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Friday 4 April 2014

Arrows of Indra Q&A Update

This is an update of the ongoing Q&A thread for Arrows of Indra on theRPGsite.  If YOU have a question for me about AoI, please feel free to write on that thread and I will do my best to answer!

Today we have three questions:

Q: Maybe obvious, but for the sake of exploring the topic, can Yogis use magical mala, staves, robes and bowls? Presumably yes - the book notes that Yogis may change their items for another. The section on magical mala notes the use of mala in general (again) by Yogis (among others). And of course, there are example magical staves and mala in AoI.

 A: Yes. A yogi can use any magical mala, staves, robes or bowls, within any other regular limits of their class.

Q:I appreciate the Arrows of Indra is self-contained, pretty easily digestible, and requires "no anthropology, history, theology or linguistics degree".
Might you suggest some follow-up readings for GMs so interested? The introduction of course recommends reading Indian myth outside the book (for those so interested, but not require) … but it's been … let's call it 2 decades … since I personally studied the Upanishads and the Bhagavad Gita - so I'm a little disconnected from the source myth.
I'd love any recommendations you might have, as the author.

A:Well, its hard for me to give out any specific recommendations, particularly since I don't want to end up sounding too much like saying that added research is essential. There are a number of good (condensed) versions of the Mahabharata, and also the Ramayana out there these days, including in Comic book format if you're very lazy; plus a couple of amusing TV/cinematic versions.
The Bhagavad Gita, Upanishads, Bhagavata Purana, etc. are available in a number of good modern translations (hint: I would generally stay away from the ISKCON/'Hare Krishna' versions, which I don't think are very good). But these are all mystical texts, of them only the latter contains actual mythology.

I would recommend that you do some google searches for each of those. You can find the Mahabharata for free here. Other important texts for free here.

Q: Another question (or prompt, perhaps). I've read the the Gods and Religion chapter of Arrows of Indra (and groked it, I believe).
I've also read the AoI articles "How to Play a Bharata Kingdoms Indian", "The Importance of Family in Old-School Play", and "Presenting the Familiar", among others. All good stuff.
I think the article on playing a Bharata Kingdoms human is especially insightful re: religion and caste, but in some ways, just scratches at the surface (and no disrespect intended here) - I'm thinking, at the moment, of the likes of old school RuneQuest with their cult descriptions.
While not looking to duplicate those or necessarily have that level of detail (where's my 9 page write-up of the cult of Shiva the Destroyer, darn it! ), I am wondering about additional details for the Bharata religions … such as additional trappings on Vaishnavite practices vs. Shaivite practices, etc.
I don't think this is any particular lack in terms of Arrows of Indra completeness, so not a criticism. I'm just looking for any additional insights to bring the players to encourage their specific role-play and provide a little more verisimilitude re: the Kingdoms.
I'm also open to responses of "Yep, make it up - keep a page in your notebook and jot down the times that PC1 says he uses x incense for y rite, that there is a Shiva vengeance spirt, or whatever comes up in play…" 

A:  Ok, so in the first case, I would point out that most D&D Old-School games don't go into tremendous detail about Clerics' worship. Obviously, Arrows of Indra is not just any old-school RPG when it comes to religion. I plan to post more "AoI articles" talking about the subject.

Yes, of course, you can just make it up! There's nothing to stop GMs from doing that.
You could also do some research, HOWEVER, note that the modern religion of Hinduism and the religion practiced in the time of the Vedas are not really the same thing. Here, in brief, is the history of it: You had this ancient pre-Vedic religion, then the religion of the Rig-Veda (and if you read the Rig-Veda, its very clear just how different that religion is from modern Hinduism, it doesn't even have most of the Gods the average Hindu worships these days, and its utterly devoid of core-concepts in Hinduism, like Karma, Reincarnation, Non-dualism, etc). After that, you had this Brahminist religion, which would have been the religion of the period of the Mahabharata; its a lot more similar to modern Hinduism, but its not the same thing. It had rituals where you slaughtered and ate cows, for example; where you slaughtered horses and had the queen fake sexual congress with the corpse; you start seeing things like karma and reincarnation, but many of the more advanced spiritual concepts are still absent.
So what happened? Well, the next step was Buddhism, which swept over India and almost wiped out the Brahminist religion. Jainism also surged at this time, and had important influence. It was these two movements that refined some of the concepts that had already existed but were in a very basic form in Brahminism: samsara (the (bad) cycle of reincarnation), Moksha (the idea of final liberation from the cycle of reincarnation), non-violence, vegetarianism, etc.
It was only after several hundred years, when the Gupta Dynasty arose, that an upsurge of a new and reformed set of different movements rose up that consolidated as the idea of what in the west we termed Hinduism. It was here that many of the rituals of the Vaishnavite and Shaivite sects came to resemble their modern form; not to mention more mystical or esoteric stuff like Bhakti or Tantra.

So what you really might want to do is look at and read the source texts; the Rig-veda has rituals in it that would be already considered antiquated in most of the Bharata kingdoms by the time of the AoI's base setting. The Ramayana and Mahabharata have descriptions of rituals and religious practices in them that would better reflect what most regions would be into at this time.
In the setting, religion is in transition: Temples and priests are still very important, but the Yogi ascetic movement is gaining ground, and the esoteric schools of various Siddhi philosophers/wizards are rising in popularity; plus the Avatara Krishna is creating a popular Cult of Personality that is bypassing the traditional methods of worship, which are largely based on financially-supported Brahmins performing very complex rituals in temples for you and presenting you with some blessing you are the passive recipient of.

That's it for today, please feel free to send your questions to the Q&A thread, and I'll answer it about once a week!


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