posted by Bedlamdan Original SA post


RPGPundit's Arrows of Indra has finally moved onto the scene, not so much with a bang as with a whimper. Unlike Pundit's other recent work, Lords of Olympus, there's been next to no discussion of the game outside of Pundit's website, with a couple of one or two page threads about it on forums like, Circvs Maximvs, and ENWorld. This isn't actually all that odd, to be honest, as the game is exactly what it bills itself as: Old School D&D with a thin Indian veneer, as opposed to a thin European one. It's inoffensive, and doesn't really bastardize Indian culture any further than The Legend of the Five Rings bastardizes Japan, which is to say it's irritating if you were expecting an accurate depiction of a culture but fine if you want to play an elfgame on a weekend.

I'd like to stress a few things before I start the review. The first is that yes, the author is a shitheel, and prides himself on this fact. And, I'd much rather this review be about his game, rather than about his personality. The second is that I'm going to be fairly critical with his treatment of Indian myth, culture, and folklore. This is not because I'm offended by his take on Indian culture: cultural myths and beliefs have been re-appropriated and modified to the point where they amount to a shared body of fanfiction across human history. What I take issue with is how he shifts folklore to fit D&Disms, rather than adapt D&Disms to folklore. You'll see what I mean as we go on. And third, this review gives me an excuse to sperg about the stories I heard when I was small.

Enjoy it everyone because this is as good as both the art and this book will get. It's all downhill from here. I think the line "It's the same heroic adventuring you know and love, but with a new and exciting environment" is particularly irksome because god forbid fans of old school games be exposed to too much change. The idea that changes from OD&D must be cosmetic at best lest the game lose all appeal says more about the author than the oldschool gamers he's trying to appeal to.

We then proceed to the introduction.

Arrows of Indra posted:

What you are reading presently is the Arrows of Indra role-playing game , an old-school RPG inspired by the classic and original Role-Playing Game, and set in a world inspired by Epic Indian mythology, particularly the Mahabharata (an Epic Indian saga about heroes and gods, and a devastating war; India’s literary masterpiece equivalent to Europe’s Arthurian legends or China’s Romance of the Three Kingdoms).

More or less, the baseline setting of Arrows of Indra is the Mahabharata, which along with the Ramayana are two extremely influential works of Indian literature. Hindu or not, in India you'll have at least seen one adaptation of both stories. My first exposure to the Mahabarata came from a low budget serial that was conveniently subtitled for whitewashed little me. Both myths are very, very old, and were put into paper around fifth century BCE. To summarize, very briefly, the Mahabarata is about a feud between two branches of a clan over the control of the Kingdom of Hastinapur, the Kauravas and the Pandavas. I'll elaborate a bit more further on, but to be honest the backdrop of the Mahabarata is little more than window dressing for this game.

That's not even touching upon why he never refers to Dungeons & Dragons by name when describing "the classic and original Role-Playing Game." I know, from prior experience with the hobby, what he means, but someone entirely new to this would be scratching his head. But that's fine, RPGPundit doesn't want to appeal to people who are new to this sort of thing.

Arrows of Indra posted:

I am going to assume that the vast majority of those reading this book are already at least marginally familiar with the concept of an RPG, and indeed with the classic RPG terminology that you will find in this game; things like Hit Points, Saving Throws, levels, classes, skills, Armor Class, and other such things. I will not waste precious space in what would amount to filler in the form of a “what is role-playing” or “definition of terms” section. If by some chance you have come across this game and don’t have the slightest idea how to play an RPG, or are not familiar with the classic and most popular RPG in the world and the terminology it created, I would recommend that you look it up online. In fact, make your way to my forum, theRPGsite ( ) and I will be glad to explain it to you personally.

This is the second paragraph in the entire book and I am annoyed . He's made it eminently clear who this rpg is for: it's for people who were fans of Old-School D&D who want to try an Indian setting, and not fans of Indian Settings who want to try Old-School D&D. I don't understand why he chooses to exclude the latter, or why accommodating newcomers to the hobby is so difficult for him. The only people who could use this book are fans of old-school D&D, and it's become somewhat clearer for me as to why very few people are talking about this game. You'd think that he'd want to bring in more gamers who'd want to play the game he likes.

Nowhere are these terms defined. I'm still not sure whether or not his game uses ascending or descending AC, I don't know which edition he's putting on a pedestal here because I joined the hobby way after TSR died! God damn it, when most new gamers think classic and original D&D they think of 3rd Edition. He thus leaves anyone who might be interested in using his game as a gateway into the hobby in the dust, with only a condescending plug for his website as consolation.

Arrows of Indra posted:

It is my hope that you will find this game, as my own players did, both immediately recognizable as classic Old School adventuring, and at the same time refreshingly exotic without being unapproachable. May the setting and its details serve to provide an exciting and novel atmosphere to your classic play; use of it what works for you.

What it implies of course, is that if it weren't Old School, it would be unapproachable. I can't help but feel Pundit is projecting more than he ought to be upon his potential audience. Even odder is his decision to marry the Mahabarata with Old-School D&D. The Mahabarata is a story that revolves around talented heroes who range from incarnated deities to human beings that are demigods in terms of excellence. Old-School D&D focuses on a careful, measured approach where mistakes are often lethal, and you're a nobody clawing your way to greatness or death (more likely the latter). I can't dispute the fact that he likes both things, I can't criticize his decision to combine two things that he likes, but I can say that there is a serious disconnect between what is expected versus what is delivered. It would be like making an rpg based on the Illiad, but the players are definitely not Achilles, certainly not Ajax or Hector, hell they're not even fucking Paris . They're the Trojans being slaughtered when the wooden horse pops open. I certainly believe that it's possible to run an old-school adventure in an Indian setting, but his decision to choose the Mahabarata as its specific backdrop is baffling. There is a world of difference between D&D adventurers in Mythic Greece versus D&D adventurers in the middle of the Trojan War.

Arrows of Indra posted:

A Note on Religion
While this game makes use of elements of Indian mythology, including the names and descriptions of Vedic or Hindu deities, the material in this book should in no way be interpreted as making authoritative or accurate statements or descriptions of either classical Vedic religion or the modern religion of Hinduism that is its distant descendent. This game does not intend in any way to educate its readers or players on the subject of authentic Indian religion, nor is it meant to make any kind of negative (or for that matter, positive) statement on any religion. The designers and publishers of this game do not advocate any caste system or social ranking in any way, and acknowledge the equality of all regardless of circumstance.

This, at least, is a nice sentiment. I wish he added A Note on Culture , and A Note on Game Design along with it.

Next Time: Making Characters

Character Creation, Castes, & Races

posted by Bedlamdan Original SA post

Part 2: Character Creation, Castes, and Races

With some help, I was able to piece together the particular edition of D&D RPGPundit was referring when he talked about "the classic and original Role-Playing Game," in this case Advanced Dungeons & Dragons by E. Gary Gygax. As opposed to the original white box, the Basic Set, or the Expert Set and all this is frankly byzantine to me. However, as luck would have it I do in fact have the recent reprint of Advanced Dungeons & Dragons lying at home. Now firmly equipped, we dive balls deep into RPGPundit's magical realm.

Arrows of Indra posted:

To create a player character (PC), it is necessary to go through the following steps:
1. Roll for Ability Scores.
2. Roll for Caste, or select non-human Race.
3. Select Class, roll hit points, note class abilities and bonuses.
4. Roll for initial background skills.
5. Roll for class skills.
6. Select Alignment, and details such as age, sex, family and appearance.
7. Roll for initial wealth and obtain equipment.

1, 3, 6, and 7, are all mostly identical to character creation in older editions of D&D. Ability scores are determined by rolling 4d6 and dropping the lowest result, and are assigned in order to Intelligence (Int), Charisma (Cha), Wisdom (Wis), Dexterity (Dex), Constitution (Con), and Strength (Str). Higher scores add a bonus to skill checks, while lower scores add a penalty, ranging from a +3 at 18 to a -3 at 3. In addition to skills, ability scores factor into other things: wisdom modifies saving throws against spells and the possibility of priests obtaining new spells (called Enlightenment Powers), Dexterity affects ranged to-hit rolls, AC, and Initiative rolls, Constitution affects your chances of getting resurrected, and so forth. What do these terms even mean? Fuck you for even asking, you swine. If you don't already know the secret handshake you're not allowed to play this game!

And now, let's talk about RPGPundit's handling of the caste system.

Arrows of Indra posted:

A caste is an extremely rigid social-class structure with religious overtones. The people of Jagat believe that a person is born into a certain caste as a result of the actions they undertook in past lives, and that each caste has its own special and particular role to fulfill in society.

