Magic Monday – Physical magic – A need for speed

Zhoghaikhan Hahd

The Zhoghaikhan Hahd is the most famous technique used by the elite bodyguards of the Fells to protect the throne. Like the Bakihandu Hahd, it requires a round spent focusing and gathering energy. At the start of the next round, the practitioner often seems to vanish: they have gained inhuman speed, and can act unopposed for as long as they maintain their focus – although there can be a terrible price to pay if they push their bodies too far.

The most famous use of this spell, which led to many attempts to steal it from the Fells, was when the lone guard Pen’namwalyansh sacrificed his life to kill a squad of twenty assassins before they had even finished entering the king’s bedchambers.

This technique has a base difficulty of d8, increased by two steps if invoked as a single action. It inflicts one point of strain to invoke, and when released it inflicts one point of fatigue for each extra action take while it was in effect. In the round following the technique’s activation, the practitioner automatically wins initiative (and if this is all they use it for, then the difficulty is reduced one step and there are no ill effects beyond the single point of strain). During this one round, the character may take any number of actions they choose. If two practitioners invoke the Hahd at the same time, they resolve initiative normally and take alternating turns until one releases the technique.

During the spell’s duration, the practitioner’s motion is such that the human eye can barely follow it. Unless they are also invoking this technique or a similar effect, others find it very difficult to take action against the practitioner: contested rolls are penalized by double the practitioner’s Dex modifier. There is a price for this supernatural speed, though. After the accelerated action ends, the practitioner temporarily loses a point of either Health or Strength for each turn’s worth of action points used beyond their normal allowance. (Thus, the maximum number of accelerated actions possible is the sum of those scores.) If either of these scores is reduced to zero, the practitioner dies shortly after the technique is released.

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Teach them the “bite test,” perhaps

(Imo no nieta mo gozonji nai;
“Doesn’t even know whether a potato is boiled”)


This phrase describes someone from such an overprotective, sheltered existence that they can’t even tell whether a potato is raw or boiled. Potatoes are associated in the Japanese mind with boorish country “bumpkin” living – but even urban sophisticates or sophisticated urbanites are supposed to be able to distinguish this basic a difference.

This saying is thematically similar to one previously introduced here, about a frog in a well, but more direct and mocking in tone.

Alternately, the saying can be used to refer to someone not paying attention, as a chef who doesn’t notice that the potatoes have boiled already and can be taken off the fire.


(imo) is a potato, or rather any of a variety of edible tubers and corms including potatos, yams, and taro. The verb 煮える (nieru) is the intransitive counterpoint to 煮る (niru), “to cook (by boiling).” Here it is in past tense. The particle (no) in between the initial noun and verb is not in its familiar associative function, though: this is acting like the subject-marker particle (ga), a vestigial function that was more common in older Japanese grammar. And the noun-verb group is marked by (mo) as an intensifier. Modern Japanese would probably put the interrogative particle (ka) before the to set off the subordinate clause.

Next comes… well, technically the verb of the sentence, but in a form that probably seems counterintuitive to most learners of Japanese. As noted below, the unmarked verb here would be 知る (shiru), “to become aware of” or “to know.” Despite the mocking content (or perhaps to highlight the mocking content) of the phrase, though, the verb is usually replaced by the honorific equivalent 御存じ (gozonji). To this we add the negative suffix ない (nai). Note that ない acts like an adjective, meaning that the place of the verb has in essence been taken by a noun-adjective pair.


The honorific prefix can also be written as hiragana . The whole honorific verb can be replaced with the unmarked version, 知らない (shiranai).

This kotowaza is included in the Edo iroha karuta set as the entry.

Example sentence:


(“Kore, kakunin shitain desu ga, paatonaa wa onore ga imo no nieta mo shiranai tte iu no de komarimasu.”)

[“I want to check this, but my partner says they don’t know their ass from a hole in the ground. I’m at a loss.”]

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Primum Mobile


Literally: self – reason – self – exist

Alternately: Completely free. One’s own master; doing as one pleases.

Darth Vader as a girl

My wife suggested Darth Vader, with his political power and free hand with the Force, as an example of this phrase. I did an image search and found… girl Vader. There’s a video, but it’s an ad so I’m going with the still.

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Magic Monday – Introduction to physical magic

Bakihandu Hahd

Hahd techniques are a series of martial physical magics: Physical magic allows the practitioner to harness magical energy internally, affecting their own body, rather than in the more common external applications. The Hahdet were created by the royal family of the Fells, which draws its bodyguards from specially trained members of its adjunct families. This Hahd is one of the first physical magics taught after basic martial training has been completed.

The practitioner spends a round focusing and gathering their energy. In the next round, they gain enormous strength, although this quickly fades away. After the spell has run its course, the rush of adrenaline that accompanied the strength fades as well, and the practitioner is left weak and exhausted from the effort.

