The Kugutsu – More Human than Human

Posted: 6th September 2011 by Diamond Sutra in Characters, Rules, Setting

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.

While many kugutsu-makers craft their dolls as fashion designers craft a line of clothing (and indeed there are *lines* of kugutsu, “The Daughters of December” is one of the most famous lines of four sister-kugutsu crafted by the revered Sho-Un), some kugutsu-makers craft their works in secret: They can not stop crafting much like you or I can not stop breathing, but they do not want their beautiful “daughters” to be held captive their entire lives. They will create them and release them into the wild: Sometimes they train the kugutsu without revealing to them the fact of what they are.

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.

  1. flamesoul says:

    Hurray update!

    Always nice to see something new and the Kugutsu’s situation interests me. A lot about the Kugutsu was explained in the earlier post about the character sheet change but seeing it in significantly more detail is really great. The amazing artwork helps too.

    I was going to sugest an archtype for the next update but honestly they are all pretty interesting. I guess gameplay wise I was wondering about the Ayakashi. At some point in the blog you mentioned how the more powerful you make an Ayakashi character the more weaknesses they have and I was just curious how that worked.

    Hope life is treating you well and can’t wait for the next update (or the awaited anouncement for the kickstarter).

    Flamesoul

  2. Angus Khan says:

    Just found this blog… All of these snippets and previews are really making me excited to see this game finished. Flamesoul mentioned a kickstarter… any tentative date for something like that?

  3. Hey Flamesoul: One’s just as good as any other in terms of order. Which were you interested in seeing next? Here’s the ones that haven’t been posted yet:

    * Kijin (cyborgs; folks with cyber-gear)
    * Shinto Agents
    * Onmyoji (Taoist Sorcerers)
    * Armour Riders
    * Shinobi
    * Samurai
    * Annelidist (worm-user)
    * Ayakashi (Spirits)

  4. Angus: Thanks! Tentative date: Another month or two. I’ll post about the book progress this week and show a few more pages, including why it’s taking so long (in short: Beauty; plus full-time job of layout artist, we all have to put food on the table).

    I’ll post here and on the Tenra Facebook page the instant the Kickstarter goes live.

    Thanks!
    -Andy

  5. zakueins says:

    In order of what I want to see…

    * Armour Riders
    * Kijin (cyborgs; folks with cyber-gear)
    * Shinobi
    * Samurai
    * Shinto Agents
    * Onmyoji (Taoist Sorcerers)
    * Annelidist (worm-user)
    * Ayakashi (Spirits)

  6. flamesoul says:

    The two I am most interested in hearing about are the Ayakashi and the Shinto Agents. They are pretty much the two that we have had the least amount of information about in the blog and I’m interested in possible playing them.

    To support zakueins a little hearing about Armor Riders would be awsome too.

    Looking forward to the next update!

    Flamesoul

  7. Angus Khan says:

    I am greatly interested in hearing more about the Armour Riders. From what I’ve read, they remind me a bit of the EVAs from Neon Genesis Evangelion.

  8. Yo! Master says:

    The Kugutsu play so so heavily in the character types i enjoy no wonder they are my favorite of the splats.

  9. Flamesoul says:

    Splats?

  10. Well, not splatbooks (“Clan/Cult/Character/etc guides” to be sold outside of the corebook); but rather the material organized for each character type, chapter to chapter.

You must be logged in to post a comment.