Mangayaw is out on!!!

I wanted to go on adventures in a fantasy world of kampilans and muskets, sorcery and spirits, violence and community. So I wrote a game to do just that.

It’s called Mangayaw, and you can now download it for free!! I made this game for me, but it would be very cool if others would find it cool as well.

Game link here:

Conditions for Casting Spells in Mangayaw

A while back, I wrote a buncha new magic spells for Mangayaw, my Cairn hack. Flavor-wise, they’re inspired by faith healing, sorcery, words of power, curses, animism, etc. in Philippine folklore and culture. Mechanics-wise, they’re inspired by the open and malleable magic systems in Whitehack and Maze Rats. I’m mostly happy with what I ended up with, except for the spell costs.

Characters in Cairn don’t level up, so it makes sense that the spells in that game are levelless and cost 1 Fatigue to cast. I didn’t want to follow that because of the source of my flavor inspiration. Stories of magic here in the Philippines range from mundane and coincidental to extreme. Sometimes diminutive folk living in anthills could just make someone lost in the forest. Sometimes witches can kill with a single look. Sometimes talking chickens can bring someone to life.

In previous versions, the more powerful spells cost multiple Fatigue, up to 3, to give them a heavier cost than weaker spells, but I was always unsure about that design decision. It might be too heavy a cost that it deters someone from really using them, which is not what I want.

Then a conversation on the NSR Discord about Mausritter Conditions gave me an idea: what if I used Conditions as the cost for casting spells?

For those uninitiated, Conditions in Mausritter take up an inventory slot, making it unusable. Some just take up a slot to burden you and some have additional effects, like making you do a save before you can do something. Conditions are cleared after doing a specified action. Exhaustion (like Cairn’s Fatigue) is cleared by taking a long rest. Frightened makes you make a WIL save before you can approach a scary NPC, and is cleared after taking a short rest.

Last week, I tried writing new Conditions to use for my spells. It was a welcome respite from the nightmare that is the state of Philippine politics. The more I thought and wrote about the idea, the more I liked it. I was replacing mechanical weight for narrative weight, and the different effects can also say something about the world.

Anyways, that’s enough rambling. This is the rework that I have for now. Things might change, but I’m happy with the direction I’m heading with this. As always, I’d be grateful for any comment or creative criticism.

48 Character Backgrounds for Mangayaw

I’ve been looking at character backgrounds for a while now. Electric Bastionland’s Failed Careers, Mauritter’s backgrounds, Agents of O.D.D.’s profiles, Into the Odd’s starter packages. Reading them made me want to make my own dXX list of backgrounds that would fit my early Philippines-inspired Cairn hack, Mangayaw. So I did.

Actually thinking of backgrounds was easier than I expected. Turns out after around a year of reading about Philippine culture and folklore, I have more than a few ideas for this setting. It was filling in those backgrounds in proved difficult. Electric Bastionland’s 100+ failed careers each with two d6 tables is overwhelming, so I based my table with Mausritter’s approach of a static two items per background, with some of Agents of O.D.D.’s special abilities. Eventually, I managed to fill in 48 backgrounds.

What background your character gets is based on what HP and gold they start with. Those with low HP start with spells and useful stuff. Those with high HP start with mundane tools. Some might not make sense (warrior types having less HP than craftsmen), but I prioritized balance over realism. It’s not perfect and it’s still subject to change, but it’s a start.

