December 31, 2011

Concept Conversion: Renown

In the Vivid RPG implementation of Hari Ragat, Renown is a measure of your character's fame and legacy, and is the sum of ratings of his assets.

For the Fate conversion, I decided to fall back on the original thematic purpose of renown, which is a measure of the character's fame and legacy. I then realized that since renown is a key part of the setting, it should be handled like an aspect.

But most aspects are static, Renown seems to drive the Orang Dakila to greater and greater acts of heroism and accomplishment. I decided to handle that by making renown a Future Aspect: an Aspect that has "conditions" set that the character must fulfill in order to achieve that aspect. Once the character has fulfilled the conditions, the aspect is reworded to reflect the new character's higher status and higher ambitions.

Here is an example of this progression at work.

Badong Amats of Hiyasan

Marked: Will marry a beautiful Binokot princess from a faraway place. 

          Three Plot Points:

                    1. Gain fame enough to feel worthy of a binokot princess

                    2. Travel to the faraway island.

                    3. Win the princess hand in courtship.

After Badong Amats achieves all 3 Plot points, his Renown now becomes Known and he must now change his Asprational aspect to the next level.

Known: Found the settlement of Salan and become Datu.

     Three Plot Points:

         1. Recruit the pioneer ruling council of Salan. 

         2. Locate a suitable island and clear out the enemies that live there.

         3. Defend the settlement from an enemy raid.

After Badong Amats achieves the 3 plot points, his Renown now becomes Honored and he is now Datu Amats of Salan. 

Honored: Grow the settlement of Salan and discover his Bayahari lineage.

Three Plot Points:

        1. Grow Salan into a walled City. (Salan -> Kota Salan
        2. Eliminate Red Sail Pirates that are choking trade in the region by building a power bloc.
        3. Rescue Sri Minaya from the Dalaketnon and find out his true heritage as a scion of house Tarhata and Datu Marawid by getting the true Diwang Lahi.

After Datu Amats achieves the 3 plot points, his Renown now becomes Esteemed and he is now Datu Amats Tarhata of Salan.

Esteemed:  Install the new Hari Ragat Hagibis I Matanglawin into power as part of the ruling council.

Three Plot Points:

    1. Lead the Tarhata coalition in winning support among the southern islands.

    2. Repel invaders from Tien Xia.

    3. Seize Penjan as the new seat of the Hari Ragat.

After Datu Amats Tarhata of Salan has achieved all 3 plot points, he is now Exalted and is Rajah Amats Tarhata of Salan, Guardian of the South, Admiral of the Yellow Fleet and father of Princess Adipura, Betrothed to Samajo, heir to the Hari Ragat Hagibis I Matanglawin. 

Exalted. The aspect remains as his title. This may change into something aspirational but renown will never increase. The character has already entered the history scrolls of the Jangalans and will be forever remembered in myth and legend.

December 30, 2011

The Fate of the Jangalans in your hands... Soon!

Hello everyone, Marc here. I've started collaborating with Dariel to bring the awesome world of Hari Ragat to the Fate RPG system.

Fate has many, many branches. And since I have done some published RPG work for the Cubicle 7 version of Fate, the Hari Ragat conversion will be to that branch. This is the system used in Starblazer Adventures and Legends of Anglerre. I intend the Hari Ragat Fate RPG to be fully compatible with the Cubicle 7 FATE rules.

Rather then present a suite of RPG tools as was already done in Starblazer Adventures and Legends of Anglerre, I have chosen to take the many, many rules from the books and assemble them in such a way so that a specific story is told when playing the Hari Ragat Fate RPG. This story will be the one about your characters going on raids to earn Renown, then progressing to run a community turning it from a small jungle hamlet into a walled metropolis, then finally, found great noble houses to vie for the title of Hari Ragat to usher in a new age of glory in the Jangalans.

It's a pretty ambitious task. But I'm up to it. I'll be posting to the blog at least once a week with updates on how the conversion is going, and some of my notes on translating Dariel's concepts into the Fate system.

