January 30, 2014

Scaly Terrors of the Janggalan Isles

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Some iconic reptilian monsters of the Janggalans, for the Hari Ragat game. One theme that runs consistently through the reptilian category is that these reptiles can live to incredible age, gaining size, strength and spiritual power – in other words, magic – as they do so.

Bayawak (Monitor Lizard)
Monitor lizards are very common throughout the Janggalans, and are normally regarded as common small game. Large specimens however can reach 6 feet long and can be fully as dangerous as wolves when cornered, or against weak, wounded characters. Monitor lizards are carnivores that usually eat birds, small reptiles, eggs and carrion, but the large ones can be bold enough to attack small children or obviously weakened humans.

Vijadesans believe that bayawak can reach much greater size, strength and spiritual power if they live long enough. Elder Bayawak are said to be cunningly deceitful though indolent, capable of human speech, and extraordinarily fond of human flesh, the more rotten the better. They are thus known in legend as kaon-bangkay, corpse-eaters, and are said to haunt old battlefields and the sites of massacres because they grew fat in these places. They are specially drawn to the graves of spiritually powerful persons. Their diet of rotten flesh makes their bite poisonous.

Sawa (Python)
The largest land predator usually encountered in the Janggalans is the reticulated python, or sawa. Large adults can reach 25 feet or more, and have both the strength and a size of gullet great enough to go after deer, wild boar, water buffalo or adult humans as prey. The Orang Bakawan hunter-gatherers say hardly any of their menfolk have not been attacked by a sawa at least once, and they regularly lose children to these snakes. Like all pythons, the sawa is a constrictor, killing its prey by suffocating it in its powerful coils. However, python meat is considered a powerful medicinal and is sought after for feeding to the sick and injured.

Sawa are believed to live for centuries if not slain first, and elder sawa are said to be natural sorcerers possessed of incredible spiritual power, mesmeric gazes, and the ability to mimic not only human speech, but the speech of persons well-known to its intended victim. Tales are told of hunters who heard their wives or children calling to them in the jungle, only to find a hungry forty- or fifty-foot serpent in their stead when they came to investigate.

January 28, 2014

Vivid: How Traits Are Meant to Work

Traits do not give flat, global bonuses in Vivid/Hari Ragat. Instead, each Trait entitles you to Advantage Dice only when its conditions are met, requiring you to actively find ways to use that Trait. If you don't call it, you don't get the bonuses. In this way Traits are meant to increase your level of immersion, making you think of exactly how your character is performing all those actions during play and share your vision of that with the other players for their enjoyment.

For example, a martial arts secret such as Secret of the Fearless Blade doesn't give you a bonus to every single melee attack that you make. Instead, it only works when a) you are not wearing armor; b) you use a small shield or none at all; and c) you declare attacks that get you 'inside' your opponent's guard, very close.

Notice that there's a price to using this: you're short on armor and shield protection, and the kind of attack you have to declare takes you within easy grappling range. But because the Trait doesn't have to be used all the time, you can make melee attacks without it, freeing you to break Fearless Blade's requirements when you want to. For example, Fearless Blade may not be so useful against a giant flying opponent that you can't just close in with anyway, so you may want to use a bigger shield to protect yourself.

You may claim Advantage Dice from using multiple Traits at once, but since Advantage Dice max out at +3, there’s a diminishing return to doing so. It thus pays off more to design characters that have a number of Traits that allow them to take different strategies as needed.

Directions for Hari Ragat 2014

Hi All! Just got back from a short visit to Manila, which ended on a very good note. Marc Reyes, who’ll be doing the FATE conversion of Hari Ragat, was able to make time from moving flats to meet with me and we were able to hammer out some important new directions and resolutions for releasing our game. I’ll put them in bullet points below, since there’s so much ground to cover:

  • We’ll be releasing an ‘ashcan’ version with minimal  art in modular form within a few weeks. Since very few are aware of this project yet, or what the milieu and gameplay are really like, we want to give as many gamers as possible a means to try it easily.

