Monday, April 28, 2014

Fate of Tekumel Playtest

Saturday I ran a small playtest for Fate of Tekumel, this time using a variant of the character generation and magic rules from the Fate Freeport Companion. They worked pretty well!

I had two players, Marc and Rob, and Chirine ba Kal as an observer. Chirine wrote a blog post about the session here. Marc and Rob created characters who belong to the same clan and lineage. While they share the same heritage, they have embarked on very different walks of life.

Marc created Tlamal, a spy with experience in the Legions; his character is a master of disguise, and always has a knife handy when he needs it. Rob chose to play Niko, a priest of Qon. For this playtest, he selected six spells from Guardians of Order's Tekumel: Empire of the Petal Throne, and I translated them into Fate Freeport Companion's spell mechanics. This was really great, because I really wanted to start testing out spell mechanics.

As a brief aside, during the character generation process Chirine showed us Professor Barker's own illustration of a priest of Lord Qon, a Stability deity and the Cohort of Lord Belkhanu, Lord of the Excellent Dead. Qon's priests wear a beast mask; the mask has a long toothy snout and is similar in appearance to that of a jackal. Think Anubis and you have an idea where Professor Barker was coming from with the regalia of Lord Qon's priests.

The adventure had the two PCs heading from the city out to the countryside to collect past due rent from a set of villages that were part of the clan's fiefdom. The tribute had not been paid for several years, so our PCs hired some enforcers. They also hired a guide. This is particularly important since maps are not that common in Tsolyanu. Experience and local know-how really matter if you are trying to get somewhere.

After paying the requisite bribes to the Captain of a Sakbe road guard tower, they headed for the distant forest. On the other side of that small forest were the villages that owed them tribute. The PCs and their retinue made camp just before reaching the forest. They set a watch, but in the morning they discovered their cash box was missing. A number of the guards were also missing various shiny items.

The PCs could hear giggling from the edge of the Seyukh Forest. Our heroes realized that they had been victimized by one or more of the creatures known as Kuruku, "The Small Giggler"! Marc's character Tlamal gave chase with a few men-at-arms. They entered the forest, hot on the trail of the creatures. Soon they heard other, more chilling sounds: the whooping laughter of a pack of the spiny-backed Hyahyu'u beasts, who soon had them surrounded.

Tlamal parkoured up a tree; his troops tried to do the same, but lacked his athleticism. They settled for using their spears to hold back the Huahyu'u. A bit later Tlamal took a one-two action: he feinted and distracted a beast by dropping a spiky Durian-like fruit down near it, and then dispatched the distracted beast with a carefully hurled knife.

Seeing the battle from afar, priest Niko cast the spell Acceleration on himself and raced into the forest. His retainers struggled to catch up. After a few moments, Niko was on the scene, and cast Hands of Kra the Mighty, crushing the windpipe of another beast.  The third turned tail and ran.


I learned a few things from the playtest:

  • Rob, who was new to Fate, got a handle on the system very quickly - although I completely forgot to introduce the concept of declarations
  • Marc made use of the Succeed at a Cost rule - the first time ever that someone has in one of my Fate Core games
  • Rob chose to take a shift of Mental Stress rather than spend FPs to cast his spells. That was a prudent expenditure and he was still very effective in the fight - even though he took a bunch of stress in the combat
  • Marc underscored the importance of creating text boxes in the eventual published game to explain various aspects of Tsolyani culture. One quick example of this is the importance and ubiquity of discrete bribes to make things happen. The social game in Tekumel.
  • The spells in T:EPT worked well enough, but we'll be going back to War of Wizards, and Swords & Glory, Vol. 2 before the next game. I want to try building some spells based on the descriptions in those two games.


  1. Replies
    1. You've gotta make use of your environment, I say!

  2. Cool! One of the features of T:EPT that I like are the Teamwork rules. I think they are a good way to connect the social dynamics of the Tekumel setting with conflict resolution mechanics. In effect, they reward players for thinking cooperatively. In this scenario both the guards and the hyahyu'u might have been able to use teamwork. I'm only very vaguely familiar with Fate. Is there a way to give characters a bonus to their chance of success when they are working with a team that has trained together and knows each other pretty well?

    1. Fate for sure has a teamwork bonus, for both PCs and adversaries. I didn't pay good enough attention to that in the playtest but it is there and does the job.

  3. hmm, I guess blogspot eats your comment if you enter it before signing in. I'll try again, feel free to delete if redundant...

    This is cool! Thanks for the update. What did they get from the road guard officer in exchange for an inducement? Too bad they couldn't have camped on the road. "Never get off the boat." (also, usually "breaking camp" means taking it down and resuming the journey. You might have meant "making camp" there?)

    The scenario you describe reminded me of the Teamwork rules in T:EPT. I think they're a good feature. They make a connection between some important social dynamics of the setting (importance of group identity and cooperation) and the mechanics of conflict resolution. I hope Fate of Tekumel will have a way to make the same connection.

    1. Hi George: I edited my post to say "make camp" rather than "break camp". :) The PCs actually made camp about 1/4 km from the western edge of the forest they were about to enter. They had a journey of about one S&G hex to get from the Sakbe road tower to the forest. The land grant where they were to collect revenue in arrears was on the eastern side of the forest.

      The inducement to the Sakbe road captain was to open the tower gate and let them egress. They needed to exist the road on its sheer rather than tiered face. Jeff had made the Tsolyani (universal?) first three fingers rubbed together gesture suggesting that an inducement was required. To get him to do his job, of course. :)

  4. That weaponized Durian was actually a boost from my climbing roll. (I had succeeded with style because I had the Hard Parkour stunt)

  5. War of Wizards was a fantastic reference for spells. I only played a handful of games over the years, (mostly because sorting the tiles takes forever), but I have nearly worn the paper rule book to shreds from reading. I think it is a good choice for source material for you.