Lazy Podcast

Bukana Geography Umm Notebook

I short overview of Bukana and the Sea of Skulls.

This is the first episode of my verbal notebook. Since I spend 2 hours a day driving, I routinely records notes to myself. This first episode isn’t exactly that, since I recorded it specifically to share, but the general idea is the same. This is a quick overview of the general geography of Bukana and the Sea of Skulls. Consider this a test run for making and sharing podcasts. Please let us know of any problems since this is very much a trial.

The Future of SGG Patronage is here.

Hello, valued existing and potential patrons due to your generous contributions, we have been able to invest in the ability to seemlessly integrate our patron levels with out brand new website. What that means is that we can leave the boring, limited formatting of Patreon posts behind us. We have begun to write articles for secretgardengames.com and you expect new content every weekday moving forward. The majority of these posts will begin locked to certain patron levels, but will unlock to the public eventually. This way I can reward you all with a preview. Some posts, particularly podcasts and similar media, will remain locked to higher levels. For this first week, I am not locking or previewing any posts (except for the “Umm Notebook Lazy Podcast”) as we get some content on the site. Next week’s posts will be visible only to patrons for 1 week. After that, two weeks will be the norm. After building up a backlog of content for you all, our goal will be to launch a merch store. Again, this will be integrated with Patreon for added benefits. In the meantime, the tentative weekly schedule for content will be as follows:

Mondays: Artwork

Tuesdays: Setting

Wednesdays: Podcast

Thursdays: Fiction

Fridays: Game Content

Go check out secretgardengames.com for the first three articles, with Friday’s already posted as it is an enhancement of a previous Patreon article.

World of Bukana: The Planes

Much of what the ancient inhabitants of the Philippine islands once believed has been lost to time. What little we do know comes largely from Spanish missionaries as they began their colonization of the archipelago. Our understanding of their beliefs suggests a concept of a layered series of planes. While the exact nature of these realms varied from culture to culture, they shared some commonality. Existence was broken up into the Sky World, the Middle World, and the Underworld. Each of these were often further divided. The Sky World and Underworld were home to powerful spirits, many of these entities would later be called “gods” by some. The Middle World is the home to mortals. Existing parallel to the realm of humans was a mirrored spirit world inhabited by a multitude of creatures.

For those of you who are familiar with other Fifth Edition (5e) settings, you will recognize much of the cosmology of Bukana. Here, we have three main planes of reality present in Filipinx myth. The “Middle-Realm” consists of the Material Plane as well as the Feywild. The former is the physical reality of mortals that we all know and love; the latter is a thin skin, or maybe a series of blisters, that acts as a border between the world of mortals and beyond. The Feywild has many names in Bukana, but for the sake of ease, we’ll use its most widespread moniker: The Unseen Realm. This border “sub-plane” is particularly important in Bukana as compared to the rest of the Middle-Realm. In the archipelago, the veil between humanity and the fae is unusually thin and riddled with holes. All manner of enchanted fae creatures dwell in this fantastic land and frequently cross over to the Material Plane to explore and cause trouble for mortals. These so-called “engkanto” are the subject of many tales and superstitions among the people of the islands. In fact, several of the ancestries of Bukana are said to be engkanto that have taken mortal form. The elves, dwarves, gnomes, merfolk and many others show a fundamental affinity to the Unseen Realm and many of their domains extend into the Feywild.

The Elemental Planes still exist in our multiverse, but they are less accessible than in other settings. Despite this, tales do tell of both heroes and powerful spirits that have found treacherous paths to these tumultuous planes. Their presence is most evident in that where they border the Ethereal Plane, nature spirits called diwata are spawned. Speaking of the Ethereal, this is a land of perpetual mists. It connects all of the planes and, just like in other 5e worlds, it mirrors that realm. This is the spirit world of Filipinx legend. It is this place, that diwata, ghosts, and ancestral spirits mingle and can be contacted by the many mediums of Bukana. This is also the conduit that mortal souls take to reach their final reward or reenter the cycle of life and rebirth as they attempt to find the enlightenment that they need to be received by their deities.

The Outer Planes of Bukana are divided into the Sky-Realm and the Under-Realm of myth. While the various cultures dispute the exact number of planes composing each, they all agree that they are layered. The Sky-Realm is home to celestial creatures and Lawful gods. The “lowest” of these planes can be seen in the Middle-Realm as the highest clouds, moon, sun, and stars. The “highest” planes are reserved for the most powerful of the gods of order. The Under-Realm, conversely, is the domain of the infernal hordes of Chaos. The powerful typhoons, tsunamis, and volcanic eruptions of the islands are how the destructive forces of the lower realms are most felt in the mortal world. The deities (or gods if you prefer) of both the Sky- and Under-Realms form themselves into courts. It is not uncommon for an entity to move from one court to another, or to attend multiple. Some even do so between celestial and infernal planes. Look forward to one account that may just explain why that could be in a forthcoming piece of fiction.

