Interludes: A Sojourn of Tales
Chinatown is booming. Between the Gold Rush and the Transcontinental Railroad, immigration is at an all-time high. “Celestials” flood San Francisco’s labyrinthine streets, bringing Chinese culture and religion with them. However, America’s streets are not paved in gold. Few prospectors earn more than empty pockets and broken backs. The rail barons treat their coolies (a slang term for unskilled laborers) as slaves. The government imposes racist taxes (like the Anti-Coolie Act of 1862) that drain away what little money they do make. For many, crime is the only path to success, but the Tongs are every bit as ruthless as the Law.
All things have their opposites, and the oppressive forces of the West are no exception. Taoist masters have also made the sojourn across the sea. They minister to their countrymen, defend those who can’t defend themselves, and hunt down warlocks from both sides of the Pacific. They are called the Xian, the immortals.
Conflict abounds between the old and the new, the East and the West. Besides the racism and in-all-but-name slavery alluded to above, the Celestials bring their own wars with them from China. Social and professional groups tend to organize around regional and familial allegiances, some even reserve themselves for people with a specific surname. They clash over property, jobs, and rivalries so old that their causes are more myth than memory.
There’s also the Hac Tao to contend with. Literally translated as “Black Way,” this term refers to a whole, big bag of Taoist tricks. There are Hac Tao spells for inflicting disease, divining the future, beguiling the senses, bestowing good luck, cursing one’s enemies, and a thousand other petty applications. In the hands of an adept, the Hac Tao becomes a means of healing the sick and restoring harmony to nature. Unfortunately, there are far more petty, would-be sorcerers than enlightened Xian.
EXAMPLE CAMPAIGNS: None, maybe
RULES: Medium (Feng Shui; Risus; Tavern Tales)