Central concepts of Akashic Practice:
Debate continues within the ranks on what this is. Some argue it is the only real part of the Brother, the part of the All which experiences the illusions of the world through a projected 'Self' and the part which survives the extinction of physical life. Such would also argue that every Avatar is in fact one Avatar, seperated from the others only by its own illusions. Others argue it is truly an Avatar, a distinct shard of the Divine placed within every living thing, and that true Ascension comes by reconciling the contradiction between mortal and divine and joining the Self with the Avatar to ascend to the next stage of existence.
Whatever its exact nature, it acts as mentor, judge, and occasional kibitzer to the Brother, driving him down the path of his Do until he either succeeds or flees the path.
Body is more than simply one's flesh; it reflects the entire physical aspect of humans, from hunger to the need to sleep to being solid, touchable, and measurable. It is part of the Body/Mind dualism that Akashics seek to collapse into Selfhood. The 'physical' world itself is Body. It can also be used to describe 'hard' martial arts styles and training techniques which seek to enhance one's physical prowness.
Chi or Qi or Ki:
Known to the other traditions as Quintessence, this is the energy which flows through the universe, connecting all things. Chi comes in two flavors, yin and yang, and their intermixture in a thing gives that thing its very nature.
This is a highly debated concept (concepts tend to be like that). One's Dharma is one's duty in life. Acting in accordance with one's Dharma builds up good Karma, acting against it brings bad Karma. It is, roughly, a system of morality, although it focus more on duties than rights. However, the content of Dharma, and whether it is personal, universal, class-based, or determined in some other manner remains disputed. Some argue that each person has a collection of duties personal to them, others that everyone is bound by the same code of duties, a third group argues that one's station in life determines one's Dharma, and various other groups set other criteria. The only clear point is that going against one's Dharma tends to lead to disaster due to the resulting build up of bad Karma. It includes the concept of destiny as well.
Do is the way in which one lives one's life. It includes martial arts, but for a true Akashic, one's Do manifests itself in everything one does, from sex to fishing to combat to working on a chain gang. Everyone has a personal Do, but there are aspects common to all Do, such as self-control and some degree of asceticism.
Everything can be assessed from the viewpoint of duality. Any given thing is the fusion of some mixture of opposite qualities which gives that thing its character. This is commonly thought of in terms of yin and yang, but since each of those terms have wide connotations, one can apply this concept in a variety of ways, such as saying that Life combines the polarities of male and female. The union of opposites creates a new term of reference which is then part of a higher order binary opposition. Body and Mind fuse to create Self which then comes into contrast with other Selves, which possess the quality of being not-Self. Two Selves might join to form a family, which then finds itself in opposition to other families. Eventually, they fuse into a clan, opposed to other clans and so forth.
All actions have long-term consequences. Your present life is shaped by your past actions and by your actions in past lives, and the resulting actions you take shape your future and your future actions. The bill for your past actions may come due at unexpected moments, and many of the effects of Paradox are simply seen as the working out of Karma.
Mind is the second half of the Body/Mind duality, encompassing all the mental and spiritual aspects of one's existence. It also includes knowledge, abstract concepts, and abstract thought. 'Soft' martial arts styles and techniques for increasing one's control of one's mind, spirit, and chi are placed in this category. Mind and Body merge to produce Self.
This is one of the most highly debated of Akashic concepts. Body and Mind combine to form the Self, yet, what is the Self? Some Akashics will argue that all of creation is one giant Self, and that the personal Self is only an illusion created by that Self for some purpose, an illusion which must be shattered in order to know the truth. Others argue that the Self is quite real, and so is the world, but like the Self, the world needs to be healed of the division which splits it in two (Physical World/Spirit World). Still others argue that the contradiction between these viewpoints has to be reconciled to form a higher truth. Space does not permit a full discussion of this issue.
"Laws" of Akashic Magick
Every system of magick has rules of some kind, though as mages grow
in Enlightenment, they begin to see through the rules and break free of
them. Here's some of the ones Akashics tend to believe in.
Hard (Body) vs. Soft (Mind) Do and Magick.
Akashics tend to follow either a Hard or Soft style, which manifests itself not just in how they fight, but also in their personalities, actions, and the spheres they master.
