Kitsune of the Eclipse, Part II

キタキツネ (北狐 kita kitsune), a Vulpes vulpes schre...

The first step in coming up with modifiers for a Kitsune lies in coming up with the modifiers for a Fox.

That’s actually a bit of a problem. Foxes are such minor creatures that they didn’t get official statistics – and the ones for a medium-sized dog are pretty obviously far too generous. Dogs kill and hurt people pretty often; foxes… don’t. The few recorded attacks on humans by foxes pretty much all fall into the “dismal failure” category – including attacks on sleeping infants. Foxes normally back down from housecats. A young boy being attacked by a rabid fox suffered a painful nip – but simply scooped it up and – when it wouldn’t calm down – swung it’s head against the ground. The really annoying part was the rabies shots.

In d20 terms that pretty much means… no really effective attacks (failing to kill sleeping one hit point infants despite multiple bites is pretty pathetic), no worthwhile defenses (easily killed by an unarmed child), massive penalties to Strength, Constitution, and Intelligence (they’re small, fragile, don’t live very long even with the best of care, and may be bright animals, but they’re still not really very clever by human standards; ergo, they have the usual animal intelligence of  two as a base).

They are very quick though. That’s something.

So a Fox / Kitsune gets… Scent, Low-Light Vision, boosted Dexterity, boosted Movement Speed, the usual animal-senses +2 boost to Wisdom, the usual Awakened Animal intelligence – and some fairly massive penalties to Strength and Constitution.

But wait! Aren’t Kitsune supposed to be extremely cunning and intelligent?

Are they?

Lets look at a classic Kitsune story – the tale of a fox who liked to go riding.

A pretty young girl often stood on the bank of the Kaya river to the east of the Ninnaji temple, Kyoto in the evening. When a man on horseback passed going in the direction of the capital, she would ask him to give her a ride, saying “I want to ride to the capital behind you.” Most would agree – but, after riding a little ways, the girl would slip down and run away in the shape of a fox, barking with delight. This prank was repeated many times.

The tale was told at the quarters of the Takiguchi (the guards at the Imperial palace). On hearing it a young takiguchi officer (“the takiguchi” hereafter) said: “I will catch her and teach her a lesson!” Other takiguchi officers present said with one voice: “Certainly we will catch her!” Said the takiguchi who spoke first: “I will capture her tomorrow evening.”

The next evening the takiguchi went rode his horse to the bank of the Kaya river, but did not see the girl. Disappointed, he was riding back in the direction of the capital when he saw a girl standing by the roadside. On seeing the takiguchi coming riding, she said cheerfully: “Hey,I want to ride to the capital behind you!”. He answered “Surely. Climb on quickly. Where are you going?”. Answered the girl: “To the capital.”

As soon as the girl got on the horse the officer tied her by the wrist to the saddle with a rope used for hitching a horse. Said the girl: “Why do you do such a brutal thing to me?” Replied the takiguchi: “To prevent you from getting away from me, of course. I am now taking you to my quarters to sleep with you tonight!”

They continued riding. After passing Ichijyo it was quite dark, and they proceeded along the road toward the east. When passing Nishi-no-Omiya, the takiguchi saw a procession approaching, proceeded by a forerunner on horseback, holding a pine-torch to light the road. By the torch-light, the takiguchi could see some carriages drawn by oxen moving in stately fashion to the musical creak of their heavy wheels, with two men walking before each carriage, holding pine-torches in their hands. Their figures were seen in relief against the darkness of night. The takiguchi thought it was the procession of some personages of high rank. Therefore he turned back out of respect, and went on, riding along the road of Nishi-no-Omiya toward the east – from Higashi-no-Omiya to Tsuchimikado.

At the gate of the Tsuchimikado palace, the Takiguchi called out to his followers whom he had ordered to wait for him there. Said the men under him, coming out: “At your service, sir.”

Then the takiguchi unfastened the rope, pulled the girl down from the horse, and ordered his men to build a fire before going on to the Takiguchi Station. Aroused by the clamor, all his fellow takiguchi officers emerged from the station. Said the officer “I have caught her!”

The girl began to cry and beg to be released as the fire burned brightly. The takiguchi officers spoke with one voice: “Into the fire with her!”

The takiguchi who had caught the girl said that she might escape if this were done. However they said that it would be fun to throw her into the fire and shoot her with bows and arrows in a volley. Ten takiguchi officers notched their arrows upon their bows and the takiguchi who had been holding the girl threw her right into the fire!