Even in modern India, the concept of caste has created serious social issues that are still being overcome today. It is definitely a sensitive topic, and I was curious as to how Pundit was going to handle this. I can't speak authoritatively on matters of caste: even though I'm ethnically Indian, I'm not a Hindu, and nearly everything about caste and culture in early Vedic India is up for debate (and is debated). I will say a few things about it, however. The importance of caste in Vedic India is contested and upward and downward mobility might have been more possible than some think. Valmiki, the author of the Ramayana, and Vasya, author of the Mahabaratha, were both of lower castes. There is evidence of members of lower castes becoming kings, where Vedic priests would trace their lineage to higher castes in exchange for gifts, or else these kings would become Buddhist, Jainist, or Saivist, which didn't place nearly as much emphasis on caste. Chandragupta Maurya was king who founded an empire, and most sources agree that his origins were very humble.

To be frank, I'm conflicted on how the game handles caste. On the positive side, Pundit does address the possibility of social mobility with the following:

Arrows of Indra posted:

In practice, caste is determined by birth. However, the spiritual basis of caste is “aptitude, conduct, and nature”. This means that someone who commits acts in following with a caste different from that of their birth might eventually ascend or descend in official circles and/or the public eye into that different caste. Note, however, that outright misrepresentation or fraudulent behavior of falsely claiming to belong to another (usually higher) caste is a punishable crime. Details on how caste may change are provided in later chapters.

On the negative side, caste is randomly selected, provides modifiers to your ability scores, and determine what classes your character is allowed to be (independent of the required ability score minimums for certain classes). I'll provide a brief summary of the castes in this book, and their modifiers.

We begin with the Dalits , or the untouchables. The word Dalit is derived from a Sanskrit word meaning oppressed, broken, or crushed. It's a bit of an odd choice to use Dalit as the name of this caste: the term Dalit didn't emerge until 1958 and was meant to place the very concept of the caste system in a negative light. This makes it fairly out of place in a setting where the caste system has primacy, but given that the original Indian terms for untouchables are now considered slurs I am rather happy to go with Dalit.

Arrows of Indra posted:

Dalit Caste (+1 to CON, -1 CHA)

Arrows of Indra posted:

Dalits are forbidden from studying or hearing the sacred texts, and they must avoid that even their shadow should touch anyone of a different caste. If someone of any other caste touches or is touched by a Dalit, they must undergo a cleansing ceremony.

It's nigh unplayable, horribly unfun, and shows how an entire class of people lived for centuries. Fortunately, at least, the author is willing to acknowledge what a masochistic experience playing a Dalit might be.

Arrows of Indra posted:

Optionally, the GM might judge a result of 3-4 to indicate Brahmin or Kshatriya caste as well, since it is extremely difficult for an untouchable to be able to interact regularly with the rest of a party.

Next up are the Sudras , or servants.

Arrows of Indra posted:

Sudra Caste (+1 CON, –1 INT)
The Sudras are the caste that slaves, serfs, and servants belong to. However, they are not untouchables like the Dalits. They are considered a respected caste, and their own mythology (and even some of the teachings of the Brahminical texts) suggests that they are actually to be treated in very special ways.

Well that doesn't sound so bad!

Arrows of Indra posted:

in practice the other castes tend to abuse the Sudras, either through over-work or mistreatments of other kinds. Sudras are generally darker-skinned than those who belong to the higher castes, and it is probable that they were in fact barbarian locals in the river lands who were conquered by the Bharata people when they migrated into what is now the Bharata Kingdoms, thousands and thousands of years ago.

Unlike Dalits there's no option to change your caste, nor is there any suggested method of protection against another player who won the caste lottery. It would be simpler, I'd think, to just let players select their starting caste and decide group dynamics from there, but I suppose that would make this game too fucking gamey .

Next are the Vaishyas

Arrows of Indra posted:

Vaishya Caste (+1 CHA, −1 WIS)
The Vaishya caste is numerically the largest caste, representing the majority of the population of Bharata. They range in level of profession and influence from impoverished small-plot farmers to merchants with wealth beyond those of kings. They are shopkeepers and artisans; they are the vast majority of the city-dwelling population, and the educated professionals. They are the lowest caste that is permitted to study the sacred texts and that undergo initiations at the temples.

Palatable, if dull, though the bonus to charisma and penalty to wisdom seems rather arbitrary to me. You could make a case for Dalits and Sudras making sense, the former living difficult lives while bearing the scorn of others, and the latter being servants and laborers without formal education. Vaishyas, on the other hand, are portrayed as extremely diverse in this game, and the modifiers seem to be there for the sake of having modifiers.

Next on the list are the Kshatriyas .

Arrows of Indra posted:

Kshatriya Caste (+1 STR, −1 INT)
The Kshatriya Caste is the caste of warriors and rulers. They are soldiers, great fighters, and kings. They are second in hierarchy after the Brahmins. It is not uncommon for the sons of Kshatriya, if they get involved in commerce or working the land and neglect the duties of a warrior, to be demoted to the Vaishya caste. Likewise, Kings and other officials can ascend brave heroes to the Kshatriya caste if they have proven themselves to have a true “warrior nature”, although this happens only rarely.

Why, in the same paragraph describing them not only as warriors, but also as statesman, leaders, and landowners, do Kshatriyas get a bonus to strength and penalty to intelligence? Because not even an entire social class can escape the dumb fighter stereotype of Dungeons and Dragons.

Lastly there are the Brahmins , at the top of the pyramid.

Arrows of Indra posted:

Brahmin Caste (+1 WIS, −1 STR)
The Brahmin caste is of the priests and philosophers of Bharata. They can also be rulers. Not all forms of Holymen need to be Brahmins, but temple priests must be Brahmin. Not all Brahmin, however, are temple priests by profession; and usually in fact only those families in the lower end of influence in this caste are temple priests. Brahmins vary wildly in range of wealth and influence; some Brahmins are extremely poor, while others are very powerful and wealthy.

While this may sound like a good deal, in practice Brahmans are just as much of a pain in the ass to play as Dalits or Sudras:

Arrows of Indra posted:

Brahmin Taboos: Brahmins must never touch dead bodies or unclean animals, or handle feces; nor can they touch or even pass through the shadow of an untouchable. If they do, they must undergo an extensive purification ritual lasting several hours, as soon as possible. Marriage rules are particularly strict for Brahmins, who must marry within caste and usually within the particular profession of their family; Brahmin girls in particular must not marry below their caste or it socially endangers the entire family.

While these taboos may or may not be accurate, it's clear that a Brahmin isn't very suitable as an old-school adventurer. Given that the game consists of finding monsters, killing them, and taking their treasure any PC Brahmin is going to be very bad at fulfilling the obligations of his caste. Which animals qualify as unclean? We never find out. If a Brahmin is in the same party as a Dalit, things will get really miserable and/or uncomfortable. We finish with art depicting members of all five potential castes (well, more like four castes plus Dalits and oh god that statement makes me feel horrible! )

Drink it in goons. Drink it in. Because we'll be seeing a lot more like this. What is wrong with everyone's feet? What hideous mutation has afflicted their skulls? WHERE IS THE HORSE'S HEAD ?

We escape this cavalcade of horrors by moving on to Family Background

Arrows of Indra posted:

It is important for any Human PC to know the current state of their family, and their place in that family.

Hey, I agree! Anything to discourage murder-hobos is a good idea in my book.

Arrows of Indra posted:

The player should roll to see if his parents are still alive: The PC's father will be deceased on
a 1-4 roll on 1d6. The mother will be deceased on a 1-3 roll on 1d6.

Wait, what?

Arrows of Indra posted:

The player should then roll for siblings: roll 1d12 ( to determine initial (potential) siblings; roll a second d12 (to determine how many of those siblings are dead; if the second number rolled was higher than the first, it means that the PC was an only child (or at least, the only child that lived long enough to be named).

But I-

Arrows of Indra posted:

When the number of surviving siblings have been determined, the GM should roll randomly to determine which point in the birth order that PC is found; for example, if there are 5 surviving siblings, the GM could roll 1d6 (with a 1 indicating the PC is the oldest, 2 the second oldest, etc). If the number of surviving siblings is less convenient for a simple die roll the GM should pick the method that works best.

But why can't I pick-

Arrows of Indra posted:

The PC must also determine the gender of each surviving child (1-3 male, 4-6 female on a d6).

