Kurgan's Character Ideas

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It's one of the quirks of the way I make characters that names always come last, so he'll remain nameless until I have a better idea who he is.

Parts of this page may turn into their own pages once they're more fleshed out.


Story Elements



Young, about 18ish, just emerging into manhood. He is rather inexperienced in the world, having been isolated and exposed primarily to martial and mystical tutelage and tales of mighty warriors. He will be overconfident in his physical abilities until time has taught him better, though he also knows (intellectually) that humility is a part of wisdom.

He is a student of the Fivefold Way and its Five Essence Style of sorcerous martial arts. His preferred way of approaching the Fivefold Way is not by becoming a student of other fighting styles, but by facing them directly. Raised on tales of great warriors, he considers the duel to be the highest test of a warrior and seeks to prove himself worthy of the same greatness.

More TBD


From somewhere in the Empire (any other players want background ties?). Son of a warrior nobleman. Astrologers identified him at an early age as one with great potential for power, and a destiny to tip the balance for light or darkness. He was thus trained from an early age to attempt to unlock that potential while tilting his path toward the light.

He is apprenticed to a master of the Fivefold Way with whom he has traveled for several years. Following the traditions of the Way, his Master seeks knowledge of many and varied fighting styles, and has come to The Butterfly Kingdom to learn from the Yellow Silk School of Master Long Shen. His master's path is one of humility, and in deference to Long Shen's wishes he will spend most of his time as a common student, and thus have little time for his own teaching. He also feels his student shows the rashness of youthful inexperience and needs to learn humility from experience, and thus is glad of the excuse to send his student his own way for perhaps years. He has, however, ensured that his student is watched over, lest his path slip to darkness.[citation needed]

More TBD

Plot Hooks

As part of his tutelage, he will accept any opportunity or challenge to face a new opponent in single combat. He may be overconfident of his skills in some cases, but he will also accept defeat as part of the way of learning from others. He need not be suicidal or accept unreasonable terms in a duel, but he will not back down from a challenge by a superior foe. While it is not part of his formal vow, he is also always eager to face new and different types of foes for the sake of new experiences.

Open Questions

  • Turn the astrological omens of great potential into a full-fledged prophecy/destiny plot hook?
  • Ties with other PCs from upbringing or recent experiences?
  • Did his master leave him in the care of the Tokai clan? Distant relatives, or just a well-respected local family?

The Way of Fivefold Essence


The Way of Fivefold Essence, or Fivefold Way is an esoteric tradition of sorcerous martial arts practiced by wandering masters throughout the Empire. Its philosophy and practices are based on a tale from the earliest days of the world. According to the Way's practicioners, all of mankind's ways of fighting (from the most skilled swordplay to the roughest fist fight) stem from five root techniques. These were taught to mankind by five spirits who embodied the five elemental essences of the universe.

The five spirits saw that mankind in its innocence was helpless before the forces of darkness which had crept into the world. So they granted a measure of themselves to give form to the will and fighting spirit which was already present in mankind. Each spirit chose a hero from the corners of the world, and taught a style of conflict which was the essence of conflict: neither physical or spiritual but a pure form of both. These five heroes came together to drive back the darkness and make a place for mankind in the world.

The heroes taught what they had learned to their followers, each of whom interpreted what they learned differently. Over centuries, these teachings fragmented into many and varied ways of fighting, each of which reflected one specific aspect of the unified whole which was lost. Most warriors are now beings only of the body, while sorcerers still tap into the spiritual power which once aided all mankind. The practitioners of the world's many martial arts preserve a kernel of the unity of mind and body which the spirits taught, as they channel their inner power into feats of martial prowess.

The practitioners of the Way believe that it is possible to distill and reconstruct the original pure style of the Five Spirits from the many kernels which remain in the world. Furthermore, they believe that re-capturing the wisdom taught to mankind by the five great spirits will form the key to a great struggle between light and darkness which is prophesied. To that end they practice techniques which combine fighting methods with manipulation of elemental energy. They seek out exposure to as many of the fighting styles of the world as they can, so as to glean from each a piece of the original wisdom.

