February 2, 2014

Hari Ragat: Beasts with Legends

As I round off the bestiary for Hari Ragat, I’ve noticed yet another theme that I hope will help this game to stand out and provide more entertainment to its players. A lot of these creatures after all are also standards in other FRPGs, and in fact many have rather bland entries in the Monster Manuals of D&D since they’re ‘ordinary’ wildlife.

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Not in Hari Ragat. I’ve been weaving my bestiary descriptions with hooks and variants based on Filipino legends and folklore, and from other related sources like the Ramayana. It wasn’t exactly a conscious decision, but rather something that just came out on its own, a reflection of the stories my mom used to tell me when I was a kid (it helped that as a grade-school teacher, my mom kept a huge trove of local fairy tales and such, and borrowed books on them from the library for me even before I started school myself.) In other words, even the ‘ordinary’ wild animals in this setting will feel different because they’re linked to the setting’s unique culture.

Here’s an example, the humble deer. Usually treated just as meat on the hoof, it can be a lot of things to the Hari Ragat hero:

Usa (Deer)
A small species of spotted deer is found on all the larger islands, wherever there is sufficent forest growth for their food and shelter. They are a major source of meat, and their skins and antlers are much used in arts and crafts, such as for drumheads and sword hilts. Deerskins and antlers are also traded to the Wu Long and Lu Tzu for porcelains and other imports. Because deer are extremely timid creatures, however,  their flesh is taboo to warriors on the warpath; it is said those who eat venison, specially the heart, become timid as deer during battle.

Usa 2/1, Fleetfooted, Silent Forestwalker, Timid Heart, Common, Renown Value 0

Albino deer are considered special pets of the diwatas, born of does that ate fruit from the diwatas' enchanted trees, and are thus walking repositories of spiritual power. The flesh of white deer, specially the strong and virile stags, is said to cure any disease and unfailingly ensure success in siring children, while their horns are charms against poison and evil magic. Moreover, white deer are so rare and hard to hunt that they're worth quite a bit of Renown. Hunt them at your own risk, though, because slaying one might anger a diwata!

White Stag 7/3, Fleetfooted, Silent Forestwalker, Born Enchanted, Renown Value 10

Another interesting possibility for white deer is that they may be kept by Raksasa giants – not as pets, but as bait. Knowing that human hunters are likely to find white deer irresistible, the Raksasas keep the deer near their cave homes, knowing hunters chasing the creatures will likely end up violating Raksasa territory and thus make themselves fair game for capture, torture, and devouring.

The Raksasas may also breed black, crimson-eyed deer by sorcery, and these are savage, malevolent creatures that tempt unwary hunters only to turn around, gore them, then eat their flesh. Hunters usually can't tell the color of the black deer in the deep gloom of the forest at night or early morning, which is when deer are usually hunted.

Black Stag 7/3, Fleetfooted, Silent Forestwalker, Appear as Ordinary Deer, Renown Value 10

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