April 13, 2015

Introducing the Pilandok

pilandok laughs

The Pilandok is a new character archetype for Hari Ragat, which the GM can use as an occasional NPC, and may be made available for play if the GM agrees.

Based on a trickster character from Peninsular Malay and Maranao/Maguindanao culture, with some admixture from the Tagalog figure of Juan Tamad, the Pilandok is a clever good-for-nothing who manages to live and have fun at the expense of the powerful.


The word Pilandok means Mouse Deer, referring to the tiny chevrotain of Southeast Asia. Malays have always had a special regard for this creature, regarding it as a paragon of cleverness and spunk because it can survive a world of pythons, crocodiles and tigers despite being so tiny and weak. It’s known as the Sang Kancil in Malaysia, and the Pilandok and Sang Kancil stories are very similar. Here are summaries of some of the tales:

The Sang Kancil and Prince Parameswara
Prince Parameswara fled his kingdom of Singapura after a Madjapahit invasion, and while despondently pondering his future from under the shade of a Melaka tree, he saw his hunting dogs corner a mouse deer. He was sure the mouse deer was a goner, but the little animal suddenly kicked the lead hound in the nose, halting it, and then sprang away into the jungle. Parameswara took hope from the mouse deer’s spunky gesture despite its weakness, and decided to found his new kingdom on the spot. He named the new kingdom Melaka, after the tree where he had received the good omen. This legend is why Malacca has a mouse deer on its coat of arms.

Pilandok and the Crocodiles
This tale exists both in Malay and Maranao folklore. Pilandok wanted to cross a mighty river one day, but there were no boats or bridges for him, and he dared not swim because of the crocodiles in it. Then he thought of a trick. He called to the crocodiles, summoning them all to shore, where he told them the sultan had sent him, Pilandok, to count the crocodiles so the sultan could send them gifts. The crocs duly lined up under Pilandok’s direction, arranging themselves in a line from one bank of the river to the other. Pilandok then skipped across the river from the back of one croc to the next, pretending to count aloud, but when he had safely reached the far bank he called to the crocodiles and revealed the trick. The crocs were furious, but what could they do?

Pilandok and Prince Sumusong-sa-Alongan
Pilandok, the son of a poor family, was sleeping hungry beneath a tree where hung a large beehive, when Prince Sumusong-sa-Alongan came riding up with a bag of gold. The prince asked Pilandok what he was doing, and the trickster answered that he was guarding a magical gong in the tree for the sultan. He emphatically repeated that no man save one worthy was allowed to beat the gong. The proud prince, nettled, immediately demanded the right to beat the gong, until finally he offered Pilandok the bag of gold for the privilege. Pilandok agreed, but on condition that the prince wait until Pilandok was far away lest the vengeance of the sultan fall upon him. The prince did so, then beat upon the gong – which of course was the beehive! Pilandok got away with the gold, and Prince Sumusong-sa- Alongan was stung almost to death.

In this story, we see that Pilandok can have a ruthless side; he doesn’t care for the consequences of his tricks, so long as he gets what he wants.

Pilandok and the Kingdom Beneath the Sea
Datu Usman had gotten tired of the tricks played on him by Pilandok, so he had the trickster arrested, meaning to throw him in a cage into the sea. While his captors are resting, however, a merchant passes by and Pilandok begins weeping. The merchant of course asks why he’s in the cage, upon which Pilandok cries that he doesn’t want to marry the princess. The foolish merchant says that Pilandok is a fool he’d gladly change places with, for who wouldn’t want to marry the king’s daughter? Pilandok changes places with the merchant, taking the merchant’s clothes and goods, and of course it’s the merchant who gets drowned.

Later, Datu Usman encounters Pilandok again and is very suprised that he’s not dead. Pilandok then whips up a tall tale, telling Datu Usman he did not die because he was thrown right into the kingdom beneath the sea, where he found favor and riches. This incites Datu Usman’s curiosity and greed, so he agrees to be locked in a cage and thrown into the same spot. The end is predictable, and Pilandok is permanently freed from Datu Usman’s persecution.

The Pilandok in Hari Ragat
The Pilandok archetype can be used as comedy relief in a game of Hari Ragat, or more seriously, as a counterpoint to the idea of the epic hero. The epic hero in Hari Ragat does have a dark side, enjoying power and privilege at the expense of the common folk. A raider may be a bringer of wealth to his own folk, but to his victims, he’s a destroyer.

Enter the Pilandok. The Pilandok is an Everyman response to being victimized, by turning the tables around through guile. The GM can alternately cast a Pilandok as a victim who needs the protection of the heroes when he gets in over his head, or as a danger to society who must be stopped, or as a provocateur who gets the heroes in trouble with the powers that be.

For example, say the Pilandok in your game is a player character’s servant. The Pilandok insults a visiting, unpleasantly high-handed Datu, who of course wants to punish the trickster. Now the player may have to choose between punishing the Pilandok or losing honor, or if the datu tried to harm Pilandok directly, Vijadesan honor demands that the PC defend or seek redress for his own servant. Either way, it’s a pickle!


  1. A Pilandok feels like a character Trait rather then a Character Role. Is it possible for an Orang Dakila to have this trait? Say a third son of a Datu with two brothers that outshine him?

  2. I would interpret such a character as a Pilandok/Orang Dakila - he's good at being Pilandok, less so at being an Orang Dakila.


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