1 HP2 HP3 HP4 HP5 HP6 HP
1 goldUmalagad
GET: random anting-anting
SPECIAL: Spend d6 LOOB to become temporarily intangible, spirits away at 0 LOOB
Forest Hermit 
GET: basket
HIWAGA: Tawag Halaman
Blackpowder Specialist
GET: jug of gunpowder, paper fuses
GET: chainmail (2 armor), iron chains (3 meters)
Hilot Therapist
GET: aromatic massaging oils (3 uses), a former patient’s secret
GET: fishing net, jar of salt
2 goldVillage Shaman
GET: ritual spear (d6 damage)
HIWAGA: Tawag Diwata
Aswang Outcast
HIWAGA: Baliw Biyas, Baliw Anyo
SPECIAL: weak to salt, ash, spices
Pack Hunter
GET: sumpit (see Weapons, p.XX), well-trained dog (4 HP)
Village Elder
GET: two random mentala
House Craftsman
GET: saw, bamboo pole (5 meters)
Feast Cook
GET: cooking pot, jar of spices
3 goldBarang Sorcerer
GET: a friendly beetle
HIWAGA: Salot Kulam
Kataw Emissary
SPECIAL: control water equal to body weight (1 fatigue), water breathing, becomes deprived after day with no water
Village Sentinel
GET: hardwood mail (2 armor), crossbow trap
Sharpshooter GET: bow (see Weapons, p.XX), betel nut quidBoat Craftsman
GET: saw, rope (15 meters)
Sipa Athlete
GET: rattan ball, tea leaves
4 goldHerbal Healer
GET: healing balm (restores d6 LAKAS, 3 uses)
HIWAGA: Bawi Sakit
Underworld Delver
GET: Alitaptanglaw (anting-anting), rope
Beast Rider
GET: beast of burden (5 HP), rope (15 meters)
Head Hunter
GET: bunang (see Weapons, p.XX), a preserved head
Irrigation Farmer
GET: shovel, sickle
GET: chisel, bundle of fruit
5 goldDisgraced Datu
GET: red pudong
HIWAGA: Sandata Tuga
Port Merchant
GET: bronze gong
SPECIAL: spend 1 watch to info from other merchants (Luck Roll | 1-3. partially true, 4-6. completely true)
GET: musket (see Weapons, p.XX), nose flute
Swidden Farmer
GET: bamboo pole (5 meters), bolo (see Weapons, p.XX)
GET: tongs, golden headdress
Tattoo Artisan
GET: needle, jars of ink
6 goldWar Spy
GET: balisong (d6 damage)
HIWAGA: Agaw Bagay
Reef Hunter
GET: underwater trap
SPECIAL: hold breath for longer than average Tawo
Forest Warrior
GET: camouflaged armor (1 armor), caltrops
Samot Pirate
GET: katana (same stats as kampilan, p. XX), incense
Boat Paddler
GET: oar, a jug
Textile Weaver
GET: dye woods, bed mat
7 goldKulam Whisperer
GET: hooded cloak
HIWAGA: Ligaw Kulam
Seasonal Raider
GET: fishing line and hook
SPECIAL: board boats easily
Cockfighting Gambler
GET: rooster with iron claws (3 HP), small bamboo cage
Rice Terrace Builder
GET: wooden mallet (d10, bulky), weaved mat
Gold Miner
GET: drill, bronze pan
Textile Weaver
GET: dye woods, bed mat
8 goldTrinket Trader
GET: gaudy clothes, random anting-anting/magic item
Lore Singer
GET: bamboo trumpet
SPECIAL: find a familiar face once every village (Luck Roll: can do once every village | 1-3. a rival, 4-6. an intimate friend)
Forest Gatherer
GET: basket
SPECIAL: climb trees easily
Game Trapper
GET: snare, hunting net
GET: basket of clay dirt, shovel
Feast Dancer
GET: Folding fan, bamboo clappers

I also wrote up a character creation process to go with it. I think it might be better and more engaging than what I had previously (which is based on Cairn’s). I wanted it to test it out in Playtest Zero tomorrow, but the scheduling didn’t work out. Will have to wait for the next one.

I’d love to hear anyone’s thoughts on my background table. I’m sure there’s something to improve on.

Rambling about On The Bones of Bathala (DEMO)

THIS IS A REVIEW OF AN OLD VERSION OF THE GAME. I had the PDF forever and only now got to read it fully. I wasn’t aware that a new LITE version released just over a month ago until after I wrote this blog post. I skimmed through the new version and it seems to fill some of what I was looking for in this blog, which is great. I recommend getting both versions, as DEMO has the illustrations and LITE has the updated rules and more fleshed out setting.

On The Bones Of Bathala is a take on Philippine folklore and culture in RPGs that is different from mine. Its setting and atmosphere is oppressive and dangerous. I have not yet read Mork Borg, the chassis of this game, though from what I heard about it, it’s a great fit for this kind of atmosphere. Ar-Em Bañas is both writer and illustrator, and he did a spectacular job on both aspects.


