January 31, 2012

Syrene: the Treasure of Lin Wan Hong

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Lin Wan Hong is one of the most notorious pirates in the history of Syrene, and his hoard is still one of the most well-known and most avidly sought of lost treasures. He began his career as second-in-command of the 158th Imperial Tribute Fleet, a charming, cunning, ambitious raconteur whose meteoric rise had made many enemies at court - among them the fleet's commander, Lord Admiral Yong Tsui.

Legend says Yong Tsui caught Lin Wan Hong embezzling the treasure fleet's funds. Threatened with charges and humiliation back at the imperial court, Lin Wan Hong took advantage of the crew's dislike of their admiral to lead a mutiny. He ended up sailing away with half the fleet, nearly all the treasure on board and more than 6,000 men.

The mutineers founded a pirate colony, and for many years they terrorized the southern islands until Lin Wan Hong mysteriously disappeared and his pirate kingdom fell apart. The hoard of Lin Wan Hong is said to lie hidden on one of the southern isles, but which one?

January 25, 2012

The Decline and Fall of History Channel

I’m a history nut.  Leave me in a bookstore for any length of time, and I’ll eventually mosey my way from the F&SF section to the photography section and finally to the history section.  I read the History of Herodotus when I was ten or so.  When History Channel debuted here in my country, I was naturally overjoyed.

There were great shows on ancient military gear and tactics, specially the ones with Mike Loades, showing historical fighting styles.  There were well-researched features on ancient civilizations and cultures.  History Channel was truly international in its outlook. It was the time when History Channel was a true geek’s channel.

What do we get now? Pawn Stars.  ‘Factual’ documentaries about aliens on Earth during ancient times.  MonsterQuest, a cryptozoology show that features endless re-runs of the same video clips within the same episode.  Ancients Behaving Badly, covering historical personalities Boy Abunda-gossip show style. 

Well done, History Channel.  Very. Well. Done. Indeed.

January 24, 2012

Moments of Magnificent Madness

World-building is an exercise in rationality.  There must be a good reason for every detail in your world, so you take care to be clear with your causes and effects, pattern your historical events after real-world trends, make sure your stuff jives with known ‘laws’ of economics, demography, etc. etc. This is all good, for creating a self-consistent world is necessary for making its consumers accept its fictions.

But Man is not a fully rational creature.  Never has been.  Witness the Battle of Thermopylae.  The building of the Taj Mahal.  The crusading of King Richard I, despite the woes of England at the time.

I posit that to really make your conworld ‘sing,’ you have to spice its rationality with bouts of magnificent madness.  Acts of passion that resound through history because they’re just so grand and crazy.  Here are some ideas for injecting a healthy dose of madness into your world:

  • A hopeless last stand
  • A charge against impossible odds
  • A great monument built for a lost love
  • A major enemy spared after he is conquered
  • A kingdom bankrupted in pursuit of a trifle
  • A friendship/romance in defiance of major taboos
  • A major offense vs. the gods is committed
  • A great treasure given away to a beggar/stranger
  • A stupendous monument built as an act of faith
  • An offended noble/officer turns traitor
  • A small band of adventurers changes history

Our own history is rife with examples of these events, and the impact they had on events and people after them, for good or ill.  Pick up any well-written history book and go through it; the less widely-known the history, the less chance your players will recognize your inspiration!

The Sons of Zhulkarnein, excerpt 2

A roar as of surf on mighty rocks echoed through the valley, a thousand miles as it was from any sea.

It was the roaring of men striving to kill before they died, of steel hammering on steel and wood and boiled leather, of futile appeals to silent gods and grim promises to the rulers of hell; the awful chorale of battle. The gray-green eyes of Orhan Timur, the man called the Snow Leopard, blazed as he watched yet another wave of his men being thrown back from Tragaea’s walls.

