By: Alex Litvinov
The Taoists are magicians who devote their lives to the understanding of the universe, in an attempt to achieve enlightement (usually).
There are two Ways of the Tao - the Internal and the External. The External way deals with alchemy and communication with spirits of the world around the Taoist, while the Internal way deals with perfecting the Taoist himself through meditations and enlightement.
Most Samurai do not understand the Taoists, especially as they are considered to be a class much like the monks - quite low in the Celestial Order. But the powers which the Taoist can offer to a Daimyo are wisely appreciated. Taoists are also usually feared. The lower classes fear the Taoists and refer to them as something way beyond them. Some, however, dispise the Taoists and think that they are bringing evil spirits, etc.
Communication with spirits also goes both ways. The spirits (Kami, Immortals, Oni, ancestral spirits, etc) often use Taoists to their ends. This way Taoists gains favours from spirits/immortals/kami/ and even Gods. A Taoist who wishes to become a known person in the world of spirits gotta have good communication skills.
A few (alot of) words on the Taoist philosophy :
The first Taoist text is Tao te Ching, which was written by the Chinese sage Laozi. The sage was living in a great city for a long time, but eventually decided to leave for his work was done. But the guard on the gates stopped him, and begged him to write down his words of wisdom lest they will be lost after Laozi leaves. And so the sage did. The manuscrpit which he wrote, a few thousands of years ago, is considered nowdays to be one of the greatest philosophical/religious works of all times.
Here are loads of quotes from Tao Te Ching in translation by Stan Rosenthal
who really help to understand the way Taoists think (and act, and talk).
About Tao :
"Even the finest teaching is not the Tao itself.
Even the finest name is insufficient to define it.
Without words, the Tao can be experienced,
and without a name, it can be known. "
How can I speak about Tao ? Only quoting the Master :
"To conduct one's life according to the Tao,
is to conduct one's life without regrets;
to realize that potential within oneself
which is of benefit to all. "
Tao is the ballance which is all, for all is one, Ying and Yang :
"..., that which is seen as beautiful
is beautiful compared with that
which is seen as lacking beauty;
an action considered skilled
is so considered in comparison
with another, which seems unskilled. "
About the Taoist :
" Through his experience,
the sage becomes aware that all things change,
and that he who seems to lead,
might also, in another situation, follow.
So he does nothing; he neither leads nor follows.
That which he does is neither big nor small;
without intent, it is neither difficult,
nor done with ease.
His task completed, he then lets go of it;
seeking no credit, he cannot be discredited.
Thus, his teaching lasts for ever,
and he is held in high esteem."
Life of the Taoist :
"By being supple, he retains his energy.
He minimizes his desires,
and does not train himself in guile,
nor subtle words of praise.
By not contriving, he retains
the harmony of his inner world,
and so remains at peace within himself."
The actions of Taoist :
"Like water, the sage abides in a humble place;
in meditation, without desire;
in thoughtfulness, he is profound,
and in his dealings, kind.
In speech, sincerity guides the man of Tao,
and as a leader, he is just.
In management, competence is his aim,
and he ensures the pacing is correct."
The teaching of Tao :
"Knowing that virtue may grow from example,
this is the way in which the sage teaches,
abandoning no one who stops to listen.
Thus, from experience of the sage,
all might learn, and so might gain."
Tao and war :
"When leading by the way of the Tao,
abominate the use of force,
for it causes resistance, and loss of strength,
showing the Tao has not been followed well.
Achieve results but not through violence,
for it is against the natural way,
and damages both others' and one's own true self."
(Note : However, sometimes killing a man can be an act of non-violence, and a silent smile can be voilent)
More about Tao and war :
"To rejoice in victory is to delight in killing;
to delight in killing is to have no self-being."
About Tao and magic :
"... ritual may be performed
only as an act of faith,
and may be the beginning of confusion,
for even divination and the such
are but the flowery trappings of the Tao,
and are the beginning of great folly"
(Note: Communication with spirits, spirits-given powers, and alchemy are not considered to be magic)
Taoists and non-Taoists :
"No man should be abandoned
because he has not found the Tao."
More about Taoists and non-Taoists :
"He knows he makes no fine display,
and wears rough clothes, not finery.
It is not in his expectancy of men
that they should understand his ways,
for he carries his jade within his heart."
More about Taoists and non-Taoists :
"The sage retains a sense of awe, and of propriety.
He does not intrude into others' homes;
does not harass them,
nor interfere without request,
unless they damage others.
So it is that they return to him."
Tao and posessions :
"It is the way of the Tao to take from those
who have a surplus to what they need,
providing for those without enough.
