Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Basement Delving: Tékumel

In a very dark corner of my old basement I discovered a few of my Tékumel purchases from years ago. I have to admit that I never got very much into Professor Barker's creation. Don't get me wrong, I always thought that his work was most impressive as far as I understood it. But I was very much distracted by the chaotic publication history of the darn thing: I could never really figure out which of the many books from all those many publishers is supposed to fit where. In any case, here's what I found:

I don't know about you, but when I saw this thing in my FLGS back in the days, I just had to buy it. I mean come on, has there ever been a cooler looking RPG supplement? Ever? I just wish they had released a leather-bound hardcover written in actual blood! Even better, it had the following warning on the back:

Not for children? Sorcerously explicit? Demons and shit? Very clever marketing indeed! I don't think I ever did more than flip through this thing, but I'll put it on my "should really be read soon" list now. The good professor even shows us what the "original" book looked like before he translated it into English:

The language thing is after all the most obvious Barker-Tolkien connection. Barker's languages always seemed more exotic and scary to me, how very fitting for this particular book. Next we have what I think is the original Tékumel game system in the combined re-release from Different Worlds? But what do I know:

And check out the cool "The Professor Approves" logo on the back! I wonder what Gygax's equivalent would have been? Presumably something a little less Playboy-like? I mean all he needs is a smoking jacket, right?

Speaking of Gygax, the man himself actually wrote a Foreword to the original Empire of the Petal Throne which is also included in this reprint:

I cannot tell how much of this is Gary being honest and how much of it is Gary being jealous. Maybe the truth is neither and it's really just a marketing blurb. The format of the book is quite curious, check out the table of contents:

An interesting approach to numbering chapters and sections to say the least! Looks like a pretty complete system: character generation and advancement, combat, encounters and the underworld, magical items, gods and divine intervention... What's not to like? And hey, even a city is included (albeit not with a lot of detail):

Finally one of the "newer" reincarnations of the game system, and honestly I have absolutely no idea why I bought this after already owning the version above:

I feel a little bit like Alex Schroeder did back in 2009: Fascinated by the potential of this stuff, not entirely convinced that there's enough of a chance that I'll ever play it to dedicate more time to it. I am happy to give away the last one up there to someone who'll give it a good home, just email me if you're interested. I'll hang on to the other two for now hoping to find some bits and pieces to roll into my regular D&D gaming.


  1. Personally, I love all things Tekumel. I haven't run it as a game for a LONG time, but I've read the novels the Good Professor wrote, even fooled around with learning the Tsolyani language for awhile. :)

    The Book of Ebon Bindings is a superlative piece of work. As a teenager when I first bought it, it blew my vanilla fantasy mind... :)

  2. You should ask Mike Mornard about it, and how it compares/contrasts with D&D. He played in both Gary's game and Barker's, and I think he ran/runs EPT now.