Kitsune: A New Abomination for Deadlands

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A Deadlands: Weird Wars Abomination

by T. Jordan "Greywolf" Peacock

Kitsune in the world of Deadlands are Abominations that date back to a time before the Reckoning, before the time when the Old Ones joined together to hold back the powers of darkness. The word "Kitsune" is Japanese for "fox", and in essence they are an Abomination in the form of a fox ... and with the ability to take on the forms of men (or, more often, women) in order to snare and prey upon the unwary. They comprise an Oriental type of shape-shifting vampire, draining the life force of those unfortunates who are taken in by a Kitsune's charms.

Tales of Kitsune are varied, and often fairly sordid. It is probably best not to go into great detail. As for actual Kitsune in the Deadlands universe, they may not completely fit the Japanese myths. After all, creatures that become real in Deadlands often have a twist here or there, lest any mortal know exactly how to deal with them.

The natural form of a Kitsune is that of a mostly normal-looking fox, though older and more powerful Kitsune can be distinguished by the presence of more than one tail - up to nine, at which point the Kitsune also takes on a golden color. Whenever a Kitsune is frightened (which is very possible, even if this is an Abomination), it will revert back to this form and flee. There have been tales along the lines of a man in the company of a beautiful maiden being quite surprised when a dog starts barking at the maiden - the maiden is overcome with fear ... and suddenly shrinks down into the form of a little fox that runs away into the woods, never to be seen again.

Kitsune have the ability to shift their forms to appear to be an especially attractive (Purty) male or female human of Japanese descent - most often the latter, as male Kitsune are exceedingly rare. One flaw in this disguise is that the tail (or tails) of a Kitsune never disappear, even when in human form - The Kitsune hides this tell-tale sign in the folds of a kimono, dress or robes. (Or, in modern times, a trenchcoat might be appropriate.) Furthermore, animals tend to instinctively know that something is wrong, and are often agitated in the presence of a Kitsune. (If a Kitsune ever comes riding up on a horse, odds are there's something wrong with the horse, too.)

Kitsune also possess remarkable powers of illusion of varying ability, used to further the charade, and to lure unwary humans into spending time with the charmer. Humans who spend prolonged time with a Kitsune are slowly sapped of life energies. Sometimes, this just means that a hapless traveler who thought he was enjoying the hospitality of a beautiful woman living in a mansion ... wakes up the next morning to find himself in the cramped confines of an abandoned fox den underneath the floorboards of a house. Other times, victims may receive repeated visits from the Kitsune, until their life force is sapped completely, and they pass on ... and due to the supernatural nature of such a death, it's quite possible that the victim may come back as an evil spirit or a Walkin' Dead to vent his frustrations on the living.

Kitsunes as Characters

One thing you may notice when reading this article is that there's a lot of detail on the limitations of Kitsune. They aren't the be-all, end-all of wicked Abominations. However, the Marshal isn't necessarily expected to roll dice for each and every thing a Kitsune non-player character might do "off camera". These notes are provided so that the Marshal can be aware of possible flaws in the Kitsune's powers, which a clever Posse may be able to exploit in order to defeat her. Of course, the Marshal is free - as ever - to modify these as he sees fit. More powerful, multi-tailed Kitsune may not be beholden to all these restrictions, for example. Or perhaps the legends aren't quite on target.

Another purpose for listing all these restrictions is that it is conceivable that a Posse member might be a Kitsune ... or, that is, a half-human/half-Kitsune hybrid who possesses some of the powers of Kitsune and all of the drawbacks. After you read through this, there's another article on creating such a character for the Weird Wars setting, if you want to allow that as an option to your Posse.

Shape Shifting

Kitsune have three physical forms: fox, hybrid and human. Changing "down" the scale (from human to hybrid or fox, or from hybrid to fox) is an almost instantaneous change, taking one action. Transforming in the other direction, however, takes an entire round, during which time the Kitsune loses any cards up the sleeve, and can do nothing - not even to vamoose, or to defend oneself in melee combat. (The transforming Kitsune cannot apply fightin' Aptitude levels to defense.) Equipment does not transform along with the Kitsune - The Kitsune must either acquire clothes and such (by theft, most likely), or rely upon powers of illusion to complete the disguise.

Kitsune do not casually change shape, however. Changing shape "upward" on the scale costs the Kitsune 1d6 Wind, and to do so deliberately requires a Spirit roll against a TN of 7. Failure means that the Wind is still lost, but the Kitsune does not change shape. The Kitsune may try again next round.

Spirit, Mien, Cognition, Knowledge and Smarts are unchanged, regardless of what form the Kitsune is in. Wind and Strain (if applicable) are also unchanged, even though Vigor may be altered as a result of the transformation.