The way of the ordinary person,
is not the way of the Tao,
for such people take from those who are poor
and give to those who are rich."
(Note: Ofcourse, taking from those who have a surplus is not accomplished by violence)
OK. Now this is all theory. In practice, not many of the Taoists achieve the level of enlightement discribed in Tao te Ching. However, all Taoists try without trying to become enlightened. Some things are simple for most people, like not having excesses of food and riches. Others, like having no desires, are much more difficult.
The Taoist is led by the world, for he is the world and the world is him. His actions are guided (by the GM, most probably :) towards the goal which must be acomplished - if the Taoist sees a ball-shaped hole begging to be filled and he has a ball, he will do what needs to be done. If the Taoist sees a man attacking another, he will prevent the violence. etc.
New Skills :
Internal Understanding (void) - this is the skill of meditations, prayers and self-searching. With this skill the Taoist can understand things which happen to him (the exact nature of wounds, diseases, mental states, etc) and also determine what exactly is needed to do a particular ritual of Internal Alchemy.
External Understanding (void) - this is the skill of knowing the spirits of the world. Can be used to determine what spirits are near the shugenja or to find, for example, the kami of a place. Also this is the skill needed to determine what is the way to appease the spirits in order to summon or use them.
Internal Alchemy (void) - with this skill, the Taoist can alter himself. Any trait can be temporarely rised by 1 for an hour per rank of the shugenja. The base TN of this skill is 25 and the meditation nesseseary to perform this takes 2k2 hours. Before this skill is used, Inernal Understanding roll must be sussesfully made.
External Alchemy (void) - with this skill, the Taoist can make a potion. Different from the Dragon's mizugushuri, those potions affect the body, mind, and spirit. An External Understanding roll must be sussesfully made before attempting to make a potion.
Astrology (Int) - to determine the needed positions of celestial bodies. Succesful check must be made to determine when exactly is the time to summon which spirit and when to make a potion (or gather the ingredients). Important for External Alchemy.
Potion examples -
To make a potion, one needs ingredients, the proper position of celestial bodies, the right rituals, the right tools and the approval of the right spirits. Appeasing the spirits before making a potion is a wise move. The time needed to make a potion is by default 4 weeks, but can be lowered by astrology , external understanding and appeasing the spirits (some of the nicer ones will help if the need is dire). The roll is secret and is made by the GM. There is no way to know if the potion is good or not untill it's drunk and sometimes not even then. The effects of imperfect potions can be anything from amusing to devastating. Like permanent effect of Essence of Water or Essence of Fire which is simply extremely hot, burning liquid (drinking which will probably result in death or at least loss of voice and permanent injury). Also, some potions require rare ingridients (like Oni's blood) or strange/dishonorable inredients (like virgin blood).
Examples of potions :
Essence of Fire, TN 40. Anything the drinker of the potion touches will burst into flames (2k2 damage). The drinker's eyes burn with flames (quite visible). The problem is that ANYTHING the drinker touches will burst into flames. The duration is untill sunset, no matter when the potion was drunk. Also, the potion itself is burning and the drinker is drained by it's terrible power, as it weakens him. A full wound rank is taken the moment the duration is over (and the drinker smokes from every hole, too).
Essence of Water, TN 40. The drinker's body turns into pure water. Drinking him is not advisible. He can change his surface tension to a degree and flow about quite fast, relatively, 2 kph. Flowing around obstacles is NOT a problem. Flowing up walls is also not a problem, nor is entering into small holes and cracks. If splattered, the drinker can just pool again. But then again, being a moving, living wave has it's downs. Unable to talk or hold anything (naturally). All the equipment remains where it was. After the effect is over, the drinker's strenth id down by 2 points (1 minimum) untill sunrise. The duration of this potion is 24 hours.
Essence of Wind, TN 40. Makes the drinker become one with the air. His body becomes air, and so does his spirit (+5 bonus to awareness). Being air, the drinker can fly with ease and with speed of up to hurricane, move clouds, etc. But there are, ofcourse, downs. The effect is for 1k1 hours, rolled secretly by the GM. When this time ends, the drinker's body returns to normal even if he happens to be 10 kilometers above ground at the moment. Also, the sense of power is overwhelming. Being able to fly effortlessly, to move about clouds, to become a hurricane and tear the roofs of one's enemy's castle. Very difficult to stop. For every action declared (and also once every hour) the drinker must make a simple Willpower roll against TN of 5 to 45 (depends on what he's doing and the sence of power it's giving him) or he will not want to stop and lose control over himself. Becoming a tornado and not wanting to stop can be a problem. If the roll failed with a difference of over 20 between the roll and the TN, the character remains air... forever. Losing his sence of self while he's at it, ofcourse.
