Creating a 16th Century Philippines-inspired D&D World – Warfare

Last week, I made a list of weapons and armor to be used in my setting, but how are they going to be used? How is war waged in a world derived from the 16th Century Philippines?

Sea Raiding

The most celebrated form of warfare in the islands is out at sea. Warriors board karakoas and warships, and venture out to raid villages for their treasures and people.

The karakoa has outriggers where warriors can paddle to give the ship it’s legendary speed, and elevated platforms from where warriors can let fly their projectiles. These platforms are also where the fighting starts when boarding enemy ships.

Gunpowder artillery technology exists in the setting so there is the option to fit ships with cannons, perhaps sacrificing speed.

This requires RPG systems with functional ship combat mechanics, or hacking one into the system of your choice.

Land Skirmishes

At sea, ships face each other in battle. But on land, warfare takes a less direct approach.

The preferred strategy for land battles are ambushes. Waiting for the perfect opportunity to strike, or leading the enemy into traps.

Fighting on equal ground is fighting with a disadvantage. Be cunning, be crafty.

To nudge players to this style of combat, I will be experimenting with using damage reduction (a la Into the Odd) instead of armor class when I run this setting. I think it will allow players to better gauge which battles they can or can’t win, as well as speed up combat.

Defense

The art of defense in these Islands is based on the capabilities of every Barangay.

Those with warships will meet their attackers at sea. Some settlements have bamboo or wooden palisades called kuta, or even towers where archers can rain arrows behind the safety of the kuta.

But barangays that have neither will just retreat to safe places and weather the raid out. These safe places could be a hidden cave nearby, or tree-houses 15 feet high.

Creating a 16th Century Philippines-inspired D&D World – Weapons and Armor

If you play fantasy RPGs, chances are you loved “swordfighting” with sticks, or miming all kinds of medieval weaponry when you were younger. Kid me was like that, and I remember especially loving the kampilan longsword Lapu-Lapu is often depicted wielding.

I had a love for ancient Filipino weaponry, and reading about them in more detail rekindled that love. It also bothered me why I never heard of Filipino heroes wearing carabao horn chainmail. We had the technology! And it must have looked badass!! I know Pintados from Visayas took great pride in showing off their tattoos and wearing no armor gave them more freedom of movement in the battlefield, but c’mon. It’s an injustice that I never heard of such armors until recently.

Anyways, here’s a list of war technology derived from what the Ancient Filipinos used.

Weaponry

Baladaw: Leaf-shaped daggers with a cross-shaped hilt, designed to be wielded protruding in between the index and middle fingers.

Bolo: Machetes, originally used for agricultural work.

Kris: Shortswords with a wavy blade, designed that way to confuse the enemy.

Yantok/Pamalo: Sticks typically around 2 feet long. Yantok made of rattan are used for training, but ones made of hardwood like kamagong will break bone before it cracks.

Kampilan: Longswords with a forked edge.

Bunang: Crescent shaped axes, mostly used by men from the mountains.

Tungkod: Walking staves, but can be a weapon in the right hands, much like the yantok.

Bangkaw: Spears, a most important weapon in anyone’s arsenal. These are attached to a rope so that the user can easily retrieve it after throwing.

Songil: A cross between spears and polearms, its blade is double-edged and 30 centimeters long.

Sugob: Javelins made of bamboo. They are often fire-sharpened or with a partition filled with sand for extra weight.

Busog at Pana: Bows and arrows, respectively. Arrowheads are either made of steel or fishbone.

Sumpit at Kalway: Blowguns and darts. Blowguns are made of a long hollow cane, often fitted with spearheads after all ammunition has been used. Darts are as long as 20 centimeters, and tipped with fishbone.

Luthang: Muskets that came from a never-ending island in the northeast.

Armor

Barote: Armor made of abaca or bark cords, braided so tightly together that cuts did not spread.

Batung-batung: Chainmail plated with hardwood, carabao horn, elephant or octopus hide, or sharkskin; the material depends on the resources available.

Kalasag: A general term for shields. Some shields are made of fibrous wood and cordage to enmesh blades that penetrate them, others are as big as a person and made of hardwood.

Despite my enthusiasm for the different flavors of Filipino chainmail, I still want to be somewhat true the ancestors’ war culture. Warriors charged into battle without armor because they felt weighed down by it. Perhaps a bonus in initiative would give players enough of an incentive to do as ancient Filipino warriors did.

