Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Tekumel Track at Con of the North



This past weekend was Con of the North, a gaming convention in the Twin Cities, Minnesota. For the third year in a row, Con of the North featured a superb Tekumel track. This year, I had an accident the day before the convention so I was at my home and off my feet for the first day. However, by Saturday I was back on my feet and enjoying two full days of Tekumel.

Saturday started with Bill Acheson's excellent miniatures adventure, "Panic in Pan Chaka." Bill travelled all the way from Baltimore to run this game, and he put together a fantastic table. There were miniatures gamers popping in throughout his four hour game just to see the spread. One was a gamer who had last played EPT some 30 years ago at Augsburg College.

Interestingly enough, I have only-ever played miniatures games in Tekumel settings. Multiple parties (assembled by an auction process) set out to discover why human villagers in the Chakas were disappearing. (And of course, each party was also motivated by the possibility of discovering loot.) My party consisted of a priest of Ksarul, an Ahoggya, and a Hlaka. This was a deadly wilderness crawl; the Chakas have lots of nasty wildlife.

Here's the set-up we encountered:

On Saturday afternoon, Don Kaiser, a veteran Tekumel GM, ran "A Royal Visit". The story featured a group of Golden Bough clan PCs dealing with the sudden arrival of Princess Ma'in in the city of Thraya. Our charge was to find out why Princess Ma'in was here, so that our clanmaster could turn her visit to our clan's advantage. Most of the session took place at an elite reception for the princess. Don's game was a great example of the kind of clan-based stories of intrigue that are possible with Tekumel. He also did a great job thinking through the implications of the princess' secret mission.

Saturday night Krista Donnelly, visiting from DC, ran a playtest of Felip Moral's Tekumel boardgame. She had a full table for the game, including a least three folks who were new to Tekumel. I missed my chance to play the game at this con, but I heard that the game went well and that the players had a lot of fun with it.

Victor Raymond, chair of the Tekumel Foundation, also visited on Saturday night and brought copies of the new edition of the Tekumel Sourcebook as convention prizes for the Tekumel track. It was great having this kind of convention support from the Foundation!

Our late Saturday night game was Brett Slocum's. He used the Warriors of the Red Planet RPG to run an adventure set in the Latter Times, a period of Tekumel's history when the level of techology was still relatively high, making it perfect for Barsoom-style swords & planet action. I had played a version of this scenario at U-Con in November and had a great time with it there. This time, we ran with an all-Fighter party!

Sunday morning, Don Kaiser ran "A Thrayan Intrigue", a follow-up scenario to "A Royal Visit". This one was an Underworld adventure that dealt with the immediate consequences of the princess' mission in the city. The PCs discovered a second Nexus Point in the Underworld adjacencies to the Golden Bough clanhouse. We went through the Nexus Point, and had a classic experience of the Twin Cities-style of Tekumel high adventure.

I wrapped things up on Sunday afternoon with "Black Ships in Jakalla Bay", a Fate of Tekumel RPG scenario set in the distant past of the Dragon Warriors and the Fisherman Kings! The scenario pitted the PCs against a huge naval armada besieging Jakalla.Seven players showed up for the game, which was a great way to end the Tekumel theme track and close out the convention!

I also used the scenario to playtest character generation for Fate of Tekumel RPG!  More to come on that! Look for a post in the near future on the Tekumel Foundation blog.


Friday, November 27, 2015

Tekumel Games Played at U-Con

Brett Slocum GM's Heroic Age of Tekumel
Last weekend was U-Con, a high quality, well-organized, very friendly gaming convention based in Ypslanti, Michigan. I travelled there with my Minnesota road buddies Brett Slocum and Howard Hendrickson. It's a long trek through the Midwest to and from the con, but you have a lot of time for Tekumel-talk on a 12 hour road trip!

Here's a brief report on the games in which I was a player:

  • Hlaka 2: The Way Home - T:EPT author Patrick Brady is know for his high quality military scenarios, and this one was a diceless adventure of a Hlaka mercenary flight that ended up on the losing side of the Civil War. Patrick spent a lot of time working out both the flight mechanics and social behaviors of these three-eyed, six-limbed, mammalian flyers. They flew using patagia, with behaviors and flight dynamics similar to those of bats. I played a Hlaka archer. Hlaka don't try to use bows while in flight; they're an intelligent species. Instead, you find a tree, land, and shoot from there. As always, Patrick's game was funny as hell, and provoked deeper thinking about how things work in Tekumel.
  • Bethorm: A Night's Entertainment - Krista Donnelly ran two sessions using the new Bethorm ruleset. The adventure carried over a character (and storyline) from last year, and involved an Emerald Circlet (a very low clan) group of entertainers who had been summoned to a very remote island estate of the very high status Azure Cloak of Gems clan. This was a rather sinister scenario with a lot of strange things happening in and around the clanhouse. I've had a copy of Bethorm for a while, and found the system easy to learn and use.
  • Heroic Age: Fresh Off The Boat - Our next game as a classic fresh-off-the-boat scenario in which a group of demon-worshipping islanders began new lives in Jakalla. We ended up taking a patronage offer from a member of a middle-clan with scholarly interests; this led to a rather deadly expedition into the Jakallan Underworld. I wouldn't be surprised at all if this demon-worshipping tribe becomes a recurrent "character" in future Foreigners' Quarter games set in Jakalla. Brett's Heroic Age of Tekumel is a retroclone of EPT. I've played it a number of times now, and I think it does a good job as an old school Tekumel game. The Heroic Age of Tekumel quickstart is a free download on RPGNow. 
  • Warriors of the Red Planet: Princess Zira & the Jungle Ruins - I have run Warriors of the Red Planet a number of times; it is an old school swords & planet RPG that is very faithful to it's primary source material, Edgar Rice Burroughs' Barsoom. A Princess of Mars was one of Professor Barker's favorite books, and in many ways the world of Tekumel is a sister planet of Barsoom. WotRP perfect for Tekumel games set in periods such as the Latter Times, long before the low-tech, highly stratified Tekumel-as-we-know-it came into being. I played a member of the Mentalist Guild of Omel. The action involved the intrigues of a sinister cult in a very distant city. Great game!
  • Bethorm: A Guard's Life - Krista's second Bethorm scenario featured a group of Sakbe road guards who had to deal with a BIG situation (50+ escaped slaves) way beyond their pay grade. This game was a challenging mystery in which we narrowly avoided killing or capturing the innocent. I played a guard who had been kicked out of the Temple of Sarku for failing to learn the prayers. However I had learned a few useful spells, which caught my fellow guards by surprise! Nobody expects a Sakbe road guard to cast Web of Kryag!

Friday, November 20, 2015

Ahoggya Ark - 12th Plane Encounters



The 12th Plane is a jungle level. The primary denizens are Ahoggya, Shen, Platform Builders, and Tribal humans and mutants. And other mutants.

The jungle is dense. Crossing 1 mile of jungle on foot takes four hours. If travelling by water (canoe, raft, boat), it takes 1 hour to cross a mile of jungle. Roll 1D6 per mile of jungle crossed. On a roll of 5 or 6 there is an encounter.

Consult the On Land and On or Near Water tables below as appropriate.  Standard mutant descriptions and number appearing notes start on p. 17 of MA. Distribution of Monsters (Mutations) and Treasure rules and tables are on p. 20-22. Standard encounter tables by terrain type are on p. 22.

On Land Table
  1. Ahoggya party
  2. Platform Builder party (1)
  3. Shen party
  4. Tribal party
  5. Mutated human
  6. Mutated animal (2)
  7. Mutated plant
  8. Mutated Ahoggya
  9. Cyber-Ahoggya
  10. Gachaya (dragon-like 10 M long lizard from Shen worlds)
  11. Thief Beast (p.17)
  12. Hyehoon
Notes:
(1) If at night time, substitute Qol, who often emerge from the sublevel below 12.
(2) Common forms include Atlun (spiders), Nyar or Tsi'il or Chlen, Feshenga, Hu, Giant Dri (ants), Syusyu (small Shen lizards, 4-6 cm, many edible, some poisonous), Sezhme (snakes, some segmented, some not; many poisonous).


On or Near Water Table
  1. Hlu'un
  2. Ghar
  3. Sezhme (snakes)
  4. Ahoggya party (waders)
  5. Ahoggya party (raft)
  6. Shen fisherfolk
  7. Hisser (p.17)
  8. Fern Bush (p.18)
  9. Dart Weed (p.18)
  10. Winged Biter (p. 17)



Sunday, November 15, 2015

Ahoggya Ark



My head is exploding! Is it a mental attack? If so, I'll just have to tick one mark off for a successfully resisted attack and get on with things!

This week, I'll be running my Metamorphosis Alpha scenario, Ahoggya Ark at U-Con in Ypslanti, Michigan. The event is cross-listed on both the Tekumel and OSR theme tracks, and happens on Friday, November 20, from 10 AM-2 PM. It looks like there is still a ticket left for the event if you want to play!

We're in High Convention Prep Mode here, and I spent the day with the Anubian Ambassador at my side, reading the rules to Metamorphosis Alpha. It was quite a trip back in time, to a day when RPGs sometimes had a dizzying array of subsystems packed into a very small shell. I have to say that Goodman Games has done a great job bringing this classic SF RPG back into broader circulation with a series of deluxe editions and new supplements and art!