Most games would at least let you pick your family ties. Or your back-story. Or even your job, or social rank. Hell, some games let you pick and choose what stats you like! I can't even tell if this is bad game design or a stunning indictment against the concept of karma. But hey, we wouldn't want to be telling a story here, best to just let the dice handle it.

Moving the fuck on.

Barbarian and Non-Human Races

And now we're really cooking here. Oh yes.

There are five other races that can be played besides the default humans, which include Bhils, Gandharvas, Rakshasas, Vanaras, and Yakshas.

Aside from the same problems that afflict the art, I can't help but feel that some of these races look suspiciously familiar. You all know what I'm getting at here. And if not, I'll be getting into much more detail during their individual write-ups.

Arrows of Indra posted:

Note also that playing a non-human character will usually involve certain social difficulties for the player character; generally speaking in the human kingdoms (the area/civilization known as Bharata) there is very little regular interaction with non-humans. The Vanara live in the forests far to the south and are only commonly seen in the Bharata Kingdoms that are south of the Vindhya mountains, Gandharvas and Yakshas mostly live in the forbidding northern mountains or hidden in small communities deep in jungles. Bhils and Rakshasas likewise generally live far from civilized lands, or in their own tribes, and will be treated as basically human but barbaric, and are thus pariahs (unless they manage to be accepted into a caste). Any of these characters will stand out notably among the civilized human peoples, and will rarely go unnoticed, and may be reacted to with fear or prejudice.

Good ol' family racism! RPGPundit gives us all these interesting races (or at least tries to) and then discourages anyone from playing them. Why he tried to go out of the way to mention inter-racial and inter-species prejudice is a bit beyond me: there's already plenty of drama on that end that was built into the caste system.

Arrows of Indra posted:

Bhils are a race of barbarian humans, though many of the prejudiced civilized people in the Bharata Kingdoms believe them to be a non-human race, or a race that is partly demonic. The Bhils are a race of savage barbarians, dark-skinned and with dread-locked hair, which live in the southern hills and jungles, and in other peripheral areas of the Bharata culture. They are known
to be fierce warriors.

Bhils are also an actual ethnic group that still exists in modern day India, and conflating them with barbarians seems to be a can of worms waiting to open. Also that stat block looks familiar.

AD&D Player's Handbook posted:

Half-orc characters have bonuses of +1 to both their strength and constitution scores initially rolled, but they must subtract a charisma penalty of -2.

Let me revise my previous statement. Bhils are an actual Indian ethnic group who have been given racial modifiers identical to half-orcs. The can of worms are now open, and they are crawling all over my face. Moving on.

Arrows of Indra posted:

The Gandharvas are a race that are descended of the crossing of humans with divine and nature-spirits (Devas and Apsaras). Physically, they appear as tall, thin, light-skinned beautiful humans with feathers on the top of their head instead of hair.

Gandharvas are the elf looking bastards in the art I posted earlier, and already I'm raising an eyebrow. Gandharvas, in folklore, weren't so much distant relatives of nature spirits, so much as deities in their own right. They were exclusively male, rather than a species proper. The Apsaras were their female counterparts and wives, and Gandharvas would play music in the court of the Devas, or gods. My own whining about the canonicity of Indian folklore aside, why did RPGPundit make them look so much like elves? Some myths depicted them as centaurs, or half-man/half-beast. They could also take stranger, more hideous forms and had to appeased through prayer, gifts, and sacrifice.

Arrows of Indra posted:

The culture of the Gandharvas is very alien to normal human Bharata culture; the Gandharvas being so longlived they spend huge spans of time engaging in song, dance and religious festivals. Gandharvas are profoundly spiritual, most of them being of Holy alignment, but their religious rituals are quite different to the practices performed in human societies, they are closer to the gods because of their background, and tend to have a more informal style of ritual than human temple priests use. They also do not respect the social customs of Bharata. They do not have a caste system (though any Gandharva traveling to human civilization will automatically be placed in either the Brahmin caste or the Kshatriya caste), and they do not follow some of the other rigid social customs. For example, Gandharvas only marry for love, something that is considered most unusual in human society. In spite of this oddness, Gandharvas tend to be well-treated when they are traveling in the Bharata Kingdoms, because humans know that they are close to the gods.

Well that's nice. If you roll badly on picking your caste, just decide that you want to be Gandharva instead and you'll instantly be in a higher caste. What that song and dance was about interspecies prejudice was, I don't even fucking know, but it seems very odd to play up human xenophobia earlier on when they are, apparently, just fine with Gandharvas. What also bothers me is that the reason RPGPundit interpreted Gandharvas the way he did was clearly because he needed a stand-in for elves, and if you doubt me look at their racial abilities.

Arrows of Indra posted:

Gandharvas do not age; nor do they sleep; they are thus immune to any forms of magic that cause aging or magical sleeping effects. Gandharvas are also immune to certain forms of magic that control others.

AD&D Players Guide posted:

Elven characters have a 90% resistance to sleep and charm spells

He does make some effort to make them unique: Gandharvas can detect magic at-will, get a bonus to perception and performance, and only get a +1 with bows as opposed to a +1 to both bows and swords that elves get. Also, in addition to the AD&D racial modifiers, they have a further +1 to CHA and a -1 to STR. Now, let's take a look at Rakshasas.

Arrows of Indra posted:

Rakshasas are a race of humans who were crossbred with Asura demons. They are thus an Unholy race; though not all members of the race are malevolent, their culture as a whole venerates the demonic Asuras and most Rakshasas have Unholy alignment. Rakshasas appear taller than the average human, with dark almost soot-black skin. Their canine teeth tend to be longer than the average humans, looking almost like fangs; their eyes tend to be reddish in color, and they have long hard nails.

What is strange about this is that pretty much every myth I'm familiar with makes Rakshasas and Asuras synonymous: Rakshasas are literal demons that are opposed to the Devas (gods), rather than a human subrace. I suppose making literal demons playable wouldn't be acceptable in an ostensibly low power game like AD&D. The only problem with this is that Indian myth is anything but low power. As I said earlier on grognards.txt, I am still very happy he didn't go with backwards armed tiger-head dudes, though I'm not sure hairy human with great chest hair is much of a consolation compared to say, this:

While it's true that most Rakshasas are depicted as human-like, that's really no call for making them more or less humans with a few bells and whistles on top, I'd think.

These bells and whistles include the ability to see in the dark, immunity to poisons, resistance to magic, a bonus to hit with bladed weapons, and sharp claws. As far as I can tell, no D&D analogue exists for Rakhasas, so they might just be an original race!

Though if he just ripped off a non-core D&D race's racial abilities, feel free to inform me.

Speaking of copy-pasting racial abilities...

Arrows of Indra posted:

The Vanara are a race of monkeys who are capable of speech and have a human level of intelligence. They wear clothing, and have their own society, but are otherwise physically indistinguishable from relatively large monkeys (about half the size of a normal human).

Arrows of Indra posted:

Vanara as a race tend to be quite adventurous, sometimes childish, extremely brave and loyal to their allies. While Vanara are as capable of lies as a human, their culture does not practice the same kind of casual social lies and deceptions (including things like ;attery, or the kind of little white lies or deceptions that are part of good manners) as human society does. Thus, they will tend to be extremely bluntly honest in their everyday social dealings, to the point of sometimes inadvertently seeming rude to humans.

Vanara are great because monkeys are great! And then Pundit goes and ruins it by giving them identical racial statistics to halflings, with the same resistances to magic, poison, size limitations for weapons, AC bonus versus large creatures, and a +1 to DEX and -1 to STR.

We conclude with not-dwarves.

Arrows of Indra posted:

Yakshas are mountain-spirits, guardians of treasure hidden in the earth. They appear as humans but stout and very short (about three quarters the size of a normal human), with slightly golden-colored ruddy skin, and can be fearsome warriors. They are entrusted by the Gods, with whom they have a special relationship, to protect nature and sacred places, and sometimes to protect great treasures (both mundane and spiritual) that have been hidden in the earth by the gods.

Well, it's true that some depictions of Yakshas have them appear as stout and portly little men. However, that's not the only depiction of Yakshas. One of the more interesting ones I had seen was the depiction of Yakshas as shapeshifters who were kin to Rakshasas and could turn into giants. But that goes out of the window, in order to fit them into a dwarf-shaped hole .

Yakshas, like AD&D dwarves, cannot be magic users (in spite of being semi-divine beings favored by gods ), get a bonus to saves against spells and poisons, and...get a +4 bonus to AC against giants. Which is a trait that dwarves have in D&D 3rd Edition . That's not old-school Pundit. That's not old-school AT ALL. Though I'm a little bit happy that he's willing to rip off more than just AD&D. He's willing to rip off other editions of that game too!