Had those walls not been crowded with men intent on sending him and his to Hell, Orhan knew he would’ve found the little city of Tragaea an idyllic place. Nestled in a verdant highland valley at the foot of the mighty Drokpas, surrounded by distant peaks wreathed in immaculate cloaks of cloud and snow, the polis was a picturesque gem. Legend said the city had been raised by the great Zhulkarnein himself, the invincible warlord who’d conquered half the world then mysteriously disappeared into the heavens. Tragaea’s walls of red and yellow sandstone rose over an artificial mound of earth that raised its tallest battlements over a hundred feet above the valley floor, and making any approach to its gates a scenic climb in itself. For an attacker, though, that beauty was deadly.

This was the third assault to be beaten back this day, and the mercenaries recruited from the hill tribes were beginning to lose heart. Orhan’s pulse raced as he assessed the situation, all his instincts crying a warning. Outlaw, bandit, and now mercenary, the man known as the Snow Leopard had once been something very different; he had been Khagan of the Murjen people, master of a hundred thousand swords. Had he been in command of the defense, he knew exactly what he would be doing next.

“Drop those ladders and fall back!” he roared at his men. “Archers, watch those gates!” Then to his hulking lieutenant Togrul: “Stand by to receive a sortie! Don’t try to hold the slope, we’ll meet them on the valley!”

The burly, bearded warrior in black iron armor beside him flushed in anger. “No! Back to the walls, you dogs! Not much longer and the city will fall! Put your backs to it! One more time, dog-brothers, and Mendraxes will join you!”

Orhan snarled with rage. He almost turned upon the black-clad warrior, but thought the better of it; not because Mendraxes was a king, but because Mendraxes owed him gold. Instead he broke away from the knot of men that made up the commanders’ guard, collecting as many of his own fighters as he could. He began mustering them at the foot of the mound.

The scarred, bronze-bound gates began to open.

January 23, 2012

Earth Benighted: Dolemasters

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The Dolemasters are the oligarchic ruling class of the Benighted Earth.  They dwell in environmentally-sealed Towers, and their power lies in their control of the subterranean fungus tanks that produce most of mankind’s food, and over the oil that fuels the war machines created for them by their Science-Priests. The Science-Priests are both their accomplices and rivals for power.

Corrupt, decadent, extremely self-obsessed, they will do anything to maintain their power and hedonistic lifestyles.  Most are worshippers of Voraxos, god of gain and gluttony, while some also follow Azhraloth, Hekate, or Asmodai, or have even had themselves inducted into the blood-drinking cult of Haemogorgos for the promise of longevity and eternal youth.

The Dolemasters get their name from their main hold on what they call the Vulgrat population, which is control of the food and fuel supply.  The Vulgrats (vulgrat = vulgar + rat) are the masses of destitute humanity that have are trapped in the slums beneath the Tower cities because they cannot survive out in the waste. 

January 21, 2012

The Sons of Zhulkarnein, excerpt

From my latest story featuring Orhan Timur, the Snow Leopard:


The first inkling Orhan had of the betrayal was when the captain got behind Togrul. He made it seem natural, moving as though to let the two steppe warriors past him in courtesy into the command tent. But there had been something in the way the Atreian did it that set off the Snow Leopard’s hair-trigger suspicions.

Before he could warn Togrul, however, the captain was drawing a dagger and hurling himself upon the giant’s back. Togrul twisted, too late to avoid the thrust, but soon enough that the blade failed to find his vitals.

Orhan drew his scimitar and cut the captain down. But even as the man was sliding off his blade, the command tent’s flaps were thrown open and warriors poured out. There were Atreians, fully clad in their heavy armor, and also steppe cataphracts in coats of lacquered leather scales and tall plumed helms. Murjens! The captain’s lying about the newcomers’ identities could only mean one thing. And with that sickening realization came a familiar, hated laugh.

“Wary as ever, Snow Leopard! But this time you’re well and truly caught!” jeered Jungir Khan, Khagan of the Murjens.

