Sunday, March 26, 2017

How to Fire an Eye


I made this home video for some art direction that I provided to illustrator Juan Ochoa. The thumb depresses the firing stud on the back of the Eye (opposite the face of the iris) while the first and second fingers keep the upper and lower edges of the Eye pointed at the target.

One with fat fingers needs to be cautious not to interrupt the beam with those fingers!

Sunday, March 5, 2017

A Taste of Thráya

Art by Juan Ochoa, © Tangletown Games

This is an illustration detail from new PC art that I commissioned from Juan Ochoa for the Fate of Tékumel RPG. There's enough detail that those of great erudition may be able to elucidate where in the environs of the city of Thráya this character is presently found, and who this person is (i.e., social role).

Monday, February 20, 2017

The Rite of the Diffraction of the Baletl

For my scenario "The Gate to Hmakuyal" at Con of the North this past weekend, I created "The Rite of the Diffraction of the Baletl", one of the secret rituals of the Temple of Lord Hru'u, Supreme Principle of Change. The rite teaches humility, revealing the impermanence and irrelevance of personal and clan status before Lord Hru'u, as well as demonstrating the illusory character and interchangability of the person, self, and memory (i.e., the Báletl, or Spirit-Soul).

This ritual is only carried out in certain Inner Shrines within the temple. The temple typically invites groups of acolytes to participate in the ritual as a reward for devotion to Lord Hru'u and dedication to their studies. Pilgrims and devotees, particularly high status individuals who are financial patrons of the temple, may also be invited to participate in this ritual, although never at the same time as acolytes.

Once successfully cast, the spirit-selves of those seated in mediation are diffracted and shared among the presiding priests and participants. Fragments of memories, desires, experiences, and secrets are randomly transferred among the seated participants. The presiding priests' memories and experiences are NOT shared however.


Two priests preside over the ritual. The participants must fast for at least 12 hours prior to the ritual, and must be seated in meditation for at least three hours. Once this has occurred, the junior priest will need to make a Chusetl roll of +3, and the senior priest a Hlakme roll of +3 to fully instantiate the rite.

Each seated participant should roll 1dF.
  • On a + roll, the participant gains an extremely useful memory from another person seated in mediation. This takes the form of a persistent additional aspect. The memory's potency as an aspect lasts for one scenario. It can be invoked once per session for free. 
  • On a blank face roll, the participant gains a memory which lasts for the remainder of the session. It can be invoked once for free.
  • On a (-) roll, the participant gains a terrifying or otherwise negative memory. This counts as a Moderate Consequence. 

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Fate of Tekumel Playtest

Yesterday was Dave Arneson Day at the Source, and since Dave was a Tekumel player and GM, I ran a playtest of some new chargen mechanics for Fate of Tekumel, and after that ran a three hour scenario set in the Forest of Gilraya. Both players were familiar with Tekumel (one is a veteran Tekumel GM, although this was the first chance we had ever had to play together), but new to Fate.

All three of us created players from the noble Rising Sun clan. We were on a hunting expedition in the Forest of Gilraya, and the party included:

  • Randy created a Sorcerer-Priest of Karakan who was a veteran of the legions. He made good use of the Doomkill and Vallation spells during the two combats in the scenario.
  • Taylor played an aristocratic swordsman who was the party's hunter.  He was very good with a spear and held it together against some very tough foes in a couple very close fights.
  • I made a socially ambitious and adept layabout from the Rising Sun clanhouse in Thraya. He was the guy trying to use a palanquin in the jungle. Poor Bekkanu met an ill-end, touching an execration inscribed into the bottom of a Hlutrgu caracole. These kind of things happen on Tekumel.  
The combats were tense and dramatic; Randy said they felt close to EPT, which is high praise.

The players shared some great feedback for the next cycle of chargen revisions, so I'll be incorporating their ideas over the next week!

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Fate of Tekumel for Dave Arneson Day at the Source

On Saturday, October 1st, Source Comics and Games will be running its annual Dave Arneson Day event. Since Dave Arneson was one of the "greatest generation" of Empire of the Petal Throne players and GMs, I am going to run a playtest of the newest iteration of the Fate of Tekumel rules as my contribution to the day's festivities.

My game will run from 2-6 PM on October 1st. 

The map above may give you a sense of the real estate involved.

Don't be surprised if you meet Dave Arneson's signature character on Tekumel, the pirate, smuggler, and all around Haida Pakalan rascal, Harchar. 

The adventure might involve frogs. Maybe even a temple.  Possibly a god.

We shall see. 

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!