Bukana will utilize all of the standard player Classes available to 5e settings. However, we will not be publishing any of the Sub-Classes from those core rules. Instead, we will crafting 40 new ones that are anchored in the cultures that can be found in the Sea of Skulls. We believe that we have finalized that Sub-Classes…
Heroes of the ancient ways, barbarians possess a deep bond to their ancestors and to their homelands. This connection to timeless, primal forces opens up a wellspring deep within them of animalistic rage. When they choose to tap into this primordial fury, a barbarian is driven to fantastic feats of physical prowess.
The Guided Path (Inapo)
When a great warrior rises amongst the barangay of the wilds, they often draw the attention of the anitus of their tribe. These ancestral guardians watch over those who follow the guided path. A barbarian who has attracted such a spirit can harness its power for spells and other supernatural effects. Ultimately, they allow their anitu to possess them during rages, becoming a juggernaut of man and spirit.
Path of the Headtaker (Kalinga)
For many of the Bukana tribes, their traditional ways of life are being eroded by the visitors that swarm their islands. Not so for those barbarians that walk the path of the headtaker. Whether they collect actual heads of their enemies or bind their souls to effigies, the Kalinga as they are called, practice the old rituals of vengeance that maintain their ancestral heritage and bring glory to their people.
Path of the Moon-Eaters (Laho)
There is no life without death. No joy without pain. There are barbarians who choose to become forces of destruction in the world. Many believe that in order for the mortal realm to thrive, balance must be maintained between civilization and the wilderness. Others just want to burn the world. For those that choose to emulate the fabled “moon-eater” epic beasts, this path leaves a wake of debris. In their presence, the intricate skeins of magic unravel and the best laid strategies fall to chaos.
All of the people of Bukana have a rich oral tradition that is handed down through the generations. Even now that most tribes have adopted written languages, much folk knowledge is passed on by storytellers, poets, and through ritual songs. These performers seamlessly blend their art with the story of their people. With the arrival of foreign cultures and religions, many colleges and libraries have been established in some urban centers, but most bards in the islands rely more on loose societies of like-minded artists to exchange stories and find mentors.
College of Fools (Panakawan)
It is common in the heroic tales of certain cultures in the Bukana islands to include servants, apprentices, or sidekicks for the main character. Often used for comedic relief and to make the hero seem even more adept, these panakawan are popular characters with audiences. It is this tradition that has led to the creation of the so-called “College of Fools,” the tongue-in-cheek title of a fellowship of jesters. Panakawans serve many roles, they are performers like most bards, but focus their tales on their chosen heroes and comrades thereby increasing their renown. In combat, they trick their opponents into underestimating them while providing advantages to their fellows.
Traveling storytellers have always been a part of every Bukanese human culture for millennia. Even as baybayin script was being learned through communion with the spirit world, the oral tradition was still the most common way to tell stories, pass on information, and entertain folk across the islands. The arrival of a wandering paratawag is cause for a barangay to gather, learn, and interact. These storytellers are masters of the spoken word and through it, have become adept at learning about and acclimating to the widely disparate cultures throughout Bukana.
The Silver Road (Manunukso)
The rarest of the bards are those that walk the enchanted road. These mesmerizing minstrels are somehow touched by the Feywild and are able to sway the hearts and minds of those who are enraptured by their songs. They either bear the lineage of one of the enchanted races or have in some other way been imbued with fae power. These enchanters can be found hypnotizing patrons of a tea house, manipulating bands of weak-minded bandits, or luring the unwary into their clutches.
Not all holy people of the isles use spirits to act as intermediaries with the gods. Some, particularly those of more organized religions, are chosen by their deity to act as their agent in the Middle-Realm. The katalonans often serve their barangay as babaylan, seeing to the needs of their clan. Each cleric is given access to a single aspect of the mortal realm over which their lord presides.
Agriculture Domain (Lubus)
Most barangays rely on the production of crops for their livelihoods. The priests that serve their communities as herbalists, protectors, and caretakers of the harvest choose this domain. Many gods that claim dominion over healing, life, nature, community, or protection offer this domain to their clerics.
Beauty Domain (Siyentipiko)
Bukana is a land of unsurpassed natural beauty. Unsurprisingly, its people are deeply inspired by the grandeur of their homeland and produce a wide variety of art. The connoisseurs of this domain often act as patrons to artists, if not artists themselves, and work to inspire greatness in others and their communities. The deities that hold sway over nature, art, and the perfection of the self can bestow the Beauty Domain upon their clerics.
