Twelve Shu-shi Deities

A-Z 2015 "T"‘T day’ in the A-Z Blog Challenge. I refused to be cheap and claim a title starting with ‘The’, but I’m not too proud to use ‘Twelve’.

Here are twelve of the twenty-two Shu-shi deities. The Jixiang Shen are the auspicious deities, favored by (and believed to favor) the Shu-shi. The Bukeshi Shen would never be disrespected or disregarded, but they do make the Shu-shi uncomfortable.

Jixiang Shen

These deities are a welcome part of halfling culture, and the ones most openly followed.

Deity Sex Alignment Domains Chosen Weapon
Huanghou F Lawful Good Nobility, Community, Law, Earth, Good Guan Dao
Xingyun M Neutral Good Luck, Community, Water, Air, Animal Bolas
Xiao Ling F Lawful Neutral Healing, Community, Earth, Water, Plant Sai
Chengshi F Neutral Community, Nobility, Luck, Repose, Healing, Knowledge Spear
Zhongli M Lawful Neutral Law, Nobility, Protection, Knowledge Fighting Fan
Jingcai M Neutral Good Good, Nobility, Rune, Protection Bo Staff

Huanghou

  • Domains Nobility, Community, Law, Earth, Good
  • Alignment Lawful Good
  • Chosen Weapon Guan Dao (naginata or glaive)
  • Symbol Bronze goblet

Huanghou is the empress of heaven, and the Jixiang Shen are her court. She represents proper order within society and with the land

Her shrines can be found in every village and town. They are public centres of each settlement, where official notices and activities take place. They are open on all sides, so what happens within can be seen. The floors are stone only in towns; in villages the floors are more often clay or packed earth.

Daily offerings are made at dawn, before beginning the day’s work.

Her followers are called Chaochen, ‘courtiers’. They most often dress in good cotton, reserving finery for formal ceremonies and rituals. Their primary responsibility is to ensure the spiritual obligations to the Jixiang Shen are met, and to act as intermediaries to the Court as a whole.

Huanghou manifests as a majestically serene Shu-shi dressed in fine silks of sedate color.

Xingyun

  • Domains Luck, Community, Water, Air, Animal
  • Alignment Neutral Good
  • Chosen Weapon Bolas
  • Symbol Mandarin duck

Xingyun is the god of good fortune and community, of secure bonds and strong relationships.

His shrines are located at the edge of groves near shallow fresh water. In many villages this is likely near a rice paddy. Many weddings and other commitment ceremonies take place at these shrines.

Daily offerings are made at dawn, often consisting of symbolically scattering grain for the ducks that are Xingyun’s symbol. As a symbol of marital fidelity and conjugal affection, attracting them is seen as auspicious.

His followers are often referred to as Yuanyang, ‘ducks’, out of affection. They are noted for their loyalty and the consistent good fortune that comes of it.

Xingyun manifests as an amiable middle-aged Shu-shi, willing to lend an ear and listen to troubles. He rarely offers advice or direction, but will ask questions that will help someone clarify thoughts.

Xiao Ling

  • Domains Healing, Community, Earth, Water, Plant
  • Alignment Lawful Neutral
  • Chosen Weapon Sai
  • Symbol Five stalks of bamboo

Xiao Ling is the goddess of healing, not only of the body but of social order.

Her shrines are restful places, near healthy soil and soothing, gently-running water. They are usually well-shaded by bamboo groves, often upstream of Xingyun’s shrines.

Daily offerings are made at dusk, and the end of the day’s work and before night falls. It is a time of contemplation of the day before, and consideration of the day to come.

Her followers are called Zhonjianren, ‘mediators’. They heal the body, of course, but also mediate disputes and adjudicate disagreements.

Xiao Ling manifests as a stern old Shu-shi, wrinkled and weathered but keen-eyed and sharp-eared. She will always help, but the help granted will be the help deserved and not necessarily the help requested.

Chengshi

  • Domains Community, Nobility, Luck, Repose, Healing, Knowledge
  • Alignment Neutral
  • Chosen Weapon Spear
  • Symbol Open scroll marked with a seal

Chengshi is the goddess of administrators. Huangou is the empress, Xiao Ling is the mediator, Zhongli is the magistrate, but Chengshi is the one who keeps things working.

Her shrines are always located near Huanghou’s. They have secure areas where official records (and collected taxes, before they are picked up) are stored.

Prayers are offered at midday, as much to force a break in work and allow some rest as for any other reason.

Followers are called Daoyan, ‘directors’. They are expected to maintain solid relationships with followers of the other Jixiang Shen, and with Daoyan of other towns and villages. They coordinate the activities of the settlement, ensuring that the local lord’s requirements are met and things work smoothly.

Chengshi usually manifests as an older, experienced– and competent-looking Shu-shi with no patience for fools.