Fighting Style

The fighting style of the Way is sometimes called Five Essence Style, and mixes physical combat with manipulation of elemental energy. That energy might enhance a practitioner's strikes or movements, or may be manifest as a force which strikes on its own. Some practicioners focus on a single element or group of elements, while others attempt to balance them all and seek the unified essence of combat.

Students of the Style learn katas which cause them to emulate the elemental forces of the world. These help them channel inner energy into elemental power. Early techniques emulate elemental properties without showing obvious signs of the supernatural. More advanced techniques allow a martial artist to manipulate the elements in the world around them, to create elements at need, or to take on aspects of elements themselves. The most advanced masters are said to become beings of pure elemental energy, striking out with inescapable wrath or melding into the environment to become as forces of nature.

Practitioners of the Five Essence Style always study unarmed combat, but as befits their philosophy they may also learn a variety of weapons. A favored weapon of the Five Essence Style is the Kusarigama. This multi-part weapon is thought to reflect the variable aspects of the five elements themselves, and custom weapons made for Five-Essence fighters are constructed to reflect this:

  • The steel blade gleams with the sharp hard nature of metal.
  • The bamboo shaft displays the flexibility and lightness of wood.
  • The fine-ringed chain is fluid and flexible and makes the sound of running water.
  • The weight is frequently a ring of carved quartz, displaying the solidity of earth.
  • Fire is sometimes represented symbolically as a red gem in the center of the ring. Some students replace it with a container of burning pitch to create a weapon which threatens more than entanglement. More advanced practitioners of the Style need no pitch to create this effect.

Open Questions

  • Is the Way a religious/ascietic/monastic order, or just a fighting/sorcerous one?
  • What are identifying features of practitioners (dress, customs, etc)?



Capturing some of my favorite things about the fiction which inspired this concept. Obviously all will need to be mutated to fit this world, and to be my own.


Avatar: The Last Airbender (Wikipedia) is an animated series on Nickelodian. It takes place in an Asian-inspired world populated by four nations representing the 4 Elements (Air, Water, Earth, Fire). The Fire nation is the evil empire, fighting the Earth Kingdom, having already driven the Water Tribes into hiding at the poles, and hunted the Air Nomads to Extinction. Some among each nation are Benders, who can manipulate the elements, mostly in a physical way. The story focuses on the child Avatar Aang, who can master all four elements, who is awakened from hibernation to save the world.

I particularly like the feel of the elemental special-effects in Avatatar, which add uniqueness even if their mechanical effect is usually the same. Martial Arts movements are used to represent the Bending abilities, which is the inspiration for this character. Avater also gives some good examples of how "advanced" bending turns manipulation of a simple material into more varied wierdshit (inspirations for more-sorcerous schticks). Examples:

  • Air: flight
  • Water: healing, blood (including body control)
  • Earth: tremmorsense, metal (not in the Dragon element system)
  • Fire: lightning (scary on screen, but not actually that interesting in an RPG)

Avatar also does a good job of creating simple yet compelling characters and stories (for kids plus adults) which I can only hope to emulate.


Exalted (Wikipedia) is an anime-inspired high-power fantasy RPG containing multiple types of heroes granted the power of gods. The Dragon Blooded (Wikia) are the least powerful but most numerous type of Exalt, granted the power of the Five Elemental Dragons (Earth, Fire, Air, Water, Wood). The Dragon Blooded are the rulers of the vast Empire at the center of Creation, but also the proponents of the Immaculate Order, whose monks practice elemental martial arts which are large part of the inspiration of this character.

The Dragon Blooded give good examples of elementally-themed powers extended into things not obviously elemental, since they are general heroes with an elemental flavor rather than pure elemental manipulators like Avatar's Benders. For instance, Earth-aspects are great crafters, Air-aspects are intellectuals and sorcerers, Water-aspects are sailors and martial artists, etc. The Dragon Blooded Charms will provide me with a lot of possible schtick ideas.

