Magic in Khitai

Three people 'kowtowing' to an altar, one woman crying, othe Wellcome V0015171

Let’s talk about magic.

In Théah, Sorcery is quantified and often divided by national borders. The nobles of Montaigne use Porte, and they are the only ones who do so. The Hexe of Eisen and the Glamour Knights of Avalon have distinct powers, as well as power sources, that come with their own unique and separate rules. These rules involve mechanics as well as narrative elements; a Hexe has to deal with the average Eisen’s opinion of witchcraft, while the Avalonian Knight must abide by the knightly code of the Graal.

Magic in Khitai doesn’t work the same way.

As we talk about magic, keep in mind that all of this is subject to change. Basically…

The following is a true design goal. The names and mechanics have been changed to protect the innocent.

Chinese woodcut; Daoist internal alchemy (7) Wellcome L0038977

Power Source

Khitai Magic is much more unified than Thean Sorcery. Different Nations interpret and use this power in different ways, but the font from which that power springs is shared with those of other Nations.

Shamanism involves communion with spirits. A spirit in Khitai is tied to an object, place, or ideal—a temple can have a spirit, as can a sword, as can a family bloodline. These spirits tend not to have goals beyond the preservation and safety of their tethers. The spirit of the monastery wants to protect it, the spirit of the family bloodline wants to make sure it isn’t snuffed out. Shamans can communicate with these spirits, and draw information and power from them.

Alchemy is the mystical science. Khitai holds many secrets in its stones, plants, and creatures. An apothecary studies these secrets, and learns how to combine them to achieve extraordinary results. She can craft a miraculous curative potion, or a terrifying poison. She can make a device that will create a dazzling flash of light to blind her enemies, or a small bomb to collapse a dangerous tunnel. From an elixir that forces the drinker to speak only the truth to a smoke bomb, the alchemists of Khitai study the world in order to master it.

Forbidden knowledge addresses the terrifying power of the things that creep in the shadows. Summoning and binding demons, learning secrets that are whispered in the shadows, or harnessing otherworldly power to return life to the dead, mages who study forbidden knowledge break the natural rules of the world as they see fit. While the shaman communicates with spirits of the natural world and the alchemist knows how to combine and alter substances to achieve unusual results, a person who studies forbidden knowledge discards the rules that bind them to the natural world.

Extraordinary heritage is the power that comes from a bloodline that isn’t entirely human. Perhaps an ancestor fell in love with a divine being, or your mother made a pact for power with a dragon. In either case, a person’s extraordinary heritage grants them abilities that, if they study it and seek to perfect it, grants them a great deal of power. Characters with this power might find themselves ostracized from a community or regarded as a demigod.

壺天聚樂圖-Merry Gatherings in the Magic Jar MET DP202137 CRD

National Differences

Magic in Khitai shares a small number of sources, but the Nations have different expressions of that power. A shaman from Agnivarsa has a great deal in common with one from Han. Both of them commune with spirits, but the shaman from Han does so in a different way—and can appeal to the spirits for different benefits. The two share similarities in their experience that they can bond over, but have enough differences to create drama and a sense of uniqueness between them.

Fair Warning

Those are our goals for magic so far. A lot of things are still in development, but if you’ve read the Quickstart (which you should), you’ll get a good idea of the direction we’re going.

7th Sea: Khitai is on Kickstarter NOW through November 12thTo celebrate the first major expansion of 7th Sea’s world, we’re sharing stories and thoughts straight from the developers. We’ll be discussing people, places, magic, game systems, and what the designers themselves are most excited about! Stay tuned.

Takahashi Rumi

Tsukioka Yoshitoshi - The moon on Musashi Plain (Musashino no tsuki) - from the series 'One hundred aspects of the moon (T... - Google Art Project
The Moon on Musashi Plain, by Tsukioka Yoshitoshi
Takahashi Rumi is the daughter of the Daimyo of the White Fox Clan. Her older brother Rikimaru was always slated to be their father’s heir, so Rumi’s fate was unclear. Married to secure a political alliance, or acting as an advisor for her brother? She was never certain, but she always trusted her father. He expected a great deal of her, and always told her that his aspirations for her were more than anyone suspected.

In her youth, Rumi was an exceptional student and obedient daughter. She studied hard, and always did as she was told. Her tutors praised her attentiveness to their lessons and her overall intellect no matter what the subject. Like most girls of noble birth in Fuso she studied etiquette, calligraphy, poetry and music, but her father also insisted on her instruction in the fields of mathematics, philosophy, and history.

She studied cooking (although her social status would almost certainly ensure that she would never be required to prepare her own meals), military history (despite the fact that such topics were often considered too gruesome for a girl of her station), and architecture (she would certainly never be called upon to design the layout for a castle).

She studied kendo, alchemy, archery, horse riding, and gymnastics. While always studious, she didn’t excel in everything (she is the first to admit that her equestrian skills leave much to be desired).

Then, on her 17th birthday, her father presented her with a curious gift. Once all other gifts had been presented, he met with her privately and gave her a box containing a wooden mask, carved to resemble a fox’s head and painted pitch black.

Then he spoke of her calling.

All of Rumi’s life, all of her schooling and education, had been to prepare her for this purpose. Her father had always planned for her to take up this mantle, and now it was time for her to understand what would be asked of her.

To devote her life to serve the clan, the family, the Emperor. To keep all of them safe from their enemies, no matter who they were, what allies they had, or what their plan of attack was. This was why she studied architecture—in order to understand how a castle is designed, so that she could find where she needed to be. Cooking taught her what could be eaten safely and what was poisonous, and military history educated her on the ways a general views a battlefield so that she could predict their decisions.

