We decided from the very beginning that Hari Ragat would be a mythically-flavored game, a game not of hardscrabble desperadoes grubbing for every coin in sight, but of mighty epic heroes in larger-than-life conflicts. This series of posts explores one aspect of how we’re trying to realize this vision, through the nature of religion in the Hari Ragat setting and how it affects play.
In our first post, I’ll tackle the premise of the game itself: What are we playing for? The universal carrot for heroes in Hari Ragat is Renown, and the quest for Renown is nothing less than the quest for a better Afterlife.
The Fate of the Dead
The Vijadesan people believe that heroes with great Renown and many descendants to make offerings to their spirits enjoy a better afterlife: They spend eternity on the ever-clear slopes of the sacred mountain of Madya-as, in Sulad, the land of the gods. There they enjoy palatial homes, constant feasting, sports (including war), etc. etc.
And what do they feast on? What adorns their persons and palaces in the Land of the Dead? Why, the offerings they receive, of course! Marc and I envision an ‘economy of the afterlife,’ kinda like what the ancient Egyptians believed in. The dead want offerings of food and goods because they have a use for them.
At the opposite end of the scale are those who die with little or no Renown at all: these unfortunates spend eternity on the plain below Mount Madya-as, where it is forever dark, cloudy, and dull.
The dead who get it worst are those who never received proper funerals. These include those who were abandoned, or lived entirely alone, who had no one to perform the rites for them; and also some criminals, and persons who earned such ire from their datus that on their death, they were denied funerals by royal fiat. These are doomed to wander the mortal realms as mournful ghosts.
The Will of the Dead
Vijadesans worship the spirits of their ancestors, with special attention going to the most famous ones. It is these, after all, who have the most power to help or harm the living. Worshiping the ancestors means catering to their desires, of which there are mainly three: offerings, vengeance, and more descendants!
How This Impacts Play
So how do these game-world beliefs impact play?
First, we want to foster a mindset of magnificent madness in our players! You want your character to do crazy cool deeds because Renown is a necessity! Indeed, to make Renown even more of a necessity, we’ve tied character advancement to it.
Second, we can use the ancestor religion as a plot driver. GMs can use ancestor spirit NPCs to egg the player characters into adventures and complications, which can get really interesting if you end up with mortals and spirits at cross-purposes.
Third, the presence of ancestor spirits can make generational play an interesting campaign option. You’ve got incentive to win a family for your character, play your character to a glorious death, the option to play your original character’s descendants, and the kick of recasting your original character as a meddling god to his descendants!