The Immaculate martial arts give lots of direct inspiration for elemental-flavored martial arts. However, Martial Arts in Exalted is a form of "soul manipulation" which can allow a great flexibility. Along with Sorcery, Martial Arts are one of two types of flexible/expandable wierdshit in Exalted. While Martial Arts generally focus on combat, as they get more powerful they develop more varied effects. Immaculate martial arts have some examples (e.g. Wood Dragon Style grants healing, and hits immaterial spirits), and Siderial martial arts (non-elemental) go way farther into non-combat effects (like striking a spell to dispell it).

Schtick Ideas

Possible schticks:

  • Buffs and combat effects
  • Element manipulation at range
  • Elementally-themed non-combat effets
  • Learning from other styles (distilling techniques)

Elemental Associations:

  • Wood/Tree: flexibility, life/healing
  • Fire: damage at range, speed
  • Earth: solidity, stillness, soaking damage
  • Metal: hardness (armor), sharpness (damage multiplier, armor piercing), weapons
  • Water: motion, dodging, cold (ice), weather



Animal: Phoenix

Specialty: Elemental Martial Artist







Proposed Schticks

These are not yet finalized, but are ideas awaiting GM approval.

  • Fivefold Weapon Kata
    • Element: All
    • Description: The student performs a repeated series of movements which draw forth the essences of the five elements into his chosen weapon. His blows are enhanced by the properties of each element in turn.
    • Effect: +1 die attacking with Kusarigama
    • Cost/Level: 6/1
      • Power: 1 (+1 die specific)
      • Frequency: 6 (always on)
      • Source: 1
      • Concept: 1
    • Approved: Yes
  • Friend of Iron
    • Element: Metal
    • Description: The student's meditations align his inner essence with the essence of Metal, and exhorts the spirit of the Metal not to harm him.
    • Effect: +1 die to dodge metal weapons (including arrows with metal heads)
    • Cost/Level: 6/1
      • Power: 1 (+1 die specific)
      • Frequency: 6 (always on)
      • Source: 1
      • Concept: 1
    • Approved: Yes
  • Tree Has Many Limbs
    • Element: Wood
    • Description: The student's extends his arms, and woody limbs and vines extend in parallel to attack foes directions.
    • Effect: 1/run, spend 1 Chi to split for an unlimited number of attacks (melee or ranged).
    • Cost/Level: 6/1
      • Power: 6
      • Frequency: 1 (1/run, -1 for Chi expenditure)
      • Source: 1
      • Concept: 1
    • Approved: Yes
  • Flickering Flame Strike
    • Element: Fire
    • Description: The student charges himself with the essence of fire and strikes with the speed and unpredictability of a crackling flame.
    • Effect: 1/turn, split for 3 melee attacks (or melee only)
    • Cost/Level: 12/2
      • Power: 3 or 2 (3 for 3-way split, -1 melee only)
      • Frequency: 6 (always on) or 4 (1/turn)
      • Source: 1
      • Concept: 1
    • Comments: Two possible versions considered above.
    • Approved: Yes
  • Flowing River Advance
    • Element: Water
    • Description: The student becomes impossibly swift and flexible like flowing water, and
    • Effect: roll Yin, and gain N x successes in extra movement
    • Cost/Level:
      • Power: N+1
      • Frequency: ? (need to select based on power)
      • Source: 1
      • Concept: 1
    • Comments:
    • Approved: Yes
  • Ideas not yet given specific mechanics:
    • Minor movement/manipulation (telekinesis) of pre-existing elemental materials.
    • Ranged elemental (fire) burst.
    • Turn to water to flow through cracks.
    • Turn to water as a one-time "big" dodge.
    • I'm being watched over by my master's representatives (summon help)?
    • Destiny
    • Kusarigama/Unarmed equivalence (P3/F6)
    • Increaed unarmed multiplier
    • Ranged Elemental Attack forms
    • Yang rather than Str for Damage