Before we close out this article, we will talk about the Astral Plane. Little is known about this realm except that it appears to be a place of pure thought, idea, and emotion. While it is utilized by the most enlightened of Monks to explore themselves and their connection to everything, it is poorly understood. There have been accounts of some magic users having spent too much time in this unquantifiable void and failing to return to their bodies or come back… different. Most simply use it to move about or to aid in divination through the use of relatively simple spells.

Bukana Illustrated: The art of asher

When I decided that the first game that I would develop for Secret Garden Games would be a roleplaying game inspired by non-European mythologies, I knew that I had my work cut out for me. You see? As far as I know, I am exclusively of European descent. Obviously, I couldn’t very well build a rich and authentic setting by reading Wikipedia and just appropriating someone else’s culture. Even if I could that certainly didn’t mean that I would. Therefore, before taking even my first note for the project, I committed our efforts to finding people of the cultures from which I took inspiration and giving them the space to flesh out our world.

So I took to artist social sites and looked for folks from the Philippines and Indonesia to start forming the vision for Bukana. It was with the utmost of unbelievable luck that I managed to find Ash Ben on Artstation. Hailing from the Central Visayas region of the Philippines, I found his artwork to be a perfect fit for the tone of the setting. Here are just a couple of the pieces that convinced me that he would be a great fit for the project:

As you can see, he is incredibly talented and I reached out to him immediately. If finding Ash was lucky, his response was even more so. He loved our ideas and was excited to work on the project!

So I had to come up with the very first illustration for our new world. I wanted it to show the setting the way that players would see: as an adventurous scene of heroes. I knew that some people who are familiar only with the Eurocentric fantasy games may struggle to imagine what their characters and adventures would look like in a place like Bukana. So we had to make this one really count. I settled on the following art direction; note that I used the real world cultures so that he could have a point of reference:

Ash,  I need some action scenes to show players what they can expect their adventures will look like when they play. So here’s what I’d like.

SIDE VIEW of two adventurers being chased over an old ROPE BRIDGE by a swarm of small creatures. The characters are turning behind them to fire off shots, one with a bow the other with magic blasts.

Adventurer 1: Visayan-like male archer. TATTOOS. Pouches and adventuring gear like a coil of rope and bolo knife.

Adventurer
2: Female Ati-like SORCERER (Barang) but not evil. Some headdress and other ORNAMENTATION. But not too much. Many Pouches and anting-anting TALISMANS

Upon further discussion, we decided on duwende as the antagonists. For those unfamiliar with them, they are a subterranean creature from Filipinx myth that resemble gnomes or goblins. In Bukana, they are a bloodline (‘sub-race’) of gnomes that maintain the variable appearance that the different cultures of the Philippines have ascribed to them (you basically build your own with traits). I suggested that this particular warren was nocturnal and mentioned tarsiers as a point of reference. Ash sent me these images:

We loved them all! For this piece, we went with the darker, yellow-eyed buddy second from the left. But we do hope to use the others in future illustrations. With the mound gnomes finished, we moved ahead with the protagonists of our story.

Lo and behold: our heroes! Ash then roughly sketched out the scene for composition.

With only the slightest of tweaks, Ash then worked on character positioning using 3D software. I found this step to be particularly fascinating because I was totally unfamiliar with this technique, but it’s genius… and bizarre-looking.

Then, when all was said and done, we had our finished piece. The very first look at Bukana was an unqualified success! Our intrepid adventurers have yet to be named, but expect to see more of our archer and sorcerer!

Check out the Art of Asher on Artstation.

Rob Martin
Owner & Head Designer
Secret Garden Games

Introducing ‘SRD Apocrypha’

Our Bukana roleplaying setting is being published using the Open Game License (see below) provided by Wizards of the Coast, makers of the Dungeons & Dragons RPG. This allows us to use the core rules of Fifth Edition (5e) without using any of their settings or brands. Under the license, we are allowed to use those rules that they provide in the System Reference Document. In there are all of the classic “Races” and Classes that players of 5e are all too familiar with. Many of those rules will be reprinted in our core rulebooks after we launch our Kickstarter in 2021. Our rulebooks will have A LOT of new content including forty (yes, 40!) new sub-classes, as well as new rules & modifications, we want to minimize the amount of redundant information between the 5e core and our own rules. However, we also hope that Bukana will bring in new players and those not familiar with the 5e rules, so we do want to provide those folks with the player options that won’t be in our core book, but are relevant to our setting.
I’m pleased to introduce you all to the first of a series of articles that will give you all the rules for player character options that will not be included in our forthcoming Bukana Player’s Book. You will find sub-classes for 11 of the 12 classes, as well as a Background, new Ancestries & Bloodlines (what 5e calls Races & Sub-races). Each of these articles will not only reprint the basic mechanics for the option, but add illustrations, a character, new feats, as well as an introduction that gives you all an idea of where these characters fit into our world.

