Thursday, November 20, 2014

Hari Ragat Micro-Adventures

Lapu-Lapu, Carlos Botong Francisco,1964

I’m now writing up a bunch of ‘micro-adventures’ for Hari Ragat that can be played in very short sessions to help introduce the game and its milieu. Ideally, a GM should be able to run one of these in just an hour or two, specially if using pregens. Here are some of my ideas:

Dawn Raid
Fight off a dawn raid that somehow slipped through the watchers. Introduces combat and the use of Dulohan. To thicken the plot, you may introduce an element of treachery to explain why the raid got through without warning.

Soul Thief
A man's soul is being stolen, likely by a sorcerer. The Baylan -- either a PC or GMC -- will lead the party in spirit combat to take the victim's soul back. Introduces magic and spirit combat. The spirit combat solution gets the entire party in on the adventure.

Playmate of the Fairies
A child has gone missing. Investigation of the place where the child was last seen shows diminutive footprints leading toward the scene, but none leading away! The child was in fact abducted by the Kibaan, playful fairies whose feet are on backwards. The child is being kept only as a playmate, and went willingly, but will soon start to miss her parents and real human food ... A roleplaying adventure. Introduces mythology of Hari Ragat, and ways to think of approaching supernatural beings.

Night of the Defiler
The community suddenly comes under an ancestral curse and haunting when the grave of a recently deceased Datu is desecrated. The heroes must find out and punish the defiler, and recover the heirloom Wu Long jar that is missing from the Datu's burial trove. The defiler could be a Balbal ghoul, human grave robbers, or a Kaon-Bangkay giant lizard that has accidentally ingested the vase! Introduces the concepts of ancestral reverence and the use of Bahandi goods, and ends in a quick monster or bandit hunt.

Anowang Roundup
The Datu plans a great feast and sacrifice, which requires a lot of buffalos (anowang). Since the village doesn't have that many, it's decided to capture a wild herd and fatten them up ahead of the feast. The heroes have to find and drive as many of the wary, ornery, dangerous beasts into a corral as they can. Introduces hunting mechanics with the added challenge of capturing the prey alive.

Night of the Spear Bride
The heroes have been asked to help a suitor carry off his lady love, who is being held against her will by her relatives who want to marry her off to someone else. They will have to extract the bride from the fortified compound where she's held and hold off the pursuers until they can reach safety. Introduces the Vijadesan concepts of love and marriage, the romantic themes of the genre, and running fight mechanics.

Storm Bride's Homecoming
The heroes are returning from a successful courtship, at which the groom beat a supposed descendant of the storm god for the bride's favor. Just as they are about to reach home a magical typhoon strikes. Their challenge is to land safely -- and keep the bride from being abducted by the jilted demigod who comes under cover of the storm! Introduces sailing mechanics and naval combat.

The Laughing Giant
The village is attacked by a Bungisngis, a cyclops with a penchant for demented laughing and only one weakness -- its single eye. The heroes must find a way to slay the cyclops. Introduces the concepts of scale and flea-hopping combat.

The Flower of Power
The party's shaman needs help to obtain an Agimat, which she has learned will appear in a magical jungle blossom some nights hence. The party needs to find the tree which will produce the blossom, deep within a Diwata's home territory, braving all the dangers along the way -- including the Diwata's attempts to scare or tempt them off! If the party can complete the vigil and catch the blossoming, the shaman can obtain the amulet and keep it. Introduces the concept of Agimat and how they might be won, jungle travel, and dealing with Diwatas.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Umalagad in Combat

In a previous post, I introduced the concept of Umalagad, spirit allies, which are the shaman’s counterpart to the warrior’s Dulohan warband. These spirit allies assist the shaman in subtle yet potentially powerful ways. Marc asked for clarifications in the way Umalagad work in combat, so I wrote this up:

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Various kinds of Umalagad can have different uses in combat, according to their powers and nature.

Guardian Spirits are entirely defensive in nature; they are there to prevent you from coming to harm, but not necessarily to help you win. Therefore they can only be spent to Push to Save. Guardian Spirits work by manipulating your luck vis a vis your foes' luck to make you more likely to avoid attacks in physical combat. In spirit combat, Guardian Spirits interpose themselves directly vs. your spirit opponents.

Valor Spirits inspire your courage and will to fight, specially when the odds are against you. Spending Valor Spirits essentially gives you a confidence boost that helps you fight better, whether defensively or offensively. They do the same for you in spirit combat, with the same effect.

Wisdom Spirits are of no direct use in physical combat. Their function is to aid you in making more successful Invocations to your ancestors through their wisdom, lore, and connections in the afterlife. If you have Wisdom Spirits, you should be making Invocations in combat rather than trying to fight! In spirit combat, however, Wisdom Spirits help you 'maneuver' better, aiding you in making the most of your spirit abilities; you can spend Wisdom Spirits freely in spirit combat.

