Nen is a sort of universal energy, the vital force in all living things and the structural force of unliving things. For most people, places and things that exist in this world, Nen is invisible, intangible and unknown. Certainly many cultures have an idea that it exists, they call it Chi or Ki or Ka or life force, but far fewer people know the truths about this essential energy. The people who do know are known as Nenshi. And they are capable of truly amazing things.
Traits of Nen and the training of Nenshi
No one is really born a Nenshi. Certainly there are some people who, due to peculiarities of fate or birth, are born with access to a nen ability that is seen by normal people as a supernatural talent or mutation, but in reality, they are still not Nenshi. Having an ability like that is like being able to pull off a particularly impressive punch or kick even though you've never been taught before. It doesn't make you a martial artist. Nenshi are made through training, discipline and willpower, not through happenstance. In fact learning Nen is very much like learning martial arts in that way.
The first step to learning Nen is to learn how it flows from the body, leaves the body and how to make it do or not do these things. The pores or points on the body where nen flows out from are called aura nodes. A Nenshi trains to manually open and close their aura nodes so that they can control the flow of nen. One can learn this process gradually, learning to control the aura nodes through meditation, or they can receive an influx of nen from an experienced user that forces these nodes open, forcing the new user to learn to control the flow or risk severe exhaustion and/or death. The second method is generally frowned upon as it very dangerous (although far quicker). Once one has opened their aura nodes, they will be able to see nen as an 'aura' that surrounds the body (this is because the nodes in their eyes are opened). Henceforth, the newly awakened Nenshi will be able to see things other people cannot.
Once the basics of nen flow are mastered within the body, the Nenshi can learn about the more advanced techniques of Nen, and also one of the most important facts: What manifestation you were born under. Based partly on birth and partly upon personality, each person has a Nen that expresses itself in one of 5 domains: Manipulation, Emission, Enhancement, Conjuration and Transmutation. This manifestation guides and restricts the next step in the process.
After the basics are mastered and one's manifestation is discovered, it's time to branch out and become a true Nenshi by discovering one's Hatsu. Hatsu are the techniques and skills of Nen, the way you use your nen to affect the outside world. There are some Hatsu that exist as advanced techniques of Nen that branch off of the basics, these are unaligned with any manifestation and can be used equally well by anyone. Most Hatsu one will want to learn are aligned with one's own manifestation, though a Nenshi can learn Hatsu of other manifestations, they simply won't be able to use them at full efficacy. The combination of Hatsu is what makes each Nenshi truly unique.
Although the production of nen is unconscious and constant by all living beings, it is more than just 'leaky energy'. Nen carries with it the desires and emotions of the one who deploys it, which is what allows Nen to have incredible versatility to those who develop their skill at using it. Nen responds to the goals and strengths of the desire of its user. As a result, a user can make a commitment that results in an increase in their abilities. If a user, for example, damages their own body in such a way that an individual skill seems more imposing when used, their nen will become correspondingly more powerful. It is also possible to increase the strength of an individual skill by imposing limits on it.
Common Traits of Nenshi
The basic training of Nenshi gives them all certain common traits and abilities, as well as some weaknesses.
First, the ability to use Nen also makes one able to easily sense the Nen in other beings. This comes in handy when tracking or hunting down animate or inanimate targets. Nenshi add half their Nen Potential to perception or investigation rolls against any living target that is not actively hiding through supernatural means, and to perception or investigation rolls to find any inanimate object they have handled for more than ten minutes.
The first principle of Nen lets a user control the flow of aura around the body, turning it into a kind of shroud or small bubble rather than the cloudy, leaking auras of normal people. This has two effects. First, Nenshi live longer than normal people because the concentration of Nen in their bodies slows the aging process, since it's no longer just drifting away. Reports of Nenshi living to be almost 200 aren't uncommon, but it's very rare to see any live past 300.
Second, this shroud of nen effectively acts as a buffer against both physical and mental attacks. Based on one's Nen Potential, it gives the Nenshi an innate armor rating.
Zetsu is the second principle, which draws one's aura completely into the body, containing all of one's nen. Zetsu is a state one enters that effectively eliminates one's Nen signature at the cost of preventing the Nenshi from using their own abilities. While in this state, the Nenshi subtracts half their Nen Potential from attempts to supernaturally track them, only supernaturally through powers and not through natural senses, and thanks to the sudden saturation of aura in their bodies they also heal at an increased rate. (Bashing = 10 minutes, Lethal = 1 Day, Aggravated = 5 Days) However in Zetsu they cannot spend any Aura and they lose access to any Hatsu and their Ten Armor bonus. It takes 3 turns to enter or exit the Zetsu state, making it dangerous to remain in it if battle seems imminent. Most Nenshi only enter Zetsu when the moment calls for it.
