Friday, September 4, 2009

Reason 1 Why Fight On! is Awesome

Amidst all the Sturm und Drang regarding Ron Edwards's recent article, it's very easy to forget that there is other content in issue 6 of Fight On! -- 120 pages of it, in fact. I'm still working my way through the current issue, so it'll likely be a few more days before I do a formal review/commentary on it, but I did want to highlight one -- of many -- reasons why I think Fight On! is a remarkable periodical: it includes articles for use with the original Empire of the Petal Throne game.

Indeed, every issue since the second has included an article dedicated to EPT and that's an amazing thing. Even more amazing, I think, is that these articles appear with the blessing of EPT's creator, M.A.R. Barker. EPT's setting, Tékumel has a much-deserved reputation for being impenetrable to those initiated into its mysteries, but that impenetrability is, in my opinion, a function more of later additions and expansions to the setting rather than anything stemming from EPT itself. By my lights, the Tékumel presented in EPT is very accessible and largely consonant with most sword-and-planet literary/gaming conventions In other words, it's a perfect world for old school gaming of the sort that interests me these days.

I've stated before that I think it's a pity that Tékumel scares so many gamers off. As with many other settings I could mention -- the Third Imperium, Glorantha, to cite two examples -- Tékumel grew in accordance with the great gamer vice of "More! More! More!" The end result is something that, while fascinating as a work of one man's imagination, is simply too intimidating for most roleplayers. The original EPT is largely free of that and that's why it's so great to see articles about it in Fight On! Perhaps more people will finally give it a whirl and enjoy it, not as a work of fantasy ethnology and linguistics, but as a very open-ended science fantasy sandbox game that has way more in common with Howard, Vance, and Burroughs than it might appear at first glance.


  1. Yea, that's a great point. The Tekumel articles are a great draw. I don't play, but my copy of MAR Barker's second novel, Flamesong, came in the mail today. I enjoyed the first, and I may end up picking up a copy of EPT from Tita's online. Dark, complex, fully thought through. Great stuff.

  2. It is funny to me when I read that people finde EPT too dense to get into. But these same people will buy any and all TSR setting books that may exceed in page and word count that either EPT or my favorite, Artesia.

    The novels are quite good and very adult.

  3. Issue 7 will actually be dedicated to M.A.R. Barker, so if people have any stuff they'd like to submit of their own, this would be an especially good time!

    - Calithena

  4. I was halfway through my copy of "Man Of Gold" (or whatever it was called), and now I can't find it! Oh woez!

    More seriously, I personally was very intimidated by Tekumel, but then I read a bunch of play-stories written in Alarums & Excursions, and suddenly I was given a real, live example of "what players might actually do in Tekumel". Cool! (I still haven't done anything with it, but if I did, it's highly likely I'd use the last published "TriStat" inspired version of the rules.)

  5. My hesitation about trying EPT isn't due to any perceived complexity, but rather my (perhaps incorrect) assumption that the original rules are rather costly to obtain. Is this not the case? The setting has always sounded fascinating to me, but I've been reluctant to jump into it since I don't want to end up having to spend hundreds of bucks to get up to speed.

  6. Tekumel is one of those worlds I adore, but I doubt I'll ever run anything set in it. The prospect of GMing a game set in Tekumel is, I admit, kind of intimidating.

  7. But not all, or even most campaigns suffer from this problem of more and more. Greyahwk, Dragonlance, Forgotten Realms, and other campaigns, for decades, have often thrives on the 'more more' mantra.

    On the other hand, some people like to home brew, as I believe you are currently doing with the mega-dungeon campaign now correct? It's not a deficiency in Empire of the Petal Throne that keeps you away from it, it's your own campaign ideas which are ideally suited to your material no?

  8. @Russell: may exceed in page and word count than either EPT or my favourite, Artesia

    There's something in that, but I think part of the reason that things like EPT and Artesia are relatively hard to connect to is that the cultures described really are remote (to one degree or another) to the culture of the readership. That is, they're more firmly set in Elfland, and not so much Poughkeepsie.

