The Bloodshard cult of Juche

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Maseiken
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This is something I wrote awhile ago, theoretically to submit to OP but I didn't end up doing that. So I'm happy to contribute it here!

The Bloodshard cult of Juche
Fiction
Spoiler
“Hey! Zhu Ten!”
Zhu for foolish or Tshu for elegant? Presumably the latter, but the word had been butchered like so much rat-meat. The uncivilized rasp of the miner’s voice was as distasteful to Ragara Shu-Tsao as his inappropriate use of the imperial dialect. Sneering, he turned nonetheless.
Not a miner, but a miner’s boy. No more than nine or ten. He was so small, even in such a narrow alley. The dust and gravel in his throat made him sound old and his clothes hung loosely about his shoulders. Like he needed help to put them on.
“Nice clothes, Ban-la” Sand-dweller speech. Shu-Tsao rolled his eyes at the diminutive polyglot.
“Haven’t you scraps to beg or fight for, vermin?” He was not normally so cruel, but these street rats really were too much. They came from some backwater in Ahn Teng to excavate the Kleinen Har ruins. Honourable work, for those honoured by the Empress and yet - They proved entirely incapable of assimilation.
Still, Shu-Tsao was nothing if not a humble servant to The People.
“I-… No. I’m sorry, . You are well learned for your station, but why do you stop a Patrician in his path?” He knelt to the boy’s level. Isn’t this what Betters do? Show mercy? Clemency? He would mention this incident over tea with the Magistrate later. She doted on the common folk so.
“Are you hun-?”
-Tsao was cut off as a blade sank deep into his back. Through skin, muscle, and bone it slid - and yet the pain seemed distant. Facing the dusty ground, he had no time to turn or crawl before the blade whipped around his throat. The boy grinned as Ragara Shu-Tsao went down under Marela’s blade.
“More like- why are you blocking up our streets, Bekla?!” He spat on the richly dressed corpse.
“Come on Klen, get his purse already!” his sister was standing over her kill, breathing hard. To calm herself, she drifted her weapon up and down, carving the air. The glass blade was clean already, and she held it loosely by  the strap on its thin edge.
She considered the body; maybe they should hide it? Would it have been easier to threaten him? Would it have been better? Klen was gripping their prize tightly and seemed to sense her thoughts.
"We didn't choose to come here, and they're not going to take us Home."
He had been snatched a week after they arrived. While their parents toiled in the name of the Empress, Marela had spilled the blood of his kidnapper.
Heavy footsteps on the street beyond broke her reverie. Klen ducked low and went quiet. They passed by without a pause.
"Besides,” Klen hissed,  “he was walking where he shouldn't. Everyone knows what happens on our turf by now so - It's their own fault, right?"
He nodded eagerly, convincing himself as much as his sister,
"And- and we cant stop before we get one for me!" She thought how little he sounded, complaining like that, making little grasping motions at her blessed gift. She put on her brightest big sister smile,
"Papa will be back from the dig in two weeks, I bet he'll have it then!" He smiled back at that, wicked and sweet.
He was growing up so fast.

Description
Spoiler
In the 745th year of the Empress' reign the lake of Kleinen Har was drained by Imperial decree, so that the relics and ruins of the Manse that once stood there could be retrieved and studied. With its site nestled northeast of Juche, the project was was an organizational failure from start to finish.
Through infighting and blatant embezzlement, the water gradually lowered until it was declared dry and safe to excavate. In fact it was now a foetid bog, that swallowed up workers and drove away any academic with an ounce of pride in their work. Way past their budget and deadline, the city officials colluded with their cousins in Ahn Teng to source cheap, expendable labor for the project.
Beral was a small a pious village in the eastern mountains of An Teng, and they were targeted with promises of holy work and similarly pious neighbours on the blessed isle.
What remained of the Realm's local workers were given truncheons and uniforms to supervise their welcome replacements.
Finally, space was made in Juche for the workers to stay between week-long shifts, and for their children and dependents to live. Situated in the slums, the city insisted that the children remain near their dwellings while their parents worked, and closed the gates of the city when they returned. The Berali people were trapped. What few Immaculate monks visited them said that their plight was beyond their control, that the need for their work was greater than their suffering.

