Kindred of the East
is a spin-off of Vampire: The Masquerade
dealing with, well, the Kindred of the East
. Asia was always a forbidden land to Western Vampires. Those who went there and were fortunate enough to return would tell stories of the bizarre abilities and practices of the "Cathayans" (Cathay is an archaic name for China). It was almost as if they weren't really Cainite vampires at all but something totally different. They had no idea...
This book was the flagship project of White Wolf
's Year of the Lotus
event, which focused on the Asian side of the Old World of Darkness
was intended as an offshoot of Vampire
but the Kuei-Jin, as Eastern vampires are called, share only superficial similarities with the Western variety. Because it introduces several new mechanics and has its own Splats
is often treated as a standalone game, though some knowledge of Vampire
and Wraith: The Oblivion
will help.Our Vampires Are Different
indeed. Kuei-Jin are humans who died violently and are sent to Yomi
, from which they escape back into their bodies and must sustain on Chi to survive. At first, they can only obtain chi from human blood and/or flesh, but at higher levels of spiritual enlightenment (read: centuries), they can draw it from a person's breath or even directly from the earth itself. Like Western Vampires, Kuei-Jin are allergic to sunlight, vulnerable to staking, and subject to beastly frenzies of anger or fear. However, they can't embrace: all damned souls have to make their own way out of Hell; and they can't make Ghouls or blood bonds: their curse is theirs to bear alone. As former Wraiths, Kuei-Jin also have to contend with their Shadows and Oblivion (see Wraith: The Oblivion
for details) and strive to Transcend the mortal plane.
The game's new mechanics rework Vampire's
concepts of Virtues and Paths of Enlightenment and Wraith's
concept of dual-mind. There are 5 Virtues to keep track of and the first four are paired off. Yin
deal with the type of chi a Vampire consumes. Yin chi is dead, like from a blood bank, corpse, or another Vampire. Yang chi comes from living targets or Kuei-Jin with an overabundance of Yang chi themselves. Too much of the former turns the Vampire into a shambling zombie while the latter turns her into a raging hedonist who can bear children if not careful. Hun
respectively deal with a vampire's higher mind and base instincts. The classic angel on one shoulder, devil on another. The fifth virtue is Balance
, as keeping those two sliding scales towards the middle has its own benefits.
There are five mainstream Dharmas each based on one of the Virtues:
- Thrashing Dragons: Yang; Thrill-seekers
- Bone Flowers (The Song of Shadow): Yin; Necromancers
- Resplendent Cranes: Hun; Redeemers
- Devil Tigers: P'o; Sadists
- Thousand Whispers: Balance; Travelers
In addition, there are five Dharmas considered heretical by the mainstream:
- Phoenixes: Hun and Yang; Friendly Neighborhood Vampires who emulate humans
- Tempests: Balance; Taoists
- Godlings: Hun and P'o; Incarnate gods
- Cerulean Veils (The Spirit of the Living Earth): Yin and Yang; Shamans
- Scorpion Eaters: P'o; Ruthless survivors
In addition to the tropes of Vampire and Wraith, this game also provides examples of:
- A God Am I: The Heretical (non-Quincunx) Dharma called the Face of the Gods believes that Kuei-jin are latent demigods whose journey To Hell and Back awoke their powers. Unlike most examples, they aren't inherently jerks about it-while many who split off from the Quincunx are indeed quite vain and reckless, the Indian Godlings (ie, the people for whom it is a native philosophy) are extremely respectful of their cultists and find actually feeding on them without permission distasteful, preferring prayer (an ability of theirs is to transmute the faith generated by worshipers' rituals into physical Chi, which they can eat).
- Affably Evil: Devil-Tigers hold this as an ideal to achieve-they're utter monsters, yes, but they're regal monsters who punish the wicked rather than corrupt the innocent. Indeed, the intro comic to their Dharma book has one realizing betraying a lover just because he could was infinitely too petty for a Devil-Tiger, and this understanding advances his his own powers (although he doesn't make restitution-indeed, he still keeps her soul as a paperweight).
- Always Chaotic Evil: The Jiangshi, the akuma, the Yama Kings and their minions...
- Anatomy Of The Soul: A Kuei-Jin's soul has two components, the higher moral one called Hun and the lower amoral one called P'o. Their torment in Hell has caused their P'o to seek dominance, and if not restrained, it will drive them into becoming evil.
- The Atoner: Every single Kuei-Jin is like this. They went to Hell for some kind of transgression, and one way or another, managed to return to the land of the living. They believe that this second life is meant to correct their past mistakes. Unfortunately, the philosophies disagree on just how one is supposed to atone for sins and transcend suffering. Some Kuei-Jin decided to say "fuck it all" and become akuma instead.
- Background Magic Field: Chi flow in the world is treated like this, and Kuei-jin feed upon the Chi that conglomerates in mortals.
- Bloody Murder: The Blood Shintai discipline.
- Body Horror: Kuei-jin rot instead of burn under sunlight, and this disfigurement can become permanent if it happens thoroughly.
- Chinese Vampire: What Kuei-Jin resemble if they have an imbalance of Yin chi. High skill in Bone Shintai allows for the creation of zombie minions.
- Cultural Cringe: In-universe, one P'o archetype makes a Kuei-Jin spit on the Dharma and praise the unrestricted ways of the Cainites (Western vampires). This is treated as a bad thing, if only because it's impossible for a Kuei-Jin to learn Cainite disciplines (and vice versa).
- Zao-Lat (Saulot) figured out how to learn Cathayan Disciplines by training with the Kuei-Jin equivalent of the Buddha (He's an Antediluvian, so good luck pulling this off as a player character). Nobody quite knows how he made it work, and he was eventually exiled from the Middle Kingdom due to being a Canite. Most Cathayans are generally alright with the story, as Saluot actually paid their traditions respect, unlike the "Foreign Devils" who keep coming in and causing trouble.
