Thursday, August 27, 2020

House of Worms

Since March 2015, I've been refereeing a weekly Empire of the Petal Throne campaign using the original 1975 rules.The campaign, which I call House of Worms, after the Sárku-worshiping clan to which all the characters belong, began with six players. Their characters are depicted above, as illustrated by the incomparable Zhu Bajiee. At the start of the campaign, the characters were the following:
  • Aíthfo hiZnáyu (top middle): An adventurer who's the lone member of the group not to worship Sárku or Durritlámish, instead being devoted to Ksárul. Aíthfo is the group's tactician, commanding a group of Pecháni mercenaries with great skill. He has dreams of being a sea captain and travelling the length and breadth of Tékumel in search of “cash and prizes,” in the memorable words of his player.
  • Znayáshu hiNokór (bottom left): A lay priest of Durritlámish with an interest in astrology. He makes a living creating horoscopes when not involved in some scheme of his clan-mates. His fiancée, Tu'ásha hiNarkóda, of the Mourning Rock clan of Thráya, died before the two could wed – but that hasn't stopped Znayáshu, who had her corpse carefully preserved and now plans to have her reanimated as a Shédra, so that she can serve the Lord of Worms forever.
  • Ssúri hiNokór (second from the bottom left): A ritual priestess of Durritlámish with a keen knowledge of dance and acrobatics, some of which she uses to her advantage even outside the temple. Sharp-tongued and no-nonsense, Ssúri often acts as the public face of this group of characters.
  • Keléno hiNokór (bottom middle): A 5th Circle scholar priest of Sárku who prefers to keep his nose in books when he is able (which, sadly, isn't as often as he'd like). He recently developed an interest in demonology, after successfully – and unintentionally – summoning dread Srükárum to fight against an army of Ssú in the Dry Bay of Ssu'úm. Keléno is married to Hmásu hiTéshku, a priestess of Belkhánu, with whom he shares many interests.
  • Grujúng hiZnáyu (second from bottom right): An older, ex-legionnaire (formerly of the 6th Imperial Medium Infantry) who finds life in Sokátis dull and so travels around with his clan-mates in search of excitement. He dreams of gaining a commission in the famous First Legion, which is currently posted to Sokátis as a result of the machinations of Imperial politics.
  • Jangáiva hiTlélsu (bottom right): A temple guard of Sárku, Jangáiva has lately fallen under the patronage of an officer of the Omnipotent Azure Legion, who is testing her for possible formal induction into that august force. While in Yán Kór, she obtained a demonic hammer that calls itself “Little Sister” and revels in destruction. Jangáiva does her best to keep the weapon under control.
In the years since, the roster of characters has changed several times, though Aíthfo, Znayáshu, Keléno, and Grujúng have remained stalwarts. Currently, there are eight regular players in the campaign and, after five and a half years of regular play, their characters are far from their starting point in the eastern Tsolyáni city of Sokátis. Presently, they are exploring the Achgé Peninsula of the mysterious Southern Continent, where they were dispatched at the behest of the imperial prince Mridóbu.

The Tsolyáni maintain a colony there on the northeastern coast called Linyaró, to which Aíthfo has been appointed governor, with the other characters occupying various positions in the colonial administration. Over the past three years of real time (and just over a year of game time), the characters have explored the peninsula, interacted with the local Naqsái peoples (who have several large city-states scattered across the interior), dealt with coastal pirates, investigated evidence of Engsvanyáli antiquities, probed into a Pariah God cult, and fended off an invasion by the non-human Hokún, among many other things! 

House of Worms has been a delightful campaign, one of the best of my decades of roleplaying. I've been very lucky to have had such devoted players and I doubt the campaign, which is now nearing its 200th session, would have lasted this long without them. I will begin chronicling the events of each week's session soon, both as a record of what's happening and as evidence that Tékumel is not nearly as inaccessible and weird a setting as many people believe it to be. As a referee, it's been a blast and a source of great inspiration for me, as the twelve-and-counting issues of The Excellent Travelling Volume, can attest. I hope these write-ups will be of interest to others.
The Achgé Peninsula in all its hexcrawl glory!

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