James Wyatt, a game designer here at Wizards of the Coast, was the mind behind the award-winningOriental Adventures. In addition to the exotic world of the Orient that most westerners think of (Japanese, Chinese, and Korean), James has created a "variant" world that takes Oriental Adventures and moves it just a little bit farther west. This is the land of Mahasarpa (see the Mahasarpa web enhancement), which is a place with a distinctly Indian and Southeast Asia flavor to it.
Every Thursday, James runs a small group of us through this weird and wonderful world. Instead of being clerics, psions, rogues, and samurai, we are brahmins, yogis, dhukas, and kshatriya. James has crafted a highly detailed and unique world that feels light-years away from any game I've done before. We have to cross through steaming jungles and sun-baked plains filled with tigers, elephants, and snakes (lots and lots of snakes). The abandoned shrines and buildings that we find have more in common with Angkor Wat than some keep on the Rhine. The gods, spirits, and ancestors are plentiful and omens, riddles, and prophecies are unavoidable.
At the moment, our gaming group consists of Johnny Wilson, playing Feroz the Brahmin (shaman), designer Mike Selinker playing Bharat the kshatriya (samurai), designer Dave Noonan the yogi (psion) Keoni, Amy Wyatt (James' wife) plays the devapala (sohei) Bahani, and editor Gwendolyn Kestrel, playing a shadowy dhuka (rogue) simply called "the Reverend Mother." Johnny is best known for his extensive use of ancestral vengeance, which is evidenced by his impressive use of curses and character assessments of the opponent. Mike's character has been killed and resurrected only three times, and Dave's character is best known for doing everything solely through "the power of his mind". All in all, it's been a great display of both nonstop action and roleplaying.
Our primary mission has been cleaning out an ancient temple that has fallen into the hands of a variety of bad-guys -- most notably the yuan-ti. I began playing with a character known as Doolaram, a tubby rogue almost as round as he was tall. Doolaram was a fun personality, but due to my misunderstanding of some rules specific to Oriental Adventures, he was a bit clunky to play. Wanting to get a bit more "aggressive" during my lunchtime game, I decided to make a new character. Samakar is a monk, or in the land of Mahasarpa, a muni. Covering his face to hide his shame for his family, he kicks and punches his way through most problems and seems utterly baffled by the actions of his companions.
I started playing Samakar as a replacement for Doolaram. I rationalized that Samakar was the cousin of Doolaram and had spent most of his youth keeping him (unsuccessfully) out of trouble. Samakar grew up in the city of Vriscika, a city that James describes as follows:
"The kingdom of Vriscika is nearly as decadent as Mahasarpa itself, and it is riddled with crime, espionage, and drugs. Though it is the smallest of the Seven Kingdoms, barely qualifying as a large city even counting all the farms and estates that lie outside the city proper, it has all the greasy sophistication of the largest metropolis."
From an early age, Samakar turned his back on the decadence and excess of Vriscika. He was taken in by a temple of muni that saw both talent and strength of character in the brooding young man. While he considers himself outside the caste system that defines the society, he does his best to at least acknowledge its traditions and laws. Samakar takes a dim view toward those that are destructive and excessive.
I started playing Samakar at 10th level, so here's an idea on what Samakar might have looked like at 6th level:
Progressing one level so far and rapidly approaching 12th, I'm having an absolute blast playing Samakar. His most notable item is the +1 siangham of flying, which he uses to cruise around the battlefield like the heroes of wuxia movies. After gulping down a potion of flaming fists and striking with his ring of shocking blows (both fromSword and Fist), Samakar's unarmed strikes are a sight to behold.
In addition to several yuan-ti, the party has encountered shapeshifting ninjas (thugee), dire tigers, ghosts, and all manner of malevolent spirits. Recently, the party cleared out a bebelith that sat in a river of blood deep in the bowels of Mahasarpa. For some inexplicable reason, the rest of the party was enticed to actually drink from the river and now they all firmly believe that this river could be an "excellent source of healing." Needless to say, Samakar was not convinced and refused to drink from the river of blood. He continues to keep a wary eye on his fellow adventurers . . .
In addition, the party was told a prophecy by a demon, which seems to indicate that a great, slumbering evil is about to awaken and bring destruction to the world. However, like most prophecies, it's unclear whether the "great evil" will occur in the next 3,000 years or tomorrow. Knowing the twisted mind of James, it will be next Thursday!
Because we have an ongoing campaign, everything that I have listed for Samakar at 16th level is just guesswork. Unlike most characters, he disdains most magic items beyond those he already possesses. More than a few times I've given my fair share of items to the rest of the party to do with as they will. Now that Samakar is immune to poison, I breathe a sigh of relief every time the party encounters yet another batch of venomous spiders, snakes, demons, or other beasts.
Although James has suggested that we pursue the various prestige classes available to us, I'm enjoying playing a "pure" monk just to see how far he will go. We've only explored a tiny fraction of this strange and exotic land and I'm sure that James has many other surprises in store.
About the Author
Eric Cagle works at Wizards of the Coast in various departments, including the Organized Play department and the Roleplaying R&D department. In addition to numerous web articles, he has written several articles for Dragon Magazine, contributed to two Star Wars roleplaying game products, and the Arms and EquipmentGuide for D&D. There isn't a lunch hour that goes by that he isn't writing for, playing, or thinking about a game.