December 27, 2011

Syrene: The Dollhouse Isle

arabianboat

A captain trading to the farthest East, named Jirem, recently brought back a most intriguing curiosity; a woman six inches high. He had found her on one of the Vanishing Isles, or rather she had found him while he was exploring the island. She was, she said, the victim of an evil deev's sadistic sport.

It was the pleasure and amusement of this deev, she said, to capture passing ships, shrink everyone on board to her size, and turn them loose in a miniature, labyrinthine city, like a huge dollhouse, that he had stocked with snakes, carnivorous lizards, wildcats, rats and other creatures - all of them small and mostly harmless to men, but a holy terror to the shrunken victims. She alone had found a way to escape, and seeing Jirem's sails, had gone in search of someone to rescue her. The captain and crew were so terrified at her tale that they immediately raised anchor and fled the isle.

Caliph Jadar in Barisa has offered a handsome reward to whoever can capture and bind this evil deev, and gifted the little woman with a generous dowry for her marriage to the captain - as soon as the royal sorcerers succeed in restoring her to normal size, of course.

Recipes for Gamers: Pickled Pork Belly BBQ

IMG_4241

This simple recipe is quintessentially Filipino, but touched up a bit with a very minor ingredient tweak.  It’s probably the easiest dish I’ve ever poasted to my Fire n’Forget Cooking section.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1/2kg pork belly strips
  • 1/3 cup red cane vinegar/white vinegar
  • 4 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tbsp brown sugar
  • 2 tsp black pepper, coarse ground
  • 2-3 tbsp crushed garlic

PROCEDURE
For this recipe it’s important that you crush, not slice, your garlic.  You want all those flavors released into the meat.

Also, since each strip of pork belly is about 10in long, I usually halve each strip crosswise, as you can see above.

Combine all marinade ingredients in a glass or ceramic bowl and marinate the pork in it for at least an hour, preferably 2-3 hours.  Grill the pork til golden brown on both sides, or, if your gamers friends are already there, bake at 350F for 30 minutes, turn over, and bake the other side for another 15 minutes.  Spoon or brush the remaining marinade onto the meat every 10-15 minutes of cooking.

You can use a leaner cut of pork if you wish, as pork belly can be quite fatty (but that’s what makes it good!). If you do use a leaner cut, add 2 tbsp of olive oil to your marinade after putting the meat on the grill/oven, and baste as directed.

December 21, 2011

Syrene: Safiya and Roxellana

artwork (C) Victor F. Cabazor

Another fine piece of character design by Force Vector! These two ladies are pre-gen characters from my Sea Rovers of Syrene RPG, a swashbuckling, island-hopping fantasy game setting I’ve been developing for some time.  (Currently on the back burner as Hari Ragat has priority).

Roxellana (left) and Safiya (right) are sisters, born of of the great trading house of al-Husayri, but following very different paths.  Roxellana studied Tidesinger magic and is a follower of Ishtra, goddess of the sea and dolphins, while Safiya is a swordswoman and sailor who dreams of a captainship on one of House al-Husayri’s merchantmen. 

Note that Roxellana has both a sword and pistol.  She’s not very good with either, but she does have and use them – steel and gunpowder are not mutually exclusive with magic in Syrene.  Instead of using her magic as artillery, Roxellana uses it to know and control the elements she has affinity with – the wind and waves.  She can also use that magic to communicate with dolphins and seabirds. 

Safiya on the other hand was your traditional swashbuckler, feisty, hard-headed, a bit overconfident of her sword skills – to the point that she’s never bothered to become a good shot.

In the game Roxellana was played by my wife Cathy, and Safiya by Vic’s friend Bennylee. 

December 18, 2011

Hari Ragat: Blood and Honor

liwv2n15f2

Much of Vijadesan law is founded on the warrior’s self-reliant, violent code and the need to reconcile it with the ideal of a peaceful and harmonious community. Thus the most basic tenet of the law: compensation or vengeance. A large part of the datu’s role is to mediate between conflicting parties, brokering meetings and helping to negotiate compensation terms.