The girl, however, turned herself, in a twinkling, into the shape of a fox and, before they could send a volley of arrows, effected her escape, putting out the fire.

In the dark, the takiguchi called to his men. There was no response. Not a single man was there. To his surprise, he found himself on a lonely plain! He could see that he was now in the midst of the cremation ground at Toribé-no, located in the suburbs of the capital. (The only crematory in the Heian Era, Toribé-no was a word used as synonym of death in those days.) He thought that he had dismounted from his horse at the gate of the Tsuchimikado palace. He was mistaken. He recalled that he had turned back to go to Tsuchimikado. He was mistaken. He had come to this desolate and death-like crematory, instead. He imagined that he had seen many pine-torches burning in the dark after passing Ichijyo. He remembered seeing all these things clearly, including the two torch-carriers walking on each side of a carriage drawn by an ox. He was deplorably mistaken. Now he knew that the torches were nothing but the fire produced by foxes by stroking their tails.

Brave as he was, the takiguchi had no alternative but to go on foot. He had no horse to ride on. He returned home dog-tired and chagrined.

His fellow takiguchi officers at the station at Tsuchi-mikado, on the other hand, were wondering what had become of the takiguchi since he left on his adventure, and so sent a messenger to the takiguchi’s quarters to look for him two days later. The takiguchi, in the evening of the third day, presented himself at the station, feeling like a sick man. Asked his friends: “Did you go to catch the fox-girl the other evening?” Replied the takiguchi with some asperity: “No, I did not. I was ill, very ill.” Asked his fellow officers again: “What are you going to do now?” “I will go and catch her this evening,” was the re-joinder. Said another takiguchi, laughing: “Catch two of them this evening, I hope.”

The takiguchi left the station without saying a word. This time he said to himself: “The fox may not come this evening as it was out-witted by me the other night. If it appears this evening, I will never loosen my hold on it. Never! I will hold it all through the night. If it does not appear this evening, I will not present myself at the station, but keep to my quarters for some time.”

He set out on horseback followed by several strong men for the Kaya river. He soliloquised once more: “I’m going to be made a fool again! There is no help for it though since I said I would catch her.”

The fox-girl was not in sight when the takiguchi crossed the Kaya river by a bridge. However when he was coming back disheartened, he saw a different-seeming girl standing at the edge of the river. The girl accosted him, and said: “Hey, I want to ride to the capital behind you!” The takiguchi obliged her. However, the moment she was on horseback he lost no time in tying her up with a rope as before.

It was getting darker and darker as the takiguchi was riding along the Ichijyo road in the direction of the capital, accompanied by his men. He ordered his followers to kindle pine-torches and carry them ahead of him and beside his horse. They went on, but they saw nobody until they reached the Tsuchimikado palace. The takiguchi got off his horse. He seized the fox-girl firmly by her hair. She cried, but he would not have mercy on her. He brought her to the Takiguchi Station. He was deaf to her entreaties; and she seemed to realize her situation this time. The fellow officers came to see the captive. “So you have caught her at last, eh?” they said.

The fox-girl was tortured and tortured until she could stand it no longer and turned back into a fox. They scorched her hide with pine-torches. “O spare me!” the fox yelped plaintively. The takiguchi said: “We have given it a lesson. Set it free!” They released the fox, and it scampered off, limping.

About a week later, the takiguchi went to the Kaya river. He wanted to see the fox-girl again out of curiosity. She was there. She looked ill, and beaten. Said the takiguchi to the fox-girl: “Don’t you want to ride to the capital behind me?” Responded the fox in the guise of a pretty girl weakly: “I should like to ride on your horse; but I don’t like to have my precious fur scorched. No thank you.”

With that, she vanished.

So… what are some conclusions we can draw from this? (Outside of “Young women out by themselves are evidently considered fair game for rape, torture, and murder if you say “I thought she was a fox!”).

Uhm… OK. We have a rather simpleminded, and very repetitive prank – and, after being captured and threatened with rape (and there are far rougher tales) the Kitsune… alters it’s disguise slightly and does the same thing, in the same place, to the same man who had just captured, bound, and threatened to rape her a few days before.

In fact, it seems like all she’s learned the third time around (after being tortured) is not to climb up on a horse with that PARTICULAR soldier.

This isn’t scholarship award territory.

A lot of other tales are similar; many Kitsune are of about average intelligence, and there are some who are actually fairly clever or scholarly, but there are at least as many who are pretty simple-minded – and who usually wind up dead for trivial thefts (usually of food) and pranks. You don’t find stories about Kitsune who – say – go to an Inn and say “Hey… I’m hungry! If you feed me every day I’ll make your food and drink taste like the very finest in the land!