Players enter Lambana, the world of engkantos, the mystical, mysterious and monstrous, but it is a world that is crumbling and rotting. Colonization was the apocalypse for them, but they try to maintain appearances. The deeper into this world players go, the more the facade is harder to keep. Details are slim, but what is here is really flavorful.

I don’t know if this is Ar-Em’s intent or I’m just thinking about it too much, but using hispanized terms for the denizens of this dying world shows how much the rot has spread. It’s good stuff.

Characer Creation and Player Rules

Players only have 4 abilities/attributes, distilled to just the bonuses, which is great. No need to adhere to the 6 attributes of D&D if it won’t really add anything to the game. Bonuses are determined by the profession or background picked, which makes character creation quick and easy.

HP is calculated with just the TOUGHNESS+d8. At 0 HP, players survive but only by a sliver. Below 0, they die. No rolls.

There doesn’t seem to be an advancement system as this game is meant for oneshots or short campaigns, so characters are stuck with low HP. This will really make them consider other methods other than straight up violence, which I love.

I also appreciate that players who had characters die could choose to resurrect as an engkanto and mess with the living characters. 

Tests/saves are d20+bonus against a difficulty rating (DR) ranging from 6-18. It’s not my preferred way of handling difficulty, as I am lazy and prefers rolling-under ability scores, but I do think it fits the feel of this game.

I adore the illustrations of the weapons, armor and trinkets. I first found out about On the Bones of Bathala when Ar-Em posted these illustrations on twitter. They’re eye-catching, stylish, and badass. 

GM Section

The section for Kamatayan, the GM, consists of a simple dungeon generator, d12 engkantos to encounter, and the Malabathala, the three-headed boss.

The dungeon generator has a d6 table for the general aesthetic, and a d12 rooms. The rooms themselves are very distinct from each other and would make for interesting dungeon points, but I find this generator lacking. The questions posed for each room could answer what is inside these rooms, but I would like to see some more concrete room stocking, if that makes sense.

The d12 engkantos are excellent. I love learning about Philippine folklore creatures, and there are some here that I haven’t discovered yet. I also love that they have different moves and fatalities, while not adding unnecessary complexity. That goes for the Malabathala, Tatlong Maria, too.

The last page of the GM section has a d6 table for what fate the surviving players meet when they step out of Lambana. It… doesn’t end well. It’s great.

Stuff I’d Like To See

This is just a demo version of On The Bones Of Bathala, so nothing shown here is final. Even then, it’s already in a playable and aesthetically pleasing state.

I would like to see rules and procedures for crawling Lambana. The game doesn’t seem to be focused on exploration, and the dungeon generator is linear, which is fine since for oneshots or short campaigns. Even then, I think timekeeping and random encounters could help the game.

For example, there are rules for short and long rests, which heal HP. I think resting should be a dangerous action. What keeps the players from taking long rests over short rests if there is no danger of getting ambushed? What keeps them from taking multiple rests to heal all their HP?

Overall, I think On The Bones Of Bathala is a neat game. I love seeing other people’s takes on Philippine legends and folklore in RPGs. If this is just a demo version, I’m excited to see what else Ar-Em has in store.

Mangayaw Sandbox Campaign – Session 1

Hi hello, it’s been a while. I’ve had a drought of new stuff to show and talk about.

I started a campaign of my game+setting with friends who I started this hobby with. I was ecstatic. Let me retell the adventures of Adi and Lamaw so far.

Barangay Hagdang Langit

Atop Mountain Mahamog, there is a barangay (community) led by a young datu named Tanaw Ulap. It is a sizable chiefdom, sustained by an array of rice terraces carved onto the face of the mountain by his late father. The barangay is called Hagdang Langit (literally Sky Stairs). 

Tanaw Ulap has black and white fur up to his tail; you could mistake him for a small storm cloud from afar. His barangay is also of other bristlefolk, covered in fur and bristles of different colors.

The barangay and surrounding forests are patrolled by cloud rats. They are Tanaw Ulap’s scouts; they would report to him happenings from around the mountain. Rumor is that in these cloud rats lived the spirits of his ancestors, here to support their living descendant even after death.