The honor price of a person is set according to their status. Under the code of Rajah Matanda, compensation is measured in tahils of gold, or an equivalent in valuable commodities such as rice, porcelain, silks, etc. etc.

Refusing to pay compensation, or failure to deliver the agreed price, is grounds for the aggrieved to take matters into his own hands and seek satisfaction by slaying the offender, seizing the offender’s property, or seizing the offender and his dependents and putting them to slavery. When this happens, authorities are expected to stand aside and allow the offended to exercise his rights.

In practice, however, a datu or rajah must stand ready to put an end to the violence when they judge that sufficient satisfaction has been taken. Refusal to accept the ruler’s word on this is an insult to the honor of the ruler, who then has the right to demand compensation for himself – easily a ruinous amount – or take satisfaction from the recalcitrant party.

December 17, 2011

Gods of Gondwane: Travel in Gondwane

dino-howdah

Here’s something for GM’s running Gods of Gondwane: how to get your adventurers from one place to another, with an obstacle course of dinosaurs!  Not only are the allosaurs and other carnivores extremely dangerous, even the herbivores can wreak a lot of havoc with their great size and strength.  The inhabitants of Gondwane have thus evolved the following methods for travel:

Sauropod Howdahs
The Thunderfoot Nomads enjoy one of the safest and best modes of transport in Gondwane: howdahs affixed to the backs of titanic sauropods.  Hardly anything dares to mess with a full-grown brontosaurus, and anything that tries it with the Thunderfoot Nomads will have to face their spears and lances in addition to the powerful lashing tails of their mounts.  Travel by thunderfoot is slow, however, as the thunderfoot’s pace is never very fast, and it has to be allowed to graze for one full day out of every three or four.

Drum and Torch Caravans
Merchants and military expeditions use noise from big kettledrums and the smoke of noisome herbs, bundled onto long torches, to keep dinosaurs away.  The processions are led by torchbearers, with drummers at one or more points in the middle of the column, and more torchbearers at the rear. 

Whenever a dangerous dinosaur is spotted the drummers begin pounding on their kettledrums, and the torchbearers touch coals they have kept ready to their torches.  This works well enough that regular caravan trade can occur between cities, but it’s expensive.  The caravans’ guards also often use pennoned lances, using the pennons to confuse and intimidate approaching dinosaurs.  (Sometimes it works, and sometimes the dinosaur just eats the pennon!)

The noise and smoke also make such processions detectable from miles away!  Armies marching using this technique lose all possibility of achieving surprise, unless they chance a last-stage stealth movement without the drums and torches. 

1-neanderthal-man-granger

Highland Routes
One of the best ways to avoid encounters with the largest dinosaurs is to take the steep highland routes.  This is of course very slow going, requiring travel on foot, and there’s only so many places you can reach.  This is also the reason the mountains are haunted by savages like the Hargath – they’re the only places they can lair safely.

drq_dinorider

Stealth and Speed
A measure only for the desperate, it is possible to cross distances of dinosaur-infested wilderness by using all one’s craft and bursts of speed to get across vulnerable open areas.  When player characters do this, have them roll contests of stealth vs. varying difficulties; failure means a dinosaur encounter. 

Being mounted gives a bonus die to the players for  crossing open areas; give yourself a bonus die however if the PCs are mounted and crossing thick jungle!  Travel on foot is unmodified.

jurassic-voyage drq

Boats
Travel by boat or ship is a good and reasonably safe option along Gondwane’s large rivers and lakes, though less so by sea; with all of Earth’s landmasses on one side of the planet, storms are frequent and more severe at sea.  Voyagers should take care not to attract too many predators by throwing waste overboard, specially meats and animal parts, and it’s common for the crew to always have pikes and other weapons ready to hand at all times in case of monster attack.