Zhongli

  • Domains Law, Nobility, Protection, Knowledge
  • Alignment Lawful Neutral
  • Chosen Weapon Fighting Fan
  • Symbol Furled scroll, sealed and tied with a red ribbon

Zhongli is magistrate of the Shu-shi pantheon, adjudicating disagreements when mediation cannot resolve them, and as an unimpeachable witness when requested.

His shrines are used as courtrooms, when needed. Among the Shu-shi severe disagreements are uncommon, but contracts and formal agreements are often signed and witnessed here, and a copy securely stored as evidence.

Daily prayers are offered at noon, providing a recess from other duties.

Followers are called Jianzheng, ‘witnesses’, for their most common duty.

Zhongli manifests as patient, attentive middle-aged Shu-shi wearing black robes. When acting as magistrate the robes are trimmed in red. When acting as witness the robes are trimmed in blue.

Jingcai

  • Domains Good, Nobility, Rune, Protection
  • Alignment Neutral Good
  • Chosen Weapon Bo Staff
  • Symbol Shu-shi bowing over a staff

Jingcai is the Shu-shi god of righteous guardians, protector against those who would harm his people.

His shrines are training grounds for warrior monks who provide protection for the settlements. They are punctuated by the sound of martial training and chants used to develop mental strength

Daily prayers are offered at dawn, and consist of kata, practiced movements that develop the mind and body.

Followers are called Jianhuren, ‘guardians’, for their training and willingness to put themselves in harm’s way to protect others.

Jingcai manifests as a spry old Shu-shi, in the worn and outdated finery of a former courtier, and bearing a bo staff.

Bukeishiyi Shen

There are no evil deities in the halfling pantheon, but these ones make the halflings feel distinctly uncomfortable. Most Shu-shi are poorly-constituted for dealing with disorder, and while Jingshen is not chaotic her presence is often associated with unexpected and unwelcome changes.

Deity Sex Alignment Domains Chosen Weapon
Hunluan M Chaotic Neutral Chaos, Liberation, Trickery, Travel, Weather Double-chained Kama
Jingshen F Neutral Repose, Community, Liberation, Air, Travel Blowgun
Jiefang M Chaotic Neutral Liberation, Chaos, Repose, Knowledge Kusarigama
Pianju A Chaotic Neutral Trickery, Chaos, Protection, Knowledge Urumi (whip sword)
Liulang Zhe M Chaotic Neutral Travel, Chaos, Repose, Sun Rope Dart
Fengbao F Chaotic Neutral Weather, Chaos, Rune, Protection, Sun, Strength Meteor Hammer

Hunluan

  • Domains Chaos, Liberation, Trickery, Travel, Weather
  • Alignment Chaotic Neutral
  • Chosen Weapon Double-chained Kama
  • Symbol Four cracked chain links

Hunluan is the deity of almost everything that makes the Shu-shi uncomfortable: freedom from social constraint, deception, wandering and homeless, and the uncontrollable elements.

His shrines are located away from those of Huanghou, Chengshi, and Zhongli. They often appear disreputable compared to their neighbors, somewhat shabby and untidy. The Shu-shi would do something about it but the extreme unease they feel prevents it. This does not seem to displease Hunluan.

Daily prayers are offered at dusk, identifying the mishaps and uncontrolled things that happened that day. It is sometimes unclear whether this is in an effort to propitiate Hunluan so the next day will be better, or a simple acknowledgement of Hunluan’s influence.

Followers are called Kuanrong, ‘tolerant’, for their ability to withstand the constant disruption attributed to their patron.

Hunluan manifests as a different Shu-shi each time, but is readily identified by his untidiness and lack of orderliness.

Jingshen

  • Domains Repose, Community, Liberation, Air, Travel
  • Alignment Neutral
  • Chosen Weapon Blowgun
  • Symbol Hollow reed, glowing from within

Jingshen is the goddess of peaceful repose and the great cycle. She can be compassionate, but will not be denied in her duty and is implacable against those who would try to avoid her.

Her shrines can be found in groves sheltered from the great winds. Breezes cause the soul reeds hung there to brush against each other in a constant gentle knocking sound, purifying the souls within until they are ready to pass into their next lives.

Shu-shi make daily offerings to their ancestors, but only call on Jingshen directly when a death is imminent or has already arrived. All carry short lengths of reed that their souls will inhabit when they die.

Zhidao, the followers of Jingshen, travel the land and gather these soul reeds. They take the reeds to Jingshen’s groves to begin the process of renewal and rebirth.

Jingshen manifests as a Shu-shi woman of indeterminate age, dressed in faded white cotton with whitened face.

Jiefang

  • Domains Liberation, Chaos, Repose, Knowledge
  • Alignment Chaotic Neutral
  • Chosen Weapon Kusarigama
  • Symbol Open book

Jiefang is the god of freedom of thought, of the open mind that entertains ideas counter to social order, and the disruption that causes.

