking speed. An extra success can make it move at running speed. If used as an attack the Harm modifier must be used as well as Domain for range. Just moving the Element is a Yin effect. Attacking is a Yang effect.
- Shape/Sunder Element - Elements can be given form or be broken. Making an element move by also using Move Element requires a significant magnitude of change. To shape is a Yang Effect. To sunder is Yin.
- Summon Element - The amount of element summoned uses Magnitude modifiers and it comes from the nearest source. The shinma cannot control where it is summoned from so you cannot summon all the water out of a person. This is incredibly difficult magic and all necessary successes from Magnitude of Form are doubled and even at the lowest levels it requires an extra success. In the spirit world the court is tripled. Yang effect. Conversely to dispel an element is a Yin effect.
- Repair Elemental Soul - (Not Canon) Some beings have so destroyed aspects of themselves that their various elemental souls are mostly dead. With this power a hsien could "redeem" a fallen Shen, provided they know which soul aspect has been destroyed. Someone who had entered the Cauls or danced the Black Spiral would probably need multiple Elements brought to bear.
Level 5: Master the Elements, Throne of Jade Edit
The shinma can exchange characteristics of different examples of his or her element or change one example into another. Pliability, hardness, color, chemical characteristics, texture... all are mutable in the hands of a master. The limit on this power is that it only works within elements. Water could be turned to ice or steam. Oak could be made as pliable as a mushroom. Lead can become gold. To make changes across elements, like turning straw into gold, requires the master to have both Alchemies involved at level 5. Jade can be destroyed with this power but its properties cannot be duplicated or created. The changes are not permanent unless Continuance is used.
- Exchange Properties - Form and Change are usually necessary modifiers here. Making a stone as hard as diamond is relatively easy. Making mud that hard is more difficult. Making something weaker is a Yin effect. Making something stronger is Yang.
- Transmute Element - This power is by its very nature about so even the most basic change usually requires three successes. Again, Yin or Yang depends on the type of change. Making a diamond mud is Yin. The reverse is Yang.
- Transmute Elemental - (Not Canon) With the description given it is possible, in theory, to turn a willing (or unwilling) Elemental Spirit into another type. Obviously this would send reverberations through the Celestial Courts and could bring strong retribution. Changing a Serpentine Spirit into a Basalt spirit would be less problematic but such powers are still very nearly god-like and not to be trifled with.
Modifier Systems Edit
Unless otherwise stated, an I Chih only targets one person, lasts for a combat turns, and only works within 10 meters. Modifiers add successes to the number needed to perform an I Chih.
Abundance of the Ten Thousand Things Edit
The shinma must use this Modifier to affect multiple targets. The number of targets affected dictates the number of extra successes necessary. The effect is based on P'an Ku's creation story as he separates creation.
|Extra Successes||Total Number of Targets|
Circumstance of the Monkey King Edit
This modifier puts conditional effects on an I Chih and is based on Hanuman's practical jokes.
|1||Common - the effect targets groups, a basic division of reality or society: Day or Night, Men or Women, Next thing entering the room, etc...|
|2||Uncommon - Effects smaller groups: Hour of the Rat, Next policeman entering the room, etc...|
|3||Rare - During the next eclipse, the next Shen to enter the room, A hermaphrodite, etc...|
|4||Unique - Effects individuals. A particular person or unique time like the 12th of December, 2012, etc...|
Continuance of the Righteous Judgment Edit
This modifier makes things last longer, often by appealing to the sun or moon. It is based on the basic Chinese calendar. This is an easily abused modifier as some players will try to use it to duplicate other modifiers. It cannot be used with Harm.
|Extra Successes||Time Continued|
|2||Chinese Hour (2 Western hours)|
|4||Chinese Week (10 days)|
Domain of the Great Lord Edit
This modifier allows the shinma to extend the range of their magic. It is based on the concept of demesne used by ancient hsien lords. It radiates out from the caster. This modifier assumes the caster knows the location of the target. One cannot use City and hope to hit the person they are targeting. Also, to make an area effect Abundance must also be used to hit targets.
