I’ve just come home from the second Hari Ragat session, hoarse but totally stoked and happy with the results. One of my design objectives of Hari Ragat was to allow the players to proactively follow their own adventure paths, at the same time providing a mechanic to get the other players on board. Looks like it’s working.
The story picks up a week or so after the previous session’s events. The pearling season is over and the rice harvest is in, and there are still a few weeks left of good weather according to the babaylan (shamaness). Time enough for another adventure! But what will the heroes do? I wanted to leave that question entirely in their hands to answer.
Acting completely in-genre, Badong Amats (Marc) declares that he has been consulting with Datu Awi, ruler of the heroes’ hometown Hiyasan, and Datu Awi believes it’s time for him to seek a bride. There are rumors that the Maiden of Kandako is a rare beauty and high lineage, a fitting mate for a hero such as Badong. As the character with the most Bahandi, Badong is also in good position already to go a-courting.
The photo above is a production still from the GMA TV series Amaya; it gives a good image of the kind of clothing and jewelry the Maiden of Kandako would’ve worn, and of course Marian Rivera’s really easy on the eyes!
Badong makes his declaration of intent to pursue the Maiden of Kandako at a feast celebrating the pearl harvest, and now it’s up to him to recruit the other PCs. Mechanics-wise, a player may offer some of his character’s Wealth, Bahandi, favors or oaths to other PCs to get them to join his adventure. Marc goes to the other players one by one and sees what they want; fortunately their demands are very light! Musang Hagibis (Bots) wants a chance to go hunting on Mabannog, a legendary isle along the way; Puri (Derek) will come along to check out the men of Kandako, and simply because the expedition sounds like fun; and Dimasalang (Gelo) is raring to leave Hiyasan for a while because the diwatas Sangita and Soraya have it in for him! Marc then uses the fact that Datu Awi owes him a favor to secure the loan of a biray to take them to Kandako.
The sailing route to Kandako will take them past Bannang, the island of their old enemies from Pulang-Bato, and past Mabannog – the latter so named for being haunted by bannog, gigantic eagle-like monsters great enough to carry a full-grown water buffalo or larger. Musang Hagibis has heard of a legendary beast living on Mount Baling-Likod on Mabannog, so he’s extracted a promise from Badong that they will stop there on their way to Kandako.
Before leaving, the heroes each consult the spirits for guidance. Badong turns to Sri Minaya, the babaylan, who warns him that she has seen an alamid – a civet – eyeing him balefully from a tree as he comes ashore on Kandako. She’s not referring to a civet, however, but a namesake – the corsair Gat Alamid, an enemy from the previous adventure!
Musang Hagibis also gets the same warning from the Old Man of the Mound, whom he visits with gifts of tobacco. (Some fun role-playing here, as the Old Man complains the tobacco isn’t ‘strong enough,’ upon which Musang gives him spiced tobacco, like an Indonesian kretek, which the Old Man says is too sharp. Musang then mixes tobacco with another herb, of a particular leaf shape … and makes the Old Man really happy.) Thus forewarned, they decide to keep a sharp lookout on their way to Kandako especially while passing Bannang, where Gat Alamid is currently based.
As for Dimasalang, he receives a summons to present himself to Soraya, the diwata of Mount Galura who’s literally got him by the smalls – he’s Oathbound to her for slaying her pet boar. What does Soraya want? First she’s jealous that Dimasalang is going off to see the Maiden, and when Dimasalang convinces her he’s not the one going courting, she lays a vow of celibacy on him for the voyage! Gelo then asks if she meant to humans only, or do diwatas and the like count? Including diwatas, of course! That almost got me dancing with malicious glee, as Gelo had just suggested a new complication …
As they voyage out, they sail over the pearl beds – and suddenly find themselves becalmed. They make offerings to Sangita, the diwata of the pearl beds. Sangita accepts the offering of Musang, but not of Dimasalang. Nor does the wind return. Musang dives into the water and encounters the beatiful diwata. She kisses him to let him breathe water, and tells him it’s not him she wants, it’s Dimasalang! And, oh yes, she’s been soooo nice this year, taking not a single life among the pearl divers, but she hasn’t been repaid yet … and this year, her price is Dimasalang.
So Dimasalang dives in – and finds out just what the diwata wants. Oh oh! It’s either break his oath to Soraya, or the expedition is shot before it’s even begun! Dimasalang and Musang try to convince her that Badong is more beautiful than they, and persuade her to take a look; but as Shania Twain would’ve put it, ‘that don’t impress me much!’ Musang then offers himself as substitute, and is rebuffed – but Bots declares he’s going to make a move on the diwata! And use his Tattoos of Virility!