artwork: endless studios, Indonesia

Buuk, Devotee of the Seventh Host

Buuk came from a well-respected family in one of the southern sultanates. Their clan had many enemies and one day a young Buuk watched in horror as their father was beset by assassins. If not for the timely intervention of a warrior of the Amethyst Church, their father would have surely perished. Already very pious, Buuk swore to join the church so that they could help protect the innocent.
Upon the day that Buuk swore their Oath of Devotion to their order, their beloved, Novia, was possessed through dark magic. She transformed and slew the presiding cleric before fleeing into the wilderness. Now, the paladin, having been given leave by the Church, must track down their love and save her from a fate worse than death and bring the fiend responsible to justice.

Paladin Sacred Oath:

Oath of Devotion (Tagatanggol)

Paladins of devotion are the paragons of order and goodness. They are the stalwart protectors of communities, churches, and people. They have sworn to behave in an upright and just manner and to hold the line against evil. These paladins are often devoted to ideals rather than specific gods, but may venerate particularly virtuous divinities. These often join certain military orders within their church or community. Regardless of the object of their devotion, these warriors are able to channel the energies of the Skyworld into minor battlefield miracles such as healing and smiting the vile foes of the righteous.
Amongst natives of Bukana, the Oath of Devotion is not particularly common. The concept of a divine “good” versus an infernal “evil” is not an indigenous one. Bukanese cultures tend to frame struggles in very different terms. However, the idea of the conflict between good and evil as an underpinning of morality has found fertile ground in the lawful Amethyst Church; most Bukanese that take this oath are of this faith. These paladins, by and large, operate as defenders for the church and do not seek glory or adventure, so few take up such a life. A number of other foreign paladins swear this oath as well. It is quite popular amongst Ryami refugees, particularly those that seek to retake their nation from the Obsidian Emperor and its oni legions. It is not uncommon amongst paladins of the Bhodani and Zamatasians that directly oppose the rakshasa and efaarit, respectively.

Tenets of Devotion 
Though the exact words and strictures of the Oath of Devotion vary, paladins of this oath share these tenets. 
Honesty. Don’t lie or cheat. Let your word be your promise.
Courage. Never fear to act, though caution is wise. 
Compassion. Aid others, protect the weak, and punish those who threaten them. Show mercy to your foes, but temper it with wisdom. 
Honor. Treat others with fairness, and let your honorable deeds be an example to them. Do as much good as possible while causing the least amount of harm. 
Duty. Be responsible for your actions and their consequences, protect those entrusted to your care, and obey those who have just authority over you. 

Oath Spells 
You gain oath spells at the paladin levels listed. 

Oath of Devotion Spells 

Paladin LevelSpells
3rdprotection from chaos & order*, sanctuary
5thlesser restoration, zone of truth
9thbeacon of hope, dispel magic
13thfreedom of movement, guardian of faith
17thcommunion*, flame strike 

Channel Divinity 
When you take this oath at 3rd level, you gain the following two Channel Divinity options. 
Sacred Weapon. As an action, you can imbue one weapon that you are holding with positive energy, using your Channel Divinity. For 1 minute, you add your Charisma modifier to attack rolls made with that weapon (with a minimum bonus of +1). The weapon also emits bright light in a 20-foot radius and dim light 20 feet beyond that. If the weapon is not already magical, it becomes magical for the duration. 
You can end this effect on your turn as part of any other action. If you are no longer holding or carrying this weapon, or if you fall unconscious, this effect ends. 
Turn the Unholy. As an action, you present your holy symbol and speak a prayer censuring fiends and undead, using your Channel Divinity. Each fiend or undead that can see or hear you within 30 feet of you must make a Wisdom saving throw. If the creature fails its saving throw, it is turned for 1 minute or until it takes damage.
A turned creature must spend its turns trying to move as far away from you as it can, and it can’t willingly move to a space within 30 feet of you. It also can’t take reactions. For its action, it can use only the Dash action or try to escape from an effect that prevents it from moving. If there’s nowhere to move, the creature can use the Dodge action. 

Aura of Devotion 
Starting at 7th level, you and friendly creatures within 10 feet of you can’t be charmed while you are conscious. 
At 18th level, the range of this aura increases to 30 feet. 