“Treacherous dog!” howled Orhan. “I’ll do for you yet!” He rushed at Jungir Khan, but the Murjen bodyguards interposed themselves. Scimitar clanged on scimitar, and the Snow Leopard saved his skull only by blocking one particularly vicious cut with his vambraced left arm. The Murjen cataphract’s scimitar bit through the vambrace and into the flesh beneath, but not deeply. Then Orhan had powered that blade aside and struck with his own; the bodyguard died. The Snow Leopard dove past the stroke of another bodyguard, his pantherish speed his only defense, hamstringing the guard as he passed then sweeping off the man’s head.

Then he was sword to sword with Jungir Khan himself.

Trained by the same swordmaster, honed in sparring against each other throughout their youth, Orhan Timur and Jungir Khan were exact equals. Atreians and Murjens fell back from their typhoon-like path …

January 20, 2012

DM’s Questionnaire

Responding to Zak’s Questionnaire …

1. If you had to pick a single invention in a game you were most proud of what would it be?

The Hari Ragat RPG, both setting and gameplay.  From the very beginning Marc and I were set on giving players the means to experience the game through a Filipino epic hero’s eyes, so from character generation to starting an adventure to the adventures themselves, the flavor will be unique.  Still familiar in many ways – otherwise we’d have no market! – but unique.

2. When was the last time you GMed?

I don’t get much time to run games.  My last session was last October 30th.

3. When was the last time you played?

Strictly speaking, I haven’t played as player for ages.  I’m always the GM.

4. Give us a one-sentence pitch for an adventure you haven't run but would like to.

It is a still, moonless night over the jungle.  The fires are low, and nearly everyone has gone to sleep.  Suddenly there is  titanic crashing, and you hear trees – enormous trees, from the sound – splintering and falling as something huge forces its way through the jungle.  What do you do?!

5. What do you do while you wait for players to do things?

Talk to the players and exchange jokes.  We probably spend 25% of our game time laughing our heads off.  I’m also alert, though, for ideas I hadn’t thought of, either to inject into the current game or to use in a future session.

6. What, if anything, do you eat while you play?

Anything, almost.  My players usually bring an assortment of chips and other junk food, but one player owns a bakeshop so he sometimes brings breads and pastries, and the same guy is a manager at an ice cream company so he sometimes brings ice cream …

7. Do you find GMing physically exhausting?

Yes.  Extremely stimulating – I can’t sleep for hours after running a game, it’s like a chemical high – but at the same time taxing.  I’m a morning person by nature, but it’s almost impossible to run a game for my players at any time other than evening.  So running a game is more exhausting because it’s out of my usual body rhythm.

8. What was the last interesting (to you, anyway) thing you remember a PC you were running doing?

We were playing in a game of Pendragon, the Boy King campaign, and it was the eve of the Battle of St Albans.  King Uther’s last big battle with the Saxons.  We seven knights decided to try something to tip the battle’s odds in Britain’s favor, so we snuck into the Saxon camp and stampeded their horses.  Seven knights against an army of thousands! 

Among other things, we were humming the Marlboro/ Magnificent Seven theme (seven knights! herding horses!), and one player decided to burn the outhouse.  Why the outhouse?  “Because if a man cannot GO in peace, there can be NO peace!!!”

9. Do your players take your serious setting and make it unserious? Vice versa? Neither?

My players do take my settings seriously, but at the same time we have a lot of fun at each other’s expense in-game. 

10. What do you do with goblins?

The last time I used goblins was back in the early 90’s.  If I were to use a goblin-like creature I’d play them much more cunning.

11. What was the last non-RPG thing you saw that you converted into game material (background, setting, trap, etc.)?

Ancient Filipino epics – the Hinilawod, the Darangen, Indarapatra and Sulayman, Maradia Lawana, the Bi-ag of Lam-ang.