+B. Portly has done a great job in designing a new GM screen for the game, and his character sheet designs support the GM and players in not forgetting some of the nuances in the rules, such as the little ticks for Mental Attacks resisted.

My generation ship scenario is something of a crossover between Metamorphosis Alpha and Tekumel/Humanspace Empires universe. It will be accessible to people who know nothing about either setting - so there's no barrier to entry!

Come join us for an adventure on the 12th Plane!

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Happy Sourcebook Day!



One of the challenges with diabetes and astigmatism is that you can't always tell from a PDF whether text and images are sharp. My hard copy of the republication of the Tekumel Source Book arrived today, and I am happy to report that The Tekumel Foundation's new edition reproduces the sharp, small text of the original. It is very readable. 

The original edition of the Sourcebook came out in 1983, the year I graduated from College. It is the most important text for understanding the world of Tekumel. It is a source of constant inspiration for me. In fact, as I travelled this summer, I marked up a spiral bound photocopy of the Sourcebook with all sorts of notes about possible adventure ideas I might run. Even a couple of sentences in the Sourcebook can plant those seeds; Professor Barker's writing is just that good.

In a few weeks, I will be running one of those adventures at U-Con in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Just scroll down in the Tekumel Track for the Sunday, 9 AM event!


Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Falling Leaves

A place close to the heart 10-27-13
Yesterday, Google Photos was kind enough to send me a reminder of this beautiful day near the home of a loved one. All the talk today of the Ssu reminded me of the Monastery of Falling Leaves in the mountain passes of Eastern Tsolyanu. A monastery dedicated to the Horokaingai, those dedicated followers of Lord Vimuhla that the Lord of Flames assigned as standard bearers for Lord Ksarul at the Battle of Dormoron Plain.

When all others, including Lord Vimuhla, betrayed our Lord Ksarul, these warriors stayed true. We remember them today.

Monday, July 27, 2015

The Search for Stark!

Players T-Roy and Lisa show off the map of Leigh Brackett's Mars

Saturday was my third time running Warriors of the Red Planet. This weekend was Diversicon 23, one of the best small literary SF&F cons in Minnesota.

It's my tradition at this con to run roleplaying event that incorporates the work of our guests of honor (living and posthumous). This year's game was focused on three of our posthumous guests:
  • Leigh Brackett, the author of numerous planetary romance short stories set on Mars and Venus, as well as the Skaith trilogy featuring her anti-hero Eric John Stark
  • Gene L. Coon, who wrote a number of the best Star Trek episodes, including "Devil in the Dark"
  • Sun Ra, the inventive jazz musician who Guest of Honor Ytasha Womack (author of Afrofuturism) and many others see as the one of the pioneers of Afrofuturism
My Warriors of the Red Planet game was set on Leigh Brackett's Mars. The players were charged with finding Eric John Stark. The PCs started in the adventure in a sleazy cantina in the Martian city-state of Kahora, adjacent to the Terran starport. After agreeing to take a large sum from a mystery woman (Terran? Martian?) to locate Stark, the PCs headed for the last location where he had been found, in the even more ancient city-state of Jekkara (a city "half as old as the world"). After recruiting a Martian scientist/gadgeteer in an even sleazier establishment, they headed south in a jury rigged flyer, exploring a mining site and polar ice tunnels leading to the lost city of Sun Ark.

The PCs survived an encounter with a new creature, a Temporal Displacer Beast, which is something of a cross between a Horta, a Displacer Deast, and a Beholder (oddly enough at the Diversicon 23 auction later that evening, we saw a reproduction of the magazine featuring A.E Van Vogt's short story "The Black Destroyer", the inspiration for the Displacer Beast!).

I had four players, all women, all great players, including my friend Rachel Kronick (author of the Blade & Crown RPG). Rachel is the most consistent player in my Diversicon RPGs. Like a fair number of GMs, I am sure, I often get performance anxiety right before RPG events, and an inner voice tells me not to run my game. Rachel is usually the friend who talks me off the ledge, and nudges me to run the game.

Another player was very new to roleplaying. This was her second game ever, but she's clearly a natural and I have no doubt that she will go on to game A LOT after this adventure! Another of the players who made a quick cameo was Phyllis Ann Karr, the author of one of my favorite fantasies from the 80s, Wildraith's Last Battle. I didn't even know she was a roleplayer, but that makes sense given her collaboration with Greg Stafford as the author of the King Arthur Companion.

Once I began the game, of course, all the anxiety went away. It always does, especially when you have a group of players who have good energy with each other. 

I'm not sure yet who the guests of honor will be for next year, but I'm so glad I ran the game this year that I am sure I'll be back for more.