Illusions, shapeshifting, and Skulls

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Ranks for illusions with a Fuda

Ranks for illusions with a common leaf

Ranks for illusions with the kitsune's birth tree leaf



Skull illusion ranks

The kitsune crouched there, balancing easily on the precarious perch of the rock edge. He was dressed in fairly nondescript sturdy grey clothing that blended easily in the dim light into the stony background. Bright red, almost orange tails spread out behind him, moving in lazy little patterns in the air. His forearms rested on his knees, wrists hanging loosely in front of him and showing his hands empty of any mischief or weapons. Had he been human, he would have seemed dangerous, but his impish expression and wavering tails, so much like that of a friendly animal, almost belittled any serious concern. Until, that is, one looked up and noticed the yellowing, jawless skull sitting at an angle on his head like some jaunty cap. The tip of one red and white ear poked from one of the eye sockets and was tilted towards the humans. The other ear was plainly visible standing at perked attention towards them.


All accounts agree that kitsune are masters of illusion. Their true form is that of a fox, hence why they are called kitsune. Technically, any fox has the potential to become a fox spirit, but it rarely happens that a "normal" fox turns into a fox spirit. Fox spirits themselves as forest creatures are highly attuned with the woods and with plant life. Less known by the population is that kitsune are also highly attuned to the world of spirits, and are just as attracted to living around graves and places of death as they are to living in an area with flourishing plant life.

The kitsune’s natural form is, of course, that of a fox. However, their fox form might be nearly as large as a small horse, and able to walk on their hind feet, just as a normal human could. They can shape shift between the sizes of any normal fox up through their “natural” size, and may also contrive to look human. The kitsune's human form is one that they craft, and so their human appearance tends towards the beautiful, for kitsune love pretty things. This form is not changeable outside of normal aging once it has been created. The form usually retains the general coloring of the fox form (eyes the same color, hair matching the fur), and will age relative to the fox's age, though kitsune in human form rarely actually look "old" outside of illusions. Typically, at least one fox feature sticks out – a shadow with fox features or actual ears, tails, teeth, talons, paws rather than feet or hands, or a soft, fine fur on their bodies instead of skin.

The kitsune can hide these small details through illusion, though typically such illusion will not hold through being touched. A person might still “see” skin, but could feel the fur on a kitsune’s arm (if fur were the detail the kitsune was trying to hide). Highly enlightened individuals are more likely to see through these illusions, but in the world of Rokugan, where humans do not particularly fear kitsune, it is less of an issue as it might be. Most kitsune do not see the point in hiding the fox feature that remains with them in their human-like form. When they do need to hide even that much, the kitsune tends to don a skull and cast a special sort of illusion.

The kitsune’s illusion skills grow with age, and consequently with power. The oldest kitsune can be a second moon in the sky, or can create entire cities and houses out of thin air. Most kitsune relegate their illusions to their homes, decorating their dens or caves to be as large and well appointed as they like. These illusions are astonishingly real-like, and do not dissipate on touch. They are usually cast with some sort of focus item, a fuda (charm - may be made of any material, though most are paper) or leaf and very occasionally with a pure stone like jade. Illusions cast with Fuda are typically stronger and longer lasting than those cast with a leaf, unless the leaf happens to be from the kitsune's tree. Any kitsune can create a suitably solid illusion over a place with enough preparation and time, but the more complex the illusion, the more difficult it is.

These illusions are so real that a forgetful kitsune might accidentally starve a human guest to death. The human will eat illusionary food if there is no one there to put real food in their hands. The human believes that they have eaten, and it is only when they have entered into severe starvation that they will begin to realize they are ill. Even then, they probably won't realize that their weakness is due to starvation. These same illusions can also be used to trick humans into any number of things, ranging from giving humans water and convincing the human that it is high quality wine (the human will proceed in getting "drunk") to the more cruel, but just as common prank of tricking a human into bed.

Just as dangerous as the maliciousness or forgetfulness of a given kitsune who casts an illusion, the illusion itself can be dangerous when broken. It is very common for kitsune to use the solid illusions to make a space larger than it really is. A closet can become an entire house with enough power and preparation. If, however, that illusion is broken unexpectedly, it can have dire results for the items (or people) within. Few kitsune will ever get caught in a collapsing illusion, for they will sense the collapse and flee before it is dangerous to them.

The illusions are the most common sort of prank, but the kitsune who spends time around humans is just as likely to use the illusion to help the human discover a truth or bit of information that the human wouldn't have otherwise obtained.

Illusions by rank, using a fuda (typically inanimate object as preparation of the fuda takes some time - the amount of time is directly related to how complex and how large the illusion will be). Each rank includes a certain number of senses that can be confused - each level is static. Players should rank the senses and keep track of which sense the kitsune learns to befuddle at a given level.

