|Development:||Richard E. Dansky|
|Authors:||Kraig Blackwelder, Tim Clancy, Geoffrey C. Grabowski, and Lindsay Woodcock, with Jack Norris and Richard E. Dansky|
|Art Director:||Richard Thomas|
|Layout & Typesetting:||Aileen E. Miles|
|Interior Art:||Mike Danza, Guy Davis, Melissa Uran|
|Front Cover Art:||George Pratt|
|Front & Back Cover Design:||Aileen E. Miles|
|Publisher:||White Wolf Publishing, Inc.|
|Imprint:||White Wolf Game Studio|
|Publication #:||WW 2902|
|Reference #:||ISBN 1-56504-226-3|
The Thousand Hells (also stylized as The 1000 Hells) is a sourcebook for Kindred of the East that details the realm wherein the monstrous Yama Kings hold sway. A guide to the Yomi World and those who dwell there.
This book carries the secrets of the demon lords who seek to rule the Sixth Age. The Thousand Hells include a history of the Yomi World and its most fearsome inhabitants; ideas for creating your own domains and Yama Kings; and information on the most famous - and infamous - of the Thousand Hells.
The Hell of the Upside-Down Sinners
All of Asia's Kuei-jin share a common experience - the agony of torture after death in one of the Thousand Hells. Beyond pain, beyond the end of existence, their very souls are flayed for their sins in the living world. Only the most powerful escape to rise again as vampires, but not even they can forget their suffering. The domains of the Yama Kings wait beyond the Wall, where demons and their servants anticipate the coming of the Sixth Age, when the Demon Emperor shall be loosed upon the world.
The Hell of Being Skinned Alive
The Yomi Thousand Hells are nothing like the spirit worlds of the West. Spun from the stuff of nightmares and corruption, they embody the worst damnation imaginable to the human mind - and more. At last, the secrets of the Yama Kings are revealed and the gates of their domains are opened.
Now the bravest (and most foolish) Kuei-jin can return to set things aright in the homelands of demons... or be consumed and forever lost. Descriptions of the Hells are complemented by new rules for Yomi demons and spirits. Yama Kings and the powers of their undead servants, the akuma, are finally revealed. And, at last, the Yomi's place in World of Darkness cosmology is explained.
Descent of a Soul: a Cautionary TaleEdit
The opening story. It emphasizes the tainting mood that the Yomi World is supposed to bring to bear.
The introduction gives the theme of the book as well as a quick summary and the terminology you'll find within.
The Tapestry of YomiEdit
Chapter One details the history and evolution of the Yomi World and the Yama Kings, rulers of hell. It talks about the fall from Heaven's mandate and the rebellion of the Yama Kings and about the August Personage of Jade's apparent lack of concern about them. The history is very good, and the overall layout of the hells comes through. A description of both the Scarlet Path and the Ebon Road, the Yang and Yin routes into the Yomi are included, and both are interesting enough to spawn chronicles in their own right. Rereading the section now for this review, I am reminded at just how dense much of the text is. I missed a great deal of inspiring detail on the first read through.
The Map of Damnation: GeographyEdit
Chapter Two talks about a few of the thousand hells, as well as the hells in general. Giving descriptions of landscape and denizens, the brief sections inspire trainloads of thought and ideas, in much the same way as the best parts of Plansecape and The Book of Worlds do. Kakuri,, the Night Realm; Lanka, Demon City of Rakshasas; The Hell of Being Skinned Alive; The Wiked City; The Hell of Boiling Oil; The Hell of Burrowing Maggots; The Pit of Salt and Iron; The Hell of Seven Burning Seas; The Hell of Upside-Down Sinners: all are given brief and inspiring synopsis. I was filled with ideas reading these passages. The constant urge to include it all in the games I run had to be fought, it was just too good. As examples of other hells, Puelekos, The Hell of Eternal Castration, The Hell of Those Who Sell Their Children, The Feverish Hell of Tou Shen, and The Hell of Being Cut to Pieces are given one-sentence mentions. This section of the book, more than any other, made me want to run a Kindred of the East or other Asian World of Darkness game, just so I could transport the party to the Yomi World. The Hells reminded me of the surreal and sheer possibility-laden realms in the previously-mentioned Planescape and The Book of Worlds. The Yomi World, however, can retain its awe and splendor much better, I think, because of its essential sparing nature. Most chronicles using the Yomi will feature a trip to hell as the climax of the game, not filler.
The Face of Yomi: the Yama KingsEdit
Chapter Three discusses the Yama Kings themselves, and it is one of the best dealings with such unimaginably powerful beings that White Wolf has put to print yet. The Yama Kings are given dimension and personality, as well as history. They retain the mystery despite being well known and almost easily accessible. The only problem I had with the section was there frequent references to other beings and events, many of which I didn't recognize, despite having read nearly all other Year of the Lotus releases. I admit that many Asian names can be difficult to remember, but there were mentions to events or catastrophes that were not expanded upon, whether intentionally or not. What happened during Ravana's down-fall? Who was Shua-yar Han and what did that Yama King do? What realm did Pika Don rule? Questions like that plagued me while I read it, and they were distracting. The chapter is still excellent, however, especially Emma-O and Haha no Fukami, in my opinion. The writers did an excellent job giving peeks into the Yama King's psyches. The short discussion on the Akuma seemed almost out of place, considering the Appendix dedicated to them.
Storytelling in YomiEdit
Chapter Four teaches how to use the Yomi, how to get there and how to run a game involving it, as well as what things to consider when creating a realm or a Yama King. I was very glad that no point system was involved, as with organizations in The Quick and the Dead and chantries in The Book of Chantries. Instead, guidelines and considerations are mentioned, and it works much, much better.
Systems of YomiEdit
Chapter Five deals with the systems governing surviving and traveling in the Yomi. From rules on Chi to rules on how Disciplines are affected (including many Kin-jin Disciplines), the chapter covers most of That Which Must Be Known. For the most part, I was very pleased with this section. It really emphasizes the tainting nature of hell. Going in and coming out is not a simple Sunday drive, by any stretch. Those who enter are often marked in a very spiritual manner. In addition, the chapter also looks at what is needed to escape from hell (even for the souls rightfully there) as well as some of the Yama Kings' servitor. Once again there is an odd and brief mention of the Akuma, seemingly out of place.
Appendix: Akuma - the Devil-EatenEdit
Finally, there is an appendix dealing with the Akuma, describing how to become one and what happens after that. Very, very thematic and "moody," the Appendix is quite well-done, if I don't entirely like the system for investments given. The discussion on the various forms of deals made with hell is excellent and provides for more role-playing than it might in the West. In addition, the infamous Akuma described were quite interesting.
Unfortunately, the Appendix shows one of the major problems with The Thousand Hells, being a Kindred of the East book, it deals almost exclusively with the Kuei-jin, almost ignoring the hsien and hengeyokai. Also, the apparent misprint in Land of Eight Million Dreams is continued here, calling those Yomi-aligned hsien Okuma, which is the name of the extinct Asian Gurahl. Some more information on the shifter servants and the Kura Sou would have been very useful.
Although the logo used on the book's covers and title page reads "The 1000 Hells", the text in the book's interior and on the back cover all consistently refer to it as "The Thousand Hells", and other books that reference the book also use the name "The Thousand Hells".