April 18, 2012

Orang Dukha Characters

I'm writing this to address one of the hot buttons in the Hari Ragat concept, and to open up an option for play that may intrigue some immersive role-players -- though I'm quite aware it may also turn off others.  I'm going to open up the Orang Dukha caste as a playable role.

What are the Orang Dukha? The term refers to the bottom caste of Vijadesan society, and means 'the suffering ones' or 'the pitiful ones.'  The easiest term to use would be slave, though bondsman or serf are also applicable.  Three factors distinguish the Orang Dukha concept from the popular understanding of the word slave:

First, the basis of bondage is different: one owns not the person of an Orang Dukha, but his or her labor.  In Vijadesan society, the state of being a slave is temporary by default, set to a term of years based on what the slave owes his bond-holder.  One becomes a slave by incurring debt; failure to repay a loan, as gage for a loan, failure to pay ransom if captured in war.  The default value for the latter is 20 years, or tuig; in Vijadesan, tuig is both a word for a year and a measure of value.  An Orang Dukha always has the right to purchase his or her freedom, the price depending on how many tuig he or she has left to serve.  Also, one cannot just sell an Orang Dukha -- you don't own the person.  This is also why I'm using the word bond-holder instead of owner.

Second, Orang Dukha are also Vijadesans, of the same race and religion as their bond-holders.  There are thus no prejudices against Orang Dukha as being alien or intrinsically inferior to their masters.  They have rights under the law, and their treatment is a matter of honor for their bond-holder. Sometimes Orang Dukha even belong to the same extended family as their bond-holders -- these are the ones who incurred heavy debts, either to their wealthier relatives, or were ransomed from debt by their relatives and now have to repay it.

This is not to say the Vijadesans lay no stigma on being a slave -- to a Vijadesan, an Orang Dukha is in that state because of some serious personal failing.  Perhaps one wasn't valorous enough to fight his way free.  Or one was foolishly imprudent with wealth. Or offended the ancestors.  A proud datu will certainly not welcome his daughter becoming involved with an Orang Dukha -- though he may reconsider when that same man has bought back his freedom.

Third, because Orang Dukha are of the same race and culture, they can actually occupy pretty interesting roles and accumulate wealth like free people do.  It's very possible for an Orang Dukha to become an honored warrior, a wealthy merchant or corsair, a master craftsman, etc. etc.  Such careers make exiting the Orang Dukha status easier, as the wealth gained can be saved up and used to ransom oneself back to freedom.

The Challenge for Orang Dukha Players
Orang Dukha characters can adventure with Orang Dakila characters; their main limitation is that any wealth gained goes mostly to their bond-holder.  The challenge in playing an Orang Dukha character will be in gaining freedom from that state, deal with the stigma attached to it, and avoid or fend off an unscrupulous bond-holder's efforts to abuse or extend his term of servitude. 

The Orang Dukha Character
Orang Dukha characters are made with 1 extra Role die.  This is because Orang Dukha can have two Caste roles, not just one: Orang Dukha, plus the character's original caste  before becoming a slave.

For example, Makisig is the son of a noble warrior who died untimely, leaving the family in desperate straits; to help them out, Makisig offered himself as a slave to the ruling datu.  He is Orang Dakila 2, Orang Dukha 1, Warrior 3.

What's the Orang Dukha role used for?  It's for rolls involving hard manual labor, building things, and interestingly, for acts of stealth and subterfuge -- stealing things, lying convincingly, feigning illness -- whatever a slave needs to do to get more food and live easier!  In D&D terms, the Orang Dukha role can lead to play as a rogue-type character.

If an Orang Dukha character is freed, he keeps the Orang Dukha role but may no longer improve its rating.

Now, let me ask -- what do you think?  Are the story potentials of this character 'class' interesting?  How much does the idea of having slavery and slave characters in your game turn you off, if it does?

2 comments:

  1. Oh I think it sounds interesting. Not as restricting as one might fear when one hears "slave", but more of a hook what with the reduced social status and goal of buying yourself free. Tying it to the stealth and subterfuge merely makes it more interesting.

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  2. Thanks! I was hoping people would see it that way. :-)

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