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What are the Yama Kings?

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witchdoctor

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« on: <09-16-15/1905:28> »
So what exactly are the Yama Kings exactly? All that is really known for sure is that they are serious bad news and Kowloon is theirs and no one is about to try to convince them otherwise. They allegedly eat Bug Spirits which is why Bug Spirits have been unable to gain a foothold in that city which is troubling considering that Bug Spirits are bad news to begin with and anything higher than them on the food chain is MUCH worse. Everything I've seen about them suggests they might be Horrors given their tendency to eat emotions which fits everything I've read on Horrors. Or are they something a step below like Shedim? Is there a canon explanation as to what they are? Where I can find more information about them?

Mirikon

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« Reply #1 on: <09-16-15/2214:05> »
There really isn't much on Hong Kong, partly because the main production runs of the game are done in the US and Europe, so the areas most covered are North America (for English stuff) and Europe (for the German stuff).

So while I don't have any canon answers, I can provide guesses. From what little I remember about the Yama Kings, could be any one of the following:

Bugs - Mantis spirits eat bugs because that's how they summon more Mantis spirits. Other bugs just don't get along, period. If a small collective of insect spirits that aren't of a hive type decided to stake a claim to an area, eating the competition is Plan A.

Toxic/Shadow Spirits - Shadow spirits eat certain kinds of emotion to grow more powerful, and Toxics may thrive on the despair of the place. Very powerful spirits would have no interest in bugs moving in and taking their food away.

Awakened - Not impossible that a tight-knit group of mages and adepts (with mundane supporters) could thrive on the background count of Kowloon, especially if they've got some geomancers to aspect it to them. And if you're hooked in to the locals and proactive about defending the borders of a small area, then keeping bugs out (or stopping them with extreme prejudice) is doable.


What I can pretty much guarantee, though, is that it is NOT Horrors. There are too many dragons in that part of the world for them to be doing anything that blatant without someone coming around to stomp on them.
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ProfGast

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« Reply #2 on: <09-16-15/2219:05> »
Traditionally?  The Yama Kings are a Chinese myth of powerful demon/spirits who were the judges of the dead in hell.  Brief Wikipedia link here.
They were all appointed by the chinese King of Hell whose name is anglicized as Yama.  For the record he's also known as "Enma" in Japan if you're more familiar with that mythology (or have seen DBZ or something). 

In game?  Well the most recent reference (until they release the new Hong Kong book) can be found in 4e Runner Havens (p56-58). 

My take is that they're a bunch of great form free spirits (possibly toxic) that are based off of the superstition (or vice versa) and originally 10 in number who due to the strong magical effects of Kowloon began taking form and multiplying.  A lot of magic in SR depends on belief, and with enough superstition in a twisted pool of mana like Kowloon, metahumanity is more than capable of creating their own demons.

Crimsondude

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« Reply #3 on: <09-16-15/2328:40> »
As far as I know they're some type or types of Shadow Spirit.

MijRai

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« Reply #4 on: <09-17-15/1155:23> »
In the Runner Havens book, it suggests that one of them maaay be a Roach Insect Spirit (it gets into granting a 'wish' for people to escape by making them like cockroaches, if I remember correctly), but my opinion on the rest is very powerful Shadow spirits.  Take the two that have been running around in Bogota, and give them a lair and a constant source of power.  Make them older, more canny, and more malicious in the long-term.  Why torture people when you can offer them something they'd torture themselves over? 
Would you want to go into a place where the resident had a drum-fed shotgun and can see in the dark?

psycho835

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« Reply #5 on: <09-17-15/1233:08> »
"Ghost Cartels" has stats for one of them on p. 123 - to summarize, he's a NASTY F:9 free shadow spirit. Attached description suggests that the other Yama Kings are also free shadow spirits, only most (if not all) of them are more badass.

witchdoctor

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« Reply #6 on: <09-17-15/1929:41> »
In the Runner Havens book, it suggests that one of them maaay be a Roach Insect Spirit (it gets into granting a 'wish' for people to escape by making them like cockroaches, if I remember correctly), but my opinion on the rest is very powerful Shadow spirits.  Take the two that have been running around in Bogota, and give them a lair and a constant source of power.  Make them older, more canny, and more malicious in the long-term.  Why torture people when you can offer them something they'd torture themselves over?

