Alternate Corruption (Shinto / Buddhist)

In a game I’ve been playing, we chose a magical feudal Japanese setting (think Princess Mononoke) grounded in history but with aspects of the magical. One of these is the use of Spirit Binding to give Shinto Priests a vector for interacting with the Kami. We’ve mostly been playing by the stock rules of BWG and the Codex, but I have something I want to build that I’d love to run by y’all.

I need an alternate version of the Corruption rules to use in this cultural milieu. Using the tenets of real world Buddhism and Shinto as our guides, how might we create a version of Corruption whose Starting questions, Situational Tests and Corrupted Body and Soul Traits chart?

I have a few ideas, but it would be great to get some thoughts on this. I love Corruption very much and would love to get some more practice hacking it out of the European / Warhammer style table it is now into other settings.


What does this corruption look like in your view? How do you gain it?

In Blossoms, we didn’t use corruption. This might be an alternate approach.

We distinguished between Kami (which essentially used the Spirit Binding rules), Ghosts (which used a version of the Summoning rules), and Oni (some of the demons, some of them monsters). We also created a number of new skills

  • Butsudo: Buddhist doctrine. Could be used to placate spirits of the dead and ward off angry demons.
  • Chinkonto: The equivalent of Shinto doctrine. Could be used to temporarily subdue angry kami.
  • Joubutsu: A skill possessed by Buddhist temple priests, Shinto shrine mothers and witches. Gives the ability to find, speak with and placate ghosts and oni-demons. Essentially Summoning+.
  • Kami-no-michi: Possessed by Shinto priests and shrine maidens. Gives the ability to listen to kami, placate them, ask them for good luck and help, etc. Essentially Spirit-Binding+.
  • Misogi: Ritual purification skill involving meditation beneath a waterfall.
  • Oharai: Another ritual purification skill.
  • Omikuji: Shinto divination. Allows the priest to change a petitioner’s Belief. If the petitioner fuffills the belief, they earn a Deeds point.
  • Onmyodo: A sorcerous skill possessed by onmyoji that combines geomancy, deception and demon summoning. Has many uses, including summoning shikigami to serve the sorcerer.
  • Shugendo: A synthesis of Buddhist convictions, Shinto outlook and an ascetic warrior cult. Can be used in place of the Survivalist skill, to ward against kami, ghosts and demons as per Butsudo and Chinkonto, and to detect them as per Joubutsu.

The Oharai, Joubutsu, Kami-no-michi and Shugendo skills are affected by Impurities: Ritual pollution accumulated via:

  • Touching dead animal flesh: +1 Ob
  • Touching a corpse or killing: +2 Ob
  • Walking the Paths of the Dead or being/having been possessed: +3 Ob

These are cumulative per instance and per impure individual participating in a ritual (this does not include the subject of a ritual). Impurity may be cleansed with Misogi or Oharai.


On the other hand, here’s an addendum to the Codex’s Corruption rules that I created for use in my Burning Warhammer game that might serve as inspiration. It’s pretty robust and has led to a lot of fun play in our game!


Thor with the advice both historical and practical - thanks dude, I pillaged as much of Blossoms as made sense, but rather than adding a bunch of new skills I wanted to see if I could incorporate those things into the practices of Faith, Spirit Binding and Corruption, which got me thinking about Corruption as a kind of blanket framework rather than just the specific implementation of it in the Codex. Like, the Codex presents an implied-setting-appropriate “Burning Wheel” Corruption system but I like the idea of redesigning what it means in any setting (the same way we interpret other implied-setting stuff like Lifepaths to fit the milieu). Your notes on the Warhammer-ification of Corruption are super useful for that. Essentially “here’s the bad things you Should Not Do and here are the Traits you get when you absolutely end up doing it you silly PC” are going to vary from game to game.

I did steal the idea of a less-than-permanent Corruption from Blossoms, though. Since cleansing is definitely more of a vibe in Shinto and Buddhism than in the stock Corruption rules. In fact, I don’t think there are rules for reducing Corruption in stock Burning Wheel, are there?


I don’t believe there is (I’m quite confident, but I cannot reach my books to confirm), so cleansing as a mechanic would bring something new to the table, I’m sure.
Do you prefer the idea of Body and Soul corruption being on the same table, or do you like them being on separate tables, distinguished by differing categories of corrupt action?

The road to Hell is a one way street, baby!

Here’s some wisdom I’ve internalized from ye olde Magic Burner’s text on Emotional Attributes:

Situational Tests in Four Brackets

1, 2, 3
These tests are routine, everyday occurrences (or close enough to it) – Casting a spell (for wizards), keeping good hygiene, coveting wealth.

4, 5, 6
This is stuff that really doesn’t happen too often – Learning a new spell, winning a battle, truly losing a friend.