Amid the laughter, I call for a roll. It’s Bots’ Orang Dakila rating plus bonus dice from his Tats of Virility, plus dice from his Perceptive asset – he’s gonna use it to find Sangita’s weak spot! In addition, Bots calls for Risk Dice. He wins the roll-off, but a Risk Die comes up one – complication! I ask for another contest roll; this time, to see whether Musang will gain Bala – spiritual power – from this tete a tete with the diwata, or if she’ll drain him of Bala instead. Epic win for Bots. But there’s this complication … I turn to the other players and tell them, ‘Guys, the sea suddenly heaves beneath you – it’s a tidal wave!’ High fives all around, and Bots asks, ‘Ok, how much Renown do I get for this?’
I also ask for a roll on a single d6; low roll the tidal wave washes them back toward Mancalon, their home island, high roll it sends them on their way. Bots rolls high. They then check their lookout, and Puri, the keen-eyed huntress, spots a familiar forked banner way ahead of them. It’s Gat Alamid, sailing his karakoa in the same direction. They surmise that Alamid too is after the Maiden, and they have to stop him!
Guessing that the karakoa, light and heavily manned as it is, will stop for water before reaching Kandako, they follow at a safe distance. Marc wins a contest to avoid being spotted, and the next evening they see Alamid’s karakoa pulling it at a cove on southern Bannang. Musang and Puri lead the rest in a swimming raid, and sneak up onto the karakoa while most of its crew are sleeping on shore. Derek and Bots both roll so well that I rule the guards on board never got the chance to resist.
Here followed one of the funniest moments in the game, as the players gleefully described the mischief they worked on board: Stealing a hoard of spare arms as well as the Bahandi treasures Alamid had meant for use in wooing the Maiden, stealing the oars and spare sails, cutting the steering oars so they would snap in use, cutting all the lines, and finally cutting a humiliating figure and Gat Alamid’s name into the mainsail! They then successfully sneaked away, and in the morning, as they sailed past the site, Dimasalang blows a derisive toot on his tambuli conch. The toot sounds suspiciously like the Merrie Melodies theme …
The players went into fits as I described how I was raising Gat Alamid’s Corsair rating when next he faced them, at the expense of his Orang Dakila rating. In other words, he’ll be tougher in combat, but his extreme anger at our heroes makes him worse at everything else while they’re around!
The next day sees our heroes sailing past Mabannog Island. Sure enough, a dark cloud suddenly obscures the sun. They look up, and realize it’s no cloud – it’s a bannog, and it’s bigger than their biray! Worse yet, it’s carrying a huge boulder in its claws and starting to dive. The crew goes into battle stations.
Puri and Musang both hurl spears at the huge raptor, but their weapons bounce off its iron-like feathers. Dimasalang throws at its eyes, but misses; the bannog drops its boulder, and I rule that since Gelo lost the roll, the splash from the massive near-miss washes him overboard. Gelo claims his Heroic Strength asset lets him cling to the outriggers and thereby invent barefoot water-skiing!
On the bannog’s next pass, Musang manages to get a rope around one of its talons. He starts climbing. Puri gets in a lucky shot, and blinds one eye. The bannog screams and starts beating its wings with great fury; it’s gathering a storm. Musang barely hangs on, and then ends up in the water. However Dimasalang manages to blind the bannog’s other eye, and it crashes into the mountains on shore. But wait – this bannog was just one of a mated pair!
The other bannog now makes its attack with its boulder. Puri manages to blind it in one eye, but like Dimasalang, the splash from the dropped boulder washes her overboard. The bannog climbs again and swoops down for a strike with its talons. It’ll try to snatch Dimasalang off the outriggers. I tell Marc that they’re now entering a cove on Mabannog, and the terrain is like that of Ha Long Bay (Vietnam); lots of tall rocky islets studding the water. He immediately picked up on my cue, and took the biray into the maze, keeping the bannog at bay with some crazy maneuvering.
After another couple of passes, the heroes manage to blind this one too. It crashes into the ocean, and Musang cuts out its heart. Musang, Puri, Badong and Dimasalang collect some feathers before the body is attacked by scavenging sharks. Musang shares the heart with the other heroes, for a permanent Bala increase.
We broke for dinner at this point, and since I have work tom – er, later – we decided to postpone the rest of the adventure for next session. Session winner in Renown was Bots, who got epic gains for his feats with Sangita and his combat with the bannogs. As a parting note, I have to say I was able to run this on zero prep – I just let the players take their course, and it was Bots who decided which island the maiden of the quest would be on. Everything then came from the setting material and the PCs’ back stories.
Stay tuned for Hari Ragat Playtest Session 3 – with the Diwatas of Mount Baling-Likod! (And a hint as to our kind of craziness; Bale = broken, Likod = back).