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Saturday, December 12, 2009

Geoffrey, Dragonsfoot, EPT, and Jeff Berry-


"As noted by one of the other posters, Tekumel isn't a 'fantasy' setting; it's better described as 'scientifiction' in the classic Gernsback/Burroughs mold, and with a lot of the influence of Lovecraft/Howard/Ashton Smith. As such, it doesn't seem to appeal to RPG gamers of the classic sort; the RPG gamer culture that has developed over the last thirty years has it's own set of cultural references that it applies to games and world settings.

Tekumel has always been outside that culture, as it has for miniatures gamers who have problems dealing with the idea of non-humans in what (to them) should be classical ancients wargames, but it does seem to appeal to F/SF fans who haven't had much assimilation into the gamer culture. I've got a dozen regulars on one Tekumel RPG group, with a second group of 12 in the process of forming, and very few of them are what I'd call experienced RPG or miniatures players; all of them however, are F/SF fans who have a taste for 'classic' F/SF.

Regarding the goofy names, I'm reminded of when we used to flog the merchandise for Dave Arneson at Gen Con; we had a guy who for three years running who would make a point of coming up to the booth and getting in our face about Tekumel's languages, and how he wouldn't buy anything for Tekumel unless we went through all the books and changed the words to something *he* could pronounce. The third time around, a bystander who had listened to the guy's diatribe stepped up to me, apologized for the guy's behavior, and suggested that he leave the area. The guy gave him some lip, saying "Who the f*** are you?", and Gary Gygax merely proffered his convention badge for the guy to read. It was, as they say, one of those moments you live for.

My advice, as it has been for the past three decades, is don't play what you don't like. Nobody is holding an Eye of Raging Power to your head and insisting that you must 'do' Tekumel, either as game or world-setting; play what you like! All I'd ask is that you do take a few moments to actually read what you critique; some of the reasons I've seen given for "Why I Hate Tekumel" seem to based on the same sort of logic that says "Dragons are real, because my sister's brother-in-law's third cousin what lives in the next duchy over says he heard that somebody's sheep got et by one!". These days, of course, it's "I saw it on the Internet, so it must be true!"

Speaking as somebody who has had the luck to play in three of what I guess might be called 'Old School' RPGs (Dave Arneson's "Blackmoor", Prof. M. A. R. Barker's "Tekumel", and Gary Gygax's "GreyHawk"), the 'sense of wonder' back in those far-off days was a lot more palpable and present; none of us knew what we were doing, of course, either as players or GMs, but that didn't stop us from having fun.

What ever happened to fun, by the way? I don't seem to see it much in gaming, anymore, but then maybe I travel in the wrong circles.

Just my two kaitars' worth - sorry, two GP... :wink:
" -- Jeff Berry / Chirine ba Kal

That was much nicer than anything I could have mustered.


  1. Awesome. SciFi was always nearer and dearer to my heart than fantasy, which is perhaps why I had such a strong positive reaction to the original EPT boxed set when I got it last summer. I am slowly mustering my courage to play a Tekumel campaign this spring, and stuff like this is just fuel for the fire. I just ordered the new issue of Fight On! with all the Tekumel stuff, I can hardly wait.

  2. I am glad to have assisted you toward that goal.
    --I eagerly await your game reports. :D

  3. Thanks for posting this, I'd never had seed it otherwise. Reading a bit of those DF links reminded me why I never go near forums. I'm just not willing to wade through the gutter to find gems like what you posted.

  4. Glurk!

    Well, this will teach me to shoot my mouth off on the Internet, eh? :)

    Seriously, I'm getting the impression that the kind of sheer fun we manage to have in our games seems to be a rare commodity in gaming these days. Admittedly, the sight of a very buff and oiled up Nlyss warrior prince getting sat upon by a backing FeshengaI may be unique to Tekumel's world setting, but I used to have similar things happen in the occasional visit to Blackmore and Greyhawk.

    I don't quite know how to express it, but my perception is that there's much more emphasis on the mechanics of the game these days, rather then the 'just fake it and get on with the fun' attitude of Ye Olden Dayes. I dunno; I've always tried to have fun (see also The Inexorable Chlen-cart of Chirine ba Kal, a mighty and powerful magic artifact in Phil's games), but things seem so ***serious*** on many forums...

  5. @Norman: Oh, I know EXACTLY what you mean, sir.

    @Jeff: Dunno, Jeff, EPT has quite a few 'crunchy' bits to it, and the systems used for Tekumel afterwards only increased the crunch-factor (S&G, and Deeds of Glory, I am looking at you!), but I do understand that Phil's 'Roll higher than me' technique is more germane.

    @etc.: When slapstick *happens* in my games, it certainly lightens the mood, but I generally run with a 'moderately serious' tone and cynical humour; like bitter beer and dark chocolate. ;)

  6. Good points, really! I agree with you that S&G/Gardasiyal (they are the same game, actually, just repackaged differently) is very heavy on the number crunching. I guess that what I'm trying to say is that I don't ask my players to do the calculations; I think that's my job, not theirs. EPT was simpler to use, IMHO, and relied more on the GM then on tables to make things interesting.

    Your point about slapstick moments is very well taken, too. The RPG group is 'fun', but not always 'slapstick', if I can make that distinction. There's a lot of cynical humor, just like yours, and 'moderately serious' would be a good description of most of the game sessions where the group is doing Something Important; I think we share the liking for dark chocolate! :D

  7. Jeff: Cool. Then we ARE on the same page. :D
    --Nice to know my instincts re: S&G/DoG weren't off the mark. :)

    I try to have my players stay 'in mode' without having to do anything but make the tough decisions, and roll their dice.
    --For at least ten years I have attempted to make the system pretty much do everything else behind the scenes, with the Ref pulling a few levers or adjusting dials. :D

    May I also recommend: Lindt Excellence Intense Orange Dark chocolate. ;)

  8. Quote: "What ever happened to fun, by the way? I don't seem to see it much in gaming, anymore, but then maybe I travel in the wrong circles."

    Sounds to me like Mr. Berry travels in the right circles! I think sometimes we get too stuck in what things 'ought' to be based on previous experience (whether firsthand, or, increasingly, third and forth hand via the internet, gaming magazines, hype from gaming companies, etc.,), that anything that does not fit that narrowly defined mold of what D&D 'ought' to be is discarded.

    One of the good things about the internet, however, is that a lot of the stuff that was 'gone' or 'obsolete' can now be found again. I find the old covers of 'Amazing' to be particularly inspiring... and they would be nearly impossible for me to find (or afford) without the interwebs.

    Thanks to Timeshadows for posting this.