So I just finished up SRHK and you actually have the option in-game to ask the Yama King Qian Ya Queen of A Thousand Teeth to tell you more about what exactly she is. You can ask her flat out if she's a spirit and the answer is a resounding no. The Yama Kings may emerge from Astral Space and be magically active, they can cause magically induced nightmares and seem to affect awakened beings more strongly than non-awakkened but they are not spirits. Now the obvious counterpoint is that Qian Ya could be lying but she states she is physically incapable of directly lying, withholding information is entirely valid but giving untrue information is right out they are also physically incapable of reneging on a deal they have made. Qian Ya is probably the most honest and truthful player in the plot of SRHK as nothing she tells us is untrue. The most information is that the Yama Kings and their servants are part of the same organism the Yama King's servants are extensions of themselves not unlike cells. This leads me to a theory that the Yama Kings while magically active are in fact alien organisms that simply use Astral Space to travel from their home dimension and they were unable to travel to our plane because there was no magic to speak of and thus we were cut off from the Astral Plane that they would've needed to use to travel to our planet and even then a large amount of magical energy was needed and they appeared on Kowloon due to the large amount of negative energy that acted as a catalyst that opened a portal to Astral space that allowed them to come through.

Thoughts? Strengths and weaknesses of this theory?

Crimsondude

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« Reply #7 on: <09-18-15/0009:37> »
"Ghost Cartels" has stats for one of them on p. 123 - to summarize, he's a NASTY F:9 free shadow spirit. Attached description suggests that the other Yama Kings are also free shadow spirits, only most (if not all) of them are more badass.
There's another statted on page 54 of Corporate Intrigue. Shadow spirit.

The Wyrm Ouroboros

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« Reply #8 on: <09-18-15/0608:34> »
Thoughts? Strengths and weaknesses of this theory?

Just one: who told you she was physically incapable of lying directly to you?  Because with that one lie ...
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witchdoctor

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« Reply #9 on: <09-18-15/1925:40> »
Granted Qian Ya was the one who indicated she is unable to lie but all the other information provided checks out plus in game Gobbet has an ability that allows you to consume spirits and you can't use it on her or her minions. And the other claims that she makes are independently vaildated, if you speak to Crafty Xu she will tell you that a Yama King must honor ALL deals that they make. This is not optional. And Qian Ya confirms her statement both by word and deed, if you make a deal that forces her back where she came from she will honor it despite everything she did to cross over in the first place. In addition, Qian Ya has little reason to lie about whether or not she is a spirit as knowing whether or not she's a spirit does not help at all given that even if she is a spirit she is so absurdly powerful that it would make little difference and it's also a stupid risk since the deal she is trying to broker with you is dependent on you believe she is on the level since you have her at a disadvantage as she needs your cooperation to get what she wants. Also outside of SRHK the Yama Kings do not have the same restrictions as spirits do, they do not get forced back to the Astral plane at dawn, they do not need to be called from the Astral Plane and they do not need to be bound or form a pact with someone to remain on our plain of existence indefinitely that I have seen indicated anywhere.

The Wyrm Ouroboros

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« Reply #10 on: <09-19-15/0203:05> »
Honest to god, that simply means that Qian Ya (and/or the other Yama Kings) are simply smart enough to lie only on things which can't be independently verified - like whether or not they're spirits, etc.

In regards to the 'restrictions' you're talking about, you're generally incorrect on several of them, and in fact a free spirit - including a free Shadow-type spirit - has no need of being bound, forming a pact, or being called - at least not since they went free.  And no offense, she has plenty of reasons to lie about what she really is.  If you uncategorically believe everything she says just because everything you've been able to check has shown her to be on the level, and she admits that yes, she's a free spirit, then she's revealing a lethal vulnerability - that she has a True Name, that she can be hunted down, controlled, and destroyed by relatively ordinary means.  If, on the other hand, she can get you to believe she is not a spirit, then you won't ever go looking.

What's better protected, the thing that's hidden, or the thing that's never sought?
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psycho835

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« Reply #11 on: <09-19-15/0226:51> »
Wyrm's proobably right, I think. But, on the off chance that he's not - you know what else needs a lot of mana to enter, but not to remain? Horrors. Could it be the Yama Kings are some of the weakest, who slipped through back when mana spikes were still around?

...Doubt it. But it would make for one hell of a campaign.

witchdoctor

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« Reply #12 on: <09-19-15/1251:53> »
Honest to god, that simply means that Qian Ya (and/or the other Yama Kings) are simply smart enough to lie only on things which can't be independently verified - like whether or not they're spirits, etc.