Oppressed by her masters and abandoned by her faith, Sala of Beral-Klef was in misery when she stumbled upon an ancient chamber holding an old and formidable spirit. Twisted and changed in times long past, Querpo Boras was designed to tunnel and delve in the fleshy terrain of giants that formed vast continents with their bodies. Imprisoned and betrayed for millenia, he made a deal with Sala and her people. Her body and their loyalty belonged to Querpo Boras. In return, they could fight back, and maybe even find a way out with his tunneling claws.  
While the adults train and collude in the dark recesses of Kleinen Har, the children of Beral dwell in Juche. They are targeted by criminals and kidnappers, or treated as servants by their supervisors. In response to their strife, the first gift from Querpo Boras was the Bloodshards.
These cast-off shards of ancient tempered glass were easily secreted home by Sala and her compatriots and passed on to their children to protect themselves. Along with the glass, a ritual was given in which a supplicant’s blood sanctifies their shard into a blade reminiscent of Querpo Boras’ gouging claws.
Initially intended only for defense, the children find themselves drawn to use their Shards. It is not blood thirst, but more a nagging inclination to sink the blade into the dirt and watch how smoothly it makes the cut.
When the children are targeted, the necks of their attackers are just as tempting, and the conflict inevitably escalates.
Targeting the weak and disdainful patricians that look down on them, the Bloodshards now carve out territory as surely as they carve flesh from bone. It is only a matter of time before they draw more attention than they can handle.

Mechanics

Spoiler
Weapon: Bloodshard Blade
The glass blades wielded by the Bloodshard cult are Light weapons with the Lethal and Piercing tags. When wielded by anyone unfamiliar with them, they also have the Improvised tag.

Ritual, Sacrament of the plunging edge
Exclusive to followers of Querpo Boras, this ritual allows the ritualist to sanctify a bladed weapon with their blood. To be affected the blade must be completely smeared with the ritualist’s blood, then buried overnight in shallow dirt. Once sanctified, the weapon allows its wielder to spend one Willpower when making a withering attack. If this attack is succesful, a single level of lethal damage is applied to the target along with any Initiative damage caused.

Quick Character, Bloodshard Mugger
(Major: Realm [Distrust], Parents [Love], Minor [The thrill of a blade sinking deep])
Essence 1. Willpower 4 -0/-1/-1/-2/-2/-4/INC Running on foot 7 (+1 in Juche)
Melee 5 (+1 when surprise attack) - +9 Damage [Lethal, Melee, Improvised] Bloodshard Blade Drawing attention 4 (+1 when baiting an Ambush)
Parry 1 Evasion  3 Soak 3
Abilities:
Gouging Claw of Querpo Boras: The claws of Querpo Boras seek their place deep in the flesh of their mark. Once a day, a Bloodshard wielding their patron's gift may make a Decisive Ambush attack as if their target had struggled against being held at bay (P.204 Core)



(Edited 27/04 for readability and changes to the ritual)
(Edited 28/04 to correct mechanics)
Last edited by Maseiken on Wed Apr 28, 2021 2:07 am, edited 5 times in total.

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andrix
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This is actually pretty cool, I like the idea of setting touches like this which shows displacement of groups by the Realm in order to service the mechanisms of such a vast empire and how that sort of plight manages to just be shrugged off by people. Not that I think that the Realm needs painting as some big unambiguously evil empire all the time, just that this sort of undercurrent might be there with any power that large in this sort of setting.

It could be cool to see you develop it a bit more beyond the OPP pitch, you've touched on how piety was a motivating factor in them moving but then that's dropped slightly. That would be a hook I'd certainly want to dig into if I was to use this, how does that piety shape the attitudes and the like now. Is there a tension to be played off with characters and communities between the reality of their situation but also the presence of Querpo Boras?
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Maseiken
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andrix wrote: Mon Apr 26, 2021 5:37 pm This is actually pretty cool, I like the idea of setting touches like this which shows displacement of groups by the Realm in order to service the mechanisms of such a vast empire and how that sort of plight manages to just be shrugged off by people. Not that I think that the Realm needs painting as some big unambiguously evil empire all the time, just that this sort of undercurrent might be there with any power that large in this sort of setting.

