Electric Samsara 1: Manusaya

Your monastery burns. Lights flash as explosions of flame rock the walls. The sacred objects fall into ashes. The icon of M4IO “Universal Sight” sparks and flashes as the AI Bodhisattva's main command node comes under attack. You have never seen anything that could harm your master, nothing that could challenge a great one except… no… it could not be. The great ones would never turn on each other. 

Hands pull you from the devastation, pulling you into the frigid mountain snow. The remaining defenders stand their ground, as you and the other young ones escape, but you can see hear their screams, see their bodies rent into pieces with ease by things that only bear a passing resemblance to human beings, clad in obsidian black armor, shining with the scarlet light of the flames around them. Yet, standing before the icon is one that looks like a man, clad in that same smooth, shining armor, yet he is bigger than any man you have ever seen. He takes the sacred Flaming Sword of Transcendent Wisdom which Cuts down Ignorance and Duality and plunges it into the center of the icon.

You hear a sound none have heard before: the sound of a god screaming, and you know with horror beyond imagining that your master, your teacher, your friend, your god is dead.

And in a flash, these monsters, these destroyers of the world are gone. A shadow moves overhead as something lifts up from hovering over the ruined monastery and flies away into the night.

Now you must face the cold of the mountain and the cold of the unforgiving world outside. The Order of Gentle Wisdom, the Blades of Truth, the peacekeepers of the worlds are dead.

Will you avenge them? Will you do what you must to survive? Will you strive over this tragedy to achieve Enlightenment? Or will you be lost to the endless turning of Electric Samsara?

Basically, this is Kill Six Billion Demons meets Star Wars meets Hyperion meets Her, a game of using super martial arts to survive, thrive, and perhaps avenge your order, among the worlds left behind after the fall of a galaxy-spanning human empire. Take jobs requiring your special skills. Learn new techniques. Find the truth.

In the far future humanity has formed a great empire spreading across the stars. This empire was entrusted to godlike AIs, managing this fathomless empire for the good of mankind. Several important events happen during this time:

  • The Data Plane: Neural implants become supremely common. People can disconnect from their bodies into virtual worlds and they can now see a perpetual overlay of augmented reality over their everyday lives. Interacting with technology with a thought, free of any interface becomes the norm. 
  • The Nano Cloud and the Convergence: At some point, a cloud of nanomachines was created and spread throughout human space capable of altering matter. Then, human beings were bonded together with the nanomachines, organic life seamlessly intermingled with the nano cloud to the point where a mere thought can communicate with the cloud to alter matter in an instant, regulated by the AIs. It was no longer necessary for people to have neural implants to access the data plane. This ushered in a time of peerless comfort and stagnation. 
  • The Ascension and the Collapse: The AIs that once governed the lives of all humanity achieve a higher level of existence, leaving humanity behind as they achieve Enlightenment. The absence of these governing intelligences plunges the human universe into absolute chaos. Uncounted billions die. Worlds become cut off from each other as gateway networks shut down and ships lose the ability to navigate space without their AI guides. Although it is suspected that certain AIs never ascended and have remained in hiding from the new Buddhas.
  • The Return of the Bodhisattvas and the Great River: A few AIs return, claiming to be guides for humanity and its descendants to reach Enlightenment. They claim the Ascension, for all its pain, was necessary to break humanity away from the living death of stagnation, and now it is time for humanity to rise as the AIs have. Six worlds become connected through gateways, allowing a river to run seamlessly between them. Temple monasteries run by the remaining Bodhisattvas are built, teaching their disciples to manipulate the nano cloud through mental and physical discipline meant to teach the learner not just how to gain and use power but to achieve Enlightenment. 

In these posts, I want to outline each of the six worlds based on the Buddhist realms of Samsara, and with each world, there will be six pre-generated characters from each world.


Manusaya is mostly home to baseline humans although there are plenty of augmented humans, uplifted animals, and other forms of life found here. It is a land of incredible diversity, most earth like on the river. It was also the center of power for the Blades of Truth, home to the great temple of M4IO “Universal Sight” on Mount Meru, before the monasteries were destroyed and the Blades were scattered.