Hard styles are aggressive, focusing on overwhelming one's foes, and on external action. They typically involve kicks and punches. They train to perfect their bodies. Hard style Akashics tend to be Dynamic or Questing in Essence, and tend to focus on 'Hard' Magics: Forces, Life, and Matter, especially, though also Correspondence in its movement/spacial manipulation aspect, and Entropy in its destructive aspects.
Hard style Akashics tend to be directed outward, seeking to change the world and spread their ideas, though they are not necessarily highly violent. Their strength is their ability to act quickly (and often, simply to act at all), their weakness is a tendency to act too quickly or to waste energy.
Soft styles are reactive and involve redirecting force. They feature a lot of meditation, and the use of locks, holds, and throws. Akashics following a soft style train to perfect their minds. Soft style Akashics tend to be Pattern or Primordial in Essence, and focus on 'Soft' Magics: Prime, Mind, and Spirit, and also any of the spheres in their 'detection' aspects.
Soft style Akashics tend to be directed inward, seeking to change themselves before they change the world, although they are not necessarily highly passive. Their strength of mind and inner tranquility make them good mediators and help them to choose their actions wisely, but their weakness is their tendency to fail to act until action is forced upon them.
Historically, the importance of these bundles of styles, each of which itself contains many variants, has changed many times, with hard and soft stylists rising and falling in importance as the Brotherhood has changed its goals. Still, in recent centuries, the Brotherhood has tended to be dominated by soft stylists, in part due to the orientation towards Mind that has come from the group's designation as the Traditions' Mind specialists.
Using Hard and Soft Styles in Game Play:
Followers of Hard Styles will typically find the following things easier
Followers of Soft Styles will typically find the following things easier to do:
Weaknesses of both kinds of styles:
It's up to the Storyteller, of course, to decide how to best use these tendencies, whether to simply leave them as a matter of roleplaying, or to increase/decrease difficulties as appropriate. Things which fall in the Weakness category might require some appropriate attribute + ability check to successfully figure out a way to use one's mystick knowledge to effect the desired thing. This would, however, also depend on what one wished to do to the thing.
Thus, if an Akashic is faced with a cracked nuclear reactor leaking radiation, she would require some Science knowledge to figure out how to directly use her Forces to redirect the radiation. Redirecting a bullet, on the other hand, wouldn't require any special knowledge, since a bullet, while technological, is not really different from a very fast hurled stone, which fits quite neatly in her understanding. Creating a gun from scratch, on the other hand, would require some firearms knowledge to go with her Matter and Prime. Or perhaps just have a higher difficulty than the standard, depending on how the Storyteller wants to run things. Or both.
How the use of 'Do' as a focus works:
Let's face it, the 'Do' focus can become quite ridiculous at times, since it's both vague and gets around the need for an actual 'tool'. Of course, so does meditation, prayer, and several other foci, but they're not what we're discussing right now. For that matter, in a sense for an Akashic, every focus is Do, since Do is not just combat skills but one's entire way of life. Still, we're discussing Do, the skill for beating people in the head.
Do is most appropriate for certain kinds of actions: intuitively sensing one's environment, creation/ destruction/ redirection of kinetic energy, inflicting Life or Entropy damage on Life or Matter patterns, resisting any sort of physical attack on the body, attacks against weak points, and pressure point attacks (such as using Life 3 or Prime 2 to stun someone or immobilize a limb). Basically, it is an appropriate foci for effects which amplify or are based on real-world martial artist tricks. Effects which use Do as a focus are going to tend to be short-lived, ending when the fight does.
It is not particularly appropriate for other types of effects, such as creating matter from nothing, teleportation, reading people's minds, etc, etc. Meditation, or meditation with a tool, such as one's sword, sash, mandala, or whatever, is more likely to be used for effects that aren't short-lived and curb-stomping oriented.
Most Akashic magic is not going to be fast, especially for soft stylists. Hard style effects do tend to be quicker, but if you don't want to smash things, they're not as useful.
Some examples of effects for which the Do foci is appropriate:
Some examples of effects for which the Do foci is inappropriate, but which still fit well within the Akashic Paradigm:
An Akashic Understanding of What She or He is Doing When He or She Uses the Spheres.
