Archive for July 22, 2011

[Philippine Genres] Historical / High Fantasy

Posted: July 22, 2011 by Jay Steven Anyong in Roleplaying Games

As pointed out by Hikkikomori over at the previous article in this series, one of the most interesting ways to use the Philippine setting is in the context of a Historical or High Fantasy Setting.

The Philippines has a rich history of various cultures mingling with the native pre-colonial civilization, and as such, one can draw different interesting time periods in which to play a campaign.  Among these times would be:

  • Pre-colonial Philippines
  • The Spanish Occupation
  • World War 2 & the Japanese Occupation
The amount of magic or more fantastic elements that could easily be implemented vary of course, with the Pre-colonial setting being the closest to the “Mythic Ages” of most other cultures.  This can range from truly high fantasy types where epic heroes like Lam-Ang walked the islands and slaughtered entire armies, to more low fantasy types involving warriors or heroes of warring tribes or fighting against foreign invaders.
The era of the Spanish Occupation leads to an interesting situation as well.  There’s a clash of cultures, faiths and ideologies as the Catholic Spanish begin to take root in a land long held by Animist faiths.  In a fantasy spin, Shamans coerce spirits to fight alongside them against Clerics of the the One Diety who impose their own paradigm of faith and magic to this contested land.  Conquistadors fight with platemail and muskets against bare-chested native warriors armed with shields and swords.  There’s a lot of room for all sorts of stories, from intrigue to swashbuckling adventure, and with so much of the islands still left to explore, there’s room to involve the fair folk in the form of diwata as well.
Another interesting era for a Historical campaign would be World War 2.  Whether as guerrilla soldiers fighting against the Japanese occupation, striking from the jungles to take on vital military objectives, or joining the forces of General Douglas MacArthur as they fought to free Manila from the grasp of the Japanese Occupation, there’s a lot of room for daring Pulp stories, or even gritty wartime campaigns.  World War 2 was a vicious time, and the Philippines was definitely not spared.
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Given the history of conflict and clashing cultures in the Philippines, it shouldn’t be difficult for people to think of interesting ways to use these time frames to launch a campaign.  There’s a small resurgence of interest already for this sort of genre, as popular culture here shifts their focus towards mining the native culture as opposed to rehashing tv series from Korea or Mexico.

If there’s one thing that fantasy gaming has always needed, it would be more products that focus on the little details of a given culture. Books like Martial Cultures: The Sijara fill that particular need quite well.

As a GM who enjoys having varied cultures that go beyond simple stereotypes, I found Martial Cultures: The Sijara to be an entertaining read that goes into detail about the nature of the Culture in question, from their beliefs, their myths, little details like fashion options and the idiosyncrasies that make characters of that culture to be more than just another face in the crowd.

What I liked the most about this book is how easily the author enables players to understand the Sijaran culture and makes it easy for them to play one without having to go too technical. Little details like fashion choices and little behaviors that may seem just a little odd to outsiders are explained in a fashion that makes sense in the context of a “real” culture and that alone makes it a great read.

For those interested in crunch, the book also goes into full detail on how to integrate the culture into a campaign setting, adding little rules tweaks, sample feats, character options, and even plot hooks.

Overall, Martial Cultures: The Sijara is a dense, well-written, and interesting book that lends much-needed flavor to the standard fantasy rpg campaigns out there. I’d definitely recommend it for GMs or even players who are looking to lend more depth to their settings.

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Martial Cultures: The Sijara is available from DriveThruRPG for $4.95 or roughly PhP 214.00

If you’d like to check out the rest of the Martial Cultures series of books as well as some very handy RPG related software, please visit Chaotic Shiny Productions