December 16, 2011

Machaira: a Fantasy Race

machaira - art (C) Victor F. Cabazor

The Machaira are a warrior race I made up for my Twilight Age setting.

Humanoid creatures with the heads of saber-toothed tigers, they are the result of alchemical bio-engineering using alien technology combined with genes from Earth humans and animals.  They’ve no real ecology as such, being completely unnatural; instead, they’re doomed to life as fighting slaves, performing in the arenas, serving as bodyguards, or as elite shock troops. Their great size and strength is often paired with powerful two-handed weapons and heavy armor.

Special Abilities

Enhanced Senses – the Machaira have sight, hearing and smell much better than a human’s.

Great Strength – a Machaira stands about 7’4” and is stockily built for its height, and very muscular.  They’re as strong as 6-8 ordinary men.

Blood Frenzy – Machaira have been bred to react in violent, murderous frenzy to a specific stimulus: perceived threat to their ‘master.’ 

No Machaira is free of this; however, it has been found that Machaira do have the freedom to define who their master is.  This has led to a rather terminal form of surprise for some callous owners of Machaira slaves in the past …

Bite – the Machaira does have saber canines, giving it a very deadly bite.  The bite itself doesn’t have a lot of force, but the fangs make deep wounds.

Weaknesses

Hungry Carnivore – Machaira require an almost all-meat diet, and lots of it. When denied sufficient meat, a Machaira grows increasingly sullen and possibly violent, and may take off unexpectedly to hunt and eat whatever it can.

Devotion – a Machaira must choose a PC or NPC to be the focus of its devotion.  It has a compulsion do everything in its power to protect that character.  This does not mean it will blindly obey the focus of its devotion though! 

[This is the first of a new series of blog posts featuring the art of Force Vector, a good friend of mine and a very talented artist.]

December 15, 2011

Flesh and Magic in Hari Ragat

The shamanistic style of magic practiced in the Hari Ragat milieu attaches great significance to human flesh, blood, and the act of sex.  This means that intercourse and consumption of human flesh or blood, particularly viscerae, can result in a transfer of spiritual power.  

We don’t need to go into too much detail on the act (nope, sorry!), but rather we dwell on the story leads this opens up, and the gameable effects.  Many of these details will serve as hooks for villains, leading to encounters with the supernatural.

Binokot Magic
The isolation and enforced virginity of the binokot maidens makes them into repositories of great spiritual power.  The binokot maiden’s first man will gain power from his first night with her, though at no loss to the binokot herself. 

There is a way to gain even more power from a binokot, however, which involves rape and sometimes ritual murder. Such crimes are considered so heinous that its perpetrators, should they be caught, are never granted a swift death but rather impaled alive over fire ant nests or worse.

Diwatas
Congress with a diwata may result in either spiritual power gain or drain for the human partner, depending on who ‘wins’ the contest.  I had this happen in one of my playtest sessions, to the great delight of the winning player, Bots. 

Celibacy
The practice of celibacy, dedicated to the ancestor spirits, can increase spiritual power.  This is the root of the binokot’s power, and also for some sorcerer-hermits and babaylan shamanesses. 

Warriors may also practice celibacy in the days before battle, lest their spiritual power leak away through sexual congress.  Other traditions, however, encourage sex before battle, hoping for both increased power and of course for heirs which can later be claimed to have been conceived on the eve of a great victory.

Aswang
The aswang fuel their shapeshifting abilities, youth and beauty, and magic by consuming human flesh or viscera.  Viscera yield the most power, but the pollution gained by doing so is much greater, thus the more monstrous and hideous forms of the viscera-eaters like the manananggal.

Babes and Fetuses
Newborn babies and fetuses are also held to be charged with spiritual power.  This makes them the preferred food of some aswang types, and motivates some evil sorcerers to steal them for their own nefarious purposes. 

Newborn children can be ritually slain and mummified to create tuyol, hideous homunculi who act as the slaves of their sorcerous masters.  Tuyol can turn invisible at will, climb like spiders, and are very adept at spying and stealing. Again, Vijadesans consider this crime so horrific that the punishments for it are made equally terrible. 