Creation Domain (Magbubuhat)
The Middle-Realm is the product of the eternal struggle between the primordial forces of creation and destruction. Virtually any deity that resides in the Sky World has access to the creation domain. It’s adherents are crafters, protectors, and healers for their communities. Most importantly, they work endlessly to balance the destructive forces of the Under-Realm and its agents.
Destruction Domain (Taguba)
You tap into the primordial forces of destruction. Almost any god of the Under-Realm can bestow the force of this domain upon their followers. You are able to channel the fundamental power of entropy to lay waste to your enemies. While most native cultures believe in the necessity of balance in the world, that does little to assuage the fear that you inspire in the common folk.
Divination Domain (Pagalamat)
The skeins of fate are written upon the mortal world. There are untold means by which the inhabitants of Bukana attempt to read the will of the gods and ascertain what destiny holds for them. None, however, are as adept at deciphering the unknowable as those clerics that have been given the perceptions of this domain.
Glory Domain (Bayani)
For some, the only true way to glorify your god is through daring action and heroic feats in their name. You are absolutely convinced that one day you will be spoken about in stories for ages to come. Your patron deity must reap some benefit from your great deeds because they grant you magnificent powers so that you may show all their glory and greatness.
Malice Domain (Pantak)
There is little stigma placed on curses in Bukana. The concepts of balance, justice, and revenge are so ingrained in the cultures of the isles that placing maladies on those that have wronged you is a common occurrence. Those clerics that pray to the entities of the Under-Realm are often sought out by all manner of folk looking to right perceived wrongs. You specialize in all manner of hexes, necromancy, and powerful divinations.
Some shamans hold a deep appreciation for, and connection to, the untamed places of Bukana. Much as barbarians are the martial champions of the wilderness tribes, druids are their babaylan spiritual leaders. These priests hold the natural world in great esteem and harness its power. Druids council balance with the wilds and seek to protect both nature and those societies that live in harmony with it. Druids form secret alliances with fellows that share the same practices with themselves. These “circles” are widely scattered, but manage to communicate through traveling members and in annual festival moots.
The Circle of Mist (Pedtompan)
The largest of the hierarchies is the Unseen Circle. The mediums of this fellowship specialize in communing with the diwata nature spirits. These pedtompans bear many similarities with balian mediums and fulfill many of the same roles in both society and in an adventuring party. They frequently serve as babaylans for remote communities.
Circle of Nature’s Wrath (Ma-aram)
The tempestuous ma-aram of the Circle of Nature’s Wrath are conduits for the destructive forces of the Middle-Realm. As fickle as a rainstorm and as mighty as volcano, these druids can banish a drought to save a village’s crop one day and raze it with lightning and fire the next. Wilderness communities take great pains to court a ma-aram’s favor and allay their fury. This circle is, at best, an informal affair; aside from the occasional student-mentor relationship, members tend to have little peaceful contact with one another. Conflicts amongst the ma-aram are usually settled with duels that rain down destruction all around the combatants.
Circle of the Sisters (Kapatid)
Since their ascension to the heavens, the Sisters of the Sky have watched over the Middle-Realm. These druids focus on the protection of humanity and the natural beauty of Bukana. Their domain is that of the sky, moon, sun, and stars – the physical manifestations of the Sky-Realm in the world of mortals. As such, they grant powerful magic to those that aid them in their sacred duties.
While professional warriors are very common in Bukana, those that reach their potential as seasoned fighters are fewer and farther between. There are as many names for soldiers as there are languages in the islands, but in the common trade tongue, they are called “pejuang.” Depending on preference and the society from which they hail, fighters wield a dizzying array of weapons. Swords tend to be of the slashing variety such as the popular kapilan long sword and the kris. Bows, blowguns, and spears are popular ranged weapons amongst professional fighters. Armor varies, but shields and piecemeal protection is often worn due to the heat and humidity of much of the archipelago.
Tattoo traditions are strong in many of Bukana’s societies and folks of all walks of life, ages, genders, and castes can be found with extensive body decorations. Some cultures have mystical practitioners of an artform called “Batek.” Through a series of rituals and sacrifices, spirits are petitioned by a tattoo artist and their warrior subject. If the rites are performed properly and a spirit finds the subject worthy, it allows itself to be bound within the flesh of the fighter, raising them to the title of kamaranan – literally meaning “improved.” For as long as the warrior lives, its power can be tapped to perform any number of miraculous feats of combat prowess from wreathing a sword with magic flame to launching the kamaranan into death-defying acrobatic strikes. If the fighter has continued to live a glorious life and has honored the spirits, upon their death those entities will ferry their soul to the lands of the gods where they will join the ranks of the honored dead.
