Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Kaidan Project Update #30: The Korobokuru Race (by Jonathan McAnulty)

Sorry for the delay in this week's update. My wife had surgery yesterday (she is doing fine today) and I was admittedly distracted for the day from Kaidan. I thought I would go ahead and the Korobokuru GM racial write-up. Many other asian flavored settings see the Korobokuru as a sort of dwarf and treat them as such. But other than the fact that they both have beards, Japanese Korobokuru and traditional Germanic dwarves have very little in common. My readings on the race in history and foklore put me more in mind of traditional hobbits/halflings, albeit more primitive than Tolkien's shire-folks, and so I chose to use that race as a basis for the Korobokuru, at least mechanically (and linguistically). While not a lot is known about the culture of the Korobokuru today (and I think the evidence points to the fact there was someone on the Japanese isles before the Anui settled there from Russia), I tried to be as true to what is known about them as possible; while still making them a fantasy race.  -Jonathan   

The short-statured korobokuru once had settlements scattered across the whole of Kaidan, but today they are a race in decline, pushed further and further into the dark recesses of the forests by the encroachments of the Kaidanese. The korobokuru have never, as a race, been aggressive. They prefer to respond to true threats passively. They retreat rather than fight and some say their original journey to the shores of Kaidan was made as a retreat from evil elsewhere and that such a mentality has always been their cultural marker.
Much like the Anu, the korobokuru are a simple, people dwelling in primitive villages deep in the woods and subsisting primarily as fishermen and hunter-gatherers; although they do grow small herb and vegetable gardens in the areas around their homes. Unlike the Anu, the korobokuru prefer fish and vegetables, especially wild gourds, fuki and sukanpo, to red meat, though they readily eat the latter when it is what is available. The korobokuru make their homes in the ground, digging out their houses and covering them with bamboo or wooden ceilings, which they then bury beneath domes of earth. In many villages, the homes are connected by narrow tunnels so that the korobokuru can easily travel from one dwelling to another without ever venturing out into the open. It is quite common for korobokuru to allow gourd plants and fuki alike to completely overgrow their earthen homes, providing both camouflage and food.

Physical Descriptions
The korobokuru are a short, slim humanoid race, standing only about two and a half feet tall. They possess slightly pointed ears, and large eyes, but are otherwise very similar in appearance to humans, excepting their diminutive size. Korobokuru grow thick hair atop their heads, which the women of the race traditionally wear long, with braids. The men, for their part, are heavily bearded. Korobokuru skin color tends to be a pale almond color, and their hair is most often a dark shade of brown. Eye colors tend towards hazels and greens.
Korobokuru do not often wear shoes, preferring the feel of the earth beneath their feet, and the soles of their feet are quite thick. They dress in loose fitting tunics and leggings made from either leather or tree-based fabrics. Clothes worn at home are died either red or green, but clothing meant for traveling or work outside the home will be colored so as to better blend into the environment. Korobokuru heavily utilize small, dried gourds as both containers and as canteens, and most korobokuru met away from home will have several on their person. Additionally, korobokuru are very fond of head coverings and very rarely venture forth from their houses without something upon their head, whether that be a hat, scarf, or the like.
Many korobokuru, especially in the northern regions of Kaidan, make extensive use of tattoos upon the arms and face. They prefer geometric patterns of blue or black ink. While some korobokuru shaman imbue their tattoos with mystical energies, for most korobokuru these tattoos are merely cosmetic body markings.