This mechanic would have more of an impact in combat if initiative is rolled every round, which I tend to do nowadays (Professor Dungeon Master has a great video on this topic).

EDIT: Replaced colonial terms for more native terms, added some descriptions, and added the Bunang. I can’t believe I forgot about the Bunang.

Creating a 16th Century Philippines-inspired D&D World – Social Class and Common Trades

I’ve read a lot about Precolonial Philippine society and culture, enough to start writing about… something more concrete. Rather than daydreaming about what my setting could be, I’ll start writing down what my setting actually is like. There is a difference.

I’ll start with this.

Social Classes

There are three social classes, the first and most important being the Datu. They are the head of a settlement, village, or barangay. They act as judge, settling disputes and problems of their people. They are expected to defend their people from enemies, and lead their people in war.

They are the wealthiest in the village and also the most skilled. A Datu takes pride in his skills other than warfare. They are the finest smiths, hunters, and fishermen among their people. They know the most languages, and they use their warships to trade with other nations or chiefdoms during times of peace. A Datu who is unskilled could not lead.

Some Datu rule through fear and oppression, but some Datu are freely followed by loyal vassals, rather than subjects. To become a Datu can be as simple having as having a following. There is no homage needed to be paid to other Datu from nearby barangays, but founding your own Barangay comes with its own set of benefits and problems.

In cases of settlements made up of multiple barangays, the title of Rajah is given to the wealthiest and most powerful Datu in the collective. However, being Rajah doesn’t mean they have power over another Datu’s people.

(This concept for Datus is very simplified for ease of use in a game.)

The second social class is the Timawa. The Timawa are free men. Free to follow their Datu in battle, free to migrate to other barangays, free to accumulate wealth.

Timawa are expected to pay tribute to their Datu, but the Maharlika, trusted confidants and retainers of the Datu from the Timawa class, are exempt.

The third social class is the Oripun. The Oripun is a scale between commoner and slave. All Oripun serve under their master to pay off their utang or debt and become Timawa.

Some Oripun are almost indistinguishable from Timawa, and have their own houses. Some Oripun live with their masters and are given food and clothes. All oripun are given days to work for themselves, the difference is in how many days in a month. The least fortunate Oripun would have 1 out of 4 days to themselves.

Both Timawa and Oripun can gather a following and settle down, making themselves Datu of their own people. However, even an Oripun with his own barangay is obligated to work or pay back their utang.

Common Trades and Other Important Roles

Everyone in a barangay have time to work for themselves, but what kind of work is there in a barangay?

Below is a list of common trades, skills, and supernatural or religious roles inside a barangay. Classes like Fighters, Rangers, and various Spellcasters can be derived from these. For my own group, I’m planning to run this with Whitehack, which gives players a lot of freedom in creating their own character and class, so having a list of jobs is useful.

Almost everyone is effectively a magsasaka or farmer, in addition to practicing their own craft. In the same way, everyone is a mamamangka, for the bangka or boat is the primary mode of travel.

The mangingisda are fishermen who catches the bounties of the sea with nets, traps, and harpoons. The common man’s primary source of protein is fish, so the mangingisda is an important role in a barangay.

The mangangaso are men who hunt game with aso or dogs. They set up various traps (pitfalls, nets, ballistas) which their aso lures prey into.

In times of war or the seasonal raid, the manggugubat or warrior follows their datu to battle. A manggugubat is as proficient in the paddle of a bangka as he is in the sword. In times of peace, the manggugubat ventures as traders or karakal.

The babaylan are shamans who have an extensive knowledge of medicine. When all else fails, they act as a medium to commune with the diwata and anito, gods and ancestor spirits.

The mangkukulam are sorcerers who cast kulam, spells meant to harm or curse. They are usually hermits living in the forest, for the common man is wary of black magic.

The paraawit are expert singers and poets. In a culture where literature is passed on orally, they are keepers of folk lore.

The parawali are the elders of communities, a source of great wisdom.

Craftsmen and artisans are called panday. Below are panday of a specific craft.

The panday sa puthaw are blacksmiths who craft iron tools and weaponry.

The panday sa bulawan are goldsmiths who fashion gold into elegant accessories.

The panday sa kahoy are sculptors of wood.