Space is an illusion. All things are at the same place; one simply pierces the illusion and reshapes it to one's will. At the highest levels, one can reshape other's illusions of space as well as one's own.
What Akashics do well: Sensory effects, seeing things far away, moving one's self about.
What Akashics don't do so well: Correspondence effects that bend space for others; it's hard for them to conceptualize how they're changing other people's illusion of space without bringing other spheres into it. Unless that person consents to the change, anyway. This is easiest for those Akashics who believe everything is a part of Brahma, in which case they and their target are really the same being, which can make life simpler in many ways.
Example of Use:
Yoshimoto Taiki is seated in his meditation chamber. He closes his eyes and spends a half hour running through meditation exercises to remind himself that space is but an illusion, and that only his acceptance of that illusion prevents him seeing all things as one. He then meditates on his sister, Yohko, who he is worried about. When he opens his eyes, he now sees where she is, as if he was there.
Entropy is the sphere of Dharma and Karma, and of the great cycles of Change. By mastering it, one learns to predict fate and to exert one's will over destiny and change. Yet, tampering with fate and karma is dangerous; better to align one's will to that of the universe and flow with it, since one must effectively balance the changes one makes by payments from one's own karma. That makes this a dangerous sphere in many of its uses.
What Akashics Do Well or Don't Do So Well: Akashics have no particular strengths or weaknesses in using this sphere, although Hard stylists find it easier to use it to find flaws in things and to destroy, and Soft stylists to use it to predict and control fate and random events.
Example of Use:
The Gambling King is notorious for his use of Entropy to cheat at games of chance. Because of his enlightenment, he can sense the ebb and flow of fate and karma, and percieve who will be rewarded for their good karma with good luck, and who will be punished with bad luck. By his force of will, he can even override their karma. Of course, by doing so, he alters his own karma, and given his tendency to go around giving other people bad luck and himself good luck, he's likely going to end up being reborn as a potato in his next life. He no longer needs a foci for this effect, but many Akashics would use I-ching or some other divination method to percieve the karma of others, and prayer and meditation to change it.
The various forces of the universe tend to be strong in Yang (the dynamic element). One controls them by altering the flow of Yang chi through them, adding, redirecting, or reducing the flow of Yang as appropriate through one's enlightened will and through actions which will evoke appropriate flows of Yang chi. There are several major forces: cold(seen as an actual force, not just the absence of heat), fire, heat (related to fire, but not necessarily dependent on it. Seen as the opposite of cold), light, lightning, motion, sound, and wind.
Akashic Strengths: Akashics are better at sensing destroying, redirecting, or transmuting Forces than at creating them. They work well with the forces listed above, especially kinetic energy.
Akashic Weaknesses: Creating forces from nothing, despite various anime to the contrary, is not a strength of the Akashic Brotherhood. They also work poorly with forces which fall outside their paradigm, such as radio waves, radioactivity, the strong and weak forces, X-rays, etc.
Example of Use:
HIT Mark X-555 fires a sniper rifle at Walker, Texas Ranger. Walker feeds Yin chi into the bullet, dissipating the Yang chi which is the basis of the motive force driving it forward. It slows to the point where he can swat it aside with one hand. He then gives the HIT Mark a lecture on gun safety.
Life is the balanced Pattern Sphere, a reconciliation of order and chaos, of the Male and Female principles. Much of the art of manipulating Life is the art of knowing how Chi flows into the body from the universe, through the body to be used by the vital organs, and back out of the body into the universe. One can alter this point by infusing chi, removing chi, or blocking its flow through the various major vital points. Almost any Life effect that doesn't involve creating life can be carried out in this matter. Life is at the heart of Hard Styles, and is thought of in two major categories: plants and animals.
Akashic Strengths: Akashics are best at effecting their own body, but they can use their knowledge of the body's chi flows to affect other living beings quite easily as well. They are strongest at enhancing traits already natural to a given life form, speeding or slowing natural processes (such as healing), triggering natural reflexes and behaviors (such as falling asleep) and inflicting injury by jamming up chi flows.
Akashic Weaknesses: Akashics are not so good at blatant shape changing, transforming one life form into another kind, or creating creatures from nothing.
