December 10, 2011

Hari Ragat: Heroic Journeys

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A lot of adventures in Hari Ragat involve travel, much of it by sea, some of it through trackless jungle.  Now it’s one of my design precepts for this game that the journey should be an adventure in itself, but exactly how do I do that?  Without overly complicating the game or burdening players with too many things to keep track of?

I think I just had a eureka moment.  The trick, I think, is to think not in terms of spaces on a map, but in encounter points, and to let the players help the GM out.  This is one more aspect of the game where player authorship will be encouraged.  The way I’ll do it is to offer Obstacles and Opportunities.

First, our base premise: the uneventful journey is boring.  There’s no Renown in just getting safely from Point A to Point B! 

Second premise: the players want to increase their characters’ Wealth and Renown, and will welcome opportunities to be in the spotlight.

Thus the Obstacles and Opportunities mechanics.  In every journey, one player character can be appointed Jungle Guide for overland treks, or Helmsman for voyages.  The journey itself is abstracted into rolls – 1 to 3 rolls or more – between the Jungle Guide’s or Helmsman’s ability vs. the environment.  The more epic the journey is supposed to be, the more rolls the GM may require.  Each roll represents a leg of the journey.

Victories allow the player to either declare Safe Passage – nothing eventful happens, proceed as normal – or to declare an Opportunity encounter.  Opportunity encounters pose challenges to the player characters, with the potential of good reward.  For example, a Victory in a voyaging roll may be used to declare fair winds, no problem sailing, or to declare that a trading biray from an enemy clan has been spotted; action stations, we’re taking that ship!  Opportunity encounters are optional – if the other players don’t want to take it, nothing happens.

Defeats on the other hand allow the GM to declare Obstacles – challenges that the players have to engage, with survival of their characters or the continuation of the adventure at stake.  Even if their characters do not stand to gain materially from these encounters, however, the encounters will still be worth Renown.  In other words, Obstacles are a good thing! Players may even voluntarily fail their rolls to be able to declare Obstacles of their own devising.

Here’s a preliminary list of Obstacles and Opportunities, conveniently listed in packs of six for random rolling:

VOYAGING OBSTACLES

  1. hunger* – must stop to find food
  2. reefs – seamanship challenge
  3. monster/supernatural
  4. typhoon – seamanship challenge
  5. pirates – hostile seafarers attack
  6. lost – where are we?

VOYAGING OPPORTUNITIES

  1. treasure ship – woohoo! Prepare to board!
  2. mystery island – treasures and magic!
  3. hunting island* – good hunting
  4. castaway – rescue a castaway
  5. friendly encounter
  6. port of call – chance to stop and interact

JUNGLE OBSTACLES

  1. hunger – must stop to find food
  2. snakes
  3. lost – where are we?
  4. monster/supernatural
  5. dangerous river crossing – find a way across
  6. bandits/headhunters – ambush!

JUNGLE OPPORTUNITIES

  1. holy site – chance for diwatas’ favor
  2. mysterious locale – a rewarding mystery to solve
  3. good hunting
  4. friendly encounter
  5. jungle haven – welcome to a jungle settlement
  6. unsuspecting foes – get the drop on some enemies

*What’s the difference between being hungry and being offered good hunting?  In the first situation, you’re out of food and must find something to eat – you don’t care what it is as long as it’s edible! In the second, you’re guaranteed a shot at choice but dangerous game – big wild boar, wild water buffalo – your only problem is to get it! 

7 comments:

  1. I like this ALOT! Nothing is more boring than moving across a hex map rolling for encounters every "x" miles!

    The only thing I question is letting the players voluntary fail and then get to choose their own obstacle - sounds like a loop-hole for power gamers to exploit (though that sort of gamer probably shouldn't be playing this sort of game!)

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  2. Simple and elegant. Well done. Think I might swipe that idea for my campaign ;)

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  3. Thanks for the validation! Hope these ideas do translate to sales when we release next year! :)

    @Howard - yes, that is a potential loophole. On the other hand, the GM will have the freedom to craft specifics, and the easier the Obstacle, the less the Renown award for overcoming it, and vice versa.

    Players who try to make it easy for themselves will end up with little, and players who try to hunt Godzilla will likely have to make new characters ...

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  4. Follow-up:

    The GM will have to keep a tight rein though on Opportunities declarations. I'll have to come up with a guideline on minimum and maximum potential gains from these, specially in terms of Wealth.

    Renown is directly keyed to the difficulty of challenges, so I'm not so afraid of that being taken advantage of.

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  5. re. the Jungle Obstacles - the river crossing could be any terrain-related obstacle. Like a bog or quicksand; a steep cliff or ridge that had to be climbed; a deep chasm - perhaps with a precarious bridge (and guardian?) Basically anything that crosses their line of advance.

    Dariel: could you send me your email? I am at: green27@sympatico.ca

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  6. Yup, I should change that to something like Hazardous Terrain. Thanks!

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  7. @Tim: BTW, you may have been waiting for my reply re. using these ideas. Please go ahead and post your stuff too, I wanna see them! :)

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