Tuesday, January 20, 2015

KURIPOT GAMER: Hari Ragat Review (Joke, I suck at reviews)

Unarmored and half-naked, he dances around his enemies with unmatched speed, the barong wildly spinning in a controlled flurry. Like his namesake, Kidlat strikes fast and hard.

The raider is unperturbed by the display of such skill but what would commoner know of such skill? The raider moves forward with his spear, Kidlat ducks, only his hair is what the spear stabs.

This time the raider is shocked, Kidlat has successfully entered his defense, he now stands face to face with the Kidlat.

The raider then fully comprehends the inscriptions on Kidlat's chest, the marking of a true warrior. The telltale sign of a Pintado. 

He is caught off guard for just a split second but Kidlat sees all the opportunity he needs to see and suddenly brings the whirl of sword sideways, decapitating the raider.

He picks up the raider's spear, shouts: "MGA ANITO! Gabayan ang aking pagpukol!" and throws the spear with the strength of a hundred men.

The spear flies through the battlefield...

This is a game I'm lucky enough to get a playtest copy of, this is a game I don't want to run: this is a game I want to play. You can expect that this review is not a comprehensive, detail-by-detail review but how I look at it. And with what I'm looking at, I really like it.

This is Hari Ragat.

Back to Bahags

I can now be what I truly want to be:
a half-naked badass with long hair
One of Hari Ragat's boasting point, and frankly one of the two reasons why I like it (the other is because of the system), is that it draws inspiration from pre-Hispanic Filipino culture to build a world with parallels to what the Philippines once was.

Don't get me wrong, this isn't historical fantasy (unless you're gullible enough to believe the Code of Kalantiaw), but a fantasy inspired by history and culture. Dariel Quiogue has painstakingly researched epics and warfare of our tattooed ancestors and applied them in-game. So expect the usual 'tribal' fanfare with bahags and all that but with a heavy dose of adrenaline and power.

Hari ng Karagatan

Hari Ragat's metaplot is obvious and straightforward and not annoying like other metaplots. If you know Tagalog or Bisaya, you've probably guessed it by now (Oha!).

Hari Ragat means King of the Seas, and the game is... well, about finding the King of the Sea. How you find the king is entirely up to you, whether you want to find the king is actually the question.

Why is the King of the Seas so important? Because he, and only he (can most probably be a she, but history says that the women ruled the priestly caste while men bothered with politics), can unite the scattered islander tribes of Janggalan and form (once again) a great empire of half-naked, tattooed, sword & axe-wielding badasses, and maybe go at the Rakshasas while they're on that.

Don't even think this is simple business, or you can 'roll' with this thing like in other RPGs. This requires heavy roleplaying because: 1) You have to convince the tribal elders, 2) You have to contact the anitos, 3) You have to convince the anitos, 4) You have to go back down and convince everyone else. Did I mention you need to get some sort of power-stone first? It's called the Diwang Lahi and while it grants you power, it also grants you tons of enemies. Like some Talagbusao freak. Ha!

The System: Vivid is as vivid gets

And with how the system is laid out, you really can't just 'roll for it'. There's no attributes. There are traits, and you're free to BS the GM whether this trait gives you advantage or maximum advantage. And advantage is a one way thing, if you have advantage because you're a descendant of Apolaki and your foe is also a descendant of Apolaki then neither of you gets advantage. Finding advantages is one of the fun parts of the game really, and get this: MINIMAL NUMBERS.

The game uses dice pools so while you maybe rolling 10d6 when you're more Renowned, you don't need to add any of them. Just get the highest number(s), so if you rolled 10d6 and got 3 sixes, you scored 3VPs. Your foe rolls his/her dice pool for the number of dice he can draw upon and if he/she gets more than 3 sixes than you, you lose. If no one rolls six, get the highest number (say four) and you have 1VP- it doesn't matter if you got 4 fours. Then pray to the Anitos your foe doesn't get any dice higher than 4.

That's just it. I just explained how to play the whole damn game. Haha. Seriously, everything goes like that. You build your dice pool from the number of traits and roles you have that are relevant to the situation, your foe does the same and then you roll. Hope you get more than one sixes because that's always cool, but you can settle for a single five as long as your foe doesn't get anything higher than five. If you lose, you pay the Victory Points your foe scored against you: you can pay from multiple resources; your shield, armor or sheer willpower(because they're numbered. So if you have an Armor 3, you can pay up to 3 VPs if it's that bad. Or pay 1 VP from your armor if your foe scored 1) and if you win over your foe, then vice versa.