12. What's the funniest table moment you can remember right now?

My players had just made a successful sneak attack on an enemy’s beached ship, crippling it to prevent him from beating them to their destination.  Derek, one of my worst jokesters, declared, “I’ll mix aphrodisiacs with laxatives in their rice wine!  That way they’ll never know if they’re coming or going!”

13. What was the last game book you looked at--aside from things you referenced in a game--why were you looking at it?

My copy of Pendragon: Pagan Shore.  I like the way they wrote up Ireland’s mythic locations, and I needed a guide for writing up Hari Ragat.

14. Who's your idea of the perfect RPG illustrator?

I don’t think he’s ever illustrated an RPG, but my vote goes to Michael Whelan.  Not only is his style visually stunning, he also captures vital moments and characters in whatever he’s illustrating very well. 

15. Does your game ever make your players genuinely afraid?

I actually had to ask them this question last session.   I felt they had defeated the monsters I had thrown at them a little too quickly.  Bots, Gelo and Derek however noted that they were afraid enough that they were spending their resources like crazy to keep their characters alive. 

16. What was the best time you ever had running an adventure you didn't write? (If ever)

I’ve been running my own adventures for years.  I usually use published adventures in bits and pieces, cannibalizing from more than one source.

17. What would be the ideal physical set up to run a game in?

My ideal gaming group is 4-5 players only.  For that many, I’d prefer a small, low table, ringed by low cushy chairs or ottomans, in an airy room that we can have totally private.  I’m easily distracted by noise and the presence of non-players, so I want to minimize that as much as I can.

18. If you had to think of the two most disparate games or game products that you like what would they be?

Pendragon and Teenagers From Outer Space.

19. If you had to think of the most disparate influences overall on your game, what would they be?

Filipino epics and Viking sagas.  As geographically disparate as they seem at first, there are interesting similarities between them.  If I had less than a dozen words to explain Hari Ragat to a Western player, I’d say “Think Vikings in an exotic Southeast Asian setting.”

20. As a GM, what kind of player do you want at your table?

Proactive players who will take the setting and their characters seriously and seek to  grow their characters and their story on their own.  My approach is, if I know the world well enough I can run anything the players want to do. 

21. What's a real life experience you've translated into game terms?

I spent part of my childhood in Puerto Galera, Mindoro Island, before it became a touristy place.  Our house there was literally right between the jungle and the coral reef, an environment haunted by sea snakes and sharks and poisonous stonefish, and not far away, rivers where crocodiles still lurked.  So it was always a place of wonder and danger combined for me.  When I run a session of Hari Ragat, that’s where I’m taking my players.

22. Is there an RPG product that you wish existed but doesn't?

Yup – Hari Ragat.  There are no RPGs that have taken the ancient Philippine setting yet in entirety, so I’m writing it! :)

23. Is there anyone you know who you talk about RPGs with who doesn't play? How do those conversations go?

My wife!  Though she’s played in a few sessions, she doesn’t really consider herself a gamer.  She does love cinema and the F&SF genre though, so I value her viewpoint as someone from the outside looking in that’s familiar enough she knows what she’s talking about.  That, and she’s far better acquainted with human nature than introverted old me, so she’s a great help when I’m doing characterizations and interpersonal conflicts.

January 18, 2012

Earth Benighted: the Deathbard

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Deathbards are the leaders and envoys of the barbarian tribes in Earth Benighted.  These warrior-poets are followers of Morgaia, and are distinguished by the fact that they’ve already died once.  Deathbards are in fact a sort of undead, having been restored to life by Morgaia in exchange for taking the lead in the fight against the Seven Dread Lords and their toadies, the Dolemasters.

The main power of the Deathbards is their energy and tenacity of life; all Deathbards have near-superhuman strength, can survive multiple wounds that would kill a normal man, and recover from injuries inhumanly fast.  The price for this is permanently living in the fast lane: Deathbards must consume prodigious quantities of meat, liquor, and sex!  Yep, think Conan or Kane on meth! (Actually, Kane would be the quintessential Deathbard.)

