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The Dao That Can Be Taught (A Xianxia Teacher Quest)

Discussion in 'Questing' started by Leingod, Jun 4, 2020.

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  1. Threadmarks: Character Creation, Part 1
    Leingod

    Leingod Immaculate Blooming Lotus

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    Cultivation. The pursuit of power and immortality, but above all, self-perfection and personal transcendence. For those who have the talent and the opportunity, it is the pursuit of countless mortal lifetimes, a long and dangerous road regardless of which of the nigh-countless paths one may approach it from, for there are perhaps more paths toward the ultimate ends of cultivation than there are cultivators alive in the world today.

    But whatever their paths, and wherever they may be from, cultivators often find they share more interests and concerns than they do any “mortal,” and so cultivators have in many ways become something of a separate society, though certainly one that intersects and interacts with the mundane world in many ways and places.

    In the society of cultivators, as with “mundane” society, few can make it on their own for very long. Organizations – sects, clans, and so on – are legion. Founded with the goal of sharing and passing down knowledge and resources and providing security and respect, these sects form the backbone of an intricate and often cutthroat society, filled with intrigue and violence both external and often internal.

    All something you've long since gotten used to, for you have traveled far from the very beginning of your journey, though you're certainly still far from its end. You've reached a key point in your journey of cultivation, a transitory period where you haven't yet joined the ranks of the venerable masters of the cultivation world, but are no longer really one of the “younger generation” anymore. We might say that you've gone from being an apprentice to a journeyman.

    Still, as you see the path ahead of you, you can't help but look back on what led up to it. All the way back to the beginning...

    What are your origins? (Note: Your parents aren't necessarily dead, except of course if you choose “Urchin.” It's just easier to refer to them in the past tense here.)

    [] An urchin (+1 Resolve)
    Alone in the world, you had to struggle desperately just to survive each day. This has hardened your resolve, granting you a stronger will. You're also quite the talented scavenger, with a knack for finding any scrap of value from things that others might throw away as worthless, and you've got a little dragon's hoard of such odds-and-ends of assorted “junk” that isn't immediately useful to you, but could very well turn out to be handy for someone else or in some other situation. People might accuse you of being a hoarder, but what do they know?

    [] A peasant's child (+1 Constitution)
    Your parents were farmers, or day laborers, or something along those lines. You started helping your parents from a young age, and that early experience with hard, honest labor made you a lot more industrious and able to spend long hours doing the exhausting, dull, repetitive work of physical conditioning without tiring or losing focus, so you were able to develop a better constitution. You've also gotten quite skilled in applying your early lessons to producing some raw good or material useful for cultivators; maybe you're good at growing herbs for alchemists to use, or tending and butchering livestock suitable for spirit chefs. It's not exactly prestigious, but there's always demand.

    [] A merchant's child (+1 Fortune)
    Your parents were merchants of some kind, maybe itinerant peddlers, or maybe they ran some big fancy pavilion where huge sums traded hands. Either way, you were something of a good luck charm for them, because you just seem to naturally attract not just wealth, but opportunity. And you haven't rested on that; indeed, you've developed quite a keen eye for figuring out both what things are worth, how badly someone wants it, and what they're willing to do or part with to get it. This insight has helped you build up a neat little nest egg through trading, and you've so far managed to avoid pissing off anyone you couldn't afford to piss off.

    [] An entertainer's child (+1 Comprehension)
    Your parents were each some kind of entertainer or artist. Maybe they panhandled on the street, or perhaps they were famous and in high demand. Whatever they were, whether they got rich and famous from it or not, they were very good at it, so you learned from some of the best, and there's a surprising number of cultivation methods, techniques and items that benefit from being good at something like dance or music. You also learned how to read and play to an audience, whether that be a crowd or an individual, and that helped you in making useful connections as well as a better reputation.

    [] A scholar's child (+1 Comprehension & Resolve, -1 Constitution)
    Your parents were of scholarly backgrounds. They might have been government officials, or perhaps they were doctors, teachers, or maybe they just spent all their time philosophizing or inventing things, whether it made money or not. Regardless, you inherited not just at least some of their knowledge, you inherited a love of learning and the critical thinking skills to do more than just blindly take in information; as it turns out, that's pretty handy for a cultivator to have! And what's more, you've developed a truly impressive drive to seek out the Dao, which may in fact be even handier.

    On the other hand, well, reading books all the time doesn't exactly lead to a strong body that can easily handle the strains and stresses put on it by cultivating or fighting. You nerd.

    [] A warrior's child (+1 Constitution & Resolve, -1 Comprehension)
    Your parents fought for a living, which in a world like this virtually necessitates at least being in the first stage of cultivation to last very long. They might have been soldiers, or wandering martial artists, or maybe a local champion in a village or small town, protecting them from minor threats like bandits and weak monsters. Regardless, they recognized very early on that your potential greatly dwarfed their own, and did all they could to nurture that talent. As a result, they focused almost entirely on building up your fundamentals before you became a proper cultivator, giving you a very solid base to work from without tying you to an inferior method. Your constitution is excellent, and the discipline instilled in you by your parents ensures that you have the will to keep going long after others have quit.

    On the other hand, your comprehension of the intricacies and mysteries of cultivation isn't as great. There is certainly strength in simplicity, but there's only so much you can learn that way.

    [] A noble's child (+1 Comprehension & Fortune, -1 Resolve)
    Your parents inherited great wealth and you enjoyed both resources aplenty and a top-notch education; perhaps they were even scions of some royal family? They were probably also cultivators, as the benefits of even beginning down that road grants some benefits that are hard to pass up and can potentially be paid for if you've got the money to burn. Regardless, the very circumstances of your birth already prove that you're a much more fortunate soul than most, and on top of that, your natural talent at comprehending cultivation is good, too.

    On the other hand, leading a charmed life as a rich and talented child means your resolve in the face of difficulties and suffering are as yet untested. Perhaps before your body or your mind, it is your resolve that will fail you one day.

