Spinning everyone’s wheels

and spinning and spinning and spinning and spinning and


Literally: thread – thread – cotton – cotton

Alternately: Someone speaking, talking, or just generally carrying on in a long-winded, verbose, wordy way, possibly with lots of repetition or redundancy, that goes on for far too long and never seems to end despite the lack of content, whether any content whatsoever or merely an amount of content that stands in any sort of reasonable proportion to the actual number of words they’re using or the actual amount of time they’re spending on uttering those words, leading to a general feeling in the listener of boredom, discontent, and the general wasting of their precious time.

Notes: This is another compound of the type that uses doubling for emphasis. 縷縷 is something going on in a long, thin way (like a thread); 綿綿 is describes something that seems to never pause or end.

This phrase can be written with the doubling mark (縷々綿々) and/or with alternate character for men.

Also a small-time pop song!

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Magic Monday – God-eaters – Echo

The Knocker
(Echo, Kobold)

Description: The Knocker is the genius loci of a specific mine, and never ventures beyond the mine’s entrance – only even approaching areas where the outside light is visible under extreme circumstances. It rarely takes physical form, most commonly manifesting as random creaking, tapping, knocking, and other sounds from somewhere close by but just out of sight. Such sounds also occur naturally underground, so usually the Knocker’s presence can only be detected by increased frequency, or by the unpleasant effects of its attention. In addition to spooky or misleading noises, the Knocker can generate patches of bad smell or even bad air.

Rarely, the Knocker may manifest as a small flame (like a candle or lantern, seen at a distance), or as an animal or humanoid figure. At first this latter appears to be a human child, but soon it will show its anger, and its features will twist into monstrous shapes. This is its most vulnerable manifestation, but also the only one in which it can speak in human tongues. It will generally take on visible form in an attempt to lure invaders to their doom. These forms are material, and can be killed, but they can also levitate (which allows it to walk over pits and drop-offs as if they were solid floor) and, with a round of concentration, can even sink into a wall or floor and disappear.

Worshipers: Yes. All the miners and their families carry out a number of rituals, and wear special tokens on their gear, to avert Echo’s wrath. It still doesn’t like them and will occasionally throw a tantrum. But local lore keeps the miners well-versed in the signs, and few are actually killed. A party openly moving against Echo will raise controversy among the locals, as the community is torn between hope (that it might be eliminated) and fear (of reprisals).

Servitors: No. However, the Knocker does seem to have an understanding or symbiotic relationship with the local grue population. One of the ways it will attempt to deal with interlopers is to put out their lights, raise some noise, and allow the grue to come feed.

Confrontation: To enter its mine is to invite harassment from the Knocker. It mostly ignores the miners, though, so blending in with them – and especially following their worship traditions – offers a decent amount of protection. Those who stand out, who fail to show proper deference, or who seem to be actively causing trouble will paradoxically be denied a response for a while as it watches, plans, and nurses its anger, and then face a campaign of increasingly direct tricks, traps, threats, and harassment. Echo is generally confident in its ability to become incorporeal and hide away within the walls, and will repeatedly use its visible forms as bait for various traps. If all else fails, it will lead invaders to specific points and attempt to cause a cave-in – not necessarily to kill them directly, but to trap them and watch them starve, go mad, or be eaten by the other dwellers of the darkness.

Aspect: Cobalt; air; darkness; grudges. Those present at defeat may boost Intuition or Presence, and Psychic or Corruption saves, by one each. In addition, each character gets three skill points to distribute among Conceal, Sneak, and Survival (Underground).

Powers – Tier 1: The character gains +2 to Sneak and Wariness skills. They also gain the ability to create audible illusions of natural noises (water, stone, wind, and so on) or of their own voices anywhere in the vicinity.

Powers – Tier 2: The character can sense the composition of nearby earth and stone, and when touching it may cause it to shift. This ability can’t form complicated structures, but it can collapse weak areas, bring embedded objects such as veins of ore to the surface, or even be used to contaminate or purify ore, gems, or various types of stone. They also increase their Sneak, Wariness, and Survival (Underground) skills by another +2 each.

Powers – Tier 3: Anyone who has lost more than half of their Humanity after embracing Echo’s essence becomes grayer and smaller. They may become intangible to merge with nearby earth or stone; while intangible they do not need to breathe, and can see and hear everything that happens in the area. Sneak and Survival (Underground) gain an additional +2, and the character gains another three points to apportion among Perception skills as they see fit.

Powers – Other: The essence of the Knocker carries an affinity for the dangers of deep caverns. Grue will no longer harm the character unless directly attacked. The character can intuitively tell good ores, air, and waters from ones that are poisonous.

Example Checks: Anyone who has absorbed part of Echo’s essence must check Humanity in order to endure direct scrutiny or to let go of a grudge.

