Let's imagine for a moment that the first role-playing game wasn't written in the West by Anglo-Saxon people but in other place... like the Indian subcontinent.
In this case would be logical that authors surely will have based this in flklore and traditions of this zone country and wouldn't write about Elfs, Dwarfs, mages or any other element reminding us of European medieval fantasy or pulp literature inspiring Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson at the time of writing Dungeons & Dragons.
If, as I explain in this introduction, this would take place surely we would have a game resembling Arrows of Indra, written by The RPGPundit and that will be the target of the review of this new post of the OSR Week.
|Map of Kingdoms of Bharata made by Josh Eaves
(through Arrows of Indra community at Google+)
As I commented in the introduction Arrows of Indra is a role-playing game assuming the Dungeons & Dragons topics but translating them to a completely different cultural setting based in the Mahabharata, the great mythological Hindu epic poem often compared in importance with texts like the Iliad and the Odyssey (and that far exceeds their extension).
Adventures that can be played with Arrows of Indra take place in the Kingdoms of Bharata, a region of the world of Jagat certainly inspired by ancient Hindu kingdoms mentioned in the Mahabharata sharing a common culture and language.
Characters that can be made in Arrows of Indra are defined by their origin (wether humans living in Baratha Kingdoms, humans from some barbarian kingdoms or not human creatures) and the character class they may be, so in this case the game departs from more typical OSR games not carrying out a distinction between race and character class, bear in mind although that not all classes can be chosen by all characters as you soon will see.
Humans of Kingdoms of Bharata are divided in a very strict caste system of religious origin organized in the following manner (it's possible to decide the caste in a random manner but as you will see soon it could be a problem):
- Dalit (also known as "Untouchables" is the lowest caste charged with the worst tasks, the author advises players not having characters of this caste as it would be difficult to join an adventurer group).
- Sudra (is the slave, serf and servant class, although better considered than the Dalit).
- Vaishya (the most numerous caste in Bharata and group from small farmers to rich merchants).
- Kshatriya (is the warrior and ruler caste).
- Brahmin (is the priest and philosopher caste, they may also be ruler).
Regarding the other origins it's possible to find the following ones:
- Bhils (human barbarians living in the perifery of the Kingdoms of Baratha).
- Gandharvas (offspring of humans and nature and divine spirits, partially immortals, so they don't age but can die from wounds or illness).
- Rakshasas (unholy hibrid race of humans and Asura Demons whom they worship, do not mistake them with Rakhasa from Dungeons & Dragons or other OSR games).
- Vanaras (money race capable of talking and with a human-like intelligence, sacred for the monkey-god Hanuman).
- Yakshas (mountain spirits tasked by gods with the protection of nature and sacred places).
- Priest (tasked with the adoration fo the many gods of the Hindu pantheon, with access to magic).
- Priest-Shaman (basically with the same function of priests, but acting in tribes or uncivilized societies).
- Fighter (mostly from Sudra, Vaishya and Kshatriya castes, the last ones may have access to special training allowing them to use bows, ride or drive chariots for example).
- Virakshatriya (sacred warriors chosen by gods among those pertaining to the Kshatriya caste, blessed with divine gifts and consecrated to a specific god, wetehr is Rama, Durga, Indra, etc.).
- Explorer (used to live in the wilderness and capable of guiding characters through them).
- Siddhi (the equivalent of mages in this setting and with powers achieved through studying secret techniques to manipulate energy and nature laws).
- Thief ( a class available to all Bharata castes, if they always try to hid their true ocupation, especially if they are of higher castes).
- Thugee (the sacred assassin of the mother godess Kali in her death godess aspect, they are considered Holy men and use to chase and kill whoever had committed blasphemy against the godess).
- Yogi (is the ascetic renouncing to the world and mundane pleasures carrying out spiritual practices to achieve illumination).
Symbol ॐ (Om) in both tables is written in Sanskrit
using the Devanagari alphabet and is a spiritual symbol
used in Hinduism to refer to spirit and universe.
using the Devanagari alphabet and is a spiritual symbol
used in Hinduism to refer to spirit and universe.
And speaking of character types, there's no harm in consider how tough they can be in Arrows of Indra compared with other OSR games considering a setting based in an era of mythic and powerful heroes, so here you have the following table where you could see the comparison of characters of the fighter class within Aventuras en la Marca del Este, Lamentations of the Flame Princess and Adventurer Conqueror King System:
|AelMdE||LotFP||ACKS||Arrows of Indra|
|10||9d12 + 2*||9d8 +3*||9d8 + 2*||9d10 + 3*|
|11||9d12 + 4*||9d8+ 6*||9d8 + 4*||9d10 + 6*|
|12||9d12 + 6*||9d8+ 9*||9d8 + 6*||9d10 + 9*|
|13||9d12 + 8*||9d8 + 12*||9d8 + 8*||9d10 + 12*|
|14||9d12 + 10*||9d8 + 15*||9d8 + 10*||9d10 + 15*|
|15||9d12 + 12*||9d8 + 18*||-||9d10 + 18*|
|16||9d12 + 14*||9d8 + 21*||9d10 + 21*|
|17||9d12 + 16*||9d8 + 24*||-||9d10 + 24*|
|18||9d12 + 18*||9d8 + 27*||-||9d10 + 27*|
|19||9d12 + 20*||9d8+ 30*||-||9d10 + 30*|
|20||9d12 + 22*||9d8+ 36*||-||9d10 + 36*|
|21||-||9d8 + 39*||-||9d10 + 39*|
|22||-||9d8 + 42*||-||9d10 + 42*|
|* Modifiers by Constitution to Hit Points are ignored|
Let's supose we have a level 14 fighter with a Constitution between 9 and 12 (so with no bonus to Hit Points) and for "a chance of fate" he could have obtain the maximum score for Hit Dice we'll have the following:
- At Aventuras en la Marca del Este he would have 118 hit points.