Warfare is not conducted in Bukana the way it often is elsewhere. Here, you will not see orderly ranks of hundreds of heavily-armored troops. Instead, small bands of skirmishers will engage in hit-and-run tactics as each side attempts to outmaneuver and bait their enemies. The paragons are the finest such combatants in the islands. They coordinate and train their allies to act as one, all while taking advantage of the skills of each individual. Whether conducting headhunting raids, repelling pirate boarding parties, or defending their barangay from marauding duwende, the bands led by these noble warriors are deadly indeed.
In some of the mythologies of Bukana, it is said that the greatest heroes and villains share a soul with a powerful spirit. These are the tonong. The so-called “twin-spirits” are accompanied by abyan companions with whom these fighters hold a sacred bond. As the warrior gains prowess and skill, so too does their soul-sibling. When they fight together, the twins complement one another flawlessly and are able to tap into each other’s energy to dramatic effect.
Contemplative and focused, monks encompass a wide range of ascetics who are able to channel their divine essence, or “ki,” in extraordinary ways. Prior to the arrival of certain foreign cultures, there was no known tradition of monks in Bukana. However, since their introduction, native people have been quick to incorporate many of the fundamentals of these new practices into their own martial arts. Still many of the monks found in the isles are practitioners of foreign disciplines.
Way of the Dervish (Kamariya)
First, by way of Zamatas merchants, then by the Church of Amethyst, this foreign discipline has made its way to Bukana. These monks are religious mendicants who have forsaken worldly possessions beyond the most basic necessities. Through a practice of repetitious physical exertion accompanied by continuous praying and singing, the dervishes are able to reach a transcendent state that allows them to harness the power of the gods. These monks are able to cast spells through their unique rituals which often incorporate dancing or yoga.
Way of the Predator (Maglilingu)
In most cultures, there are those who hunt other people. Some ascetic orders have made it their sworn duty to pursue other sentient folks, either for vengeance, justice, or profit. The thugee cults of Bhodan, the Amethyst Hounds, and some amongst the insular Hunters’ Guild are all practitioners of this path. Through the Way of the predator, a monk is able to stalk their prey and deliver deadly or debilitating blows.
Way of the Stick (Mangangali)
The most widespread martial art of Bukana is Kali which utilizes many weapons. In fact, its masters teach that any item or body part can become a weapon with proper training. Sticks, clubs, and staves are often used as they are readily available and can be improvised from everyday objects. Your ability to focus your ki through weapons is unparalleled even by other monks.
Warriors that have sworn binding oaths become the holy warriors known as paladins. These champions are utterly devoted to their divine missions. Duty, honor, and debt are all fundamental virtues of the Bukanese peoples. It is no surprise that many choose to dedicate themselves to a righteous path.
Oath of Paradise (Manlalaban)
Bukana is a paradise. Its beauty and wonder fills you with both joy and power. However, many foreign threats face this magnificent land. You have sworn to protect the archipelago and the independence of its people. You don’t necessarily hate outsiders or even their ways, but you will die to prevent them from compromising the diversity and freedom of Bukana. Paladins that have taken this oath can be found hunting down dangerous introduced beasts and thwarting foreign agents’ plots to conquer the islands.
Oath of Rebirth (Tagapagpalaya)
A common throughline of Bukanese morality is that each person is capable of forging their own destiny. While dedication to one’s people, home, gods, and spirits are important, never should it truly dictate a person’s path in life. The Oath of Rebirth is the penultimate expression of this belief. The vows taken by these paladins prohibit letting another control any other and guarantee that as you have the freedom to live on your own terms, so should that freedom be protected for others. Many folks that have been marginalized or oppressed seek this path, as do those who have made poor choices and now seek to make amends. The otherworldly power that they focus maintains free movement and inspires others around you.
Oath of Revenge (Paghiganti)
A popular oath amongst headhunting tribes and dwarves alike. The Oath of Revenge is an angry, dangerous path. A devotee to vengeance must not allow anyone or anything to stand in the way of claiming their rightful due. This is a particularly arduous mission for those of good heart, for rarely will they reach its end with their morality unblemished. Their seething focus allows them to locate the hated foe and their unrelenting anger is channeled into devastating strikes.