For foxes Kitsune are awfully bright. For humans… not so much. No intelligence modifier it is.

Basic Kitsune (One Tail, Physical Fox, Age 50-199):

  • +4 Dexterity, +2 Wisdom, -4 Constitution, -8 Strength. Reducing attributes gives back one-half the cost of increasing them – so this has a net cost of 0 CP.
  • Occult Senses/Low-Light Vision and Scent, Corrupted/Kitsune are rather doglike, and have a hard time adapting to “normal” standards; they tend to find carrion attractive, like to eat various bugs and rodents raw, and so on. This often gives them away (8 CP).
  • Celerity/+10 Ground Movement Speed (6 CP).
  • Immunity/Aging (Uncommon, Major, Major). This gives a Kitsune a potential lifespan of about 1200 years, spreading out their aging across the ages. This is, however, Specialized; Kitsune may not augment their physical abilities via transformation, totally conceal their true forms (there’s always some kind of clue), disguise their reflections in running water, or conceal their scents; no matter what they may eventually learn to turn into, they’re still foxes underneath (3 CP).
  • Universal Damage Reduction 2/- (3 CP). This has nothing to do with classical Kitsune, who are depressingly fragile even at the peak of their powers – but this is d20, so they get something.
  • Immunity/the normal XP cost of Innate Enchantments (Uncommon, Minor, Trivial [only covers cantrips and first level effects at caster level one], Specialized/only to cover their racial abilities, 1 CP).
  • Innate Enchantment: All effects unlimited-use use-activated at caster level one – for a base effective “cost” of 1000 GP per cantrip and 2000 GP per first level spell.

Cantrips: Dancing Lights, Flavor*, Ghost Scent*, Ghost Sound,

First Level Effects: Beglamourment*, Disguise Self, Enhance Attribute/+2 Charisma, Enhance Attribute/+2 to non-charisma attribute of choice, Expeditious Retreat, Humanoid Form*, Hypnotism, Jump, Magic Fang (allows them to bite for one point of damage), Pass Without Trace, Produce Flame, Silent Image, Speak with Animals, Tactile Illusion*

That’s 32,000 GP – or 33 CP – worth. This is Specialized and Corrupted for reduced cost however, reducing the cost to 11 CP:

  • Kitsune take damage from Dispel Magic and Antimagic effects – generally 1d4 per level of the caster up to 10d4 (once per minute for antimagic fields). Even a “young”, single-tailed, Kitsune is far, FAR, past a foxes “natural” lifespan – and only their shapeshifting magic keeps them alive. Dispelling that is a terrible shock – and while an antimagic field is slower, a Kitsune who fails to escape one will soon perish.
  • Kitsune Magic is an expression of concentration and fox instincts. When they are frightened, overcome with emotion, or injured, they must make a concentration check to avoid losing control and dropping effects which require even moderate concentration – such as all their illusions. They cannot escape their instincts without renouncing their magic either; when confronted with something that would trigger their instincts – angry dogs, distracting food, chances for sex, and similar short-term diversions – they must make a DC 15 willpower check to resist giving in.

This gives our basic Kitsune template a cost of 34 CP – a +1 ECL race. Whether fortunately or unfortunately however, your basic Kitsune has a Disadvantage: they’re social Outcasts – mostly unprotected by the law and generally considered untrustworthy. At -3 CP that brings the grand total down to 31 CP – just at the limit for a +0 ECL race.

Overall, a Kitsune who stays back and relies on their racial illusion-casting abilities can be quite effective. If they’re going adventuring, they’re probably best off as non-combative Clerical or Rogue types – where their wisdom and dexterity bonuses will stand them in good stead and their illusion abilities can effectively back up their class-based talents. It’s no surprise that the more reliable ones tend to hang around shrines and work for gods. That’s one of the best ways to stay out of the soup!

This is getting entirely too long – and taking up too much time. Ergo, the templates for kitsune with two or more tales are going to have to wait for next time.

New Spells:

Beglamourment, A.K.A. Fulfillment of Expectations: Illusion/Phantasm, Bard 1, Components V, Casting Time One Full Turn, Range Short, Target One Creature, Duration: One Hour, Saving Throw: Only if actively disbelieved, see below, and Spell Resistance Yes.