Adi and Lamaw

Tanaw Ulap calls on two of his oripun (debt slaves), Adhika and Lamaw. He has a quest for them.

Adhika, or Adi, is of bristlefolk ancestry, but she looked different from the others in the barangay. Her back is covered with scales instead of bristles, like that of a pangolin. She has experience and knowledge in curses, but cannot cast one herself yet. She carries a bow, a common weapon in the mountains.

Lamaw is of hornfolk ancestry, with horns on their head that makes them look like they wear a crescent crown. They are an albino, so their skin and fur is lighter than what’s commonly seen in folk. They are strong, with skills in war and weaponry. They carry a crescent axe and a shield.

Tanaw Ulap sends them to a cave where miners from their barangay work. He has not heard from them in a while, and he is getting worried. Adi and Lamaw are bound by their debt to the datu, so they left to accomplish this mission, but not before enlisting a horohan to carry extra baggage.

The Mine

They reached the cave mine after a day’s travel. Guarding the entrance was not their barangay’s miners, but other people they did not know.

They messily took out some guards, bypassed a pitfall trap, and found the main chamber. The floor was covered in mud and sludge, bodies were strewn around, and a detachment of warriors were boarding up a corridor. 

Not recognizing the warriors, Adi and Lamaw weighed their options: They could go back to the barangay and let the datu know that the mine has been overrun; they could also try and take out the detachment. 

With further exploration, they found a small chamber with a deep pit in the middle. By throwing a torch down, they figured the pit is at least a hundred foot fall. Lamaw started to scheme. They used the grease they have to make the floor near the pit slick and slippery. Then, they attracted the warriors’ attention with a bowshot and the clanging of shields. 

They ran back to the chamber with the enemy detachment in tow. Their foes were not aware of the grease on the cave floor, and so a few fell prey to the trap and fell down the hole. The majority were just taken out of balance, but this was enough for Adi, Lamaw, and their horohan to swing blades and sling arrows at them. The chaos made the majority of their foes run. The few who remained were disarmed and bound by a makeshift rope made of loincloths taken from the fallen.

They prepared to go back to the barangay, satisfied with not trying their luck and exploring any further. The bound warriors and their weaponry were to be a tribute for the datu.

The Aftermath

Adi and Lamaw presented their findings and tribute to Datu Tanaw Ulap. The bound men talked of something that worried the datu; their leader is Kammaranan Lakian, a lore singer exiled from Barangay Hagdang Langit, and he is back for revenge. For what reason, it is not yet revealed to the two oripun. But it is clear that the Barangay is now in a state of war.

Tanaw Ulap rewards Adi and Lamaw for their efforts with gold, but Lamaw is not satisfied with this. He argues their achievements warrants their freedom, that they should be raised from the oripun to timawa caste, where they can serve Tanaw Ulap with more enthusiasm. But the datu disagrees. It’s not out of the table, but it’s too early for that conversation, he says.

Thoughts of rebellion formed in Lamaw’s head, while Adi is happy to go along. To rebel would be to go against slavery, an institution that gives datus their power. They will gain powerful enemies, but there is always a potential for allies. Preparation is much needed.

Creating an Early Philippines-inspired D&D World – Barangay Building and Management

Edit: I changed some stuff about actions and morale.

So I came up with mechanics for building and managing communities for my game Mangayaw. It’s a Cairn hack, so I could have just used Into the Odd’s Enterprise mechanics and call it a day, but those mechanics’ focus on profits and losses felt too impersonal and didn’t seem like they’d fit my game.

I borrowed heavily from the Community mechanics of Diogo Noguiera’s The Dead Are Coming. What I came up with is inspired by how I read precolonial communities work, but I also took liberties to simplify. I think I have a good balance of simplicity and flavor here.

Do tell if there are issues with it, mechanically or culturally, I’ll listen. Do note that I haven’t playtested these mechanics yet. I’m planning on doing so at Playtest Zero on the Session Zero discord server though.

Building a Barangay

Eventually, a Binmanwa or a group of Binmanwa may be well-known and valorous enough that other Tawo would want to follow them. If they accept, they will become Datus of their own Barangay. The Barangay will need to settle somewhere to grow.

