Kegare

Yomi, the dark realm, where the souls of the unenlightened go when they die, is a realm of negative energy known as kegare. The energy permeates the land, slowly corrupting and devouring all that it comes in contact with. Where Yomi touches the mortal world, this energy seeps though, twisting the landscape and corrupting all those who pass through it.

By coming in contact with kegare, a character may absorb it and carry it with him, thus becoming tainted.

Becoming Tainted

Characters can become tainted in several ways. First, a character may come into contact with a tainted object or place. Second, a character may encounter creatures native to Yomi that can inflict kegare upon victims of their attacks. Third, a character may use tainted magic known as kidō.

Effects of Kegare

A tainted character experiences the effects of kegare in a variety of ways, from mild nausea, joint pain or disorientation to rotting flesh, severe skeletal warping and irresistible murderous urges.

Each level of kegare imparts a level of exhaustion. A victim of kegare who dies from its effects rises within 24 hours as a gaki (a Tsurukokan ghoul).

Tainted Places and Objects

Places and objects may acquire kegare in the same way as characters. Constant contact with tainted objects, places, or magic results in the object or location becoming tainted.

Any time a character encounters a tainted place or object, he must make a DC 10 Constitution saving throw or acquire one level of kegare. Places or objects encountering kegare are automatically assumed to fail their saving throws.

If a character remains in contact with a tainted object or place, he must make an additional Constitution saving throw every 24 hours or gain another level of kegare.

Death and Undeath

Upon death, the spirits of all intelligent creatures pass into Yomi, the realm of the dead, creating a link between it and the mortal realm. Kegare flows back through this link, tainting the body and potentially causing it to spontaneously animate as undead.

Immediately upon death, a body is considered tainted. Brief or superficial contact, such as carrying the corpse to a ceremonial bonfire, carries a negligible risk of acquiring kegare. Prolonged or extensive contact, though, such as searching a dead body, requires a DC 10 Constitution saving throw, or the character acquires one level of kegare.

Additionally, a corpse has a ten percent chance of spontaneously animating as undead within a week, typically as a gaki.

The only exception to the above are those who have achieved mastery of a skill or art, or who have been granted status of a kami by another kami. Their spirits immediately enter Takama no Hara, creating a link to the mortal realm through which positive energy flows. This energy cleanses any kegare the deceased might have acquired, and preserves the body against decay.

Protecting Against Kegare

To protect against kegare, a character may carry jade, which absorbs the energy in his stead. The most common form of jade carried for this purpose is an ingot about the length and width of a man’s finger, which costs 100 cranes.

As the jade absorbs kegare, it darkens, grows soft and eventually crumbles into dust over six days. During that time, it absorbs all kegare to which the carrier is exposed.

Note that jade only protects from the effects of kegare acquired by venturing into a tainted area or carrying a tainted object. It does not protect from kegare gained as a result of employing kidō, being attacked by a tainted creature, or touching a dead body.

Embracing Kegare

A character who continues to acquire kegare will eventually be destroyed by it. There are only two ways to avoid this fate: cleanse it or embrace it.

In the latter case, the character must swear fealty to the Jashin, or dark gods, which effectively means that he acquires an allegiance to the spirits of Yomi. This must be a conscious choice; it cannot be forced or coerced. Embracing kegare has the following effects:

  • The character no longer suffers any exhaustion penalties and, therefore, no longer experiences any physical or mental side effects. He appears to external observers to carry no kegare at all.
  • The character cannot benefit from any healing magic when it is used by a non-tainted healer. The magic simply has no effect. A healer who has embraced kegare can use healing magic on other tainted characters, including himself, but the power has no effect on non-tainted characters.
  • A tainted character cannot be raised from death. His spirit travels directly to Yomi, and his body immediately rises as a gaki.

Cleansing Kegare

It is possible to remove kegare in several ways, including the use of supernatural powers, the performance of sacred rituals, the consumption of sacred materials, or the act of bathing in sacred springs. Kegare cannot be removed by a long rest, but removing a level of kegare removes the associated level of exhaustion.

Magic

The greater restoration spell immediately removes one level of kegare.

Sacred Ritual

By performing a sacred ritual, such as misogi (washing one’s body in a sacred stream) at a Shintō shrine, or zazen at a Darumist temple, a character may reduce his level of kegare. At the end of each day in which a character performs a ritual, he loses one level of kegare.

Sacred Springs

Onsen (hot springs), considered sacred by Shintō practitioners, are found in many locations around Tsurukoku. While plentiful, onsen are often difficult to get to and may require traversing mountainous terrain.

For each day a character spends resting and cleaning himself at a sacred spring, his level of kegare is reduced by one. A character using this method to reduce his level of kegare can undertake no activities other than resting, sleeping, eating and normal conversation.

Sake

Sake is considered a sacred liquid and is used in many traditional ceremonies. Consuming sake washes away kegare over time; after one week of consuming sake each day, a character’s level of kegare is reduced by one. Sake is expensive and thus not available to the majority of the peasantry; the average cost of a quantity of sake necessary to eliminate one level of kegare is 100 cranes.

Cleansing Places and Objects

A character may attempt to cleanse a place or object of kegare in much the same way as cleansing himself. He may attempt to use supernatural powers to drive out the kegare from an object or perform a sacred ritual in a tainted location. He may bathe a tainted object in a sacred spring, or he may sprinkle an area with sake.