Notes: Echo is based to a degree on real folk beliefs. It’s intended to be qualitatively different from the “super-powered animals” image I’d been coming up with so far (although there are a few more of those rattling around in my headspace). While physically formidable and often surrounded by allies, animal-type deities are relatively easy to defeat when careful planning and concentrated effort are involved. The Kobold isn’t especially dangerous, but should provide an entirely different kind of challenge.

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Never trust anything strawberry-flavored

In fact, when in doubt, just go with the most masochistic option available.

(Ryouyaku wa kuchi ni nigashi; “Good medicine is bitter in the mouth”)


Good advice is hard to listen to. The advice that we most desperately need is that which points out and helps us to escape our most damaging failings… which is exactly what we least want to face and grapple with. Unlike the English equivalent line about “a spoonful of sugar,” this saying primarily refers to the pain of receiving this kind of feedback.


We begin with the noun 良薬 (ryouyaku), literally “good medicine.” This is marked by the particle (wa) as the topic of discussion in the sentence. Next we get the noun (kuchi), “mouth,” marked by the location particle (ni). What is it in the mouth? The adjective 苦し (nigashi), “bitter.”


This saying appears in the Edo iroha karuta set, but not under as you would expect from modern orthography. Instead, this is the entry. According to older conventions the compound that is now りょう would have been written as れう. (The most amusing example of this phenomenon may be けふ – which, read in modern terms, would say kefu – as kyou.

This saying is derived from the first part of the same longer Chinese passage that gave us 忠言耳に逆らう.

Example sentence:


(“Kozou yo, ryouyaku wa kuchi ni nigashi to iu no wa yoku wakatteru no da ga, kore kara no chuukoku wo sunao ni kike.”)

[“Okay, brat, I know all about how good medicine is bitter, but be good and listen to the advice I’m about to give you.”]

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Apple tree turning yellow



Literally: meet – opportunity – reply – change

Alternately: Adapting to the current situation. Playing things by ear. “Facing the current situation and responding to changes.” Specifically, responding appropriately to changing situations, with the knowledge that it is impossible to predict and plan ahead with perfect accuracy.

Notes: Some people may replace with homophone or even , but both of these replacements are considered errors.

This compound can be traced back to Chinese antiquity, attributed in turn to the History of the Southern Dynasties, the History of Song, and the teachings (as collected by his disciples) of Song dynasty Confucian scholar Zhu Xi.


For example, you might turn into a bunch of Lego bricks. Then what would you do?

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They’ll let you have next Tuesday, though

(Rainen no koto wo ieba oni ga warau; “Oni laugh when you talk about next year”)


Nobody can accurately predict the future, so there’s no use in trying to say what’s going to be happening next year. People who try are being so ridiculous that even supernatural beings will take notice and make fun of them. This saying is generally used to poke fun at people who talk thoughtlessly about what the future is going to be like.


We’ve got a couple clauses here. The first begins with the noun 来年 (rainen), “next year.” (Literally “the coming year.”) This is linked by the associative particle (no) to the noun (koto), “thing,” which in this case serves a function similar to “the matter of” or simply “about.” The final verb of the first clause is 言う (iu), “to say,” in conditional form, and the particle (wo) marks the preceding noun phrase as its direct object.

The second clause is a simple subject-verb arrangement. The noun is (oni), a humanoid monster whose name is variously translated as “demon” or “ogre,” but is perhaps often best left as-is. This noun is marked as the subject by the particle (ga). And the verb is 笑う (warau), “to smile” or “to laugh,” in sentence-final form.


This is the entry of the Kyoto iroha karuta set.

Another version of the same saying replaces 来年 with 明日 (asu), “tomorrow.” Other variants simply use the alternate conditional structure 言うと in place of 言えば or elide の事. Finally, a couple versions replace the laughing oni with birds or even with a mouse on the ceiling.

Example sentence:


(“Keikaku wo tateru no wa ii kedo, kanarazu yosou doori ni nashitogerareru nado to omoikomu na. Rainen no koto wo ieba oni ga warau zo.”)

[“It’s good to make plans, but don’t fool yourself into thinking that you’re definitely going to be able to carry them out exactly as planned. ‘When you talk about next year, oni laugh at you!’”]

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Ah, spring

…When love shoots you with arrows of ruination?


Literally: fall / drop – flower – flow – water

Alternately: Today’s yojijukugo is interesting because it has a series of seemingly unrelated meanings. The image invoked is of falling flowers and running water, specifically of petals flowing away down a stream. ① This invokes the sense of springtime passing away. The sense of loss and evanescence is also reminiscent of ② an object or person that has come to ruin or been reduced to poverty.