The panday sa balay are architects who erect town houses usually reserved for datus and other prominent members of the barangay.

The panday sa habul are weavers of clothes and intricately designed textiles.

The panday sa dihoon are sculptors of clay and pottery.

The panday sa bangka are craftsmen of the boat, with which travel and trade flows.

The panday sa batuk are artists of the tattoo, the marks of a true warrior.

I will probably add more to this list the more that I read, but for now, this is a pretty good list.

Getting Inspiration from 16th Century Visayans – Physical Appearances

I want to make a D&D setting inspired by the Precolonial Philippines. I’ve been busy reading about Philippine history for that goal, and I have a bunch of books in the queue. I’m a pretty slow reader, which is a bit frustrating. I want to go ahead and actually start writing the setting, but my research is far from over.

Bear with me, this journey will take a while.

For now, I’ll just do what I’ve been doing and keep blogging about what I’ve read. Maybe by the end of this, I’ll have enough ideas stored in this blog to use.

This week, I’ll ramble about Barangay: Sixteenth Century Philippine Culture and Society by William Henry Scott. This book is full of details of Filipinos in the time the Spaniards first came here. I’ve only read around a hundred pages of the 300 page book, I haven’t even finished The Visayas part yet. Good news is, The Visayas is the longest part. It takes up around 150 pages, while Mindanao and Luzon shares a mere 100 pages.

This might mean the overall culture of my setting would lean towards Visayan culture, but my Tagalog-centric guilt tells me that’s okay. I just hope I’ll get enough about Mindanao from this book.

Golden Smiles

Ancient Visayans wore red and gold smiles. They would do all kinds of shit to their teeth; filing them down to different shapes, dyeing with red or black ink, and drilling into the teeth to hammer gold pins and plates into them. That last one sounds extra painful, I know.

For my setting, I don’t need to get into that much detail, maybe mention that the common man had dyed teeth. However, datus and heroes, most often than not, have golden pegs in their teeth, just like in Visayan epics.

The Clothes of a Warrior

The common Visayan wore a bahag (g-string) or a malong (tube skirt). If needed, they do wear various other clothing, like cloaks, blouses, or wrap-around cloths. They also wore headdresses like turbans, bandannas, and headbands.

However, warriors wore tattoos like clothes. They are badges of honor, given to those who have killed in battle. Why cover those up with mere cloth?

In my setting, the amount of skin covered with tattoos could be an indication of a character’s power or level, much like how it indicated the valor of an ancient Visayan warrior . In this context, imagine the terror of seeing an enemy painted from toenail to eyelids with tattoos?

Crowning Glory

Ancient Visayans let their hair grow long. Men from different regions wore their hair in different ways. From shoulder length, to waist length; from tying it up, to wearing it with a headcloth. Women “took pride in a great mass of hair.”

Everyone took such good care of their hair, even imbuing them with oils and fragrances. And “to cut it was a sign of deepest mourning, or a punishment.” The importance they give to hair care is even reflected in their epics.

I won’t enforce players to have such and such hairstyles, but it is still good to include these when describing the people in this region of my setting. It’s flavorful, and it gives the players an idea of what hairstyles exists in the setting.

Also apparently Visayans insulted Tagalogs for having short hair, which I found funny.

Glittering like Gold

Ancient Visayans flaunted jewelry and gold on their bodies. When they first landed on our shores, the Spaniards were “struck not only by its amount and wide distribution, but by the fact that it appeared to be part of the normal attire of persons otherwise almost naked.”

Rich or poor, characters in my setting would be adorned in gold, which kind of makes things a bit complicated.

The impression this information gives me is that our ancestors had way more gold than they knew what to do with. If gold was everywhere, how much value would it have in the economy? There is evidence of gold and coinage being used in trade, but how much power does it have over goods with more practical use, like jars of rice or salt?

Should I try to stay historically “realistic” and have my players engage in trade and barter, or keep it simplified with gold coinage? I am in no way studied in economy, so maybe I’ll have to read up on that.

Getting Inspiration from Looking Back 6: Prehistoric Philippines

I want to make a Precolonial Philippines inspired D&D setting, so I read Ambeth R. Ocampo’s Looking Back 6: Prehistoric Philippines, looking for inspiration. It really paid off.