The third basic principle of Nen is Ren, which is active distribution of aura in the body to increase physical prowess and durability. Nenshi can burn points of aura to increase physical dice pools for a turn by 2 dice for each point spent. Alternatively they can increase their Ten Armor bonus by 1 per point spent for a turn as a reflexive action.
Drawbacks of Nen
-Nen Users burn like torches in a world of candles. Unless the Nenshi is using Zetsu to conceal themselves, ANY being that can attempt to detect others through any supernatural means (such as the Unseen Sense merit) can detect them, and add a number of dice equal to half the Nenshi's Nen Potential rating.
-Nenshi are bound to their virtues and vices very closely, as it is strength of conviction and intent that defines them. When a Nen User resists indulging their vice they lose an amount of Aura equal to their Nen Potential. When a Nenshi fails to uphold their Virtue they lose TWICE that number as well as a point of willpower.
Nen Potential is an abstract measurement of the overall power level of a Nen user. It's not a term that is used amongst Nenshi, it's a system measurement for your character's overall mastery of their aura. Nen Potential governs the following things:
-Your overall Aura pool and the amount of Aura you can spend per turn.
-Your Ten Armor Bonus
-Your Sense Perception and Investigation bonuses.
-Your concealment bonus in the Zetsu State.
-Your aura loss or regain based on your virtue and vice.
-The bonus others receive to supernaturally detect you.
Nen Potential: Attribute/Skill/Manifestation Max, Max Aura/Max Aura Per Turn, Ten Armor Bonus
1: 5, 10/1, 1
2: 5, 11/2, 1
3: 5, 12/3, 1
4: 5, 13/4, 2
5: 5, 14/5, 2
6: 6, 15/6, 2
7: 7, 20/7, 3
8: 8, 25/10, 3
9: 9, 30/15, 3
10: 10, 60/20, 5
Aura is how Nenshi refer to units of vital energy, used to power their Nen abilities. If Nen is the "gun" then Aura is the "ammunition," basically. Nenshi have several ways of regaining their Aura.
-As long as a Nenshi isn't injured they can pool their excess Nen into more Aura. They can regain their Composure in Aura upon waking after at least 6 hours of rest as long as they have no health boxes with Lethal or Aggravated damage.
-Nothing stops a Nen user who still has the determination to go on. By spending a point of willpower and taking an instant action they can regain an amount of Aura equal to their resolve, though they gain no other benefits of spending willpower and can still only spend one each turn.
-Nenshi are driven by goals and grand motivations. Whenever a Nenshi indulges in their Vice they also regain Aura equal to their Nen Potential. When they fulfill their Virtue they fill their Aura pool as well as their Willpower pool completely.
The 5 manifestations of Nen are each a broad but definite category of the utilization of Aura for various spectacular effects. The combination of different Hatsu learned through mastery of the various Manifestations make each Nenshi unique.
One's Manifestation is inborn and unchangeable and is discovered during basic instruction with the use of the Water Test. A glass of water with something floating atop it, traditionally a leaf, is set before the user and they then concentrate their aura into the glass. Whatever happens to the water or leaf at that point indicates the Nenshi's Manifestation.
Another sign of a Nenshi's manifestation can be their personality. Certain types of people tend to be certain manifestations.
Manifestation Levels are the levels of mastery in the various types. One is always strongest in their own Manifestation type, and is somewhat handicapped in the others, as shown below.
True Manifestation: Your true manifestation is the one you were born under. When using Hatsu of this manifestation you use 10 again and your full dice pool.
1 Step Types: 1 step away from your Manifestation in compatibility, you do not receive ten again using these Hatsu,
2 step types: 2 steps away in compatibility, you do not receive 10 again using Hatsu for them, and you gain a -1 to their Hatsu dice pools.
Deficient Manifestation: One of your 2 step types is your Deficient manifestation, chosen by you. This manifestation type has the penalties of a 2 step AND you subtract rolled 1s from your successes.
Manipulation is the application of Nen to already existant things in order to make them do or think something that you want. Manipulators can exert great emotional influence over others, puppeteer unliving things and generally exert their will over the world and make their desires happen.
Manipulation Hatsu are often used by Emitters or Conjurers to control the things they create with their nen. Manipulation doesn't mesh well with either Transmutation or Enhancement.
During the water test, Manipulators cause the leaf floating in the glass to move or the water to churn. Manipulators tend to be cautious, logical and pragmatic.
1 step types: Emission, Conjuration
2 step types: Enhancement, Transmutation
An affinity for Emission means that a user is capable of controlling the deployment of their aura while separating it from their body. Nen usually loses power very quickly when it is separated from the source-body, but strong Emitters can separate their aura from their body for long-periods of time and still be able to maintain it. Emission powers are purely constructs of Nen and cannot be seen by those without supernatural sight.
Emission Hatsu are usually instantaneous and short lived, but accurate and directable. They can do such things as create energy and fire it off, wrap around objects to move them telekinetically and transmit thoughts or emotions.