If more than one transformation is performed within a 24 hour period, each subsequent transformation gains an additional -1 penalty to the Spirit roll to transform. (This penalty is waived if the Kitsune gets a full night's sleep.)

Conservation of Mass

Note to the Marshal - If this section is too complicated for you, ignore it! But it can provide a clever (if revolting) way for a Posse to defeat a Kitsune.

An important thing to note about Kitsune transformation is that it is magical in nature, not natural. A fox is much smaller and lighter than a human, so this is an obvious violation of the very basic law of Conservation of Mass. This can lead to some very delicate questions if the group is too scientifically minded, but a great deal of the complications are handled by magical hand-waving. (This is Deadlands, after all, not hard science. Don't think too hard about the implications of all this!)

However, there are some nasty little exceptions to this. While the contents of a Kitsune's stomach, et cetera, are magically covered by transformation, this does not apply to foreign, inorganic objects. The exact definition of what is or isn't covered is up to the Marshal's discretion, but it basically means that a bullet lodged into a Kitsune's body when he changes shape is going to hurt a bit more when he's suddenly only fox-sized ... and if she tries any overly clever ways to smuggle things through customs, she could die rather messily if she gets frightened.

If a Kitsune takes damage while in human or hybrid form and has foreign objects (i.e., bullets, etc.) stuck in her when she shifts to fox form, the wound level suffered from that attack should be recalculated with the new Size of the fox taken into account. This is most likely going to be worse, and it's entirely possible that the fox might be knocked unconscious by the additional Wind, or killed by the increased wound level. Getting shot and frightened can kill a Kitsune character pretty nastily.

Human Form

In human form, the Kitsune is indistinguishable from a normal human by normal perception ... with the conspicuous exception of the presence of a fox tail.

If the Kitsune should fail a Guts check, he or she will revert to Fox form and run away. The Kitsune is unable to change shape further until she recovers from being Scart.

Even though this is a physical transformation, it is also a magical one, and there are certain tell-tale signs of a Kitsune's true identity, for the wary. First of all, a Kitsune's reflection in water will show her true form - She will appear in the reflection as a large fox walking upright, rather than a human. Also, a Kitsune's shadow will be that of a large fox walking upright - This latter clue is fairly easy to miss. Someone will only casually pick up on it on an Incredible (11) Cognition check - and even then, a Doubting Thomas should be able to wave it off as a trick of the light. Those who are looking for such cues, however, can pick up on it on an Easy (5) Cognition check.

Fox Form

In Fox form, the Kitsune is indistinguishable from a normal fox by normal perception ... unless the Kitsune happens to be possessed of more than one tail. The character has the physical characteristics (Nimbleness, Deftness, Strength, Vigor, Quickness) of a Fox (see below) but retains the same Cognition, Spirit, Mien, Smarts and Knowledge as in human form, as well as Wind and Strain. In this form, the Kitsune has the Keen Edge. Kitsune in this form typically cannot speak, though they can still understand human speech just fine.

The Kitsune can communicate with other Kitsune, as well as mundane animals. The Kitsune can also communicate with any characters capable of speaking with animals (such as a Witch or Shaman). This does not convey any sort of control on either side, and it should be noted that mundane animals aren't likely to carry on particularly deep conversations, and may be put off if they see a fox as predator or prey.

While in Fox form, the Kitsune has access to a fox's keen senses. She does not, however, have the wonderful use of opposable thumbs, though Kitsune in fox form have an amazing ability to still be able to manipulate objects pretty impressively - for being a beast, that is. A Kitsune in fox form has the All Thumbs Hindrance at a -4 level, cumulative with any penalties the Kitsune might have in human form.

Hybrid Form

"Hybrid" form for a Kitsune is partway between fox and human. The Kitsune is human-sized, but has some or many fox-like characteristics. The Kitsune has the ever-present fox-like tail (or tails), and has fox-like ears rather than human ones. It is theoretically possible to still pass oneself off as human in this form, with a bit of care (a TN of 3 on a Disguise roll, or just the appropriate clothing).

The Kitsune character has the Keen Edge, and is either to communicate in either human speech or else with Kitsune or foxes. The Kitsune cannot communicate with animals in general with this ability, but can communicate with people who can "speak with animals" (Witches, Shamans using the appropriate spells) in a way that most listeners could not comprehend.

Optionally, the Kitsune can adopt a Hybrid form that looks more fox-like, sporting fox-like fur and a fox-like head. In this form, the Kitsune can inflict STR+1d4 damage with fangs and claws, and is also capable of using the enhanced sense of smell and vision that he or she would have in full fox form. However, the Kitsune in this form is quite obviously neither human nor fox, and thus has a Terror rating of 7 in this form, moreso than either human or fox form (with or without multiple tails).