    [] A cultivator's child (+1 Comprehension & Constitution, -1 Fortune)
    Cultivation is essentially a family business, so even if you didn't have as much talent as you do, your path was pretty much set from the start. Luckily, you do have talent aplenty for cultivation, and so you were invested with the resources and training to make sure it didn't go to waste, with both body and mind being honed for greatness.

    On the other hand, it seems that perhaps you used up much of your accrued good fortune to have such opportunities, as while you haven't exactly been living as a jinx, your luck definitely isn't great. Fortunate encounters and untapped resources aren't exactly falling into your lap, you know?
     
  2. Threadmarks: Character Creation, Part 2
    Leingod

    Leingod Immaculate Blooming Lotus

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    [] A scholar's child (+1 Comprehension & Resolve, -1 Constitution)

    You grew up among books and scrolls, and the smell of paper and ink are ever-present in your early memories. You still find noises like the light rustling of papers and the strokes of a brush quietly soothing, and you can still recall with perfect clarity many of the early lessons your parents taught you, not just in the expected topics but also in encouraging you to think critically and examine information rather than simply memorize the accepted classics and interpretations thereof by rote and regurgitate it onto an essay to pass a civil service exam. These lessons have served you remarkably well in the years since; the sheer number of even your fellow “scholarly” cultivators who struggle to think more deeply than the surface level of a lesson has never failed to shock and appall.

    ---X---

    In the wake of the collapse of Eternal Xia, there was a period of great chaos and devastation, as the vast lands it had once ruled fragmented into countless successor states and feuding warlords. Over time, successful states managed to consolidate, coalescing into fewer, more stable polities; for many centuries now, that number has held steady, and currently this age is called the Eighteen Kingdoms.

    Of those eighteen, the one in which you were born is called Yi, a kingdom founded in a region that has been known since ancient times as the “Land of Scholars” or the “Scholar's Paradise;” to this day, it hosts the most and the most famous and reputable institutions of learning. In addition, the region is famous for the production of high-quality paper and writing tools (inkstones, inks, brushes), with each city boasting some local specialty for the discerning scholar, along with countless printing houses. On the streets of the capital, public debates are almost a spectator's sport, and the exchange of ideas is perhaps freer than anywhere else in the known world. Of course, not everyone sees that as a good thing, and this status quo is currently quite fragile.

    But you're getting off track; something of a bad habit of yours, actually. Regardless, this scholarly character and reputation affects the kinds of cultivators and cultivation typically seen in Yi just as it affects mundane society. For one, Yi has more cultivation schools than any other kingdom, and the ranks of its greatest sects are dominated by its greatest schools. There are certainly powerful sects, clans, and even a few famous associations and cults, including this one foreign cult that's recently established a foothold and quickly become a force to be reckoned with locally, but overall, the schools predominate. And if one were wholly ignorant of how rife with factional disputes and rival schools of thought and establishments that become almost doctrinal in their refusal to budge from outdated positions and theories mundane academia can become, one might suppose this would mean the cultivation world of Yi is much more reasonable and free of ugly, pointless conflict than it is elsewhere.

    No one, not even cultivators, exist in a vacuum. Virtually everyone inevitably ends up tied into the tangled social web of friendships, alliances, intrigues, and enmities that would seem to belie the typical image of the cultivator as some mountain hermit calmly meditating on the deepest secrets of the universe. Simply put, no one gets to reach that point in one go, and until then, no man is an island. And you are no exception.

    When you stepped onto the road of cultivation in earnest, as someone truly seeking to follow the path to its end rather than merely dabbling for its ancillary perks, were you the first of your family to do so?

    [] Yes. I'm the first of my family to take up cultivation as a serious pursuit. (+1 Resolve)
    You've embarked on a path that separates you from your mortal family as well as mortal affairs. Though a sad and lonely thing, it has some advantages as well as disadvantages: The lack of preexisting relationships and commitments in the cultivation world gives you more options when you decide on things like what kind of organization (if any) you've become affiliated with (though if you want to vote to be part of a clan you'll need to be either adopted or married into it), and you'll have more control over who your friends and enemies are.

    [] No. My parents are not mere dabblers, but are in fact talented cultivators themselves. (+1 Comprehension)
    It's actually one or both of your parents are actually the ones who are first-generation, not you. Though neither of them had your talent, it seems you got the best of both of them. They might be affiliated with an organization, or they could even be loose cultivators. Either way, though, they've surely made their own share of friends and enemies, in addition to any potential connections their affiliations might bring, for good or ill. You still aren't likely to face a whole lot of either, though, mostly because your parents haven't stood out that much. But it's certainly nice to know that you won't be outliving them for many years to come. Also, while it's somewhat unusual, you probably aren't going to face a whole lot of pressure if you embark on a different path in your choice of organization... at least so long as you don't try to join their sworn enemies!

    [] No. In fact, my family has produced quite a number of cultivators. (+1 Constitution)
    Not only are your parents cultivators, but they're only the latest (well, second-latest) in several generations of cultivators. Or at least, one of them is, it's possible one or the other is still first-generation, but that doesn't really matter right now. On the one hand, the very fact that talent for cultivation runs in the family is good news if you want to have kids later, and it also gives you access to a wellspring of experience and resources from your elders to draw on. On the other, you're more or less obligated to join whatever organization your parents are part of (which isn't set in stone, you just have fewer options to vote on to reflect the fact that your family has, for example, probably not spent generations as part of the new religious sect that's shown up and established itself recently, or the association body cultivating martial artists), and you're guaranteed to inherit both alliances and enmities that are probably older than you can currently fathom.

    ---X---

    AN: A brief primer on the different types of cultivation organizations that will be seen most often in this quest:

    Sects (zōng or pài) are the considered the “standard” of cultivation organizations, and any reader of xianxia is doubtless familiar with the typical structure and character of the usual sect. For those who aren't, though, a sect is an organization pretty much wholly dedicated to cultivation. The disciples of a sect will always live within the sect, which provides for their daily needs and provides instruction in cultivation given by elders. Sects are pretty much always extremely hierarchical, with respect for pretty much anyone above you in that hierarchy being demanded. They also often foster a hyper-competitive culture to drive their disciples to keep them from getting complacent, and often your access to better resources is contingent on performing missions for the good of the sect. Often, teaching is done in a master-apprentice fashion, with elders selecting promising students to give personal instruction as their personal disciples.