In regards to the 'restrictions' you're talking about, you're generally incorrect on several of them, and in fact a free spirit - including a free Shadow-type spirit - has no need of being bound, forming a pact, or being called - at least not since they went free.  And no offense, she has plenty of reasons to lie about what she really is.  If you uncategorically believe everything she says just because everything you've been able to check has shown her to be on the level, and she admits that yes, she's a free spirit, then she's revealing a lethal vulnerability - that she has a True Name, that she can be hunted down, controlled, and destroyed by relatively ordinary means.  If, on the other hand, she can get you to believe she is not a spirit, then you won't ever go looking.

What's better protected, the thing that's hidden, or the thing that's never sought?

You make a fair point, I am however noticing that this need to follow through on deals and the claim, true or not, that they are incapable of directly lying seems awfully similar to traditional rules normally associated with Fae. I realize in universe this has no bearing but in a meta-sense I'm just wondering if it's possible that the Yama Kings rules are similar if not identical to those governing Fae.

And I stand corrected on the Free Spirit rules I had thought that in order to remain on our plane long-term they required energy of some form which typically came from a pact with someone on our plane. I personally do not believe she is a Free Spirit as she no-sells everything you throw at her and the only reason she feels she needs to cut a deal with you is because you are essentially extorting her by threatening to widen the hole into Astral Space to allow other Yama Kings through and she does not feel like sharing.
« Last Edit: <09-19-15/1253:25> by witchdoctor »

The Wyrm Ouroboros

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« Reply #13 on: <09-19-15/1333:56> »
Well, if you have another in-universe character telling you this - from a quick Google, looks like 'Crafty Xu' is a merchant? - then you have several different possibilities, not all of them being mutually exclusive.  Is Xu under the influence of Qian Ya, or another Yama King?  Is she relating the Chinese tradition, akin to the Faerie tradition, in regards to the Yama Kings?  Is she telling the characters what they want to know in order to get them to shut up and buy her outrageously overpriced stuff?  Does she think she's telling the truth, but it's incorrect, i.e. the 'unreliable narrator' issue?

All that said, 'has to honor a deal' is tradition in a lot of different backgrounds; in Christian tradition, the Devil has to honor the bargains he's made.  Metagame-wise, it's just as possible that such deals for the Yama Kings are akin to minor (non-ritual) pacts, which she's going to want to keep because she gets energy, i.e. karma, out of it if she does, and loses energy (force, spirit energy, or karma) if she doesn't.

And in regards to the fae and telling the truth, traditions vary on whether they could directly lie to you, but all agree that they had to tell you the truth if you asked them three times.
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witchdoctor

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« Reply #14 on: <09-19-15/1351:36> »
Well, if you have another in-universe character telling you this - from a quick Google, looks like 'Crafty Xu' is a merchant? - then you have several different possibilities, not all of them being mutually exclusive.  Is Xu under the influence of Qian Ya, or another Yama King?  Is she relating the Chinese tradition, akin to the Faerie tradition, in regards to the Yama Kings?  Is she telling the characters what they want to know in order to get them to shut up and buy her outrageously overpriced stuff?  Does she think she's telling the truth, but it's incorrect, i.e. the 'unreliable narrator' issue?

All that said, 'has to honor a deal' is tradition in a lot of different backgrounds; in Christian tradition, the Devil has to honor the bargains he's made.  Metagame-wise, it's just as possible that such deals for the Yama Kings are akin to minor (non-ritual) pacts, which she's going to want to keep because she gets energy, i.e. karma, out of it if she does, and loses energy (force, spirit energy, or karma) if she doesn't.

And in regards to the fae and telling the truth, traditions vary on whether they could directly lie to you, but all agree that they had to tell you the truth if you asked them three times.

Crafty Xu is a merchant is Heoi whose mother unwisely attempted to exorcise a section of Kowloon that had been claimed by a Yama King, while the mother was driven insane by the attempt Crafty Xu was able to piece enough together from her mother's diary to figure out some of the Yama King rules. Now it is possible she was being influenced by the Yama Kings but I rather doubt it as the information she gives you does give you the option to force Qian Ya back the way she came without getting anything in exchange which is not something that is in her best interest. It is Crafty Xu that tells you that Yama Kings have to honor all deals they make and this is something the Qian Ya would definitely not want getting out as this is a definite weakness that you have the option to exploit as it allows the player to take advantage of Qian Ya misspeaking and force her to honor the deal she accidentally offered where you get what you want (her going back where she came from) and her getting absolutely nothing.