What are the advantages of running Tekumel in different systems?

Tékumel is as complex—and as alien to modern thinking—as Byzantium, ancient Egypt, Tenochtitlan, or the India of the Mughals. Discuss M.A.R. Barker's Tékumel campaign setting (including Empire of the Petal Throne, Swords & Glory, Gardásiyal: Adventures on Tékumel, Tékumel: Empire of the Petal Throne and Béthorm) here.
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Tim Baker
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What are the advantages of running Tekumel in different systems?

Post by Tim Baker »

It appears that the Tekumel setting has been featured in a number of different game systems, from the original Empire of the Petal Throne to d20 to the recent Tirikelu, plus adaptations for The Black Hack, Savage Worlds, FATE, and classic D&D.

Has anyone played enough of these systems that they can share their opinion on which system(s) best capture the feel of the setting? For groups that are already used to a popular rules system, how well do those adaptations fit the setting? How hard are these systems/adaptations to find, these days? The best system out there is little use if it's prohibitively expensive to buy.

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Re: What are the advantages of running Tekumel in different systems?

Post by jdrakeh »

I've played in a Tekumel game using Tirikélu (available for free, legal, download here). The main advantage is, of course, accessibility (free). This was an even bigger deal back when it was first released (at the time official EPT rules weren't available in legal PDF or POD, which meant you had to put out big money to acquire them). To be clear, Tirikélu isn't recent at all. It was published a long time ago (my experience with it was in the late 90s). Only the current PDF is recent. Which brings me to... it has the benefit of years of playtesting and, I think, in that regard ranks higher than other current non-official rule sets for Tekumel.

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Re: What are the advantages of running Tekumel in different systems?

Post by Jefro »

I've actually played most systems that are out there for Tekumel...I had a super long response written up for you on each of the systems and what is good/bad about them, but when I went to click submit, I was booted out. Guess my response took too long.

In a nutshell, I stay away from any Fate/Hack game...they have NO detail for the world and they miss the Tekumel feel for danger.

GOO: Tri-Stat is a dated mess. Lots of fan material to go with it, but it feels like 2004.

The fan systems (Tirikelu, Humanspace Empires, and Heroic Age of Tekumel are decent enough, but it's just Tekumel with someone's home brew rules.

Bethorm captures the Barker feel with a new system and is well done.

Gardisayal has lots of good supplemental material but is a watered down S&G. Good for solo play and understanding how things work on Tekumel.

S&G is chunky, but fun to play. Don't like the advancement system, but not bad overall.

My fav is EPT by a long shot. Let's hope this severely truncated version makes it to the thread.

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Re: What are the advantages of running Tekumel in different systems?

Post by Tim Baker »

Jefro wrote:
Fri Apr 17, 2020 1:45 pm
I had a super long response written up for you on each of the systems and what is good/bad about them, but when I went to click submit, I was booted out. Guess my response took too long.
I'm sorry to hear that. Thanks for sharing the summary version with us.
Jefro wrote:
Fri Apr 17, 2020 1:45 pm
My fav is EPT by a long shot. Let's hope this severely truncated version makes it to the thread.
I wasn't even sure if EPT was readily available. After a Google search, I found that it's on DTRPG in both PDF and POD. https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/20 ... Throne-TSR

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Re: What are the advantages of running Tekumel in different systems?

Post by jdrakeh »

Tim Baker wrote:
Sat Apr 18, 2020 8:04 am
I wasn't even sure if EPT was readily available. After a Google search, I found that it's on DTRPG in both PDF and POD. https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/20 ... Throne-TSR
That's a good quality POD, too. I own(ed) it before thinning out my collection. It has incorporated the official errata, as well. The scan quality is tip top.

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Re: What are the advantages of running Tekumel in different systems?

Post by chirine ba kal »

The original EPT, or "Bethorm". I run my games with all the various published game systems because my players like it that way.

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Re: What are the advantages of running Tekumel in different systems?

Post by Big Mac »

Tim Baker wrote:
Fri Apr 17, 2020 3:14 am
It appears that the Tekumel setting has been featured in a number of different game systems, from the original Empire of the Petal Throne to d20 to the recent Tirikelu, plus adaptations for The Black Hack, Savage Worlds, FATE, and classic D&D.

Has anyone played enough of these systems that they can share their opinion on which system(s) best capture the feel of the setting? For groups that are already used to a popular rules system, how well do those adaptations fit the setting? How hard are these systems/adaptations to find, these days? The best system out there is little use if it's prohibitively expensive to buy.
I do very much think of RPG systems as engines, with campaign settings being vehicles.

And most of the time, I think that the vehicle is more interesting than the engine that drives it.

Having said that, I kind of think of this sort of question the opposite way from you, Tim. I think of what RPG system people like, assume they would prefer to use that and then ask how they can use that system to run the world they are interested in.