    Cults (jiào) is just a blanket term for sects with a strong religious character (you know, beyond the general Daoist background noise of cultivation in general; often there's at least one major Buddhist sect somewhere); most don't actually refer to themselves as such. Though of course a lot of demonic sects get labeled “cults” as well. The specifics of its organization and methods of teaching vary tremendously depending on the exact religious makeup of the cult in question, so it's hard to generalize.

    Schools (mén) are sometimes just used to refer to a sect with a notably scholarly bent to it, but in this world it refers to a kind of cultivation organization that's more like a university than a typical sect, with a more structured curriculum for teaching, though singular master-apprentice relationships often aren't forbidden so much as de-emphasized, and not all of them require students to live on-campus. In general, schools don't produce as many stellar talents, but often produce cultivators of a higher overall standard. Schools aren't always particularly scholarly, incidentally; many are very heavy on body cultivation and martial arts, for instance.

    Clans (jiā) are pretty much exactly what you'd think they are, extended families of cultivators. Usually you have to be born into a clan, and most members of a clan will, of course, all have the same surname, but it's certainly not unheard of for someone to be adopted or married into a clan for various reasons. Clans most often form due to some ability or cultivation method that is only or most easily passed down through a bloodline rather than simply through teaching a talented pupil, though sometimes the founder just decided it'd be easier to trust the bonds of kinship rather than master-pupil relationships to keep everyone loyal and working together. How well that works in practice, of course, will vary tremendously.

    Associations (bāng) might also be translated as unions, gangs, or brotherhoods. Essentially, it refers to a loose organization of cultivators who have come together out of some common interest or mutual goal. Usually, these are a lot less rigid and hierarchical in their structure than others, and there might not even be a set method of teaching or inducting new members, with that being left to individual members to figure out. Much as with cults, it's hard to generalize because they can vary so much in character. Probably the most famous kinds of associations in wuxia are the “band of brothers struggling together to do heroic stuff” types, like the 108 Stars of Destiny in Water Margin.
     
    Kildar, Kornet, Taisei and 27 others like this.
  3. Threadmarks: Character Creation, Part 3
    Leingod

    Leingod Immaculate Blooming Lotus

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    [] Yes. I'm the first of my family to take up cultivation as a serious pursuit. (+1 Resolve)
    You're beginning to understand why so many other first-generation cultivators tend to drift away and cut ties with their family; it's still a little disconcerting to see how much more quickly they age than you, and you can hardly imagine how that must feel on the other end. What does someone like your younger brother think, paying his respects in front of his own adult children to an older sibling that now looks young enough to be his...

    [] son

    [] daughter

    Well, it's not like you regret choosing this path, and in any case it's much too late for regrets to be of any help to anyone, least of all yourself.

    Though, speaking of your appearance, a common misconception among those who aren't dedicated cultivators is that they are somehow above simple vanity about physical appearance, and that it's simply an incidental part of the process of cultivation that gives them such unearthly appearances.

    In plain fact, cultivators as a group are probably the vainest and most appearance-obsessed people on the planet, something that is only enhanced by the sheer variety of options they have for looking how they please and the fact that advancing along in one's cultivation allows them to magnify whatever kind of ideal they wish to present and embody in their appearance. It is not some strange coincidence that among elders and old masters, the men almost all tend to look like distinguished-yet-vigorous old sages and the women almost universally marry stately maturity with breathtaking beauty; it's a sure sign that even among cultivators, vanity prevails, even if the form that vanity takes tends to vary between the sexes.

    Since after a certain point in one's cultivation it's more or less a conscious choice, how one has chosen to “develop” their appearance says a lot about them. Not necessarily in that it tells you who they are, but in that it tells you how they want to be seen by others, which is sometimes even more useful to know. It can also give some indication of strength within a given level, since the extent to which one has developed their appearance into a particular ideal is in large part contingent on their actual power. So, yes, the most beautiful usually are the most powerful, at least among those who pursue what is commonly understood as “beauty.”

    In that vein, what kind of look have you chosen to go for? (To be clear, none of these has any actual effect on stats, techniques, etc.)

    [] Scholarly and refined
    A favorite among both dedicated scholarly types and many sword cultivators, and perhaps apropos considering your origins. A tall and slender build (but not too slender; the goal is to look willowy, not reedy), often with more angular features and keen-looking (or cold) eyes, hair typically worn long and bound in some simple, low-maintenance hairstyle. Long flowing robes that are always spotless and perfectly arranged are a must, of course.

    [] Bold and heroic
    Mostly you just take the description of “scholarly and refined” above, add a bit more bulk (but not too much) and make sure to always have a confident smile or smirk that you can easily turn into a more friendly expression when you want someone to think they're your buddy. Those who want to look “cool” without giving the impression of being aloof typically go for this look rather over the above.

    [] Friendly and laid-back
    Equally popular among those who actually are approachable and friendly sorts or those who just want to get people to let their guards down. Though a friendly and open expression is obviously paramount, most of selling this look comes in the details. Hair and clothes worn more for comfort and ease than appeal, and perhaps worn just slightly askew or otherwise a bit appealingly mussed to give the impression that one has eternally just woken up from a nap, but not so much so as to look actually slovenly.

    A popular subset of this kind of look is the “absent-minded scholar,” which usually just necessitates the small addition of smelling faintly of ink and paper all the time.

    [] Contemplative and wise
    Often the kind of look pursued by the monastically-inclined, or just those who want to look like wise hermits. Clothing is simple and unadorned, perhaps even worn and tattered, and the hair is either shaven completely or left long and wild, depending. It's the eyes that really sell the look, though, as well as a certain calmness not just in expression but in bearing that sells the impression of detached, ethereal wisdom.

    [] Seductive and alluring
    The signature look of a femme fatale or a gigolo... or, at least, someone who wants to be thought of/written off as such. A slender, sinnuous build that bulges in all the right places and smoldering eyes come standard, of course, but really this kind of look is sold almost entirely through body language. Though a very daring sense of fashion certainly never goes amiss.

