Sunday, 30 December 2012

Tekumel - Session 4

After the previous session, the PCs were limping along the Sakbe road toward Urmish at a much-reduced pace, with several slaves injured and the rest carrying far more than they should do. Gachaya had decided that he wanted a trophy of his spectacular victory over the Feshengu, and had ordered it's head be cut off and carried as a trophy (only after being convinced that they couldn't have the whole carcass dragged by Chlen to Urmish to be stuffed).

This soon began to cause problems even beyond the slow pace of travel the PCs were achieving. The Feshengu hadn't smelled particularly pleasant even when it was alive- and this wasn't improving as it spent days in the hot, humid sunlight. At day one, the solution was to have the head carried at whichever end of the entourage would result in the prevailing winds carrying the smell away from the PCs, leaving only the problem of the clouds of insects it attracted. By day two, the smell was so bad that they assigned the slaves carrying it (and one of the lower-Clan guards to watch them) to travel on the lower level of the Sakbe-road well ahead of them, much to the delight of the others using that level.

As the PCs rested for the night, the subject of just leaving the thing behind was raised- the smell could conceivably get worse. Gachaya refused, but conceded that something had to be done about the smell. He only needed the skull, but how could they strip and clean it here in the wilderness?

Gachaya's sudden inspiration was that, since they were near to the flooded, swampy areas- and since the wildlife of Tekumel was so voracious- they would employ this wildlife to strip the Feshengu skull. The slaves were ordered to lower the head into a pool of water overnight, to let whatever lived there feed on the rotting flesh. This would be repeated each night, with more flesh being removed each night. Surely nothing could go wrong with this masterful plan?

As it turned out, not as much flesh as had been anticipated was stripped from the skull in a single night. It still smelled awful, and was now swarming with various chitinous, multi-legged Tekumelyani fauna that proved somewhat bothersome to dislodge. Finally, the reeking burden was shouldered by cringing slaves and the journey resumed. Until one of the slaves carrying the head screamed and dropped his corner of it.

Unbeknownst to the PCs, a particularly vicious aquatic creature native to the Flats of Tsechelnu had burrowed it's way into the head during the night to enjoy the bountiful meal in safety. Alarmed at the movement of it's new home, the creature- an un-named multi-legged creature akin to a gigantic dragonfly nymph, emerged to sink it's (naturally) venomous mandibles into the shoulder of the slave in question. With the slaves now having dropped the head and refusing to pick it up again (the bitten slave was dying painfully from the bite), they were left to finally deal with the head.

(Going by the usual naturalist rules on Earth, I assumed that there would be many more uncategorised creatures on Tekumel than we see in the sourcebooks, and that only the most notorious were mentioned.

The venomous creature had finally been crushed (after an entertaining series of near-fumbled attempts to slay it) and the head abandoned to be rolled off the Sakbe road when the main focus of tonight's adventure arrived.

Overtaking them on the middle tier of the Sakbe road was a fairly large and well-appointed entourage. The gilded litter at the head bore the badge of the Golden Bough Clan (and their status relative to the PCs was explained), whilst the guards accompanying them wore the armour of the Temple Guard of Ksarul.

The PCs respectfully stood aside to let them pass, bowing in the correct manner, and this would have been the end of things- except for when the second litter in the procession, strangely covered over, passed Kemuel.

Inside the litter was Lumetl hiAshula, a Sorcerer-Priest of Ksarul. He had devoted his later years to searching various demon planes for dark knowledge, and in his most recent investigation had uncovered some dark truth that was never intended for mortal minds. Driven insane, the rest of his Temple finally managed to subdue him, and he was being taken to a place to recover from this- or failing that be kept from embarassing the Temple with his madness. To ensure he caused no trouble whilst travelling, he had an iron collar placed around his neck, created to seal the Pedhetl of whoever wore it. With no means to fuel his spells, he would offer no danger to his escort.

Until Kemuel, possessed of an extremely high Pedhetl and having no training in controlling it, came close enough for Lumetl to start drawing on his energy to cast spells.

(Many thanks go to George Hammond, who came up with this idea for an encounter.)

Lumetl was able to break free of his litter and throw the guards around into confusion- but not to remove his collar. Realising he'd have to take his new-found Pedhetl battery with him if he was to escape, he cast Domination on Kemuel- whose player was informed that this man was "Clearly the most wonderful person he'd ever met"- and ran off down the Sakbe road.

The PC, their entourage, and the Temple guards recovered from the initial shock at Lumetl's escape and the Dust Devil spell he'd used to accomplish it. Starting to pursue the fleeing pair, the PCs saw Lumetl turn to start casting a spell. Having been informed what battlefield magic on Tekumel could achieve, Tsodlan immediately ordered everyone to jump to the lower tier of the Sakbe road before doing so himself, reckoning the fall would do less damage than whatever spell Lumetl was casting.

This turned out to be a very accurate guess. The flagstones of the middle tier of the Sakbe-road suddenly buckled and burst as a forest of sickly, rubberish purple tendrils sprouted up from the hard-packed dirt beneath. These quickly sprouted the loathsome, reeking swellings that were The Food of the Ssu, which began to burst over those hapless Temple guards who were caught in the tendrils. The PCs displayed suitable levels of disgust and fear at the effects the Ssumani had on them.

With this distraction, Lumetl and Kemuel were able to secure a significant head start. The other PCs, after managing to get the story of what had just happened from surviving Temple guards (the Golden Bough leader of the entourage having been killed by the Ssumani), quickly set off to pursue them- though there was some debate over what they would achieve when they caught up with them. The biggest hope was that Kemuel's power would run out, and so they let the Temple guards take the lead as they followed, hoping "the Ksarul redshirts" would soak up any spells Lumetl had left.

Tempers seemed to be fraying as the group pursued the sorcerer and his captive, and several ill-chosen remarks and failed Ettiquette rolls led to challenges over points of honour between Tsodlan and the Temple guards. A duel was finally settled for when this afair was over- initially, the guard had intended to seek Shamtla for the comments about how the Temple guard weren't REAL soldiers, but Tsodlan managed to provoke them into a challenge instead. Which, since it was from the Temple of Ksarul and not any specific member, would be fought by the Urmish Temple's best warrior against Tsodlan.

After following the fleeing pair for most of a day, they caught up with them as the sun was setting- at a strange formation of stones several miles into the hills, around which the countryside seemed oddly deserted for somewhere so close to a Sakbe road. At the centre of a depression a hundred feet across stood a stone obelisk, and all around it were strange spiralling maze-patterns, looking as if someone had tried to create the hedge-maze concept with drystone walls. With darkness soon coming upon them, the two groups- unable to work together amicably- simply charged across the maze toward Lumetl, using gaps where the walls had fallen to avoid the maze itself.

