Tékumel: Empire of the Petal Throne by Tolan
IntroductionOriginal SA post Tékumel: Empire of the Petal Throne
Per request, this is a quick overview of Tékumel: Empire of the Petal Throne (EPT from here on out), which was released by Guardians of Order in 2005. It's the 4th iteration of official RPG rules for the Tékumel setting. The Wikipedia page on Tékumel is a reasonable introduction to the history of the setting and its rules. I'm going to summarize the various parts in this version, ask if you want details.
A caveat: I've never actually played any of the iterations of Tékumel. I'd heard about the setting since forever, starting with ads and articles in Dragon back in the day, but my groups have been solidly in the Western European end of the fantasy pool and unwilling to venture out. I picked up the GoO version when it came out since I happened to have the disponsable income and an interest in odd settings. I haven't actually looked through the book in detail for several years, so it's going to be new again to me as we go through it.
Chapter 1 - Introduction to Tékumel
This short section gives us the basic background on Tékumel. It's a terraformed world, made into a playground and resort for humans, thrown into a pocket dimension along with the rest of its solar system. Game present is ~50,000 years after this event; in the meantime there's been horrific wars, a resurgence of the native sentients and an emergence of "magic" due to the pocket dimension's properties.
This version of the game is concentrating on the Tsolyánu, which is one of the surviving Five Empires on Tékumel. There are occasional mentions that things might be different elsewhere but we generally aren't going to be provided that information.
The authors give us a quick rundown of the major differences between Tékumel and most (all?) RPG settings:
Steel is a precious metal - Tékumel is metal-poor; this wasn't a problem when it was the darling of the interstellar set, but now that it's cut off from everything it means metal is super rare and precious. The usual substitute is a chemically treated hide which is roughly equivalent to bronze in hardness and flexibility but as light as fiberglass.
No riding animals - Another consequence of the ridiculous upheaval: no horses or anything else that's ridable at speed. You walk, ride in a litter or palanquin, or get pulled at basically walking speed in a cart by
, which are dinosaurish beasts that are the oxen of Tékumel.
The wilderness is deadly - Again, chucking Tékumel into the pocket dimension resulted in a very nasty competition for resources; the wildlife is super nasty because only the worst survived.
Tékumel is hot - It's equitorial hot in the northern extremes, hotter south of that, and unbearable for humans at the equator. Humidity isn't too bad, except in the swamps, which are pretty much Hell on Tékumel.
It's not Western European - The humans that settled Tékumel were not from Western or European cultures, generally. There was a nuclear war on Earth 60k years ago, and the survivors were from Central America (think Mayans, not Conquistadors), North Africa, and the Indian subcontinent. Languages and such derived from those cultures rather than the dominant ones today. Brown folks are the norm, not the exception.
Clan over individual - The group is more important than the individual on Tékumel. Your Clan affiliation determines a bunch of stuff about you, like your place in society and potentially where you live and do.
Communal living - Tékumel's architecture centers around large pyramidal temples to the Gods. Most people live in communal Clanhouses; personal residences are rare. Cities can be quite large; the largest top a million residents.
Nudity is common - Due to the heat, there is a general lack of a nudity taboo among Tsolyáni, and clothing is generally light or minimal, particularly in Clanhouses/private. Formal/military garb
be elaborate and is often deliberately uncomfortable as a result; armor is worn only when combat is imminent.
Visual indicators of status - Generally, people wear some visual indicators of their status in society, even if they're nearly or actually naked. This might be a Clan badge, jewellery, or rank insignia.
Blood Money - Basically, if someone is injured in some way, the clan person doing the injury must compensate the injured. This is highly affected by difference in status, and is a primary check on conflict. Injury can be physical or social, and the compensation will be enforced by the government if necessary. Casual violence is thus not advised unless you have deep pockets or are really good at duelling.
Noble Action - Tsolyáni ethics is a bit different than what we're used to. They believe that if you are acting consistently with your professed beliefs ("acting nobly"), you are doing the right thing, regardless of what the person judging you thinks about your actions.
The chapter then wraps up with a quick "What is an RPG?" section that is honestly pretty thin; I think GoO realized they aren't really going to be pulling in a lot of new folks to the hobby with this one.