Hierarchy within korobokuru society is determined solely by age, with the younger being subordinate to the elder. Within families, this means the oldest surviving member of a family, whether male or female, is head of that family. Within the village, the oldest member is village chief, again regardless of gender. Korobokuru are very respectful towards age and consider that the oldest are both the toughest and the wisest of their number.
In matters other than leadership, gender roles are very much the norm, with the men serving as hunters, fishermen and scouts, while the women occupy themselves with gardening, clothes making, and tending to the homes. Some occupations, such as pottery work and cooking, are done by both men and women, often collectively. Korobokuru are monogamous, with each couple typically having between five and eight children. Despite their high birth-rate, a high mortality rate, among both infants and adults, keeps the korobokuru population stable and most grown korobokuru have only one or two living siblings.
A key feature of korobokuru society is the drive to avoid conflict, in almost all its forms. Korobokuru have no love of warfare and master weapons solely for the purpose of hunting food. Their folk heroes are those individuals who through cleverness, stealth and discretion avoid situations of strife. Korobokuru are especially bothered by the idea of intelligent individuals killing other thinking beings. A korobokuru who break the social taboo against killing other sentients, even in defense, is shunned by all his family and friends and is forced to leave his village. Korobokuru legends teach that they fled across the ocean to avoid war and they do all that they can to uphold their legacy of pacifity. Being a carefree, easy-natured people, major familial disputes are rare, and when they do occur, the disgruntled party, if there can be no reconciliation, leaves to begin a new home elsewhere.
Korobokuru greatly delight in eating and there is nearly always something cooking atop their fires in their earthen homes. Anu have a saying, “The smell of stew among the fuki means the korobokuru are underfoot.” Still, the korobokuru are seldom so nourished as to be overweight. Their lives are a daily struggle against larger, more powerful forces and it is only through their wit and skill that they manage to keep themselves fed and alive. Despite this, they are largely a cheerful people, always optimistic of better things to come and always willing to help those they like, without regard for the possibility of repayment. Anu villages with korobokuru neighbors often find gifts of well made pottery or finely carved ornaments left outside their homes come dawn.
Despite the korobokuru racial norms, there are some exceptions to the rule. Specifically, upon the isle of Genshu there are villages of korobokuru descended from individuals who were long enslaved by the oni. These korobokuru have been defiled and have descended into feral savagery. They practice cannibalism, foul magics, and revel in bloodshed. Tales of these wicked korobokuru fill other korobokuru with loathing, fear and dread and to speak of them without cause is taboo.

Relations with Other Races
The korobokuru have traditionally always been closest to the Anu and, excepting those few villages which have turned to darkness, the korobokuru maintain their ancient friendships. While they will not fight on behalf of the Anu, korobokuru scouts often provide intelligence to the Anu concerning the movements of any Kaidanese forces in their area. The korobokuru have little reason to trust in the Kaidanese, and though they will sometimes befriend this human or that, they mostly try to avoid the men of Kaidan, regardless of caste. Because of the skill of the korobokuru in avoiding detection, most Kaidanese consider the korobokuru to be little more than fairy tales to be told to children and reports of sightings of the smaller race in the woods is most often greeted with skepticism.
The yokai generally know where to find korobokuru villages near them, for the small men revere the yokai as quasi-divine beings, totems made flesh, offering them food, trinkets and other small gifts whenever the two races meet. Unscrupulous yokai, especially among the tengu, sometimes take advantage of this but most find it slightly discomforting to be so venerated. The kitsune sometimes take to observing the korobokuru, but seldom find them to be as interesting as either human or henge.

Alignment and Religion
The korobokuru have maintained a tradition of shamanism and animistic totemism throughout the years. The religion has little in the way of dogma, though there are numerous signs of the religion in every korobokuru home and as a whole, the race is very devout to their faith. The korobokuru venerate animal spirits, especially den dwelling animals, and pray to the same. Each family adopts a particular animal as its own, building small house-shrines to that animal and filling their homes with tokens of that creature: including furs, skulls, carvings and clay statues. Those korobokuru who venerate an animal related to one of the yokai races, such as fox, badgers, or rabbits, consider the relevant yokai race to be the embodiment of the spirits they worship and go out of their way to seek the approval of such beings. Korobokuru shamans maintain a druidic tradition of magics, predating the arrival of the korobokuru to the shores of Kaidan. While korobokuru have some familiarity with yokinto, they do not practice it, nor do they follow the teachings of zaoism, though they, like all creatures in Kaidan, are effected by the broken wheel and tenmei.
Korobokuru have a strong tendency towards neutrality and general tendency towards goodness, but, as in all races, some individuals are more controlling or selfish than others. Few korobokuru feel so strongly about any given ideal or issue to be confrontational or dogmatic on the subject.

