Qin Fen: The Magic of Diligence

In ancient times, the nine dragons brought the mysteries of Zhouyi to the Emperor Han Wu Ti, allowing him to raise the Fire Wall that would trap the marauding Toba tribe in Ussura. That is the widely-held belief, taught to most Cathayans from an early age.

The truth, however, is much more interesting. The timeless dragons knew that a cabal of Numan Senators were on the verge of summoning nine otherworldly entities and bargaining for Sorcerous power. They also knew the disastrous effect this would have, not only on the largely peaceful citizens of Cathay, but on the Barrier: a mystical energy shield erected by the dragons themselves, the Djinn, the Sidhe, and certain other powerful beings to keep those entities (and a legion more) imprisoned. Wherever Sorcery was practiced, the Barrier would weaken and ultimately break down. The Fire Wall would not only keep out the Toba, but prevent the Numan army (and the Sorcery that empowered them) from ever setting foot on Cathayan soil, and thus protect their harmonious nation.

The dragons, wise as they were, had no way of knowing that Senator Castillus would help one of his young allies cross the Fire Wall into Cathay with his family and servants, nor that the demonic Ravana would find her own way to cross the Barrier. The dragons’ foreknowledge encompasses major events with sweeping consequences; sometimes the smaller details escape them. Centuries later, as Huan Shu began to spread throughout Cathay, and as other Sorcerers (most notably Pyromancers) made their way across the Fire Wall, the dragons brought Qin Fen to Cathay as an enticement for these Sorcerers to trade their magical might for pure physical prowess.

Qin Fen is unlike any other Sorcery known to Théan scholars or historians in that there are no Knacks to be raised, and therefore no Mastery Levels. It was given to the people of Cathay as a means of redeeming those who had fallen under the sway of the Bargainers. Qin Fen allows them to channel their Sorcery into their bodies, trapping the wicked magic within their own flesh. This process purifies the dark magic and allows a character to trade his Sorcerous Knacks for alteration (even perfection) of his physical form.

Knacks can be sacrificed from a single ability (e.g., a Porté Master may gain Fast Healing by reducing his Rank in Pocket from a five to a one), spread across many abilities (the same Sorcerer can also gain Fast Healing by lowering his Ranks in Bring, Catch, Pocket, and Walk from a five to a four), or any combination thereof (instead of the first two options, the Sorcerer reduces his Rank in Pocket from a five to a three, and his Ranks in Bring and Catch from a five to a four). Once a disciple (they are not properly called “Sorcerers” anymore) of Qin Fen “spends” his first Rank in a Sorcerous Knack, he may never again spend Experience Points on any of the Knacks found in that Sorcery (however, a Twice-Blooded Sorcerer could spend all his Ranks in one of his Sorceries and still maintain Half-Blooded status in the other). A Master Sorcerer becomes an Adept if he has fewer than five Knacks in his Sorcery at a Rank of five, but at least four Knacks at a Rank of four. An Adept becomes an Apprentice if he has fewer than four Knacks in his Sorcery at a Rank of four. An Apprentice who reduces all of his Sorcerous Knacks to a Rank of zero loses all Sorcerous abilities (even Mastery Level abilities that do not rely on his Knacks to use), but maintains any physical manifestation the Sorcery had upon him (e.g., the bloodstained hands of Porté, or the vivid green eyes of Pyeryem).

A character who chooses to sacrifice his Sorcerous Knacks to gain the abilities of Qin Fen may only gain one power (including one Rank in one Trait, if that is the power he selected) at a time, and only when he gains Experience Points, which he may spend freely (subject to the restriction on Sorcerous Knacks above) in addition to purchasing a new Qin Fen power. When he is eligible to purchase a new power, he may select from the following list:

Fast Healing. For every four Ranks in Sorcerous Knacks spent on this ability, the disciple of Qin Fen is entitled to roll one exploding die to determine the number of Flesh Wounds healed in a given day. (This die always explodes, even if the character is Crippled.) Once the number of Flesh Wounds healed is determined, the disciple makes a “Wound Check” as if he had been injured. If this check succeeds, the healed Flesh Wounds are carried over to the next day and added to the number healed on the following day. If the “Wound Check” is failed, the character heals one Dramatic Wound, plus one additional Dramatic Wound for every twenty points by which he “failed” the roll. Damage is healed after the character has had at least six hours of uninterrupted rest. If the character cannot rest for at least six hours, the number of Flesh Wounds healed on that day is halved. Note that these are not actual Flesh Wounds; should the character enter combat, he will begin with a Flesh Wound total of zero. Similarly, if the character suffers Flesh Wounds, or even a Dramatic Wound, in the course of combat, the number of healed Flesh Wounds carried over does not change.