Purity of Spirit 
Beginning at 15th level, you are always under the effects of a protection from evil and good spell. 

Holy Nimbus 
At 20th level, as an action, you can emanate an aura of sunlight. For 1 minute, bright light shines from you in a 30-foot radius, and dim light shines 30 feet beyond that. 
Whenever an enemy creature starts its turn in the bright light, the creature takes 10 radiant damage. 
In addition, for the duration, you have advantage on saving throws against spells cast by fiends or undead. 
Once you use this feature, you can’t use it again until you finish a long rest. 

Breaking Your Oath 

A paladin tries to hold to the highest standards of conduct, but even the most virtuous paladin is fallible. Sometimes the right path proves too demanding, sometimes a situation calls for the lesser of two evils, and sometimes the heat of emotion causes a paladin to transgress his or her oath. 

A paladin who has broken a vow typically seeks absolution from a cleric who shares his or her faith or from another paladin of the same order. The paladin might spend an all night vigil in prayer as a sign of penitence, or undertake a fast or similar act of self-denial. After a rite of confession and forgiveness, the paladin starts fresh. 

If a paladin willfully violates his or her oath and shows no sign of repentance, the consequences can be more serious. At the GM’s discretion, an impenitent paladin might be forced to abandon this class and adopt another.

Bonus Proficiencies 

When you join the College of Lore at 3rd level, you gain proficiency with three skills of your choice. 

Cutting Words 

Also at 3rd level, you learn how to use your wit to distract, confuse, and otherwise sap the confidence and competence of others. When a creature that you can see within 60 feet of you makes an attack roll, an ability check, or a damage roll, you can use your reaction to expend one of your uses of Bardic Inspiration, rolling a Bardic Inspiration die and subtracting the number rolled from the creature’s roll. You can choose to use this feature after the creature makes its roll, but before the GM determines whether the attack roll or ability check succeeds or fails, or before the creature deals its damage. The creature is immune if it can’t hear you or if it’s immune to being charmed. 

Additional Magical Secrets 

At 6th level, you learn two spells of your choice from any class. A spell you choose must be of a level you can cast, as shown on the Bard table, or a cantrip. The chosen spells count as bard spells for you but don’t count against the number of bard spells you know.

Peerless Skill 

Starting at 14th level, when you make an ability check, you can expend one use of Bardic Inspiration. Roll a Bardic Inspiration die and add the number rolled to your ability check. You can choose to do so after you roll the die for the ability check, but before the GM tells you whether you succeed or fail.

New Feat
Our setting will include rules for wearing armor in hot and humid conditions as well as its effects on swimming, etc.

Armored Comfort
Prerequisite: Paladin Oath of Devotion, Constitution 13 or higher

Your Constitution score increases by +1 to a maximum of 20.

Your faith protects you from the debilitating effects of armor in the heat and humidity. Combined with rigorous training, you are able to overcome some of the drawbacks of wearing armor. 
 You do not suffer any exhaustion for wearing armor in hot and humid conditions. You gain additional benefits based on the armor you are wearing:

Light Armor: Treated as Unarmored for purposes of swimming and drowning. No light armor causes disadvantage on your stealth checks.
Medium Armor: Treated as light armor for purposes of swimming and drowning. You add your Dexterity modifier, to a maximum of +3, to the base number from your armor type to determine your Armor Class.
Heavy Armor: Treated as medium armor for purposes of swimming and drowning. you add your Dexterity modifier, to a maximum of +1, to the base number from your armor type to determine your Armor Class.

Bonus Proficiencies 

When you join the College of Lore at 3rd level, you gain proficiency with three skills of your choice. 

Cutting Words 

Also at 3rd level, you learn how to use your wit to distract, confuse, and otherwise sap the confidence and competence of others. When a creature that you can see within 60 feet of you makes an attack roll, an ability check, or a damage roll, you can use your reaction to expend one of your uses of Bardic Inspiration, rolling a Bardic Inspiration die and subtracting the number rolled from the creature’s roll. You can choose to use this feature after the creature makes its roll, but before the GM determines whether the attack roll or ability check succeeds or fails, or before the creature deals its damage. The creature is immune if it can’t hear you or if it’s immune to being charmed. 

Additional Magical Secrets 

At 6th level, you learn two spells of your choice from any class. A spell you choose must be of a level you can cast, as shown on the Bard table, or a cantrip. The chosen spells count as bard spells for you but don’t count against the number of bard spells you know.

Peerless Skill 

Starting at 14th level, when you make an ability check, you can expend one use of Bardic Inspiration. Roll a Bardic Inspiration die and add the number rolled to your ability check. You can choose to do so after you roll the die for the ability check, but before the GM tells you whether you succeed or fail.

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