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Tabletop Game / Kindred of the East

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Kindred of the East is a spin-off of Vampire: The Masquerade dealing with, well, the closest thing the Old World of Darkness had to Eastern vampires. 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. KOTE was intended as an offshoot of Vampire but the Kuei-Jin, as Eastern vampires are called, share only superficial similarities with the Cainite variety. Because it introduces several new mechanics and has its own Splats, KotE 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 it from human blood and/or flesh, but after centuries of spiritual enlightenment (comparable to Cainites' generations), they can draw chi 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. They also 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 and Yang 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 a 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 them into a raging hedonist who can bear children if not careful. Hun and P'o 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; Sadomasochists
  • 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 lovernote  just because he could was infinitely too petty for a Devil-Tiger, and this understanding advances his own powers (although he doesn't make restitution—indeed, he still keeps her soul in a crystal talisman as a constant reminder of what not to do).
  • 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.
  • Armor-Piercing Question: The Mibasham Discipline from the Companion book is kind of like weaponized philosophy: high-level practitioners can ask someone a question which will consume them so utterly, the listener will be unable to even move until they've solved it.
  • The Atoner: This is the unifying theme of the Quincunx Court's Dharmas (other paths to enlightenment are considered heretical). The Kuei-jin 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 (Devil-Tigers want to become the Yama Kings' actually helpful replacements, Bone Flowers want to maintain tradition and respect for the dead, Cranes desire to make the Earth more like Heaven, Thrashing Dragons want to have another chance at living, and Thousand Whispers want to study existence). 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. Kuei-jin must pay attention to the Chi flow of their lair. Some of them are highly versed in feng-shui, and even rent out their service to mortal architects (while passing as a mortal).
  • Body Horror: Kuei-jin rot instead of burning 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 Cainite. 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.
    • Kànbujiàn, Kueijin who take the second breath Outside of Asia, are looked down for several reasons. Most pressing is that they for the most part follow their own personal Dharma and have no knowledge or training in the Kueijin's ways. Usually they are killed or captured and shipped back to Asia for "proper training"
  • Dangerous Deserter: The Quincunx considers Scorpion Eaters to be this, for several reasons. First is a basic matter of principle; they're Kuei-jin, therefore they're obligated to join a Quincunx Dharma and fight the good fight against Yomi Wan, and by ditching the fight they deprive the Kuei-jin of strength. Second, they may not technically be akuma, but they spread taint and decay to create fouled nests where they can live. And third, they're violent thugs one step above chih-mei.
  • 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.
  • Demon Lords and Archdevils: The Yama Kings, each of which rules a different Yomi hell.
  • 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.
  • Fantastic Racism: Kuei-Jin are viciously racist toward their occidental counterparts, seeing them as a disgusting parody of what they themselves are. Unlike werewolves, they might be willing to make truces and talk, but they usually don't see Kindred as friends.
  • The Fettered: Since the Kuei-Jin must adhere to Dharma if they don't want to become a cannibal ghoul, all Kuei-Jin except for Scorpion-Eaters are The Fettered in one way or another. Yes, even the Devil-Tigers.
  • Fire and Brimstone Hell: The Hell of Boiling Oil and Hell of Seven Burning Seas
  • Friendly Local Chinatown: The larger ones have a healthy number of Kuei-Jin, and are a good way to set a Kuei Jin campaign in a Western setting. 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.
  • Hell: Called Yomi Wan here, there are technically at least a thousand (probably more) hells, each of which is meant for a different kind of bad person. All of the Kuei-jin are people who died and went to Yomi but got out.
  • The Heretic: The Heretical Dharmas aren't bad, per se - bar the Scorpion Eaters, and even they have a point - 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" (actually an old epithet for China, used here to refer to the entirety of East Asia) 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. Whether this is artistic license or artistic insensitivity is a subject of debate.
  • 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.