January 16, 2012

Earth Benighted: Morgaia

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Morgaia is the dead mother goddess in my Earth Benighted setting.  Who is she? She’s actually Gaia, except that the corruption of the Earth has led to her death.  Morgaia exists in a state of undeath, no longer the Mother of Bounty, no longer able to create new life, but instead a hungry, vengeful force that demands repayment in life for every little favor. She is the main deity of the barbarian tribes, and is opposed to the Seven Lords of Dread.

January 15, 2012

Game Theory and Storycrafting

One of my objectives for 2012 is to crank out more fiction, and in doing so, break out of the ‘Ok, what’s next?’ bind I all too often find myself in.

It may have been the onions in my corned beef, or the sheer strength of my 3 cups of Davao coffee this morning, but I think I’ve reached a sort of enlightenment. The name of the game, perhaps, is game theory.  Once the basic premise of the story is firm in my mind, I should map out the characters’ goals and how they plan to achieve them, and map out the hero’s ‘victory conditions.’ 

When I’m clear on everyone’s motivations and methods, I should be able to write out the story pretty smoothly.  I’ll be trying this out over the next few weeks.  Stay tuned …

January 14, 2012

Hari Ragat: The Merry Cyclops

This adventure hook is inspired by the Philippine legend of the Bungisngis, a cyclops with a predilection for laughter.

The Merry Cyclops:
A laughing, invincible cyclops (Bungisngis) appears and demands to be fed and entertained. It won't take no for an answer, it threatens to consume all the community's food, and it takes no harm at all from any weapon. How to get rid of the monster?

a) The cyclops' weakness is alcohol; get it drunk, and it's at your mercy.  But how to get something that big drunk enough?

b) The cyclops is only vulnerable to wooden weapons; anything with a metal blade/point won't pierce its hide.

c) The cyclops cannot abide salt and says he wants none in his food; if he can be tricked into consuming at least a handful of salt, he becomes vulnerable.

d) The cyclops will voluntarily leave if it can be defeated in a contest of its choice.  Of course it always picks contests that favor its size and strength.

e) The cyclops will leave if commanded to do so by its true name.  The trick is to find out that name.

f) The cyclops is mortally afraid of thunder, and of anything that sounds like thunder. 

January 12, 2012

Janggalan Hog Croc

This species of dwarf crocodile lives only in Lake Inangbulan, on Namaya island.  Though no larger than a man, and not considered very dangerous, it is a vicious creature with a mean disposition and a poisonous bite.  The Taglawas hold it in utmost contempt, calling it buwayang taba, fat crocodile, and often use the term as a pejorative for unpleasant or greedy folk. 

Unlike its large predatory cousins, the hog croc is an omnivorous scavenger, and over the centuries of the Taglawas living on the lake, it has also become a coprophage, lurking underneath the lakehouses to feed on human waste. 

The hog croc has weak jaws, and though it will attack and devour small animals, it rarely ever preys on man.  When disturbed, however, it puffs its body up with air and makes threatening noises.  If provoked even more, it will bite -- and because of its foul diet, its mouth is so unclean as to be poisonous. 

January 11, 2012

Arenas from OSH

I’ve just downloaded Old School Hack and was reading through it.  I’m impressed.  I’m now seeing the OSR as a continuum that ranges from simple re-creations of the original D&D, with minor improvement tweaks, to complete re-imaginings of the game with totally different systems and flavor.  OSH falls very much on the farther end of the latter, and does it well.

One idea that particularly leaps at me is that of Arenas.  In the words of the author, an Arena is simply “A place you might fight in that’s different from the places around it that you might fight in.” 

This beautiful little piece of abstraction removes the need for grid maps, miniatures, and elaborate movement rules, allowing for faster play and at the same time, because there are abilities that allow players to manipulate their Arena placements and that of their opponents, still gives opportunities for tactical play in a cool, high-action way.

