October 22, 2013

Clock of the Jungle

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Another interesting tidbit found while researching Hari Ragat: the living clock of the jungle! The Kalaw, or rufous hornbill, is known in Philippine folklore for its regular routine of calls – before sunrise, at midmorning, at noon, at midafternoon, and before sunset.

October 21, 2013

Hari Ragat 1st Online Session Playtest

At last! I was finally able to get playtest session going through Google Hangout, with Marc, Gelo, and toward the end of the session, Bots.

We spent most of the time re-parsing the characters for the revised system, and the latter part of the session running through the Quest Pitch. Gelo and Marc went over their character logs from previous sessions – good thing Bots put them all in one Excel file – and we thrashed out which elements went where and did what in the revised system. In particular I had to rule on which Assets in the old system became Traits (unrated) or Aces (rated, for spending) in the revised one.

For example, here’s Dimasalang, Gelo’s character after the makeover:

Dimasalang
Warrior 3, Orang Dakila 1, Orang Malaya 1

Heroic Strength, Tattoos of Ferocity, Secret of the Fearless Blade, Witch-Finder Barong, Black Pearl of Hiyasan, Sarangay Vitality, Sarangay Gem

Bala 9 (with the bonuses), Bahandi 1, Dulohan 1, Wealth 1, Bannog-Feather Kalasag 5

Timang the cockatoo, irreverent messenger of Galura; Under Suspicion – Datu Awi and Datu Sina; Oathbound – Gat Dula son of Awi, Ligaya daughter of Sina, Sangita the Diwata of the Pearl Beds, Soraya Diwata of Mt. Galura; Suspicious but Respectful of Sri Minaya; Enemy – Gat Alamid the Corsair

Analysis: this character has 3 main sources of Advantage in combat – his Strength, the tattoos of ferocity, and the fighting secret. The character also has a lot of staying power or energy for combat, with a spiritual power of 9, but given that Gelo tends to spend his resources like crazy in play … heh heh heh. The character’s also bursting with plot hooks, what with his being oathbound to so many characters. Much of this is explained by Dimasalang’s back story, that he was born Orang Malaya and has only recently been elevated to nobility; he owes the people who backed him.

The next part of our playtest involved the Quest Pitch. I’ll call it a qualified success, but the mechanics may need a bit more work. One important factor here was that we weren’t testing from a clean slate, but rather with the weight of previous adventures already shaping the characters’ motivations. I had the PCs returning to their hometown of Hiyasan to rest and regroup, the courtship quest of Marc’s character Badong Amats cut short because the Maiden of Kandako had been abducted before they even got there.

Marc thus ended up driving the Quest Pitch, presenting a plan to Datu Awi to divine the location of the kidnapper – who turns out to be their old enemy Gat Alamid the Corsair – catch him before he can get to safety, and rescue the Maiden. These three goals will now be the main plot points and challenges of the adventure.

I’d hoped Gelo would try to add his own character’s objectives at this point, but he didn’t. I’ll allow amendments to the adventure next Sunday, when we hold Part II, so Bots and Gelo can work their characters’ agendas into this. As of now, I’ve got a pretty interesting structure:

Act 1: Divine the location or destination of Gat Alamid, with the help of the god Apu Laut; to secure his help, Badong Amats proposes to obtain and offer an enormous pearl being grown by some katao, malevolent and powerful merfolk who dwell in the deep end of the pearl beds;

Act 2: Voyage to catch Gat Alamid; I’ll set up the threats here, and taking the guideline that the month in the game is the same as the current month, there’ll definitely be a typhoon to contend with;

Act 3: Take back the Maiden, and if possible Gat Alamid’s head. Badong Amats has promised to present the head of Hiyasan’s old enemy on a stake to Datu Awi, and Bots is also keen on doing this, so I know I’ll need a big honking battle here.  (Bots: “Can I finally kill him? Can I? Can I?”)

As GM, I’m free to spice this up with some additional complications if I want to. It all depends now on how long I want this to play; if I want a one-shot, I can just run it as is, if I want a two-parter I can throw in some monkey wrenches.

Things to Fix:
Marc pointed out that one reason he ended up doing the Quest Pitch almost solo was that he was very familiar with the milieu, having created a similar setting before (Isantao), on top of helping me create the Hari Ragat setting. Combined with the fact that his character had a very strong issue to settle, I guess Marc’s taking charge of the pitch was a foregone conclusion. I may have seen different play if I used a clean slate.

Marc and Gelo also pointed out that perhaps players would need a more concrete structure for creating the Quest Pitch. I’m looking into this to see how I can do that. What if I gave each player a token, representing their involvement? The Quest Pitch is considered complete only when every player has given up their token, signifying their buy-in into the adventure.

I’m also wondering how to get better connections. My internet here in Davao is still too slow to handle video properly, forcing us to go audio-only last night, and Gelo’s was dropping out intermittently through the session. Strangely enough, Bots, using the same ISP as Gelo but in the recently earthquake-stricken city of Cebu, had a very clear and consistent line.

I’ll be working with Bots on his character tonight, let’s see how this goes. Am excited to continue play!

October 14, 2013

A Game of Gongs

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Found out yesterday that the tradition of the kulintang gong orchestra had aspects of a dating game in some of Mindanao's tribal cultures.

Young women traditionally displayed their delicacy and grace through playing the xylophone-like kulintang, while young men would show off to them playing the bigger gongs and drums. The idea was to play a rhythm so complex the other would miss a beat. Those who missed the beat became the butt of much good-natured laughter and ribbing from both audience and the rest of the orchestra, goading them to up the ante with even faster and more complicated rhythms.

The tradition also appeared in some of the epics. In one epic, a princess secretly informed a kinswoman of hers that a certain hero would be coming to visit. The other princess prepared a kulintang performance that bowled over the visiting hero, making him fall for her and propose marriage at once!

So - there will definitely be Games of Gongs in Hari Ragat. They'll be part of the Courtship Tournament rules.

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