  • Jekyll & Hyde: Unlike the western vampires' Beast, a Kuei-jin's P'o is a fully developed alternate personality.
  • 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.
  • Lighter and Softer: Compared to Western Vampire: The Masquerade. Kuei-jin society is brutal and richly political, but your elders are (usually) not actively out to screw you over. There's a clear evil for the Kuei-jin to fight against. And Golconda isn't a myth for them, it's proven fact, and there are active Bodhisattvas to show you the way. On a cosmic scale, unlike for Western vampires, Gehenna may be the beginning of an age of sorrow and the end of God's reign, but the Sixth Age itself will pass in time.
  • 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.
  • Mystical Jade: Among the Shintai, the disciplines through which the Kuei-Jin learn to focus chi, the one aligned with the Earth element is referred to as the Jade Shintai.
  • Non-Indicative Name: As the Inquest Magazine review of the initial book release repeatedly pointed out, the title was a complete lie— the Kuei-jin aren't even real vampires (they're closer to Revenant Zombies), let alone a branch of the Cainite Kindred, and on the rare occasions the actual Kindred even showed up in the book it was so they could be brutally dispatched by the Kuei-Jin.
  • Nuclear Mutant: 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.
  • One-Winged Angel: The various "___ Shintai" disciplines. All of them turn you into a horrid, no-nonsense monstrosity.
  • Pay Evil unto Evil: The MO of the Devil-Tigers. And part of their dharma (in other words, their duty under Heaven) is being as viciously creative as possible about how they do it.
  • Recycled In Space: Right there in the title: Kindred OF THE EAST! Kind of subverted, though, as the Kuei-Jin are in no way "Kindred".
  • Retcon: The first edition of Vampire included Asian bloodlines that were later retconned into Japanese Kuei-Jin factions.
  • Revenant Zombie: The Kuei-Jin are dead humans whose souls have crawled back into their bodies to reanimate them, rather than actual vampires descended from Cain. They just also happen to be vulnerable to sunlight and staking and fond of drinking blood.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here: The Scorpion-Eaters took one look at the state of the world and the conflict between the Quincunx and Yomi and decided to prioritize personal survival over fighting the Great Cycle. They have a truce with the Yama Kings, which puts them in conflict with the Quincunx.
  • Seduction-Proof Marriage: The gameline features animal spirit shapeshifters who like to seduce humans For the Evulz. It's specifically stated that their seduction powers don't work on anyone who is serious about being faithful to their spouse, or a vow of celibacy.
  • 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. And you might need to go back there for one reason or another, so many of the Disciplines have a power that can open a gateway to Yomi.
  • Training from Hell: Hin (fledgling Kuei-jin) spend their formative years in intense training to develop the skills that they will need to know as adults. The penalty for failure is death, for the Courts have no use for Kuei-jin who cannot serve effectively.
  • Triad/Yakuza: As one can imagine, the Kuei-Jin occupy all levels of organized crime in Asia. Particularly true for the Scorpion Eaters, who delight in living it up like the archetypal gangster: fast cars, faster women, and lead flying everywhere.
  • 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.
  • Vagueness Is Coming: The approaching Sixth Age and the rise of the Demon Emperor, which are cryptically (and toward the end of the line, increasingly openly) referred to in the various books.
  • Vampire Variety Pack: Or rather, a Vampire Expansion Pack to Vampire: The Masquerade.
  • 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 than 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.
  • With Us or Against Us: The Quincunx are not cool with Kuei-jin who don't follow their Dharmas and obey their elders. There's a little slack in the latter for youngsters (who are supposed to run wild for a century or so before getting down to the serious business of enlightenment), but even that is less accepted in the modern world, and those who follow heretical Dharmas are treated just as badly as actual servants of the Yama Kings.
  • Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds: Emma-O was originally a benevolent god of the Ainu people. After the Japanese colonized the island and wiped most of them out, he became a cruel and twisted Yama King, and his once beautiful realm became the dark and icy hell of Kakuri.