Water Connected Us

Our archipelago is surrounded, pierced, and netted with water. But our ancestors never saw water as separating us, rather connecting us. They were seafarers; rivers and seas were their roads and avenues.

It made me realize how much water has to be important in my setting. There should be seas connecting the smaller islands together. There should be plenty of rivers cutting through the large land. There would be no roads over the land, so the water is the fastest method of travel. But that does not mean it is also the safest. Because what is the overland but just another dungeon?

Church Fortresses

The economy of the Philippines before the Spaniards came ran on slave labor. Slave raiders pillaged other settlements for their gold and their manpower. These slaves would then be forced to work on farms and eventually integrated into the barangay.

This is why the old churches the Spaniards erected in our country were built like fortresses. Built on high ground, walls of stone, towers to keep watch with. The people of the colonized barangays had a safe, sturdy place to weather out attacks.

I have been mulling over the idea that instead of a purely precolonial Philippines setting, I should have an early onset of colonization in my setting (more on that later on). Protection from slave raiders might be a reason why people would let themselves colonized.

Monsters

Apparently, crocodiles were plentiful in Luzon back then. Ancient Filipinos had to bathe in caged-off areas in rivers, to prevent deaths at the jaws of these beasts. They were so huge that their tails could overturn small boats. People respected them, explaining that they are not their enemies. Crocodiles are definitely a must-have in my bestiary, whether or not I will go through with the Crocodile-man ancestry.

Markupo was a monster that was mentioned in the book. Having no idea what that is, I looked it up on google, turns out it was a dragon or at least something like it. The legends about it originated from Visayas and Mindanao.

“In appearance the markupo is a huge snake with a distinctive red crest. Its long tongue has thornlike hairs. It has sharp tusks and a forked tail. “

Did I also mention it breathed poison? Because it breathed poison.

Lastly, elephants. There were (at least) two kinds of elephants in ancient Philippines. A large specie called Stegodons, and Dwarf Elephants. The former went extinct in prehistory, but the latter was hunted to extinction after the Spanish colonization. If we didn’t kill them all, we could have had elephant riders.

Weapons and Armor

Three words. Carabao. Horn. Chainmail. How cool does that sound? Apparently, people in Mindanao also thought it was cool and practical. They also had armor made of elephant leather. These armors were nearly impervious to cuts, though I don’t know how common they actually were. When ancient Filipino warriors are depicted in images, they usually go to war protected only by the tattoos on their chests and backs. Why were these heavy armors so forgotten?

Despite my newfound love for carabao horn chainmail, Filipinos going to war in only a bahag and tattoos does have a sense of heroism and bravery like none other. That gave me an idea; what if there was a sort of magical tattoo armor? Characters in the setting could adventure for the ingredients for the ink or pass some sort of test. This tattoo armor could increase their unarmored AC from the usual 11. It’s just an idea for a would-be adventure.

Did you know remains of stone tools made of jade was found here in the Philippines? Imagine finding this shiny green rock and think “I could make a shovel out of this.” Might sound kinda ridiculous, but at the same time artistic and practical. It’s also a great idea for a magical weapon. How do you differentiate a magical sword from just another one made of iron? By saying it’s made of a shiny green rock.

Rambling about my Setting: Races and Ancestry

I want to make a Precolonnial Philippines-inspired setting for D&D. I ordered a bunch of books online for this project. Collections of Filipino folk literature, a book about the culture and society of 16th century Filipinos, all that good stuff. I probably need one about Philippine flora and fauna, but that can come later. If anyone has a book recommendation about that topic, I’ll look it up.

The books I ordered will arrive around a week from now, so for now I have to blog about what I have right now.

The Issue With “Race”

While they served their purpose in D&D rulesets, I wanna do away with the outdated term “race”. From what I read, ancient Filipinos did not have a problem with race like western nations did (and still do). We traded extensively with neighboring countries, for example. The Negritos, the first people to migrated to the Philippine islands, had good relations with the Austronesians who came to the islands later on. Some assimilated into barangays, some stayed in small, nomadic hunter-gatherer groups. But even those groups had trade relations with the settled barangays, exchanging goods from the hunt and the mountains for agricultural or fishing goods.

Different barangays and chiefdoms would go to war with one another, but not for reasons of race. Rather, datus and their warriors raid enemy barangays to expand their collection of gold and chinese porcelain. Oh, and also to capture slaves who will be forced work the fields. We may not have been terribly racist, but feudalism was (and still is) a pretty bad way to do things.

