In this second post in the series, I’ll talk about making the supernatural really part of the game’s landscape.
In the typical FRPG, players pretty much have the option to ignore the supernatural until they need a miracle; we certainly did in all our D&D games. Hari Ragat is going in the opposite direction, with the supernatural always lurking behind the corner.
The potential for interaction with the supernatural is driven by three qualities typical of the spirits: they are territorial, they are passionate, and they are vengeful.
Nature spirits each have a territory they claim as their own; it may be an entire island or mountain range, or it may be as small as a single termite mound or tree. Whatever it is, the spirit will be jealously protective of the territory and whatever is in it.
Passing through a diwata’s domain, living in it, or taking anything from it is considered a trespass unless permission was first sought and granted. Failure to do so will call down some kind of curse. In game terms, such curses usually take the form of reduction in Bala, spiritual power, or inability to regain lost Bala, or minor but annoying conditions like sores or swellings. At the worst, they can result in shipwreck, monster infestations, or natural disasters.
This makes a good role playing hook, and a challenge for the party’s babaylan shaman if they have one. The role of the shaman is to mediate between their people and the spirits, specially in negotiations to find out who was offended and what is required for appeasement.
Spirits can have very human passions: they can fall in love or feel desire, feel insulted, or have cravings. Quite often these passions will clash with human wants and feelings: playful spirits can cause children to go missing, amorous diwatas have been known to spirit away beautiful youths and maidens, or leave them pregnant, etc etc.
GMs should use this as an excuse to introduce complications to liven up the game. In my running playtest campaign, Gelo’s character Dimasalang is involved in a love triangle between Soraya, the diwata of the mountain, and Sangita, the diwata of Hiyasan’s pearl beds. In our last adventure, Soraya laid a vow of celibacy on the warrior before he left to accompany Marc’s character Amats on a courtship quest, only for him to be waylaid on the voyage out by Sangita wanting a tryst!
The reason Vijadesans fear the spirits is, of course, their capacity and drive for vengeance. The vengeance of a spirit may take a while to develop, but it can be devastating when it arrives: Lalahon, the diwata of Mount Tambura, destroyed the kingdom of Namwaran by volcanic eruption because its rajah jilted her.
Vengefulness is also a signature trait of ancestor spirits, who often demand satisfaction for past grievances, block attempts to make peace with old enemies, or even demand that specific individuals be sacrificed over their graves! This can set up interesting conflicts between heroes and their own deified ancestors.
For example, the Hari Ragat version of Romeo and Juliet: hero falls in love with maiden, only to find that his ancestors want her head! Or, in the quest to become Hari Ragat, a hero must choose between making an honorable peace pact with an old enemy, or following his ancestors’ command to wipe them out, wrecking the network of alliances that he’s taken so long to build.