  1. Can confuse one sense (kitsune must pick the sense that they are good at tricking) or can generally befuddle and confuse all senses a little. Though they cannot completely trick someone who knows that there is an illusion and is actively looking for the illusion, they can still cast shadows, throw sounds, or otherwise befuddle in general. Enlightened and shugenja can break this illusion by mere will.
  2. Can completely trick one sense (the sense from rank 1) and confuse a second. Shugenja and Enlightened can break the illusion with concentration once they realize it is there. This is easier if the illusion is focused on someone else or they are outside of the area affected. Otherwise, they must do a resistance check (though for the most part it is easier to merely ignore the one sense) or find the fuda and destroy it.
  3. Can completely trick two senses (the previous two) and confuse a third. More difficult to notice, even for shugenja or Enlightened. Noticing the illusion is a mid-level resistance check if the illusion is cast on themselves. The fuda must be destroyed to break the illusion. At this level, unless the shugenja or enlightened are actively resisting the illusion, for all purposes, the kitsune has created a pocket space in reality.
  4. Can completely trick three senses (the previous three) and confuse a fourth. At this level, the average person is living in whatever world the kitsune created and has virtually no control over what is happening. Shugenja and enlightened require a difficult resistance check to notice. At this level, however, both need to be paying close attention to realize the illusion is in place. It is easier to notice that something is "not right" with the others than it is on themselves. Breaking the illusion cast on someone else is nearly impossible. At this point, the fuda itself is difficult to break, burn, or destroy.
  5. Can completely trick four senses and befuddle the fifth. It is easier to destroy the caster than the fuda at this level. This level of illusion is dangerous to break, because the person who does figure out that there is an illusion has no way of knowing if they are in a safe enough location to break the spell (imagine the "itty bitty living space" bit with the mass of five people gelled into a jar).

Illusions by rank using a common leaf (typically rush illusions, the weakest of the three, but can be used easily on living beings). Anyone who notices the illusion can see through it, but the leaf must actively be torn or removed from whatever the illusion is cast on before the illusion is actually broken. 

  1. Anyone actually looking will see through the illusion (really only effective in crowded or dark/foggy places or the looker is drunk/sleepy/etc.).
  2. Anyone paying attention will see through the illusion, or at least notice that something is "not right"
  3. A perceptive person paying attention will notice the illusion.
  4. Only shugenja or Enlightened paying attention will notice the illusion.
  5. A Shugenja or Enlightened must actively be looking for the illusion *on the caster* before they notice the illusion.

Illusions cast with a leaf from the kitsune's Birth Tree. These are the most flexible illusions, but kitsune don't often waste leaves from their trees for frivolous things. This is most often used as a form of emergency personal illusion. Again, to break the illusion, the leaf must be actively torn or removed from whatever the illusion is cast on. However, someone who notices this illusion or who realizes that something is "not right" must make a resistance check to actually see through the illusion.

  1. Someone paying attention will notice the illusion. Easy resistance check.
  2. A perceptive person will notice the illusion. Easy resistance check.
  3. A shugenja or enlightened will notice the illusion. Difficult resistance for others, easy to moderate resistance for shugenja or enlightened, depending on their relative rank.
  4. A powerful shugenja or enlightened person will notice the illusion, if they are paying attention to the general area that the illusion is cast. Moderate resistance check.
  5. A powerful shugenja or enlightened person must have actively and seriously looked for an illusion on that person or in that exact spot before they can notice it. Difficult resistance check.


Very few kitsune actually shape shift. Most of them are limited to a size of fox and tail number that is defined through a combination of age and power. From that limit, they can make themselves any smaller, younger version of themselves all the way down to the smallest cub. A four hundred year old fox may decide to turn himself into a baby puff of a cub so that he can play with a child. In the next breath, he might be his full size with his full spread of tails out to intimidate someone who is threatening the child. The older foxes can make themselves the size of smaller horses, with a proportionate amount of tooth and claw to match the size.  In general, though, kitsune less than two or three hundred are rarely larger than dogs.

Kitsune can shape shift into their human form, but that form will match their true gender, will age as the fox ages (albeit slowly, and powerful foxes retain the youthful look longer), and cannot be significantly changed once it is set, aside from scars and the like.

Any other change is generally done through extensive illusions. Inari  does actually shape shift and can be any form of human or fox that he cares to don. This has led to some confusing accounts about what exactly Inari looks like, but the kitsune see no point in divulging that information, if they even know. What does it matter what Inari looks like if Inari changes his shape every time he is seen? Inari, more than once in the past, has shapshifted to play often very cruel jokes on people - the most famous being where he seduced men as a woman, only to let them find out the truth the next morning. Fortunately for everyone, he does have things he actually has to pay attention to, so such jokes are infrequent. Unfortunately, some members of race in general tend to enjoy mimicking Inari's more successful tricks, earning the kitsune the label of sometimes malicious pranksters and often that of seducers, as well.