Except 4th Edition because swineswineswine.

Next, we'll cover Classes . And yes, there is more copy-pasting of AD&D in a setting where D&Disms just don't work.

Class, Alignments, & Skills

posted by Bedlamdan Original SA post

Part 3: Class, Alignment, and Skills

Continuing the review after a slight delay, we proceed with character creation! As stated before, on top of the fact that every class has ability score minimums to qualify for, some classes also have caste restrictions as well. So to be a Priest, you must roll a 15-18 on a 3d6 to qualify for the Brahmin caste, on top the minimum wisdom of 9. This means that your odds of playing a priest is less than ten percent.

What we’ll begin with is an overview of all the classes, wherein I point out the incredibly obvious copy-pasting of D&D concepts in a setting that has nothing to do with medieval Europe. First, the priest :

Arrows of Indra posted:

These are Brahmin caste individuals who have trained as Holy men, Priests, in the formal setting of a temple. Like everyone else, they give worship to all the 330 million gods, but they are also usually specifically dedicated to a particular deity’s temple. Younger Priests will regularly travel from one temple to another, and to small villages to officiate over important religious ceremonies.
They will seek to combat evil and ignorance. Priests perform a variety of rituals (which are collectively termed “Arcana”), from daily prayers and purification, to marriages, rites of passage, and Holy celebrations of the gods. They firmly believe that the path to enlightenment is to be found in proper performance of ritual. Some Priests, including all player character Priests, will gradually gain miraculous powers from their holiness.

Now, I’m not entirely certain if this is accurate, but it’s certainly inoffensive. The priest has the same characteristics as the AD&D cleric, with a few minor changes: the amount of experience points they need to level up has been modified slightly, and like all spell casters in Arrows of Indra they get feats that confer per-day spells rather than spell levels proper. They are otherwise identical to clerics. How identical , you may ask? Well

Arrows of Indra posted:

Priests are forbidden to draw blood; they can use any kind of armor, but will only used blunt weapons.

This is strictly an AD&Dism, put there because Gygax and company liked vampire movies and myths about European fighting clerics who used blunt weapons to avoid shedding blood. It has absolutely nothing to do with India

This, by the way, not the worst example of copy-pasting in this book.

The priest also includes a sub-class called the priest-shaman, which is the counterpart of the AD&D Druid (which at that time was a sub-class of the cleric). Both the priest-shaman and the druid get the same widgets that differentiate them from priests/clerics: they can identify plants and animals, determine if water is pure, and are unhindered in rough natural terrain. Unlike druids, however, priest-shamans don’t get to shape shift and have immunity to charm spells like AD&D druids.

This is because RPGPundit divided the druid into two separate cleric subclasses, the other subclass being the rakshasa priest. This class gets the more interesting half of the AD&D druid, specifically the ability to change into animals and get charm resistance. They are also always evil, so it figures that Pundit would keep the more interesting stuff out of PC hands.

Next are the fighters :

Arrows of Indra posted:

These are warriors of all kinds, from the Sudra, Vaishya or Kshatriya caste. Those of the Kshatriya and Vaishya caste will have been trained for it in special schools (gurukulas), where they were taught the noblest of arts: archery, spear-fighting, sword-fighting, and horse-riding as well as chariot racing. Sudras are not permitted to train in such schools, but may learn their skills as common soldiers. Some Brahmins are also Fighters, but this is not considered an honorable profession for them. Dalits are not meant to be Fighters, but some of them might be anyways, though they will always be treated as untouchables by all other castes.

I do think it’s nice that fighters aren’t restricted to caste. There’s really nothing new to say about fighters: just like AD&D fighters they have the same ability minimums, hit point progression, and they get multiple attacks per round as they level up. Nothing to see here, folks.

Next is the Virakshatriya :

Arrows of Indra posted:

(Holy warrior) a fighter chosen by the gods. Always of the Kshatriya caste, these fighters are blessed with divine gifts and usually dedicate themselves to a specific warrior-god; Rama, Durga, Indra, etc. These individuals will show extremely devout spiritual qualities from an early age. They will be likely chosen to receive special training from a Virakshatriya guru and will dedicate their lives in the service of the gods to fight evil.

He had the balls to copy-paste the paladin and put it in India . It should be noted that no such term as “Virakshatriya” has ever existed, Pundit made it up for the purposes of his game. We’re going to take some extra time with this one.

Arrows of Indra posted:

Detect unholy-aligned creatures within 60’.

AD&D posted:

Detect evil at up to 60’ distance,

Arrows of Indra posted:

Virakshatriya are immune to all diseases.

AD&D posted:

Immunity to all forms of disease.

Arrows of Indra posted:

They can cure themselves or others by touch, up to a total of (2 hp/level, per day)

AD&D posted:

The ability to “lay on hands” … to cure wounds; this heals 2 hit points of damage per level

Arrows of Indra posted:

They can cure diseases (also by touch) 1/week for every 5 levels of experience.

AD&D posted:

The ability to cure disease of any sort; this can be done once per week for each five levels of experience

Arrows of Indra posted:

Continually emanates a Holy Aura, gaining a +2 to saving throws from all attacks by demonic creatures or Unholy individuals, and those creatures are –2 to attack him.

AD&D posted:

The continuing emanation of a protection from evil

No, no. No. This is stupid and we’ll be here all day. Let me just highlight the differences. There are TWO.

The first is that, instead of a summonable intelligent warhorse, the Virakshatriya gets to summon a Garuda instead. In Indian myth a Garuda is a giant eagle that typically serves as a mount to deities.

The second is the code of conduct that the paladin Virakshatriya must adhere to.

Arrows of Indra posted:

Virakshatriyas must be of Holy alignment, and follow the strict rules of the gods. If they should ever act against the gods, particularly their chosen god, by failing to perform proper rituals or purification, by eating spoiled food, touching feces, drinking blood or eating raw meat, by committing fornication outside of marriage, by using Unholy magic, by fighting for personal gain, theft, lying, or (unholy) murder, or touching an untouchable, they will lose all of their spiritual powers until they have been granted penance and performed a purification ritual with the help of a Priest of at least 7th level.

It’s a more restrictive version of the paladin’s code, in that along with a proscription of being lawful good, a Virakshatriya must also adhere tightly to caste restrictions. Even more tightly, actually, than an honest to goodness priest (who is merely stuck using a hammer all the time). How this works in play, I have no fucking idea. “I am sorry Ravi, but because that untouchable pickpocket bumped you slightly you lose all Virakshatriya abilities until you atone.”

Not only that, but he is bringing in something right out of the Arthurian Mythos into the Mahabarata. I’m convinced I’ve walked right into someone’s fanfic, right here.

We’ll quickly gloss over the scout class. Long story short, there aren’t any apparent caste restrictions to this class, and it’s the AD&D Ranger sans spell casting.

Next up is the Siddhi , which is the counterpart of the AD&D Magic User.

Arrows of Indra posted:

Siddhis (magicians)
These are individuals who have studied secret techniques of manipulating energy and the laws of nature in order to gain “Siddhis”, magical powers. Unlike the techniques of Priests, these do not strictly depend on the favor of the gods, and a “Siddhi-yogin”, as they are known, can gain magical powers through study alone; although many of these men are also deeply dedicated to the spiritual path to enlightenment. Others, however, are selfish and only interested in material power, while yet others are evil and mainly interested in power over others.

The word “siddhi” means perfection, and doesn’t refer to groups of people so much as techniques, which include telepathy, levitation, growing and shrinking in size, and so forth. The term he uses in the description, Siddhi-yogin, is perhaps a more accurate term for a person, and it’s pretty odd that he continues to refer to people as siddhis for the rest of the book.

Siddhis get the same progression table as the AD&D Magic User, though like the priest their method of using magic has been changed. I’ll elaborate further once we get to the section on magic. Oddly enough, the Siddhi also doesn’t have any caste restrictions. One wonders why he even bothered at all, really.

Like the scout, we’ll gloss over the thief . It has no caste restrictions and is a direct port of the AD&D thief, the only difference being that they don’t get the “Thieves’ Cant” secret language and aren’t able to read magic scrolls.

We then move on to the Thuggee , the counterpart to the AD&D assassin.