Warriors who make their homes outside “civilization” are known as rangers. Through the wilderness, these masters of both flora and fauna make their livelihoods. They are peerless in tracking, hunting, trapping, fishing, foraging, and countless other endeavors. Rangers possess a broader skill set than virtually any other of the martial professions.
Ghost Archer (Mamamana)
The most ancient people of Bukana possess the knowledge necessary to hunt using empowered ranged weapons. The ghost archer is able to temporarily bind minor spirits when forging or firing arrows. The process imbues each of the projectiles with supernatural abilities for a short period of time. Ghost archers often serve as protectors of the most remote wilds and those that make such places their home. It is they who are often called upon to guard against the marauding dead and angry engkanto as their bolts can strike even incorporeal menaces.
Bukana and the Sea of Skulls is a wild, untamed region. Despite its bustling cosmopolitan urban centers, much of the surrounding territory is uncharted and dangerous in the extreme. So it is that pathfinders are in much demand here. Explorers, guides, navigators, and treasure hunters all walk the trail of the pathfinder. These intrepid rangers are absolutely fearless and some of the most highly skilled wilderness adventurers known.
The wilds of Bukana are exceptionally dangerous; none understand this more than wardens. These rangers travel the many roads and seaways in order to protect those under their care. Some wardens are self-appointed guardians of the wild, while others operate in the employ of communities, temples, or trade guilds. They roam the wilderness between settlements looking for signs of trouble and dealing with it. Many operate as bounty hunters tracking down their quarry and bringing them in for justice… or at least for the coins.
The Sea of Skulls is a treacherous place. For those that are able to adapt and even exploit ever-changing conditions, great prosperity can be found. Civilization and its many laws offer a refuge for those willing to hide behind its walls. Rogues, however, are those quick-witted, intrepid souls that make their way in the fringes of that meager safety. Some have sought out the thrill, while others have been cast to the shadows by a cruel world. Rogues manage to thrive outside of the stifling confines of others’ rules by finely honing their particular set of skills.
Bukana is the gateway to the world. Already home to an incredible diversity of people, cultures, and religions, the myriad of travelers from far-off lands only adds to the bewildering multitude. Intermediaries flourish in this region as merchants, diplomats, and envoys. Able to navigate both the angry sea and a treacherous royal court with ease, an emissary combines survival skills with social prowess in order to maneuver any situation.
On the high seas, daring cunning is all that stands between you and the deep. Not always a true pirate, the swashbuckling magalos is the fearless master of the waves. These ship-borne scallywags can be found aboard many vessels both foreign and domestic as they try to pull fortune from the tight fist of fate. The southeastern portion of Bukana has always been a lawless place and the black waters surrounding the Serpent Isles have never known true civilization. Here and in any of the countless hidden coves and rough-and-tumble ports, the pirates hack and slash their way through a life of freedom.
Most diwata are known for their fickle natures, but those of the wind and waves are particularly capricious. In rare instances, these mercurial spirits will become enamoured by a mortal. The object of their infatuation is often either someone who embraces their freedom, or one who is in desperate need of said freedom. Once the elementals have chosen a mortal, that person is marked forever as kindred to flowing water – sibling of the typhoon. Until they draw their last breath, the bagyo will revel in their unbound spirit and seek greater and greater adventures and sensations. Now acting as a beacon to other diwata of air and water, these daredevils can conjure all manner of magics enabling them to fly and call down lightning.
Most mortal spellcasters are not, by their nature, magic creatures, but channel the power of other more powerful entities such as spirits, faeries, or gods. Sorcerers, however, each possess some form of innate ability to tap into the primordial reservoirs of the universe. With this power, you are able to bend both reality and lesser creatures to your will.
In ancient times, the gods of both the Under- and Sky-Realms took a much more direct hand in the lives of their followers. In fact, it was not uncommon for deities to take mortal consorts. Many of the epic tales throughout all Bukana cultures revolve around the exploits of the half-god heroes that such unions occasionally produced. Why all mortals in the isles can’t trace some distant lineage to one god or another is unknown, but perhaps it has to do with the propensity of such extraordinary folk to meet tragic ends. Regardless of what fate has in store for the god-born, until they rejoin their progenitors they write a magnificent adventure that is bound to be retold for generations to come.
