Oni: The Caretakers

Posted: 28th June 2011 by Diamond Sutra in Characters, Setting, Tenra 101

The people which the humans call “Oni” call themselves the Lu-Tirae: The Caretakers. They were the original humanoid lifeforms on Tenra when the humans arrived thousands of years ago. Things haven’t been going to well for them ever since.
The oni are the native peoples analogue for the culture of Tenra. Depending on where you (the reader) come from, you will see elements of your own land’s native and people in them, whether it is native American, Aboriginal, Ainu, Bunun, Adivasi, and so on. The story of natives displaced by the newcomer culture to get at resources is a story globally known. In the world of Tenra, those people are the oni.

Oni, as you’re probably well aware if you’re reading this, is the Japanese word for “Demon”, usually portrayed as red-skinned, horned monsters with ferocious weapons, multiple (or single eyes) and an appetite for human flesh. It was a name that the humans stuck on the swarthier, horned people who lived peacefully in their agrarian communities because their appearance conjured images of the fabled demons of the old world.

Unfortunately, they were judged upon by their horns and their alien culture, as well as the mysterious and inhuman powers they manifested, and thus were killed when they came into contact with human civilization. At the beginning it was fear and hysteria that drove the killings, but later it was cold, calculated machinations of regents and lords that engineered their murder. The oni had a peculiar secret, and once it was discovered it changed the face of Tenra.

There are fantastical machines on Tenra: 3-meter-tall yoroi armours, beasts of steel in human or animal form; Kongohki, peerless killing machines created from an alliance of Buddhist corruption and technology; Kijin weapons like massive cannons of energy; land and flying vehicles which tore at each other over the battlefields of the land. All of these larger machines are powered by Heart Engines, steel spheres of spiritual energy that act as limitless batteries.

The name “heart engine” is not only descriptive of the life they bring to these feats of technology: Heart engines are the actual living hearts of the oni people, cut out of their bodies and encased in steel. Taoist sorcerers discovered this power of the oni people and told their lords. The lords quickly surmised the worth of having a collection of the extraordinarily expensive power sources for the technology which provided military power to their kingdom. The hunt was on. While the people were kept in the dark, the lords pushed their people to action:

“Beware! An oni village was found just three ri south of the village at Barren Forest. We are recruiting all able-bodied warriors – veteran or amateur – to kill them off. Slaughter them all before they kidnap and eat any more women and children from the village. Bring their hearts back as proof, you will be rewarded 1 ryo per Oni heart collected!”

The oni have since been hunted down, mistrusted by the people save for a very few lands. The oni people each live for hundreds of years, and are part of a small tribal culture which had always been isolated and peaceful in general, and so fighting back on a large scale was an alien thought to them. However, the younger generation is watching their numbers dwindle to the point of total extinction, and through interactions with human society have started to learn their ways. They’ve started to learn anger.

Some quick facts about the oni:
* In their own language they are the Lu-Tirae, which means “The Caretakers”. They have been tasked by their God Yi-Yil to watch over the planet until He returns. He is said to have left generations before the humans arrived, and there have been no signs that Yi-Yil will ever return.
* Oni also worship Dii-Go, the Earth Speaker. They can receive missives, visions and messages from Dii-Go (usually while asleep or in a trance), vocalized messages which are surprisingly clear of meaning.
* The oni horn is the source of their power of Alu (heaven). With it, the oni can communicate wordlessly with each other or sometimes with animals and humans. It was only recently that the oni language became vocalized. Some of the younger generation exposed to human culture find it hard to communicate in this way with their fellow oni. In fact, is was also only recently that oni developed a word for “I, Me”, as the power of Alu kept the tribe organized as a selfless commune with very little concept of individual identity.
* The oni heart is the source of their power of Dii (earth). With it, the oni can sense the invisible gossamer-like power called “sha” around them, and manipulate it. It is a form of telekinesis, which allows them to move matter. It also is the gateway which Dii-Go uses to communicate with the oni people.
* The oni fetters and body markings are both a rite of passage but also indicate their status and individuality within the communal tribe.
* Some oni simply can’t deal with being hunted, and thus try to live in human society: They file off their horn, adopt a Tenran name, and turn their back on their culture. These oni are called “Nussa”, and while they can no longer use the powers of Alu to commune with their people and nature anymore, their hearts still hear the throbbing hum of the heartbeat of Dii-Go.

(An oni plays the malsha, a traditional Lu-Tirae lute)

The oni as a character option are one of the most compelling character types. They are either outright hunted if not simply discriminated against by almost every man woman and child on the planet. Their cultural ties bring drama to the game: Do they stick to their traditional ways, do they adapt to the ways of the human, or do they try to live in the middle ground which offers both but also brings stress and turmoil? Oni can of course also become samurai, shinobi, kijin, annelidists, Buddhist monks and so on. In fact, while there is very little “concrete backstory” in the setting provided in the Tenra Bansho RPG Book, the recent past is dominated by events set in motion by the mysterious oni monk Makuu Nindo (“Temple of the Void”) who spearheaded a revolution which led to the recent creation of the first oni-ruled nation. Characters might choose to be followers of Makuu Nindo, or perhaps inspired by him they look to create trust in the world between humans and Lu-Tirae. Maybe they come from a horribly cruel domain and are dominated by the desire to see Makuu Nindo’s oni nation for themselves, or perhaps they cynically look upon Makuu Nindo’s nation as fleeting while they aim to take back the land wholesale from the humans.