Arrows of Indra posted:

These are Holy murderers, dedicated to the worship of the mother-goddess Kali in her aspect as the goddess of death. Unlike common Thieves, who of course can also be contracted to kill, Thugees are considered to be Holy men and it is not precisely dishonorable to be one, or to hire one; though for obvious reasons they are socially distrusted and marginalized in many ways. Thugees will only seek to assassinate in the service of Kali-ma, and will refuse any task that they see as contrary to the wishes of the goddess. They will never assassinate women or children, excepting women who have in some way committed blasphemy against Kali.

Thugees are members of a sacred order, which has agents and secret safe-houses throughout the civilized world; their temples, however, are all found deep in forests and mountains, away from areas of human habitation. They cannot assassinate any target that the order’s gurus have explicitly declared “forbidden to kill”. Thugees must regularly perform rituals and purification in honor of Kali. They must dedicate one third of all their earnings to the order.

I don’t quite know where to start with this.

One of very few differences between the Assassin and the Thugee is that under AD&D rules the Assassin is always evil, while in Arrows of Indra the Thuggees alignment is “Holy” (though in Pundit’s defense he stresses that this doesn’t necessarily mean ’good’) and supposedly adhere to a strict code of conduct.

This really is not the case. I don’t know what sources Pundit was using but they’re very different from mine. First, the Thuggees as I understood them were far more indiscriminate, with a tendency to pose as travelers, gain the trust of people they came across, and would then murder and rob them. They had less in common with the popular image of Crusades-era Hashshashin (who themselves were badly exaggerated, much like ninjas) and could be likened to criminal gangs.

The idea that it’s not looked down upon to hire a Thuggee also has no historical basis: as far as I know they were not for hire as killers, and that Thuggees may have been little more than superstitious highwaymen, with any religious motivations they might have had always coming second to a desire for money. Their principle targets weren’t any supposed enemies of Kali, they were merchants and members of caravans. Also, the fact that the Thuggees were only ‘revealed’ as a society in the nineteenth century means that a lot of information about them is suspect.

In all other respects the Thuggee is identical to the AD&D Assassin, including the ability minimums and the fact that they need to kill higher ranked members in order to progress in level.

We bid goodbye to our friend the Thuggee with this picture:

I have no idea why the sleeping man has a pillow for a hand.

Finally, we conclude with the Yogi , which is the counterpart to the AD&D Monk.

Arrows of Indra posted:

A Yogi is also known as a renunciate (“religious hermit”) or an ascetic. These are individuals who have renounced the world and worldly goods and practice spiritual disciplines and asceticism in order to seek out enlightenment. In various groups and schools, or sometimes alone with a single Guru, they learn secret techniques of the skills of “yoga”, the spiritual arts of union with the divine. Some Yogis are deeply sincere in their quest for illumination or union with the godhead, but others are mainly hermits seeking to escape the responsibilities of the world, or men who seek out the secret of physical immortality or the ability to impress others with great feats of physical or mental mastery. Their powers are granted not from outward energy manipulation (like the Siddhi) or complex ritual (like the Priest) but as a result of years of intense meditation practices to manipulate the inner energy of the body. The vast majority of Yogis have forsworn all violence in the world, and many are sworn to remain away from civilization in lonely hilltops, mountains, or jungles. However, the particular sect of Yogi available to player characters are the practitioners of Mustiyuddha Yoga, a set of physical and spiritual disciplines to perfect the body, which include training in the martial arts. Their particular teachings focus on perfection of the body and physical immortality; they are trained to be peaceful and reject all anger, but are permitted to use their abilities to protect innocents or combat wrongdoing.

How does RPGPundit confront the fact that Yogis are strict aesthetics who seek to divorce themselves from earthly concerns and eschew violence? By making up a type of Yoga that is pretty much Shaolin.

Musti Yuddha, by the way, is a type of unarmed combat style originating in 3rd Century BC, similar to kickboxing. Spiritual training was emphasized as well as physical fitness, though it really had nothing to do with Yoga. From what I learned, bouts were banned in the 1960’s, owing to the fact that there were very few rules and people tended to die.

Once again, Yogis are more or less identical to AD&D monks, because when you think of peaceful ascetics eschewing civilization for contemplation you think of Stunning Fist and Death Touch. If he really wanted to make Yogis combatants he should’ve just abandoned pretenses towards historical accuracy and just give us a class that emulates Dhalsim from Street Fighter.

So what have we learned about Arrows of Indra? We learned not to buy it because we can just get AD&D instead and pretend it’s Indian. At least AD&D tells us what Armor Class means.


Arrows of Indra posted:

There are three possible alignments in the campaign: Holy, Neutral, or Unholy. Alignment is not a strict reflection of one’s outlook, but of one’s favor with the gods. A Holy person is someone who is well-looked upon by the gods, has faithfully conducted the religious practices needed for his caste and class (including any alignment strictures placed upon him by a particular class, like a Virakshatriya or a Yogi), and avoiding sinfulness.

The part in bold is particularly odd, the section on the Yogi doesn’t mention any alignment restrictions for that class. Or caste requirements, but hey! I’m not complaining about that. There are basically three alignments: Holy, Neutral, and Unholy. Pundit stresses that Holy and Unholy doesn’t correlate with modern morality, and is instead a reflection of one’s piety and devotion to the gods. Holiness can be lost through acts of murder, though Unholy people and creatures don’t count, because this is still a game about murder-hobos after all.

It can also be lost through breaking caste taboos and can be regained through purification ceremonies and acts of repentance. Most people in the world are Neutral. People only become Unholy through truly vile acts, and merely breaking caste taboos will not cut it.

Overall, there’s not a lot to say. I appreciate anything he does to differentiate from AD&D, it makes me feel like I haven’t bought the same book twice.

General Skills

The skill system is in fact, not in AD&D! So we’re dealing with some original material here. Let’s see RPGPundit spread his wings and move beyond the works of Gygax!

Arrows of Indra posted:

Characters gain initial background skills, which can also be purchased/studied later, or gained with experience. Additionally, they get a different set of skills by class.

Background skills are divided into “lower caste”, “middle caste” and “high caste”:
• Dalits roll a single “lower caste” skill.
• Sudras roll two “lower caste” skills.
• Vaishyas roll one “lower caste” skill and two “middle caste” skills; or roll one middle caste and one high-caste skill.
• Kshatriyas and Brahmins roll three times, and can choose to roll each time from either the “middle” or “high” caste skills.

Starting skills are selected by random rolling at character creation and higher ranked castes get the most skills.

RPGPundit has spread his wings and crashed headfirst into a clear glass window.

What are these skills?

Arrows of Indra posted:

Table 4.1 Lower Caste Skills (d20)
Roll Lowers Caste Skill
1 baking
2 barber
3 brickmaking†
4 butcher
5 carpentry
6 cobbler
7 cooking
8 farming
9 fishing
10 laundry†
11 leather-working†
12 managing-corpses†
13 masonry
14 mining
15 perfuming
16 pottery
17 rope-making
18 tablet-making
19 tailor
20 weaver

Table 4.2 Middle Caste Skills (d12)
Roll Middle Caste Skill
1 accountant
2 animal-training
3 arrow-making
4 chariot-making
5 hunting
6 jewel-smithing
7 merchant
8 seamanship
9 scribe
10 slave-trading
11 swimming
12 weaponsmith-armorer

Table 4.3 High Caste Skills (d12)
Roll High Caste Skill
1 artist-musician
2 artist-sculpting
3 astronomy
4 chronicler-scribe
5 courtier
6 herbalist-doctor (ayurvedin)
7 mason-architect
8 poet-orator
9 religious dancing
10 sage (pandit)
11 spy
12 translator

So if you’re a Dalit your contribution to the party can amount to keeping their clothes clean. To say that these skills are a mixed bag is an understatement, your baking skill is literally your skill at baking bread and has no other utility beyond it, while a poet-orator skill can improve other people’s reaction rolls to get them to like you better. Managing corpses is your skill at preparing dead bodies (nothing else) while the Spy skill allows you to disguise yourself as other people.

Skills work just like D&D 3.5, in that you roll a d20 and add your skill modifier to beat the DC.

Now, you can get skills of your choosing as well, you just need to find someone to teach you, pay them money in order to teach you (with the higher caste skills that actually have utility costing more money), and take a few months off to be trained.

There are also skills specific to each class that always have utility. They are also randomly rolled.

Class Skills

First, Yogis don’t get skills of their own, because fuck monks Yogis. Each class as two tiers of skills, basic and advanced. Once you obtain all the basic skills (rerolling if you already have that skill) you can start rolling in the advanced skills table. Basic skills for priests, for example, include the ability to detect someone’s alignment once per day, basic healing, or a +2 bonus to theology skills. More advanced skills include the ability to project a holy aura or increased healing abilities.