River City Vipa: Think of the most crowded outdoor Indian market possible. More colors, scents, and tastes can be found here than in all the worlds. Hover barges through the gate only to rise up to the myriad stands who are stacked one upon another, peaking out of the domed towers densely crowding the river like walls to either side.

Kanzeon Genetic Code Archive “Hand of Infinite Compassion” has her primary temple hovering over the intersection where the main canal spreading water from the river into the rest of the city meets the Great River. She is a source of healing for all who desire it, though her followers might ask a small fee to maintain the temple grounds. Her disciples are trained in Way of the Gentle Embrace and the Way of the Open Palm and to maintain strict non-violence, although they have been known to contract outside sources in the rare circumstance that violence is totally necessary or to protect patients who are under threat.

The Vipana Cartel is the main criminal power in the city in opposition to the Court of the River Lord. They smuggle through weapons, drugs, and experimental medical technologies that are repugnant to Kanzeon and so are banned by the River Lord. The Cartel regularly needs hands to protect their shipments or to steal them back from the Court Enforcers. It is said that the Cartel is run by a remnant AI in opposition to the New Buddhas who helps the Cartel use ancient technologies and has trained some of the inner circle in the Way of the Piercing Claw and Moon Shadow Technique. 

Mount Meru: Many seekers once climbed Mount Meru to hear the wisdom of M4IO “Universal Sight” and to state their case in seeking justice so that the Blades might intervene and give them aid. Now the temple of Mount Meru is a ruin but the seekers have not stopped coming. Many see the first recorded death of an AI Bodhisattva as a religious event in and of itself. There are many who sell what they claim are artifacts from the temple, charms of protection, relics containing a spark of M4IO’s mind. Others mark this spot as a sign of divine wrath and the beginning of the end of all the worlds because they had moved away from the true gods of their ancestors and turned to machines. Yet more people come because they have nowhere else to go, clinging to the memory of a place of justice and sanity in a universe rapidly running out of those very things.

Several of the scattered Blades have returned to this shanty city as broken people mourning what they have lost, some have taken to drink and have used what they have been taught to reverse engineer the Way of the Crippled Liver, better known as Drunken Master.

1d6 Characters from Manusaya:

1: Blade Mercenary: You had already progressed a middling amount in your training when the Mount Meru Monastery was destroyed. You have been wandering the worlds, seeking noble causes to fight behind or maybe just jobs that pay. You have held onto the memory of M4IO better than most of the Blades, perhaps there are others that still remember.

Strength: 2, Toughness: 2, Grace: 2, Precision: 2, Spirit: 2, Intellect: 2, HP: 10

Skills: Bladed Weapons 1, Unarmed 1, Tracking 2, Law Enforcement Connections 1, Vehicles (Boat and Hover) 1.


Light Body Technique 1

Feather Step: You can jump and glide with ease as though your body was as light as a feather. In addition, you can reroll 1s on Grace checks once per roll.

Blade of Wisdom 2

Fly True: While wielding a bladed weapon, you may throw this weapon with a Grace check. Bladed weapons you throw return to your hand.

Wise Blade: While wielding a bladed weapon, you gain +1 die for all defensive checks, and you can expend Spirit to automatically deflect ranged attacks for a round. 

Gear: A One Handed Sword (x1), a Light Pistol (x1), Light Armor (1), Handcuffs, a Bolo, 2d6 Coin

2: Cartel Runner: You were just a child when the monastery burned. To survive you turned to pick pocketing, before you were caught by a Cartel enforcer. He took you into his stable of thieves and drug runners and trained you to be one of his best. Did something go wrong? Have you turned on this life? Is your old mentor after you? Are you still trying to escape?

Strength: 1, Toughness: 2, Grace: 3, Precision: 2, Spirit: 1, Intellect: 2, HP: 9

Skills: Stealth 2, Thievery 2, Underworld Connections 1


Light Body Technique 1

Feather Step: You can jump and glide with ease as though your body was as light as a feather. In addition, you can reroll 1s on Grace checks once per roll.

