Thursday, February 3, 2011

Taste Test: Dian Masalanta

(Taste test is a new type of article that focuses on some of the fluff that have already been conceptualized for the Buan Campaign Setting. They will mostly be pure flavor, though the occasional mechanical bit will be included as well. Any material shown here is not final to the campaign setting, so feel free to add in comments and suggestions! In the spirit of the upcoming Valentines Day, Nosfecatu presents Dian Masalanta, the goddess of love. )

(art by James Macaspac)

Dian Masalanta was a goddess of the Maykapal pantheon that oversaw the sphere of love and passion. She was banished to the mortal world uncountable lifetimes ago due to breaking one of the Maykapal's sacred laws. It is not a punishment she resented - she loved the mortal world and was happy to dwell in its mountains as its guardian.

One of her best traits (and some say her worst flaw) was the tendency to love mortals in a way that is incomprehensible to the aloof deities of the sky. Her love was usually directed towards an entire barangay of people, typically those who reside on or near the mountain she has chosen to dwell in. She acted as their healer and protector during those times. She would perform this function until one from her charge tries to take advantage of her blessings. Whenever this happened, she usually moved on to another mountain. But in extremely rare cases, a grave insult caused her to unleash the calamitous wrath of a goddess on the whole populace. Passion extends both ways, after all.

From time to time, Dian Masalanta preferred to not reveal herself to the mortals who lived in her mountain. It was during these times that her love was directed not to a group of people, but to an individual mortal man. When the love is returned, the man is blessed with the power of an exarch until his death. When the man did not share her affections, she silently mourned what could not be but generally left him alone. It is this love for a mortal man that caused Dian Masalanta's downfall.

The Shattered

Love is by nature whimsical, and even its goddess could not, would not fully control it. Dian Masalanta fell in love with a tiefling, even though such creatures tended to evil. Prejudice, she believed, was a construct of the ones who have banished her from the godly realm of Kalangitan. In this case, however, the prejudice was well-warranted - the tiefling was a cultist of the serpentine primordial Zom'a, who wanted nothing more than to consume a goddess's powers for his own. The very moment Masalanta was close enough to the tiefling, Zom'a struck.

The huge, slithering form of Zom'a impossibly burst forth from the tiefling's stomach and surrounded the goddess. Caught entirely by surprise, Dian Masalanta could not bring her divine powers to protect herself in time. The serpent coiled around her form and prevented her discorporation with his own magic. Desperate to escape, she did the first thing that came to her mind: She shattered herself, killing her true form and spreading her divine essence to all the mountains of the world that were once her abode. She died, but Zom'a was deprived of his meal.

The Dalagas

Her fragments, combined with the stories of the mountains' residents of her, birthed various aspects of the goddess. Called the dalagas (maidens) of the mountain, each one bore a fraction of her power. While this makes dead Dian Masalanta the current weakest of the deities, it also serves as a unique defense mechanism. So long as one dalaga remains, her priests can call upon her power. 

However, the fragmentation also prevents the return of the complete Dian Masalanta. For this to happen, every living dalaga must willfully gather together and merge into the mother goddess. But they have each developed their own personalities in the lifetimes since the shattering, and are now unlikely to do so. Some of the dalagas have even entered into conflict with another over petty things such as the affection of a single adventurer.

Zom'a continues to crave for Dian Masalanta's divinity. Enraged as he was at the conclusion of the shattering, he nevertheless devoured what was left of the divine husk in his coils. It still feels like an incomplete meal. To date, a number of dalagas have fallen to his hunger.