Basic fighter/scout skills include weapon proficiencies so it sucks to be you if you want to use a bow, you get a spear instead. Each level of proficiency gives you a bonus to hit and do damage, while the two other basic skills are horsemanship and driving a chariot.

There’s a definite contrast between the advanced skills of martial characters and the advanced skills of spell-casters. An advanced fighter skill gives you a +1 to hit while charging, or can draw a weapon and attack at the same turn with no penalty.

An advanced Siddhi skill lets him or her take control of an army of the undead.

Arrows of Indra posted:

Infernal Calling of the Yama Kings: The Yama Kings are the Asuras who control ghosts and the living dead. Using this mantra and mudra for one round allows the Siddhi to dominate any of the living dead or ghostly entities within a 30 foot radius of his person. Any such
creature with 4 or more Hit Dice is allowed a saving throw versus magic to resist control. The control over the creatures lasts for one hour. Additionally, at any time during the duration the Siddhi may touch the corpse of any once-living creature who has been dead for less than 3 days, and bring the corpse to life as one of the living dead. It cannot work on the remains of slain undead. These revivified ghouls will have a number of hit dice equal to the hit dice or levels they had in life, but will be unintelligent and unable to speak or use any special abilities. They will obey the simple commands of the Siddhi who created it, following the Siddhi’s orders until it is slain. If the living dead leaves the Siddhi’s presence, he will follow the last order given to him (keeping in mind that it can only obey very simple commands, like “kill anyone who attempts to pass”); if no clear order was given to him, leaving the Siddhi’s presence will cause the creature to wander aimlessly, slaying the living when it encounters them. Animating the dead in this way is an Unholy act (it will immediately shift the Siddhi’s alignment to “Unholy” if it was not so already).This magical skill can only be performed once a day. This skill may only be taken once.

What do you do if you want your alignment to be Holy and you end up rolling this skill? You enjoy your useless level, that’s what.

Next update, we’ll cover Enlightenment Powers, which are the equivalent of spells in Arrows of Indra.

They are also randomly rolled.

Enlightenment Powers, Equipment & Money, Game Master Procedures

posted by Bedlamdan Original SA post

I'll admit that I lost interest in finishing this review earlier: I'm not making excuses, I was just being lazy. But I was surprised to see this thread linked on talking about both Arrows of Indra and my review of it. Given that there is interest for it, I've decided to resume the review, and cover as much as I can in as short an amount of time as possible. RPGPundit commented on my review, saying that I stopped before talking about the setting chapter and I believe he is right in that I was unfair to do so. I want to stress that the author does know his source material, and has probably researched it more thoroughly than I have. The reason why this disappoints me is that even though he clearly knows his stuff, he has deliberately eschewed this knowledge to fit D&Disms. Regardless, I want to finish as much of the review as possible and to get to the parts that I do like. I thought this review was just me and some people on SA having a laugh at RPGPundit's expense, but I'll try to do a better job of balancing cheap wisecracks with more of an effort to be informative.

Part 4: Enlightenment Powers, Equipment and Money, Game Master Procedures

Priests and Siddhis, in addition to their class skills, also have a chance of gaining Enlightenment Powers . These powers are arranged from Rank 1 to Rank 3, and take the place of AD&D spells. Every time these classes level up they roll to see if they've obtained an Enlightenment Power, and then roll on a d20 to see which power they get. I am not in favor of this, but it certainly allows for another check-mark to be filled on a list marked "old school." Your odds of gaining a Power are determined by your INT or WIS score, your current level, and the rank of the Power you're rolling for. The maximum number of Enlightenment Powers you can get per rank is determined by your INT score, even for Priests whose odds of gaining a power are modified by WIS. Not exactly intuitive. The casting isn't Vancian, you can't prepare the same Enlightenment Power over and over in a spellbook. If you want to use Generate Food and Water more than once per day, then you need to roll this same power again when you level up to gain an extra per/day use. Finally, unlike AD&D there's no need to fiddle around with bat guano or speak some magic words: the powers just happen .

There. We've covered everything that makes this system different from spells in AD&D. Here are a few of the many similarities:

Arrows of Indra posted:

BLESSING/CURSE: This power allows the PC to grant either a blessing or a curse to a maximum of 6 beings, of the PC’s choice (all the beings chosen must either be blessed or cursed, the effect cannot be mingled). All beings must be within 50 feet of the PC. Any being affected by this blessing gains a +1 to their morale score and a +1 to hit for the next 24 hours; any being affected by a curse suffers a −1 penalty to their morale score and a −1 to hit for the same period.

AD&D Player's Handbook posted:

Bless : Upon uttering the bless spell, the caster raises the morale of friendly creatures by +1. Furthermore, it raises their "to hit" dice rolls by +1. A blessing, however, will affect only those not already engaged in melee combat. This spell can be reversed by the cleric to a curse upon enemies enemies which lowers morale and "to hit" by -1. Range: 6". Duration: 6 melee rounds.

Arrows of Indra posted:

SWIFTNESS: This power can be used on one creature per level of the PC, the PC may select himself as one of those affected. All those affected must be within 30 feet of the PC when the power is initially used, though they may move out of that range afterward. Anyone under the effect of this spell experiences time differently relative to the rest of reality, so that they appear to be moving twice as fast as anyone around them. In combat situations this means they can move twice as fast, and make twice as many attacks as they normally would. This power lasts for 3 rounds + 1 round per level of the PC using it. Multiple uses of this power do not have cumulative effects.

AD&D Player's Handbook posted:

Haste : When this spell is cast, affected creatures function at double their normal movement and attack rates. Thus, a creature moving at 6" and attack 1 time per round would move at 12" and attack 2 times per round. Spell casting is not more rapid. The number of creatures which can be affected is equal to the level of experience of the magic user. Range: 6" Duration: 3 rounds + round/level.

As you can see, none of the spells I've read are completely identical though they keep the same essential effects. For example, AoI's Blessing has a longer duration and a bigger range compared to its counterpart. Swiftness is identical to AD&D's haste in terms of effect and duration, but its range is larger. Almost all the Powers that have an analogue to AD&D spells have at least been tweaked slightly, with different durations, ranges, damage values, or at least cleaner prose and simplified effects. So if you want to see someone's house-ruled AD&D spell-list with some cleaner prose, this might be for you.

We then move on to Equipment and Money, while I silently wonder why the appendix for the AD&D Player's Guide is in the back of its Dungeon Master's Manual.

Your characters' starting money is determined by your Caste, with higher Castes starting out with more cash. The exceptions are non-humans and barbarian humans whose starting money is very variable, and Yogis, who start out with absolutely nothing. RPGPundit keeps the same GP to SP to CP conversion rates as prior D&D editions and also includes houserules on obtaining loans. Of more interest is how he handles money, describing the repayment of loans, penalties for unpaid debts, and a banking system one can have with a clan. But that's over in three short paragraphs because we've got to find out how much loot your characters can heft !

Encumbrance has been changed from AD&D, and doesn't key off your character's STR or CON score for reasons I do not entirely understand. Every character, regardless of their Strength or Constitution, gets 20 "items" worth of weight that they can carry. A thousand coins or a quiver full of arrows counts as a single item, while heavy armor counts as five items. It's not exactly an intuitive naming scheme, but I'm more than happy to not play Oregon Trail with adventuring equipment. Classes like the Priest, Thieves, and Siddhi can only carry up to ten items before losing their special abilities, while a Yogi isn't allowed to carry any items beyond their standard Yogi accoutrements, period. Because strict asceticism means that the Fighter can move his own damned couch, thank you very much.

Looking over the equipment list, I see that Arrows of Indra uses an ascending Armor Class ! However, it also still apparently uses Weapon Speed and Armor Class Adjustment from AD&D, dampening my enthusiasm considerably. It will mean that I will have to attempt to parse these mechanics, and then explain what, if anything, AoI does

To put it simply (very simply, I'm not going to explain the math here), Weapon Speed determines how quickly you can act in a round, and determines whether or not you get multiple attacks in a single round. In Arrows of Indra, Weapon Speed has been simplified considerably, and now only adds a flat bonus or penalty to your initiative roll. On the other hand, Armor Class Adjustments are unchanged from AD&D. To quote a very handy AD&D wiki :


The AD&D system also includes a set of rules for adjusting AC per the weapon being used against the target's armor type. The use of the Armor Class Adjustment[1] chart would indicate a footman's flail has an adjustment of +2 (10% more likely to successfully hit the target) when used against an opponent wearing plate mail armor, whereas a spear used against the same target would impose a -2 (10% less likely to hit the target). It should be noted the adjustment is applied against the "to hit" roll only and not to damage, though including a corresponding damage adjustment is a commonly encountered house-rule. The Armor Class Adjustment table is not used in some campaigns, being seen as a needless complication that slows down combat without really adding to the game. Proponents of this system defend it as being an improved degree of realism in a somewhat abstract combat system.