Menstruation
Women shamans (babaylan) are usually more powerful than males.  However they have a periodic weakness, for just as their blood runs every month during their menstruation, so does their power.  Old babaylan, those who have ceased to undergo this cycle, also cease to suffer from this periodic loss of power.

Sanduguan
The rite of swearing blood brotherhood by sharing a drink mixed with the blood of the compact-makers is a time-honored custom.  Those who do this not only gain in Renown, but also each receive an extra point of spiritual power as long as they honor the oath.  When a blood pact is broken, all who participated in that pact lose one point of spiritual power.

December 13, 2011

Remembering Basil Poledouris

Say what you will about Ahhhnold’s acting, but John Milius’ Conan the Barbarian will always remain an iconic movie for me.  Not least among those reasons is the thundering, gloriously operatic score composed for it by Basil Poledouris.  Listen, ye mortals, and despair!

Enses, enses requirimus, requirimus saevos nos.
Swords, we seek swords, savage ones.
Nos ferrei reges, servi Fati.
We, iron kings, servants of Doom.
Vale caelum, vale terra, vale nivis, morimur!
Farewell, heaven; farewell, earth; farewell, snow; we die!
Vale, morimur servis Fati!
Farewell, for, the servants of Doom, we die!

December 12, 2011

Call of the Chained God in PSF7!

My story, Call of the Chained God, has been accepted for the Philippine Speculative Fiction #7 anthology!  Still awaiting word on when it’ll come out, but in the meantime here’s a teaser:


Issander pushed himself to quickly take down the two mercenaries who’d discovered him, desperation driving him to take extreme risks.

The sell-swords in their turn were no fools, and fought exclusively on the defensive to delay him, knowing they only had to last until the others arrived. Their swords rang like bells in the twilight, Issander at a serious disadvantage as he was attacking with a shorter blade than the falchion and saber the mercenaries carried. They had attacked so suddenly, there’d been no time to draw the longsword.

Out of the corner of his eye, Issander saw three more mercenaries running towards him. Must finish this, now!

Screaming an incoherent warcry, he launched an all-out attack, driving both his attackers against the wall of some ancient edifice, then played his gambit. He let one of the mercenaries slip aside, and as expected, the veteran fighters pulled a reversal on him, pinning him against the wall. Believing his prey caught, one attacked -- and died. The other gave back, waiting for his comrades.

Leaving his shortsword buried in the dead mercenary’s flesh, Issander ran. The four now pelted after him, hallooing for the rest of their party. But now, with room to maneuver, Issander’s agility and his knowledge of Calistorr proved decisive. He quickly lost them in the darkening maze of streets and arcades.

Years of being hunted had sharpened Issander’s evasive instincts, so that even as he ran he was formulating his plan for escape. To complicate things further for his pursuers, he planted the still-lit glowstick just beyond the entrance to a crumbling tenement. If his hunters were stupid, they’d enter – and meet the current resident, a twelve-foot arachnid of virulent temper and even more virulent fangs.

Issander took the course his pursuers couldn’t know, into a window of the same tenement and through a series of chambers sealed from the mutant spider’s reach, and out another window at the back. With the first two moons rising, there would be more than enough light to navigate the city streets. Now all he had to do was see if he could get back to the Upper City tower he’d appropriated as his personal castle, get his mount and gear, and ride out one of the other gates.

Nevertheless, thoughts of flying again filled Issander with smoldering anger. The months he’d spent alone in Calistorr had been the longest period of peace he’d enjoyed in a long while – never mind the brushes with the wildlings and other predators, who were only doing as their natures bound them; it was freedom from human enmity that he craved. When he was finally able to pause for breath, he ripped off the headcloth to let his sweaty head cool, exposing the root of his problems.

The phoenix glyph.