All of Rumi’s life, all of her schooling and education, had been to prepare her for this purpose.

Publicly, she would serve her family in the capital as a diplomat and ambassador, safeguarding their political and economic interests. Privately, she would spy, steal, blackmail, listen—and if needed, she would kill. All for Fuso. All for the Emperor. All for the White Fox.

Takahashi Rumi is now the Black Fox. Along with the assassins appointed by the other clans (one from each Clan—always and only one from each Clan), she meets with the Emperor to do what must be done in order to keep Fuso working. Now, however, she suspects that one of the others has been replaced with an imposter. She wants to uncover the infiltrator, but she doesn’t know who she can trust—after all, the most likely culprit is one of the other clans or perhaps the Emperor himself.

7th Sea: Khitai is coming to Kickstarter October 3rd. To celebrate the first major expansion of 7th Sea’s world, we’re sharing stories and thoughts straight from the developers. We’ll be discussing people, places, magic, game systems, and what the designers themselves are most excited about! Stay tuned.

Heroic Stories in Khitai

7th Sea: Khitai – The Duel

Khitai presents opportunities for heroic stories very different than the ones we see in western culture. The typical western hero is a renegade, rebelling against the corrupt tyranny of society. In the west, we distrust authority, often casting such figures and structures as villains. Think of Darth Vader and the Emperor in Star Wars, the Alliance in Firefly, or even Principal Rooney from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. These people and entities exist as villains in the west because we, as a people, feel distrust of authority is virtuous. A citizen’s duty is to guard and monitor people and structures of authority.

However, the Eastern Hero we’ll find in Khitai has a different attitude toward those same people and structures. In Khitai, a Hero’s duty is to protect those people and structures. Think of the role of the yojimbo: a bodyguard who puts the life of his charge above his own. This is because Khitai views human institutions as representations of natural order. All the world has order: the turn of the seasons, the movement of stars, the cycle of life and death. Everything has an order, and that includes the lives and destinies of human beings. The purpose of authority is to maintain the health and welfare of its people. When all things are in balance, people and institutions work toward this goal, but when they are not in balance, people and institutions begin thinking about themselves above the welfare of others. This kind of selfish pride is often considered the worst kind of villainy in Khitai. A human who thinks she is above the natural order, thus throwing off the cosmic balance, bringing suffering and despair to others, just to nurture her own pride.

“Everything has an order, and that includes the lives and destinies of human beings.”

So, let’s return to Star Wars for a moment. For while it may appear to be the story of a Western Hero rebelling against authority, Luke Skywalker is actually an Eastern Hero trying to restore balance to a galaxy that has been thrown out of balance. The Empire could be using its power to bring peace and plenty to its people, but instead, serves the selfish needs of a very few. The Rebellion seeks a political solution to the problem, but Skywalker knows the solution is actually metaphysical. The soul of the galaxy is at stake, and the only way to save it is to redeem it. And that means redeeming the soul of his father, Anakin Skywalker: a hero who failed his own test, just as Luke is in real danger of failing his own. In the end, by casting down his weapon, Luke is willing to give his life to prove to his father that he does have light still in his soul. And his sacrifice—his unwillingness to fight the Emperor—Luke redeems his father, transforming him from Darth Vader to Anakin Skywalker again.

Han Solo, on the other hand, is the Western Hero. He’s a smuggler and a thief, dodging authority whenever he can. He doesn’t trust the Empire because it is authoritarian—as opposed to Luke who fights against it because it’s villainous. Han gets involved because he wants the money promised him, but he stays involved because of his friendship with Luke and because he’s fallen in love with Leia. And while those motivations are selfish, the outcome—the overthrow of the Empire—is still a just cause in his eyes. Solo is selfish, but he’s only selfish up to a point. He probably wouldn’t smuggle slaves, for example. He wouldn’t use his profession to protect the Empire or help it flourish. He’s still a hero, even if some of his motivations are less than heroic.

Han Solo represents the things we admire about the Western Hero.

In the end, Solo represents everything we admire about the Western Hero while Luke represents everything we admire about the Eastern Hero. Han values freedom. He’s highly independent and provincial and informal. Luke values virtue, and wants to save the galaxy from something he views as morally foul. Han wants to dismantle the Empire because he believes that freedom itself is a virtue. Luke wants to dismantle the empire because he believes it doesn’t serve its people in the appropriate way.

Granted, Luke’s journey begins as a revenge quest. The Empire killed his family—both his father and his aunt and uncle—but he eventually overcomes that hate and his own personal motivations. He realizes vengeance will not solve the problem. Solo, on the other hand, maintains his personal motivations and helps overcome the Empire because his personal motivations give him the strength and courage he needs to be a hero.

And so we have the Théan Hero empowered by freedom and the Eastern Hero empowered by balance. In the end, both Heroes want the same thing: peace and harmony for all. But they get there on two separate paths. This isn’t to say that they can’t sit together at the same gaming table and fight against villainy. Just as Luke and Han fight together, so can your Théah and Khitai Heroes fight together. But they get to bicker and argue all the way, just as Han and Luke do.

The friends who fight together, stay together.

7th Sea: Khitai is coming to Kickstarter October 3rd. To celebrate the first major expansion of 7th Sea’s world, we’re sharing stories and thoughts straight from the developers. We’ll be discussing people, places, magic, game systems, and what the designers themselves are most excited about! Stay tuned.