    [] Haughty and regal
    Somewhat like “seductive and alluring” in that this is the pursuit of the height of conventional beauty, just approached from very different ends of that spectrum. This is a much more stately, unapproachable kind of beauty, the kind that gets women in particular labeled “ice queens” or “heavenly fairies” and such. Among the younger generations in particular this kind of look is the most common by far, though that only serves to further highlight those who actually have the power to pull it off and makes the wannabes easy to spot.

    (To be clear: You're one of the ones who can pull it off. Not, like, #1 Beauty Under Heaven, but you'd definitely rank in a lot of those ever-present lists of the hottest young cultivators. In addition to being extremely vain, cultivators are inveterate gossips and compulsive list-writers)

    [] Strong and vigorous
    Mostly the reserve of very physically-inclined cultivators and martial artists, though there's certainly something to be said for its use by others, either for purposes of intimidation or to invite underestimation in the mental sphere. As one might well imagine, muscles, not necessarily bulging but definitely well-defined and rippling, are a must, and clothes that show them off – often by being strategically torn or ripped – only slightly less so.

    [] Write-In
    It's certainly possible I've overlooked something, or that you want to look eclectic or eccentric as some kind of statement, whether that be philosophical or fashionable. Keep the description in broad strokes like the ones above and somewhat brief, please. Also, looking deliberately monstrous or inhuman is out; not because it isn't possible, but it's usually taken as a sign of one's cultivation being heterodox if not heretical and so is inadvisable to attempt.
     
  4. Threadmarks: Character Creation, Part 4
    Leingod

    Leingod Immaculate Blooming Lotus

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    [] son
    [] Strong and vigorous

    Whether you decided a strong mind could only reside in a strong body, you wanted to trip people up and cause them to underestimate you, or you just really wanted a strong, muscular physique, you certainly look the part of a strong warrior, wherever your actual capacity might lie.

    (AN: If you do want those muscles to be for more than just show, I'd recommend taking at least a few options that will increase Constitution)

    With that out of the way, we come to the question of what kind of cultivation organization you've joined, or indeed whether you've done so at all. The Kingdom of Yi is most famous for its schools, but cultivators of all stripes are found at every level of its cultivation hierarchy. Where in that hierarchy do your affiliations lie? (The stat points/social link thing in these votes doesn't lead to immediate changes in your stats, but rather changes the amount of points you can freely assign in the next vote)

    [] A loose cultivator (++stat points, -social links)

    You're something as rare as hen's teeth – no, sorry, as rare as qilin horns and phoenix feathers. Most independent or “loose” cultivators are nobodies; even if they manage to reach this level of cultivation or even higher, they're almost universally somewhere in the bottom rung within that stage. Even with your prodigious talent, you likely wouldn't have come this far, at least not with the deeds you've already got under your belt and the potential you've already realized, if you didn't have a much better teacher than most. Your master, whoever they are, are one of those very few independents who've “made good” and earned the respect and regard of the cultivation world, and it looks like you might well follow in those steps.

    While your master certainly has their share of friends and enemies, they aren't actually from around here, and so most of your starting connections are entirely your own. The rest of the local cultivation “scene” definitely has their eye on you, but they'll let your own words and actions decide their opinions on you, a rare thing indeed for a cultivator to have.

    Since your master is so important with this option, you'll get a vote to influence what they're like later if you pick this one.

    [] A minor sect (+stat points, normal social links)

    You were recruited by a nearby minor sect, perhaps due to one of its members being acquainted with your family. Minor organizations rise and fall in power and influence like tides and waves, often beneath the notice of established powers. But it's in the crucible that struggle for every inch of power and influence that many great sects have been forged.

    In a minor sect, you're the very embodiment of their dreams of a brighter future, and they've pinned all their hopes of future success on you. You're virtually guaranteed to be the next head of the sect, and if not for the fact that it's critical for you to go out into the world in pursuit of your Dao to get even stronger, they'd probably be adamant about not letting you out of their sight or protection. There's a lot of hopes riding on you, but that also means you have their full and complete support in pretty much anything you do that isn't obviously suicidal.

    Since there are so many minor sects, you'll get to vote on what yours is like if you pick this.

    [] A major sect (normal stat points, +social links)

    You either sought out or were recruited by one of the major sects of the region. While not as prone to rise and fall as the nigh-countless minor sects, there is still a certain amount of dynamism among those sects who acquire enough power and influence to be considered a cut above the rest and below only the “Four Pillars” in esteem. The number is prone to flux, but is usually no fewer than 10 and never as many as 20. Currently, there are 12 in all: 6 schools, 3 sects, 2 clans, and just 1 association.

    In a major sect, you're still their greatest disciple, and probably at least being strongly considered as the eventual successor, but they're more thinking that you'll secure their status as a major sect for centuries to come, or perhaps even make them “first among equals” in that category. They don't entertain any hope that you'll single-handedly make a great sect out of them, that would be insane, so that's at least less pressure on you.

    [] A great sect (-stat points, ++social links)

    You either sought out or were recruited by one of the “Four Pillars,” as people have taken to calling them now that a fourth great sect has risen in Yi for the first time. These are the mightiest sects whose base is located in the Kingdom of Yi. Each of them are treated with deference and respect by their lessers, and usually hold themselves aloof from the “petty affairs” of those beneath them, both other sects and the kingdom itself (or rather, they claim to do so), and are often engaged in cutthroat but usually non-violent rivalry with each other. The “fourth pillar” is a bit of an odd duck in that regard, though.

    In a great sect, even if you join the upstart “fourth pillar,” you're by no means the only “young genius” they've cultivated in this generation, though you are at least in the top 3. You're certainly still hot shit, but your sect has seen stars just as bright as yours crash and burn before, so they're going to temper their expectations, and advise you to do the same.