|0||Room/ 10 meters or walking distance in one turn.|
|1||Building/ Running distance to touch|
|2||Village/ Neighborhood/ Park|
Harm of Heaven's Sword Edit
Harm allows a hsien to directly damage targets and mimics the vengeful sword of Wu Ti, a military emperor. Harm cannot be used to modify every I Chih and only level 4 and 5 I Chih are capable of doing damage at all. (Elemental Fist cannot be modified to do more damage than what it already does.) It also cannot be used with some modifiers like Continuance. Direct attacks can look like bolts of fire or lightning, changing the elements of the body, or making trees attack with sharpened branches. It does not include damage from floods, earthquakes, or being trapped in a burning building. Indirect attacks can cause more damage but they can't be easily controlled. Harm is Aggravated Damage.
Magnitude of Pan Ku's Creation Edit
Magnitude has to separate effects. First it measures change. It is used when affecting an Elemental Soul or playing with qualities of elements at levels 3-5. It lets great changes be made. It also applies to magnitude of form. If an object is human-sized or larger, this modifier must be used. It is often used with Domain and Continuance.
|Extra Successes||Magnitude of Change|
|0||Minor change. Frigid to cool; change mood|
|1||Basic change: Frigid to temperate; change emotions|
|3||Significant change: Frigid to warm; change passions|
|5||Major change: Frigid to hot; change perceptions|
|7||Spectacular change: Frigid to scalding; change psyche|
|9||Heavenly change: frigid to inferno, destroy elemental soul|
|Extra Successes||Magnitude of Form|
|0||The Hand; a hand-held object, a potted plant, basket, bucket|
|1||The Being: a man, a boulder, a bath, a bush|
|3||The Way: a street, hillock, stream, tree|
|5||The Space: a field, hill, river, wood|
|7||The Expanse: Plain, Mountain, Lake, weald|
|9||The Vista: plateau, mountain chain, great lake, forest|
|12||The Horizon: region, ocean, biome|
Fortune Systems Edit
Fortunes remove successes needed for the I Chi, balancing the requirements added by Modifiers. The elements all have correspondences in the material world and a clever hsien can use these to their advantage. Usually they have to be planned for in advance and can make for good plot hooks. The fortunes below are not an exhaustive list.
Color usually comes into play if the hsien is wearing clothes of appropriate color. It must be clean and at least the size of a shirt. It can not be covered up and must be the most distinguishing article of clothing the hsien is wearing. Color could be used in other ways. A clearing surrounded by trees with colored blossoms, a colored war banner, or draping a room in the color could also be effective. See the individual Alchemies for appropriate colors.
- Dzi Dzat
While the name means "folded paper," many peasants offers these paper sacrifices to appease ancestors and petition for help. It can be in the form of paper money, pictures of food or beautiful people, and today modern conveniences like credit cards, cars, or mobile phones. Origami is also used. If effecting a car, a dzi dzat car makes the working easier.
For this fortune the caster must be participating in or observing a festival. China is filled with festivals, usually at each full moon. For a list of festivals and their correspondences see Changeling Festivals.
- Kwannon-jin Fortune
Mu-jen, or "wooden men," are Chinese voodoo dolls. Like dzi dzat they can be used by shinma as a sympathetic fortune but only once. It must be hand carved from tung wood or paulownia and then clothed to look like the target of the I Chih.
The Tanuki added poetry to the list of fortunes. they compose a single poem for each I Chih in a particular Alchemy. The same poem can be used for every effect under each level of the Alchemy. New poems must be composed each year, usually as part of the New Year's Festival. Any formal style of poem is acceptable.
Different seasons are more conducive to certain elements.
For Sense to be used as a Fortune, both caster and target must be experiencing the same condition though not necessarily focused on it. Each of the 5 elements is attached to one of the 5 senses.
- Wani Form
When in their true form, the shinma get an automatic Fortune. Most shen realize by now that the magic of the hsien is more effective in the forms of their heritage.
Elemental Cohorts Edit
Each of the elements has a "cohort" of elements that surround it in the constructive cycle of the elements and that can be used together easily to create greater or more complicated effects. It is difficult to wield elements that are not linked to each other in this way.