Example of Use:
Timmy has fallen down the well again. Flying Tiger sighs and heads over to the well, and once she pulls him up, examines him, discovering his leg is broken. She moves the leg into place and immobilizes it so that the break will heal the right way. She then uses a combination of acupuncture and moxibustion to realign his chi flows so that his injury will heal more rapidly, and she advises him to eat yang foods, like tabasco sauce, which will help restore his chi balance as well.
The third of the Pattern spheres; Matter is strongly imbued with yin chi, which gives it stability and durability, but renders it less flexible. By studying the yin and yang pattern of Matter, one can learn its properties, and by manipulating that pattern, one can change Matter, transforming it in a variety of ways. Matter is thought of in terms of stones, metals, gemstones/crystals, dead things, water, cloth, and ceramics. A few rowdier Akashics would add beer and other fermented drinks to this list, as well.
Akashics are best at understanding the structure and composition of Matter and making weapons and other ritual foci from it. They work best with Matter in its natural state and with using it to enhance artisan work or items with which they have bonded through long use. Purifying Matter is another strong point.
Akashics aren't particularly alchemists, and they aren't particularly good at transmuting or creating Matter, or working with any sort of complex machines. Even Hard stylists tend to prefer Life to Matter.
Example of Use:
Hungry Panda wants to go swimming, but he fears the pond he is looking at has been tainted. He sits and meditates, attuning himself to it, then gazes into the waters, which give him a vision of the poisons within it. He then redirects the natural flows of chi around the pool to rebalance its yin and yang, so that the poisons will be purged or transformed into harmless substances.
This is the Akashic signature sphere, and all Akashics have some skill in it, though Hard stylists frequently never bother to progress much beyond the first level. Mind and Body together form the great dualism of Akashic thought. Soft Stylists see it as crucial to master this sphere, just as Hard Stylists tend to obsess over Life. Mind magic is largely seen in terms of all Minds being part of the universal Mind, and it is only necessary to peek through the veils of illusions between minds in order to read and influence other minds.
Akashics are good at just about everything relating to the Mind Sphere. However, they are reluctant to use it to warp the minds of others, tending to prefer effects which either tell them the thoughts of others or enhance their own mind.
No real weaknesses of knowledge or technique. AIs may induce some mild confusion, but they can handle them, unlike most technological constructs.
Example of Use:
Kwai Chang Caine is approached by a gang of young toughs. They wish to study with him. He decides he wishes to gauge their true intentions by reading their surface thoughts. As he talks to one of them, he mentally runs through a series of exercises for assuming the no-mind. Once he is at one with the universal mind, he can hear their own thoughts as easily as he hears his own.
This is the sphere of the direct manipulation of Chi. Every Akashic has some ability to do this, they believe, but this is the sphere of the true Chi master, who can achieve the greatest feats by tapping the Chi of the earth and drawing it into himself to store it, as well as simply redirecting or destroying flows. Chi flows through the earth along great conduits known as Dragon Lines, and gathers at places known as Dragon Nests. Legends whisper of Chi Vampires who have struggled for control of such in the past with the Akashic Brotherhood, but little is known of these enigmatic creatures of the night.
Akashics are best at tapping natural flows and redirecting them. They also excel at using chi to enchant weapons or to enhance their own body, enabling them to do barehanded aggravated damage.
Akashics are not good at sucking chi out of fixed patterns, although they can imbue chi into things fairly well.
Example of Use:
Thunder Foot is preparing for a big fight. He begins by ritually purifying himself in a waterfall with eight hours of meditation and physical exercises. He then dries off and retires into the Dragon Nest behind the waterfall, where his purified body is ready to absorb chi from the Dragon Lines that feed into the node. He performs a five-part kata, saluting each of the four cardinal directions and the fifth direction (center). As he does so, he opens himself to the power of the lines, which fills him. He redirects some of the absorbed chi to be stored in his fists, so they will strike with wounds that do not easily heal. The remaining chi he holds in his belly until it will be needed.