Counting Coup

Kitsune may Count Coup in the same way as Harrowed. In fact, many unscrupulous Kitsune (is that redundant?) count Coup on each other as a way of getting those coveted extra tails more quickly. Counting Coup on a half-breed Kitsune offers no benefit - This only applies when Counting Coup on a true Kitsune. (And, incidentally, any Harrowed who tries Counting Coup on a true Kitsune may get a nasty surprise...) Therefore, Kitsune may well have various other special powers that they've picked up during clashes with rival Abominations over time.

Multiple Tails

Multiple-tailed Kitsune are more powerful than the regular variety. On the downside, it's that much harder for them to pass for human or for a normal fox. A fox with multiple tails looks like ... a fox with multiple tails. It might (at the Marshal's call) have a Terror rating of 3, but that's about it. Kitsune in full fox form aren't especially terrifying, even if they are still dangerous.

A multi-tailed Kitsune trying to pass for human must make a disguise roll against a TN of 2 plus the number of tails the Kitsune has. That means a base number of 3. For a nine-tailed Kitsune, it would require an Incredible (TN 11) disguise roll to hide all those tails! Discovering a Kitsune's tails warrants a Terror rating of no more than 3. It's weird, but not necessarily frightening.

For each additional tail a Kitsune has beyond the first, she gets a supernatural bonus of +1 to Mien-based rolls.

Kitsune Illusions

Kitsune have magical powers of illusion that are tied to their Mien. Kitsune have a number of "Strain" points equal to the die type of their Mien, plus any bonus for extra tails. This means that a "basic" Kitsune will have twelve points to spend, and a nine-tailed Kitsune would have twenty.

By making a successful Mien roll against the appropriate TN, and spending the appropriate Strain cost, a Kitsune may cause an illusion of varying complexity. However, the nature of these illusions is mental, not optical. This power will cover senses of taste, touch, hearing, sight and smell, but reflective surfaces won't catch the illusion, and mechanical instruments won't be fooled. (This carries to such an extent that a Kitsune cannot fool someone who is wearing Mad Science night-vision (Owl Vision) goggles, though mere glasses won't affect things.)

Anyone who beats the Kitsune's Mien roll on Cognition or scrutinize can see through the illusion, and that person can dispel the illusion quite simply, by stating or deliberately demonstrating his disbelief, even if others are wholly taken in. This act will cause the illusion to disappear entirely, and release any others from its grip. Furthermore, dispelling a Kitsune's illusion actually does it harm. For this very reason, Kitsune tend to use their illusions on lone victims if possible.

Sometimes, casual observers may not even have a chance to see through the illusion, if it is not of a nature to call undue attention to itself or directly affect anyone present. For example, a Kitsune in hybrid form who uses this illusion to give the appearance of being human (bolstered, perhaps, by an actual disguise) should have no fear of being discovered while passing harmlessly through a crowd, unless someone is specifically looking for the Kitsune, or he or she is engaging in behavior that would draw attention to him- or herself.

The complexity of the illusion varies depending upon the situation and the scrutiny the illusion is subjected to.

One important rule about Kitsune illusions is that they only make something look like something else. They do not create new objects wholly out of thin air, nor can they cause objects to become invisible. If a Kitsune wants to have the illusion of carrying a rifle, he or she needs to find a stick or whatever to brandish menacingly first. If a Kitsune wants to create the illusion of the smell of fresh cooking, first required is some sort of strong smell that can then be tweaked to seem like the desired odor. An illusory rifle won't make a "bang" on its own - the Kitsune needs to make some sort of noise (even if it boils down to simply shouting "BANG!" when "firing") that is transformed by the illusion into the sound of gunfire.

Especially important is that a Kitsune can't cause her tail to vanish. She could create illusory robes to cover the tail, but making it disappear entirely is beyond her power.

Illusions only last so long as the Kitsune is present, and then fade away. The initial Strain cost covers a duration of up to one hour. After that, it costs an additional 1 point of Strain per hour to maintain.

Certain illusions, if powerful enough, can inflict harm - of a sort - against targets. The Kitsune can conjure up a weapon, and use it against the target (using the appropriate aptitudes to hit - The Kitsune has to be convincing, after all) and then damage is rolled up normally. However, no actual wounds are inflicted - The target may suffer the appropriate wound penalties and Wind, but cannot die or be maimed by this. It's all in his head. Once he falls unconscious, it's possible that the Kitsune might make it appear that he's dead to others, and he's down for the count ... but the Kitsune can "harm" him no further by means of illusion.

