June 30, 2011

Hari Ragat: Haunters of the Jungle III

More ideas on monsters, flora and fauna for the Hari ragat setting. Unlike my first two Haunters of the Jungle posts, however, this is not so much about what lurks out there as how I’m thinking of making these creatures more interesting to interact with.

Each Monster Can Be Unique
Uniqueness can be a big factor in making monsters more memorable.  In the Hari Ragat setting, there’s leeway to make unique individuals from a given creature type. 

The most varied lot are the Raksasas: each Raksasa will have a unique appearance, powers and personalilty. Some will be almost human, some may even be so beautiful and virtuous as to be angelic (but beware their touchy sense of honor!), and some will be a terrifying blend of demon and kaiju.

Enchanted animals may also have differing powers from one individual to another: one enchanted boar may be of titanic size, another be made of bronze and breathe fire, yet another may be invulnerable to metal weapons, and so on. I’ll probably have to provide customization templates, maybe random-roll tables, with these monster types.

Now You See It, Now You Don’t
Some monsters can have special abilities that let them disappear and escape at will, unless a means can be found to prevent it.  The night serpents, for example, can simply meld into the earth – or is it true that they transform into much smaller snakes as a disguise?  There could be conflicting rumors as to how or why a creature can disappear. 

Finding It is Half the Fun
Quite a few of the creatures I listed in the previous posts can be very elusive when they want to be.  Finding any creature in the jungle is hard enough; finding a secretive, wily, camouflaged, disappearing or possibly shapeshifting creature in the jungle will be a real challenge! 

Players will have to think of ways to track down their quarry, flush it out, or have it come to them.  In Vivid, I imagine this to take the form of an extended contest between the creature and the characters’ skills at Hunting or possibly Lore/Folklore. 

If the quarry is supernatural then a shaman (katalo – male, babaylan – female) may have an edge because shamans have lore and may also consult spirits for info.

It’s Not True, It Can’t Be!
Shapeshifters offer yet another form of mischief:  they can hide in plain sight, as otherwise respected and perhaps powerful members of the community.  What if the rumored aswang is also the village healer?  Or worse yet, the datu’s wife?  What if the Rajah is hiding a curse on his bloodline?

The trick now for our heroes will be to prove their accusations, most preferably by catching the monster in the act and exposing its duplicity.  Perhaps the monster is not truly the person they have accused, but rather one who murdered the person and then stole his or her identity.

Multiple Encounters Monster Movie Style
Many monster movies follow a distinct pattern of encounters.  Formulaic? Yes.  Effective? Interestingly enough, yes – because the formula allows the narrative to evolve. 

The first encounter is usually not experienced firsthand by the protagonists; it’s there to let you know there’s Something Wrong.  The PCs may find out there’s a new foe or infestation when a body is found.

The second and sometimes even the third and fourth encounters are destined to be failures.  The monster can retreat from an encounter, or force the heroes to retreat in realization that they are being overpowered, or the GM can use a save-the-villain mechanic that is built into Vivid’s combat system.  (Psst – don’t worry, monsters/villains that can do that are worth more Glory when you finally get em!)

The final encounter only occurs when the heroes find the key to renderiing the monster vulnerable to their efforts.  Perhaps they learn of a hidden weak spot, or acquire the weapon/item that will kill the creature. 

Why not shortcut the process and skip to the final encounter?  Because it’s in the act of striving that the necessary keys/maguffins will be earned, Grasshopper. 

You may even find ways to engineer the solution yourself.  For example, a Raksasa has been raiding your village.  The second time you fight it and it retreats, you tell the GM, “I’m going to chase the Raksasa into the Mountain Diwata’s sanctuary.  I’m hoping he causes so much ruckus there that she takes offense and helps me kill him!” 

I’d consider that.  And then build the Mountain Diwata as a recurring character the the heroes will now have to keep pleased, heh heh heh.

2 comments:

  1. Good thoughts--particular the multiple encounters movie-style. That's rarely done in games (and there are good reasons why not) but I also think it makes monsters seem more special so its probably worth trying.

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  2. Thanks. I wouldn't do it for every monster, but the special 'season-ender' ones, yeah!

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