The base difficulty of this technique is d4; the difficulty rises two steps if the practitioner wants to perform it as a single action instead of taking a full round, and two steps more to perform it instantly. The practitioner may choose any amount of Strength to gain (up to their skill level in the technique, or double that by increasing the difficulty a step), but the temporary gain decreases back to normal levels at one point per round. When all of the extra strength has gone, the practitioner takes one point of fatigue for each point of Strength gained, and in addition takes one point each of temporary Strength and Dexterity damage due to the strain of working with “overclocked” muscles.

The secret version of this Hahd, known only to the Felsian royal family, is identical except that the strength boost remains high and disappears all at once at the end of the duration rather than fading over time.

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For those of you who liked this post better before reading it:

This week’s kotowaza was brought to my attention by a friend, who used a related version (see Notes) in a Facebook post a while back.

(matsu ma ga hana; “the time spent waiting is a flower”)


Anticipation is often better than the event itself. Looking forward to something is often better than getting it. Shopping is better than owning. The day before a festival is often happier than the festival itself, because the festival is perfect up until reality intrudes. Of course a “flower” is just an image to express “the best time” or “the best part” rather than a literal flower.


We start with the verb 待つ (matsu), which is generally translated as “wait” but here carries a connotation of anticipation. The verb, in “dictionary” form, modifies the noun (ma, “interval; span of space / time”). This noun phrase is marked with the subject-marker particle (ga) and followed by the noun (hana, “flower”). Of course this “flower” is an image to express “the best time” or “the best part” rather than a literal flower.

This saying is not a full proper sentence. That would require a copula or similar element – in modern grammar some form of (da), である (de aru), or the like, or in classical grammar probably なり (nari).


This saying came to my attention when a friend used the synonymous phrase 見ぬが花 (minu ga hana; “the unseen is a flower”), but this version is more common in the kotowaza dictionaries I consulted. Closer variants such as the contracted 待つが花 (matsu ga hana) are also possible.

Now that I think about it, this saying stands in an interesting counterpoint to the far more famous 花より団子 (hana yori dango).

Example sentence:

「ゆっこはさ、ほとんど毎日本屋さんで楽しそうに何冊もの本を手にとって見るのよ。なのに、滅多に買わないの。『待つ間が花』を実施してるかも」 「いや、ただ立ち読みしてるんじゃない!」

(“Yukko wa sa, hotondo mainichi hon’ya-san de tanoshisou ni nansatsu mo no hon wo te ni totte miru no yo. Na no ni, metta ni kawanai no. ‘Matsu ma ga hana‘ wo jisshi shiteru kamo.” “Iya, tada tachiyomi shiterun ja nai!”)

[“You know Yukko*; almost every day she goes to the book store and looks through a bunch of books. She seems to really be enjoying herself, but she almost never buys anything. I guess she’s practicing what they preach when they say that anticipation is better than having.” “No way; she’s just reading books in the store!”]

* A nickname for a girl’s name more properly rendered as Yuuko; often written 優子 or 裕子.

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A thought on toddler cognitive development

So the kid is a year old now, and he has learned how to throw things. He enjoys taking things out of containers and sometimes putting them back into containers… although not always the same contained, as when he starts putting recycling into the trash can in the kitchen. He will happily jettison food that displeases him, or food that he wants out of the way when he sees better food coming, or any food left over when he’s done eating, or just food that he’d like to test the aerodynamic properties of.

Mama and Papa don’t like it when he throws food on the floor, though. We look at the food and make sad frowny faces. He sees our frowny faces and gives us this wide-eyed innocent look. He tries misdirection, such as holding and waving a piece of food in the air for a while before just happening to drop it.

This morning, he tried a new trick: I was sitting to his right. He took a bit of cereal that he wanted to get rid of in his left hand and casually hung his hand over the side of his high-chair, out of sight. I got suspicious and checked his hand, and sure enough it was empty. I went around to the other side of his chair, looked down at the cereal, made a frowny face, and we looked at each other in the usual exchange.

I was still impressed, though! It’s pretty amazing, if you think about it. It means he can do these things:

  1. Guess at people’s moods and emotions.
  2. Remember what makes them upset.
  3. Want to avoid upsetting them.
  4. Understand fields of vision.
  5. Realize that people may not respond to things they can’t see.
  6. Guess at what is in or out of someone’s field of vision, based on local arrangements of objects in space.

And then he assimilates all of that into a plan to avoid upsetting Papa by hiding an event that has upset Papa in the past! Babies really are amazing, thoughtful creatures.

I’m still looking forward to when he’s potty-trained.

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In the dark, twice over

This yojijukugo is antonymical to last week’s 一目瞭然.


Literally: dark – dark – imitate – glue

Alternately: Ambiguous. Vague. The meaning or content of something is unclear. An emphatic version of 曖昧 (aimai).

Media: All the top results are this same Korean music video. So Korean it is, I guess; a reminder that despite contemporary prevalence of hangul, the Korean peninsula also has a history of kanji  culture.
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