  • This subtle illusion causes it’s victim to perceive reality the way he or she thinks that it ought to be. If you talk about this marvelous little restaurant you found, and it’s talented chef, and the delicious food he serves, and cast this spell as you lead your victim to the place – a backstreet hovel that serves the worst food in the city in a tiny room – then for him it will be a marvelous little restaurant. It may be charmingly small, but there will be plenty of room for him and you.
  • Sadly, the effect does not cover up notable living creatures; you can hide the mice, rats, and roaches in your “marvelous restaurant”, but you and your “chef” will need your own disguises. It’s easy to break too; since it shows the victim what he expects, anything that disrupts those expectations will spoil the spell. Thus, anything that actually does the target harm – or an illusion that should do harm and does not – will break the spell. Spill cold gruel that’s supposed to be “boiling-hot gourmet soup” on your target, and he or she will know that something is wrong. Another “customer” who insists on shouting about the miserable hovel and how the roof is leaking on him will break the spell. A determined attempt to disbelieve will do so as well – and, when the spell is broken, it’s effects vanish utterly. Still, if you want to make a cramped den seem like a spacious mansion, then this is the spell for you.

Flavor: Transmutation, All Classes 0, Components V, S, Casting Time One Full Turn, Range Short, Target One up to 100 lb of food and drink, Duration: Permanent, Saving Throw: None, Spell Resistance No.

  • Flavor makes up to a hundred pounds of food and drink taste like whatever you like. Separate items may be given separate flavors, although this may extend the casting time since you must indicate each item.

Humanoid Form: Transmutation, Druid 1, Sorcerer 1, Bard 1, Components Special, Casting Time Special, Range Touch, Target Personal, Duration Special (D), Saving Throw None, Spell Resistance None.

  • Humanoid Form turns an animalistic user into an anthropomorphic animal – with an upright posture, hands, a voicebox that can handle speech. It can make the user seem medium-sized if smaller, but normally provides no other game-mechanical modifications. If cast as a standard action without components it lasts for one minute per caster level. Each optional component used in the casting extends the potential duration – changing it from minutes to hours, to days, and finally to years. Possible optional components include:
  • Adding a reusable focus item strongly linked to a humanoid race. That’s classically a skull, but any physical relic or important piece of human equipment that’s been presented to the caster will do.
  • Casting it as a ten-minute ritual.
  • Casting it in the presence of a humanoid with a positive emotional bond with the user.
  • Binding an additional permanent enchantment to the spell – although the item or ability so dedicated will be unusable for the duration, as it’s power is being drained to sustain the spell.
  • If at least three optional components are used, the effect becomes secure against loss of concentration.
  • If all four methods are used, the spell also grants interfertility with humanoids and the user can switch between full-animal and anthropomorphic animal forms as a free action for the duration.

Ghost Scent: As per Ghost Sound, but the user can produce a wide variety of smells instead. At the worst, this can be annoying and distracting, causing a -1 penalty to those creatures with a sense of smell who fail a DC 15 concentration check.

Tactile Illusion: As per Simple Image, but you can produce tactile sensations – making a lumpy mattr

ess feel soft, inducing annoying itching, the sensation of pebbles in peoples shoes, making an illusory wall feel solid (unless seriously pushed on), and so on. Used as an “attack” this can be annoying and distracting, causing a -1 penalty to those creatures who fail a DC 15 concentration check.

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5 Responses

  1. I like – quite a bit, actually. When I was looking at some of those same stories, it struck me that the “magic fox trickster” was plenty intelligent, but should theoretically have a very low Wisdom. They may understand things intellectually, but they tend to get themselves into trouble, having a very childish view of the world.

    However, that’s really awkward in d20, because divine(-ish) magic, having sharp senses, *and* a cunning mind are all aspects of Wisdom. And all of those are more or less associated with the legendary trickster foxes, too. So I think you’ve used the best balance practical given the limitations of the game.

    • I’m glad you like it!

      Personally, I always did like the explanation that “Intelligence told you all about why and how smoking was bad for you. Wisdom got you to quit” or “Intelligence lets you design bizarre devices. Wisdom tells you whether or not actually building them is a good idea”.

      Third edition tried so hard to give everything a mechanical application that it pretty much warped “Wisdom” out of all recognition. “Wisdom” used to be associated with experienced elders who could offer you useful advice based on long experience with how the world actually worked. They could tell you when something was a good or bad idea, offer comforting words in times of trouble, and knew how to endure life’s many trials.

      In third edition… it’s mostly associated with animals with sharp senses, quick instinctive reactions, and too little brain to be trained away from those instinctive responses (“Will Save Bonus”).