During the water test, Emitters change the color of the water in the glass or make the leaf jump from the surface of the water. They tend to be impatient, proactive people.
1 step types: Manipulation, Transmutation
2 step types: Conjuration, Enhancement
Enhancement is quite simply the ability to make things more efficient, more powerful and more useful. Enhancers have the power to bring out the very best in themselves and others, strengthening objects or bodies to make them, simply, better.
Enhancement Hatsu are considered to be the most well balanced. They can allow a Nenshi to spread themselves out evenly between attack, defense and utility with relatively simple techniques, and can even allow for more complex reinforcements down the way, such as healing with a touch.
During the water test, Enhancers increase the quantity of water in the glass or make the leaf grow. They tend to be simple, determined and straightforward people.
1 step types: Conjuration, Transmutation
2 step types: Manipulation, Emission
Conjuration is the ability to create a physical, independent, material object out of nen. Once a nen-user has mastered the conjuration of a certain object, they can conjure it and dispel it in an instant, whenever they want.
Conjuration Hatsu hinge around the creation of a specific object important to the user, and has powers that branch off of the form of that specific object. Other Hatsu can be applied to this object, meaning that Conjurers benefit more from branching out into other manifestations than other Nenshi.
During the water test Conjurers cause something to appear in the glass of water or around the leaf. Conjurers tend to be energetic, high-strung and aware.
1 step types: Manipulation, Enhancement
2 step types: Transmutation, Emission
Transmutation is all about causing one thing, often the user's aura, to mimic the properties of another thing or to transform and become something new. The more adept the Transmuter, the stranger and further away they can make something become.
Transmutation Hatsu can be strange and very subtle, or flashy and violent depending on what is being mimicked into what. One energy can become another, such as Aura into electricity, or words can be changed to others, such as forging a document using Nen. It all depends on the whimsy and skill of the nenshi.
During the water test, Transmuters change the properties of the water in the glass or the leaf, either changing the taste and composition or the physical state. Transmuters tend to be whimsical, creative and deceptive.
1 step types: Enhancement, Emission
2 step types: Manipulation, Conjuration
Hatsu are the culmination of all a Nenshi's training. They are the advanced techniques and unique abilities that make up a Nenshi's true capabilities. Each Hatsu follows a model listed here under the various manifestations, but the way it is used and how it appears is utterly unique for each Nenshi who masters it.
Each Hatsu is intrinsically linked to the creator, they name it and it is bound to them at a soul-deep level. If an ability allows someone to copy hatsu, they can never use the hatsu of someone who has died unless the soul of the user is somehow bound in the usage of such an ability.
Hatsu have 2 names, an external and internal name. The external name is the name the user tells to everyone else when they use it, the label for what it does and what it seems. An internal name is a deeper name than that. It is the name the user knows when they first use it, the name they dreamed about when they were first conceptualizing it, the name the technique would give itself if it could speak. An attack hatsu might be called "Double Machine Gun" but the user understands it deep down as "My Ambidextrous Automatic Weapons."
The levels in each of the five manifestations (Manipulation, Emission, Enhancement, Conjuration, Transmutation) are as such:
1: Trainee. You've just started on the path of enlightenment with this manifestation and can manage the simplest tricks in it's purview.
2: Practiced. Your feet are wet in this end of the Nen pool, the bread and butter of its powers are yours to command.
3: Expert. You are truly comfortable in the use of this manifestation now. You are not a force to be denied in or out of battle.
4: Master. The more complex forms are opening themselves to you now and you are realizing all but the most powerful Hatsu of this manifestation.
5: Grandmaster. This manifestation holds no secrets from you. You are one of the world's greatest practitioners of it and there is only still room to grow.
Once you've achieved a level of mastery in a manifestation, you gain all of its effects to build your own unique Hatsu with. Each effect contributes a number of dots to your hatsu build limit equal to the number of dots in the manifestation required to possess it. Your hatsu build limit is based on your nen potential, but can be modified by the usage of oaths and limitations.
Oaths and Limitations
Every Nenshi can increase the power of their hatsu through the use of oaths and limitations, self-imposed weaknesses that transform the resolve of the user into strength.
An Oath is a statement of fact, a promise made to the self. "I must" or "I will" statements. Attaching an Oath to a hatsu creates conditions that must be put into place before it is used. Examples include "I will die if I use this power on anyone other than my mortal enemies" or "I must pray before I am able to use this power." A common oath is "I must state the name of my power."
A Limitation is something that defeats the power of a hatsu or prevents it from doing something, it is an "I cannot" or "This Hatsu Will Never" or "This will break the hatsu" statement. Examples include "This Hatsu will never work on women" or "Calling my name while touching me will cancel this hatsu" or "I cannot bring physical harm to someone under this hatsu."