They reached the pillar at the centre, and Lumetl, just as full twilight came- "The Hour of Awakening into Azure"- and the Sorcerer-Priest of Ksarul completed his incantation, burning the last of Kemuel's Pedhetl.

Above, the sky turned into a churning grey half-light. A dry, dusty wind began to blow, from one direction then another. The stone obelisk suddenly loomed a hundred feet above their heads, a huge outcropping of natural rock. And about them, the maze became whole, drystone became solid, wind-carved rock, and the maze itself seemed to stretch away into infinity.

The Temple guards knew enough to guess where they were, and fell down moaning in dismay. Lumetl's spell had transported them to another Plane of existence, the one known to followers of Ksarul as The Citadel of Sighs.

The PC took a moment to club Lumetl into unconsciousness (they favoured killing him "to be sure", but realised that they could gain favour by sparing a member of a Very High Clan who they had legitimate cause to kill), before starting to assess just how screwed they might actually be. Kemuel now recovered from the Domination spell- Lumetl not having wanted to spend the time or energy points for a full Mindbar.

They quickly realised that The Dwellers in Shadows were all around them- standing unseen in the darkness, but known by their stench of rotten meat and vinegar. Two of the Temple Guard were taken to vanish into the darkness, though their screams were heard for some time after. The PCs finally made makeshift torches from weapons and clothing, enough to keep The Dwellers in Shadow at bay- for now.

Taking stock of their situation, they looked around and saw, here and there, large stone outcrops jutting up into the sky like the one they were at the base of now. One of them seemed to have lights around it, and lacking any better ideas, the group began to wend their way through the maze toward it.

It proved to be a tower, formed by tunneling out the interior of the stone outcrop. Inside was a maze of corridors and rooms, the layout showing no logic and wneding up and down inside. Carvings and inscriptions covered the walls inside, all worn so smooth by the wind as to be almost illegible. The lights came from stones placed all about the interior, which had been enchanted to glow indefinitely. Searching the tower, Gachaya found what had once been a secret door- but the stone had been worn away to reveal some of it's workings, and the PCs were evetually able to puzzle out how to open it.

Within was a chamber in surprisingly unspoiled condition, given the apparent age of the rest of the tower- enough to surmise that spells of preservation lay upon it. There was a writing desk at one end, and shelves filled with books, scrolls and strange trinkets lined the walls. An examination proved that the majority were written in Bednalljan Salarvyani, a language which Kemuel had some familiarity with. He began to study the journal on the desk in the hopes of discovering a way to escape this plane and return to Tekumel.

The means of doing so were indeed recorded by the unnamed Sorcerer whose journal they held. To leave the Plane, the spell Visitations of Other Planes must be used at one of the stone pillars at Dawn, and this would return them to whichever point on Tekumel corresponded to the pillar. A device on one of the shelves would help them judge what the time was on Tekumel, an otherwise difficult task in the eternal half-light of The Citadel of Sighs. Examination of the various scrolls revealed that several had inscripted spells, and one was indeed Visitations of Other Planes.

It seemed their problems were over, until Kemuel found another passage in the journel that delivered a dire warning. At the Hour of The Victory of the Master of the Planets- midnight, as the Temple of Ksarul named it- Llanmakchi, She of the Twisted Visage, a Demon beholden to Ksarul and Mistress of The Dwellers in Shadow, would roam this region of The Citadel of Sighs. Encountering her with no knowledge of the rituals and offerings this powerful demon would desire, or the ability to offer them if they did, would clearly be a bad idea.

The possibility of simply waiting here until dawn and performing the spell at this pillar was raised, since it seemed likely that it linked to somewhere in the vicinity of Jakalla. The possibilty of being trapped in some long-forgotten corner of the Jakallan Underworld led to them rejecting this, and so instead they set out to return to their original pillar- hopefully in time for dawn and avoiding any encounter with Llanmakchi.

Unfortunately, the PCs became lost in the maze (legitimately failed rolls), and spent hours wandering. The Dwellers in Shadow became far more bold and numerous, and even with the illumination stones from the tower were able to find shadowed approaches to the group. Three more Temple Guards were taken, and Sirukel felt the touch of their spider-like limbs on his back before Kemuel drove them back with an Eye of unknown use which he'd found in the chamber with the scrolls. He had no idea what the pale cone of light it shed was doing, but it seemed to distress the demonic assailants enough that they retreated in obvious pain or discomfort. (It was an Eye of Inimitable Psychic Nullity, which reduced any target's energy pool to zero- I decided that Demons would find this very unpleasant.)

As the group finally made it closer to their destination, they could see a tall, dark silhouette that towered high enough to be seen over the maze walls drawing ever closer. Vaguely humanoid, it moved in an awkward gait that seemed disturbingly wrong, as if the limbs weren't jointed as a human's should be. Llanmakchi was stalking them, and in her presence The Dwellers in Shadow became bold enough to start venturing into the light to attack their human prey. The shaggy-haired spider-like beings began pressing forward, and only Kemuel burning repeated charges on the Eye allowed them to reach the pillar. He was less than enthusiastic about protecting the Temple guards, though, and the last of them fell just as the group arrived. "Looks like there's no more challenge" Tsodlan stated, as they took up position to defend Kemuel whilst he prepared the scroll.

Several nerve-wracking minutes later, the device indicated it was Dawn on Tekumel and Kemuel used the scroll, just as Llanmkchi seemed to be almost upon them. The maze shifted and blurred about them- and the PCs were suddenly back at the crumbling maze a few hours from the Sakbe-road.

Relieved to be back, the PCs marched back to their entourage. Mvekku had been instructed to keep hold of Lumetl the whole time, and the PCs gained bonus Respect for securing him alive instead of just killing him or leaving him behind.

I ended the session just as the PCs were arriving at the gates of Urmish.


My intentions with this session were to give the PCs a taste of the Tekumel setting's magical side, a slightly difficult task with no PC spellcaster but one which I feel was accomplished here.

Monday, 24 December 2012

Tekumel - Session 3

Having saved the Golden Sheaf Clanhouse from the deserters in the last session, the session opened a week later. Rest and some magical healing had enabled all the PCs to full recover from the battle, and the rains had finally stopped- hopefully for good this time. They were ready to renew their journey. The party was somewhat heavily laded- ten suits of armour and weapons had been scavenged by the PCs from the deserters. Having been informed that dressing in the armour of a Legion they weren't a part of was a bad idea, they elected to carry the armour until they could have it re-laquered.

