September 21, 2014

Using Magic in Hari Ragat


I was having a discussion with Marc over converting the Hari Ragat magic system in Vivid to Fate Accelerated Edition, and as we were at it I realized something; it may have been the first time for me to concretely articulate some core premises of magic in Hari Ragat, and how different it is from the baseline assumptions of D&D magic. (You’ll be in more familiar territory if you’re a Glorantha/HeroQuest player, though.) This got me to thinking of how to help players play magic-working characters in HR, be it the Vivid or FAE editions.

Uses of Magic
Magic usage is expected to fulfill certain functions in most FPRGs, the most common of these expected functions being:

Attack/Blast – deal direct harm to a foe, usually in combat;

Defend – mitigate or prevent harm, or an unwanted effect, usually in combat;

Trick – deceive or delude another character or creature, thus making them do/not do something you want;

Compel – make another creature or being do as you wish by force of will or by virtue of greater power;

Trap – control the terrain or environment so as to hamper or harm someone or something;

Buff/Heal – strengthen a character or creature in some way,  recover damage, or remove debilities;

Know – obtain knowledge not otherwise available to the magic-worker, such as the far past or future, or something in the present but removed in space.

How do these approaches map out to Hari Ragat’s magic system? Let’s take a look:

Dealing direct damage is not a primary function of the shaman in Hari Ragat, in contrast to D&D’s approach. You cannot treat your magic like a gun, specially since it’s not you doing the magic, but rather as a shaman you’ve the ability to convince or compel spirits to do things for you, and besides the price and risk of magic are quite high.

Yes, you can still do things to damage your foes, but through the agency of a spirit, usually in terms of a natural effect that ‘coincidentally’ happens: for example, instead of shooting lightning from your fingers, you could use the Invocation of Wrath directed to a sky spirit to get lightning from the heavens to strike your foe.

By calling on the appropriate spirits, you can avert harmful or unwanted effects on yourself or others. For example, you could invoke wind spirits to cause a volley of arrows aimed at you or an ally to miss. Again, the emphasis is on natural effects that coincidentally work to your benefit.

Illusion is a power of the diwata nature spirits, so if you want an illusion you have to ask the diwata of the place to do it for you. Different spirits are also capable of a wide range of tricks – mimicking voices, creating distractions, invisibly pulling pranks, and so on.

A lot of Hari Ragat magic revolves around compelling – you compel spirits to come to you and do as you ask. That’s why most Rites and Prayers require you to roll a Contest vs. the spirits addressed. The greater the effect you want, the more formidable the opposition will be as you have to compel a more powerful spirit for it.

The inherent danger of magic in Hari Ragat comes into play here, as there are consequences for losing Contests vs. spirits. Every time you suffer a setback while working a Rite or Prayer, you suffer fatigue and psychic ‘damage’ in the form of Bala loss (Bala being your spiritual power, and also your hit points). That’s right, working magic can damage your character. This encourages limiting your magic use and spending of magic resources so you can be more effective when you do decide to use your powers.

You’ve a lot of options for creating environmental ‘traps’ by contacting the right spirits. Want a Web? Get a hold of a spider spirit. Want a Wall of Thorns? Get a hold of a thorn tree spirit, or a thorny vine spirit. Earth to Mud? Yup, get the local diwata to do it for you. You can even create really awesome terrain or weather effects, if you can win a Contest vs. the spirit in charge; typhoons at sea, landslides, even earthquakes and volcanic eruptions are possible, if you dare the risk.

You should always be thinking in terms of ‘what can the local spirits do for me?’ and ‘what spirits owe me favors/what spirits do I have good influence with?’ Magic in Hari Ragat is very much about your relationships with different aspects  of the supernatural and how you can turn these to your advantage.

Again, buffing and healing in Hari Ragat is all about working with the spirits. Instead of Cure Light Wounds, however, your go-to heal is the same as your go-to buff; an invocation to the ancestors for more spiritual energy (Anito Dice). Instead of healing party members one by one, you instead try to assure the supply of Anito Dice for the whole group, letting each player draw as much from the Anito Dice pool as they need for either power or defense/damage soaking.

There are, again, a lot of options for acquiring knowledge by supernatural means in Hari Ragat. You could perform a Rite to contact any god or spirit, the difficulty based on how powerful or remote that entity is; gods of course are the hardest to interrogate! You could perform a Rite that gets the ancestors to grant you oracular visions.

You can scout distant locations by using your Spiritwalk (astral travel) ability, or a Familiar if you have one, or again do it firsthand by switching souls for a while with your Totemic Twin creature. (Caution is advised with the latter, as a) you will suffer any harm dealt to your Twin; and b) Totemic Twins are usually snakes, and thus likely to invite attack if spotted).

Tips for Playing a Shaman Effectively
If I were to play a Baylan or Katalunan shaman in Hari Ragat, I’d do the following:

  • Identify a strong relationship with specific entities, or with the ancestors, which gives me more power in that area;

  • I may buy Umalagad spirit allies that I can call upon at any time when I need their help; depending on my concept, I may get Umalagad that can help me with some kinds of magic, or Umalagad that can help protect me in combat;

  • Take up some perk that gives me an edge in defending myself, if ever I’m forced to fight in physical battle;

  • Use magic more during the preparatory stages of an adventure and the lulls between action scenes to prepare ahead; for example, before casting off on each leg of a long voyage I’d perform Rites for fair winds; or before engaging in a monster hunt, I’d try to locate it by Spiritwalking, or quiz the ancestors about how best to fight the thing;

  • During combat, I’d stay away from melee, and instead concentrate on working magic that’s relatively easy and will help my warrior allies – Prayers to the ancestors for more Anito Dice would be a top priority;

  • In a truly desperate battle, I may gamble instead on a difficult and dangerous battle-winner, such as an Invocation of Wrath to the diwata of the mountain where we’re fighting so as to bury the foe in a landslide, or to the diwata of the river to raise up a flood a la the Ford of Bruinen in Fellowship of the Ring;

And lastly, I’ll keep in mind the taboos that keep me in good graces with my spirit allies.


Here’s a sample Baylan template from the Minneapolis playtest. This Baylan is set up to be mainly a conduit to the ancestors, so she’s great at channeling in Anito Dice for the party, her Diwata Blood gives her more spiritual power than normal for a human, she has a Familiar that can extend her capabilities in imaginative ways, including gaining information, and lastly she’s set up to be effective vs. evil witches and sorcerers. Lastly, she’s got a Medicine Bag 2, which means I can draw 2 bonus dice total from it when needed for my Rites.

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