March 10, 2014

Hari Ragat and Tekumel

Thanks to John Till and Howard Fielding, I’ve learned that the Hari Ragat setting seems to be attractive to Tekumel fans. How true is that? Well, Marc and I need to meet/talk to more Tekumel fans to see how much the appeal reaches, and why. Any leads would be really appreciated!

hari ragat map gridded

In the meantime, I thought maybe I could do some quick comparisons between Hari Ragat and Tekumel to sort out similarities and differences for those who’d like to know more. First, the similarities:

Hari Ragat-Tekumel Similarities

  • Non-European based milieu
  • The setting is a tropical environment
  • An exotic, differently structured society
  • Strong influences from history, specially Asian history
  • Concept of honor price is similar to Tekumelani Shamtla
  • Slavery exists

Hari Ragat-Tekumel Differences
I’ve been downloading all the free Tekumel material I can find (not much cash here!) to check out the setting more, and already I can spot quite a few differences. They may provide variety for Tekumel fans, they may turn out to be key Tekumel features you liked but aren’t in Hari Ragat.

Historical Grounding
While Hari Ragat isn’t meant to be historically accurate, or even an alternate history, it’s still quite recognizably closer to the history of Island Southeast Asia than Tekumel is to any part of Asia or Mesoamerica. The main inspirations are taken from ancient Filipino epics such as the Darangen, the Hinilawod, the Biag of Lam-ang, the Ibalon, etc. etc. There are also no science-fictional elements in Hari Ragat, unlike the post-starfaring milieu of Tekumel.

No Conlang
I certainly don’t have the linguistic credentials of The (Great) Professor, nor do I think I can invent a language or six out of whole cloth just like that. So Hari Ragat’s terms and names are based mostly from my own cradle tongue, Tagalog, with admixtures of Bisaya – which is Marc’s cradle tongue -- and a sprinkling of Ilocano, Kapampangan, Maranao, Manobo, and whatever other interesting bits of mythology we could find.

Tighter Focus on Epic Adventure
While Tekumel offers a very broad experience of MAR Barker’s world, with all sorts of careers open to player characters, Hari Ragat is more tightly focused on the experience of playing an epic warrior-hero.

The game is about the hero’s neverending quest to gain and keep Renown, through a range of heroic pursuits ranging from combat to Sindbad-like voyages to romance. Think of Hari Ragat as like playing a mashup of the Iliad, the Odyssey, the Aeneid, and Viking sagas in a Southeast Asian setting.

I’m hoping this works out as a rather easier entry to Hari Ragat. Just think ‘Southeast Asian Vikings’ and you’re good to go.

Animistic Religion
While Tekumel has a very interesting henotheistic religion, Hari Ragat is more animistic in approach, with characters far more likely to worship and interact with local environmental gods and with ancestor spirits. Ancestor spirits are a key component of the game, as characters can gain more power (Anito Dice) by actively trying to please their own ancestors.

A Looser Society
The milieu in Hari Ragat is based on a stratified society, divided into noble warrior, freeman, and slave castes, but it isn’t quite as rigidly defined as Tekumelani society. Player characters don’t need to belong to monolithic clans, instead they’re grounded in being members of the same community.

While Tekumelani society can be compared in feel to medieval Japanese society, specially as depicted in the Legend of the Five Rings RPG, Hari Ragat society is closer to loose warrior aristocracy of Celtic or Viking society as depicted in the Pendragon supplement, Pagan Shore.

For lovers of Tekumelani-style Byzantine politics, though, fear not: similar things are very possible in Hari Ragat! Political and caste concerns in Hari Ragat are usually more intimate in scale, though, unless you want to involve your characters in the struggle to crown a new Rajah Hari Ragat.

A Wilder World
There’s far less urbanization in the world of Hari Ragat than in Tekumel, and a greater emphasis on wilderness adventures. For one thing, the Hari Ragat setting has no huge ancient ruins or underground complexes to use as ‘dungeons;’ instead Hari Ragat adventures occur mostly in the jungle or on the high seas. Pioneering in a fantasy wilderness is also a big source of adventure in Hari Ragat, as player characters can found new settlements, exploring, clearing their new home of monsters, making deals with the local diwatas, and so on.

If I can think of more useful comparisons to make I may post a part two to this entry. It seems the main intersection between liking Tekumel and Hari Ragat is the fact that both are detailed non-traditional settings for fantasy role-playing, both located in that yawning gap between Western-inspired milieus and the rather standard treatment of samurais-ninjas-and-kung-fu monks in the Far East.

For now, I hope this gives you all a clearer picture of Hari Ragat, and how or why you might enjoy it if you like Tekumel too.

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