April 20, 2012

Marked by the Spirits: Tattooing in Hari Ragat

Upper arm tattoo
The raiders strike at dawn. Roaring their fierce battle-cries, shipload after shipload of men jump into the shallows and splash shoreward.  The hastily assembled defenders meet them in knee-deep water, which quickly turns crimson. The air fills with flying spears, thick as hornets stirred from the hive. 
Then two champions meet.  Both are totally unarmored, clad only in loincloths so the tattoos crawling all over their bodies are proudly displayed.  The warriors of both sides stop fighting to watch the duel.  From the markings on the two champions, they know these two are exceptionally favored by the ancestors, it would be death for any lesser man to face either of them …
Tattoos are very important in the world of Hari Ragat.  They celebrate lineage and heroic deeds, and special ones can channel the power of the spirits.  The latter kind are of course the most prized, being very difficult to acquire – not all tattooists can do them, sometimes necessitating quests – and will only be given with the approval of the ancestor spirits.
Tattoos are highly varied, designs varying according to lineage, region of origin, and the individual art and spirit-given visions of the tattooist.  There are different tats for men and for women, tats for warriors, for sailors, for fishermen, and so on. 
Tattoo locations also vary, but follow a definite code.  When men come of age, they receive their first tattoos on the arms; women get theirs on the hands.  When a warrior makes his first kill, he is granted an additional tattoo on arms or body; afterward, each memorable deed is commemorated with more tattoos.
With magical tattoos, location follows function: tattoos that increase strength will be on the arms, tats that increase agility on the legs; tats that protect vs. weapons on the breast, tats that protect vs. magic on the back; and tattoos on the face, designed to make the warrior look and be more ferocious, are reserved only for the bravest. 
Men and women may also receive more tattoos based on the guidance of the ancestor spirits, the tattoo choice being based on the character’s perceived destiny.  For example, if it is foreseen that one warrior will have to deal with evil sorcerers, he is given tattoos of protection vs. magic.
In the Vivid system, magical tattoos are Assets that can be tapped to make certain actions more effective, or to help soak or escape unwanted effects.  For example, in our first playtest Gelo’s character Dimasalang was gored by a huge boar, but stayed in the fight by tapping his Tattoo of Toughness.

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