Essence of Earth, TN 40. This potion turns the drinker into a part of earth/stone. If not drunk while standing on sufficent emount of earth or stone, the drinker dies immidiately. Being earth/stone heals the drinker complitely (save for permanent wounds), but then again he has no awareness of sence of self all the while he's earth/stone. The duration of this potion is full 3 days. For 3 days afterwards, the drinker will be thinking like earth, which means SLOW. Reflexes will be 1 and the character will move slowly, always losing initiative rolls.
Essence of True Shadows, TN 45. This potion is incredibly difficult to make and requires Oni's blood as one of it's components. Drinking it gives the drinker the ability to become one with any shadow, virtually giving him invisibility (The drinker can merge with the shadow as small as the shadow of a candle). The drinker can jump into any shadow and move in it, invisible and sizeless. The drawback is that if the shadow the drinker is one with dispersed (by light, ofcourse), he dies along with the shadow. The duration of this potion is untill sunrise and untill the next sunset exposion to direct sunlight will cause the drinker intence pain and blindness (1k1 damage per minute of exposure).
Will of the Living, TN 30.This potion, if sprinked upon a spirit, demon or an undead, will cause them extreme pain and burns (2k2 damage). However, to make this potion the maker must sacrifice a piece of a his chi, lowering his stamina by 1 point for a full month.
Essence of <Enter Animal Name>, TN 35. The drinker of this potion polymorphs into the appropriate animal. The duration is untill sunrise. Untill sunset the drinker retains some of the mental attitude of the animal and intelligence is lowered to 1. When the effect of the potion ends, the drinker must make a Willpower roll against the final TN of the potion (after External Understanding and Astrology rolls, tributes to spirits, etc) or remain in the animal form forever. While animal, all the stats change, mental included, save for void. The personality core remains but is altered according to animal, and the instincts kick in. To make this potion the Taoist must persuade the animal to give it's life willingly (and thus essence of dog, for example, is easy to make).
Examples of spells :
The only spell Taoists ever use is communication with spirits ("Summon Kami"). The spirits sometimes allow the Taoist favours. Some spirits, like most of the local Kami, are easy to please. So are most animal Kami and Taoists' Ancestral Spirits. But some, like for example the Dark God Of The Western Hemisphere, can be tricky to please.
However, if the Kami are pleased with the Taoist, they might help him out in return. Answering questions, material gifts, temporary powers, revealing secrets, allowing passage to places where no mortals go, etc, are all examples of favours the Kami might grant. But, ofcourse, the best possible is the permanent powers which are granted only for the greatest favours.
Summon Kami : TN 15-45 (depends on the strengh of the Kami). Allows theTaoist to summon a Kami forth. It's strongly suggested that there are presents for the Kami when he arrives, dependant on the place. Kami might talk to the Taoist, answer questions, sometimes even aid him in various matters. If the Kami is not pleased though, he can cause the Taoist things like bad luck, diseases, or maybe even attack him with his physical impersonation. The greater the Kami, the stronger he is. A kami of a small shrine, for example, might have human-like Rings and Traits and some minor magical powers (maybe a mgical sword, or healing powers) and some lesser spirits as his Samurai. A Kami of the Emperial Palace would have 10 in most traits, incredible magical powers, and hosts of spirits (lesser than himself) as his Samurai. The hierarchy of Kami is also based on the Celestial Order and their concepts of honor are quite similar.
Gifts : a warring Kami might like a nice weapon brought to him or maybe an animal/human sacrifice, while a minor peaceful Kami might like some food and essence burned for him. Very personal. Can be determined with External Understanding.
Taoist Ranks :
Taoists don't have actual schools. Not too many people chose to dedicate their lives into service of the world like Taoists do, but occasionally Taoists take students. There are occasionaly monasteries of Tao, but those are not schools, just places in which the Taoists gather and live in harmony. Most Taoists live alone, and teach their art to those who are willing to learn.
However, Taoists can ask for powers from Kami that owe them if they have high enough insight. Powers vary from Kami to Kami, the more powerful the spirit and the greater is the favour, the stronger is the power.
Powers from God-leveled Kami are not according to insight, but those are extremely difficult to get (Like for example, Yen Lo might grant the Taoist a favour if the Taoist will save the hell from destruction, or maybe amuse Yen Lo incredibly).
Examples of powers :
Regeneration : most probabaly granted by a water or earth Kami, this great power makes the Taoist heal at incredible rate. 1 wound level/hour.
Breath of Wosano-Wo : granted by Wosano-Wo, the General of Thunder. The Taoist can bring lightning down in line of sight. Costs void point to cast. Damage 2k2.