In this session, I decided it was time to further introduce the PCs to some new aspects of Tekumel, both setting and system. The Respect mechanics from the T:EPT rulebook, the Sakbe road network, and the dangerous nature of much of Tekumel's fauna. To start this, I informed them that their courageous defence of the Clanhouse had earned all PCs one Respect point. I then explained the Respect mechanics (the players were all familiar with Pendragon, so I compared it to the Glory mechanic there) and told them that it would likely have been two or even three points if they Clanhouse they'd defended had belonged to their own Clan. The PCs soon got the idea- actively seeking out chances to perform Noble, Heroic deeds would give actual mechanical benefits to their characters, especially if it was the White Stone Clan that benefitted. Conversely, ignoble behaviour would be penalised.

The PC then departed the Golden Sheaf Clanhouse and ventured onto the Sakbe road. A brief description ("Picture a major Roman highway built along the top of the Great Wall of China" was how I started) led to the most immediate question of import. Which tier of the Sakbe road would the PCs be travelling on?

The PCs come from a High-status Clan, but aren't particularly rich or important members of such. Reading the Sakbe road descriptions, it seemed borderline- the PCs could, from the text, be justified as being on the Lower or the Middle tier. I decided that the Sakbe road guards at the road entrance would be the ones who decided who was entitled to walk on which tier, and for a case where there was doubt the usual depictions of Sakbe-road guards made the choice a simple one. The Guards assigned the PCs to the lowest tier, and then accepted a bribe to let the PCs go on the second instead.

Travelling down the Sakbe road, the PCs saw a great section of Tsolyani life passing on the tier below. Far too large a section, in fact- the experienced travellers soon noted that not only was the traffic unusually high, but there were rather more women and children present than was usually the case. Their suspicions raised, they halted at the next Sakbe-tower and went up to the top to see what was going on (depositing a small bribe with the guards for the privelege).

The view from the tower showed the situation all too well. The rainy season had already been a heavy one, and the extra week of torrential downpour coming on it's heels had been enough to make the Turina river overflow it's banks to the south. Whole swathes of countryside now resembled rice paddies, and this was the cause of the refugees filling the lower tiers of the Sakbe road. There wasn't much in the way of panic in the throngs- this being Tekumel, the inhabitants of the region were well aware that this tended to happen every four or five decades. So when it came, they simply followed the long-established methods of securing what they could in dry areas and carrying the rest to the nearest Clan-house in a dry region whilst they waited for the flood to subside.

One problem with the flooding was that the PCs had to abandon any thoughts of finding hospitality at Clan-houses along the way- they would be over-full or flooded.After a few days of travel, they were running short of food (the armour meant they couldn't carry as many provisions) and having to barter with passing groups of peasants for more. The upper-class characters got to taste the usual peasant fare for several days. Hard Dna-grain bread that they weren't sure if it was a hard trail-bread or justv stale; large amounts of rice with steamed vegetables that were likely past their prime before cooking; weak beer because they didn't want to chance the water with such heavy flooding. Every day there'd be a roll to see if something better could be found, and there was much squabbling made of such treats as over-ripe Dlel-fruits, three haunches of smoked Hmelu, and a pungent blue-ish wheel of Hmelu-cheese riddled with grubs (both the mold and grubs present by design and held as a local delicacy).

Every night, the PCs would camp at the open top level of a Sakbe-road tower, sleeping under the stars now that the rains had stopped and making the best of the oppressive heat and biting insects. On the third such night, the first major challenge of the session struck.

The PCs were asked to make Observation checks. All the PCs could hear the sudden screams coming from some of the lower status travellers camped nearby, but those who made the roll could also hear the strange buzzing noises as well. Kemuel got a critical, and worked out that whatever was making the buzzing noise was flying overhead, and numerous. He immediately screamed and ran for the stairs down to take refuge inside the tower itself. As the player stated- "It's Tekumel! The place is like Australia, only the wildlife has more venomous spines! I'm not waiting to find out what this one is or how it's going to kill us!"

In fairness, a perusal of any Tekumel bestiary does tend to support his reaction. Especially in this case.

Several buzzing, whistling sounds passed all around, and scream sounded out. The PCs still on the tower top saw a couple of the NPCs seemingly hit by arrows or darts, that must have been fired from above. The immediate reaction was to grab shields and then follow after Kemuel. When Sirukel went to pull an "arrow" out of one of the guards, though, he found it full off wriggling legs- and Tsodlan realised that the shield he'd blocked another with had a strange rasping sound coming from it.

The heavy rains and strong North-Easterly wind following them had resulted in a swarm of Shivrai being blown much further North than their usual habitat, and they were descending on anyone illuminated by the various campfires.

People retreated quickly down below, and after one Shivrai flew through an arrowslit window to strike Mvekku, the PCs quickly managed to barricade the windows and wait the swarm out. Kemuel proved uncharacteristically useful in the situation- his initial response of "purge them with fire!" and putting a torch to the exposed Shivrai eating their way into people was an effective way of removing them. And with no PC having any medical skills, his high Intelligence gave him a default high enough to make a reasonable job of treating the wounds.

The next day, the PCs took stock of their situation. Several guards and slaves had been injured, and while none were too injured for travel, they would all require lighter loads until they healed. This meant that the armour the PCs had been lugging around would very likely have to be abandoned. Noticing that the prive of a bearer-slave and a full suit of medium armour with weapons wasn't too different in the price lists, Sirukel's player hit on a plan. They would keep six suits for their own guards, and sell the rest in exchange for slaves to help carry things. The situation not particularly favouring the PCs, they managed to get two slaves for the four sets of arms- which would allow them to press on, but likely slowed even further.

Kemuel, meanwhile, had aquired a flask of poor-quality Penom-made Tsuhoridu, which he was drinking to alleviate the boredom of the journey. He was considerably under it's effects when a far more impressive-looking litter and entourage from a member of the Red Sun Clan overtook them on the road. Observing the occupant of the litter as it moved past them- and more specifically his attractive slave-girl- Kemuel managed to give offence to this Red Sun scion.

Gachaya attempted to defuse the situation with some fast talking, but decided he didn't much care for the tone of the Red Sun member (Zagar hiMaraku) in how he was addressed. Things began to escalate, and the "Matters of Honour" rules mechanics were invoked.

I explained these to the PCs. Essentially, two Tsolyani of righly equal status in this sort of confrontation wager points of respect. The one who backs down or is proved wrong loses a point, the one who doesn't gains one. Hearing this, Gachaya's player decided that not only would his character not apologise and lose face (reputation point), he'd provoke Zagar to the point where it was actuall TWO points the characters had on the line. He felt he'd seen the fast track to gaining respect- and since behaviour like this was likely why his character was exiled in disgrace to a rural Clanhouse, I decided to go with it.