    ---X---

    AN: To be clear, your actual level of overall strength/competence won't change significantly between these options (also, "social links" refers to both good and bad relationships: friends, rivals, enemies, lovers, the works). The “lower” on the totem pole you are, the more you made up for the less efficient training and resources through sheer talent and discovering things yourself, which makes you a bit eclectic and unpolished but also less predictable and better at experimenting and adapting. Similarly, while being the student of one of the greatest sects in the lands is naturally going to put you well above other options in terms of social status, those sects have a lot of disciples, and while you're certainly one of the best they've had in some time, you aren't their one and only hope for reaching new heights, so while they've got a whole lot of weight to throw around, they aren't always going to be willing to go all-in for you like a smaller sect might when you really need it. Plus, excelling as much as you have means more in terms of how much people respect your talents personally if you don't come from the super-elite sects that have a reputation for churning out the best and brightest already, as then at least some of your glory is going to be attributed to them, not you.

    But then again, a bigger sect does have a lot of weight to throw around, and a lot of resources to kick your way, even if they aren't going to be willing to put all their eggs in your basket.

    Further, while they'll be more fleshed out either in play or if you pick the associated option, the names of the major and great sects are as follows:

    The Six Major Schools are the Hundred Herbs School, the Eight Virtues School, the Southern Immortal Star School, the Spring and Autumn Scripture School, the Water Mirror School, and the Seven Stars Sword School.

    The Three Major Sects (also the “Three Mountain Sects”) are the Clear Wind (Mountain) Sect, the Twin Dragon (Mountain) Sect, and the Peach Blossom (Mountain) Sword Sect.

    The Two Major Clans are the Thunderbird Clan and the River Snake Clan.

    The One Major Association is the Black Cat Brotherhood.

    The Four Pillars are the Heaven's Rain School, the Three Teachings Sword School, the Dragon's Gate Sect, and the upstart White Lotus Sect/Cult (depending on who you ask and who's in earshot when you ask).
     
    Last edited: Oct 28, 2020
  5. Threadmarks: Character Creation, Part 5
    Leingod

    Leingod Immaculate Blooming Lotus

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    [] A loose cultivator (++stat points, -social links)

    In the journey to reach immortality, the Imperial/Orthodox model of cultivation recognizes six major phases, usually called Realms or Stages (each of which has its own name that varies by cultivation method), each with twelve minor phases (meaning there are a total of seventy-two), called Levels and a multitude of other things dependent on specific variations (Clouds, Stars, etc.). To successfully transcend the 12th Level of the 6th Realm is to attain the status of an Immortal. The journey doesn't necessarily end there, of course, but that isn't important to you right now.

    Your master is at the higher levels of the 6th Realm, though they've told you their (hopeful) ascendance to the status of an immortal is still at least a century or so away. With your recent breakthrough to the 4th Realm, their instruction and protection is going to be much more hands-off than it was in the past, but they're still keenly interested in your future progress, especially since it necessitates that you take up the mantle of a teacher early due to your exceedingly rare Dao of Origin (but more on that later).

    Obviously, the influence of your master has rubbed off on you. And not just in the ways one might assume, like what disciplines and techniques you know and have received extra training in, but also in how you as a teacher are going to relate to your students. This isn't to say you'll try to mirror your master's teaching style: It might be that you want to be anything but the kind of teacher they were!

    You would describe your master as...

    [] Illusive and mercurial

    Known in the cultivation world as the “Veil of Mist,” your master is famous for their skills in deception, misdirection, and illusion. Easily bored and allergic to routine, you have no idea what your master's true appearance is, if such a term can even apply to them anymore, as they prefer to radically alter how they look at least once a week, often with minor changes from day to day, and they often play tricks and tell lies simply to stay in practice or just stave off boredom.

    Your master never gives a straight answer or direct lesson if they can help it, and often engineers elaborate set-ups and scenarios to teach you important skills and applications of techniques, usually with an underlying message to never take anything at face value and to “look underneath the underneath.” Though sometimes they just do it to mess with you and keep you on your toes.

    [] Passionate and demanding

    Known in the cultivation world as the “Heaven-Shaking Thunderbolt,” your master is famous for the sheer destructive power they can bring to bear. From parts far, far west, your master claims their incredible power over the element of lightning originates from the teachings of a mighty storm god who supposedly ruled the world in ancient times. These teachings draw on reckless passion and a mighty will that doesn't bend before others, and so your master is infamously proud and overbearing, quick to lash out with their powerful spear arts and lashing bolts of lightning.

    Your master believes in the maxim “Don't think, feel.” Your instruction has often been in a single demonstration followed by long, exhausting spars that only end when you can successfully recreate the demonstrated technique or principle, then yet more sparring until you can do it intuitively without a moment's thought. Where most Orthodox methods of cultivation stress detachment and calm, your master's foreign teachings stress being in touch with your passions and emotions, drawing on them for greater reserves of strength.

    [] Down-to-earth and practical

    Known in the cultivation world as the “Jade-Armed Craftsman,” your master is famous for their incredible skills in both artifact-crafting and in geomancy, a discipline that combines architecture and array-crafting to create buildings, fortifications, or other structures that function as powerful spell arrays and breathtaking works of art at the same time. Their skills are always in high demand, and your master has made no small fortune from selling their services at a premium on commissions, though you've often heard them grumble in frustration at the stifling demands of their customers.

    Your master firmly believes that experience is the best teacher, and a lot of your teaching has been assigning you numerous jobs and missions of varying levels of danger and difficulty, with minimal oversight or protection. Your failures, you were often told, are even more instructive than your successes, so long as you live long enough to learn. That's not to say you were just abandoned on your own to figure things out; your master often told you everything you'd done wrong in explicit and exacting detail to make sure the right lessons were learned, and if you ever really and truly got in over your head, you were first rescued and then set to some lengthy and crushingly dull task as punishment to make sure you never made that mistake again.

    [] Righteous and stern

    Known in the cultivation world as the “Sky-Piercing Sword Sage,” your master is, of course, famous for their swordsmanship, which is renowned for its speed and elegant simplicity (and the accompanying killing efficiency). Like most sword cultivators, they're firm and dauntless in their beliefs to the point of being hopelessly stubborn, and in this case they're known far and wide as exceptionally righteous and unyielding in the face of evil.