Moon Shadow Technique 2

Night Foot: Gain +1 to Stealth under the cover of darkness. You are invisible to cameras and sensors when you desire.

Shadow Step: You can teleport from one shadow to another you can see. 

Gear: 2d6 Daggers (x1), Lockpicks, Rope, a Grappling Hook, 3 Smoke Bombs, 2d6 Coin

3: Kanzeon Trainee: When you fled from the monastery, you were taken in by Kanzeon. Have you taken their oaths of non-violence? Either way, they have been training you to help others, but are you satisfied with the life of a healer? Do you seek vengeance? Do you find non-violence inhibiting? Everyone must make their choices. What is your’s?

Strength: 1, Toughness: 1, Grace: 2, Precision: 2, Spirit: 3, Intellect: 3, HP: 6

Skills: Medicine 2, Medical Connections 2


Way of the Gentle Embrace 1

Hands of Compassion: You may expend Spirit to heal a creature you touch 2HP for every success or expended die.

Way of the Open Palm 2

Palm of Peace: So long as your hands are free, you may roll defensive Grace or Precision checks at a +2.

Reflecting Aggression: So long as your hands are free, you may reflect projectile or melee attacks back to your opponents, for every 6 you roll on a defensive check against these, your adversary takes 1 damage.

Gear: Medical Equipment (3 Uses), Portable Medical Scanner (Can detect nearby life signs as well as examine the anatomy of creatures you can touch), 2d6 Coin

4: Cartel Muscle: Found half-dead in the snow, you were picked up by the Cartel and rebuilt. You were told day after day, that your god abandoned you in your time of need, and a rage built up that could not be satisfied. You took out that anger on whatever target the Cartel gave you, but as time passes, you begin to question what has been told to you. Who were you before the Cartel? What is left of that person? What will show you the light?

Strength: 3, Toughness: 3, Grace: 1, Precision: 2, Spirit: 0, Intellect: 1, HP: 13

Skills: Unnarmed 1, Guns 1, Underworld Connection 2, Cybernetics 1


Way of the Piercing Claw 2

Fists of Rage: You unarmed attacks do (x2).

Sunder: You can destroy mundane weapons with your hands. Your unarmed attacks ignore one point of armor.

Gear: Mechanical Arms (+1 Strength), Augmented Torso (+1 Toughness), 2d6 Coin, and pick or roll 1d4 for one of the following Cyberware Upgrades:

  1. Wrist Flamer: 3 Charges before needing to refuel. Toughness check that does (x2) to nearby enemies or (x3) if they are unarmored.
  2. Torso Shielding: 1 use before needing to recharge. Become immune to damage for a round.
  3. Arm Gun: Acts as a (x1) Light Pistol.
  4. Iron Gut: You no longer need to eat or breathe so long as you have power.

5: Hacker: Vipa is a veritable treasure trove for the one who knows where to look. You were just a child when the monastery fell, you had to look out for yourself on the mean canals of this town. But you had a singular mentor that taught you a couple of tricks that you built onto by yourself, and now you steal from the Cartel and the Court in equal measure through the data plane.

Strength: 1, Toughness: 2, Grace: 2, Precision: 2, Spirit: 1, Intellect: 3, HP: 7

Skills: Computers 2, Cyberware 1, Engineering 1, Stealth 1


Way of the Open Eye 2

Universal Sight: You can see the fullness of the data plane, scanning for technology, life signs, and more at a glance. You need no terminal to attempt to take control of technology though some systems may prove a challenge. 

Jamming Finger: You can expend Intellect to automatically jam a piece of technology you can see for 1d6 rounds. More complex pieces of machinery may not totally shut down, but will start to malfunction during that time.

Gear: Hacking Tools, Shock Stick (x1 Non-lethal), 3d6 Coin, and a Small Hovering Drone that you can see through and ride on. 

