This is not the Tekumel you’re looking for…

“Once you have purchased this book, moreover, you are welcome to pick and choose from it and use it in your own gaming as you wish. There is no need for “your” Tekumel to be identical with “my” Tekumel. Introduce other characters, different animals, further races – after all, my terrain maps show only a portion of the planet’s northern hemisphere, and there is lots of room around the other side! Change the social structures, throw out or ignore features which do not appeal to you. Use your own imagination to bring in features which you and your players will enjoy. The game can function as a springboard into your own fantasy mythos, and if you go on to develop this, we shall all be the richer. If you already have a campaign which uses some other set of rules, you may still wish to utilise these background materials either directly or as a stimulus to enhance your world. Even were we to issue a monthly newsletter or exchange data by telephone, there is no real way to prevent your history from diverging from mine. I can indeed provide further materials – and some are already available from the publisher of this book – but we cannot keep your Tekumel from drifting away from mine. This is as it should be. You have just bought MY Tekumel. Now make it YOUR Tekumel.” – M.A.R. Barker, Swords & Glory Volume 1 – Tekumel Source Book

A combination of factors last weekend led me to promise Nick and his friend Buster that I would run a D&D 4e campaign for them. The girls are both getting married and moving out, so we need new directions for the family gaming sessions; we had a blast at the D&D Encounters session at our FLGS; and Buster will only play D&D 4e. Thus does the infection spread.

I want to run a sandbox game which I can use with several different rules systems for different groups, which requires some kind of detailed setting. I could write one, buy one, or reskin one I already have for 4th Edition. Writing one is great fun, but takes up time better spent playing. Since I’ve just renewed my D&D Insider subscription, my gaming budget is wiped out for the next couple of months, and I promised a game next weekend. So, it’s back to the dusty recesses of the Thing Under The Bed where old games go to die. (It’s just a storage box. Not some kind of extra-planar entity that wants to entice me under the bed so it can assimilate my soul. I think.) And what should emerge but Empire of the Petal Throne?

Now, I’ve been playing EPT on and off since 1977, so I’m familiar with it. However, judging by their reaction to the Dark Sun setting, the boys want something a bit closer to baseline D&D; so I will reskin EPT for D&D 4e. The Savage Worlds concept of trappings has taken root and grown aggressively. Tekumel purists look away now, because it burns, Preciousss, and the goggles – they do nothing.

Nations and Races

The political, religious and clan structures of the Five Empires can stay, but the nations and races need to change. The basic 1975 EPT has five great empires:

  • Tsolyanu and Mu’ugalavya are human-dominated and can stay that way. However, there are enclaves of Pe Choi on Tsolyanu’s north-west frontier; woods dwellers closely integrated with humanity. They can be elves then; and the N’luss barbarians can be Goliaths.
  • Salarvya has always seemed vaguely dwarvish to me, largely because of the beards and obsession with money I suppose. They can be dwarves.
  • Livyanu, the land of tattooed sorcerers, can be Eladrin.
  • Yan Kor is populated by hostile, swarthy, bow-legged types, so they can be Orcs. Baron Ald is a renegade human in a matriarchal society, which partially explains where half-orcs come from.

Then there are the non-human races:

  • Ahoggya. Obnoxious, eight-limbed things. Not a favourite, not sure what I’ll do with them; quite possibly throw them overboard when no-one is looking.
  • Hlaka. Furry flyers. Nothing obvious here. Kenku possibly? No matter, they’re two months’ travel away from Jakalla so I can figure it out later.
  • Hlutrgu. Swamp-dwelling savages. Lizardfolk seem like a good fit.
  • Hluss. Giant poisonous insects. They’re cool, so they can stay.
  • Pachi Lei. Eight-limbed tree-dwellers. No obvious match in D&D, but I never liked ‘em anyway, so the wood elves can kill them and take their stuff.
  • Pe Choi. We’ve already reskinned those as wood elves. Their close association with humans explains the number of half-elves about.
  • Pygmy Folk. Capricious, friendly, great travellers. They can be hobbits – errm, sorry, Halflings.
  • Qol. Conan-style snake-headed humanoids. Yuan-Ti, I think.
  • Shen. Man-sized reptilian mercenaries. These just have to be dragonborn.
  • Shunned Ones. Fearsome magic users, ragged and spectral, who stink terribly and seek out magic items. I think these can be mind flayers, one of my all-time favourite monsters.
  • Ssu. Deadly enemies of man wrapped in grey shrouds, smelling of cinnamon. These are sort of drow-like, but they’re such a key part of Tekumel for me that I will probably leave them in as they are.
  • Swamp Folk. Four-legged pacifist sailors. Another race I didn’t see the point of; they will not be a part of the new Imperium.
  • Tinaliya. The gnome-like ones. Hmm, perhaps they should be gnomes, then. Mind you, I’ve always despised gnomes in D&D, so maybe the Halflings can kill them and take their stuff.

Tieflings don’t fit any of the above, but can be explained as descendants of the First Imperium, which worshipped the Gods of Change. We can use that to explain the infernal bloodline; one deal too many made with Ksarul – errm, sorry, Lolth or Zehir (see below). Warforged are easy to explain as relics of the Interstellar Age, held in suspended animation until revived; in effect, EPT Ru’un. Nick likes to play warforged, so there’s a ready-made hook for him; find and awaken his brothers in arms. Not sure what to do with Shifters yet.

Gods of Stability

These would be lawful or good in most D&D worlds.

  • Hnalla / Dra: Pelor.
  • Karakan / Chegarra: Kord and Bahamut, respectively.
  • Thumis / Ketengku: Ioun.
  • Avanthe / Dilinala: Corellon, Erathis, Melora and Moradin are all aspects of Avanthe, I think , since she is the goddess of nature, civilisation and industry (in the sense of being industrious, not of building machinery).
  • Belkhanu / Qon: The Raven Queen.

Gods of Change

These would be chaotic or evil.

  • Hru’u / Wuru: Asmodeus, largely by process of elimination.
  • Vimuhla / Chiteng: Bane, Gruumsh and Torog cover these domains, although none is an exact match for their Tsolyani equivalents.
  • Ksarul / Gruganu: Lolth and Zehir both fit well in this space.
  • Sarku / Durritlamish: Vecna
  • Dlamelish / Hrihayal: Tiamat, I think, because her association with greed could easily spill over into hedonism.

I’m not sure what to do with Avandra yet. One interesting outcome of using Tekumel is that the Great Concordat logically suggests that Lolth, Vecna and so on should have legitimate temples and priesthoods inside the Empire. That would suit Buster, who likes to play drow.

That’s enough for one night. Next up, Tekumelyani monsters; then, the dungeon beneath Jakalla, the city where I shall start them off. It’s traditional.

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