    Your master is also like many sword cultivators in that he's an obsessive perfectionist. Your instruction has been filled with endless, repetitive drills of the same basic movements and techniques, over and over, both in swordsmanship and in virtually everything else, until your master was satisfied with your execution. Practice, practice, practice, has been the order of the day pretty much every day for you.

    [] Compassionate and gentle

    Known in the cultivation world as the “Life-Giving Hand of God,” your master is not only a famous physician, but a deft hand in the care and raising of strong and healthy plants and animals of all stripes. And, of course, the best way to not get sick or injured is to be strong and healthy, so they know a great deal about diet, exercise, and of course, body cultivation. Though compassionate and always preferring to talk rather than fight, your master is the farthest thing from a pushover, with extraordinary physical prowess and the hand-to-hand and staff skills to match.

    Your master is a very helpful and accommodating teacher, never sparing with praise when you do well and encouragement when you struggle, and firm but gentle in correcting your errors. Actual punishment was spared except in cases of actual misbehavior, like willful attempts to take advantage of their usual good nature to slack off, and their clear disappointment was far more hurtful on those rare occasions than the actual punishment itself.

    [] Creative and eccentric

    Known in the cultivation world as the “White Flash in the Waves,” your master is renowned for three things: their multitude of artistic talents, their skill with the saber, and their eclectic, independent nature. They take up only whatever causes or jobs can hold their interest and ideally give them inspiration of some kind for some work of art.

    Your master has what can only loosely be called a real teaching style; mostly they let you follow your interests wheresoever they may drift. They'll certainly give you instruction and assistance as appropriate, but otherwise allow your talents to develop organically, albeit with frequent probing questions about the paths you choose and decisions you make. According to them, this is much akin to art; one does not simply carve out a sculpture, one frees the sculpture waiting within the medium.

    [] Intellectual and patient

    Known in the cultivation world as the “Jade Brush Scholar,” your master is a renowned polymath in various scholarly fields, and among cultivators is particularly well-known for their abilities in divination, talisman-crafting, and spell arrays. They've also collected a very large catalog of cultivation methods, techniques, etc. for a loose cultivator, though they consider most of that collection mere curiosities of little practical use to themselves.

    Your master has a very methodical and organized approach to teaching, usually in the form of scheduled lectures followed by lengthy question-and-answer sessions and even assigning you homework and exams on your studies, though often with some practical element to show you how to actually apply the principles you learn. Discipline, if needed, is usually just assigning more work. Given that you're their only student, these lessons are always personalized to your particular talents and studying habits to maximize efficiency.

    ---X---

    Your earlier choice means you have FOUR free points to distribute among the four major stats we'll be using, and none that are pre-assigned.

    Current Stats: Comprehension 7, Constitution 5, Resolve 8, Fortune 6

    [] Write-In where you want to spend the points

    Example: Comprehension +2, Constitution +1, Resolve +1
     
    Kildar, R.A.G., Taisei and 25 others like this.
  6. Threadmarks: Character Creation, Part 6
    Leingod

    Leingod Immaculate Blooming Lotus

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    [] Down-to-earth and practical

    [] Comprehension +3, Constitution +1

    [Comprehension 10, Constitution 6, Resolve 8, Fortune 6]

    Right, right, of course. How could I not have remembered your master is the one known far and wide as the “Jade-Armed Craftsman,” Jin Wenbing? Even the Four Pillars showed some interest at the news that a renowned artisan like that was taking on an apprentice for the first time in over a century; after all, they might one day be commissioning great works from you!

    Obviously, a famous loose cultivator taking on a disciple with no preexisting connection to themselves is doing so because that disciple shows a clear aptitude for inheriting their own specialties. And indeed, Jin Wenbing's keen eyes didn't fail him that day. One might liken you to a sponge for how readily you absorbed everything you were taught, but even that would be to sell you short, since you did a lot more than just learn by rote, and instead sought to truly understand the principles behind them and how they could be applied elsewhere. Your early education under your parents saw you in good stead, clearly.

    ---

    Your master has always complained about many aspects of cultivator society, foremost among them the ever-present vain and gossipy nature that lurks just below a facade of cool detachment from the world. Things like the profusion of nicknames, titles, and reams of lists (formal and informal) of all kinds have always annoyed him. Perhaps you might share this attitude, if for no other reason than the fact that the nickname someone coined that eventually stuck to you had little to do with your skills or deeds, but is mostly just a comment on your appearance. Not the most flattering one, either.

    Your arms, you see, are very large; not just with muscle, though that's also true, but in length; when you stand straight with hands at your sides, your fingers actually reach past your knees. What's more, despite the size and musculature of your arms, your hands are exceptionally quick and nimble, even above and beyond that of your peers; this is the result of special training under your master's guidance, as exceptional manual dexterity is required in many aspects of craftsmanship. Because of that, someone coined the nickname “Long-Armed Ape” (通臂猿 tōng bì yuán), and it stuck.*

    ---

    But enough about appearances and nicknames. The real substance of your reputation is in the deeds you've done, and more importantly right now, the skills you used to accomplish them! So, what particular pursuits have you excelled in enough to get people to start talking about them?

    Choose [3]:

    [] Alchemy
    Wanna be a pharmacist? Alchemy is basically the process of creating all kinds of fabulous and fantastical drugs out of flora, fauna, and other, stranger things. The possibilities are almost endless; healing drugs, performance-enhancing drugs, poisonous drugs, mind-altering drugs, body-altering drugs, pretty much any kind of drug you can think of. Successful cultivation in a timely manner generally demands some combination of natural talent, hard work, and drug abuse. And why just be another drug abuser when you could also be the drug supplier?

    [] Art
    Obviously almost everyone specializes in one particular artistic pursuit or at most a few. Painting, calligraphy, dance, various instruments, etc. Even stuff like gardening counts. We can figure the specifics out later.
    Why would you pick this? What, you need a reason to be cultured? Well, art is good for the soul, and those who can express and understand themselves and the world through art tend to be better at comprehending and passing on ideas that would otherwise be too complicated to grasp in ordinary ways. And of course there's stuff like figuring out how to kill people with music and all that, I suppose.