Skull illusions

While every kitsune has a human form that is relatively stable, they do have the ability to cast a special form of illusion using skulls. They wear the skull much like one might wear a hat and cast a special illusion spell. With this, as long as they have the spell active and are wearing the skull, they can look and sound exactly like the deceased (even if they themselves are a different size or gender than the skull's). Skull illusions require very little power, are the most sturdy and difficult to break illusions, and are the easiest of the illusion spells to cast.

Kitsune consider keeping a skull a sort of honor, and usually they spend time communing with the spirit of the person who left the skull. Sometimes these spirits remain with their skulls and use the time with the kitsune to continue experiencing or doing things in the realm of man. Kitsune do not mind when the spirits stay, and are known to sometimes leave the skulls out so that they can speak with the spirit. Usually, though, the kitsune helps the spirit satisfy whatever desire, pain, or need that has kept them from moving on. Once the spirit is able to move on, it leaves the skull to the kitsune. These skulls often are collector's items to the kitsune, and are considered precious and important treasures.

Conversely, it is considered a great insult to actively go out of one's way to break a skull. This is certainly true in the case of a collected skull (and whomever does so should be prepared to donate their own skulls to replace the broken one), but it is also a sign of true distain for a kitsune to split the skull of a recently dead person. While kitsune do not particularly have anything against common criminals, and they frequently collect these skulls simply because they are easy to find, the kitsune break or split skulls as a means of ultimate insult to those they dislike or view as dangerous. It is saying, "Even in death you are worthless, even your remains mean nothing."

Occasionally, a spirit will be violent or dangerous. In these cases, the kitsune tend to exorcise the spirit and send it along. Those skulls are rarely kept, as they can be vessels through which the spirit may return or be called back. In this instance, splitting or breaking the skull is not as much of an insult as it is a means of protecting others from the truly dangerous, violent, or vengeful spirits.

Sometimes a spirit is unwilling to let their skulls be used. In this case, the kitsune can still cast their spell, but it will be more difficult and require more power from the kitsune.

Below is a ranking system. At each rank, the range of abilities that the kitsune has depends on if the spirit of the skull is actively resisting them or not. Breaking this illusion is done the most easily by removing the skull - if one can figure out where exactly it is. A battle of wills with the kami will eventually break the skull, but most kitsune would remove the skull themselves before letting the skull be broken.

  1. Can turn into the person at either the height of their life (no resistance from the spirit) or the person as they were just before they died (with resistance from the spirit or by choice with no resistance). In either case, the illusion is probably noticeable as something not quite "right" if the kitsune spends any lengthy amount of time where others can see them.
  2. With no resistance, can access a third age period in the person's life (kitsune's choice). With resistance, the kitsune can turn into the person at the height of their life. A perceptive person might notice the illusion. Shugenja and enlightened will probably notice, if they aren't focused on something else.
  3. With no resistance, can access any age of the person, and any stage of their life (but they are limited to how the person looked exactly at that time). With resistance, can access three age periods. A perceptive person has an equal chance of noticing that something is "not right" or not only if they are paying attention. Shugenja begin needing to concentrate to notice the illusion, Enlightened must be paying attention.
  4. With no resistance, can control how "healthy" the person was (i.e. - even if the person was often ill in their 20's, at this stage, the kitsune can be in the 20's age, but make themselves look healthy). When the kitsune wishes to look ill, they are limited to the range of illnesses that were actually part of the person's experience. With resistance, can access any age of the person. A perceptive person would need to spend months in the presence of the kitsune before they begin to notice something may not be right. Shugenja and Enlightened both must actively be looking for the illusion on that person before they will see it. 
  5. With no resistance, the kitsune can access any combination of age and health, including a state of health (or illness) that the person may have never obtained in their lives. The kitsune can also make some adjustments (i.e. - change in height, removing scars or blemishes, change in skin tone, etc.). With resistance, the kitsune is, at this level, able to control the appearance of health. At this point, shugenja and enlightened both must focus their energy on breaking the illusion. If they manage to do so, they will probably break the skull as well (unless the resistive spirit is also trying to break the illusion, and in this situation, the illusion is somewhat easier to break). The average kitsune will stop the illusion themselves rather than have one of their skulls broken.

*A kitsune may expend extra energy and concentration on a given skull (typically a long span of years) to force a resisting spirit to accept the full range of illusion possibilities.

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