      “Stop trying to reinforce the levees below the village and sacrifice those fields; the waters will spread out there and reduce the pressure on the levees above the village – and you’ll have less area to reinforce. Most of the houses and fields will survive that way” has been replaced with “Woof! Woof! Pant!” (saying “I smell something!!! Frantic running in circles time! Why is my leash all wrapped around my legs? I fall down!”)

      Oh well. Every edition has it’s advantages.

  2. Hey, sorry I’m late to reply. I have loved what you have written so far. You managed to fulfill my expectations, even exceeded them, with only one exception. I admit that I worry that you might be insulted, which made me hesitate to answer so far. It is my nature to end up writing text which emphasis this nitpick I have, although otherwise I cannot find a single fault anywhere else – be it your entertaining writing, your sharp analysis or, certainly not least, your superb grasp of the base material. I just can’t think of writing anything what is not that condensed into basically two sentences.

    Well, without further ado, let’s get over with this… *gulp*

    It was news to me that foxes are even unable to kill a helpless baby, so assigning them these massive penalties to Strength and Constitution was unexpected, but logical. But the line: “Specialized; Kitsune may not augment their physical abilities via transformation” is kinda hard on them.

    Unfortunately, I definitively misunderstood the intention of this, when reading it the first time. I was thinking that even buffs might not work, which drew the dreadful memory of the AD&D belts of strength, which worked for all people, except for wizards. I really hate this particular rule, preventing the one kind to benefit, which would benefit the most. It is such a jerk-ass rule, which is also raising further questions: How does the belt know if you are a wizard? How does the belt react to multi-/dual-classed people?

    This whole of train of thought managed to taint my view of your work, which I only noticed after I already written everything until “But the line”. But I’m not going to change my text after I spent the time writing it, so this evolvement kinda kills tension I built up. *sigh* At least this explain nicely the reason for the delay.

    Well, I still want to clarify if the transformation part refers then to the “Alter Self”/”Wildshape”/”Shapechange” ability line only. Even that limitation is hard, killing half of the druid class. Which is kinda sucky. Would you allow players to buy of this specialization? Or is this so inherent in the race, you wouldn’t consider it except for special circumstances?

    • Well I’m glad you found it interesting! And criticism is not a worry; I have no objection to it at all – although I do get impatient when it doesn’t make sense…

      Personally, I too was a bit surprised when I tried researching “Fox Attacks”; I was expecting them to be more effective than THAT – but I really couldn’t find much of any records of them hurting people beyond a case of two sleeping infants who got badly bitten arms. Still, that did fit in with the Kitsune stories I was familiar with; they normally aren’t portrayed as being a serious physical danger to any human.

      The transformation limitation does save a few points – but it’s not like they couldn’t be made up elsewhere. It’s really just in there to maintain consistency with the source material.

      In the original stories… A Kitsune powerful enough to transform itself into a tree several hundred feet tall was killed because a pair of hunters shot an arrow each at the unnatural tree. Even without the toughness of wood, size alone should have made the arrows mere pinpricks – but apparently any hit on the tree was a hit on the fox, and it was just as vulnerable as an ordinary fox. Kitsune that had transformed themselves into samurai warriors were defeated by a merchant because their swords were mere reeds, their armor just fur, and he had a cane. They couldn’t harm him, while he slaughtered them. A kitsune who routinely took the form of an armed messenger (and did indeed carry messages) was killed by a stray dog; he might have looked like an armed and armored human, but he was still just a fox.

      Essentially, Kitsune transformations in the original tales were all illusory at best. (How that let them have kids with humans I don’t know – but spirits and ghosts could do it too, so it might be some inherent property of the setting). Keeping that consistent with a d20 writeup presents a problem though; d20 features powerful shapechanging effects that are quite real – and provide the relevant powers.

      Ergo, the limitation.

      Now… if you really want Kitsune to remain consistent with the classical stories you’d want to keep the limitation (and possibly limit transformation magic and the shapechanging line of abilities for other people too). That would probably do nicely for a “feudal japan” game.

      In other settings it matters a lot less. While buying off the limitation will let Kitsune evade their attribute penalties by taking a form with better strength and constitution, that will often mean giving up their dexterity bonus too – leaving them with a +2 Wisdom. That has it’s uses, but isn’t really gamebreaking. This option will make them quite a powerful race though.

  3. […] ECL Kitsune: Part I, Part II, and Part III (with higher ECL […]

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