Images of the Recognition ceremony drifted behind his eyes like shards of a broken mirror - the singing, the pounding drums, the lines of Jerdaryan nobility standing disdainfully in archaic parade armor, the searing as the crystal focused the Holy Sun's rays on his forehead. The disbelief on the faces of the Sun Speakers, as they saw the glyph revealed on Issander's brow for the first time.

The Stone of Recognition never lied, for it read the psychic traces of a mortal's bloodline. And it had inscribed the Imperial Phoenix on him, the Powerless half-breed, the disfavored half-caste. Now he was Issander sa-Rayhar, blood of the very first of the God-Binder Kings. Issander wished he had received any one of the other eight House glyphs but this one. Better yet, he wished the Stone had never pierced the strange opacity of his mind to psychic touch, and given him no mark at all.

From the Slave Legions he had been elevated to the rank of jerdar-knight and prince, acknowledged son of Jeran Artanis of Thasaion. Artanis’ pure-blooded children had never forgiven him for it. And now they had sent Lord Tyrus to hunt him down.

December 11, 2011

Hari Ragat: the Patronage System

lapu-lapu

The Vijadesan system of patronage is similar in many ways to feudal European society in the Middle Ages, and one easy way to think of your Orang Dakila character is as an equivalent to a European knight; however there are some important differences between the two systems.

Unlike the European knight, who is invested as one by a higher authority such as a baron or king, an Orang Dakila is self-made; if by dint of wealth and renown he gains himself enough followers, he can claim higher titles at any time. Moreover, the basis of Vijadesan patronage is not grants of land but the oaths of voluntary followers.

These followers may put themselves under patronage as nunuwis, pure tributaries with no martial obligations, or as kadulohan, members of the dulohan warband. Followers attach themselves to Orang Dakila for protection, to gain access to the patron’s wealth and generosity, and to join in his trading or raiding expeditions for wealth and glory.

The chain of relationships is then built bottom-up, as commoners subscribe to the patronage of a warrior, the warriors to a datu, and possibly datus to a lakan or rajah.

December 10, 2011

Hari Ragat: Heroic Journeys

11AR9440

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! 

December 7, 2011

Hubris as the Cost of Magic

My taste in magic for RPGs runs more toward my sources of inspiration, which are often the darker sword and sorcery works – especially Robert Howard and Karl Edward Wagner.  Magic is dangerous and mysterious, its forces governed by beings inimical to man.  The practice of magic carries the risk of turning the practitioner progressively inhuman.

I’m thinking one way to do this is to have a Hubris score that goes up with each successfully cast spell.  Hubris represents the character’s growing pride and readiness to call upon the supernatural, his disregard for the human costs – e.g. sacrifices, casualties, suffering, collateral damage, etc. – and the likelihood that he will overstep himself.

The rate at which Hubris increases depends on the spell and its effects. Flagrant violations of natural laws results in major increases in Hubris. Killing something directly with magic results in a huge increase in Hubris.  More subtle uses of magic results in a lesser increase in Hubris.

In D&D terms, subtle magics add the spell’s level in Hubris.  A spell that flagrantly violates the laws of nature, such as Fly, adds 2x the spell’s level in Hubris.  A spell that violates the laws of the cosmos, such as Resurrect or Summon Demon, adds 3x the spell’s level in Hubris.  And lastly, spells that instantaneously killed any intelligent creatures add the slaiin victims’ Hit Dice to Hubris. 

So if you cast a level 7 attack spell like Delayed Blast Fireball and killed 20 goblins with it, that’s 7x2 + 20 = +34 to your Hubris.

So what does Hubris do?  Every time a spell above a certain level is cast, roll d100 and check the result against current Hubris.  If the result is lower than or equal to current Hubris, a complication occurs.  Summoned creatures may not obey the caster.  A damage-causing spell may strike an unintended target, or do less damage than usual.  Spell durations may be unexpectedly shortened.  Spells may even be twisted, for example a shapechanging spell may not just turn you into an animal form, it makes you a lycanthrope as well.

When Hubris is thus triggered, current Hubris is halved. 