    [x] Artifice
    Where an alchemist creates all the various kinds of medicines and drugs used by cultivators the world over, the artificer makes the tools and equipment used by cultivators the world over. This of course includes all manner of weapons and armor, which are certainly the things that get the most attention and notoriety, but this discipline encompasses pretty much every kind of tool or item made by cultivators, for cultivators, like the “jade slips” used to record sensitive information or the “spacial rings/bags” used to conveniently store your assorted swag. There are even artificers who specialize in making the tools used by other specialists, like the makers of alchemical cauldrons.

    [] Cooking
    Does this perhaps strike you as an odd thing to find here? It shouldn't, because this isn't just knowing how to cook food to taste good. There are countless flora and fauna whose various parts can have beneficial effects when consumed; alchemy is the process of refining and concentrating these into medicine, but this comes at the cost of potentially dangerous side-effects and other factors that make regular consumption a risky game (not that that stops some with more money than sense). Medicine, at the wrong times or the wrong amounts, is no different from poison. And thus, though most cultivators who practice this kind of cooking are given names like “spirit chefs,” they're actually as much dieticians as cooks, and the level of knowledge in identifying and combining ingredients and skill in preparing them is hardly less than that required to be considered an alchemist.

    [] Divination
    Divination is actually a broad term encompassing any discipline or technique based around trying to discern knowledge of things that can't be directly observed. Obviously this is most famously applied to attempts to discern the future, which ranges from trying to discover the path of events centuries from now to precognition that allows you to react to danger coming just a split second from now. But it can also apply to things like trying to discern the character, potential, or aptitude of others through methods like palm-reading or astrology. This stuff actually works in this world, but it's never fool-proof, being more art than science at the best of times and with its accuracy dependent on being able to collect and interpret a lot of information to feed into complex calculations based on countless different factors.

    [x] Geomancy
    The world is alive with the flow of energy; it may be thinner or thicker in some places, it may accrue odd and sometimes beneficial or harmful properties, but it's always there, and those with the right know-how can intentionally shape that flow by altering the physical space through which it flows. Even in a world like this, though, most purported feng shui experts are just scam artists spouting nonsense to fool the gullible. But a proper geomancer is the real deal, a sort of combination of geologist, architect, and landscape artist, who knows how to use physical space to create widespread metaphysical effects. A proper geomantic working is essentially a spell array on a far larger scale (in days past, it's said, there were geomantic workings that altered the flow of energy through the entire world!) and with the physical terrain or construction itself comprising the bulk of the raw materials.

    [] Medicine
    I hope you didn't think this fell under “Alchemy” or “Cooking.” Identifying, diagnosing, and treating illnesses, injuries, and other maladies is hardly something so trifling as to be shuffled under some related field. And you certainly don't need to know how to make food or medicine to know which ones to prescribe to your patients for the best results, though it certainly helps. Of course this also includes knowledge of how to do things like use qi directly to heal as well as more mundane treatment methods.

    [x] Scholarship
    A proper scholar is expected to have an exceptionally well-rounded education. They must, at the bare minimum, be knowledgeable in all of the Thirteen Classics and have attained competence in the Four Arts. They must also have achieved some level of skill in both composition and rhetoric. You have, of course, gone much further than that, and if you wanted to you could easily become a ranking scholar in your home kingdom of Yi, which is widely held to have the highest academic standards in the Eighteen Kingdoms.

    You will find that your foundations of theoretical knowledge extend even into fields you aren't personally trained in, from music to warfare to medicine. Obviously you aren't an expert in those fields (without taking the requisite option), but it is a useful leg up that will make it easier to personally learn something or introduce someone else to the subject and get them started.

    [x] Spell Arrays
    A “spell” is essentially any effect that is created by directly channeling and manipulating energy (we'll call it Qi for convenience's sake, though for some reason cultivators love to come up with names for all the different forms they can make it take as they progress), but it's usually used in the context of doing so without relying on the body, either as the source of energy, the conduit for it, or both. A spell array is essentially creating the effect of a spell indirectly by setting up some kind of apparatus (often taking on the form, if not the substance, of religious rituals) that, once activated, will channel the energy (which may come from the user, someone else, or some other nearby source) to create the spell. Many of the uses of this are obvious and go without saying. As to how this differs from geomancy, apart from the differences in scale and permanence, a geomantic working draws power from the world itself (though they can be made capable of deriving extra power from others), while spell arrays always need some third party to directly provide the power.

    [] Spell Combat
    While a majority of cultivators prefer to fight by channeling their variously-named energies through a weapon (which often includes their own bodies), the more direct use of energy to destroy one's enemies is a perfectly valid and useful form of combat that simply happens to be a bit more demanding to learn. Weapons – or things honed into weapons – most easily lend themselves towards acts of destruction, but eschewing them allows for greater versatility and, if one is skilled enough, greater control. Though some are skilled enough to do away with them entirely, most still need some kind of focusing agent (whether physical – like a purpose-crafted item of jewelry, or specially-treated paper – or not – like a verbal incantation and/or gesturing with the hand in certain ways) to help guide the power the way it needs to be to work properly.
    (The specifics of your fighting style will be determined later)

    [] Unarmed Combat
    Now, any idiot can throw a punch, and most any cultivator has learned at least enough about martial arts and body cultivation to throw a pretty good punch (relatively speaking) by the time they've reached your level. That's not what this is. No, this is the ability to throw a really pretty good punch. And a kick or two somewhere in there. Maybe some throws and grapples, even. Definitely at least a few different discount Hadōkens by now, too. Probably in all kinds of exciting colors! All flippancy aside, your body is a lethal weapon, even more so than usual for a cultivator. Even if perhaps your actual physical prowess is only on the higher side of average, skill can make up for a lot.
    (The specifics of your fighting style will be determined later)

    [] Weapon Combat
    Now, any idiot can swing a sword, and most any cultivator... Wait, have we done this already? Right, so this is specializing in cultivator-tier physical combat using some particular form of weapon as the focus rather than your body. You can be as general (“sword”) or specific/esoteric (“seven-sectioned whip sword”) as you'd like, since there's a weapon art out there for damn near anything. Being general gives you more versatility, but being specific means your skills are more polished. And yes, pretty much any weapon manual suitable to your level has at least one cool-looking special attack.
    (The specifics of your fighting style will be determined later)

    ---X---

    AN: Sorry for the more-than-half-a-year hiatus, everyone. I can't really give much excuse or explanation except that I just haven't been able to get myself in any kind of creative mood for long enough to crank this or really anything out in that whole time. I can't really promise it'll never happen again, either, but I am going to try to commit to at least once-weekly updates after the last bit of character creation (which is going to outline some social options and relationships and then get us started in earnest), which goes up tomorrow. If anyone's still interested (or just now finding this), thanks a ton, it's hugely appreciated.