On-the-fly-type GMs can easily create Arenas as mind-maps, a method that agrees very well with my own preferred style of running games.  Players can even create additional Arenas, with the GM’s permission. Brilliant, simply brilliant!

January 7, 2012

Hari Ragat: Bridging Language Gaps

One of the most popular anecdotes we Filipinos like to tell about our language is of the foreigner who overheard two Pinoys at an elevator.  One asks, ‘Going down?’ in Tagalog – “Bababa ba?” and the other answers, ‘Going down,’ “Bababa.”  The bewildered foreigner asks, “How did you understand each other when all you said was “Baaa baaa baaa?!”   

Given the great difference in the languages on which we’re basing Vijadesan from English, Marc and I must be crazy to present this setting to a predominantly English-speaking market!  So how are we going to go about it?  Well, if Professor M.A.R. Barker could get away with mixing Mesoamerican languages with South and Southeast Asian, so can we!

Our first approach is to try to make things easier.  We’ll be providing a simple pronunciation guide in the book.  Also, we’re trying to stick with names and place names that have less syllables and less ng’s, specially less repeating syllables.  For example, I’ll be renaming the Amomongo, an ape-like creature, to Orang Pandak, and the Bungisngis, a cyclops known for its grin or grimace (ngisi) to Orang Pangil.

Second, I’m thinking of offering an alternative naming scheme for those who don’t want to use the provided list of names.  You can use Amerindian-style descriptive names like Loud Thunder or Rising Moon for your characters, maybe spicing it up with references to Southeast Asian flora and fauna such as orchids, sharks, civets, monkeys, mangoes, etc. etc.

Quick Pronunciation Guide
Here’s a quick n’ dirty guide for pronouncing Vijadesan names: (Feedback welcome!) 

  • A is always pronounced like the A in ‘ah.’
  • E is always pronuced like the E in ‘eh.’
  • I is always pronounced like the I in ‘in.’
  • O is always pronounced like the O in ‘so.’
  • U is always pronounced as ‘oo.’
  • AO is usually pronounced as the ‘ow’ in ‘how.’
  • AU is pronounced with the vowels separate, as ‘ah oo’
  • NG is always pronounced as the NG in ‘lung.’
  • NGG is always pronounced as the NG in ‘jungle.’

When we want to show you how a word is pronounced, we type the accented syllable in all caps, e.g. Vijadesan (VI ja DE san), Namaya (na MA ya), Tundok (toon DOK).

January 5, 2012

The Hinilawod

The Hinilawod is an ancient Filipino epic from the island of Panay, and one of the spiritual inspirations for Hari Ragat. It’s been turned into a musical play by Adelina Zerrudo, Pablo Subong, and Professor Romulo Pangan, all of the Western Visayas State University.

The epic follows the adventurer of the aristocratic adventurer Labaw Donggon and his brothers, from his supernatural origins as son of Datu Paubari, a mortal, and Alunsina, the goddess of the eastern sky, through the brothers’ several courtship quests, battles with giants and monsters, sorcerous schemes, and triumphant reunion at the end.  A more complete synopsis can be found here.

Elements for Hari Ragat
Some elements from this play that got into Hari Ragat include:

- Brides Selecting Their Husbands
It seems ancient Filipinos had a version of the Vedic Age swayamvara, where a noble maiden was given the opportunity to choose herself a husband from an assemblage of noble suitors who competed for her favor. 

- Tests to Prove Worth
When Labaw Donggon courts the maiden Angoy Ginbitinan, her father asks him to kill the monster Manalintad as part of her bride price.

- Gods of Mount Madyaas
In the epic, the gods are described as living on Mount Madyaas.

- Epic Journeys
The heroes Labaw Donggon, Humadapnon and Dumalapdap all make long, arduous journeys to distant lands, encountering various dangers along the way. 

- Multi-Armed Giants
Labaw Donggon had to fight a giant, Sikay Padalogdog, who had a hundred arms. 