It could be cool to see you develop it a bit more beyond the OPP pitch, you've touched on how piety was a motivating factor in them moving but then that's dropped slightly. That would be a hook I'd certainly want to dig into if I was to use this, how does that piety shape the attitudes and the like now. Is there a tension to be played off with characters and communities between the reality of their situation but also the presence of Querpo Boras?
Thanks for the response! (^.^)

Yeah, at the time I wrote this I'd read about Blackbirding in history (displacing workers to dis-empower them in isolation), and just went 'This is exactly what an Imperialist power like The Realm would do'. I've no doubt a lot of Dynasts consider Juche taking in the Berali workers for their own betterment to have been incredibly egalitarian and progressive.
I figured Beral probably wasn't well-liked in An Teng, since they were full zealots to the Immaculate Faith. They likely viewed themselves as really being tragically displaced citizens of the Blessed Isle in the first place, since you'd need a big motivator to move a population en masse like that. So as well as dealing with the cult as a problem for Juche, or a Solar/Lunar rising to oppose their oppression, you could pretty easily justify the Berali people having lost eggs in their midst as well.

Absolutely there would be some people uncomfortable with the cult, and Sala is careful not to just run around to everyone with it. But even if you, a gutter trash peon, go to your supervisor about it - are they likely to take it seriously? I think a lot of people in Juche already doubted that Beral was all that pious in the first place, being outsiders. They would likely assume that Querpo Boras was some small god they left behind, and not of any concern.

If it's not clear, Querpo Boras is a Forgotten God, essentially a piece of military infrastructure left to rot after the Primordial War. The deeper plot would be that he is unstable or dangerous enough to justify his imprisonment (Likely since he holds a compulsion to dig and claw constantly).
So it's all kind of tied together by the theme of disenfranchised workers. If I did more with it the first thing I would do is build some servitors for him, I think. Both for that theme and to provide a threat level that bridges the gap between 'Child with knife' and 'Ancient war god'.
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andrix
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Thank you, I had no idea of Blackbirding as a term so I've got that to add to my vocabulary now. Some of your thoughts on how you see that playing out would definitely be worth developing or writing down

And it was clear to me that Querpo Boras was a forgotten god, I can always appreciate a good one of those
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This is a very cool story.
I do have a rules question - The ritual reduces soak on a decisive attack - is this meant to permanently reduce soak, to reduce hardness, or forgetting that soak doesn't apply to decisive attacks?
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Maseiken
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AutXAutY wrote: Tue Apr 27, 2021 12:17 am This is a very cool story.
I do have a rules question - The ritual reduces soak on a decisive attack - is this meant to permanently reduce soak, to reduce hardness, or forgetting that soak doesn't apply to decisive attacks?
Thaaaat is an error on my part! I wanted it to make sense as a facilitator for a deadly ambush, but yeah that doesn't work. I'll have to fix it, thanks for the note!
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Maseiken
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Changed the mechanics section, it now reads:
Weapon: Bloodshard Blade
The glass blades wielded by the Bloodshard cult are Light weapons with the Lethal and Piercing tags. When wielded by anyone unfamiliar with them, they also have the Improvised tag.

Ritual, Sacrament of the plunging edge
Exclusive to followers of Querpo Boras, this ritual allows the ritualist to sanctify a bladed weapon with their blood. To be affected the blade must be completely smeared with the ritualist’s blood, then buried overnight in shallow dirt. Once a day, the sanctified weapon allows its wielder to spend one Willpower when making a withering attack. If this attack is succesful, a single level of lethal damage is applied to the target along with any Initiative damage caused.

Quick Character, Bloodshard Mugger
(Major: Realm [Distrust], Parents [Love], Minor [The thrill of a blade sinking deep])
Essence 1. Willpower 4 -0/-1/-1/-2/-2/-4/INC Running on foot 7 (+1 in Juche)
Melee 5 (+1 when surprise attack) - +9 Damage [Lethal, Melee, Improvised] Bloodshard Blade Drawing attention 4 (+1 when baiting an Ambush)
Parry 1 Evasion  3 Soak 3
Abilities:
Gouging Claw of Querpo Boras: The claws of Querpo Boras seek their place deep in the flesh of their mark. Once a day, a Bloodshard wielding their patron's gift may make an Ambush attack as if their target had struggled against being held at bay (P.204 Core)
The ritual is a decent, but relatively minor effect. More intended to be player-facing for any PC that takes an interest.

The Mugger's ability is uh... strong. Struggling against Hold at Bay is (understandably) close to a death sentence for most mortal targets, but it's as weak to charms as anything else. Options to soften it could be requiring a Major Intimacy against the target (Very much the case for Juche's Patricians), or just... not using it against PCs without Awareness/Dodge. Part of the intention is that in reading this description a GM's attention is drawn to the Hold at Bay rules, giving them one of the better options for resolving an encounter with a Bloodshard.
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