As I read the last sentence I transformed into Charles Heston, screaming furiously at the Statue of Liberty. While the values have been adjusted in Arrows of Indra and the table is less dense, it's still the case that something like a Trident gets a +1 to hit against an unarmored opponent with an AC 12 but a -1 against a man in heavy armor, while a Tulwar gets a +1 against someone who is unarmored and a +2 against someone in leather armor. It's certainly more succinct, and laid out more reasonably than its AD&D counterpart: generally speaking the to-hit values decrease as armor class increases, rather than a table of positive and negative numbers in AD&D laid out seemingly at random.

But why is Armor Class Adjustment even necessary? It's still a situation where the players have to consult a table with nearly every attack roll to determine what modifiers they have, and given the simplifications that Speed Factor and encumbrance were given earlier on I'm not sure why this couldn't have been cut out. Other than that there are rules for bronze and steel equipment. Iron is considered the default, while bronze armor and weapons get a penalty and steel weapons get a bonus. Also included are costs for equipment, services, hirelings, and slaves. Generally speaking if it's an item from AD&D, it'll have the same costs in Arrows of Indra.

Before I move on to Game Master Procedures, I'd like to draw your attention to one of the better examples of art inside the book.

This is most likely an example of the public domain art in the book, given that it lacks the artist's unique style.

Going on, I find myself pleasantly surprised in that RPGPundit does bother to explain what Armor Class, Hit Points, and Saving Throws mean, even though he doesn't do so until after he references them throughout the book with no explanation. His earlier statements in the introduction left me worried that he wouldn't be attempting this. Of course, the mechanics would work how you'd expect: roll a d20, add modifiers, and see if you beat the number inside the GM's brain. Aside from the skill system mentioned earlier, a lot of the new content consists of modifications or simplifications of existing AD&D rules. A key difference is that this section is only 9 pages, compared to the 240 pages of AD&D's DMG. To the author's credit he sticks to what would be relevant for a campaign, unlike AD&D which drowns us in rules that most people are likely ignore. Reaction rolls, morale, wilderness travel, experience points, combat, and sources of damage are everything that's covered in this section. Though if you really are concerned about the differences between charging outdoors versus charging indoors, or want a big old list of traps there's still always AD&D, which I assume RPGPundit still intends to be used as a resource.

Significantly more word count is used in the Gazetteer, which clocks in at about fourteen pages and includes some detailed maps. To be clear, the setting of the game is the Mahabharata which is summarized in great detail here . The game starts smack-dab in the middle of the story, and that unfortunately leaves a great deal of exposition to cover. Long story of the Mahabharata is one depicting the conflict between the two royal families of the Kingdom of Kuru, the Pandavas and the Kauravas. The Pandavas are the story's protagonists and in the game rule one half of the Kingdom of Kuru. The villain of the story, Duryodhana of the Kauravas, wants their half of the kingdom. He later accomplishes this by getting to the leader of the Pandavas, Yudhishthira to lose all of his possessions in a game of dice.

With all this in mind, I'll try to get to the Gazetteer tomorrow because that one is going to take some more time.

Gazetteer, The Patala Underworld

posted by Bedlamdan Original SA post

Part 5: Gazetteer, The Patala Underworld

What the Gazetteer shows me, more than anything, is that RPGPundit certainly did his research. I feel, however, that he went much too far in adapting the setting to D&D, rather than adapting to D&D to India. The author has certainly stated that making it into an OSR game took priority:


Now, Arrows of Indra certainly does make a lot of concessions to the OSR framework in which it exists. Anytime I had a choice between various ways of presenting something from Indian Myth, I always intentionally chose the way that was closest to what would fit in the framework of traditional D&D. I did this intentionally, because I wanted AoI to be as accurate as possible but as playable as possible in the framework of an OSR game. No one is pretending this isn't the case.

Whether this makes the game better or worse is a matter for personal taste. But speaking personally, I feel much more invested in Mythic India than the OSR. It shows me that while the author certainly could have created a setting that's more India and less Dungeons and Dragons, he deliberately chose not to do so.

We begin with the geography and culture of the "Bharata Kingdoms," the main region of the game and the home of the civilized humans. I think it's a good word to use! Bharata is a word with a lot of different meanings, but from what I understand the term first came from Emperor Bharata, who according to the Mahabharata united the Indian subcontinent, and then named it after himself. The Mahabharata, the setting for the game, can be translated as the "the great tale of the Bharata dynasty." Further, the word Bharata itself has become synonymous with India, to the point where it is accepted as the second official name of the country.

The individual kingdoms of Bharata are culturally similar but still possess considerable variation. I would like to note that nothing in the Gazetteer was spun out of whole cloth: pretty much every kingdom or region in this section is mentioned in the Mahabharata, Ramayana, Vedas, or another Sanskrit epic. It's certainly better than the sections on races and classes, which introduced some concepts that felt decidedly out of place. This doesn't mean that there's not some left for nitpicking, however.

The geography of the map is pretty much Northern India, ranging from just south of the Vindhyas mountain range in central India to just north of the Himalayas. Except he called the Himalayas "The Himayant Mountains" instead, for reasons that escape me considering that the word Himalaya is already Sanskrit. Along with geography comes a description of culture, including a section on holidays and festivals. And I have in fact celebrated some of these! Diwali (The book calls it Dipavali but that's also a valid spelling) and Holi are major events in even modern India, and are also celebrated in non-Hindu communities such as Punjab, where my family lives.

We continue with a description of the traditions of the Bharata kingdoms, including another explanation of the concept of Caste. Again, RPGPundit does stress that the setting's conception of Caste is much less solid, and that upward mobility is possible. So if one must have a game where Caste disparity exists even amongst player characters of the same group, that would probably be how I'd handle it. The section also goes on to explain politics in the kingdoms, what it's like to be part of an extended Clan within a caste, and what it's like growing up in this region, all of which provides some interesting flavor for the setting.

There is, of course, the Obligatory Note on Gender Roles that follows most pen and paper games. This one is fairly interesting.

Arrows of Indra posted:

In the default setting, as in the historical/mythological period the setting is based upon, women are strictly relegated to very rigid social roles, and there’s little room for women to be able to operate as the kind of wandering adventurers that would be typical of an Arrows of Indra campaign. While the setting material is set up to describe that form of culture, there is nothing to prevent a GM from deciding that in his campaign there is more flexibility for the roles of women in the setting.
In the default setting, there are biological males who take on the role of a “third gender”, the “kliba” gender, who from a relatively early age did not fit into the standard expectations of men in the culture, and instead are raised (and follow the standards of dress and behavior) as women. A GM could thus certainly decide that for his campaign, there could be a similar gender role for women who take on the roles of men; and there is at least one contextual story (the legend of Shikhandi) that involves the daughter of a king being raised as a boy and becoming a formidable warrior.
The “kliba” gender are, in any case, an accepted part of Bharata society. In addition to being dancers and concubines, it would not be uncommon for a Kliba to become a Siddhi as the “third gender” were often considered graced with magic power.

That's not entirely accurate and requires a lengthy explanation. I believe that RPGPundit has fallen into a rather difficult linguistic minefield there, but the precise meaning of Kliba is one that is heavily disputed. In modern times, the word hijra is used to refer to biological males who consider themselves to be of a third gender. However, that term did not exist until the 16th century, and older terms such as "kliba" are not necessarily a one-for-one analogue. Generally speaking "kliba" does not refer to individuals of a third gender, but rather acts as a pejorative that refers to what was considered at the time to be 'defective males.' For example, men who are eunuchs, sterile, impotent, transvestites, homosexuals, hermaphrodites, and men who only produced female children. A more appropriate term ancient term for the third gender would be trithiya prakirthi which literally means "third nature" and can be used to refer to transgender people of any type. In the author's defense, "kliba" has been translated to be synonymous with third gender in other works, including translations of the source material. If it were possible, though, I would have suggested a different term.

The story of Shikhandi is an interesting one, but aside from the version that RPGPundit mentions, where a king is told to raise his daughter as a son, there are other versions where she is literally transformed into a man. Shikhandini was born as a girl and either through prayer or in trading her gender with a Yaksha who wanted to be a woman, depending on the version you like, became a man named Shikhandi.