Zagar and Gachaya were at the point of arranging a date at the Hirilakte arena, when the second major encounter of the session occurred.

Screams were heard from the flooded side of the road, and the PCs quickly moved to see what was happening. A large group of peasants- roughly a Clan-house worth- were standing on the waterlogged road. Between them and the entrance to the Sakbe-road was a Feshengu, in the process of devouring two peasants it'd already killed. The road, altough muddy, was raised up from the fields to either side- these were fully flooded. This meant the peasants had little hope of escaping the Feshengu as things stood.

The question was immediately raised- would killing the Feshengu and saving the peasants be considered a Noble Action, thus gaining respect? Given the danger involved, I decided that if they could pull it off it was worth a point of Respect for all involved. Gachaya immediately changed the terms of his confrontation with Zagar- whoever managed to slay the Feshengu was clearly the more worthy of the two of them. Various interaction rolls made, Zagar agreed, and their respective entourages made ready for the confrontation.

Zagar began donning his armour from his baggage train. Gachaya declared a true man wouldn't need armour to fight the beast (he'd actually worked out that armour wouldn't be much use against it), and claimed first attempt on it because he was ready NOW. Quickly forming a plan (and setting up the Teamwork pools, rolling for Command and Analysis) the PCs set to work.

Noting the size of the beast and the relative number of limbs, Kemuel had queried just how agile it was on dry land as opposed to water and mud. Deciding this was a reasonable point, I told them it was likely not agile at all outside water. The plan was made for Gachaya to stand and taunt the Feshengu until it charged him, whereupon he would lead it to the entrance to the Sakbe road. The beast would ascend the stairs, poke it's head through the gateway of the tower, and then the PCs and their guards would set upon it with spears.

The plan had so many ways it could've gone wrong- but fortunately, the PCs made good use of the teamwork pool and Gachaya managed to reach the tower safely. Stabbing with spears occurred, and the Feshengu was quickly dispatched with no loss of human life- much to the PCs (and my) surprise.

Having lost out on the challenge, Zagar lost face (Respect) to Gachaya and departed in very poor humour. Since his destination was Urmish, the PCs will be encountering him and his Clan again when they reach there. I'd been planning for them to be the PCs opponents in the Urmish-based adventure, and this sets things up nicely.

Monday, 10 December 2012

Tekumel - Session 2

Various real-life obligations have meant that the group hasn't been able to get back together for a month, but now we've finally managed to run the second session of the Tekumel campaign.

As I've said before, I decided to run the scenario "A Dark and Stormy Night" as the first adventure by substituting the PCs for the Travelling Party.

When the session started, there was a brief recap- the PCs were approaching the Golden Sheaf Clanhouse, had seen a dead body on the road nearby, and had just glimpsed a couple of armour-clad figures through the rain, observing the party.

After entering the Golden Sheaf Clanhouse, the PCs were offered a chance to bathe and change clothes before being introduced to their hosts. Tsolyani ettiquette warred briefly with practicality, until Tsodlan hit on the compromise of Ssiyor and Jugal, the lower-status Turning Wheel Clan hirelings, going up onto the villa's roof to watch for trouble whilst the White Stone Clan members took their time to be properly introduced.

The evening meal was served, and the PCs got to know the main NPCs of the scenario. In keeping with player's portrayal of the character, Kemuel sat at the meal looking bored until he finally decided that Migor's sickness must be because someone was poisoning him, and he didn't like the look of that shifty priest so it must be him. Ironically this was in fact correct, but the way in which he said it had everyone giving a polite laugh and then managing to divert Kemuel's attentions elsewhere. This wasn't hard to do, as after over-indulging with Chumaz he spent the rest of the evening attempting to press his attentions onto Ngaya, the Clanhouse-owner's daughter. Ngaya then attempted to have Kotaru defend her somehow, but Kotaru had learned his lesson about picking trouble with people from higher-status Clans.

The other PCs questioned the residents over dinner and managed to discover several useful facts about the situation. A servant had spotted armed men outside earlier that day, so runners had been sent along the road to alert the nearby unit of Sakbe-road guards and other nearby Clan-houses. Naturally the dead body in one direction and lack of Sakbe-guards suggested that these runners hadn't reached their destinations.

As the meal drew to a close, one of the lookouts came running in with news that armoured figures were approaching the Clan-house. Moving up to the roof, they saw Kagesh, the Tirrikamu of this unit of Deserters, and he made his demands for the Clan-house's treasury to be turned over to him. After several attempts at bluffing him, they were given their deadline to comply as the deserters made away to prepare for assulting the Clan-house.

It was at this point that I decided that Migor was to take a turn for the worse and expire. Not only did this leave the PCs wondering just what had happened to him, it also meant that there was nobody who knew where the secret compartment Migor's strongbox was located, and so there was no way to actually pay the deserters.

Tsodlan immediately began trying to organise the defence of the Clanhouse. He enlisted Kotaru (as the only real combatant amongst the villa residents) and Adlar the priest of Chiteng (since he knew healing magic and claimed knowledge of The Radiant Gaze) to assist, and began trying to prepare for a siege. A glance outside showed the Clanhouse was being watched, and none of the PCs had a stealth skill significant enough that they were willing to venture out and go for help.

Not able to assist in the defence effort, Sirukel and Gachaya instead began questioning the residents and searching any rooms Migor used in an effort to find the strongbox. Ostensibly this was so that they could pay off the deserters if it seemed necessary, but in reality both PCs had the Greed disadvantage and were planning to take it themselve and claim they never found it. The fact that this required them to work alone hampered their search efforts somewhat, and so the strongbox was never found. 

What was found, however, was the poison in Adlar's quarters that he'd been giving to Migor. An ill-timed remark from Kemuel resulted in it becoming publically known that Adlar had been doing this. Things spiralled out of control, as Adlar panicked and ended up using The Radiant Gaze on Kotaru. Fortunately, while he'd learned the basic incantation, Adlar's mastery of the spell was far from complete and Kemual was merely badly injured. When restrained, Adlar blurted out that it was all Mnektu (Migor's brother) and he'd just been doing as he was told.

Naturally, at this point the deserters returned ready to attack the Clanhouse if not paid.

In the resulting confusion, Mnektu fled and managed to hide himself somewhere in the Clanhouse. Adlar was locked in a room with Kotaru and told to heal him or face the consequences. And Ngaya, deciding that all was lost and she'd best hide before the Clan-house fell and she was raped by the deserters, used a secret passage out of the Clan-house that only she was aware of. Kemuel observed the passage being used, and followed her- after finding a torch, which gave Gachaya a chance to spot him and follow him down the passage.