Korobokuru villages have few true specialized occupations, excepting the role of the Shaman. The males all serve as hunters and fishermen, and though some show greater aptitude at given tasks, each is expected to carry their own weight and help provide for their own family. Within the ranks of the hunters, the most talented are known as scouts and these individuals are called upon to act as spies and sentries for the rest, a task for which they receive no special remuneration other than the respect of their peers. While the korobokuru do practice property rights (indeed korobokuru families are quite possessive of their heirlooms), and do understand the use of coins as a system of payment, they operate within their own communities strictly on a system of bartering, and, even outside of their communities, have little to do with the business of buying or selling much of anything at market.
Female korobokuru are trained in different tasks than the men, and are more inclined towards artistic endeavors. Among the women there is also more of a tendency to specialize in given roles, depending on aptitude, and the women are more likely to do various tasks expecting those they do it for to return the favor in some fashion. For example, a skilled tattooist, a role always held by the women, will expect her work to be repaid with food, skins, or goods. Likewise, skilled weavers or seamstresses will find others in the village who are willing to do their housework and chores in exchange for the creation of clothes, hats and beddings.
Many korobokuru, men and women alike, have considerable skill at carving and pottery work, though these pursuits are considered activities to be pursued for pleasure as much as for any practical application.

Korobokuru Racial Traits

+2 Dexterity, +2 Wisdom, -2 Strength Korobokuru are stealthy and even tempered, but their small frame makes them weaker than the larger races.

Small: Korobokuru are Small creatures and gain a +1 size bonus to their AC, a +1 size bonus to attack rolls, a -1 penalty to their Combat Maneuver Bonus and Combat Maneuver Defense, and a +4 size bonus on Stealth checks.

Slow Speed: Korobokuru have a base speed of 20 feet. Stealthy: Korobokuru receive a +2 racial bonus on all Stealth skill checks.

Keen Senses: Korobokuru receive a +2 racial bonus on all Perception skill checks.

Calm: Korobokuru are naturally calm and self possessed and have a +1 racial bonus on all saving throws made to resist mind affecting effects. 

Forestborn: Korobokuru are most at home in the woods and have a +1 racial bonus to all Climb, Perception, Stealth and Survival rolls made in a forest setting. These bonuses stack with those provided by Keen Senses and Stealthy. Korobokuru also have a +1 bonus to all attack rolls and saving throws made when in a forest environment.

Loathe Conflict: Because of their natural disdain for violence and conflict, Korobokuru have a -2 penalty to all attack rolls made against non-animals. This penalty, in a forest setting, is reduced to -1 because of the bonus granted by the Forestborn trait.

Weapon Familiarity: Korobokuru are proficient with slings, spears and bows and treat any weapon with the word korobokuru in its name as a martial weapon.

Languages: Korobokuru begin play speaking Halfling (Korobokuru) and Anuitak. Korobokuru with high Intelligence scores can choose from the following: Common, Goblin (Kappa), Kaidanese, and Sylvan (Yokai).

Alternate Racial Traits
Artist: Korobokuru who spend more time creating than hunting are not quite as alert as their comrades, having turned their eyes inward rather than outward. These korobokuru have a +2 racial bonus on all Craft skill checks.

Oni-tainted: Those korobokuru who have been tainted by years of servitude to the oni are very different from their fellows. They are both more skittish and more violent. They have a +1 bonus to initiative checks and a +1 bonus on attack rolls when flanking but they have a -1 penalty to all Will saves. This trait replaces Calm and Loath Conflict.

Outcast: Those korobokuru who have been cast out of their villages loose their calm self-assurance, becoming wary and nervous. They have a +2 racial bonus to initiative. This trait replaces Calm.

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