Blessing of Mazu : Granted by Mazu herself, this power is simply near-eternal life. The Taoist ages 1 year per each 10 that pass, and is never sick. However, a katana through the spleen is a katana through the spleen.
Gift of the Shadows : A power granted by minor Kami of shadow, darkness, Ninja family ancestor or something of the kind, this power allows the Taoist to blend into shadows quite perfectly. The shadow must be large enough to hide him normally. While in the shadow, the Taoist is nearly impossible to notice. This power costs one Void.
Strengh of the Earth : Like the Advantage.
Luck : Can be granted by various powerful Kami. As the Advantage.
Voice like Wu-chi : Granted by an Air kami or Kami which has to do with communications. Improves the Taoist's control over his voice greatly. Thus, he can make his voice sound like the rumble of thunder, echoing dramatically, or his voice can turn sweet like honey... adds 1k1 (or more, depends on the power of the granting Kami and the favour owed) to all voice-connected rolls (singing, intimidation, sincerity, etc).
Passage of the Dragon King : This great power is granted by the Dragon King himself (or one of the Dragons which are close to him in rank). Allows the Taoist to teleport anywhere he wants (but the location must be known to him). He can take anyone he can touch with him. Costs Void. During the passage, the Taoist and those who go with him pass through the lower planes of Heaven (the Dragon-guarded realm), and often arrive to their destination wet and throughly confused. An especially unpleasant person moving along with the Taoist might get attacked or harrassed by the Dragons, as they can deny the Taoist passage. Each and every passage should be roleplayed (the Taoist appearing before the huge gate of the Lower Heaven, stopped by the 2 great Dragons, Red and Blue, and asked by them to present his paperwork. After he does so, they usually let him through. It's not enough to have the power, the Taoist must have the travel papers signed by the Dragon King).
Kiss of Guan Yin : This power is granted by benevolent Kami of various strengths. The Taoist can heal by merely touching someone. Diseases, wounds, poisoning, etc, can usually be healed with ease. However, the Taoist must commune with the Kami of the one he's wishing to heal, asking for premission and understanding the karmic reason for the problem. After understanding is achieved and premission is granted, the touch with heal from 1 to all wound levels, depending on the power of the Kami which granted the power and on the karmic reason for the wound.
List of Chinese Taoist deities :
The Yellow Emperor (Father of the Chinese nation)
The Jade Emperor (Head of the Heavenly bureaucracy)
The Eight Immortals (Famous and powerful group of Dieties)
Zhong Li Han (Teacher of Lu Dong Bin)
Lu Dong Bin (most popular of the 8 Immortals)
Wang Chong Yang (Student of Lu Dong Bin)
Qui Chu Ji (Student of Wang Chong Yang, founder of Beijing's White Cloud Monastery)
Wang Li Guan (Temple Protector)
Guan Yin (Goddess of Mercy)
Zhang San Feng (Taoist Monk credited with Taijiquan)
Zhang Dao Ling (Founder of the Heavenly Master sect)
Wei Hua Cun (Mystic Mao Mountain Nun)
The Three Mao Brothers (Reclusive Brothers who gave their name to Mao Mountain)
Laozi (Diefied author of the Dao De Jing)
The Three Pure Ones (represent basic energies, rank above the Jade Emperor)
Guan Gong (Guan Di, or Guan Yu) (Diefied General representing virtue)
Ge Hong (Mao Mountain alchemist turned Immortal)
The Dark Emperor of the North (Patron of Wudang Mt.)
The God of Tai Mountain (object of cult-like devotions)
The North Star God (Powerful meditation Assistant)
The God of Culture (very popular God)
The Thunder God (popular 3-eyed God)
Mazu (Patron Goddess of sailors and merchants)
Li Ne Zha (Boy Immortal, trickster who use a fire ring as a weapon)
The God of Wealth (popular throughout SE Asia)
Yen Lo (the King of Hell)
Pan Guan (the Chief Judge in Hell)
Zhong Kui (Demon Chaser)
Western Heaven Mother (Mother of the Jade Emperor)
Sa Shou Jian (Imortal Teacher of Wang Ling Guan)
Chang E (Moon Goddess)
Bi Xia (the Green Cloud Goddess of Tai Mountain)
Dragon King (controls rain)
60 Year Cycle Gods (one for each of the years in the cycle)
Suggested reading in order to understand on what I have based the Taoist character :
Tao te Ching by Laoze.
Messiah is cleaning the disc by J.R.Oldy
The Journey to the West
Chinese Taoist and Zen poetry
Various works by Dr Fabrizio Pregadio on Chinese Alchemy