His shrines are usually located in towns, especially ports and near border crossings, where foreigners with alien beliefs and attitudes can be found. These shrines are often well-stocked with unusual artifacts, art, and texts from other lands.

Daily prayers are offered at noon, to help refresh the mind before changing tasks and delving into new material to study.

Followers are called Zhexuejia, ‘philosophers’, for their willingness to entertain strange ideas and try to fit them into Shu-shi believes – or vice-versa.

Jiefang manifests as a callow young Shu-shi, poking his nose into anything that looks of interest and asking ‘why?’

Pianju

  • Domains Trickery, Chaos, Protection, Knowledge
  • Alignment Chaotic Neutral
  • Chosen Weapon Urumi
  • Symbol Two-faced Shu-shi

Pianju is a confusing entity, deliberately so, and delights in confounding everyone. Pianju’s greatest interests beyond this perversity seem to revolve around learning secrets, though no one knows what Pianju does with them.

This deity’s shrines are confusing places, often hidden in unsuspected locations. They usually contain mazes, riddles, and traps, and the nature of the challenges reflects the nature of the individual trap designer. Most start relatively harmless, but some can be dangerous, even deadly. Nobody not of Pianju has reported what lies at the center of the greater Pianju shrines.

Daily prayers are offered at irregular times, as ideally they are offered in public disguised as something else. This might be as a song, haggling between a merchant and a customer, and so on.

Followers are called Pianrende and Pianzi, ‘deceptives’ and ‘tricksters’. The terms might be applied to any who lie or deceive, but anything beyond shading the truth to ease social interaction – ‘white lies’ – is uncomfortable to most Shu-shi.

Pianju manifests in whatever form seems likely to be useful or fun. Male or female, Shu-shi or other, this deity has so many shapes that none know what the true one is, if it even still exists.

Liulang Zhe

  • Domains Travel, Chaos, Repose, Sun
  • Alignment Chaotic Neutral
  • Chosen Weapon Rope Dart
  • Symbol Sandal with a broken thong

Liulang Zhe is an explorer, a wanderer who follows the sun to see what is beyond the next hill.

His shrines are small but very common, found at nearly every road leading out of a town or village. They are usually well-stacked with tokens of personal value in the hope that he will lead a traveler home.

Daily prayers are offered at dawn, as the traveler sets out on the day’s journey. Depending on the one praying it might be a fervent wish to return home, a quiet request for guidance to a goal, or even an excited request to see something new today.

Followers are called Tanxian, ‘explorers’. They have the wanderlust and rarely stay in one place very long, but can be semi-reliable messengers and sources of news from elsewhere.

Liulang Zhe manifests as a jaunty Shu-shi, well-weathered by travels, and usually carrying some oddities he is trying to figure out.

Fengbao

  • Domains Weather, Chaos, Rune, Protection, Sun, Strength
  • Alignment Chaotic Neutral
  • Chosen Weapon Meteor hammer
  • Symbol Lightning bolt

Fengbao is the goddess of rain and storms. She usually is not a threat, but she is fickle and easily angered.

Her shrines are located at the top of hills, fully exposed to her view (and incidentally well away from most houses and cultivated land).

Daily prayers are offered at dusk, thanking her for good weather or acknowledging her power, and usually include requests for favorable weather the next day – if that’s what she wants to do, that is.

Her followers are called Leisheng, ‘thunder’. They tend to be loud and boisterous (for Shu-shi), generally easy to get along with unless angered.

Fengbao manifests as a muscular Shu-shi wielding a meteor hammer. She does not manifest often, but if she shows up personally she’s probably angry about something. More often she will manifest more subtly as unexpectedly favorable weather, welcome shelter from a storm, from something lost that is found because of the weather.

Closing Comments

I am really excited by this pantheon and its associated culture. I think it’s staying pretty true to the expected halfling nature, while placing it in a distinctly not-English-farmer culture. I think I’m hitting a decent balance between sinister (or at least worrisome) but not actually bad in the Bukeshi Shen, representing things that make the Shu-shi distinctly uncomfortable without the depth of darkness I’ve been working with in the other pantheons.

Now I just need to draft the ten Zhengchang Shen, the ‘normal deities’ (this subpantheon name might change) that are neither as favored and favorable as the Jixiang Shen nor as uncanny and uncomfortable as the Bukeshi Shen, and I’ll be done drafting all my examples for Polyhedral Pantheons!

Finally. Six dozen deities make for a lot of work.

Polyhedral Pantheons Cover
Polyhedral Pantheons Cover

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2 Comments

  1. Pingback: Z-A Challenge 2015 Index | In My Campaign - Thoughts on RPG design and play

  2. Pingback: Planar-Pantheon Analysis: Shu-shi Pantheon | In My Campaign - Thoughts on RPG design and play

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