With these in mind, it feels right to me that the barangays in my setting would have a healthy amount of diversity in “races”. Maybe there would be one “race” that is more dominant in a region, but there would be little to no discrimination.

So rather than using the term “races”, I think it’s miles better to use the (less politically charged) term ancestry. Taking notes from the 5e alternative rules by Arcanist Press here. But what Filipino term should I use to refer to ancestry? Kanunu-nunuan? Doesn’t have the succinct ring to it. Lahi? Seems too close to race. Katauhan? Not entirely accurate in meaning, but it’s a humanizing term. If there are other terms that fit, please do let me know.

Ancestries

D&D struck gold with the classic 4 races. The Elf had an affinity for magic. The Halfling had an aptitude for slinking about in the darkness. The Dwarf was well adapted to where most adventures took place, the dungeon. The Human is the baseline, which is a bit boring but is an advantage in itself.

I want my setting’s ancestries to achieve something like that. Their abilities came from them adapting to their respective setting. There is little no redundancy and it makes sense. I don’t intend to copy the abilities of the classic 4. What my ancestries are capable of should come from adaptation to my setting.

Now that I put it that way, I should probably have a better idea of the geography of my setting before doing this, but I do already have a few that I’ve thought of.

Of course there is the human, the baseline. For now, it’s fine to keep them mechanically the same as the race in D&D, though I will have to think more about that.

I really want my setting to have an enchanted or cursed mangrove forest. It’s a massive forest where you can and will get lost in, either by magic or not paying close attention to your surroundings. From this forest came men with bark skin. Living mangroves walking alongside other men. Perhaps they have an affinity with magic of druidic nature, considering their place of origin. It’s also not impossible that they would be averse to the effects of fire.

In riverine or sea settlements, there might be those who developed crocodile-like features. Hard, scaly skin, jaws that no prey can escape from, and the ability to stay underwater for longer periods of time. They have an advantage in the water, which a lot of adventures would be set in. Perhaps they have a need for water and moisture more than the baseline human.

That’s what I have for now. I’ll be satisfied with having four core ancestries but my maximum is around 6. The last thing I wanna be is like D&D 5e that has waaay too many.

I wanna know what you think of my ideas for ancestries. Am I being too sensitive? Or not sensitive enough? I think having crocodile men would be pretty cool, but if there’s something problematic about the concept that I’m not seeing, I’d like to know. I’ll see you in the next issue of my ramblings!

Thousand Year Old Vampire Chapter 3: Family Matters

Part 3 of Makisig’s story, let’s gooo! Wait, he goes by Simpan now. Last week had a bit of focus on Tala, his beloved sister. She may not be in this plane of existence anymore, but she ensured with her descendants that Simpan will not be alone.

Let’s start this chapter. The d10 rolled a 7 and the d6 a 4, which means I advance 3 pages to page 13. I’m hitting a lot of same pages, it seems.

  • “Your servants are numerous, enthusiastic, and sometimes useless. Create a Skill based on a Memory, this is the Skill you use to control them.”

Tala’s descendants make for enjoyable company, but poor aides; I learned to instruct them better out of necessity.

A bit of a lighter prompt this time. This Experience belongs under the Memory about Tala’s descendants. I added “Better Instruction” to Simpan’s Skills, for lack of a better idea.

I roll for a new prompt. The D10 landed on a 10 and the d6 on 1, which means I progress 9 pages to page 22.

  • “Create a mortal Character. You have shaped them from infancy to be exactly what you want. Lose a Resource.”

Tipat showed great potential to be an excellent hunter; he brings me the blood of the his kills.

No need for things to get edgy or anything, Simpan is a granduncle to Tala’s descendants. It’s only natural that he would mentor them.

I erased Simpan’s Memory about his father’s spear to make room for this Experience. He already let go of the spear last chapter, so there’s little reason to keep that Memory. The prompt requires me to let go of a Resource, which puts me in a tough spot. My three Resources are the agimat from Malumanay and the diary holding two Memories. If I have to choose, I’d rather keep the Memories and my family than a physical object I don’t remember the context to, but it’s still a sad decision.

Time to roll for a new prompt. The d10 landed on a 1 and the d6 on a 6, so I go back 5 pages to page 17.