Imagine that the internal path, the path of the soft stylist is a tree. Prime forms the roots, drawing in nourishment. Mind is the trunk of the tree, reaching towards the heavens. And Spirit is the many leaves and branches at the top of the tree, all of them part of one tree, but each different and unique. The World of Spirit stands to the World of Flesh as Mind stands to Body, half of a greater whole. The Gauntlet is but a veil which one can learn to part and step through. In the end, it must be torn down if the universe is to Ascend. One begins by first mastering the veil itself, then learning to pass through it and deal with the beings beyond. Yet, beyond that, one finds still more veils, and greater dangers.Time:
Akashics, even soft stylists, are not noted for their mastery of Spirit. Still, they have learned to see through the veil, to pass through it, to survive in it, and how to speak with or injure the creatures which lie beyond the veil.
Akashics aren't very good at summoning spirits, compelling them into service, turning them into fetishes, imprisoning them, or reshaping umbral environments. Soft stylists prefer to control themselves, and hard stylists would rather kick umbrood in the head than conjure them.
Example of Use:
Clarissa Huang discovers a local park is being haunted by evil spirits. She decides it's up to her to stop them. She goes to the pond at the heart of her rock garden, and spends half an hour circling the pool, drawing in chi and feeding it into the pool, slowly weakening the veil between the worlds. She then enters the pool and sinks into it, letting the water claim her, then rising up from the pool's umbral equivalent. She then heads for the park to deal with the spiritual menace.
Past and Future combine to form the sphere of Time, for there is no now, for the now when you began this sentence is already past, and the now when you come to the end of this sentence is still future while you are at this point in it. Now is simply the evermoving border between the two. Time is also the combination of Drahma and Free Choice. Everyone has a destiny, but it can be rejected, although the universe will punish you for straying from it. Sometimes it may be worth being punished. Some Akashics argue that Time is simply an illusion, that everything that will be already exists and one can simply learn to see through the illusion. Hard stylists often visualize it as a mount one is riding. One must learn to steer the tiger instead of simply riding it and fearing to dismount.
Akashics handle Time well. They can do almost anything with it fairly easily.
Akashics are better at applying Time magicks to themselves than others; it's harder to make others pierce their veils/ride someone else's tiger.
Example of Use:
Ranma Saotome is having an even worse day than usual. Not only has Akane's effort to cook dinner achieved sentience again, three HIT Marks just burst through the wall. Unfortunately for them, he's just learned Time 3. He flows into a kata which is lightning quick due to weeks of intense practice. The HIT Marks are about to learn the power of one hand clapping...their noses into the back of their heads. (Use of Do as a focus).
A few Akashic katas:
Astral Projection (Mind 5)
Simple meditation sends your mind a'roaming the Astral Plane. Many masters combine with other spheres to guard and sustain their bodies in their absence.
Brick Breaking (Entropy 3)
A classic move of the Akashic Brotherhood. A properly placed blow can shatter all sorts of things coincidentally thanks to this being one of the most famous martial arts moves of all time. It becomes vulgar if you go to far, like trying to shatter battleship plate.
Building a Mental Shield (Mind 1)
The typical Akashic approach to this is to dissolve their own minds into the universal mind, hiding by ceasing to project the illusion that they exist. In game terms, each success knocks one off the successes of any mental magics used against them.
Changing Direction in the Middle of a Jump to Come Down on Someone's
Head (Forces 2)
Akashics can bounce around like rubber balls if they so desire with the use of this kata. It's generally vulgar. The Akashic will still need to make a Dex + Athletics roll to properly direct his jumps and changes of direction.
Chi-Enhanced Punch (Life 3 and/or Prime 3)
By focusing Chi into one's fists, one can do additional damage. With the use of Life 3, one can coincidentally make one's blows lethal instead of bashing. With Prime 3, one can spend a point of Quintessence and do aggravated damage with one's fists. Combined, one does aggravated damage and can do additional damage coincidentally due to the Life effect.
Deflecting Bullets (Forces 2)
Swatting Bullets out of the air is generally vulgar; each success let's the mage attempt to parry gunfire from one target. In game terms, the mage can use Dexterity + Do at a difficulty of 6 to dodge bullets (Each success on the Dex + Do roll effectively negates one success of the attack roll). There is a coincidental variant where each success adds +1 to the difficulty of shooting the mage; unbelief will usually collapse that version if too much gunfire is directed at once and all misses.
Dim Mak Strike (Entropy 1)
You can find the weak points in your foes; each success reduces the difficulty of your damage roll by one.