  • A Barangay can be built with just one Timawa Lipon. The Barangay can grow to have more Lipons later on.
  • Datus leads the Barangay is peace, trials, and war.
  • A Barangay does not need upkeep; each household provides for their own, so long as they are not overworked.
  • Most Barangays are founded on debt slavery; know that going against tradition is a longer and more difficult path, but a possible one.

Lipon are detachments in Cairn and Into the Odd, consisting of around 20 individuals, acting as one unit to simplify large-scale actions and battles. I classified lipons into social castes with different freedoms.

Kinds of Lipon

There are two kinds of Lipons, based on the social castes: Timawa Lipon and Oripun Lipon.

A Timawa Lipon is a group of 10-20 households led by a Timawa. They are a necessary seed for the start of a new Barangay.

  • They follow the Barangay of a Datu they admire to learn and serve under them; they might leave the Barangay if this admiration burns out.
  • Gaining Timawa Lipons should be a rare occurrence, only possible after Datus perform phenomenal feats.

An Oripun Lipon is a group of 10-20 households of Oripun with debts to the Datu.

  • Unlike Timawa Lipons, Oripun Lipons are bound to the Datu with debts and doesn’t have the same freedom to leave the Barangay.
  • Gained by raiding another Barangay, buying from merchants, or as tribute from other Datus.


A Lipon can perform at least one action every week. Performing more than one activity will make the LipA Lipon can perform one action a week. A lipon can be forced to make a second action but doing so will make them deprived. Deprived Lipons’ loyalties are challenged (see Morale and Loyalty) and must take the next week to rest.

Below are some example activities, but the Mangaawit and players can invent other activities.

  • Provide for the Barangay. Farm, fish, hunt, mine, create, trade. Do whatever you can to make wealth for the Barangay. Make a LAKAS or LIKSI save (depends on what work they do) to obtain 1d6x100g.
  • Scout Ahead. Specify a place for the Lipon to scout and roll a Die of Fate to see if they recover any information or if they’re able to return at all.
  • Muster Lipon. Battle-ready warriors step up in the face of War. Typical stats: 1d6 HP, 10 LAKAS, LIKSI, and LOOB, d6 damage (pamalo).
  • Reinforce Barangay. Construction is underway. Make a LAKAS save to see if the new constructions hold up (See: Barangay Upgrades).
  • Improvement. The Lipon takes a week to train or improve gear. Decide what to improve then make a LOOB save. More difficult improvements might need multiple weeks.

Each Lipon is self-sufficient, so no upkeep is needed. Instead, Datus have to manage their social standing in the community. Their actions have effects on the community and the loyalty of the people under them.

Morale and Loyalty

Datus must take care of their Barangay, for an unsatisfied and exhausted community will have difficulty growing.

Making generous gestures towards a Lipon gives them Debt of Gratitude (Advantage to LOOB saves) for a month. Below are some examples, but more can be thought of.

  • After a raid, give a significant portion of the loot to participating Lipons.
  • Holding a feast as a reward for the week’s labor.
  • Granting an Oripun Lipon their freedom, turning them into Timawa Lipon (grants permanent Debt of Gratitude).

Certain events can challenge the Barangay’s loyalty. Below are some examples, but more can be thought of.

  • The death of a Datu.
  • The destruction of a Lipon.
  • Dissatisfaction with a Datu’s actions.
  • Forced to do a second action in a week
  • Forced labor while deprived.

In such events, the wavering Lipon or the whole Barangay makes a LOOB save. Roll for every Lipon.

  • The Timawa Lipon will leave the Barangay on a failed roll.
  • The Oripun Lipon will revolt against the Datu on a roll of 20.

The growth and change mechanics are inspired by domain management in OSR retroclones. Problems arise naturally in communities, so there’s a chance for something to happen here.

Ideally, the community does naturally grow, but not as fast as the raiding-for-slaves method. There should be a reason why that method is prevalent in the islands.

Growth and Change

Every 6th month, the season changes and so does the Barangay. Growth comes naturally, but with growth comes problems. Roll a Die of Fate for every Lipon the Barangay has. The two events below can happen simultaneously.

