Roleplaying in Occult India
India is simultaneously the oldest and newest place in the world. Where else do skyscrapers loom over medieval mosques built atop pagan shrines? All of human history piles up in India, like bodies in a mausoleum.
High technology, ancient monsters, exotic mysticism. Add a conspiracy or two and you've got all the ingredients for a great modern occult game.
This project compiles and expands upon material from several RPGnet columns, ranging from gun-toting bodhisattvas and power-mad yogis to hungry ghosts and cannibal-sorcerers. It also includes brand new game mechanics for tabletop roleplaying.
The setting will be delivered in the form of vignettes: bundled sets of characters, locations, and situations that make great one-shots, but can also be strung together for open-ended campaign play.
In modern India, the occult is an open secret. It's the water that natives swim in. They see monsters and miracles on their way to work.
Foreigners prefer things another way. So does their money. Powerful people think India's future lies in burying its past. They keep mystics in the gutter, as invisible as the homeless, and exterminate monsters like mosquitos.
Buddhists believe we are all spiritual beings and the material world is an illusion. To deny the supernatural is to deny reality. If so, India is both awake and asleep, enlightened and enslaved.
Photo by Scott Swigart
The Four Arms of Vishnuis a clandestine organization tasked with "containing" the paranormal. In practice, this means protecting the wealthy, babysitting foreigners, and executing fiends. Their agents include occultists, police, technicians, and even public relations experts.
Shiva's Dancerstake a more old-school approach to fighting evil: They kick its ass. With their roots in medieval Tamil Nadu, they prefer ancient weapons and martial arts over guns and gadgets. They live like beggars, hunt like tigers, and fight like Jet friggin' Li.
Bodhisattvasare not-quite-enlightened Buddhists who turned back from Nirvana in order to help others. They have vast spiritual powers, but prefer to defeat their foes by helping them be better people.
Tulpas(artificial beings) to help them achieve divinity, but most are seduced off the path by temporal wealth and power. They've become influential in politics, Bollywood, and the criminal underworld.
Untouchablesfrom fakirs to gravediggers often take up arms against ghosts and monsters. Monkey-men ply an ancient trade as thieves and con artists. Ghouls hide in plain sight, officially licensed to eat the flesh of the dead.
Cannibal-Sorcererssacrifice their humanity for eternal life and become walking contagions in the process. Their bodies are twisted and feral, but preternaturally strong. Anywhere they linger is befouled, so they dwell in sewers, swamps, or cremation grounds.
Hungry Ghoststorment the living with their insane, insatiable desires. The most dangerous of them use cannibal-sorcery to possess corpses and drive their victims mad.
About the Author
Daniel Bayn is the author of Wushu, Secrets & Lies, and a small library of strange fiction. In a market dominated by high fantasy, he's known for wide-ranging genre mash-ups that draw from diverse source material.
He grew up in the untamed, suburban tundra of Minnesota, and studied psychology and world religions at the U of MN. This project was born from his life-long interest in SE Asian cinema, history, and folklore.