    *通臂猿 seems to be related to 長臂猿 cháng bì yuán, the Chinese name for a gibbon. I'm not sure what the difference in the first character means, but I derived it from the characters for the “Long-Armed Ape” that is claimed in Journey to the West as one of the “four spiritual primates” that defy the normal categories of existence, alongside the Intelligent Stone Monkey a.k.a. Sun Wukong. Further, one of the 108 Stars of Destiny in Water Margin is addressed by a nickname with the same characters.

    Finally, though there was little chance to really explain it organically, essentially your choice of build and mentor meant that you've ended up with a kind of stereotypical hard-laboring artisan look. Solid build, plenty of muscle, but clearly with the air of someone who works with his hands rather than his fists. If you walked down the street and somebody was randomly asked to try to guess your profession, they'd probably throw out guesses like "blacksmith" or "stonemason." It's a bit of a niche appeal in cultivator circles - even among other crafters - but it's a look that has its fans nonetheless.
     
    Kildar, R.A.G., yredfate and 21 others like this.
  7. Threadmarks: Character Creation, Part 7
    Leingod

    Leingod Immaculate Blooming Lotus

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    [] Alchemy
    [] Cooking
    [] Medicine


    Your interest in a fairly wide array of different secondary professions has led some to accuse you of spreading yourself too thin, but for now you've made it work quite well for you. So well, in fact, that you've achieved no small amount of local fame. Though you've got other deeds to your name, the one that's drawn the most attention to you overall, and also the one that marked your true entrance into the wider society of cultivators was, as it so often is, a tournament.

    Cultivators love tournaments. It's a confluence of so many of their interests: Struggles for dominance, establishing hierarchies, the chance to vent frustrations or personal grudges through sanctioned violence, and of course the hope of winning fame, glory, and cool swag. But it's generally considered beneath the dignity of the well-established cultivators to partake. So, you have a profusion of tournaments catering to the younger generations, with age cutoffs of anywhere between 15 and 50. Hosting a tournament is also a source of prestige, the more popular the better. As such, the competitions over who hosts a tournament, and the struggles to increase the popularity of a tournament, can be even more cutthroat and deadly than the tournaments themselves.

    Now, in some kingdoms their biggest tournaments might just be your typical series of single-elimination fights, or sometimes even free-for-alls, but the kingdom of Yi takes its reputation as the “Scholars' Paradise” quite seriously, and its most prestigious tournament puts its entrants through a series of challenges that test far more than their skills in a fight.

    That tournament is known as the “Contest of the Eight Immortals,” held every 20 years and open to anyone 25 years old or younger. The most recent one ended just a few weeks ago, but in the previous one, 20 years prior, you managed to become one of the eight finalists, and so were listed among your generation's “Eight Young Immortals of Yi.”

    You didn't do so alone, however. As often happens, many competitors formed factions and coalitions to get through the challenges prior to the final rounds, and in that tournament, two groups ended up dominating the rest of the competition and comprising the Eight Young Immortals of your generation. Those two factions would eventually become the nucleus of a budding alliance, as many of your peers sided with one or the other. Starting out as essentially just fan clubs, these started to take on an almost political character, complete with rivalries and vendettas. Eventually, these two factions were named the “Northern and Southern Courts of Yi,” and the first and second-place finishers in that tournament (who happened to both be beautiful women, which was probably a large part of the reason this went as far as it did) are held up as the “queen” of each court.

    Which court were you (technically) a founding member of?

    [] The Northern Court

    This “court” formed around the 2nd-place finisher, Bian Linxue of the White Lotus Sect. A pale, slender beauty with striking icy-blue eyes and hair and a sinuous, deceptive fighting style married to a razor-sharp wit (and an equally sharp tongue, many say), she is known as the “White Flower Serpent.” Whatever her actual feelings toward her purported rival might be, the “Queen of the Northern Court” hasn't let the notoriety and chance to build her influence pass her by.

    The other “founding members” who joined her during the Contest of the Eight Immortals include Huang Ni of the Three Teachings Sword School and Tian Kai of the Spring and Autumn Scripture School. The former is the son of Yi's greatest general and a skilled leader of men who is completely wrapped around his “queen's” finger, the latter is a calculating diviner and famous musician.

    [] The Southern Court

    This “court” formed around the 1st-place finisher, Fan Yanxi of the Southern Immortal Star School. A bright, passionate heroine renowned for her flame-red hair and incredible skill in battle, she is known as the “Fiery Thunderbolt.” It's rumored she can defeat any two of the best warriors in her generation, and you can say from experience that, for once, the rumors are 100% correct! That said, she hardly seems to notice her “court,” much less think to make use of it.

    The other “founding members” who joined her during the Contest of the Eight Immortals include An Xuan of the Dragon's Gate Sect and Lei Su of the Thunderbird Clan. The former is a serene and insightful young Daoist, the latter is a reckless hellion considered little more than a bandit by some.

    ---

    If you've noticed that, counting yourself, there's one person missing from that line-up of the “Eight Young Immortals of Yi,” good eye! If you'd chosen a background with more “social links” you could have chosen individual relationships from this group of eight, but instead you pick one court or the other and your arch-rival is a member of whichever you don't pick. Said rival is called Zhao Jian of the Heaven's Rain School, BTW.

    (The end of Part 4 of Character Creation lists the names of all the top sects in Yi if you need a quick refresher, BTW
     
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