  • On a roll of 6, the Barangay gains another Oripun Lipon.
  • On a roll of 1, the Barangay is under serious threat (e.g. War, disaster, treachery).

Barangay Upgrades

Certain upgrades can be constructed to improve a Barangay’s defenses against attack. Below are some examples, but more can be thought of.

  • Palisades, to act as Armor from attack from outside (starts at 1 Armor, can be upgraded to 3 Armor).
  • Bamboo tower, to enhance attacks from atop and impair attacks coming from the ground.
  • Ambush point, established somewhere outside the Barangay.
  • Traps, to cause d6 damage to one Lipon (starts at 1 durability, can be upgraded 3 durability)
  • Treehouse refuge, to save one Lipon from destruction.

An Update on Mangayaw!

I’m editing and making some needed additions to my Filipino legend and culture-inspired game, Mangayaw. You can find the previous version of the game here, if you want to read it.

One thing I really need to edit is my World Principles. I ought to use Zeruhur’s Thalassa as a guide for this. Unfortunately, I’m procrastinating and leaving this part for last, so how about let’s discuss the other parts.

I added some minor, but helpful rules from other Cairn/Into the Odd based systems. Time abstraction, item durability for certain items and weaponry, etc.

I took out the advancement rules for two reasons: One, it was half-baked and felt veeery artificial. Two, I’m sold on the idea of character growth rather than character advancement, and the concept of Scars in Cairn. It feels right for Mangayaw, so we’re going full diegetic advancement.

The Habit (Sorceries) got minimal edits, but I do plan on adding some kind of make-your-own-habit mechanic for characters that are already masters of a Habit word.

I adapted most of the magic items from my WIP setting. There are now D6 Oils and D15 Anting-anting. Most of them work like Cairn’s Relics which have limited charges that can be recharged by weird rituals, some of them have a good balance of beneficial and detrimental effects. I’m really excited about some of the stuff I wrote here.

Buntot Pagi, 3 Durability. A short whip (d6) made of a stingray tail, with barbs along its length. Swing it at a flesh-eater or bloodsucker, ignoring Armor. Critical damage will turn them into a bloody mush. Recharge: feed it your own flesh and blood, take d6 LAKAS damage.

Right now, I’m working on expanding the NPC section. Added more Tawo forces, more Other-Folk, and a LOT more Halimaw (Monsters). I have yet to add Lower Diwata and more foreigners. My NPC stat-block crafting for Cairn still needs some work, but I think I’m getting a better grasp of it.

Stuff I still need to work on:

  • An updated equipment and gear section
  • Naval combat mechanics (inspired by Lilliputian)
  • Travel and exploration rules (using overloaded encounter dice)
  • Rules for building and holding a Barangay (and how do I make it partly-dependent on raiding?)

That’s it for this update. Hopefully I’ll have done some more stuff by next week.

Rambling about Thalassa

I read another game releasing this Zine Month 2022 that’s in the Cairn (and Into The Odd) family tree, so I’m gonna feature it here too! 

Thalassa is an RPG that brings you to the Heroic Age of Greek mythology, made by Zeruhur. Think Trojan War, the Odyssey, the trials of Heracles, tales where human heroes took center stage rather than the gods.

This being a game based on Cairn, the rules will seem familiar to those who have read or played it or any game based on Into The Odd. For those who haven’t, the rules are light enough that it’s easy to pick up in play.

Character creation is familiar enough, but it is fun to note that in character backgrounds, you roll to see which Greek hero/king/person of importance who are the child of.

Magic seems to be where the biggest addition to the rules are. There is Eukhe and Goiteia. Goiteia is your more common magic and spells, while Eukhe invokes the power of the gods themselves. Magic in general consumes THU (the game’s term for WIL), so you can’t use it without proper thought.

Goiteia uses Scrolls which work almost the same as Cairn Spellbooks, but with 30 Incantations instead of the usual 100 levelless spells. The ones that stand out to me are Causing Separation and Separate People because of how specific and niche the ability to physically separate objects or people from each other with magic is, and I love creative use of those kinds of magical effects.

Thalassa adds the ability to memorize Incantations, but it’s decided by a THU save. I’m not quite sure how often you can use a memorized Incantation though.