Anyone "wounded" by an illusion may automatically make a Cognition or scrutinize roll against the Kitsune's Mien roll. If the Kitsune's Mien roll is not higher than the defender's roll, then the attack does no "damage" - Somehow, it missed, was absorbed by armor, etc.

If the defender, however, gets a raise, he may disbelieve, and resist further effects from this particular weapon. (If the person doesn't believe in illusions, it could be that he rationalizes that the gun is actually full of blanks.) His disbelief could dispel the illusion entirely. In fact, if the potential "victim" already knows that the Kitsune is a Kitsune (or an illusionist in general) then he may well be (at the Marshal's call) immune to such effects entirely.

Please note that while a Kitsune could theoretically pull an atomic bomb out of her back pocket, there are limitations to how much "damage" can be done. If her production of a weapon really strains credibility, the victim(s) get bonuses to disbelieve. (How many potential victims would know exactly what an atomic bomb looks like, anyway?)

Furthermore, the victim(s) must be aware of the illusory weapon. This cannot be used for sniping, and it can do no damage against targets who aren't even aware they're being attacked. It has no effect on unconscious creatures, mindless creatures and the undead, and of course has no actual effect on inanimate objects (though part of the illusion may be to make it seem that objects are affected). If the Kitsune wants armor piercing illusory bullets, this is pointless if the target has no reason to believe that these are anything other than ordinary bullets - The Kitsune will first need to demonstrate the power of the illusory bullets on an illusory object. Then, if the victim was paying attention, and if he believes, there's a chance of him getting seriously hurt.

Trivial11Only one sense slightly affected: make cold coffee feel hot, make plain food taste good, make scuffed up boots seem new
Foolproof32Make a "prop" seem real: make a water pistol look like a real gun; make bad playing of a song sound competent; make lousy cooking taste exceptional; make costume jewelry seem real; make "funny money" look like the real thing; disguise oneself to be a normal human of no particular identity
Easy53Make objects seem to be something they remotely resemble: disguise oneself to be a roughly humanoid creature of any gender or race or even species, but with no particular identity; make a pile of boxes look like an automobile; make horse apples smell like fresh baked cookies; make a stick seem like a tommy-gun; make saying "Bang" sound like a gunshot; make bubble gum wrappers look like dollar bills
Ornerous74Make illusions that are specific, and involve multiple senses: disguise oneself to be a particular person (adds +4 to disguise aptitude); make a stick look, feel and sound like a tommy-gun; make a pile of boxes seem like a parked car with a running motor; make sawdust feel, taste, smell and look like fine dining at a major restaurant
Hard95Make environmental illusions that can have an impact on the viewer: disguise oneself to be a specific person (adds +6 to disguise aptitude); make a stick look, feel and sound like a tommy-gun, to the point of doing phantom "damage"; a Kitsune could take someone for a "ride" in her illusory car made from cardboard boxes
Incredible116Make immersive environmental illusions: disguise the cramped, trash-filled space under the floorboards of a house to seem like a mansion; make a graveyard seem to come alive with the undead; make a house seem to be on fire; make a child's room full of dolls on the shelves seem to become a circus full of entertainers

Fox Statistics

The following are statistics for a common, ordinary, run-of-the-mill fox. A Kitsune in Fox form uses the following characteristics, except that the Kitsune keeps the same Mental Traits (Cognition, Knowledge, Mien, Smarts, Spirit) as it has in human form, and keeps its same skill levels (though the die type may change). If Quickness is higher in human form than fox form, the higher value is used. It also gains any Fox aptitudes listed below, unless the Kitsune has the same aptitude at a higher level in human form.

  • Aptitudes: fightin': brawlin' 2d8, filchin' 2d6, sneak 2d8, trackin' 3d4+2, survival: wilderness 3d6
  • Damage: claw (STR), bite (STR+1d2)

  • Kitsune Profile

    Kitsune are usually only found in the Orient, primarily in Japan, though there is always the possibility of Kitsune going along wherever the Japanese might go - so a few of them could end up in the Weird West or all over the world if it so suits them. True Kitsune are immortal, and they have come from a time long before the Reckoning, though many of them remained in a dormant state for centuries, living in the forests as what seemed to be mere foxes ... though with a malevolent bent, pulling "tricks" to bring harm to mortals.

