From birth, they are trained in the classical arts: Calligraphy, poetry, history, polite conversation, musical performance and other areas of courtly study. They are raised to be the wives, playthings, and trophies of the lords of Tenra. They are raised to be proper, to be subservient, but most of them know better that the life that they are living leads to a kind of slavery. But most accept their fate to appease their master and their lord.
They are trained in every art of human excellence, but are not themselves human. They feel, they cry, they bleed, but were not born from flesh.
They are the Kugutsu, and this is their fate.
Kugutsu comes from the Japanese word meaning “marionette”, and that’s to some what they are: A doll, to hold close, cherish and be entertained by, a thing created for the pleasure of the owner. They are almost all female, crafted from master kugutsu-makers over a period of long years. A kugutsu-maker journeys to find a rare, sacred spirit-tree. They cut it down and over time carve it into carefully crafted parts in the form of a human. A magical spell is cast which gives flesh to the spirit-wood of the doll, and from that point on they wake up and are trained for their future life.
If you cut them they will bleed: The spell cast on them, while it is called an “illusion”, gives them all the qualities of a human being in life. Once they die (most can only be destroyed, for they don’t age) they will revert to their wooden form, but beyond that they can live the life of a normal human being…
…a human being trapped by their surroundings, that is. Most kugutsu are crafted and then sold for millions of gold. The bidding for some masters’ creations is so aggressive that wars start between lords who want to own the latest kugutsu. The kugutsu-maker holds a ceremony, accepts the money, and the kugutsu is married (usually as a second wife) to a lord. They are then kept in style, either displayed like one would display the kingdom’s treasured sword or armor, or hidden away in the back chambers for the exclusive pleasure of the lord. They are known in some circles as “tree geisha,” which while vulgar summarizes both their origin and existence in one phrase.
Most kugutsu are raised to accept this. But sometimes they rebel, escaping their master, traveling the land, trying to come to grips with what they are and what they should do.
The most sought after treasures, dolls with human feelings treated as priceless objects to be sought, kept or traded for political favors. These are the kugutsu.
Kugutsu in Tenra Bansho are one of the more interesting character concepts. They are basically beautiful creations who stun and awe in social situations, but who know deep down that while the represent the best of all that is human, they themselves are not human. Most Tenra Bansho campaigns featuring a kugutsu character usually start with that character fleeing her confines, be it a lord’s castle or a maker’s estate. Some simply wake up with no idea of who they were or where they came from, but with mysterious people chasing after them. Others accept their position but are given leave to travel the world from kind or bored masters; what happens once the kugutsu sees life outside the castle is anyone’s guess.
Kugutsu also have a special ability in the form of the “Butterfly Dream”. It allows them through music or romance to enter the subject’s subconscious mind, in which a dream-like state occurs. The kugutsu is able to see into the soul of the subject, and come to understand them better. While the game Tenra Bansho came out years before the movie Inception… it’s basically that, done up dream-style.