  • “You commit a despicable murder, but not for the sake of feeding. Why? Check a Skill. Remove a mortal Character, if you like.”

A man from a neighboring tribe threatened some of Tala’s descendants; let it be known that no man as foolish as him goes unscathed.

The prompt didn’t require me to kill off a named character, so I went with this. This chapter seems to be really focused on family, might as well double down on it.

I’ll move the Memory about Tala’s descendants to the Diary to make space for this Memory. I rolled for a new prompt. The d10 rolled a 2 and the d6 a 3, so I go back one page. The prompt on page 16 goes like this.

  • “Some mortals have banded together to hunt you, well-armed and wise to your tricks How do you defeat or evade them? Create a mortal hunter related to one of your checked Skills. Check a Skill.”

A group led by one called Dinarah tried to hunt me down; my sculpted doubles scattered around the forest confused them as I took care of them one by one.

We Naruto now, I guess. Simpan’s Skills are so unsuited for any kind of combat so I had to resort to this, hahaha.

Let’s say these men were from the same village as the man from the last prompt, so I’ll stick this Experience under that one. I roll for a new Prompt. The d10 rolled a 3 and the d6 a 4, which means I advance a whole one page back to 17.

  • “You are hounded for your crime. Check a Skill, lose a Resource. Confess your crime to any Character. Convert an enemy to a friend or a friend to an enemy. If you must create a Character, you become lovers.”

I told Dinarah that my actions were for the protection of my family; I think he understood my reasoning, for he hounded me no longer.

This experience definitely belongs in the same Memory as the last two prompts, completing it and giving it a happy ending. Not gonna lie, this is pretty rare for me.

I checked the skill Ashamed and now I have to lose a Resource. I have to choose between Tala’s descendants or my Diary. That Diary already had 3 Memories which makes it difficult to let go, but I can’t just choose that over my family!

I guess the choice is already made. I could always just make new memories with Tala’s descendants (I love you guys so much).

That seems like a perfect end to this chapter. Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you next week for more adventures of the Aswang Grandpa.

What Does My Setting Need?

I want to make a Precolonnial Philippines-inspired setting for D&D. I’m still deep in research so I would have something to draw from when actually writing it out, but I think I can make some kind of outline with what I have right now. Aside from history, I’m going to draw stuff mostly from the Duchy of Valnwall setting for Labyrinth Lord, Worlds Without Number, and The Black Hack.

  • First, some kind of a primer. A short description of the geography of the islands, the people living in it. Players aren’t expected to read the whole text about the setting, so what are some important points they should know about it?
  • What kind of adventures should the GM and players expect from this setting? I think this will come naturally as I develop the islands further.
  • What kind of TTRPG system is this setting for? I’m aiming for system neutral, but mostly leaning towards old-school D&D and OSR systems. I have some ideas about a hacked-together system to run this setting in, but I’m not sure if that’s a good idea. For now, it’s wise to write with system neutrality in mind.
  • Next, the history of the islands. I think I’ll base this mostly on actual history, but with fantasy elements.
  • The “races” of people living on the islands. The term is a bit of a touchy subject in discussions about D&D nowadays, so I will have to be careful and sensitive while conceptualizing and writing this. Perhaps I should approach it as “ancestry” rather than “race”?
  • Factions should be included here, too. There is no king ruling over all of the islands, rather each village or barangay is its own chiefdom. A barangay could be allied to one barangay, have strict trading relations with another, and be at war with another.

The islands will be grouped into regions which have cultural and societal differences, but before getting into detail with those regions, it’s best to detail the elements that all the islands share.

  • What classes would players have to choose from? Going with old-school D&D, I think the classic roster of Fighter, Cleric, Magic-User, and Thief would work best. Or the three pseudo-classes in WhiteHack? Of course, these classes should be tweaked in a way that makes sense in the setting.
  • Magic would have to have restrictions. The people in this setting have ecological cultures and ways of life, so magic would have something to do with nature. Also mysticism, because of their animistic beliefs perhaps? It doesn’t mean spells like fireball wouldn’t exist in this setting, but it has a bad reputation. Fire is uncontrollable, it could burn down a forest or a barangay. Unleashing this kind of magic could be grounds for severe punishment or even banishment from a barangay.
  • Maybe fit in some customs, superstition, and rumors? These stuff are great for flavor, but not necessarily helpful in actual play.