Because the system is simple, you are left to 'fluff' the game up, leaving tons of space for narrative and some epic storytelling like: I catch the spear, do a spin and throw it back! Or; I do a backflip, grab the arrow midair and use it to stab the mooks standing behind me. Of course, you need tons of this for dice. If you want an earlier version of the system, check out the awesome Gods of Gondwane- which I have a lot of homebrew stuff on, I'm just to lazy to type them in a computer. Alternatively, a FATE version will be released so if you don't really like chucking 10d6, you can work with that.
The Red ones I use for combat, blue for bullsh*tting NPCs, white for bullsh*tting diwatas, and black when calling upon the anitos. No you don't need colored dice, I just want to.

Character Creation is Easy. Tell me what your job is, what you're good at, and what tattoos/ vows/ diwata connections you have. Done. Or check out Jay's TL;DR version of it. It's the same thing, but with more words.
Joke, refer to Jay's version of Chargen because I'm lazy like that. Haha

Beasts of Lore, Beasts of Yore

The Philippines has one of the weirdest bestiary ever and it's reflected in Hari Ragat, so you can expect a fair share of six-headed giants, weird eel-like sea dragons, a dragon the size of the moon that you can't kill, a dragon that looks like the dragon-the-size-of-the-moon-that-you-can't-kill but smaller and you can kill it but it's really hard to, intelligent apes, giants snakes and other fantastic creatures than can most likely talk and spin tales that may or may not confuse you (hint: it's the GM's fault. Attack the GM. Joke lang).

And the monster stats is an interesting thing: they're composed of three numbers (sometimes two)! Monster stat is basically three things: Threat, how dangerous a foe is (or how many dice the Foe will roll, without advantages), Resistance, how tough the foe is (also known as the VPs you need to get), and sometimes (because not everyone has mooks) Followers, which is just that- 1 Die, 1 VP mooks you can kill easily.

This  isn't for monster stats only, since anything that needs resolution in-game is treated as the same thing (Minus Followers of course). So a Raging River 3/3 has 3 Threat and 3 Resistance, opposing you with three dice and requiring 3 VPs. Or Fair Maiden 4/1, a pakipot that opposes you with 4 dice but once you win against her once, she's yours (please Gabriela don't sue me). Simplicity is the key.

CR: Don't even bother. Descending Armor Class: -0.

And Other Badass Stuff That Involves Being a Badass- a Social Badass at that.
From the Hari Ragat blog. We seriously get to ride this! Asteeeg.
There's also naval combat which I won't go into because I haven't really sat down to understand it, but I know it's still simple, just giving the normal stats to warships and then the usual fists of dice throwing. Hahaha.

It's like being a tropical Viking. You go around, pillage-village, get their women and be famous for doing so. Of course it isn't as one sided as that, there's actually a lot of depth to it, Dariel has different takes on many things and it's evident in his games: Hari Ragat can be a political feud, a hardcore wilderness trek and cavern crawl, a plane-crossing journey to Sulad (or the Underworld for all you non-bahag wearing folks), a grand search for the Diwang Lahi or all of the above to find the one and true Hari Ragat.

Hari Ragat offers many things, of course you have your standard adventuring but it also pits you in a communal and social position: you want your barangay to succeed. Part of that is by adventuring and bringing glory to your tribe but a part of it is also maintaining good relations with other tribes; so no random killing for XP, no character that suddenly popped out of nowhere and immediately becomes a wandering murderhobo, and establishing friends in other places is a must. For all it's adventuring fanfare Hari Ragat is deeper than what it seems. It's a kingdom building game where you start out as adventurers and can possibly end as Rajahs- or even the Hari Ragat himself.

The game will definitely appeal not just to Filipinos but everyone who likes to have a fun way to take on serious matters (or a serious way to take on fun matters), for world-builders and failed tyrants, for the aspiring soldier who wants to be a general someday. I'm really excited for this game, largely because I'm a sucker for all things pre-Hispanic Filipino but also because from experience, it's a great game.