Denied the money, the deserters began battering down the Clan-house gate with the makeshift ram they'd prepared. Tsodlan led the defence, having the servants heat boiling water to pour onto the attackers and throw anything heavy enough to cause damage from the roof. Inside, he had defences prepared- rather than try to hold the attackers indefinitely, Tsodlan's plan was to seal up several interior doors to try and funnel the attackers into places where they could out-number them in the local battle, letting them whittle their numbers down.

The secret passage led to a concealed opening some distance outside the Clan-house. Kemuel emerged from the passage in time to see Ngaya running off toward the Sakbe road. Running after her, he caught up and attempted to press his affections onto her (lecherous brat with a strong dose of Chumaz). Both characters lacking any sort of combat skill, they grappled inconclusively until a botch by Kemuel resulted in a well-aimed foot in his groin, letting Ngaya flee. The struggle had succeeded in attracting the attention of the deserters, and some broke away from the attack on the gates to investigate.

Gachaya attempted to fight one off, but found a quick lesson in how unforgiving Tekumel is when someone with a dagger and rapier attempts to fight someone with armour, shield and longsword. Injured and at the mercy of the deserter, he was saved by Kemuel. Screaming about how the Clan-house was stricken by plague and that was why they'd fled, the player rolled a critical success and managed to convince them ("Don't get their blood on you! DON'T GET THEIR BLOOD ON YOU!!!). The deserters decided to simply flee, leaving the group attacking the Clan-house reduced by a quarter.

Having had four people injured by the time they broke into the Clanhouse (due to Tsodlan's creative harassment of the attack- Kagesh kept pressing it purely because he felt his authority would crumble if he lost men with nothing to show for it), the attack wasn't going well. Feeling the tide may have turned, the deserters rushed inside, only to find a tough fight at every turn. Finally, they broke into the main hall to find a makeshift barricade in place. Battle commenced, with the superior armament of the attackers and barricade of the defenders making the fight a grinding and inconclusive affair.

During this, Gachaya and Kemuel limped back down the secret passage to the Clanhouse. Opening the secret door, they found themselves confronting a deserter- the passage led from a part of the Clanhouse which has been overrun- and quickly slammed it shut again. Trapped in the passage, they were left listening to the door being slowly battered down.

Back in the main hall, the N'luss warrior Mvekku was proving to be less useful in the fight than anticipated- while having high stats, I had the player of his master roll for him, and he couldn't get any decent hit rolls. The narrative description was of the deserters simply raising their sheilds and letting him batter away at them. Deciding things couldn't be left like this, Tsodlan ordered the N'luss back from the barricade, then had him pick up a table and throw it at the deserters, just before Tsodlan led a charge across the barricade. I ruled the table threw the deserters into disarray, denying them the use of their teamwork pool, whilst Tsodlan declared his side was using all the teamwork pool in one round as they charged.

The rolls finally went in the PCs favour as this happened. After five rounds of combat- during which Tsodlan rolled three critical hits and Mvekku managed to knock two deserters on their feet with the "using strength in combat" rules- the deserters broke. Kagesh started to rally them, but Mvekku's dice had finally turned in the PCs favour, and a blow of the N'luss warrior's greatsword took his bhead off. In retreat and with their leader dead, the deserters ran, and many were captured.

Following this, the PCs searched the Clanhouse for any deserters or injured, and forced Adlar to heal the more serious injuries. Ngaya returned, with the Sakbe road guards. And Sirukel, having spent the battle quietly passing notes and searching, had found the strongbox and transferred over a thousand Kaitars to his pack without either the residents or the other PCs realising.


All in all, the adventure was enjoyed by the players- though it did degenerate into mayhem rather quickly and didn't perhaps show as much setting-specific detail as it could have. But the players are at least getting comfortable with both the rules and their characters- so things should progress well from there.

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Tekumel - Session 1

So the first session of the Tekumel campaign finally began. To begin with, I gave the players a brief overview of the world, and helped explain any details about the pre-generated characters that needed clearing up. Then the game began.

The Clan Elders decided to wait until the end of the rainy season before sending the PCs off on the journey. During the final days of rain, the group was selected (the PCs were introduced IC to each other and to the NPCs of the entourage). The escort was to consist of the PCs, a litter carried by eight slaves for the two highest-status PCs, eight baggage-carrying slaves, a slave-handler contracted from a lower-status Clan and six less-than-spectacular guards.

Once the rain stopped they waited two days to give the roads a chance to dry out, which Tsodlan used to drill his six guards and assess how good they were (not very- most just had Familiarity with their weapons) and make sure they were properly outfitted from the Clan-house armoury (properly meaning the armour wasn't likely to chafe even if it was tattered-looking and/or mis-matched).

The six guards consisted of:-

Dresu hiPayal, Tsodlan's son by his first wife (he took his Mother's lineage name as hers was higher), and Quren hiMarada, Tsodlan's son by his second wife. Whilst inexperienced, both are solid and reliable- except when it concerns each other. Their mothers dislike each other, and have managed to pass their feud onto the next generation- both sons will constantly look for reasons to put the other down, and feel aggrieved if their Father doesn't take their side over the other.

Trasuni hiMriyu- a cousin of Kemuel, who managed to persuade the Elders to send him on the trip which he sees as a great adventure. Far too confident in his own abilities, he'll rush headlong into danger- and if anything happens to him, some PCs may lose status in the eyes of the Clan.

Jaluda hiMaruda- a teenage girl who's declared Aridani status in a fit of rebellion after she took exception to the husband the Elders proposed to her. She's read stories of heroic Aridani warriors and believes she's going to follow in their footsteps. Completely unsuited for such a life, the hardships of the journey will make her realise that she's made a mistake and should renounce Aridani status, settling down to become a good Clan-girl. Unfortunately, this realisation will only come after it's too late for her to turn back and go home, leaving the PCs stuck with her.

Ssiyor and Jugar hiBeshene- members of the Turning Wheel Clan, experienced caravan workers who've seen a few scraps. Whilst not full-trained warriors, they're likely the most useful members of the Guard. Sirukel convinced their Clan to assign them, and his status takes a hit if they're lost.

After some sparring to show the basics of the combat system, the group departed the Clanhouse, on a three-day journey to reach the Sakbe road (the litter lacks reserve slaves, so has to travel slower). The first two nights were spent at the Clan-houses of some tenant farmer clients. The third day had several untoward events happening...

