The Great Shogun Emmadai-O was the first to discover the secret of immortality, using proscribed meditations and brutal martial arts. His feudal vassals followed his example, and in no time at all, the bright-hued Chrysanthemum Lands were choked with the bodies of a million immortal monks and samurai, driving mortal and immortal alike into the sea. Saddened by his works, the Great Shogun Emmadai-O retreated beyond the sky to meditate; free from the riot of sound and color that is the Chrysanthemum Lands.
He called the place he found ‘Yama’ and returned to the world of the living armed with a technique called the Way of Annihilation (Shin-Do in the Old Tongue). Using a great ritual of this style, the Shogun spilled his bowels upon the earth and, with his dying breath, bade his government to do the same. Those that gave up their immortality joined their Shogun in the Yama Lands, reborn as Shinigami, divine spirits of virtuous, loving death. The coming day saw the death of hundreds of thousands of immortals, staining the Chrysanthemum Lands and the ocean itself a terrible blood red.
The blood has never really stopped flowing since that day. It has been hundreds of years, but in the absence of the Shogun, feudal rivalries have moved uncountable armies across the land. This is a state of affairs that pleases the Shinigami, for without the burnt grave goods of the honorable dead, the economy of the Yama Lands would not function. In return, the Shinigami oversee the afterlife and protect humanity from supernatural threats. They take their orders from the Shogun.
Shinigami serve in one of four Castes, each tasked with a specific mission. The Blood-Spilling Caste uses blade and Shin-Do to kill enemies of the Shogun. These enemies include hidden Immortals, traitors to the Shogun, anyone who has exceeded their allotted span of life, and Bakemono. The Bakemono are monsters who vary greatly in form from one another. Slaying them is important, for they are reincarnations of sinful Immortals who must be sent through the wheel of karma to be purged.
The Faithful Enumerator Caste records the passage of souls, runs the Hells of Purification, oversees the dispensation of grave goods, and maintains the knowledge of the Shogunate. The Faithful Enumerators are politically powerful because serve only in the Yama Lands and are close to the seat of the Shogun. They practice esoteric meditations and perform occult experiments upon dishonored souls. They choose who shall spend periods of time in one of seven Hells to purify their soul for their next life.
The Veil of Silence Caste exist to preserve secrets the Shogun does not believe the Chrysanthemum Lands are prepared to know, such as the secrets of Immortality or the methods by which grave goods are administered. The Veil silences by any means at its disposal by order of the Shogun. Presumably, they also act as secret police among the Shinigami, but such things are not public in any land, living or dead.
The Ghost Collector Caste is charged with rounding up souls in the Chrysanthemum Lands and bringing them to the Yama Lands to be reincarnated. This is harder than it sounds, for souls do not always come willingly. The Shogun has recently noted that some virtuous souls, slated to become Shinigami, are being poached by a rival afterlife somewhere else. He is dispatching a number of loyal Shinigami (Ghost Collectors and otherwise) on what appears to be a suicide mission to annihilate this usurper underworld.
Each of the Chrysanthemum Lands’ islands is named after its royal clan. Shiga (Heedless) Clan owns the island that was once the seat of the Emperor. Shiga is renowned and hated for its excellent military leadership. Shiga’s ideal is one performing a victory speech while bleeding to death (truly, a legendary performance). Hana (Flower) Clan fields male and female samurai, unique among the clans. Their clan is known for painting and dueling, two exercises which occupy many metaphors in the explanation of their philosophy. Aka (Bloody) Clan wear masks of demons and deliberately mimics Akuma in their aesthetic. They are loyal to the Shogun in all things, but are reviled for lack of honor because of their cunning solutions to military problems. Getsuei (Moon) Clan retains a Tengu scholar on retainer, even though that race of creature detests the wars of men. Getsuei are contemplative warriors, unreadable in the midst of combat. Gojou (Joy) Clan are considered poets, thespians, and musicians. They recognize the shortness of life compared to the vastness of death. They acknowledge the grimness of life, but commit seppuku with a smile when they are defeated. The Chrysanthemum Lands are home to geisha, peasants, and all stripes of feudal mortal.
The Great Shogun Emmadai-O discovered the Way of Annihilation written on the foundation stones of the Yama Land. It is a technique using the ways of death and dissipation. In fact, the Shinigami do not prevent the spread of the Way amongst the living, for the Shinigami know that Shin-Do cannot be used in the preservation of life, only its ending. Some monks practice the Way of Annihilation as an ascetic lifestyle in preparation of their own death. Practitioners are known to manifest their souls as icy steel blades, turn as invisible as the wind at night, and throw bolts of inky void which harms both the target, and to some extent, the caster. The rituals of this style incorporate darkness, cold, metal, duels, stillness, and silence.
The Shogun himself is prone to moments of divine satori and those born in the Chrysanthemum Lands are a contemplative and inward people. Therefore, characters from the Shogunate of the Death-Gods receive the first level of Scholarship for 5 character points. When subjects of the Shogun do express themselves, it is with a heart-wrenching melancholy or with the voice of a fatalistic battle-commander. Consequently, characters from this setting receive the first level of Performance for 5 character points. The grimness of the Chrysanthemum Lands is beautiful in a way, and this is the essence of the Way of Annihilation, an ability that costs 10 character points for characters from this setting instead of 15 character points as normal.
Magic School: Way of Annihilation
Make-Up Requirement and Advantage
Shinigami appear much as human beings do and only begin to appear ghostly as their physical form is destroyed. When a Shinigami’s body is destroyed, they reform shortly thereafter appearing paler. Shinigami, therefore, begin the game with no makeup requirement, but may acquire one through game-play.
An Out of Play Discussion of the Shogunate of the Death-Gods
The Shogunate of the Death-Gods is a Japanese Gothic setting, portraying the Shogunate Era with a healthy dose of Japanese ghost stories. Players can play two types of characters from the Shogunate of the Death-Gods: mortals and ghostly Shinigami. Characters from this setting, as a rule, fear death much less than other types of characters. Some character types may last longer than others—this is part of the experience of playing a character from the Shogunate. Knowledge of real-world Shogunate culture may not necessarily translate to the culture of this fantasy setting, however.