Some notable dalagas include:
  • Dalagang Makiling of Mount Makiling - Makiling dwells in a mountain that resembles the form of a woman lying down. Some believe this mountain to be the corpse of Dian Masalanta, although this contradicts the story that it was devoured by Zom'a. She loves the mortals that dwell on the mountain, and she provides for them by keeping the land abundant. However, she forbids anything that grows in her mountain from being taken beyond it. Her spheres of influence are Earth, Love, and Wilderness.
  • Dalagang Magayon of Mayon Volcano - Magayon's fury is unmatched among the dalagas. In recent lifetimes she was bethroted to Prince Panginorin, a datu of a powerful, warlike barangay. His martial prowess combines with her godly powers (albeit only a fraction of it) made them a dominant force. But their rivals from another barangay, who couldn't beat them up front, tried to have them both assassinated. Panginorin perished whle Magayon survived, and in her fury she caused the once-peaceful mountain to erupt flames, killing both her subjects and her enemies. In the years since she has never loved again, although that may soon change. Her spheres of influence are Earth, Love, and Destruction.
  • Dalagang Sinukuan of Mount Arayat - Sinukuan is unlike the other dalaga in that she is not a whimsical entity. She knows the names of every creature in her forest - humanoid, beast, or insect - and she acts as a judge to every dispute that may arise in her domain. She is particularly watchful of the snakes that live in her mountain. She believes that her "mother" was forced to kill herself because she did whatever she fancied instead of following the Maykapal's laws. She believes that if she carves a place of order in her mountain domain, she may be allowed to take her mother's place with the other gods in the realm of Kalangitan. Her spheres of influence are Earth, Love, and Justice.
Dian Masalanta in the Game

Dian Masalanta is unique amongst the deities in that she has an active presence in the world. She is also currently the weakest - the dalagas range in level from 18 to 23 elite. She is still powerful, however. While this may make her a mover and shaker in the world, each of her fragments are more or less bound to their mountain abode. All of them fear Zom'a and have ample protective magics erected in their homes. This protection does not extend beyond that.

The dalagas all appear as beautiful eladrin, for the Maykapal deities were once part of these fey. 

Some ideas for PC hooks include:
  • Goddess' lover - The dalagas, like Dian Masalanta, have a tendency to love mortals. Perhaps the PC is favored by the goddess in this way. Without the power to appoint exarchs, a dalaga can instead impart a fey pact to the PC.
  • Dalaga - Perhaps the PC wants to roleplay as one of the dalaga herself. This is certainly a possibility, as the power of the various aspects are different from one another. Choose either eladrin or deva as the race, and eye the demigod as the preferred epic destiny. Why doesn't she bind herself to a mountain like her sisters? Does she want to be restored as Dian Masalanta, or does she fear that it will cause her to lose herself? How does she react to the schemes of Zom'a?
  • Divine character - The easiest way to include Dian Masalanta in the game is to have a divine character that draws their power from her. They are likely invested with this power by a dalaga herself, as opposed to a high priest. Characters of this nature tend to hunt Zom'a's snakemen minions in the name of his goddess.
  • Wooed by two dalagas - Earning the love of a goddess is all well and good, but what happens when two of them are attracted to the PC at the same time? How will he react to the very real possibility of divine wrath if she chooses one over another, or worse, if she chooses neither over a mortal woman? This can be an interesting take on the warring twins cliche, although it can become a chore after a few sessions. Such a hook should probably be kept short.
  • The sacred law that Dian Masalanta broke, causing her banishment from Kalangitan, is unknown. Many believe that it is her first mortal love, although other deities have loved mortals and were unpunished.
  • The dalagas are patterned after the various "lady of the mountains" of Philippine mythology. The archetype is diverse and universally divine, but each lady is unique in her own regard. That's how we came up with the Shattering. We wanted to make each version relevant.
  • Zom'a is influenced by Zuma, a Philippine komiks character. He is distinct enough from the baseline character, but we may still change his name when we think of something more appropriate. He may also be changed into a dread dragon, the principal, elemental villains of our setting. If this happens, the plan is to make him the son of Bakunawa. (See Asuang: Shapechanging Horrors.)
  • We cite Ang Mundo ni Andong Agimat by Arnold Arre as one of our inspirations. In this graphic novel written in Filipino, Mariang Makiling appears as a young girl, without her memories, wandering a gritty (and perhaps quite accurate) version of the City of Manila.
  • The original Dian Masalanta was the Tagalog goddess of love, fecundity and childbirth. (Wikipedia) Not much is known about her beyond that, however, so we decided to combine her to the mountain goddesses, who are themselves usually associated with love.
  • In the Filipino language, "diyan" translates to there, while "nasalanta" translates to the being destroyed due to a natural calamity. The name "Dian Masalanta" thus evokes the image of a powerful, destructive force of nature. It makes you wonder why that name was given by the pre-Hispanic Filipinos to the goddess of love... (2018 Edit: Dian is the female honorific equivalent to datu! Silly 2011 BJ, your research is shoddy.)
  • There are plans to stat up at least two of the dalagas described above in our as-of-yet-unnamed epic monster product.