Hands of Stone. This ability allows the character to cause increased damage with his bare hands. For every four Ranks of Sorcerous Knacks spent on this ability, the Damage Rating of the character’s bare hands increases as follows:

Ranks
Spent
Damage
Rating
00k1
41k1
82k1
120k2
161k2
202k2

Immovability. This ability allows a character taking no other action to remain in one spot regardless of the force brought to bear against him. The character becomes as one with the surface on which he stands and may not be knocked down or moved by any means. This ability lasts for as long as the character remains conscious and takes no other action (beyond the Action spent to initiate this ability), and costs two Ranks in Sorcerous Knacks.

Leap. This ability costs one Rank of a Sorcerous Knack, and gives the character a free Rank in Leaping. This may increase his Rank in Leaping to a six. If it does not, the character may increase his Rank in the Knack from a five to a six later by spending 25 Experience Points. This ability may not be taken more than once.

Silent Step. This ability costs one Rank of a Sorcerous Knack, and gives the character a free Rank in Stealth. This may increase his Rank in Stealth to a six. If it does not, the character may increase his Rank in the Knack from a five to a six later by spending 25 Experience Points. This ability may not be taken more than once.

Steelskin. This ability hardens the skin of the disciple, giving him a type of natural armor. For every three Ranks of Sorcerous Knacks spent on this ability, the character’s skin grows more and more resistant to harm. The character does not incur any penalties for this pseudo-armor, and he gains damage reduction from melee and missile attacks and a bonus to his TN to be hit as shown below:

Ranks
Spent
Armor
Equivalent
Damage
Reduction
TN
Adjustment
0NoneNoneNone
3Hard LeatherFree Raise on
Wound Checks
None
6Lamellar-1k0None
9Metal Plate-1k1+5

Stunning Blow. This ability may be used once per day against any given opponent. If the disciple successfully strikes the opponent with a barehanded attack, he may opt to stun rather than cause damage. A character is stunned for ten consecutive Phases; during that time, the TN to hit the character drops to five, and he may only use his Action Dice for Active Defenses. This ability costs three Ranks of Sorcerous Knacks.

Sudden Speed. This ability allows the disciple of Qin Fen to move very suddenly once per day (from midnight to midnight). This allows him to roll an extra Action Die at the beginning of a Round; for this Action Die only, a roll of “0” counts as Phase Zero instead of Phase 10. The Action may be used to draw a weapon, for a quick attack or defense, or for any other purpose the disciple wishes. The cost is three Ranks of Sorcerous Knacks, and purchasing this ability more than once allows an additional use per day for every three Ranks spent.

Trait Increases. A disciple of Qin Fen may choose to increase any of his Traits, to a maximum Rank of five. It costs one Rank in a Sorcerous Knack to increase a Trait from a one to a two or a two to a three. It costs three Ranks to increase a Trait from a three to a four, and five Ranks to increase a Trait from a four to a five. All increases to Traits are permanent.

True Target. This ability costs one Rank of a Sorcerous Knack, and gives the character a free Rank in one missile-related Attack Knack of his choice (i.e., Attack (Archery), Attack (Crossbow), Throw (Knife), and so on). This may increase his Rank in the Knack to a six. If it does not, the character may increase his Rank in the Knack from a five to a six later by spending 25 Experience Points. This ability may not be taken more than once.

Weapon Prowess. This ability costs one Rank of a Sorcerous Knack, and gives the character a free Rank in one melee-related Attack Knack of his choice (i.e., Attack (Fencing), Attack (Knife), Attack (Pugilism), and so on). This may increase his Rank in the Knack to a six. If it does not, the character may increase his Rank in the Knack from a five to a six later by spending 25 Experience Points. This ability may not be taken more than once.

Game Master Notes
When this quasi-Sorcery first spread across Cathay and into mainland Théah (as a result of Huan Shu Sorcerers trading their easily-gained abilities for a more disciplined lifestyle, as well as Qin Fen students traveling across the Fire Wall to seek out and redeem non-Cathayan Sorcerers), disciples of Qin Fen were feared warriors on the battlefield. They served a dual function as elite troops for the province of Khimal and as individual seekers charged with hunting down Sorcerers, redeeming them if they could, but killing them if they could not.

Disciples of Qin Fen were bitter rivals of Sorcerers who practiced Huan Shu. Eventually, a massive battle was fought between the two forces, and the Sorcerers (augmented by a number of foreign Sorcerers recruited from mainland Théah) were victorious. Qin Fen faded into obscurity, but it was not completely wiped out. Deep within the mountains of Khimal are hidden monasteries where scrolls that detail the history, purpose, and rituals of Qin Fen may be discovered and the magic resurrected.