by Tom Henrichs
Gaki, as described in GURPS Japan, are ghosts tormented by a ravenous hunger. Each type of gaki has its own special craving. They only appear at night, usually as small clouds of black smoke or balls of cool fire. They can use Shapeshifting to assume a human form, though it will rarely be the form the gaki had in life. They may also show a monstrous visage to frighten their victims.
Of the thousands of gaki – hungry spirits – available to GMs of Japanese campaigns, only seven are described in GURPS Japan. With the addition of this article, the GM will have 13 gaki to choose from – a sufficiently unlucky number. Gaki are not limited to campaigns in Japan; in any campaign where ghosts or spirits are possible, any connection to the Orient could cause a gaki to appear. Martial Arts GMs, take note . . .
To eat something, a gaki need only touch it, concentrate and make its ST roll; this takes one turn, and the eaten item vanishes! Some gaki will be satisfied with a single meal every so often, but some will eat everything they can get, as quickly as they can. Most gaki cannot eat something on a person, or belonging to a person, unless that person is unconscious . . . or at least standing still.
A gaki which has spells – and many do have such spells as Daze, Shapeshifting and Steal Strength – will use them just like a normal sorcerer. Unless the gaki hungers for something vital to its victim's life (like blood) it will use its magic abilities only to put the victim to sleep before "eating."
Gaki have the ST they had in life, +5. Other stats remain the same as those of the living person. Basic Speed is never less than 5. A typical gaki has the Night Vision advantage. Many can cast spells, including Daze, Shapeshifting and Steal Strength.
A successful physical attack against a gaki always hits (it does not defend), and does "normal" damage, but when its HT reaches 0, it is merely dispelled for 1d hours. Magic spells such as Exorcism and Spirit Ward can be used. Gaki can also be reasoned with through Fast-Talk or Savoir-Faire, but at -4.
The new types of gaki eat:
Knots. When a samurai's topknot is eaten, his hair hangs loose, leaving a severely embarrassed samurai. As the gaki turns its attention to other knots, horses may wander off, prisoners escape, etc.
Tattoos. Unless the victim is sleeping, the gaki must stun him first, but the only permanent harm is to his tattoos. This can be serious in any society that places as much emphasis on tattoos as Japan in some periods; think about what this would mean for members of the Yakuza, for instance.
Ciphers. A world with many armies is sure to have its fill of messengers carrying coded missives. After rendering the carrier unconscious, the gaki eats the cipher – leaving the message uncoded and readable.
Meditation. While it does no direct harm, an attack from this gaki can be dangerous if the victim is attempting to fend off unconsciousness due to wounds inflicted during another attack, or if the victim is trying to direct his berserk-style fighting (in which case the victim might harm his allies).This gaki need not render its victim unconscious; the calm of the person trying to meditate renders him an easy target.
Life force. This attack is not meant to kill. The gaki uses Daze and then Steal Strength. Any hits taken after the victim falls unconscious do no further damage to the body; they are subtracted from the age at which he would normally have to begin making aging rolls. This gaki is best used in campaigns, not one-shots.
Height. As above, but hits taken after the victim falls unconscious are subtracted from the victim's height, in inches. However, his weight remains the same. This gaki will rarely steal more than a foot of height from any one victim in one night.
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