- Death By A Thousand Cuts: And there is a discipline with almost that exact name!
- Dhampyr: Were first introduced to the World of Darkness through this game. Asian Dhampyrs are the offspring of Yang-imbalanced vampires. They have limited access to Disciplines, but their main power is that they're Born Lucky, a spiritual side-effect of their unlikely birth.
- Emotion Eater: For a Kuei-Jin, the emotion of the prey is just about as important as the prey's blood.
- Enemy Within: P'o, the amoral lower soul. Subverted, though: all beings have both Hun and P'o, but Kuei-Jin's P'o are agitated and out of balance due to their time in Hell. Maintaining balance between Hun and P'o is a constant challenge for a Kuei-Jin.
- The Fettered: Since the Kuei-Jin must adhere to Dharma if they don't want to become a cannibal ghoul, all Kuei-Jin are The Fettered in one way or another. Yes, even the Devil-Tigers.
- Friendly Local Chinatown: The larger ones have a healthy number of Kuei-Jin. San Francisco in particular is considered neutral ground between Eastern and Western Vampires.
- Gratuitous Chinese and Gratuitous Japanese: Right there in the title. "Kuei" is Chinese for 'demons', while "-jin" is Japanese for 'person'. This is actually pointed out in the corebook itself.
- The Hedonist: Any vampire with Yang imbalance will become very lively, and can even sire or bear child if they are careless.
- The Heretic: The Heretical Dharmas aren't bad, per se - bar the Scorpion Eaters - but the establishment doesn't like them.
- Heroic Willpower: A Kuei-jin with ridiculously high Hun (higher soul) trait can hold herself from doing actions caused by P'o-induced (lower soul) shadow soul. Since most Kuei-Jin are not even self-aware when they are in shadow soul, that's saying something.
- Hollywood Atlas: The game generally portrays "The Middle Kingdom" as a combination of Animeland, Far East, Land Of Dragons, Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo... basically the place has more in common with a John Woo movie than the real world.
- I Am A Humanitarian: Kuei-jin with Dharma 0 must feed from human flesh to gain chi. Eating a corpse nets Yin-aspected Chi, while eating a human alive nets Yang-aspected Chi. Squick. All Kuei-jin are able to do this, but eating flesh at higher Dharma levels is sloppy at best and downright vulgar at worst.
- Immortality Begins at Twenty: Dhampyrs age normally until the reach their physical prime, after which they age at the rate of one year for every five.
- Kiss of the Vampire: Averted. A Kuei-jin's feeding doesn't induce euphoria in the prey, though it will induce other kind of emotions. A Kuei-jin who wants to avoid Chi imbalance will need to pay attention to those emotions.
- Man on Fire: The Flame Shintai can turn a Kuei-jin into one, while not being harmed by fire. Since Kuei-jin normally take aggravated damage from fire, the practitioners of this discipline are much feared.
- Ninja Pirate Zombie Robot: Magical kungfu zombie philosophers!
- Nuclear Nasty: The atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki devastated the Chi flow of those cities, and no sane Kuei-Jin will enter said cities willingly. Unfortunately, there are insane Kuei-Jin, and they gain strange powers from the magical radioactive poisoning they contract there. There are probably Unfortunate Implications here.
- One-Winged Angel: The various "___ Shintai" disciplines. All of them turn you into a horrid, no-nonsense monstrosity.
- Recycled IN SPACE!: Right there in the title: Kindred OF THE EAST!
- Retcon: The first edition of Vampire included Asian bloodlines that were later retconned into Japanese Kuei-Jin factions.
- Spirit World: One of the striking differences between Kuei-jin and Cainites is that the Spirit World is extremely important for the Kuei-jin, and they will go to great lengths to keep it in a semblance of balance, not unlike Werewolves.
- Spiritual Successor: Thematically, Changeling: The Lost can be seen as a Spiritual Successor to Kindred of the East. The player character went to a literal Hell and was tormented by Eldritch Abominations, escaped to the mundane world as an almost completely changed person, and is now trying to figure out what to do with his or her existence. And the monsters that tortured them want to drag them back to Hell. Also, the emotion of the prey is important to both the Lost and the Kuei-Jin.
- A lot of the concepts and terms were adapted to Exalted. To name some of them: Hun and P'o, Shintai, Scarlet Empress and Ebon Dragon, the dragon lines.
- Spotlight-Stealing Squad: Other Asian supernaturals like the Hengeyokai and Shih are defined by their relationship with the Kuei-Jin.
- Supernatural Martial Arts: In addition to learning mundane martial arts such as wushu or aikido, the Kuei-Jin can also learn martial arts tied to their specific condition, called Shintai ("god-body"). Since those martial arts forms require deep understanding of the flow of Chi, the Kuei-Jin who know them are held in high regards.
- To Hell and Back: That's you, bucko.
- Triad/Yakuza: As one can imagine, the Kuei-Jin occupy all levels of organized crime in Asia.
- The Usual Adversaries: Say what you want about rival courts or Dharmas, but you'll need them when the Yama Kings' minions come running down the streets of your city. And they will come for you, for you're the escaped convicts of Hell.
- Weirdness Censor: The Masquerade isn't enforced as strongly, as Muggles in Asia are generally more superstitious and ask fewer questions.
- Oddly, Clanbook Lasombra mentions that Asian people are more prone to forming angry witch-hunting mobs.
- It's easier to ignore a vampire just hanging out at a bar then it is a vampire actively trying to eat your family. While they may not deal with the average vampire, if the vamp crosses the line, they're pretty much screwed.