Eukhe is very interesting. It could potentially have much more powerful effects than Incantations, but its riskier. Invoking the gods take time, and there is a great chance the gods don’t even hear you, causing you to consume THU for nothing. I tried to think up mechanics to invoke gods in my own game, so this is very interesting to me.

Thalassa has 17 gifts, which are like magic items from the gods themselves. I like how their effects are only a sentence long, without any mechanical stuff. They could make characters incredibly powerful, which sounds about right for Greek heroes.

Probably my favorite thing about this game is the Principles of the World. It tells of the world and adventuring sites, the gods, the purpose of heroes, how heroes should act, and more in a concise way. I ought to use this as a sort of framework for my own Cairn hack. It is a bit of a challenge to do that and still give enough information about the setting to the GM and players, as early Filipino culture is a lot less known than early Greek culture. 

All in all, there is a lot to love about Thalassa. To be honest, Zeruhur’s posts about making Thalassa was a trigger for me to make my own Cairn hack, so it’s great to finally read it.

Rambling about Lilliputian

Lilliputian: Adventure on the Open Seas is a naval adventure RPG that has its roots in Mausritter and is compatible with Into the Odd and Cairn. It’s creator, Matthew Morris, expands on these rules-light games by adding 18th century navy and seafaring aesthetics and rules and procedures for exploring the seas, naval combat, upgrading ships, and rules for solo roleplaying. It is currently in crowdfunding for #ZiMo2022 so if that short description sounded interesting to you, consider supporting it!

Let me tell you about the stuff I found interesting about it! In a stream of paragraphs that don’t really flow very smoothly!

If you’re familiar with Into the Odd, Mausritter, Cairn, or any of the many wonderful ItO hacks out there, a lot of what’s in Lilliputian will sound familiar to you. Its game philosophies, principles for wardens and players, the core d20 roll-under system, character creation, advancement, etc. It’s a great, simple, and flexible base for a game. I mean, I’m making one myself.

It has a starter pack table like in Into the Odd, where a character starts with equipment based on their HP and highest attribute. The lower their HP and attribute, the better their starting equipment might be. The higher your HP and attribute, the worse off they are at the start. 

To give you an idea, someone with 6HP and 15 attribute score gets a staff, some notes about an island, and is disfigured. Meanwhile, someone with 1HP and 3-7 attribute score starts with a sword, a pistol, some armor, and has the ability to sense changes in the wind. It makes for a varied and somewhat balanced starting point for characters.

It adds stress mechanics. Whenever characters experience grave danger or bizarre events, they will suffer damage to their WIL attribute. Once their WIL reaches 0, they might get temporarily spooked, permanently traumatized, or even suffer a heart attack. It’s simple, but fits the setting very well.

Magic exists in the setting, but it’s extremely rare and potentially dangerous. All magic is in the form of single-use scrolls and talismans. Talismans are like Arcanum and Relics in Into the Odd and Cairn. They have limited use, but can be recharged.

Casting spells from scrolls is really interesting. Each scroll has an effect, and most will require you to roll a d6. Based on the roll, the one casting the spell might use up one of its limited uses, or even miscast and destroy the scroll completely. Miscasting a spell might have very dangerous and deadly consequences. 

You can choose to roll more d6s, enhancing the effects of the spells but also increasing the chances of a miscast. It has a degree of flexibility I like in magic, but also an element of danger that can make the game spicier.

Travel and exploration works sort of similarly to how I’ve been doing it in my own games, but Lilliputian’s rules are more polished. It abstracts time in a day into a resource called Watches, which is used for travel, resting, and other action that would take a lot of time. It uses exploding encounter dice, which I personally love, and even has an expanded one for open sea travels. It gives me inspiration for my own travel rules (when I get to writing it)

I’m making my own Cairn hack set in Filipino-inspired archipelago, so I was especially interested in Lilliputian’s naval rules. I was pleasantly surprised by how simple and usable it reads! It doesn’t add many new mechanics, it’s more of a recontextualization of the mechanics that are already in Into the Odd. 

Ships now have HP and attribute scores. Losing HP leaves a ship vulnerable, but it is attribute loss that actually disables a ship. Initiative is decided by the speed of ships or surprise. There are different scales to ships, giving bigger ships an advantage over smaller ships. 