- System - the Yugen cost for a Cohort is equal to the sum of the Wu Tan being combined as long as all the elements are Cohorts. They do not require additional successes. Non-Cohorts must generate a success per element and costs 2 Yugen per element. An example: In an effect that uses both Metal and Earth, which are cohorts, it costs 2 Yugen (1 per element) and only needs one success (before modifiers). Metal and Wood are not Cohorts so an effect using the two of them would cost 4 yugen and require 2 successes. If three elements are combined, even if some are cohorts but not all, it is a non cohort effect. Earth, Metal, and Wood effects cost 6 yugen (2 per element) and need a base of 3 successes. Fortunes cannot buy down this minimum necessary.
There are two systems for countermagic: Balancing the Furies and the Destructive Cycle.
Balancing the Furies Edit
Yin and Yang balance each other. This simple principle allows hsien to diffuse I Chih as they are being cast. The target of an effect expends yugen to activate their own Chi, using the Chi balancing the type of effect targeting them: Yin for a Yang effect and vice versa. For each point of yugen spent, up to their level of the appropriate Chi, the target forces the caster to roll an additional success.
The Destructive Cycle Edit
As there is a Constructive cycle of the elements, there is also a destructive cycle. Even effects that seem "destructive" still use the constructive method. This method is used to destroy the continuing effects of other shinma. In this cycle Wood destroys Earth by draining its Yang energies to feed itself. Fire melts Metal. Earth pollutes Water. Metal chops Wood. Water puts out Fire. These are the Adversaries. Unlike the other Tan, Di Tan, or Earth Alchemy, can be used as an Adversary against any other art, even itself, but only truly opposes Water. When Earth opposes anything other than water, subtract one success. Conversely all the Arts can oppose Earth as they all touch it. Wood is best against it though and gains +1 success when doing so.
- System - If the success of the counter magic exceeds twice the successes of the target I Chih, it is destroyed. Because of this it must usually be performed as a ritual. This is always a Yin effect. The dice pool is equal to the Adversary element's Yin Attribute plus your level in the Adversarial Alchemy.
Rituals (Extended Actions) Edit
Rituals differ from regular I Chih in four ways: in scope, time, difficulty, and trappings.
In scope, a casting that requires a ritual usually needs 10, 20, or even more successes to complete. A character trying to summon a rain storm to cover a whole area usually can'd such a thing at one go.
In time, rituals take lots of it. The ritual is divided into segments of time with the average length being a scene (usually an hour) but can be as long as days. The character makes an I Chih roll at the end of each segment and the rolls are cumulative. Fortunes can be used but only count once.
In difficulty, the minimum difficulty is +1, even if performed at an auspicious site with all the necessary trappings.
The hardest part has nothing to do with numbers or dice. The character must come up with proper gods to invoke, write small poems, or describe all the preparations and elements of the ritual. If it's well done, these preparations can become Fortunes.
There are dangers to rituals. The effects begin to build immediately and hsien with the proper Alchemy may notice the magic building and even spirits will occasionally rat-out the shinma. Once the prayers start, though, they must continue or the effect fails. This may require willpower rolls to continue. A botch on any roll is truly catastrophic.
Frequently Asked Questions Edit
- Trying Again
Repeating a failed I Chih requires expending a Willpower point and increases the difficulty by 1.
- Splitting Dice Pools
Shinma can only work one I Chih at a time, though they can still split their dice pool to do a different act at the same time.
- Working Together
During rituals or extremely important effects, shinma can combine their efforts. All included must have the same Wu Tan. One person is chosen to be the actual caster (rolling the dice) while the others add dice to the pool equal to their Alchemy rating. A botch effects all equally.
Shentao - Detecting Magic Edit
Shentao is the hsien's ability to sense the ebb and low of Chi and to determine its Yin or Yang alignment. They can use it to find Dragon Lines, Dragon Nests, and sense Wu Tan being performed near them. The difficulty is 6 but three or more successes are needed to analyze the magic, unless the Alchemy is known to the detector.
Nei Tan: Internal Alchemy Edit
As it is not an Elemental Alchemy, Nei Tan has some different issues. These are addressed on its own page.