Thursday, July 30, 2020

#StayAtHome: "The Revenge of the Rose"

I don't know whether Professor Barker read and enjoyed Michael Moorcock, but in spite of Phil frequently being called "the other Tolkien", there are aspects of his work that resonate more with the multiverse of Michael Moorcock.

Now don't get me wrong: Moorcock has never shown much interest in the kind of anthropological realism and sociological nuance that the Professor has built into Tekumel. One often gets the impression that the Young Kingdoms and most other settings in Moorcock's novels are just set pieces or backdrops where an Eternal Champion can have adventures and mishaps.

But a couple commonalities - at least on an aesthetic/thematic level - include science fantasy, interplanar travel, demons, and the weird. Oh, and Chaos. Or Change.

Both authors were also quite fond of Edgar Rice Burroughs.

As I started reading the second of the "late" Elric novels, The Revenge of the Rose (1991), I kept thinking of Tekumel from time-to-time. I read the novel in about a week. Like past Elric novels, there is plenty of the weird, and plenty of interplanar travel. There are also more female characters with agency than in the early Elric novels, including the Rose, who may be an incarnation of the Eternal Champion herself, and a creepy but beautiful young seeress named Charion Phatt, herself a distant descendant of Corum, an incarnation of the Eternal Champion from ancient Cornwall.

None of the women are Elric's love interest, nor do they show any interest in him. The women do scheme and work effectively with each other. In fact, Elric doesn't even fully understand the Rose's motivations, which really have nothing to do with him (he is just the Rose's instrument), until the last few pages of the novel.

The Revenge of the Rose is disjointed, and has some borrowings or parallels with The Dragon in the Sword (1987), an Erekose novel. The latter is a much more coherent novel, although Revenge has one of the most chilling examples of willful self-destruction and mass suicide that I have ever read. It is perfect reading for the pandemic.

Since finishing Revenge, I have started on the first of the late Elric novels, The Fortress of the Pearl (1989). I am about 60 pages in and it is a much more coherent, tighter narrative. I am looking forward to continuing with the Pearl before I tackle some of the LONG late Elric novels.

There are at least three more of those.

Monday, June 29, 2020

There Are Few Absolutes

On Tekumel, we see something better than "evil" races. The inimical races are classified as such (by some humans, and some non-humans) because they were either brutally displaced by humanity - and had the gall to resist - when "mankind" came to Tekumel, or had in the past contended with humanity for dominance among the stars.
There is nothing inherently evil or inherently inimical about them; the classification is entirely materialist and sociological-political rather than metaphysical.
Most or all of these aliens can be understood rationally and even negotiated with from time to time. In some places on the planet, humans even live in peace with them. All of this is possible, of course, because Tekumel was envisioned by someone who was familiar with other cultures, and traveled a bit. It also helps that Tekumel is science fictional at its roots.
So the friendly-neutral-inimical axis is not even a true alignment system; it's more of an historical anthropology.
Scholars and priests of the Five Empires however DO recognize two alignments: Stability and Change. These exist at the intersection of religious and other social institutions, and are frameworks for understanding the great interplanar intelligences that are recognized as the Gods and their Cohorts, and associated demons.
People tend to have an affinity for either Stability or Change, based on what deities are important to them personally, or to their clan or nation.
Also, anyone who studies the Aspects of the Gods, or the demons associated with particular gods, is aware that certain Aspects of a God or demon associated with Stability may have very specific characteristics associated with Change - and vice versa. Any theologian worth their salt understands that Stability and Change interpenetrate. There are few absolutes.

Sunday, November 3, 2019

Tekumel at Gamehole Con

Adventurer Party from Jeff Dee's Bethorm

This weekend I attended Gamehole Con in Madison, WI, where The Tekumel Foundation sponsored at Tekumel RPG theme track. The GMs included Victor Raymond, Mark Seifert, Amanda Dee, Scott Kellogg, Jeff Dee, and myself. I was able to run three games, and play in another four games by other GMs. It was also really nice to GM for and game alongside Mark Eggert, a Tekumel veteran whom I haven't seen since my early years playing Tekumel!

Games I GMed included a two-part Fate of Tekumel RPG adventure set in the time of the Pe Choi Revolt (yes, there was one!), with Part I called (surprise, surprise): "The Pe Choi Revolt" and Part II called "The Time of No Emperor" (and this is NOT the same thing as the "Time of No Kings"!). The players represented an expedition/delegation sent by the ruling Temples of Change to enter into negotiations in the Chakas with a newly independent/separatist Pe Choi state. The PCs defeated Feshengas in the deep jungle, discovered an ancient Bednalljan Sarku shrine guarded by a Pe Choi Jagji, and eventually arrived at the Pe Choi village at the center of the new nation. I was pretty stunned to have a full table of 6 players ready to go for Part II at 8 AM on Saturday! Gamehole is a convention that draws about 5,000 players, and people are ready to game!

If you're interested in Fate of Tekumel or this adventure, be sure to come to Con of the North in February. At that convention, I  am going to pick up where Part II of the adventure left off, in an adventure titled "Tekumel: The Time of No Emperor."

