August 5, 2013

Was This What Inspired the Bakonawa?


The bakonawa: a fish-dragon  with ‘a mouth as wide as a lake,’ so big it could swallow the moon. What gave the early Visayans such an idea? Well, I’m starting to think it might’ve been this fish, caught by accident somehow or washed up on shore. This is a gulper eel, a deep sea fish with an incredibly oversized mouth and stomach capacity.


Deep sea fish are cool – particularly because they’re so frighteningly bizarre!

August 4, 2013

How the Raksasa Got Their Banes

From the legends of the Vijadesan people:

“Raksasas feared and hated mankind from mankind’s birth, knowing they would be enemies and that mankind had the favor of the gods. Now it is known by both man and Raksasa that the gods can be swayed by extreme shows of devotion, so Dasakan, first Rajah of the Raksasas, was able to come up with a plan to outwit Aman Bathala himself.

“Dasakan made grandiose sacrifices to Aman Bathala for seven years, then fasted and purified himself under a waterfall for seven more, and then had himself buried in a cave for yet another seven.  At the end of this time, Aman Bathala had no choice but to relent and finally granted Dasakan one boon.

“Dasakan immediately answered, ‘Make us Raksasas unkillable.’ But the Creator said ‘No, it is your fate that you can be killed. Ask something else.’ Then Dasakan said, ‘Let no Raksasa die save but by the means he or she chooses at the moment of birth.’ To this the Creator agreed.

“Now every Raksasa born gets a choice of how it may die, and some made stupid choices and some made cunning choices,  but all of those choices are written in the stars, and may be read by the truly wise. This is how Aman Bathala outwitted Dasakan, who thought he could outwit the Creator himself.”

Building Unique Giants for Hari Ragat

When I refer to Raksasas in Hari Ragat, I mean creatures like this:


and this (by the way check out the Kickstarter for the card game I got it from):


not this:


nor this (awww, but why not!?):


The Raksasas in the Hari Ragat setting are based on the epic opponents of the Ramayana, as filtered through Southeast Asian lenses. The ‘kaiju’ of the Indarapatra at Sulayman epic were probably also Raksasa. These legendary Raksasa were gigantic, often multi-armed and multi-headed, and very hard to kill.

To model that in the game, and the fact that every major Raksasa had very different powers and abilities, I’m putting together a random-roll creation system for making them. Among the ideas I’ve got right now are:

  • Number of heads indicates spiritual power (which in Hari Ragat = hit points)
  • Number of arms = greater Advantage in combat as they increase
  • Defensive powers such as scaly hides for more armor, or poisonous blood that harms the wounder
  • Randomly rolled Banes such as:
    • vulnerable only in one head
    • vulnerable only in one eye
    • heart hidden in another creature
    • vulnerable only to a specially prepared weapon
    • vulnerable to something you’d never think of as a weapon (cf. Baldur and the mistletoe)
  • Shapeshifts to diminutive form to escape attack
  • Shapeshifts to another giant form for different attack strategies
  • Regenerates damage
  • Reforms two whole giants every time it’s cut in two
  • A Roar attack that can paralyze opponents with fear

And so on. I’ll have to organize all these ideas into a table form to make them usable. Hopefully the result will be that every Raksasa the PCs encounter will be so different the players will have to rethink their strategies all over again each time!

August 2, 2013

Elder Creature is a Template

Ack. I’ve just resorted to D20 terminology. Ack. Well, whatever works … I was wondering how to have the jungles of the Hari Ragat setting feel right and natural, and at the same time have room for some epic big beasties, and the idea of the overlaid template provided the solution.

The problem: big, dangerous predators are expected in a fantasy campaign’s environment, but filling an island ecosystem with them quickly strains suspension of disbelief. An island  full of big dangerous species will soon be an island full of bones and not much else as these creatures starve. There were tigers on Palawan some 12,000 years ago, but when sea levels rose there wasn’t enough grazing room on the island to sustain the prey levels they needed so they died out. Now if we add giant pythons, giant crocodiles, giant spiders, giant fishing beetles and such, we’ve got a real mess. But I want those to be in the game. I want to throw them at my players’ characters!

I’ve thus posited four assumptions to make the island environments of Hari Ragat work for me (with a dash of magical justification):

Elder Creatures
Some creature types in this setting, reptiles and fishes in particular, may live for centuries and never stop growing. In the magically charged wilderness, they may even gain increased intelligence and supernatural powers over the centuries. Giant snakes, giant crocodiles, giant fish other than sharks, and giant arachnids will fall into this category; not new species, but only unusual and extremely ancient individuals of the base species. Interestingly, this now lets me create each giant creature as a unique, magnified in more than just size.

Hibernating Dragons
There are actually a lot of draconine creatures in the Hari Ragat setting, remnants and refugees from the death of the Serpent Goddess Oryol, but they’re in hiding and magical slumber most of the time. They only awaken when disturbed or hungry, or in the case of some that have met man before but could not be killed, have been imprisoned and now broken free. I think this also adds more of a kaiju eiga vibe to their presence, which I think is cool.

Otherworldly Domains
Some creatures like the Raksasa giants and Agta ogres don’t fully live in the material world. They may spend most of their time in the otherworldly part of their domains, thus remaining hidden and making little impact on the world of mankind. Supernatural creatures connected to trees or river bottoms or the like may spend most of their time melded into their homes. Their territories may function like dimensional tesseracts, bigger and of a different topography than the locations appear from without. 

Lost-World Environments
Some of the more mundane large creatures won’t be found on all islands, but only on one or a few that have habitats large enough to support them. You’ll find your tigers, and possibly elephants, on the island of Murogan, the huge island at the southernmost end of the Janggalan Archipelago; only this island is large enough, and has few enough people, for such things to exist in the wild.

August 1, 2013

The Legend of Inang Bakunawa

One of the first dragons born of Oryol's flesh was Inang Bakunawa, who escaped the wrath of the gods by burrowing under the sea bed. There she grew to titanic size, possibly larger even than her mother, and one night she looked up, saw the Moon, and hungered to devour its light and beauty.

Inang Bakunawa leapt from the water and spread her wings, flying toward the moon, but the gods saw her approaching and gathered for battle. Inang Bakunawa defeated them all, drawing closer and closer to Bulan Malyari the Moon, until Aman Bathala himself entered the battle.  He seized entire mountains from the earth below and hurled them down on Inang Bakunawa, breaking her back and throwing her into the sea.  The rest of the gods followed suit, until Inang Bakunawa was entirely buried. Then Aman Bathala, unable to kill this most powerful of all serpents, put Inang Bakunawa into an enchanted sleep.

In this way the main islands of the Janggalan Archipelago were created, and Inang Bakunawa remains beneath them, unkillable even by the gods. The weight of the islands pressing down on her sometimes opens her skin, allowing her boiling blood to seep forth in the form of magma and form volcanoes. From time to time Inang Bakunawa quivers in her sleep, triggering earthquakes, and folk say this happens because she is giving birth.  Thus are born the Anak-Bakunawa, the greatest dragons of the sea save their colossal mother.

Yup. The biggest, baddest dragons you can fight in the Hari Ragat setting are babies.

Oh. And every time one of her children is slain, Inang Bakunawa feels it – not enough to fully awaken her, but each time it happens she stirs a little more.

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