- Sorcery and Its Banes
Humadapnon, like Odysseus, is taken captive by a sorceress, Piganun, who means to keep him as her lover for eternity.  He escapes only with the aid of his friend, Buyong Matanayon, who sprinkles ginger on the fire while they are having dinner.  The scent of ginger so repels the sorceress, supposedly a weakness of sorcerers in general, so she is powerless to prevent their escape.

- Epic Rivalries and Friendships
When Humadapnon went to court another divine maiden, he encountered the hero Buyong Makabigting who had the same intention.  They duelled over the right to court the maiden, Buyong Makabigting lost but was spared, and then swore to friendship to Humadapnon.

- Magical Gifts
Labaw Donggon had a magical cape, belt, and sword (kampilan), which were vital in his defeating the monsters he encountered.  Saragnayan, lord of the underworld, was undefeatable because of his pamlang amulet.

(All photos from the Hinilawod Wordpress site)


As a side note, this epic alone would’ve made for a great movie or even series of movies.  It’s shameful that we Filipinos as a whole are so out of touch with our pre-colonial heritage that Ang Panday II, a film whose special effects look like they were ripped off from Clash of the Titans, had to be made when there’s far better material out there that’s really our own.

January 4, 2012

Honey-Mustard Baby Potato Salad

Here’s another recipe for gamers that I got to make during the holidays: Baby Potato Salad in Honey-Mustard Dressing.

Ingredients:

  • 1kg baby potatoes
  • 4 tbsp mayonnaise
  • 2-3 tbsp mustard
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • pinch each of thyme, oregano, marjoram
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 2 dried bay leaves

Procedure
Brush the potatoes clean (I don’t peel baby potatoes) then halve each potato. 

Add potatoes, salt and bay leaves to a pot of water (enough to cover potatoes) and set to boil until potatoes are cooked  but still firm.  When cooked, drain potatoes.

Combine mayonnaise, mustard, honey, and seasonings in a salad bowl, then add the potatoes and toss them.  May be served while still warm, or after chilling in the refrigerator.

As a side dish, this serves 4-6 persons.

January 3, 2012

Hari Ragat: Lineage Names

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Vijadesan heroes always set great store by their genealogy, taking great pride in their lineage and their ability to recount it.

As a shorthand to this, men and women of the Orang Dakila caste usually take names that trace their lineage to a founding ancestor, either one of the Ten Sires or a hero of old.  For an ancestor to be counted as part of your lineage name, that ancestor must have ruled a bayan of his own, or have established himself as a hero by some prodigious deed such as slaying a Dalaketnon giant or a Mameleu dragon.

The naming formula is personal given name first, followed by one or more names taken from distinguished ancestors.  The longer the name string, the more distinguished your lineage!

For example, Rajah Amats Tarhata Dakila Sikanda Bayahari is Amats, descendant of Tarhata, descendant of Dakila, who was descendant of Sikanda Bayahari.

January 2, 2012

Fantastic Locations in the Jangalan Isles

RPGBlogCarnivalLogocopyHappy New Year!  As our 195th post, and our contribution to K.J. Davies’ Fantastic Locations theme for the RPG Blog Carnival, here’s a sampling of fantastic locations from the Hari Ragat setting.  I’m using Keith’s template, but added a fourth item, the Attraction of the location – why should adventurers want to have anything to do with it?

Pulo Mabannog
Pulo Mabannog, Island of the Giant Raptors, is a large, mountainous island that is the only known nesting site of the great bannog birds.  (Bannog are the equivalents of the roc in Philippine myth).

Uniqueness
It’s the only nesting site of the bannog, who are reputed to guard a fount of great spiritual power in the interior.

Accessibility
Relatively easy to reach for a seafaring people, but extremely difficult to leave alive.  The bannog will usually attack ships passing too close to the island, and will definitely attack ships trying to leave.  Other dangers await in the interior.