En route to a hostel that stood near the Sakbe road entrance, a slave collapsed. He awoke screaming and shouting. When order was restored, the party resumed the journey- only for the same thing to happen with another slave. Neither would give a clear answer about what happened to them, but both looked panicked and muttered about Sorcery. It was realised by the PCs that the reason Kemuel had been so quiet was that he'd suddenly decided he'd try and learn to use his powerful magical potential all by himself to pass the time whilst riding in the litter. The player actually got a critical success on an unskilled energy management roll. The connection made, Kemuel was blamed for the event and told never to repeat it. ("It's never good when the slaves know there's sorcery about" the Slave Handler told them. "They fear it more than the whip, and that's never good for discipline.") 

No PC (apart from the one playing Sirukel) made the connection that in both cases the slave who collapsed was carrying Sirukel's baggage- where he secretly stored unknown artefacts stolen from the Sarku Temple in his character background, one of which had activated as Kemuel's uncontrolled magical power saturated the area. Sirukel himself has no idea what any of these artifacts are, except that one is an Eye of unknown function (the player has shown a suitable reluctance to just start firing this randomly off and see what it does).

This event delayed them sufficiently that they were forced to spend the night in a crude shelter built for Hma-herders forced to camp away from the Clan-house. They made the shelter just before the rains began, and promptly evicted the herders and Hma alike to take cover from the renewed rains there.

Occasionally, quirks of the wind and weather will bring a false end to the rainy season. The torrential monsoon ends, but after a few days a brief storm comes on it's heels. Such a storm stranded the PCs for the night. When morning came, the rain was still falling. Waiting most of the day, they finally decided the rain wasn't going to end, so rather than camp there a second night, they braved the weather to push for their destination before sundown.

As evening came, the rain still fell as the light began to fade- but there, ahead of them, was the clan-house of the Golden Sheaf Clan which served as a hostel for the nearby Sakbe-road. But as they moved toward the welcome shelter, they stumbled across a dead man laying sprawled in the road...
If anyone thinks this sounds familiar, it's because I decided to run "A Dark and Stormy Night" from the Book of the Visitations of Glory Issue 1 as the first adventure. With so much work putting the start of the campaign together, I decided to run a pre-gen as the first adventure, and this seemed a great scenario that was easy to adapt just by replacing the travellers with the PCs.

Monday, 19 November 2012

Campaign Concept

For my first attempt at running a Tekumel campaign, I decided to use a simple travelogue style adventure. Start the PCs at A, give them a reason to go to B which is a long way away, and give a series of encounters in between. This approach is an easier, more episodic format than adventures in a set location, when recurring cast and politics will inevitably start to take a larger role in a Tekumel campaign. It also allows me to showcase a much wider range of the things that make Tekumel distinct from other settings.

The general concept I came up with was that one of the PCs- Kemuel- had the potential to be a truly powerful Sorcerer, and so had to be sent to a place where he could learn magic. We settled on the White Stone clan and the temple of Dlamelish as his Clan/Temple, so then I was left to think on where to send them, and where to send them from.

Looking at the background for Tsodlan the Legion veteran, I settled on the Legion of Lord Kurukaa as the best fit for what I envisioned him as. Since this was based at Urmish, this decided the rough starting point for the PCs- a rural Clanhouse in that province. Looking at the map, the logical destination was Jakalla- it was the nearest major city, and was famous as a centre for magic and the Temple of Dlamelish. Except- Jakalla seemed too close for the sort of adventure I'd planned. I needed somewhere more distant. Sokatis seemed perfect, both in terms of distance and the fact that the White Stone Clan is noted as being particularly strong there.

Now I just needed a reason for the Clan Elders to send the budding archmage to Sokatis instead of Jakalla.

After much brainstorming, I finally had a stroke of inspiration. The Swords & Glory sourcebook states that in Salarvya religion is dominated by worship of the goddess Shiringgayi, a combination of Dlamelish and Avanthe. When I first looked at the religious affiliations of the White Stone Clan- Avanthe and Dlamelish- and the fact that Sokatis near the Salarvyani border is the centre of their Clan's power, a suspicion was formed. Were the White Stone Clan originally worshippers of Shiringgayi, and changed to Avanthe and Dlamelish as a concession to living in Tsolyanu?

Perhaps the White Stone Clan was from Salarvya, or was from the same cultural stock as the Salarvyani but ended up in Tsolyanu when the borders were stabilised centuries ago. Maybe the Clan actually exists in both empires, as the Vimuhla-worshipping Red Clans do with Mu'ugalavya. It would seem to fit what information I've been able to find.

I thus decided to take this idea a step further. The Temples in Tekumel are all full of secret societies and sects, all with different agendas and views on the worship of their deity. Some are simply like fraternal orders for the Priesthood, others are outright heretical or subversive, and most fall somewhere between. I reasoned that it was very possible for there to be a secret society in Sokatis that worshipped Shiringgayi, one which existed in the temples of both Avanthe and Dlamelish, teaching that both were simply aspects of a single goddess. This society is in conflict with the mainstream Temple of Dlamelish, but this conflict is, to date, so subtle that outsiders don't even know it's happening- Tsolyani institutions not being eager to show weakness or division to outsiders.

One of the key advantages the Temple of Dlamelish has in the conflict is that they have greater Sorcerous resources, being centred in Jakalla. The Sokatis sect is eager to address this deficiency- and part of this is to have Kemuel sent to Sokatis, where in addition to sorcerous training he'll be indoctrinated into the cult of Shiringgayi. The Temple of Dlamelish will be keen to prevent this happening- and so a conflict starts around the unsuspecting PCs even before they set foot outside the Clan-house.

Thursday, 8 November 2012

Player Characters

One of the few flaws of the Tekumel: Empire of the Petal Throne system is that character creation can be somewhat complicated for those not familiar with the system. This is especially the case if whoever is attempting to create a character is also unfamiliar with the setting as well.

This being the case with my players, I decided it would be simpler to get a rough idea of what kind of character they felt like playing (fighter, social type, etc) and then create the characters for them. Here, I give the backgrounds for the four PCs that I created for the campaign.

Although Tsodlan hiMarada was born into the prestigious White Stone Clan, that has always seemed to be the limit of his fortune in life. His birth was into a very minor and impoverished branch of the Clan, with no real wealth or influence to draw on. His appearance- broad-shouldered and with features best described as homely- was often mocked in childhood, where others would comment his mother must have lay down with some field-hand.

When he reached adulthood, it was agreed by both the Clan-elders and Tsodlan himself that the best course for him was to enter the Legions and bring glory to the Clan through faithful service. Alas, with his low lineage the inducements the Legion officers were offered on his behalf were less than impressive, and he found the best he could achieve was enlistment in the Legion of Lord Kurukaa in nearby Urmish. Whilst listed amongst the prestigious Heavy Infantry Legions which form the backbone of the Tsolyani Imperial armies, the Legion of Lord Kurukaa had long since gained a reputation as little better than a town garrison- poorly trained, corrupt and incompetent.