  • The first component out will be a Basic Play package that lets you generate characters, hometowns, and play out simple scenarios like fighting off a raid, and this will be FREE. Succeeding modules such as monster creation, naval and mass combat, and setting packages will be released as cheap downloads on RPGnow. Though my time for producing game materials will be less this year, this is easily doable as all the material’s written up already, I just have to break it down into modular chunks.

  • Marc will be working in the USA from February to around August or September (specifically, Minneapolis). From there he’ll be able to launch the next leg of our campaign to get Hari Ragat off the ground, which is to run a Kickstarter for art. We’re still sadly lacking in art, and the artists we really want charge US rates because they’re already contributing to US comics; the Kickstarter will give us the capital to go for those.

  • While Marc’s in Minneapolis he’s also ready to run Hari Ragat demos for anyone willing to meet up there. (No, you needn’t wear a bahag to play!)

  • Material is 97% fully written up, with only the bestiary to round off. I’m still on the fence with some iconic monsters from Philippine lower mythology, but we’re getting there. There will be new additions from Manobo myth, thanks to my opportunity to interview Datu Roger Limbo of the Tiguahanon Manobos late last year.

  • We’ve also realized that a lot of gamers, specially of our generation, are playing more and more online thru Google Hangout or other chat service. So we’re tweaking the Vivid system for online play.

  • We’ve also realized that our material seems to appeal to Tekumel fans (Hi +John Till, +Howard Fielding!), so we’re trying to think of ways to reach out to more Tekumel fans. One of the items Marc brought up was the rise of 3D printing.

    As I’ve started to learn how to model in 3D, even to making mod items for Mount and Blade, it may be feasible in the not-so-far future to produce Hari Ragat minis thru 3D printing. If such a thing as ‘3D Print-on-Demand’ becomes available we could go that way.

January 4, 2014

2014: New Directions, Old Commitments

Fire Dancer taken at Crocodile Park, Davao City

2013 was both a good year and a very bad one for me. On the plus side, it marked, finally, the takeoff of our career as a husband-and-wife team of photographers with our projects for the Department of Tourism and the National Commission of Culture and Arts, we found a dream location for our studio, we got to visit Japan, and I finally got to complete and release my anthology Swords of the Four Winds. A lot of issues were cleared up, and Cathy and I have grown even firmer in our decision to stay in Davao City.

On the other hand, I lost my dad, two uncles, a cousin, and a good friend. On top of that we had the grief and frustration brought by Typhoon Haiyan and the Bohol Earthquake. I say little about it elsewhere, as I’ve nothing to say no one’s said before, but this latest exposure of how useless our government and its idiotic politicians were is really depressing.

So what’s up for 2014? As Hari Ragat co-designer Marc observed to me, Vic’s passing was a wakeup call that we have to answer. Time is passing. This year, we will complete Hari Ragat and release it. I’ll also be doing a lot more writing and shooting, and together they’re likely to give me much less time to blog or be active on social networks.

I’ve found our dream subject, the indigenous peoples of Mindanao, and a means to become more involved with them and learn more of their culture through our commissions to photograph the NCCA’s cultural revival program. Which means wifey and I will likely be disappearing into the boondocks for days or weeks on end through the coming year. In terms of the gaming scene, though, I guess this means I’ll be doing next to zero gaming in 2014.

The biggest hurdle for me now is playtesting Hari Ragat. With no time to run a game, I’ll be needing help. Marc will run the FATE version playtests, but I’ll need someone to try running the Vivid playtest in my stead. I could also really use some reviews for my works, crossing my fingers and hoping I’ve got some good ones coming. And if they’re not good – what the heck, let’s try harder with Volume II!

Strangely enough, what this boils down to is taking some new directions, but all in pursuit of some old, old dreams.

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