And then some separate stuff for each region.

  • There should be a closer look at the geography of a region. What are some places and points of importance? Where are the major barangays located?
  • What is the form of government of the barangays in these regions? What is the societal hierarchy like? What do their laws permit and prohibit? What kind of punishment awaits someone who doesn’t follow those laws?
  • What is the culture of the people living in the barangays like? What is their everyday life like? What language do they speak? What clothes do they wear? What god or gods do they worship?

I might instead go homogenize the answers to most of the questions I asked here, and instead have a few but key differences between each region.

I love the random tables generators from The Black Hack and Worlds Without Number, so I want to make some for this setting too.

  • A barangay generator is vital. Included in the map will be only a few major barangays, perhaps 2 or three in each region. The rest of the barangays in the region can be placed on the map at the GM’s convenience. These barangays will be populated with an NPC generator.
  • A dungeon generator is also important. Perhaps a one-roll table to determine the concept of the dungeon, and another set of rudimentary tools to map it out and stock it? An adventure generator could be very useful, as well as a large table of encounters.
  • Lastly, lists of new stuff that will be found in this setting. The lists of gear, items, weapons, armors, and mounts will not completely fit in this setting, so I will have to write up my own. A bestiary is also needed, because the monsters and creatures will mostly be new and native to the islands. And of course, new magic items that the players might find in the depths of this setting.

The items I wrote down here are all subject to change. This is by no means the final outline, but it will serve as a guide for me. Writing it all out like this makes me realize what a huge undertaking this is, but I’m very motivated to see it through. Let’s see where that motivation will take me.

Thousand Year Old Vampire Chapter 2: Anitos and the Loyalty of a Sister

It’s time to continue Makisig’s story in Thousand Year Old Vampire. In last week’s post, we saw Makisig become an Aswang. His parental figure died by his hand, and his actual parent was turned into another beast like him. Let’s see what fate has in store for him this time.

I roll the dice to get my new prompt. The d10 rolled a 7 and the d6 rolled a 6, which means I advance 1 page to page 2. I already did the first prompt in page 2, so I’ll take the second prompt.

  • You reinvent your existence around the seclusion of your hiding place. You begin to work in an artful way, changing your living environment. How do you come to appreciate beauty or craft in a new way? Create a Skill based on a Memory.

Sculpting wooden anitos became a pastime for me in Pulag; the craft does wonders for my heart and mind.

I recently read that precolonial Filipinos were expert sculptors. Plus, Makisig was studying tattoo art in his past life, so it’s not too much of a stretch that he’d do well in this craft. Taking care of one’s mental health is always a good thing, whether in life or unlife.

I added Sculpting to Makisig’s Skills and grouped this Experience with the other one about Mt. Pulag. I roll for a new prompt. The d10 landed on a 4 and the d6 on a 2. I advance from page 2 to page 4.

  • “You are exposed and flee to a neighboring region. Lose any stationary Resource. Check a Skill. A mortal flees with you. What new name do you adopt among these strangers.”

Datu Magtanggol sent the tribe’s warriors after me, Tala warned me. I bared my fangs at them and escaped with my sister to a tribe near a bay in the south.

Talaaa, I will treasure you forever! I really hope you don’t die by my hands.

I lost my Balete tree and Mt. Pulag, checked my Bloodthirsty skill, and relocated somewhere near Manila Bay. The specifics aren’t really important. I put this Experience under my Memory about Tala and I roll for another prompt. As for a new name… Makisig will now be known as Simpan.

The d10 landed on a 0 and the d6 on a 1. Wait, does 0 in a d10 stand for a 0 or a 10? I’m gonna assume it’s a 10, that makes sense, right? So that means I advance a whole 9 pages to page 13.

  • Generations of the same family serve you. This line starts from any living mortal Character, or the descendants of a dead mortal Character. What bizarre rituals do they tie to their servitude? Lose a Resource and create a Servitors of Lineage Resource.

Tala’s children and grandchildren coddle me like I cannot act on my own; I do not entirely mind, except for the anitos made in my likeness.

The dice willed that I do a time skip, so be it. I made Tala a grandma, so I can have what the prompt needs, while still keeping her alive.

