Jay Steven Anyong, author of Life and Times of a Philippine Gamer, is a good friend and has been my sounding board for ideas more than once. As a fellow-Filipino and veteran GM, but one who’s not in my current Hari Ragat playtest team, I’ve been relying on him for an external point of view. This is the (edited) log of our chat from earlier today, as I was seeking validation of some new developments in Hari Ragat:
Me: Saw my blog post about splitting HR into multiple games?
Jay: Yep! I think it’s a reasonable one, one that will enrich the game. I’d play either.
Me: That’s good to hear!
Jay: Heck I’d promote the hell out of it! Too bad our work on Iron Outlaws is a bit stalled.
Me: Yeah, sorry ‘bout that. Overestimated my capacity to write.
Jay: No problem, we can come back to it later. Hari Ragat would be interesting to playtest. I’m amazed by HR honestly, and I really hope it becomes a commercial success when it comes out.
Me: Thanks, hope so too. Though I’m also afraid it’ll be too niche. Won’t stop me from writing on though. But what makes you want to play HR, aside from being a fellow-Pinoy of course?
Jay: Swords and sorcery! :-)
Me: How much of a downside is it for you that you won’t be able to play a ‘magic user’ in the first HR game?
Jay: None. I don’t normally play magic users anyway. And again, as an S&S guy I believe magic is for bad guys. Ha ha ha!
Me: Great, that sounds reassuring! As a GM, what would you be looking for the most in the HR books?
Jay: I'd be looking for the societal aspect. I'd look for factions and motivations for both player characters and NPCs to latch themselves on to. Sample ambitions like "become a legendary hunter by slaying the X monster of the mountain" or something would be nice to have just as something to inspire goals.
Me: I’ve a mechanic that might answer that - players get to record their PCs deeds as Honors. Character advancement is tied to it.
Jay: That's good. It answers the question of "So... what do we DO in this game?"
Me: What aspect do you think newbie players, or those new to the setting, will find hardest to absorb?
Jay: Probably the vocabulary. There's a lot of terms to get a hold of, but I'm sure that over repeated exposure they'll understand it.
Me: And as GM, how would you address that? How can the designers make it easier for you?
Jay: Repeated exposure in play. L5R had that same problem in Rokugan, but taking the time to slowly build up familiarity with terms in play tends to smooth things over. Consider adding pronunciation guides as well. Like our ‘ng’ is a very difficult sound to get across.
Me: Yeah, I’m trying to minimize words with ‘ng’ or find substitutes where I can. BTW, how open are you to a character development scheme of lateral instead of vertical growth? Instead of your character getting literally more powerful, your character increases in breadth of capability.
Jay: I'm actually very open to that scheme. As an S&S fan, I prefer the idea of people growing in skill rather than in "power." It's one of the reasons RuneQuest appeals to me, the idea that Characteristics (and hit points) never actually increase.
Me: Great! But you’re also open to ‘hit points’ increasing?
Jay: I am, as most people expect it.
Me: In HR hit points is Bala, spiritual power, and PCs are expected to quest to increase it.
Jay: Ah allright, since it's not a function of "health" it should be okay.
After this point the conversation wandered into other topics, including a Mage adaptation that Jay is planning for modern Manila. It was great to spend the afternoon geeking out with a fellow GM and game designer! Sanity kind of fell apart, though, when Jay asked me for a contribution of ‘otherworldly wrongness’ to his campaign and I took the request rather too literally …