Storm/Wind Spirits are of no use in spirit combat, as their powers are very definitely oriented to the physical. Capable of generating powerful gusts of wind, you can easily imagine the havoc such spirit allies can cause at your asking whether for offense or defense. From the accounts, the epic heroes Agyu and Lam-ang must've had Storm Spirit Umalagad.

Bane Spirits are powerful but evil allies. In physical combat, you should use Bane Spirits to help you cast Curses on your foes -- that's their function. In spirit combat, Bane Spirits will help you attack, but not defend; you don't expect evil spirits to care about your fate, do you? Bane Spirits lend their malevolent will to you in spirit attacks, helping you to overcome your foe's will by overwhelming him with their cruelty and spite.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Jerald Dorado on Board for Hari Ragat!

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Announcing another fine Filipino artist illustrating for Hari Ragat! When I first saw Jerald Dorado’s treatment of the Bakunawa on his DeviantArt page, I knew I had to get the guy to do our monsters. He’s accepted the commission, and we now have some signature monsters on the way in this richly detailed B&W style that just screams sword and sorcery. (This by the way is how I interpret the Bakunawa for Hari Ragat – a real daikaiju in size and attitude!)

Saturday, November 15, 2014

On Ancestral Favor in Fate

Ancestral Favor is a big deal in the Vivid version of Hari Ragat. It underscores and creates incentives to follow the game's lore and shapes your character's downtime, plus encourages you to take bigger and bolder risks all to earn more Ancestral Favor points to shape your story (and recover from really bad dice rolls)

The Fate version won't be using Ancestral Favor in that way, exactly. For the most part, I've tried to cleave as closely as possible to Dariel's Vivid mechanics to capture the feel of the game as much as possible. However Ancestral Favor is one mechanic I cannot simply up and translate as written into Fate.

Why? Because there is no Fate point economy in Vivid. Much of the mechanical effects that Ancestral Favor does overlaps with the Fate point economy. Simply lumping in Ancestral Favor points is going to cause confusion with ordinary Fate points.

So what do I do? Ancestral Favor is a really big thing in Vivid. The Fate version has to have it somehow.

The way I have thought to handle this is in Fate, Ancestral Favor becomes two things: Ancestral Compels and Ancestral Blessing Aspects.

Where the Vivid version has you doing certain things to gain Ancestral Favor points, Fate will have you doing certain things as Create Advantage actions to gain Ancestral Blessing Aspects. These will be things like "Amang Silayan is pleased." The players can then use these aspects using Fate points (or for free if they were the ones who created the advantage) justifying them as the favor of their ancestors inspiring them to do more or better. Sacrificing goods (Yaman or Bahandi) will make the Create Advantage roll easier, or allow you to create aspects that you can tag to make your Create Advantage roll easier. I actually have a subsystem in mind for this but it needs some refinement. I don't want to add too much complexity.

The flipside of Ancestral Blessing Aspects are Ancestral Compels. Vijadesan culture is very martial, focused on glory, and revering of the ancestors. There will be many times when the ancestral spirits will goad a character to possibly compromising on his or her goals in order to gain glory. An example is that the ancestors may resent an Orang Dakila sneaking away to avoid capture, and make the warrior realize this and complicate the Orang Dakila's escape plan since now he must try to fight at least one of his pursuers for glory, possibly compromising his escape attempt. (But he gets a Fate point for the complication)

Similarly, the Orang Dakila would know that the ancestors will reward bravado in battle, and the player may forgo the use of certain armors, shields, Secrets or even followers, complicating the original battle plans (and gaining a fate point in the process).

I tried to use the existing Fate mechanics to try to get the story effects of Ancestral Favor. I think I've done a pretty good translation. What do you think?

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

On Ancestral Favor

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The Ancestral Favor mechanic is one of the defining features of Hari Ragat. It’s a very important resource, and the handling and acquisition of it will strongly shape play.

First, it’s a group resource. Experienced players will likely need it less, and newbies can use it more. It’s thus a way for experienced players to help the new ones. It’s also a great way to contribute to solving a problem, specially in combat, for players whose characters aren’t that good at the current activity. You can work on earning Ancestral Favor on the spot, for the purpose of passing it on to the other players whose characters are manning the front lines.

Second, Ancestral Favor has the potential to shape the way you play the game and add a strong, traditional Asian flavor into play. Ancestor worship is a common practice throughout Asia, and it was the major religion in the Philippine islands before Islam and Christianity were introduced. Even now a lot of our beliefs and folk superstitions are based on ancestral beliefs, though most of us have forgotten these roots. (For example, it’s bad luck for a family holding a wake not to keep a watch over the body round the clock.)