Drawing Chi from the Earth (Prime 3)
Meditation, and sometimes acupuncture, are used to manipulate the flows of Chi to replenish the supply of the Brother's Avatar. Each success directs two points of Quintessence out of the node and into the Brother's Avatar.
Drunken Style Fighting (Mind 3)
By pretending to be intoxicated, you get your opponents to underestimate you or possibly ignore you completely. This is coincidental as long as you either begin it as soon as they see you, or otherwise provide some pretext by which you could be drunk. Your targets lose one defense die for every success, as they both underestimate you and find it hard to understand what you're doing. If they lose more defense dice than their intelligence, they will ignore you completely until you actually attack them.
Entering the Umbra (Spirit 3)
Dealing with the Spirit World is most advanced among the Wu Lung faction of the Akashic Brotherhood; they enter the Umbra by performing elaborate rites and appealing to the Celestial Bureaucracy for permission to cross over.
Hong Kong Style Fighting (Mind 3)
This simple rote compels one's opponents to come at you one at a time, as if they were the bad guys in a Hong Kong Kung Fu flick. They will feel the urge to do it bare handed or with hand weapons instead of guns. This is generally coincidental, thanks to a plethora of kung fu movies.
Iajutsu (Time 3)
This is the art of the quick draw, although I've probably mispelled it. The goal is to draw one's sword and defeat one's opponent all with a single stroke before they even manage to draw their sword. For this rote to be coincidental, the weapon you intend to use must already be sheathed. Each success adds three points to your initiative total, and if you win initiative, your opponent may not take any defensive action to block your attack.
Karmic Redirection (Entropy 2)
Normally, the workings of Karma cannot be controlled, but through proper prayer and meditation, the Brother can cause other people's sins to catch up with them, or bless someone with good luck. Paradox backlashes with this effect are often seen as proof that someone's karma was either worse or better than had been believed... This can be used to produce low level good or bad luck, or a briefer, more intense burst of luck. It often takes the form of consequences of past actions catching up to the target, as you might expect.
A similar effect is produced for locations instead of people through
the use of geomancy.
Listening to a Tree in the Forest to See if it Makes a Sound When
it Falls With No One Around It (Correspondence 2)
All places are one place, as all minds are one mind. One must merely open oneself to the cosmic Mind and see what it sees. As normal Scrying.
Movement Reading (Time 2)
By studying someone's movements, you can predict their attacks. This then helps you to counter them. Gain one extra defensive die for every success. Usually coincidental as long as what they do has an observable physical component.
No Mind (Mind 3)
The Akashic reassures himself of the truth of the doctrine that individual identity is just an illusion. By piercing the illusion of his own existence, he prevents others from noticing his existence as well. This makes him effectively invisible to anyone who can't manage a Willpower roll with as many or more successes than his effect.
Parting the Veil (Mind 3)
All minds are one, and by reminding one of that, one can part the walls of illusion which divide the universal Mind into many 'minds'. This allows mind-to-mind communication or even the probing of surface thoughts.
Reading the Web of Dharma and Karma to See the Past and Future (Time
Everyone's Dharmas and Karma tie together to form a great web of fate. It can be consulted, along with the Akashic Record, to peer into what was or what should be. Sadly, future sight is not as reliable, because people sometimes defy their Dharmas...
Skirt Fighting (Correspondence 1, Matter 3)
Not as silly as it sounds. This was developed by as a way for weaponless women to defend themselves with their own clothing. It requires one to wear an ankle-length thick skirt which can then be used to blind people, catch weapons, prevent successful grappling, and the like. The magical version of this actually strengthens the skirt to resist weapons and enables nearly infinite manipulation of it without it coming off or tearing. The correspondence aspect allows one to sense attacks coming from all directions. As long as one keeps moving, it is generally coincidental. The Akashic Sister gains 1 extra die for blocking per success and difficulties to hit her with unarmed attacks or hand weapons go up by 1 per success.
Zen Archery (Correspondence 1, Mind 1)
By entering the no-mind, you learn to shoot instinctively without being hampered by one's emotions or physical sensations. Ignore all pain penalties to dice pool and reduce your targeting difficulty by one for each success.