    Kitsune in human form appear to be attractive people of Japanese descent, although they are not truly human at all. They are almost always female - though there have been on rare occasions a male here or there. Kitsune were spawned in some ancient time by dark sorceries and the powers of myth, and since they are immortal and tend to be fairly secretive and cautious, the disparity in genders is hardly a concern. Another feature of Kitsune in their human form is that they possess one or more tails at all times, which are typically hidden under robes or a dress. Kitsune with multiple tails are more powerful, and usually older, though this is not always the case - Kitsune can become more powerful by slaying others of their own kin and stealing their power by Counting Coup. Therefore, the more powerful Kitsune tend to be even more secretive, and are highly unlikely to be found outside of Japan.

    Kitsune are supernatural creatures of evil, seeking to lead humans astray, cruelly manipulating and toying with them, and then draining them of their life's essence. (Kitsune may be affected by holy rituals such as Protection and Sanctify, and are considered to be another sort of vampire.) If Kitsune are unable to slay their victims in such subtle ways, they often revert to a disturbing hybrid form, tearing with sharp fangs and claws.


    Corporeal (Human Form): Deft: 2d6; Nimb: 3d12; Str: 2d6; Quick: 3d12; Vig: 3d6
    filchin' 3d6, dodge 3d12, fightin': brawlin' 3d12, sneak 5d12

    Corporeal (Hybrid Form): Deft: 2d8; Nimb: 4d12; Str: 2d8; Quick: 4d12; Vig: 4d6
    filchin' 3d8, dodge 3d12, fightin': brawlin' 3d12, sneak 5d12

    Corporeal (Fox Form): Deft: 1d6; Nimb: 3d8; Str: 1d4; Quick: 4d12; Vig: 2d6
    filchin' 3d6, dodge 3d8, fightin': brawlin' 3d8, sneak 5d8

    Mental (All Forms): Cog: 2d12; Know: 3d8; Mien: 3d12; Smart: 3d8; Spirit: 4d8
    trackin' 2d12 (+2 in hybrid or fox form), disguise 3d8, illusion 5d8, languages: Japanese & local language, overawe 2d12, performin' (some variety) 4d12, persuasion 5d12+2, bluff 5d8, guts 2d8

    Pace (Human Form): 12; (Hybrid Form): 24; (Fox Form): 24
    Strain (All Forms): 6
    Size (Human Form): 6; (Hybrid Form): 6; (Fox Form): 3
    Wind (All Forms): 14
    Terror (Hybrid Form Only): 9

    Special Abilities:

  • Damage (Hybrid and Fox Forms): bite (STR), claws (STR+1d4)
  • Immunity-Normal Damage: Kitsune take half damage from all normal attacks
  • Weakness-Dispelling: If someone sees through a Kitsune's illusion and dispels it before the Kitsune can voluntarily dispel it first, this actually may inflict real damage to the Kitsune. The disbelieving character may, upon dispelling a Kitsune illusion, make an opposed roll of Cognition versus the Kitsune's Spirit. If the disbelieving character gets a higher result, the Kitsune takes the difference in damage to the guts. If this is not enough to score a wound, the difference is applied as Wind instead. The Kitsune will typically revert to fox form and flee at this point.
  • Kitsune Illusions: The Kitsune has Illusion powers as described above.
  • Life Drain: The Kitsune may tap the life force of someone he or she is spending time with. Each hour a victim remains in the company of the Kitsune, he must make a Spirit test against the Kitsune's Spirit. If he fails to beat the Kitsune's roll, he takes 1d6 Wind - and does not realize it - and the Kitsune regains 1 Strain point. A Kitsune can build its Strain pool up to a maximum of four times its usual Strain maximum, in this way. Woe to the person who falls unconscious in the presence of a Kitsune. This only applies if the victim is unaware that he is in the presence of a Kitsune. If he realizes that the creature he is with is not human, and is on guard against being drained, then he can suffer no ill effect in this manner. (The Kitsune, however, may deem him a threat and deal with him with less subtle means.)
  • Forced Change: If the Kitsune ever fails a guts roll, he or she will immediately revert to Fox form and flee (even if no "flee" result is rolled), and will be unable to change to any other form again until the effects of being Scart have worn off. Barking dogs are treated as having a Terror rating of 3 to Kitsune.
  • True Reflection: A Kitsune's image when posing as a human, if reflected in water, will be that of a large fox walking upright, rather than a human. Likewise, the shadow of a Kitsune will be that of a large fox walking upright, though most people will have no cause to even have a chance of noticing this.
  • Coup: Anyone who successfully Counts Coup on a true Kitsune gains a vulpine tail and the accompanying +1 to Mien. If the person Counting Coup is a Kitsune, this is an honor. If the person Counting Coup is a Harrowed, this makes him look stupid if someone spots the tail, and hiding it is the same ordeal as it is for a Kitsune. Not all Coups are entirely beneficial, after all.

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