The need to court and keep Ancestral Favor should give you ideas for what you can have your character do during downtime, or in preparation for adventuring. Rather than shopping for gear, adventurers in Hari Ragat can make the most of time to prepare for action by trying to raise Ancestral Favor. Your character can do this through sacrifices, making heroic Vows, and through other gestures that please and honor the ancestors.

I’ve created some on-the-spot methods of raising Favor that highlight the heroic flavor of the game and can be done without a shaman. For example, Heroic Divestment lets you win Ancestral Favor if you lay aside your shield, armor, or even your weapons just before combat, provided doing so left you at a serious disadvantage. The easiest way to raise Favor, however, is through sacrifices with a shaman character officiating. A shaman has the best chance at winning the contest vs. the ancestor spirits, and you can spend Wealth resources to increase the Favor won.

The need to spend Wealth in sacrificing for Ancestral Favor should also drive the players to being proactive in trading and raiding adventures.  You need Favor to succeed in those epic adventures that win you great fame, but to get that Favor you need resources that lead you to other adventures and side quests.

Ancestral Favor is also a tool for the GM for encouraging immersion and role-playing to the standards of the genre. The GM can offer Ancestral Favor for actions that would please the ancestors, and levy points off the players’ existing Favor for actions that would insult or displease the ancestors. The GM can also create dilemmas involving Favor: will you make peace with the descendant of an old family enemy, in order to achieve greater things together but at the price of ancestral displeasure, or will you follow the ancestors’ directive for vengeance?

Hari Ragat Vivid: System Changes

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Reports are in for the last playtest of Hari Ragat using the Vivid system, run by Fabs Fabon assisted by Marc.

The Adventure
The party encountered a six-headed giant named Gawigawen, who could return from the dead unless slain by very specific means. The party achieved this by Mira’s character Dimaraig taking on the name of the Dimalupi hero Kanag, who had been fated to slay the giant but had been slain by him instead.

Dimaraig was able to convince the spirit of the original Kanag to let him take the name, despite having no family connections with his line at all. The party then went to battle again with Gawigawen, roping his limbs to give them advantage, then the last blow was struck as fated by Dimaraig-now-Kanag.

The session ended with 250 Dimalupi warriors coming to the town of Rawis … not to fight, but to offer their spears and axes to the new Kanag.

New Mechanic: Pushing
The main takeaway for us in this session was that we could improve Vivid’s dice mechanic. I deliberately designed it so that even at high levels you could still not be too certain of the results, unlike a dice + constant mechanic or additive dice pool mechanic where you knew that at a certain point you were practically undefeateable. This design however could be flukey, with player characters sometimes whiffing way too often.

To improve the experience, Marc and I retooled the damage-soaking mechanic into a more general one that gives players more control over their results, though at cost. I called this Pushing.

Pushing lets you buy Victory Points, whatever the result of the roll, by spending resources such as Bala (spiritual power), Ancestral Favor (which replaces Anito Dice), Wealth, or Dulohan, followers, whichever is appropriate. Even shields and armor points can be spent in combat. A Push means you were able to return to the contest somehow, or otherwise do something that improved the outcome for you; you have to narrate what your character did to Push the results.

If your opponent won the roll, the cost to Push rises by the amount of Victory Points your opponent won. Thus if I lost by 3 VP, and I want to Push this to a 3 VP victory for myself, I’d have to spend a total of 6 points.

Resources are now more valuable since they directly nudge your results, instead of giving you extra dice that may or may not give you the result you wanted. This new approach also means you only need to spend when you want to, or if you lose a contest you really don’t want to lose.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

While Playtesting of Hari Ragat Goes On …

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I work for a living. Fortunately my wife and I have a business that we really enjoy … and leaves me time to write games in between shoots! As I post this, though, I’m anxiously awaiting word from GM’s Marc Reyes and ‘Fabs’ Fabon, who should be wrapping up the latest session of playtesting with Hari Ragat Vivid in Makati B&B just about now.

For this weekend’s adventure I dug into Cordilleran mythology, and I’m introducing a Raksasa giant for the first time. The adventure revolves around the Tinguian legend of Gawigawen, a six-headed headhunting giant.

In the legend, Gawigawen is slain by a child prodigy hero named Kanag. I kept this element in the adventure, as Gawigawen has the particular destiny of not dying unless slain ‘by the axe of the man named Kanag.’ Problem is, the original Kanag is dead! How then can the heroes fulfill the condition for killing the giant?

My first draft of the adventure felt a bit railroady, as the giant’s Bane at first was only ‘to be slain by the man named Kanag.’ A chat session with Marc, Jay Anyong of Life and Times of a Philippine Gamer, and Fabs led me to change the wording of the Bane, thus allowing a scenario with multiple possible solutions. Now I’m very curious as to which path the players took, or if they did something I totally did not expect!

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