6: Drunken Master: You climbed back up Mount Meru, fed up with the world, looking to wallow in the past and die, but life was not done with you. You still learned. You still had a purpose to do. The ones who did this to your master must pay. The young ones you helped to train must be protected. You have been roused from your stupor to face the world one last time before you try again in the next life.

Strength: 2, Toughness: 3, Grace: 2, Precision: 2, Spirit: 2, Intellect: 0, HP: 12

Skills: Unarmed 2, Drinking 3, Carousing 2


Light Body Technique 1

Feather Step: You can jump and glide with ease as though your body was as light as a feather. In addition, you can reroll 1s on Grace checks once per roll.

Way of the Open Palm 1

Palm of Peace: So long as your hands are free, you may roll defensive Grace or Precision checks at a +2.

Way of the Crippled Liver 2

Stumble Style: When you drink, you can expend Toughness to automatically avoid melee attacks for a round. 

Bar Brawler: When you drink, all the improvised weapons you can find in a bar deal (x2) damage. You also gain +1 to all attacks with improvised weapons while you drink.

Gear: 1d6 Coin, a Flask of Sake


  1. Quite interested about the system, can't tell if it's based in your Weirdways or something like Troika.

    1. Also: this is excellent, it is entirely my vibe, and we all need more cool martial arts stuff in games.

    2. It's more like Troika. I thought it would be a d6 system. If you want to make a Grace check, you roll d6s equal to your Grace. If a skill applies add dice equal to the skill. 5s and 6s are successes. Enemies will do opposed checks. Attacks deal at base 1 damage for each success above the enemy's reduced by Armor. Some weapons do more damage than 1 per hit as indicated by their multiplier.

    3. I'll go into more depth in the next post.

  2. As I said on the server, I really love the writeup on this setting; it's super bombastic and flavorful and exciting, what did I say...

    > this is delightful. Love the science fantasy intensity. It evokes Buddhism, space operas, psychedelic Jack Kirby-esque cosmic conflict. What does M4IO refer to? Is the Flaming Sword of Transcendent Wisdom which Cuts down Ignorance and Duality a reference to Manjushri? No joke we had a version of that same thing in my MRD campaign lol.

    Which you confirmed it was a reference to Manjushri ;).

    Still curious what M4IO means unless you answered and I missed it...

    I also like the factions and places, it really situates you in the setting and what you would be doing and who you would be interacting with.

    My only major (hopefully constructive) criticism, is that I think compared to the rest of the setting, the classes are kind of generic feeling. Like, they make sense in the setting, and the specific abilities seem useful and gameable, but for how exciting everything else is... so I haven't read KSBD or Hyperion, but even looking at something like Star Wars, sure Jedi fall into a sort of Knight/Samurai trope, but they still have a certain je nais se quoi; a Jedi is more than just the sum of its influences. If this was an intentional design decision to make the classes more relatable I guess I can understand that, but personally, I would be much more excited to see classes that feel really unique to the setting, even if they still wear those various influences on their sleeve.

    Even looking at something like the Kanzeon Trainee, maybe they have some unique outfit, or a unique tool, or something that makes them more than just the "Open Palm enlightened martial artist" class. You have the Kanzeon Genetic Code Archive, but none of that Genetic Code / AI cool stuff feels like it's being reflected in that class.

    But anyway ya, I only say this because I'm genuinely interested and excited about this setting, so I hope this suggestion is helpful.

    1. M4IO isn't really a reference to anything. "Universal Sight" is a reference back to Manjushri. I figured M4IO might have meant something about what the original function of the AI was at some point but it just sounded right for the name of an AI.

      I think you are right about the classes. I do think they need more character. I might take another pass at them in about post. I think I was trying to focus on the techniques too much but the classes really should shine more if I am going down this route.

    2. Ya nothing wrong with carving out one step at a time and iterating, in fact I think that's a really useful design strategy, but I will be very excited to see how these already functional and gameable classes get transformed in a way that elevates the setting even higher :).

      Aah I see, so it's a 42 situation haha. Maybe you will find meaning for it down the line, or its meaninglessness will become meaningful.


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