7, 8, 9
This stuff verges on the once in a lifetime – Having to flee your homeland due to it being overwhelmed by an invasion of evil, watching your child or student surpass you, financially ruining another person for your gain.

This is the thing, the last step at the end of the road, the climax of the attribute – Realizing that the Path of Spite breeds nothing but hatred and division which will lead to the end of your people, but walking it anyway.

Generate Situational Tests with the Brackets in Mind
Then order the tests relative to each other. Try to spread them out; don’t be afraid to cross bracket-lines. I use the brackets to say, “What’s an everyday manifestation of this attribute?” then generate ideas; “What’s a manifestation that happens infrequently, but you take note when it does?” then generate ideas; etc.

Create Burning Questions from the Situational Tests
And! try to integrate information from the LPs and other attribute questions – Check out how injury and warrior-type LPs play into Steel and Health; deciding to have been severely wounded in the past is a layered decision because of how those subsystems work. EDIT: Oh! Consider Traits too!

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There are not. I included a system for getting rid of Corruption tests in that document that I linked to above. But in my version, it only works until you actually open the Corruption attribute. Once you have it, you’re screwed.


This is a great way of looking at it. I totally blanked on that stuff being in the Magic Burner. Good call.


Happy to help!

I’m not too familiar with Bhuddist practices or Shintoism – is the idea that corruption builds and can’t be wiped away (Edit:) forever?

I think the inverse is true - there is corruption but there are always wants to purify and purge it.

Gotcha. Hmm… How do you imagine this attribute influencing play? Do you expect it to be as (temporarily) harsh as Corruption – with characters getting mutilated as it goes up and getting taken out of play when it hits 10?

What kind of decisions do you imagine the attribute will encourage/discourage?

It occurs to me that “Cleansing” might be a thing that stands slightly outside the advancement system. For example, you gain a trait by advancing corruption, but regressing the attribute does not remove the trait - instead, you are now free to perform a ritual to get rid of one trait that is correlated with an exponent higher than you currently have. So you incentivize battling your corruption, but the removal of traits functions as a sort of mechanical celebration of the hard victories won - a celebration that could go horribly wrong.

Edit: Maybe the spirits and powers that corrupt can attempt to punish you for scrubbing off their mark.


The thing I love about Corruption is that it is a mechanism for the style of GMing I already prefer - the devil’s bargain style of “you can have this benefit but ohhh the cost will be heavy” goading players into engaging deeper and deeper with something that is “bad” for their character for the sake of drama. The fall from grace in exchange for all those sexy bonus dice. I just want it to fit the milieu - obviously Shinto / Buddhism don’t have the same Faustian vibes as the original material that Corruption is based on, so there’s some adjusting, but from a game design perspective, saying “yes I know you think you’re a good dude but the forbidden magic could be useful, right?” and turning everyone into a little Boromir is too good to pass up. Hence the adjustment.

So I suppose I like the level of harshness and the push and pull of dice vs. knowing you’re basically killing your character, I just want it to feel more like you’re getting there in a way appropriate to a narrative set in a feudal Japanese culture.

Might be good for clensing to work more like Laments then. It sounds like you want a long-term slide; letting folks scrub away all impurity sounds like it would offer too much relief…

Unless maybe it took a long-term process – tied to trait votes, the maintenance cycle, or Honor-style redemption quests.

Yeah, I’m thinking I want to figure out how one accumulates Corruption, then what happens to you if you do, and then from there, how to rid yourself of it.

I’ve dug into some historical content and some mythological, as well, but it’s really tricky! Obviously the idea of “spiritual corruption” doesn’t map so easily in this milieu than like, a litany of obvious sins, but I think there’s some room there. Plus picking traits shouldn’t be too hard - I expect that becoming corrupt as a result of kegare is more death-oriented than Chaos mutation style. So you’re becoming a living ghost / vampire / ghoul, you’re getting more corpselike and cold. Beneficial traits like resistance to pain, lack of need to eat or sleep or breathe, etc. Negative ones like rotting or stench, et al.


Kegare is rough because it’s so external rather than internal, like Corruption. It’s a bit hard to fit that devil’s bargain style of GMing into a framework concerned with things like attending a funeral and having a child. :thinking:

The Buddhist notion of tanha seems nicely internal for something like Corruption. I can imagine you tapping into your attachment and desires using your spiritual rewards (Artha) for temporal gain – a pretty stark insult to Buddhism. It’s very Shame from Blossoms, isn’t it?

I might combine these ideas into one attribute – focus situational tests on kegare (and maybe other tsumi) and focus tapping the attribute on tanha. The charts can include elements from both ideas – maybe traits like Greedy, Lecherous, Drunk, etc to reflect tanha and traits like the ones you suggested earlier for kegare.



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