- At Lamentations of the Flame Princess he would have 87 hit points.
- At Adventurer Conqueror King System he would have 82 hit points.
- At Arrows of Indra he would have 105 hit points.
Regarding alignment it's possible to find three: Holy (gods worshiper), Neutral and Unholy (demons worshiper), not to be confounded with the typical alignments (Good, Neutral and Chaotic), because a character of Holy alignment can carry out acts that seen from our actual perspective can be considered questionable.
Another characteristic that may be interesting to other referees and players deciding to test Arrows of Indra is the chance of play characters of the "third sex" or "kliba", i,e, openly homosexual characters or whose sex is changed during the sagas of the Hindu mithology, like passing from woamn to man for example as in teh case of Shikhandi (although it can also be considered the legend of the daughter of the king raised as a man to be a great warrior). As always each players group can include this or other themes whenever they feel comfortable, after all it's their game, isn't it?
The magic system of Arrows of Indra doesn't have a long list of arcane and clerical magic spells as commonly does OSR games, instead these are substituted by the class own powers according to its level (the case of Yogis and Virakshatriya) or the rituals by priests (allowing them, for instance, to sense other characters thoughts, communicate with them at a certain distance, heal them or purify characters and objects to liberate them of the effects of curses by gods and demons), mantras (vibration caused by the pronuntiation of syllables of power words like Om Namah Shivaya) and mudra (position of hands allowing to funnel magic power) of sidhi and finally powers coming from illumination and personal growth allowing sidhi and priests to have really estraordinary capabilities like Dispel Magical Effects, Bless/Curse, Open/Seal portals, Aura for Walking Over Water, Levitation or Enchant Weapons/Armor for citing a few,
Creatures present in the book of Arrows of Indra follow the typicla stats of OSR games (Hit Dice, Armor Class, Moral, Attacks, Treasure, etc.). In the bestiary it's possible to find usual animals of the Indian subcontinent like crocodiles, cobras, tigers and elephants and mythological creatures: Asura Demons, Garuda giant birds (which 4th level Virakshatriya warriors can mount), living dead like Preta or Vetala and Naga, half man half snake.
As all OSR games characters can acquire treasures decided by the referee using random tables (from class I to class XXI).
A fact to consider by players of Arrows of Indra is the existing tabu of society of Bharata regarding corpses, after one of the characters dies the Brahmin caste cannot touch the corpse or human blood willifully (if he does by accident he will have to purify himself as soon as possible) and after a couple of hours only members of the Dalit caste tasked with corpse remove can touch them, so the typical "let's loot the body" to share treasure and equipment carried by fallen buddies can be a problem (although players with characters of Unholy alignment perhaps aren't so scrupulous...).
Kingdoms of Baratha are polytheistic and wordhip the Hindu mythologic pantheon. Arrows of Indra, not being an extended book of theology (something that would be certainly dry), offers a brief summary of gods that could be worshiped by characters and which somewhat can intervene in their life and aventures and the associated religious practices.
Appendices give the necessary information for the referee and players to carry out adventures and campaignin Kingdoms of Bharata not limited only to explore dungeons and obtaining treasure, so its pssible to find data about matters like customs, economy and laws and have the chance of influencing the fate of the different kingdoms as happens in the Mahabharata.
To finish this review I recommend Arrows of Indra if you want to test a game that, although is taking us to known territories (exploration, characters created with classes with specific capabilities, etc.), offers us the chance to explore a quite new and exotic setting (if we aren't citizens of India or know Hindu culture) so it could be a grateful surprise.
The referee can also use the game contents and background of the book with other games or supplements as desired, for instance the Blue Box of Aventuras en la Marca del Este (which I reviewed in this post) for creating adventures in the country of Nirmala (a fantasy version of India) or the campaign setting of Qelong for Lamentations of the Flame Princess (which I reviewd in this other one) given the cutural background of Southeast Asia it's also influenced by India.
And talking about culture, although its not necessary to know culture of India to enjoy the game you may be interested to know more about it to plan your adventures, so one way to have it is read Wikipedia (and more specifically the portals devoted to India and Hinduism) and also the Google+ community devoted to the game and questions and answers at the author's blog and at theRPGSite.
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