Some mortals possess a simple, but powerful gift. They have the ability to pierce the veil that separates the spirits from the senses of humans. Through practice and ritual, these balians are able to hone this skill so that they can both perceive and communicate with these spirits. Those that master this art even gain the strength to enter the mysterious reflection that is the Ethereal Plane of mists. Once the medium establishes contact with the spirits, they are able to appease, bargain, and borrow the powers of the anitu for their own use. They often use these ancestral spirits to act as intermediaries to the gods themselves and gain their favor.
Members of the enchanted races such as elves and dwarves, are spirits made manifest. As such, they have an inherently magical nature. Those of these people that can intermingle their lineage with humans or other mortals, pass down this power to their descendants. Even some folk who do not possess fae blood may gain a similar connection from having been exposed to intense fae magics. Dalagangans are able to harness impulsive, often unstable, energies to conjure illusions and bedevil minds.
Some mortals are not content with their lots in life. For those seeking power, there are many otherworldly entities ready to oblige… for a cost. If a person is willing to bind their soul to such a patron and act as their catspaw in the mortal world, untold magical potential can be achieved. Although many desperate people in Bukana seek out barangans to harm their enemies (or to protect themselves against such magics), the warlocks are rarely loved, but always feared.
The Adversary (Mamamarang)
Death, disease, and corruption are integral parts of the earthly world. The gods of the Under-Realm have bestowed three powerful mortals to see to it that these forces continue to test the souls of Bukana so that they may drag those found unworthy into their infernal domain. The mamamarang have been gifted by one of these mortal servants, the Adversary, with powerful spirit familiars that they use to curse their enemies. These debased diwata often take the form of arachnids, centipedes, snakes, carrion birds, and swarms of insects.
Dreams of Madness (Baliw)
When mortals sleep, their souls enter the land of dreams. This is thought to be related to the Unseen Realm of the engkanto, so is both part and reflection of the Middle-Realm. However, there are those whose slumbering minds fall through cracks in the dream world and enter a place of madness and terror. In that nightmare tempest, a voice is heard and a question is asked. None can seem to recall the exact nature of the request, but they know that their unconscious mind answered “yes.” As the freshly anointed warlock comes to realize the new powers they have gained access to, they slip further and further into lunacy. As their gifts grow, they fall into maniacal fits of strength and witness prophetic visions. Now every morning they awake screaming.
Lord Aswang (Yanggaw)
The Creator of Monsters is another of the mortal entities that acts as an agent of the Under-Realm gods. They tempt lesser mortals to give up their “humanity” in order to gain awesome… and terrible powers. Upon accepting their gifts, you have begun your descent into becoming a creature of folktales and myth. If you cannot, or will not, stop accepting these powers, you will one day become a True Aswang and your monstrous transformation will be complete.
There are ways of harnessing magic that are completely alien to the natives of Bukana. Amongst those brought to their shores by foreign practitioners, the methods of the sihirbaz are most incongruous with their own. The various shamanistic traditions beseech spirits to perform favors to work as envoys to more powerful deities. However, the spells of the wizards act as whips and chains to force spirits into a desired action. Some use spirits as conduits through which they directly tap the divine energies of the godly realms. They are seen as untrustworthy and cruel by indigenous casters and are called “mananakop:” invaders. They often form secret cabals to share mysteries and for mutual protection.
The world is laced with a series of energy conduits that form a latticework of primal power. Many druids are aware of this and seek to protect it from those power-mad fools that would steal the mana that surges within. You are one of those fools. Bukana is virtually pulsating with power and you have studied ways to tap into it. If you aren’t careful, you drain life energy from nearby too, but you’re careful… most of the time. Regardless, this place has so much mana that you don’t see why you can’t have some, there’s plenty for everyone.
Known as fangshi in Yudiguo society, these wizards practice an eclectic array of mystical arts. They are usually in the employ of some affluent individual or group and are common in court settings as experts and agents. They use systematic measurements and established protocols to study what they call the “Occult Sciences.” As such, they commonly utilize such practices as alchemy and ceromancy divination on the behalf of their patrons. Some mages of other traditions consider Occultists to be little more than hacks and charlatans, but few can argue with a true fangshi’s effectiveness.
Some wizards believe that when the universe was created, the gods left behind evidence of their power. Through studying natural phenomena, ancient texts, architecture, and the movement of the celestial bodies, the magi believe that they can siphon off the divine energies that make up all of existence. This tradition is particularly prevalent within the Pahli-Cha religion. It is that church’s fundamental belief that all of creation, and their path in it, is a puzzle to be deciphered and mastered.