It has a great list of ships of different scales, it has a short list for ship upgrades that encourages Game Masters to adjudicate more, it has variable ship weapons. It has a lot of fun ideas for naval gameplay.

The available PDF on its itch page is currently a work-in-progress and only covers the player rules, but Lilliputian has a lot of great ideas for adapting the rules-light core of Into the Odd, Mausritter, and Cairn to a swashbuckling, high seas sort of adventure, without adding unnecessary bulk. I’m really excited for the final product!

Creating an Early Philippines-inspired D&D World – Local Cultures and Additional Trades and Professions

It’s a new week so let me share some stuff that I changed or added to my setting!

Local Cultures

I wanted to make each local culture more distinct from each other, so I gave each their own sort of specialization. Some of these specializations are more apparent in their professions, which I’ll get to later.

The Taga-Bundok have little to no seafaring traditions and are mostly in nomadic hunter-gatherer setups. Some semi-nomadic Barangays with farms exist, but don’t produce as much crop as other cultures.

War for them is a means of protecting their families and home.

They have a sort of better-you-than-me attitude about the other cultures having problems with colonizers, as their habitat and environment is too difficult for large forces to travel.

The Taga-Buwaya has a big focus on trade and farm production. They have turned the Buwaya’s flatlands into irrigated farms, producing a lot more than forest swiddens. Their seaside Barangays are bustling trade ports, profiting from being the platform of trade between inland Barangays and foreign merchants.

War for them is more of a business venture than anything. If there is no profit to be made, no sails will be raised.

Because of their business-focused attitude, many of them welcomed the colonizers with open arms, sensing profit to be made.

The Taga-Pawikan are experts in seafaring. They have the most fractured group of Islands, so skill in sailing is a must. Their boats are also the most finely made in all of the Islands. Their Sea Raids are feared by all others.

War for them is a means of attaining glory and wealth.

The colonizers have fractured their Islands even more. War is being waged between those who support the colonizers presence, and those who want them off the Islands. 

The Taga-Haribon are fearsome warriors who celebrate the Sultan, a royalty above Datus. Their island-wide organization is unmatched, and so they have been able to prevent a major colonizer foothold on the Haribon.

War for them is a means of establishing the Sultan’s rule. That has not changed in the face of colonizers.

They have seen what the colonizers have done to the other Islands, so they are doing all they can to prevent the same from happening in the Haribon.

Trades and Professions

I edited and added some trades. There are now professions that are unique or have a subset that is unique to a specific culture.

All cultures have Magsasaka, farmers, but only the Taga-Buwaya have the Masawarat, farmers who innovate in irrigation technology.

All cultures have Kabalangay, paddlers/oarsmen, but only the Taga-Pawikan have Mandaragat, sailors capable of rowing in complete sync from sunrise to sunset.

The Taga-Bundok’s Mangangayam were the Islands’ first hunters. Their accuracy with the bow is unmatched. They taught their ways to the other cultures, creating Mangangaso, but the latter pales in comparison.

The Taga-Bundok’s Mangkukutkot have a monopoly on the ores of the caves on the Islands.

All cultures have Karakal, merchants, but this profession is mostly part-time mixed in with a warrior profession. Only in the Taga-Buwaya have folk taken this profession full-time. 

Because they have less warriors, the Taga-Buwaya sometimes resort to less direct means of warfare. Infiltration, information-gathering, and sabotage. These are things the Tiktik are trained to do (yes they are named after the kind of aswang who creep onto roofs or under floors to eat babies still in their mothers’ wombs). 

Manglalantak are musketmen, trained in all manner of blackpowder artillery. The Taga-Haribon were the first to incorporate these weapons to their forces, and so their Saksama have the most experience and precision with them.

Sakay-sakay warriors riding atop beasts of burden. They are rarely seen on the Islands because of their limitations when it comes to crossing rivers. Only the Taga-Haribon have tamed elephants and ride them as Sakay-sakay Gaja.

Tambalan are those who dedicate themselves to healing diseases, but in a broader sense than just sicknesses of the body. Disruptions of harmony such as War, distrust, conflict, destruction, and what not are all included in their concept of disease.