I'm personally more interested in 3rd Edition D&D. So when I look at settings, I'm always wondering how to use that setting with D&D. And when it comes to how well rules fit settings, I'd be asking what house rules I would need to ensure that M.A.R. Barker's own rules are translated somehow into 3e compatible rules.

I guess I think backwardly to most other people. I've looked at Rokugan and have been told (several times) that the Legend of the Five Rings systems fit the vibe better than 3e D&D/d20 System rules. And I've been told that Hackmaster suits Kingdoms of Kalamar better than 3e D&D. But for me, being able to run a game in 3e is equal to me being able to use that campaign setting. (And then I want to explore ways to bend 3e to the setting from there.)

I guess that the "holographic Tim Baker" in my head, would have been writing a "What are the 13th Age icons for Tekumel?" topic, instead of this one. :P

But I'm glad you wrote this, as it's allowing me to get a bit of insight into each of these systems, without having to buy a bunch of books and learn them all. I do think it's important for me to learn the vibe of Tekumel. And if we are lucky enough to have people who are experts in each of these versions, I can learn about all the stuff they like, from them.
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Re: What are the advantages of running Tekumel in different systems?

Post by Tim Baker »

Big Mac wrote:
Sun Apr 19, 2020 11:39 pm
I do very much think of RPG systems as engines, with campaign settings being vehicles.

And most of the time, I think that the vehicle is more interesting than the engine that drives it.

I think of what RPG system people like, assume they would prefer to use that and then ask how they can use that system to run the world they are interested in.

I guess that the "holographic Tim Baker" in my head, would have been writing a "What are the 13th Age icons for Tekumel?" topic, instead of this one. :P
I think there's a balance to be struck. Some systems are better than others at telling certain stories. GUMSHOE is better for solving mysteries. Hillfolk is all about the interpersonal drama. 13th Age is best at high-heroic, cinematic action. Could mysteries or interpersonal drama or high-heroic, cinematic action have a place in Tekumel? I suspect the answer is "yes" in all three cases. And those might be brilliant games, too. If you and your group enjoy a system, then making it a "Tekumel-flavored mystery" for the next adventure, rather than a "secret agents fighting vampires mystery" can be sufficiently different to provide a change of pace, without the table needing to learn a new system.

But mysteries might not be what Tekumel fans generally think of when they list characteristics of the setting. And in that case, while there's nothing wrong with Tekumel for GUMSHOE, it might lead to games that feel significantly different from the average. Again, that's not in any way bad, but might lead to some miscommunications or misunderstandings with groups who are more used to the "average," unless you're aware of the difference.

So could I run 13th Age in the Tekumel setting? Given some work and familiarity with the setting, I probably could. Would my group's experience fall within the range of what most fans experience? I suspect it wouldn't, given the little bit that I've read about the setting. So with the hypothesis that systems impact the feel of a game nearly as much as the setting, that's why I asked my original question. To use your analogy, which I like, I might tweak it a little bit to say, "I think of RPG settings as vehicles, and RPG systems as all of the mechanical parts under the hood." You can put a sporty engine with a manual six-speed transmission in a pickup truck, but it's not going to give you the typical experience that people talk about when they discuss driving a pickup truck. You might love your sporty pickup! But it's helpful to at least understand the benchmark.

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Re: What are the advantages of running Tekumel in different systems?

Post by Yaztromo »

Leaving on a side the description of the setting (fluff) in the various books, which one of them has the core ruleset / mechanics that works better with Tekumel?
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Re: What are the advantages of running Tekumel in different systems?

Post by Yaztromo »

Are there specific mechanics in any of these rulesets that provide some special feature that you really feel good about for Tékumel?
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Re: What are the advantages of running Tekumel in different systems?

Post by pawsplay »

GURPS Tekumel is ancient but I'm fascinated by the idea of updating it to the new rules.

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Re: What are the advantages of running Tekumel in different systems?

Post by Yaztromo »

Are the game systems delivering a positive difference, or ultimately it is the setting that sets apart Tékumel?
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Re: What are the advantages of running Tekumel in different systems?

Post by pawsplay »

The original system was nothing special, just another OD&D variant with some rules that were very straightforward and some that were complicated.The GoO version I owned for a while, and I decided I didn't like it. First of all, it lacked some materials like spells such that it was not, IMO, a complete game, even in comparison to some versions with much smaller page counts. Second, the character creation system was designed around embedding the PCs heavily in Tsolyani culture, which is the opposite of the original treatment, and didn't give you a lot to work with if you wanted to run a variant campaign.

I think it really is the setting. I wouldn't necessarily run it in Runequest, but for GURPS, Savage Worlds, sure.

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Re: What are the advantages of running Tekumel in different systems?

Post by Yaztromo »

I had the same feeling, that the real strengths of Tékumel are in the setting, rather than in the ruleset. So, under this point of view, having multiple rulesets associated is more an issue than an advantage. Isn't it?
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