During his service with the Legion of Lord Kurukaa this began to change- but even that was no source of good fortune for Tsodlan hiMarada. The new Kerdu in command of the Legion, Giriga hiBeshmylu, was a member of the Red Mountain Clan and a devout worshipper of the war god Vimuhla the Flame, and determined to spread Vimuhla's worship in the Legion. Worshipping the wrong deity, lacking connections to the Red Clans of the West who were once again taking an interest in the Legion, and with no money for inducements, Tsodlan found himself still a lowly Tirrikamu after more than two decades of service.

Well into his forties with his vigor starting to fade and no prospect of promotion, Tsodlan finally decided that war was a young man's game and he was no longer young. He resigned from the Legion, returning to the rural Clan-house that was still his official home despite having spent most of his life in Urmish. Waiting for him there were the two wives his Clan had arranged marriages to, and those children he'd fathered on them in his infrequent stays there.

Both of them he'd married in his teens. The first was from a higher-status lineage inside the White Stone Clan, and had been promised to his lineage as part of a long-standing dynastic agreement- she's never been happy about marrying (as she sees it) beneath herself, and Tsodlan is the main focus of this ire. The second wife was promised him to cement a deal with the lower-status Green Kirtle Clan, she had ambitions to improve her lot and was bitterly disappointed to discover that despite his White Stone lineage, marriage to Tsodlan had done nothing of the sort for her. Both wives despise each other, and their long-running feud is one of the mainstays of life in the Clanhouse.

After six months back with his wives, Tsodlan hiMarada has begun to think that perhaps he's not that old after all, and is starting to look for any excuse to travel away from the Clanhouse for a very extended period of time. 

Kemuel hiMriyu was born into the White Stone Clan, in a rural Clan-house in the north-west of the Urudai province. Far from the main centres of White Stone power, the Clan-house had been established to oversee several concessions and holdings that the Clan had acquired in the area as a result of supporting the Red Clans of the west in the Bey Su political arena. The holdings in question were considerable enough that the White Stone Clan decided to build a Clan-house to manage them, instead of sub-contracting the work to some local Clan.

Opportunities have always been lacking for those born to the Clan-house- the Clan holdings are distant, so locally positions of influence are given to other Clans, whilst back toward the East the rest of the Clan gives preference to their own neighbours, not these distant cousins. The area is seen as a backwater in Clan affairs, and those resident in the Clan-house tend to live quiet lives of no consequence- something which Kemuel has never truly accepted.

All his short life, Kemuel has been a handful- some might say a bane- for the Clanhouse. Always impatient, outspoken, impulsive, this ill-disciplined brat has always refused to simply settle down and work at becoming a dutiful and productive Clan member. The Clan wished for him to learn to be a scribe, so that he could enter the Bureaucracy and establish a career there, but he refused to pay proper attention to these studies. Once puberty struck, he was far more attentive to certain aspects of the Theology of Dlamelish and Bednalljan accounts of the life of Queen Nayiri of the Silken Thighs, though never for the correct reasons.

Then, at the age of 13, he was taken to the Temple of Dlamelish at Urmish to experience manhood with the priestesses- and upon examining him, the High Priestess of the Temple declared that he had a truly potent Pedhetl. One that, unchannelled and uncontrolled, was causing the impulsiveness, restlessness and lechery that seemed to define him.

One that, if he was taught to harness it correctly, could make him one of the most potent Magicians of his generation.

Now his path in life seemed clear. Such a potentially mighty resource was of great value to the Clan, and certainly would elevate the status of the Clan-house that he came from. Letters were sent out, and more than a year of negotiations took place as correspondance travelled back and forth. Finally, it was decided (after much political bargaining) that he would be sent all the way to Sokatis, where the Clan controlled the Temple of Dlamelish, to join the Temple and learn the secrets of Sorcery.

Naturally, the discovery of his special status did nothing to change Kemuel's ways. Indeed, they simply added pride and arrogance to his list of faults. Sighing to themselves, the Elders of the Clan-house decided to leave the breaking of his precociousness to the Temple in Sokatis, and deemed themselves well-rid of him in exchange for more advantageous postings or marriages for other, more deserving, sons and daughters of the Clan-house.

The now 15-year-old Kemuel is now looking forward to the great adventure of crossing a great length of the Empire, during which he'll doubtless win great glory facing whatever threats will beset them and prove himself the true leader of the band. No matter what the babysitters the decrepit Elders have seen fit to saddle him with might think...

Gachaya hiKiriyayu hails from Bey Su- glorious Bey Su, the Soul of the World, the beating heart of the Empire. Born to one of the the most prestigious lineages of White Stone Clan, he lived a life of privilege and comfort. He grew up amidst the intrigue and pageantry of the greatest of cities, and learned well the ways of the court. His life seemed certain to be a noble and glorious one- but the seeds of his own downfall he laid himself.

Never content with less than the best, Gachaya found he needed more funds than the Clan would allot to him. He had sharp eyes and ears, and a true talent for intrigue- and soon, he learned the arts of blackmail. He would ferret out the secrets of others at his social level, build enough proof, and then quietly advise his target of what he had learned, and the price for his silence. Soon he had all he could wish for, but the game he played was always a dangerous one, and in the hotbed of intrigue that is Bey Su, there were many just as talented as he and far more experienced.

Growing overconfident in his early successes, Gachaya attempted to blackmail a member of the Vriddi Clan. Rather than submit to Gachaya's demands, the Vriddi called his bluff, publicly denying the accusations before Gachaya could even make them and calling his evidence forgeries. Of less exalted status than the Vriddi, the White Stone was forced to pay a not inconsiderable Shamtla to the Vriddi.

Following this, Gachaya hiKiriyayu found himself posted indefinitely to the most isolated rural holding the Clan could find. Thinking over and over on his mistakes, lacking anything better to do in his exile to the barbaric hinterlands, he now knows what it was that he did wrong. He knows what he should have done instead- and how he'll succeed when he finally gets the chance to start again. When he finally gets free of this bucolic hovel and back to civilisation.

After three years, he was beginning to think he was to live here forever. But then the most annoying brat in the Clan-house was declared to be a Great Mage, destined to wield the greatest of sorcerous power. Honestly, he feels that the local High Priestess of Dlamelish just doesn't know enough about real magic to see what a mistake she's made, but he doesn't care. Having spent the last year first convincing the Clan-house Elders he can help and then advising them on how to negotiate for the brat's placement, Gachaya is now finally going to escape this Hma-stinking prison.

Because no matter what he might have done before, he's politically knowledgeable and- more importantly- of a high enough lineage to tell the brat to shut up and behave to his face. Both things that the Elders deemed important in someone sent to accompany him to Sokatis.