Reality
Even with regard to the rest of the Hari Ragat setting (the Jangalan Archipelago), this island smacks of the unreal.  Nobody has ever explored it and returned.  There are no verifiable facts about its interior, only rumors.  That there is something powerfully magical there is plainly evidenced by the fact that the bannog nest there, and grow as big as they do.

Attraction
Rumors abound of what the adventurer stands to gain by exploring this isle. 

First, the bannog themselves.  The heart of a bannog confers Bala, spiritual power, if eaten, while its eggshells and nestlings are also worth a great deal to any practitioner of magic.

Second, there is the legend of the Merah Lembu, the gigantic Crimson Bullock of Mabannog.  Said to be owned by the Lambana of Mabannog, the blood of this creature is said to have the power to make one the ultimate warrior.  This of course is all legend and rumor; the truth may be very different, such as the bull being no mere beast at all.

Third is the Lambana, or protector-Diwata, of the island herself.  It is rumored that this goddess has a wild, predatory nature like her bannog pets, but great will be the reward for whoever can win her favor.

Fourth is the island itself.  The warriors and hunters who could clear Mabannog of its greatest dangers to mankind, allowing its settlement, will win great fame indeed.  Making Mabannog safe will also allow voyagers from the southern part of the archipelago to sail a shorter route to the north, and vice versa, and ports here could reap a fortune simply for being along the way.

Mount Kulindang
Mount Kulindang is a volcano on the island of Balayan, that is barely kept dormant by a curious custom. 

Uniqueness
There is only one Mount Kulindang.

Accessibility
The mountain is easily visible from anywhere in the central part of Balayan, and it is not too difficult to climb its lower slopes.  Few, however, dare to do so lest they disturb the sleeping Diwata of the mountain, for the Diwata is temperamental and has control over the volcano’s eruptions.

Reality
The unreality of this site has everything to do with its being a sacred place and the fear the locals have of upsetting its supernatural guardian.

Attraction
The Diwata of Mount Kulindang is a male diwata – a rarity as most diwatas are female – but like the more famous Lalahon he is temperamental and likely to cause an eruption if offended.  For this reason, the Balayans periodically choose a maiden to become the Flautist of the Mountain, responsible for keeping the diwata blissfully asleep.  She must be beautiful, a virgin, and of course very good with the flute.

Successfully wooing the Flautist will win the suitor great fame, but unless he can also solve the problem of the diwata, he will also gain the enmity of the Balayans.

Lake Bawan
Lake Bawan, also known as Lake Mapating, the Lake of Many Sharks, is a freshwater lake in central Balayan that is inhabited by many large bull sharks.

Uniqueness
The uniqueness of this lake comes from the oddity of its fauna; the sharks, rays, snakes and turtles that live in its depths are all marine animals, but they’re here in a freshwater lake.  How did they get here?

Accessibility
The lake lies at the bottom of a bowl-like valley, actually the caldera of an extinct volcano, and is ringed by farming and fishing communities.  It’s not difficult to reach the lake at all.  The accessibility problem is with the waters of the lake, for the sharks here are not only voracious, they have learned – again quite oddly – to view humans, even humans in boats, as food, and know how to get at them!

Reality
Who expects to meet sharks in a freshwater lake so far inland?

Attraction
There are rumors that the sharks of the lake were placed there by the lake’s Diwata, to guard her treasure which lies at the bottom.

It is also rumored that the sharks have a Mother who lives in the deepest part of the lake; slay her, and the shark problem will be resolved because the rest of the sharks will flee back to sea*, die off, or simply never breed again, allowing them to be extirpated permanently**.

*Implying that there’s still a connection between Lake Bawan and the sea.  What if slaying the Shark Mother brings down the wrath of the Shark Father?!

**While I consider this a fun adventure hook, make no mistake – I’m all for the conservation of sharks, and will give you a very poisonous glare if you ever order shark’s fin soup in my presence! :)

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