Campaign of the Month: June 2012
Wheel of Life
Zao is the official state religion practiced in the Empire of Kaidan, utilizing recognized orders of monastic priests of recognized temples and monastaries with the decree of maintaining the empire, one’s place in the caste system, and observances through out the months and years, performing appropriate rites, chants and prayers
Under the Zao religion, the universe is a great Wheel of Life where six different planes of being exist, all citizens reside in one of them.
Wheel of Life
The Wheel of Life construct is an endless cycle of reincarnations that all spirit travels on between life and death. The six realms of the Wheel of Life include: heaven (Nobility), asuras (Samurai), human realm (Commoner), animal realm, the hungry ghost realm (Tainted), and Yomi( Hell). Each of these realms are defined by certain sins or character flaws that take you there in death.
Rather than being different planes of existence (as in eastern thought) the social caste system of Kaidan: emperor/nobility, samurai, farmers and priests, and the merchant caste are each defined by one of the realms of the Wheel of Life. Thus the construct is the empire, and all realms of the construct exist in Kaidan, in the form of the caste system. On which realm/caste you belong is determined by your deeds in a previous life.
Heaven, the realm of pride, complacency and intoxication is the noble caste, thus those who have the precepts of pride, complacency and intoxication in this life will grant you into the Noble Caste in your next life. The Imperial Court and the Provincial Daimyos (ruling clans) are both the nobility caste and the heaven realm. Note most of the nobility of Kaidan are undead, its not the Heaven you’re thinking of…
Asuras, the realm of jealousy, resentment and ambition, characterized by endless strife and war to achieve success. This is the samurai caste, from the Shogun to the lowest retainer serving a lord, and even the honorless ronin.
Human realm is characterized by desire, freedom of choice and dissatisfaction and comprises the bulk of Kaidan society, which is the commoners caste – farmers, fishermen, artisans and priests.
Hungry Ghost realm is defined by greed, insatiable cravings and addictions exists as the Merchant Caste, which also includes: ninja, entertainers, yakuza and prostitutes.
Falling outside the caste system, yet still a part of the great Wheel of Life are…
Animal realm is characterized by ignorance and domination of instinctual needs (sex, food, territory…) are barbarians and Animals of the wilderness. The animal barbarians of Kaidan are shape-changers, called the Yokai. They actually have the largest territories not controlled by the emperor, but are not a cohesive territory, rather any extensive tracts of wilderness throughout the empire – mountain ranges, woodland tracts, inaccessable coasts, etc.
Hell is the lowest realm of the wheel, defined by rage, torment and despair, this is the Underworld, the realms of the Oni or demon people. This is the only metaphysical, other planar existence in the religion of Zao and life in Kaidan. Theologians could consider it the Ethereal Plane, as it coexists with Kaidan, but just slight out of sync breachable only through dark sorcery.
The Heresy of the Imperial Court
Defying the true path of Zao, the Imperial Court follows a heretical practice. When a living member of the noble caste, proves loyal to the court and demonstrably skilled at appointed tasks, they are prepared and killed in a rite that denotes greater Yurei status. Becoming undead, one can no longer reincarnate and remains permanently a member of the noble caste. It is a means of escaping the Wheel to hold power.
It is exactly this abomination that is the subject of THE WHEEL BREAKER SAGA.