The book then goes on to describe the history of the setting, explaining that is now the Age of Heroes: unlike the Golden Age the gods no longer walk the Earth (though given the ludicrous amount of divine intervention happening in these stories, I question that), and the Silver Age, when the kingdoms were first established and the Ramayana took place. To be frank, I would have preferred the game taking place during the Ramayana as opposed to the Mahabharata, but that's just a personal preference. It would have also have made the mechanics even more of an awkward fit with the setting.

We then continue with an overview of the various kingdoms, almost all of which are referenced somewhere in one epic or another. I am curious as to how much of the details of each kingdom were drawn from sources and how much was the result of authorial license, however everything I can confirm as accurate to the Mahabaratha is accurate. For example the book makes mention that the Bahlika kingdoms to the West are seen as sort of an outsider by the rest of the Bharata Kingdoms, and this is true. In fact Bahlika itself means outsider. The little details that the Mahabharata uses to describe the various regions are all there.

Overall, this section is very well done, and to the best of my knowledge done with a lot of care. I think it would be fair to say that the author knows the Mahabaratha better than I do. I can't attest to every detail, but I do not feel that a hundred percent accuracy to the Mahabharata is all that essential either, especially for a role-playing game. The Mahabharata certainly makes for an interesting roleplaying setting, and it's probably the most worthwhile section of the book. If I had to point out one failing, it's the fact that a large number of NPCs are described but none of them are given any sort of stats. I suppose it makes sense, because I don't think that AD&D can represent characters who are just that over the top. Why the hell would someone like Bhima stop at just strength 18?

I'd also like to provide one example of the artist's work that I do enjoy.

I still can't say it's quality art, but I still think it's rather cute.

Next we go over the Patala Underworld, which also has a mythological basis. And honestly, if the entire book were like this, I'd be much more well disposed to this product! The book presents an overview of the seven regions of the Underworld: Atala, Vitala, Sutala, Talatala, Mahatala, Rasatala, and Nagaloka. This isn't mentioned in the book, but the interesting about Patala is that each region corresponds to a base instinct, summarized here . All these regions correspond to chakras along the leg where base instincts dwell. Sometimes, Patala is depicted as part of the legs of Vishnu.

The first realm, closest to the surface, is Atala. It contains a Naga Kingdom, a lot of aggressive monsters, and is also the home of the demon Bala, son of Maya. We'll get to Maya later. Bala also has a vast harem of succubi who basically have sex with you until you die of exhaustion. To be fair, multiple sources describing Hindu myth says that Bala's realm is full of magically created women that have sex with you until you die of exhaustion. Just not, you know, Medieval European demonesses.

Next is Vitala, which is populated by angry ghosts and... goblin tribes. I've noticed a lot of discussion about the goblins in Arrows of Indra, with the argument for them being that just because they have the same name doesn't necessarily make them D&D goblins. As stated by the author on his website:


One of Shiva's titles/names is Pramathadhipa, which means "he who is served by Goblins". The legends of Shiva make mention that his court was mostly not of men but of all manner of wild creatures: satyr-like Ganas, ghosts, demons, Apsaras, Gandharvas, Yakshas, and also the Goblins.

Sadly, RPGPundit hasn't done much of anything to distinguish them from their D&D counterparts in the book. Their write ups are short and contain next to no flavor text, meaning that most people are going to fill in the blanks with the goblins they already know. Now, it is true that Shiva is served by creatures that could be construed as "goblin-like," certainly. But it still falls prey to the same same problems I had with Yakshas and Gandharvas: because they can be construed as analogous to D&D creatures, they are therefore D&D creatures.

While there are different interpretations of Ganas depending on what you read, I'd at least like to offer one that isn't cribbing too much from Western Fantasy Literature.

The Ganas: Hooligans of Heaven posted:

The Ganas (categories) are the host of spooks, hobgoblins and spirits who accompany Shiva. Some are said to dwell with him on Mount Kailasa, whilst the more fearsome and terrifying Ganas are confined to the cremation grounds. It is told that Uma once asked Lord Shiva why he liked to reside in cremation grounds, which were the abode of demons, jackals, corpses and vultures, when he had so many more beautiful places. Mahesvara replied that he had roamed the world, looking for a pure place to meditate in. Unable to find one, he, out of anger and frustration, he created the terrible pishachas, flesh-eating ghouls and terrible rakshasas, intent on killing people. Out of compassion however, he kept this terrible horde in the cremation ground. As he did not want to live without the bhutas and ganas, he chose to live in a cemetery. When the ghosts stayed with him, they caused no harm.

The presence of the terrible Ganas also acted as an honour guard to Shiva and a bar to the impure. Those who feared the awful ghosts and goblins were destined to remain outsiders. Only heroes could be near him in the cremation ground, heroes who had defied death and liberated themselves from passions and fear. These were the true devotees - those who had nothing to fear, who had mastered the onslaught of the multiple categories of threatening powers that were fatal to those who were less than heroes and could not control the frightening phantoms because they had not controlled themselves.

There was a ripe opportunity to show what made these goblins different from D&D goblins. As it is, the entirety of descriptive text the goblins get in this book are "short hideous fanged humanoids who have great tribes here, where they mine for gold" and their description in the monster section is as follows: "These creatures live mainly in the Patala Underworld, especially in Vitala, the 2nd realm of the underworld. However, they are sometimes found in mountain caves near the surface world." Nowhere is their status as Shiva's attendants made clear, and goblins are in fact treated as entirely separate from the creatures RPGPundit does refer to as Ganas, who are depicted as angry looking goat-men who serve the gods Shiva and Ganesha.

I spent way more time than RPGPundit did on the goblins, so let's quickly move on to the next level, Sutala. Sutala is ruled by a demon named Bali, who for all intents and purposes is a fairly decent fellow. The story goes that after Bali conquered three worlds, was banished to Sutala by an avatar of Vishnu. Rather than fight back, Bali surrendered willingly, and Vishnu rewarded him by making him filthy rich. Bali continues to worship Vishnu, though the book adds an extra wrinkle by leaving in question as to how sincere Bali's penances actually are. As such, the realm is guarded by Devas who make sure that nobody can get in and Bali can't get out. The Devas are led by Prahlada, who in the game is an Asura that became a devotee of Vishnu after being saved from his demonic father. It's a bit of an odd choice, especially since the most I know about Prahlada is that he was a human prince who was saved by Vishnu from his certainly evil, but still human father. I assume this was a deliberate choice on the author's part, and it at least is an interesting change rather than a dull one.

The next realm is called Talatala, and is ruled over by Maya, the demon-architect and the father of Bala way back on level one. Maya built three magical floating cities that were prosperous and dominant, but also very impious. As such Shiva destroyed the cities. Maya was spared only after he offered devotion to Shiva in exchange for his life, and Talatala is his place of exile. Shiva is pretty much the most badass god (SORRY VAISHNAVITES). Regardless Talatala is described in the book as a realm of magical wonders but also a realm ruled by a very bored demon. As an aside, Maya was featured in both the Ramayana and Mahabharata: in the former he was the villain's father in law, and in the latter ended up building a magical palace for the Pandavas in exchange for his life.

Next is Mahatala, which the book describes as a realm of powerful but violent Nagas, as well as the realm of the Asura Hiranyaksha, who tried to tried to destroy the world (according to the story, he picked up the world and put it into the bottom of the "cosmic ocean") and fought with Vishnu for a thousand years straight. It occurs to me that I have no idea how a collection of oldschool characters are supposed to contend against something that could fight Vishnu for a thousand years. It should be noted that like the NPCs described in the Gazetteer, creatures like Hiranyaksha or Maya lack stats of any sort.

Second to last is Rasatala, a maze of tunnels and warrens ruled over by Asuras. That's all that can be said and that's all I really can find out on my own.

Finally, we have Nagaloka, yet another realm where there are Naga. But in Nagaloka, there are the most Naga. Tons of Naga. There aren't malicious but they tend to be suspicious of outsiders. It's ruled by that Naga god-king Vasuki, and contains a magical pool that makes one immune to disease and aging. If you go down any further, you will reach Naraka .

The chapter ends with some tables for the random generation of caverns, including their size, lighting levels, hazards, and unique features. This is followed by random encounter tables for all seven levels of Patala. Nnnot exactly riveting stuff after the excitement that the rest of the chapter offered.

And that marks the high-point of the review, and probably the best part of the book. I'll be pretty busy for the next few weeks, and I'm not totally certain that I'll be able to make time for the review for some time. As such, I felt it was very important to cover these sections of the book beforehand.