The oni lives are filled with tragedy, but also potentially with hope.

  1. NinjaBaka says:

    Thanks for posting more info on character types in Tenra, I hope you share more on the others too.

    As for the Oni, I agree they sound like a very compelling concept to play and just reading the post was giving me ideas of a PC. Only issue I can see if PC is Oni and the rest human; how to make it fair and interesting to the oni player without the conflict and background over shadowing other stories going on? A.k.a the special snowflake problem

  2. Antonio says:

    In a moment or other along History, incoming civilizations have displaced others from their roots, through violence or by overpowering the natives with technological (or burocratic) terrors. In the so called Old World, Asia and Europe, Rome warred the Celts along the Mediterranean seacoasts: Julius Caesar pacified Galia by destroying the druids and establishing seats of
    power on the south of Britain, later, when the whole island was Roman, civil wars on the continent made it easy for Northern people to take the land from the natives, the ultimate conquerers being the Normans – founding a long lineage of interrelated Royal Houses which, with just occasional interregnos, have produced the current monarch of UK -…
    Spain, too, was conquered by Rome, then pillaged by Northern peoples, strongly influenced by the Islam Empire for nearly 1000 years (from 711 to 1492), then, with the Catholic Kings, reached its first period as a nation with an unified territory and religion and, as you may guess, they financed Columbus’ adventure and America was encountered…
    That ‘s History for you: live enough in the same place and you will get some other beasty and technologicaly superior warriorlike people to discover and, eventually, assimilate (or destroy) you.
    Reasons for this: hunger for riches, power or simply for glory or influence. A small nation that wants to avoid being assimilated by other, potencially more powerful nations – England in the XV and XVI centuries, negociating with France, Holland or Spain while preparing a large naval float -, or a medium sized one fighting others in similar terms for hegemony (the idea of recreating the Roman Empire and Alexander the Great’s Empire) – such as England itself in the XVII – XIX centuries, fighting Spain and France, while founding and managing a world spanning Empire -…

    Just think about it, we are humans.

  3. wasgreg says:

    Stumbled upon this site, via a reference to the Maid game on the Paizo games boards. Posted a link to this game on the Paizo boards as I am VERY interested and want to generate even more interest. The selfish fellow that I am. Everything I have read only re-enforces my desire to own a copy of this when it is released. The Oni situation is sad…yet I have much hope for them.


  4. wasgreg says:

    Oh, and if anyone wanted to add thier two cents on the boards over there… http://paizo.com/paizo/messageboards/community/gaming/otherRPGs/tenraBanshoZero

    the community is nice, and if you ever decide to sell through thier store, the do nice write ups on new games. Even if you do not, the community is nice and everyone is welcome.


  5. neotemplarvellum says:

    So on that note I went and made a steam group for ya’ll.

    tenra bansho zero (!!TBZ!!)

    Feel free to join and chat everyone.

  6. Erik Birkeland says:

    Why don’t we try IRC instead? I found that Steam needs money transactions of all sorts just to post comments or to join chat rooms.

  7. Erik Bikerland says:

    To clarify, you need to buy a game, or make a micro transaction on Team Fortress 2, that sort of thing.

  8. wasgreg says:

    And I scrimp and save all my moolah for mortgage, utilities, food and RPG’s 😛


  9. Erik Birkeland says:

    So, what say you about the IRC channel? Yea or nay?

  10. Guy says:

    This gave me so many ideas it’s not even funny. And then I hit the last paragraph, which took away some and added others 😉

    How about a setting that’d remind one of Battle-Tech/WH40K, in the sense that the Oni are extinct, and now their hearts are a limited resource?

    How about the hearts truly are still living, and have a life-span, so they do die out eventually?

    Fights for caches of hearts (or living Oni!).

    Forced breeding programs, or reservations. But the reservations are not out of care for the Oni, but just so they won’t die out.
    And now I’m thinking, if every year they must sacrifice 10 members, it could make for an interesting take on the legend of George the Dragonslayer 😉

    And then I hit the final paragraph… so what if this “revolution” only succeeded because the powers that be decided that’s the best way to sustain this resource?

  11. neotemplarvellum says:

    I’m good for an IRC channel. Would give me a reason to use it. And I kinda want to set stuff up pre release for play groups etc.

  12. neotemplarvellum says:

    Ok I’m gonna lurk a temp chat room on irc.newnet.net #TBZ Feel free to come talk to me 😛

  13. Erik Birkeland says:

    Let’s change servers. Why don’t we try Esper, IRCHighway, or some other easy-to-access server?

  14. neotemplarvellum says:

    Well I’m lurking newnet cause I’m generally on it anyway for the Bay 12 games server. I have no clue why you would think it hard to access. You just plug in the address and go. At least Icechat lets you do that.

  15. Erik Birkeland says:

    I’m using the java client, and it’s hard to use. Maybe I’ll switch to a real client. We’ll see each other soon enough.

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