Sirukel hiMriyu was always gregarious and quick-witted. Born in a rural White Stone Clanhouse, he grew up keen but restless, and by the time he reached adulthood he knew the life of a Bureaucrat or Priest wasn't for him. Never particularly strong and with an aversion to physical danger that led to him being taunted as a child, the Legions were never considered by Sirukel or his Clan-Elders. But the life of a travelling merchant, accompanying the Clan's caravans as they went West into Mu'ugalavya and beyond? That was the life he chose, and he thrived in it.

Whilst not comfortable with physical confrontation, he proved to have no problems with the other hardships of travel. He learned languages quickly, and people soon began to say that he could carry sand to Milumanaya and convince someone to buy it at a profit. He always had an eye for the main chance, keen to prove himself as something other than the failure his Clan-cousins in more Warlike or Scholarly careers had said he'd be. And for one so young, he's certainly gained a great deal of respect within his Clanhouse for the wealth he's always brought back.

On one trip, he brought back more than just wealth- somehow (Sirukel isn't too clear on how the strange barbarian code works here himself), when he bluffed a force of Mu'ugalavyani soldiers into not attacking the caravan, he saved the life of a young N'luss boy who had apparently been who they were looking for. The son of a chieftain who'd been taken as a hostage, the boy had been sneaking back home accompanied by a single loyal warrior. When the warrior reached his tribe, he declared himself in Sirukel's debt- and the N'luss has been following him ever since.

M'vekku might be as big as a Tsi'il, as hairy as a Hmellu and smell worse than both put together, but he's a truly dangerous warrior. More importantly, he speaks little Tsolyani and Sirukel is fairly fluent in N'lussa, so taken with his lack of knowledge of Tsolyani ways he doesn't seem to grasp how dangerous or illegal some of the things he's asked to do are.

The most dangerous thing Sirukel has had him do to date was only a month ago. Whilst on the way back from his last trading expedition, Sirukel stumbled on a broken-wheeled Chlen-cart hidden just off the Sakbe road- and the Sarku Temple guards who'd hidden it there. Clearly, they didn't want anyone to find the cart before the next one came, leading him to suspect something less than legal might be inside it. When M'vekku came looking for him, Sirukel panicked and told the N'luss to kill the guards, who he was fearful were considering silencing him.

Searching the cart, Sirukel found strange implements, scrolls and components clearly of sorcerous purpose. Taking what seemed most valuable and portable, he told M'vekku to sneak back and set fire to the cart and bodies when they left the area. Now he has a small fortune in Kaitars he can't explain to the Clan, and several items he doesn't know the function of that he could sell for more. Arriving home, he hears of a Clan-cousin being sent to Sokatis, of all places. The other side of the Empire sounds good right now- he can sell the items there, and then claim the money he comes back with is from some venture in Sokatis- it's not like they talk to the Clan-house there on a regular basis, after all.

And in the event that the Temple of Sarku is somehow looking for him, the trail will go cold before he's home. But really, there's no chance the Temple could have any idea where the items are, is there?

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Tekumel and Me

Recently, I finally took the plunge and convinced several of my regular RPG friends to play a Tekumel: Empire of the Petal Throne campaign I would run. I sought a great deal of advice from a long-running Tekumel mailing list, and posted several accounts of my progress in building the campaign, ending with a brief summary of the first session of play. Several people expressed an interest in my continuing to report on this, and suggested a blog was a better way to do so.

Well, here it is- and this is the first time I've ever attempted to use a blog, so apologies in advance if I don't seem to be getting some things right.

I could start putting campaign stuff here, but when I sat down to write, I thought the first post should be about Tekumel in general, and how I came across it.

The fictional world of Tekumel is the creation of the late Professor MAR Barker. This man essentially did the same thing that the better-known JRR Tolkein did- spent his spare time building an imaginary world in such detail that it even has the languages described. Barker published several novels set on Tekumel, but the most famous (not that this is saying much) depiction of his world was as the setting for an RPG first published in 1974- the second game after Dungeons & Dragons, and the first to include a detailed setting.

Tekumel is based, not on the mythology and history of Europe as the works of Tolkein and Gygax are, but on a hybrid of India and Mesoamerica with several Sword & Sorcery pulp adventure tropes thrown in. The whole appeal is the setting- which was why I took so long to become a Tekumel fan.

I wanted to be a fan long before that- everything I'd heard about Tekumel sounded great to me. I was in my late teens when I first made an effort to seek it out, and bought the latest edition of a Tekumel RPG with my birthday money. Unfortunately, that product happened to be the Gardisiyal- and I can imagine Tekumel veterans cringing at the thought of this being a young gamer's first introduction to Tekumel. The game system was clunky and dated, and also incomplete- you were supplied a booklet of pre-generated characters, and needed to purchase another supplement to get the rules for creating your own. Worst of all, the setting of Tekumel, the whole point to playing there, was absent- just a four-page booklet with a brief overview, and then little hints throughout the rules with nothing concrete. Bitterly disappointed at this waste of my money, I stuck the box on a shelf to gather dust and gave up on Tekumel for most of a decade.

(In hindsight, I find myself thinking that the current obscurity of Tekumel can largely be blamed on Gardisiyal. The period in which it was released was a boom period for new RPGs, and a good Tekumel product would have introduced it to a whole new generation of potential fans. Instead, it was nothing but a waste of money.)

Then, in 2005, Guardians of Order published a new RPG- "Tekumel: Empire of the Petal Throne". A revised version of the company's Tri-Stat rules, T:EPT was a sleek modern system that captured the essence of the setting with simple die rolls. More importantly, it had details on the setting itself in the corebook- so two for two over Gardisiyal!

Alas, most gamers can tell you what happened to Guardians of Order. The company folded right after T:EPT was released, their financial difficulties finally getting the better of them. Worse, the book itself showed this. Whilst the physical production quality can't be faulted, the rules are clearly in need of a final round of editing, evidence it was rushed into production too quickly. A confusing ruleset and no further support- another seeming failure to release a Tekumel RPG.

I bought T:EPT when it came out. Over the next few years, I re-read it several times. Once I worked out where the rules actually were, and came up with house rules for the few things that were missing, it turned out to be a surprisingly good system. One that I'd even rate as better than Pendragon for low-tech combat. Also, by this time the older material from the 70s and 80s which accounted for the bulk of Tekumel's background was easy to find on the internet, instead of being restricted to the personal collections of Tekumel veterans from back in the day.

Finally, the time seemed right for me to be able to run a Tekumel campaign of my own. The hardest part proved to be selling it to my players- but now they've finally come around.

Details on my campaign to follow.