    I'd be a lot more passionate about Artesia if Smylie would get off his ass and finish the third volume. Or if the folks at Archaia (mostly Smylie?) would have done something more with the game than just float the rulebook and then stop. There are aspects of the rules that I really like (and aspects I don't). We used the setting for a long series of adventures using the Reign rules, and it was rather fun.

  9. To Howarth:

    I'm not sure on how much the original is as a collector's item, but a reprint and a PDF is an option.

    $24.95 Reprint From Tita's House of Games

    $11.00 PDF from one of the OBS sites

    I own neither so can't comment on quality.

  10. Tékumel doesn't scare me so much, but it is a strange world. The problem I have with Tékumel is more based on the strange language, which I sadly don't really understand. The basic premise of a science fiction and fantasy blend is a good one, but the wealth of information is almost a disadvantage for me because I want to use and understand it all. Having said all that, I really am glad that FIGHT ON supports games like EPT even if I don't play them much.

  11. I own Tita's reprint of the 1975 EPT rulebook. The reprint is of very high quality.

  12. $24.95 Reprint From Tita's House of Games

    Okay, thanks. I had come across this in the past, but thought it was some sort of revamped version. If it's simply a reprint of the original, I might have to take a look.

  13. I enjoy the science fantasy, planetary romance and sword-and-planet fiction genres, but I have never played in a D&D campaign based on one of those.

    Considering how inexpensive EPT is from PRGnow, I need to pick up a copy.

    This would be an interesting setting to run, for new D&D players. If I understand correctly, it is a sword-and-planet setting, therefore, you could simply transport the "players" to the world.

  14. I picked up the all the contents of the original boxed set minus the maps and the box for twenty bucks on ebay a month or two ago and really dig it, although I haven't gotten a chance to play it yet.

    I now have no more excuses, I guess I will just have to pony up and get the Fight On!'s that I have been, evidently, missing out on.

    It is is just hard with all the great used old school stuff that keeps popping up in the four stores within a few blocks of my house or work that carry gaming stuff to justify buying something online that I can't thumb through, but actual information about the content makes it much easier. Now that I know there is EPT and Mutant Future stuff in Fight On!, I will have to buy it.

  15. I've been running EPT for closing in on a year now. The campaign has been great and there haven't been any significant snags. A couple of my players are Tekumel scholars, so sometimes they chime in with some trivia, but by and large I'm able to run a good enough campaign without knowing every last little detail.

    I just run it like I would run any other swords and sorcery setting. My initial premise was "barbarians (actually refugees) just off the boat in Jakalla", centered around exploring the megadungeon of the Jakalla underworld. That served as a fine launching point and now the campaign has moved further into the realm of wilderness exploration and politics.

    The important things that I like to stress are that, as barbarians, the PCs don't have to think exactly like the Tsolyani, and that the Tsolyani may not have everything all figured out.

    For example, they just went through Melan's Tower of the Birds. It's definitely an anomaly on Tekumel... but then, fantasy is often about the anomalies.

  16. I'm a long time Tekumel fan, in fact, I played in the games that the Professor ran at GenCon in 1975 when EPT first came out. Having both print items available from Tita's and pdf items from RPGNow and DriveThruRPG keeps the game alive. If you are really bold, you might want to try the "Tri-Stat" version from Guardians of Order, this is my preferred ruleset. If you do want to try this ruleset, please visit the TekumelRPG yahoo group as there many clarifications and some errata there. You'll find me as one of the major contributors there.

  17. I forgot to say: Tita's is great. The reprint of the original EPT rules is a great value and Carl is a cool dude. If you're interested and have the $25, go for it.

  18. So I bought the issue and I thought it was pretty awesome.

    I don't really know much about EPT, but I liked the volume of content and the energy.

    It really felt like I was reading an issue of Dragon from the 70's, which is a compliment.

  19. Is the old TSR version of EPT still available anywhere? PDF maybe? Much better than any of the following efforts!