Hubris is also removed by spell failure or when the target successfully saves against it.  Hubris can also be voluntarily removed by rendering homage or service to one’s power patron – the gods for clerics and some wizards, or to one’s master in the arts, etc. etc. 

Another way to remove Hubris is to have a Terrible Revelation.  A Terrible Revelation happens when the character indulges in some excess due to his pride or decreasing humanity, and then realizes what he’s done after.  Players can collaborate with the GM to set up Terrible Revelations for their characters.

December 6, 2011

Hari Ragat: the Sarangay

The Sarangay is a demon of the wilderness from Filipino myth, described as having a hulking, shaggy humanoid body and the horned head of a bull, with a red gem depending from one ear.  It is said to breathe smoke or steam from its nose when angered.  It’s the local version of the minotaur.

(C) Morano.Vincent

This gave me two ideas for its treatment in Hari Ragat:

My initial idea was to take the account of the Sarangay breathing smoke and give the creature some fire-based powers.  If an angry Sarangay can gaze at an inflammable object uninterrupted long enough, or spit on it, that object catches fire.

The other idea was to make the Sarangay a truly savage brute in melee, by making it immune to forged weapons.  So long as the Sarangay retains its gem, it is immune to all metal weaponry.  The only way to kill it is to steal its gem, use wooden weapons, or crush it in bare-handed combat Beowulf-vs.-Grendel style. 

The gem of course has magical powers, and in the latter version, will grant the same immunity to its wearer. 

The Sarangay’s motivations are to protect its claimed area of wilderness, usually centering around its cave lair, to feast on human flesh and ravish human women, and to protect its magical gem.

EDIT: This is a good example of why I shouldn’t blog when hungry.  My last sentence originally read ‘to feast on human flesh and devour human women …’

December 3, 2011

Hari Ragat: the Fall of Namwaran

These snippets of history are extracted from the Song of Namwaran:

The twelfth of the Hari Ragats from Rajah Bayan’s line was Rajah Marawid, also known as the Sower King. A very handsome and charmingly eloquent man, he was popular with the ladies and knew it. One day as he was hunting on Mount Tambura, he encountered a beautiful maiden who turned out to be the goddess Lalahon, diwata of the volcano.

No one is sure who seduced whom, but it is known that Marawid from that time on was Lalahon’s lover. However Lalahon was tempestuously jealous, a trait that would later doom Marawid and his house. When she asked him to leave his kingdom and stay with her, he refused. At this Lalahon was angered, and cursed his wives with barrenness.

To shore up the power of Namwaran, Marawid embarked on a two-year-long royal progress throughout the Jangalans, At many of his stops he courted and became the lover of a princess of the royal line, leaving her with his child. By the end of the royal progress, Rajah Marawid had thirty sons, all by different mothers! By not marrying any of them, Marawid had gotten around Lalahon’s first curse.

It was then that Marawid put into effect his ingenious plan to unite the Vijadesans. Acknowledging all the sons as his own, he set a date on which all would meet on the island of Pailah to participate in a contest that would determine who would be the next Hari Ragat after him. In the meantime, the children served as ties between the fractious chiefs and the royal house of Namwaran.

At this time, Lalahon appeared before Marawid and for the third time asked him to leave his other women and be hers alone. She had already demanded this twice, only to be put off with sweet words. This time, Lalahon threatened to end Marawid’s line if he refused. But Marawid saw no choice but to continue his plan to bring the Vijadesan chiefs closer to him, and so, for the last time, turned Lalahon down.

Lalahon departed, and for years it seemed all was well. Then came the time of the choosing, when all of Marawid’s sons assembled at Pailah. The games were held, with many events from archery to wresting to declamation and chess, until at last Marawid and his advisors had the name of the winner. Then Marawid departed for Namwaran, to ready the capital for the formal announcement while his sons continued to got to know one another on Pailah.