Makisig cast away the spear he received from his father, because it holds bad memories for him. I want to have this Experience start a new Memory, so I put the Memory about Mount Pulag in the Diary to make room. Time for a new Prompt. The d10 landed on a 1 and the d6 on a 4, so I’ll go back 3 pages. The first prompt in page 10 reads like this:

  • The start pinwheel above you in the night. The seasons are a blur. You are as an automaton, unconscious of the passage of decades. A century passes. Strike out a Memory. Strike out all mortal Characters.

My body was wrapped with a heaviness, but my mind did not completely sleep; I watched the passage of time and when I awoke, Tala was no longer by my side.

I attach this Experience in the Tala Memory, completing it. I’ll hold on to this Memory as long as I can. On the other hand, I’m being forced to erase a Memory, and I choose let go of the one about Datu Magtanggol’s spear. Makisig already let go of the physical thing and considering his history with his father, it makes little sense that he would keep that Memory.

And thus, Tala is gone but will not be forgotten (unless I’m forced to forget by the game). It’s not the end I imagined for her, but it rarely goes the way you expect in this game. I think that’s a perfect place to end this chapter. I’ll see you guys in the next one.

EDIT: Next chapter is here!

Thinking Up New Mobs from Philippine Fauna

I need new mobs for the old-school D&D setting I want to make based on the Precolonial Philippines. Mobs are important because they threaten normal people and tribes’ way of life, giving players and their characters a logical threat to go after. Monsters like goblins, kobolds, and orcs are a great example. They usually only have 1 hit die, but they roam around in groups. Maybe they’d have a higher ranked guy that’s harder to kill with them, but their true strength lies in their numbers. A camp of them would be a threat to villages and low leveled players, and armies of them would be a threat to anyone.

Goblins, kobolds, and orcs are so overused in fantasy, though. Imagine making a setting based on the Philippines in a time before heavy handed outside influences and using monsters from western literature. It could be symbolic, but the setting I want to make doesn’t have that kind of baggage… yet. The question is still unanswered though; what would work as mobs in the Philippines?

One of the first things I thought of was something that would threaten rice fields and farms. So insects, bugs, pests. Although, anthropomorphic insects remind me of Bug’s Life, so I would have to think of a way they would be… not that. Or make them just giant versions of their normal selves, which would probably just be a monster rather than a mob, specifically. They would be constant trouble for farmers, which would mean making magical pesticide is probably a common part of the job for the village albularyo or babaylan.

While on this stream of thought, the hateful mosquito popped in my mind. Imagine anthropomorphic mosquitoes, all tall and lanky. Horrific. What if they wielded spears? What if their attacks had a chance to infect you with a disease?

But the problem with these insects in particular is that they are not really social insects. I don’t think they’re the type to make camps and forts or populate a dungeon or cave in large numbers.

Okay, what about rodents? Rats are everywhere, and they are consistently the kind of animal you least want in your house. They are absolutely ubiquitous and some countries have such a problem with them as an invasive species that they have seasonal rat plagues. Now imagine a horde of them, 3 feet tall, wearing patchworks of armor and rudimentary weaponry. Warhammer Fantasy was right, rats are perfect as a mob.

Brown and black rats are an invasive species in the Philippines, however we do have a number of species of rats native to the islands. Them being native means we probably won’t have uncontrollable hordes of them, but I think having various tribes of ratmen pop up near human settlements is reasonable. They don’t even have to be completely bloodthirsty, humans having stocks of food to steal would probably be good enough of an incentive to attack villages.

How would villages react to this? Maybe the albularyo and babaylan has some kind of magic Racumin? Rats can be smart and wily about traps, though. Would villages have some kind of patrol every night to prevent rats from getting into their rice fields? I think that’s reasonable.

I thought about how if slaying ratmen would be a regular occurrence, what prevents villages from hunting them for food? I shot that idea down quick, though. Ratmen raiding villages for their food would make them partially dependent on human agriculture. Villages abandoning farming in favor of hunting would dwindle down the ratmen population, making it unsustainable. Ratmen would be a consequence of human progress we would have no choice but to accept.

I’d probably need look up more about the subject, but this is a good start. I hope people will enjoy this trail-of-thought kind of blog, because putting them in writing helps me unpack and organize stuff in my head. If anyone has suggestions for Philippines-flavored mobs or just any kind of monster based on our fauna, I would love to hear it.