I also ran a Barsoom-Tekumel crossover adventure, "Red Moon, Red Planet" using the 2d20 John Carter of Mars RPG from Modiphius Entertainment.

My fearless Barsoomians

Players started on Barsoom, and had landed in Katalal by the end of the adventure. But the player right in the center of the photo remarked that by the end of the game, his PC had lived in three different worlds!  He played Joseph Stands Alone, an American Indian spy from the Jemez Pueblo in New Mexico, who had previously been transplanted from Jasoom (i.e., Earth) to Barsoom! The players picked up the system very quickly, and play was evocative and fun!

Amanda Dee ran a great Bethorm RPG game called "Maidens of the Mist". The PCs played priestesses-in-training in the Temple of Dilinala who had been sent on a spooky mission to a spooky, spooky place in the Kurt Hills. That was a great game for Halloween night!

Scott Kellogg ran an EPT-Dungeon Crawl Classics funnel in the underworld of Penom. His scenario, "The Rising Tide of Darkness" was a real hoot, with a lot of surprises for both Tekumel veterans as well as players new-to-Tekumel.

Jeff Dee ran "A Little Bit of Ice", another great Bethorm RPG game that became a TPK. You'd think that would have been the EPT-DCC game - which did have causalties - but no. Tune in to an upcoming Hall of Blue Illumination podcast for more about what happened in the story.

Finally, I also played in Scott Kellogg's Saturday night EPT game, "Hirilakte Hijinx", in which the PCs played a Stability-oriented gladiatorial team ("Red Rage"), that ended up with hijinx in the Underworld.

Gamehole Con was a great convention, and I plan to be back next year for more Tekumel gaming!

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Clans for Characters Starting in Thráya

One of the challenging aspects of character generation at the game table, is having a list of clans that is easy to visually scan and from which players can select a clan that "feels right" for their character concept and that does interesting things. The Sourcebook has the definitive list of best-known clans on Tékumel, but the Professor was also clear in the text that there are many other local clans. We know that players at the Professor's table also worked with him to create new clans, such as Ensorcelled Goblet, a Drá-focused clan. The challenge is how to carry on that tradition in a way that is respectful of the source material and continues to build the world in ways that are respectful, natural, and interesting to players.

It has been a busy few weeks for the Fate of Tékumel RPG, as I have been developing a new document, "Clans for Campaigns Starting in Thráya". The focus of the document is a resource to help players choose clans at character generation. My focus is on clans that are based-in or have a presence in the city of Thráya and its immediate surrounds, since Thráya the area of the Empire that I am developing for the RPG.

The list includes traditional, canonical clans as well as some new local and regional clans. The clan list is currently at 4,500 words (about 10 pages), but will grow a bit as I add a few more clans.

Oh, and every clan has Aspects now.

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Tékumel Sourcebook Chiaroscuro

I just completed a read-through of Swords & Glory Volume 1: The Tékumel Sourcebook.  This reading spanned several years, from before my mom's passing through to breakfast this morning. I read intermittently, sometimes taking a break for several months. Quite a bit of the reading was done during travel - either by air, or as the dachshund-tending passenger on a road trip.

This is not the first time that I have read the Sourcebook, but it IS the first time I have read the entire Sourcebook.  I believe in the past I had read both volumes of the Sourcebook that saw print in the very readable Different Worlds imprint, and I know I read chunks of its original Gamescience edition.

In fact, I was about to read the Sourcebook in its entirety when the binding on my Gamescience edition suddenly failed! We are very fortunate to have this book now available from DriveThru in both POD and PDF formats, with the wonderful, ever-so detailed index and glossary prepared by Krista Donnelly. They are quite remarkable, and improve the usability of the product quite significantly.

As I noted above, I had previously read parts of the Gamescience edition, as well as the Different Worlds editions cover-to-cover. But the last third or so of the Sourcebook was never published in the Different Worlds edition. This was the first time I had read the final Sourcebook sections on arms and armor, military units, assassins' weapons and the assassins' clans, and the arts and sciences. There is a LOT of great content packed into the last third of the Sourcebook; that's for sure!

A friend once said that Tékumel is the only world he needs for gaming, and there is a lot of truth to that.

So what's next? I really need to read Swords & Glory Vol. 2. But I need to wait until I have a sturdy POD edition of that in-hand. In the meantime, I am going to read this one cover to cover, as preparation for running Empire of the Petal Throne at Con of the North in February. I have played
EPT several times, and I have certainly used it as a reference for Fate of Tékumel, but this will be my first time running it!

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Tubecar Discs

© 2017 Tangletown Games

There are many forms of wealth on Tékumel, but a satchel of tubecar discs, like the image above by Juan Ochoa, are a sure way to put a price on your head.

Imagine all the places these discs could take a party!

Where have you been on Tékumel?

Sunday, August 27, 2017

New Illustrations for Fate of Tékumel

Juan Ochoa just turned in a whole passel of spot illustrations for the Fate of Tékumel RPG.

Here is a great one of a Feshenga:

© 2017 Tangletown Games