Tuesday, 3 May 2016


Tengu are Japanese mountain spirits with wind powers and enormous noses. I like them. They are a good mix of funny and awful.

They have a few jobs, in the grand scheme of things:
  • Fuck with anyone who enters the mountains
  • Fuck with organised religion
  • Occasionally shake things up by going to towns and fucking with people there

They have a whole bunch of powers which make it impossible to beat them in a fair fight. They are immensely swift and strong. They can't fly but they can jump as far as they like. They can change shape and become invisible at will. They also own a lot of magic items. Each tengu has a fan of feathers which can stir up great winds, as well as grow and shrink people's noses.

Here are some things that a tengu might do to anyone who enters the mountains:
  • Bombard them with hail
  • Surreptitiously fill their packs with stones
  • Steal their rations and get them to blame each other
  • Pick them up and strand them on top of huge trees
  • Move them to a different part of the mountains while they're sleeping
  • Pretend to be an old man and challenge them to a wrestling match
  • Pretend to be an old woman and sell them weasel shit in the guise of foul-tasting medicine
  • Take them under its wing and teach them the arts of swordsmanship
  • Same as above, but intentionally teach them wrong
  • Straight up rip their throats out

Here are some things one might do in town:
  • Get itself invited to a party, accuse the hosts of inhospitality when they can't keep up with the tengu's drinking and dancing, then wreck everything and leave
  • Sabotage the marriage prospects of the local lord's heir by making their nose huge and hideous
  • Take the form of a handsome suitor from a distant land, marry the local lord's heir and spirit them off to the mountains
  • Destroy the reputation of a venerable priest by taking their shape and going around town doing ridiculous things like wearing a fish as a hat
  • Eat the bridge. Talk very loudly about how delicious this bridge is and how grateful you are to all the villagers for making such a delicious bridge
  • Make it rain on the day of the festival that everyone has been planning for months
  • Sell magical items that break just when you've come to completely rely on them, like cream that makes you beautiful until your wedding day or a purse of endless coins that runs out when you promise someone enough money
  • Give enormous noses to all the sacred statues in the temple
  • Destroy the harvest, then take the form of a delicious fat pig and watch the villagers fight over who gets to eat it

So tengu are super annoying. But, and this is key, they are also cowardly and gullible. Here are some things that you should try on tengu:
  • Pretend that a mundane item is actually super magical and offer to trade it for something good
  • Offer it a fake riddle with no answer
  • Give yourself fake eyebrows made of moss and tell it you're the king of the devils
  • Talk about how hot it is until the tengu begins to fan itself, making its own nose grow so long that it reaches heaven and irritates God
  • Bet it that it can't become small enough to fit inside this bottle
  • Talk very loudly about how much you hate gold and you couldn't stand it if somebody filled your pack with heavy, awful gold
  • Teach them a fashionable new dance called the "let's all sit very still with our eyes closed" dance
  • Tell it that the ocean is sake and ask it to show you how much it can drink before it gets drunk
  • Ask it to demonstrate its mastery of swordsmanship by cutting off its own head, like that famous samurai totally did once
  • Basically any variation on don't throw me into that briar patch

As long as the tengu feels like it is in control of the situation it will be a cheerful bully. As soon as it feels itself outdone on any trivial thing it will either go to extreme lengths to prove its natural superiority or just give up and run away screaming into the wilderness.

There are also King Tengu, who are blue instead of red and have even longer noses. King Tengu have the power to see through exactly one layer of deception. The only way to beat a King Tengu is to get it to think you are trying to trick it one way when actually you are trying to trick it another way.

Also here are some magic items tengu can have, I forgot to do that:
  • Magic gun that never fails to kill something, even if you shoot it in the air
  • Straw cloak that makes you invisible and foul-smelling
  • Lute strung with hair that makes your fingers bleed as you play the most beautiful music
  • One-toothed wooden sandals that give you tengu jumping powers if you can balance on them, which you can't
  • Book that holds the answer to every riddle ever asked, but doesn't tell you which answer goes with which riddle
  • Addictive spinning top
  • Hook-nosed mask that makes everyone who looks at you flee in terror and can't be removed by yourself
  • Sword that makes the wielder incapable of breaking any oath
  • Kite that carries its flier into the air and doesn't let them land
  • Ebony figurine of an owl. Speak the magic word and it turns into an actual owl. The owl knows a magic word that will turn you into an ebony figurine

No comments:

Post a Comment