It was then that Lalahon unleashed her vengeance. Mount Tambura suddenly erupted, burying Namwaran in rivers of lava. None escaped from the royal compound. In a single day, the greatest kingdom in the Jangalans was gone, and the secret of the next chosen Hari Ragat was gone with it.

December 2, 2011

The Possessed of Hazrat Ali Mira Datar

This is a fascinating photo essay I came across while researching for an article on  travel photography. The photographer who posted this, Tewfic al-Sawy, has been documenting the ecstatic rites held at the tombs of some Muslim saints in India. 

(C) Tewfic al-Sawy

At these tombs both Muslims and Hindus, many seeking cures for chronic, untreatable ailments, work themselves into a hypnotic trance; as Tewfic al-Sawy describes, “violently throwing their hair about … rolling over the marble floor, bumping into people and pillars … writhing like snakes.  The rest of the pilgrims consider these wild manifestations as the women’s battle against evil, and [empathize] with them.” 

The existence of these shrines and the practices held there speak of the tenacity of these customs’ hold in many parts of the world.  The Philippines itself is considered a center for psychic healers, including some who are said to perform surgery barehanded, using their shamanistic powers to wrench malfunctioning organs and tumors right through the skin without making any incisions at all. 

Can this inspire elements in your games?  The typical pulp approach, which we’ll have to remember is grounded in a European-American, Christian, industrial society’s viewpoint, is to model a villain or a villain’s schtick on this.  Who doesn’t love to stomp down evil cults?  But hey, to these people it’s a good thing – mysterious and frightening, true, but a good thing.  What non-stereotypical plots and setting ideas can you come up with based on this?

Here’s an idea based on my Hari Ragat setting:

Mount Kinabaliwan was the home of a prophetic diwata who pined away from unrequited love.  Pilgrims who sleep on the mountaintop may be able to commune with the diwata in their dreams, receiving powerful prophetic visions, but in doing so they must share the diwata’s pain and sorrow, which can drive them into temporary catatonia or madness. 

It has thus become custom that pilgrims seeking visions here bring one or more companions who will not sleep while the pilgrim dreams, to aid the pilgrim through their temporary dementia and get them safely back off the mountain.  (The madness will cease as soon as the pilgrim leaves the mountain).

[In Hari Ragat, prophecies create pools of Asset dice that can be used in situations where the fulfillment of the prophecy is in crisis, thus making the prophecy more likely to occur.]

December 1, 2011

Hari Ragat: the Kinalakian

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If you’re done feasting your eyes on the hawtness that is Marian Rivera, let’s talk about making a character like this woman warrior in Hari Ragat.

Again taking from Filipino history and legend, my model for the woman warrior is from the tale of Princess Urduja, ruler of the kingdom of Tawalisi, supposedly located in what is now Pangasinan. Urduja herself was raised to hold the sword, and led to battle a corps of women warriors, the Kinalakian – which roughly translates as ‘the Manly Ones.’ These amazons were said to have been so well trained in the martial arts that they gained the stature and physiques of men, and Urduja herself had taken an oath not to marry any man save he who defeated her in combat.  (Pre-dating Red Sonja by some 600 years!)

In the Hari Ragat setting, the Kinalakian is a woman of the Orang Dakila caste raised to become a warrior.   She is tutored in the arts of fighting, hunting, and seamanship, and because she is a noble, she may also learn how to command other warriors.  She is legally considered a man, and by dedicating her chastity to the warrior’s way, swearing not to marry or take a lover save one who defeats her in combat, she gains more spiritual power.  

Kinalakian are uncommon enough to be remarkable, their choice and upbringing always the subjects of tales.  Orang Dakila women are usually raised to be Binokot, virgin princesses highly sought in marriage, or as Sidayin, chanters of the ancestral epics, or as Kinatiwala, who learn to manage estates and trade.  A family may raise a Kinalakian amazon for the purposes of vengeance, to fulfill an oath, to take the place of a male heir, or in answer to a prophecy.  Sometimes adult women, such as the widows of datus and rajahs, may take the amazon path as well – and usually with vengeance as the motive.

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