However, the phrase can also refer to ③ mutual love and understanding between two people, especially romantic love between a man and a woman.

Notes: Writing 落花 with homophone 落下, “a fall,” is an error. However, the elements of the compound may be reversed and written as 流水落花.


Also the title of a four-panel-format comic about the antics of an archery club at an all-girls school.

(Note: Tomorrow is Yom Kippur, so the usual Wednesday 四字熟語 post is going up a bit early.)

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Magic Monday – God-eaters – Monkey

(Master Monkey, Lord Monkey, Emperor Monkey, His Eminence the Monkey, The Grand Old Monkey, etc. etc.)

Description: Monkey is a gray-furred, red-faced macaque of the type commonly seen lounging about in the shade in the summer, or in warm mineral springs in the winter – except for the large opalescent gem embedded in his forehead. He can speak out loud in human tongues, and does so at every opportunity, even though it distorts his face horribly and he rarely has anything of real substance to say. Monkey is an irrational braggart and liar who pursues nothing but his own needs and whims from moment to moment. Those who please him will be showered with inordinate gifts and uncomfortably off-target praise. Those who displease him will be verbally abused or physically tormented. Despite having the attention span of a small child, he never forgets a grudge. He responds well to obsequious flattery and can be manipulated easily, but he will betray even his most pampered “pet” at a moment’s notice or casually try to rewrite history despite the most glaring proof.

Monkey has no fixed home, tending to wander across mountain and valley alike in the search for more hedonistic pleasures and distractions. He leaves a trail of negative emotions, filth, and destruction in his wake.

Worshipers: Yes. Many villages in his path have elaborate rituals to avert his wrath while also subtly encouraging him to move on as quickly as possible, so shrines and altars with his image are surprisingly common. Most people categorize Monkey as an evil trickster god, but for whatever reason, some worship or even seek to emulate him. They will not hesitate to stoop to crimes such as murder if they feel it will curry his favor.

Servitors: Yes. Monkey is a coward, and makes sure he is always surrounded by as large a crowd of monkeys (and human worshipers) as possible. The former often seem uncomfortable about his presence and behavior, but he can compel them to do as he wishes, and will sacrifice as many of them as it takes to keep himself safe and amused.

Confrontation: As long as he feels confident, Monkey will follow his enemies, harassing them with everything he can think of until his ire (or his target’s entertainment value) is spent, or until something else distracts him. The moment he feels threatened, he will attempt to flee, commanding any followers present to protect him and hinder his attackers however possible. In either case, there’s a lot of screaming. He has a rudimentary psychic defense, but its only effect is to heighten negative emotions nearby, making every battle into a loathsome orgy of fear- and rage-driven violence.

The entirety of Monkey’s power comes from the gem in his forehead. It gives him command over other monkeys, and converts the psychic energy of his servitors and worshipers into power that grants him rapid healing (one harm removed per round while resting), immunity to disease, and other components of effective immortality. Without the gem he is nothing, and parting them would destroy them both.

Aspect: Mercury; madness; improvisation. Those present at defeat may boost Reflex or Shock save, or Dexterity. Any points beyond the first are traded for corresponding losses in Corruption or Psychic saves, or any mental stat, respectively.

Powers – Tier 1: The character gains a trickster god’s luck as long as they act impulsively. In any scene where the character obeys their fear or anger or malice, and pursues immediate gratification, they get a +1 bonus to all rolls… but each round spent on an action with a payoff that isn’t immediate costs one strain.

Powers – Tier 2: The character may lie smoothly and undetectably, automatically winning any challenges involved in lying, bluffing, or otherwise saying something untrue. Their Tier 1 power bonus increases to +2.

Powers – Tier 3: A character who has lost more than half of their Humanity gains a strong intuition to protect and serve one’s self. The character can tell what is the best of any selection of things in their presence: the sweetest fruit, the fittest mate, the fuzziest slippers. Note that this ability operates based on simple physical characteristics: it cannot reveal the fruit most conducive to long-term health, or the wisest adviser for a given task.

Powers – Other: The character gains a vague intuition about monkeys, and in a few minutes of conversation may communicate gists and general feelings through a combination of vocal inflection and body language. Occasionally this communication may occur quickly, such as when the message is “DANGER!”

Example Checks: Anyone who has absorbed part of Monkey’s essence becomes more self-centered and whimsical, and must check Humanity to avoid lying in serious situations or attempting to steal the spotlight when someone else is the center of attention. Naturally, the more inappropriate this would be, the greater the check difficulty.

Notes: There is no other god that Monkey doesn’t hate and fear. There are no humans whom Monkey doesn’t hate, fear, or look down on. Even his warmest affections with other monkeys are framed in terms of what benefit they provide him.


Like this guy*! [Source]

* May not actually be a guy
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